Contend Earnestly: Total Depravity - Opposed

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Total Depravity - Opposed


By Nate Asper

Alright, now it all starts for real. The actual debate. Let me restate for those who have not kept up with everything that I am opposing Calvinism but am absolutely NOT and Arminian. There are more views than just those two.
Realize also that the Calvinist doctrine rises and falls on Total Depravity.

I believe a mountain of evidence exists to show why we are not totally depraved. Again, we are keeping this debate as short as possible while trying to cover a lot of ground feel free to comment though Seth and I may move along before all comments get answered. Thanks to all for your interest and participation. There are certainly less productive things one could do with their time than search the scriptures. This post may be lengthy, though I see Total Depravity as the key to this whole debate so trust me, shorter posts will follow!

Basically a quick definition of Total Depravity as I understand it. Man, after the fall, is no longer capable of believing the gospel. He cant repent as he is "dead." He cannot choose God, save for God's irresistable grace. I think this is the basic idea. Now, there is so much wrong with this that it may take me a while to sift through it, so bear with me. Let's start in Genesis. Adam and Eve sin and God gives his curses. Earlier, he states that "in the day ye eat thereof, thou shalt surely die." After the sin, God further explains his judgments. He touches only on the aspects of physical death, a "return to the dust." He also guarded the tree of life so they could not live forever. Now, if they had been rendered spiritually dead, wouldnt this appear somewhere in the curses. If this Calvinist doctrine is true, then God does not even come close to telling man the whole truth. Throw out Romas 5 as well, since their is absolutely no mention of spiritual death here. "Death passed upon all men." True, though based on what God said we have to say this a physical death. I know you all want to claim the spiritual death here, but to say so is only possible when one reads ideas into the text.


Now, let me clarify a few things. I do believe spiritual death has its roots in the garden of Eden. I believe that spiritual death is important, but we need to look closely and take things within their context. I have heard scores of Calvinist use the "corpse" logic when explaining total depravity. Dead people cannot respond to life saving medicine and so on.
Likewise, the spirtually dead cannot respond to the gospel without a miracle. A quick side note...please stop using this analogy!! It is so bad. Remember, a corpse also cannot respond to poison. Or a gun shot. A spiritual corpse would not then be completely immoral, but rather, completely ammoral. The truth is, we are not spiritually dead but we have a sin nature. The innocence of man was lost when he ate of the fruit. We are born sinners. The Bible says we are sinners from the womb. Paul states several times (many in Rom. 6) that we are "slaves to sin." Now we cant be slaves and be dead. We are born slaves to sin because of our sin nature.
Remember, take the Bible in its full context. Dont jump on the Eph. 2:1 bandwagon too quickly because you ingnore too many other scriptures that use metaphors that would contradict your conclusions. These must work together, and I will show you how during this argument.

Let's take a look at spiritual death. What is it? Well, spiritual death does indeed exist though it is referred to as "the second death" in Revelation 20:14. Spirtual death and physical death work together. When we physically die, we will face judgment for our earthly actions. Those who have not accepted Christ will be cast into the lake of fire...the second death...spiritual death. Spiritual death is an eternal death. The concept taught is two deaths for the unsaved, one for the saved. Otherwise we would certainly read "third death" in Revelation. The original spiritual death, the physical death and the final spiritual death of being cast into hell.
Spiritual death occurs after death though it is a sentence from birth. This is very very important to understand. We are born sinners which carries a payment. This is where Romans 6:23 comes in. Earlier in Rom. 6 we were "slaves to sin" then freed, and finally we read "the wages of sin is death."
Spiritual or physical? Well, both. The bigger issue though is certainly spiritual death, though neither can be escaped. We will all die physically, and all have since being denied the tree of life. That is a given. But not all will die spiritually, which is why this verse is so vitally important.
The wages of sin is death...eternal separation from God in hell. Wages of course, speaks of a payment or penalty. What we earn, so to speak. When we are born in our sin nature, we are automatically sentenced to death (I'm talking spiritual death). That is the meaning of Eph. 2:1 when we were "dead" in trespasses and sins. We certainly were, in that we were sentenced to eternal death because of our sins. We are as prisoners on death row. We often refer to these sentenced to death as "dead men" or "as good as dead."
You must understand the metaphor and how it relates to the other scriptures.
Biblical understanding of spiritual death clearly teaches that it occurs after physical death as the end result of sin. It is the wages. The payment. It is a simple concept really. We all sin and those who have accepted Christ have His righteousness and he sacrificed his perfect blood to atone and satisfy the debt. We are "pardoned." Those who have not accepted are unable to offer any sufficient atonement for their sins. Their sentence has never been pardoned and the end result..."execution."
Spiritual death and eternal separation from God. I love the way James puts it in 1:14-15 when he says that "lust when it is conceived brings forth sin.
Sin, WHEN IT IS FINISHED, bringeth forth death." It is so clear biblically that death is bot a CONDITION of sin but a RESULT of sin. I must move on.

Total Depravity also makes it impossible to follow scriptural commands. God "commands all men everywhere to repent." How can a perfectly just God lay forth such an unreasonable demand? Many Calvinists have told me that a command does not necessarily imply the ability to keep it. Flawed thinking.
If God gives a command and then threatens to punish those who do not comply that absolutely implies the ability to obey. Remember, perfectly just. The Calvinist should find this a rather vexing situation. Man is so corrupt and unable to repent, yet God then somehow justly punishes man for doing what he is from birth unable to do. This certainly is out of line with God's character.

Even more condemning to total depravity is that Jesus appears to not believe it. In Mark 4:11-12 Jesus speaks in parables as a judgement against the obstinate Jews. They kept his message from being understood by them lest "they might turn and be forgiven." Had they heard the gospel preached
clearly, they might have repented. Jesus also "marvelled" at the unbelief
of his listeners in Mark 6:6. Had he believed in Total Depravity, this would be no marvel to the Son of God at all.

The Bible also teaches about the conscience being seared and the heart being hardened. Paul referes to it when he states that when people who repeatedly sin "sear" their conscience. In I Tim. he is referring to unsaved false teachers. Total depravity would seem to teach hardness of heart from birth but the Bible says it is a consequence of repeated sin. Eph. 4:19 says that they are "past feeling" and have given themselves to greediness and uncleanness.

I will start to conclude by looking at few scriptures. I always hear John
6:44 from Calvinist and that men are only saved when God draws them. They make a point of the Greek word meaning "dragging." This is quite contrary to Calvinist doctrine though if through the irresistable grace the sinner immediately comes willingly. Context context context. Read vs. 45. Every man that hears the teaching and learns of it, comes to God. He is "drawn"
by the Holy Spirit's power which accompanies the Word of God. It seems clear that an "inner miracle" is not what is being talked about here, but rather men come to God when they listen and respond to the gospel's ministry. I Pet. 1:23 and James 1:18 also show that these two men believe that salvation comes through the Word of God, not an "effectual call" or "inward miracle." That is what Paul is saying when he says "faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God. "

I suppose I should wrap it up here. I dont want to go on and on forever, as I want this to be educational and profitable rather than repetitive and tedious. Let me finish by saying this. Take your eyes off the five points of Calvinism for a minute and just look at the gospel. Dont look at with the intention of molding into a philosophical view but rather take it at face value. Total Depravity seems to only function if man is spiritually dead from birth. That is obviously not the case. To believe so is to willingly be fooled in my opinion. The teaching on this is very clear. I often here Calvinists say that we need to take the Bible in its full context and let the bible interpret the Bible. I totally agree. Just make sure you practice this. To believe total depravity and spirutal death from birth is a clear disregard for the context of the Bible.

Until next time...God Bless

Nate

30 comments:

Bnonn said...

Hi Nate. I don't mean to intrude on your debate, and I am not going to presume to do Seth's job for him in responding to you. However, one thing you said in particular is a claim which I myself have fielded and considered at much length:

If God gives a command and then threatens to punish those who do not comply that absolutely implies the ability to obey. Remember, perfectly just. The Calvinist should find this a rather vexing situation. Man is so corrupt and unable to repent, yet God then somehow justly punishes man for doing what he is from birth unable to do. This certainly is out of line with God's character.

I would like you to prove this from Scripture. Since what we know of God's character, and of justice, is derived from Scripture, it follows that you must be able to prove from Scripture that God would be unjust to give a command which we cannot obey. You are claiming a standard of perfect justice, and I'm sure you will agree that a perfect standard can only be found in God's perfect revelation. Certainly it cannot be derived from personal intuition or experience, since we are all imperfect. Therefore, if Scripture does not show that the presence of an imperative necessarily implies an indicative sense, then we simply cannot assume it anyway—much less base critical doctrines upon it. Those doctrines would be founded upon our own speculation, rather than the Bible.

Much of your argument hinges upon the assumption of a standard wherein an imperative implies an indicative, and so it seems of the utmost importance that you can prove this standard from Scripture.

If you cannot prove it, then even if Scripture does not explicitly oppose it, you still cannot assume it to be true. You can only admit to not knowing for certain. We are talking about a perfect standard of justice here, and so if it is not a necessary consequence of scriptural propositions, you would be in essence adding to Scripture—or claiming to be perfect yourself—if you were to assert it.

I am indeed convinced that Scripture establishes quite a different standard than you assume; one which can be essentially summarized in the holiness, the otherness, of God: "who are you, O man, to answer back to God?"

As you are formulating your reply, I would urge you to consider very carefully the commands given by God to Pharaoh in Exodus chapters 9 and 14, and God's own statements about the purpose of these commands in relationship to his plan in Exodus, and his actions in bringing it about. Meditate upon how these demonstrate what he considers just.

Regards,
Bnonn

Adam said...

OK.
What every single Calvinism debate comes down to is this exact thing. Free will. Not just of salvation... or elecion, but of every aspect of the human's life.

Question for the Calvinists. (just a gauge) Can I do anything that God has not ordained me to do? Does man have a true free will? Please answer this. I'm curious.

Adam said...

Sorry,
I am out of town and do not have internet access very much. So I'll leave you with this.

2 Peter 3:9 - 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.

I Timothy 2:1 - I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;

2.For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

3.For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;

4.Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

John 3:16 - For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

17. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world (elect?) through him might be saved.

18. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (seems like a choice)

19. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.(choice?)

20. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

21. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

I John 2:1 - My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:

2. And he is the propitiation for our (the elect) sins: and not for ours (the elect's) only, but also for the sins of the whole world (elect?).

And if you think God thinks that man is totally incapable of obedience and repentence, wouldn't the fact that God is constantly angry, in fact kindled, (I don't need to list the verses) at man because of their choices make him a little inconsistent? I mean, he almost destroyed Israel a few times. YOu may say that we don't understand what true justice is... though I do, because I have the spirit and am enlightened... apparently. A book told me.

I Corinthians 2:9 - But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

10. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.

11. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.

12. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

13. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

14. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

15. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.

16. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? but we have the mind of Christ.

It is obvious through the context of scriptures that personal choice and acceptance of Jesus our Saviour is the method of salvation. And yes, I do believe that the Spirit allows us to know God's versions of right and wrong. As our parents used to say.... we know better. They said that a lot to me.

I hope that gives you just a little to chew on. I also pray that this gets us all closer to God and his book. Have a good debate.

(Nate, I'm secretly rooting for you!)

Ok. I've gotta go. Panera is kicking me out! No! No! I don't wanna go! Why are you rubbing my hair, sir? Ouch! Arrrgggghhhhhhhh...

Seth McBee said...

Adam.
You must be speaking of the Arminian view of Libertarian Free Will. Where we can literally do whatever we want to and God cannot intervene with our decisions. This is unbiblical and never found in Scripture. Actually, as I have stated before, through Scripture it shows us just the opposite.

Genesis 20: God keeps King Abimelech from sinning against Sarah

Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that in the integrity of your heart you have done this, and I also kept you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her.


God did not allow other nations to covet the Israelites land when the left to worship on the mountain:

“For I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your borders, and no man shall covet your land when you go up three times a year to appear before the Lord your God.
Ex 34:24

God also sends nations to punish Judah, yet God still punishes the Babylonians...

Jeremiah 25:8-12

Habakkuk 1:1-11

This shows that our wills are only under the control of God to complete His desires. Isn't this the reason that God can say:

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose
Romans 8:28

How can this be said with confidence if we can literally do whatever we want?

Have you ever read "The Freedom of the Will" by Jonathan Edwards?

By the way the reason that this thinking is now so prevalant is because of the Roman Catholic church's leaving Augustinian theology to an Aristotelian theology. And, of course, Aristotle was a pagan and not Christian.

Our wills and nature is to do just as Gen 6 tells us...to continually do evil.

I will get more in this in my post with Total Depravity.

If you want me to say we have a free will, I will concede, with the addition that although they are free we will always choose evil, unless God intervenes.

Nate said...

Seth, you totally misunderstand Adam and my view on free will. I do not believe that we cannot do whatever we want. I dont believe that at all. I believe God absolutely does intervene. I believe God is completely sovereign and holds all things in his hands. Please dont misunderstand and think that either of us thinks that we are totally free. Earlier, I used a comment about people killing themselves. Do I believe can absolutely intervene and stop someone from killing themselves if He chooses? Absoltulely. I believe He can and that He has. I think what Adam is asking, is do we have a choice (an actual choice) in anything, or does God preordain EVERYTHING. God absolutely doesnt preordain everything, and to claim He does makes him the author of sin. So, I agree with most of what you posted, that God can intervene at any point. The problem I have with the Calvinist view of free will is that is so completely obviously false. We will always choose evil unless God intervenes? I know unsaved people who make good and moral choices. They have chosen right over wrong on several occasions. I've seen it. God tells us so in Romans when he says many people "have a zeal toward God, but not according to knowledge." They try to do whats right and they strive to please God. I believe with all my heart that many people believe they are on their way to heaven because of the good works they have done. Giving money to the poor, going to church faithfully, tithing, offerings, etc. Yet none of these things save the soul. But are these people totally depraved or just ignorant/uninformed?

Bnnon, I wont spend much time on what you said as I think Adam has already said it quite nicely. We have the Spirit and it reveals God's character to us. He lists out several verses very nicely. I think you would all agree with me in saying that God doesnt act just, HE IS just. It is impossible for God not to be just. Seriously, I have spent so much time thinking about where the Calvinist comes from on some of these points. Consider justice...we are all sinners. Everyone. Sin must be atoned for. I cant do it, you cant do it. God could send us all to hell and we definitely deserve it. But he provided a way to avoid this eternal damnation by sending his only son out of his great love for his creation. Jesus dies and paid the penalty with his perfect blood. Even most Calvinist will agree that his death is "sufficient for all" (its the efficiency part that ya'll struggle with). He has laid out an escape from hell and said "Come." Some choose to, some choose destruction. He doesnt send anyone to hell. You know why? Because he is just (luckily mercifully just as well.) The sin debt was satisfied for all (sufficient for all). There is no reason for anyone to die and go to hell, yet some do because they (out of free will) neglect to leave the path of destruction. God then has to do what he absolutely doesnt want to and send them away to everlasting punishment if they die without Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. Like Adam said, God reveals his nature to us. If you need the verses, look back up to his post. If that isnt proof enough for you that God reveals himself and his character to us who are saved then I dont know what to tell you. I do however find it interesting that you admonish me to prove my beliefs from scripture, and only by what it says (which is definitely what we need to do!!) yet most of the Calvinist doctrine seems to be predicated upon reading ideas into the text. I mean, rarely have I seen any Calvinist argue how the five points fit into the Bible. Most of the time is spent on fitting whatever Bible can be crammed into the five points. I have no points, no philosophy to uphold. I have just tried my best to explain the Bible and what it says regarding salvation, depravity, etc. I will continue doing what I can to try to understand the context of each verse and passage that is under scrutiny. As for my quote, I stand by it completely. I have reread it several times and I do not feel the need to change a single thing about it. Again, if you need the verses read back a few posts. There is no sense in my repeating much of the same thing over. It just seems simple though. God commands obedience. We give obedience or we dont. God punishes those who dont obey. It should be so easy to understand unless of course, you allow yourself to be blinded by philosophies. Remember, the Bible is not nearly as difficult as the Calvinist would have you believe. God makes it so easy a child can understand and get saved. I have seen four and five year olds saved. Of course, their faith is better than ours, certainly purer. Anyways, gotta get out of here. Seth, I look forward to your post.

And the ONLY book I encourage any of you to read is the Bible. I apologize if I dont sound to enthused when some of you have asked me or Adam to read certain books. The Bible will interpret itself better than any of those. I fear that many of those books are much of the problem. There is too much "intelligence." Often, man seeks "intelligence" rather than actual truth, in my humble opinion that is.

Seth McBee said...

Nate.
So did God cause sin when He sent the Babylonians? (again Jer 25, Hab 1)

Did God cause sin when He had Joseph's brother's sold into slavery? (Gen 50:20)

Did God cause sin when He predestined Jesus to be slaughtered on the cross? (Acts 2:22,23)

You have to be able to answer these kinds of questions.

As far as people doing good.

Will you agree that all good comes from God? (James 1:17)

Also, Romans 14:23 says that whatever is not from faith is sin.

Romans 8:8 states that those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

We might see things as good...such as a sinner stopping and fixing my flat on the side of the road, but when speaking of a holy, infinite God, it is not.

Test the Scriptures brother. If you are going to take a stance on this please give some answers to these Scriptures.

Thanks again for the interaction.

Nate said...

Seth, let me take a shot at your questions as briefly as is possible. God CANNOT ever cause sin. Ever. It is impossible for God to sin. I believe God allows things to happen. God allows people to sin. As for those scriptures, no I dont believe God caused any sin at all. Again, God is not the author of sin. Did God preordain Adam's sin? Of course not, but he allowed it. I believe a proper interpretation of Rom. 8:28 is that God uses all things, good and bad for the benefit of the Christian. I think the emphasis of the verse is certainly on the bad things though. God cannot cause sin but I believe He can use someone else's sin for some benefit. I'll try and give a real life example. My uncle tells me a story from when he was a boy. He rides his bike to a grocery store with the intention of stealing some candy. He goes in and does, in fact, steal a pocket full of candy. He returns outside to find his bike has been stolen. Now, did God CAUSE someone to steal his bike. No. God cannot violate his own commandments. But God did allow it to happen for some benefit to him. It taught him a principle of sowing and reaping. See, I guess when I look at God and his soveriegnty, I see a God who has control over absolutely everything. He holds everything in his hands. The only reason people do not sin against us more often is because I believe God does not allow it. But when he chooses, for whatever his reason, he can remove his hand of protection and bad things will happen...for a reason. I believe this explains those verses. God was angry because of sin, and so he removes his hand of protection which very may well have been all that was holding back the Babylonians.

I also believe to say God "predestined" Jesus to death is a bit of a stretch of the truth. Now, my Bible says that Peter states "by the foreknowledge" of God. Foreknowledge is different than preordaining. I think maybe the Calvinist has a misunderstanding of God's place in time also. God is outside of time and is not constrained by it. It is kind of outside our realm of thinking as our finite minds cannot really, truly grasp this concept. The calvinist view seems to be that God, before the foundation of the world, ordains and predetermines everything and then BAM! kick starts creation and everything into motion. From there, the plan he ordained unfolds. This is certainly a misrepresentation of Scripture. God being outside of time does not act in time. He is the "Alpha and Omega." He knows the beginning and the end. Again, I believe this concept is outside our human grasp and comprehension. We are subject to living in time and therefore, God must have ordained everything before the worlds were created and then let everything unfold. There are some questions that will never be answered and discussing them would be futile. For instance, why did God even bother creating us if he knew that man would fall? I suppose we can ask him when we get to heaven, but for now we just wont understand that part of God. But we do know for a fact that God cannot cause sin. Causing us to sin would the same as God sinning through us. Just like me hiring a hit man would be commiting murder through him. James 1:13, Numbers 23:19, and Heb. 6:18 indicate it is not possible for God sin.

As far as people doing good, yes I agree with you. Everything that is good is given from God. No argument there, but that was not my point. My point was people can make moral choices. The calvininst position that has been set before me has clearly stated that man, being totally depraved will only choose evil. No other conditions were given. I believe God sees these as "good" things. He doesnt see them as righteous though. They certainly do not validate their sinfulness which is why I believe God sees that persons "good" as vanity. I suppose my point was not to say that man is capable of doing anything righteous without God because I certainly do not believe that. My point was simply to show that man can reason and see the difference between good and evil, moral and immoral. Total depravity, from everything I have seen, paints man as completely evil and unable to do anything but evil. They are unable to see anything but evil and immorality until God opens their eyes. The Bible teaches that man, like I said "can have a zeal that is not according to knowledge" or "being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness." This comes from their ability to see the difference between good and evil though until they hear the truth of the word of God, they wont turn from faith in their works to faith in work of Jesus.

Anyways, I should go for it is late and I am tired. I tried my best to answer and hopefully it makes sense. I will test the Scriptures and will encourage you to do the same. And not just in quantity, but again...in light of the context of the entire Bible.

I may not be back and able to comment until Sunday night or even Monday so I apologize for any inconvenience but I will be going out of town. By then I will be ready with my Unconditional Election argument.

Josh said...

Nate,

I am passing over some comments for now. I mainly wanted to point in a direction of spiritual death and why the Calvinists sees it as he does.

We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.
1 Jn 3:14.

-Passed from death to life is pretty clear here.

But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel- 2 Tim 1:10

-Christ did not abolish physical death, and the spiritual death that is abolished is not your definition of the second death in Revelation, it is the human condition of spiritual death from birth. Notice the antithesis is bringing life though the light of the gospel.

There are stages of death through out the bible. Spiritual death precedes physical death, that is what I think you are missing in your diatribe against TD.
Adam was refused the tree of life because it was the spiritual fount.
Adam became that plucked flower, that once removed from the source of nourishment (separated, died to) now begins to suffer decay. While it is dead to the source, it is now physically dying until its death is final.

The bible also says that we as Christians are dead to sin, we have died to the law, (Rom 6:11, 7:4)

Romans 8:10 gives a good mini summery: But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

Again, the body is already considered dead.


You said: I also believe to say God "predestined" Jesus to death is a bit of a stretch of the truth.

Jesus says His death was the express will of His Father before time began, or as we say predestined

( Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done
Mt 26:42.

21 pFrom that time Jesus began to show his disciples that qhe must go to Jerusalem and rsuffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on sthe third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord!4 This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, t “Get behind me, Satan! You are ua hindrance to me. For you vare not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
Mt 16:21-23.

27 s “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, tsave me from uthis hour’? But vfor this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then wa voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, x “An angel has spoken to him.” 30 Jesus answered, y “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 31 zNow is the judgment of this world; now will athe ruler of this world bbe cast out. 32 And I, cwhen I am lifted up from the earth, dwill draw eall people to myself.”
The Holy Bible
Jn 12:27-32.

6 “For hGod so loved ithe world,1 jthat he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not kperish but have eternal life. 17 For lGod did not send his Son into the world mto condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him
The Holy Bible. Jn 3:16-17.



You have some misconceptions about Calvinism that you are working with:

You: I think maybe the Calvinist has a misunderstanding of God's place in time also. God is outside of time and is not constrained by it.

-We agree God exists outside the timeline.


You:The calvinist view seems to be that God, before the foundation of the world, ordains and predetermines everything and then BAM! kick starts creation and everything into motion. From there, the plan he ordained unfolds. This is certainly a misrepresentation of Scripture.


-Show me that from scripture then.

You: For instance, why did God even bother creating us if he knew that man would fall?

-Calvinism actually answer that


You: The calvininst position that has been set before me has clearly stated that man, being totally depraved will only choose evil. No other conditions were given.

-This is not a full definition. Total Depravity means that man in all his faculties is sinful. We are not saying men are as evil as they could be. So, Ghandi's religion while "good" among mankind, was not "good" to God since it is devoid of faith in Christ. We do not ignore that men do "good" things, we qualify the "good" through the magnifying glass (Christ).


You: Total depravity, from everything I have seen, paints man as completely evil and unable to do anything but evil. They are unable to see anything but evil and immorality until God opens their eyes

-Again, you dont have the full picture. Evil is qualified by faith or lack of faith and by the intent of the doer. If Bill Gates gives 100 million dollars to the poor, that is good among men. If his intentions are not of faith or to please God it is not "good" toward God.


In my eyes, the "debate" is not on a solid foundation. Your arguments against Calvinism range from things we actually agree on with you to you working against misconceptions.

Bnonn said...

Hi Nate. I won't clog things up with too much verbiage, as I am not seeking to engage and refute your points here. I don't think that would be fair on you, given your role in the debate already. I just want you to consider your position carefully; especially some of the assumptions upon which it relies, which I believe you have read into Scripture because they seem so intuitively correct to you, even though they are not actually present.

With that in mind, permit me to list another example:

God CANNOT ever cause sin. Ever. It is impossible for God to sin.

The first sentence I absolutely disagree with, because the Bible clearly refutes it by showing us numerous examples of God both pre-ordaining, and causing, sin. Some of them have been alluded to already.

The second sentence I absolutely agree with. It is impossible for God to sin; in fact, the concept is not even coherent. But what does your first sentence have to do with your second?

Now, I know that you conflate them and consider them to be effectively identical in meaning; that is, you think that for God to cause sin is for God to sin. But again, you will not find this in Scripture. I submit that you are committing a category error, because it seems to you intuitively obvious that to cause sin is to sin. I won't elaborate further here; I am just wanting to highlight and challenge some of the implicit assumptions you are making, perhaps without realizing.

Regards,
Bnonn

Bob Hayton said...

Can I weigh in here?

Nate, I appreciate your spirit. Please listen to this if you would.

As Bnonn and Seth have pointed out, it seems you are basing a large portion of your argumentation on assumptions and logic, and not on Scripture. You claim Calvinists do this, and I suppose all of us fallen humans are especially prone to it.

Now for a few points. (Feel free not to respond directly, as I know more posts are forthcoming)

1) Seth lists some verses and says you need to answer them. You answer by saying "God CANNOT ever cause sin...."As for those scriptures, no I don't believe God caused any sin at all". I looked in vain to find you telling us what the verses cited DO say. Instead I found you taking your assumption "God cannot cause sin" and concluding that the verses cannot mean this. You then say God can use sin and turn it for our good (none of us dispute that, mind you), and you provide a nice personal example. Again no scripture or dealing with the scripture at hand.

2) On the Jesus' death being foreordained question, you pit Scripture against Scripture. The Peter reference says "by the foreknowledge" yes. But what of Jesus' statements referred to above and also Acts 4:28b. Also Jesus is called the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. Now was the death of Christ on the cross a response to what men did? Or was it part of God's perfect plan? Was God merely responding from his timeless seat or was he acting in all of this? What says the overall tenor and context of Scripture?

3) Regarding God's plan and his timelessness, Eph. 1:11 says God "works all things according to the counsel of his will". God is the prime mover, the One who works ALL things. Yes there is mystery to all of this, but the timeless God guarantees things, He knows all things, and He asserts that He is the one who does many things, indeed works all things. God had a plan and God continues to work out his plan, even to the extent of working in us believers to do and even to will to do (Phil. 2:13). Indeed Paul says he does not do his own work but it is the grace of God which works in him to do it (1 Cor. 15:10)

4) Bnonn touched on your providing proof that God can't sin. We agree, the issue is if He causes sin. And on this point, your illustration of a hit man is helpful. Ultimately, whether your Calvinist or Arminian, if you believe God is omnipotent and omniscient, then you have to admit God is in some sense responsible for sin. If I am given a prophecy that if I hire Jim, he will absolutely kill all my other employees, and then I go ahead and hire Jim, am I not responsible for their deaths? God knowing that sin would happen through His creation, could have averted it all but didn't. He could have chose to create a world where all had equal access to Scripture and the Gospel, but He didn't.

5) With the spiritual death issue, Josh brought up some good verses. But consider this, Scripture abundantly testifies, especially in John's writings, that we receive life when we get saved. Why? Because we had no spiritual life, we were spiritually dead. This is the breath on the dead/dry bones in the valley mentioned in Ezekiel. This is the stony (dead) heart being removed and a "fleshly" heart (ie living) being put in, again in Ezekiel. In Eph. 2 there is more than just the mention of death, there is the mention of "being made alive". How does that fit with death is a potential thing we were rescued from? The emphasis on the word "life" in Scripture is not so much that this life never ends, but that it is a special quality of life that we did not experience before. We ARE alive, we HAVE life, we have been passed from death to life (Jn. 5:24), we have abundant life, etc.

6) One more thing about depravity is this: just discounting the spiritual death idea (I don't agree you did), doesn't discount TD. How does the description in Gen. 6 of the preflood world fit with the man can do seemingly good things? Beyond that, you still have not dealt with Rom. 8:7-8 -- natural (in the flesh) man cannot please God. And 1 Cor. 2:14 -- natural man is not able to understand the things of the Spirit of God. In both cases man needs the Spirit. Or how does Satan's blinding the unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel fit in with this (2 Cor. 4:4)? With John 6:44 you neglected Christ's own commentary on that phrase. Jesus explains the unbelief of some in spite of the life-giving quality of Jesus' words in terms of no one can come unless it is "granted him by the Father". See vs. 63-65, better yet read the whole section there in John 6.

7) Last, and perhaps most important, your whole post is depending on the assumption that all the many commands to repent and believe must necessarily imply that every man can repent and believe. Now, Rom. 9 was given by someone else, but consider the greatest commandment. We are to love God with all our heart and soul, etc. Are you capable of obeying that? Fully? All the time? NO. Yet when you love God half-heartedly, or when you momentarily love sin more than God, are you not still justly guilty of sin? God's law CANNOT be kept by any man. That was the point. It leads us to Christ. Is God wrong for punishing man for breaking the law he can't keep? You make it sound like God only punishes us for failing to repent and believe, but Scripture makes it clear that for the very sins we do, it is for those that God's wrath is kindled and for which we will suffer in hell. Sure, rejecting Christ is a sin too, but all sinners could feasibly plead a genetic predisposition to sin, if such an argument could stand. And sinners have a genetic predisposition to not want to believe in Christ, in fact they also can't understand the Bible, can't please God, and are blinded by Satan!

Anyways, these are a few of my rambling thoughts. Sorry to leave such a lengthy comment, but Seth did encourage the comments.

Blessings from Jesus,

Bob

David Ponter said...

Hey,

Just to clarify, because I see some confusion of terms here. Nate is right, God never causes sin. Consult any standard Systematic, Turretin, a' Brakel, Heppe, Berky, etc.

The standard take on this from Augustine on is that God can never will sin directly. He can only will to control it. I suspect now that perhaps Bnonn didnt understand my reference to concurrence. Sin is never a production of God in a symmetrical manner in which righteousness is a production of God. For the latter, we praise God, never man. For the former, however, he blame man, never God.

God always and only ever permits sin by a willing permission. Sin is never outside of God's control, but he never effects or produces it.

Thus if one is going to use the language of causality with regard to sin, note that the term is being used equivocally, as the causation of righteousness and all good things, is not identical (ie univocal) to his "causation" of sin. Gordon Clark likes to use the distinction of cause and author. This helps a little, but it still can lead into dangerous ideas.

The language of the Westminster is not causal, but that of control and governance.

Dont be too zealous in your calvinism such that you end up converting God into a arbitrary Being.

David

David Ponter said...

Nate said: I also believe to say God "predestined" Jesus to death is a bit of a stretch of the truth. Now, my Bible says that Peter states "by the foreknowledge" of God. Foreknowledge is different than preordaining. I think maybe the Calvinist has a misunderstanding of God's place in time also.

Peter says: Acts 2: 22: "Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know-- 23 this Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.

David says, one cant exclude foreordination. And the next question is, what does foreknowledge mean in Scripture? I think there is a good case to argue that foreknowledge in Scripture does not mean bare prescience.

Nate says:
The calvinist view seems to be that God, before the foundation of the world, ordains and predetermines everything and then BAM!

Paul says:
also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, Ephesians 1:11

David says: To yank a chain here, Nate should reply to Seth and say here that the all things refers to some of all kinds of things. ;-)

David

Seth McBee said...

Nate.
Your understanding of God's sovereignty, whether you like it or not, is a lot closer to Calvinism than anything else. Cause you are right...God is not the author of sin, He does not "make" people sin. He does, however, as you stated, remove His hand to allow men to sin as they wanted already to do...like you mentioned with the Babylonians. Just as God DIDN'T allow the other nations to carry out their usual covetousness in Ex 34:24.

Good explanation of the will described by CALVINISTS!

You also make a difference between good and righteousness. Describing good as being something between to created beings...you have that right once again. I can see Mother Teresa and say that in my eyes, and the children she helped that she was doing good. But, was this righteous in the eyes of God? Not if she did it a part from faith. Again, you are describing the Calvinist doctrine here.

You say that no one can do anything righteous apart from God...that again is Calvinist doctrine. Don't you believe that faith unto Christ is a righteous deed? If you do, then you have to admit, as you have said, nothing can happen righteously apart from God. You have just described John 6:44.

You are proving my points for me.

By the way your view of God and time is very skewed.

Are you saying that God doesn't work within time? God is above time, you are correct there, but He does work within time contraints because His people are constrained by time. If you work your logic out then I have always been a Christian and never under the wrath of God because God works outside of time. We know this isn't true (Eph 2:1-10). I was once a child of wrath, son of the devil (John 8:44) until the TIME I repented.

Why would God go into a description in Eph 1 to tell us "...before thr foundations of the world" if this wasn't to describe to us humans what was going on before time began?

Revelation 13:8 does the same thing with the book of life. It was written before the foundations of the world.

As far as saying that God predestining the cross is a stretch, you need to understand what the word foreknowledge is...I will go over that in my post on election. But, Rev 13:8 also tells us that before the foundation of the world that the Lamb was already seen as slain.

Seth McBee said...

Also, Nate...

How would you interpret Isaiah 64:6?

6 For all of us have become like one who is unclean,

And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment;

And all of us wither like a leaf,

And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

Isaiah 64:6

Seth McBee said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Bob said...

Nate, you made an astounding statement..."Even more condemning to total depravity is that Jesus appears to not believe it."

"Foundations of Grace" by Dr. Steve Lawson page 245-250 lists 9 different ways Jesus spoke to the issue we know as Total (Radical) Depravity.
1. Spiritual Bankruptcy
Matt 5:3 (cf. Luke 6:20)
2. Spiritually Corrupt
Matt 5:21-28
3. Spiritually Decieved
Matt 7:21-23 (cf. Luke 6:46)
4. Spiritually Sick
Matt 9:12
5. Spiritually Depraved
Matt 12:34-35 (cf. Luke 6:43-45)
6. Spiritually Defiled
Matt 15:10-20 cf. Mark 7:14-23)
7. Spiritually Impotent
Matt 19:23-26a (cf. Mark 10:23- 27; Luke 18:24-25)
8. Spiritually Polluted
Matt 23:25-26 (cf. Luke 11:39- 40)
9. Spiritually Dead
Matt 23:27-28

All I've seen so far is a rehash of old canards going back to Augustine, all of which have been refuted time and again over the past 1500 years. Any serious and careful study of Calvinism (Biblical Christianity) would surely put these errors to rest.

Bob Hayton said...

I forgot to speak of 2 quick things. First, another proof text for God's total sovereignty is Rom. 11:36a -- "For from him and through him and to him are all things." Catch that, "from him" are all things, and "through him" are all things.

Secondly, the point about not needing books but sticking to Scripture can be dangerous. First off, if Scripture were truly sufficient in that sense, why did God chose to give us human teachers at all? I mean, why do I need to listen to the preacher if I have my own copy of Scripture anyway? Just as human living teachers are important, God blessed the Church with human teachers in years gone by, and we would be wise to listen to them and learn from them. Further, without some books, we would have no way to read Scripture. We need to understand grammar and language just to read it. Also, if you want to interact with Seth and others here, why not also interact with a few who could make our points better and more clearly? In that vain, I seriously ask you to read this brief pamphlet by John Piper explaining Calvinism. He comes at it from a very Scriptural point of view, and is very helpful in explaining why we believe those 5 points are Scriptural. If you are looking for a Scriptural rather than historical/doctrinal discussion or presentation of Calvinism, you could do no better than Piper's pamphlet. It's available online for free here.

Thanks,

Bob Hayton

Bnonn said...

Ultimately, whether your [sic] Calvinist or Arminian, if you believe God is omnipotent and omniscient, then you have to admit God is in some sense responsible for sin.

Err, not unless you are using a different definition of "responsibility" than I am. Responsibility entails accountability to an authority. Who precisely would that be, in God's case? God is not responsible for anything, because there is no authority higher than him. Perhaps you meant that God is in some sense the cause of sin, rather than that he is responsible for it; it seems you were speaking metaphysically rather than ethically. And of course, if he is indeed active in relationship to all things, as he must be if he is aseitic, then certainly he is active in relationship to sin.

Which, I'm afraid David, makes your statement about God's relationship to sin incorrect:

God always and only ever permits sin by a willing permission. Sin is never outside of God's control, but he never effects or produces it.

God effects all things; if he did not effect sin, then he would be passive in relationship to it. But as Bob has said, from him and through him and to him are all things. He upholds the universe by the word of his power. Not just part of it. Not just the bits without sin. If the human will has an active power besides God, I am sure you will agree this leads us into some rather troublesome philosophical problems.

It looks like I am in disagreement with Seth here also. Perhaps people are too concerned to shield God from sin, as if he needs our help, rather than simply letting him be God.

Regards,
Bnonn

Anonymous said...

Bnonn,

Just to be succinct here.

God does not cause sin, uphold sin, is not the root from which sin grows, the well from which sin pours forth. I don't know if you meant to say this but this is how it comes across.

What am I missing here about your statements?

Regards,

Carrie

David Ponter said...

Hey Bnonn,

Its late here, I will reply in more detail, but that verse is a good one, but just one thing, sin is not a "thing" it has no ontology. So if we are gonna worry about potential philosophical problems, we should worry about that one.

I wondered where you were coming from. Can I ask what Calvinist tradition are you coming from? Church or denomination? Just phishing so I can better frame my response to you.

Thanks
David

Bnonn said...

Hello David; it's late here too, so I will be brief also. I don't really come out of any particular Calvinist tradition, per se. I have not studied much historical Calvinist theology. I come out of a presuppositional background, with an emphasis on epistemology and metaphysics; I have thought hard about the biblical metaphysic, and precisely what it is and what it means.

I agree that sin has no ontology, but the human mind (including the will) does, and it is from the mind that sin comes. If God upholds our minds, then he upholds them moment to moment, which means that he must be the prime metaphysical cause of their every state—which includes sinful states.

That's the position I'm coming from. I don't believe this makes God a sinner (such a concept is just daft), and I don't believe it is problematic in any way. The Bible affirms it quite readily. We are just often overly circumspect when it comes to letting God "get close" to sin; perhaps because we are afraid of accusing him of it.

I look forward to your further thoughts.

Regards,
Bnonn

David Ponter said...

Hey Bnonn,

Are you aware that from Augustine onwards, sin has been described in two ways, first generally, as the absence of righteousness. At this level, then, there is no proper anlogy to the human mind. Concretely, Sin is defined as a attitude of rebellion. You can consult the standards on this like Turretin.

Secondly, let's take "thought" for example. I can have a sinful thought which has a moral dimension to it, a moral agent and person. But would it be proper to say that the synapse or neuron is to be regarded in the same way? Is the physical firing of neural cells the moral agent and equally cuplable?

We have to go back to concurrence. God concurs with the "actions" and their physicality, but he does not cause the sin itself. God sustains a man's arm that strikes, but he is not culpable, morally, for the sin of murder. He never efficiently or directly causes a man to have sinful thoughts. But he will sustain a man by physical concurrence, and this permissively, says Turretin, in the action of sin.

Part of the problem with folk like Cheung, et al, is that they feel the need to create a causal account for every thing in the universal. And here I am using "thing" loosely.

I see you have links to a Reformed Baptist Fellowship on your blog. Do you subscribe to any of the Confessions?

And Our metaphysics must be submissive to Scripture.

Take care,
David

Bnonn said...

Hey David.

The problem with what you're suggesting regarding concurrence is that it seems to only account for the physical. You are treating the mental as if it derives from the physical, and is therefore not concurrent with God's actions. This really does force upon us the question of causality—that is, what causes our own thoughts? If it is the physical, then this still must happen by God's power (it is not as if the physical can give rise to non-physical events by itself!) and so God is still the sufficient and necessary cause. I would maintain that knowledge must be imparted to the mind directly by God; and I infer that this implies that thoughts themselves are also.

I don't think Vincent is wrong to insist on causal accountability for all things. If we do not have such accountability, then we have a genuinely irrational metaphysic. It is not merely mysterious, but irrational; and certainly an irrational worldview is not a true one.

Neither do I think that Vincent is wrong in his formulation of biblical causality; indeed, I can construct a syllogism to prove it. His view is very much submissive to Scripture, but it does step back and let Scripture itself say what it wants to say, without presupposing that there is some inherent problem with God being the genuine prime cause of all things, including sinful thoughts and actions.

All of the objections I've seen to this idea of God being the prime cause of everything—that is, of being genuinely totally sovereign—have been based in the supposition that God cannot cause sin. But I don't see this in the Bible at all. I just don't understand the problem with it.

Regarding the Reformed Baptist Fellowship: yes, I subscribe with virtually no reservation to the 1689 Confession. Their section on the sovereignty of God and the will of man is very carefully worded, permitting a number of views, both infra- and supralapsarian. Although I suspect that I would disagree with the framers regarding the exact nature of God's sovereignty, they have given sufficient leeway that my own view is not outside the bounds of the Confession. As an aside, we recently had Dr James Renihan over here from Westminster Seminary in California, and he lectured through the Confession. It was extremely worthwhile and a great blessing.

Regards in Christ,
Bnonn

Bob Hayton said...

Bnonn,

You are probably more correct. Cause not responsibility.

God is not culpable for sin in any moral sense. Again the standard of moral judgments comes from God himself.

But to merely view God as permitting sin, seems incorrect. God choses to use the existence of sin to further His plans. This seems to be supported by Scripture.

Thanks for the interaction.

Bob Hayton

Seth McBee said...

I am going to steal from Ponter.

Take a look at this from Turretin:

Turretin:

In this question, which all confess to be the most intricate and difficult among those agitated concerning providence, two extremes occur which are equally dangerous and to be avoided. First in defect, wherein an otiose permission about sins is ascribed to God. The other in excess, when the causality of sin is charged upon God. The former clashes with the providence of God, but the latter with his justice and holiness. Into the former, the Pelagians, who refer the method of God’s providence about evil to a bare and idle permission, run (as if he put forth no action in reference to it, but only indifferently beheld and permitted it). On the latter, however, the Manichaeans, Simonians and Priscillianists formerly struck who made God the cause of wickedness and of sins. This sinners readily seize to excuse their crimes: as Homer’s Agamemnon, “I am not to be blamed, but Jupiter and fate”… and Lyconides in the Aulularia of Plautus, “God was the instigator, I believe the gods wished it” (The Pot of Gold [Loeb, 1:310-11]). This impiety is indulged by the Libertine of the present time.

The orthodox hold the mean between these two extremes, maintaining that the providence of God is so occupied about sin as neither to idly to permit it (as the Pelagians think) nor to efficiently to produce it (as the Libertines suppose)m but efficaciously order and direct it…

The orthodox hold the mean between these extremes, maintaining that the providence of God is so occupied about sin as neither idly to permit it (as the Pelagians think) nor efficiently to produce it (as the Libertines suppose), but efficaciously to order and direct it. However, in order that this may be readily understood, we must treat of it a little more distinctly.

Second, this permission must not be conceived negatively, as if it was a mere keeping back (anergia) or cessation of his will and providence in evil works (by which God, sitting as it were on a watchtower, should behold only the event of the permitted action and who, therefore, would be left uncertain and doubtful-as the old Pelagians thought and as their followers of the present day hold obtruding upon us the comment of an otiose and inert permission; cf. Bellarmine, “God does not hold himself towards sins positively to will or nill, but negatively not to will” (”De amissione gratiae et statu peccati,” 2.16 in Opera 4:107). But it must be conceived positively and affirmatively; not simply that God does not will to hinder sin (which is an otiose negation), but that he wills not to hinder (which is an efficacious affirmation). Thus the permission involves a positive act of the secret will by which God designedly and willingly determined not to hinder sin, although he may be said to nill it as to the revealed will of approbation. In this sense, our divines do not refuse to employ the word “permission” with the Scriptures. And if at any time they reject it (as Calvin, Beza and others), they understand it in the Pelagian sense of otiose”permission” which takes away from God his own right and sets up the idol of free will in its place. Hence Beza: “if by the word permission is meant this distinction (to wit, since God does not act in evil, but gives them up to Satan and their own lusts) that I repudiate not in the least. But if permission is opposed to will, this I reject as false and absurd; its falsity appearing from this, that if God unwillingly permits anything, he is not certainly God, i.e., Almighty; but if he is said to permit anything as not caring, how much do we differ from Epicureanism? It remains, there, fore, that he willingly permits what he permits. Will then is not opposed to permission” (A Little Book of Christian Questions and Responses, Q. 179 [trans. K.M. Summers, 1986], pp. 72-73).

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing, 1992), 1:515, 516-517.

This makes complete sense. It is not merely God just permissing the sin...it is under his control, like God did with Satan as he afflicted Job. Continual permission and boundaries

David Ponter said...

Hey Bnon,


Dort 5:4. Although the weakness of the flesh cannot prevail against the power of God, who confirms and preserves true believers in a state of grace, yet converts are not always so influenced and actuated by the Spirit of God as not in some particular instances sinfully to deviate from the guidance of divine grace, so as to be seduced by and to comply with the lusts of the flesh; they must, therefore, be constant in watching and prayer, that they may not be led into temptation. When these are neglected, they are not only liable to be drawn into great and heinous sins by the flesh, the world, and Satan, but sometimes by the righteous permission of God actually are drawn into these evils. This, the lamentable fall of David, Peter, and other saints described in Holy Scripture, demonstrates.

[David, I have separated out the critical clause in this conclusion:]
Dort Conclusion: That the doctrine of the Reformed Churches concerning predestination, and the points annexed to it, by its own genius and necessary tendency, leads off the minds of men from all piety and religion; that it is an opiate administered by the flesh and the devil; and the stronghold of Satan, where he lies in wait for all, and from which he wounds multitudes, and mortally strikes through many with the darts both of despair and security; that it makes God the author of sin, unjust, tyrannical, hypocritical; that it is nothing more than an interpolated Stoicism, Manicheism, Libertinism, Turcism; that it renders men carnally secure, since they are persuaded by it that nothing can hinder the salvation of the elect, let them live as they please; and, therefore, that they may safely perpetrate every species of the most atrocious crimes; and that, if the reprobate should even perform truly all the works of the saints, their obedience would not in the least contribute to their salvation;

that the same doctrine teaches that God, by a mere arbitrary act of his will, without the least respect or view to any sin, has predestinated the greatest part of the world to eternal damnation, and has created them for this very purpose; that in the same manner in which the election is the fountain and cause of faith and good works, reprobation is the cause of unbelief and impiety;

that many children of the faithful are torn, guiltless, from their mothers' breasts, and tyrannically plunged into hell: so that neither baptism nor the prayers of the Church at their baptism can at all profit them; and many other things of the same kind which the Reformed Churches not only do not acknowledge, but even detest with their whole soul.

LBC 3:1 God hath decreed in Himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever come to pass; yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein; nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established; in which appears His wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing His decree.

LBC 5:2. Although in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first cause, all things come to pass immutably and infallibly; so that there is not anything befalls any by chance, or without His providence; yet by the same providence He orders them to fall out according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.

LBC 5:4. The Almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God, so far manifest themselves in His providence, that His determinate counsel extends itself even to the first fall, and all other sinful actions both of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission, which also He most wisely and powerfully bounds, and otherwise orders and governs, in a manifold dispensation to His most holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness of their acts proceeds only from the creatures, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.

LBC 5:6. As for those wicked and ungodly men whom God, as a righteous judge, for former sin doth blind and harden; from them He not only withholds His grace, whereby they might have been enlightened in their understanding, and wrought upon their hearts; but sometimes also withdraws the gifts which they had, and exposes them to such objects as their corruption makes occasion of sin; and withal, gives them over to their own lusts, the temptations of the world, and the power of Satan,]whereby it comes to pass that they harden themselves, under those means which God uses for the softening of others.

LBC 6:1. Although God created man upright and perfect, and gave him a righteous law, which had been unto life had he kept it, and threatened death upon the breach thereof, yet he did not long abide in this honour; Satan using the subtlety of the serpent to subdue Eve, then by her seducing Adam, who, without any compulsion, did willfully transgress the law of their creation, and the command given unto them, in eating the forbidden fruit, which God was pleased, according to His wise and holy counsel to permit, having purposed to order it to His own glory.

Bnon:

The problem with what you're suggesting regarding concurrence is that it seems to only account for the physical.

David: But thats how Concurrence has been regarded. God concurs with the actions, he sustains the actions. He allows the agent to perform the action concurs, upholding him in his being.

Bnonn:
You are treating the mental as if it derives from the physical, and is therefore not concurrent with God's actions. This really does force upon us the question of causality—that is, what causes our own thoughts? If it is the physical, then this still must happen by God's power (it is not as if the physical can give rise to non-physical events by itself!) and so God is still the sufficient and necessary cause. I would maintain that knowledge must be imparted to the mind directly by God; and I infer that this implies that thoughts themselves are also.


David: I am not treating the mental as if it _derives_ from the physical, but as it is nested, existent, in the physical (or soulical as the case may be). My thoughts are connected with things happening in my brain. I never said those things caused my thoughts. That would be a very dubius theology of mind and person. The person is a soul and a body. The rest of your comment there, therefore, has no bearing on what I have said.

So lets try this. Does God create a sinful thought in the mind of the person? Does he directly infuses sinful thoughts, Bnonn?

Bnonn: I don't think Vincent is wrong to insist on causal accountability for all things. If we do not have such accountability, then we have a genuinely irrational metaphysic. It is not merely mysterious, but irrational; and certainly an irrational worldview is not a true one.

David: Well that is irrational. It is both rationalism and irrational in different senses. I can account for why sin happens: God. God is the remote cause (Calvin) of all things (we are not talking about first causes here, or remote, but efficient and immediate and direct causation). But I cant say that God is the author or direct cause of the mechanics of sin. Do you have to know the accounting of all things for you to always be rational?

Bnonn:
[cut]
All of the objections I've seen to this idea of God being the prime cause of everything—that is, of being genuinely totally sovereign—have been based in the supposition that God cannot cause sin. But I don't see this in the Bible at all. I just don't understand the problem with it.

David: Does cause create, ex nihilo, sin in the mind of the person? Does he directly cause him to have sinful thoughts?

Bnonn: Regarding the Reformed Baptist Fellowship: yes, I subscribe with virtually no reservation to the 1689 Confession. Their section on the sovereignty of God and the will of man is very carefully worded, permitting a number of views, both infra- and supralapsarian. Although I suspect that I would disagree with the framers regarding the exact nature of God's sovereignty, they have given sufficient leeway that my own view is not outside the bounds of the Confession. As an aside, we recently had Dr James Renihan over here from Westminster Seminary in California, and he lectured through the Confession. It was extremely worthwhile and a great blessing.

David: the confession (see above) affirms permission of sin. Take a good look at the conclusion of Dort. It is the famous “eodem modo” clause. Sin is not caused in the same manner that God causes belief etc. The “causation” has to be equivocal. To say it is univocal is just blasphemy
Bnonn

Bnonn said...

Seth, David: I am not sure you understand my point. Let me try to elaborate by answering a question David puts to me—

Do you have to know the accounting of all things for you to always be rational?

In the case of the Christian worldview, the answer to this question must unequivocally be yes. If things can occur apart from God in some way, then he is passive in that relationship, which is contradictory to his nature. A self-contradictory worldview cannot be true.

On the other hand, if God is completely active in relationship to all things, then it is pointless to try to distance him from sinful acts and thoughts, because these things also must be passive in relationship to him. They have their cause in something; if it is not in him, then we are affirming that something else is active in a primary, metaphysical sense, apart from God.

I think you may be misunderstanding what I am suggesting here, though. You seem to be taking it as if the view I am affirming removes secondary causes. This is not so. I am simply being careful to establish that secondary causes are secondary; that is, they themselves are caused, and their cause is God. So David, when you ask me—

Does God create a sinful thought in the mind of the person? Does he directly infuses sinful thoughts, Bnonn?

—your question carries an unstated implication about the mind of a person itself. The scenario you seem to be describing is God coming to this existent mind, and "infusing" a thought into it. But that isn't what I am suggesting. I am talking about a mind which is created by God and continually upheld by him, with all its thoughts, moment to moment afterward. I deny that these thoughts are free from God in the ultimate metaphysical sense, but to characterize them as being "infused" is, I think, to risk badly misrepresenting the situation.

I think it would be helpful in this case to not cloud the issue with what various Confessions state, but rather with what Scripture says. I have already stated that I can find nothing in Scripture to indicate that God cannot be the ultimate cause of sin (remember, I am speaking metaphysically: God is primary and causes all secondary things; sin is a secondary thing).

Does this make God the "author" of sin? Frankly, I find that phrase confusing. Did God "think up" sin, like a writer thinks up a book? Of course. You would agree with that also, since God has decreed in himself, from all eternity, whatsoever comes to pass, before it does (including, of course, sin). But that isn't what is meant by "author" here, is it? As far as I can see, "author" is supposed to mean "originator or creator". But in that case, what metaphysical context is being used? Does God himself sin? No. That is impossible and incoherent. Does God create sinning creatures? Yes. Do these creatures create sins? Yes. Do they do this under the metaphysical causation of God? Yes. Does this make God the creator of sin? Well, he's already the creator of sin by merit of having "thought it up", but one could say he "creates" sins in the sense of being the ultimate cause. The question seems very confused, and people get far too hysterical when the term "author of sin" comes up. We need to clarify precisely what it means.

Regards,
Bnonn

Josh said...

No wonder people avoid Calvinism, you guys are giving me a headache!

David Ponter said...

Hey Bnonn

Bnonn says:

In the case of the Christian worldview, the answer to this question must unequivocally be yes. If things can occur apart from God in some way, then he is passive in that relationship, which is contradictory to his nature. A self-contradictory worldview cannot be true.

David: there is a lot there.

1) “Apart from God in some way...” What does that mean exactly? Outside of his control? Has any Augustinian said sin happens apart from God’s control? No. Has every true Augustinian denied that God efficiently caused sin? Yes.

2) “God is passive”? The entire Christian church has with on voice affirmed that God has not effected sin, by way of an immediate operation. God never tempts, or infuses sinful thoughts or actions. He never wills sin directly.

3) “Self-contradictory.” You have not demonstrated this yet. Can you do that?

Bnonn:

On the other hand, if God is completely active in relationship to all things, then it is pointless to try to distance him from sinful acts and thoughts, because these things also must be passive in relationship to him. They have their cause in something; if it is not in him, then we are affirming that something else is active in a primary, metaphysical sense, apart from God.

David:
Completely active? What does that mean? God is always completely active, but that does not mean he has to be active univocally in all instances. It is not pointless because if God efficiently causes sin then he is morally culpable.

Bnonn:
I think you may be misunderstanding what I am suggesting here, though. You seem to be taking it as if the view I am affirming removes secondary causes. This is not so. I am simply being careful to establish that secondary causes are secondary; that is, they themselves are caused, and their cause is God. So David, when you ask me—

“Does God create a sinful thought in the mind of the person? Does he directly infuses sinful thoughts, Bnonn?”

—your question carries an unstated implication about the mind of a person itself. The scenario you seem to be describing is God coming to this existent mind, and "infusing" a thought into it. But that isn't what I am suggesting. I am talking about a mind which is created by God and continually upheld by him, with all its thoughts, moment to moment afterward. I deny that these thoughts are free from God in the ultimate metaphysical sense, but to characterize them as being "infused" is, I think, to risk badly misrepresenting the situation.

David: If that’s all you mean at what point do you disagree? I had said God does not effect sin, sin is not a production of God. You denied that. Now if we say God merely sustains the person in all his sinful actions, that is not the same as saying God effects and produces sin, nor does it deny that God willingly permits the sin.

David: But we can also say: God never effects or impels or inclines any person even to the physical action of sin. Do you agree with that?

Bnonn:
I think it would be helpful in this case to not cloud the issue with what various Confessions state, but rather with what Scripture says. I have already stated that I can find nothing in Scripture to indicate that God cannot be the ultimate cause of sin (remember, I am speaking metaphysically: God is primary and causes all secondary things; sin is a secondary thing).

David: Confessions have a service of bounding orthodoxy. On this point, the testimony of the church is in agreement. God only permits sin, he never directly or efficiently effects or produces it. When you apparently deny the historic testimony I want to show you by way of the confessions that you perhaps should think again.

Now, no one denies that God is the ultimate remote cause of sin, but he is not the proximate immediate cause. Adam, for example, was never hardwired to sin. God never immediately caused him to sin. Something happened in which God did not immediately efficiently effect. My suspicion is that you want to say that God directly caused it, else there is no accounting of causality in the Christian worldview, there is some contradictory phenomena which could only be then outside of the control of God. Am I right?

Bnonn: Does this make God the "author" of sin? Frankly, I find that phrase confusing. Did God "think up" sin, like a writer thinks up a book? Of course. You would agree with that also, since God has decreed in himself, from all eternity, whatsoever comes to pass, before it does (including, of course, sin). But that isn't what is meant by "author" here, is it?

David: Wow. You see that’s where you depart from me and the Reformed and Christian tradition. God cannot will sin directly. He can only direct it, contain it, bound it. As Dort said, its blasphemy to say that God is the God causes sin in the same manner that he causes righteousness.


Bnonn: As far as I can see, "author" is supposed to mean "originator or creator". But in that case, what metaphysical context is being used? Does God himself sin? No. That is impossible and incoherent. Does God create sinning creatures? Yes.

David: wow again. God creates sinning Creatures? What do you mean there? He creates something that is unholy?

Bnonn:
Do these creatures create sins? Yes. Do they do this under the metaphysical causation of God? Yes.

David: You have never answered or explained the nature of this causation. You seem to be dancing around it as I am reading you.


Bnonn: Does this make God the creator of sin? Well, he's already the creator of sin by merit of having "thought it up", but one could say he "creates" sins in the sense of being the ultimate cause. The question seems very confused, and people get far too hysterical when the term "author of sin" comes up. We need to clarify precisely what it means.

David: So God actually creates sin by conceptualizing? Thats blasphemy Bnonn. Hab 1:13; James 1:17; 1 Jn 1:5 etc. God cannot will, cannot conceptualize sin in some sort of “creative” sense at all. God never gives sin or makes anyone act sinfully. He can only permit it, as Scripture many times affirms.

So lets clarify the nature of this causation: Does God cause sin in an univocal manner in which he causes righteousness? You have not answered this yet.

Take care,
David

David Ponter said...

last line there from me was missing an element: He can only permit it and direct it, as Scripture affirms....

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