Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Lord's Purpose for Absalom

"So Absalom and all the men of Israel said, "The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel." For the Lord had purposed to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, to the intent that the Lord might bring disaster upon Absalom." - 2 Samuel 17:14 (NKJV)

Some background: Absalom is trying to kill David, who has been forced to flee with a few of David's mighty men. Absalom is asking for advice about how to pursue him.

Ahithophel suggested leaving immediately with a relatively small force, while the trail was hot. Hushai thought it better to wait until all of Israel could be summoned to Absalom's aid, and then they could go looking for David, bullying people along the way to help them.

Ahithophel's advice was "good," not in a moral sense. It was good in the sense that it was simple and likely to succeed. Hushai's advice was less good in that it was logistically outlandish and strategically unnecessary.

So, Absalom the leader is confronted with a choice. One is more wise and likely to get him what he wants. The other is ridiculous. He chooses the ridiculous option.

Now, thou faithful student of the whole Bible, a few questions would be in order to make sure that you understand the ultimate reality of the situation, as recorded by the prophet.

What's the reason Absalom chose the rotten advice? (Look at the verse again before you answer, you cheater!) I mean, who's will was really behind his poor decision?

Is it really "possible" that he could've chosen differently?

Wouldn't that have foiled the plan of God?

In light of this text, in what way would you suggest that Absalom exercised an unfettered or libertarian free will?

18 comments:

arminianperspectives said...

Interesting passage. I came across a similar passage the other day while reading Judges 14:3-4.

There a few possible ways to deal with this passage from an Arminian perspective. Here are your questions and some possible answers:

What's the reason Absalom chose the rotten advice? (Look at the verse again before you answer, you cheater!) I mean, who's will was really behind his poor decision?

Answer: The Lord. However, that does not mean that Absolom did not have his own reasons for making the choice. Perhaps Hushai’s advice appealed more to Absalom because he knew what a fighter David was and fearing him didn’t want to take any unnecessary chances with a smaller force.

It could be that God, knowing Absalom’s heart (his cautiousness and fear), knew that such advice would convince him. That would not make the choice less free, it would only mean that the Lord in His infinite wisdom knew what choice Absalom would freely make in that situation depending on the influences that were brought to bear on him. This would be more of a “middle knowledge” solution.

Is it really "possible" that he could've chosen differently?

Answer: Probably not according to a middle knowledge view. According to the “simple foreknowledge” view, Absalom “could” have chosen differently while God foreknew that he “would” not choose differently.

Wouldn't that have foiled the plan of God?

Answer: Are you suggesting that if Absalom had chosen differently, then God could not have delivered David some other way?

In light of this text, in what way would you suggest that Absalom exercised an unfettered or libertarian free will?

Answer: The last solution is to realize that sound Arminian theology does not advocate unlimited freedom with regards to the human will. Sound Arminian theology admits that God can and does sometimes override the will for his purposes and limit human freedom. Arminians see this as fairly rare in Scripture and believe that such an override of freedom is never done with respects to that decision which directly affects one’s eternal destiny (whether to believe the gospel or not), etc.

Anyway, there are a few possibilitites for you. I think I favor the last solution in this case. It is a good question you pose and one that I will give much more thought.

God Bless,
Ben

Gordan Runyan said...

Hey, Ben,

Thanks for the response. I've been mulling over your comments and can't seem to escape the idea that you've given away the Arminian house here.

I realize that's not how you see it at all, but this is what strikes me: Libertarian Free Will (LFW) is maintained by most Arminians as the necessary philosophical basis for the entire system.

Once, then, you come to the point of having to admit that God doesn't have a problem with over-riding or directing a man's decisions (especially for the furtherance of God's plans) then I'm not sure what remains of that LFW foundation.

I note that you seem to want to stress that you think this is rarely done, but I'm not sure how that saves the system at all. If God is okay with over-riding LFW at all, then you can't hardly lean on LFW and stress that God would never violate it in the most important matters. (Especially given the Biblical references to His willingness to blind and harden some to the Gospel message.)

No doubt you'll say I've misunderstood you, so I welcome your clarification if you want to make it.

Yours,
Gordan

arminianperspectives said...

Thanks for the response Gordan.

I would suggest that you have misunderstood Arminianism and that is not necessarily your fault (since some may not limit free will, though I think most do).

I know of many Arminian scholars that would limit free will in the same way. Very few would argue that God never overides our freedom. The fact he does makes it clear that we have genuine freedom as a general rule, otherwise God would not be overriding it, He would just be doing what He always does (as in determinism), i.e. causing us to make our every decision (whether directly or indirectly).

You will notice that in the passage you quote and the 2 Samuel passage I referred you to, the inspired author lets the reader know that "This was from the Lord" or "this was the Lord's doing", etc.

Now if God always operated irresitibly on the will, as Calvinists assert, then what need would there be for the inspired writers to say such things? Wouldn't it always be the Lord's doing? Shouldn't we respond to such things with a great big "Duh, God!"

So I think I am justified by the texts themselves to say that God does indeed override the will on occaision, and that this is not usually the way God does things. If that were not the case then such qualifiers as, "This was the Lord's doing" would be unnecessary and meaningless.

However, when it comes to moral decisions which affect one's salvation, there is not indication in Scripture, IMO, that God ever overrides the human will so as to preserve the integrity of the relationship that results from it, among other things.

God Bless,
Ben

arminianperspectives said...

Oops...I meant "the Judges passage I referred you to" in the third paragraph above. Sorry.

Gordan Runyan said...

Ben,

It may be that I misunderstand Arminianism (probably is, actually.) But I would in turn note a mischaracterization of Calvinistic determinism on your part. We don't think people make every decision because God forces them to. They make decisions based on what they love. God does know and even ordain all these things, but his ordination is not the immediate cause of them. The man's own will is the instrument God uses to accomplish all his purpose.

From what I've seen, though Arminians object to that, they really have no alternative but to believe the same thing, since most do still believe in God's exhaustive foreknowledge. I'm dubious about whether an appeal to "middle knowledge," or to God's transcendance over time really provides a means of escape here. Especially so, after watching our guy JCT try and argue such things at Triablogue.

As to your assertion that the Text is careful to mention certain instances in which the bad and/or sinful decision was "of the Lord":

You're proposing that these instances are mentioned precisely because they represent the exception to the norm.

But it could just as easily be that they are mentioned in order to teach us what the norm is. So that my answer to your objection on that count would be, "So how many times does God have to show that He is sovereign over all things, even evil things? Does He have to keep adding that appellation after every bad decision? Or should a generous handful of instances be sufficient to teach us?"

arminianperspectives said...

Gordan,

It may be that I misunderstand Arminianism (probably is, actually.) But I would in turn note a mischaracterization of Calvinistic determinism on your part. We don't think people make every decision because God forces them to. They make decisions based on what they love.

So people choose according to their greatest desire, and what is it that determines that desire? If the agent himself does not determine the greatest desire then who or what does?

God does know and even ordain all these things, but his ordination is not the immediate cause of them. The man's own will is the instrument God uses to accomplish all his purpose.

I have heard this stated many times by Calvinists but I have yet to hear any kind of explanation as to how this might be. If God is using the will as an instrument, then who is ultimately in control? Can the “instrument” do anything other than what God causes it to do? If it can than how can God be sure to accomplish his plan through the will?

If we are but passive creatures and God is the only true actor in the universe then God is ultimately responsible for everything that happens, including sin. I know that you will say that man himself does the acting, but if we cannot resist his will for our actions and if God controls our actions, then we are truly passive in our actions as the “instrument” in the hand of the musician, or the gun in the hand of a murderer.

Maybe you can explain it some other way and I welcome the explanation. I do not wish to misrepresent Calvinism.

From what I've seen, though Arminians object to that, they really have no alternative but to believe the same thing, since most do still believe in God's exhaustive foreknowledge. I'm dubious about whether an appeal to "middle knowledge," or to God's transcendance over time really provides a means of escape here. Especially so, after watching our guy JCT try and argue such things at Triablogue.

The way I see it Gordan, and you are welcomed to disagree, is that the burden of proof does not rest with the Arminian to explain how God can have unlimited foreknowledge. To me it is as silly as asking any Christian how God created out of nothing or how the Son of God became a man, or how Christ multiplied bread and fish. I don’t know how He can do such things, I just believe that He can do those things because He is God. Period.

I don’t know how God can perfectly know the future and I don’t feel I need to prove how He can in order for Him to be able to do so. The burden of proof rests with the one who wants to deny that God could know the future without Himself causing every detail of that future. I see that as an attack on His infinite ability and wisdom and find it especially strange that Calvinists, of all people, would try to limit God in such a way.

Yet, these same Calvinists will happily and piously appeal to mystery whenever their theology begins to contradict itself.
Let me give you a “for instance”:

Calvinists claim that God chose the elect unconditionally and passed over most of mankind leaving them to damnation. Arminians ask how this does not make God’s choice arbitrary. Calvinists do not want to call God arbitrary so they appeal to His secret inscrutable counsel. God had a reason, but it is a “mystery.”

Now why doesn’t the Calvinist have to explain this mystery in order to properly defend Calvinism? And that is only one example. So the Arminian doesn’t need to “escape” anything. He just needs to affirm God’s infinite wisdom and power; let God be God.

As to your assertion that the Text is careful to mention certain instances in which the bad and/or sinful decision was "of the Lord":

You're proposing that these instances are mentioned precisely because they represent the exception to the norm.

But it could just as easily be that they are mentioned in order to teach us what the norm is.


It could be. But it could just as well be for the reasons I gave, which means that these passages pose no real problem for Arminianism.

So that my answer to your objection on that count would be, "So how many times does God have to show that He is sovereign over all things, even evil things? Does He have to keep adding that appellation after every bad decision? Or should a generous handful of instances be sufficient to teach us?"

How many times does the Bible need to demonstrate and imply that God’s creatures make real choices with no indications of God causing those decisions before you will admit that man has some control over his own will? Such instances far outnumber the instances that state otherwise so, again, I think it is far more reasonable to conclude that if God overrides the will, it is an exception to the general rule and not the rule itself.

Now as far as God overriding the will to cause “evil” decisions, I think we would both want to distance ourselves from such assertions.

The passage in Judges where Samson wants to marry a non-Israelite may not be an example of God overriding the will for this exact reason. It may be that God, foreknowing Samson’s desire to marry a Philistine, determined to use Samson’s decision as an opportunity against them, while not causing the decision itself.

James says that God does not tempt anyone. However, if we affirm that God irresistibly controls the will to sin (as I think Calvinists must affirm if they want to maintain their definition of sovereignty as unlimited divine determinism), then we are assigning something to God that is far worse than temptation, IMO.

Just some thoughts from an Arminian perspective. Take em’ or leave em’.

God Bless,
Ben

Strong Tower said...

"Now as far as God overriding the will to cause “evil” decisions, I think we would both want to distance ourselves from such assertions."

Isaiah 6:9-10

Mark 4 10-12

Matthew 13:10-17

Ezekiel 36:27

Isaiah 63:17

Each of these deals with the salvation of God's people. What stands out is that God not only repeatedly tells us that he is the one who has caused these events to come about, they all lead to actions evil. The question that must be asked is why would God will to blind men to the truth so that they would do what is sinful? In Paul's writing we find that it is the god of this world that has blinded men. Still, we have the previous declaration, that no matter how God did it, either by direct agency or indirect, he is still the primal causal agent. We Calvinists do not have a hard time saying that God is the author of sin if what is meant is that he is the one who has ordained it and all the means that will bring it about and not that he does it. We also understand that God has created man in the image of God, an agent responsible, with volition. We understand also that as Isaiah says, as Jesus demonstrated, and which is repeated by Paul in Romans, it is the very sign of the spirit of rebellion which speaks back to its maker accusing God of sin in making man as he sees fit as either vessels of wrath or vessels of mercy. The key word is vessels; tools by which he brings himself glory. The pride filled heart does not like it when God calls him nothing, clay to be molded, dust to be spit upon to give eyes to the blind. Yet, that is the Truth.

Jeremiah 18:12 It is the evil heart that will not have anything to do with what God forms. He calls it vain, and as Isaiah said, it is because they believe God does not know what is best for them: "You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?

1 Corinthians 2:8 And this is where it all comes together. It was God who purposed that Christ would go to Calvary. It was he who bruised the Son. It was he who killed him. It was the Father who provided the Lamb, and spilled his blood for the sacrifice. It was by the hands of evil men that he did so. And, he accomplished that by blinding their understanding. In all this God is innocent of sin, yet from before the world began, Jesus was the Lamb slain; before man was created, before he fell, it was ordained, in the eternal councils, the Word, that Judas would betray him. Those very actions that evil men carried out, each and every one, are exemplified in all the prophecies that were fulfilled in the passion. Each one demonstrating that God does indeed superintend the thoughts, actions, and outcomes of men's lives.

It is uncomfortable for the flesh to accept this because it requires that a man die to himself, his self-determination, and bow the Lordship of the sovereign God who creates and orchestrates all minutial things for his glory. The natural man cannot receive this, because God has blinded their hearts. Indeed it is a wisdom above man's logic so that man cannot glory in it at all. It is impossible for the natural man to submit to it. But, God in his mercy grants, that is gives repentance, and he does that just the same way that he gave to some the knowledge of the parables and kept it from others.

arminianperspectives said...

Strong Tower,
"Now as far as God overriding the will to cause “evil” decisions, I think we would both want to distance ourselves from such assertions."

Since you included this quote I guess I would need to assume that you believe that these passages teach that God directly causes people to sin. Rather than directly address my further comments here...

James says that God does not tempt anyone. However, if we affirm that God irresistibly controls the will to sin (as I think Calvinists must affirm if they want to maintain their definition of sovereignty as unlimited divine determinism), then we are assigning something to God that is far worse than temptation, IMO.

...you instaed treat us to the standard Calvinist proof texts. So let's take a look at these texts to see if they teach that God directly causes people to sin by controlling their will:

Isaiah 6:9-10

Mark 4 10-12

Matthew 13:10-17

These passage all say the same thing. Mark and Matthew apply Isaiah’s words to Christ’s ministry. However, these passages had a much earlier fulfillment which helps us to understand the way they are being used with respect to Christ's ministry.

In Isaiah these passages follow chapter 5 where God rebukes Israel for their rebellion and failure to produce acceptable fruit despite the Lord doing all that was necessary for them to produce such fruit. Since they did not respond to God’s gracious activity properly, the Lord speaks judgment on the nation. Isaiah 6:9-10 continues to express the extant and nature of this judgment.

God will harden his people as a result of their stubborn rebellion. They did not respond to his grace (Isaiah 5:3-7) so he will remove his grace from them which will result in the hardening of their hearts as a nation. He will not allow them to see and perceive. This is a judicial punishment on Israel.

Christ applies this passage to his own ministry because so many of the Jews in Jesus day have been given over to the stubbornness of their own hearts. They are not in right relationship with God the Father and have therefore been hardened in the same way as the rebellious Jews of Isaiah’s day.

Because these Jews have rejected the Father they cannot recognize or accept the Son. Had they been in right relationship with the Father they would have recognized the Son and been given to Him (cf. John 6).

That this hardening is judicial and passive prevents these passages from being used as proof texts for God directly causing sin. But even this hardening is temporary with the goal of eventually showing mercy to all people (Rom. 11:25-32).

Ezekiel 36:27

This passage speaks of a time of relief from such judicial hardening as that spoken of in Isaiah by way of a new covenant which will be inaugurated by the Son. The conditions of the covenant are not expressed, only the results for those who participate in that covenant. This says nothing of God directly causing sin.

Isaiah 63:17

The answer to the question posed has already been expressed. Their hearts are hardened as judgment for continuous acts of stubborn rebellion on the part of the nation. This hardening is passive in that God removed the grace that they had continually spurned (cf. Isaiah 5). Once that grace was removed it became impossible for the people (specifically those rebellious Jews) to revere the Lord and they wandered further from Him as a natural consequence of being given over to their rebellion (cf. Rom. 1:21-31).

God did not directly cause their sinful actions. It would not even make sense to speak of God giving them over to their rebellion if God was the cause of that rebellion in the first place.


Each of these deals with the salvation of God's people. What stands out is that God not only repeatedly tells us that he is the one who has caused these events to come about, they all lead to actions evil. The question that must be asked is why would God will to blind men to the truth so that they would do what is sinful? In Paul's writing we find that it is the god of this world that has blinded men. Still, we have the previous declaration, that no matter how God did it, either by direct agency or indirect, he is still the primal causal agent.

False. Man is the causal agent of sin. God has the right to remove His grace from those who spurn it. Again, it is judicial passive hardening.

We Calvinists do not have a hard time saying that God is the author of sin if what is meant is that he is the one who has ordained it and all the means that will bring it about and not that he does it. We also understand that God has created man in the image of God, an agent responsible, with volition. We understand also that as Isaiah says, as Jesus demonstrated, and which is repeated by Paul in Romans, it is the very sign of the spirit of rebellion which speaks back to its maker accusing God of sin in making man as he sees fit as either vessels of wrath or vessels of mercy.

But you beg the question in assuming that God makes some vessels of mercy and other vessels of wrath unconditionally, and none of your proof texts support such a concept; in fact, they argue against it.

The key word is vessels; tools by which he brings himself glory. The pride filled heart does not like it when God calls him nothing, clay to be molded, dust to be spit upon to give eyes to the blind. Yet, that is the Truth.

And so you accuse those who disagree with your unconditional election and exhaustive determinism as doing so because of pride. Same old Strong Tower.

Jeremiah 18:12 It is the evil heart that will not have anything to do with what God forms. He calls it vain, and as Isaiah said, it is because they believe God does not know what is best for them: "You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?

My friend, please read all of Jeremiah 18 and tell me if God is speaking of molding individuals or if he is speaking of having the right to bring judgment on nations who rebel against Him even if He formerly had good intentions for them (as was the case of Israel). This fits perfectly with my exegesis of the other passages you cited.

1 Corinthians 2:8 And this is where it all comes together. It was God who purposed that Christ would go to Calvary. It was he who bruised the Son. It was he who killed him. It was the Father who provided the Lamb, and spilled his blood for the sacrifice. It was by the hands of evil men that he did so. And, he accomplished that by blinding their understanding.

You are quite right, but that blinding was just punishment for their prior rebellion and rejection of God’s grace. God, knowing there evil hearts and knowing that they would kill His dear Son since they had rejected the Father of whom the Son was His perfect revelation, ordained to hand Christ over to them so that they would carry out God’s plan. God did not, however, directly cause them to kill Christ, nor did he cause those evil desires which provoked their actions.

In all this God is innocent of sin, yet from before the world began, Jesus was the Lamb slain; before man was created, before he fell, it was ordained, in the eternal councils, the Word, that Judas would betray him. Those very actions that evil men carried out, each and every one, are exemplified in all the prophecies that were fulfilled in the passion. Each one demonstrating that God does indeed superintend the thoughts, actions, and outcomes of men's lives.

Again, you beg the question and assume that God cannot foreknow the sinful actions of His creatures without causing them Himself. God can only be innocent if your view is rejected. As long as your view is accepted God cannot be innocent, which demonstartes that your view is incoherent, though you refuse to acknowledge this.

It is uncomfortable for the flesh to accept this because it requires that a man die to himself, his self-determination, and bow the Lordship of the sovereign God who creates and orchestrates all minutial things for his glory. The natural man cannot receive this, because God has blinded their hearts. Indeed it is a wisdom above man's logic so that man cannot glory in it at all. It is impossible for the natural man to submit to it. But, God in his mercy grants, that is gives repentance, and he does that just the same way that he gave to some the knowledge of the parables and kept it from others.

And you are back to your old tricks with essentially calling me a proud reprobate because I reject your Calvinism, and suggesting that if one finds it an affront to God’s holiness and character to make Him the author of sin, it is because He is in rebellion against the Potter, etc.

It is for this reason that I stopped dialoguing with you at Pyromaniacs and it is for this reason that I will have no further dialogue with you here. My hope and prayer is that you will begin to better exemplify that grace of God which you claim to defend.

God Bless,
Ben

thomastwitchell said...

"You are quite right, but that blinding was just punishment for their prior rebellion and rejection of God’s grace." -arminian

Which begs the question why didn't God soften their hearts, then?

Like duh... The hardening would have the effect of what? Making them more likely to repent? Or, more likely to sin? Seems to me, whether he softens or hardens, he is overriding the will through secondary agency. You do understand that will is not a thing in and of itself independent of mind and disposition (emotion), don't you?

Methinks your thinker is broken if you believe that God blinds, deafens and hardens men because of sin and that that inferred moral hardening does not then lead to acts of evil. What could it lead to, acts of righteousness? Try this experiment. Drive your car until it is almost empty, then syphon or drain the rest of the gas out of the tank, then drive home in it. Does emptying the tank make it more or less likely that you will make it home? The hopelessness required to receive the grace of God, is reflected in the tax collectors plea for mercy. My feeling is that you are glad you're not like me, a sinner.

Yep, same old Strong Tower. I still believe that grace is undeserved by anything I can do.

Oh, and I did not say that God causes sin, I used your definition of God overriding the will. The way he does that is as you accused God, if I did, that God punished man by hardening his heart. Interestingly, that is a definition of original sin, also, which an Arminian really cannot truthfully admit to, unless he admits that God overrides the will by making the nature adverse to the commandments of God. Are you willing to say that God caused the death of Adam in the beginning, or are you going to say that he had nothing to do with it? Are you likewise going to say that man is born innocent and becomes hardened through choice? Which begs the question, just where did that tendency come from seeing as how all men are tempted from within, now, and not without as Adam and Eve were? Is the devil in the Edenic business still? Well not according to Romans, all mankind is already fallen, right? Is it God who creates the souls of men and makes them as he chooses, now without innocence, correct? Does he harden, or does that hardening mean to be not hardend as you have seemingly defined it?

Secondary agency is one the first lessons we learn in this maze of sin brought about though the devil's deception of Eve and then hers of Adam. God's penalty was their death. In that day they ate it they died unless God lied. In death they could do nothing but die and lie and kill, no matter what choice they made. Their choice could not bring them life, it could only bring about their death. It is the nature of death to choose death, and the nature of life to choose life. It is basic Bible 101. And unless you or I, are willing to be lead like a blind man, to be called out of death by life, out of the tomb as Jesus called Lazarus, you and I will both die in our sin.

Ben- all that was said about the pride of the flesh is applied to me. You reacted to it as accusation from man, it is not. It is what God says of all, me included.

arminianperspectives said...

"You are quite right, but that blinding was just punishment for their prior rebellion and rejection of God’s grace." -arminian

Which begs the question why didn't God soften their hearts, then?

Like duh... The hardening would have the effect of what? Making them more likely to repent? Or, more likely to sin? Seems to me, whether he softens or hardens, he is overriding the will through secondary agency. You do understand that will is not a thing in and of itself independent of mind and disposition (emotion), don't you?


God influences the will by softening the heart. Whether he does so irresistibly is the crux of the controversy. To say that God softens the heart is to say that God graciously enables our response. Hardening the heart, on the other hand, is simply giving rebellious sinners over to their rebellion and removing that grace which softens the heart.

If you believe that this hardening is passive and not active then you must affirm some degree of libertarian free will (i.e. it makes no sense to say that God gives them over to their evil desires when God Himself is the cause of those evil desires).

If you affirm that it is active, then you make God the direct cause of sin, because you affirm that he causes their rebellion. You want to affirm your determinism and get God off the hook for causing sin, but the only you can do so is to talk like an Arminian.

Methinks your thinker is broken if you believe that God blinds, deafens and hardens men because of sin and that that inferred moral hardening does not then lead to acts of evil.

You can think whatever you like about my thinker. I have questions concerning your thinker as well if you define sovereignty as meticulous control over all things, including the will, and also claim that God is not the direct cause of sin.

When God removes his grace it is quite true that those who are rebelling against him will sin further. However, God did not cause that sin. He hands them over to it. They are the cause of their own sin. This only makes sense within an Arminian framework.

What could it lead to, acts of righteousness?

No. It is judgment on a people who have continually spurned God’s grace as I noted in my last post. God gives them over to their sin by denying them any further grace. He has the sovereign right to do that. This does not make him the author of sin.

However, if your scheme of exhaustive determinism is true, then you cannot avoid making God the author of sin. The question is not what it leads to but who is responsible.

Try this experiment. Drive your car until it is almost empty, then syphon or drain the rest of the gas out of the tank, then drive home in it. Does emptying the tank make it more or less likely that you will make it home?

Less likely. And your point is what?

The hopelessness required to receive the grace of God, is reflected in the tax collectors plea for mercy. My feeling is that you are glad you're not like me, a sinner.

You mention a little later that I misunderstood your comments so I don’t want to be accused of that again. Are you saying that I do not consider myself a sinner in need of God’s grace? How exactly did you come to that conclusion?

Yep, same old Strong Tower. I still believe that grace is undeserved by anything I can do.

Likewise.

Either my thinker is broke as you suggested or you are not very good at explaining yourself as I am having a hard time making sense of most of what you write next. I will try to answer you but please forgive me if I misunderstand something.

Oh, and I did not say that God causes sin, I used your definition of God overriding the will. The way he does that is as you accused God, if I did, that God punished man by hardening his heart.

I really don’t even understand this second sentence. Sorry.

Interestingly, that is a definition of original sin, also, which an Arminian really cannot truthfully admit to, unless he admits that God overrides the will by making the nature adverse to the commandments of God.

Adam corrupted his own nature by rebelling against God. Since we all descend from Adam we inherit that corrupt nature. There is no overriding of the will going on. Our will, since the fall, was never pure so how is it that God needs to override it?

Are you willing to say that God caused the death of Adam in the beginning, or are you going to say that he had nothing to do with it?

Adam’s actions separated Him from vital relationship with God and corrupted His nature as a natural consequence. Adam’s spiritual death was both a judgment from God and the natural consequences of Adam’s actions. The same is true of God’s judicial hardening.

However, if your doctrine of exhaustive determinism is true then God must have caused Adam to sin in the garden. It will not due to say that God permitted him to sin since that would presuppose libertarian free will and also suggest that God could know the free will decisions of his creatures without causing those decisions Himself.

Are you likewise going to say that man is born innocent and becomes hardened through choice?

Even Calvinists admit that total depravity does not mean that we are all born as bad as we can get. We all have a corrupt nature that will actualize sin. The more we indulge that nature the more hardened we become. So no, we are not born innocent, and yet we do become hardened through choice.

Which begs the question, just where did that tendency come from seeing as how all men are tempted from within, now, and not without as Adam and Eve were? Is the devil in the Edenic business still?

Satan still prowls about seeking whom he may devour. Now if you want to say that this pertains only to believers then you have a problem with the “P” in TULIP. Satan still tempts and leads astray.

Well not according to Romans, all mankind is already fallen, right? Is it God who creates the souls of men and makes them as he chooses, now without innocence, correct?

God set in motion a rule of procreation which he still honors even though that procreation yields corrupt offspring. And God has provided a Savior for fallen man. That provision is called the gospel.

Does he harden, or does that hardening mean to be not hardend as you have seemingly defined it?

He hardens passively by removing his restraining and enabling grace. I never said such hardening was “not hardening”. You have either misunderstood or you are deliberately trying to misrepresent me.

Secondary agency is one the first lessons we learn in this maze of sin brought about though the devil's deception of Eve and then hers of Adam. God's penalty was their death. In that day they ate it they died unless God lied. In death they could do nothing but die and lie and kill, no matter what choice they made.

True. But God’s grace has always been active among His creatures.

Their choice could not bring them life, it could only bring about their death. It is the nature of death to choose death, and the nature of life to choose life. It is basic Bible 101. And unless you or I, are willing to be lead like a blind man, to be called out of death by life, out of the tomb as Jesus called Lazarus, you and I will both die in our sin.

And here you draw a strict parallel between spiritual and physical death in a way that the Bible never does. The resurrection of Lazarus was not an object lesson on inability and soteriology. It was a miracle performed for the benefit of those standing there, that they might believe.

Jesus tells us in John 5 that the dead will indeed here the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live (vv 24-26). Dead--> hearing (of faith)--> life. God enables the dead to hear by His grace but it is only upon hearing that they are granted life just as it is only upon coming (in faith) that one attains life (vv 39, 40). We have already covered this ground at Pyromaniacs and you were unable to honestly deal with Christ’s language in John 5.

Ben- all that was said about the pride of the flesh is applied to me. You reacted to it as accusation from man, it is not. It is what God says of all, me included.

I understand that you believe the same about yourself. However, you also believe that God has given you enlightenment that he has so far denied me and the reason I do not accept your Calvinism is because I am still a darkened reprobate who is rebelling against the Potter, since what you are saying is obviously true and Biblical.

It seems very prideful to me to assume that if one disagrees with you then that person is just fighting God. If you were acting in humility, I would think that you would at least admit that you may yet be wrong about your Calvinism and see me as another honest seeker with you. Your comments did not seem to reflect that and I apologize if I misunderstood.

God Bless,
Ben

Strong Tower said...

"It seems very prideful to me to assume that if one disagrees with you then that person is just fighting God. If you were acting in humility, I would think that you would at least admit that you may yet be wrong about your Calvinism and see me as another honest seeker with you. Your comments did not seem to reflect that and I apologize if I misunderstood."

But you come at this from an arminianperspective. In pride, presuppositional pride, right? You imply that you think you might still be wrong? Or, do you think that you cannot be but right? Your arguments are self-contradictory and self-defeating. If I take your line of reasoning, then what assurance do you have that you are saved at all? Couldn't you just be being prideful? Arrogant? Presuming upon the grace of God and not really knowing the truth? And, if what you have said about my argument is true it is equally true of yours, and if that is the case, why do you contend for yours as if it were true? Wouldn't it be a lot less prideful, more humble to say you don't know what you're talking about, but just think you're right? But, if this is just about your opinion, what is the point?

You failed to answer the essential premise. Scripture says that God hardens, whether directly or indirectly, and even if he leaves alone, the intent of the action of God is not to "cause" them to improve their lot. It only furthers (causes) their condemnation (as in the case with Adam and Eve, where God, without interceding assistance took their life, and that of their descendants). And you have not answered how any hearts got to any point of hardness without a direct act of God. Perhaps you could explain how it is that a man of flesh affects, causes change, in a spiritual nature? Yet, you would say that God softens their heart (I wouldn't; I would say that God crushes to powder as fine as the wind and makes it new). But why would you say that? Isn't that a direct intervention, an imposition on the will? Hasn't the softening overridden the hardening? In other words, hasn't the newsoft, caused anything that might come of it? And, isn't that secondary causation, which you deny as being compatible with the nature of a meticulous God? You have as much admitted that God does indeed superintend upon the thoughts and intents of the heart by softening. And Scripture confirms that God alone is the creator of men's souls. So, how do you explain that initial hardening of any measure, total, or partial? Or any softening?

"The resurrection of Lazarus was not an object lesson on inability and soteriology."

Really? Soteriology has nothing to do with faith? Hmmm... The whole of the scene is the emphasis on the Resurrection. So, soteriology, is not about that? Or salvation? Jesus' resurrecting Lazarus was just testing their innate ability to be gullible? The confession that was made by Martha is that she already believed in the resurrection (or so she thought). The Resurrection is a name, the name of Jesus, and he emphatically makes it known that she does not have a clue as to what he has meant all along. Dude come back from the Aminian wasteland, your presuppostitions are evicerating the text.

"Dead--> hearing (of faith)--> life."

Adam heard. Mud hears? And, so if I said the mud will hear and live, that would be accurate and yet would not say anything about the ability of the mud. We know infact that the mud did hear. But, mud cannot hear, can it? Well not unless it is made to hear. And then only as it is made a living soul. So yes the dead will hear, but not while they're dead.

Now, there is an abundance of evil in many words. So I'll turn this back to Gordon or another hit man.

Gordan Runyan said...

Turn it back to me??

I have nothing to add except that I agree that Ben is prideful.



No, no. That's a joke. If pride were a jungle, I'd be Tarzan swinging through it as its prince.

arminianperspectives said...

Thomas,

Forgive the long response but you gave me much to respond to:

"It seems very prideful to me to assume that if one disagrees with you then that person is just fighting God. If you were acting in humility, I would think that you would at least admit that you may yet be wrong about your Calvinism and see me as another honest seeker with you. Your comments did not seem to reflect that and I apologize if I misunderstood."

But you come at this from an arminianperspective. In pride, presuppositional pride, right? You imply that you think you might still be wrong? Or, do you think that you cannot be but right? Your arguments are self-contradictory and self-defeating. If I take your line of reasoning, then what assurance do you have that you are saved at all? Couldn't you just be being prideful? Arrogant? Presuming upon the grace of God and not really knowing the truth? And, if what you have said about my argument is true it is equally true of yours, and if that is the case, why do you contend for yours as if it were true? Wouldn't it be a lot less prideful, more humble to say you don't know what you're talking about, but just think you're right? But, if this is just about your opinion, what is the point?


It is indeed just about my opinion based on my understanding of Scripture. It is my opinion that I am right but I will not suppose that you are fighting God because you disagree with me. That is quite a different thing. You and I disagree over the finer parts of soteriology. I believe those finer points are important but I do not believe they are pivotal to our personal salvation.

We may disagree as to how we came to faith in Christ but I would hope that we both agree that we are trusting in Him for salvation and are, therefore, saved. You have challenged my salvation in the past because I did not agree with you, and your comments in this thread were quickly going in that direction which is why I felt the need to address it.

Now as far as assurance of salvation I would say (IMO) that your soteriology has much bigger problems to overcome than mine. I can know that I am saved now (i.e. in union with Christ and experiencing the spiritual benefits of that union) because I am presently trusting Him with my life.

You can only hope that you are presently saved and among His elect because you have not yet endured to the end. Your present faith can only be proven genuine based on your perseverance. Therefore, until you persevere to the end you cannot even be sure that your present faith is genuine, and therefore you have no basis for present salvation assurance.

Now I may not reach my final destination if my faith fails but at least I can be confident that right now I am sharing in His life whereas you cannot have such confidence. I know that if I continue to trust Him I will reach the finish line, enter that rest, and gain the prize.

Neither system gives an absolute guarantee of final salvation, but the Arminian perspective at least provides a basis for present assurance. Calvin at least recognized this difficulty in his theology with regards to those who fall away and appealed to evanescent grace which completely undermined assurance. You may disagree with Calvin’s solution but at least he was honest enough to recognize the problem.

You failed to answer the essential premise. Scripture says that God hardens, whether directly or indirectly, and even if he leaves alone, the intent of the action of God is not to "cause" them to improve their lot.

Amen. That is precisely why it is an act of judgment.

It only furthers (causes) their condemnation (as in the case with Adam and Eve, where God, without interceding assistance took their life, and that of their descendants).

It leaves them to there condemnation. It does not cause it.

And you have not answered how any hearts got to any point of hardness without a direct act of God.

And you have not explained why God would need to harden hearts at all given your understanding of total depravity and reprobation. The direct act of God is to remove His grace and nothing more, thus leaving them to the natural consequences of their rebellion.

Perhaps you could explain how it is that a man of flesh affects, causes change, in a spiritual nature? Yet, you would say that God softens their heart (I wouldn't; I would say that God crushes to powder as fine as the wind and makes it new).

Thom, please consider what you are saying. If we cannot affect any change in ourselves then God is solely responsible for what we are. And yet you insist that God is not the author of sin (at least you seemed to though I think you contradicted earlier statements).

Man is more than just flesh. He is a living soul. God made Him so and the fall did not change that. Our spirit is separated from communion with God due to our sin but it has not ceased to exist. Our spirits sin just as much as our flesh.

If our spirits were not affected by our sin then we would be very close to Gnosticism and might as well indulge the flesh since our flesh can have no impact or affect on the spirit. Is this were your theology is leading you?

But why would you say that? Isn't that a direct intervention, an imposition on the will? Hasn't the softening overridden the hardening? In other words, hasn't the newsoft, caused anything that might come of it?

It is the act of God reaching out in grace to the sinner. If not for this act of grace the sinner could not respond to God. God’s grace enables a positive response but does not irresistibly cause it. It is still our response and we are responsible for that response.

It is not the same as judicial hardening because God cannot leave us to a relationship with Him when there is not yet any relationship existing. God can leave us to our rebellion in judicial hardening by removing His grace because we are already in a state of rebellion. That is, we have hardened our hearts to God’s gracious movements and God has the right to hand us over to that hardening.

“Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.”

And, isn't that secondary causation, which you deny as being compatible with the nature of a meticulous God?

It is not cause and effect but influence and response. That is how genuine relationships work.

You have as much admitted that God does indeed superintend upon the thoughts and intents of the heart by softening. And Scripture confirms that God alone is the creator of men's souls. So, how do you explain that initial hardening of any measure, total, or partial? Or any softening?

I have admitted that God can, and likely does, override the will to accomplish His purposes. I have denied that God would override the will to sin since that would make Him the author of sin. You have affirmed that God meticulously controls the will anyway and so there is no need to override the will. By affirming this you also make God the direct cause of sin.

Man is born with a corrupt nature but he is not as hardened as he can be since God’s grace is always active. As man continues to rebel he will continue to harden himself to God’s gracious movements. God may remove that grace altogether if such rebellion continues. That is why the call and warning is so urgent, “Today, if your hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”

"The resurrection of Lazarus was not an object lesson on inability and soteriology."

Really? Soteriology has nothing to do with faith? Hmmm... The whole of the scene is the emphasis on the Resurrection. So, soteriology, is not about that? Or salvation? Jesus' resurrecting Lazarus was just testing their innate ability to be gullible? The confession that was made by Martha is that she already believed in the resurrection (or so she thought). The Resurrection is a name, the name of Jesus, and he emphatically makes it known that she does not have a clue as to what he has meant all along. Dude come back from the Aminian wasteland, your presuppostitions are evicerating the text.


The point was that a strict parallel should not be drawn between the physical resurrection of Lazarus and the ordo salutis; just as a strict parallel should not be drawn between spiritual death and the inability of a corpse.

Lazarus did not experience the same resurrection as we will since he was not raised incorruptible, but died again. It was a display of Christ’s power and authority and a looking forward to the final resurrection but it was not a lesson on the ordo salutis or the inability of one who is spiritually dead. Such things need to read into the text. If anyone’s presuppositions are wrongly influencing the text it would appear to be yours.

And why always appeal to Lazarus for such things? Is it because you cannot find a clear Biblical affirmation of regeneration preceding faith? Christ is the source of spiritual life and we can only share in that life through union with Him. We come to be in union with Him through faith. That is the bottom line and no appeals to Lazarus or mud hearing, etc. will change that very basic Biblical truth.

"Dead--> hearing (of faith)--> life."

Adam heard. Mud hears?


My Bible says that God made Adam out of the dust of the earth and breathed into him the breath of life and he became a living being. It does not say that Adam heard God while he was but dust and it does not say that mud heard. Even if that were the case it would not prove that that is how spiritually dead people come to experience spiritual life.

We are not talking about mud. We are not talking about corpses. We are talking about how God interacts and gives life to human beings who are spiritually separated from Him. The fact that you have to talk about mud further demonstrates the complete lack of Biblical support for your doctrines.

And, so if I said the mud will hear and live, that would be accurate and yet would not say anything about the ability of the mud. We know infact that the mud did hear. But, mud cannot hear, can it? Well not unless it is made to hear.

Despite the ridiculous analogy I will play along. Yes, mud was made to hear just as God’s grace overcomes our depravity so that we can hear Him unto life. God enables us to hear Him and respond in faith. That faith response unites the believer to Christ- the only source of spiritual life.

All you have proven is that God can overcome the inability to hear without first granting life. This is exactly the Arminian position.

And then only as it is made a living soul. So yes the dead will hear, but not while they're dead.

And this is supposed to make sense? If the dead do not hear while they are dead then they are not dead when they hear! Therefore, the dead do not actually hear which again puts you in conflict with the very words of Christ for the sake of clinging to your C presuppositions.

Now, there is an abundance of evil in many words. So I'll turn this back to Gordon or another hit man.

Then I am just as evil as you. Thanks for the chat.

Gordan,

You are quite right that you are more prideful than me. I rarely share this but I once won a competition for the most humble person in my church. They gave me a pin that stated as much but later took it away because I wore it.

God Bless,
Ben

bethyada said...

I don't think that Arminian thought demands that God can never override man's will or actions, rather that he does not do so at all times and that at times (many times) men can resist God, ie. choose the opposite of what God wants them to choose. That God at times prevents evil men from doing evil or thinking evil is not a discriminating point, this can believed by people on both sides of the debate.

I actually want to discuss your illustration which I think misconstrues the situation.

Gordon So, Absalom the leader is confronted with a choice. One is more wise and likely to get him what he wants. The other is ridiculous. He chooses the ridiculous option.

It seems ridculous to you because you have the benefit of the biblical author's commentary and the benefit of hindsight. The real question is how did the situation and advice seem to Absalom?

We agree that Ahithophel's advice seemed good to Absalom. But he asks to hear Hushai. There are several things that make Hushai's advice seem good that come out of the passage:

Then Absalom said, "Call Hushai the Archite also, and let us hear what he has to say."

Absalom respects the opinions of Hushai, probably based on his reputation (Ahithophel's was good too) and the fact that he was a confidant of the king yet appears to be changing sides.

And when Hushai came to Absalom, Absalom said to him, "Thus has Ahithophel spoken; shall we do as he says? If not, you speak." 7Then Hushai said to Absalom, "This time the counsel that Ahithophel has given is not good."

Poisoning the well. Ahithophel gives good advice usually, but in this case...

Hushai said, "You know that your father and his men are mighty men, and that they are enraged, like a bear robbed of her cubs in the field. Besides, your father is expert in war; he will not spend the night with the people.

Emphasising David's well known abilities and reminding him he and his men are seasoned warriors.

Behold, even now he has hidden himself in one of the pits or in some other place.

Suggesting that David will not be caught which is the only reason for the mission.

And as soon as some of the people fall at the first attack, whoever hears it will say, 'There has been a slaughter among the people who follow Absalom.' Then even the valiant man, whose heart is like the heart of a lion, will utterly melt with fear, for all Israel knows that your father is a mighty man, and that those who are with him are valiant men.

Making Absalom fearful of a poor outcome and suggesting failure of this one mission will destroy all Absalom's prospects of becoming king.

But my counsel is that all Israel be gathered to you, from Dan to Beersheba, as the sand by the sea for multitude,

Probably his shrewdest comment. Playing to Absalom's pride. All Israel, before you, men without number.

and that you go to battle in person.

More stroking Absalom's ego.

So we shall come upon him in some place where he is to be found, and we shall light upon him as the dew falls on the ground, and of him and all the men with him not one will be left.

And not just David, you will defeat every man.

If he withdraws into a city, then all Israel will bring ropes to that city, and we shall drag it into the valley, until not even a pebble is to be found there."

There will be no limit to your strength Absalom.

And Absalom and all the men of Israel said, "The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel."

Hushai makes immediate pursuit out to be unsuccessful and seal his fate in failure versus delaying and leading all Israel to defeat not only David but all his men and seal his future as king over all Israel in the one act.

This does not seem like ridiculous advice to Absalom. He has reacted in his fear and pride and it seems like good advice—Better than Ahithophel's.

Gordan Runyan said...

Bethyada,

Thanks for commenting.

Thank you also for showing how it is that Absalom probably thought he was doing the smart thing.

I don't have a problem with your analysis of his situation and how the advice struck him.

The point of the post is, though, what is the ultimate reason that it struck him that way?

It may have seemed perfectly reasonable to him on all counts, but it was still advice that was going to destroy him. And why is that? Because that's how God wanted it.

-- Also, I am glad you and Ben are able to admit that God is free to override the "freewill" decisions of His creatures, and so this story gives you no problems. But the post is aimed more at those who would attack Reformed theology by suggesting it is somehow evil or tyrannical for God to direct a man's decisions at any point. And folks like that are legion, and they call themselves Arminians.

--Also, out of curiosity, I am wondering how you would say it is possible for people to make a decision God doesn't want them to make. It seems to me the only way to believe such a thing is to deny God's exhaustive foreknowledge.

Again, thanks for commenting here. Welcome to the Mafia blog.

Gordan Runyan said...

Ben, your humble comments about Assurance strike me funny.

How you can claim a Calvinist who believes in perseverance can never have as much assurance as an Arminian who believes he could very well fall away is so counter-intuitive to me that I'm thinking you've got to be joking.

If you put two parallel Christians side-by-side, who live identical lives before God; and one is Calvinist, the other Arminian, at every point at which the Arminian feels some sense of assurance, the Calvinist has every right to cling to the very same, and then to go further and have even more based on God's own faithfulness to His decrees. I cannot think of an instance in these two lives in which something could happen so that the Calvinist ought to have less assurance than the Arminian.

I realize you can, so I'm seeking enlightenment.

Strong Tower said...

"And this is supposed to make sense? If the dead do not hear while they are dead then they are not dead when they hear! Therefore, the dead do not actually hear which again puts you in conflict with the very words of Christ for the sake of clinging to your C presuppositions."

Actually, yes, very much so. No, you do not understand. Let's see if it is me, or you, in conflict with Christ.

Not at all, did God make man merely out of dust. Yaz see, mud is wet dust: "In the sweat of your face shalt thou eat bread, till you return into the ground; for out of it were you taken: for dust you are, and into dust shall you return." Note that ground is a synonym for dust in this passage! Ground can be dust, but it can be wet, and if wet, mud. But it gets better:

The word chomer is mud, and it is also, clay, but interestingly it is also ground, and ground is equated with dust in Genesis 3:19. So it as I said, God made man out of mud. He made man out of mud, or God lied when speaking through Isaiah,(since Jesus is God the Word, it is Jesus who is speaking.) Because, the word there is chomer, which shares an interesting root, chamar, which means reddened, or ruddied, (in Aramaic, wine [Hebrew, chemer], refering to the ground it came from); it is to daub (as in to mud) but, it is also a synonym for a close cousin, 'adamah, meaning ground or dust, but is also the name we know as Adam. So, God made man out of mud which is wet dust, and the mud did hear, and man is mud but he is not. Well yes, then mud can hear, when it became a man, but not before. Which is the whole point. Can the dead hear, yes, when they become alive. To you this escapes understanding. It is very simple, if you take all of Scripture and do not isolate meanings like dust and contradict Jesus Christ.

Before my children were born I could easily have said, though it is not at all a normal usage, that the born would be unborn without contradiction, because the word born means to carry and once birthed they would be not born. So, I could say that the born were unborn and mean the opposite of what it seems to mean. Likewise I could say that they were conceived which cannot be separated from the meaning of born when speaking of gestation. And I could go further and say that the conceptus was the unborn and mean that they had been birthed. I could also say that before conception they were unborn and mean that they would be born when conceived, but also mean that they were just a thought. But I could also mean by unborn that they had not even been thought of yet. And, I could say that before they were conceived, they were dead, because they had not yet been conceived, but when born, then the dead would live because those who were thought of surely had no life when they were a thought. I call them all they even though I understand that at one point they were not. I could keep up the semantics of intent but only so long as I do not use rigid, inflexible meanings, as you do. But if I used conceived to only mean a thought, we could never have begotten our children because they would have remained dead as merely a thought.

To say that the dead, or the mud, which cannot hear, will hear doesn't take genius to figure out, any more that it is hard to understand "Be ever hearing but not hearing and seeing but not seeing", a statement that uses words that can be interchanged and not lose the sense. The order of the words does not, necessarily affect the intent. Or, to say that out of the mouths of babes God has perfected praise, which means clear teaching, comes from those who do not know what they are saying but later will, though they were dead in their understanding when they spoke, does not mean that they could not speak those words even though to the understanding of those words they were as much as dead.

Are men who are alive and able to hear unable to hear at the same time, and dead to what they hear? Yes, the Scripture makes that very claim. Then when do the dead hear? The conclusion of Scripture, as it was from Genesis forward, is that the dead do not hear, that is comprehend, until they are made to hear, living beings with the ability to. Likewise unless one is born again, that is regenerated by the Spirit, they cannot hear and understand what the Spirit says of the Kingdom, such as you need to repent. It does not contradict Jesus' word, it confirms it, as it is written: "But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand." Now, how is it that clay was hearing or speaking? Or, as to my point: they were not clay, anymore than Adam was dust when God called him dust, yet he was. Dead men cannot hear, simply. But, it is not that simple, for God does call things that are not as though they were. They are not before they are, but he calls them things which are. It is illogical to say that dead men hear, but if they are made alive then dead men can and the saying "The dead shall hear", does not mean that the dead literalistically hear in either a physiological or a spiritual sense while they remain dead. So it is also written: "When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions". But while in the flesh you were dead and could not hear (understand) 1 Co 2:14, and could not repent because you were dead. Understand is ginosko, a synonym for eido, to perceive with any of the senses, or with the mind, used in John 3:3. To repent, one must understand, but the dead hear nothing, nor is there understanding in them. Therefore Jesus said, "You're a teacher of Israel and you do not understand?" Simple, eh?

As to the rest, until you can understand this, it makes little sense to go further, however:

You quoted Calvin, and did so erroneously: "Calvin at least recognized this difficulty in his theology with regards to those who fall away and appealed to evanescent grace which completely undermined assurance." Evanescent grace is transient grace, and he was speaking of the common operations of which all men can avail themselves. Calvin is explicitly clear that he is not speaking of the Believer, but unbelievers. The Reformed faith never excludes that common grace which is available even to the unregenerate. But, it recognizes what the Scripture does. That certain men do have common operations of the Spirit. That being, the Word of God does not magically appear, it was given by the Spirit. Man is not so corrupted that he has no mind, and the appeal of the Word of God is evident in the many pagan religions around us who quote it all the time. Those truths are at least efficacious in that they give light to the whole world. But to share the common operation of the Spirit who says "Do not steal," is qualitatively different to the possessor of that knowledge by the same measure of the nature of the one who possesses it. To the one it is the Word which leads to life, to the other it is the Word which condemns. Calvin shared John's perspective and Paul's and Peter's and Jesus', in knowing that there are many who have different manifestations of the Spirit who are only transient believers, not having faith at all, Judas being the most obvious example. Calvin was clearly monergistic and placed no value in man's decisions as to the perseverance of the faith. I would invite you to read him more closely and not to set portions aside that contradict your presuppositions as you do with the Bible.

Being ridiculous as I am: "All you have proven is that God can overcome the inability to hear without first granting life. This is exactly the Arminian position." And all you have said by this is that you believe that all men equally hear God, in the same way and same sense, which Jesus flatly denies in his example of the parables, and is abundantly clear in the Nicodemus discourse and Jesus' interaction with the Jews who believed, but he said they could not understand his words. Nor have you established that even if God did make all men to hear equally, that they could by that then save themselves by understanding what they had heard and choosing to believe it. In the end what you have proven is that your position takes man's effort to save himself. And by that, you have made the claim that some men are more deserving of God's unmerited favor than others because of some innate goodness in some that is not in others. For if all were equally positioned, as you contend, then all would be saved, except that for some meritorious work, the choice of the good opposed to the choice of evil, which you believe saves them. Because of that choice, some are saved and others not, and not because of God. As you believe God does not meticulously intervene, so also, it must be by some spiritual upmanship that some are saved and others not.

But that is not the Biblical position that is stated in John 3:3. The entirety of that statement is that no one "hear" eido, understand, perceive, know, realize, see, et cetera, unless one is born again, another gennao, regenerated, made new life, crafted likewise from the ground up.

Not long ago I was speaking with an evolutionist. He contended that life has no beginning and no end. So to speak of life coming to be was ridiculous. Now, being what I am, a fool, I said, "Is to say when that which was not, now is, the same thing as something coming to life (to being)?"

If God overcame the inability to hear by making deafness cease, he in otherwords, gave life, new being. I do not care how you want to explain it, what was dead was made to live. So the dead was made alive and did hear. So you admit, that something was made new life before confession could be mand. Of course we are speaking of the spiritual ability to hear, which the natural man cannot do, 1 Cor. 2:14. You believe that God infused some grace, which is the semi-Pelagian postition which acknowledges inherent goodness in man and God's assistance to nurture man's feeble attemps at groping for God. I do not. I believe what Scripture teaches that we are dead and made alive, not just given a stimulus that may or may not take, Isaiah 55:11.

If you want to say it was just that God gave him new ears so that he could hear, and then the rest of him jumped up from the morgue table and crafted himself a new mind of Christ out of his fleshly dust, so that he could understand the mysteries of the Kingdom, and be saved, so be it. If you want to give to man the credit, fine. You rob Christ of his reward and the Father of his creation. If you want to say that Jesus is not the aitios, archegos and telieotes, of our salvation by faith and that a gift, oh well. If you want to say that Lazarus came out of that tomb on his own, okay. But there is no way a man wrapped head to toe like a mummy is going to walk out on his own. That, I guess from an Arminian perspective is all okay, but it isn't found in Scripture, anywhere.

Gordan Runyan said...

Thomas, it is probably a grievous sign of my lack of sanctification, but I admit that I giggled a lot as I read that last comment.