The John 3:16 Conference- Moving Forward as Calvinists in the SBC

Over the course of the last several posts I have tried as best as I could to review the positions taken and ideas expressed by the presenters at the John 3.16 Conference, provide my own response to what they said in defense of the five points of Calvinism, and tackle several sticky issues of accountability and future outcomes. Finally, to wrap it all up, I would like to give my own personal feelings about how Calvinists in the Southern Baptist Convention should move forward from here.

First off, there is the question of why I even find this important to begin with? Is my interest in having “SBC” stand for “Southern Baptist Calvinists”? Certainly not. I do not expect everyone to eventually come to the conviction that the Calvinist soteriological position is the only possible way. Instead, what I desire is that those who call themselves Southern Baptists can be joined in unity over the inerrancy of Scripture and our responsibility to share the Gospel message, and that issues of soteriology can be addressed in their right role as secondary matters which do not interfere with our primary purpose.

Why do I hope for this? Because God has blessed the SBC in so many ways, with both great financial and physical resources, that to see us squander this on something that should not even be of first importance would be a horrible tragedy. Many people today would abandon the denomination in a heartbeat if it begins to conflict with their personal convictions on salvation, and I can’t say as I blame them necessarily. But, I have made a commitment in myself to pursue the unity of this body (the SBC) so that we can use the advantages God has blessed us with in order to complete his purposes in the Great Commission.

Therefore, having made that commitment and having seen the conflict that is rising between the recent Calvinist resurgence and traditional SBC thought, what do I think is the proper way for young SBC Calvinists to more forward? Should we engage in the battle and set the stage for an ultimate Calvinism v. Non-Calvinism deathmatch down the road, or should we completely disengage and quietly follow our convictions regardless of the firestorm around us? I think it needs to be a balance of both approaches with a primary basis in honoring God above all else.

As Calvinists we need to be determined to follow our biblical convictions in spite of the derision or opposition that we may face, not compromising on the Word of God as has been revealed to us. If we begin hedging our beliefs or remaining silent on how we truly feel in order to ease the animosity that some may have towards us, we will simply give a foothold to those who already oppose Calvinism, that they may further call the genuineness and biblical nature of our convictions into question. We also need be careful not to direct the same derision and opposition towards our non-Calvinist brethren, as I have already noted that their soteriological convictions should just be a secondary, in-house matter to us.

Then as regards to engaging the debate, I believe the most powerful argument we have for the inclusion of strong Calvinistic beliefs in SBC life is a humble adherence to and consistent portrayal of the doctrinal conclusions in Calvinism. We must not let the opposition frame Calvinism as an arrogant assertion of God’s favor towards the elect and hatred towards the non-elect, nor as a system which promotes irresponsible Christian living on the basis of God’s sovereign election. Instead, we must emphasis the role of God’s glory in the greatness of his mercy, the sovereignty of his election, the worthiness of his sacrifice, the power of his grace, and the faithfulness of his commitment, without any of which we would have no hope for salvation. We should not wear our Calvinism on our sleeves, but we must be prepared to exclaim the supremacy of God in our soteriological convictions, and do so in a way which reveals our commitment to the word of God and not just a blind adherence to a theological system (this means that, if you are only a Calvinist because you read a John Piper book, then you need to hit the Bible and verify/solidify your convictions with the teachings of Scripture).

People aren’t going to be convinced of the genuineness of Calvinist convictions because we yell the loudest or write the most convincing blog posts. What will convince them is the condition of our hearts and the exhibition of God’s love through our daily practice. The foreordination of God’s election and the definiteness of Christ’s atonement should be of no hindrance to our evangelism since God’s decree of who will be saved is no more known to us than anyone else; and thus our responsibility lies in sharing the Gospel with all who are without Christ, knowing that God will be faithful to save all of those whom he has appointed to eternal life. We must demonstrate that a Calvinist zeal for evangelism exists in accord with our convictions, and not in spite of them as some have tried to rationalize.

Above all, we must emphasize a commitment to giving God the glory in all that he does, since the essence of sin is trying to take away from God’s glory and apply it to ourselves.

Calvinism in the SBC is a big issue right now, and, as I have shown throughout these posts, stands largely unresolved as to how the convention itself is going to deal with it. There seems to be a very real sense in which this debate, if not handled in a biblically appropriate manner, could cause a great division, and possibly destruction of our denomination in the near future. Therefore, for those like myself who have both Calvinist beliefs and a conviction to preserve the SBC, the final verdict could ultimately lie in our hands. If we choose a path of arrogance and argumentation then we could argue ourselves right into a denominational split, while if we move forward with head down in ambivalence we could look up one day to find our convictions no longer welcome in SBC life. However, if we choose to live transparently, magnifying the glory of God in his sovereign decrees and the convictions of Calvinism, we can demonstrate to everyone why the acceptance of Calvinism in the SBC is a move towards, and not away from, the heart of God.

14 Responses to “The John 3:16 Conference- Moving Forward as Calvinists in the SBC”

  1. John Lofton, Recovering Republican Says:

    Calvin-admiring site; please visit/comment. TheAmericanView.com.

    John Lofton, Editor

    Recovering Republican

    JLof@aol.com

  2. Richard Coords Says:

    Hello Todd,

    I read several of your posts, and I wanted to share a thought. You are pondering the future of the SBC and what role a Calvinist, such as yourself, could peaceably maintain within the SBC family, going forward, in a manner of unity, which considers the C/A matter as an “in-house debate” for Christians who are pursuing the kingdom of God. But in reality, it’s not an amicable situation. It’s an irreconcilable dispute, in which, I feel, the only healthy alternative is a divorce/split. What’s completely unhealthy is the never-ending strife within jihad/insurgency of the SBC until the day when it is finally“Reformed.” Having read your posts, you’ve stated that such is *not* your intent, but it appears to be the case with many on your side of the aisle. It’s a no-win situation. I’d like to give you my perspective, because I pondered my own belonging, within a *Calvinist* Church, as I began to question Calvinism. I was a Baptist who was ignorant of Calvinism, and so when I left to join a Calvinist seed church (which was a newly formed Church after a split from my prior Baptist Church), I became immersed in a new-found Calvinist doctrine. However, as I began to study the matter more fully, I began to question the biblical nature of Calvinism with my fellow Calvinist believers, and much to their horror. As a result, I found myself becoming more and more ostracized within the Church. I was seen as the dreaded “Arminian” who dared to question the citadel of Reformed Theology. In fact, when word got out to the Pastor, I immediately received a phone call from him, with an offer to receive a CD on Election by John MacArthur, which I had actually already listened to. In addition, the Pastor immediately suspended his series on Revelation, and immediately began a series on TULIP. In one sermon, the Pastor stated: “And some people believe in ‘whosoever will’” (at which point I blurted out ‘Amen,’ and the Pastor followed up with, “but no, we were chosen!” And the congregation followed up with their own chorus of “Amens.” In the end, I decided not to play the role of an insurgent. I told the Pastor that the Church should have unity, rather than strife, and I felt that my presence undercut that unity. Since then, the church has adopted a new policy on membership, that of signing a statement of faith in Reformed Theology. So do I naively believe that the C/A matter is a strife-free, friendly “in-house” debate amongst Christians? Experience has taught otherwise. Even in our own mixed Bible study group on Saturday mornings, Calvinism has always managed to raise its head. Even when we tried to avoid the controversy in front of new believers, the matter always came up, as the Calvinists within the group always insisted on bringing the matter up. So is a clean split within the Baptist church healthy? Is it for the best? How about a better question…Will it happen? No way. Never. The Calvinists within the SBC feel a historical tie to the SBC and will never, in a million years, leave it. Calvinists are there to stay, until the day when the SBC is completely “Reformed.” That’s the reality of it. So that’s why I feel that the best approach is to split now, and just be done with it. Let each side have their own SBC president that that they can be proud of (doctrinally speaking), and be done with the in-house jihad and insurgency. Anyhow, that’s my two cents.

    Richard

  3. Todd Burus Says:

    Richard,
    I appreciate your response. I don’t know that I would necessarily go as far as you have read me in saying that there can be a strife-free unity to the Calvinism/non-Calvinism debate. When I say “in-house” I mean that it is a debate between Bible-believing, justified by faith brothers, but I don’t mean to indicate that I think that balance between the systems will always be easy to navigate.

    I think this is where local church autonomy comes in. The pastor, or board of elders, sets the tone for what will be the prevailing view in the church (a sentiment that it seems you agree with). What I am concerned with is the SBC as a denomination saying that local churches holding Calvinistic beliefs are unacceptable. I do not believe that the SBC is or should want to be in a position to make a final ruling on Calvinism. Yes, we all hold to perseverance, but beyond that I think that the BFM is correct in remaining silent.

    As for who’s causing the ruckus, I think there are many more voices pushing the non-Calvinism/Arminian viewpoint as an SBC issue then there are pushing for a Reformed SBC. The reason for this is because many Calvinists are not going to let the denomination direct their soteriology and so just leave when they feel threatened. To my part, I want to be a voice saying “We’re here, we’re not heretics, quit misrepresenting us.” I am not a lifelong SBCer, nor am I all that thrilled about denominations in the first place, but I just believe that God has blessed the SBC with the core-principles and resources he did for a reason and as such I will fight to keep it available for Calvinist and non-Calvinist alike.

    On a side note, I don’t know that I agree with an SBC church asking members to sign on to a Reformed confession, but that’s just me. I think that adhering to the Calvinist doctrines should be a conviction of a person’s heart from study and reflection with God, not a core-principle demanded by the church.

  4. Richard Coords Says:

    You wrote: “What I am concerned with is the SBC as a denomination saying that local churches holding Calvinistic beliefs are unacceptable.”

    Agreed.

    You wrote: “As for who’s causing the ruckus, I think there are many more voices pushing the non-Calvinism/Arminian viewpoint as an SBC issue then there are pushing for a Reformed SBC.”

    :) That’s debatable. Jeff Noblit, speaker at last year’s “Building Bridges” conference last year, offered this “bridge” to non-Calvinists:

    1) “Any preacher…who dumbs down the depravity of man…is not preaching the true Gospel. That’s not the Gospel. It’s not clever; it’s wicked. It’s dooming men’s souls and leading millions to false assurance.” (Calvinism: A Cause for Rejoicing and Concern)

    2) “The rise of the Doctrines of Grace will help to restore true evangelism.”

    3) Arminian conversion is “not a real conversion,” and gives people a “false sense of security.”

    4) The alternative to God-centered Calvinism is Man-centered, humanistic “Liberalism.”

    5) “The work of prayer is not salvation.” [i.e. Gospel Invitation followed by a Sinner’s Prayer]

    6) “It can become a silly superstition and a sacrament in Baptist clothes.”

    You wrote: “The reason for this is because many Calvinists are not going to let the denomination direct their soteriology and so just leave when they feel threatened.”

    Again, I agree. But I can’t help but think, though, that both sides would be best served by having two sister denominations: SBC & Reformed SBC, each with their own president, though partnering in the ministry in their own way.

    You wrote: “On a side note, I don’t know that I agree with an SBC church asking members to sign on to a Reformed confession, but that’s just me. I think that adhering to the Calvinist doctrines should be a conviction of a person’s heart from study and reflection with God, not a core-principle demanded by the church.”

    Agreed.

    Last point: I felt that the J316 Conference was very important. Even though I disagree with the current SBC leadership’s somewhat incoherent take on Unconditional Election (viz. “Baptist Battles” message), putting their own perspective out there is actually very important. Where is Stanley’s comprehensive work on the subject? Vines? Hunt? Patterson? Bueller? They need to be more involved in theology, and in ALL aspects of theology, beyond just the C&A dispute (Catholicism, JW’s, Baptismal Regenerationism, ect).

    God bless,
    Richard

  5. Todd Burus Says:

    Richard,
    As firm believer in the total depravity of man I have no doubt that the voices on the Calvinist side can be as vitriolic as those on the non-Calvinist side, but the point I was trying to make is that by shear number there are many more voices speaking out against accepting Calvinism than there are pushing for it in the SBC.

    As for J316C, I don’t think it was too important, and as I expressed to Dr. Vines and Dr. Hunt in my letter I believe it is actually counter-productive. Building Bridges was the right step, and set an example of equality and transparency which the J316C organizers missed badly.

    The reason you don’t see a more detailed explanation of what the non-Calvinists believe on election is because they don’t have a (good) position to put forth. I don’t know if you have looked through my argument in favor of Unconditional Election (a series entitled “God Decides 2008!”), but in it I lay out some undeniables which everyone who follows the Bible must affirm. One is that election exists. Two, election must have been decreed before we were created. Already at this point you have to make a decision. Either God decreed election unconditionally or there were conditions on election which God could establish before we were made (which is why men appeal to the “eternal-now” perspective of foreknowledge). Also, you must choose what purpose God’s election serves: either it is effectual for salvation or it is not. Thus you have four basic positions. The Calvinist position is unconditional and fully effectual. If it is unconditional and ineffectual then election seems Scriptually pointless. If it is conditional and effectual then God is controlled by man and and again election seems pointless. If it is conditional and ineffectual then what exactly is it being conditioned on? (If anyone holds this view they should be made aware of how little sense it makes immediately.) In any of these 3 non-Calvinist positions there remains substantial explaining to do, which is why I think we get some of these incoherent hybrid philosophical ponderings from the non-C camp instead of something which could be argued for in Scripture like Calvinist Unconditional Election.

    Beyond election, it is just a plain fact that these preachers are not scholars (save Patterson). They are interested in persuasion-based evangelism and church/leadership growth strategies. That is why when they try and speak out against a deeply theological issue like Calvinism they often times come across as woefully unprepared, because what they are working from isn’t a scholarly approach to the argument but a biased, country preacher prejudice that they inherited from somewhere.

    (Note: I actually made the argument to someone the other day that the reason these persuasion-based evangelists in the line of Charles Finney and Billy Graham are so antagonistic towards Calvinism is because Calvinism says that the way they have made their living in the church is through an inaccurate view of Scripture. Namely, if salvation depends on God’s choosing and effectually calling someone to believe then the non-Calvinists slick country vocals and down home smile are not nearly as important as they think. This argument comes across mean, but I’m not so certain it is too far off from the truth. What do you think?)

  6. Richard Coords Says:

    Hello,

    You wrote: “The reason you don’t see a more detailed explanation of what the non-Calvinists believe on election is because they don’t have a (good) position to put forth. … If it is conditional and ineffectual then what exactly is it being conditioned on?”

    Being in Christ. Arminian Election is essentially this: You have an election with God the Father based upon your identification with His Son. In other words, you are set apart as God’s chosen people in lieu of being “in Christ.” A constant theme in my readings of Arminian literature, heavily stresses that election is contingent on being “in Christ,” and that God’s eternal choice to elect is not so much to “choose people who chose Him,” but to “choose people who chose His Son,” that is, to adopt in Christ. As an Arminian, my favorite illustration of election is with Mephibosheth, who had been adopted into the family of David on account of his identification with and position in Jonathan’s family, through the blood covenant made between David and Jonathan. From there, you can extrapolate some Arminian election principles.

    The only hybrid form of Election that I’m aware of is a Calvinistic form of Molinism, where God uses His exhaustive middle knowledge, that is, His knowledge of all contingencies, to orchestrate the events which He knows will effectually result in an “elect” person’s repentance. I believe that it’s called “Congruism.” I’m not 100% sure though.

    You wrote: “That is why when they try and speak out against a deeply theological issue like Calvinism they often times come across as woefully unprepared, because what they are working from isn’t a scholarly approach to the argument but a biased, country preacher prejudice that they inherited from somewhere.”

    They are indeed unprepared. Their sermon’s reflect it. They have no published works on the subject, which is why I have the dim hope that the J316 Conference doesn’t result in a “papal bull,” so to speak, but rather spurs them into further theological study, and the production of a theological work, which the Christian body can evaluate. Otherwise, I agree with you that the debate is fairly lopsided right now.

    As for Finney and Graham, their angst is probably a personal one, in terms that they personally feel that they would probably spend less time in evangelism if they thought that there was an elect class which were are all going to be saved anyway, regardless of who did the outreach. Obviously, Spurgeon took the exact opposite approach, in that Calvinism gave him more boldness and confidence to evangelize, believing that God would give him elect converts to preach to. I don’t need to get into all of that, but just to answer your question, I don’t think that it’s as sinister as a monetary issue, but rather a personal one, in terms of how it would affect the aforementioned’s own evangelistic efforts.

    I look forward to reading “God Decides 2008!”

  7. Todd Burus Says:

    Richard,
    I agree with you in regards to what constitutes Arminian election, this is the one which I refer to as conditional and effectual. It just so happens with this point that (1) it makes God’s “decree” complete determined by human action, which just seems awkward even to say, and (2) makes the whole doctrine of election seemingly pointless because it makes God a band wagoner instead of a worker in election (which is why I ask what is the point of election in this case). I think the illustration you give is difficult for an Arminian to push because Mephibosheth did not choose to be in Jonathan’s family, whereas an Arminian would say we choose to be in Christ.

    The question I ask about what is election conditioned on if it is conditional and ineffectual is in light of the fact of what you said about Arminian election. Election to an Arminian consists in God choosing us because he sees that we will choose him. But, for a non-Calvinist who holds to Perseverance, if we choose Christ then we will be assured of salvation, and so if election is conditioned on us choosing to be in Christ then it would have to be effectual. Thus, if it is claimed to be conditional and INeffectual then the conditioning must be on some other criteria than us choosing to be in Christ.

    When I speak of hybrid election I am thinking of Land’s view of congruent election and Geisler’s concept of “moderate Calvinism” (which has a fairly Arminian character to it). I am not 100% certain how a Molinist handles election either, though I myself would not be fond of calling Molinism a type of hybrid Calvinism because I think it leans too heavily towards the side of God being bound by the decisions of man, which most Calvinists would rebel against.

    As for Finney-Graham persuasion-based evangelism, I did not mean to imply that it was a sinister monetary issue which was motivating the animosity in the situation I described. I think it is more of a pride issue. If a person has made their reputation (at least in their own eyes) out of being able to adequately persuade people to repentance and faith, then it would be a serious ego check to suddenly be confronted with the fact that that your charisma had not accomplished anything. It’s kind of like their life’s work was using their persuasive skills to get decisions for Christ and so if their persuasion is not what does that then it would seem like their life’s work and their conception of their self would be shattered, which I think would lead any person to kick against that idea if for nothing more than self-preservation. Again, this is just a thought and I do not mean to accuse anyone in particular of having these feelings.

  8. Richard Coords Says:

    Hello,

    You wrote: “Difficult for an Arminian to push because Mephibosheth did not choose to be in Jonathan’s family, whereas an Arminian would say we choose to be in Christ.”

    I agree, but there is another angle, which makes sense for an Arminian to jump on.
    In other words, David didn’t say, “Let’s go bless Mephibosheth. My purpose is to display my mercy and grace through blessing that poor guy.” Instead, due to a blood covenant between David and Jonathan, it was a matter of David seeking to bless Jonathan, and ‘whosoever’ was identified with Jonathan’s family stood to gain in that blessing. Now you can see where the Arminian perks up. Stated another way, as an Arminian, I do *not* have the perspective that God eternally declared: “Let’s go bless Richard Coords. My purpose is to display my mercy and grace through blessing that poor guy.” (But that is my perspective of what Calvinism would require.) Instead, due to the blood covenant of Calvary, between God and Christ, it was a matter of God seeking to bless His Son, and ‘whosoever’ is identified with His Son, stands to gain in that blessing. So that’s why this illustration is desirable for the Arminian perspective.

    You wrote: “For a non-Calvinist who holds to Perseverance, if we choose Christ then we will be assured of salvation, and so if election is conditioned on us choosing to be in Christ then it [our choice to be in Christ] would have to be effectual.”

    I’m not sure if I understood you correctly, but I would say:

    Becoming in Christ = ineffectual by God (i.e. resistible grace).

    Staying in Christ = effectual by God (as the byproduct of true regeneration, and new birth as the new creature in Christ).

    You wrote: “If a person has made their reputation (at least in their own eyes) out of being able to adequately persuade people to repentance and faith, then it would be a serious ego check to suddenly be confronted with the fact that your charisma had not accomplished anything.”

    I’m not sure if I read you correctly, so let me paraphrase what I think that you intend: “Mr. Finney, these people did not come to Christ because of your eloquent preaching style, but because God had elected them, and for no other reason than that, these people are finding it impossible to reject the Gospel. So it had nothing to do with you, or your preaching style, but on God alone.” — And then Finney becomes pridefully enraged at such a theology. — If that’s what you meant, I don’t think that’s the case. What I think, is that he is evaluating Calvinism on a personal level, and how it would effect himself (i.e. should I even be trying? I mean, if there’s an elect group, and they’re all going to be saved anyway, then why toil so much, with blood, sweat and tears?) While I don’t agree with his conclusion, because I personally know of Calvinists who are soul-winners, I know that this is how a great many non-Calvinists think.

  9. jonathonwoodyard Says:

    Richard,

    I have to agree with Todd on the point about the non-Calvinist’s are the ones who are doing MORE of the pushing. You simply cited one man who spoke his convictions about the issue and assume that is evidence to support your claim. That is a horrible way to debate. I could list all the speakers at the J316C and win the argument if that is your method. It may be an unwinnable argument for either side, however, the only group to hold a conference to refute the others claims (that I know of, and don’t say T4G, I have been and it is nothing of the sort) is the non-Calvinistic side. That seems to lend much support to Todd’s argument over and against your quoting one man.

    Again, Richard, your view of election, especially referring to David blessing Mephisbosheth, is a bit weak. Careful trying to build the doctrine of election off a passage that does not have this specific topic in view. Still, this blessing flows from David toMephisbosheth out of the gracious heart of David who loved his friend Jonathan. This passage has nothing to do with salvific election and should not be taken to far. I must agree with Todd. David blessed Mephisbosheth, not because of his choice to be associated with Jonathan, but because he choose to do so of his own good pleasure.

    I agree that God blesses us because we are in Christ. How are we found to be “in Christ” however? That is an important question. That union with Christ happens when we put our “faith” in Jesus. When can we do that? Only when God changes our nature and enables us to do so. Martin Luther called this the necessity of immutability. Our will is bound by our nature. In our sinful and fallen state we can do nothing but flee from God. Therefore, unable to change our nature, we are left helpless. However, God makes us alive, changing our natures, and now, of my own choice, I run towards the cross.

    I will anticipate your argument concerning God’s foreknowledge. This Arminian argument is unconvincing. Oten called the “prescient view”, this view simply refers to God looking down the tunnel of time and knowing who in advance would, in your words, associate with His Son. Then, based on His knowledge of their choice, He chooses them. Sounds like man has room to boast….look what I did! We make God out to be one who must choose me because I chose His Son first. Who is in control there?

    The famous passage to support this claim is Romans 8:29-30. This passage is not helpful to you but supports the unconditional claim easily. Does Paul say that foreknowledge of our future choice of Christ is the basis of God’s predestining? Absolutely not! He simply says that God foreknew those He predestined! Before God can choose anyone He must have those objects/persons in mind. Look at the flow of the text, foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, glorification! All these, in the aorist tense, means that they are seen as already occuring. God foreknew certain individuals, those individuals he internally (vs. externally) calls, they DO come (effectual), are justified, and they persevere until glorification. This text is a piece of meat that a Calvinist should feast on.

    In my view, the Calvinistic understanding of salvation is the lone position that puts God squarely on the throne and leaves no room for man to boast. God is God and we are not, who are we to answer back to God? We bow at His Word, we live for His glory, and we preach the Word because that preaching is the ordained means to the ordained end.

  10. Richard Coords Says:

    Hello Jonathan,

    Point taken about citing just one man.

    Yes, I agree that the Mephisbosheth passage was not about salvific election, but it does establish adoption principles, and that’s particularly what I found so fascinating about it. And, yes, I agree, both sides can use this passage to make an argument. However, I can’t help but agree that it was indeed God’s good pleasure to bless Jonathan, in the same way that it was God’s good pleasure to bless Christ.

    You wrote: “*How* are we found to be ‘in Christ’ however? That is an important question. That union with Christ happens *when* we put our ‘faith’ in Jesus.”

    Agreed, and cross reference that with Ephesians 1:13 and tell me what you think.

    You werote: “When can we do that? Only when God changes our nature and enables us to do so. Martin Luther called this the necessity of immutability. Our will is bound by our nature. In our sinful and fallen state we can do nothing but flee from God. Therefore, unable to change our nature, we are left helpless. However, God makes us alive, changing our natures, and now, of my own choice, I run towards the cross.
    I will anticipate your argument concerning God’s foreknowledge.”

    Actually, the thought of foreknowledge didn’t even come to mind. What came to mind is the necessity of Prevenient Grace, brought upon by the aforementioned discussion on depravity.

    You wrote: “Then, based on His knowledge of their choice, He chooses them.”

    That’s not really the Arminian perspective. As an Arminian, I agree 100% that saying that God chooses us because we choose Him, doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense, nor do I believe that is what Arminianism teaches. It’s more like, God chooses you because you chose His Son. You mentioned that that gives man reason to boast. I respectfully disagree on the basis of Romans 3:27.

    Sounds like man has room to boast….look what I did! We make God out to be one who must choose me because I chose His Son first. Who is in control there?
    You wrote: “The famous passage to support this claim is Romans 8:29-30. … simply says that God foreknew those He predestined! Before God can choose anyone He must have those objects/persons in mind. ”

    May I make one modification? God foreknew those “in Christ.” Those are the objects/persons in mind. Would you agree?

    By the way, nice post. I enjoyed reading your perspective. I had some slight differences, but I enjoyed going through your thought process.

    God bless,
    Richard

  11. Todd Burus Says:

    Richard,
    Not to butt into yours and Jonathon’s interaction, but how do you defend prevenient grace? So many people push this idea, yet I find so little justification for it in Scripture. Plus, if prevenient grace isn’t effectual grace, how does one avoid making salvation into (semi-)Pelagian synergism, which I would expect a modern Arminian like yourself to want to shy away from?

  12. jonathonwoodyard Says:

    Will interact either tomorrow or Monday….don’t have time tonight…..dang it !!!

  13. jonathonwoodyard Says:

    I am glad that we agree that the Mephisbosheth example cannot be taken to far into this conversation. I also am glad that we have, so far, an open, honest, and fair dialogue about this issue. I think it is an important one since my belief is one view sets God up as Sovereign over all things and the other does not. I am enjoying working through your thought process as well.

    Let me respond in order:

    1. You reference Ephesians 1:13. I am not sure what you want me to interact with in regards to my previous statement concerning this verse? I simply said that we are united with Christ when we place our faith in Jesus. This verse says we are sealed with the Spirit after hearing the gospel and responding to it by believing in Him. I agree with that whole-heartedly. This is not inconsistent with the Calvinist perspective. We believe man is fallen and cannot on his own respond to the gospel. Our natures must be changed and then, of our own voalition, come to believe in Jesus, and at that point our salvation in Christ is applied. The issue is how we can come to this point of belief? Which brings us to….

    2. You bring up the issue of “necessity of Prevenient Grace.” After reading my last post, you are right, this should have been what I handled, not the Prescient view of election, although I think that is a main issue to deal with in this conversation. This question has much to do with the extent of the fall, or to be more theological, the effects of Original Sin. How much have we been affected? I will argue that we are totally affected in the sense that there is no way that we can choose God on our own. You, I think, would agree in part. On our own, you would say (and correct me if I misunderstand) that left to ourselves we are unable to respond to God, and therefore there must be Prevenient Grace.

    Where is that in the Scriptures? I see John 6 saying that you cannot come unless you are drawn but that all those that the Father gives to the Son will come! So if all will come, are all drawn in the same way? It cannot be or we have universalism. Prevenient Grace says taht God basically restores all of mankind to the position that they are now freely able to choose Him (Henry Thiessen, Erickson’s Theology). However, this seems to imply that God gives us a level of grace that now enables us to make a choice for Him. But how can I do that when the Scriptures are clear, “no one seeks after God”, that “nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh”, that I should put “no confidence in the flesh.”

    Let me put it this way; “Why does one sinner respond to the offer of grace positively and the other negatively? is the difference in response found in the power of the human will or in some added measure of grace? Does grace assist the sinner in cooperating with grace, or does the sinner cooperate by the power of the flesh alone?”

    If the flesh can incline itself to the offer of the gospel, why is grace needed? In the end, this is semi-Pelagianism. It does not follow logically. This position says that there is a level of good already within a person, which contradicts the clear teachings of Scripture. NOTHING good dwells within me. I do not need some grace to help me make come to Christ, I need ALL of grace to change my nature. God must give me new inclinations which comes from a new nature.

    3. You say that I misrepresent the Arminian position (or at least your understanding of it) by sayingt that God chooses us because we choose Him. You way it this way, “God chooses you because you choose His Son.” How is that different from what I said? The Son is God, therefore, choosing the Son is choosing God, and thus He chooses us. The fact remains, His choosing is necessitated by our previous choice. His act is contingent upon our act. This, again, puts us in the drivers seat and not God.

    You say boasting is excluded by the “law of faith.” I agree. Question is, how do we come to faith. You say it is because of a level of grace that allowed me to respond out of free will. I say that faith is a gift from God bought by the blood of Christ and given only to the elect. I could not have acted in faith apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in my heart to give me a new nature. Boasting is truly excluded. Your position says that God gave me some grace, and out of some good within me, I responded in faith…..look at what I did!

    4. Lastly, I agree that those objects/perrsons were in Christ in the mind of God. But not because they put themselves there. The passage in Ephesians (1:4) says that we are chosen in Christ, but to say that this is evidence of the Arminian view is weak. This passage says nothing about God choosing us in Christ because we put ourselves there. That is a burden the text cannot bear. This text simply affirms that we are chosen in Christ. I take this to mean that we are chosen with the atoning work of Christ always in view within the mind of God. (Revelation 13:8) God foreknew those persons “in Christ”, not because He saw them respond to the gospel, the text does not say this, but with Christ and His work in view. Using the analogy of faith, that i the only plausible answer.

    I must go for now….I am sure you will have good questions. Todd, jump in here and lend us your thoughts. (I typed fast, forgive the misspellings)

  14. josh b Says:

    Todd,
    I’m a virgin to toddongod, and I just had to write to tell you that you have made many of the observations that I have. Your correct that in the “good ol’ boy” cronyism, that tends to rule the convention, they are afraid that these doctrines will prove their antinomianistic evangelism obsolete. I agree in that I don’t think they are worried about the fiscal ramifications, (although that could take place) but they are worried as to their reputations as “soul winners”. This conference was very intellectually dishonest, and I pray that God will be merciful to them. I, like yourself, have no objections to someone questioning my historical view of soteriology, but I do expect the refutations to be done by people who have proven themselves to be scholarly, instead of persons who have just recently decided to get into the business of exegetical theology. Let this be a lesson to all of us, to give our best scholarly pursuits to God throughout our ministries, not just when we come upon doctrines we disagree with.
    Your Brother,
    Josh

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