Tough Questions Answered

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Can God Be Sovereign and Man Be Free at the Same Time?

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

Yes.  There is absolutely nothing contradictory about an infinite God being in control of every little electron in the universe, but creating creatures in that same universe who have a special power of free will.  God can accomplish everything he wants to accomplish in human affairs through human free will.

While he commands volcanoes to erupt and water to flow as inanimate objects, he commands humans as free creatures.  He works in coordination with human freedom, not without it or against it.

Philosophers refer to this as primary and secondary causation.  God is the primary cause, and he uses the secondary cause of human free will to accomplish his purposes.

It’s ironic to me that some of my 5-point Calvinist friends say that allowing man to choose takes away from the glory of God.

The reality is that claiming God cannot create free creatures and still bring his plans to fruition is really the position that takes away from God’s glory.

Smoke that in your theological pipe for a minute.


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Comments

  • http://timothyfarley.wordpress.com Tim Farley

    Well, I am a Calvinist, but I agree with you. If we emphasize either God’s sovereignty or human free will at the denial of the other, we end up with an incomplete picture of what Scripture teaches. Much like the Bible teaches that God is one and three, that Jesus is fully God and fully man, and that Scripture was written by God while also being written by man, we must embrace that God is completely sovereign while at the same time humans have free will. There is an element of mystery in all of these areas, but they are the true teachings of Scripture.

    Embracing both and allowing an element of mystery can bring some much needed humility to both sides of this debate.

  • Bill Pratt

    Tim,
    Well put.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1292575152#/profile.php?id=1383762286&ref=name Miles McLoughlin

    Well, I’m one of your 5 point Calvinist friends, and with respect, I don’t think you are stating our position most accurately. Calvinists do say man has free will, but, they define it. Because man is a sinner, a slave to sin, he will always choose only within his desires. All anybody has to do is look at Romans 3 and 8 and see what the Bible has to say. I would love it if you can have a discussion like this on the John Ankerberg show and have a capable Calvinist and a capable Arminian talk about these issues. It would be a benefit to the body of Christ. I know you’ll have an easy time getting a respected Calvinst to appear, but, good luck getting an arminian who wants to debate these issues in a scholarly way.
    To many times those of us who are reformed in our soteriology are not represented accurately. When Calvinists want to debate these issues and see what the Bible has to say, our arminian friends go running. Just look at the debate that never was between Ergun Caner and James White. Caner and Liberty U pretty much tried to hijack the debate. Yet they will have these conferences that give praise to free will and decry those in the reformed faith.
    I’ve been a Christian for 20 years. I was not always a 5 pointer. It’s only been in the last 8 years that I’ve come around after hearing reformed theology represented more accurately and seeing it exegeted from the pages of scripture did I see the truth. Dr. Ankerberg, I must take exception to your last statement. We’re not saying God can’t do something a certain way, we’re saying this is what the Bible presents. This needs to be a Biblical discussion, not a philosophical one. Unfortunately, this what happens in a discussion like this.
    Thank you for presenting your question. Take care and God bless!

  • Bill Pratt

    Hi Miles,
    Quick correction and then I have to go (no time this morning). Bill Pratt (me) wote the post, not John Ankerberg. My blog is linked to the John Ankerberg Show because we are working together in ministry. The things I say in my blog will not always reflect the opinion of John. We align on most things, but I’m sure there are times when I write things that he won’t wholeheartedly agree with. I do not know John’s exact views on this issue of 5-point Calvinism.

    Thanks for your comment and I will be back to reply,
    Bill

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1292575152#/profile.php?id=1383762286&ref=name Miles McLoughlin

    Hello Bill, thanks for your clarification.

    God bless,
    miles

  • Bill Pratt

    Hi Miles,
    I don’t see how choosing what you desire equates to free will. I choose things all the time that I don’t desire to do. Paul seems to say the saem thing in Rom. 7:15-16. If your response is that I truly desired to do the thing I did not desire, then we have a problem. No matter what I say, you will always say that I choose what I desire. A position that is, in principle, unable to be falsified, does not seem acceptable to me. Can you give me an example of what choosing something I don’t desire would look like?

    While you’re thinking about that, here is another question for you. If a man sins, then where did the desire to sin come from?

    God bless,
    Bill

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1292575152#/profile.php?id=1383762286&ref=name Miles McLoughlin

    Hello Bill; I accidentally discovered this blog from Dr. Ankerberg’s facebook. I’m not sure how I got here, but here I am. I don’t know if you got my last comment, but, I acknowledged your clarification that this was your article & not Dr. Ankerberg’s.
    In response to your response this is how I will go about this. Since you work with Dr. Ankerberg’s ministry, it is safe to assume you’ve had theological education. So the terms I throw out will probably be familiar to you. In fact, you probably have more theological education than I do.
    When I say a Calvinist believes in free will, I’m saying a person has the freedom to act within his own desires. This person for the sake of argument is not regenerated and not a Christian. Simply put, the doctrine of total depravity says that because man is spiritually dead, he won’t choose after God. I can site some scripture if you would like. This can go into a long discourse, but, since your response was brief, I’ll try to keep my brief as well. I probably should have clarified that earlier.
    I think the point of contention is can man in his unregenerated state choose after God. I believe the scriptures teach that he can’t.
    As for a Romans 7:15-16 passage is concerned, I believe, the person in view that Paul is talking about is a person who is regenerate and thus a Christian and that this passage is talking about the struggles in the Christian life. I think most Christians would accept this view.
    As far as when a man sins is it his desire or not? That’s not always an easy question to answer. Normally, I would think that when a man sins it’s his desire to do so. However, if I’m on a highway and think the speed limit is 65 and traveling that fast, when it’s 55, am I sinning? Well, I would think yes. I would think God would still hold me accountable.
    Thanks for the interesting discussion. I wish you and your family a Happy Resurrection Day.
    God bless,
    Miles

  • Bill Pratt

    Miles,
    Thanks for the response. I believe you are saying that man cannot choose God until he is regenerated. I understand that belief, although I don’t agree with it, but I don’t want to deal with that right now.

    I would like to get back to the issue of free will. You said that man is free to choose what he desires, but before he is regenerated, he only desires against God. Would you agree with that?

    God bless,
    Bill

  • Miles McLoughlin

    Hello Bill; I hope you and your family had a great Easter.
    When it comes to soteriology, you can label me a main stream Calvinist. I believe it is God who is sovereign when it comes to salvation. However, God accomplishes his will through means. In context of salvation God uses the proclamation of his word to reach sinners.
    Both the points you raised are related to each other. Until a sinner is regenerated he won’t desire after God. I’m sure you’re familiar with the terms Libertarian Free Will and Compatibilist Free Will. Arminians believe all people have libertarian free will. Calvinists believe man has compatibilist free will.
    To answer your question. I would say, yes. I believe that the Bible teaches that until a man is regenerated, he will not desire for God. I would cite a few verses. Romans 3:10-12 “There is none righteous, not even one; 11There is none who understands. There is none who seeks for God; 12All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.” RM 7:18 “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.”
    There’s more that I can cite, but, that should be sufficient for now.
    God Bless,
    Miles

  • Rick Godfrey

    Good evening Miles and Bill, I would like to make a comment on mans free will as far as salvation is concerned. Romans 8:6-7 states, “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. All of mankind was at one time in this situation and hopeless. We were all at war with God. We were doomed. Having a free will was not going to save us. How did some of us go from having a carnal mind to having a spiritual mind? It was not our choice to do so. It was God who graciously reached out to us. God rescued us. He ransomed us with the price of his sons’ blood. He then gave us the gift of faith to believe in the truth. He then drew us to Jesus through the preaching of the gospel. He sovereignly gave us a spiritual mind when he chose us to be his son. God put a holy spirit within us that desires to be subject to his law. God will conform those that he has chosen into the image of his son. It is God who foreknew us, predestined us, called us, justified us, and also glorified us. God did it all for us. His grace is sufficient. What can we say to all of this? If God be for us, who can be against us? Have a wonderful day! Rick

  • http://combatingcalvinism.blogspot.com a helmet

    Hello,

    First of all, I’m appreciating the original post!

    There has been made an interesting remark:
    If a man sins, then where did the desire to sin come from?

    Well,there’s the rub. I think Calvinism distorts the attributes of God. Let me explain.

    One major flaw in Calvinism lies in its theodicy. Calvinism embraces what they refer to as the greater good defense. That means, sin is used by the sovereign God in order to realize a good purpose, to reach a greater goal in the end. Yet this is clearly in contradiction to God’s omnipotence. Wouldn’t an almighty God realize His desired purpose in a direct, straight way rather than be dependent on the means of evil to accomplish this goal? The greater good defense presents God as an investor who makes and investment, going into debt first, planning that after a time of amortization he earns a much greater profit, a return on investment he wouldn’t have been able to realize without going into debt in the beginning. Thus, according to reformed theodicy the almighty Lord would need to borrow from evil to fulfil his desires. He would need sins as a means to accomplish his purpose. But is the only true God comparable to an investor that needs unsavory means to achieve a higher return on investment in the future? This is clearly a denial of His omnipotence.

    But what about the notion, that not only the end but also the way itself is desired by God? In other words, the very way through sin and evil itself might be a part of the entire good, that is served. What if the means (sin) is in itself part and parcel of the entire greater good? Well, in this case, God would be evil himself and the author thereof. If evil is actually good, then we’ve turned God’s holiness and hatred of evil on the head. Thus, the idea that the “way through evil” is good and desired by God, means nothing else than that God is evil.

    So the greater good argument must either deny God’s omnipotence or his goodness. Both options are untenable. Therefore, the reformed theodicy is fallacious and even falls short of a mere defense of the God of the bible.

    Greetings
    -a helmet

  • http://combatingcalvinism.blogspot.com a helmet

    Hello Miles,

    Romans 3:10-12 is part of the entire prelude used by Paul to introduce the good news, that begin at verse 3:21. The quotation of the Psalm in Rom 3 is made with a certain purpose, namely the establishment of the new law of faith. In Romans chapter 1-3:20 Paul has been explaining why the old law was unsuitable to grant life. The old law simply wasn’t und couldn’t be kept by anyone. Now the following is crucial: Paul refers to the failure of the old law to grant life as the reason for the necessity of the new law of faith. The entire introduction in the Letter to the Romans is aiming at the necessity of the gospel of grace. The ten commandments couldn’t be fulfilled by anybody, therefore God graciously bestowed something new. Now, it would be very far-fetched and even blatantly against common sense to hold that this new law cannot be kept any better than the old law. For what good would this substitution be? Why a gospel, if it doesn’t accomplish any more than the old law?
    This is why the reformed dogma that nobody can naturally believe the gospel is so far-fetched and unreasonable. Not to mention the absolute lack of scriptural evidence that explicitly supports this doctrine.

    Greetings
    -a helmet

  • Bill Pratt

    Thanks Miles,
    So if man only desires to reject God before he is regenerated, where does this desire to reject God come from?

    God bless,
    Bill

  • Miles McLoughlin

    Wow this post has got some attention. I’m going to first answer Bill. Bill, you question is an easy one. The desire for man to sin & reject God comes from himself, mostly. # John 8:34, “Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.” I think we would agree that not repenting and not accepting Christ is sin, maybe even the greatest sin. However, Jesus says, we’re slaves to sin. # Eph. 2:1, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins.” 2:2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 2:3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 2:5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), God has to do something in us, or we won’t accept him.
    Helmut, with all respect, are you going to tell me, those verses in Romans 3 don’t describe a man’s spiritual condition before he’s saved? I can accept that it’s a prelude, but it doesn’t take away the truth of those verses. I’m not sure where you’re going with this “new law”. For me and all Calvinists, it’s all by grace. Calvinists believe we come to God by grace, we’re saved by grace and kept by God’s grace. Let me ask my non Calvinists brothers something. Why did you come to Christ? Were you smarter or more spiritual than the next person who heard the same presentation of the gospel? I know for myself I can’t claim that. Why did you accept Christ and the next person did not? What was in you that made that decision. For me, it was God being gracious to me by regenerating me, thus after hearing the word of God preached, I was able and willing to respond to God’s gracious invitation.
    I’m going to post a link to a debate I heard a few years ago. It was between Dr. Joseph Pipa & Dave Hunt. They cover lots of the stuff we are talking about. I’d be delighted if you guys would listen and let me know what you think. Take care & God Bless, Miles
    http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=49091046445

  • http://combatingcalvinism.blogspot.com a helmet

    Hello Miles,

    These verses in Rom. 3 are the quotation of a Psalm. And of course they are right. But they aren’t saying that nobody can believe the gospel. Why is Paul drawing on this Psalm anyway? Because he is going to establish the necessity of a new covenant (v.3:21). He is provinding a rationale why there is the need for the old covenant to be substituted by something else. Why? Because human nature would thwart the law. This is why he’s using this Psalm. If we hold that the Psalm says that nobody can believe because human nature stands in the way, then we miss the entire reasoning, which is then lapse. Thus, the inability to conform to the old law doesn’t mean that nobody can believe the gospel. Because the reason why the gospel was established is just that: Human nature thwarted the old commandments. Now,if you cannot believe the gospel either, then what use is it? We must not stretch the Psalm beyond its original meaning.

    I’m not sure where you’re going with this “new law”. For me and all Calvinists, it’s all by grace.

    I got this from Romans 3:27, which substitutes the law of works by the the law of faith. There is ample evidence in the bible that faith in the gospel is a commandment (Mt. 22:37; John 14:15; 1 John 5:3; 2 John 6). This is what I mean with new law, the new covenant. So there is a new commandment to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Let me ask my non Calvinists brothers something. Why did you come to Christ? Were you smarter or more spiritual than the next person who heard the same presentation of the gospel? […] Why did you accept Christ and the next person did not?

    Much could be said in response here. Let me draw on the bible to see what it says regarding the different responses to the gospel call. The bible answers this question with the parable of the sower. The seed is the word of God, which falls on different grounds. The seed is God’s side, the ground is man’s side. The seed falls on any ground, on the way, on rocky ground on thorny ground and on good ground. So the seed falls on any ground without respect of its quality. So what does it depend on, whether someone will bear fruit or not? God or man? Well, according to the parable it depends solely on the ground, that is on man. The seed falls on all grounds alike, the rain falls on all grounds alike and the sun shines on all grounds alike. Once the seed has fallen somewhere, it soley depends on the quality of the ground (man’s part) what follows. So the reason, why people respond differently to the gospel call, is to be found in the realm of man, not in God.

    -a helmet

  • Miles McLoughlin

    Hello Helmut, I appreciate your response. My main concern with your interpretation is these verses speak of the human condition. Not only that, there are other verses that speak of man’s inability to accept God on his own. I can give those later if you wish. It’s also important to note that Paul isn’t just quoting Psalm 14. He’s also using Psalm 5, 10,36 and Is. 59. These verses teach that man is capable of committing every sin on the planet. One of those sins is a failure to obey God. I think you would agree, that to do this, we need to be converted and have the help of the Holy Spirit. Paul starts his argument with Rom 3:9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; That verse in of itself doesn’t say we can’t come to God on our own, I’m just saying Paul is saying that both Jews and Gentiles need the gospel.

    Hello Miles,
    These verses in Rom. 3 are the quotation of a Psalm. And of course they are right. But they aren’t saying that nobody can believe the gospel. Why is Paul drawing on this Psalm anyway? Because he is going to establish the necessity of a new covenant (v.3:21). He is provinding a rationale why there is the need for the old covenant to be substituted by something else. Why? Because human nature would thwart the law. This is why he’s using this Psalm. If we hold that the Psalm says that nobody can believe because human nature stands in the way, then we miss the entire reasoning, which is then lapse. Thus, the inability to conform to the old law doesn’t mean that nobody can believe the gospel. Because the reason why the gospel was established is just that: Human nature thwarted the old commandments. Now,if you cannot believe the gospel either, then what use is it? We must not stretch the Psalm beyond its original meaning.
    I’m not sure where you’re going with this “new law”. For me and all Calvinists, it’s all by grace.
    Rom 3:11 THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS,
    THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;
    I was looking at the Believer’s Bible Commentary. Not a Calvinist commentary. However, even it says on Pg. 1686 “If left to himself to himself, fallen man would never seek God. It is only the work of the Holy Spirit that anyone ever does.”

    I got this from Romans 3:27, which substitutes the law of works by the the law of faith. There is ample evidence in the bible that faith in the gospel is a commandment (Mt. 22:37; John 14:15; 1 John 5:3; 2 John 6). This is what I mean with new law, the new covenant. So there is a new commandment to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
    Let me ask my non Calvinists brothers something. Why did you come to Christ? Were you smarter or more spiritual than the next person who heard the same presentation of the gospel? […] Why did you accept Christ and the next person did not?
    I agree with you that believing the gospel is a commandment. You’re assuming that just because we ought to do something, means we can do something. We’re told in Matt 5:48 “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Honestly I can’t keep this command. Fortunately I’m judged on Christ’s merits on this, and not my own.
    Much could be said in response here. Let me draw on the bible to see what it says regarding the different responses to the gospel call. The bible answers this question with the parable of the sower. The seed is the word of God, which falls on different grounds. The seed is God’s side, the ground is man’s side. The seed falls on any ground, on the way, on rocky ground on thorny ground and on good ground. So the seed falls on any ground without respect of its quality. So what does it depend on, whether someone will bear fruit or not? God or man? Well, according to the parable it depends solely on the ground, that is on man. The seed falls on all grounds alike, the rain falls on all grounds alike and the sun shines on all grounds alike. Once the seed has fallen somewhere, it soley depends on the quality of the ground (man’s part) what follows. So the reason, why people respond differently to the gospel call, is to be found in the realm of man, not in God.
    -a helmet

    Helmut, I have a favor to ask of you. If we’re going to continue this dialogue, when you’re quoting a passage, can you give me the reference. It will make it a lot easier for me. I’ll endeavor to do the same. It’s interesting after Jesus gives this parable he also says Matt 13:11 Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. 13:12 “For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. 13:13 “Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand 13:14 “In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND; YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE; 13:15 FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES, OTHERWISE THEY WOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES, hear WITH THEIR EARS, AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN, AND I WOULD HEAL THEM.’13:16 “But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear.
    My response to you is, that the reason this man’s heart was good soil, was because it was already prepared before hand before God. It’s interesting after Jesus gives this parable that he says for the disciples, they’ve been given the mystery of the kingdom of God. For this group of people it hasn’t. Why would Jesus make it harder for these people to understand if they had in them already to believe? I agree man has to respond to the gospel, however how can he on his own? Jesus even says John 6:44 “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.
    If we look at all of John 6, the ability to come to Christ is a spiritual ability. Not everybody has been enabled though.
    Helmut, I hope you listen to that debate I linked in my last post. I would be interested in your feed back. I would also recommend a good web cast that James White does twice a week. It’s called the dividing line. It’s also available on ITUNES. It’s been good dialoguing with you. Take care and God bless!

  • Miles McLoughlin

    Helmut; I wanted to also respond to your post on Theodicy. As a Calvinist I do affirm God’s omnipotence & his goodness. However, I also recognize that God can and does use the sinful acts of men to accomplish his will. Eph 1:11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,
    The first example I would use is Joseph & his brothers. These man, sold their brother into slavery and lied to their father that Joseph was dead. We would agree this is a sinful act. Look what Joseph says though, Gen 50:20 “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.
    Here we see Joseph’s brothers meant to do harm to Joseph, but God’s hand was in it all. Joseph understood that.
    I think we would agree that the murder of Jesus Christ is a grievous sin. Yet we see that the hand of God was in that as well. Acts 4:27 “For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,4:28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.
    There are other examples of God using the sinful acts of men to accomplish his will. I have no problem with that. Yes God is good, all good. However, he’s also Holy and Just. He can use the acts of sinful men to glorify himself and bring about the greatest good. IE our forgiveness & justification, through the cross. That’s my response. Take care and God bless!

  • http://combatingcalvinism.blogspot.com a helmet

    Hello Miles,

    I cannot deal with everything now, but I’ll pick up two things you wrote:

    THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS,
    THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;

    The lack of understanding here refers to the spiritual things. Spiritual death implies that we cannot know the things of God. Now, when it comes to our salvation, a spiritual dead person cannot tell how he must be brought to life. Spiritual dead persons have no say! Since we have no access to the things of God, we cannot make an establishment how salvation must work, how someone “dead in sins” must be made alive. This is just part of the lack of understanding which Rom. 3:11 speaks of. Therefore the following is crucial: Since we cannot judge rightly, it seems that we can only BELIEVE what the scripture says about how we are to be raised to spiritual life. And if the scripture says it is by FAITH, then who are we to deny this? We can either believe the testimony of scripture, which says that we are brought to life BY FAITH, or we make up our own ideas, what must first be. Now, Calvinists suggest spiritually dead individuals cannot believe. But note, spiritually dead persons have no grounds on which to make such a claim. If the bible says spiritually dead, not understanding sinners ARE able to believe, then are we justified in negating this? I think, no. Again, since no one understands, all he can obviously do is, believe. And everybody believes in something. It depends on WHAT you believe in. So it is important to believe in the right object.

    In no way does a natural, sinful person have a legitimate ground on which to reject the notion that he is fully able to believe the gospel on his own.

    You’re assuming that just because we ought to do something, means we can do something.

    Because there is good reason to assume this. As said already, Paul emphasizes that we weren’t able to keep the ten commandments because human nature would stand in the way. Then he points out a contrast to this works-based keeping of the ten commandments on the one hand, and the new faith-based gospel on the other hand. There is a contrast between the old and the new covenant with respect to their satisfiability.

    Therefore, it is obvious that we aren’t only commanded to believe (fulfill the new covenant) but are fully able to do this.

    On the other hand, the idea that nobody can believe on their own and that faith is thwarted by human nature, is against common sense and in fact very far-fetched. Unless one brings a good deal of calvinistic precommitment, one wouldn’t come to the idea that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is impossible, even though it is commanded. So this is far-fetched and hence unreasonable.

    “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Honestly I can’t keep this command.

    Sure, this is why we got the new covenant of faith, which makes us perfect and isn’t thwarted by the human flesh.

    -a helmet

  • Miles McLoughlin

    Hello Helmut; it’s me again. I hope you’re not getting tired of this. I find this mentally stimulating, and it’s making me think more about what I believe. Hopefully the post will look better. You’ll be able to tell better when I’m saying something & when I’m quoting you. I’m doing this on micro soft works and copying and pasting.

    “Hello Miles,
    I cannot deal with everything now, but I’ll pick up two things you wrote:
    THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS,
    THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;
    The lack of understanding here refers to the spiritual things. Spiritual death implies that we cannot know the things of God. Now, when it comes to our salvation, a spiritual dead person cannot tell how he must be brought to life. Spiritual dead persons have no say! Since we have no access to the things of God, we cannot make an establishment how salvation must work, how someone “dead in sins” must be made alive. This is just part of the lack of understanding which Rom. 3:11 speaks of. ”

    I’m glad you brought in the condition of being spiritually dead. Lets deal with the lack of understanding in Romans 3:11. Paul deals with this in 1 Cor 2:14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. So according to this verse, Paul tells us that man can’t understand spiritual things because he’s not spiritual. Like you said, he’s spiritually dead. I would allege that spiritually dead people can’t come to faith, unless God gives them spiritual life. John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,1:13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. I think we can agree that these verses speak of the new birth. It’s not our will that we become children of God, but God’s will. There’s a lot more verses on the new birth, but I’ll quote this one for now. Eph 2:5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),

    “Therefore the following is crucial: Since we cannot judge rightly, it seems that we can only BELIEVE what the scripture says about how we are to be raised to spiritual life. And if the scripture says it is by FAITH, then who are we to deny this? We can either believe the testimony of scripture, which says that we are brought to life BY FAITH, or we make up our own ideas, what must first be. Now, Calvinists suggest spiritually dead individuals cannot believe. But note, spiritually dead persons have no grounds on which to make such a claim. If the bible says spiritually dead, not understanding sinners ARE able to believe, then are we justified in negating this? I think, no. Again, since no one understands, all he can obviously do is, believe. And everybody believes in something. It depends on WHAT you believe in. So it is important to believe in the right object. ”

    Well, I believe we both have the right object of faith. However, you haven’t shown me that spiritually dead and not understanding sinners can believe on their own. The Bible uses the word dead for a reason to describe somebody spiritually. Physically dead people can’t do anything physical, because their dead. We can draw the same conclusion with spiritually dead people.

    “In no way does a natural, sinful person have a legitimate ground on which to reject the notion that he is fully able to believe the gospel on his own.”

    In one sense we agree. Romans 1 tells us that all men are without excuse. God has revealed himself through general & spiritual revelation. Yet man is suppressing that knowledge in unrighteousness. However, man still won’t accept God. Which we’re debating.

    “You’re assuming that just because we ought to do something, means we can do something.
    Because there is good reason to assume this. As said already, Paul emphasizes that we weren’t able to keep the ten commandments because human nature would stand in the way. Then he points out a contrast to this works-based keeping of the ten commandments on the one hand, and the new faith-based gospel on the other hand. There is a contrast between the old and the new covenant with respect to their satisfiability.”

    Ok, this a point I need clarification. Yes Israel and the Church are under different covenants, however, I believe that the Old Testament Saints were still saved by grace through faith. Nobody could keep the law perfectly for salvation. The OT Saints were awaiting for the Messiah to purchase their salvation. Theirs’ was on account so to speak. How do you understand how the OT Saints got saved?

    “Therefore, it is obvious that we aren’t only commanded to believe (fulfill the new covenant) but are fully able to do this.
    On the other hand, the idea that nobody can believe on their own and that faith is thwarted by human nature, is against common sense and in fact very far-fetched. Unless one brings a good deal of calvinistic precommitment, one wouldn’t come to the idea that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is impossible, even though it is commanded. So this is far-fetched and hence unreasonable.”

    If you remember in my first post, I didn’t start out as a Calvinist. I became one kicking and screaming. LOL. However, I’m a peace with that. I realize that when I witness to somebody, it’s not dependant on me whether that person gets saved or not. I’m just called to proclaim the gospel. I’ll leave the results to the Holy Spirit. However, lets talk about faith. We’re told that the faith we believe in Christ is a gift from God. Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; I’ve heard non Calvinist pastors even teach that faith is a gift from God. We’re also told that it’s been granted for us to believe. Phil 1:29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, The faith and the ability to believe in Christ is a gift and it has to be granted.

    “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Honestly I can’t keep this command.
    Sure, this is why we got the new covenant of faith, which makes us perfect and isn’t thwarted by the human flesh.”

    -a helmet

    Like I said before, I believe the OT Saints were always saved by faith. I believe scripture teaches it. In context this verse is speaking of Abraham. Gen 15:6 Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness. Paul will quote this in RM 4:3 and Gal. 3:6. Yet the New Testament teaches that saving faith is a gift from God.
    God bless.
    Miles

  • http://combatingcalvinism.blogspot.com a helmet

    Hello Miles,

    There’s again a variety of things touched on….
    I’m commenting on the “spiritual death” issue here.

    Yes, there’s more in the bible on man’s deadness in sin.
    […]1 Cor 2:14 … according to this verse, Paul tells us that man can’t understand spiritual things because he’s not spiritual. Like you said, he’s spiritually dead.

    Like in Rom 3:10-12, the lack of understanding of the things of God is the problem here. This is why I said that spiritually dead sinners cannot make any claims about how they must be made alive or by what means or in what order of events.

    In the bible, spiritual death is compared with blindness, with “walking in the darkness”. In fact spritual death is spiritual darkness, the failure to “see”. A person who was born blind cannot tell what “blue” or “yellow” is, and colors are just empty categories to him. He doesn’t know what sight is, he can only learn that he is destitute of a sense, but cannot know what exactly he is missing. He cannot even really imagine just what this precious sense IS that the others enjoy. And a person who cannot taste can likewise never know what “salty” even means.

    Consider the question “Can a 100% spiritually dead sinner believe the gospel without additional divine enablement?”. Now according to the dogma of Total Depravity the answer is “No”, because spiritual death is compared to physical death in this mindest. Yet a 100% dead sinner cannot make such an evaluation. A spiritually dead sinner cannot answer this question, because he has no understanding regarding this matter at all. Only someone who “sees” can tell. So if the Lord Jesus tells us that we, the spiritually dead are fully able and even commanded to believe in him, then the blind and dead sinners have simply no meaningful reason to argue against that.

    We can only believe what the bible authors say or we don’t. And I don’t think there is really an explicit denial of man’s ability to believe the gospel.

    However, you haven’t shown me that spiritually dead and not understanding sinners can believe on their own.

    Whether spiritually dead sinners can believe is a matter of — faith!

    Since spiritually dead persons cannot judge rightly, they cannot even answer the question “Can I, a dead sinner, believe?” Note, spiritual death implies, that even THIS very question cannot be answered by the sinner, because he cannot judge and has no basis on which to establish an answer. This is the essence of spiritual darkness. So what shall the poor sinner do? BELIEVE what he hears. Believing is thinking that something is true without knowing it. Finally, there are two options

    1) We believe that we can believe in Christ on our own
    2) We believe that we CANNOT believe in Christ on our own.

    No matter what we assent to, in both cases WE BELIEVE something. We do not KNOW anything regarding that matter whatsoever. We cannot KNOW anything but only BELIEVE because we’re spiritually dead! So no matter what a person believes, he cannot do anything else but believe.

    So the question is WHAT one believes, not WHETHER one believes.
    Spiritual dead sinners believe in false gods.

    I believe that the God I believe in, is the true God.

    I believe the biblical teaching that I can believe, because I don’t think there is any explicit denial of man’s ability to believe in the bible.

    And even if one believes that he cannot believe, well, then he believes just that.

    Ultimately, it seems that FAITH is the only tool for the spiritual dead to grasp, the question is only “faith in WHAT?”

    So the absolute bottom is always man’s faith.

    The Bible uses the word dead for a reason to describe somebody spiritually. Physically dead people can’t do anything physical, because their dead. We can draw the same conclusion with spiritually dead people.

    Spirit refers to knowledge and understanding. Since we lack understanding, we cannot know anything. Hence, we can only THINK that something is true, without certainly knowing it — we believe!

    How do you understand how the OT Saints got saved?

    I agree that they were justified by their faith, like Abraham. This shows that the notion of the Psalm “no one does good” really refers to the law and the condition of the human nature, and has never been the true standard of God’s righteousness, but only a means to “bring the knowledge of sin”, as Paul says. According to this mindset, Abraham wouldn’t have been a “God seeker” and have done “no good” in the sight of God. Yet we know, that Abraham’s faith and obediences WAS considered good by God.

    -a helmet

  • http://combatingcalvinism.blogspot.com a helmet

    PS

    I missed to address something:

    You’re quoting:
    Phil 1:29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,

    I think it has been granted the Philipians to believe in Christ, emphasizing the object here, IN CHRIST, because they heard the good news. They received the gospel, learned about Christ, so therefore they’ve been granted to believe in HIM. Whoever hasn’t heard of Christ, cannot believe in HIM. I wouldn’t conclude from this, that the mere ability to believe is the special gift here.

  • Miles McLoughlin

    Hello Helmut; I’m sorry it took me sometime to get back to you, but, I ‘ve been a bit busy. I did read your post and have thought about it. I’ve tried to work with the font, but have had not success. I’ll put what you said in quotes. I hope that will be ok.

    “Hello Miles,
    There’s again a variety of things touched on….
    I’m commenting on the “spiritual death” issue here.
    Yes, there’s more in the bible on man’s deadness in sin.
    […]1 Cor 2:14 … according to this verse, Paul tells us that man can’t understand spiritual things because he’s not spiritual. Like you said, he’s spiritually dead.
    Like in Rom 3:10-12, the lack of understanding of the things of God is the problem here. This is why I said that spiritually dead sinners cannot make any claims about how they must be made alive or by what means or in what order of events.”

    OK, if I’m understanding you correctly, it’s your contention that the lack of understanding is the problem with the unregenerate. If they understood sufficiently, they can make a response to the gospel. However, because they don’t understand, they can’t make a response to God’s calling. If I’m wrong, please correct me. I think that’s what you’re saying, but I’m having trouble seeing that in the verses you cited. I cited 1 Cor 2:14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. My question to you is, how can an unspiritual man appraise the things of the Lord. Paul seems to say he can’t in his unspiritual condition and that he won’t.
    Romans 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity (hostile) against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
    I see from this verse that not only the carnal mind is at odds with God, but that it won’t subject itself to God’s law and that it can’t. The reason for is the enmity with God.

    “In the bible, spiritual death is compared with blindness, with “walking in the darkness”. In fact spritual death is spiritual darkness, the failure to “see”. A person who was born blind cannot tell what “blue” or “yellow” is, and colors are just empty categories to him. He doesn’t know what sight is, he can only learn that he is destitute of a sense, but cannot know what exactly he is missing. He cannot even really imagine just what this precious sense IS that the others enjoy. And a person who cannot taste can likewise never know what “salty” even means.”

    Again, I don’t see this idea taught in scripture. Where in the Bible is spiritual death compared with blindness. I would agree that a dead person is also blind, but every place in scripture I see the concept of spiritual deadness being a condition of being dead and the need for the new birth. . I’m going to cite a few verses I see spiritual deadness being taught.
    Eph 2:1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,  2:2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.  2:3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.  2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 2:5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),

    These few verses in Ephesians speaks of what we were before we came to Christ. However, it’s God who makes us alive. It’s also God who makes it possible for us to come to Christ. John 6:44 “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:65 And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”

    “Consider the question “Can a 100% spiritually dead sinner believe the gospel without additional divine enablement?”. Now according to the dogma of Total Depravity the answer is “No”, because spiritual death is compared to physical death in this mindest. Yet a 100% dead sinner cannot make such an evaluation. A spiritually dead sinner cannot answer this question, because he has no understanding regarding this matter at all. Only someone who “sees” can tell. So if the Lord Jesus tells us that we, the spiritually dead are fully able and even commanded to believe in him, then the blind and dead sinners have simply no meaningful reason to argue against that. “

    The problem is Jesus says, those who are spiritually dead can’t come to him. Paul says the carnal mind is a enmity with God and won’t and can’t respond to God.

    “We can only believe what the bible authors say or we don’t. ”
    That’s not a problem with me. Remember, what I said before. I was convinced that Reformed Theology was true by having it explained in scripture and it was also logical.
    “And I don’t think there is really an explicit denial of man’s ability to believe the gospel.”
    How about this. You would agree that coming to faith in Christ. Believing in Christ and repenting are good things that please God. Is coming to faith something done in the Spirit or in our own flesh? I would say it comes in the Spirit. Rom 8:5 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 8:7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8:8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Are you still going to say that a spiritually dead person who is at enmity with God can come to him on his own?

    “However, you haven’t shown me that spiritually dead and not understanding sinners can believe on their own.
    Whether spiritually dead sinners can believe is a matter of — faith!
    Since spiritually dead persons cannot judge rightly, they cannot even answer the question “Can I, a dead sinner, believe?” Note, spiritual death implies, that even THIS very question cannot be answered by the sinner, because he cannot judge and has no basis on which to establish an answer. This is the essence of spiritual darkness. So what shall the poor sinner do? BELIEVE what he hears. Believing is thinking that something is true without knowing it. Finally, there are two options”
    1) We believe that we can believe in Christ on our own
    2) We believe that we CANNOT believe in Christ on our own.
    No matter what we assent to, in both cases WE BELIEVE something. We do not KNOW anything regarding that matter whatsoever. We cannot KNOW anything but only BELIEVE because we’re spiritually dead! So no matter what a person believes, he cannot do anything else but believe.
    So the question is WHAT one believes, not WHETHER one believes.
    Spiritual dead sinners believe in false gods.
    I believe that the God I believe in, is the true God.
    I believe the biblical teaching that I can believe, because I don’t think there is any explicit denial of man’s ability to believe in the bible.
    And even if one believes that he cannot believe, well, then he believes just that.
    Ultimately, it seems that FAITH is the only tool for the spiritual dead to grasp, the question is only “faith in WHAT?”
    So the absolute bottom is always man’s faith.
    The Bible uses the word dead for a reason to describe somebody spiritually. Physically dead people can’t do anything physical, because their dead. We can draw the same conclusion with spiritually dead people.
    Spirit refers to knowledge and understanding. Since we lack understanding, we cannot know anything. Hence, we can only THINK that something is true, without certainly knowing it — we believe!
    How do you understand how the OT Saints got saved?
    I agree that they were justified by their faith, like Abraham. This shows that the notion of the Psalm “no one does good” really refers to the law and the condition of the human nature, and has never been the true standard of God’s righteousness, but only a means to “bring the knowledge of sin”, as Paul says. According to this mindset, Abraham wouldn’t have been a “God seeker” and have done “no good” in the sight of God. Yet we know, that Abraham’s faith and obediences WAS considered good by God.”
    -a helmet”
    Reply

    You’re saying a lot of the same thing here. Like I said in my last post, the Bible says that faith is a gift. In this I’ll deal with you’re last post.
    Phil 1:29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,
    I’m saying in this verse that God has granted that we believe as well as suffer for him. Let me deal with later part of this verse first. We don’t get it in this country. However, in places like China, they get it that’s it’s an honor to suffer for what they believe. Just hearing the gospel isn’t enough to be granted to believe. The Greek word for granted is charizomai. it’s the idea of being shown favor or bestowed. It seems kind of hollow to me that only hearing the gospel is being granted to believe. I see here God doing something.

    Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;  2:9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

    This verse should be very well known to you. In it were told that the very faith we have to believe is a gift from God.

    Acts 16:14 A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.

    Notice that the Lord had to do a work in Lydia’s heart before she could respond positively to what Paul was preaching about.
    That concludes my remarks. I would greatly appreciate it you would listen to that debate I posted. I would love to hear what you think. Until that time. Take care and God bless!

  • Whickman00

    If man is not predestined, then he has the free will to either accept God’s gracious offer or not, however, this presents a problem- if we are completely dead in our sins(which theBible says is true), then we cannot make the decision to either choose or reject God, therefore God has to impute righteousness upon us without our own acceptance or denial. What do you not understand about Gods sovereighnty?!?! Just read “The Sovereignty of God” by A.W. Pink then tell me that man is not predestined by a sovereign God. Then read Romans9, then read the countless other oassages that speak of Gods elect. By the way, i am a strong 5 Point Calvinist, and i may not use eloquent garble to try to explain topics, but i do know that Calvin was completely correct and Arminius was completely wrong (his teachings are dangerous and unbiblical in every way).

    P.s.- man’sidea of our entitlement to free will is sinful in the highest degree. It is called pride. We feel entitled because we want to feel like we control our lives. We also always think ” its not fair!!”, and it may not be fair, but it is perfectly just. If God had not provided a way of salvation, every single man who lives and dies would go to hell, but because of his imputation of righteousness upon the elect, we are saved and all glory goes to Him so that no man may boast.

  • Darrell

    Whickman,

    You are correct to point out that left to himself, man is incapable of coming to God. As Paul teaches, the one man’s sin brought death, and death brought man’s sin. However, thanks be to God that He sent His Son to remake mankind. Christ entered into humanity, remaking human nature by becoming the second Adam. He lived, died, and was resurrected, crushing death. As a result, man’s nature has been united to the Divine Nature in the person of Christ. Christ has recapitulated mankind. We now all have the ability to respond to God’s call in Christ. He calls all, and we have the opportunity and ability to say yes or no. There is absolutely no need to take a Strong 5 Point Calvinist view on this issue.

  • Whickman00

    Okay, I am going to stop arguing about this because we are getting nowhere. Thanks for the “discussion”.

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