Limited Atonement and the Divine Command to Believe Falsehood

(Revised 11/30/2014, removed a paragraph with little relevance and revised/expanded the conclusion. Much thanks to members of the Society of Evangelical Arminians for their feedback)

When Christians who aren’t from a Calvinist tradition hear about limited atonement, something usually seems entirely wrong about the idea. Indeed, in the face of having no clear biblical data to support such an idea, a substantial body of passages that seem to indicate just the opposite, along with numerous logical difficulties, something just seems entirely wrong with the idea that Christ didn’t die for the sins of a great many people.

Many times, an incorrect belief by itself isn’t particularly harmful, but if taken to its inevitable conclusions, tends to produce great inconsistencies. Limited atonement, if taken in conjunction with the common Calvinist beliefs about the gospel call, inevitably leads to the conclusion that God commands people to believe falsehood. I’ll start by postulating and defending the necessary premises.

Premise 1: God’s command for the non-elect to believe the gospel requires that they must believe that Christ can save them.

For the first part of the premise, we need only establish that the command to believe is given to all, including the non-elect (if limited atonement is true, the term ‘non-elect’ here describes the people for whom Christ did not die to save). Surprisingly, despite their belief in limited atonement, Calvinists are usually among the first to agree that the everyone, elect and non-elect, are commanded by God to believe the gospel.

“First, the preaching of Paul goes out to all, both Jews and Greeks. This is the general call of the gospel. It offers salvation to all who will believe on the crucified Christ. But by and large it falls on unreceptive ears and is called foolishness.” (John Piper, What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism)

“I can proclaim God’s command to repent and believe to all men, and I can do so with passion, not because I pretend to look into God’s heart and mind, but because I know the reality of God’s wrath, the sin of man, and I believe implicitly the promise of God that anyone who turns in faith to Christ will be saved.” (James White, “Phil Johnson on ‘Desire'”)

“If we take the command to believe, with the promise of life upon so doing, for an offer of mercy, there is an eternal truth in it; which is, that God will assuredly bestow life and salvation upon all believers, the proffers being immediately declarative of our duty; secondly, of the concatenation of faith and life, and not at all of God’s intention towards the particular soul to whom the proffer is made….” (John Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ)

“The commission He has given His servants is to preach the Gospel to every creature, and they certainly have not fully obeyed until they bid their hearers “Repent ye, and believe the Gospel” (Mark 1:15). Whom God quickens, is His own affair; ours is to faithfully warn the unsaved, to show wherein their sins consists (enmity against God), to bid them to throw down the weapons of their warfare against Him, to call upon them to repent (Acts 17:30), to proclaim the One who receives all who come to Him in faith.” (A.W. Pink, Duty-Faith)

“It is a command to enter and not to enter is disobedience. That is why judgment falls on those, 2 Thessalonians 1:8, “The retribution of God comes to those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. You obey because the gospel is a command. When you share the gospel, you command people to believe. You command people to repent so that it is crystal clear that what they have done is obey or disobey. That’s why I say invitation is not a word that is consistent with commanding. Better to finish your sermon with a command than an invitation.” (John MacArthur, “Two Paths, One Way”)

“We see that God commands men everywhere to repent, Acts 17:30, but it is God who grants repentance 2 Timothy 2:25. We see that God commands people to believe in him yet he opens their hearts to believe, as he did with Lydia in Acts 16:14….” (Matt Slick, Matt Slick vs Lou Rugg Discussion on difficult questions)

It seems that only a far-left-field-hyper-Calvinist could deny that the command to believe is given to everyone. Slick’s comment cites a key passage that makes it clear that the command to believe the gospel is for everyone, everywhere.

“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent…” (Acts 17:30)

Disobeying such a command is mentioned as being among the reasons that sinners are condemned.

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:18)

The command from God Himself, which goes from the mouths of His servants is for all, even people who ultimately end up being false teachers.

“For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.” (2 Peter 2:20-21)

Notice that they turned aside from the holy commandment given to them, not a command given only to others.

1b. Obedience to the gospel entails believing that Christ can save you

Christians since the beginning have understood that believing in Christ is more than just assent that He died and rose (as James also notes, even the demons believe that). True and living faith in Christ requires that we trust in His work on the cross, and in Him as our Savior. Herein lies the second part of the premise: that the aforementioned command requires that they believe that Christ can save them. I don’t think any tenable objection can be raised to this point. One cannot trust Christ as his Savior without believing that He has power to save him.

Consider the counter-example of a lost man who has a Calvinist friend that faithfully witnesses to him. Despite not trusting Christ as his Savior, the man is convinced that limited atonement is true, and that Christ died to save some people. He’s convinced by his prior hardness of heart that he’s simply not one of the elect. As he lays dying, his Calvinist friend tries to persuade him to believe, to which he receives the sinner’s final declaration: “Therein lies life for you, but in that cross there is no hope for me.”

This man has accepted what are, according to Calvinism, the correct facts. But has he obeyed the gospel? No. By the measure of any Christian, he has rejected the gospel and rightly incurred eternal condemnation. To actually obey, he would have had to believe that Christ could save him, not just that Christ can save other people.

Thus is our first premise established: God’s command for the non-elect to believe the gospel requires that they must believe that Christ can save them.

Premise 2: If Limited Atonement is true, then the idea that Christ can save the non-elect is a lie.

Many Calvinists don’t like language that Christ cannot save certain people, but that is an inescapable ramification of limited atonement. Christ either can save one through His sacrificial death, or He cannot. Christ cannot save people for whom He did not die to save. The sacrifice has already been offered, there’s no going back and changing who it was for; there is no other sacrifice, and there is no other way. If the non-elect were excluded, that decision has already been made, and cannot be abrogated. It matters not how many sins the sacrifice was sufficient to cover, if its power to save is not applicable to a person, then Christ cannot save that person.

Thus to believe that Christ can save one of the non-elect, if limited atonement be true, would be a falsehood -often called a ‘lie’ when speaking in an objective sense.

Putting it together

Taking our premises,

P1: God’s command for the non-elect to believe the gospel requires that they must believe that Christ can save them.
P2: If Limited Atonement is true, then the idea that Christ can save the non-elect is a lie.
Conclusion: If Limited Atonement is true, God’s command for the non-elect to believe the gospel requires that they must believe a lie.

Conclusion

And herein lies a major inconsistency that holding to limited atonement yields. In short, if 5-point Calvinism is true, then God effectively commands the non-elect to trust in Christ to save them, when He’s already limited Christ’s atoning sacrifice such that He can never save them!

Besides the readily apparent absurdity of God commanding people to believe what is false, such an inconsistency raises other problems: Accepting and obeying the gospel is characterized throughout the New Testament as belief in the truth, while refusing to do so is opposition to the truth (c.f. John 8:32, Romans 2:8, 15:8 Galatians 2:5, 5:7, Colossians 1:5, 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12, 2 Timothy 1:4, 2 Timothy 2:25, 3:8, Titus 1:1, James 5:19). Contrary to that description, if Calvinism is true, then the man in our example above is accepting the objective truth and rejecting a falsehood in his rejection of Christ as his Savior. Worse than that, not only is he believing the truth in his rejection of Christ, but he’s condemned for doing so!

Truly, one’s theology is built on shaky ground if it entails that God condemns men for believing the truth. I for one could not swallow such a preposterous ramification. The word of the Lord, especially the proclamation of the gospel -the holy commandment to trust in Christ for one’s salvation- is not given to induce anyone to believe deception. Christ Himself states,

“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:7)

Calvinists should sustain the admirable zeal to proclaim the gospel to all people. Let us all do that without hampering it with tertiary doctrine that would lead to confusing and unscriptural ideas, such as God commanding a great many of those people to believe a lie.

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Debate With Turretin Fan, Rebuttal Essays

[Turretinfan’s Rebuttal Essay]

Perseverance of the Saints is consistent with the Scriptures. It is particularly consistent with the basic theme that God’s love is an unconditional love, that God is able to prevent apostasy, and that it is within Christ’s desire to save to the uttermost those he wishes to save. Furthermore, the concept of saved again / lost again / saved again is completely foreign to Scripture, as is the concept of Christ losing any that the Father gives to him.

In short, when we look at the specific passages that JCT has picked out, we realize that there are reasonable explanations of the verses that harmonize them with the rest of what we know about God. Furthermore, we find that the sense JCT has proposed for those verses actually forces the verses into more or less contradiction with other parts of Scripture.

Thus, not only has the “negative” side of this debate established that there are reasonable sense of the relevant verses consistent with the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, but in fact the “negative” side has established that the alternative sense proposed by JCT is not itself a reasonable interpretation of the verses.

At the heart of the matter, it seems as though JCT feels that the verses should only be there to describe a situation that is contrary both to the best interests of the person involved, and contrary to God’s own desires. Such an interpretation of the verse would require us, in essence, to discard our theology away from a theology including an omnipotent God, since it would in essence declare that God’s attempt to save genuine believers sometimes does not succeed to the uttermost.

Accordingly, we can conclude that contrary to the resolution, the doctrine that teaches that genuine Christians cannot end up in hell (whether due to unfaithfulness or any other reason) is and must be coordinate with the true sense of the largely unrelated passages of Matthew 5:27-30, Hebrews 4:9-11, and Revelation 22:18-19.

(Source)

[My Rebuttal Essay]

TF hurls a few elephants in claiming that I contradict scriptural principles, yet can cite no clear evidence as to how specifically. Apostasy wouldn’t require that God be less-than-omnipotent, merely that He allow its occurrence. His ‘reasonable explanations’ of the passages cited collide with problems I’ve already presented:

  • His interpetation of Matthew 5 explains nothing of how avoiding sin helps one enter into life (Matthew 18, Mark 9).
  • His suggestion that I’m confused concerning Hebrews 4 is confuted by his admission that conditions for Christian and heavenly life aren’t mutually exclusive (second response). He also grossly misrepresents my view as, ‘[by] works,’ which was nowhere suggested.
  • His view of Revelation 22 is self-contradictory: The unsaved aren’t being told what awaits them, since he denies that anyone’s part in New Jerusalem will ever really be taken.

His calls them ‘pastoral warnings,’ given to move believers to perseverance; but his case upon examination falls apart, answering nothing as to why God threatens consequences of damnation to those who can supposedly never suffer them. When finally asked how the consequences specifically would spur one on if they are not real-world possibilities, he appeals to a ‘logical connection’ between warnings and consequences, with no explanation as to how such a connection with what (in his view) amounts to an absurdity could spur on anyone.

His answer to the last question (which follows through with his ‘hypothetical’ interpretation), destroys his argument’s credibility entirely when he states, Hypothetical questions are dangerous, especially when they contradict reality. A ‘logical connection’ to a consequence that ‘contradicts reality’ won’t spur anyone on to anything. People aren’t motivated by what they’re told are hypothetical bluffs, they don’t strive to serve God for the sake of what they think is a hollow myth, and they aren’t driven to persevere by ‘logical connections’ to fairy-tales with no connection to reality –which is exactly what Calvinism makes the consequences of the warnings out to be.

Opening statements
Cross-exam, my questions
Cross-exam, TF’s questions

[Though we were slated for one more essay each, the debate ended here]

Perseverance & Warning Passages Debate With Turretinfan: Cross Exam, TF’s Questions

#1 Is God’s love for those humans whom he loves conditional on their behavior, or is God’s love for them unconditional on their behavior?

‘Love’ as it pertains to salvific effectuation is not conditioned upon behavior (in terms of good works) itself, but upon a relationship with Christ (good works being an outworking). God loves all sinners in that He has no pleasure in their deaths and desires their repentance (Ezekiel 33:11), but savingly loves those who receive and abide in Christ.

Continued faith and perseverance are not only qualities of Christian life, but conditions to eternal life. All the promises of God for salvation, preservation, spiritual life, and forgiveness of sin hinge upon remaining in His Son: we remain saved because we persevere in Christ, not vice-versa, for the promises are only for those who by faith and patience inherit them (Hebrews 6:12). Not surprising, since God’s promises of blessing carry conditions of faithfulness throughout scripture. To the profane Eli He says,

“‘I promised that your house and your father’s house would minister before Me forever.’ But now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from Me! Those who honor Me I will honor, but those who despise Me will be disdained.” (1 Samuel 2:30b)

Even for one who has been known by God (and is thus born of Him), if he turns away, Christ will profit him nothing (Galatians 4:7-9, 5:2), for those who deny Christ will be disowned (2 Timothy 2:12). Such does not constitute God contradicting or denying Himself, since He Himself is the one who has justly declared the condition of perseverance, and remains steadfast to that declaration whether we remain faithful or not.

God desires that none of His apostatize, He also desires that we abstain from fornication (1 Thessalonians 4:3), but does not choose to imperatively halt either from occurring, but strictly warns us against them. Such warnings are of great import, since nowhere does God promise to unalterably cause us to persevere, but rather gives us all that’s requisite to endure (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Unlike the old covenant that the nation of Israel forfeited, the new covenant of God’s law being written on our hearts will not be broken with His chosen people -He will bring the body to completion until the day of Christ. But God’s faithfulness to His covenant does not preclude individuals that have obtained its blessings and later despise Him from being cut off: even when the old covenant was in force, those who forsook it were severed from the covenant body, those unfaithful to it forfeited its promises (Exodus 6:4, Numbers 14:30). This is not unfaithfulness on God’s part, but man’s. Likewise, we under the new covenant are warned not to be highminded about our position, but reverently fear and endure lest we incur like punishment (Romans 11:20-22).

So the love of God is in Christ, the Mediator of the new covenant and Seed to whom the promises were made, in which we share if we abide in Him, and in doing so, keep ourselves in the love of God.

#2 Given your comment, “God desires that none of His apostatize,” (yet seemingly God might not prevent apostasy) is God able to keep people from falling away into apostasy or does something (man’s free will?) stop God from keeping them from falling?

God can do whatever He pleases within the range of His holy nature, nobody prevents Him. If God didn’t care if we apostatized, He wouldn’t give us sustaining grace enough to endure. The fact that men can still fall away despite His provision is easily reconciled by the fact that He doesn’t choose to apply His grace irresistibly. I’d pointed out this concept in 1 Corinthians 10:13, which states that God won’t allow us to be tempted beyond what we can endure. ‘Can’ does not amount to ‘will;’ believers sometimes do fall, but due to our own failures, not want of God’s help.

His provision is evidenced in several passages often mistaken for support of eternal security. John 10:27-29 and Romans 8:35-39 for instance express that no one will ever tear us away from God (as countless martyrs for Christ have by their deaths triumphantly testified), but nowhere does scripture indicate that it’s impossible to willfully walk away from Him, since apostates themselves don’t separate/pluck themselves from God -scripture clarifies that God the Father Himself severs those who don’t remain in Christ (John 15:1-6). Hence, arguments such as the sealing with the Holy Spirit guaranteeing eternal security miss the mark as to how one can be lost: Since the sovereign God has both power and prerogative to cast out those who don’t abide, His own seal is no bar to Him doing so. Having the Spirit is both a gift and responsibility, for those in which the Spirit dwells are the temple of God,

…If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. (1 Corinthians 3:17b)

According to the riches of His grace, God preserves us, sustains us, and works in us to will and do His good pleasure, yet the apostles still plead with us, “not to receive the grace of God in vain” (2 Corinthians 6:1b). God is able to keep us from stumbling and to make the weak in faith to stand (Romans 14:4), yet we are still told,

Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12)

It’s only by God’s grace that the heart can be established in persevering, but the scriptures never portray the operation of grace as something unconditional or irresistible. Grace to endure is never merited, nor is it inescapably instilled, but when enduring temptation it’s written,

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

So God is able to keep us from falling, but doesn’t choose to do so apart from our willing cooperation (we being freed by His grace to serve Him -Hebrews 12:28), and thus He warns us against the real dangers of apostasy and exhorts us to seek Him,

…be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall. (2 Peter 1:10b)

#3 Given your comment, “God can do whatever He pleases within the range of His holy nature, nobody prevents Him,” is it pleasing and within the range of Christ’s holy nature to save to the uttermost those whom he wishes to save by making intercession for them?

Most definitely. Just as the priests in the Old Testament made intercession for the people, so Christ eternally makes intercession for His, and is our Advocate with the Father if we sin, and the Mediator of the better covenant God has made with us. Unlike the Levitical priests which were imperfect and subject to death, Christ lives forever and is perfect, and so can save to the utmost, in contrast with the animal sacrifices by the Levite priests that could not. He being the sole way to God, our salvation wholly relies upon His mediation between ourselves and the Father. The question as far as the conditionality of salvation is concerned is not whether Christ makes intercession for us, but whether He’ll do so for one who departs from Him. He indicates that He won’t, as He states,

“But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:33, similar statement made in 2 Timothy 2:12)

Some may argue that Christ’s intercession will imperatively keep all genuine believers from apostatizing, but such an idea is not found in scripture. Indeed the fact that His confession of us before the Father is conditioned upon our confession of Him indicates conditionality. Others point to Christ’s prayer in John 17,

…keep through Your name those whom You have given Me… (John 17:11b)

The conditional nature of salvation comes to light when one considers that God keeps us through faith (1 Peter 1:5), which we are exhorted to hold fast to, and told that not all have done so,

Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck… (1 Timothy 1:19)

It must be noted that Paul does not distinguish the latter as some superficial, ineffectual form of faith; nor would the exhortation to hold to faith be coherent if no one with true faith could ever forfeit it. The theme of continuance in the faith of Christ as being necessary to our being forgiven runs throughout the New Testament, many wicked acts such as unforgiveness being incompatible with saving faith:

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15)

This sentiment is also reflected in the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18. When scriptural warnings (including the three in question) indicate consequences of damnation for believers who unrepentantly commit certain sins, taking them as serious and violable is not salvation “by works” as was erroneously insinuated in the opening statements –such actions necessarily reflect a heart no longer in union with Christ.

So Christ saving those He wishes to the uttermost by making intercession for them is perfectly in line with conditional security, since the only ones He will confess before the Father are those who hold fast to their confession of Him.

#4 It appears that your position is that genuine believers can violate certain warnings, with the consequence of such violations being hellfire. Is that correct, or is the consequence merely a return to an unsaved (but re-savable) state from a saved state?

Varies. Denying Christ for instance will bring denial by Him, yet Peter repented of his denial and was restored. Speaking against the Spirit (Matthew 12:32) on the other hand, will never be forgiven. For some who have fallen into grievous sin, they can be ‘in danger of hell fire,’ but scripture indicates there’s hope of God restoring backsliders who have not sinned ‘unto death.’

If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. (1 John 5:16)

One can believe, yet be imperiled: the key is that salvation isn’t granted in its entirety when one believes, Paul writes,

…for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. (Romans 13:11b)

While the scriptures do tell us that we who believe are saved, it also indicates that final salvation isn’t obtained during earthly life:

…if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. …Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule…. (Philippians 3:11-12, 16a)

We have to a degree attained salvation through faith, but it’s ours probationally, its condition being continuance in Christ; final salvation is not attained until one has endured to the end. Romans 2 expresses that it is granted at the judgment,

“But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness–indignation and wrath….” (Romans 2:5-8)

Hence while we already possess eternal life in a sense (1 John 5:13), it is not contradictory to call it the ‘hope of eternal life’ (Titus 1:2) or to exhort a fellow believer to ‘lay hold’ on it (1 Timothy 6:12). Additionally, if eternal life were fully and finally ours now, then neglect thereof would be a non-issue,

Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation…? (Hebrews 2:1-3)

From the scriptural record then, some fall into sin, but are brought back; while the completely apostatized are “twice dead, plucked up by the roots” (Jude 12).

#5 Given your assertion that, “We have to a degree attained salvation through faith, but it’s ours probationally, its condition being continuance in Christ; final salvation is not attained until one has endured to the end,” what shall we make of verses that suggest salvation is unconditional on works?

Neither remaining in union with Christ nor continuing in the faith are ‘works,’ otherwise ‘justification by faith’ would be ‘justification by works.’ It would be absurd to call continuance in Christ ‘works’ for being a necessary condition for salvation, as it was even stated from the negative: [if one] were to lose union with Christ and apostatize, there would be no hope for that person.” (Turretinfan’s fifth answer). The relationship between abiding in Christ and good works was touched upon in my first answer: good works are an outworking of a relationship with Christ, for one bears good fruit by remaining in the vine. Inversely, because sin proceeds from the heart, unrepentant iniquity denotes that wickedness is overcoming one’s heart, which is immiscible with abiding in Christ.

For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins…Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:26, 29)

Through His word, God is mighty to save and uphold His own, but this doesn’t constitute unconditional security, since He only grants such preservation based upon one’s relationship with His Son. By faith we stand (2 Corinthians 1:24), but He has no pleasure in anyone who withdraws from it (Hebrews 10:38). A believer who falls into unrepentant sin isn’t in danger because Christ “can’t forgive sin,” but because of the condition of his heart before God and his love towards Christ growing cold. If the sinner turns back to God and acknowledges his wrongdoing, God will gladly forgive him (1 John 1:9); but He rejects one who remains obstinate and proud.

“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6b)

The real peril of a Christian growing proud is underscored in the warning against making elders out of new believers,

…not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. (1 Timothy 3:6)

The fact that salvation isn’t by works then doesn’t imply that one can remain saved when in willful rebellion against God, as scripture repeatedly states (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Ephesians 5:5, Revelation 21:8) -the doom of one who turns from Christ unto wickedness being worse for him than if he’d never known Him:

For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. (2 Peter 2:20)

Therefore taking the warnings against being surmounted by sin seriously, and regarding their disastrous consequences as real-world possibilities for believers is not ‘works righteousness’ as has been erroneously claimed by some.

Opening statements
Cross-exam, my questions
Rebuttal Essays

Perseverance & Warning Passages Debate With Turretinfan: Cross Exam, My Questions

#1 How exactly would something like damnation being the consequence to violating a ‘pastoral warning’ “have use in the form of preventing the warned person from ever doing” what is warned against?

To understand how this would work, I suggest making use of an analogy. We are sheep, God is the Shepherd. Suppose that we, the flock of sheep, are feeding at pasture that has, on one side, a sheer 200 foot cliff. Falling off the cliff is “something like damnation” for a sheep.

If the shepherd wanted to keep the sheep from falling off the cliff (i.e. preventing the warned person from ever doing what is warned about), one of the ways he could do so is by warning the sheep of the danger that would befall them if they walked over the cliff. This would spur a rational sheep not to try to walk over the cliff (i.e. not to violate the pastoral warning).

On the other hand, of course, it does not mean that if it looks to the shepherd like a sheep is going to try to ignore his warnings, that he is just going to let the sheep do this thing that would be bad. No, the warning is just one of the ways that the sheep are kept from falling.

This is, of course, an analogy: but it is founded on a Biblical analogy. The Good Shepherd not only warns, exhorts, and uses his rod and staff on the sheep, the Good Shepherd even goes so far as to die for the sheep.

If there is someone who is going to fall off the cliff, it is not going to be the sheep, but the good shepherd. He’ll do everything in his power to save the sheep whom he loves. That’s true, remarkable, self-sacrificing love.

I think it’s fair to say that a genuinely loving Shepherd uses every possible tool to save the sheep he loves: from warnings of the consequences of apostasy, to discipline (in the form of various temporal chastisements), and to promises of reward as well. Thanks be to God that he does, for if he did not, we’d be as helpless as sheep without a shepherd.

Source

#2 How is being diligent to enter into eternal rest so that we do not fall after Israel’s example of unbelief (for which they did not enter that rest) a “condition of Christian life” that is mutually exclusive of being a “condition for Heavenly Life?”

Of course, being a condition of Christian life is not inherently exclusive of being a condition for Christian life. Instead, the conditions of Christian life are a superset. For example, grace from God is a condition both for and of Christian life.

In other words, we view perseverance as fitting within a logical scheme such that all believers will persevere, but not that people are believers because they persevere. Instead, people persevere because they are believers.

John’s epistle is instructive in this regard. John explains:

1 John 3:9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

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

1 John 5:18 We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.

The apostle Peter explained the same thing, namely that we who are born again are born of incorruptible seed:

1 Peter 1:23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.

Thus, as a result those who are born again will persevere – but not contrariwise: in other words, they are not born again because they persevere: to suggest such a thing would be to put the cart before the horse.

To return to the question, it is not that I am claiming that the two ideas are mutually exclusive. In the case of being born again, the condition is both a condition of and a condition for Christian life. Instead, I’m trying to explain that continued faith, repentance, and perseverance to the end are qualities of the Christian life.

They can serve as evidences to us, justifying us (in the sense James speaks of) in the eyes of ourselves and our fellow men. They help us to distinguish the true faith that springs from being born again (1 John 5:1 Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.) from a dead faith that illustrates that we continue in a state of bondage to sin, not having been freed by the work of the Holy Spirit.

Source

#3 If God unequivocally promises that the consequences of His warnings against apostasy given to the saints will never come to pass, then why should anyone pay any heed or caution to avoid them?

First: Because our paying heed and our giving caution to avoid them, is a means God has ordained to the end of our perseverance. In other words, as already explained, the cautions help us to steer clear of the danger.

Second: Because failure to heed these warnings may give rise to God taking further measures. In other words, if we do not heed these warnings, God may chastise us as sons (with a rod of correction) or as sheep (with a rod and staff), which will not be pleasant for us. Ben Franklin sagely said that experience is a dear [expensive] school, but a fool will learn in no other.

Proverbs 10:13 In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found: but a rod is for the back of him that is void of understanding.

Proverbs 26:3 A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool’s back.

Third: Because God commands obedience to his warnings. It is a thoroughly sufficient reason to simply answer that God commands us to heed the warnings. That is a perfectly good reason to do something. Even when Abraham did not understand the reason why God wanted him to sacrifice his son Isaac, he obeyed, and that became a demonstration and witness of faith.

Fourth: Because we love God. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” This is connected with the previous item. Nevertheless, this is an answer to one’s naughty side that says, “Yes, it’s bad: but it’s not like God’s going to punish me eternally, right?” Love should and will constrain us from acting that way. If we love God, we will keep his commandments.

1 John 3:9-11
9Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. 11For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.

1 John 5:1-3
1Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. 2By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. 3For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

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#4 If both the warnings against final apostasy and their consequences are given to motivate believers to persevere/avoid chastisement/obey/love/etc (as your responses indicate), yet the consequences are not even to be considered real-world possibilities, then how are the given consequences specifically meant to spur believers to perseverance?

The concept of “real-world possibilities” is inherently self-contradictory (i.e. an oxymoron) in the context of this debate.

To distinguish, the science of statistics is not meaningless. The concept of “possibility” exists. It relates to the orderly way in which many “random” events occur. Thus, for example, a meteorologist will predict the chance, possibility, or probability of rain tomorrow. Such discussion has meaning, and we speak reasonably when speak of a “fair coin” in statistical calculations.

Nevertheless, from God’s perspective, there is no such thing as “chance,” “possibility,” or “probability” (see also Ecclesiastes 9:10 and Proverbs 16:33). This is simply a logical consequences of God having omniscience: given omniscience, there is nothing left undetermined by His mind, and consequently, there is no real-world “possibility” from God’s perspective: only what will be and what will not be.

When God promises us, he communicates what will be. Thus, for example, Abraham knew that the Messiah would come, because God had promised it (though if Isaac had stayed died childless and stayed dead, God’s promise would have failed). It was not a mere possibility, but a certainty.

Because of the promise-certainty link, we can echo Paul:

Philippians 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

One might object that if no one actually apostatizes (i.e. the consequences are only in hypothesis: never actualized) then the warning lacks meaning (that seems to be the question’s unspoken premise). Two main responses come to mind:

(1) It seems absurd to suppose that a woman must sometimes let her children burn in order to give her warning meaning (all the more so, as to God’s warning to his children); and

(2) The truth value for the meaning is determined by the reality of the logical connection between the hypothetical premise (apostasy) and the hypothetical conclusion (hell).

Thus, rather than simply spurring us to obey (as already discussed in the previous answer), the consequences may promote gratitude in us for God’s grace. Just as the world’s continued existence day by day is only by God’s mercy, God does not have to prematurely end the world to make that proposition true. Likewise, God does not have to let any of his sheep perish to prove the truth of the premise consequence relationship.

Thus, the consequences specifically motivate by logical connection with their premise, as already noted in the previous answer, not by occasionally being actualized. In fact, such consequences could only be helpful to us if they are not actualized for us (just as the truth that long falls kill is helpful only to those who don’t fall).

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#5 Hypothetically speaking, if God did allow one who was born again and had his sins atoned for by the blood of Christ to sin by violating the scriptural warnings given against apostasy, would the violator then no longer be born again or have his sins atoned for?

Hypothetical questions are dangerous, especially when they contradict reality. That said, let me do my best to give some kind of meaningful answer.

a) Being born again (regeneration of the heart) is an event. It takes place in history.

b) Christ’s sacrifice on the cross (atonement for sins) was also an event. It also took place in history.

c) It would seem to be a fairly fundamental principle of history that what is done cannot be undone.

Thus (a) and (b) cannot cease to have happened. Nevertheless, if someone who had been born again and had received the benefit of the atonement in justification were to lose union with Christ and apostatize, there would be no hope for that person.

In other words, such apostasy would defeat the purpose of the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart (regeneration) and the purpose of Christ on the cross (atonement). Indeed, this is a powerful argument for why such a hypothetical situation (as JCT’s question describes) cannot occur. God cannot contradict himself.

If we were severed from Christ, we would perish, because our life derives from him. But we can have assurance that we will persevere, because of what connects to God is God’s “great love” (πολλην αγαπην) (Ephesians 2:4).

If God divorced us for our sins, we would perish. But the Lord is the God who hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). Instead, “The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)

In short, the hypothetical situation will not arise, because if it did, it would violate the principle enunciated in Isaiah 55:11, “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”

God accomplishes what he wants to accomplish. What is that? “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” John 6:39 And again, “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

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Opening statements
Cross-exam, TF’s questions
Rebuttal Essays

Debate With Turretin Fan, Opening Statements

[This debate was in response to a challenge by Turretinfan over an article I wrote, challenging the idea of inevitable perseverance with facts from scripture]

[My Affirmative Constructive Essay]

I wrote a challenge to Calvinist doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints some time back to show that the concept of eternal security was incompatible with several key warning passages in scripture. An important principle of scriptural interpretation is that passages that are clearer should guide our understanding of those which are not as clear. Though many places in the Bible warn against falling away, I chose these particular three for two main reasons:

1.) Clarity of address, and 2.) clarity of consequence.

Matthew 5:27-30 – Escaping the snares of wickedness is not advice that would benefit one who was unregenerate, much less allow him to enter into life (see the parallel passages in Matthew 18:9 and Mark 9:47). Christ’s words were plainly directed at those who follow Him. The consequence of being overcome by sin is hell fire, it doesn’t get much clearer.

Hebrews 4:9-11 – The context of the whole discourse pertains to those who believe, notably where the author states that “we who have believed do enter into that rest,” and when he concludes his call to perseverance by stating of himself and those he addresses, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.” The rest being spoken of can only be eternal rest given the context. Note that it is not something achieved when one believes, for we who have believed are entering it (verse 3), further indicated by verse 10, “for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.”

Revelation 22:18-19 – The consequence of having one’s part in the holy city taken being only applicable to those who possess a share of the heavenly inheritance, who is being addressed specifically isn’t hard to determine. Having one’s part in the holy city taken can realistically amount to nothing else than eternal separation from Christ.

Unlike many of the warnings in scripture which Calvinists write off as applying only to the unsaved or speaking of loss of tertiary rewards, these warnings with eternal and damning consequences are addressed to the regenerate specifically, eliminating any possibility of chalking them up to the “almost saved” or “false professors. Such clarity also renders the eternal securist arguments of violators getting their ‘potential’ eternal reward taken from them rather weak, such arguments made even more ridiculous by the Calvinist position, which effectively has God threatening to revoke an inheritance that He never planned on giving them.

The clarity with which these warnings are delivered has driven many Calvinists to view the passages as entirely hypothetical. Key to understanding where the error lies in such a position is how they employ the terms ‘hypothetical’ and ‘possible.’ This is not the same as being unsure whether the consequences are actual possibilities or not: in the Calvinist view, such a result must be strictly speculative. Some will say it’s ‘possible,’ but not possible in a sense that it could ever come to pass, thus not a genuine possibility (since in their view, it will definitely never occur).

With that in mind, it would be much easier for Reformed theologians to reconcile their views with just a command to persevere, but the consequences given with these divine warnings (especially Revelation 22:19, which pertains directly to the possession of the believer) pose a major problem in that the Reformed view of Perseverance turns them into absurd impossibilities contingent upon more absurd impossibilities. If a genuine believer falling into damnation would imply a change in the very nature of God (as was stated at Dordt), and hence God Himself ensures that such warnings can never be violated by believers, then Calvinism essentially makes these divine warnings say, “Don’t do something God won’t allow, or He’ll do something He would never do,” putting scripture through mind-boggling contortions to accommodate 16th century doctrinal silliness.

It’s true that impossible and completely speculative statements are occasionally made in scripture, Jeremiah 31:35-37 comes immediately to mind, where one is used to express that God being unfaithful is as feasible as a man being able to measure heaven and earth. In contrast, these warnings are not at all framed as anything speculative or hypothetical, nor does anything in the text suggest as much. Hence reinterpreting, “If you take away from this book, God will take away your part in His kingdom” as merely, “If God were to allow such a thing (which He won’t), then you would lose your part in His kingdom” is naught but wholly unjustified filtering of scripture through a dogmatic lens. The absolute negative of those consequences being, in the Calvinist view, due to and absolutely necessitated by the very faithfulness of God, one can only wonder as to why God would cast doubt upon His own faithfulness by proclaiming such consequences upon the redeemed who violate His command, without even a hint of the “but that could never happen” qualification that Calvinists are so quick to add.

The eternal securist defenses against the clear implications in these passages then fall far short of being either sound or convincing. Many instead like to point to assurances of salvation given in scripture as evidence against its conditionality, but a promise does not negate its own conditions — assurance with accompanying conditions is still conditional assurance. Bottom line, the Calvinist view of perseverance cannot be soundly reconciled with the scriptural warnings against believers falling into damnation:

Scripture says, “Be diligent lest you come up short!”

Calvinism adds, “But you can’t possibly come up short!”

Scripture says, “Take heed lest you fall!”

Calvinism counters, “You never can and never will fully fall away.”

Scripture says, “Do not be high-minded, but fear.”

Calvinism, despite any doubletalk about God filling us with fear and trembling, effectively states that there’s no reason to fear such warnings because God will never allow such consequences to occur, making the word of God of no effect.

[Turretinfan’s Negative Constructive Essay]

Negative Constructive – Perseverance of the Saints is Consistent with Scriptures
By TurretinFan

This debate is ultimately about whether the Reformed Doctrine of “Perseverance of the Saints” can be reasonably reconciled with three passages of Scripture. I’ll address each in turn and provide at least one reasonable alternative, thereby demonstrating that the passages can be understood consistently with that body of soteriology commonly called Calvinism. Afterwards, I’ll address miscellaneous points identified by JCT.

Matthew 5:27-30

JCT seems to suggest that the only reasonable meaning of Matthew 5:27-30 is that it is teaching that regenerate people can sin badly enough that they will be cast into hell-fire. An alternative explanation is that Jesus is explaining that lusting after a woman is a sin of sufficient gravity to merit eternal damnation, and that consequently merely abstaining from physical acts of adultery is insufficient to fulfill the law of God. After all, if we repent and trust in Christ not only lusting after a woman but also the physical act of adultery will be forgiven.

Hebrews 4:9-11

JCT seems to suggest that the only reasonable meaning of Hebrews 4:9-11 is that we do not have eternal rest yet, and consequently must keep on believing/working in order to obtain that. We agree that we do not yet have eternal rest, for that is a reference to heaven. Furthermore, the point of the passage is that since we have not reached the fulfillment of the Sabbath, we must continue to work. Nevertheless, as verse 9 indicates, the people of God have a future rest coming. JCT’s objection seems to confuse a condition of Christian life (to live on Earth is to work) with a condition for Heavenly Life (as though we receive heavenly rest not by grace but works). Verse 16 of the same chapter dispels this misconception.

Revelation 22:18-19

JCT seems to suggest that the only reasonable meaning of Revelation 22:18-19 is that people can only have a part in the holy city if they were regenerate. An alternative explanation is that those are being addressed who think they have a part. The elect will heed the warning, and the rest will be warned of what awaits them. After all, the command is – in essence – a command to believe the Scriptures. Those who willfully subtract from Scriptures refuse to believe what it says. Such an action is inconsistent with Faith in the Word and the Spirit.

Miscellaneous Issues

JCT acknowledges that some folks have interpreted warning passages in Scripture as entirely hypothetical. JCT responds that the “Key to understanding where the error lies in such a position is how they employ the terms ‘hypothetical’ and ‘possible.’ This is not the same as being unsure whether the consequences are actual possibilities or not: in the Calvinist view, such a result must be strictly speculative. Some will say it’s ‘possible,’ but not possible in a sense that it could ever come to pass, thus not a genuine possibility (since in their view, it will definitely never occur).”

JCT seems in this objection to confuse “will” with “could.” For example, it will not happen that genuine believers will eventually go to hell, but we could imagine how it may be that they could do so, if a different set of circumstances were present. For example, if genuine believers were not loved by God, God could let them separate themselves from Him. Objecting that such a description is “strictly speculative” or not a “genuine possibility” may or may not be accurate, but it is not a rebuttal.

JCT parodies the hypothetical interpretation this way, “‘Don’t do something God won’t allow, or He’ll do something He would never do,’ putting scripture through mind-boggling contortions to accommodate 16th century doctrinal silliness.” But the response is to turn to Genesis 15:8-18, where God in essence swears that he will do what he promises, or that he will be divided. One could parody this is as, “God promises not do something that he says he won’t do, or He’ll do something that he would never do.” Is that for the accommodation of “doctrinal silliness”? Surely not.

Indeed, JCT acknowledges that “It’s true that impossible and completely speculative statements are occasionally made in scripture, Jeremiah 31:35-37 comes immediately to mind, where one is used to express that God being unfaithful is as feasible as a man being able to measure heaven and earth.” JCT goes on to contrast these to the warnings discussed above, and properly so. These are not examples of hyperbole. Nevertheless, warnings for believers – even if they are warnings of dire consequences can have more than one purpose.

One purpose would be prophetic: you will do this, and you will fall. Another purpose, however, is pastoral: if you do this, you will fall. A pastoral warning can have use in the form of preventing the warned person from ever doing the “this.” The usual analogy is one’s child playing by the fire. We may properly warn the child that if they fall into the fire, they will be burnt to a crisp, without having the least intention of letting that happen. Why does JCT seem to want God from treating us like children?

JCT makes a final appeal to ineffectuality: “Calvinism, despite any doubletalk about God filling us with fear and trembling, effectively states that there’s no reason to fear such warnings because God will never allow such consequences to occur, making the word of God of no effect.” It is interesting that JCT would make this sort of claim. Yes, the fear of Calvinism is not the sort of servile fear in which man fears that he will do something that will separate himself from the love of God. No, it is a recognition of the power and majesty of the Most Holy God.

Sola Deo Gloria,

-Turretinfan

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Cross-exam, my questions
Cross-exam, TF’s questions
Rebuttal Essays

Answering Greg Elmquist’s "Four Unanswerable Questions"

I came across a writing some time back by Pastor Greg Elmquist called, ‘Four Unanswerable Questions,’ which I’ve seen copied and pasted by Calvinists on forums as evidence that the doctrines espoused in Arminianism could not possibly be true. I decided to examine each of these supposed unsolvable Calvinist conundrums for myself and find out if there was a scriptural and logical answer to them. I’ll be going over his essay, which will be in italics, and my thoughts and commentary will be in normal type.

Greg starts out,

“There are four lies being told in Orlando today.”

I’ve been to Orlando, I’m pretty sure I counted more than that; but Greg is about to add a few more to the list.

“Modern, man-centered, Christ dethroning religionist would have us believe…”

At least he’s not poisoning the well….he then goes on to tell what those lies are:

“God loves everyone;”

Oh! How awful!

“it is God’s will for everyone to be saved;”

Nooooo!

“Christ died for everyone;”

The horror! The horror!

“and the Holy Spirit draws the saved and condemned alike.”

Eeeeeeek!!! Hide the children (at least the condemned ones)!

“These are well established suppositions, rarely questioned for their truthfulness.”

For rather obvious reasons.

“To call them into question is to unmask the faulty foundation of a false gospel and kindle the wrath of those desperate to protect their traditions.”

Or possibly reveal the terrible logic Elmquist employs in trying to harass other Christians with his bizarre doctrine and incite widespread laughter as it is refuted without any difficulty. He then gets to the questions:

1) “What sayeth the Scripture?” “The Lord is righteous, He loves righteousness” (Ps. 11:7). “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated” (Rom. 9:13). God’s love is a holy love. He can no more love unrighteousness than He can cease to be holy. God’s love is for Christ, in Christ, and through Christ. Everything outside of Christ is under the condemnation and wrath of God. He has loved His elect with an everlasting love, having chosen them in Him before the foundation of the world.
Question #1: If God loves all men, those who receive eternal life as well as those who suffer eternal damnation, what does the love of God have to do with anyone’s salvation?

Answer: Everything, for without the love of God no one could be saved, but God’s love for men does not preclude the fact that He requires sinners to receive Jesus Christ to be saved.

Additional problems with Elmquist’s logic: God does hate unrighteousness, yet still does have love for sinners, else He could not love the elect while they were yet sinners (Romans 5:8).

2) What does the Bible say about God’s will and salvation? “Having predestined us according to the good pleasure of His Will” (Eph. 1:5). “Having made known to us the mystery of His Will according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself.” “I will have mercy upon whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion upon whomever I will have compassion. So then it is not of him who wills, or of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. Therefore, He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens” (Rom 9:15-18). “For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom He wills” (Jn. 5:21).
Question #2: If God wills for all men to be saved, what does the will of God have to do with anyone’s salvation?

Answer: Everything, for no one can come to Christ apart from the will of God. Yes God is willing that all be saved, yet is not willing to do so apart from Christ; and so He, foreknowing that not all would believe, did not choose everyone.

3) What do the Scriptures say about the purpose of Jesus’ death on the cross? Did He die for all men? “I am the Good Shepherd, the Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (Jn. 10:11). “Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people” (Titus 2:14). “who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Gal. 1:4). If Christ purposed to die for all men, did He not have the power to accomplish His purpose? God forbid! Did He die to make men savable or did He die to accomplish the salvation of a chosen people?
Question #3: If Christ shed His precious blood for all men, what does the work of Christ on the cross have to do with anyone’s salvation?

Answer: Everything, for Christ’s is the only way to receive forgiveness of sins, but receiving pardon by it is conditioned on faith.

Additional problems with Elmquist’s logic: He cites scriptures that say that Christ died for the elect (which is obviously true), yet none of them say that Christ died for only the elect and none else. In his disgustingly biased proof-texting frenzy, he simultaneously ignores numerous passages that testify to the fact that Christ died for all men (1 John 2:2, 1 Timothy 2:5-6, Romans 5:6, Hebrews 2:9). He also raises the old canard about Christ only making men savable, not factoring in foreknowledge.

Do the math: men now savable by the grace of God + foreknowledge that they will believe = accomplished salvation

4) What does God say about the work of the Holy Spirit in redemption? Are sinners dead (Eph. 2:1) in need of regeneration, or just sick in need of a little reformation? “He saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). “The written code kills, but the Spirit gives life” (II Cor. 3:6).
Question #4: If the Holy Spirit draws the saved and the condemned alike, what does the Holy Spirit have to do with anyone’s salvation?

Answer: *SIGH* Everything, since no one can come to God otherwise. This has no bearing on the fact that some men resist the Spirit (Acts 7:51) and refuse to believe.

Additional problems with Elmquist’s logic: He makes an indirect appeal for the need to be regenerated before one believes, which is simply absurd. Grace is needed before one believes, yes, I believe that, but spiritual life comes by faith through the name of Christ.

But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. (John 20:31)

“The Truth: Salvation is of the Lord!”

Thanks…I don’t think anyone is arguing that point.

“Don’t believe a lie, it will damn your soul.”

It can also make you into a ranting, paranoid dogmatist with awful critical thinking skills and no discernment for sound doctrine.

Elmquist’s supposed Gordian Knot is easily sliced with the sword of the Spirit. The logical fallacy that he consistently employs is assuming that if some salvific operation of God (His love, His will, the death of Christ, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit) does not irresistibly produce salvation, then it can have nothing to do with salvation at all, which is rather extreme all-or-nothing reasoning. His reasoning here is akin saying, “If suicide prevention counseling ever fails to prevent a suicide, then the counseling can have nothing to do at all with preventing suicides.” Such painfully oversimplified logic and excessively dichomatic thinking is the hallmark of cults everywhere, said mentality showing itself further in pastor Elmquist’s other teachings, such as that if you believe that you were saved as an Arminian (even if you’re a Calvinist now), then you aren’t really saved at all (What is the Gospel?, para. 4).

The Bronze Serpent Explained: A Monergist View of Divine Healing

And the LORD said unto Moses, “Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.” (Numbers 21:8-9)

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:14-15)

[Scene: The border of Canaan near the land of Midian, two Israelite men from the tribes led by Moses and a silent young woman all stand at a high point and look out over the promised land]

Zimri: Ah, finally on the border of the promised land!

Carmi: Yes, we’ve come a long ways.

Zimri: Now we get to enjoy the good part. Been quite a journey here, hasn’t it?

Carmi: Indeed. We’ve known nothing but the desert our whole lives.

Zimri: Yeah, the was was pretty dangerous too, but God’s been faithful to deliver us, even when we failed Him. Remember that time we all complained so much against Moses that God sent those vipers into the camp?

Carmi: All too well…

Zimri: But even then God’s mercy was amazing; when Moses put up that bronze serpent, all we had to do was look at it and God cured us. It was awesome, all God asked was that I look up and acknowledge my need for His help, and He healed me.

Carmi: But, what you are in effect saying is that you cured yourself.

Zimri: Cured myself? What are you talking about?

Carmi: I’m saying that you hold a man-centered view of divine healing, and lack vital understanding as to how God cured us.

Zimri: Vital understanding?

Carmi: Yes, when God delivered those He wished to from the serpents, He did so all of His own power, with no inherent cooperation from those bitten. This important teaching is commonly called the doctrine of snakes.

Zimri: You lost me. How did I cure myself?

Carmi: Looking up at the snake, in your beliefs, is something you did, and therefore you caused your own cure.

Zimri: That seems to be a bit of a stretch. God was the one who gave the cure, and commanded Moses to put up the bronze serpent, all he told us to do was look at it and-

Carmi: But looking at it was a work, it was something that you did.

Zimri: Wait, now looking is work? Remind me not to wake up on the Sabbath.

Carmi: Since it was you who effected the condition, it was in essence you who effected the cure.

Zimri: So you’re saying God just gave us the power to cure ourselves or something?

Carmi: Oh no, not at all. God had to revive you before you could look up at the snake at all.

Zimri: Revive me?

Carmi: Yes, you were actually already dead from your snake bite.

Zimri: Dead, like hyperbole ‘dead?’ Like a Genesis 20:3 ‘dead man?’

Carmi: No, literally dead.

Zimri: Like, “I am dead Horatio” dead?

Carmi: No, dead as in ‘physically decomposing’ dead, and therefore totally powerless to do anything but be a corpse.

Zimri: Uh, I don’t recall this.

Carmi: Of course not, you were dead at the time.

Zimri: Oh right, right.

Carmi: And because you were already dead from your snake bite, you weren’t capable of looking up at the snake, so you had to be brought back to life to do so.

Zimri: Well, I was certainly pretty delirious and weakened from the venom, so I have no problem buying that it was God who gave me strength to look up….

Carmi: No, no, God didn’t merely give you strength to look at the snake, He irresistibly changed you so you would both be capable and irresistibly drawn to look up at the snake.

Zimri: Changed me?

Carmi: By reviving you of course.

Zimri: Ah.

Carmi: It’s called the ‘irresistible snake.’ So you were literally dead and helpless, but God brought you back to life so you would be able and willing to look at the snake. See, it’s written right here, “…and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.”

Zimri: Um, isn’t that saying that the people who looked at the bronze serpent survived?

Carmi: No, it’s saying that those who lived, or rather were brought to life, looked on the bronze serpent.

Zimri: That sounds a bit backwards. It seems that our living was contingent on looking at the bronze serpent, and I distinctly recall feeling the effects of the poison subside when I looked at it, not before.

Carmi: Your mistake is a common one, but your being revived, cured, and looking at the serpent all happened at the same instant in time, it’s simply a logical necessity that your being revived came first. You have to study and think about it real hard for a long, long, long time before arriving at this important truth.

Zimri: I’m sure you do.

Carmi: Of course you being a Phinehasite wouldn’t understand it.

Zimri: A what?

Carmi: A Phinehasite. Followers of the beliefs of Phinehas, you know, Aaron’s grandkid – the priest.

Zimri: Oh, him.

Carmi: He holds to the heretical view that those bitten by the snakes weren’t yet completely, physically dead, but merely had the sentence of death working in them. Phinehas is under the delusion that he wasn’t irresistibly compelled to obey by being literally resurrected, but thinks that he somehow just ‘cooperated’ with God in performing the impossibly difficult task of looking up at the snake so that he could be healed! And since he believes that he had to make some kind of decision to look up (obviously a work meritorious beyond imagining), he is therefore robbing God of the glory in healing him! So anyone who believes that free will plays any role in divine healing is a Phinehasite.

Zimri: I barely know Phinehas, much less studied anything he wrote or said.

Carmi: Doesn’t matter, you still fall into that category. If you don’t believe in totally monergistic divine healing, then you’re automatically a Phinehasite of some kind. Of course, Phinehasism is really just semi-Nimrodism, and everyone knows that the Phinehasism eventually leads to either spirit channeling or sun worship, as that’s really what consistent Phinehasism amounts to….

Zimri: And I have no idea what you’re talking about.

Carmi: Hopefully God will reveal it to you and save you from your Phinehasite blindness. In fact, here’s a list of scrolls I recommend you read on the subject that will give you a better understanding of monergist divine healing and the Phinehasite error.

Zimri: So if God actually revived us so we could look at the serpent, then why did some people stay dead from the snake bites?

Carmi: Because God didn’t want everyone to look at the snake. God only intended that certain people look at it.

Zimri: Really? I didn’t get that indication at all.

Carmi: God’s ways are very mysterious.

Zimri: Yeah, but Moses invited anyone who was bitten to look at it.

Carmi: Yes, that was the ‘outward hiss’ but not the ‘effectual hiss.’

Zimri: The what?

Carmi: God only wanted certain people to be cured, so He made only a limited amount of antivenin,

Zimri: I wasn’t told this.

Carmi: -then He chose certain people to be cured and let the rest die.

Zimri: Ah, so He chose them because He knew they’d hear and respond?

Carmi: No, He chose them from eternity past based on nothing whatsoever about them, then after they died from the snake bites, He revived the ones He chose so that they would both have the innate desire and the irresistible unction to perform the action of looking up at the bronze serpent, thereby receiving a dose of the limited supply of antivenin that He’d prepared beforehand.

Zimri: Where exactly are you getting all this?

Carmi: I…it’s…it’s so elementary, even a child could see it.

Zimri: But, didn’t He say that anyone who was bitten could look and be cured?

Carmi: Oh He did, but that was God’s “I don’t really mean this, I just say stuff like this to relate to people” will talking. In God’s “super-duper-secret really, really I actually mean this” will, He didn’t really want everyone who was bitten to look at it, and hence wouldn’t revive them, which is why the antivenin was limited.

Zimri: ….This seems like a somewhat overly complicated system of beliefs.

Carmi: Well it has to be true, otherwise you must logically have cured yourself.

Zimri: Hmmmm…I see. So since the antivenin is limited, then what if I get bitten by another viper? Could God not cure me?

Carmi: That’s the best part. The fact that you were cured of your snake bite guarantees that you will make it into the promised land.

Zimri: Really?

Carmi: Yes, it’s like a divine seal of approval. To those who have been chosen and cured, God has unconditionally chosen to provide final entrance into the new land.

Zimri: I seem to recall Him listing some stuff we’d better not do, as well as what would happen if we disobeyed….

Carmi: Oh that’s just something God’s “I don’t mean this” will says to goad you into living right. It’s all up to His sovereign “super-duper-secret” will really.

Zimri: Hey, that kind of makes sense. I mean, He wouldn’t have cured us if He’d wanted us to die in the desert.

Carmi: Exactly. While being brought to life again will certainly make you want to avoid future snake bites, there’s no actual chance for you to fall short of entering, even should you run across every viper this side of the Jordan. You can rest in complete assurance that you will make it through.

Zimri: Oh wait, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a few of the people die who had previously been cured.

Carmi: They were never really cured. The belief that they were actually cured stems not from objective observation, but the influence of biased Phinehasite teachings.

Zimri: But they were, you know, walking around with no apparent problems.

Carmi: God provided them with a temporary means to give the illusion that they were alive and had been cured, so that we and even they thought that they were, but the fact that they have failed to make it to the promised land demonstrates that they were never truly cured.

Zimri: How could they think they were cured, or even move around at all if they were already dead?

Carmi: That- …That’s a mystery.

Zimri: So if someone might be walking around like they’re perfectly healthy, but in reality still be poisoned, and dead no less, then isn’t it possible that you or I might not really be cured as well?

Carmi: Technically, yes, but unlikely; and if you aren’t truly cured there’s nothing you can do about it anyway, so you really shouldn’t waste time troubling yourself about such things.

Zimri: Wow, that’s a relief. I was kind of worried about bringing this Midianite chick back to camp with me. If I didn’t know for sure that God was going to preserve me, I’d be scared of what Phinehas might try and do.

Carmi: I for one find it highly doubtful that he was ever cured in the first place.

Zimri: You’re definitely right on that one. He is so man-centered. Come on Cozbi, let’s get to the camp. I’ll show you the Tabernacle.

Some Afterthoughts on The Challenge to Reformed Theology

In John Piper’s sermon The Doctrine of Perseverance: The Future of a Fruitless Field, he acknowledges that the consequences of the warnings in Hebrews do indeed speak of eternal damnation, and that all who believe themselves to be saved should heed the warnings (because the Bible says to, and because many who think they are saved are not), yet still asserts that the only ones who can actually fall away are unbelievers. He concludes that the purpose of the warnings is to keep us
from falling. So he effectively teaches that in an outward sense, the consequences of violating these warnings apply to everyone, but in a true sense, only the unredeemed are in view. A few problems here:

1. The consequences of the scriptural warnings I listed here can specifically apply only to those who are saved. One who is unsaved is already condemned to hell fire for not believing on the Son of God, so it is useless to tell him to avoid sin at all costs to escape it; one does not know Christ has already fallen short of His eternal rest, so exhorting him to be diligent in a faith that is not real is moot; and no unrepentant sinner has any part in the holy city or any like inheritance in God’s kingdom, making it futile to warn him under penalty of it being taken. These passages are not talking about never being saved, they’re warnings against falling away from our Savior. In short, if the result of not heeding the scriptural warnings is forfeiture of eternal life, then
in reality it logically applies specifically to those who possess it, making Piper’s defense untenable in these cases.

2. As far as God using absurd warnings as a means to preserve believers, if you really want to have some fun, start questioning the Calvinist to get to the bottom of the issue:


Synergist: Why does God warn us against falling away?

Monergist: As a means to keep us from falling away.

Synergist: But what if we don’t heed the warnings?

Monergist: That’s not possible, God will make sure we they take heed and obey.

Synergist: But if God is already making sure that we obey and keeps us from falling, then why does He still warn us?

Monergist: I told you, that’s one of the ways He keeps us from falling away.

Ah yes, God is warning us against a violation that He would never allow to occur with a sentence that He would never carry out to preserve people that He is already keeping secure. Obviously Calvinists are performing a ridiculous semantic dance in order to escape the obvious implications carried in the word of God. As my friend Ben Henshaw so succinctly put it: “If God does everything (causes us to believe and keep believing), then to warn them to keep believing is like warning someone hooked to a respirator to keep breathing.”

It’s pointless to say that warnings against falling from God’s grace apply only to those who aren’t in it, and it’s downright silly to say that God uses those warnings to preserve us if He’s the sole cause for our heeding them. And even if they were simply commands He wanted to be obeyed, then why tack on the consequence of being cast from His presence into hell fire if belief in conditional security is doctrinal error? I can’t even begin fathom the reasoning of Calvinists who think this way: “Yeah, that whole, ‘take heed lest ye fall’ thing; God would never actually do that, that’s just something He says to the rubes who lack assurance to keep them in line.” What utter nonsense. Could you imagine how badly they’d rake anyone else over the coals for employing such convoluted logic? Picture a Pelagian employing that kind of defense against Ephesians 2:8:

Pelagian: “Well, it’s not actually by God’s grace, it’s by faith inherent in man, it’s only a gift of God in the sense that He created man with that capacity. While it does mention grace in the context of salvation, texts like this aren’t meant to represent the standard soteriological model, for that would contradict the biblical doctrine total moral neutrality. Paul is not saying that salvation is by grace here, He is simply employing outward human terms to help safeguard the redeemed from becoming puffed up with pride, as it says, ‘lest any man should boast’….” They’d be all over him like Rosie O’Donnel on a buffet, yet they themselves selectively employ similar reasoning when it fits their doctrine.

It has also been suggested that God simply uses Revelation 22:19 as a “do not tamper” warning to those that merely think they are saved, apparently to scare them into believing they will lose their part in an eternal inheritance they never really possessed, thereby preserving God’s word from detractors. This view carries with it the same problems as the “God is trying to scare us into holiness” argument above: If we teach unconditional security as a central tenet of the gospel, then if some scripture-twisting false professor thinks he’s saved, he will certainly have no trouble believing that he is unconditionally secure if that is what is taught, and thus have no fear of tampering with God’s word, again making the warning in scripture of not even any practical effect by Calvinist tradition. Let’s face it, if you seriously believe such a serious warning to be merely a ‘scarecrow’ that God has placed up to keep people in line, then proceed to tell everyone that it is in fact only a scarecrow that would never in reality carry out the consequence written, then you are making even the hollow warning of no effect by your teaching. Call me crazy, but I for one prefer to believe God actually means what He says.

If we are to truly believe this nonsense that unconditional security is a vital element of the true gospel, and therefore of necessity make the belief in even the possibility of forfeiting salvation a seriously false doctrine, then we are also forced to conclude that in order to promote holiness and preserve itself, God’s perfect word instills a concept of false doctrine within the church via idle admonitions with preposterous consequences. Newsflash: God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33), and I stand in awe at the sheer befuddlement of anyone that cannot recognize the obvious discrepancy there.

How Can Election Be Based on Foreknowledge if There is Nothing Good to Foreknow?

One argument often used by Calvinists against conditional election based upon God’s foreknowledge is that there are no conditions to being elected that man could possibly meet for God to foreknow. Calvinists contend that conditional election is not possible, because man is so utterly depraved, he could not possibly fulfill any of said conditions on his own, being devoid of God’s grace entirely.

“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10-12)

An argument sound in its logic, but not in its assumptions. The problem with this line of reasoning is that it assumes that God only foreknows the lives of men outside of the context of His grace and the gospel. If God only foreknows us by ourselves without His grace, then of course all humanity is hopeless, as we are totally lost without Him. While I’m sure that God is well aware of that fact, He also knows if we actually will receive Him or not when we hear His Son.

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.” (John 5:25)

God’s foreknowledge of the future also encompasses His doings as well as man’s: What He knows will occur is who will receive Him when they hear His word and the voice of His Son, not what we would do if He were to never show any grace at all to us. This argument takes God’s foreknowledge completely out of context, for if God were to foreknow us only by ourselves without His mercy, then we could not even exist.

“And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us: for in Him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.'” (Acts 17:26-28, emphasis mine)

Who hath given Him a charge over the earth? Or who hath disposed the whole world? If He set his heart upon man, [if] He gather unto Himself His spirit and His breath; all flesh shall perish together, and man shall turn again unto dust. (Job 34:13-15)

We cannot even exist outside of God’s mercy, much less believe the gospel. God foreknows not only how men will be in their natural state, but how men will react to His grace as well: Whether we will hear the voice of His precious Son and be brought to new and abundant life through Him (see John 5:25 above), or refuse to listen and reject His mercy (Zechariah 7:11, Romans 11:22).

 

Bottom Line:

  • God’s foreknowledge of men includes whether they will receive His word, not merely what they would do without Him.

The Fallacies of Calvinist Apologetics – Fallacies #14: Conditional Election Makes God a Respecter of Persons?

Related Fallacies:
Equivocation

John Hendryx, who we’ve noted has employed numerous fallacies in defense of Calvinism and distortions against Arminianism, is at it yet again. This time he’s trying to prove that it’s conditional election, not unconditional election, that makes God into a “respecter of persons.” Before I address his points, I believe that the idea that God is impartial has to be defined and qualified carefully: God being impartial does not mean that He treats everyone exactly the same in every respect, nor does it imply that He gives the same circumstances or blessings to everyone. Scriptural references to God’s impartiality appear to refer primarily to how He makes His judgments of men’s hearts and actions, and how He accepts people who fear Him. It doesn’t imply God having some kind of warped, hyper-egalatarian mentality where He ensures everyone’s lot in life is exactly on par. Having examined the issue myself, I think it would be difficult to make a solid case for either conditional or unconditional election violating the principle of God’s impartial judgment in scripture, since election isn’t really the same thing as judgment. However, Hendryx seems to think this does make a good case against Arminianism, and so he tries to paint Arminian doctrine as making God into a respecter of persons, while exonerating his own doctrine. As we shall see, this is one of the worst possible maneuvers, and backfires on him badly.

Redefining Partiality

Hendryx cites Leviticus 19:15, Proverbs 24:23, 1 Peter 1:17, Acts 10:34, Romans 2:11, and James 2:1-9 among others, to prove that God is impartial. Quoting him,

They are clearly warning the believer against showing favoritism or partiality, because they declare that God Himself does not show partiality or favoritism. And. most importantly, in each of these instances it means neither we nor God give special treatment to a person because of his position, merit, wealth, influence, social standing, authority or popularity. Thus ‘respecter of persons’ means we are not to favor one person over the other because of ANY superior personal trait in the one favored, and likewise we are not to show prejudice toward those who lack these characteristics.

Hendryx’s definition of “respecter of persons” is too narrow: to show respect to persons extends beyond just showing favoritism due to superficial personal traits, it implies special treatment based upon any unobjective, uneven or irrelevant criteria. Let’s give an example: Suppose a judge renders his verdict in a case, but bases his decision not upon guilt or innocence, but upon how much he personally likes the plaintiff and defendant. Is that showing partiality? It most certainly is. Keep that in mind as we continue….

So when God unconditionally elects a person in Christ does he first determine who he will choose based on their position, wealth, good looks, influence etc? No.

We’re agreed on that point.

By definition unconditional election means unconditional. It is not conditioned on ANYTHING in us or potentially in us.

This is also technically correct. Judgments are to be based upon what is actually done (guilt, innocence, or other objective criteria pertaining to action), not personal traits.

God does not stand to gain from currying anyone’s favor … even those who are in high positions … because God gave them that position, wealth, authority or social standing to begin with. The Bible unambiguously teaches, therefore, that God is no respecter of persons in election. Those who are chosen are chosen “in Christ” not because God is thinking about what he has to gain by helping them over others.. God has no need for such things, so, by definition, his choosing us cannot be tainted with such a motive.

This is something of a non-sequitur: having a motive of personal gain is one way to show partiality, but is by no means the only way. Proving that God has need of nothing and that He doesn’t judge on the basis of material gain or influence doesn’t automatically establish impartiality. Looking at our example of the judge above, if asked why he rendered the verdict that he did, which responses would indicate partiality or impartiality?

“The evidence that came out in the proceedings made it overwhelmingly clear.” – impartial
“Multiple eyewitness accounts establish this beyond reasonable doubt.” – impartial
“The argument was logically sound and airtight.” – impartial
“I rendered judgment strictly as the law dictates.” – impartial
“I scratch his back, he’ll scratch mine!” – partial (motive of personal gain; but there are plenty more than just this)
“He looked guilty.” – partial
“I just had a feeling.” – partial
“He’s my nephew.” – partial
“The other guy made his case much more eloquently.” – partial
“I don’t like his type.” – partial
“I just wanted to do it that way.” – PARTIAL

Note that the last example is unconditional, a verdict rendered simply by arbitrary fiat (hereafter, just “fiat”). It is not objective, and it therefore doesn’t really matter what other reasons he has for declaring one guilty and the other innocent in such a case, such a ruling is partial. Hendryx refers back to the quote from James 2:1-9,

James question is rhetorical, of course. Because yes indeed God HAS chosen the poor of the world … i.e. those who are spiritually bankrupt who have lost all hope in themselves… S0 God is not looking to benefit from those who are already full, but shows special care those who are empty or impoverished. … So according to the Bible, showing special favor to the poor is the very antithesis of what it means to show favoritism or respect of persons.

Hendryx again displays a misunderstanding of what impartiality is. The quote he cited above from Leviticus declares,

“You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor.” (Leviticus 19:15, NKJV)

Which plainly indicates that it is partiality to show favoritism in judgment to a poor man simply because he is poor. I would instead interpret James as referring to correlation and contrast: people are seldom granted riches in both spiritual and material possessions. Hendryx also unwittingly argues for conditional election in stating,

“[So] God is not looking to benefit from those who are already full, but shows special care those who are empty or impoverished.”

If God elected on that basis, that would still be conditional election, since being empty and impoverished would be a condition to being elect.

So far, Hendryx’s major errors have been in equating partiality as being based upon,
1.) personal traits
2.) motive for personal gain

And in concluding that judgment that isn’t for personal gain must be impartial (which is not necessarily true, since judgment based upon fiat is also partial).

Redefining Synergism

…it is actually those who defend CONDITIONAL election who make God a respecter of persons. This is because, if it were true that meeting some condition prompted God’s decision to elect his people then His choice of them would be based on their wisdom, prudence, sound judgment, or good sense to believe. He would therefore be looking at the character or merit of that person and choosing them because of it.

This is entirely incorrect for one simple reason: election based upon whether one does (or will) believe is not rooted in traits, but action: belief in Christ. Hendryx’s reasoning falls completely apart when applied to actual cases of judgment. If a judge discerns from the evidence that a man is innocent, and declares him “not guilty,” is he showing favoritism because of the man’s “good sense not to commit the crime?” Not at all, his judgment is based upon action, not character. Whether the man is smart, stupid, sensible, foolish, etc, is irrelevant. A just and impartial verdict is based upon the objective criteria of his actions.

The Bible, on the contrary, declares that we are all ill-deserving and, as such, God reserves the right to have mercy on whom he will, which is not based in any way on the will of the flesh (John 1:13; Rom 9:15, 16).

Simply having the right to do what one wishes doesn’t make on impartial, those are separate issues (as supreme power allows for fiat). God is both sovereign and impartial (and therefore doesn’t rule by fiat).

If God is basing his election on who will have faith then this would, in fact, make God a respecter of persons because these persons are meeting God’s criteria in order to be chosen.

In synergism God’s love for his people is not unconditional but is given only when someone meets the right condition… i.e. whether someone has faith or not. He chooses them only if they believe in him. Isn’t that favoritism?

Here is Hendryx’s third major error: basing decisions upon objective and relevant criteria (such as action) is not showing favoritism. Complaining about objective criteria as a basis for decisions is directly analogous to (and exactly as ridiculous as) accusing a judge of partiality in his rulings because he’s “biased in favor of the innocent.” Decisions based upon objective conditions (rather than merely who the persons involved are) are the very epitome of impartial judgment. In labeling that as “favoritism,” Hendryx has the issue completely and totally backwards.

God loves his people because he loves them. Is there some better reason OUTSIDE or ABOVE God that should make him do so? The Arminian would have us think so.

This is also a bit strange, nothing makes God love anyone; He does so freely, and extends saving grace to those who freely believe. And Arminians don’t believe in anything “above” God, so Hendryx seems very confused in his verbiage at this point.

Redefining Conditionality

It is the synergist who believes God shows favoritism or partiality because it is based on whether or not that person meritoriously meets the condition God gives him.

To define believing as a “meritorious” act goes completely against the theology of all major Synergists. Something being a condition does not make it meritorious, as even demeritorious things can be conditions (sin is a condition for damnation). As orthodox Synergists maintain, faith is a condition to salvation, but is of itself of no intrinsic worth or merit. Hendryx is in such a fervor to promote his Calvinist agenda that he’s stooped to badly misrepresenting Synergist theology.

Redefining Context

Hendryx drones on with his ridiculously Westernized canard about parents unconditionally loving their children and making sure they don’t get hit by oncoming traffic (apparently while making sure that the children they don’t like do get run over). He tries to use this analogy to establish that God’s love for His children isn’t conditioned upon things like faith. This is countered easily enough: first, God does love all men in the world unconditionally, which is why Christ was sent (John 3:16, which also specifies the condition of faith for eternal life). Secondly, trying to frame God’s relationship to His children as being strictly analogous to the relationships between human parents and our children is fatally flawed: none of us (apart from Christ) are His children in any sense pertaining to salvation, but we’re rather children of wrath. But the scriptures declare,

“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26)

So faith is a condition to even being His child to begin with; Hendryx’s analogy, contrary to Galatians 3, incorrectly assumes that the elect are God’s children in some special sense apart from faith.

So now God is partial?

He leads into this with some minor issues, noting that God is not obligated to save anyone and his choices are always good (I agree). He cites people’s varying circumstances and stations in life, people treating their own children differently from their neighbors, Jesus’ selective healings & resurrections of the dead (e.g. Lazarus), and so on, to prove that in actuality, God does show favoritism. As I pointed out at the beginning, God’s impartiality is descriptive of His judgment and acceptance, trying to twist it to mean that people should have identical circumstances in the world is stretching it well beyond its intended meaning. Nonetheless, we now start to see a subtle shift in Hendryx’s argument: he was just arguing that condtional election (as opposed to his view of unconditional election) makes God out to be playing favorites, but now he’s actually acknowledging that he believes God is showing favoritism, and that he extends it to election as well. He argues,

…everyone is born equally guilty in Adam and so it is perfectly just that not all get the same benefits in this life when they are born. If this is true of everyday life why is it such a stretch to carry the same idea into eternity? it is hypocrisy not to recognize this inconsistency.

The question really is not whether God shows favorites but IN WHAT SENSE does God not show favorites because God chose Abraham out of all the people’s of the earth, not because he saw something good in him, nor because he earned God’s favor, but because God chose to.

I agree that not everyone gets an equal lot in this life; I don’t believe that’s what the Bible’s teachings about God’s fairness and impartiality are in reference to. But Hendryx has turned it into a problem for himself: No sooner has he finished arguing that conditional election implies God playing favorites, than he takes supposed examples of God’s “favoritism” in regards to people’s life circumstances and tries to extend them to election. As the saying goes, “What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.” It’s a stunning display of cognitive dissonance for him to condemn one view of election for allegedly being partial (and therefore inferior to his view), then holding up alleged examples of partiality, and proceeding to use those to promote his own view of election! This inconsistency is Hendryx’s fourth major error. First he tries to blast conditional election for making God partial in His choosing, yet now he’s backpedaling and making the claim that God is partial in His choosing, He’s just partial in a different way.

If God doesn’t satisfactorily explain to you the good reasons He has for what he does, do you thereby condemn Him for it?

No one’s arguing that God needs to explain all of His reasons, we’re discussing how God’s revelation of His impartiality relates to divine election. Despite his decrial of condemning God based upon not understanding His reasons, Hendryx himself is quick to condemn the Arminian understanding of God as partial, and he does so without even understanding what partiality in judgment means.

Sanity Check

The issue of people having different circumstances in life doesn’t necessarily denote God being partial at all. As a counter-example, if I give my children different chores according to their ability, different bedtimes appropriate to their ages, different gifts to fit different interests, and different rewards and punishments fitting for differing behavior, I’m not playing favorites. However, if both are equally guilty of willfully disobeying a rule that carries a standard penalty, it would be playing favorites and partial judgment for me to unconditionally punish one and unconditionally pardon the other. The last major underlying error apparent in Hendryx’s reasoning is the idea that everyone being guilty makes God’s choosing some unto salvation impartial. Everyone being guilty of offending the supreme God would make His treatment, at the very least, equal to or less than what we deserve. I must stress though that this is not the same thing as impartiality. The issue is not fairness to just an individual, but partiality between individuals.

Take for instance a judge who is rendering his judgment against two men who have been proven to be equally guilty of the same crime. If he unconditionally shows leniency to the one, but condemns the other, his judgments are at worst, what the men deserve, but they are not impartial, as he is showing favoritism to one over the other. While this example pertains to judgment, not election, it is nonetheless exactly analogous to the Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election. Hendryx condemns conditional election as making God partial, yet himself proposes a scheme of election that is partial by definition. By that token, conditional election would be akin to the judge offering both men an opportunity for acquittal: say he offers that if one or both of them will sign a pledge of loyalty and service to their rightful ruler that apologizes for and renounces their evil acts, then the judge will show undeserved leniency to whoever signs it. One signs it and goes free, the other does not and is condemned. Was the judge showing favoritism in giving a different verdict? Not at all. The conditions were laid out; he judged them worthy of condemnation by the same standard to both, and showed undeserved leniency (or not) based upon the same objective (yet non-meritorious) condition to both. This is likewise analogous to how election is conditional per the Arminian view, and plainly demonstrates that God shows no respect of persons, but rather shows leniency based upon the objective standard of faith in Christ.

If God’s impartiality does apply to election, then unconditional election will invariably be shown wanting. The only options when choosing impartially are,

1.) Everyone is chosen unconditionally.
2.) No one is chosen unconditionally.
3.) Only some are chosen, but upon an objective basis.

The only way for God’s choosing to be impartial is if only some are chosen unconditionally, AKA unconditional election. If God is impartial in election, and only some are elect, then conditional election is the only game in town.

Bottom Line:

* The impartiality that the Bible attributes to God has to do with His righteous judgments and acceptance of righteous men; it doesn’t follow from this that everyone will have identical life circumstances.
* Hendryx’s definition of partiality is too narrow. There are more ways to be partial than simply judging based upon personal traits or for personal gain.
* The act of choosing one over another by fiat is, by definition, showing favoritism.
* That all men are guilty of sin is irrelevant to the issue of God’s impartiality: choosing one over another unconditionally is still being partial.
* God choosing according to one’s belief is not basing His choice upon a personal trait.
* God choosing based upon objective and relevant criteria (like faith) is not showing personal favoritism.
* Something being conditional is not the same as it being obtained by merit.
* If God’s impartiality does extend to election, then conditional election is the only impartial method by which some (not all or none) can be chosen. Thus such an argument ultimately backfires on the Calvinist.