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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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    We are a community of confessing believers who love the gospel of Jesus Christ, affirm the Biblical and Christ-exalting truths of the Reformation such as the five solas, the doctrines of grace, monergistic regeneration, and the redemptive historical approach to interpreting the Scriptures.

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  • « How has the Gospel affected you today? by Pastor John Samson | Main | God is at the Center by Pastor John Samson »

    Bottom Up Vs. Top Down Theology

    "In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself" (2 Cor 5:19).

    Does not that one text of Scripture pretty much sum up the central truth of our faith? This is the heartbeat of the Christian religion for it speaks of the Divine act that takes place at the decisive climax in the unfolding drama of redemptive history. Good theology is about what God has done for us in Christ. We can only do theology at all because God, out of sheer grace, has chosen to unveil Himself (to make Himself known) through His acts and speech on the stage of the world. He does this through a series of acts and verbal communications, which He freely initiates, specifically in the events of the history of Israel and ultimately in the Person of Jesus Christ. The acts of God are all redemptive and they all ultimately point to Christ. After the series of redemptive events recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures, Jesus Himself enters the drama as one of us in the culminating and decisive act of the Play so to speak. This covenantal focus of the Bible helps us to rightly understand that true religion consists in what God has done for us in Christ.

    The Gospel is about God acting on and speaking to us onto the stage of world history. A truly orthodox evangelical theology affirms the priority of the Word and Acts of God in Christ (ultimate) over our response of faith, obedience and spiritual experiences (penultimate). The Divine Word revealed in Christ is supreme over all man-made religions which would speculatively formulate a 'bottom-up' theology of fallen human actions over Divine actions. What is most distressing is, although the most urgent task and function of the church is to make known the gospel to men and women in the world, there is still utter confusion in the world as to what the Gospel is. I am not someone who likes controversy and I have a burden for souls. But unfortunately the confusion about the gospel is not confined to people outside the church, but rather, has itself been produced by those within its walls. This means that the Word of the Gospel must be proclaimed as clearly to those in and outside the church. The re-evangelization of the church is, therefore, itself one of our greatest tasks, if not the greatest. Many Christians evangelize with a four-point presentation gospel, thinking the job is done when someone prays a prayer, but fail in the arena of continued discipleship to those who believe. It is little wonder why this has been so ineffective for creating long-term zealous Christians who are used of God to themselves reproduce.

    The grace of God in Christ is a concept in which the mind of man, unaided by spiritually illumined revelation, is rendered utterly undone. The doctrine of 'grace alone' is strenuously opposed by the world and in fact is disbelieved by many who lay claim to the name 'Christian'. But their opposition appears to be derived through a cold and speculative philosophy, and an irreligious prejudice rooted in a deep-seated hatred for exalted views of God's Sovereignty and man's moral impotence. The natural man shrinks back at such a loss of his "rights" and "freedom". This 'top-down' wholly biblical concept of God sovereignly and graciously determining on whom He will have mercy is repulsive to the carnal mind and heart, and sadly, even some who otherwise claim to believe in Christ. Instead of drawing their belief from Scripture, many draw on their own sentiments and unaided speculative hopes to base their entire theology on. To some it is an inviolable truism that God would never save someone without their consent to allow Him to do so.

    But at the heart of Christianity lies many dramatic events that make up the gospel of Jesus Christ, and they are all initiated and carried through by God. In the beginning God spoke forth the universe and from this all forms emerged. Existence or non-existence was not our choice, but we are all cast onto the stage of existence. We find ourselves in the world and we did not have a choice in the matter one way or another. It was a top-down decision in which we were not consulted. So why, if we know this to be true, do some revolt at the idea that God did not consult us when He determined to give us new life by redeeming us through Christ. He gave us physical eyes and ears and yet we do not complain that he violated our will in doing so, so why is it a violation of our will to grant us a new greater life, an eternal life wherein we live in God's presence forever? God did this while we were yet sinners, a stiff-necked people who were set on rebellion against God. We were running the other way, all of us, and God yet saved us from certain death. How can some call God "wicked" if He were to show mercy to rebels who have hardened their will against Him? I hear it all the time from brothers who get angry and even hostile at the very idea of God saving someone "against their will". God certainly knows better than we do and if He violated our will to save us (as it were from oncoming traffic) I am thankful that He did. My will is inconsequential. God's will is what counts. But the new life, once implanted, gave me the desire for what is good, so that my will conforms to God's redemptive purposes. It delights in being His child but the very humility and delight was itself also a gift of God's grace. He leaves no room for boasting over others who do not have faith for it was through His mercy alone that we are not also consumed. But those who still believe in the ultimacy of faith, that it is a product of our unregenerate natures, no longer believe that it is grace which makes men to differ, but rather something within their very nature that does so. It leads me to wonder how so many in the faith can still be so confused and still partly in the thralls of darkness.

    If men would apply their minds to the Scriptures allowing the Spirit to completely debase one's pride and rights it would go a long way. But the very fact that we demand our rights before God betrays our location in human history. It is a cold philosophy that is all about me, about my rights, an anthropocentric bottom-up theology. There is more Postmodern in it than there is Gospel. Many false ideologies are waiting to fill the void if we do nothing about it. But, like it or not, it is our job to produce and promote sound theology. Without it, the fads and trends of the times sweep in and out of the Church and that means we will be stuck with a man-centered bottom up, market-driven, democratic religion which takes an opinion poll to determine truth, which gives glory to man and not God. But the true Gospel heralds what God has done for us in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself in Him. So there is one good 'bottom-up' theology ... it is the one in which Christ who has come down from above and lived the life we should have lived (from the bottom up) and died the death we deserve, fulfilling the covenant from our side in the midst of the Divine drama. It is the Person and work of Christ who is the focus of all true religion.

    J.W. Hendryx

    Posted by John on April 4, 2006 12:39 PM

    Comments

    There is only one gospel. I was accused the other day by some unbelievers who I work with of being someone who teaches and writes about nothing more than my opinion.

    Unfortunatly, the Evangilistic preachers, deacons, and teachers who are mired in the humanisitic versions of the gospel view those who deeply desire to ReReform the church as nothing more than troublemakers who are trying to get people to get onboard their hobby horse.

    It is a very odd thing to find yourself as the church heretic simply for adhereing to Sovereign Grace.

    We must pray for God to raise up those who will be used by God to turn His people's hearts back to Him and away from the cheap grace Gospel.

    John,

    I think you are absolutely right. You have made me realize again how vital our struggle for pure, biblically-grounded doctrine really is. We cannot afford to overlook anthropocentric theology, as if it were only indicative of a minimal difference between Christians. To the extent that man and his will is glorified in our theological systems, God's glory in Christ is assaulted and man's hope of salvation is obliterated. This is a twofold effect that we dare not hold our peace about.

    Thanks for the excellent thoughts.

    Nathan

    Let me preface my comments by saying that I enjoy this blog--although I may not agree with everything expressed here. Despite studying at length, I have no set opinion on the subject of predestination. Instead I have a lot of unanswered questions (some of which will become apparent in this comment).

    You said: “If men would apply their minds to the Scriptures allowing the Spirit to completely debase ones pride and rights it would go a long way. But the very fact that we demand our rights before God betrays our location in human history. It is a cold philosophy that is all about me, about my rights, an anthropocentric bottom-up theology. There is more Postmodern in it than there is Gospel. Many false ideologies are waiting to fill the void if we do nothing about it. But, like it or not, it is our job to produce and promote sound theology. Without it, the fads and trends of the the times sweep in and out of the Church and that means we will be stuck with a man-centered bottom up, market-driven, democratic religion which takes an opinion poll to determine truth, which gives glory to man and not God.”

    Are you suggesting that those who do not share your view of limited atonement and irresistible grace are those who misread Scripture, demand their rights, and simply conform to the world around them? I find this a little troubling. How is it prideful to think that God requires man to respond in faith? Particularly when those who believe in a synergistic view of conversion usually also believe that God not only extends grace but also enables faith. Either way, no one can boast before God. I tend to believe that we do something, even if it is so very little. And I believe there is something about us that causes God to chose us.

    Otherwise we end up with a very strange view of God. A God who chooses us randomly does not seem to be a God of love and justice.

    You said: “Existence or non-existence was not our choice, but we are all cast onto the stage of existence. We find ourselves in the world and we did not have a choice in the matter one way or another. It was a top-down decision in which we were not consulted. So why, if we know this to be true, do some revolt at the idea that God did not consult us when He determined to give us new life by redeeming us through Christ. He gave us physical eyes and ears and yet we do not complain that he violated our will in doing so, so why is it a violation of our will to grant us a new greater life, an eternal life wherein we live in God's presence forever?”

    Your argument is that, if God determines whether we live in the first place, how can we object to Him determining whether we live eternally? The only problem is that the first is wholly good while the latter may be wholly bad. It is always good to live. Although it is possible that God could have chosen not to let us live. Still, we would not exist to experience it. No soul exists to experience nonexistence. Also, most sane human beings would agree that it is a good thing to have eyes and ears. Both having existence and having sensory organs are good things. But God unilaterally determining whether we live eternally—now that involves a very bad thing for most people—for broad is the way that leads to destruction. Souls will exist to experience eternal torment. I have an extremely high view of divine sovereignty (indeed, I believe that God ultimately orders all things according to the counsel of His perfect will). But I can’t reconcile my belief in a good, loving, and just God with a God who determines man’s fate without taking into account some individualized consideration.

    I entirely believe that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. And I believe that there is nothing good in us apart from Him. All of us have fallen short, none are good, none seek God. I completely agree with total depravity/inability (the Bible clearly teaches it).

    The Bible says that there is nothing good in us apart from Christ. But, in Christ, we become who God always intended us to be. Latent within me was the person that God created me to be. Utterly dead because of sin. But made alive in Christ. God could have left me in sin, but He extended grace. So my life is entirely dependent upon His grace. And yet He knew me and chose me, not some random human being, and not simply because He knew that He could use me to reach others or fulfill some other purpose, but He chose me specifically. This focus on the individual may sound prideful. But I assure you, it is the same sentiment expressed by the Psalmist who said, “what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?” (Ps. 8:4) I stand in awe that God chose me.

    This is my leaning. But I truly am open to hearing persuasive arguments either way.

    Shalom,
    Chong

    Brother Chong

    I really appreciate your post and your question. I and the contributors to this blog would never presume that people who differ from us on these essential doctrines are any less brothers in Christ.

    That being said, I do believe that your belief in synergism is one of the greatest problems crippling the evangelical church today. Let me ask you, if all men have the same grace prior to belief, and can either believe or reject Christ, then why do you think one person believe the gospel and not his neighbor? It wasn't grace that made the two to differ because all have grace, so it is still some virtue or ability within one person that the other is without.

    What capacities do you have at your disposal that your neighbor does not that you might generate good thoughts and right affections about Christ in your unregenerate nature?

    Regarding your statement that God would be random....I believe, you only presume that God choses people randomly ... but such an answer perhaps misapprehends some important truths about God. God is not good because He measures up to some standard of goodness outside Himself. He is the very source of God and therefore whatever He chooses to do is right by definition. Thus when we say God chooses someone according to His sovereign good pleasure is to say that there is NO POSSIBLE better reason in the universe. To think that God choosing a person in His mercy to be arbitrary is projecting a human image on to God. God is perfect and therefore cannot be arbitrary in any negative sense of the word. His will and His decree is what constitues all meaning. We have meaning because He is sovereign.

    I know it is distasteful to face up to but to believe that God chose you over your neighbor because you met some condition that your neighbor did not leaves room for boasting.

    Can you thank God for even the very humility to believe? Then why didn't your neighbor have this humility.

    You said>>>
    How is it prideful to think that God requires man to respond in faith? Particularly when those who believe in a synergistic view of conversion usually also believe that God not only extends grace but also enables faith. Either way, no one can boast before God.

    I disagree. If God grants you and your neighbor equal grace and only you make use of it, this is really not different than if God chose you on the basis of works. Again answer me this: Why did you believe the gospel and not your neighbor? Are you more wise? More humble in your unregenerate state than your neighbor?

    The final remedy for this kind of pride is to say that, not only are our spiritual gifts a work of God's free grace in our lives, but so also is the very faith with which we use those gifts. This means that every possible ground of boasting is taken away. How can we boast if even the qualification for receiveing gifts is also a gift?

    That's how important humility is in God's eyes. This is exactly the same aim of God mentioned in Ephesians 2:8-9 where Paul stresses that saving faith is a gift: "By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not by works, so that no one may boast". Faith is a gift from God, so that no one may boast. Or, as Romans 12:3 says, so that we will not think too highly of ourselves. The last bastion of pride is the belief that we are the originators of our faith.

    I challenge you to look closely at John 6:65 and 37

    Jesus here says that no one can believe the gospel unless God grants it... and ALL to whom God grants it will believe. This is a syllogism .. a univeral negative and a universal postive leaving no room for a grace that does not actually invincibly save those he intended to save.

    Martin Luther once combatting those who believe like you that grace enables, said commands of God to believe such as "if thou art willing", "if thou hear", "if thou do" declare, not man's ability, but his duty. The commandments are not given inappropriately or pointlessly; but in order that through them the proud, blind man may learn the plague of his impotence, should he try to do as he is commanded. How is it that as soon as you get hold of a single imperative verb you infer an indicative meaning, as though the moment a thing is commanded it is done, or can be done? Does it follow from: 'turn ye' that therefore you can turn? Does it follow from "'Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart' (Deut 6.5) that therefore you can love with all your heart? What do arguments of this kind prove, but the 'free-will' does not need the grace of God, but can do all things by its own power.

    Hope this helps
    Solus Christus
    John H

    Dear John H.,

    Thanks for the prompt response. I appreciate your explanations.

    By the way, I’m a girl (don’t worry I’m accustomed to being called “Brother Chong” online).

    A month or so ago, I posted something on the debate between monergism and synergism. But most of the people who commented clearly supported synergism. No one offered the monergistic view—except for me. As I said, I don’t have a set opinion on the subject and I try to see things objectively. This is what I wrote: “If we are dead in our sins, we are no longer inclined toward God and the things of God (inclined outward to the proper object, namely, God). Instead, because of sin, our inclinations are turned inward to self. In our fallen nature, we seek our own interests and our own pleasure. Everything we do, even our righteousness, is like filthy rags. We can do nothing to please God. I think this is true to Scripture—we are utterly dead, utterly hopeless, utterly incapable of saving ourselves—apart from God. The other tenets of Calvinism flows pretty naturally from the concept of total inability. The Arminians resolve this problem by saying that everyone has access to God’s prevenient grace—a common grace (for example, the sun shines on both the righteous and the unrighteous). And so God enables us to respond by shedding abroad His grace. But if God’s grace is so great, why doesn’t everyone respond to it (particularly, when everyone is in the same fallen state--there is nothing in me that makes me more likely to respond to God’s grace). And, while God gives us this initial measure of grace, we are still doing something in responding to it. How is that consistent with total inability? How is it consistent with the biblical principles that we have been saved through grace alone?”

    I definitely understand the problem. But Scripture says that we are saved by grace through faith. Grace and faith. Isn’t it possible that latent within me was the person who would respond to God in faith? Latent, meaning a dormant potential. I am still utterly sinful. But when God’s grace is shed abroad on all, His grace awakens in me this potential, and I respond in faith.

    John is my favorite gospel and I know the cited passages well—although I’ve never heard them used together in a syllogism. Very interesting. Isn’t John 6:65 consistent with the idea of prevenient grace? Apart from God’s grace, none of us can come to Him. Moreover, without God providing a way of salvation, none of us can be saved.

    Both passages are given in the context of Jesus teaching something difficult and the disciples responding in disbelief. Jesus’ point is that those who are His will hear His voice and accept His teaching. “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (John 6:37)

    You’re argument is that (1) no one can come to Christ unless the Father enables Him; (2) all that the Father gives to Christ will come to Him; and, therefore, (3) the Father does not enable those who do not come to Christ.

    The problem with this argument is that you assume that the Father’s enabling is the same as the Father’s giving to Christ. Or stated differently, that those who are enabled are the same as those the Father has given to Christ. If the two clauses are not the same, I don’t think the argument is valid. Some may contend that the clauses are not the same. They may argue that the Father enables everyone by shedding abroad His grace. And that those who are given to Christ are those who would respond to Him in faith and persevere to the end. It is the same sentiment expressed in John 17: 12. It indeed supports eternal security, but I’m not so sure about limited atonement and irresistible grace.

    The Luther quote is interesting. I’m personally studying the purpose behind divine law. I tend to believe that choices imply the ability to obey and disobey. So genuine free will includes the ability to do otherwise (counterfactuals). But I think that’s a whole other topic.

    Let me say again that I am not decided—despite how I might sound. If I were talking to an Arminiam, I would sound like a Calvinist to him. I find problems with both positions and the arguments in support of those positions. I’ve been having discussions with one of my coworkers who is an atheist. We constantly butt heads when we get to this issue. And that’s the reason why I’m so interested in gaining a better understanding—yes, to settle things in my own mind but, more importantly, to be able to persuade the intelligent skeptic.

    Shalom,
    Chong

    Ms. Chong

    Thanks for your response....I apologize for not reconizing that you were female. You sound Chinese. I speak Mandarin and spent ten years on the mainland and LOVED it: Ni hui jiang putonghuan ma? Ni chifanlema?

    Onto the question ...You said>>>> The problem with this argument is that you assume that the Father’s enabling is the same as the Father’s giving to Christ. Or stated differently, that those who are enabled are the same as those the Father has given to Christ. If the two clauses are not the same, I don’t think the argument is valid.

    I do not think it is an assumption. The Text clearly shows "given to the Son" causes their coming to Him, believing on him. Can you argue with that?

    So if you think it means something else, what do you think it means that the Father has given people to the Son causing them to come to Him? I believe this is referring to the eternal counsel of the Trinity prior to the creation of the world where God made a covenant of redemption with the Son to save a certain people.

    The passage says ALL, not some, but ALL of the people "given" to the Son people WILL come to him. The expression "come to me" is the same in both passages (v65 & v37, 44) so Jesus is referring to the same subject in each instance. The context has not changed. They both mean "believe in him" If the Father giving people to the Son is the cause of their believing on Him, then there is essentially no differnce than to say Unless God grants it no one will come to Him. "Give to Him" is still referring to God's initiative. So the intent of the passage can only mean that no one believes unless God grants it and all whom God grants it will believe. The context and leaves no other choice.

    So take John 6:37 -- it says ALL, not some, but "ALL that the Father gives to me will come to me". In other words, all that the Father gives to Jesus will believe the gospel and those who believe, he will not drive out.

    Likewise in the same context 6:44 presents us with another syllogism. 44No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day."

    The text again leaves no room for boasting in our faith. No one comes unless God draws him AND those same persons whom the Father draws will be raised up on the last day. That means all who are drawn will be resurrected on the last day.

    See the essay, Logic and John 6:44
    http://www.reformationtheology.com/2006/01/logic_and_john_644.php

    Again it leaves no room for a grace which is ineffectual.

    Either we are saved by grace alone or we are not.

    You said, "I definitely understand the problem. But Scripture says that we are saved by grace through faith. Grace and faith."

    Yes by grace through faith, but not grace AND faith as if they were equal partners. One is ultimate the other penultimate. Remember Eph 2:8 says "by grace you are saved though faith and this NOT OF YOURSELVES IT IS A GIFT OF GOD ... that no one may boast."

    It is a grace which gives rise to saving faith.

    We all believe that we are commanded and must believe the gospel but the command does not imply ability. That is reading into the text something that is not there. Romans 3:19 says the purpose of the law is to reveal our sin, our moral inability, not our ability.

    1 John 5:1 reads, "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ HAS BEEN born of God"

    Faith springs from the new birth, but is not the cause of it.

    Dear John H.,

    Thanks for your responses. And thanks for referring me to the essay on logic and John 6:44. I haven’t had a chance to read it, but I certainly will.

    The only additional point that I would make is that, when I said “grace and faith,” this is shorthand for saying “by grace and through faith.” I am not equating faith to works. In speaking of conversion, faith is no more than an acceptance or an assent to the work of God’s grace.

    It seems to me that God often operates this way—by grace through faith. This morning I was reading the story of David and Goliath. In assuring Saul of his ability to fight Goliath, David tells Saul that he had killed both the lion and the bear. And He also says that the Lord has delivered him from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear. (1 Samuel 17:36-37) So which was it, David who killed or God who delivered? Both--God’s power working through His willing servant, David. Both grace and faith (maybe in a more active sense) operates in sanctification (Phil. 2:12-13). Why can’t both grace and faith somehow work together in conversion? It is hard to think of faith without assuming that it is some type of work. But I think it is reasonable to say that faith is not a work. It is nothing more than a willingness to receive what God supplies.

    Thanks for the discussion. You’ve given me much to think about.

    In Christ,
    Chong

    Sister Chong

    Hello again and thank you for the interaction.

    You said>>>> It seems to me that God often operates this way—by grace through faith.

    Well, we all believe that. That is not where the difference lies. We all believe man must have faith to be justified. We affirm that all men may be saved if they will ... but it is just the "if they will" that is the difficulty.

    Christ declares that no man will come to Christ unless he be drawn, that is, unless God grants it. "Now," says the synergist, "I believe men can be saved if they will." We answer, that is not the question at all. The question is, are men ever found naturally willing to submit to the humbling terms of the gospel of Christ? We declare, upon Scriptural authority, that the human will is so desperately set on mischief, so depraved, and so inclined to everything that is evil, and so disinclined to everything that is good, that without the powerful. supernatural, irresistible influence of the Holy Spirit, no human will ever be constrained towards Christ.

    Many time in the Scriptures God even reveals behind the scenes how He enabled particular people to obey his Word when they were called to repent:

    In 2 Chronicles chapter 30, for example, when couriers with a message of repentance passed from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, and as far as Zebulun, they laughed them to scorn and mocked them when they were called to repent, [the text says]"Nevertheless some men of Asher, Manasseh and Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem. The hand of God was also on Judah to give them one heart to do what the king and the princes commanded by the word of the LORD." (2 Chronicles 30:11-12) The text says some resisted the call, but all those tribes which the hand of God gave a heart to obey the Word, repented.

    Likewise in the New Testament when Paul was preaching there were some bystanders and…

    “…Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.”

    When the Scripture speaks of opening of softening of the heart in reference to God, it always speaks of God accomplishing his redemptive purpose. When our hearts are opened “to take heed” there is no question that such a one infallibly comes to faith in Christ. It would go against the text to say The Lord opened Lydia's heart "to take heed" and then say she resisted and didn't take heed.

    Opened a heart TO TAKE HEED, means that God's grace went so far as to bring her to faith.

    God commands that we believe...no one in their natural hostile state will come to Christ. God must open deaf ears and spiritually blind eyes to the gospel. But once the eye sees and hears the truth it is already beyond the point of return. Jeremiah speaks of it as a heart of stone turned to a heart of flesh.

    No one believes while their heart is still stone. When made flesh it means it is already softened to the gospel.

    Someone may think God unfair or unjust for choosing some and not others but Rom 9:15, 16 speak just to those people

    14What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! 15For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." 16So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

    Did you note. It does not depend on our will but on God who has mercy.... This is plain language.

    Dear John H.,

    Sorry for not responding sooner--but I work full time and attend school full time.

    I agree that Romans 9 presents a problem for the synergist. They usually explain it away. But I find it to be one of the clearest statements of predestination.

    I would respond by saying that the monergist underestimates the human will. Not that we can boast in this. God is responsible for fashioning the human will. He created us in His own image. God is absolutely free, nothing restrains His freedom—unless He so chooses. God created human beings with free will. Like God, human beings are self-movers. They have a will of their own. And human nature corrupted is still human nature. We did not lose our rational faculties, including our volition, somewhere along the way.

    You are absolutely right that, in our fallen state, the human will is desperately set against God. So we lack the ability to turn toward God. We therefore are utterly dependent upon God’s grace. But when God extends grace, His grace enables us to turn toward Him. He enables, but He does not force Himself upon us. That would be coercion and coercion negates free will. I think that man still has a choice whether to turn to God or not.

    You said, “God commands that we believe...no one in their natural hostile state will come to Christ. God must open deaf ears and spiritually blind eyes to the gospel. But once the eye sees and hears the truth it is already beyond the point of return. Jeremiah speaks of it as a heart of stone turned to a heart of flesh.”

    I don’t think we can analogize the will to the ear or eyes. If God opens a person’s eyes, the person can see. For the eye is made to see. But if God changes a man’s will and enables him to turn to Him, the man must still make his own choice. Unlike an eye, the will is made to decide for itself. God’s grace makes possible that which was impossible with man alone. But man must turn and accept God’s gift of salvation.

    Ezekiel is the prophet who speaks of God turning the heart of stone to a heart of flesh. After declaring this, God says that the people will follow His laws. And then, immediately after that, he says, “But as for those whose hearts go after their detestable things and abominations, I will bring their conduct down on their heads.” (Ezek. 11:21) The fact that there are those who continue to respond in disobedience suggests that God’s grace is not effective for those who reject Him. (That’s my initial impression, but I’ve never considered this passage in this context. I would have to give it some more thought.)

    You said: “When the Scripture speaks of opening of softening of the heart in reference to God, it always speaks of God accomplishing his redemptive purpose. When our hearts are opened “to take heed” there is no question that such a one infallibly comes to faith in Christ. It would go against the text to say The Lord opened Lydia's heart "to take heed" and then say she resisted and didn't take heed.

    The Lord opened Lydia’s heart to “prosecho” (meaning, to hold to, turn to, attend to, respond to, or heed to) Paul’s message (Acts 16:14). This text is not as unequivocal as you assume. It also can be interpreted to mean that God extended grace by opening Lydia’s heart, thereby enabling her to respond to His grace.

    I ran a few searches for the terms ((open* or soften*) and heart) and couldn’t find the specific passages that you were referring to. But this brings to mind the passages that speak of God hardening Pharoah’s heart. There is an ongoing debate over the proper interpretation of these passages. This shows that they do not establish unequivocally and undeniably that God accomplished His redemptive purposes apart from man’s willing cooperation.

    My point is that there is no definitive answer either way. It is good to evaluate both views and sharpen our understanding and arguments. But I think the subject of free will and determinism falls under the category of the “secret things that belong to the LORD” (Deut. 29:29)

    Also I think this discussion belongs under a different heading. I don’t believe in a bottom up theology. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. It indeed is a gift of God and no one can boast. Even if man does something, what little he does is made possible by God. To God alone be the glory forever and ever.

    Chong

    "...no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him." Matt 11:27

    Thank you again for taking the time out to respond...

    Before I respond to your statements, I want to clarify that I believe Scripture affirms that man must indeed make a choice to believe. To believe the Gospel is God's command, as the two following text specify:

    "Truly these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent." -Acts 17:30
    "And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ..." - 1 John 3:23

    Inother words, the Gospel is a command, not merely an offer. But consider, God gives us commands all the time that we are morally impotent to carry out (Love God will all our hearts, obey the 10 commandments, believe in Jesus). The purpose of the Divine legislation is to reveal our sin (see Rom 3:19, 20), not our ability. We are never so close to grace then when we come to an end of ourselves despairing of our own ability. Our corrupted nature needs to be changed (to become spiritual) BEFORE it will even have right thoughts about God.

    That being said lets get to your assertions...
    You said >>>>God created human beings with free will.

    That is a HUGE assertion. Being so important, can you back up this statement with Scripture? Can you show anywhere in which the Bible calls unsaved people free in any respect? You put it forward this affirmation as a personal opinion but did not show me where the Bible has established the concept of "free will". You asserted this as if it were on the level of Holy Writ. In other words, if you cannot establish this from Scripture, you are basing one of the most important elements of your theology on a personal opinion and nothing more.

    As for free will, may I ask,"Free from what?" "Free from sin?", "Free from God's decree?" No, neither.

    So what do you actually mean when you claim man has a free will? I think many persons mean to say that man is free from external coersion. In this we all can agree, but just because someone is free from coersion does not mean his will is free. There are other ways in which man's will is not free. If the natural man make choices BY NECESSITY then he also lacks a kind of freedom. We might want to consider whether the Bible uses the expression 'freedom' to describe any fallen man. It does not ... not UNTIL Christ sets us free (Rom 6). Jesus says that prior to grace, persons are 'slaves to sin'. And, last time I looked, a slave is not free. If man is in bondage to a corruption of nature, as the Scripture attests, then he is not, in any sense, free as the Bible defines it UNTIL Christ releases him from bondage..

    Again you said>>>>But when God extends grace, His grace enables us to turn toward Him. He enables, but He does not force Himself upon us. That would be coercion and coercion negates free will. I think that man still has a choice whether to turn to God or not.

    Again, you may wish to consider how you know this? Where do you derive these presuppositions? From the Bible or philosophy? Is this what Scripture says or is it something believed from elsewhere? Notice your statements said "I think" rather than, "the Scripture says". Well, why do you think this?

    You said >>>>But if God changes a man’s will and enables him to turn to Him, the man must still make his own choice.

    First, you need to establish from Scripture that God merely "enables" a person to choose. Where does it say this ANYWHERE? The doctrine of prevenient grace, which you are here promoting is an unaided logical construct ... a personal opinion, not a belief drawn from Scripture. Unless you can establish it.

    You misunderstand the "eye" analogy. Seeing in the Bible is equivalent to understanding. If we shine a light in a blind man's eyes, it does not help him AT ALL. He needs new eyes to see. Likewise, unless grace changes the VERY NATURE of the heart, it cannot rise above its source (just like water) That is why the Scripture says Spirit gives birth to spirit and flesh to flesh. The very reason we need to be born again is that our nature is UNSPIRITUAL. So in your belief system even though God gives grace before belief, what is that grace doing? Does it change man in any way or does it merely offer him a choice? If the latte,r then man is still unspiritual and cannot understand spiritual things (1 Cor 2;14)

    Jesus' analogy of new birth is to show that it is not something we obtain with our will, just as a new born baby has no choice in the matter. Rather the Spirit is sovereign in it, as John 3 says. The wind blows wherever it wills; so it is everyone who is born of the Spirit.

    Also the Scripture affirms God commanding faith and repentance to all men everywhere. But men love darkness and will not come into the light (John 3:19, 20) That is why he must be born again. It says in John 3 that we must be born again to even "see" and "enter" the kingdom of God. Regeneration preceeds faith (also see 1 John 5:1)

    "[we]were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:13)

    Jesus does for us what we could not do for ourselves. When the rich yong ruler went away sad (not repenting), Jesus said it was more difficult for a rich man to go to heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. The disciples, seeing the high standard of entering rightly asked "who then can be saved?" Jesus said, what is impossible with man (faith and repentance) is possible with God.

    2 Tim 2:25 even says it is God that grants repentance. Faith itself is the gift of God.

    Chong ... we all agree man must exercise faith ... the question is, is this faith a gift (phil 1:29) or is it something we come iup with on our own?

    The Scripture affirms the former.

    To say it is inconclusive is simnply to embrace synergism because you still think that man can generate a right thought about Christ before he is spiritual... even though the Scripture says we must be spiritual to understand spiritual things.

    1 Cor 2 says "Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God."
    What are the things free give by God? Christ and the gospel. i.e we must be born again in order to understand the gospel.

    Bringing someone to faith effectually is not coersion, it is mercy. We all were running the other way like a thief does a policeman. We were in rebellion against God. He had mercy on some.
    Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and did not consult him. Likewise he gives us new birth and we willingly believe. When he gives us a new heart, he is not believing for us, but now being spiritual, the hearts inclination is toward Christ and he believes because of what is now is by nature.

    That is whay Jesus says "My sheep hear my voice", but to those who do not believe he says he gives a reason for it:

    "But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep." (John 10:26)

    he does not say, "you do not believe so you are not my sheep"...no, on the contrary.. you are not my sheep, THEREFORE you do not believe.

    The nature of the person determines the choice they make. Again water does not rise above its source. natural men think natural thoughts. Spiritual men think spiritual thoughst.

    Let me give you an analogy here. Two parents see their child run out in the street. A car is coming. The first parent calls out to the child hoping he will get out of the way in time. In other words, he gives him a choice.

    The second parent on the other hand, due to his love for the child runs out at the risk of His own life, scoops up the child and MAKES CERTAIN his child is not run over.

    Even on an earthly level we see that true parental love acts and gets the job done. This kind of intensive love does not stand on the sidelines worried about whether a will was violated or not. He cares too much for the child to make his will the deciding factor. Yes the child will believe and trust in his parent, but the parent loves the child first, not because of what he does (conditional acceptance) but because the parent loves the child.

    If 7 people owe me money and I cancel the debt of 5 of them, am I being unfair to the others? Or do I still have a right to ask them to repay their debt?

    Likewise If you believe that God would be just if he wiped out the whole world (all people) then why do you pin injustice to Him if he determines to save only some? Do you trust man's will more than God's?

    Bottom line: There are still aspects of your salvation which you are glorifying man and not God for. Yes, you says God gives grace that enables, but then afterwards, what makes you differ from someone else is your will, not God's grace (FOR ALL HAVE GRACE) ... so it is something about you ... you are making God's love conditional.

    Do you realize that your position is really not substantially different than the Roman Catholic positiion? The debate between monergism (Christ alone) vs synergism (cooperation of Christ and man) was essentially the main idea that drove the differences in the Reformation. It appears that most Evangelicals have come full circle and simply capitulated to the unbiblical doctrine of "free wiil", laying down to Romish theology without a fight. That is why Luther said: "If any man doth ascribe of salvation, even the very least, to the free will of man, he knoweth nothing of grace, and he hath not learnt Jesus Christ aright."

    Dear John H.,

    I've had another long day, but I want to respond to what you said about free will. (This may be my last comment, I really need to post something new on my own site.)

    We would not be engaged in this debate if Scripture was as clear as you suggest. For every passage you can cite referring to God softening/hardening man’s heart, I can cite far more where it appears that man is simply making up his own mind (here’s a few from the first few chapters of Mark: 1:16 (Jesus said “follow me” and they followed); 1:20; 1:45 (Jesus said “say nothing” and the healed leper spoke freely); 2:12 (Jesus said “arise, take up your bed” and the man rose and took up his bed); 2:14; 3:5 (Jesus said “stretch out your hand” and the man did so)). I believe that God directed men like Pharaoh and Cyrus to accomplish some necessary purpose. But that is the exception and not the rule. The norm is that man makes up his own mind. Its occurrence is subtle and frequent in Scripture, but likewise in everyday life.

    I did not expect my statement that God created man with free will to be so controversial. I thought everyone for the most part agreed that man had free will, they just define it differently. I attend a school that believes in Calvinism and its teaching on free will is that man is free but he does not have the ability to do otherwise.

    I define free will as freedom from coercion (which is a basic dictionary definition). The Bible often speaks of freedom in reference to something, such as freedom from prison, freedom from sin, or the freedom we have in Christ. But for what we are speaking of here, instead of using the term “freedom” or “free will,” the Bible simply uses the term “will” or “willing.” When a person wills to do something, he does so freely unless there is coercion. Freedom is assumed. If God or something else coerces a person to respond in a certain way, the person would not be doing it willingly. The term “will” or “willing” is used throughout Scripture. For example: “Then they called Rebekah and said to her, ‘Will you go with this man?’ And she said, ‘I will go.’” (Gen. 35:5) We can assume that Rebekah responded freely. It is reading into the text to assume that she said she will but really had no choice about it. Here’s another example: “Take from among you a contribution to the LORD; whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as the LORD's contribution: gold, silver, and bronze.” (Ex. 25:5) It would be strange for Moses to instruct the people to give with a willing heart if they had no such ability. The Lord wanted willing sacrifices. An unwilling or a coerced sacrifice neither profits the person making it nor pleases the Lord who is asks of it.

    Free will is essential for a proper understanding of God and His purposes in this world. God created man and then He told him, do not eat from the tree of the garden of good and evil. This is the first statement of law to man. The very presence of the law presupposes the ability to choose to obey or disobey. If man did not have the ability to obey, then you are saying that Adam ate of the fruit because he had no choice but to disobey. And, if God created Adam to disobey, then God created a world with a latent defect, at best. And, if God created the world with a defect, then that implies that defect originated from God. And that cannot be, because God is perfect in all of His ways.

    You’ve probably heard the arguments that the presence of the law or a choice presupposes the ability to choose to obey or disobey. There are many biblical examples of God presenting man with a choice (the two obvious ones being the choice to obey the Mosaic law and the choice to accept Christ). Because I think this argument is common, I won’t explain it in detail. But that is in a nutshell my basis for believing in free will. Because “whosoever will” presupposes that whosoever can will.

    I suppose I have a higher view of human nature (and its potential in Christ) than you do. And I do not think that this is contrary to Scripture. Because I think it reflects the greatness of God as Creator. As I said, fallen human nature is still human nature. It can be redeemed and restored, that we might reflect to our full measure the glory of God.

    Shalom,
    Chong

    Dear John H.,

    I read over your comments again. I missed several things before. I would really appreciate it if you would not accuse me of (1) not glorifying God for certain aspects of my salvation and (2) equating my position with that of the Roman Catholics. This is entirely unnecessary. The point I’m making is that the monergistic view and the synergistic view both find support in Scripture. Based on our finite and incomplete knowledge concerning these things, we should not be so unchristian toward each other. If you are so convinced of your position that you think that you are beyond error on the subject, then you are incapable of seeing objectively.

    I’m an attorney and I write for the courts. My job is to be impartial and to see things objectively. I constantly read briefs from parties that are so one-sided and deceptive in their presentation of the law and facts. They are so invested in one side that they are incapable of seeing things objectively or from the other point of view.

    On the subject of predestination, I’m actually more inclined toward Calvinism than Arminianism. I say this because I know that God is sovereign and that man is utterly incapable of saving himself. I want to hear sound and valid arguments for Calvinism so that I could endorse it fully. But I’m finding that the matter cannot be resolved to any degree of certainty based on what God has revealed to us. In other words, it is too mysterious for full comprehension.

    It is ridiculous for one side to suggest that they glorify God more based on their understanding of this matter. That itself is pride.

    In your last comment, you have misrepresented the synergistic view. It’s easy to knock down a straw man. Parties in legal disputes do this all the time. No synergist believes that man can do anything apart from God’s grace. You seem to suggest that the synergist believes that it is man alone rather than the cooperation of man with God.

    Another thing that parties do all the time is quote text in cases that does not apply. The rule is that a case cannot be cited for a matter not addressed by the court. If the text deals with the distinction between that which is spiritual and that which is physical, it should not be quoted for explaining how a person becomes spiritual. The text clearly does not address that specific matter.

    John 3 does, however, address the question of “how.” The “how” is not in the part where Jesus says that a person must be born again. He simply says that we must be born again of water and the Spirit. He does not say how a person is born again. And reading divine election from “the wind blows where it wishes” is pretty flimsy. There are many equally plausible and reasonable interpretations of that verse. It certainly speaks more of the Spirit’s unseen nature rather than a definitive statement concerning sovereignty. But, as I said, John 3 does explain the “how.” Jesus says, “whoever believes in Him will have eternal life. For God so loved he world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:15-16) In his epistle, John further explains: “for whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world-- our faith. And who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5) A person is born again when he responds to the gospel of God in faith.

    It is grace through faith. You are reinterpreting this as by grace without faith. But if you take out “faith” you do great injustice to our whole system of theology. This brings me to the topic of human responsibility and divine justice—which I don’t have time to address right now.

    But let me leave you with a few questions. What is faith to you? And what do you make of God’s repeated references to faith and belief in the context of salvation? And is your interpretation one which makes faith and belief meaningful? A word should not be interpreted to be redundant or without meaning—I think this would apply especially when speaking of God’s inerrant and holy word.

    Thanks for challenging my beliefs and causing me to think these things through more carefully.

    In Christ,
    Chong

    Dear Sister Chong:

    You asked me, "What is faith?"
    I affirm with the universal church that God freely offers/commands unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life His Holy Spirit (who Jesus sends), to effectually disarm their natural hostility, open and softening their heart to the gospel that they may be willing, and able to believe. The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls,is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word. The preacher casts forth the seed of of the gospel and it falls on dormant hearts unless and until the Holy SPirit germinates it. Faith is not produced by an unregenerate heart. Jesus says, "come to me", but he also says "no one can come to me" How do we reconcile this? Because the next word is UNLESS God grants it. Spirit gives birth to spirit.

    Council of Orange CANON 6 in the sixth century said.

    If anyone says that God has mercy upon us when, apart from his grace, we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, but does not confess that it is by the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will, or the strength to do all these things as we ought; or if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10).

    you said >>>>I suppose I have a higher view of human nature (and its potential in Christ) than you do.

    Unregenerate people need spiritual resurrection, not improvement.

    A biblical discussion of the "free will" issues is not related to our human natures' potential in Christ, it is specifically a discussion about what his potential is without Christ and the Holy Spirit. Our discussion is specifically about what the moral choices unregenerate people can make. Can unregenerate people believe the gospel? There is a four-fold state of man. (1)Before the fall, (2)after the fall, (3)after regeneration and (4)when we are glorified. Discussion of free will traditionally has been related to the condition of the will of those without Christ, as it should be. Do they have a free will or are their wills in bondage to a corruption of nature? The question comes down to this and I hope you prayerfully consider the biblical answer to it in your own heart: Is faith produced by our unregenerated human nature? you say "yes".

    you said >>>>>I can cite far more where it appears that man is simply making up his own mind (here’s a few from the first few chapters of Mark: 1:16 (Jesus said “follow me” and they followed); 1:20; 1:45 (Jesus said “say nothing” and the healed leper spoke freely); 2:12 (Jesus said “arise, take up your bed” and the man rose and took up his bed); 2:14; 3:5 (Jesus said “stretch out your hand” and the man did so).

    These passages you cite are quite irrelevant to a biblical discussion of free will. Biblically when we say man has no free will, we are speaking specifically that he is in bondage to a corruption of nature. "Bondage" is a word we use to express a total lack of freedom. That he is not free to believe the gospel apart from the Holy Spirit. This only applies to unregenerate persons. It is the condition of man apart from the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. His will is in bondage to sin ... that means BY necessity he always chooses to reject Christ unless the Spirit acts to illumine his mind and change the disposition of his heart, quicken him etc... We are not speaking about volition in everyday affairs. We all agree that people can choose what they desire this this merely says man has a volition. Biblically speaking Satan has taken unregenerate persons captive to do his will (2 Tim 2:25), that is why the passage says that God may grant them repentance so they may escape his snare.

    The Scripture allows that man has will and that it is self-determined, so that if he does anything evil, it should be his responsibility to to his own voluntary choosing. We do not believe in coercion and force, because this contradicts the nature of the will and cannot coexist with it. We deny that choice is free, because through man’s innate wickedness it is of necessity driven to what is evil and cannot seek anything but evil. Here we can deduce what a great difference there is between necessity and coercion. For we do not say that man is dragged unwillingly into sinning, but that because his will is corrupt he is held captive under the yoke of sin and therefore of necessity will in an evil way. For where there is bondage, there is necessity. But it makes a great difference whether the bondage is voluntary or coerced. We locate the necessity to sin precisely in corruption of the will, from which follows that it is self-determined.

    Even you have admitted that a person cannot believe the gospel without some intervention of the Holy Spirit. Why is that? What is man without the Holy Spirit? He, of necessity, thinks of the gospel and spiritual things as foolish and cannot understand them (1 Cor 2:14). He must be spiritually regenerate before having spiritual thoughts. But you think that God's rgrace is less than regeneraiton. So how can unregenerate man have spiritual thoughts? Back up your answer with Scripture. We affirm with the Bible that an unspiritual man cannot believe the gospel because he cannot understand or believe in the beauty and excellency of Christ. His very nature makes this a moral impossibility. Jesus says these are not his sheep. They do not believe BECAUSE they are not his sheep.


    you said that I erroneously claim that a "synergist believes that man can do anything apart from God’s grace. You seem to suggest that the synergist believes that it is man alone rather than the cooperation of man with God.

    Again, do unregenerate persons have the moral capacity to believe the gospel?

    Since all men have a general "enabling grace" in your system, and this grace falls short of regeneration ... then why do persons respond differently in their still "unregenerate" state. Why is one person's natural hostility disarmed and not the other. What makes two men to differ is man's will alone, not grace,in your belief system ... for all men had grace ... so it was something independent and autonomous from God that produced fith in one person and not the other.

    A real life example: if God gives the same grace to two unsaved men who hear the gospel, one believes and not the other, what makes the two persons to differ? Grace? A little more grace? If not then the answer and boast of salvation is solely in man. What principle is found in the one who believed and not the other? Was he born with more gifts to understand these things? In your system it is not grace which makes them to differ since both have grace, and if not grace than it is MAN WHO ALONE DETERMINES Who is SAVED based on whether you allow God to save you or not.

    so it is something completely apart from grace that sets these men apart in the end. And therefore man's will is what ultimately makes the difference in what saves the one and not the other, not Christ. It leaves room for boasting (subconsciously or not) where one could consistently pray:

    "thank you Lord I am not like other men who do not have faith, when you gave grace to all, my neighbor did not make use of it, BUT I DID."

    Such boasting us just under the surface of those who think that their faith, not grace, is what made then differ from others.

    On the other hand, all persons on this blog affirm that our regeneration or quickening in Christ is by Christ alone, not by some work of cooperation between man and God to bring about salvation. And this is the historic position and basis for the Reformation. Far from saying this boastfully, it is rather for the purpose that man will not boast. It is hard to hear because deep down man wants to contribute something to his salvation, be it ever so small. But the teaching of grace alone puts all hope in self to death. The Spirit gives us life that we may believe, crying "ABBA father." The unregenerate do not and cannot make this cry in their hearts, they do not see the excellency of Christ and any belief that falls short of God first renewing us, quickening us to life, is a belief fallen man is not dead in sin, does not hate God but has some potential in him. But unregenerate man has no potential. He does not need to be improved but made totally new. He needs to be reborn. To affirm, as you do that unregenerate man can believe the gospel while still unregenerate is to say that he only needs improvement because he is already able to do spiritual things.

    The very humility to believe, was is either God's grace or self? If of God then why don't all men have it? See there is some aspect which you contribute apart from grace.

    1 John 1:5 the Apostle Paul clearly teaches that Regeneration precedes faith: "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God" ...The verb tense make's john's intention unmistakable: Every one who goes on believing [present, continuous action] that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God [perfect, completed action with abiding effects]. " Faith is the evidence of new birth, not the cause of it."


    On the other hand, a synergist cannot thank God for his faith. He can thank God for all other things but this is the one thing which he can boast. Christ did many things for him, but this small part of the price of redemption was the synergists. We were saved "by grace through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God" It is his gift so that no one can boast.

    To show this is more commonly assumed, Paul thanks God for the very faith of the Thessalonians:

    For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.

    He thanks God that they actually accepted God's word. Why, because it was His doing. "Therefore, it is by His doing that you are in Christ Jesus." (1 Cor. 1:30)

    In 1 Cor. 1:22-24 it states the gospel is preached to all but only those called by God believe: "For indeed Jews ask for signs, and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God."

    Both Jews and Gentiles disbelieve the gospel for various reasons, but those who are called come to know Christ.

    >>>>>But, as I said, John 3 does explain the “how.”

    I disagree ....The Gospel of John, including John 3, many times explains that the new birth is an act of God alone ...born of God.

    "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." (John 3:6) verse 20 also says those who believe in Christ do so because it was wrought of God (worked by God) i.e. God did a work of grace in them.

    Likewise 1:13 of the same gospel says faith (from verse 12) is not the result of man's will --- "who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:13)

    Later in the same gospel Jesus explains that no one believes the gospel unless God grants it because "...the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; .(John 6:63-65)

    in fact, Whenever "born again" is used in the Bible it is never once spoken of in the imperative (a command or something we must do). It is something God does.


    >>>>The point I’m making is that the monergistic view and the synergistic view both find support in Scripture.

    The dictionary definition of monergism is as follows: "In theol., The doctrine that the Holy Spirit is the only efficient agent in regeneration - that the human will possesses no inclination to holiness until regenerated, and therefore cannot cooperate in regeneration."

    So in light of the meaning of monergism, no actually they do not both have support in Scripture.. There is not one instance in Scripture which says that our faith is what causes regeneration, or that it precedes regeneration. If you can show any instance of the synergistic assertion that faith precedes regeneration I will embrace your belief that both positions are supported. But as it is you have not provided me with any. It would be like saying that the Scripture supports a view that a person can believe the gospel without the Holy Spirit changing his heart.


    >>>>>It is ridiculous for one side to suggest that they glorify God more based on their understanding of this matter. That itself is pride.

    It is not a matter of sides Chong. This is not some peripheral matter. Either we are saved by grace alone or we are not? That is what is at stake here. No need for ad hominem arguments about pride for the issue comes down to whether we believe in a grace that saves by itself or one that does not and merely gives all men an opportunity. This is profoundly important. The degree that we misrepresent God ,to that same degree we commit idolatry. I cannot not stand by idle when the synergist view (totally unsupported by Scripture) that man can think good thoughts about Christ before regenerate is promoted. T We are all guilty of our idolatries at some level, but your belief that an unspiritual man can think spiritual thoughts and do spiritual acts is a profound misapprehension of the gospel. If you want to speak of pride, it is the belief that we can come up with faith on our own without God granting it to us, that faith is the product of our unregenerate human nature.

    John Owen once said it rightly, “To say that we are able by our own efforts to think good thoughts or give God spiritual obedience before we are spiritually regenerate is to overthrow the gospel and the faith of the universal church in all ages.”

    Paul thanks God for the Thessalonians' faith.

    "We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; 3constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; 5for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction"


    >>>> Re: equating your position with that of the Roman Catholics.

    your belief in the free will of man to believe the gospel apart from regeneration is what the Reformation was all about. Read Luther's Bondage of the Will or Calvins's Bondage and Liberation of the Will. The central pivot on which the Reformation rested was on this issue and many present day evangelicals have completely forgotten history and why we are not Romans Catholics. Romans Catholics have the same belief in free will and synergistic view of salvation as you do. The point is that what you believe is the view that was strenuously opposed by all of the Reformers, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Spurgeon, the Puritans of England ... because it overthrows one of the most critical aspects of the gospel. The Romans Catholics' belief in free will

    Sister Chong,

    I know brother John has already addressed your use of passages "where it appears that man is simply making up his own mind," so I hope it will not appear presumptuous or redundant if I add another comment or two.

    It seems to me that your own definition of free will ("freedom from coercion"), to which I would also subscribe, (as well as John H., no doubt), sets the crux of the issue beyond the point where it could be affected by establishing that man is often pictured as "simply making up his own mind." The definition of free will to which all of us adhere certainly implies that, whenever a man makes a choice, he does so in accordance with "his own mind." It is not therefore relevant to this discussion to establish a fact that has already been agreed upon; and besides, it is not fair to assume that this establishment of a previously accepted fact can be used to invalidate God's utter sovereignty over human action without establishing why that effect follows from the premise. Yes, man acts by making up his mind. If his mind is enslaved to sin, (as all are, by nature), he acts against God. If his mind delights in Christ, he acts (freely) in faith and righteousness. So the pivotal issue is not whether man acts by making up his mind: it is, Who determines what state his mind is in? The bible unilaterally declares that man, in Adam, is in a state of mind opposed to God, and that only God can change his mind (give him a new nature, spiritual life, a heart of flesh, etc.) The question is not either/or (either God has to give a person faith or man makes up his own mind); it is both/and (God gives a man a new mind which does believe; and in accordance with this new mind, man freely exercises faith in Christ).

    My reason in responding again to this issue is not ultimately to prove a point. I am confident that you, as a believer in Christ, do desire in your inmost heart to glorify him in everything. So do I. Unfortunately, as long as we are still in a state of imperfect practical sanctification, we will have wrong ways of thinking, because of which, without even recognizing it, we are failing to give all glory to God. It is so vital that we prod each other on to maturer doctrinal understanding, so that we are constantly moving towards an ever greater degree of glorifying God. I hope you will always be loving enough to me that, when you see any area in my life which is not glorifying to God, you will expose it by the Word of God, so that I may change. I know that this is the heart of brother John as well, who indicates that any profession of synergism in salvation fails to give glory to God not because he thinks that he is in any way a better Christian than you -- but because, along with you and I, he desires to see all of us advance in our capacity to reflect God's glory.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking discussion. Blessings in our Savior.

    Nathan

    John and Nathan,

    Thanks for your responses. I have only skimmed through them--you both raise many good points.

    I will be out of town over the weekend and will not be able to respond to your comments. Maybe we can continue this discussion another time.

    Nathan, ironically, the entire premise of my former blog was how sin corrupted every part of us, including our way of thinking. And, although we now have the mind of Christ, we constantly are being sanctified in this area, renewing our mind to conform not to the world but to the word of God.

    Shalom,
    Chong

    Silence sinse April?

    Ms. Chong never did answer the one question that has the potential of unlocking the door:

    Q1: "What was it about you that caused you to believe whereas someone else does not?"

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