Monday, April 25, 2005

TULIP and Monergism by the Letters: T is for Total Depravity of Mankind

In discussing the monergistic (i.e. Calvinistic) approach to dealing with and contrasting the differences in beliefs between Mormons and monergists, I think it best to let monergists speak for themselves in terms of what they believe, and the scriptural basis for those beliefs. Leroy, a frequent visitor to this blog, has volunteered his own writings as a source of material to describe and defend the monergistic perspective. He has a web page here which describes his understanding of monergism, and gives some "prooftexts" to defend his perspective.

Monergism was formally articulated by John Calvin in the 16th century. Though its followers may assert the doctrines to be the original message of scripture, Calvin is recognized as the person who created the first comprehensive and systematic presentation of the doctrine in its current recognized clarity. A definition of monergism from is as follows:

Monergism (monergistic regeneration) is a redemptive blessing purchased by Christ for those the Father has given Him (1 Pet 1:3, John 6:37, 39). This grace works independently of any human cooperation and conveys that power into the fallen soul whereby the person who is to be saved is effectually enabled to respond to the gospel call (Acts 2:39, 1 Cor 1:2, 9, 24, Rom 8:30 John 1:13, Acts 13:48). It is that supernatural power of God alone whereby we are granted the spiritual ability and desire to comply with the conditions of the covenant of grace; that is, to apprehend the Redeemer by a living faith, to come up to the terms of salvation, to repent of idols and to love God and the Mediator supremely. The Holy Spirit, in quickening the soul, mercifully capacitates and inclines God's elect to the spiritual exercise of faith in Jesus Christ (John 6:44, 1 John 5:1). This instantaneous and intensely personal work of God is the means by which the Spirit brings us into living union with Him.

Here are now Leroy’s comments from his web page, without editing of content, though I did have to paste several comments on the page together to get all of the T content:

T: For the purposes of God, in accordance with His Holiness and perfection, and for reasons that His creations will not know on Earth, beginning with the fall in original sin and the spiritual death of Adam and Eve, no one has been willing or able to do anything in accordance with righteousness. Everyone has inherited the spiritual death through Adam and is a natural enemy of God who does not seek God in spirit or truth and will not love God of his or her own natural will. We are dead. Our works are dead. Our philosophies, systems, desires, and imaginations are dead.

T: Total depravity and Total inability and Total unwillingness and Total reliance and Total dependence

T: Gen. 6:5, Gen. 6:11-12, Job 15:14-16, Psa. 14:1-3, Psa. 51:5, Psa. 58:3, Psa. 143:2, Prov. 5:22, Prov. 14:12, Prov. 20:9, Eccl. 7:20, Eccl. 7:29, Eccl. 9:3, Isa. 1:4-6, Isa. 44:18-20, Isa. 44:25-28, Isa. 48:8, Isa. 53:6, Isa. 64:6-7, Jer. 4:22, Jer. 9:5, Jer. 13:23, Jer. 17:1, Jer. 17:9, Matt. 7:18, Matt. 7:23, Matt. 12:34-35, Matt. 15:13, Mark 10:26-27, Luke 8:11-12, John 1:13, John 3:3, John 3:19-20, John 3:27, John 6:44, John 6:65, John 15:5, Rom. 1:18-32, Rom. 3:9-23, Rom. 5:12, Rom. 7:14, Rom. 8:5-8, Rom. 9:8, Rom. 11:8, Rom. 11:32, Rom. 14:23, 1 Cor. 2:14, 1 Cor. 15:21-22, Gal. 3:22-23, Eph. 2:1, Eph. 4:17-19, Phili. 2:13, 2 Tim. 4:3-4, Titus 1:15, Heb. 11:6, James 1:14, James 1:17, James 4:17, 1 John 2:16

T: Only by being set free by the Spirit can we freely will and act in righteousness. Regeneration precedes faith. Faith always follows regeneration. You must be born again to receive saving faith and no one is saved without faith. The unregenerate are under the law of sin and death and, making choices out of their own free will, never please God. They cannot believe because they always choose not to. Rebirth happens in an instant for the elect and is the sovereign act of God.

Let it never be said I did not try to be as supportive as possible of presenting the other side’s position. Of course I disagree with the premise that simply because men are capable and have committed sin, they are incapable of feeling the Spirit or choosing right or wrong.

The fundamental teaching of the Fall was that men are able to discern right from wrong, as the god’s are likewise able to do. Quoting God:

And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. (Genesis 3:22-23).

This point will be the basis of all argument by me. Namely, unless you can show me from scripture where God is quoted as saying, more or less,

“Behold, the man is NOW become UNLIKE one of us, he no longer knows good and evil”,

then scripture is explicit saying we do know good and evil. Emphasizing the lasting nature of that ability to choose, God has man driven into the world with that knowledge, to protect him from partaking of the Tree of Life and living forever. Until a Savior could be sent, if Adam were to live forever in his fallen state, he could never be brought back into the presence of God (1 Cor 15:21-22).

Such a change in doctrine, namely that man somehow lost his ability to discern good and evil, would require a definitive, authoritative exposition on the order of the change from the Law of Moses to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Or of circumcision of the flesh for circumcision of the heart. It must be a definite, contextually equivalent statement of superordination . I make this point explicit because it is not enough to simply say that we deduce such has happened because of our interpretation and application of certain verses of scripture.

This is where you will find me a highly conservative scriptural warrior. Time and again I encounter people who protest or criticize the LDS Church for various reasons, but when you try to get them to produce a cogent, Biblically based defense of their own position, they respond with theology, and then read the scriptures in light of their theology.

Such a position for me as an LDS believer in continuing revelation through the Holy Spirit and modern day prophets is actually defensible. I don’t see the scriptures as the only word on doctrine or theology. Even so, I am starting with the first definitive statement in the Bible on the will of men, their ability to choose good and evil, and I am laying down the gauntlet: Show me in scripture where this was changed, or admit monergism is a rational development based on a scriptural interpretation, and not a Biblical imperative.

If scripture is to be interpreted as the only authority in the area of theology, then your theological position must flow from precise statements of scripture, not your understanding of scripture from theological statements. If the Bible is the source, theology should just be a systematic explanation of what is, not the other way around.

So Genesis 3:22-23 is the place to start, in my mind.

Paul’s statements of “none do good” (Romans 3:10-18) or are righteous, or fear God must be understood in the context of Genesis 3:22. As I hear evangelicals so often say, use scripture to interpret scripture. Unless there is a definitive statement rebuking the agency of man, then Paul is writing in a clear understanding that men can choose to do good or evil, regardless of their fallen state. Likewise, looking beyond Paul's citations from the Old Testament to the actual scriptures he cites, it is clear from the scriptures that these are not saying there are not people capable of doing good, but rather that fallen man cannot save himself. Read Ecclesiatestes 7, Psalms 14, or Psalm 53; Psalm 5, Psalm 140, Psalm 10, Isaiah 59 and Proverbs 1, (Psalm67?) and Psalm 35. These are the most likely source verses for Paul’s quotations in Romans 3. Every one of the chapters, while making some blanket statements about there are no righteous or other such statement, also clearly says there are also righteous and good people out there.

On the other hand, Leroy cites Gen 6:5, 11-12 as support of the Total Depravity of man. Yet right there, right in the heart of the statements Leroy cites is this statement about Noah: "These [are] the generations of Noah:

Noah was a just man [and] perfect in his generations, [and] Noah walked with God." (Gen 6:9)

So even though it says that every imagination from the heart of men was evil (vs. 5), Noah, a man, was just and perfect, and even walked with God, whatever that means. In other words, there are still non-wicked people among mankind, and there is no teaching saying the evil being done was by monergistic nature versus their choice. Since we have no statement undoing Gen 3:22 yet, Biblically I have to think the author of Genesis is in effect telling us the people are choosing evil. This would seem to be a more scripturally consistent reading in light of 1 Peter 3:20 where those people of Noah's day are said to have been "disobedient", which clearly means they made a choice to do evil. In fact, the word Peter uses for “disobedient” means to resist being persuaded and to not obey. Again, it sounds like a choice to me, and in light of the context of Genesis 6, it seems to fit the text better than to assert they were evil because they were fallen and incapable of choosing to obey. According to Peter, they refused to allow themselves to be persuaded from their evil. (BTW, we will go through each “proof text” individually to verify their context and merit, and present those discussions for the reader.)

Paul was not teaching we cannot do good. He was teaching we do not have the ability to save ourselves. In Rom 3:19 he says the whole world is guilty of sin because of the Law. But in verses 22-24, Paul makes this statement about for whom Christ’s righteousness is applied:

22 Even the righteousness of God [which is] by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

Notice the two classes for whom Christ’s righteousness is applied:

1. Unto all

2. Upon all that believe

Why? Because as concerning sin, there is no difference whether you believe or not. As verse 23 reminds us, “All have sinned”. This is the restatement of Romans 2:11

11 For there is no respect of persons with God.

If God forgave some sins simply because of a random, unknowable criteria, then he would be a partial god, and in my view, a fallen god. He would be unjust. It would be the moral equivalent of “hate crimes” legislation, even though the transgression of the Law of Moses was about deeds. ‘Thou shall not’… types of statements, and when you did, you transgressed the Law. There was no penalty for not feeding the poor, and the standard for that was not laid out. You gave tithes and offerings, or you burned at the Lord’s coming. These were actions. Thus Paul also teaches (Romans 2:13-14) that when the gentile did by nature those things contained in the Law of Moses, they became a Law unto themselves. Transgressing those elements of the Law so discerned meant they committed an act of sin. Doers of the Law of Moses were Justified, and it was impossible to keep every element of the Law perfectly.

Paul then teaches that because of Christ’s atonement for the sins of the whole world, all are justified (Romans 3:30). But he teaches that there are two types of faith working for Justification: The faith of the believer, which allows him to remain Justified, and the faith of Christ on behalf of the rest of the world. If after being justified by the Faith of Christ, the world casts him aside, then are they truly punished for actively rejecting the Savior, breaking the rules Christ instituted for the reception of saving grace. But they made a choice, or else Christ is a respector of Persons, not giving all an equal chance for salvation.

Mankind is fallen, and has a nature which wars against the things of God. But since the Fall, mankind is also able to discern Good and Evil. It is a false paradigm, in my view, to say on the one hand I am free any time I want to turn my car to the right, and then give me a care which is only capable of turning left or going straight. If man is incapable of comprehending or choosing good, he cannot be held accountable for the bad he does. But if he can choose good, then he must be able to obtain the same results as any other person potentially can obtain, or else God is a respecter of persons. God can certainly set the rules, and the fact he even provides for rules to be created is a great act of grace on his part.

In my opinion, TULIP would fall solely based on the false nature of this tenet of their theology. Sadly, all five elements of TULIP are false constructs, creating a net, as it were, of self-referencing false doctrine. Within the body of this post we can explore the supposed scriptural support for both points of view.

What say you?



Todd Leroy said...

Bob, there is a lot to respond to here, but I'm not sure I should really respond to any of it. Not sure if there is a flow from the chief misunderstanding presented at the offset. Nothing I wrote and nothing you quoted from an opposing view intended to say that men do not know the difference between right and wrong. The portion you quoted from me was stricly and intentionally only about willing and acting. I also didn't talk about right and wrong. I talked about righteousness or pleasing God which can only be done in faith. (I think you agree that true obedience is in or through faith, at least in basic terms.) The fallen person doesn't have faith. It's a basic way to say they do not ever do anything but sin no matter if what they do is 'right' or 'wrong' according to what the law requires. In our fallenness, we do have consciences and the work of the law is 'written on our hearts' so that we would stand condemned, whether God has ever explicitly told us what to do or not.(Rom 2)

I mean, I'm glad you quoted everything you did so that anyone reading this could see 'both sides', but honestly you have to address what is presented in the quotes.

If you accept that we aren't saying the Bible says no one knows the difference between right and wrong but rather routinely and by nature chooses to do what is wrong, I think you may simply end up arguing the Pelagian position, that man was not affected by the fall in his ability to do what is good.

What does it say about Noah before verse 9? In verse 8 it says, "But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord." Literally, and in the King James, Noah found grace, or 'khane' in Hebrew.

John Piper explains it like this:
The reason Noah was spared was because he "found grace in the eyes of the Lord." Noah was not without sin, but he found favor with God because "he walked with God" (6:9): he agreed with God about the evil of his own sin, turned from it and trusted God for grace. He is called righteous and blameless in Gen. 6:9. But blameless in the Old Testament doesn't always mean sinless. A man is blameless if he does not persist in his blameworthy actions, if he hates them, turns from them and comes to God seeking mercy (cf. Job 1:1). Neither does righteous mean sinless. In the Old Testament, a righteous man is a sinner who hates his sin, turns from it, trusts God, pursues obedience and enjoys acceptance by grace. (See Psalm 32:1-2, 10-11.) This is confirmed by Hebrews 11:7, "By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, took heed and constructed an ark for the saving of his household; by this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness which comes by faith."

Now, I know we have vastly different definitions of grace, but even then you can see how Noah was not an exception to the total depravity of man.

Bob the Anti-Anti said...

Hey Leroy,
I don't believe it is possible for a person to be "totally depraved". (Caveat, I believe there are mentally disturbed people who can be totally depraved, but then they are not responsible, per se, because they are unable to choose.)

I believe God has in fact revealed his purposes for salvation, and who he wants to save: Everyone.

A fallen person can get faith: "So then faith [cometh] by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Romans 10:17.

Paul places no limits on who will respond in these passages. In fact, Romans 10 is the exact opposite, opening up who salvation applies to.

Through the atonement of Christ, all are made righteous, thus all CAN respond to the call, but not all do: Romans 5:19 "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous."

If a person is incapable of choosing good, then they cannot be judged as evil for choosing evil. For to that person, there is no good or evil. Just life. If Christ empowered us to be covered by his righteousness so that we could develop faith and be saved, then the only people who could possible be damned would be those people so enlightened by Christ, since they were the only people capable of understanding right and wrong, good and evil.

Which is I believe the concept of total depravity is flawed, because it is plain both from a reading of the Bible and a real world life, that men are capable of choosing good for good reasons, and that merits God's blessings if not his grace.

Men can develop faith by hearing the word of God, and men can CHOOSE to hear the word of God and respond, or they can judge it as being of no value, and move on. Thus I say Genesis 3:21 is critical to this discussion: Either virtually all men and women know good and evil, and can therefore choose good things including developing faith, or else that decree of agency has been rescinded by God, and there should be a place in scripture telling us that Good and Evil in a salvation sense only applies to those who have faith. But near as I can tell, after dozens of readings of the New Testament, no such statement exists.

Therefore Leroy, in my opinion and based upon the scriptures, I find no support for the doctrine of Total Depravity.

I will go through each of the verses you cite on my next post here to see if there is anything to support the concept that men's actions can only be judged righteous if they have faith, in order that the atonement of Christ could be applied. That would certainly invalidate the teachings of Paul:

13(For not the hearers of the law [are] just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.
14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:
15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and [their] thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) (Romans 2:13-15, and one of the basic arguments of Paul for the supremacy of the Gospel over the Law.)

Apparently those lacking the Law of Moses who respond to their conscience are Justified (Paul's Word, i.e. Made Righteous) before God, even not knowing of Christ. That is impossible in your theology, and yet it is truly central to the teachings of Paul.

Enough for now. I will be back later.

Todd Leroy said...

Some people like to think of the fall as falling into a little hole. Truth is, the fall is much worse than even coming headfirst off of the Sears Tower. (~Rev. Bowie from Amazing Grace: History and Theology of Calvinism, I recommend it: samples online.)

It is not at all saying that we have lost the ability to know right from wrong. One of Paul's purposes in Romans 1. Romans 1:18 says, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth."
They (natural man) suppress the truth!

I can see that the term 'total depravity' is becoming very confusing to you. I would commend you to look past it if it doesn't make sense in that term and just look at the scripture (which is cool that you're doing next, I know you already said you would). It does not mean that we are as bad as we could be. It does not mean that everything we do is all-out evil. I was a very good [Lutheran] kid before God saved me. My human righteousness came out of a genuine affection at time, and at other times out of a fear of punishment. I never glorified God by my actions or served with the strength He supplies. It was all my filthy rags. And besides that because I knew God had not been revealed to me (though no one said He should have been) I had no reason to believe that He or heaven or anything existed or mattered at least. He chose to reveal Himself to me one night, in conjunction with His word, whilst I had been basically praying that He wouldn't exist, and He set His love upon me through His son. He justified me by the merit and virtues of Christ, to whom He united me by faith. It was a mystery, but oh so simple that He was all that mattered in that first moment, and more and more overall since then.

That was a bit of a digression. Back to what Total Depravity doesn't mean. It is only philosophy that says if someone knows the difference between two things that the person can choose either one. The person is 'free' in a sense to choose either one, but this is where we get the concept of compatibilism. Every time I go to the grocery store, I am free to buy whatever I can afford, and I can afford everything. Now, my wife and I do not purchase anything with Monosodium Glutamate in it. Can we? Sure. Will we? No! It has part of who we are that we always check the ingredients for not just MSG, but all of the sneaky codenames that are used to cover it up (anything hydrolyzed, autolyzed, or torula yeast extract). Does this make sense? We all have preferences. I'm sure there is something on the menu you just can't stand. Are you free to order it? Yes. Will you ever? No, probably not, unless you experience a fundamental change in taste. I, for instance, despise onions. That's not a health conscious thing, that's just plain taste. I avoid them at all costs. I'm never going to order French Onion Soup or Onion Rings, and if a salad comes with onion on it, it's the first thing I take off. This is the same with my sinful nature and righteousness from God. My sinful nature is at war with God. Sure, it is posible in a sense that my nature could just surrender, but it never will. It must be subdued, taken over; that domain of darkness must be conquered in me and I must be delievered into the Kindgom of light. The 'strong man' has to be tied up by a stronger man. This is why the scripture says, "Those who are in the flesh cannot please God." And in the verse preceding, "For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot." (Romans 8:7-8)

That's just the way it is. Philosophy says if God requires something, we must have the ability to do it (Pelagius). Philosophy says if we can conceive of two possibilities, we must be able to choose. The scripture says we are dead to choice, and the option's viability only argues the case against us.

That's universal. All have fallen in Adam. All have 'fallen short'.

You said:
"Apparently those lacking the Law of Moses who respond to their conscience are Justified."
Where are you getting that from Romans 2?

The statements in Romans 2 are made to establish God's justice in the condemnation of those who do not have the law. Plainly in verse 12, "For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law."

And it is contradicted by Romans 10. Verse 14 says, "14 But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?" Why is that necessary in a world where faith is irrelevant to justification? (This is what you've implied your stance is, no? See my other comment under Grace and Justification.)

And how does that match up with verse 10, "For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved?"

Sending preachers out to preach the Gospel is the foreordained plan of God to seek and to save His people. No one is justified apart from faith in the Christ. He was promised to those who were saved by grace before Him, and revealed to those who are and have been saved by grace after Him. (Read about the new covenant in Hebrews 9:15-22 about this. That is one of the messages I 'preached' in SLC.)

Some confusion on Romans 2:13, the "doers of the law" are those who by grace trust in Christ and are then justified by that faith. It is a subtle but very important distinction from those who try to be justified by keeping the law. Look at the passage again with this possibility in mind. Note that obeying the Gospel with repentance and faith is not the sum of 'doing the law' but it is the life of taking up one's cross, following Christ, seeking holiness, glory, and honor in God that begins its fulfillment with faith, and is at all points enabled by grace.

Bob the Anti-Anti said...

I keep shoving the concept of "right or wrong" into this discussion, and it is probably more of a distraction than helpful. So rather than harping on that point, let us simply say the ability to respond to the message of God. Because all men received agency and the ability to discern good and evil at the Fall, all mankind can respond to the call to develop faith, repent, be baptized, have their sins remitted, and work out their salvation by responding to the Spirit bidding them to act on the feelings within them to want and do the things necessary to complete our salvation (Phil. 2:12-15). Paul says it completely here:
"12Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
14Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe"
I note that in verse 14 Paul says we are to act upon those things which he in verse 13 says are put into our heart by God, and to act without complaint or argument, that we may be BLAMELESS. Well, since he was discussing the process of working out and completing our salvation, and it is possible for us to receive enough blame so that Paul's efforts would have been useless (vs.16), then even after having received the Spirit and having God work within them, they still could fail, as Paul says he himself could still fail. Phil. 3:12-14:
"12Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
If Paul himself, who is clearly filled with grace, the Spirit, revelation and authority from God considered it possible for himself to still fail to get the prize of salvation, then there is no such thing as eternal security. We will surely discuss that later. But is also means that there is no such thing as total depravity or unconditional grace. He is clearly teaching in Philippians that men can choose to respond to the draw of God. He said it explicitly in 2:12-15. Since we can choose to respond to salvation or not, and even Paul could still frustrate the grace shown him by failing to obey to the end, then monergism cannot be correct.

By the way, at the Fall, did men receive the ability to choose good and evil, or did they loose it? God seems to say we received it (Gen 3:21). God shows us all grace by making opportunities to be saved universally available, even to those in Noah's day. That is what Peter is addressing in 1 Peter 3:18-20, and explicitly in 1 Peter 4:2-6. Those who were wicked in this life can still repent in the next and live in the spirit according to God. Again, it seems to be pretty explicitly saying that even the wicked of Noah's day or today still have the opportunity to receive salvation in the Spirit World. Not that they "will", but that they "might". And the basis of that is their choice to respond.

People can only choose to respond if they are able to see and process the good of the Gospel. If they are never in a position to respond by developing faith, then God is unjust in condemning them. And he would surely be forced to damn all small children who die before being able to comprehend faith under the logical end of this teaching.

Are babies who die damned Leroy? If yes, then you are doctrinally consistent, but scripturally flawed. "For of such is the kingdom of heaven". If no, then you are doctrinally inconsistent:

"I talked about righteousness or pleasing God which can only be done in faith. (I think you agree that true obedience is in or through faith, at least in basic terms.) The fallen person doesn't have faith. It's a basic way to say they do not ever do anything but sin no matter if what they do is 'right' or 'wrong' according to what the law requires. In our fallenness, we do have consciences and the work of the law is 'written on our hearts' so that we would stand condemned, whether God has ever explicitly told us what to do or not.(Rom 2)"

Either the rules apply to everyone, or God is a respector of persons, and an unjust God. He who hates false weights and bad measures in the market square cannot possible think a false balance of mens souls is righteous.

More later. Peace.

Todd Leroy said...

There are a couple of comments waiting on the grace & justification definitions thread and on this one I would like to stick to the doctrine of Total Depravity.

You said,
"there is no such thing as eternal security. We will surely discuss that later. But is also means that there is no such thing as total depravity or unconditional grace."

We will discuss that later. It's letter P. If you have the presupposition that P is false that forces you to automatically assume T is false, that's a problem. I will pray for you to be able to consider T by itself.

You said,
"I keep shoving the concept of "right or wrong" into this discussion, and it is probably more of a distraction than helpful. So rather than harping on that point..."

If you said this, then why later do you say,
"By the way, at the Fall, did men receive the ability to choose good and evil, or did they loose it? God seems to say we received it..."

It's not helpful. It's a distraction. You said it yourself, and your opinion expressed after you said it at the top of your comment weren't helpful either. Phil 2:12-18 is not about 'completing' one's salvation as if it were not finished, as if justification were not final. You totally just read that into the passage.

This discussion has nothing to do with infant salvation. Your point that anything but denying any infant salvation is 'inconsistent' is irrelevant and untrue. If you think that the so-called logical extension of a theological principle puts God in a box, you are wrong. God can regenerate infants like John the Baptist if He wants to.(Luke 1:15) It's up to God.

Actually, the question of infant salvation does bring up a good point here. Maybe you don't understand this. It is a good illustration to say that in regard to our salvation we are as completely helpless as an aborted infant. We have no more willingness to respond than the ignorant and incapable newborn that dies of SIDS. We are just as helpless because the state of sinfulness of our selves. That is what it means to be dead in our trespasses and sins. (Eph. 2:1) That is what it means that those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Rom. 8:8) Before we are in the Spirit, we are only in the flesh. We cannot please God. We are hostile towards God.(Rom. 8:7) We cannot bring ourselves to salvation. We cannot and will not cause our own births.(John 1:12-13) You have to be born of the Spirit to come out of the flesh and please God. The Father does that by the Holy Spirit.

You said something interesting,
"People can only choose to respond if they are able to see and process the good of the Gospel."

You said this to make another point but this statement is true.
Have you ever heard the words of the hymn Amazing Grace?
"Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me....
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see."

The Gospel is not good to the natural person, in the flesh. The person cannot see or process the good of the gospel without new spiritual eyes. This is what it means to be born again--to be given new spiritual eyes. That is why you must be born again to see the Kingdom. You must be born again to have faith and choose Jesus in faith.

Bob the Anti-Anti said...

I have a long response prepared for some other points, but there is something which seems inconsistent in what you wrote at the very end.

The command of Christ is "you must be born again". It is a command which requires our action, our response. Though I may be causing a distraction by using the terms "good and evil", you yourself use it by saying "The person cannot see or process the good of the gospel without new spiritual eyes." So without new spiritual eyes, a person cannot process the good of the Gospel? I believe your statement is directly contradicted by Gen 3:22 and John 3:3, 16.

The inability of man to see the "good of the Gospel" is central to the false concept of total depravity. That is why I keep asking my question: Where did Gen 3:22 get done away with? Either God's observation is still true that "... Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil:" or you should be able to point to a place where God directly says man is no longer capable of knowing good and evil. Unless you can point to the latter, the former statement by God directly contradicts your statement about man being unable to see the good of the Gospel.

Leroy, can you cite such a scriptural statement?

Todd Leroy said...

Bob, good question. I guess I need to qualify what I mean by the 'good of the Gospel'.

The good of the Gospel I'm talking about is the face and glory of Jesus Christ in grace. Unregenerate are blind to it. The good that they do see they reject. The regenerate are pleased and blessed to enjoy it. The good they see they embrace. The good of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is GRACE. If I am given spiritual eyes to see God in any way I have to repent. He is holy and I am not. The grace of God given to me in the Son is the only way I can survive any encounter with the holy living God.

The concept of those who 'have eyes' (can perceive to some degree right and wrong) but do not 'see' or 'are blind' is all throughout scripture.

Check out Isaiah 43. Verse 8 says, "Bring out the people who are blind, yet have eyes, who are deaf, yet have ears!"

Matt. 13:13, "This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand."

This is explicitly in Corinthians.

2 Cor. 2:15-16, "For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?"

It's the same smell with two different scents.

You can either smell it with a spiritual nose or a nose of flesh. You can see the 'good of the Gospel' with spiritual eyes or eyes of flesh. With eyes of flesh, you don't see the good of the Gospel. You're as good as blind.

This is for those who those who claim to know right and wrong so well, John 9:39, "Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”"

See, you don't see. If you think you see, you become blind. It is only be grace that any draw near. It is only be grace that humbles and breaks us under and unto His ultimately beautiful glory.

Bob the Anti-Anti said...

I think this is progress.

I agree that seeing and not seeing is everywhere in the scriptures. But it is a choice to see or not see.

According to Genesis 3:22, all mankind is capable of seeing. "And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil".

I think you are saying God, by his choice of who he plans to save, makes only those people he plans to save capable of recognizing and responding to the Good of Christ.

I am saying scripture explicitly teaches all men are capable of seeing and comprehending the Good of Christ, they simply choose not to hear or see it.

According to Romans, without an understanding of the Law, there is no condemnation. So I would ask you, is there a passage of scripture somewhere which says God has darkened the understanding of the unsaved so they cannot comprehend the Good of Christ He has offered to the whole world?

All of the scriptures you cite are ambiguous about "why" they cannot see, as opposed to the clear statement of Genesis 3:22 which makes it clear that Good and Evil are comprehended by mankind, and we choose good or evil. Paul's statements are clear that everything that happened to Adam as concerning our natures, happened to all of us (Romans 3 and 5, 1Cor 15).

Strangely, I think you should read more of the Old Testament, to understand the Schoolmaster who brought the Children to Christ. In Deut 1:39 we see the Lord condemning the Israelites who did not believe and obey, yet those who were too young to know good from evil are allowed to enter the promised land. He notes they had not yet reached a point of knowing good from evil. All of the Children were allowed to enter the promised land. Can you see the parallel? People must choose to follow Christ, but monergism is choiceless. Following Christ is difficult, though living in sin is harder. But many cannot comprehend how self denial and obedience is easier than living in sin.

So I am still looking for a scripture Leroy to support your belief that God made the unsaved unable to recognize the Good of Christ. Since that position contradicts Gen 3:22, it must be a clear, explicit statement, similar to Paul's interaction over the doing away of physical circumcision or the Law of Moses. In light of the scriptures repeated statements about choice and accountability, their inability to choose instantly brings them into the promised land, like the young of the Children of Israel. That makes monergism actually universalist, since only those who know good and do it not can commit sin.

James 4:17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth [it] not, to him it is sin.

If I cannot know the Good of Christ, I cannot be judged as having sinned. And therefore, I must be judged pure as a child who likewise knows neither good nor evil. I see this as the logical conclusion of what you are saying. Which is why I keep asking for clear scriptural statements, not statements that are prefaced by "if you look at it from this point of view..." I have been told many times by many people, "The scriptures should be used to interpret the scriptures." So I am not going to let you off the hook: Please provide a statement from scripture showing God does not allow the unelect to see the Good of Christ.

Isa 43:8 is specifically about those who were worshipping idols and committing sins (Isa 43:24). They are also brought, with the believers, to hear the Lord's witnesses, and we are told that even out of these, Jehovah will yet "blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins"(ISA 43:25). Exactly along this line, Isaiah records God saying (Isa 44:18): "They have not known nor understood: for he (i.e. the idol they created) hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; [and] their hearts, that they cannot understand."
Isaiah and Paul both teach that an idol is not a real existing being, just an object. That God says that object had blinded them means precisely they were blinded by their own actions. God does not take the blame.

They had the ability, they gave it away. The last thing Isaiah is teaching is that a pre-selected few individuals are going to be saved. He repeatedly calls for all to repent and turn again to God.

Matt 13:13 is quoting Isaiah, but again you miss the message. It is about protecting those who are not yet ready. To say that they see not because God is choosing not to save them would require us to believe then God is not saving his Old Testament prophets either (vs 17): "For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous [men] have desired to see [those things] which ye see, and have not seen [them]; and to hear [those things] which ye hear, and have not heard [them]."

The danger of picking out just verses that agree with us in a phrase is that the broader context often refutes our assertions. 2 Cor 2 is another good example. Paul is exhorting the believers to remain faithful, but in chapter 5 he makes an unmistakable statement of the fact that though he includes himself in the "we" among the saved, salvation can yet be lost:

5 Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing [is] God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. 6 Therefore [we are] always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: 7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) 8 We are confident, [I say], and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. 9 Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things [done] in [his] body, according to that he hath done, whether [it be] good or bad.

Earnest is a down payment. It is not the whole thing. It can still be rescinded, if the terms of the contract are violated. Thus Paul says "we labor...that we may be accepted of him". Failure to do so results in an unfavorable judgement, for the things we have done.

He goes on to say that Christ, the sinless one, died for the Whole World (vs 14-15): "if one died for all, then were all dead: 15 And [that] he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again." He died for everyone, since all were sinners. All are justified, but we choose whether we retain the gift or not.

You seem to completely miss the point of John 9:39. Only those who can see the Good of Christ are condemned. That was the Pharisee's question and Christ's answer vs. 41: "Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth."

It could not more clearly refute the idea of condemnation coming to those unable to see the Good of Christ. Remember, this is coming immediately after Christ opened the eyes of a blind man, who then believed. Your interpretation would require me to think that because Christ says of the blind man that he also sees, he is likewise blind and condemned. Verse 38 makes it clear that since he "sees" and believes and worships him, he is a true believer.

The evidence is overwhelming, in my opinion. Don't get me wrong here. I want to be saved. I want to be forgiven of my sins, to know God and Christ. I want to do God's will for my life, and I believe you to sincerely believe that as well. I am a convert to the Mormon faith and to Christ. The Church is the vehicle, Christ is the power and authority.

The reason I am hammering on the issue of explicit scriptures is because if you are saying the Spirit is an untrustworthy guide to finding Christ, then there is only the scriptures to judge between monergism and the LDS Church. Yet the scriptures you cite do not support what you say the theology behind them is. By contrast, the LDS teaching of accountability and Justification are explicit in scripture. I appreciate your citation of scripture, but find something as clear as Gen 3:22 or Deut 1:39, or Romans 5:12-18. These verses have explicit doctrinal statements about the nature of man. The verses you cite typically are statements about the actions of men and require the imputation of motives, which you ascribe to monergism. Show me that unelected man's nature is incapable of repenting and seeing good. Show me that a fallen and unregenerate person cannot desire to find God. You show me unregenerated people misbehaving, as we would expect. But I have not seen any explicit scriptural statements to rival Genesis 3:22, James 4:17 or Romans 5:18. Man is only accountable when he sees truth and chooses not to do it. Lacking capacity for understanding, we are not accountable for sin.

Show me statements and pronouncements about man's nature from scripture. It is not that I am stupid, it is just that if you expect me to abandon my beliefs for what you consider the truth, then your truth should be at least as clear and evident as the explicit statements of scripture I keep trying to get you to directly interact with.

I have directly commented on almost every scripture you have cited because if this is the best evidence you have, it deserves a response, and my thinking deserves examination. Like Rob Sivulka's sloppy and poorly researched work, which I freely criticize, I think my comments deserve something more than polite acknowledgement, and so I do the same to yours. I am truly doing unto others as I would have them do unto me. Rob refuses to interact or defend his work (perhaps because it is undefendable), but you and I should courteously but firmly respond to the arguments laid out. At the end of this life we all must give account of what we know and how we lived.