27 February 2008

Is There an Antidote for Human Depravity?

The fact of our fallenness makes sovereign grace essential
by Phil Johnson

(This is the continuation of a series begun here.)



et's go back to the passage we began this series with: Ephesians 2:1-3. This time I'll add (in bold italics) two words from verse 4. Those two words mark the pivotal statement of the chapter:
You were dead in your trespasses and sins, 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. 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. But God . . .

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones preached one of his most famous sermons on those two words—"But God." That simple conjunction marks the apostle Paul's transition from the problem of human depravity to its solution. The only possible solution, Paul says, is the sovereign application of saving grace to the sinner. Are you looking for an explicit statement of Calvinistic doctrine in the Pauline epistles? Here is one of many, and it's a classic. Notice: Paul's whole argument in bringing up the doctrine of human depravity in this context was to make the point that our fallenness leaves us utterly at the mercy of God for salvation. Our utter inability—which Paul has just described as a state of spiritual death—underscores the absolute necessity of God's sovereignty in salvation. Because we are so thoroughly fallen and spiritually incapacitated, our salvation must be God's work, and God's work alone.



This truth does not come out of nowhere. Paul already established the truth of divine sovereignty in chapter 1, where he reminded the Ephesians that God chose them (4), predestined them (5), guaranteed their adoption (5), bestowed on them His grace (6), redeemed them (7), forgave them (7), lavished riches of grace on them (8), made known to them His will (9), obtained an inheritance for them (11), guaranteed that they would glorify Him (11-12), saved them (13), and sealed them with the Spirit (13-14). All those same truths are true of every believer. In short, God "has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (3). All of this is the work of His sovereign grace, performed not because of any good in us, but simply "according to the kind intention of His will" (5, 9) and "according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will" (11).

There's not a hint of Arminianism in that. There's not a whisper of stress on human free will. Paul is expressly teaching that all of salvation is God's work and He is absolutely sovereign in the process. In fact, Ephesians 2 begins with the passage quoted in red type in the block paragraph above, stressing the utter inability of spiritually-dead sinners, and then it culminates with Paul's statement in verse 10 that even the good works done by believers were prepared by God beforehand! How could Paul have been any more clear or emphatic about the truth of God's sovereignty in our salvation?

In fact, this is the central message of Ephesians 2: salvation is entirely God's work. We're not to think redemption hinges on any work, motion, activity, or free-will choice on the part of the sinner. Verses 8-9 therefore constitute a succinct thesis statement for the whole chapter: "By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, [so] that no one [can] boast" (8-9).

"But God!"—and here we see the only possible cure for human depravity, the grace of a loving God:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.


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58 comments:

donsands said...

If that don't make you shout Hallelujah, nothing will.

What a great Savior we have!

", stressing the utter inability of spiritually-dead sinners,"

This is where my non-reformed bros & sis' disagree every time. They simply say we're not dead-dead, but only sick-dead.

A sinner is on his sick bed dying, and the cure is on the nightstand, and the Physician will come and take the medicine, put it in a spoon, and then even hold the spoon to the mouth of the dying man, and even place at your lips, but He can't swallow it for you.

DJP said...

Amen.

One of the clinchers in overcoming my resistance to the connecting the dots of the Biblical teaching of God's sovereignty in salvation was an analogy by, as I recall, Cornelius van Til.

He likened the more Arminian Gospel preacher to a man standing in a morgue, with a golden cup holding the elixir of life. He preached to all the corpses laid out therein, promising them that if they'd just drink the elixir, they'd live again. All they had to do was reach out, take the cup, and drink.

Which they couldn't do.

Because they were dead.

Johnny Dialectic said...

"Scripture teaches both that the work of salvation rests upon the will of God, and not upon the will of man; and (secondly, the equally sure doctrine) that the will of man has its proper position in the work of salvation, and is not to be ignored." (Spurgeon)

Hallelujah.

Stefan said...

Don:

He can't swallow it for the patient, but if the patient is so sick that he or she can't even hold the spoon and pour the medicine into it, then an IV infusion may be called for. The patient doesn't do anything except lie there.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

I'm a Reform guy. There's lots of Wesleyan/Arminian synergism folks out there.

My point: Many Reform/Calvinists regard and hold Arminians as fellow Christians.

So even if they don't believe in total depravity and even though they believe in a different conception of free will, it doesn't matter in the sense that from a Reform point of view, Arminians are still totally depraved, and still saved as a result of God's divine sovereignty.

I still believe that we should contend for the absolute truth of God's sovereignty. And that it's an important and essential point.

I'm just saying that, by usual Calvinist behavior, since Calvinists regard Arminians as also being saved brothers-and-sisters in Christ, I'm thinking that some of the extreme rancor between the two sides are not particularly edifying.

centuri0n said...

Yeah, woops. That post everyone thought they saw? You'll see it tomorrow.

Daniel said...

OK, I get it. We're dead. The Lord chooses some corpses, but not others. Corpses can't choose. Scripture is clear.

But - with apologies to Dave Hunt - "what love is this?" I still can't be a Calvinist.

Daryl said...

Daniel,

If your first paragraph is genuine...are we to understand that in your second paragraph you meant "Christian" where you said "Calvinist"?

donsands said...

"IV infusion may be called for."

I like that Stefan.

S.J. Walker said...

"Men are not merely in danger of death; they are already dead and are in profound reality of not being resurrected. They(we) are completely at the mercy of someone more powerful than us. Such is the work for a God of unfathomable ability. How can I possibly attribute even a part of this to my own will. I would will many things, but they are simply eclipsed by the awe striking sufficiency of God. He will have mercy upon whom He will have mercy. I don’t understand it, nor do I need to; I glory in it."

Trinian said...

Seems a major response to being presented with the clear teaching of this passage of Scripture like this is either a retreat back to different passages that they claim to be contradictory or (more commonly) something similar to "A God who operates like this doesn't seem very loving. I can't believe in a God who works like that."

...to which the response is, "That's what I've been trying to tell you!!" ;)

S.J. Walker said...

trinian,

Touché

Mike Riccardi said...

Johnny,

I've seen you post comments (especially Spurgeon quotes) like that on all of the threads in this series. I'm wondering if you think Spurgeon was actually a classical Arminian, then.

The human will has it's place in salvation. One must choose. It's inescapable, just like Phil has been saying, just like Spurgeon always said. No Calvinist ever should assert that in the act of salvation, God drags people kicking and screaming from their sin, sits them down in front of Him with their bottom lip curled, and says, "Now, you're gonna love me whether you like it or not!"

Man must choose. But He never can. He's dead.

But God (like that folks?), seeing that there was no one to work justice, sustained justice by his own arm (Is. 59) and went ahead and changed the natures of the elect so that they could then have such a nature that was able to choose, and that would only choose Him.

So the dead sinner is made alive, and as soon as he can see God for who He is and his sin for what it is, He gladly and freely chooses God, now having been endowed with a nature capable of such choice. Without that nature, the sinner will always be dead. And without the sovereign regeneration of the Holy Spirit, he'll never have that nature.

No room for Arminius there, brother.

Robert said...

The proper conception of depravity is one of my main reasons for rejecting calvinism. I understand that the bible teaches that our condition before we are saved is hopeless (because the wrath of God is upon us) and spiritually dead (separated from God and so unless we repent; heading for an awful judgment). Donsands and DJP present the erroneous conception of spiritual death as being completely inactive, unable to do anything. This is not true, the sinner does all sorts of things including sinning and even doing good works.

The Jews apart from Christ were zealous about their spirituality (Rom. 10:2) and put their confidence in their keeping of the law (Rom. 10:3). The apostle Paul counters this with the whole book of Romans which argues that the righteousness of God available through faith in Christ alone is the way of salvation (not keeping the law in your own strength). Paul does not say that his fellow Jews are completely incapable of doing any good works (cf. Paul speaks of his own attempt at keeping the law, though he did not do so perfectly he was obeying the law to some extent, cf. Phil.3:4-6), or that the law of God is evil or not good (Rom. 7:12). His point is that if you are going to go the “keeping the law” route then you have to do so perfectly (cf. Deut. 6:24-25; Lev. 18:5; James 2:10). NO ONE (except Jesus) does it perfectly, so all fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23) and all stand condemned and in need of forgiveness of their sins.

So the claim that a “spiritually dead” person is incapable of doing any good works is false. The problem is that the “spiritually dead” person is separated from God by his/her sin, and that (especially the Jewish people) put their confidence in their **own righteousness**. Rather than putting their faith in Christ and his righteousness (his work of atonement in their place).

Another common example, I have often witnessed to cult people and they continue to stumble over justification by faith, believing that the work of Christ alone is not sufficient for righteousness, that they have to add on their own works. Mormons for example are some of the nicest people who do all sorts of good works, but they put their faith in their works rather than in Christ’s work. This claim by calvinists that a person is spiritually dead and incapable of doing any good work is false (contradicted both by scripture and our own experience).

The calvinists will push the “spiritually dead” metaphor of Ephesians 2 to the extreme so that they then conclude that the spiritually dead person is like a physically dead person (unable to do anything, unable to move, unable to act, still, lifeless, not moving at all). Look around, the sinners around you are quite active (actively sinning and actively trusting in their own works to save them).

No where does Jesus or Paul ever say to the Jewish people zealously doing good works that they were (1) incapable of doing good works or (2) not doing any good works. Instead, the argument is that they need to trust in the righteousness of Christ rather than their own good works. And Paul says **that** is what they stumbled upon, trusting in their own works (Rom. 10:3) rather than Christ, so they stumbled upon Christ because of unbelief (Romans 9:31-33).

It must also be noted that spiritual death means separation from God. This is especially clear in the prodigal son parable where the Father in the story says of his son: “for this son of mine was DEAD, and HAS COME TO LIFE again; he was LOST and has been FOUND.” When the son rebelled against his father and went away from his father and engaged in serious sin his father considered his son to be DEAD. Then when he returned he considered his son to be alive. When the son was sinning was he incapable of doing any actions, a lifeless corpse? No, he did lots of things, and he actively engaged in sin. Similarly, before we are saved we are a lot like the prodigal son when he was sinning, we are spiritually dead/separated from God, and quite active and doing all sorts of things.

Donsands wrote:

”This is where my non-reformed bros & sis' disagree every time. They simply say we're not dead-dead, but only sick-dead.

A sinner is on his sick bed dying, and the cure is on the nightstand, and the Physician will come and take the medicine, put it in a spoon, and then even hold the spoon to the mouth of the dying man, and even place at your lips, but He can't swallow it for you.”
Actually I like that analogy. Of course no analogy is perfect, but they can be helpful and make some valid points. Before we come to Christ we are deathly sick with sin and its effects (though most unregenerate persons do not believe themselves to be in that deathly ill condition, a lot of self-deception is present). Only if we are informed about the Doctor and his cure is there any possibility of healing from our illness/sin. And even when informed about the Doctor and his cure, we have to trust the Doctor, trust that what **He** says about our sickness and possibility of recovery is true. And all we can do then is to beg him to give us the medicine, administer it to us, we cannot administer it to ourselves.

This analogy captures some very important points including: (1) God has to (and this is the work of the Holy Spirit) reveal to us our condition of sinfulness, the cure that God provides/the way of salvation; (2) we cannot heal ourselves of our sinful condition but need the actions of someone else to heal us (the doctor gives us the medicine we cannot even take it ourselves); (3) if we end up taking the medicine and getting healed who gets the credit for our healing? Who actually does it? The doctor does; and (4) God does not have faith for us or in our place, **we** have to trust the Doctor and his cure.

Now DJP appealed to Van Til’s analogy:

”He likened the more Arminian Gospel preacher to a man standing in a morgue, with a golden cup holding the elixir of life. He preached to all the corpses laid out therein, promising them that if they'd just drink the elixir, they'd live again. All they had to do was reach out, take the cup, and drink.”

One of the reasons why I reject calvinism is because of analogies like this, conceiving of spiritual death in this way. With physical death the spirit is separated from the body, so I believe in a similar way spiritual death is separation from God and its attending consequences (it should be noted that when Adam fell he did not immediately die physically though he was immediately separated from God by his sins and yet he was able to trust in God’s provision for sin/the blood of the animals). What calvinists do is to claim and believe that just as a corpse is lifeless, unresponsive, makes no motions, engages in no activities, just lays there: in the same way those who are spiritually dead are corpses that are lifeless, unresponsive, make no motions, engage in no activities, etc.

But this is not true, the sinner engages in sin which is a spiritual activity. The sinner represses the truth in unrighteousness (cf. Romans 1) which is a spiritual activity. I have spoken to nonbelievers (usually cultists) who knew and understood exactly what Christianity espouses and yet they consciously and with understanding rejected it. Some had even experienced the work of the Spirit knowing they were sinners, knowing that Jesus was the only way of salvation, etc. etc. and yet choosing to reject it.

Compare this with folks who though convicted by the Spirit and having the Spirit working to lead them to Christ have not yet submitted to Jesus as Lord though they believe He is their savior; they then try to live the Christian life for a while unsuccessfully until they “rededicate” themselves. When, in my opinion, they actually get saved and follow Jesus as their master and Lord; they were not saved persons when they were merely believing him to be savior but not submitting to him as Lord, and yet they had some understanding of spiritual things may have even been involved in a church or going to church services while still unregenerate. The flip side being people convinced they were Christians, involved in the church, knowing that Jesus is Lord and yet finding out at the end “I never knew you”. These people also had understanding of spiritual things, knew Jesus to be Lord, but likely had never submitted to Him as Lord. They knew him to be Lord but never followed him as Lord.

Besides what scripture says, having done quite a bit of evangelism, I have seen first hand that calvinist claims about the unregenerate are not true. They are not inactive like corpses (they actively sin) they are not incapable of doing any good works (they do in fact do good works and place their confidence in their works rather than Christ), they are not completely lacking in their understanding of Christianity and spiritual truths (they sometimes know exactly what we believe, are fully conscious of their rebellion against God, completely aware of their condition of being separated from God, can even tell you for a time they were involved in the church but not following Jesus as Lord), so the calvinist conception of spiritual death as motionless corpses does not fit reality.

Robert

Daryl said...

Robert,

Funny, you say the Calvinist conception of spiritual death does not fit reality, yet your description of what you imagine the calvinist view to be, is patently false and not remotely Calvinistic.

No one said non-believers are corpses, only that their spirits are. To say that sinning and living in general is somehow a spiritual exercise is absurb. On what ground do you make such a claim.

If we are to believe, as you do, that our spirits are not dead, but merely on deaths door, then it was God, not the serpent, who lied in the garden.
Compare "on the day you eat of it, you shall die" with "you shall not surely die". Remember who said what Robert? God said the first one, Satan said the second one.
I'll take God's word over anyone's, that Adam (and so us) did in fact die.

S.J. Walker said...

Robert,

I agree with Daryl that it would be better to have a more accurate understanding of Calvinism before you write novels about it.

There are parts of John Calvin's theology that I don't find to be Biblical, but depravity, which Paul wrote of before Calvin, preceded much longer before by Solomon, David, and many other Old Testament prophets and men of God is irrefutable in entirety. Calvin did not teach that men are incapable of "doing good". He agreed with the word that all the "doing good" is as filthy rags and has no Heavenly compulsion behind it but rather self preserving humanism. The fact that only God can call and reverse the will of man to sin unto his personal earthly glory and hate sin unto his Savior's Heavenly glory is the matter of spiritual deadness and life in Christ by Grace.

Your point about people acknowledging Savior-ship but not Lordship or vice-versa is good, but does not support the idea that man is not dead despite some spiritual knowledge. The main problem being that you are shooting down a flaw that was not proffered by Calvin or those here.

Please don’t think me harsh or arrogant. I must not be and my desire, miraculously, is not to be so. But in consideration of the point being made, and furthermore of the text in Scripture, your laborious argument is not really applicable.

A man from the jungle falling off a cliff who has never heard of the Law of Gravity is still obviously bound to it unto death. Upon his fall, he is made completely aware of his state, though with all the life that is in him, he cannot in any way save himself by stopping falling and going back up. Gravity will exact its result. He will die.

He is then, in a sense, already dead. No amount of life in him does him any good--it's pitiful in fact.

So we are with sin. We have fallen, bound by God to die unto our destruction. We are not unconsciously dead, at least forever. But, we are still helpless to stop our treacherous descent.

This is spiritual deadness. This is Total Depravity. But, as Phil also cited, "BUT GOD!” Forget about Calvin. He would be rolling over in his grave to hear all that is argued over "his" ideas. This truth is not from him but from scripture and I don't understand it-I glory in it! We must, if Christians, submit to it.

I hope this make sense.

In Christ Alone

Johnny Dialectic said...

Mike, I post those clips just to adjust the balance on the mixer. God's "monergistic" sovereignty and human responsibility are usually handled by moderate Calvinists as an "antinomy" (apparent contradiction) or "apparently parallel" (though not understandable).

jmb said...

"Paul does not say that his fellow Jews are completely incapable of doing any good works (cf. Paul speaks of his own attempt at keeping the law, though he did not do so perfectly he was obeying the law to some extent, cf. Phil.3:4-6)"

Romans 3:9-12 -
"What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, as it is written:

'None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.' (Ps. 14:1-3)

donsands said...

"Actually I like that analogy." Robert

I knew you would.

I believe the natural man has an utterly callous mind, one that will never rid itself of its callous'. This same heart cannot believe the Gospel, for the Gospel is spiritual, and the natural man "does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; NOR CAN HE KNOW, BECAUSE THEY ARE SPIRITUALLY DISCERNED".

One has to be born again, or born from the Father above, so that he can hear the Gospel.

We are Dead, callous, and our hearts are hard as granite. Not only that, but the prince of this world has OUR MINDS blinded, so we can not believe the Gospel.

"But God, ... " Praise Him for, He is worthy of 100% pure praise, for salvation is of the LORD!

Thank you Lord for opening my heart; a heart that was closed tight, and wanted nothing to do with you.

DJP said...

Robert — wow, that comment was... long.

If those are your reasons for rejecting Calvinism, you've made quite a mistake. Others have already pointed out that no Calvinist (that I know of) teaches that the Bible says the lost are inactive. But we do agree with Paul that we're dead enough to require an act of monergistic grace analogous to resurrection for our salvation (Ephesians 2:1-10), that we're morally and spiritually bankrupt from stem to stern (Romans 3:10-20), that our righteous deeds, so far from being spiritually meritorious, are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), that nothing good dwells in us (Romans 7:18), that we're incapable of submitting to the law of God and, in fact, hate it and Him, and are incapable of submitting to His law or pleasing Him (Romans 8:6-8), and on and on.

Rejecting "Calvinism" is rejecting Biblical anthropology.

Johnny Dialectic said...

"We are Dead, callous, and our hearts are hard as granite."

Don, how would you describe the hearts of Lydia (Acts 16) and Cornelius (Acts 10) before their regeneration?

donsands said...

Lydia's heart was still closed. God was bringing her to Himself. He was using His ways to save her, however, her heart wasn't thoroughly opened, which happens in a particular moment, the same as it did for Paul, or for anyone who is brought out the darkness into His marvelous light.

Cornelius is the same. He was brought to his day of salvation in the way it deemed his Father and Lord to do so.
His heart, before Peter preached the Gospel to him, was still callous, and he was still blind, but he was brought to where he was by God in the way God wanted.

God sovereignly saves His children out of the darkness in the way that pleases Him, and in the way He purposes, as He seeks us out.

I may have been a Cornilius for a season, before my stoneyheart was changed to flesh.

Pharoah is a good example. He was very hardhearted, and yet after seven trials from the Lord he says, after sending for Moses and Aaron, "I have sinned this time: the LORD is righteous, and I and my people are wicked.
Intreat the Lord (for it is enough) and I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer." Pharoah seemed to have a change of heart, or his heart seemed less hard, but it wasn't.

Bottom line I think, is that every human heart is hard as granite, until the hammer of God, which is the Gospel, wielded by God the Holy Spirit, busts it to pieces.

And there's a mystery to all this as well,when dealing with the human heart. Only God sees the heart, and He sees a person's life a lot different then we do.

Ben said...

Donsands,

When you say that Lydia’s heart was still callous and hard what does it mean then that He opened her heart? Are you saying that she responded in a saving way with still the heart of stone? If so then the Arminian side has a better understanding of this than the Calvinist side. I doubt that you would agree with that, but if she responded in a saving way with her heart of stone and the opening of her heart was not regeneration, then this fists perfectly into the Arminian view of God giving enabling grace for one to either receive or reject.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Don, when Luke describes Lydia as a "worshiper of God" before conversion; and Cornelius as "devout and God fearing" and regularly praying, is that consistent with your view that their hearts were "hard as granite"?

This is not biblical anthropology, IMO.

DJP said...

Because two narrative notes trump reams of clear, categorical doctrinal statements, in your hermeneutic?

Ben said...

It is not that it trumps it, but if one can respond with his heart of stone then it fits nicely with the Reformed Arminian view of progressive regeneration. When I see that even Calvinist say her heart wasn't thoroughly opened this conforms nicely to what Arminius wrote about this enabling grace that God provides in order to receive or reject. If they receive then God openes their heart all the way.

Johnny Dialectic said...

In a way, Dan. Lydia and Cornelius are there for that very reason. They are clear, unambiguous and understandable examples. Thus, they help us understand and formulate correct, biblical doctrine. In this case, they do trump the view that prevails here, IMO. How can "dead" people worship God?

How do YOU explain Lydia and Cornelius?

donsands said...

Johnny.

How about, they were still dead, and yet to be quickened from the dead?

Regeneration happens in a moment of time, as Christ comes in to dwell with His newborn child, and the Father as well, through the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

I know lots of really nice people, who are hardhearted, and yet they go to church, and are good citizens, and good neighbors. But God sees their hearts different then we do.
I go to my mothers assisted living residence, and their are a lot of good people there, but many don't know Christ as their Savior, and yet they will pray with me, and acknowledge the Lord in a sense, but they are dead, or have hearts as hard as granite, yet nice personalities, and even religious.

Hopefully God the Father is drawing these people, who go to church and worship, to His Son.

The Lord didn't have to send Peter to Cornelius, did he? And if not, then Cornelius would have died in his sin.

That's the way I see it.

Saul's conversion, though much different than Cornelius' in the way it happened, was exactly the same as all conversions, exactly the same regeneration of a dead spirit.

Ben said...

Just so I am clear on this, the Calvinistic understanding of Lydia is that the "opened her heart" is not regeneration, but is just the inner illumination to be able to understand and then respond in a saving way?

donsands said...

"the "opened her heart" is not regeneration"

No. The opened her heart is regeneration. The Lord Jesus opens hearts. Her heart was closed.

When it was opened by the Lord, then Paul's words were heeded to by Lydia.
What a beautiful passage of how Jesus comes and rescues His sheep.

"For thus says the LORD God: Indeed I MYSELF will search for My sheep and seek them out. .... I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statues, and you will keep My judgments and do." Ezekiel 34:11;36:26-27

"I am the good Shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. ... and I lay down My life for the sheep.
And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be One Flock and one Shepherd." John 10:14-16

jeff said...

Thanks Phil,
I remember when I first got saved and the person who led me to Christ said later, "You were really messed up, but I'll give you credit for one thing, at least you accepted the invitation when it was offered." At the time I didn't question it too much, but I did remember how all my life I had rejected Christianity and all things "good". I felt ashamed that it had taken so much for me to come to realize my wretchedness and my need of Christ. Thanks in large part to people here at pyromaniacs, I've come to realize that I cannot even glory in my own decision. Salvation is all of the Lord. God bless

Ben said...

I am getting confused then, if "opened her heart" is regeneration then is this not giving a new heart of flesh where once was a heart of stone? So when you wrote that her heart wasn't thourougly opened what does that mean?

Wait a minute, what you mean to say is that while Lydia was a "worshiper of God" her heart was still closed, but when her heart was opened (via regeneration) then she was able to respond in a saving way. Would that be fair to say you mean?

donsands said...

"what you mean to say is that while Lydia was a "worshiper of God" her heart was still closed,"

Yes. A God-fearer, but yet to be born again, as Nicodemus was.

Stefan said...

I know that in my own life, I cannot claim any credit at all for being saved. I was a God-rejecting rebel on some level until the very day I was reborn in the Holy Spirit

The Lord worked on me for many years before I was regenerated, transforming me step by step from an atheist to a believer. But until the day I was born again, I was not truly a believer.

The Holy Spirit was chipping away at my heart, readying me for the day I would be reborn and justified. For the last couple of years before I was saved, I had an intellectual understanding of what Christ had done on the Cross for us sinners, going to church every week, participating in some pretty in-depth Bible study, and praying.

But I was still in some sense spiritually dead, for when I was born again, it was a black-and-white, night-and-day boundary that I had crossed. It's like a lightswitch had gone on inside my head, and everything that had previously seemed opaque or obscured to me, suddenly made sense. I no longer stumbled when I read Romans. I no longer thought John 3 was impenetrably esoteric.

I can claim no credit whatsoever for the several years of my getting closer to God before I was saved: even that—as well as the act of salvation itself—was the monergistic work of the sovereign Lord God.

Robert said...

Daryl wrote:

“Funny, you say the Calvinist conception of spiritual death does not fit reality, yet your description of what you imagine the calvinist view to be, is patently false and not remotely Calvinistic.”
The Van Til analogy properly conveys what most calvinists believe and it is off base and mistaken.

“No one said non-believers are corpses, only that their spirits are. To say that sinning and living in general is somehow a spiritual exercise is absurd. On what ground do you make such a claim.”
Actually the Van Til analogy does in fact say that nonbelievers are mere corpses incapable of any activity whatsoever.
You may want to be careful about claiming that the human spirit is dead, if our spirit were dead we would not be conscious. The human spirit refers to the immaterial aspect of our being in contrast to our physical body. We are a spirit/body unity: so our actions involve both our spirits and our bodies. The bible speaks of three kinds of death: (1) in physical death our spirit is separated from our body; (2) in spiritual death we are separated from God; and (3) in the second death, those who have continuously rejected God are eternally separated from Him. In none of these cases of **death** does the Human Spirit ever die. I have to admit this is the first time that I have seen a calvinist take the position that the human spirit is dead before we become Christians.

“If we are to believe, as you do, that our spirits are not dead, but merely on deaths door, then it was God, not the serpent, who lied in the garden.
Compare "on the day you eat of it, you shall die" with "you shall not surely die". Remember who said what Robert? God said the first one, Satan said the second one.
I'll take God's word over anyone's, that Adam (and so us) did in fact die.”

When Adam sinned he died spiritually first (i.e., he was separated from God by his sin), and that occurred immediately, he died physically hundreds of years later. God was right, in the day (literally the moment that) he ate the fruit he did in fact die (i.e., he died spiritually, he was separated from God by his sin).

Robert

Robert said...

S. J. wrote:

“I agree with Daryl that it would be better to have a more accurate understanding of Calvinism before you write novels about it.”

I believe that I understand calvinism’s conception of depravity just fine. Calvinists often appeal to “you just don’t understand our view” when challenged.

“There are parts of John Calvin's theology that I don't find to be Biblical, but depravity, which Paul wrote of before Calvin, preceded much longer before by Solomon, David, and many other Old Testament prophets and men of God is irrefutable in entirety.”

I am not denying depravity as presented in scripture, just the conception of depravity invented by calvinists in order to argue that regeneration precedes faith. The bible is quite clear that all have sinned and are spiritually dead/separated from God by their sins; that this condition if not changed will culminate in eternal separation from God; that because of this sinful condition we are incapable of saving ourselves, etc. etc. Genuine Christians have no trouble accepting what the bible reveals about depravity. But the calvinistic conception of depravity is not given in scripture, it is invented to support the regeneration precedes faith doctrine. And that is invented in order to then argue that God only selects some to be regenerated (the preselected are chosen: unconditional election).

“Calvin did not teach that men are incapable of "doing good".”

Right, and many modern calvinists in their zealousness to establish their conception of depravity do in fact argue that the nonbeliever is incapable of doing any good works. The bible does not say that, it says that we cannot justify ourselves before God with our good works: it does not say we are incapable of doing any good works until we are saved.

“Your point about people acknowledging Savior-ship but not Lordship or vice-versa is good, but does not support the idea that man is not dead despite some spiritual knowledge.”

I made the point about the Lordship controversy because those familiar with it will know that a person can believe himself to be saved, be involved in the church, doing some good works and yet if he has not submitted to Jesus as Lord, he may not be saved. In my opinion MacArthur and others took the right position regarding Lordship. Another person who has got that right is Ray Comfort and especially his excellent message titled “Hell’s best kept secret”. I bring this up, because these people who were not saved prior to submitting to Jesus as Lord do things that according to calvinists an unregenerate person cannot be doing (showing again that the calvinist conception of depravity is mistaken).

Robert

Robert said...

I had stated: and JMB quoted me as saying:

"Paul does not say that his fellow Jews are completely incapable of doing any good works (cf. Paul speaks of his own attempt at keeping the law, though he did not do so perfectly he was obeying the law to some extent, cf. Phil.3:4-6)"

My point was that Paul does not say that the nonbeliever never does any good works or is incapable of doing any good works (as he refers to how he himself was doing good works as a law observant Jew before his conversion, though he did so imperfectly). JMB quoted this and then quoted Romans 3:9-12 and Ps. 14:1-3.

I have no problem with these scriptures, they are part of Paul’s case against humanity (both Jew and Gentile) in the early chapters of Romans arguing for the conclusion that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. I have never claimed that unbelievers are not sinners, or that they were not born sinners (cf. Romans 5:12), or that there are any exceptions. It is because we are all sinners that we cannot save ourselves, even if we, like the Jews, are trusting in our own righteousness to save us. Only faith in Christ and his righteousness saves us. My point which JMB ignored is that nonbelievers are in fact capable of doing good works including obeying the Law of the Old Testament to some extent. JMB is speaking to another point: that all have fallen short of the glory of God due to our sins. Both of those things are true, though the mistaken calvinist conception of depravity denies my point. I affirm both points: nonbelievers can do some good works, AND all people due to their sin are guilty before God and worthy of condemnation with their only hope being the righteousness of God which Paul speaks about in Romans and is available to those who respond in faith to the gospel.

Robert

Robert said...

I had said:

"Actually I like that analogy." Robert

Donsands responded:

“I knew you would.”

Thanks for sharing that illustration I will be using it in the future as it allows you to make some excellent points (points which you completely ignored).

“I believe the natural man has an utterly callous mind, one that will never rid itself of its callous'. This same heart cannot believe the Gospel, for the Gospel is spiritual, and the natural man "does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; NOR CAN HE KNOW, BECAUSE THEY ARE SPIRITUALLY DISCERNED".”

If you want to claim they have a callous mind fine,that is sometimes true. And apart from the work of the Spirit no one is capable of understanding spiritual things or responding in faith to the gospel message. But that is apart from the work of the Spirit. I have seen the work of the Spirit in folks, opening the hardest hearts, people who have committed the most serous crimes and acts imaginable. Seen it first hand so I **know** the work of the Spirit is powerful and necessary for someone to get saved. The difference is that you, because of your system of theology believe that the Spirit only works in this powerful way with the elect, he just passes over the rest not desiring for them to be saved. Me because of my acceptance of biblical texts such as 1 Tim. 2:2-6, Jn. 3:16, 1 Jn. 2:2 believe that God desires the salvation of more than just those who will eventually come to faith (which means the Spirit works on some people who will never come to faith in Christ).

“One has to be born again, or born from the Father above, so that he can hear the Gospel.”

You simply beg the question here: you assume the calvinistic notion that the unregenerate cannot understand/hear spiritual things unless regenerated first (i.e. the calvinist and mistaken assumption that regeneration precedes faith).

“We are Dead, callous, and our hearts are hard as granite. Not only that, but the prince of this world has OUR MINDS blinded, so we can not believe the Gospel.”

And is the Holy Spirit who is God and is a member of the trinity incapable of breaking through these hearts of granite? Granting sight to the blind so that they can then choose to trust Christ for salvation?

You underestimate the power of the Spirit or you leave him out of your thinking. Or as a calvinist you intentionally and arbitrarily limit the powerful work of the Spirit in leading people to Christ, to only the elect. And you do so not because the bible says this to be true, but because your calvinist system leads you to argue for this limitation in the grace of God.

Robert

Johnny Dialectic said...

I'm glad this series is (I think?) at an end. Not because the issues aren't important (and fairly discussed), but because I'm ready to get back to the many things we agree on.

We do agree that salvation is ALL of grace. That there is no merit at all in it from our side. Now, how that is worked out has been our "in house" debate, and those are healthy, if handled civilly, as I believe they have been here.

Thanks to all for the thoughts.

Paul said...

Robert,

You wrote,

And is the Holy Spirit who is God and is a member of the trinity incapable of breaking through these hearts of granite? Granting sight to the blind so that they can then choose to trust Christ for salvation?

Is it then your position that the Holy Spirit gives sight to ALL people so that they can “choose”?
What does it mean when you say He gives “sight to the blind” and what is the point of regeneration in your belief?

Daniel said...

To Daryl:

OK, so I read your response to my brief comment and scrolled quickly through some others' comments...

I was quite civil with my brief comment, in expressing polite disagreement with Phil. I certainly don't think Phil (or John MacArthur, or any other Calvinist) can't be a Christian.

So I'm a little stunned, and hurt, at your implication that those who do not subscribe to Calvinism...no believers are they. Come on. YOU CAN'T BE SERIOUS. (?) (!) Or can you???

Daniel said...

DARYL:

I expressed civil, polite disagreement with Phil and with Calvinism.

You responded to my comment by suggesting that if I don't subscribe to Calvinism, I don't subscribe to sola scriptura, and therefore I'm not saved.

WHY would you say something like this? Explain please.

donsands said...

"And you do so not because the bible says this to be true"

That's exactly why I do believe God saves His elect, because the Bible says it to be true.

"God shows mercy on whom He wills to, and He hardens whom He wills".

"Moreover whom HE predestined, THESE HE also called; whom HE called, THESE HE also Justified; and whom HE justified, THESE HE also glorified." Romans 9:18;8:30

Salvation is of the Lord, and He saves whom He purposes to save. He has mercy on all He purposes to have mercy on.

He owes no one, but He gave His Son for sinners like me and you Robert. Why? Because He loved us. Why did He love us? I don't know, and probably never will.

We'll simply have to disagree Robert.
Have a blessed evening.

jmb said...

Robert - In response to my post, you wrote "I had stated: and JMB quoted me as saying:

"Paul does not say that his fellow Jews are completely incapable of doing any good works (cf. Paul speaks of his own attempt at keeping the law, though he did not do so perfectly he was obeying the law to some extent, cf. Phil.3:4-6)"

"My point was that Paul does not say that the nonbeliever never does any good works or is incapable of doing any good works (as he refers to how he himself was doing good works as a law observant Jew before his conversion, though he did so imperfectly). JMB quoted this and then quoted Romans 3:9-12 and Ps. 14:1-3."

"I have no problem with these scriptures, they are part of Paul’s case against humanity (both Jew and Gentile) in the early chapters of Romans arguing for the conclusion that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. I have never claimed that unbelievers are not sinners, or that they were not born sinners (cf. Romans 5:12), or that there are any exceptions. It is because we are all sinners that we cannot save ourselves, even if we, like the Jews, are trusting in our own righteousness to save us. Only faith in Christ and his righteousness saves us. My point which JMB ignored is that nonbelievers are in fact capable of doing good works including obeying the Law of the Old Testament to some extent. JMB is speaking to another point: that all have fallen short of the glory of God due to our sins. Both of those things are true, though the mistaken calvinist conception of depravity denies my point. I affirm both points: nonbelievers can do some good works, AND all people due to their sin are guilty before God and worthy of condemnation with their only hope being the righteousness of God which Paul speaks about in Romans and is available to those who respond in faith to the gospel."

I don't understand how you can interpret 'None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.' (Ps. 14:1-3) as meaning only that all have fallen short of God's standards. If so, wouldn't it have been written something like "None of us is good enough [or does good enough], no, not one."? I don't see "worthless" and "no one does good," as only meaning that we fall short of God's standards. It seems to mean what it says: "No one does good."

When we talk about the "natural" man being capable of doing good or not capable of doing good, aren't we talking only about the "good" that pleases God? ("Those who are in the flesh cannot please God." Rom. 8:8.) If, by "good," we mean good that receives the praise of men, of course the natural man is capable of that.

You agreed with the remark “Calvin did not teach that men are incapable of 'doing good.'" Here is Calvin: "As long as we do not look beyond the earth, being quite content with our own righteousness, wisdom, and virtue, we flatter ourselves most sweetly, and fancy ourselves all but demigods. Suppose we but once raise our thoughts to God, and to ponder his nature, and how completely perfect are his righteousness, wisdom, and power - the straightedge to which we must be shaped. Then, what masquerading earlier as righteousness was pleasing in us will soon grow filthy in its consummate wickedness. What wonderfully impressed us under the name of wisdom will stink in its very foolishness." (Institutes, Book 1, 1:2)

So, yes, Calvin says that we are capable of doing good in our eyes, and, I would think he'd agree, in the eyes of others. But what I think he is also saying here is 1)That we are incapable of doing anything good enough to satisfy God's standards, and 2)That, even further, EVEN OUR BEST DEED ("masquerading as righteousness") "will soon grow filthy in its consummate wickedness." If, at our best, we are consummately wicked, how can we say that we ever "do good" in the only meaningful way, the way that pleases God?

You wrote that Paul "refers to how he himself was doing good works as a law observant Jew before his conversion, though he did so imperfectly)." This was in reference to Phillipians 3:4-6. I don't see where he says that he did these things "imperfectly." But what's important is that he later calls these works "filth" (v.8; HCSB), the same word that Calvin used to describe works that seem righteous to us. Once again, I don't think it's just a matter of not being, or doing things, "good enough," but of not doing anything good at all in God's eyes.

I don't pretend to know the final word on all this. Like all of us, I'm just trying to learn.

jmb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Daryl said...

Daniel,

I was afraid you might take my comment that way, but I decided to wait until you responded before I clarified it. Perhaps I should have offered clarification earlier.

What I was responding to was the second part of your comment in light of first part of your comment:

You said:

"OK, I get it. We're dead. The Lord chooses some corpses, but not others. Corpses can't choose. Scripture is clear.

But - with apologies to Dave Hunt - "what love is this?" I still can't be a Calvinist."

That sounded to me like you were saying " I know the Scripture says what the Calvinist says it does, Scripture is clear. But I can't believe it."

That's why I suggested substituting "Christian" for "Calvinist". You really sounded like you were admitting that you knew what Scripture taught, and had decided to reject it.
Perhaps there was sarcasm in your first paragraph and I missed it. If so, I apologize. If not, then I'm not sure where the offense lies.

Daryl said...

Robert,

If you believe that non-believers can do any genuine good works, that is, anything pleasing to God (as compared to just helpful to man), then how would you deal with verses like "Anything not of faith is sin" and "Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do all to the glory of God"?

It seems to me, that according to those verses, building an AIDS hospital in Africa, by an unbeliever, is, while incredibly helpful to the people there, is still sin at its core, simply because it would not be done of faith, nor to the glory of God.

Again, I'm not saying it's not a good thing, even a great thing by human standards, but I'm sure that it doesn't qualify as a good work by biblical standards.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Daryl, to whom was Peter referring when he said this:

“I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right." (Acts 10:34,35)

Daryl said...

Johnny,

He was referring to the elect. The question Peter was addressing in that passage was not, "How can men become acceptable to God?" The question he was addressing was "Can Gentiles be saved, or only Jews?"
So the question he was addressing was not how to be saved but rather, from where do the elect come?

The answer to your question is this, who can fear God and do what is right?

The issue there is not that you can obey enough, or drum up enough fear of God in order to be acceptable, Paul is clear in Romans that such a man does not exist. Romans 3:10 and 18 make it clear"There is no one righteous...there is no fear of God before their eyes."

In the same way, John 3:16 talks about identifying those whom Christ came to save, not prescribing how one is regenerated.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Daryl, where does it say anything about "the elect"?

The direct, contextual answer is that Peter was referring to Cornelius, and those like him. Those who actually fear God and do "what is right."

This is not about salvation, of course. The Gospel still had to be preached, and believed. But pre-regeneration, Cornelius did what was right. There's no way around that. That couldn't save him, but it certainly shows prevenient grace.

Daryl said...

Johnny,

The reference to the elect is from the rest of Scripture, that is, Paul continually calls believers "the elect" so here when Peter is talking about Gentile believers, it follows that he is talking about the elect.

I think you may be missing a little of the context. The context includes Cornelius knowledge that a Jew cold not enter the house of a Gentile lest he become unclean. It also includes his knowledge that Gentiles could not become complete members of the Jewush covenant community. It includes his knowledge that because of all that he had no right to ask or expect Peter to come to minister to him.
Given all that, Peter explains to Cornelius why he could do this (including of course, the fact that he himself had just learned it).

The broader context also includes Peter's vision of the sheet of animals from heaven, with God's admonition "Don't call unclean what I have called clean."

Again, given what Paul says in Romans about the unrighteousness of man and the total lack of God-fearing men, the question isn't "Is Cornelius acceptable to God" the question is "why is Cornelius acceptable to God".

I would suggest that Cornelius "good works" prior to salvation say nothing about prevenient grace but rather common grace. The grace by which God blesses non-believers and believers alike.
I don't believe (obviously) that prevenient grace is a biblical concept, however, in any case my understanding of the concept is that grace of God which temporarily overcomes our sin nature in order that we are able to believe the gospel. It is not, I don't think, taught as that grace which allows sinful people to do nice things for others.

The other factor to consider here is that Cornelius was a "God-fearer" as defined in the Old Covenant, just as the disciples were believers under the Old Covenant prior to the cross. So his conversion is, in some ways, a little different than our own. One could say that he was regenerated as a God-fearer and only needed further information just like the disciples didn't "get saved" after Christ died and rose, but simply recieved more information about what was happening as they were already covenant members of God's family prior to Christ's death and resurrection.

It is worth noting that the text never mentioned the Cornelius believed. Why? Because he already did. He just needed to know what he was believing. He recieved the previously ungiven Spirit in the same way that the already believing disciples did at Pentecost.

It seems to me that Peter was sent to Cornelius to tell him that the veil was torn, he, as a Gentile believer, no longer stood on the outside looking in, but was all the way in. In that way it's not a conversion story at all.

So...to get to the point, the works Cornelius was performing, were the works of a believer, not an unbeliever.

You may not agree, but do you see what I'm saying?

Robert said...

It is sad Donsands that it appears that in challenging your conception of depravity (the calvinistic conception), you take this as challenging other Christian truths (such as that God saves His people). You wrote:

”That's exactly why I do believe God saves His elect, because the Bible says it to be true.”

I believe that God saves His elect as well. I also believe that those who are elect are those who have responded in faith to the gospel.

You quote from Romans 9:18 a favorite calvinist proof text:

"God shows mercy on whom He wills to, and He hardens whom He wills".

I have no problem with that concept, in the History of Israel, which is what Paul is talking about in Romans 9 since he is dealing with the contemporary Jewish unbelief issue (i.e., if the gospel is true and God’s word does not fail then how come so many Jewish contemporaries of Paul are not believing it?) So Paul refers to a passage from Exodus where God was merciful to Israel and cites some historical examples of God’s intervention **in the history of Israel** (both having mercy on individuals and hardening others (e.g. Pharaoh). The problem with proof texting from this verse alone is that Romans 9-11 operates as a unit. And at the culmination of the section in Romans 11:32 Paul also says: “For God has shut up ALL in disobedience THAT (Greek = in order that) He might show mercy to ALL.” So 9:18 says that God has the right to have mercy one whomever he wants: 11:32 then says that He has mercy on all.

Next you misquote from Romans 8:

"Moreover whom HE predestined, THESE HE also called; whom HE called, THESE HE also Justified; and whom HE justified, THESE HE also glorified." Romans 9:18;8:30"

The text starts with the fact that God foreknows who will be his elect “For whom he foreknew”. Next it says of these folks that “He also predestined [them] to become conformed to the image of His Son that He might be the first-born among many brethren” (this does not say predestined to salvation, or preselected for salvation, it refers either to sanctification that believers are to be Christ-like in their behavior [which is unfortunately not always true of us] or it has an eschatological reference referring to when we are glorified and conformed to the image of Christ in that way; either way it does not mean predestined to salvation or preselected for salvation). It then says “and whom He predestined these He also called”. Many are called but not all become believers. Romans 8:29-30 interpreted correctly does not teach calvinism. Yet many read in their calvinism into these verses.

”Salvation is of the Lord, and He saves whom He purposes to save. He has mercy on all He purposes to have mercy on.”

All Christians believe that Salvation is of the Lord, that God has rescued them from bondage to sin, and the consequences of sin which include separation from God and eternal separation from God. Having that belief is not limited to calvinists, but in fact is a belief held in common by **all Christians** whether they are calvinists or not. You bring up mercy again and I remind you again that Romans 11:32 explicitly speaks of God having mercy on all.

”He owes no one, but He gave His Son for sinners like me and you Robert. Why? Because He loved us. Why did He love us? I don't know, and probably never will.”

As one of my friends puts it: Don’t ask for strict justice you will get hell, ask for mercy and you may be saved.” Regarding why does He love, as John says “God is love” meaning it is his nature to love people. He can’t help it! The fact that we sin and rebel against him makes his love seem that much greater (“while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” Rom. 5:8), but it is literally who he is.

Robert

Robert said...

JMB wrote:

“I don't understand how you can interpret 'None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.' (Ps. 14:1-3) as meaning only that all have fallen short of God's standards. If so, wouldn't it have been written something like "None of us is good enough [or does good enough], no, not one."? I don't see "worthless" and "no one does good," as only meaning that we fall short of God's standards. It seems to mean what it says: "No one does good."

You can believe that but Nicodemus counters that belief as he was a nonbeliever who did good works that God himself saw as good works. We also see nonbelievers around us doing lots of good works. You can call it “common grace” or whatever you want, but the fact is, those are good works. The main problem is that many people put their trust in their good works rather than trusting in the righteousness of God alone.

”When we talk about the "natural" man being capable of doing good or not capable of doing good, aren't we talking only about the "good" that pleases God? ("Those who are in the flesh cannot please God." Rom. 8:8.) If, by "good," we mean good that receives the praise of men, of course the natural man is capable of that.”

Nicodemus received praise from God not men, and he was not saved as he had to hear the gospel and believe that first to be saved.

”You agreed with the remark “Calvin did not teach that men are incapable of 'doing good.'" Here is Calvin: "As long as we do not look beyond the earth, being quite content with our own righteousness, wisdom, and virtue, we flatter ourselves most sweetly, and fancy ourselves all but demigods. Suppose we but once raise our thoughts to God, and to ponder his nature, and how completely perfect are his righteousness, wisdom, and power - the straightedge to which we must be shaped. Then, what masquerading earlier as righteousness was pleasing in us will soon grow filthy in its consummate wickedness. What wonderfully impressed us under the name of wisdom will stink in its very foolishness." (Institutes, Book 1, 1:2)”

Typical calvinist attempt to argue that all works are sinful and so there are no good works. Scripture and experience says otherwise.

”So, yes, Calvin says that we are capable of doing good in our eyes, and, I would think he'd agree, in the eyes of others. But what I think he is also saying here is 1)That we are incapable of doing anything good enough to satisfy God's standards, and 2)That, even further, EVEN OUR BEST DEED ("masquerading as righteousness") "will soon grow filthy in its consummate wickedness." If, at our best, we are consummately wicked, how can we say that we ever "do good" in the only meaningful way, the way that pleases God?”

Again, in Acts 10 it is not Nicodemus praising himself or seeing his works as good in his own eyes, it is God’s evaluation of Nicodemus’ works. I will take God’s evaluation over Calvin’s any time! And this shows again that the calvinist conception of depravity is wrong as it contradicts both scripture and our experience.

”You wrote that Paul "refers to how he himself was doing good works as a law observant Jew before his conversion, though he did so imperfectly)." This was in reference to Philippians 3:4-6. I don't see where he says that he did these things "imperfectly."
But what's important is that he later calls these works "filth" (v.8; HCSB), the same word that Calvin used to describe works that seem righteous to us. Once again, I don't think it's just a matter of not being, or doing things, "good enough," but of not doing anything good at all in God's eyes.”

First, Paul is saying directly and clearly that as a nonbelieving Pharisee he was quite active in doing good works. Second, when Paul says in v. 8 that he “counts all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord . . .and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ” he is making a comparative statement. He is saying compared to knowledge of Christ, his past works were as valuable as rubbish. But note carefully he does not say he never did any good works or that the works were not good. Only that **in comparison to** knowing Christ, they are rubbish. He also adds that the issue is “not having a righteousness of my own derived from the law but that which through faith in Christ”, 4:9. So he is now comparing two kinds of righteousness, his own in keeping the law, and the righteousness of God through faith. One is clearly superior to the other and is the basis of our salvation. It is like an inmate saying: “I count my life in crime and making lots of money to be rubbish compared to knowing Jesus and not having much money.” The inmate is not saying that he was not making any money in his past life of crime, only that compared to his life as a Christian it does not compare (though he has little or no money now). It’s all about comparison and having a different perspective on your life when you are a Christian compared to when you were not.

Robert

Robert said...

Daryl wrote:

“If you believe that non-believers can do any genuine good works, that is, anything pleasing to God (as compared to just helpful to man), then how would you deal with verses like "Anything not of faith is sin" and "Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do all to the glory of God"?”

Both passages that you cite are statements to Christians (the first from Romans comes from the context of a discussion on Christian liberty [14:13-23] in which if we do something without the right attitude it is sin for us; the purpose of the statement is not to describe the works of man as being either of faith or of sin, you are simply prooftexting from the phrase to attempt to prove your view; but you ignore the context and meaning of the verse it is speaking to believers so it has no reference to whether or not the works of nonbelievers are good works). The second passage from 1 Cor. 10:31 also comes in a context clearly indicating that it is intended for believers (and ironically again the context is the communal activities of Christians that what we do ought to be done in such a way that it glorifies God/so that we “give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God” 1 Cor. 10:32. We cannot expect nonbelievers to be intentionally glorifying Christ, that standard does not apply to them. Just as we cannot expect a nonbeliever to love his wife as Christ loved the church.

”It seems to me, that according to those verses, building an AIDS hospital in Africa, by an unbeliever, is, while incredibly helpful to the people there, is still sin at its core, simply because it would not be done of faith, nor to the glory of God.”

Now you directly apply Christian standards to nonbelievers. That is a mistake. Rather than seeing their action as “still sin at its core” I am thankful when a nonbeliever does a good action (whether it is a nonbelieving firefighter going into the twin towers as the collapsed to save people; or it is a nonbeliever fighting in the army for our country; or a nonbelieving policeman intervening and ending a criminal activity; or a nonbeliever who makes a righteous judgment in a court room, etc. etc. etc.)

”Again, I'm not saying it's not a good thing, even a great thing by human standards, but I'm sure that it doesn't qualify as a good work by biblical standards.”

Calvinists often attempt this method of turning all good actions by nonbelievers into sinful actions by applying the standards that apply to believers to nonbelievers. As has been clearly pointed out by others Nicodemus did good works that God recognized as good works, though Nicodemus was not saved (his works do not save him, because Peter came and preached the gospel to him, but God himself sees his works as good not “still sin at its core”).

Robert

Robert said...

Paul wrote:

”Is it then your position that the Holy Spirit gives sight to ALL people so that they can “choose”?
What does it mean when you say He gives “sight to the blind” and what is the point of regeneration in your belief?”

I do a lot of evangelism: primarily in prisons. So perhaps sharing some real experiences may help clarify what I am saying. I once did a message to about 3-4 hundred inmates. Before I did the message I got a chance to talk to some of them beforehand. And from their comments you could tell that they were spiritually speaking “blind” (they did not know the Lord and their comments showed some extreme ignorance about Jesus and Christianity). Then I shared my message. And I was able to speak to some of the same men afterwards. And how things had changed. With some they were not yet saved but their openness and level of understanding had improved quite a bit. To the extent that they were asking good and meaningful questions. Who gave them this greater understanding? Who enabled them to understand the scriptures which I shared? Was it just me. Or was the Spirit the one who was giving “sight to the blind”? I do not take credit, so I have to believe it was the Holy Spirit. Virtually every time that I evangelize I see this kind of thing happening. People understanding scripture, knowing more about and better understanding Jesus and the way of salvation. I attribute this increase in knowledge and understanding to the work of the Spirit.

What is the point of regeneration? Well if we see it as signifying new life and occurring when the person is converted but before when the person is glorified, that means that it occurs in connection with sanctification (i.e. it is crucial for living out your Christian life once you have become a Christian).

Robert

Paul said...

Robert,

Why would regeneration be “crucial for living out your Christian life once you have become a Christian.”? Meaning, you seem to advocate that man can do things that are pleasing and good to God while unregenerate so the point of regeneration kind of looses its meaning. If anything it seems that you conflate “sanctification” and “regeneration”. Tell me what is your order of salutis?

donsands said...

"I have no problem with that concept, in the History of Israel, which is what Paul is talking about in Romans 9 since he is dealing with the contemporary Jewish unbelief issue"

The Apostle is talking about Jacob. And he is talking about Pharaoh.

You have to look at the immediate context Robert.

God chose Jacob before he was born, before he did good or evil.

So it's not to HIM who runs, or to HIM who wills, but to God who shows mercy, to what ever person He purposes.

He owes none of us salvation. We deserve judgment. His mercy is great and grace is free. Jesus went to Calvary for His elect, those He predestined to save before the foundations of the world.
What love our Savior has for His people!

Have a blessed Lord's Day.

Daryl said...

Daniel, are you out there? Your profile doesn't show any information so I couldn't e-mail you to make sure you understood what I was really saying.

E-mail me if you'd like, I hate to think that you're carrying on believing that I think non-Calvinists aren't believers.