"The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our Lord stands forever. Isaiah 40:8

28 September 2006

Chosen by God

I finished reading Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul this past week (recommended by Michele). It is a very basic introduction to Calvinism and is written in a very easy to read fashion.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book. I am not sure where exactly I stand on Calvinism as I haven’t found much reason to decide one way or the other. But I find the insight that Calvinism provides into the characteristics of God and man very interesting. I think I will need to read more on the subject.

One thing that has stood out clearly to me lately as I read scripture is the role of God in every part of salvation. There is so much talk in the scriptures of election, predestination, calling, choosing, etc. I understand that the Arminian and Calvinist have different approaches to these terms, but I tend to think our limited minds have trouble understanding the workings of God in this area.

On this note, I was reading a transcript from MacArthur (who is a Calvinist) last night on predestination and salvation based on this verse:

And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. Romans 8:30

I like the way MacArthur handled this verse and showed not only the assurance of salvation through God’s stepwise plan for us, but also elaborated on how God’s plan basically works for each individual. We are predestined, then called, then justified, then glorified. What God has started, God will finish.

Anyway, MacArthur went on to talk about the elect and the non-elect and I like one thing he said because it dealt a bit with some of the common hang-ups on the non-elect idea (predestined for destruction?). He basically said the non-elect were condemned for their non-belief because that is what scripture says, despite the fact that there seems to be a dissymmetry with that idea as compared to the work in the elect (being chosen and given the ability to follow God).

How can that be? It is one of those mysteries that our puny brains can’t comprehend according to MacArthur. I think a lot of scripture is clear, definitely the Gospel message. But I think it is sometimes easy to go with an interpretation that is comfortable (like the complete free will of man) rather than accept what the scripture actually says. And I think Calvinism makes people uncomfortable.

But I diverge. Back to Sproul…I enjoyed the book and would like to read more by Sproul. I think the one idea that stuck with me from the Calvinist point of view is the idea of man choosing to turn to God. Sproul makes the argument that we do that which we desire. Our desires determine our choices. With that in mind, why would a fallen man ever choose Christ unless God first gave him the desire. That makes sense to me.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in understanding the interplay between a sovereign God and a fallen man. I’m not quite ready to fully embrace Calvinism yet, but the one thing I can really appreciate about their viewpoint is the emphasis on the sovereignty of God. I just don’t think that God’s sovereignty can ever be overemphasized.

70 comments:

jswranch said...

What is the difference between Reformed and Calvanism? Teach me but I equate Westminster Confession=Calvinisn (4 or 5 point)=Reformed=Presbyterianism. I know the 14 different Presbyterian branches in the US draw or conform to varying degrees of Westminster/Calvin.

Also, are you a big fan of Sprouls? I listen to his show from time to time. I like his accounts of philosophy, but some of his talks are loopy. Have you heard of his theory of the Bible as being a fallible collection of infallible books? This I find very dangerous.

Carrie said...

I do not know too much about Sproul, but he always seemed like a right on guy to me.

Maybe Ellen will swing by and explain the relationship b/w Calvinism and Reformed. I am still learning all of this myself.

e-Mom said...

I have not read anything by R.C. Sproul, so I can't comment on his writings. In considering the merits of the Calvinistic position, you might want to think carefully about the Biblical story of the Prodigal son. There, Jesus describes how the Prodigal makes a clear choice to leave his Father's house and squander his inheretance. Later, the son make a clear choice to return home--where he is met with open arms. If you study the Scriptures, and think about the principles that run through the entire Bible, you will understand the interpretations of certain words and phrases.

I know you love the Bible with a passion, so I encourage you to let Scripture interpret Scripture. If you do, you'll have your answer with regard to free-will vs. predistination in regard to salvation. May you be blessed in your study! e-Mom

Tony said...

This is the same issue I had with Calvinism. Why would God create souls who from their time of creation were destined for hell?

Carrie said...

Why would God create souls who from their time of creation were destined for hell?

But I think you could come to a similiar conclusion from the Arminian point of view.

If you say that the elect are just those people who would eventually believe and be saved by their own choice, but they are "elect" because God knew ahead of time who would chose him, then why would God even create those who he knew would not choose to believe and therefore be condemned to hell.

Ellen said...

There, Jesus describes how the Prodigal makes a clear choice to leave his Father's house and squander his inheretance. Later, the son make a clear choice to return home--where he is met with open arms. If you study the Scriptures, and think about the principles that run through the entire Bible, you will understand the interpretations of certain words and phrases.

e-mom; was the prodigal ever NOT a son? No, he was always a son, he was just not present.

Ellen said...

Why would God create souls who from their time of creation were destined for hell?

You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?"

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?" Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use? 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, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory--

Carrie said...

John,

Challies.com had a post about what Reformed means. If you are interested you can check it out here

jswranch said...

Carrie,
Thanks for the info. I wished the author would have mentioned the Westminster Confession or other confessions. Aside from the denial of free will of man (which logically places us on an equal level to worship God to a pig or other animal who did not fall from grace), the other doctrine I have trouble finding a biblical basis for is the Reformed deffinition of "Total Depravity." I agree with "Total Depravity" in that we "were created in the image of God, yet tragically fallen & profoundly in need of restoration to God through Christ." However, I find the unspoken Reformed concept of "Total Depravity even after rebirth" unbiblical and incorrect. The concept that we are still totally depraved after rebirth denies the power of the cross and denies the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. I see our redemption, which goes into effect at our spiritual rebirth, as a restoration to divine sonship in which we are impowered to follow him as well as Adam could have. Granted, our hearts are yet to fully love Him, which they will by His power.

What scriptures do you use to support your doctrine of permanent depravity?

I dont want to discuss our lack of "free will" as such topic has been beaten into the ground. I just want to know how the 16th century reformers came up with the new idea of our permanent "total depravity" which is only lifted in heaven.

Then again, maybe I misunderstand the Reformed position.

Carrie said...

I am not Reformed and while I can see the scriptural support and value of many of the Calvinistic viewpoints, I do not consider myself a Calvinist. So while I may be able to take a stab at some of your points, it would be simply my own viewpoint based on scripture and not a Reformed viewpoint whatsoever.

I do recommend the Chosen By God book as it is short and fairly simple to read. I thought Sproul did an excellent job of answering some of the common opposition points to Calvinism although it really isn’t a thorough look at everything.

Again, perhaps Ellen would be willing to talk about some of these points as she is Reformed and very sharp. I know she has done some posts on her blog as well about some of this.

The concept that we are still totally depraved after rebirth denies the power of the cross and denies the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

I’m not sure what you mean by this nor am I sure that a Calvinist would agree completely so I’ll have to leave this to Ellen.

I think that we are changed after we are born again, but we are still sinful. I am not sure how all that relates to depravity.

jswranch said...

Carrie,
Whoops, I thought you were Reformed. I guess it was all the links you show. If not reformed, then what? Evangelical?

Carrie said...

Whoops, I thought you were Reformed. I guess it was all the links you show. If not reformed, then what? Evangelical?

Hmmm. I guess you would just call me Evangelical. I think of myself as just a bible-believing Christian.

In my late twenties I became interested in what the Bible was about. I don’t remember anyone witnessing to me in particular although some of my future in-laws at the time were Christians. Sometimes a Christian topic would come up at a family gathering but the gospel really wasn’t discussed or anything like that.

I bought a book about the Bible and kept finding shows on the TV about certain Bible stories and found myself intrigued. Finally one day I told my boyfriend (now my husband) who had grown up in a non-practicing Protestant background that maybe we should trying going to church. We went to a Baptist church and I don’t remember all the details after that, but I finally understood the gospel, accepted Christ as my Savior (along with my now husband) and moved on to looking for a permanent church home.

Our first church was a small evangelical-free church that was run more non-denominational-like. We had a great Pastor who we were close with and we learned a lot from him. He liked Sproul and was a Calvinist although at the time I really didn’t know what that meant. We moved and attended a Vineyard church for awhile but that was a waste for us. Never got into it. Then we found a small independent Baptist church but this time our Pastor was an Arminian (although I’m sure he believed in assurance). Moved again and found our current church which is a Southern Baptist plant but again is run more like a non-denominational church (but much bigger than our other church homes). I have no idea where our current pastor stands on Reform theology but I would highly doubt he is a 5-point Calvinist.

So if I HAD to choose a denomination I would say Baptist, but I usually think of myself as non-denominational. We pick churches based on solid-bible teaching first, everything else follows. I had actually never heard of Reformed until I started blogging, but I do tend to like blogs of those that are Reformed or Calvinist. So I think I probably lean that way and find all of it quite interesting.

What fascinates me about my own conversion is that my interest in God which led to me finally accepting Christ as my Savior was almost out of the blue. I have always felt that God just started to call me, now I tend to think my experience lines up with a Calvinistic viewpoint of calling.

Anyway, I didn’t mean to babble on. That is my history in a nutshell.

Someday I want to do a post about our current church as God is really moving there. We have people getting saved every week and we are growing, it’s very exciting.

jswranch said...

This sounds Evangelical or independant Baptist to me.

jswranch said...

So how do you see your current beliefs differing from Calvinism?

michele said...

Carrie, I would recommend you read Michael Horton's "Putting the Amazing Back into Grace" to really understand what it means to be a Calvinist and what it means to be Reformed. It's an easy read and gives you the complete Reformed view. "Chosen by God" was just a look at predestination. There is more to Calvinism than presdestination, much more. Horton goes back to creation and works his way through redemptive history. Well work the cost (and it is really cheap).

jswranch, in regards to total depravity, are you able to love God with your whole heart, mind, soul and strength? Are you able to do something completely without sin? Are you ever, for one minute of your life able to do something (thought, word, deed) with the perfection of Christ?

Ellen said...

What do the Protestant Reformers Mean by "Total Depravity"?

"Total" doesn't mean "utter." It doesn't mean that we are as bad as we can possibly be. The Reformers admit that there is much that fallen humankind can do, and can do superbly well: science, mathematics, government, art, music, painting ("culture" in general), and what Calvin calls "mechanical" arts (i.e., engineering.)

However, "total depravity" does mean
[1] the scope of the fall is total: there is no human undertaking that isn't fallen, sin-riddled, corrupted.

[2] the penetration of the fall is comprehensive: there is no aspect of the human being (reason, will, affect) that is unaffected and by which we can restore ourselves.

E.g. (i), we can still reason (or else we shouldn't be human; the structure of reason survives the fall), but now our reason subserves the wrong end or purpose, particularly as we approach the specifically human or divine. Reason now applies itself to aggrandizement of ourselves, or exploitation of others, or the legitimization of unconscious motivation (i.e., rationalization).

E.g. (ii), we can still will (to be without will is to have ceased to be human), and can still will moral good, but we cannot will the good: the kingdom of God . We cannot will ourselves out of our sinnership, cannot will ourselves into the kingdom. (Note John 3:3: apart from Spirit-regeneration we cannot so much as see the kingdom, much less enter it.) The will is "bound" or "enslaved" (not free) in that it cannot will righteousness. But such bondage is never to be confused with philosophical determinism: the Reformers never say that genuine choice is denied us with respect to creaturely matters.

E.g. (iii), we can still love, but now our affections are misaligned; we love what we ought to hate and hate what we ought to love. At the very least we love the creature above the Creator; our loves are "disordered affections": lesser loves (legitimate in themselves) usurp our greater love (for God.) In addition our creaturely loves are riddled with self-interest.

[3] No one part of the society can save the rest. The individual cannot save the society as a whole, or the society the individual. Economics cannot put right what sociologists identify as the human problem; neither can sociologists put right what economists identify as the human problem.

While Marx reduces all considerations (Freud's explanation included) to the dialectical laws of materialism (and one's place in the economic spectrum), and while Freud reduces all considerations (Marx's explanation included) to intra-psychic unconscious conflict, the doctrine of Total Depravity exposes both as one-sided and short-sighted.

Ellen said...

The concept that we are still totally depraved after rebirth denies the power of the cross and denies the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

You do misunderstand the doctrine of total depravity.

Total depravity refers to man's inability to reach out to God, unless the Father calls.

We are either slaves to sin or bondservants of Christ.

(there is more, but I'm having really spotty internet service - and I'm starting TULIP on my own blog - that's where starting with the "T" gets you ;-)

I could flood the comment box, but they get flooded with everything else and things get "lost".

With luck (and a little help from comcast) I'll be up and running a little later.

jswranch said...

Michele,
To answer your questions:
Yes. Yes. And, yes.
Phil4:13
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
2Cor5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Psalm 50:2
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,God shines forth.
Romans6:6-7
We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.

jswranch said...

Ellen,
I understand Total Depravity and completly agree with it.

Total depravity refers to man's inability to reach out to God, unless the Father calls.

However, I deny that we remain totally depraved after being born again. What verses say we are still in such state?

Carrie said...

So how do you see your current beliefs differing from Calvinism?

I'm not sure b/c I really only know the 5 points of TULIP.

The truth is, I never really gave it much thought as determining whether Calvinism is biblical or not is not going to affect my salvation or my presentation of the gospel. But it does reveal the intricacies of God's plan so it is interesting.

I definitely believe in the "P". I'm still working through the rest.

Carrie said...

However, I deny that we remain totally depraved after being born again.

Do you mean you deny that we sin after rebirth?

jswranch, in regards to total depravity, are you able to love God with your whole heart, mind, soul and strength? Are you able to do something completely without sin? Are you ever, for one minute of your life able to do something (thought, word, deed) with the perfection of Christ?

(jsw says): Yes. Yes. And, yes.

John, how can you say that? You have admitted here before that you ask for forgiveness of your sins each morning. We all still sin after rebirth, we just are not slaves to sin anymore.

Ellen gave you the verse about anyone who says he is without sin is a liar and phd gave you the verses from Paul talking about what a wretched man he was.

Do you think that you never sin? Do you think you are now perfect? Do you think that you love God 100% every second of the day. Or are we just talking degrees here?

michele said...

If we were able to be perfect and not sin, why does John write this:

1 John 2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

phd4jesus said...

Carrie said to the John:
What fascinates me about my own conversion is that my interest in God which led to me finally accepting Christ as my Savior was almost out of the blue. I have always felt that God just started to call me, now I tend to think my experience lines up with a Calvinistic viewpoint of calling.

J-man, I shared with you my testimony on another thread. Coincidently, I was thinking during this thread how my coming to Christ was consistent with Calvinism.

I too do not consider myself a Calvinist. Not that I think it is wrong. On the contrary, I think Calvinism is very well supported scripturally. It is just something that doesn't matter to me at this point. God is going to save souls regardless.

jswranch said...

Carrie,
Let us look at the questions again.

jswranch, in regards to total depravity, are you able to love God with your whole heart, mind, soul and strength?
Yes.. I am able Do I consistantly? No.

Are you able to do something completely without sin?
Yes. For example, my prayers that Jesus comes into my heart is not sin. Do I always do things without sin? No. Note: I am able because of the work of God in me first.

Are you ever, for one minute of your life able to do something (thought, word, deed) with the perfection of Christ?
Do something without the perfection of Christ? Yes. Do something good with the perfection of Christ? Yes. Do something good without the perfection of Christ? Sort of, depends on your deffinition of 'perfection of Christ.' Do something good without the grace of God working through me in that particular moment? No No No.

Do you think that you never sin?
No, I sin. Lots. But my desire to sin does not cancel out the work God has accomplished in me by rebirth. As we die to sin, we are no longer the same fallen people. Our 'fallenness' dies on the cross.

Do you think you are now perfect? No. Note: my failure to love God perfectly does not negate the above.


Do you think that you love God 100% every second of the day? Not yet. With God's help, I will.

Or are we just talking degrees here? Nope, not degrees.

jswranch said...

Carrie,
I definitely believe in the "P".
I do too... sort of. Do you honestly believe you do not have the power to choose to reject God's plan for you if you really wanted to? A yes or no will do.

jswranch said...

All other,
I am trying to keep up with your questions. Please be patient as I only have 10 fingers.

Carrie said...

Do you honestly believe you do not have the power to choose to reject God's plan for you if you really wanted to?

Yes.

jswranch said...

Michele,
If we were able to be perfect and not sin, why does John write this?

(Sentence 1)He writes to call them to the holiness they have received. (Sentence 2) God still offers forgiveness and mercy for sin after justification.

I suppose you are refering to sentence one (may not sin). Ability does not equal result. Of course, this doctrine makes no sense if you deny free will of individuals.

Do you deny that we are dead to sin and are a new creation? Later in 1 Jn 5, he writes:

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.

jswranch said...

Carrie,
Yes.
Well, that answers that question! LOL :)

jswranch said...

PHD,
I am not certain my calling is much different from that of Calvinism either. The debate is over what happens next.

Carrie said...

John,

As far as depravity and rebirth I think there is some confusion in the terms being thrown around. We both agree we still sin after our rebirth.

I'm not sure how to sort out the rest.

Carrie said...

I am not certain my calling is much different from that of Calvinism either.

If this is true, do you believe that God calls everyone?

jswranch said...

Yes, there is confussion of terms, but determining the effect after rebirth is something critical. Our view completely impacts how we view God's current work in us, how continued grace works, and how we are to respond to the gifts.

jswranch said...

John:I am not certain my calling is much different from that of Calvinism either.

Carrie:If this is true, do you believe that God calls everyone?


Yes, in their own way. It depends on how you use the word "calls." I believe He predestines/forces some, but not all to heaven. Christ died for all. He died for the sins of the world. God desires all to come and know Him. Not all respond to the call.

Let us discuss the parable of the seeds and sower. How do you interpret it in context of salvation and the spread of the Word?

eph2810 said...

Thank you Carrie for this great post. Predesitnation is something that I really not understand, yet. I will have to continue to pray about that. I usually let Scripture interpret Scripture. I know that I have studied my in my own denomination, and I know their stand on it. But I personally think that God is much bigger than doctrine written by men.

jswranch said...

Eph2810,
But I personally think that God is much bigger than doctrine written by men.

But wouldn't your private conclusion about the interpretation of scripture about God be a doctrine concluded by a man [or woman]?

Carrie said...

But wouldn't your private conclusion about the interpretation of scripture about God be a doctrine concluded by a man [or woman]?

I think everyone's hope is that our man-made doctrines represent as closely as possible the truth about God.

Her point may be that God is so much bigger than we can ever wrap our minds around and I would agree. Yet I think many of us have a desire to know as much about God as we can, so we set about coming up with theological summaries to make sense of it all.

Carrie said...

Let us discuss the parable of the seeds and sower. How do you interpret it in context of salvation and the spread of the Word?

Of the four soils, only the last soil is indicative of a saving faith. The second and the third soils are good examples of false faith. There seems to be some effect of the Word, but it is short-lived and never bears fruit.

To keep it short, I believe that we sow the Word onto all of the soils never knowing what their condition is. But only the good soil, prepared by God, allows the seed to go on and bear fruit. I would consider the good soil the "called".

jswranch said...

Doctrines:
(sorry if I tire you of this questioning)

The word and doctrine of 'Trinity' is not expressly laid out in the bible. How can you know for certain it is true and not a fallible 'man-made doctrine?'

Is there no better bottom line of truth than to hope 'that our man-made doctrines represent as closely as possible the truth about God'?

Anonymous said...

Do you honestly believe you do not have the power to choose to reject God's plan for you if you really wanted to?

Proverbs 16:9 A man's heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.

Proverbs 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the LORD.

You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?"

Psalms 115:3 But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.

eph2810 said...

Thank you, Carrie :)
I was thinking more down the line of church doctrine than my own personal belief.
So, I will continue to struggle with 'predestination' probably until the end ~ when He calls me home, or when He returns - which ever comes first.

Ellen said...

However, I deny that we remain totally depraved after being born again. What verses say we are still in such state?

What doctrine say that?

Douglas Wilson puts it this way:
"The doctrine of total depravity is this: man is totally unable to contribute to his own salvation in any way, because he is dead in his sins. For example, the resurrection of Lazarus was not a joint effort between Christ and Lazarus. Lazarus came forth because he was raised, not in order to be raised.

On the other hand, after you are saved, does that make you good enough for you to operate in holiness apart from Christ's working in you?

Carrie said...

Is there no better bottom line of truth than to hope 'that our man-made doctrines represent as closely as possible the truth about God'?

The word doctrine covers alot of territory. There are some doctrines that are very, very clear scripturally. Others are a little less clear and there is more room for discussion (like Calvinism vs Arminianism). Although those examples actually cover multiple doctrines so maybe that isn't the best example.

jswranch said...

On the other hand, after you are saved, does that make you good enough for you to operate in holiness apart from Christ's working in you?

No. We can never do any good what so ever without grace working in and through us. However, I am under the impression his grace is so powerful we should really no longer refer to ourselves as depraved.

Ellen said...

John, why can't you do any good whatsoever without grace working in you?

jswranch said...

All that is good comes from God. I am not a source or spring of goodnes (grace) but a vessel of that goodnes which is now in me.

Ellen said...

John, sorry it took so long on your question on the Trinity...my internet connection is real spotty (and fixing it involves digging up my yard and laying new cable).

The Triune Godhead can be proven through Scripture.

We know that the Father and Jesus are one: John 14:9 "Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?"

We know that the Father and the Spirit are one: 1 Cor. 2:10-11 "these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God."

The "Spirit" who reveals truth to us is God's Spirit, completing the Trinity.

jswranch said...

Ellen,
I'm on your side when it comes to the biblical foundation of the Trinity.

My question was more about how you can come to some conclusions about the Word of God and still be certain you are the one with the correct interpretation.

Ellen said...

these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

Most of the "differences" are not "salvation issues" - when they are, they are not found in Scripture.

jswranch said...

Most of the "differences" are not "salvation issues" - when they are, they are not found in Scripture.

1 Cor 6:9
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,

If Paul is correct in that adulterers will not go to heaven, then one of the "differences" is determining when one becomes guilty of adultery. Do you view this as a 'salvation issue'?

Catez said...

Hi jswranch,

Just on this:
The concept that we are still totally depraved after rebirth denies the power of the cross and denies the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. I see our redemption, which goes into effect at our spiritual rebirth, as a restoration to divine sonship in which we are impowered to follow him as well as Adam could have. Granted, our hearts are yet to fully love Him, which they will by His power.

What scriptures do you use to support your doctrine of permanent depravity?


I don't know where you got this idea from.
Some Reformed prefer to say Total Inability rather than Total Depravity actually. We don't have to remain stuck with "depravity" here. Romans 1 is the oft quoted passage, there are others.

Now to look at what you have said, "I see our redemption, which goes into effect at our spiritual rebirth, as a restoration to divine sonship in which we are impowered to follow him as well as Adam could have."
That's pretty close to Reformed theology, although I'd question "as well as Adam could have", but then that can be questioned from an Arminian view too, since the issue here with comparing to Adam is not Total Inability but sanctification. Unlike Adam pre-fall we are not perfect - we are being perfected. Apart from that I agree with you on this point.

Now before you jump all over that (I'm joking ok?), of course Reformed theology doesn't hold that we are permanetly depraved. So that's a straw man. Unable, of ourselves - yes! Which is exactly what you say too - we have the power of the cross and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Total inability is quite simply the recognition that we are unable by our own will and effort to save ourselves. Once saved we are still unable by our own will and effort to live godly lives. "It is he who works in you to do his will and good pleasure". So no - we are not toally depraved after salvation - of course not! We have been justified, we are being sanctified, we have been changed, we are being perfected. The emphasis is on HIM - he does this, and as you rightly point out he empowers us. Without the regeneration and indwelling of His Spirit we are totally unable of living in this new way. I think we would agree on that.

Total depravity can be something of a misnomer because it also leads some to think that Reformed theology holds that no-one can do civic good - which of course we know they can. Romans 1 clearly marks out a progression in terms of depravity - but not in terms of ability. In other words - we are all unable to save ourselves, even though our actions are in differing degrees of depravity. All fall short, but all are not totally depraved - there is some civic good. However those good works are not enough, so all are unable.

I won't have time to go off on quiestions about every other aspect of Reformed theology but I hope I shed some light on this. You may not agree with the theology, but I think the question you asked, and which I've responded to here, was a major misunderstanding of Reformed theology. Permanent depravity is a misnomer. Permanent inability would be a misnomer too - because of course we have the spirit of God within us enabling us, we are new creations, and without that the P wouldn't make a lot of sense! We would be unable without the work of the Spirit though. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels.

Finally:
"But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in his name,
who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."
John 1:12-13

Nor of the will of man...

Ellen said...

John: so you asked the question about the Trinity so that you could get to your real question.

I just got up in the middle of the night and read - don't have time to answer right now, but I wanted to let you know that I noticed.

jswranch said...

Catez,
Thanks for the info. I suppose I have some errant pre-conceived misconceptions of the T in Tulip. Thanks for the help. I suppose I am ok with Total Depravity.
John

jswranch said...

Ellen,
I was asking about the trustworthiness of doctrines. I used the doctrine of the Trinity as an example. Sorry I was not more clear the first time.

Catez said...

"If Paul is correct in that adulterers will not go to heaven, then one of the "differences" is determining when one becomes guilty of adultery. Do you view this as a 'salvation issue'?"

Before taking a stab at this, it does seem to me that you are very fond of trying the Socratic method. Yes?

"determining when one becomes guilty of adultery" - do you think so? One is guilty if one commits adultery, and this can be in the heart and not even in action, according to Jesus. God determines who is guilty of adultery. Is this a salvaion issue - yes. If not confessed, repented of, and forgiven.

Let's not lapse into semi-pelagianism here and say that if man tries hard enough and helps God out then he can stay out of adultery.

Let's not go into sinless perfectionism and say that a Christian will never harbour adultery in their heart since they are now completely sinless. That's clearly not what scripture teaches.

Let's not become antinomian and say that since we can be forgiven we can do what we like and turn liberty into license. Paul said, divinely inspired, "God forbid!"

Let's not do a Galatian turn and erroneously assume that we keep the letter of the law by our own effort when the bible is clear we live the spirit of the law by His Spirit.

Let's not assume that everyone who professes Christ is a regenerated believer. "They went out from us but were not of us".

So what are we left with? The work of the Holy Spirit in bringing conviction of sin, without which we do not confess and repent. He initiates this. We are unable.

And that doesn't negate anything within Reformed theology at all. Neither does it negate the sufficiency of scripture, the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in a regenerate persons life, or the perseverance of the saints.

Now Socrates - a question or two for you:

What is an evangelical?

Is it possible that having begun in the Spirit we can then be made perfect in the flesh?

Is scripture insufficient? If so why? Where is it insufficient?

Catez said...

You're welcome John. I've decided to do a Socratic turn and ask you some questions. Now don't ask me why - that would spoil my Socratic method.
"Girls just wanna have fun..."

Catez said...

P.S. I was being humorous when I called you Socrates - it's about the philosophical method, not you personally. You could say the same of me after my questions (and I'd probably get swell headed - let's not go there...).

jswranch said...

Catez,
I am not all too familure with the Socratic method. I ask lots of questions because I am listening and learning more of how the Reformed mind thinks.

Let's not lapse into semi-pelagianism here and say that if man tries hard enough and helps God out then he can stay out of adultery.
I am not sure what you are saying here.

What is an evangelical?
Someone who evangelizes.

Is it possible that having begun in the Spirit we can then be made perfect in the flesh? Yes.

Is scripture insufficient? If so why? Where is it insufficient? No, it is not insufficient. It is God breathed and has no error.

Ellen said...

Is scripture insufficient? If so why? Where is it insufficient? No, it is not insufficient. It is God breathed and has no error.

How can you say that Scripture is "not insufficient" if you have to add to it? ("sacred tradition") and if you need the church to interpret it for you? (magisterium)

If the clear reading of Scripture says one thing, and the pope or tradition says another, who are you pledged to believe?

If your only understand of Scripture must come through the Roman Catholic church, who has the real authority - the words or those who interpret them?

Catez said...

Hi again John,
OK, firstly I didn't ask about the sufficiency of scripture as a prelude to confronting certain doctrines. I was going elsewhere, and will now do so.

In reply:
"Let's not lapse into semi-pelagianism here and say that if man tries hard enough and helps God out then he can stay out of adultery.
I am not sure what you are saying here."

I'm saying exactly what I said. I've listed some of the erroneous detours we could take, semi-pelagianism being one of them. You might like to look up some stuff on semi-pelagianism if you aren't familiar (I don't know what theology you have studied).

"What is an evangelical?
Someone who evangelizes."

We wish it was... Anyway, no, that in itself is not considered the sum of evangelical. Trouble is even evangelicals have difficulty defining the term - it's become a broad brush without enough demarcation. I've been in some interesting discussions recently with people about the lack of utility of the term. We evangelicals (ahem) are really not well defined by evangelical. It's become an everything and nothing kind of term. I don't mind being called evangelical, but it doesn't really say anything much. In fact it has a number of meanings depending on which area of the world one is in, one's particular Protestant tradition (the dreaded T word!), and even in some places one's political leanings. At best we could say an evangelical is a protestant. Which is vague. And then of course one can be Reformed and evangelical - I am. Reformed is a good description of my theology. Evangelical is a generalised catch all. Well nearly all.

"Is it possible that having begun in the Spirit we can then be made perfect in the flesh? Yes."

No. "This only I want to learn from you. Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?" Galatians 3: 2-3

Ok - I did ask "can we be made perfect in the flesh" (it was late) but I meant by the flesh - and the weeny difference doesn't change the point.
The only perfection in the flesh will be in heaven, and that refers not just to our physical body but to our human nature - the flesh. and this is where semi-pelagianism comes in, because it relies on a contradiction to scripture, being perfected in, or by, the flesh, rather than solely continuing by the Spirit.
Which brings us to scriptural sufficiency:

"Is scripture insufficient? If so why? Where is it insufficient? No, it is not insufficient. It is God breathed and has no error."

Ok, you've mixed up infallibility with sufficiency here. You are saying it's infallible, i.e. it is God breathed and has no error. I totally agree with you on that. Bu that doesn't answer whether you believe it is sufficient.

So - is scripture sufficient? If not - why not? Where would it be insufficient?

Over to you John.

jswranch said...

Ellen,
In short, believing God ordained a governing body of the apostles and their descendants to interpret His Word does not make make scripture insufficient. I find they (scripture and sacred tradition) never contradict. I believe both are sufficient and infallible. Nothing taught by the Catholic Church is contrary scripture, correctly interpreted. (Note: the church has only ever dogmatically defined the interpretation of about 7 verses.)

As I have said before, I am proud of my faith but do not feel I should specifically promote it on Carrie's blog. I will talk about my interpretation of particular scriptures but not over arching topics such as the teaching arm of the Catholic Church.

If you want, I can send you a link to a Catholic apologist who discusses these very issues in an .mp3 sermon or we can talk about these things on your blog.
If you wanted, I can show you some Catechism quotes answering your very questions. I can also cite some verses talking about the authority of the apostles, especially Peter, and their descendants over at your place.

Ellen said...

We've talked about Marian doctrines that are not in Scripture - I don't see how you can say Scripture is "sufficent" if you need tradition and magisterium along with it.

I've posted pretty extensively on Sola Scriptura and now "total depravity"

Catez said...

John,
The difficulty here is that you tend to use terms and not know what they mean.

For example, you think that Reformed means holding to the Westminster Confession and is expressed as Presbyterianism. Actually there are about 5 confessions, and there are Reformed who are Baptist, as well as some from Anglican and Lutheran traditions. There are also Presbyterians who are not Reformed.
The confessions set out the Reformed system of doctrine.

We've discused some other points already.

I'm not sure why my questions re: the sufficiency of scripture turned into a head butt over Catholicism. What I will say though is that you don't know what is meant by the sufficiency of scripture. If you did you wouldn't have said some of the things in your last comment.

Firstly - sufficiency doesn't just mean something doesn't contradict scripture. Secondly, you anticiapte straw men and then attempt to refute them.

If you are genuinely interested then there are two articles worth reading:

Sufficiency of Scripture part 1

Sufficiency of Scripture part 2

I think he is a bit hard on psychology in those, but he's talking about a reliance on humanism, rather than a scriptural based approach and in that context he's spot on. The rest is excellent, and in particular the biblical exegesis.

John if you are genuinely interested then you need to be more informed. Just putting words in because they sound good doesn't cut the mustard.

If you really understand and believe that scripture is sufficient then you would see where your last comment falls down.

I'm not going to do the work for you. The links are there, and you know how to search the net I'm sure. If you read those links carefully, and give consideration to the passages of scripture and exegesis in them, then we can probably have further discussion.

Moonshadow said...

Jswranch wrote:

I find the unspoken Reformed concept of "Total Depravity even after rebirth" unbiblical and incorrect. The concept that we are still totally depraved after rebirth denies the power of the cross and denies the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

It’s nice to know that I am not the only one who has detected the apparently stickiness of total depravity in Reformed circles.

And it isn’t always unspoken. I have heard it articulated very plainly in Bible study and I have asked, “Where’s the Good News, then?” And the challenge comes back, as we have seen in the comments here, “Have you stopped sinning? If you say ‘yes’, you are a liar.” D’uh.

I mean, please don’t take that approach with one such as me who belongs to a tradition that practices formal, auricular confession to a priest, ok? No matter what you may think of the validity of the practice, it is clear evidence that we recognize that Christians sin and must ask for forgiveness.

I hope to Almighty G-d that the Reformed position of total depravity is being misrepresented in this particular Bible study, despite it having been put forth by a former study leader, an exceptionally intelligent, well-informed individual who is most trustworthy on any number of topics, sacred and secular. The oft-repeated description of Christians as “snow-covered dung hills” with all our “good works as filthy rags” comes to mind. Is Luther being misappropriated in such flippant, self-deprecating statements? I hope so. And I take heart in what Catez says, “We have been justified, we are being sanctified, we have been changed, we are being perfected.” If that's the case, then we agree.

Carrie, it’s great that you finished Sproul’s book. I do recommend his tape series because, as someone else has already mentioned, I too prefer listening than reading him.

Michele is right: Horton will give you a fuller picture, if you are interested. I’m not sure how interested you sound. :-) But, it can't hurt.

But, Horton is another one that I was unable to get through. His writing in the Putting Amazing Back … borders on brainwashing, imo (no offense, please, I’ve very sensitive about brainwashing. I mean, I think Warren’s book is guilty of it, too).

Jswranch also wrote: I am not certain my calling is much different from that of Calvinism either. The debate is over what happens next.

This I also agree with, from my own experience. There’s no question that God found me, as they say. I wasn’t looking. But then the relationship begins and it’s a two-way street. I mean, it’s a relationship, right? Y’all say that.

catez said What I will say though is that you don't know what is meant by the sufficiency of scripture.

A belief at work here which has not been explicitly mentioned is the Baptist notion of "soul competency" meaning that "each individual is competent to relate directly to God for salvation. Each individual is competent to interpret Scripture according to the dictates of conscience and the guidance of the Holy Spirit." So, it's not a matter of whether Scripture is sufficient. We can agree on that and still see a need for a magisterium. It's a matter of whether the individual is capable of interpretation. And, again, we encounter the conundrum of affirming soul competency alongside total depravity on the individual level.

Both Carrie and Ellen have Baptist backgrounds. Is this underlying belief a carry-over? How about you, catez, "soul competency" -- ring true?

Catez said...

Moonshadow,
I've explained Total Inability. I don't see the relevance of your the first part of your comment. John hasn't pointed out a "stickiness" - he clearly didn't understand Total Inability (or Total Depravity). Frankly I know of no Reformed teaching that holds what he proposed. However his and your comment suggest a confusion between Total inability and sanctification as they are understood in Reformed theology. Because you make some generalised and sweeping statements in your comment it's difficult to know doctrinally what you are on about. But I think it is not at all about Total Depravity and more about human nature and sanctification.

There is nothing in Carrie's post about Catholicism. There was nothing in the comments about it either until a point where it was suddenly brought in. It is not where I was going.

Carrie is not Reformed, although she does use Reformed sources in her posts. I don't feel obligated to defend various aspects of Reformed Theology - again that's not really what her post is about either, although she does present a Reformed view re: assurance of salvation. I did step in to stop the slow train wreck occurring over the completely erroneous assumption being made re: Total Depravity. And to pick up on some other points in the discussion.

Soul competency actually has nothing to do with what I've said here, although it does show me you've done some research, which is commendable. It can relate, but bringing it in doesn't deal with the sufficiency of scripture. I'm not going to do the work for others on that. But if we agree scripture is sufficient then no, it doesn't indicate a need for a magisterium. Not if you really acknowledge scriptural sufficiency and compare it with the scope of the magisterium's authority. That comparison doesn't cut the mustard either - not when the sufficiency of scripture is in play.

Re: "it's a relationship" - loaded! Obviously I'm not going to agree with a semi-pelagian basis, which I've already stated. That doesn't have anything to do with negating a relationship - but I think if you advocate semi-pelagianism then you could be upfront. If that's your position. Again it's hard to tell because of the lack of specificity.

Primarily, I have responded to questions and misunderstandings on Reformed theology and frankly on basic scriptural misunderstanding. I'm not interested in a prolonged Protestant vs. Catholic debate. No offence intended, but it is time consuming and not even what I was interested in.

I will probably leave it there - it was for the most part a good discussion clarifying Reformed theology in one aspect, and picking up on some terms and scripture.

Sorry - but no, not into a humungously long debate over Reformed vs. Catholic theology. On the other hand - if people are going to represent Refromed positions - at least get them right. Which is pretty much where this comment thread got derailed from the start.

The links on sufficiency are good primarily for the exegesis. Adieu.

Catez said...

One thing I forgot which does need to be picked up on:

And, again, we encounter the conundrum of affirming soul competency alongside total depravity on the individual level.

No. This is exactly what I mean - if you understand Total Depravity (not a straw man version) and soul competency then there is no conundrum at all. What you have said doesn't make sense - one is about inability, and the other about regenerate illumination. You may not agree with those two things but it is simply not correct to propose a conundrum between them - not if you understand them. I'm not going to get into a lengthy arguments on the merits because as I said, it isn't necessary to understanding sufficiency of scripture. I do suggest re-reading my comment on Total Inability, which does explain it.

And now adieu. :)

jswranch said...

Catez,
Let me try and catch up with all your posts.

1. I agree semi-Pelagianism is bad. What is your deffinition of it.

2. evanglical. I guess you should have asked "What is an Evangelical?" Most of what I know about Evanglical doctrine comes from the New Life Church website of "What we believe." http://www.newlifechurch.org/beliefs.jsp New Life is pastored by Ted Haggard, who "is the president of the 30 million-member National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), the largest evangelical group in America." I see Evangelicalism as the newest and most widespread form of Protestantism. Correct me if I am wrong, but the heart of Evangelical spirituality is the status and growth of "my personal relationship with Jesus Christ."

3. Gal 3:2-3. If you would have said 'by' instead of 'in,' I would have responded with 'No.' We are on the same page.

4. Sufficiency of Scripture. It is sufficient.

5. Reformed. Earlier I stated I wish to be educated on the links between the following terms: Reformed-Confessions- Prebyterian-Calvinism (4&5 point). If I walk up to a local church, how do I know if it is Reformed? Who is not reformed?

6. Sufficiency of Scripture pt 2.
See my statements to Ellen further down. It is sufficient. But, is it formally sufficient or just materially sufficient? What is the difference? Does it matter? What is the truth? I will answer the questions if pushed, but I am here to learn your perspective.

7. Posting articles. I usually refrain from posting articles as it turns into a posting war rather than a discussion between two humans. Research your articles then post me your impression of them. However, I will look over these articles.

In Him,
John

jswranch said...

Ellen,
I've posted pretty extensively on Sola Scriptura and now "total depravity"

Yes you have. I no longer have any problem with "Total Depravity" as you have defined it here. Thank you, I have learned.

I don't see how you can say Scripture is "sufficent" if you need tradition and magisterium along with it. I see two deffinitions of "sufficient." The bible can be viewed as materially sufficient or formally sufficient. You see its sufficiency as formal, I see it as material.

Material- It is infallible/God breathed: a perfect book. It contains or implies all that God wants us to know; all truths necessary for salvation. All the building blocks are present for the development of doctrine.

Formal- Same as material plus belief that scripture is so clear, anyone can see the correct interpretation (with power of HS). No outside information or authority is needed in order to interpret it correctly.

jswranch said...

Moonshadow,
I doubt your deffinition of "Total Depravity" and Ellen's are the same.

Catez said...

John,
1. I agree semi-Pelagianism is bad. What is your deffinition of it.

Look it up. You'll find consistent explanations. If you have looked into it and think it's bad then fine, I don't need to spend 30 minutes explaining it.

2. evanglical. I guess you should have asked "What is an Evangelical?"

That is exactly what I asked. And here is exactly what I asked with your reply:
"What is an evangelical?
Someone who evangelizes."

Most of what you know comes from one website. Re-read my previous comment. There is not one definition - it's used differently in different places and many people are agreed that it's not a useful descriptor specifically. What you have come back with now misses the point. It doesn't matter whether you say "Evangelical" or "evanglical" the point is exactly the same.

Correct me if I am wrong, but the heart of Evangelical spirituality is the status and growth of "my personal relationship with Jesus Christ."

That may be how one church, or some people even, partly interpret "evangelical", but no, that's not a generically held definition. It can be part of it. The term is used in many ways - if you are looking for one right definition or denominator then you haven't got the point. You are trying to narrow down something that isn't narrow - exercise in futility. Big "E" makes no difference - that is getting a bit silly actually.

3. Gal 3:2-3. If you would have said 'by' instead of 'in,' I would have responded with 'No.' We are on the same page.

OK. If time permitted I'd explain why even with "in" the point remains - and we are not on the same page. Re-read my comment on that too.

4. Sufficiency of Scripture. It is sufficient.

Having seem your comment it is apparent to me that you still do know know what sufficiency of scripture means in Reformed or Protestant theology. And you are trying to introduce a Catholic apologetic version which is more about infallibility and authority than simply about sufficiency.

5. Reformed. Earlier I stated I wish to be educated on the links between the following terms: Reformed-Confessions- Prebyterian-Calvinism (4&5 point). If I walk up to a local church, how do I know if it is Reformed? Who is not reformed?

Ask them! For now - get on the web and do some reading for yourself. Look up the confessions to start with. I've already clued you in that there are about 5.

7. Posting articles. I usually refrain from posting articles as it turns into a posting war rather than a discussion between two humans. Research your articles then post me your impression of them. However, I will look over these articles.

Why would it turn into a posting war? You are the one professing an interest in Reformed theology. I figured on you having the intellectual initiative and energy to read helpful articles presented to you. You are the one saying you want to know. I'm not obliged to rephrase an article, which is time consuming, because you are making a compliment out of clicking on a link. Read the articles and consider the biblical exegesis if you are interested. I'm doing you the favour here John - you are the one enquiring.

"Research your articles then post me your impression of them"? It's a simple matter of not needing to rephrase what is already well stated and available. I have already researched it - you are the one asking to know more. If I am genuinely interested in something and some-one says "here's a good article" I say "thanks, I'll read it!" And I do. If you read and considered the exegesis, and then had questions specifically relating to it we could probably have discussed it.

John you have either done a bit more reading, or you were playing games the first time you answered my questions. I'd like to give the benefit of the doubt and say its the former. If you are trying to be some sort of apologist (I have now looked at some other threads on this blog) then you are making a hash of it. If you are sincere then do some reading.

I said clearly that I was leaving the discussion here, and I need to do that. I don't have time to repeat what has already been explained, and as I said I'm not interested in a Protestant vs. Catholic debate. If you are genuinely interested in asking about Reformed theology then do some reading, and if you get stuck then I would be ok with the occasional email - my email addy is on the left sidebar on my blog. That's not an offer I make often by the way.

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