The Error of Total Depravity and Inability in Acts 17

In Acts 17 the Apostle Paul addresses the philosophers at Mars Hill. I want to look at a couple comments that I find very interesting concerning the issue of total depravity and inability as trumped by Calvinism. I will also make a comment concerning the emphasis on God’s sovereignty and omniscience that drive the Calvinist tenets.

In verse 22 we read, “Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; 23 for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you:”

It is interesting that Paul is here addressing a group of educated pagans who are “religious folk.” In the courtyard, they had erected statues to all kinds of gods and even had one to “the unknown god” to appease one they may have not known about. This is an interesting comment seeing that apart from God’s effectual calling, no one will “seek God.” These educated men knew that there was a god. Unlike the educated folk today, they made a place for gods in their lives. It still seems a little odd to me that a theological position could ignore men’s long standing effort to KNOW GOD and then deny his ability to respond to the God of the Bible apart from some special grace on God’s part. I will leave that statement at that. Paul says, this unknown God is the One I want to “proclaim to you.” In Paul’s mind, there is no idea of effectual calling or special grace that enables any of them to be miraculously saved; he believes that the proclamation of the Word can save them all if they will respond in repentance and believing faith.

He introduces this unknown God as the Creator of the world and everything in it. This God does not live in statues or manmade edifices like the temple. He made every person from one blood; one family and God has the boundaries of their being for one reason; verse 27, “that they should seek THE LORD (not some pagan god) in hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any of us.”

This statement is more than interesting because Paul is clearly saying in this message to a group of lost pagans, that they are where they are so that they might seek the Lord in hopes that they MIGHT find Him. This statement made by the Apostle Paul clearly debunks the whole concept of total depravity and inability and the necessity of regeneration prior to repentance and believing faith. Paul is telling these learned men that they are in a place in their lives where they might seek God and find Him. The proclamation of the gospel has power to save those who respond favorably to the promises made in it by God Himself. This is the essence of what Paul is preaching to the philosophers in Athens.

In the earlier verses of chapter 17, Paul preached Jesus in Thessalonica and verse 4 says, “some were persuaded.” This is also an interesting choice of words. Paul and Silas moved on to Berea where it is said that these folks “were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. 12 Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men.” (VV11-12) The question is, were they “more fair-minded” because they were regenerated or because they were willing to listen to Paul and Silas’ preaching to be moved by the power of the spoken Word? Regeneration cannot be the case because they “searched the Scriptures” to find out for themselves if the things Paul had been preaching was true or not. Had they been regenerated enabling them to search the truth, they would have repented instead of searched the Scriptures. One thing is true about calvinism’s regeneration; it cannot be a progressive move. When one is effectually called, he repents. One cannot be gradually called to “new life.” So, one of two things had to be true. One, regeneration as posited by Calvinism is not supported by this passage or Paul’s statement here is theologically inaccurate. These new believers heard the gospel and searched the Scriptures to verify the accuracy of the claims being presented. If they heard and had the desire to search the Scriptures, then they had to have been regenerated in the Calvinist system; if that were the case they would have repented instead of having to search. This is completely inconsistent with the total depravity/inability position.

Notice Paul’s statement in verse 29: “29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.” Paul talks about “God’s Divine nature.” He does not talk about God’s sovereignty; he does not speak about God’s omniscience; he speaks of God’s Divine nature. This is important because God’s sovereignty is an attribute of His divinity. God’s omniscience is an attribute of His divinity. He is not divine because He is sovereign or omniscient; He is sovereign and omniscient because He is divine. I believe this points to one of the more serious problems shaping the academic theological landscape. Instead of building theology based on God’s Divine nature, most have focused on His sovereignty and omniscience to frame the foundation from which they have built their cases.

Why is this distinction important? It is important because focusing on a particular attribute can give a false picture of the whole entity. For example, a man can be a father; he can be an employer and he can also be a gambler and a drunkard. If one focuses on the father and employer. One might think “this guy is a great guy.” If one focuses on the drunkard and gambler, one might think, “Wow this guy is a real loser.” The problem ought to be obvious; neither conclusion is necessarily accurate and the conclusion drawn is clearly determined by the attributes considered. All attributes accurately describe the man but obviously give very differing perspectives.

Is it possible to focus on God’s sovereignty or His omniscience and “miss God’s Divine nature completely?” If God is sovereign and omniscient BECAUSE He is Divine, then perhaps focusing on individual attributes may indeed give one a false picture of God’s total Divine nature and ultimately His total character and being. I believe this to be true where the majority of academic theological discussion stands. God is more than sovereign or omniscient. He is perhaps more than anything, love. (Ps. 118:1; I John 4:8,16) God is Holy. (Is 43:3; 6:3; I Peter 1:16) He is Merciful. (Deut. 4:31; Ps 103:8, 116:5; Eph. 2:4) He is Perfect in all He does. (2 Sam. 22:31;Ps. 18:30; Matt 5:48) He is Faithful. (Deut. 7-9, 32:4, Ro. 4:21; I Cor. 1:9, 10:13) He is Sovereign,(Gen.1:1; I Chron. 29:11-12; Ps. 115:3; Lam. 3:37; Eph. 1:11) Omnipotent,(Jere. 32:27; Is 40:28; Matt. 19:26; Luke 1:37; Heb.1:3) Omniscient, (Job 3:16, 28:24; I Sam. 2:3; Ps. 147:5; Matt. 10:30; I John 3:19-20) and Immutable, (Job 23:13; Mal. 3:6; Heb. 6:17) a God of Wrath, (Zeph. 1:14-15, 18; Ps. 69:24; Rom. 1:18; Heb. 12:29; Rev. 19:15) A God of Grace (I Cor. 15:10; Eph. 2:8; Titus 2:11) and this is not an exhaustible list. 2 Peter 3:19 clearly states, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” This passage reflects God’s Divine nature and clearly stands as one of the more problematic passages in the total depravity/inability and limited atonement tenets presented by Calvinism.

Consider verses 30 Paul tells these religious educated philosophers, “God has overlooked men’s ignorance as seen in their use of statues but now God commands all men everywhere to repent.” Repentance is man’s response to the gospel message that says God “31 has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” In verse 34, Paul says, “some joined him and believed.”

The truth is simple. If total depravity and inability are correct there are a couple of things that are problematic in the passage. First of all, the new believers in Thessalonica and Berea do not fit the regeneration before repentance and faith model presented by the Calvinist system. Second, in Paul’s address to the men in Athens, they should seek THE LORD (not some pagan god) in hopes that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any of us.” There is no hint of depravity or inability to be overcome by regeneration. In fact, God is “near them all” Paul says indicating that He is also accessible to those who would repent and believe, which some did.

About these ads

About sbcissues

Interested in bringing the issues facing The Southern Baptist Convention to light.
This entry was posted in Calvinism, SBC and Calvinism, SBC Issues, Soteriology Simplified, Southern Baptist Convention and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to The Error of Total Depravity and Inability in Acts 17

  1. I think that there are a couple of misunderstandings here about what is involved in total depravity and effectual calling. First of all, total depravity does not mean that the unregenerate know nothing or are incapable of doing any good. It means that in man’s rebellion he suppresses the truth in unrighteousness and worships and serves the creature rather than the Creator. And that was certainly evident at Athens.
    Second of all, at least to hear some of the Puritans tell us, effectual calling is not an instantaneous process. A real conversion experience took take months as the sinner labors under a growing sense of guilt, tries in vain to justify himself by his own works, and then finally is led to see the futility of it all. Moreover, irresistible grace does not dispense with the use of means, not does it mean that a man does not exercise his will to believe. And so, in the Book of Acts, the gospel is preached, sinners hear it — some understand and believe. But none of that says anything at all about why they were able to believe. “And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:48; NKJV).

  2. sbcissues says:

    TS.

    You are right; there are a couple misunderstanding about what is involved in total depravity. That is the point of my post.

    I understand the argument that total depravity does not mean that people are as bad as they can be and that they are incapable of doing good things. That has nothing to do with the point I was making. Specifically, if men are spiritually dead and do not seek God as calvinism contends, then why do men seek false gods? Are you saying they can only not seek the REAL God? If they are depraved and dead THEN it would seem reasonable that no depraved person would seek ANY kind of god. That was the point I was making briefly; I did not make a BIG deal of it but believe it is problematic for the calvinist position.

    As for your statement, “It means that in man’s rebellion he suppresses the truth in unrighteousness and worships and serves the creature rather than the Creator.” I also find this problematic. Dead men do not suppress the TRUTH if they have not received the truth. The whole point to regeneration is to enable a person to receive the truth and once he has received it there is no suppressing it. Either one of two things seems true of TD/TI… one either receives the truth or he does not; if he does not receive it then there is nothing to suppress; if he does receive it there is no suppressing it. You MIGHT want to rethink your concluding statement that this was certainly true in Athens.

    To your next comment: Second of all, at least to hear some of the Puritans tell us, effectual calling is not an instantaneous process. “A real conversion experience took take months as the sinner labors under a growing sense of guilt, tries in vain to justify himself by his own works, and then finally is led to see the futility of it all.”

    For the record, I believe this statement to be absolutely accurate…. with the exception of its tie to “effectual calling.” If that is changed to “conversion is not…” then I am in complete agreement. Here is the problem I have with the statement you make with reference to effectual calling being progressive… if man is spiritually dead… has a dead heart and deaf ears and blinded eyes… that is accurate correct? Regeneration MUST take place for the unregenerate to repent… he has to be given a new heart, his eyes be opened and his ears to hear. That cannot be a progressive process. One is either dead or he is alive; there is no “almost alive.” So effectual calling which is likened to Jesus’ calling Lazarus out of the tomb means… when God calls the name of the elect and he is regenerated, he is born RIGHT THEN… not in an hour, not in a week not next month… but RIGHT THEN.

    Monergism clearly says that man has NOTHING TO DO WITH HIS regeneration… it is a sole work of God. God speaks and the lost person is regenerated. Period. His only response which is immediate is repentance and believing faith. This CANNOT be progressive. It is ineffectual until regeneration takes place and once regeneration takes place repentance follows. No process. NONE.

    I agree totally with the following statement, “And so, in the Book of Acts, the gospel is preached, sinners hear it — some understand and believe. But none of that says anything at all about why they were able to believe. “And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.”

    My point is Acts 17 does not fit the total depravity model presented by calvinist theology.

    • I think that the way Paul describes human depravity in Romans is that man is surrounded in nature by evidence for the existence of God, and he has a conscience that tells him that he is often doing wrong. Yet so perverse is his will that he ignores both forms of revelation and refuses to acknowledge the one true God. His spiritual blindness results from the fact that his heart is rebellious and refuses to submit to God’s revelation. This means that he often tries to fill the void with something else — in Romans 1 it is worshiping and serving the creature rather than the Creator. He basically comes up with a false religion.
      On the other point part of the difficulty is in defining “regeneration.” I need to look into this a little further, but I suspect that the Bible uses the term in a very broad sense to refer to the whole process of spiritual renewal that begins with the first convictions of sin and culminates in the Holy Spirit taking up permanent residence in the heart. Strictly speaking , the latter does not occur until after the sinner believes (Gal. 3:2). But in order for him to believe the Holy Spirit must enlighten his mind and renew his will.

    • sbcissues says:

      TS.

      I am commenting on the text in Acts 17. You might be correct in your assessment of Romans 1 but that does not mean that your comments are consistent with the tenets of calvinism. Man does more than IGNORE God’s revelation. He is dead to it. He is blind and deaf to the gospel. The gospel has NO POWER TO DO anything for the unregenerate. That is the whole purpose of regeneration. It amazes me how inconsistent some can be when discussing this issue.

      A person is either dead or not… which is it? If he is dead and he MUST be regenerated to repent then own it. That IS WHAT CALVINISM maintains. Do you understand the concept of monergism?

      That is the issue I am addressing and so far no one has bothered to even address that issue.

      • Here is what the Synod of Dort actually said on the matter:
        “There remain, however, in man since the fall, the glimmerings of natural light, whereby he retains some knowledge of God, of natural things, and of the difference between good and evil, and shows some regard for virtue and for good outward behavior. But so far is this light of nature from being sufficient to bring him to a saving knowledge of God and to true conversion that he is incapable of using it aright even in things natural and civil. Nay further, this light, such as it us, man in various ways renders wholly polluted, and hinders in unrighteousness, by doing which he becomes inexcusable before God.”
        (3rd & 4th Heads of Doctrine, Article 4).
        This is generally what is known as “common grace.”

      • sbcissues says:

        TS.

        Let me ask you a question. Is man totally depraved; dead in his trespass and sin? He has a dead heart, blinded eyes and deaf ears? He MUST be regenerated by God in order to repent and exercise believing faith?

        Is this a correct position on total depravity as presented by calvinism?

  3. Les Prouty says:

    Bob,

    Glad to see you writing again. I’d like on my first comments here to point out a couple of fatal flaws to your essay. Then back later for more.

    First fatal flaw. You are trying to overthrow TD and inability in a narrative passage that is not really about the doctrines you seek to overthrow. Now, it may surely be that TD and ability/inability have a bearing and could be refuted buy the narrative or confirmed by the narrative, but as I and others will demonstrate, this passage does not overthrow those doctrines.

    Second fatal flaw. You say early on, “In Paul’s mind, there is no idea of effectual calling or special grace that enables any of them to be miraculously saved; he believes that the proclamation of the Word can save them all if they will respond in repentance and believing faith.”

    Well, exactly HOW do you know what was in Paul’s mind at that time? More specifically, how do you know that effectual calling was not in his mind? You assert that but do not even try to prove it. Here you are reading into it your philosophical view that man can of his own volition have saving faith and repentance. This really makes the rest of what you say DOA.

    That’s a start brother. Many other problems here as I see it but back later,

    God bless.

    • sbcissues says:

      Les,

      You are unfortunately doing the same thing you charge me with; except from a different perspective and with no supporting comments. Just saying here is a fatal flaw is a futile attempt on your part, I am afraid. I know you are capable of much more.

      I simply used the text to make a point with respect to WHAT THE TEXT actually says and related that to the tenets of TD. You just said “it ain’t so.” Sorry.

      To your second challenge.. you quoted me… In Paul’s mind, there is no idea of effectual calling or special grace that enables any of them to be miraculously saved; he believes that the proclamation of the Word can save them all if they will respond in repentance and believing faith.

      That quote really sets up the next statement and is not really a conclusion to the one it is written in… It introduces the statement that follows… where Paul tells these men in Athens that they are where they are so that they might seek the Lord in hopes that they MIGHT find Him. This statement made by the Apostle Paul clearly debunks the whole concept of total depravity and inability and the necessity of regeneration prior to repentance and believing faith.

      TS is trying to argue that regeneration or effectual calling is progressive… what say ye? There is NO WAY effectual calling or regeneration can be progressive any more than someone can be almost alive. It is instantaneous by necessity and cannot be progressive. I think we have discussed this before; I know I have made this argument before.

      • Les Prouty says:

        Bob,

        Well I think I made my case of your fatal flaws. No need to argue about whether I made my case or not. I have nothing to add to that.

        As to progressive regeneration, I’ll have to do some more reading on the Puritan views on that and get back to you. TS is right that the definition of regeneration is important. Calvin is thought by some to have taught a progressive regeneration. But when you see what he included in that term regeneration, you can understand that he was often talking about the whole salvation process…including conversion. So definitions are important here. For now I’ll put in below Sproul’s definition with which I agree:

        Regeneration is the theological term used to describe rebirth. It refers to a new generating, a new genesis, a new beginning. It is more than “turning over a new leaf”; it marks the beginning of a new life in a radically renewed person.

        Regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit upon those who are spiritually dead (see Ephesians 2:1-10). The Spirit recreates the human heart, quickening it from spiritual death to spiritual life. Regenerate people are new creations.

        Regeneration is not to be confused with the full experience of conversion. Just as birth is our initiation, our first entrance into life outside the womb, so our spiritual rebirth is the starting point of our spiritual life. It occurs by God’s divine initiative and is an act that is sovereign, immediate, and instantaneous. An awareness of our conversion may be gradual. Yet rebirth itself is instantaneous. No one can be partially reborn any more than a woman can be partially pregnant.

        Regeneration is not the fruit or result of faith. Rather, regeneration precedes faith as the necessary condition for faith. We also do not in any way dispose ourselves toward regeneration or cooperate as co-workers with the Holy Spirit to bring it to pass. We do not decide or choose to be regenerated. God chooses to regenerate us before we will ever choose to embrace Him. To be sure, after we have been regenerated by the sovereign grace of God, we do choose, act, cooperate, and believe in Christ.

      • sbcissues says:

        Les,

        As to progressive regeneration, I’ll have to do some more reading on the Puritan views on that and get back to you.

        If you agree with Sproul then there is nothing to consider;

        “It (regeneration) occurs by God’s divine initiative and is an act that is sovereign, immediate, and instantaneous. An awareness of our conversion may be gradual. Yet rebirth itself is instantaneous. No one can be partially reborn any more than a woman can be partially pregnant.”

        Your own quote confirms my position. It does not matter what the Puritan position is; that is the position calvinism posits.

        I do not agree with Sproul’s final paragraph. Nowhere in the Scriptures do I see God giving man the choice to choose with no option to choose! In TD as presented in calvinism, the unregenerate cannot choose to repent yet God commands him to do so. Once one is regenerated, man is commanded to repent and he once again has no choice in the matter;

        That my brother is simply a DOG that will not hunt. It amazes me that ANYONE would even consider such a position. I cannot even begin to understand how that is even possible.

    • Les Prouty says:

      Bob,

      “If you agree with Sproul then there is nothing to consider.”

      My point was to research more on the Puritan’s view. Then I quoted Sproul with whom I agree. But I do want to consider what the Puritans thought too and compare definitions, as I indicated.

      Bob I understand you are amazed that I and others such as Sproul, Piper, Calvin, Edwards, Whitefield, Spurgeon, Boyce, Boice, D James Kennedy, John MacArthur, Lottie Moon, William Carey, and countless others see in scripture what you cannot see. But it is a fact brother.

      Have a great Lord’s day.

      Les

      • The Puritans certainly have as much of a right to be considered “Calvinists” as R.C. Sproul. Here is how Thomas Boston describes regeneration in his classic book, “Human Nature in its Fourfold State”:
        “The mind being savingly enlightened, and the will renewed, the sinner is thereby determined and enabled to answer the gospel call. So the chief work of regeneration is done; the fort of the heart is taken; there is room made for the Lord Jesus Christ in the inmost parts of the soul, the inner door of the will being now opened to Him as well as the outer door of the understanding. In one word, Christ is passively received into the heart; He is come into the soul, by His quickening Spirit, whereby spiritual life is given to the man, who in himself was dead in sin. His first vital act we may conceive to be an active receiving of Jesus Christ, discerned in His glorious excellencies, that is, believing on Him, a closing with Him, as discerned, offered and exhibited in the word of His grace, the glorious Gospel. The immediate effect is union with Him (John 1:12,13).”
        Here Boston appears to be laying out this sequence: 1) the mind is enlightened and the will renewed (“the chief work of regeneration”). 2) Christ is passively received into the heart; 3) the sinner believes on Christ (“his first vital act”); and 4) union with Christ (“the immediate effect” of believing on Christ. Steps 1 and 2 take place before the sinner believes; Step 4 takes place after he believes.

      • sbcissues says:

        TS

        Thank you; thank you; thank you for the following quote…

        So the chief work of regeneration is done; the fort of the heart is taken; there is room made for the Lord Jesus Christ in the inmost parts of the soul, the inner door of the will being now opened to Him as well as the outer door of the understanding. In one word, Christ is passively received into the heart; He is come into the soul, by His quickening Spirit, whereby spiritual life is given to the man, who in himself was dead in sin.

        I have made this argument that regeneration must involve the indwelling of the Holy Spirit otherwise there is no “new life” and Les and other calvinists have denied this.

        If Boston is correct, which I maintain HAS to be true in calvinism, that has the Holy Spirit taking up residence in an unrepentant heart and that my dear brother is highly problematic as I see it. This would virtually preclude the possibility of regeneration prior to repentance AND additionally would mean that regeneration prior to repentance would be virtually impossible until after Pentecost.

  4. rhutchin says:

    Acts 17 is an interesting passage. However, does it overthrow Total Depravity?

    In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul wrote, “…we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;…”

    The totality depraved person reacts to the gospel by rejecting it – the non-Jew regards the gospel as foolishness; to the Jew, it is a stumbling block to salvation. Correct conclusion??

    Is it true that the unsaved perish because they are being blinded by Satan as we read in 2 Corinthians 4? Total Depravity says that unsaved people are blinded by Satan. Accurate??

    If you need (and I know you do not), I could list a number of other verses that contribute to the definition of Total Depravity. You have seen these verses. Since Total Depravity is nothing more than a synthesis of all those verses that speak to the condition of the unsaved, then the person opposed to Calvinism needs to take all those verses and show that the Calvinists have misunderstood them and have used those verses to mischaracterize the plight of the unsaved. I read books written by non-Calvinist authors specifically to oppose Calvinism. They never do this (I don’t think it can be done without appealing to the arguments of the Pelagians). Acts 17, by itself, cannot negate these verses.

    The question, then, is whether a person is so depraved that he cannot be saved absent the preaching of the gospel? I think we might both agree that no person can be saved without hearing the gospel – they are truly Totally Depraved – despite Paul’s observation of the Greeks in Acts 17. Paul recognized the need to preach the gospel to the Greeks. They would never find the true God otherwise.

    So, why do some people respond to the preaching of the gospel and others reject it? What explains why some are saved and others not? Certainly, God’s involvement in the lives of His elect would explain it, as the Calvinist maintains. I don’t think you can identify any other factor that would explain why some are saved through the preaching of the gospel but that preaching does not save all who hear it. If the preaching of the gospel removed the blindness of all the unsaved who heard the gospel, then all would be saved. Such is the power of the gospel. Maybe, the Calvinist is correct, and it is God who must first remove this blindness, and this allows those freed from blindness to repent and believe after hearing the gospel preached.

    • sbcissues says:

      rhutchin,

      What amazes me is a denial of an argument with no rebuttal dealing with the arguments presented. No one would argue that man is not depraved; the issue is the extent of that depravity and the work of God to overcome that depravity.

      Paul tells the Athenians in verse 27.. “that they should seek THE LORD (not some pagan god) in hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any of us.”

      My point is that this statement does not bode well in a TD/TI effectual call/regeneration position as posited by calvinism. Like it or not, it doesn’t.

      I believe Paul believes exactly what he said (not to mention the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and God meaning exactly what was written here). These men heard the gospel message preached that this Jesus who was crucified is risen and because He lives all who will believe in the finished work of Christ can repent and be saved…

      Notice Paul says… “they should seek the Lord… in hope that they might grope of find Him… here is the real kicker… for He is not far or near is ALL!

      God loved these pagans.. Jesus died for these pagans and God would save them IF they believed. There is no way to read into this text they are all totally depraved and completely unable to respond unless God regenerates a few of those He has chosen to save and the rest are completely without hope for God is nowhere close to them salvifically.

      As to why some are saved and some are not… first of all the Bible NEVER deals with this question other than to say those who NEVER hear the gospel cannot be saved and those who reject or do not believe or accept the truth as presented in the gospel cannot be saved. That is it. That is ALL the Scriptures confirm but nowhere do the Scriptures say that God makes the decision as to who repents; that is a philosophical conclusion presented by calvinism.

      • “NEVER”? What about all the passages that deal with predestination and election?

      • sbcissues says:

        They do not deal with the question of why some who hear are saved and others are not as is the case made by cals on why the non-cal position is flawed. Their answer is that God must by default decide.

        Even the passages dealing with election and predestination do not demand a deterministic monergistic position. If they did, we would not be having this discussion would we?

      • rhutchin says:

        “As to why some are saved and some are not… first of all the Bible NEVER deals with this question other than to say those who NEVER hear the gospel cannot be saved and those who reject or do not believe or accept the truth as presented in the gospel cannot be saved.”

        In 1 Thessalonians 1, Paul writes, “…you know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father does his children, That you would walk worthy of God, who called you unto his kingdom and glory. For this cause also we thank God without ceasing, because, when you received the word of God which you heard of us, you received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually works also in you that believe…the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that called you, who also will do it.”

        This identifies unique characteristics of those who believe the gospel. They are said to be called by God. Then, they respond to the preaching of the gospel by believing the gospel. Finally, God is faithful to preserve the believers – those He called.

        So, “Faithful is he that called you.” Can we conclude that God is faithful to those He calls to ensure the salvation of those He calls? The Calvinist says, Yes. If not, could Paul write, “Faithful is he that called you”?

        We can say that those who never hear the gospel are not called by God. In addition, we can say that those who do not believe the preaching of the gospel are not called because “Faithful is he that called you.”

      • sbcissues says:

        rhutchin,

        You wrote: So, “Faithful is he that called you.” Can we conclude that God is faithful to those He calls to ensure the salvation of those He calls? The Calvinist says, Yes. If not, could Paul write, “Faithful is he that called you”? Since Paul is speaking to those who HAVE been saved, the answer is “yes” God is faithful in His calling. I do not believe that the phrase, “faithful is He that called you” is an intended pre-qualification for salvation as you are suggesting.

        I believe the emphasis of Paul’s statement here is on God’s faithfulness to save NOT who He saves. Even then, this does not preclude the issue of repentance and faith as qualifications of those who are saved. To me that highlights the fallacy of your next statement:

        “We can say that those who never hear the gospel are not called by God.” I believe you are reading more into the text than what Paul is even hinting too. Yours is a conclusion you bring to the text; it is clearly not one that anyone would read out of the text. The same is true, I believe. of your next statement as well.

        In addition, we can say that those who do not believe the preaching of the gospel are not called because “Faithful is he that called you.”

        This passage does not address the issue of why some respond to the gospel in repentance and other in rejection as I originally maintained.

  5. Jeff Moore says:

    If God, according to His word, wants all men to be saved, but doesn’t make all men believe, what kind of God is He? Is it possible, that He really does leave the believing up to totally depraved man, as His word so clearly states? Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Not by election. By HEARING! It is when one believes that one is regenerated. To put regeneration first is to put the cart before the horse and make God a liar.

    • sbcissues says:

      Jeff,

      Welcome to SBC Issues… the calvinist will say “God does leave the believing up to the individual; those who are not regenerated will choose to reject the gospel and those whom He regenerates will choose to repent and believe.”

      The point that is debatable is the following: for the calvinists: the unregenerated who rejects the gospel can NOT repent and really has no choice in the matter AND

      the regenerated individual will NOT ONLY REPENT but he cannot not repent and can not choose to do otherwise.

      This is really the problematic aspect of regeneration prior to repentance.

      Not sure I would say regeneration before repentance makes God a liar… but I do believe it impugns His character and is not a valid Scriptural position.

  6. Dr. Hadley,
    “They do not deal with the question of why some who hear are saved and others are not as is the case made by cals on why the non-cal position is flawed. ”
    What about I Corinthians 1:26-31?

  7. sbcissues says:

    For starters, I believe Paul is speaking to those who are called to proclaim the gospel. Notice verse 10-12… Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.11 For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. 12 Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.”

    At the least… these are Christians who are seeking to establish some kind of pecking order… maybe preachers maybe not. Look at verse 18, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” TO me Paul is saying of ALL the things God could have used to bring people to Christ, the cross would not have been one of them. Remember, for the Jew to die on the cross was a curse. A crucified Messiah would be an impossibility for the Jew- the one hanged on the tree to die is a traitor or a blasphemer. Hanging on the cross he is accursed by God and men. This is the course God chose. (Deuteronomy 21:22-23)

    Notice Paul’s statement next: “20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached (the preaching of the gospel) to save those who believe.”

    Then Paul moves into the text you cite. 26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.

    First of all, God does not choose the who’s who of society to trump His kingdom. He uses ordinary men to do extraordinary things. WHY? So that people will marvel in the message and not the messenger!

    27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.

    30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—

    Jesus came to “become wisdom for us.” He Himself said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Way. He is the Light of the Word. He Himself is the Word. He is not only wisdom, He is righteousness and sanctification and redemption. All of these things are in Him and not in us.

    31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”

    I am sorry; I do not see any hint in this passage concerning why some do not respond to the gospel and others do. It certainly says NOTHING of the necessity of effectual calling as the answer to that question.

    • The context seems to make it clear that Paul is talking about how people respond to the gospel. He states in verse 18 that “the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” He then goes on to say that the Jews require a sign and the Greeks seek after wisdom. The one group considers the gospel a stumblingblock, the other foolishness. “But to them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” The “called” here clearly refers to the Jews and Greeks who do respond to the gospel. (vv. 21-24).
      He then goes on to say “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called” (v. 26). Since the epistle is addressed to the church at Corinth as a whole, “brethren” evidently refers to all of the believers there (Interestingly, pastors or elders are not mentioned at all in the epistle!). He then goes on to describe whom God has “chosen” (vv. 27,28), implying that the “called” are the same as the “chosen.” It sure looks like a pretty clear statement of unconditional election and effectual calling to me!

      • sbcissues says:

        The only problem with your final assessment dealing with that which God has “chosen” in verses 27-30 CANNOT be people because the text clearly identifies them as “things.” These chosen things are related to the gospel that is being shared. My comments about the proclaimers of the gospel, which you so easily dismissed I related to the “calling brethren” because Paul is clearly talking about the sharing of this gospel that is a stumbling block and a stumbling stone to so many.

        I guess we do agree more than it first appeared; the called does refer to the “chosen” as you suggest; except it is not related to individuals but to the THINGS God has chosen to confound the wise in the sharing of this great and glorious gospel message that honors Him in those who hear it and respond to it in repentance and believing faith.

  8. Paul probably says “things” in order to make a general statement about how God operates (the way it is worded in the Greek is “ta mora” … the foolish [things], etc The noun in missing, but understood.). But in the immediate context Paul is describing how various people respond to the Gospel.
    It is also significant that he goes on in the next chapter to describe the nature of his own ministry, and the power of the Holy Spirit “that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (I Cor. 2:5). Their faith was the result of something that the Holy Spirit did.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s