Free Will Synergism vs. Free Grace Monergism

I originally posted this link back in February 2011.  In light of the recent debate about soteriology in the SBC I thought I would repost it today.

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Here is a link to a nice short summary of the difference between the synergistic view and the monergistic view of salvation.  Scripture references are included.  If you are unfamiliar with the difference between the two take five minutes and read this and you will have a better understanding when done.  It is my hope that it may even inspire you to do some more research into the subject.

God’s Sovereignty Is The Basis Of Evangelism

Have you ever considered on what basis Christians can evangelize the lost?  Now think about it a moment before you blurt out something like “because God tells us to”.  That is a true, God does indeed command us to evangelize but that does not address the basis for the evangelism.  So, what is the basis?

Alan Kurschner answers this question in this post over at Alpha & Omega Ministries.  He starts this way

God’s sovereign election is the only basis by which any believer has confidence to evangelize the lost. We do not know who the elect are in this lifetime, but what we do know with certainty is that there are elect out there.

All Christians, if they believe the Bible, must agree with this.  Read the rest of Alan’s post to see how he further explains this.  Let me know what you think.

A Voice of Reason Concerning the Rise of Calvinism in the SBC

Jared Moore has written a response to a short video posted by Peter Lumpkins.  Lumpkins spends a great deal of time and effort on his blog decrying the rise of Reformed Theology in the SBC.  Personally, I think his concerns are all overblown.  In the video, Lumpkins mentions that 90-95% of the SBC is not Calvinistic and he wonders why the Convention has elected so many Calvinists to positions of denominational leadership.  Moore challenges Lumpkins assertions and gives some statistics refuting them.  He concludes with this:

The truth is that Calvinism is NOT a threat to Southern Baptist life.  Contrary to what Peter is arguing, Calvinists are not taking over the SBC.  There is room for both groups.  Why can’t the gospel be our emphasis, instead of winning others to our theological systems?

I believe there is room in the SBC for Calvinists, Arminians, Biblicists, or any group who affirms the Baptist Faith and Message.  I further believe that these could exist within the same congregations.  I believe theology is important but the Gospel is what should unite us.

Watch Lumpkins’ video and read Moore’s response and tell me where you stand.

A Primer on Limited (or Definite) Atonement by Justin Taylor

Justin Taylor has posted a primer on Limited Atonement on his blog.  In it he summarizes the arguments of John Owen from The Death of Death in the Death of Christ,  Lorraine Boettner in The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, and John Piper from his Desiring God website.  If you have ever wondered about this doctrine this post will help you get a better understanding of it.

Take the time to read it and let me know what you think.

John Piper On “Why We Love The Doctrines Of Grace”

In this short post Piper gives us a great deal to contemplate.  If you hold to the Doctrines of Grace (Reformed Theology or Calvinism, if you prefer) then this post really helps put what we believe in perspective and does it in a succinct manner.  If you do not hold to the Doctrines of Grace, this post should give you some things to ponder or contemplate.  As you consider this, turn to the Word of God and see what it says.  I encourage you to do so.  It will be time well spent.

Five Reasons We Should Study Theology

For many people the study of theology is unimportant.  They think it is boring.  They think it does not affect them.  Some think that studying theology is a task for ministers only.  You can probably think of several more reasons you have heard, or used, as to why people refuse to study theology.  These reasons are all false.  We all need to study theology.

In this short post, Nathan Bingham gives five reasons why we should study theology.  I just found this blog and don’t know anything about Bingham but the reasons he gives are clear, concise, and will make you think.  After reading his post, let me know if you agree or disagree with what he says.

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?


Is Matthew 1:21 A Valid “Proof text” For The Reformed Believer Or Not?

One of the verses that I often cite when explaining my transition to a reformed theological position is Matthew 1:21.  The context of his verse is an angel telling Joseph that Mary has not been unfaithful to him and that the child she is carrying is of the Holy Spirit.  The angel tells Joseph what to name the child and for what reason the Holy Spirit has supernaturally impregnated her.  See for yourself:

Matthew 1:18-25 (18) Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.  (19)  And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.  (20)  But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  (21)  She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  (22)  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:  (23)  “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).  (24)  When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife,  (25)  but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

Verse 21 conveys a very specific message.  It says that “He will save His people”.  Note that it does not say that” He will make them savable” or “He will make salvation possible”.  I need to make this distinction because of an article recently posted over at Society of Evangelical Arminians under the title of “Matthew 1:21:  How Calvinists Blind Side A Text“.  As you can imagine, the title caught my eye so I read it.  It is a short article but it gives a good understanding of what the Arminian postition is.  The Article starts with the following paragraph:

One of the more inane prooftexts for Calvinism is Matt 1:21, “…for he will save his people from their sins.” Calvinists argue that this is a statement of definiteness, that it does not say that Jesus will merely provide the opportunity of salvation for “his people,” but instead, that Jesus will definitely save his people. They claim that this flies in the face of Arminian assertions that through Jesus, God provides a way for everyone to be saved.

The quick Arminian retort is simple: “What!? Do you Calvinists think that Arminians deny that Jesus will definitely save his people??? Of course, we Arminians affirm that Jesus will definitely save his people, just as the text says.”

The author correctly and briefly begins by stating the Calvinist position on this verse.  (For those who might be wondering the word inane means:  lacking significance, meaning, or point, i.e. silly).  He also addresses a common objection Calvinists present to Arminianism:  that in Arminian theology Christ’s death only makes salvation possible, it does not directly save anyone.

In my own personal experience, which includes believing in this way myself and then, once I accepted Reformed Theology,  discussing this topic with others who still hold this view, most will say the same thing the author does.  They will quickly and easily affirm that Jesus’ death will save His people.  But, when questioned on specifics of how, most actually come to the position that Jesus’ death only makes salvation possible.  At which point most who believe this way no longer want to continue the discussion because they see the hole in their theology but are unwilling to address it.

The author continues

The ultimate question is a matter of defining “his people.” Indeed, in Matthew’s Gospel, the issue which is pounded is whether “his people” consists of Abraham’s descendants only, or whether “his people” is actually the community of faith, consisting of both Jew and Gentile believers; obviously, Matthew favours the latter position.

I agree with him here that the ultimate question is who makes up His people.  This brings us to the point of Election.  Who gets to define who His people are?  Do we or does He?  It is my contention that only God, as Creator, has that right.  The Creator is always greater than the creation.

If you say that His people are defined by us, then that brings up several questions that must be answered.  How can God be truly sovereign if we have the power to decide who make up His people?  Why would Jesus choose to bear, on the cross,  the sins of those whom He knew would never choose Him?  If Jesus did bear, on the cross, the sins of those who would not choose Him then on what basis does God punish them (because the penalty has already been paid by Jesus)?

In conclusion, Matthew 1:21 is a Calvinist proof text.  The author of the post has missed the point of what is being proven though.  It proves that there is a definite group of people who are known as His people.  We must then move on to find out who these people are and how they become and stay His people.

Do you agree with my assessment?  If not, why?  What is your understanding?

Does Calvinism Teach That We Are Forced To Become Believers

New post over at Exploring Theology.

Click here to read it.

John Calvin On The Depraved Nature of All Men

For, did the Lord let every mind loose to wanton in its lusts, doubtless there is not a man who would not show that his nature is capable of all the crimes with which Paul charges it (Rom. 3 compared with Ps. 14:3, &c).  What?  Can you exempt yourself from the number of those whose feet are swift to shed blood; whose hands are foul with rapine and murder; whose throats are like open sepulchres; whose tongues are deceitful; whose lips are venomous; whose actions are useless, unjust, rotten, deadly; whose soul is without God; whose inward parts are full of wickedness; whose eyes are on the watch for deception; whose minds are prepared for insult; whose every part, in short, is framed for endless deeds of wickedness? If every soul is capable of such abominations (and the Apostle declares this boldly), it is surely easy to see what the result would be, if the Lord were to permit human passion to follow its bent.……..In the elect, God cures these diseases in the mode which will shortly be explained; in others, he only lays them under such restraint as may prevent them from breaking forth to a degree incompatible with the preservation of the established order of things……Thus God, by his providence, curbs the perverseness of nature, preventing it from breaking forth into action, yet without rendering it inwardly pure. [1]

Bad things happen in our world everyday.  Bad people exist.  With that said, we must realize that it could be worse…much worse.  It is only God that stops it from being worse.

We don’t often think of God’s grace in this way.  We usually think of it in relation to what He has done for the elect.  This aspect of God’s grace is no less important.  We need to focus on this aspect of God’s grace from time to time.

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[1]  The Institutes Of The Christian Religion by John Calvin, translated by Henry Beveridge, Book Two, Chapter 3, Section 3

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