Calvin: Free Will Combined With Divine Grace Is Corruption

“We must, therefore, remember what we quoted from Augustine, that some men labor in vain to find in the human will some good quality properly belonging to it. Any intermixture which men attempt to make by conjoining the effort of their own will with divine grace is corruption, just as when unwholesome and muddy water is used to dilute wine.”   [Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin, Translated by Henry Beveridge, Book Two, Chapter 5, Section 15]

The illustration Calvin used in the above quote is very powerful.  It clearly explains what would happen if God’s election had to be combined with our free will choice to accomplish our salvation.  Anytime you combine something that is pure with something that is not pure, the end product is no longer pure.  It is impossible for the pure to remain pure.  God’s election is pure, our will is impure (totally depraved).  So, we can now see that God’s election cannot be combined in any way with our will (even in the most minuscule amount) to accomplish our salvation.  This means that if we have to cooperate (accept the free gift, seek Him, give our lives to Him, ask Him into our heart, etc.) with God in accomplishing our salvation then we cannot be saved.

Libertarian free will is a hot button issue today.  It is the first objection usually posed against reformed theology.  Do we have free will?  If so, in what measure?  If not, are we robots?  Proponents of libertarian free will are very dedicated to it.  In fact, it is nearly impossible to change their mind….only the truth of God’s word can do it.

What do you think if Calvin’s illustration?


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19 Responses to Calvin: Free Will Combined With Divine Grace Is Corruption

  1. Robert says:

    I think that’s a stretch.

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  2. Caleb & Sol says:

    It always surprises me why some people are so forceful to use “muddy water” with the wine of God’s grace. Why not just give God all the glory? I mean, all of it!

    Thanks for your words.

    -Sol
    http://www.calebandsol.com

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  3. Robert says:

    I understand the argument, but don’t think it’s applicable to our salvation. Yes, our salvation is from God, by His mercy and grace, if we accept that gift. He won’t force it on us. The “impure” part of the argument is our own sinfulness. That very sinfulness is that for which Jesus paid the price by dying for us. He washed my sins “whiter than snow” and has removed them as far as east is from west. Because of Jesus’ perfection, he was the perfect sacrifice & has made the “impure” into “pure”.
    Also, going in a different direction, what of examples in the bible of people who Jesus presented a choice to follow Him or not….. The rich man who loved his money more than he loved God?…….. Zacheus (spelling?), who did seek and follow Jesus by choice?……Nicodemus, who did not immediately accept Jesus (but may have later ??)? These people had a choice to make, just like we in modern times do.

    Robert

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    • Tom Shelton says:

      Robert,

      An excellent comment and some very good questions. Let me take a moment to respond.

      You said:

      He washed my sins “whiter than snow” and has removed them as far as east is from west. Because of Jesus’ perfection, he was the perfect sacrifice & has made the “impure” into “pure”.

      I agree. But I have one question for you to think about. What part did you play in the process? All that you have said in the above quote is true but notice it is all of God. In no way is Jesus only doing part of the things you mention. He begins and completes these things because only He is able to. No part of salvation is dependent on us or on any action we must do.

      You said:

      Also, going in a different direction, what of examples in the bible of people who Jesus presented a choice to follow Him or not….. The rich man who loved his money more than he loved God?…….. Zacheus (spelling?), who did seek and follow Jesus by choice?……Nicodemus, who did not immediately accept Jesus (but may have later ??)? These people had a choice to make, just like we in modern times do.

      I believe that all believers choose God. They do so not because God has given them a choice to accept or reject but because God has changed their nature so that they now want to choose Him. He replaces their heart of stone with a heart of flesh….this is regeneration. After a person is regenerated then he will “hear” and understand God’s “offer” of salvation and will choose God. The new nature compels them to do this. All who are regenerate will choose God. God does not force them to choose, He changes them so they will willingly choose Him. This was a hard concept for me to grasp until I read an analogy written by R.C. Sproul.

      The analogy had to do with freeing a slave. The slave had been born into slavery (as Christians are born into slavery to sin). The slave had no knowledge of any other way to live and was content in his circumstances. The slave would even choose to remain a slave if given the opportunity to be free. At some point, the slave is freed and sees the true bondage in which he lived. He now knows what he was freed from and would willingly choose freedom. This is exactly what God does with us and explain how our “choice” works.

      I hope this helps. I you have any other questions or would like some clarification on any point leave a message here or call me and I will do my best to answer them.

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  4. Robert says:

    I commented to you once that Calvinism “cheapens” Christianity. I think I can expound on that a bit now. I still believe that what you are describing is us being robots. Oh, I understand your concept, but I don’t accept it that way. I believe that if we have no choice in the matter, then God did indeed create a bunch of robots & how would robots truly worship & honor God? Even the angels, whom God created, have a choice in that matter (consider Satan’s rebellion). Obviously I can’t speak for God, but wouldn’t He receive more pleasure from those who would voluntarily worship Him? I can create a stick figure made of wood & have it bow down to me, but what good does that do? Here, you will posit that the select few do voluntarily follow God and just too bad for everyone else. Honestly, I just can’t see it that way. If He predetermines some people to be followers and some to not be, then humans don’t have a choice. God calls ALL people and only some will respond positively. There…. I have spoken….Thus sayeth Robert.  Man, this is the most I’ve said in a long time to anyone.

    RTL

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    • Tom Shelton says:

      Robert,

      First I have to address this:

      Here, you will posit that the select few do voluntarily follow God and just too bad for everyone else.

      This is not the way I feel about predestination at all. I hope I have not come across like that. I would much prefer that God saved everyone. The fact that some are not among the elect truly saddens me. I am sure that I have family, friends, and co-workers who will end up in Hell. I would change that if I could but it is not up to me. We are bound to what God’s word says.

      You said:

      If He predetermines some people to be followers and some to not be, then humans don’t have a choice. God calls ALL people and only some will respond positively.

      The Bible teaches that He does predetermine some to be followers and some not to be. It is very clear in Scripture. Here are the some verses that make it very clear. 1 Peter 1:1-2 says “(1) Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, (2) according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you. John 6:37 says “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” John 6:44 says “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”
      Ephesians 1:3-6 says “(3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, (4) even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love (5) he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, (6) to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” All of these verses point out that God does choose a specific group of people who will be saved and, by default, those who will not and that He did it before He created anything.

      Now, are we robots? No, God creates us with a will. The problem is that our will (or you could say our nature) is not free it is a slave. John 8:34 says “Jesus answered them, Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.“. We are able to choose only what is consistent with our nature and that is sin. The bible goes further. Romans 3:9-11 says “(9) What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, (10) as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; (11) no one understands; no one seeks for God.” The freedom we have apart from God is not really freedom at all….we just don’t realize that we are in bondage to sin.

      I know you don’t agree with what I have said but you might find it interesting to know that I raised all the same objections when I was first studying reformed theology. At that time, my goal was to refute reformed theology but as you know, I was not able to do so and I ended up changing my theological beliefs and accepting reformed theology. If you are not careful, you might be on the same “journey” that I had. LOL.

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  5. l3rucewayne says:

    The following is an attempt to distill and to offer a critique of Tom’s argument using what I’ve learned about first-order logic, which is not all that much, though not nothing either:

    Tom’s Argument:

    premise #1: anytime you combine something that is not pure with something that is pure, the end product is no longer pure.

    premise #2: God’s election is pure

    Premise #3: Our will is impure

    conclusion #1: Therefore God’s election cannot be combined in any way with our will to accomplish our salvation

    conclusion #2: “from conclusion #1 it follows that” if we have to cooperate with God in accomplishing our salvation then we cannot be saved.

    —————————-

    My attempt at a refutation:

    Addressing the first premise, the dilemma that either all combined somethings are pure or the end result is impure can be shown to be false by showing even just one way in which would not be the case. Here is a way: if something is pure and purifying, then combining it with something else which the first something would purify could result in a pure result.

    An example it seems to me is how when we are in Christ and Christ in us, it seems to me that though we were impure he has purified us.

    ———-

    Addressing premise #2, I don’t even fully understand what the phrase “God’s election” means in reformed theology. The second premise seems to beg the question on the validity of whatever the doctrine of God’s election is in reformed theology.

    ———-

    I might take issue with premise three depending on what you mean by “will”. In scrutinizing it it brings to mind the philosophical question of whether or not purity or, more notably, impurity can be legitimately used as describers for words like election and will in these contexts. I view will and choice as distinct from motivations. While motivations might be impure, and effect what our choice will be, the choice itself and our will remains distinct from the motivations. A person can choose to say yes to something with impure motivations behind the agreement, but the choice itself remains distinct from that which motivated it. You might correctly say that this objection is playing with semantics, and that you mean to include the concept of motivations in the word “will”. If this is the case then I might object that it is not always the case that our motives have a degree of impurity, though I myself would be more than a little unsure of the validity of my objection. The burden of proof would seem to be on you however to justify the claim that our will is always impure. I think however that I am willing to concede premise #3 for the sake of argument.

    ———-

    There is a bit to say on Conclusion #1. First it seems to me that there is a hidden premise needed for it to follow logically from the first three premises, that premise being something along the lines of:

    Premise #4: an impure end product will not accomplish or lead to the accomplishing of our salvation.

    This looks reasonable enough, though one might try to argue that Christ became impure on the cross and further that this led to the accomplishing of our salvation. Or one might argue that God can use something impure to accomplish our salvation.

    So while the conclusion may not follow necessarily from the first 3 premises, an assumed / hidden premise seems to be all that is needed for the argument up to this point to be valid. However, while it seems to me at least at first glance that if these four premises hold true, then the conclusion does, it seems very likely that at least one and probably more than one of the premises are false. I think this has been demonstrated to be the case, though I can’t be completely sure without hearing rebuttals to my points.

    However I will concede that even if the premises do not hold up, this does not prove the negation of conclusion #1. While all the proofs for something may fail, that does not demonstrate that the something is not so, the conclusion could still be true.

    I however see no reason to try to demonstrate that the conclusion is either false or true. I suspect that it could very well be true and yet free will exist and I be saved, mainly because I am suspicious as to the part that election (whatever its meaning is) plays in our salvation. It seems to me that up to this point the argument is begging the question (avoiding and/or assuming an answer that could be incorrect to, a question.) of whether God’s election is used to accomplish our salvation. And here definitions become important again, what is meant by “our salvation”? There are at least a couple of ways to take the phrase “our salvation” in this context: 1. Our state of being saved. 2. The source, cause or means of our being saved. The meaning here is important I think in considering conclusion #2.

    ———-

    I think that conclusion #2 both does not follow from the premises and is also false in its claim. What it claims follows from conclusion #1 does not follow from conclusion #1. Here it seems the question is being begged as to whether cooperating with God is the same thing as combining God’s election with our will. I do not see how these are the same thing. I think we can Cooperate with God without God’s election entering into the equation.

    And here the argument seems slightly though unintentionally misleading, it strongly seems to me and I think to most Christians that “our salvation” in the sense of “the source, cause or means of our being saved” was accomplished by the saving act of Christ’s death and resurrection paying the price for our sins so that we would not have to. And so considering that, it can feel uncomfortable for Christians to say that people Played a part in “accomplishing their salvation” as it sounds like the claim is being made that we play a part in earning or providing the “source, cause or means” of our salvation. But when “our salvation” is taken to mean “Our state of being saved” then I think free will does play a part in entering into the state of being saved.

    And so to sum up I think conclusion #2 is false in claiming that if it is the case that if we have to cooperate with God in order to enter a state of being saved then it would also be the case that we could not enter that state. And I think that the argumentation in support of conclusion #2 is not valid. A lack of stamina and motivation at the key board prevents me from endeavoring to make the positive case for free will and for its being a part of the picture when one gets saved.

    The nice thing about questions like these is that they are not central to belief in Christianity, so one can change ones mind and still hold to the central truths of Christianity, also I do not think either side of the issue thinks that being wrong on it effects one’s “salvation status” if one is wrong on this issue, so it would seem to be less divisive than some other issues.

    This is the first time I’ve tried to use what I’ve learned of first-order logic to critique an argument like this, so I guess I’d be appreciative of a constructive critique of my critique:-D if anyone feels so inclined.

    [EDIT: In rereading this I am thinking that conclusion #2 may actually be a hidden premise, a correct restatement of conclusion #2 may be the same as above but minus the words: “from conclusion #1 it follows that”. Also though I haven’t given it much thought I wonder if it would be worth challenging the use of or asking the meaning of the word combining when we are not talking about things that can be mixed like substances in a bottle. I’m too tired to give these thoughts any further reflection however, and this comment is clearly long enough.]

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    • Tom Shelton says:

      Bruce,

      I want to mention a couple points here. Let me know what you think.

      You said:

      Addressing the first premise, the dilemma that either all combined somethings are pure or the end result is impure can be shown to be false by showing even just one way in which would not be the case. Here is a way: if something is pure and purifying, then combining it with something else which the first something would purify could result in a pure result.

      An example it seems to me is how when we are in Christ and Christ in us, it seems to me that though we were impure he has purified us.

      I agree with your thought process here but your example does not fit. Here is why. In order to purify us, God must remove all that is impure from us. He begins this process at regeneration and continues it the rest of our lives. Our purification is only completed upon our gaining entrance into Heaven after our death. During our life, we remain tainted by sin.

      Another example of this principle: purification of gold. When gold is purified, it is heated until it melts and becomes a liquid. When it reaches the liquid state, the gold, being heavier than the other things in it, goes to the bottom while the impurities float to the top. It is still impure until some external force removes the impurities. In this case, someone has to remove all the stuff that floated to the top. Then, and only then, is the result pure. This will be the case anytime you combine something pure with something impure. It will remain impure until something, through some process of purification, removes the impurities.

      So, while you are correct that premise 1 can be refuted by showing one example of it being not true, I don’t think such an example exists. I suspect that any example you propose will still require some external force to complete the purification process.
      ———————-
      Next, you said:

      “Addressing premise #2, I don’t even fully understand what the phrase “God’s election” means in reformed theology. The second premise seems to beg the question on the validity of whatever the doctrine of God’s election is in reformed theology.”

      Election in Reformed Theology simply means that God gets to choose who will be saved and who will not. The Bible teaches that He chose before the foundation of the world (see Ephesians 1 & 2). It refers to God’s sovereignty. Some like to call this Predestination.
      ———————-
      You said:

      “Here it seems the question is being begged as to whether cooperating with God is the same thing as combining God’s election with our will. I do not see how these are the same thing. I think we can Cooperate with God without God’s election entering into the equation.”

      If you have an understanding of God’s election then you will see that co-operation is not possible. God’s election is, by definition, a monergistic act. This means that He does it alone. We have no part in it. So, as you can see, if we have to co-operate with God in our salvation then our “salvation” is corrupt and is not really salvation.

      Having said all that, I will say this. I don’t believe that people who hold to the position that we co-operate with God in our salvation are not saved. They can be saved and be wrong about this issue. In the same way, people who hold the reformed position could be wrong and still be saved. Our understanding of any doctrine is subject to being wrong because we are flawed creatures. Always keep that in mind.

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  6. l3rucewayne says:

    Here is my “normal language” response.

    If all glory surrounding being saved goes to God only if there is no free will, then wouldn’t evil seem to diminish that glory as it did not come about by free will but happened neccessarily from creation? it seems free will gets around that problem, furthermore it glorifies God in that he was able to give us such a gift and in that he for some reason chooses (using free will?) to respect our choices sometimes by letting us suffer the consequences.

    I do not think it diminishes God’s glory for it to be the case that we must choose to have faith in Christ if we are to be saved. On the contrary I think it glorifies God that he has given us free will and choice.

    I actually find it difficult to understand how a person could believe or love anything apart from free will. It seems to me that free will is an intrinsic part of the act/choice of loving and believing. I think you would have to redefine love and belief a bit to make it work.

    “Anytime you combine something that is pure with something that is not pure, the end product is no longer pure.”

    When we are in Christ and Christ in us, it seems to me that though we were impure he has purified us.

    Also, i may take issue with ascribing impurity to our choice, we may have impure motives behind the choice, but the choice itself is simply the choice.”pure” and simple. Even if our choice is impure, it may be that God’s grace is so great that he may accept our choice anyway, perhaps with the caveat that there is at least some level of authenticity behind the choice.

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    • Tom Shelton says:

      Bruce,

      You said: “I do not think it diminishes God’s glory for it to be the case that we must choose to have faith in Christ if we are to be saved. On the contrary I think it glorifies God that he has given us free will and choice.”

      In salvation, God had three choices. First, He could have saved nobody. This would mean that all people (past, present, and future) would have no hope of salvation and would be destined for Hell. Second, He could have saved everybody. No matter what a person did or didn’t do, no matter how they lived, they would all (past, present, and future) be automatically granted salvation. Lastly, God could some some. This means that some would be saved and some would not. Some would go to Heaven and some to Hell. In which of these three options does God get glory? Not in the first or second because God makes an arbitrary rule and applies it. Only in the third option does God receive any glory.

      Next, we must examine how He accomplishes this option. All people, unless you are a universalist, believe that only some people are saved. The question then becomes, who decides who is saved. Does God get to (election) or do we (free will co-operation)? If we must co-operate, who gets the glory, us or God? We would. God does not share His glory so that should tell us we need to find another option. That only leaves the option that God does it all Himself through His sovereign election of some to salvation.

      I hope this helps clarify things a bit.

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  7. Scott Hollander says:

    Logic and reason are great in debate and crafting arguments. However, if you are going to have a theological argument one can’t just rationalize things away without keeping Scripture in mind.
    The five points of Calvinism are a very logical and rational laying out of Scriptural doctrine using Scripture to define, design and create each point. The steps move methodically from one to five, understanding that God is sovereign and had a distinct purpose laid out before hand that He determined to bring to completion.
    Scripture abounds with text describing man’s heart from conception; man is totally depraved in his complete being. Calvin’s students realized that Scripture said this, hence point one and because point one is true, how could one ever get saved. Hence Scripture speaks of God’s predestination and election making it clear that He chose people to be vessels of mercy, that He changed their hearts and that it had nothing to do with who they were or what they would do. Therefore because of point one, point two is true and because point two is true and God purposed to save His elect, point three shows Him efficaciously atoning for the sins of His people that He purposed to save. There was no wishing, hoping or an open proposal, it was a purposed act with a purposed result. Because point two and three are true, Scripture also shows that both the means are effectual to bring a specific result which is saving Grace. And there is no such thing as potentially saving grace, it is effectual Grace which brings true results. And finally since God purposed points two and three to result in point four He will also keep the change to be effectual until final completion and ultimate sanctification. And this can be so because it never had to do with man’s efforts to begin with, God saves and God secures. All these points are pulled from Scripture and supported by Scripture. Anyone who believes otherwise needs to truly search and study Scripture and pray for true guidance from the Holy Spirit. Just like one can’t convince someone to rationally and logically choose salvation, one can’t debate them into understanding reformed theology. However, no one can use Scripture to disprove or rationally, logically debate away reformed theology and the doctrines of grace because they are, in there very essence, straight from Scripture and completely biblical in premise, argument and conclusion. One would have to argue against Scripture itself to have any other doctrine. Granted there is some theology that is difficult to understand every aspect of it but it is impossible to use Scripture to argue away the sovereignty of God, the doctrines of grace and preservation of the saints. Bottom line is, all else is heresy. I apologize if I seem harsh and matter of fact. I still love people that disagree and I wish that all would come to know the truth. I do enjoy laying out the facts and teaching Scripture but sometimes the other side needs to be a little more diligent in their Bible study before bringing argument against sound biblical doctrine because it doesn’t sound fair or make them feel good.

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  8. l3rucewayne says:

    Scott Hollander, though you didn’t reference me I assume (perhaps arrogantly and incorrectly) based on some of your wording that your comment is a reply to my critique of Tom’s argument, at least in part if not in full, thank you for your reply and thoughts if that is the case. I think it might be helpful to restate the purpose of that comment. The purpose of my comment was not so much to demonstrate through argument that a particular aspect of reformed theology was wrong, as it was to show that the argument presented by Tom in support of some aspect or aspects of reformed theology was not valid (the conclusions not following logically from the premises) and/or that one, some, or all of the premises were false or at least less plausible than their denials. In other words, my purpose was to show that the argument presented by Tom was not a strong argument. I think I succeeded, though I could be mistaken. As I conceded above, though the arguments supporting a conclusion may fail this does not demonstrate the negation of the conclusion. While I think that at least the second conclusion (both with and without the part with quotation marks) is false I decided not to go the extra mile in that comment by trying to make an argument for its being false. I was satisfied to show that the case made so far for it was lacking. Do you agree that I at least accomplished that much? If not, then why not? I think I did.

    You said that if one is going to have a theological argument one can’t just rationalize things away without keeping Scripture in mind. In addressing this I want to say again that I was primarily concerned with Tom’s argument and how strong it was as a whole as it was presented, I was not primarily concerned with debating the validity of his conclusions on their own. I think the strength of Tom’s argument as a whole is a legitimate issue. When it comes to the logical validity of an argument (whether the premises lead to the conclusions) I do not see how consideration of scriptures would effect the outcome of one’s analysis. Where keeping scriptures in mind would effect an analysis would be in determining the strength of the individual premises and conclusions on their own. Tom did not use much scripture in defense of his premises, but I tried to evaluate the premises keeping in mind, as you say, what I knew of scripture. I think I am in agreement with Tom on the issue of whether scripture is valid or not in what it teaches, so within that framework Tom is free to bring in scripture to strengthen his premises, though this may complicate the discussion (it is not always easy to determine what scripture teaches) and would not change whether or not the argument is logically valid as it would not change the premises or conclusions.

    “All these points are pulled from Scripture and supported by Scripture.”

    “However, no one can use Scripture to disprove or rationally, logically debate away reformed theology and the doctrines of grace because they are, in there very essence, straight from Scripture and completely biblical in premise, argument and conclusion. One would have to argue against Scripture itself to have any other doctrine.”

    “Bottom line is, all else is heresy.”

    The above quotations are a list of assertions, with little presented to back them up. As such, for a person’s reply to be of equal strength, it seems to me that all that person would need to do is make the counter assertion that the above quotations are false. But since I am willing to entertain the possibility, small though it seems to me personally, that I am wrong, I will settle for the true statement that I think the above statements in quotation marks are false. I don’t mean to offend, I understand it can be good to make assertions about things one strongly believes, otherwise you might end up with a thousand qualifications in every conversation, I just wanted to point out important aspects of the above quoted statements.

    “Anyone who believes otherwise needs to truly search and study Scripture and pray for true guidance from the Holy Spirit.”

    I think whether or not people believe one way or the other, people can benefit from doing such things.

    “Just like one can’t convince someone to rationally and logically choose salvation, one can’t debate them into understanding reformed theology.”

    I just want to point out that some people have been helped by debate and argumentation in their spiritual journey, my favorite Christian apologist William Lane Craig has some stories of people being helped by his debates with atheists for instance. I think that civilized debate on topics like this one can be useful both in helping others to indeed understand the positions of others, and in helping something to seem an intellectually viable option that might otherwise seem or grow to seem as likely as a flat earth seems to most people. This wholly apart from those cases where argument convinces someone outright of their being in error.

    “I apologize if I seem harsh and matter of fact. I still love people that disagree and I wish that all would come to know the truth. I do enjoy laying out the facts and teaching Scripture but sometimes the other side needs to be a little more diligent in their Bible study before bringing argument against sound biblical doctrine because it doesn’t sound fair or make them feel good.”

    You don’t seem harsh just very committed to your position. However, I am a little worried by the way you talk about it that you could be hanging too much on an issue like this which is not essential to the validity of the Christian faith. I hope that, unlike one person who became an Atheist in large part because (according to him anyway) his unrealistic view of the doctrine of inerrancy was undermined, you are not hanging so much on your view of this issue.

    To address your final statement, I hope that I have made apparent a couple of things: #1: In my critique of Tom’s argument I was not presenting an argument against sound Biblical doctrine, but a critique of an argument in support of an aspect (I’m not sure if it is a whole doctrine or not) of reformed theology (I am assuming Tom has an accurate working knowledge of reformed theology unlike me.). As I have said, this does not prove the negation of that aspect, just that the argument presented in support of it is lacking. #2: I was not presenting my critique because something didn’t sound fair or make me feel good, but because the argument I read seemed lacking to me.

    As with my critique, this comment is clearly long enough without me addressing other parts in your comment, and I don’t have unlimited time and energy. Thanks again for the response :-).

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  9. Seth Ward says:

    Sorry to jump in here; I’ve enjoyed reading the discussion.

    I had to address this comment, ““Bottom line is, all else is heresy.”

    HA! Heresy against whom??? Calvin, the pope? Calvinism? The Scripture according to Calvinists?

    Heresy is a funny word these days, thrown around by christians at one another. It is ironic to note that the biggest protestant heresy in the Catholic Church is not Lutheranism, it is Calvinism.

    NO Protestant has the right to call ANY OTHER Protestant a heretic. By its very definition, the Protestant values personal interpretation of the Scripture Alone above all other things. They are in fact, protected by this very protestant virtue. They have at their disposal several different “popes” or catechisms, i.e. authority figures and dogmas, that provide a paradigm for which to follow if one is tired of wandering on their own and Calvin and Calvinism is one of many, but he is no Pope, nor ultimate authority on scripture.

    For one Protestant to call another protestant a heretic is to shatter on of the very pillars of Protestantism.

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    • Tom Shelton says:

      Seth,

      Thanks for visiting my blog. Feel free to come back and comment anytime.

      As far as the heresy claim goes, I am a bit uncomfortable with it. Heresy is a very serious charge and should not be used lightly. I do not believe that those who do not hold to Reformed Theology are heretics. I do believe they are wrong and pray that they would be shown the truth but I do not question whether or not they are, or can be, true Christians.

      I will also say that I appreciate Scott’s desire to share the truth and his enthusiasm. Christians could all use a dose of enthusiasm when it comes to God and His word.

      Like

  10. l3rucewayne says:

    Tom, thanks for the thoughtful responses. It is a busy time for me, so for now I’ll just address the second response, because it seems easier than the first to me. I could envision God getting glory in all three scenarios, perhaps mainly because I could envision it being the case that with each of those scenarios they could conceivably be enacted with good reasons and not simply by the application of an arbitrary rule. It is not too much of a stretch for me to imagine God having good cause for enacting those scenarios, such as his sense of justice for the first scenario. I could also imagine that the most perfect of beings would have the kind of loving character that might enact such a scenario as the second. Lucky for us God is who He is, perfect, and is the way He is, not how we imagine He could have been, and He is both just and loving.

    It seems to me that without free will, the third scenario seems just as, and maybe even more, arbitrary than the other two scenarios. Wouldn’t it seem kind of arbitrary to save some and not others when they lack free will? Why some? Why not the others? Why elect both people who do good things with their life and criminals to follow Christ? With free will this mix of types of people who choose to become Christians makes more sense to me than if there is no free will.

    On the issue of who gets the glory if free will is in the picture, I think it is pretty clear from experience that when people who believe they are making a free will choice put their faith in Christ they don’t glorify themselves, they glorify God, as do others around them. I trust you don’t think people who believe they have made a free will choice to follow Jesus go around patting themselves and each other on the back because they were so wonderful to make such a good choice. No, they are grateful that God provided a way for them, and they are amazed that God offered the gift of salvation, for them to accept or reject. Personally, at a subjective level, I feel like I would think it more wonderful that God gave us free will and the option to trust in Christ for our salvation, than if we had no free will and some were just elected and some weren’t. As I said above such a scenario seems a little arbitrary to me.

    Lastly, I wonder myself if God does share His glory, in a sense anyway. Thinking about it just briefly it seems likely enough to me that your right, but in the back of my head I think of half remembered verses about us being in Christ and verses about us (or one or more of the apostles at least) receiving glory in heaven. Wasn’t there some verse that said something along the lines of since we have shared in Christ’s death we will share in His resurrection, and maybe it went on to say or said elsewhere that we would share in other things also? Like something along the lines of being heirs in Christ. Do you know if those verses mentioned us sharing in everything or a lot, including glory? I can’t remember. Anyway, it seems a somewhat separate issue to me, as I’m not convinced that we get any of God’s glory for believing in Christ, and this seems a good place to end my comment before it drags on too much longer. I’ll try to get around to the other comment soon, though it might be later than Friday, but hopefully by Saturday and hopefully no later than Monday.

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    • Tom Shelton says:

      l3ruce,

      First, lets understand that nobody will freely choose God. There is nobody who wants to go to God in their natural state. Our (all humans after Adam & Eve) natural state is one of slavery to sin. John 8:31-34 says “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, (32) and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (33) They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” (34) Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.Psalms 53:2-3 says “God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. (3) They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.” The point of these verses are to show that the Bible teaches that there is no one who will freely choose God. We can’t and won’t initiate salvation.

      Next, you said:

      It seems to me that without free will, the third scenario seems just as, and maybe even more, arbitrary than the other two scenarios. Wouldn’t it seem kind of arbitrary to save some and not others when they lack free will? Why some? Why not the others? Why elect both people who do good things with their life and criminals to follow Christ? With free will this mix of types of people who choose to become Christians makes more sense to me than if there is no free will.

      The choice God makes to save some and not others is not arbitrary. This is a common objection of those who reject God’s sovereignty in Election. The Bible teaches us that the God’s choice is not arbitrary. We don’t know why God chooses some and not others but we are told that He does it according to his purpose. Ephesians 1:3-10 says “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, (4) even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love (5) he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, (6) to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (7) In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, (8) which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight (9) making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ (10) as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” You can see that just because we don’t know the reason it is not an arbitrary choice. God has a purpose in who He chooses.

      You said:

      On the issue of who gets the glory if free will is in the picture, I think it is pretty clear from experience that when people who believe they are making a free will choice put their faith in Christ they don’t glorify themselves, they glorify God, as do others around them. I trust you don’t think people who believe they have made a free will choice to follow Jesus go around patting themselves and each other on the back because they were so wonderful to make such a good choice.

      Let me clarify a bit here. If we were to have a part in our salvation via accepting God’s gift then it would give those who chose God a basis for boasting over those who didn’t choose God. It would be an item of pride for them and they would thus be glorifying themselves. With God doing everything in salvation He gets all the glory and those chosen will have a proper understanding of who they are in relation to who God is. They will understand that they have no reason to be prideful.

      I hope this was helpful. I want to again suggest that you read R.C. Sproul’s book Chosen By God. It is a small book and an easy read and it will give you a much better explanation of these things than my attempts have.

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  11. l3rucewayne says:

    Tom, finally getting around here to responding to your response to my first response to your post (lol). I think I’ll address your points in order of perceived difficulty.

    It may well be that an accurate understanding of God’s election as it is described by Reformed Theology would lead to the conclusion that co-operation is not possible with God’s election, but I think you misunderstood my point. I was saying that I don’t think that cooperating with God is the same as combining God’s election with our will. I am suspicious as to the validity of the doctrine of God’s election as it is understood in Reformed Theology. If it is the same thing as what I understand the doctrine of predestination to be in Calvinism, which I think you indicated, then I guess I am more than suspicious. I do however think that we can cooperate with God, and I don’t see this as identical to combining our will with God’s election, and so I don’t think any inability to do the latter means an inability to do the former, hence I don’t think conclusion #2 follows logically from conclusion #1.

    I think the example of us being purified in Christ is a good example. Also I think we are purified in Christ while we are on this earth, before our bodies die. I am wondering about a thing or two though with regards the discussion surrounding premise #1. What exactly do we mean by “combining” here? I understand the combining of physical substances, this seems distinct though from the way we use it when talking of combining our will with God’s election. In the latter case they are not substances mixed together, but rather it seems our will and God’s election would remain distinct and separate during any cooperation between the two, so I think combine is being used in a different sense here. I am wondering if what is going on is what philosophers call a category mistake, I haven’t taken philosophy so I don’t know.
    You seem to say that all examples I can give of something being purified would not be as a result of any combining but rather a result of removing of impurities. I would acknowledge that in our being purified we are purified by the removing of impurity from us, but I think this removal of impurity is accomplished by the combining of things, something impure and something pure and purifying. In your example of purifying gold, there is “combining” of things, namely the external force (purifying) and the impure substance. So I think that without realizing it you may be switching back and forth in your view of what meaning(s) of the word combining can be legitimately used here as you go along, sometimes combining in the sense of mixing physical substances together, and sometimes in the other sense being used which I’m not sure how to accurately put into words. On the other hand, I am a little tired, so I would not be terribly surprised if I made a mistake or more than one in my reasoning.

    Oh yeah, I guess that I should try to address your latest comment also. I guess I am lazy but I have decided not to check my own Bible’s translation tonight (Though out of personal interest I think I’ll try to at some point.) of the verses you mentioned and have decided against endeavoring to debate the meaning the referenced verses tonight, (part of my reason would be a desire to not make my replies too much more lengthy than need be, and to keep the conversation focused on the paths it is on as opposed to new ones.) I will settle with saying that my experience leads me to assume with confidence that your views on the meaning of the referenced verses are not the only views held by many respectable theologians, and further that due to this the differing viewpoints are often debated and so are… debatable, and I further assume that you realize that these things are quite debatable. So I’ll settle for that as a response I guess as to the referenced scriptures.

    I think I would agree that if the Calvinist view on predestination were correct then God’s choosing would not be arbitrary. Along with my other reasons though for not agreeing with the Calvinist view on predestination, that it is difficult to see how the scenario would not involve arbitrary choosing by God where only some get chosen and where there is no free will, makes it seem more likely to me that such a scenario is not in fact the case. To rephrase, I think if it were the case then God’s choosing would not be arbitrary, but that it is difficult to see how God’s choosing would not be arbitrary in such a case makes it seem more likely to me that such is not in fact the case. I’m not quite 100% sure how rational or irrational that is, but it seems reasonable to me, so there you go.

    If we play a part in entering into the state of being saved then it may provide an ILLIGITIMATE bases for boasting, but certainly not a legitimate basis. Such a thing does not seem to me to merit boasting. If it became a point of pride for Christians then those Christians would seem to have a problem with pride, as it seems to me that it should not be a point of pride. People might glorify themselves but I think it would not be taking away God’s glory so much as basking in false, self generated illegitimate glory, in other words not real glory at all. I don’t think that God refuses to allow us to boast without good basis or to take pride in something without good basis or to “glorify” ourselves illegitimately. Such things may be sin, but God allows us to sin sometimes with our making bad freewill decisions. And so the possibility that some might do such things would not it seems to me cause him to not give us free will. Now if you are saying that God Himself would have good cause to glorify us for choosing to believe, that would be his prerogative, it reminds me of that verse about God saying well done my good and faithful servant. I think He does give glory, I recall vaguely some verses which seem to make this pretty explicit, but this is different from sharing His glory it seems to me, (and see a previous comment for my musings on whether He shares His glory) as it is more along the lines of giving people glory without God losing any of His own. Also I don’t think the receiving of glory given by God would necessarily be basis for pride. Lastly if God does give Christians any glory for the act of choosing to believe in Christ (On a side note, I think that even if no one would freely choose God and to believe in Christ on their own as you say is the case, [and I am currently divided/ambivalent somewhat on that issue] I think that with the Holy Spirit’s help and enabling they can, and this does not seem to me to do away with free will.) I suspect that the glory might be of a very small amount. I am quite tired now, and so perhaps particularly with this last section of my comment I may end up disagreeing with myself on some things tomorrow.

    I feel this has been helpful in that I am getting a better feel and idea of what Calvinists believe, so thank you for the dialogue. I will definitely remember the title of that book if I ever get motivated enough to read up on the views discussed.

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