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Friday, September 21, 2018

The Perfect Choice


Recently I received a short comment on a video I did several months ago reviewing a presentation by Robert Breaker on Calvinism (you can view the video here). One of the comments that I got on the video, was from someone who purportedly was a one time Calvinist, but had abandoned that system of belief. And the very short comment was as follows:

“Sorry, Mike, I used to be a 5 point Calvinist too, but consider 1 John 2:2, John 12:32, Joshua 24:15 etc.

I asked a couple of brothers from Grace Baptist Church to take a crack at answering this person’s “objections.” Reproduced below, is the first of those responses (by Matthew Sample). Over the next several weeks, I will be posting responses to the other two scriptures this individual puts forth as justification for his not being a Calvinist any longer. The obvious implication being that Calvinism is not right because these scriptures supposedly prove the contrary. Hope you find it useful.

First, (on Joshua 24:15) rather than a proposition about spiritually free people able to choose God over their sinful hearts, it is a reaffirming of the covenant that was already made with their fathers. And it includes some strong language. For instance, after the people respond, "...therefore will we also serve the LORD; for he is our God," Joshua responds, "Ye cannot serve the LORD: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins..." Furthermore, when they further affirm "Nay; but we will serve the LORD," he states "Ye are witnesses against yourselves that ye have chosen you the LORD, to serve him." And their witness has stood through time against themselves as Israel has continually broken that affirmation and not served the Lord. 

Second, this is a reiteration of the command that Moses gives at the end of Deuteronomy. In chapter 30, verses 19 and 20, a very old Moses charges Israel, saying "I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: that thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them." 

It is fitting to appeal to this passage, because Deuteronomy has the most instances of that Hebrew word בָּחַר, which means: to try, to select, to choose. If you take a survey of all those passages, you will notice something interesting. They all refer to God's choice. God chose His people. God will choose a place to put His name there. God chose the Levites. God will choose a king for Israel. The only instance of this word being used for something other than God's sovereign will, is this passage. Throughout the reiteration of the Law it has been clear who is doing the choosing and who has been chosen. Here at the conclusion, Moses turns it around, essentially saying, "You chosen people, choose Him who chose you." And through the ages it's been clear: God kept His word in all its judgment and mercy, but Israel did not keep their covenant. 

Third, both Joshua 24:15 and Deuteronomy 30:19 are commands ultimately not from man but from God. They are initiated by God. They are conditioned by God. They are one way "choices": either obey and live, or rebel and die. They are not non-choices, but are very real choice with vital or dire consequences. But instead of being self-validating, autonomous choices (chocolate or vanilla? blue shirt or yellow? cushy job far away or lesser job close to home?), they are responses to God's gracious original choosing. Will they respond in obedience and worship, or will they spurn God's grace and mercy and instead receive His wrath? We have the same decision today. And this decision does not validate ourselves as autonomous free-thinkers, but is instead foisted upon us, and the Lord of eternity knew what we would choose before He created us (Editor’s Note: This is not some sort of passive foreknowledge as many would have us believe. God’s knowledge flows from His decree). How will we respond to Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, and the grace He has extended toward us? 




65 comments:

  1. So, if I understand correctly, our "choices" aren't really choices at all?! They are really pseudo-choices, because God really made those choices for us long ago? If man has no free will, man has no accountability. If man has no free will, why in the world would God tell us to go try to convince people to believe in Jesus and to obey his gospel?! No disrespect intended, but this sounds like nonsense to me.

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    1. Mark D:

      (1) One does not "choose" to be a sinner or not, one is born sinning and "choice" is not an issue. Or do you believe that you alone out of fallen humanity have never sinned, making all the right "choices?"

      (2) Since you were indeed born into sin and have willingly sinned since, it seems to me your will has never been "free." You fallen will constrains you to sin, not God.

      (3) Like so many in your camp, you seem to make no distinction between so-called "free will" and free agency. God has neither constrained me to write this post, nor you to read it. You are quite free in the matter. However, in the matter of your will, it is bound by sin. Thus, being bound by sin, by definition the will is not free. Unless and until set free by Christ in salvific mercy.

      (4) Lost people do not believe the gospel due to my or your intrinsic powers of persuasion. I cannot "convince" someone into the new birth. Nor can you. Men believe, not because they figure God out via the depravity of their souls, but rather, because God brings light and life by His Holy Spirit. You believe salvation is a reward to the brilliant choice of your will. I believe salvation is by grace given in mercy to a man DEAD in trespasses and sin.

      (5) God's grace and man's inability seem like nonsense to you because you understand neither the gospel nor the power of God. Rather, you reject genuine salvation and substitute a narcissistic, man-centered "gospel" in which man compels God to save him vis a vis his good works. Man initiates and little "god" responds. That is no gospel at all.

      (6) You ARE accountable before God as a sinner even though sin blinds you. Nor are you unaccountable because you have no remedy to sin in your own flesh. You are totally at God's mercy. TOTALLY. Stop looking to yourself to find justification. Stop imagining salvation turns on your fallen will. Rather, admit that without God's saving intervention you have neither interest nor part in God's saving grace.

      Best Regards

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    2. Mark, I appreciate the feedback. I hoped that I made it clear in the third paragraph that these are not pseudo-choices, but very real choices. You seem to have a difficulty reconciling God's great sovereign power with the responsibilities that He has delegated to us and equipped us to fulfill. We do have wills, but they never negate or overcome God's ultimate Will. Rather there is a harmony, even when our sinful wills rebel against God and His ways. In sin, we rebels witness God's judgment. It may not seem like much of a choice (Christ or damnation) but it is a very real choice. And the awful truth is that outside of God's grace, we choose rebellion and damnation every time. There is no out to those choices. Perhaps if God had made us entirely free we could hack the system, live perversely without consequences. The Bible is very clear that though many in our world expect that outcome, it is a fiction straight out the serpent's mouth. Man supposes he is completely free, but ultimately God's Will will be done on earth as it is in heaven.


      Just because we feel free does not mean that we are entirely free. Consider yourself right now. You are bound by many constraints. Legal constraints, social obligations, personal passions, etc. You are not free to run down your local market and buy pickled horse lips, because your market doesn't sell them. And yet you feel free, don't you? Of course, God's ways are higher than our limited ways of understanding. Our wills are truly limited not only from a natural, cultural perspective, but also from a spiritual perspective.



      However, I didn't come to these convictions through silly illustrations like that. I came to them through years of thinking through the issues Biblically. If the Bible clearly teaches otherwise, then do not believe this. But if you carefully study the Bible and you find that it does teach both that men are responsible and yet that God is Sovereign, then you have to grapple with these issues like I did. I'll give you a hint. This Calvinism that you despise is not equivalent to secular determinism, much like the first century church is not a good example of communism. But you must really think through these issues.


      May Christ grant you ears to hear and eyes to see.

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    3. Bingo Matthew. You are SO right drawing a distinction between Calvinism and secular determinism. They are in no way the same thing. They aren't even distant cousins.

      Excellent comment from beginning to end.

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    4. Matthew, didn't mean to leave you out of the discussion :). Thank you for your response, and I hope you understand that I truly meant no disrespect with my original comment (nor this one).

      To me, you seem to be confusing "will" with "power". I can will anything I want without constraint--what's often constrained is my *power* to carry out my will. Since God's power is not constrained, except by His own will, I would agree that our human wills will never negate or overcome God's will (because He is omnipotent, and we aren't even close).

      You say these are not pseudo-choices, but very real choices, and with that, I will heartily agree. The Bible is clear that our choice is "Christ or damnation", and I can easily agree with that, too.

      However, after claiming these are "real choices" you turn around and say they are not "autonomous choices", "they are responses to God's gracious original choosing", and that the decision respond to God or reject Him is "foisted upon us". You sound like you're contradicting yourself. How is that not a contradiction? If God hasn't "originally chosen" a person, would he still have the same "real choice"? If not, then how can you call it a "real choice"?

      If there are two routes I can take to get home, then every day on the way home, I have a choice to make. I choose one of them. But if one day the cops block off one of my routes home, I no longer have a "real choice" of which route to take, even though I choose to turn my steering wheel to guide my vehicle onto the only remaining route home. You seem to be claiming that my turning the steering wheel onto the only remaining route home is a "real choice" of my route home, when in fact, no sensible person would claim that I had any real choice at all. That choice was essentially made for me by the cops. Unless I'm misunderstanding you (if I am, please explain how), then I must still respectfully claim this is nonsense.

      BTW, I'm not sure if you realize it, but the definition of "sovereign" is "possessing supreme or ultimate power". So, I believe that man is responsible and God is sovereign. I know Calvinists mean something quite different than the English word "sovereign" when they use it, so it would be helpful if you would explain what you mean.

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    5. Finally, it seems to be a theme among Calvinists, that you all like to tell me how you didn't always believe this way, and how you fought it at first, too, and that it was only through long, deep Bible study that you arrived at, or accepted, these enlightened (implied) ideas. The message seems to be that if I'll only meditate on it and study it hard enough, I too can become enlightened.

      Well, I've been carefully studying the Bible for the last 30+ years, and I'd be very surprised if more than 1 in a million people who were not taught Calvin's ideas would come away with them after reading the Bible. So, instead of being impressed with these stories, they just confirm for me that it must take a lot of work to convince oneself of Calvin's ideas. To me, Peter's words are surprisingly applicable (even though they obviously weren't written with Calvinism in mind):

      2Pe 3:15-17 -- And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.

      I think Paul wrote "some things" "that are hard to understand," which Calvinists twist, building an entire, inconsistent theology around them, while ignoring or twisting all the simple passages that plainly contradict their interpretation/theology.

      Even though my language is plain and maybe even blunt, I assure you I mean no disrespect. Thank you for taking the time to discuss our sovereign God and His will for us with me.

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    6. Mark: Since my insomnia is going full throttle yet again, I thought I'd take a moment to respond to your comment dated Oct. 5, 11:48pm.

      1. You start by saying that it is a "theme among Calvinists" who report to you a change of mind, which we resisted, ultimately arriving at truth. You may be right about that. After all, as I have (I believe) noted elsewhere, no one is born a "Calvinist." We are by nature, in our unredeemed state...filled with a sense of autonomy, and to a man resist the notion that our lives are directed by the providence of God. We see ourselves as "the captains of our own fate," and tend to defer from any view that is contrarian to that (false) sense of spiritual independence. So yes, to come to the realization that God is actually in control, even over salvation, is a bit of an epiphany. Even as young Christians, many of us "Calvinists" were surprised to discover, after study of the scripture, that salvation is truly of the Lord, and not synergistic as we foolishly imagined, but monergistic. Which is to say, salvation did not come via a meeting of God and man in which man cooperates with God, and THEN God saves Him. But rather, that God brings life and light, and man "comes to himself" as it were, recognizing in faith the Lord Christ savingly. Mark, our fallen natures tend to want to take some responsibility, some glory, some part...even if small, in our salvation. But the truth is, salvation is exclusively the product of the grace of God plus NOTHING in us.

      2. Thirty years is a long time to study the Bible, though less than my forty plus years. I will be 65 soon. But in my 20's when confronted with this amazing knowledge of God - I can assure you, Calvin and his writings had zip to do with it. "Calvin's ideas" did not underscore my change of mind about God's sovereignty and electing grace. It actually was various Biblical texts. Yes, I had been talking with someone who believed in sovereign grace, but he did not interject Calvin, the Reformers, Spurgeon or any other Calvinistic author or preacher. He simply reasoned with me from the Scriptures. It was considering verses like Daniel 4:35 or the 9th chapter of Romans that bore spiritual fruit in my life. The truth is Mark, as I am certain you must know...that Calvinism was not "invented" by Calvin. And the notion that the 2 Peter 3 verse you quote is applicable to a sovereign grace soteriology is frankly absurd.

      3. I do NOT think sovereign grace is "hard to be understood." I think it is ignored and resisted and denied because it is flesh withering. It kicks out humanism, and a false sense of autonomy and self as the basis for salvation. It is not an easy thing to say and truly mean that "salvation is of the Lord." It's much more accommodating to our flesh to say (or at least believe) "salvation is consensus between me and the Lord."

      And finally, RE your last comment, I do not find your disagreement disrespectful. I have been cursed (literally), shunned and abused by many "good Christians" in the past over this issue. By comparison to some of those, you are nearly angelic.

      More to follow.

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  2. I would also say that it is related to secular humanism. The idea of "free will" in a fallen and depraved person with the ability to be moral, "choose" rightly, is folly when you examine the whole of humanity throughout history. IF mankind had the ability to choose righteousness over sin, why then has every single person born come forth filled with pride and selfishness??? If you are honest with yourself you know this to be true of you. I know it was for me, and at times, still have to make war against my flesh in it.

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  3. Just ran into Mike today at work and he mentioned other comments here which unfortunately I wasn't notified of. Anyway, I don't have time to respond to all of this (maybe I can later--we'll see), but I'll just start by saying that your (Matthew's and David's) ideas of what I believe are apparently as warped as you claim mine are of what you believe. Maybe we can straighten each other out on that much at least :)

    I'll start with David's nicely numbered comments.

    (1) Why would you think that I believe I have never sinned? That's ludicrous. Rom 3:23 makes it clear that all have sinned, and our own experiences confirm this. However, that does NOT mean that I did not choose to sin, and I certainly wasn't born sinning. Jesus aludes to the innocence of children in Mark 10:14, and Paul refers to the innocence he had before the law came [to him] in Rom 7:7-9 (see also Rom 5:13). Babies are innocent until they are old enough for God's law to "come to them" (be understood by them, as Paul described), and they CHOOSE to disobey God's law.

    (2) I was not born into sin. I (and all babies) are born innocent. Willingly sinning in no way implies that my "will has never been 'free'". That doesn't make sense. Will implies freedom (no not complete freedom--there are always constraints, but constraints don't mean there isn't freedom to choose). My fleshly nature (and that of each man) causes me to sin because I am unable to choose what is right all the time--i.e., I am imperfect.

    (3) You seem to think that I believe that a person can simply choose to never sin. While someone may actually choose that, due to our fleshly weakness, he will be unable to carry it out. The problem isn't his "fallen will", but his weak, fleshly body. He may succeed in choosing right much or even most of the time, but he will not succeed forever. This is not really where we differ. The real difference is that you believe (correct me if I'm wrong) that a man cannot CHOOSE to turn to God in faith. God has to make that choice for him. That is really where Calvinism goes off the rails. That single idea destroys the whole point of the Bible, disregards numerous scriptures that make it clear that God wants all men to be saved, and makes all of humanity into God's playthings.

    (4) The gospel itself is the power of God (Rom 1:16). I don't believe that my "powers of persuasion" save anyone--that's nonsense. However, it is quite clear that God, Jesus, the apostles, and the Bible all appeal to the intellect of man that was given him by God. If God was going to give faith to whomever he chose rather than to those who chose to turn to him, why would he bother with all the reasoning and persuading we see in scriptures?! I, too, believe "salvation is by grace given in mercy to a man DEAD in trespasses and sin." The difference is that I don't subscribe to your completely extra-biblical definition of "DEAD" (namely, that a spiritually dead person cannot choose to live again through the gospel of Christ).

    And by the way, you Calvinists love to talk down your nose about how much grander your view of God is because you believe that God saves man, not man--I don't believe that man saves himself, either! If I'm drowning and someone comes to my rescue, would you say that I saved myself because I reached out my hand for him to drag me to safety? No, of course not! All the credit for salvation belongs to God--even if I have to accept his offer!

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  4. Continued (response was too long :)

    (5) Or maybe they seem like nonsense to me (when explained by you) because you understand neither the gospel nor the power of God. There's nothing man-centered about the true gospel, and I do not believe man compels God to do anything, much less save him for his good works. (Boy, you assume a LOT about my beliefs.) God initiated, and man responds (without compulsion from God). That's the gospel found throughout the Bible.

    (6) I know I'm accountable before God--that's my point! But if I'm "constrained" by my "fallen will" such that I can't turn to God unless God grants it to me (and if he does, I can't decline it), then how am I accountable for rejecting (or accepting) God?! You see, you're the one who should believe you're not accountable to God IF you could only follow your beliefs to their logical conclusion.

    Unfortunately though, in spite of great claims to Biblical scholarship, Calvinists throw out one of the most basic principles of interpretation when it comes to this obvious logical contradiction in Calvinism. Specifically, most Bible students understand that when two (or more) scriptures appear to contradict one another, then your interpretation of one (or both) of them must be wrong, and so should be studied more carefully. Further, the more difficult passage is the one that is more likely to be mis-interpreted. Calvinists seem to agree with these principles EXCEPT when it comes to the central contradiction in Calvinism: man cannot be both constrained from choosing to turn to God AND be accountable for not turning to God. In this case, rather than using basic principles of correct Biblical interpretation, Calvinists hold on to what they want to believe in spite of the logical contradiction that their views impose on God's word, and eventually turn to a dressed up cop-out that sounds something like "God's ways are so much higher than ours we just can't understand these two LOGICALLY contradictory statements, but we're going to believe them anyway".

    BTW, I'm curious--how do you know that you're saved?

    Ok, that's MORE than I have time for tonight. Maybe I'll find time to respond to Matthew's comments later.

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    1. Mark: First, let me thank you for your lengthy response. I am going to try to respond to at least most of your points. Please understand that I was once where you are now. I do not say that to be smug or condescending, but to be open and honest with you. In the mid 70's, when I was still in my 20's, the issues (sovereignty of God, electing grace, etc.) came to my attention vis a vis a fellow who came to work with me while I was in the Army serving in Germany. I assure you, his Calvinistic approach troubled me, and I resisted it. For many months I studied the issue. I had simply assumed "free will" as a de facto truth - in fact, my soteriology (such as it was) was pretty much an extension of my pre-Christian worldview. I was not raised as a Calvinist. In fact, I was not raised as a Christian of any stripe. When I came into the faith at 18, by the grace of God, I simply continued much of my views of God and man in ignorance - and why wouldn't I? One only discovers the sovereign grace of God in the Bible. The world doesn't teach it. And my education had been 100% in the world, and the notion of a sovereign God and His electing grace was as foreign to me as a nuclear physics formula. The point is, I want you to understand I struggled with this mightily. No one twisted my arm or overwhelmed me simply because I did not have a clearly formulated soteriology. With great gusto and conviction - as I plowed through this topic, I piled up the "free will" verses, read the "free will" apologists, and tried to find plausible explanations to mitigate against the troubling verses that seemed to make God sovereign over even salvation. I argued passionately with my new friend against a Calvinistic understanding of salvation and God. I was determined to find the cause of salvation in man, at least to the extent that man "cast the deciding" vote (as it were) and though I might reluctantly admit that God might influence an unbeliever in some delicate way, in the end, salvation was secured by man's (essentially) unaided, and certainly unprovoked decision. My view was that man must have an innate ability to turn to God - otherwise, why make any gospel plea to an unbeliever?

      And yet....something really awful began to happen. I didn't want to admit to myself, and I refused to admit it at first to my friend - that I began one day (and over 40 years later I still remember the angst) to see that I could reconcile the "free will" verses with sovereignty if sovereignty was really the foundation. I was having a harder time reconciling the sovereignty verses with the "free will" verses if "free will" were really the foundational soteriological truth.

      One day, in an epiphany sort of way, when I was alone with my thoughts, it occurred to me...and quite suddenly and starkly...that I had been wrong. The "God" I had thought tied to my will and hindered by my preferences suddenly seemed to me strikingly sub-Biblical. In a moment, I knew the Calvinists were right, and I was wrong. It took me many weeks to admit this to my friend, as I tried desperately to find a path back into my secularized small-god faith that emphasized man's ability and diminished God's.

      And now, do please forgive this lengthy, somewhat autobiographical start. I hope to answer your posts in a following response.

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    2. Mark - Having just posted a partial response, I want to now turn to your numbered concerns. It is quite possible I will not finish this at one time, and may need to return later to do all your comments justice. Let's start with #1 and #2 since they are linked, and see how far we get.

      I must admit, I am somewhat shocked that you apparently believe children are sinless. That is to say, apparently they are born outside the taint of original sin, and, presumably, incapable of sinning until they (as you put it) "are old enough for God's law to 'come to them' (be understood by them, as Paul described), and they CHOOSE to disobey God's law."

      So, apparently your view is that children do not sin until they reach some age (4? 5? 10? 15? something else?) and only because they consciously and deliberately disregard the law of God? I've never seen that teaching in any Biblical text, but I recognize it's a common assertion among some not familiar with Scripture.

      What does the Bible say?

      "The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies." Psalm 58:3

      This suggests to me that even a baby's predisposition is to be marked by deceitfulness even from BEFORE BIRTH. Now it's pretty obvious that that self-serving predilection is manifest later, and if you have ever had a baby in your home, surely you know that the "later" comes very quick.

      The truth is that other verses teach that babies who are born sinning does not merely or only describe those who as adults are called "wicked." All of Adam's sons by nature are wicked, unless and until God gives them the grace of His Son. (See Psalm 51:5.)

      Are we born in sin or no? The Bible says: yes. Perhaps you've not thought about this closely, but when a baby exerts it's will over it's mother or father, that is a sin. All human behavior is either sin or not sin. There is no middle ground. Even for children. Do children, particularly young children sin with the sophistication and conscious malice of adults? Certain not. But sin they do.

      But even if you are reluctant to own this truth, there is no doubt that all children are born with Adam's sin. I do not want to discuss at this juncture the fate of dying children - but one thing is certain, any child who dies, even a one day old, must have the provision of the blood of Christ. There is no other way into the presence of God. If this is true, how can it be said that any child is without sin? How can babies be said to be "innocent" as you write, if by innocence you mean righteousness? All sons of Adam are born with a sin-nature. One day old babies may not be acting on that sin nature with the sophistication and impunity of 30 year olds, but the sin nature is still there. If it is not there, where is it? Does a sin nature come to a child the first time it sins? Is every child as Adam? Adam had no sin nature, but clearly his progeny have it. But you must believe every son of Adam is like pre-sin Adam. That simply is nonsense. Every son of Adam is his in the fall, not in his original innocence.

      I would love to move on, but this old man needs a break. More later.





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    3. You seem to be confusing "having a sinful nature" with "sinning" (or being/becoming guilty of sin). Our sinful or fleshly nature, is that animal part of us that tells us (like animals) to do what feels good, to take what we want, that might makes right, etc. Our spiritual nature is less animalistic and, at least in good-hearted people, desires to follow and obey God. Since we have both of these natures, however, there is a constant struggle within us between the urges of these natures--this is what Paul describes in Rom 7.

      So we are certainly born with a fleshly nature, which gives us a strong tendency to (or weakness towards) sin. So, if that is what you mean by we are born "sinful", I can accept that (though I would say we are born with a sinful or fleshly nature). But a sinful nature is not the same thing as being guilty of sin. Sin is transgression of God's law (1 John 3:4), and I assure you that a newborn infant cannot transgress God's law, and is therefore not guilty of sin. So yes, at some age (not specified in the Bible), an innocent child yields to his flesh, disobeys God's law, and becomes guilty of sin and in need of God's grace.

      As for the notion that we somehow inherit the guilt of our parents or ancestors, the Bible does not teach that, and verses such as Ezek 18:20 (really the whole chapter) make that clear.

      "The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself."

      Rom 5:12 says "sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned". So yes, sin and death entered the world through Adam, but I am not guilty of Adam's sin--I am guilty "because all [including me] sinned".

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  5. I was unable to post a follow-up reply to Mark. I am testing to see if this brief statement will post.

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  6. Mark:
    You are quite correct that all will sin. I am glad we have that common understanding. However, for reasons that mystify me, you remove the accountability for the volitional will of man from his mind and into man's body of flesh. We sin because we LOVE sin, not because we are loosing a battle waged against our bodies. Our bodies and mind are quite in league together where sin is concerned. For the lost man, that is simply irrefutable. I see no reason to vindicate men (lost or saved) in terms of an errant body, as if the mind were constantly engaged in neutral. Neutrality, as concerns the will and thoughts of men is a myth. There is no neutrality. NONE.

    Now a few thoughts about the following comment of yours. You wrote: "The real difference is that you believe (correct me if I'm wrong) that a man cannot CHOOSE to turn to God in faith. God has to make that choice for him." Your comment is half correct. The first part of the statement is true. Man cannot choose to turn to God in faith (by the power of his own unaided will). The second part is errant. I do not believe God "has to make the choice for him." At least not in the sense I assume you are implying - that God overrides the will of man and actually chooses for a man. I do not believe that, nor do I know any Calvinist that teaches such a thing. At best, it's a grotesque caricature of what we believe. We believe that God makes men "willing in the day of His power." That God brings light and life to His elect, making possible (more correctly, certain) that His chosen will have saving faith. The question is ultimately - who moves first? Does God move first by granting saving faith to the lost man according to His good pleasure, or does the lost man, while still in his trespasses and sin...at war with God, hating God, despising grace and law both.., unilaterally come to God via a faith produced in his own fallen soul and flesh? I think not. To me, God moves... men respond. To you, men move.... and God is a responder.

    (to be cont.)

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    1. Maybe I'll reply to more later, but I just want to point out that like so much of Calvinism, your statements here are completely inconsistent. Specifically, you claim not to believe "that God overrides the will of man and actually chooses for a man [to turn to God in faith]". Then you turn around and say that God makes "certain" "that His chosen will have saving faith". If God makes certain that His chosen will have saving faith (and man cannot choose that himself), then you cannot disown that God makes that choice for each person. That's simply illogical.

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    2. Mark - Quickly I wasn't to address your "overrides" question and the accusation of inconsistency on my part.

      You seem hung up on saying that "God makes choices for people" or words to that effect as your way to characterize salvation from a Calvinistic understanding. I don't know you, so it's hard to know if this really is that confusing to you, or if you are obfuscating, but I'll assume the former. To say that God makes provision for His elect by bring faith to them IS NOT the same as saying "God chooses for that person." You are creating a false parity in order to further your misunderstanding.

      God believes for NO ONE. He didn't believe for Paul (in the Bible), or for Mike or for me. WE BELIEVED. The issue is - WHY do we believe? Look at Paul/Saul. Did he figure God out and then the Lord saved Him? Or did God visit a supernatural heart awareness and quickening into Paul redeeming him? Nobody figures God out. Nobody saves themselves. The scripture says "There is none that seeketh after God, no not one." What does that mean?? In our flesh, unaided by the Spirit of God, we do not step into the kingdom, we do not look inward and find faith, we do not initiate some spiritual process in our dead bones that God rewards with salvation. Our dry bones live - not because we somehow out of the resources of our personality find God - but rather, as in Ezekiel it is GOD that provides life.

      God transported Ezekiel to a valley full of dry bones and directed him to speak to the bones. Ezekiel was to tell the bones that God would make breath enter the bones and they would come to life, just as in the creation of man when He breathed life into Adam. Do you not see my friend how this is a picture of salvation?? We are dead bones - dead bones in trespasses and sins. We are as Lazarus in the tomb. Did Lazarus get up first and call the Lord to come help him? A thousand times no! Lazarus came to life as the Lord called him effectually. Thus salvation. We come to life because God gives us life in Christ, and having life in Christ we believe, and manifest faith, and seek to follow Him aright.

      May God give you light and life according to your need.

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    3. David, I hear what you're saying but even in this you seem to be contradicting yourself. Please answer this for me--if God hadn't "visit a supernatural heart awareness and quickening into" you any other Christian, would you be able to turn to God? If the answer is no (as I suspect you will claim), then God is essentially making the decision for you. I know you want to split hairs about constrained will, etc., but that's just semantic games. If God so constrains, or quickens, or hardens, or whatever you call it, one's will such that he will "choose" to turn to God, or he will "choose" to reject God, then that "choice" is no real choice in any normal sense of the word. If someone put me in a box filled with poison gas, would you say I chose to kill myself because I eventually chose to inhale? No, that would be silly, but that's exactly what you seem to be claiming about God and man's choice to turn to Him or not. That's NOT a real choice, and it would be quite appropriate and normal for someone to say that my killer made that choice for me by so "constraining" my options.

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  7. (cont) You say Calvinism "goes of the rails." Well, I suppose, if your framework is a humanistic sub-Biblical understanding of God and electing grace, it does indeed. As for destroying the "whole point of the Bible" - that seems to me pure hyperbole. Whatever one concludes is "the whole point of the Bible" - I would suggest that deference to a sovereign God dispensing grace according to His own purposes hardly is at odds with the "whole point of the Bible."
    The charge that follows in the last paragraph from which the above is quoted is unfortunate, ill-conceived, and boorish. You presuppose God "wants" all men to be saved. Where does the Bible teach that?? Furthermore, as a pragmatic matter, how is that even possible?? I'm not, at this juncture going to exegete passages like II Peter 3:9, but I would direct you to explore commentaries by men sound in the faith who explain this passage in a way more consistent with context and basic theological truth. I will however, add a thought or two about this in general.

    What does God want that He can't have? Are not those in judgement "foreordained to this condemnation?" (Jude 1:3) Is it really possible that God wants gobs and gobs (untold millions) to be saved, but He can't quite pull it off? Are God's best plans thwarted by the will of man? What about Romans 9:18??
    What about Isaiah 46:9? "Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure"
    It either pleases God to save His people from their sins or it does not. And in fact it does. It either pleases God to pass by those He has not chosen or it frustrates Him endlessly. Only one of three possibilities seems to me logically consistent. (1) God wants to save all, but cannot or will not. (2) God wants to save His elect and will do so in His time and by His power (3) God has no control, salvation is a "crap shoot" and outside of His purview and control. I have often observed if even all God did was look down through time to see who would believe - having seen it, could He be wrong? And thus, when time came to fruition, would the lost have a "chance?" I think not. But in fact, election is not based on foreseeing anything, or on the operation of "chance" but rather, it is the grace of God dispensed by Him in His good pleasure and for His sacred purposes.

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    1. You say I "presuppose God 'wants' all men to be saved. Where does the Bible teach that??" Well, besides 2 Peter 3:9, which you mentioned, how about

      1Ti 2:3-4 --This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

      That hardly seems like presupposition to me. In fact, that's pretty plainly stated.

      Then you go on "as a pragmatic matter, how is that even possible??" That's quite simple. Sinful man is completely lost without God and Christ's atoning sacrifice. But by the grace of God, God provided man with a path back to Him through the gospel of Jesus. But God's not interested in forcing us to (making certain we) accept it--he wants us to CHOOSE Him. And so, if you jettison unbiblical Calvinist constraints and accept the scripture for what it says, it's not hard to understand that God "desires all people to be saved", and yet they are not because He lets them choose (even though he desires that they choose Him). You see, such simple passages as this one and 2 Pet 3:9 don't require mental gymnastics to explain away, if you just discard Calvin's and Augustine's wrong ideas.

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  8. (cont) Take care my young friend to absolutely avoiding ascribe villainy to God, no matter how passionate your desire to vindicate man's supposed intrinsic abilities. Humanity is not "made into playthings" because God does what seems good to Him. At least have the sanctified good sense to admit that if election is true, and grace is dispensed by God and not by man's will, to be humble enough to defer to God in His prerogatives - avoiding haughtiness and foolishness. I have shuddered, on occasion, to see men with red faces, raise to their feet insisting "I would NEVER believe a God like that," when coming face to face with His sovereignty. What vanity, what foolishness, what pride. How much wiser and sweeter to bend the knee and say, "even so Lord, if it seems good in your sight."
    More later.

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    1. David, I notice you didn't answer my question about how are you sure that you are saved. Maybe I assume too much and should back up to: Do you know that you are saved? How do you know you are not among the "reprobate"?

      Also, here's another verse that very plainly contradicts Calvin:

      Act 10:34-35 -- So Peter opened his mouth and said: "Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

      This verse is particularly interesting because of the parallels between Calvin's notion of "the elect" and the Jews' misunderstanding of what it meant for them to be the chosen people of God. Like Calvinists, the Jews thought they were somehow more favored or loved by God than anyone else. But here, God disabuses Peter of that wrong idea. This one verse SHOULD disabuse any person of Calvin's misinterpretation of INDIVIDUAL election, too.

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    2. Mark: A few observations about my own salvation. It is late, and though I am an insomniac in old age, I want to try to get to sleep.

      I do know that I am saved. We can indeed know we are saved.

      1 John 5:13 states, "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life." I John is replete with assurance that we can have assurance!

      But know this: I am do not know I am saved because I look to my own soul. I know I am saved because I trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. I do not trust in my faith. I do not trust in my works. I do not trust in my theological acumen. I TRUST IN THE LORD JESUS CHRIST.

      Can men be deceived about salvation? You bet. Beyond fear of contradiction I say many, MANY are so deceived. Men put their trust in the churches, their priests or preachers, their eschatology, their family heritage, and every sort of salvific irrelevance.

      My faith is in the Lord Jesus Christ and the Lord alone. It isn't in Calvinism, or Baptist ecclesiology, baptism, or my eschatology, or in any doctrine or work. I am trusting in the Lord alone to save, for only He can. In 1972 while a college student I sought the Lord for mercy - and He heard my cries. I have in many ways been an unprofitable servant. Slothful, stubborn, forgetful, failure ridden, quick to sin and slow to repent - but as the hymn says -

      I know not why God’s wondrous grace
      To me He hath made known,
      Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love
      Redeemed me for His own.
      But “I know Whom I have believed,
      And am persuaded that He is able
      To keep that which I’ve committed
      Unto Him against that day.”

      I am happy to answer any other questions about my experience if you find this too brief or too incomplete.

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    3. Thanks for that reply, David. I, too, put my trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel, which Rom 1:16 says is His power to save. And 1 John 5:13 is pretty clear that we can know we are saved. However, I'm not sure you answered my question, though (sorry if I just missed it). How do *you* know that you are among God's elect and not among God's reprobate? You said you "sought the Lord for mercy - and He heard my cries", and maybe that's the beginning of an answer, but it's not clear to me what exactly you mean by that or even if that's your answer to my question.

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    4. Mark - You ask me how I know I am saved, and yet the Scripture I quoted answers you for me. Let me quote again, and please think carefully about what it says. 1 John 5:13 states, "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life."

      You say that verse is "pretty clear." How then do you not grasp this? I do not sit around pondering if I am elect or not. That is entirely unnecessary. That Scripture says "YOU MAY KNOW." And indeed, I KNOW. I cannot establish for you my personal experience to any degree that would convince you, if you don't want to be convinced about my personal experience. Just like any answer given to the pagans that I "know that I know" will not satisfy them. Such testimony only inspires mocking. But this is really not the point, ultimately. My salvation is not based on my assurance - rather - my assurance is based on my salvation. Beyond this there is little I can say. If you are skeptical about my salvific experience, then you are skeptical. But your skepticisms is, to put it kindly, utterly irrelevant.

      One more thought. There are certainly warnings against presumption. For instance, 1 John 3:14: "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death." A believer ought examine his life - his inner life - in light of such passages. Can a man be deceived? Absolutely. God knows His own. "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them...."

      You have one post I have not responded to. Again, I'll do so tomorrow.

      So my answer is this - I know that I know.

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    5. David, I can see why you are reluctant to answer my question, but please understand that I do not ask this to mock you. Rather, I am asking this in an effort to understand your point of view. Your point about presumption may be closer to what I'm getting at, though I'm not sure I understand it.

      Let me see if I can explain a little further. I think I hear you saying that you know you are saved because you know that you are saved, which isn't much of a reason, but ok, fine. Do you then believe that everyone who knows they are saved is also saved? Or, as you mentioned, are some of them deceived, and actually lost? If the latter, how do you know you are not deceived? Maybe your comment that "A believer ought examine his life - his inner life" is suggesting that you can tell if you're being deceived by your "inner life". Is that right?

      My point is that in Calvinism, there can be no confidence of salvation. I know you will claim exactly the opposite, but if you will think about it logically, it is an undeniable conclusion. IF God decreed in the beginning which individuals He would save and which individuals He would condemn, and He doesn't change His mind about that along the way, then the (false) Calvinist notion of perseverance of the saints is true, but that does not address whether or not a person may know they are truly "elect".

      I expected you to say that you can tell you are saved by the fruit of the Spirit in your life, or something along those lines (and maybe you believe that, but are just unwilling to claim it for some reason--I don't know). The problem, though--and maybe you realize this, which is why you are so reluctant to go there--is that men can be deceived about their "elect" status (as you admitted).

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    6. I'm sure you've known seemingly "elect" Christians who turned their backs on God. And, as I'm sure you know, the standard Calvinist explanation is that he/she wasn't ever really "elect", but was only deceived about being so. We also see numerous examples in the New Testament of Christians who lost their faith and were "severed from Christ" and fell "away from grace" (Gal 5:4). If, rather than actually losing their genuine faith (the simple understanding of such passages), they were "deceived" about being elect, you cannot deny that, like the actual "elect", they also (were deceived to incorrectly) know that they were saved. If any person can be so deceived that they know they are "elect" when they actually are not, then so could any other person who knows they are "elect".

      The bottom line is that a Calvinist may believe that a person known to be "chosen" can never be lost, but he can never know that he himself is truly "chosen". Therefore, 1 John 5:13 either (1) doesn't really mean you can know you are saved, or (2) is actually more Biblical evidence against Calvin. I think option (2) is much better.

      I, on the other hand, can have great confidence in my salvation--not as I'm sure you'll claim because of my confidence in myself and my own great righteousness, blah, blah, blah. I have great confidence in my salvation because I trust in the faithfulness of my Lord to keep His gracious promise to forgive and resurrect those who humbly submit to the conditions He has placed on salvation in His holy word. E.g., Jesus said "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:16). (Notice that he does NOT say "any of my 'elect' who believes..."!) So, since God graciously offered up Christ as the payment for my sins (the gospel), and since I believe that, and since I have been baptized, and since God and Jesus are faithful, then I know I will be saved. And if I ever stop believing or being faithful to Him, I know that I will not be saved (as described in other verses). But I really can know whether or not I am saved, unlike a Calvinist.

      I'm sure you'll go on and on again about how I'm claiming credit for my salvation because I had anything to do with it, but the premise of such statements--namely, that God doesn't put any conditions on salvation, He simply decided arbitrarily--simply isn't Biblical. And further, my submitting to the conditions that God decreed in no way elevates myself--rather it glorifies Him.

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  9. Mark:

    Thanks for the note. First concerning Peter's statement in Acts that you quote. Now Mark, think with me!! Do you REALLY believe Peter is making a "free-will" Arminian statement! Come now, I KNOW you know better. Look down to verse 44-45 of the same chapter. What was astounding to Peter? What prompted his excitement? It was that "because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost." (vs. 45b) "God shows no partiality" because the kingdom of God was now open to the Gentiles. God was NOT SHOWING EXCLUSIVE PARTIALITY TO THE JEWS. This was new! This was shocking! This is clearly what is contextually meant. The kingdom of God would be made up of Jews AND Gentiles.

    You write "Like Calvinists, the Jews thought they were somehow more favored or loved than anyone else." My friend, this is nonsense and merely establishes your deep seated prejudices. The Jews WERE INDEED at the center of God's redemptive history!! Have you never read your Bible?? They WERE more favored than all of the nations on earth. Deuteronomy 7:7-9 tells us, “The LORD did not set His affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath He swore to your forefathers that He brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commands.” Are you seriously going to tell me that the Jews were not God's unique people?? The problem was that the Jews did not see that they were the doorstep, as it were, into God's larger blessing of all nations in Christ. Consideer Revelation 7:9 John saw “a great multitude which no one could number, out of every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes and palm branches in their hands.”

    By the way, do note who does the choosing with Israel. The Lord does. Why? Because of something he saw in them that made them desirable? No! Out of his purposes he chose them because he unilaterally affixed His love on them. And thus His elect in all ages.

    I have no clue why you have surmised that at Acts 10: 34-35 "disabuse(s) any person of Calvin's misinterpretation of individual election..." Well, I suppose because as I pointed out, you do not rightly understand this Acts passage.

    God has always chosen individuals. For service and for salvation. The prophets, the apostles were all chosen by God out of His purposes. So too his electing grace goes where He sends it. WHY does this distress you so? Why do you cling to some non-biblical sense of "fairness" which imagines that salvation is held out in some dangling fashion by God, and men, out of their own flesh, come at take that salvation willy-nilly?

    Because I seem unable to post lengthy replies here, I will respond to your question about my own salvation.

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    1. David, there seems to be about a 4k character limit to responses--if your response is too long, you can just cut the bottom out and paste it in a new comment (after posting the first half).

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    2. Please note that I am not claiming that the Jews weren't God's chosen people--as you rightly point out, they were. Their problem, though, was that they thought that because they were God's chosen people that God was partial to them--i.e., that God had little or no regard for anyone else. That has never been the case, however, as Peter finally realizes in this verse. Maybe you should read it again:

      Act 10:34-35 -- So Peter opened his mouth and said: "Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

      It does NOT say that God is no longer "SHOWING EXCLUSIVE PARTIALITY TO THE JEWS"--you're twisting the plain statement of truth here to fit your theology. It says "God shows no partiality". Yes, this was a turning point in the history of the church because the door was being opened to admit Gentiles, but God's love for Gentiles was not new, and neither was the fact that "God shows no partiality". The understanding was new to Peter, but God's impartiality was not new (e.g., 2 Chr 19:7). The Jews were chosen for a special purpose, to fill a special role, and in that sense they were God's special, chosen people. It's like God's choosing husbands to lead their families. Does this mean God is partial to men or husbands? Certainly not! It means He chose them for a particular service. The same was true of the Jews--they were entrusted with the oracles of God, they were chosen to bring the Savior into the world, but God was never partial to them (valued them more than Gentiles).

      God has always chosen individual for service, but never for salvation. He chose the body of Christ for salvation--that was His plan from the beginning. Thanks be to God that by His love and grace, He "desires all men to be saved", has initiated salvation for EVERY person on Earth by offering His son as a sacrifice for our sins, has given us His word in the Bible to explain this to us and to encourage us to accept His offer, has given us logical reasoning minds that enable us to understand His word, and an opportunity to choose Him over the death that we deserve because of our sins.

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    3. Oh, and I meant to say that Calvinists seem to have the same problem that the Jews did. The Jews thought that because God had chosen them, that he was partial to them--specifically they thought God would save them for the same reason that He chose them, which as you pointed out, had nothing to do with anything they had done (though it was related to the faith that Abraham had). But God showed Peter that the Jews had misunderstood their election.

      And so today, it seems to me that Calvinists make the same mistake. They believe that God has arbitrarily chosen some people (which interestingly always includes the Calvinists themselves) to whom He will be partial by granting them faith and salvation and some other people (which never seems to include the Calvinists) to condemn. Hence, this verse is very applicable to this discussion.

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    4. Mark - You are drawing very faulty conclusions because your premises are so unsound. Please think closely with me here.

      You say "they (Calvinists) believe that God has arbitrarily chosen some people which interestingly always includes the Calvinists themselves to whom He will be partial by granting them faith and salvation and some other people which never sees to include Calvinists to condemn.

      I count at least two error laden premises in these two paragraphs.

      1. First, whatever mistake Calvinists make, real or imagined - the claim of arbitrariness is simply inane. No Calvinist I have ever read since the mid 1970's, and that includes a number at least into the hundreds, has NEVER EVER suggested that election was rooted in "arbitrariness." Read this carefully Mark - it is the height of foolishness to accuse God FOR ANY REASON of arbitrariness. God's actions, all of them, from beginning to end are wise, just and holy. Wisdom, justice and holiness preclude and are an anthesis to arbitrariness. Thus, to ascribe to Calvinists a belief that God is arbitrary is either dishonest or ignorant. I mean no offense, but your error is stunning dark and peculiar. Let me be clear. God is INCAPABLE of being arbitrary, arbitrariness is a quality of fallen human nature, not God's nature. How do you now know this?

      2. God sends faith to whom He will. I have NEVER said, and do not believe that all Calvinists are saved. It is inconceivable to me that the ranks of Calvinists do not include lost men motivated to advocate for that truth out of less than holy motive.

      More in response to your other posts later.

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    5. Mark - A few thoughts about this statement by you, quoted in full.

      "It does NOT say that God is no longer "SHOWING EXCLUSIVE PARTIALITY TO THE JEWS"--you're twisting the plain statement of truth here to fit your theology. It says "God shows no partiality". Yes, this was a turning point in the history of the church because the door was being opened to admit Gentiles, but God's love for Gentiles was not new, and neither was the fact that "God shows no partiality". The understanding was new to Peter, but God's impartiality was not new (e.g., 2 Chr 19:7). The Jews were chosen for a special purpose, to fill a special role, and in that sense they were God's special, chosen people. It's like God's choosing husbands to lead their families. Does this mean God is partial to men or husbands? Certainly not! It means He chose them for a particular service. The same was true of the Jews--they were entrusted with the oracles of God, they were chosen to bring the Savior into the world, but God was never partial to them (valued them more than Gentiles)."

      The truth is, I twisted nothing. It is your zeal to support your Christianized humanism at play here.

      Read the word of the Lord following: "You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews." (John 4:22)

      This statement from the Lord is contrary to your stated position. You said " It means He chose them (husbands) for a particular service. The same was true of the Jews--…" No Mark, this example of yours has no bearing on the issue. If you were in the world prior to the coming of our Lord, and truly sought the Lord, your responsibility was to go where God was - with the Jews. Though God, in graciousness, on occasion showed mercy to a Gentile in the OT, His work - including his salvific work - was virtually exclusively among His people, the Jews.

      One final note here. We are all prone to error. We are all learning. But do understand, I have no motive to subvert the work or word of God. It's difficult for me to understand how one exalting God's sovereignty and saving grace is somehow self-serving and in some violation of spiritual soundness. On the other hand, those who resist the sovereignty of God and his electing grace in order to defend and exalt some misplaced loyalty to a humanistic, sub-Christian view of man and God and salvation seem to me flirting with disaster. Why Mark, and I ask you honestly, would I abandon my high view of the Lord - as the author and finisher of my faith (truly so!) and embrace your view of false synthesis? I never will my friend. Never. Proverbs 26:11

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    6. Responding to your claim that God and His "election" is not abitrary: First of all, note that I do not believe God is arbitrary. Rather, if you believe in Calvin's notion of "election", then I cannot understand how you can claim that He does not arbitrarily decide whom to save. Please consider these definitions of the word "arbitrary":

      From Google: based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system

      From merriam-webster.com: (1a) existing or coming about seemingly at random or by chance or as a capricious and unreasonable act of will (1b) based on or determined by individual preference or convenience rather than by necessity or the intrinsic nature of something

      Since you deny that you believe God's choice of "election" is arbitrary, would you please explain to me by what reason or system God decides whom to "elect"? Or, by what "intrinsic nature" of a man does God choose or condemn him?

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    7. Glad to hear you deny that all Calvinists are elect. I suppose I drew that conclusion from the admittedly small sample of Calvinists whom I have talked with about it, all of whom seemed to count themselves among the elect.

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    8. Mark - I simply am dumbfounded at the possibility that ANY Calvinist has told you anything like "all Calvinists are elect." That simply is inconceivable to me. Anyone in ANY theological tradition can be deceived about their relationship wtih the Lord.

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    9. Mark - YOU said election was arbitrary. My point is, since there IS an election (and even you can't possibly deny it) - it cannot be arbitrary. And in fact, NOTHING about God or His dealings can be arbitrary. Your offering the definition of arbitrary does nothing to vindicate your point.

      You ask by what "reason or system God decides whom to elect?" I am glad you asked. That is really very, very simple.

      Consider God's election of Israel from Deuteronomy 7:

      "For you are a people holy unto the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be as a people for His prized possession, above all peoples on the face of the earth. The LORD did not set His affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than the other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But because the LORD loved you and kept the oath He swore to your fathers, He brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.…'

      We see here the basis of God's election of Israel was first His promise to the fathers of Israel and secondly because He loved Israel. but NOT because Israel had earned such favor, anymore than we do today. What is at play here? First, God loved Israel uniquely among the nations. He did not love the Chinese or the Egyptians with such an electing love. (How is that not UNFAIR to you? What right, you might ask, does God have to single out one small group - Israel - for special affection. From your theological perspective, he doesn't.)

      Ok then WHY does God choose Israel, or anyone? The answer can only be one of two possibilities. Either God looks through the corridors of time (as it were) and picks people to love who do the "right things" in some sense. In other words, his love is and choosing is merit based. OR...God sets his favor upon nations or individuals BECAUSE IT PLEASES HIM, because He wants to, because He is sovereign and free and can direct his favor and love as pleases Him.

      I find this quote by Loraine Boettner (a Presbyterian) quite illuminating and helpful:

      “If it be asked, Why does God not bestow the same or equal blessing upon all people? we can only answer, that has not been fully revealed. We see that in actual life He does not treat all alike. For wise reasons known only to Himself He has given to some blessings to which they had no claim…and has withheld from others gifts which He was under no obligation to bestow.”

      This seems to me to wisely sum up God's dealings with men. No one DESERVES anything, and ANY grace bestowed by God to anyone is more than they deserve. More later.

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    10. Regarding John 4:22, it is certainly true that "salvation is from the Jews", because Jesus was "from the Jews". Also, in this context, Jesus is contrasting Jews with Samaritans, who were Jews who had inter-married with Gentiles and who no longer kept the Mosaic Law that was given to their Jewish ancestors (at least not like the Jews did).

      However, God did not require pre-Christ Gentiles to become Jews, as explained to the church in Rome:

      Rom 2:12-16 -- For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

      Finally, please note that at no point in this discussion have I doubted your motive, nor do I now. I hope you could say the same of me. I do believe that many of your theological views are decidedly unbiblical and seriously undermine God's message to mankind, but I know that such is not your intent.

      I know that you think your views are somehow more God-honoring than mine, but just as God said that "to obey is better than sacrifice", I think that to believe what God actually says is better (more God-honoring) than to hold to a false theology that claims to be more God-honoring.

      You said "Why Mark, and I ask you honestly, would I abandon my high view of the Lord - as the author and finisher of my faith (truly so!) and embrace your view of false synthesis? I never will my friend. Never."

      I would respond with (mostly) your own words:

      "At least have the sanctified good sense to admit that if [individual] election is" false, "to be humble enough to defer to God in His prerogatives - avoiding haughtiness and foolishness. I have shuddered, on occasion, to see men with red faces, raise to their feet insisting 'I would NEVER believe a God like that,' ... What vanity, what foolishness, what pride. How much wiser and sweeter to bend the knee and say, "even so Lord, if it seems good in your sight."

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    11. Mark - Furthermore, we have neglected the passage that causes folk like you the greatest consternation. Romans 9. No matter how you try to minimize Romans 9, no matter to what extent you try to mitigate against it by declaring it "national" and not personal, it's a real big thorn in your side. (if you are honest about it.) Romans 9: 11- 23 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.
      Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory

      This passage, to my mind, devastates the moaning and groaning of those opposed to the concept of election and all it implies. It is election that is foundational, not faith, not heritage. Jesus tells us that God can turn stones into sons of Abraham. Matt. 3:9.

      You ARE suggesting that there would be unrighteousness with God if election is true. You find it unfair. But God says, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy." He says it's not of him that "willeth" or "runneth." Can you not see God's mercy is not found in any loveliness in the object of God's mercy, but only in HIS OWN GRACE? If you are saved, it's not because you figured God out. It's not because something is intrinsically deserving in you. It is all GRACE GRACE GRACE. You didn't seek it. You didn't earn it. You don't deserve it. What then makes you to differ from the unbeliever that lives and dies thus? It cannot be you - you did not deserve grace either. IT IS IN GOD AND GOD ALONE. My friend, I urge you, I implore you -lay down your weapons against this glorious truth. See God for who He really is. See yourself for what you really are.

      May God give you light and life.

      Best Regards

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    12. Mark - A few thoughts if I might.

      I am old and retired, and have the time, but at some point, I think this back and forth may become unprofitable. If you have what you want, and you find no value in trusting in a truly sovereign God who alone saves people by His grace, then I can only surmise you have what you want. I hope better for you, but it is not my call.

      Understand my friend, that when everything in this discussion is boiled down it's most basic consideration - there are only two religious views. In fact, in all of the collective various religions soteriological claims, everything said about salvation falls into two camps. Free will (works) or Free grace. That's it. Everything else is detail.

      Either one earns salvation by faith or works or a combination of the two - or salvation is purely free, distributed by God to whom He will, when He will. Free grace or free will. Either God is free in the matter, or we are free. Either God freely bestows by his sovereign grace, or we constrain God by our free will to reward us via our faith or works. But it cannot be both.

      May God shed his grace upon you and bring you to see that salvation is truly and totally "of the Lord."

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    13. David, I am not retired, and have frankly already surprised myself with how much time I've put into this conversation--I don't normally engage to this degree simply because I do not have the time. And so, I agree that at some point this will become unprofitable. However, before I stop, I just wanted to let you know that I intend to respond to your comment about Rom 9, but I won't have time until later in the week, so don't be surprised if it takes me a while to respond.

      I don't know why you continue to insist that I believe in a human-based or works-based salvation or that I don't believe in the grace of God--that is without question nonsense. What I don't believe in is an arbitrary God who chooses to save some and chooses to damn others without any apparent reason--not because I don't *want* to believe in an arbitrary God (if the evidence were there, I *would* believe it), but because God has clearly shown (and revealed to us in His word) that He is not arbitrary. You see, the only thing I am really seeking (despite all your rather condescending and derogatory claims) is the truth, wherever it may lead.

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    14. Mark -

      So, sadly, after all this time you still understand so poorly that you return back to your most desperately bankrupt argument -that ANY action of God could be called "arbitrary" if it seems unreasonable to you. To seize the grand truth of electing grace and dismiss it with the charge of arbitrariness as if the Lord God who orders ever atom of the universe could ever truly be described that way defies rational, sanctified good sense. If God had decided for some form of universalism, or no salvation at all, or even your man-based view of salvation - he could NOT be described as "arbitrary." God CANNOT be arbitrary - BUT - YOUR doctrinal position can fairly be described thus.

      Additionally you DO hold to a works based salvation. I'm not saying that to attack you or belittle you - I am saying it because it's a valid assessment. You believe man must DO certain things to be saved, and that salvation is not initiated and completed by God. That is works. If I must jump through hoops to secure salvation, I am doing works. Grace is what God does. Works are what we do. I believe salvation is by grace alone. You believe it is a synthesis of something you call grace with your activities that provoke God to give you that so-called grace.

      Friend, if the Bible teaches nothing else it teaches the propensity of fallen man to spiritual blindness. Your view of yourself is a flattering one - that you are unfettered seeker of truth. Well....one wonders. Perhaps you are only "seeking" in ways that reinforce your less than Christian presuppositions.

      I understand you may not have time to keep this discussion ongoing. That's reasonable. I have been a working man with a young family - sometimes working two jobs, or going to school nights, and I know how busy life gets. You doubtless have responsibilities that preclude such involvement in ongoing conversations. I understand this completely.

      Mark, I wish you well, truly. I hope you will study these issues in the future. You are, in my view, on a road that is a dead-end as far as genuine spiritual understanding is concerned. Your view of God is way too small and humanistic, and your view of fallen man way too high and expansive. But, be that as it may, my prayer is that God will bring increased understanding to your life. And to mine as well.


      Thanks for the discussion.

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  10. David...just an observation from this lively chat but I am pretty sure that Mark stated that He believed that God is NOT arbitrary.

    Also...if grace is all there is to the salvation equation then what you are saying is that there is nothing I really need to do to be saved...Because if I did anything...it would be counted as a work...am I understanding that correctly?

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  11. Whoa Yosemite Sam. When I say 'whoa', I mean whoa!"

    Mark says that a God that chooses His people according to His own electing grace for His own purposes and to His own glory - IS ARBITARY. Since Scripture establishes God DOES indeed do those things, it logically follows that Mark is bound, if honest, to charge God with arbitrariness in the name of consistency. Mark lays the groundwork and predicate for evidence of being arbitrary, to wit that any sovereign choosing by God IS IPSO FACTO EVIDENCE OF ARBITARINESS. Since by definition, God cannot be arbitrary, Mark is left with a false presupposition (God does not elect) and a false conclusion (electing is arbitrariness). In other words, he only says God is not arbitrary because of a false presupposition that God does not elect/choose His people. He fully believes that God choosing His people out of His own purposes, and not based on foreseen faith, works or whatever - is evidence of arbitrariness. In this He errs foolishly, for God cannot be charged with arbitrariness. Mark's caricature of God produces this unnecessary tension and error. So the point is, Mark says he believes God is NOT arbitrary because of his false presupposition that God is not truly sovereign and does not have an electing grace. He does not grasp the foolishness of suggesting arbitrariness to God simply because he (Mark) has his heels dug in against election and sovereignty.

    You must trust in the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved. That is not in dispute. At least, I hope it isn't. Faith is not a work, it is a gift of God. UNLESS...your view is that out of your lost, dead soul you create a faith on your own, to which God responds by giving you life and light. That would indeed be a "faith" that was a work, and would make God a debtor to you. In reality, we have faith because God in grace gives us faith. It is a gift of God, not a product of our lost minds and dead souls.

    Thanks for your comments.

    Best Regards



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    1. Lol....yes got to love those ole cartoons!

      I got to tell you David...you are really confusing me. You say that Mark claims that God is arbitrary but then say that Mark says God is NOT arbitrary. Which one is it? My understanding of what Mark is saying is that God does Everything with purpose which is the opposite of arbitrary. What am I missing?

      So on your second paragraph, so do I get the Faith from God first inorder to trust in God second or vice versa?

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    2. Yosamitesam41 -

      You write "So on your second paragraph, so do I get the Faith from God first inorder to trust in God second or vice versa?"

      This is a good question and gets to the heart of "who (God and man) does what when."

      I had at first thought to attempt a lengthy answer but have decided against it for now. Let's try "simple" first.

      God moves first in salvation. He has elected from eternity. Christ died in time long before you were born to secure your salvation if indeed you are one of His.

      You are not capable, in your fallen nature to unilaterally place saving faith in Christ. By "unilaterally" I mean on your own, by your own power of will or preference. Thus God must move first, and you will, if one of His, respond in faith. God will, as in Ezekiel, breath life into dry, dead bones. Not because the bones acted first, but because it pleased God to do so.

      In short, God initiates all in salvation. We respond. Like Lazarus, we are called forth by the Lord, from death unto life. Lazarus did not "free will" his way back into life. He answered God's certain and deliberate call. Thus we do in salvation. We are dead and trespasses and sin, and cannot initiate our own salvation. We are utterly dependent on God. My friend, in fact, in every possible way we are always utterly dependent on God.

      It this doesn't scratch where you itch, I'll try again.

      Thanks for the question.

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  12. Yousamitsam41

    Thanks for the note.

    Sorry for the confusion. Perhaps that is due to a lack of clarity on my part, but I think it's really more because I am dealing with two problems at once that overlap but are not the same. Problem One is that irrespective of Mark's claim to the contrary, his view of God's electing grace and overall discriminating sovereignty over salvation ascribes arbitrariness to God. In other works, Mark is saying that if God is not trying desperately to save everyone, He is by definition arbitrary. That to my mind is a false and fundamentally humanistic and unchristian view of God. But again, to be clear, Mark holds to the position unless God is trying (and that obviously unsuccessfully) to save every human soul, then He is by definition "arbitrary" in saving only some men whom the Bible describe as the "elect," or the "chosen," and passing over the others.

    So, to be clear, the first problem is a false charge by Mark towards God ascribing to God arbitrariness vis a vis electing grace. What then is the second problem?

    The second problem is that Mark thinks to escape this charge of mine... that he ascribes arbitrariness to God... by simply denying it. He denies the evidences of electing grace in the Word of God. He just says, in effect, "I do not believe God is arbitrary." BUT - he only does this because of his underlying presupposition that to be "fair" God must try to save each and every human being - because after all, the overall arching principle is not "free grace" but "free will." That is to say, that God does not have an electing grace, but rather that salvation is by the will of man, and that the operative agent in the new birth is not sovereign grace, but rather "free will" (so-called). So Marks' denial is rooted in bad theology.

    So Mark only says that based on his false man-centered soteriology. If my understanding of salvation is correct - that God chooses men (election) and brings them to faith in His time, and God will by design save some and pass over others -THEN - Mark is prepared to say, if that is the case, it makes God arbitrary.

    So though Mark says God is not arbitrary generally, he is prepared to make a charge of arbitrariness toward God if election is personal and to salvation. But to his own mind, Mark escapes this charge of arbitrariness because he believes his view of the spiritual autonomy of man and man-centered synergistic salvation is true. And he would indeed have a case, IF salvation were indeed by the will of man and not the determinative will of God. Mark believes he is not ascribing arbitrariness to God based on his demonstrably false predicate - that God is not in control over the extent of salvation, man is.

    In summation, think of it like this. It's pouring rain. Mark, not caring for rain, stands outside and says "I don't believe it's raining." Two problems are evidenced. First, Mark has denied clear and irrefutable objective evidence. It is indeed raining, his objection notwithstanding. Second, different from the first, but connected to it, is that Mark does not appear to really understand what rain is, making a charge of "no rain" subjectively sensible to him but ultimately, in reality, untenable and false.

    I will answer your second question separately.

    Thanks!



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  13. Wow! Did I get the last word??? After 45 years of marriage, I am completely unaccustomed to it!

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  14. Man David...you must have insomnia based on your responses! Lol. I unfortunately have to get to bed at a decent hour so I can function at work and play family man. Lol!

    So I will say that it sounds like for you that the concept of God will and man’s free will is either black or white. Either God does everything for us and man does nothing or God sit back because man is in the driver seat right? I believe your position is that God controls everything which includes man actions. God is the puppeteer and we are the puppets. We respond to God when he pulls on our string. Unfortunately I have a problem with this position. If I believed that God controlled everything then what one is effectively saying is that God is not only the author of good but also the author of evil.

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  15. Yosamitesam - Yes, in fact I have had a problem with insomnia for a couple of years.

    I do hate to let you down, but I first heard the puppet analogy back in the mid 70's. With all due respect, it's pretty lame.

    Instead of seeking to convince you that God is sovereign and that man still has free agency (but not "free will") - let me ask YOU a question or two.

    When Scripture demonstrates to us that God brings hundreds of prophecies to fruition by controlling men and circumstances, does that make men puppets? For instance, were OT Joseph's brethren puppets?

    Was Peter a puppet when the Lord told Peter the he would reject him three times, and Peter did just that?

    Was Nebuchadnezzar a puppet when God essentially turned him into a jack ass? Was Nebuchadnezzar a puppet in making the confession to God's absolute sovereignty in Daniel 4:35?

    Was Mary a puppet? What choice did she have to be the mother of the Lord?

    Was John the Baptist a puppet? Clearly he was called and ordained before birth to prepare the way of the Lord. Pretty unfair of God to not allow John the Baptist the opportunity to work for IBM or McDonalds, eh?

    Since the Lord had foreordained his apostles in eternity past, were they puppets when they left their lives and vocations and followed Him?

    Was Herod a puppet? His role in Scripture was foreordained in eternity past. What of the Sanhedrin? W/O their role, would there have been a crucifixion? Were they simply puppets?

    What of the OT prophets - all of whom were called according to the plans and purposes of God. Were they puppets? Could have Isaiah or Jeremiah have said "not interested -that's my final answer" and changed God's plans and mind? OR were they....."puppets?"

    I am sorry you see God's sovereignty as a "problem." But the problem is not with God's sovereignty. The problem isn't with God doing whatever He wishes in heaven and on earth (Dan. 4:35) - the problem is your unbelief and your stubborn insistence on your absolute autonomy.

    By the way, in closing, I'd far rather believe God controls everything (even if you despise the notion) than to believe a single atom in the universe is outside God's control. So tell me friend, since your position is that God only controls some things (at best) - what things are outside His control? Does He even know what is going to happen? Or is God just a "big man" with essentially human like limitations - primarily a "watcher" who tries to influence events, but really can't quite bring His will to fruition without the help of His creation?

    Let me quote you assessing my position: "I believe your position is that God controls everything which includes man actions." Would you kindly make a list of the things God has no control over? I'd love to ponder it.

    Best Regards

    PS - In your view, it's God that is the "puppet." Shame on you friend!






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  16. I admit David that God intervened with his creation through our history in order to accomplish His ultimate will to bring Christ into the world to give his creation a way to reconcile to him. The position I hold is that there is both God’s will and man’s will. It is not black or white and that is clearly what we see in the Bible. When God wanted to strike his people down for worshipping as he instructed them not to, it was Moses (man) that pleaded with him not to do it...and what do you know...God changed his mind. Man’s will intervened and God’s outcome changed did it not? You see there is no room for Love if God chooses everything for you and I. Yes..God elected a select few by DIRECT intervention. I could say with out a shadow of a doubt who God elected in the Old Testament! Can’t say that today...you can’t say you are anymore elected than I am...the only thing that I can put my trust in is that Christ died for my sins and that Christ threw out a life preserver for me in that water while I was drowning and after hearing what he had to say, I made the choice to grab on. And how I can do that is by repenting and being baptized into Christ Acts 2:38. If you want to claim that baptism is a work well I would then I would counter argue that belief is also a work.

    PS...I don’t view God as a puppet and just because you put “friend” at the end of your comment doesn’t make you sound any less rude in your responses.

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    1. Hello, Sam,

      Please allow me to put in my two cents' worth in this discussion. The first thing that I'd like to point out is that your "puppet master" illustration is completely without foundation. What you are describing is fatalistic determinism; that is, the idea that, as with the Stoics of old, whatever is going to happen will happen, we have no control over it (but rather, IT controls us), so we might as well just grin and bear it. To the Stoics, fate was an all controlling element that determined everything about them and the world they lived in. But the issue here is that fate, was an impersonal force which did what she did (I use the female pronoun because that is what they did) for no reason and with no forethought. It was simply the way things were. They were, literally, "written in the stars."

      Now lets move on to true theism which is where our interests really lie. The Bible clearly specifies that God is a personal, all-knowing, all-powerful and wise being who created all things from nothing and who upholds all things by the word of his power (Genesis 1, Hebrews 1). God has determined, according to his wise and holy counsel, to bring about the creation, fall and redemption of man to demonstrate his power, love, justice and mercy (Ephesians 1). Unlike the fate of the Stoics, God is a personal being who is working all things with a purpose in mind and is not simply moving pawns on a chess board without rhyme or reason. The former would be what you think we're saying. The latter is in fact what we believe based on scripture.

      Before I go on, let's engage in a thought experiment. Unless you're an open theist, you believe that God has complete, exhaustive and perfect knowledge of all events in time; past, present and future. That being the case, it is then impossible for man to have the autonomous free will that you would like him to have. And that is simply because, since God is the creator, and since he knows everything we will do, think, speak, etc., then by his act of creation he brought into existence all those actions you, me and every other human being will ever undertake. So, you see, like it or not, God is the ultimate cause of everything that takes place in the universe.

      The problem for you, however, is that you want man to somehow have complete and unfettered freedom to do as he pleases. You want him to be the one that determines whether evil exists; whether he will be saved or lost and so on. But again, unless you're going to tell me that you, with your autonomous, free will, can thwart God's perfect knowledge, you're stuck with a "God" who brought about all these things, and yes including all the heinous evil that exists in the world, without any purpose or plan. It just simply happened because God "foresaw" it and he was powerless to do anything about it.

      On the other hand, the Bible clearly specifies that God has a purpose for everything he does, including creation and redemption. I already mentioned Ephesians 1, to which we can add the 2nd chapter of the same letter. There you will find the progression of God's election in eternity past, all the way to the point in time where he "makes alive" those whom he has elected. He did not simply "foresee" that they would believe and then on that basis make them alive. If that were the case, then we're forced to believe in a God who is claiming all this glory for himself, when in reality we are the ones that "allowed" him to do what he did. How then can He be the cause of anything since it was only his passive foreknowledge that allowed Him to do anything? Furthermore, what exactly was it that He foresaw? Did He foresee Himself making them alive and then seeing them believe? I trust you can see the problem here. (Continued next).

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    2. Genesis 50, Isaiah 10, Romans 8-9, the entire gospel of John especially chapters 6, 8, 10, the aforementioned Ephesians 1-2, etc., demonstrate that God is the one that controls all things. For some reason, Arminians will claim that they believe that God is an absolute sovereign...except when it comes to salvation. There, for some unknown reason (usually described as "God wants us to love him freely" or some form of that canard), He decided that He was going to give man a free hand. And of course, we can all see that God can trust us to make the right decision, right?

      If Psalms 135:6 means anything, it means that God is the one who decides. He is the one who controls and He is the one who commands. Whatever He purposes He brings to pass. He is not some puny God who has to wait for "permission" (as so many word of faith preachers will tell you), to do anything. Imagine how Peter would have had to change what he told the Jews in Acts 2:22-24 if God was simply reacting to things: "Men and brothers, Jesus of Nazareth a man approved of God by signs and wonders which he did among you, as you yourselves know. Him you took and BY THE PREDETERMINED COUNSEL AND FOREKNOWLEDGE OF GOD, with the help of wicked hands you crucified..." If all these people were taking autonomous, free will actions, then by what right did God take credit for those actions? It would be the free actions of the people involved, and not God's predetermined counsel that brought about the crucifixion. Do you begin to see the complications?

      As to whether God is or can be arbitrary, allow me a couple of quick observations. An ultimate being, by definition, cannot be arbitrary. Why? Simply because He is the ultimate standard by which everything else, everything, is measured. We know what is right or wrong, left or right, black or white, etc. because we measure those things by a standard. And God is the ultimate standard for everything that exists. That is why the atheist is bankrupt in his attempt to have morality without God. If you don't have an unchangeable, unmovable standard, you can't have unchangeable, unmovable anything including morality. Bottom line, God cannot be arbitrary because God is immutable and perfect.

      Now, ask yourself these questions even using your free will standard: is God arbitrary because he chooses to send some to hell? Is He arbitrary because He allows evil to exist? Is He arbitrary because He tells us some things are sinful and others are good? We could go on for a long time asking such questions. The fact is that, if you want to see God as arbitrary, there are a lot of things you could mistakenly cling to in order to do so. And you would be doing it simply because you want to be the ultimate determiner as to what is good and what is bad. God's electing, free and unconditional grace: bad. Man being free to say yay or nay: good!

      And lastly, think about the following: if you become convinced from the Bible, that God is in fact the God that the Calvinist says he is, will you believe in Him? Will you worship an absolute sovereign God? Do you have trouble accepting that God commanded the destruction of the Canaanites in the Old Testament because of their sin? Or that He killed everyone except eight people in a flood? Or do you understand that God can do with his creation whatever he wants? If God can do with his creation whatever he wishes, why is it that he can't elect whom he wills to be saved? Why is it that in that area he mysteriously loses the power to chose and decide?

      Let's allow God to remain on his throne where he belongs (and, ultimately, where he is whether we like it or not). And let's not allow ourselves to think so highly of ourselves that we end up with a diminutive God who is little more than a genie at our beckon call. Blessings.

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    3. Thanks Mike for your response. You say that you are not a Fatalist but what you are saying that you aren’t and what you are saying that you are, I see no difference. If you aren’t a fatalist than what ism would you apply? You are an advocate of Calvinism which is laced with Fatalism.

      Calvinism is a different gospel purchased by a different jesus, that is offered by a different god.
      So ask yourself who your God is; absolutely sovereign, or sovereignly giving man choice? Does He sovereignly elect without reference to faith, or on the basis of faith? Does God choose who will be saved, or does man choose to believe to be saved? Both characters of God can’t be true at the same time. The same could be asked of Jesus. Did He die for all men, or just the preselected? Is His blood applied before belief or after? Both atonements can’t be true at the same time either. And finally, consider which gospel you’re trusting in; unconditional election or election conditioned on faith in the cross? Are only some enabled to believe, or are all able to believe? Is faith from the heart, or is faith supernaturally gifted from God? Are sinners born again before belief, or born again after belief? Both gospels cannot be true at the same time as well. Once impacted by the notion of election, the mesmerized Christian is shifted from the biblical view of God, Jesus and the gospel to an unbiblical view.

      The Great Commission is not great in the eyes of the Calvinist. If God has already decided in eternity past who will and who will not be saved, then why bother? And yet the Great Commission is clear.

      “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:19-20)

      And that....
      “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

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    4. What kind of God would He be if he were a respecter of persons, creating some for glory and others for the fires and torments of hell? What kind of justice would that be? Yes, God is sovereign and He can do what He wants, when He wants, with whom He wants, How He wants, and whenever He wants. But how does that make Him the kind of God who does not give sinful man, all sinful men, an opportunity to turn from their sins, repent, and believe? When the Word of God tells us that Christ died for the sins of the world, He died for the sins of the whole world. The Gospel is universal to all men for all have sinned and some short of the glory of God. When the Word of God says the world, it means the whole world. The Gospel is graciously extended to all men. Will all men be saved? Certainly the answer is no. Many will choose the broad way that leads to destruction, and few will follow that narrow way that leads to eternal life. “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). And yet the Gospel is still universal in its scope in that Christ died for the sins of all men. Calvinist/Fatalists speak about mercy and grace but only believe that God’s mercy is extended to only a select, elect few. Mercy is not mercy if it is not available to all who have sinned and will repent and believe. Mercy and grace can be found at the Cross of Calvary by the “whosoever wills.” Please consider that a sovereign God has sovereignly given mankind the responsibility and the ability to believe.

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    5. Hey, Yosamitesam41... I'm just rediscovering this conversation after not being online for a long time. I don't know what all has been talked about... I just kinda skipped down here to see where it's led to. In a few days—or a week... we'll see—I'll catch up on EVERYTHING.

      However, I'm noticing that you seem to be frustrated. Here, let me shed some light on Mike. Honestly, Mike is a very evangelistic Christian. He's not out there spreading the ideas of John Calvin, but the words of Jesus Christ. He's much more evangelistic than many IFB friends. I should be more like him. To my knowledge, David is also a bold witness. So if you are worried about Mike's obedience to God's commands, including the Great Commission, he's being obedient to it. I really respect him for that and other areas of sanctification that I see in his life. God is at work there and it's wonderful to see.

      Ok, about the gospel, yes, the call is universal. It goes out to all men, first through the work of the Spirit and the witness of creation, and second to a much smaller group of people through the witness of angels and the church of Jesus Christ. But it is available to all men and only through Jesus Christ. However, not all men take that salvation. That's the problem. If Jesus' blood atones for the sin of all men, why is the road to hell so wide? We may say that it's man's choice, but God knew that we would make that choice when He created this universe. He could have made any number of universes where all would have been saved. But He made this one. And in this universe, most people suffer His wrath. Why would He do that? Is God a monster? Maybe.... It's either that or He has a wiser plan than I can think of right now. When I see clear verses about God choosing His people—"electing" them, to use the New Testament term—then I know that there are many that He did not elect. It's simple Bible. We don't know who those believers are, and God uses us as means to share the truth that this world is under the curse, under God's wrath, is blind, is destined for destruction, and that Jesus Christ is redemption from the curse, peace with God, sight to the blind, and all the glorious riches of righteousness in the Godhead. Evangelism is not telling people that they are powerless to choose God (which is frankly nonBiblical language), but telling people to trust Christ (Biblical language). We take Him at His word.

      Ok, I've got to run. I hope that this was in some way helpful.

      Sam, it's good to chat with you. May God bless you in Jesus Christ, and guide you close to Him.

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    6. Sam, thanks for you comment. Let me make one last, short (hopefully) comment. At some point every conversation has to end and I think that the time to end this one has come. It seems to me that you're entrenched in your ideas and that, although you seem to seek to anchor them in scripture, they are more a philosophical stance than anything scriptural. I say that because your initial premise in all of these exchanges is to declare some form of "God would not be fair" if he elected the way scripture clearly sets forth. Thus, rather than responding to our statements by proving with scripture that they're not true, you seek to support your presuppositions with passages that are neither exegeted nor properly explained. Take for example your statement concerning the term "world." You have concluded that it must mean every single individual without exception and therefore "that's that" as it were. I have, unfortunately, found way too many folks who are of your persuasion, who want to hold on to their traditions without doing the hard work of correct interpretation and exegesis. That, to be frank, is a dead end. Thus, I leave you to your beliefs and hope that the Lord will see fit to provide further light in his time and in his way. Be assured that, if you have called upon the name of the Lord as Romans 10:9-10 tells us, then I consider you a brother. Stay well and continue reading.

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  17. Yosam - You mistake candor and truth with rudeness. Sadly, very sadly, I leave you where I found you. And relative to your understanding of God and salvation, that is NOT a good place. I say again, and I say finally, may God give you life and light as needed. Over and out.

    "Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?" Gal. 4:16

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    1. David...let me use my original thought as it is probably more appropriate but now I don’t know how else to describe it. Instead of rude...how about condescending and pompous. Certainly NOT fruits of the spirit I assure you. Truth is one thing but the way you deliver your message is another.

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    2. I am not perfect, flawless or beyond the possibility of correction. Even at my advancing age I am quite capable of less than stellar judgment or flawless demeanor. I honestly mean that. That said, you still have a troubling spiritual error, and finding fault or flaws in me, real or imagined is not going to exonerate you or make it go away. Attempting to insult me and chide might make you feel better for the moment and feed some unfortunate emotional need on your part, but your rejection of spiritual admonishment and truth is what is most importantly at stake."Attacking the messenger" is an old ploy. A tired ploy. Maybe a desperate ploy - but trying to make this about me, or make me feel guilty is not going to work with me. Maybe 40 years ago, when I was 25 years old and just coming into gospel truth, your charges might have forced me into a sort of morbid introspection and an unnecessary cringing guilt. But this is not 1975, it's 2018 and I've seen this script hundreds of times. And this is the script: Man has false doctrine. Man is nevertheless sure of himself. Man gets confronted by another man whose doctrine is far more in keeping with the Word of God. First man struggles. Argues. Fusses. Fumes. But he is on shaky theological ground and cannot make a cogent case consistent with Biblical Truth. So first man makes it personal. First man attacks his opponent with trumped up charges, or demeans motive or method. Now suddenly it's not about the truth, it's not about sorting out what is theologically sound from theologically spurious - it's just about "you weren't nice enough to me." "I don't like how you talk to me." "You are sooooooo mean to me." Now, instead of an exchange about the truth, I am put on trial for supposed violations of propriety and common decency. And for what? For something evil I did? Cursing you? Something unseemly? No - for withstanding your error and taking time out of my day to hope to persuade you to better and sounder theology.

      Please don't misunderstand. You aren't hurting my feelings. It's just that I hate to see a man do what you are doing. "Making it personal" rather than "making it right" is not a wise choice. One day we will stand before the Lord and give account for this exchange. In my case, I do not fear that moment. I have made an effort to act with a view to your best spiritual interests. I'm not headhunting, and I'm not trying to score points or seeking accolades before Mike or any other reader. I wrote to HELP you. Now, you can turn that on me, and mock me, and belittle that claim...but it is nevertheless true. If you wish to grandstand on finding me a little too much like John the Baptist than John the Apostle - that's fine. I might even, on occasion, own some of that. But in the end my young friend, it seems to me that this is simply your way to shut down my theological understanding and position. You may choose to argue out of outrage and dubious charges, but I prefer to argue out of the Word of God. Please understand you've done me no harm, only yourself. Are you prepared to say the above is just more "condescending and pompous" on my part? Well, fine, if you must. But if you leave this conversation STILL not convinced that "salvation is of the Lord" and believe "man casts the deciding vote" in salvation- I am the least of your problems. (To be continued.)







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    3. (cont.) My prayers are with you. I am indeed a flawed servant, though I think your charges are at worse somewhat disingenuous or at best a defense mechanism. Either way, I say sincerely I am for you, I am in your corner for your increasing understanding of truth, and my motive...if I know my own heart in the matter...was simply your good. Not to display meaningless condescension or pomposity.

      If I was convinced or convicted that your charges had merit, I would solicit your forgiveness. Perhaps even Mike might think that would be a polite gesture anyway, even though your accusation is untrue... I don't know. All I DO know is that I will not feign contriteness and sorrow before unreasonable charges. Rather, I call you to forget about me, don't make this about me - and seriously use your energy to make a thorough study of soteriology (salvation) and the sovereign nature of God.
      And finally, if you ever wish a discussion about spiritual issues with me - then please write me. Bibliopole60@gmail.com. I would love to hear from you. Let's cease this back and forth at Mike's blog. Fair enough? May the Lord be your helper.

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    4. David...I assure you that I am not one that uses personal attacks as a defense mechanism. I clearly was making an observation. Take with it what you may. Perception is reality. I welcome the truth but how it is delivered or presented can turn someone away from the truth or drive them away. I appreciate you letting explanation and am not upset. I wish you well David! :)

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  18. Mike - Your last two posts are some of the best, most succinct explanations of sovereignty and grace I've seen. It gave me one of those "why didn't I write something that thoughtful and articulate?" moments.

    I can only hope and pray God uses this effort to liberate your friend from his confused and man-centered and exalting theology. I am only glad I don't have to try to answer your posts from an Arminian "little God" perspective!

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  19. And I know I didn’t express it before but baptism is an essential component to salvation and is a completely different discussion. Lol!

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  20. In the final analysis, there are only two models for salvation. Works or Grace. Salvation by baptism is works. When religious folks add their favorite "something" to salvation - be it baptism, speaking in tongues, good works...whatever, it stands contrary to the gospel of Christ. When one says salvation is by grace PLUS (whatever) the gospel has been lost.

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