Thanks for the good questions. Yes, you are correct. There are multiple "links" in the "chain" of salvation. If any of these links are broken, the entire chain is broken. God's grace and
our faith are both required (Ephesians 2:5; Hebrews 11:6
). But, the faith must also be an obedient faith. If our faith is just mental recognition without obedient submission, then it will do us no good (John 12:42-43; James 2:14-26; Matthew 7:21-23
In all effective lies, there is an element of truth. Likewise, Calvinism has a large amount of truth, but it is the twisting
of the truth that makes the error so deadly (II Peter 3:15-18
). The Bible certainly speaks of depravity, election, the gift of salvation, and foreordination, but the key is to let the Bible define
those words, not the Calvinist. For example, are people born depraved, or do they become depraved through repeated and deliberate sin (Hebrews 3:12-13; Deuteronomy 1:39
)? Did God elect the saints individually and forcibly without any basis upon their choices, or did He choose the saints as a group, corporately through Jesus Christ (Ezekiel 18:1-32; Ephesians 1:3-7
)? In other words, did He choose us apart from our works, or did He choose us according to the means and plan through Jesus? You see, there are lots of ways God could elect us. Don't let the Calvinist assume only one!
We must be careful that we do not approach the Bible verses with prejudice, which will blind us from the narrowing focus of the context. Let the context define the words. And, if the context is ambiguous - and often it is for the point that concerns us - then let other, clearer passages refine the meaning. ... This is the great difficulty in answering these verses. Too frequently, verses are stripped from their context and meanings are granted that are completely foreign to the context. Try to identify the bias in the students, and then try to identify the subtle clarification as required by the context. ... This requires patience and diligent study (II Timothy 2:15
Here are a few thoughts on the proof-texts you mentioned:
- Romans 12:3 - Does this refer to faith to believe and be saved or to our ability and talent to serve in the faith? If it refers to faith to be saved, then are their "different measures" of salvation and condemnation? Furthermore, which is the context discussing, is it not the various ways and capacities to serve as Christians - not become Christians (Romans 12:1-8)?
- I Corinthians 4:7 - Again, is this referring to the ability to become a Christian or the ability to serve as a Christian? Back up and start reading in chapter 3. Paul is chiding the Corinthians for their carnal divisiveness over spiritual gifts (tongue speaking, prophecy, etc., see chapters 12-14) and their carnal division over "preacher worship" (see 1:10-13). In the immediate context (4:7), they are clearly "boasting" over each other based on their "differences". Among those who are saved, are they saved differently? Is there not only one faith, one Lord, one church (one body, Colossians 1:18, 24) and one baptism (Ephesians 4:3-6)? The variation comes in our gifts (i.e., talents, abilities, resources, opportunities, etc.) to serve after becoming a Christian (Ephesians 4:7) - not our faith to become a Christian. Therefore, I Corinthians 4:7 absolutely cannot be about matters pertaining to salvation itself without violating its own context or the fundamental unity of all the saved!
- Ephesians 2:8 - Dealt with here: http://www.insearchoftruth.org/articles ... ians_2_8_9.
- Philippians 1:28 - The Bible repeatedly emphasizes that faith and man's will in and of itself is not the only part required for salvation. (Remember, it is a chain with multiple links.) Man can not save himself, by himself regardless of how much faith he exhibits (John 1:12-13). God's grace is also required, because all men have sinned (Romans 3:23). Faith is only accounted for righteousness according to God's grace (Romans 4:3-6). Only perfect obedience would have placed God in our debt to grant us salvation (Romans 4:4-5; Galatians 3:7-14). Once we sinned, only God's gracious accounting of faith for righteousness (in the place of perfect law keeping) could save us, which God granted. So, yes, God has granted us the opportunity to be saved through faith. (Compare to similar reading where God opened the door of salvation to the Gentiles as well as the Jews, Acts 11:1-4, 17-18, especially verse 18.) And, to those who have been converted, that opportunity has been realized and exists in the past tense ("has been granted on behalf of Christ").
Furthermore, that gift is in reach of all of us! That closeness is also a gift! God did not hold the way to salvation so far in front of us to make it practically unobtainable (Romans 10:5-13; Acts 17:26-27), although He has warned us it is also not the easiest way to go (Matthew 7:13-14). ... Remember, no one is saying that man earns His salvation. It requires God's grace and man's obedient faith. Therefore, depending on the focus of the passage, one might find many passages addressing grace, while others address conditional works of faithful obedience. It is the Calvinist who most close his eyes to all verses except those that mention God's grace, because He believes their is only one Worker in every sense - relative and absolute, whereas the Bible teachers there are two workers (John 6:28-29; Philippians 2:12-13), even though God's work is clearly the most substantial.
- Philippians 3:8-9 - As far as I can tell, there is nothing in this passage that says our faith is from God. It only says that our faith must be in God and Jesus. They are the objects of our faith and trust. I don't see anything in these verses that speak to the source or origin of our faith, whether it springs from us or God. Maybe I missed something? ... BTW, It often helps to examine other translations. If you study only one translation, like the KJV, you may get hung up on some eccentricity of that peculiar translation. I often try to study the NKJV and the NASV, which tend to be the easiest to read while maintaining the utmost integrity in strictly translating the text as opposed to interpreting it for me. I also compare to the ASV, YLT, NIV, and ESV, although I don't use these regularly for lack of either readability or strict transliteration methods.
- Hebrews 12:2 - I have no problem saying consistently that my faith begins and ends in Jesus. He and the Father devised the plan and executed it, by which I believe and am saved. This does not exclude me having a part. Your friend is making too much of this verse, making it say something it is not required to say. It is a false dilemma to say that salvation is either all man or all God. There is a middle ground! It can be both man and God! ... Also, the word "our" is not in the original Greek. There may be some justification for reading the verse as "Author and Finisher of the faith", since the article, "the", is in the original Greek, so this phrase may more correctly be a reference to the system of faith, as opposed to our individual faith. It's hard to say definitively, since most alternate translations drop "our" all together instead of including the article, "the".
- II Peter 1:1 - Again, this verse does not exclude us having a part in our faith. It only acknowledges God's part. Your friend is using a false dilemma again to use this verse to eliminate our part. Or, said another way, he's inserting the word, "only", where it suits him. ... If God has already done everything, then why do we need to "be even more diligent to make your calling and election sure", above and beyond our diligent growth efforts (II Peter 1:5, 8-11)? How more sure can it be than God's eternal and unchanging decree, unless it is indeed uncertain and not fixed?! ... Let the context determine the meaning of the words. :)
I pray you find these explanations helpful. Don't forget that we have a compendium of other answered proof-texts here:
Not to mention our article index and forums section devoted to answering Calvinism.
I pray you find these helpful. If I did not answer these clearly, or if you have any other questions, please let me know. I am happy to help in any way that I can.
Keep in mind, if your friend is correct that we are robots, then he cannot avoid the logical conclusion that God is also responsible for all of our sin as well our salvation without abandoning all claim to reasonability! Don't forget that God expected us to see His justice and fairness in the basis of our justification at the cross (Romans 3:25-26
)! If we cannot
see it, then God failed, or we have our eyes closed! Therefore, one cannot rashly dismiss any logical incongruities here as an "unknowable mystery"
, since God self-admittedly designed it for us to see, know, and understand!
May God help us to have a sincere love of the truth (II Thessalonians 2:9-12