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Theological discussions > Calvinism vs. Arminianism

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message 1: by [deleted user] (last edited Apr 27, 2015 02:54PM) (new)

Hello Guys!

I attend a private christian school and for Bible class we have to write persuasive speeches that presents two sides to an issue I've chosen Calvinism vs Arminianism and my stance is somewhere in the middle.

I personally think that God has the ability to know where we will ultimately end up, but chooses not to so that he can enjoy the relationship with us, and give us a choice.

I need to come up with a good thesis. Would you help me?

(view spoiler)


message 2: by Werner (last edited Aug 15, 2020 05:37PM) (new)

Werner | 1880 comments Actually, both Calvinists and Arminians generally agree that God knows whether or not any given individual will be saved (and indeed has known it from eternity, since He's omni-conscious and not limited by time). Where they differ, as I understand it, is over whether or not He allows them to have that choice (Arminianism), or "unconditionally" pre-programs their choice into them (Calvinism). So the thesis under your spoiler tag might be edited to read something like, "This paper will examine the question of whether or not God allows individual humans free will in accepting or rejecting salvation."

A couple of books that might be useful resources for your paper are Why I Am Not an Arminian by Robert A. Peterson, and Why I Am Not a Calvinist by Jery L. Walls. I haven't personally read either of these, but I'm a college librarian; so it's my job to be able to assess and recommend source material for student's papers, even if I haven't read it. InterVarsity Press is a very reputable evangelical publisher for serious books.


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

Thank you so much!

Since it's a persuasive speech, that has to have exactly 3 points, what would you recommend that they be. As of now I am thinking that my first 2 shall be describing each of the beliefs and pointing out their "flaws", for lack of a better word, and then having the third point be my personal belief? Does that sound like a good idea?

Also, I'm not sure how I would make my third point persuasive... Any tips would be greatly appreciated.

((This speech is due tomorrow, so if there is any way ya'll could respond as soon as you can I would greatly appreciate it.))


message 4: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1880 comments Jess, since the body of the speech can only have three points (presumably, the addition of a short introduction and conclusion would be presupposed?) I'm thinking that it might be better for you to pick one position or the other, and for your three points to list the three strongest arguments for it that you can find. You would also want to adjust your thesis statement to take an explicit position on the question.


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

Ok, thank you so much!


message 6: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1880 comments No problem, Jess. Glad I could help!


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

oh, one more thing. I need a good intro for my paper before going into the thesis. is there any help you could provide? Im not too good stringing ideas together...


message 8: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1880 comments Jess, I would just state briefly what the question at issue is (whether or not humans have free will), and the opposite ways that Calvinism and Arminianism answer it; and note that it's been a hotly debated question among Christians ever since ancient times. Then you could state your thesis sentence, and lead into the three points supporting it. If they want you to keep this introduction short, I think it could be handled in three or four sentences. Hope that helps!


message 9: by Geoff (new)

Geoff Glenister | 1 comments ☂JESS☂ wrote: "Hello Guys!

I attend a private christian school and for Bible class we have to write persuasive speeches that presents two sides to an issue I've chosen Calvinism vs Arminianism and my stance is ..."


Jess - I actually am in a similar position: I think Calvinism is right about some things and wrong about others while Arminianism is similarly right about some things and wrong about others. I think the key to the whole problem lies in the idea of eternal conscious torment - I explore this problem in a blog series I wrote.
- Geoff


message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks for all your help guys! I got a 93 on my oral report :)


message 11: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1880 comments Congratulations, Jess!


message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks :)


message 13: by Nathan (last edited Dec 21, 2016 05:18AM) (new)

Nathan Chattaway | 179 comments That 93 was predestined Jess :)


message 14: by Nathan (last edited Apr 19, 2017 03:54AM) (new)

Nathan Chattaway | 179 comments Over in the Jesus use of parables thread, Werner said: "This whole question ties in directly to the larger debate of Calvinism (determinism) vs. Arminianism (free will). Our thread deals with that broader question, although it doesn't actually have very much substantive discussion of the merits of the two positions so far."

I'm hoping to kick that discussion off now then.

I'm not a fan of the name of this discussion (Calvinism vs Arminianism) for a few reasons, not least because most Arminians I have met are totally unaware of the term "Arminian", the history of that debate and the subsequent findings of the Church council Synod of Dort.
How we came to current Protestant Church denominations resulting from the Reformation is not a topic quickly waded into and many modern day Arminians simply do not care to attempt it. --- Warning: judicious use of labels imminent! --- My observation has been that the popular 20th century Pentecostal / Charismatic movement arose within Arminian Dispensationalist / Zionist Baptistic Protestantism, and modern Pentecostalism is quite humanistic in its doctrines. The doctrine of Man's Free Will is absolutely front and centre and sacrosanct within these circles, and there are a LOT of people in the West whose entire experience of Christianity has been within this school of thought.

I'll use commonly accepted labels as I have already begun to do.
So, I'll accept the label of Calvinist to avoid argument. But I may propose preferred alternatives as well :) I prefer "Reformed" to "Calvinist". I prefer "Disciple of Jesus Christ" to any other label.

As I get time, I hope to systematically lay out the position of those labelled "Calvinists" by this discussion, for your consideration. This first post will start with a discussion of Free Will, and then I'll move on to discuss the closely related doctrinal concepts of Original Sin and Total Depravity. Following that, I'll work through the so called Five Points of Calvinism, which were actually affirmed in rebuttal of the Arminian Five Points of Remonstrance. The Five Points do NOT represent the entirety of Reformed theology by any means. They do deal with Calvinist understanding of soteriology, or the means by which we are saved.

Many people often assume that God has given us a completely free will, and that Jesus died for everyone in the hope that we would all use this free will to choose to believe in Jesus and so be saved. Sometimes, it is further assumed that our free will is sacrosanct, and nobody, not even God, can force us to do anything we don't want to do. It is assumed that any attempt to do so is evil.

Peter's free will vs God's plan
Matthew 26:31,33-35: Then Jesus said to them, "You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.'
Peter answered him, "Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away."
Jesus said to him, "Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times."
Peter said to him, "Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!" And all the disciples said the same.

So, Jesus is quoting the prophecy given to Zechariah in Zechariah 13:7, and he is foretelling that this prophecy is about to be fulfilled that night. Jesus is emphatic that all the disciples will abandon him, to which Peter takes offence and declares his will, which is not to fall away. Jesus then gives Peter a specific prophecy about Peter's upcoming desertion, to which Peter strongly restates his will to never deny Jesus.

As we know, things soon panned out exactly as Jesus said they would and in fulfillment of what God said through Zechariah more than 500 years earlier. When God declares the future through His prophets, He is revealing to us in advance part of His plan that He set in place before the world was created. Can this plan of God's fail to come about? Can a prophecy given by God not happen? Even though Peter (and the other disciples) stated that their will was not to deny Jesus, they did exactly that before the night was through. Could Peter have just tried harder and been braver, and managed not to deny knowing Jesus? Was it within Peter's free will to choose to stand up for Jesus and be counted for Him when all others had abandoned Him? God arranged things to change Peter's free will, according to God's plan. But, in doing so, Peter still freely chose his own actions and is responsible for them. Peter could not have NOT denied Jesus that night, because God had already declared that he would. God's reason for giving the prophecy through Zechariah wasn't just to force the disciples to abandon Jesus in His hour of need. In hindsight we can see that these prophecies were given so that he who has ears to hear what the prophets have written will be able to see that Jesus is the shepherd, with proof being that every prophecy regarding Jesus was fulfilled.

Jonah's free will vs God's plan
Jonah 1:1-4 Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me." But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD.

Here we see God plainly make His will known to His prophet Jonah. Jonah exercises his own free will and basically does the opposite to what God has told him to do. And immediately God brings events to pass that bring Jonah's plans to nothing, achieving God's will through Jonah's choice to be defiant. The men from Joppa all worshipped the LORD as a result of taking Jonah onboard. God's plan for each and every person He has called to salvation will result in their salvation. But the biggest driver of events directly affecting Jonah is the future requirement for Jesus to point to Jonah as the only sign that will be given to this evil and adulterous generation. [Mat 12:38-41 ESV: 38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, "Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you." 39 But he answered them, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.]

This initial post is getting long, so I'll finish with this verse that specifically states salvation is NOT due to man's will but all of God:
[John 1:12-13 ESV: 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.]


message 15: by Nathan (last edited Dec 22, 2016 08:47PM) (new)

Nathan Chattaway | 179 comments Original Sin. It's more than a catchy Eurythmics song. And it's more than just a way of referring to Mankind's first sin. God, as is his sovereign right, decided to appoint the first man, Adam, as a representative of all humanity. We, his unborn seed, would all live or die by Adam's actions. By humanist standards, that is an outrageous travesty of justice and democracy! I certainly never voted for Adam as my representative. Neither did any of you. Yet because of God's decision, when Adam failed we are all now born dead in our sin. Spiritually dead, with physical death to follow in short order. We are born as sinful members of the seed of Adam, condemned and deserving of death by that sin which was accounted to us. [Romans 5:12 ESV: Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned--] [Psalm 51:5 ESV: Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.] [Psalm 58:3 ESV: The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies.]We very soon begin adding to this with sins we personally commit.


message 16: by William (new)

William | 10 comments Very well put, Nathan.


message 17: by Nathan (last edited Apr 19, 2017 04:05AM) (new)

Nathan Chattaway | 179 comments So Original Sin refers to the fact that the original man committed the original sin and imparted culpability for and consequences of that sin to everyone born of his seed.

The first of the Five Points of Calvinism is the doctrine often referred to as Total Depravity. This doctrine references this Original Sin and makes it clear that the total human race is affected by it. It does not mean that each individual person is as totally depraved as it is possible to be in terms of having personally committed every possible sin.

Free will was indeed given to our representative Adam. He was completely unfettered in his choice to do good or evil. To obey God's clear and direct command or to disobey it. But the moment he disobeyed, he died spiritually. What does spiritual death entail? The total inability to choose to think and do spiritual things.
[Romans 8:7-8 ESV: 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh CANNOT please God.] Remember, this is spiritual death, not merely spiritual ailment. [Ephesians 2:1-3 ESV: 1 And you were DEAD in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-- 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.]


message 18: by Nathan (last edited Apr 19, 2017 04:07AM) (new)

Nathan Chattaway | 179 comments This total inability to perform anything that is spiritually pleasing to God is why salvation must be all God's doing and none of our doing. We are dead in sin. And it's WHILE WE ARE STILL DEAD in our sin that God in his grace and mercy, draws us to himself as the instigator of our faith.
[Colossians 2:13 ESV: 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses.] [Ephesians 2:4-6 ESV: 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even WHEN WE WERE DEAD in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved-- 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.]
The Holy Spirit is sent to enter our heart, and is spiritual life giving air.
[Ezekiel 36:26-27 ESV: 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.]
[Titus 3:5-6 ESV: 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior].
We are spiritually resurrected from the dead at that point.
[John 3:3, 5 ESV: 3 Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." ... 5 Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.]
[John 5:21, 24-25 ESV: 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. ... 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgement, but has passed from death to life. 25 "Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.]
The old person has been put away and we are a new creation in Jesus.
[2Corinthians 5:17-18 ESV 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation]
This first resurrection, the spiritual resurrection of a believer, reverses the first death, spiritual death. We must wait until the last day to participate in the second resurrection, which is of course a physical resurrection. This will reverse the physical death, thus removing both results of sin.
[John 5:28-30 ESV: 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgement. 30 "I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgement is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.]
This process is only possible through the work of Jesus, who was the second God-appointed representative man of all whom He is saving. More on that later. Referring back to man's free will, it's critical to note that Jesus submitted his natural human will to that of God, and will do so when he judges us all on the last day. If we would seek to follow Jesus, that includes submission of our will to God as Jesus did.


message 19: by Nathan (last edited Dec 22, 2016 09:11PM) (new)

Nathan Chattaway | 179 comments William wrote: "Very well put, Nathan."

Thanks William!


message 20: by Nathan (last edited Apr 19, 2017 04:14AM) (new)

Nathan Chattaway | 179 comments Before I move on to discuss the doctrine of Unconditional Election, I wanted to make a few more observations about God's sovereignty and Man's free will.
Before we were born, God chose what parents we would have, what socio-economic circumstances we would be born into, what town, state, nation and year we would be born in. He numbered the very hairs on our head! God chose whether we would be born into flesh at all. Obviously, our personal circumstances have a very large bearing on our choices in life. We can claim the free will to choose to drive a Ferrari, but we may not have that as an actual choice in our present circumstances. Yet, God has determined our personal circumstances. If God is truly God, the sovereign LORD over all creation, then is this not His right?

So far so good hopefully. Then would it not seem unusual if God was not also entitled to choose whether we would be born into spirit at all? Does God exercising His sovereign power make him injust or unloving, (which are common concerns raised by Arminians)? I'll defer to the Apostle Paul to provide the answer:
[Romans 9:14-24 ESV: 14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." 16 So then it depends NOT ON HUMAN WILL or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." 18 So then he has mercy on whomever HE WILLS, and he hardens whomever HE WILLS. 19 You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath PREPARED FOR DESTRUCTION, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has PREPARED BEFOREHAND FOR GLORY-- 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?]

So then it depends NOT on human will or exertion, but on God. I think the burden of proof is now on those who believe all scripture must uphold a doctrine of Man's free will.


message 21: by Jessica (last edited Dec 30, 2016 04:40PM) (new)

Jessica | 89 comments Nathan wrote: "Over in the Jesus use of parables thread, Werner said: "This whole question ties in directly to the larger debate of Calvinism (determinism) vs. Arminianism (free will). Our thread deals with that ..."

Nathan, you seem to be saying that because God had a prophet make a prophecy, any people involved have no choice but to follow through with that prophecy, even if it is against their free will. I would contend that God is able to have his prophets make prophecies because he knows what people will choose to do, not because he is somehow forcing them to make those decisions. And yes, Peter and the apostles did state before hand that they would not betray Jesus. But it is easy to say how you believe you will react to a situation before that situation happens. They fact that they betrayed Jesus is more proof of the shortcomings of man than that God forced them to make decisions they did not want to.

As for your final quote, the verse to me suggests free will, not God's choice of salvation. The first part: "But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God," shows the cause and effect of people choosing to believe in God, resulting in their becoming his children. The second part: "who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God," describes how these people become children of God, that they are his children spiritually.


message 22: by Jessica (new)

Jessica | 89 comments Nathan wrote: "So Original Sin refers to the fact that the original man committed the original sin and imparted culpability for and consequences of that sin to everyone born of his seed. The doctrine often referr..."

I do not see the verse you gave suggesting that people have the "total inability to choose to think and do spiritual things." We are dead in our sins and stuck in the flesh until we choose to let God help us see and think and act another way, but this passage in no way suggests that we cannot choose God or even that we cannot do or think ANYTHING spiritual."


message 23: by Jessica (new)

Jessica | 89 comments Nathan wrote: "This total inability to perform anything that is spiritually pleasing to God is why salvation must be all God's doing and none of our doing. We are dead in sin. And it's while we are still dead in ..."

Certainly we are called to submit our will to God's will. But that very calling suggests that we have free will and that we can choose whether or not to submit our will to God's.


message 24: by Jessica (new)

Jessica | 89 comments Nathan wrote: "Before I move on to discuss the doctrine of Unconditional Election, I wanted to make a few more observations about God's sovereignty and Man's free will.
Before we were born, God chose what parents..."


Certainly God is entitled to do whatever he wants. But that does not mean that he chooses to do certain things. He is also entirely entitled to give humans free will to choose him if he so desires. And the fact that he draws people to him suggests that they have a choice to resist. He is drawing them to him, not forcing them.


message 25: by Nathan (last edited Apr 19, 2017 04:16AM) (new)

Nathan Chattaway | 179 comments Thanks for your thoughts Jessica. Calvinists completely agree that salvation is freely available to all who believe. That is a vital component of any genuine presentation of the gospel. It's why and how we believe that is my point. When our will is submitted to God we want to follow him. There's no forcing. Nobody is dragged kicking and screaming to heaven. Jesus makes it clear that no one knows the Son except the Father and NO ONE knows the Father except the Son and those to whom THE SON CHOOSES to reveal him. Jesus is similarly clear that no one can come to the Father except through the Son and that no one can come to the Father unless the Father first draws him. Think of drawing a bucket from a well. Can the bucket resist this? The way the Father draws us includes changing our very will. If this were not so, why would we ever pray to God for the salvation of someone we love or know who is unconverted? We're praying that God will save them, change their heart, soften them, call it what you like but we are petitioning God to intervene and change that person's will. To instigate their salvation. Yes believing is how salvation is attributed to us. But faith is itself a free gift from God.


message 26: by Werner (last edited Dec 31, 2016 04:05PM) (new)

Werner | 1880 comments Nathan wrote: "I prefer "Disciple of Jesus Christ" to any other label." Nathan, that's one point where you and I agree!

You've been working on making a fairly complete statement here of what you as a Calvinist believe about free will and determinism (of course, there are some differences among Calvinists on these points, just as there are among Arminians), and to lay out the case for these beliefs, as you see it. I'm intending, later, to do the same for my own understanding of Arminianism (unless someone more erudite on the subject volunteers to do so!). But I personally think it would be fairer and more practical to let you first present your case as fully as you want to, without distracting you with a "back and forth."

These questions, however, aren't meant as distractions or attempts at rebuttal, but just as honest questions to help me better understand your thought. (I've read a fair amount about Calvinism --though no entire books about it-- but not much actually written by Calvinists themselves, and haven't discussed the theology in detail with any.) You've stated your belief that Adam was endowed with free will (at least, up to the time that he sinned). Do you believe that Eve was also endowed with free will? And do you believe that the image of God in mankind was totally erased by the Fall?


message 27: by T.C. (new)

T.C. Slonaker | 62 comments Nathan wrote: "Thanks for your thoughts Jessica. Calvinists completely agree that salvation is freely available to all who believe. That is a vital component of any genuine presentation of the gospel. It's why an..."

Hi Nathan,
Although your church may believe salvation is freely available to all who believe, my (Calvinist) church firmly believes that not all who believe are chosen for salvation. This is probably why I have so much trouble with it. I feel this line of thinking is hopeless and scary. I have no idea if I have been chosen or not, or if I will be able to spend eternity with my Lord. (I have decided to reject their doctrine for my own peace of mind and heart. But since I am employed by my church, I keep that quiet.)


message 28: by Nathan (new)

Nathan Chattaway | 179 comments I believe Adam and Eve originally were spiritually alive and able to choose things that were spiritually pleasing to God as well as to choose to disobey God. The following observations will not be popular with at least 50% of humanists. Eve sinned first but God still held Adam accountable for the actions of his wife as well as his own. Part of the curse that came on the woman was that her desire would always be for her husband. This does not refer to loving desire but to a desire to be independent and get her own way. This is evident from the very next chapter (Gen 4:7) where the same wording is used by God to Cain in reference to sin. Eve was created to be part of Adam and his helpmeet in a loving and fruitful relationship. As a result of their sin, she would from that point on seek to reverse this order, yet now the man would rule over her. Yes Eve had free will but also died spiritually that day, submitting her will to that of the devil and now also her husband. All humans are made in the image of God in that we have a soul and mind but this image is now marred more than it originally was. That's an interesting topic Werner, perhaps one deserving of it's own discussion thread? Of course, at the incarnation (into flesh) of God, He made the Son in man's image insofar as the body and mind is concerned.


message 29: by Nathan (new)

Nathan Chattaway | 179 comments TC that sounds awful. Many Calvinist churches would say that not all are chosen and they never believe. But it's simply not orthodox Christianity if no acknowledgement of scriptures plain teaching that ALL who believe are saved. TC if you believe Jesus is the Son of God and that he died to pay the price of your sins, then you are saved.


message 30: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1880 comments Nathan wrote: "But it's simply not orthodox Christianity if no acknowledgement of scriptures plain teaching that ALL who believe are saved. TC if you believe Jesus is the Son of God and that he died to pay the price of your sins, then you are saved." T. C., on that point, I completely agree with Nathan.

Nathan, thanks for the helpful clarifications. (I agree that the image of God in humankind was marred by the Fall, rather than annihilated; and I think that would also be the understanding of most Christian thinkers who have addressed the subject.)

I'm not sure how much interest there would be in a thread devoted to the concept of the image of God; but unlike some Goodreads groups, in this one you don't need to be a moderator to start a thread. So you (or anyone else who wants to explore that topic) would be free to start one. Actually, I think the Christian view(s) of gender relations would be a subject more deserving of its own thread. If we start exploring that in depth here, I think it would divert the discussion from the central subject of this thread.


message 31: by Nathan (last edited Jan 02, 2017 03:56AM) (new)

Nathan Chattaway | 179 comments A brief historical interlude, in an attempt to throw a bit more light on the Calvinism vs Arminian dispute. Jacobus Arminius and his followers ("the Arminians") brought 5 articles to the Reformed Church in the Netherlands, which listed their points of difference with the accepted orthodox doctrines. However, their third point was an affirmation and did not differ from accepted orthodoxy at that time. That third point is as follows:
Article III — That man has not saving grace of himself, nor of the energy of his free will, inasmuch as he, in the state of apostasy and sin, can of and by himself neither think, will, nor do anything that is truly good (such as having faith eminently is); but that it is needful that he be born again of God in Christ, through his Holy Spirit, and renewed in understanding, inclination, or will, and all his powers, in order that he may rightly understand, think, will, and effect what is truly good, according to the word of Christ, John xv. 5: "Without me ye can do nothing."
That right there is the official viewpoint of the original Arminians on man's free will and total depravity. Their point 4 goes along with this, and is exactly aligned with the Calvinist position apart from the final caveat, they maintain God's grace is resistable by man. Here's the 4th Arminian point:
Article IV — That this grace of God is the beginning, continuance, and accomplishment of a good, even to this extent, that the regenerate man himself, without that prevenient or assisting, awakening, following, and co-operative grace, can neither think, will, nor do good, nor withstand any temptations to evil; so that all good deeds or movements, that can be conceived, must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. But, as respects the mode of the operation of this grace, it is not irresistible, in as much as it is written concerning many that they have resisted the Holy Ghost,—Acts vii, and elsewhere in many places.
What we often hear and read espoused today about man's free will is not a strict Arminian position, but rather a hyper-Arminian development.
The "five points of Calvinism" I am working through here were the Reformed Church in Netherlands official response to the 5 articles of Remonstration brought by the Arminians.


message 32: by Nathan (last edited Jan 02, 2017 04:24AM) (new)

Nathan Chattaway | 179 comments Jessica wrote: "Nathan, you seem to be saying that because God had a prophet make a prophecy, any people involved have no choice but to follow through with that prophecy, even if it is against their free will. I would contend that God is able to have his prophets make prophecies because he knows what people will choose to do, not because he is somehow forcing them to make those decisions."
That's not quite what I've been trying to say, but perhaps I'm failing to be as clear as I hoped. God uses people's will to achieve his Plan A. There's no Plan B. Over in the "Jesus use of Parables" thread, I've recently been focusing on the way the Jews failed to grasp the true nature and person of the prophesied Messiah when he came, and how this failure played into their crucifying him, which of course completed the necessary work for Messiah to be our true Saviour! Here's another example relating to that event, which is quite explicit in terms of God's will aligning the will of the human actors (context - the Church is praying corporately to God)
[Acts 4:27-28 ESV: 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, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.]

Predestined is a word requiring intensive study and I'd recommend everyone undertake such a study. It does not mean "previewed" or "retconned" or "snuck forward in time to see who does what and then snuck back in time to predict it". It means deciding the destination beforehand. God's hand set events according to God's previously decided planned outcome of events. The high priest, the Sanhedrin, the Pharisees all willed to destroy Jesus. But in so doing, they were acting out the exact plan of redemption God had worked out before the foundations of the world were even laid.

Ephesians 1 is also a critical study, with much to learn about WHO, HOW and WHY we are saved. To summarise, this amazing chapter works through each of the 3 persons of God, describing the part they each had to play in our salvation. Look at this:
[Ephesians 1:11 ESV: 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been PREDESTINED according to the purpose of HIM who works ALL THINGS according to the counsel of HIS WILL,] It doesn't say that God works some things according to his own will, but that God works ALL things according to his will.
[Psalm 139:13, 16 ESV: 13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. ... 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.]


message 33: by Nathan (last edited Jan 02, 2017 04:58AM) (new)

Nathan Chattaway | 179 comments Jessica wrote: "I do not see the verse you gave suggesting that people have the "total inability to choose to think and do spiritual things." We are dead in our sins and stuck in the flesh until we choose to let God help us see and think and act another way, but this passage in no way suggests that we cannot choose God or even that we cannot do or think ANYTHING spiritual.""

Jessica, you don't say which verse you mean, but I did give:
[Romans 8:7-8 ESV: 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it CANNOT. 8 Those who are in the flesh CANNOT PLEASE GOD.]
1 Corinthians 2 also makes it clear that unconverted people simply can't understand spiritual things:
[1Corinthians 2:14 ESV: The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is NOT ABLE to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.]
You agree that we are born dead in sin. I hope you agree that it is the Holy Spirit coming into us that resurrects us spiritually. Here is an example of the Holy Spirit coming into an unborn child (John the Baptist), who clearly had not at that point chosen to let God help him choose to see and think and act another way:
[Luke 1:13, 15, 41, 43-45, 67-68 ESV: 13 But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. ... 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and HE WILL BE FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT, even from his mother's womb. ... 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, ... 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord." ... 67 And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying, 68 "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people"]
Not only John in the womb, but his mother and father too were filled with the Holy Spirit. What an amazing example of God's pure grace to save people! God also saved Jeremiah while he was still in his mother's womb:
[Jeremiah 1:4-5 ESV: 4 Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I CONSECRATED you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations."
Some versions have "set you apart (made Holy unto God), some have "sanctified you" but the concept is the same. Jeremiah was made acceptable to God BY GOD before Jeremiah knew much of anything at all. Truly:
[John 5:21 ESV: For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.]


message 34: by Nathan (last edited Apr 19, 2017 04:30AM) (new)

Nathan Chattaway | 179 comments OK, that brings me to the second "point of Calvinism", the doctrine of Unconditional Election. In other words, God elected some people to salvation, not based on anything special or different or qualifying about those people, but purely from his own private counsel.
In my previous post, I've just shown two people from scripture who were saved while still in the womb. It's not possible for an unborn baby to hear the gospel and exercise their free will to choose to believe, yet they were made acceptable to God, set apart (holy) for him and saved by him, with the evidence of Holy Spirit indwelling.
Here's the Apostle Paul talking about unconditional election (in this case of Jacob and not Esau):
[Romans 9:10-13 ESV] 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were NOT YET BORN and had done nothing either good or bad--in order that God's PURPOSE OF ELECTION might continue, NOT because of works but because of HIM who CALLS-- 12 she was told, "The older will serve the younger." 13 As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."
Paul is quoting Malachi 1 here:
[Malachi 1:1-5 ESV: 1 The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi. 2 "I have loved you," says the LORD. But you say, "How have you loved us?" "Is not Esau Jacob's brother?" declares the LORD. "Yet I have loved Jacob 3 but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert." 4 If Edom(Esau) says, "We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins," the LORD of hosts says, "They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called 'the wicked country,' and 'the people with whom the LORD is angry forever.'" 5 Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, "Great is the LORD beyond the border of Israel!"]

In earlier posts, I've been going on about Adam being the first representative man, and Jesus being the last representative man. In the "Jesus use of Parables" thread I've mentioned people are either sheep or goats. At this point, I think I need to introduce another way of classifying all people, and that is either "seed of the woman" or "seed of the serpent". We see this division introduced by God very early on, as part of the curse he puts on the serpent:
[Genesis 3:15 NKJV: 15 And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel."]
Other versions have "offspring" rather than "seed", either is fine. I like seed more because it also brings to mind the parable version of this distinction, which is wheat (seed of woman) and weed or tare(seed of serpent). I also prefer seed because I am a farmer :-)

Right, so Esau, even though born of Rebekah, is seed of the serpent, and Jacob also born of Rebekah is seed of the woman. As we know from the narrative in Genesis, Esau was a manly man, big, strong, hairy and great at hunting; this macho guy was also the firstborn, which meant a lot back then. And Jacob was a weaselly little liar and cheat, who basically hung around his mum all the time. And was not the firstborn son though he tried hard enough even during the act of his brother being born. It's completely unnatural and unexpected that God would choose Jacob to be "seed of the woman" rather than Esau, but that's the whole point. God's choice to elect Jacob was unconditional. Paul goes on to explain that this choice is God's to make and we are not to challenge him. He uses the example of God's will and purpose for Pharaoh:
[Romans 9:17-18 ESV: 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.]
What is this all about?
[Exodus 4:21 ESV; 21 And the LORD said to Moses, "When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I WILL HARDEN HIS HEART so that he will not let the people go.]
[Exodus 7:1-5 ESV: 1 And the LORD said to Moses, "See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. 2 You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land. 3 BUT I WILL HARDEN PHARAOH'S HEART, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, 4 Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. 5 The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them."]
Paul has used God's treatment of Pharaoh to explain the concept of election. God hardened Pharaoh's heart, and there we have it. Paul picks up the theme again in his second letter to the church in Thessalonika:
[2Thessalonians 2:9-14 NKJV: 9 The coming of the [lawless one] is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send THEM strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 13 But we are bound to give thanks to God always for YOU, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God FROM THE BEGINNING CHOSE YOU FOR SALVATION through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, 14 to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.]

We can see here that God's choice of those of us who are being saved was from the beginning, and it is enacted through the means of Holy Spirit indwelling and belief. But the instigator is God, our sovereign LORD. And the ultimate reason is not human centric at all, but God centric. It is to bring all glory to God.
Paul also hits this home further in Ephesians 1, which I have previously mentioned:
[Ephesians 1:4-6, 12 NKJV: 4 just as He chose us in Him BEFORE the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of HIS WILL, 6 to the praise of the GLORY OF HIS GRACE, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. ... 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of HIS GLORY.]
Yes, God chose us before the world was formed and yes, God predestined us to salvation(not just previewed something about us), but why? To bring himself ALL GLORY. If we think we are the centre of the universe, we're wrong. It's always all about God's glory. And this is perfect, right and fitting. And this is my biggest concern with this Calvinism vs Arminianism debate. It's why I sit here day after day in the context of this discussion group who are all professing believers in Jesus Christ. Arminians (and those who go beyond them and put man and his "free" will on a pedestal) are in danger of trying to obtain for themselves some of God's glory. This debate has no place being aired in front of unbelievers. The gospel should be shared plain and simple. ALL WHO WILL BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST WILL BE SAVED. But I pray that all believers will understand that they can take zero credit for bringing anything to the table in obtaining salvation, and give God ALL glory. [1John 4:19 ESV: We love because he first loved us.]
Amen.


message 35: by T.C. (new)

T.C. Slonaker | 62 comments Werner wrote: "Nathan wrote: "But it's simply not orthodox Christianity if no acknowledgement of scriptures plain teaching that ALL who believe are saved. TC if you believe Jesus is the Son of God and that he die..."

I know I don't comment a lot here, but I do read most of it, as it is fascinating to see respectful conversations of sometimes differing views. I would love to read a thread on gender relations (male/female. I think I've heard enough at this point on homosexuality, et. al. Can't we agree the Bible condemns it?) The implications of God's curse for woman to only desire for her husband has always intrigued me, and I think it is not often given the attention it should these days. Also, perhaps, Paul's words to Timothy on the matter.

And thank you, Nathan and Werner, for agreeing that sometimes churches take their doctrine a little too far. (In the case of our extreme view of election.)


message 36: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1880 comments T. C., I've just now created the gender relations thread, at this link: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/... . Thanks for commenting!


message 37: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1880 comments Nathan, I have another clarifying question. I understand the basic Calvinist contention that human beings have no free choice where salvation is concerned, that their destination to either heaven or hell is unconditionally predestined for them by God. But do all Calvinists (in context, I suppose that could be better put as, do you as an individual Calvinist) believe that ever since the Fall, every action whatsoever, sinful or non-sinful, by every human being who ever lived, saved or unsaved, has also been predetermined and caused (not just foreknown) by God? Or is that a "hyper-Calvinist" position that doesn't truly represent what most Calvinists believe? (As I've noted before, I haven't seriously discussed Calvinism much with Calvinists themselves. I don't want to base my picture of Calvinist beliefs on inaccurate or unrepresentative sources, or on misunderstandings of sources.)


message 38: by Nathan (new)

Nathan Chattaway | 179 comments Werner,
I have treated this topic as primarily concerned with soteriology (doctrine of salvation), and how the Arminians and Calvinist differ in their understanding of it. Soteriology was the key topic where differences of opinion were raised by the Arminian "Remonstrators" and therefore the key topic addressed by the Calvinistic church leadership in refutation. But Soteriology is by no means the sum total of Calvinist thought. Your question broadens this discussion beyond just soteriology, so it probably won't clarify per se. which I am ok with, just sayin'.
Simply put, yes. We believe that God has predetermined and caused beforehand, every single action. And in so doing, it does not make God the author of sin, nor does it remove our individual responsibility for the sins we commit. To paraphrase Joseph: "What you meant for evil, God meant for good". We look at this in the way Paul instructed us to, safe in the knowledge that ALL things happen to the good of those who are being saved, those who are called according to God's purpose. These things may only bring eternal good for us, and certainly there is no such claim that we can make that it means all things that happen to us now in this age will be good. Far from it!
Hyper Calvinism grows from a mistaken extrapolation that, because people are unconditionally elected to salvation or not, there is no point preaching the gospel to unbelievers. Which is a clear failure to obey the command of Jesus. Hyper Calvinists fail to realise that only God knows whom he has elected unto salvation, and that God appointed the preaching of the gospel as a means by which he draws his elect. Hyper Calvinistic churches turn inward and often decline and fail over time. Hyper Calvinists lack the balance that comes from reading and understanding the whole teaching of scripture, and focus on a few key proof texts in isolation. That's often the error of extremists of all flavours.


message 39: by Nathan (new)

Nathan Chattaway | 179 comments Salvation is a point in time change, that ushers in a lifetime of progress toward final sanctification, which consists of good works that God prepared beforehand that we would do. These good works also act as fruit in our lives, which can be observed by other humans, but chiefly they are to bring glory to God. That is the overall goal here.
[Ephesians 2:10 ESV: 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.]


message 40: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1880 comments Thanks, Nathan; that actually does clarify (and I also appreciate the definition of "hyper-Calvinism;" I'd heard the term before, but had never connected it with the Anti-Mission movement until now). It's always good to find out that my prior understanding wasn't completely off-beam, after all, despite my relatively limited reading on the subject! :-)


message 41: by Nathan (new)

Nathan Chattaway | 179 comments The "If God has already chosen who will be saved, why should I bother to evangelise?" question is actually a pretty natural first response to the doctrine of unconditional election. Hyper-Calvinists just enshrine that response. We can see the lengths that Paul went to convince people though. He wanted to be all things to all people in the hope that God would draw them. Paul was jealous of claiming converts as fruit of his own sanctification process. Another pretty natural response is "Well, if God predestined me to sin, then it's not my fault and I shouldn't be punished for it." Some things about God we aren't capable of understanding, and in this case the Bible instructs us of our place compared to God. Shall the clay say to the potter, why did you make me like this? When we pursue this human line of reasoning, projecting human attributes onto God, we can end up challenging God's entire plan of redemption for humanity. But we are not the focus, God is. There is no better focus for all of Creation to worship than God and God alone.


message 42: by Nathan (last edited Apr 19, 2017 04:36AM) (new)

Nathan Chattaway | 179 comments If you'll permit me a slight regression in my laying out of these doctrines that constitute the difference between Arminianism and Calvinism, I'd like to raise the topic of Paul's own conversion. It's well-recorded in scripture, so we don't have to guess.
Paul was actively persecuting Jesus' church when he was drawn. Jesus even said "It is hard for you to kick against the goads." What goads did Jesus refer to, and who was doing the goading? The reference is to an ox in yoke, pulling a load. The ox driver would use a sharp stick or rod to prod the ox in the hindquarters, to get it to move towards the destination the driver had in mind. If the ox kicked back in response, it would only injure it's foot or leg and then be poked forward again. Eventually, with a lot of blood, sweat and bellowing, a recalcitrant ox would be made to reach that predestined destination. Or, a calm and well trained ox would reach the same destination with minimal fuss, if it took up the weight of the yoke and obeyed the driver from simply learned voice commands.
Jesus likened Paul's life to the recalcitrant ox. He tried to resist the predestined plan God had for him, as many of us do before our conversion. But it's not man's unrestored will that wins out, it's God's will in the end.
Paul often refers to his ministry as an apostle as being "the least" or "unworthy" and refers back to his active role of persecuting the church as evidence of God's complete unconditional election of him.


message 43: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1880 comments Nathan, when I post my own series of comments later, I absolutely don't want to misrepresent Calvinist beliefs, or to come across as caricaturing them, so your comments above are helpful. You might be able to provide me with another bit of factual information. Do you know if this idea of the absolute divine predestination of every human action (the Fall excepted) is actually found in Calvin's own writings? And do you know if it's found in Augustine's? (I haven't read Calvin's Institutes; and though I've read Augustine's Confessions, about 46 years ago, that book is more autobiographical than theological, and I don't recall that he deals much if at all with his ideas about predestination there.)


message 44: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1880 comments T.C., re your Calvinist church leadership's position that not all who believe are necessarily of the "elect," that idea and the related belief that human beings can never truly know whether or not they're one of the predestined "elect," appears to have originated with Augustine in the 5th century A.D. (A History of Christianity, p. 179). I'm guessing that's ultimately the source of their belief (and that of other Calvinist individuals and groups who historically have held, or still hold, these positions).


message 45: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1880 comments Hmmm! While I'm on my meal break here at work, I've been delving into Latourette's History of Christianity (cited above), which I've read but did so a long time ago, to refresh my background understanding for some aspects of our discussion. It's proving to be an interesting study. It turns out that the Augustinian idea of the uncertainty of who is or isn't of the elect was also taught by Calvin (citing Augustine) in his Institutes. To be sure, he discourages what he considers to be excessive concern about the subject. As paraphrased by LaTourette:
"While, if we were to be absolutely sure in this life that we are among the chosen by God for salvation, we would be tempted to complacency and pride, there are marks which are evidence that we are presumably [the italics are mine] of the elect. If we have them, we are to stop our worrying. The tests are a profession of faith, an upright life, and participation in the sacraments. Men are not to make their salvation the major aim, but are to put first the glory and honour of God." (p.756)

So it would appear that my comment in message 44 above was partially incorrect; later Calvinists may "ultimately" derive those ideas from Augustine, but they're definitely mediated through the Institutes. (And I can't help thinking that, given their presuppositions, it's entirely understandable that many later Calvinists have been much more worried about this subject than Calvin himself felt that they should be.)

I wrote in message 43: "Do you know if this idea of the absolute divine predestination of every human action (the Fall excepted) is actually found in Calvin's own writings?" Nathan, you can ignore that question; my reading just now (p. 753) has enabled me to answer it for myself. (And the answer is yes --also taught in the Institutes.)


message 46: by Nathan (last edited Jan 10, 2017 11:06PM) (new)

Nathan Chattaway | 179 comments Interesting that you'd except the Fall, Werner. Why do you do that? That is not the position taken by someone who holds to the doctrine of the Sovereignty of God. I believe God ordained EVERYTHING before the foundation of the world, including the fall of man. I believe this is generally the position held by anyone who would agree to be labelled "Calvinist". I'll quote John Piper here:

God "works ALL THINGS after the counsel of his will" (Ephesians 1:11).

This "all things" includes the fall of sparrows (Matthew 10:29), the rolling of dice (Proverbs 16:33), the slaughter of his people (Psalm 44:11), the decisions of kings (Proverbs 21:1), the failing of sight (Exodus 4:11), the sickness of children (2 Samuel 12:15), the loss and gain of money (1 Samuel 2:7), the suffering of saints (1 Peter 4:19), the completion of travel plans (James 4:15), the persecution of Christians (Hebrews 12:4-7), the repentance of souls (2 Timothy 2:25), the gift of faith (Philippians 1:29), the pursuit of holiness (Philippians 3:12-13), the growth of believers (Hebrews 6:3), the giving of life and the taking in death (1 Samuel 2:6), and the crucifixion of his Son (Acts 4:27-28).

In this discussion to date, I have until now refrained from quoting anyone who wasn't writing inspired scripture (included in the Protestant canon), but I made an exception for this John Piper quote because it's completely backed by scripture and exactly captures my opinion. I bring this up because, while it's important and interesting to understand the way we arrived at our doctrines , I only listen to people insofar as they directly reference scripture. I have not read the entirety of Calvin's "Institutes" (which in modern nomenclature should be thought of as a Systematic Theology text.) Nor have I read the entirety of Calvin's commentaries (which he completed for most books of our Protestant canon Bible), nor have I read all of his published sermons. I own many of these, and use them as reference material. Far more accessible than The Institutes to most modern readers are Systematic Theology volumes by Louis Berkhof or Wayne Grudem. When analysing how we came by modern western Reformed Theology, one can certainly trace a line from Spurgeon, Warfield or Edwards to Calvin, from Calvin to Augustine. But critically, one can also trace a line from Augustine to the Apostle Paul, and from Calvin to Paul, and from Spurgeon to Paul. And Paul was taught by direct discipleship to Jesus.


message 47: by Nathan (last edited Jan 10, 2017 06:50PM) (new)

Nathan Chattaway | 179 comments Werner wrote: "T.C., re your Calvinist church leadership's position that not all who believe are necessarily of the "elect," that idea and the related belief that human beings can never truly know whether or not ..."

T.C., is your church leadership's position that YOU YOURSELF cannot know YOUR OWN salvation status? Or is it that OTHER PEOPLE cannot know for certain someone ELSE's salvation status?
If you tell me you believe, obviously I don't know you and I cannot be certain this is true. As I get to know you, I would be looking for not only a credible profession of your faith, but also evidence of the Holy Spirit indwelling you, which I would do by observing fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control) evident in your life over a period of time. And I would also be looking for you to be regularly attending and worshipping with and involved in a Christian congregation, and submitted to the eldership in that congregation, open to correction and recommendations and chastisement when/if necessary. Those are things a good elder should know the status of for each and every person in their congregation. That is required info for proper shepherding. If evidence of all these were present, then I would conclude there is a good chance you are converted. But I'd never be 100% certain about YOU. I am certain about my own conversion. Not that I take any of the credit for it, and certainly not that I should rest on my laurels and thus prove I was mistaken! I would simply state to someone (as I stated to you), to allay their fears of uncertainty, that if they genuinely believe Jesus Christ is the son of God and that he died to pay the price for their sins, then they can be assured they are saved.
This is a difficult area, perhaps summed up by:
[Mark 9:23-24 ESV: 23 And Jesus said to him, "'All things are possible for one who believes." 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, "I believe; help my unbelief!"]
We are often plagued by doubts about our beliefs. That is why the scriptures give comfort about the assurance we can take. The Holy Spirit is given to believers as a GUARANTEE or SEAL for future redemption. Sealed until Jesus returns for his bride, the church. If God is for us, who can be against us? I will treat this assurance further when I come to the final point of Calvinistic thought on Salvation, often known as Perseverance of the Saints, or more accurately Preservation of the Saints.
I've been saying all along that our own salvation status is not the focus here, but the focus is God's glory. Werner's paraphrase of Calvin "Men are not to make their salvation the major aim, but are to put first the glory and honour of God." is what I'm getting at.


message 48: by Nathan (last edited Jan 10, 2017 11:01PM) (new)

Nathan Chattaway | 179 comments I will also add here, that we shouldn't attend congregations who are led by people we can't in good conscience submit to in the way instructed in scripture. We are not saved by church attendance, but worshipping God communally is a Biblically expected outcome of someone who has been saved. The Bible knows nothing of Christians staying away in isolation from the gathering together in His name.
Many congregations use all sorts of things other than the ones I've listed above as unspoken "proof" of salvation status, and the results are usually disastrous. For instance, many Pentecostal churches have replaced actual evidence of the fruit of the Holy Spirit with speaking in tongues, which is practiced in a manner contrary to scripture and therefore can be faked indefinitely. This allows wolves to put on sheep's clothing, or more accurately to put on shepherd's clothing and fleece the flock, and feast on the flock. Another common "evidence" is prosperity and health. If you are rich you are godly. If you are poor, or sick, you must be an unrepentant sinner. This is particularly damaging in developing nations. "Come to Jesus and get a BMW like mine." is sadly a very common way to build a big congregation in Africa. Joel Osteen "Your Best Life Now!". Well, what about the coming age?


message 49: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1880 comments Nathan wrote: "Werner's paraphrase of Calvin "Men are not to make their salvation the major aim, but are to put first the glory and honour of God." is what I'm getting at." Nathan, that's actually Latourette's paraphrase of Calvin. I haven't read Calvin's writings, so I'm not in a position to paraphrase him.

Nathan wrote: "Interesting that you'd except the Fall, Werner. Why do you do that? That is not the position taken by someone who holds to the doctrine of the Sovereignty of God." Nathan, I excepted the Fall because I was addressing my question to you personally, and I wanted to save you the time it would take to repeat your statements from message 17 and message 28:

"Free will was indeed given to our representative Adam. He was completely unfettered in his choice to do good or evil. To obey God's clear and direct command or to disobey it."

"I believe Adam and Eve originally were spiritually alive and able to choose things that were spiritually pleasing to God as well as to choose to disobey God."

You may have misunderstood my questions in messages 37, which stated the same exception, and message 43; or I may have misunderstood your statements that I quoted above. (Or we may both have misunderstood something.) I understood your statements to mean that God did not literally cause the Fall, even though all Christians would certainly agree that He eternally foresaw it and planned to deal with it. (At the time you made your statements, I assumed that you excepted the Fall because Paul pairs Christ with Adam as the "last Adam" or "second Adam;" and that if you don't deny free will to Christ in his incarnation, the parallel required ascribing it to Adam as well; but assumptions aren't always correct.) My question isn't about whether God eternally foresees all human behavior, eternally plans for it, and so orders things in His providence that His optimal will is ultimately fulfilled, even using human mistakes and sins to contribute to this; we may consider those as facts not in dispute. Rather, my question is whether God actually causes all behavior, in such a way that the only actual volition is His and He is the actual actor in every action, even though the human instrument remains self-aware and has the illusion of choice?


message 50: by Nathan (last edited Feb 11, 2017 03:39AM) (new)

Nathan Chattaway | 179 comments Thanks for explaining that Werner. I'll attempt a more succinct statement of what I believe to be the common view of Calvinism: Before the world was created, God planned all events that would happen in this age. These events include the fall of man, and every action that every person performs. God had planned His redemption of specific people before any people were created, and of course before Adam sinned in the garden of Eden. This predestined course of events set by God does not at all remove our responsibility for our actions, and we commit every thought and action willingly, according to the purpose of our will at the time, but our will has never been and is never completely free as in, able to bring to pass anything we can conceive of. That would make us God. We can only conceive of and do what God has placed before us. [Proverbs 16:9, 33 ESV: 9 The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. ... 33 The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.] We are like goldfish swimming in a bowl, choosing to go left, right, up, down, backflip, blink. Meanwhile God carries that bowl where He will, for His purposes. Our actions bring glory to God, and this is right, and this is good. Before Adam sinned, he could choose to think and do things that are spiritually pleasing to God, but following this Original Sin, he died spiritually that same day and we are subsequently all born spiritually dead and can no longer choose to think and do things that are spiritually pleasing to God. Unless and until God sends His Holy Spirit to spiritually resurrect us, rebirth us in Spirit. Following which, we can choose to think and do things that are spiritually pleasing to God. But our will is still subject to God's will. I think the term freedom of the will is misleading because it makes people think they have absolute freedom to create thought as well as just act on thoughts/concepts they already have.


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