Jun 30, 2012

Mutually Dependent

In a follow up on the preceding posts regarding the relationship of faith to regeneration (rebirth), I wish not only to state that the Scriptures make these two things concurrent but make them mutually dependent.  We can think of lots of examples in nature and logic that demonstrate mutual dependency.  In other words, one cannot exist without the other. 

There is no order, logical or chronological, insisted on, in Scripture, as regards faith and birth.  Arguing over whether faith causes rebirth or rebirth causes faith is not crucial.  What is crucial is the fact that both are the result of the work of the Holy Spirit.  It is a waste of time to argue over whether faith precede repentance, or vise versa.  What is important is the fact that faith and repentance are mutually dependent things.  They have a mutual cause in the Holy Spirit.  So likewise it is a waste of time to argue over whether regeneration precede faith, or vise versa. 

So, in conclusion, I think it best to say that faith and regeneration are mutually dependent.

Jun 29, 2012

Faith is Begotten

"For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith."  (I John 5: 4)

What is it that is "begotten" or "born" of God?  Certainly it is scriptural to say that a person is begotten.  Jesus said to Nicodemus - "YOU must be born again."  (John 3: 7)  John said - "WHO were born of God."  (John 1: 13) 

This does not include the "whole man," as some old Hardshells contended.  The body and flesh are not renewed and transformed.  The soul, heart, or spirit is what is reborn and regenerated in conversion.  The body or whole man is not renewed till the resurrection of the just.  "If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness."  (Rom. 8: 10 NASV)

Life is begotten when a new person is begotten.  Thus quickening and resurrection may be called a begetting, a genesis of being.  Existence comes with life too.  This is signified in the Greek word gennao. 

According to John, not only is life and new existence begotten, but so is faith in Christ.  He says faith that is "begotten" of God will be victorious;  And, he gives this as the very reason why faith overcomes.  It is because it is divinely begotten.  Thus, to be spiritually born of God is to be a new person in heart, to have spiritual life, to have faith in Christ.  There is no such character who is born again but not in possession of spiritual life and faith.

That faith is begotten may also be gathered from Paul's testimony.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." (Gal. 5: 22-23)

The Greek word for "fruit" is karpos and is sometimes used in reference to birth as when speaking of the "fruit of the womb."  It denotes offspring.  Thus, not only is faith begotten when a person is begotten, but so also are the other characteristics enumerated.

Wrote Peter:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."  (I Peter 1: 3)
Peter says that hope is begotten in the Christian heart when he is begotten.  Thus, the three leading Christian characteristic possessions, faith, hope, and love, are begotten in new birth
I do not think any of this, however, offers any support for those Calvinists who affirm that sinners are born again before faith.  We have as much reason to affirm that we are born again before we are spiritually alive as to affirm that we are born again before we believe. 

It seems to me that the Bible writers often present faith as the means by which the new creature is brought into existence.  They did not see this as contradictory to their affirmations that faith was begotten, and neither should we. 

Paul taught that there are "things that accompany salvation."  (Heb. 6: 9)  One cannot divorce faith, hope, and love from this salvation experience. 

We come to Christ (believe) in order to have spiritual life.  (John 5: 40).  By believing we have life through his name.  (John 20: 31)  We believe to be saved, sanctified, justified, and sealed. 

I agree with Pendleton on the ordo salutis.  A case for each side may be made.  Some scripture seems to put faith as a prior condition to regeneration, and some scripture seems to put faith after it. 

If Scripture states the relationship of faith to regeneration in no definite and absolute order, and uses both orders in its language, then

1.  We should not insist on a definite order
2.  Insist that faith and regeneration are concurrent, each depending on each

Lumpkins on Brantly

Peter Lumpkins, a Southern Baptist who opposes Calvinism, has cited W. T. Brantly Sr. to show that Brantly was one early leader of Southern Baptists who did not believe in effectual calling or irresistible grace.  (see here

I left a comment which has not yet been approved by Lumpkins to be published.  That comment pointed to these words of Brantly from the same citation given by Lumpkins. 

Brantly said:

"That the Holy Spirit does exert a greater influence upon some minds than upon others within the pale of the same visible administration of means; and that this greater influence must account for the conversion of some, whilst others remain unconverted, is what I fully believe."

Why has Lumpkins declined to publish my comment and observation?  I cited this and said that it appeared, from this part of the citation, that Brantly did not accept the Arminian explanation of things.

Jun 28, 2012

Effectual Conviction?

Arminians greatly object to the doctrine of effectual calling (or "irresistible grace") because they think that this amounts to coercion, to forcing a man to be saved against his will.  Sometimes the equivocation is simply stated as though the equating of calling with coercion is enough to dispute it.  But, such an argument assumes that all coercion is evil and unethical.  But, all compulsion is not so.  Jesus himself said that sinners are to be "compelled."  (Luke 14: 23)  It matters not that the kind of "compelling" be special, of a certain kind, as done with words only, in overthrowing the supposition that all coercion is unethical.  Parents daily compel their children.  Generals daily compel soldiers. 

To compel is to force.  Thus, when Arminians decry the idea of conversion being "forced," they are decrying sinners being "compelled."  But, Jesus said - "compel (or force) them to come."  Further, Paul says - "For the love of Christ constraineth us."  (II Cor. 5: 14) 

I once heard an Arminian preacher condemning effectual calling by grabbing his shirt collar and pulling it and saying - "God does not grab and pull us like this."  But, I thought to myself - "does he not believe that the shepherd's crook is designed to do this very thing?"  Does the shepherd not coerce and force the sheep back into the safety of the fold?  Would a parent not force a child to save the child?

I once heard another Arminian preacher saying that God was like a magnet and sinners were like nails.  The magnet was "drawing" and pulling, exerting force against force, on sinners.  But, said he, some sinners have hardened their hearts so that they have become like big railroad spikes, while other sinners, those who have not been sinners long, are like small tacks, and therefore easier for God to "draw" and pull to himself.  So, though God was drawing all, some men's resistance is greater than the power pulling them, and this is the reason why they are not effectually drawn.  The Calvininst sees the problem with the Arminian's making the magnet too small and insufficient in power. 

Is the magnet "forcing" the thing it draws?  Who can deny it?  Who can deny that the thing being drawn is resisting by the force of its weight?  Who can deny that the thing drawn will be effectually drawn if enough force is exerted by the magnet?

Some Arminians, seeing the "force" of the argument from the word "draw" (John 6: 44; 12: 32), how it denotes a dragging, or compelling, resort to saying - "but it may not always mean that."  They never deny that it is a forcing or compelling when the word is used for "drawing" water or fish, but they insist that when it is used of the drawing power of love, then it does not mean to compel or force. 

But, who can deny that when "attraction" is superior to resistance, even in the case of "falling in love," a compelling has taken place?  How many spouses have exclaimed of this experience - "I found him/her irresistibile"? 

Is God not able to successfully "woo" a heart?  Does he lack the necessary attraction?  Does he lack knowledge of what the object of his attraction will find irresistible?  By the Arminian scheme God lacks the power and wisdom to win a heart that he is determined to win.

Arminians often speak of how conviction of sin is that preparation of heart that precedes faith and salvation, and rightly so.  But, I have never heard one of them affirm that the experience of conviction may not be effectual and irresistible.  Does God ask the sinner for his permission to bring him under conviction of sin?  Does he not do this without such permission?  Further, can the sinner resist being convicted?  Can he say, "God has convicted me, but I will stop him"? 

As God works powerfully, and sometimes irresistibly, in convicting of sin, so he does in also convicting of righteousness and judgment.  (John 16: 8)

Jun 14, 2012

Edwards on becoming a Castaway

--- "Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.  And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.  I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway."  (I Cor. 9: 24-27)

On these verses the great Calvinist Jonathan Edwards wrote (emphasis mine): (see here)

"First, we ought to follow the good example that the apostle Paul has set us in his seeking the good of his own soul. First. We should follow him in his earnestness in seeking his own salvation. He was not careless and indifferent in this matter...He resolved, if it could by any means be possible, that he would attain to the resurrection of the dead..."

"Secondly. The apostle did not only thus earnestly seek salvation before his conversion and hope, but afterwards also. What he says in the 3rd chapter of Philippians of his suffering the loss of all things, that he might be found in Christ, and its being the one thing that he did to seek salvation; and also what he says of his so running as not in vain, but as resolving to win the prize of salvation, and keeping under his body that he might not be a castaway; were long after his conviction, and after he had renounced all hope of his own good estate by nature. If being a convinced sinner excuses a man from seeking salvation any more, or makes it reasonable that he should cease his earnest care and labour for it, certainly the apostle might have been excused, when he had not only already attained true grace, but such eminent degrees of it. The apostle, as eminent as he was, did not say within himself, “I am converted, and so am sure of salvation. Christ has promised it me; why need I labour any more to secure it? Yea, I am not only converted, but I have obtained great degrees of grace.” But still he is violent after salvation. He did not keep looking back on the extraordinary discoveries he enjoyed at his first conversion, and the past great experience he had had from time to time. He did not content himself with the thought, that he possessed the most wonderful testimonies of God’s favour, and of the love of Christ, already, that ever any enjoyed, even to his being caught up to the third heavens; but he forgot the things that were behind..."

"Thirdly. The apostle did not only diligently seek heaven after he knew he was converted, but was earnestly cautious lest he should be damned; as appears by the passage already cited. 1 Cor ix. 27. “But I keep under my body and bring it into subjection, lest by any means, when I have preached to others, 1 myself should be a castaway.” Here you see the apostle is very careful lest he should be a castaway, and denies his carnal appetites, and mortifies his flesh, for that reason. He did not say, “I am safe, I am sure I shall never be lost; why need I take any further care respecting it?” Many think because they suppose themselves converted, and so safe, that they have nothing to do with the awful threatenings of God’s word, and those terrible denunciations of damnation that are contained in it. When they hear them, they hear them as things which belong only to others, and not at all to themselves, as though there were no application of what is revealed in the Scripture respecting hell, to the godly. And therefore, when they hear awakening sermons about the awful things that God has threatened to the wicked, they do not hear them for themselves, but only for others. But it was not thus with this holy apostle, who certainly was as safe from hell, and as far from a damnable state, as any of us. He looked upon himself as still nearly concerned in God’s threatenings of eternal damnation, notwithstanding all his hope, and all his eminent holiness, and therefore gave great diligence, that he might avoid eternal damnation. For he considered that eternal misery was as certainly connected with a wicked life as ever it was, and that it was absolutely necessary that he should still keep under his body, and bring it into subjection, in order that he might not be damned; because indulging the lusts of the body and being damned were more surely connected together. The apostle knew that this conditional proposition was true concerning him, as ever it was. “If I live wickedly, or do not live in a way of universal obedience to God’s commands, I shall certainly be a castaway.” This is evident, because the apostle mentions a proposition of this nature concerning himself in that very chapter where he says, he kept under his body lest he should be a castaway.1 Cor. ix. 16. “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of, for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel.” What necessity was there upon the apostle to preach the gospel, though God had commanded him, for he was already converted, and was safe; and if he had neglected to preach the gospel, how could he have perished after he was converted? But yet this conditional proposition was still true; if he did not live a life of obedience to God, woe would be to him; woe to him, if he did not preach the gospel. The connexion still held. It is impossible a man should go any where else than to hell in a way of disobedience to God. And therefore he deemed it necessary for him to preach the gospel on that account, and on the same account he deemed it necessary to keep under his body, lest he should be a castaway."

It is not "Arminianism" to affirm that only those who persevere in grace and holiness will be finally saved.  Biblical "Calvinism," as Edwards shows, also teaches the same.  The difference is that the Arminian sees "apostasy" as the loss of actual salvation, while the Calvinist sees apostasy as proof of hypocrisy.  Perseverance is proof of election and calling.  Where there is no perseverance, there has been no effectual calling.

Further, Edwards shows that the Scriptures teach that salvation is both unconditional and conditional, in different senses.  Meeting the conditions of salvation results from God's unconditional decree, as the oldest Calvinists after the Reformation taught.  For "who makes you to differ from another?"  (I Cor. 4: 7)  Since it is all of God, God gets all the glory and praise.