Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Today I want to write about death. Death is associated with black, black is associated with goth people, and some goth people wear skulls on their clothes. Skulls happen after death, so that all makes sense. However, all of that is kindof off-topic. Death is much deeper concept than that - just ask any non-believer what they think happens after you die. You'll get different responses I'm sure. I know I have. Some people think that when you die, you cease to exist as a person. People die like dogs. Other think believe that death is just part of the cycle of reincarnation, and it's just a door you go through. Still others believe in some sort of god or devil that they serve and will be with during an afterlife. Some people simply refuse to think about the subject at all, because it's scary. So what is death? What's the problem with it? What makes it good or bad?

Because I am mainly writing to a christian audience, I won't spend very long on the second mentioned idea of death. From the Bible we know that reincarnation is not what actually happens after death, for "it is appointed unto man once to die (physically) and after this the judgment." The reason I put the word "physically" in there for clarification is that some people will also experience the "second death" which is being cast into hell. Now, if you think for just a very quick moment, you will realize that the first and the third view of death are quite incompatible. If you cease to exist when you die, you don't go on to an afterlife. Now, why do I bother to point this out? I will be able to explain that more clearly after I explain the third view a bit more. In this blog, I will only go on to explain this view, and in the next blog, I will contrast it to the first view.

As christians, I think it's safe to say that we mainly believe that there is one God, the God of the Bible, and that no matter what god or gods you serve in this life, there are only two ultimate destinies. There is an afterlife in heaven, in the presence of the almighty and holy God, and there is hell, which is the one place where God is not. With God or without God, those are the only two final options. What does that mean about death? Death is ultimately good or bad depending on where the person's final destiny is. The death of a human is not like the death of a dog, who ceases to exist, but is separation from one place and an entrance to another. As I said, that is good or bad depending on where they will be entering. How does this go along with other deaths mentioned in the Bible, such as the second death?

The initial death, spiritual death: God warned man not to eat a fruit, and that "in the day you eat of it, you shall surely die." Adam ate, and that particular day he did not die physically. What was this death then? Man was kicked out of the garden, and could no longer just walk with God in the cool of the day. More deeply, in a much more metaphysical sense, man was truly separated from God in spirit.

Isaiah 59:2 "But your iniquities have separated you from your God."

The physical death that even non-believers know about: Because of the fall, death entered the world. Not only spiritual death, but physical death as well. This death is not merely the absence of life, as non-believers sometimes think, but another separation. This death is the separation of the soul and spirit of a person from their body. "To be absent from the body is to present with the Lord." For the one writing that verse, to die is to gain. To be separated from this world of temptation and suffering is awesome. However, it isn't like that for everyone.

Luke 16:22-28 "The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment."

This man was separated from earth, and thereby not only separated from his only chance to repent and beg for God's mercy, but also separated from his brothers so that he could not help them. Again, notice that this story goes against the idea that when a person is dead, they cease to exist. This dead guy is wanting stuff, talking, and asking for stuff. He is separated from this universe, and from his former body, but he is still very much a person.

Death, as separation, can be good or bad in an eternal sense and even good or bad in a very temporal sense. Some think that the death penalty is wrong, because murder is wrong. However, the death penalty is part of the justice system in the Old Testament. The separation (death) of a family member is usually very sad and painful, but the separation (death) of a psychopathic killer is a relief because the killer can not longer inflict damage. Separating the killer from his body means that he no longer has power to hurt other physical beings.

Finally, the second death:

Revelation 20:14 "Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death."

Even in Hades, a soul had not experienced the second death until that final moment when it was cast into the lake of fire, away from the presence of the Lord.

Matthew 7:23 "And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’"

There is no happiness in this death, and no hope. It is the final and eternal separation from God, from Love, and from all that is Good, for God is Good.

The main idea of death seems to be separation, and going back to physical death for a bit, I just wanted to add a couple awesome death scenes:

1 - The death scene so moving that it made God cry

John 11:34-36
And He said, “Where have you laid him?”
They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.”
Jesus wept.
Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!”

Now THAT is something. I mean, it's pretty easy to make me cry, but this guy was God. Jesus wept. That has got to be one of the most profound verses in Bible. Anyhow, given the context that Christ was able to raise Lazarus from the dead, why was He sad at all? I think He experienced the death of a loved one kinda like we experience it sometimes. When your saved little sister died, you are sad not because she has ceased to exist but because she is gone. A person being gone like that can be really sad. Seriously.

2 - The death scene so tragic that the sun hid its face

Mark 17:33-34, 37
Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice... “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last."

Christ tasted death for us all, and they say that He died literally of a broken heart. That's easy to believe, because that is definitely the most heart-breaking cry ever: My God, My God - Why have You forsaken Me?" It may sound dumb, but even typing that, it makes me feel like crying. Anyway, what was so awful about death? The physical component? The fact that crucifixion is arguable the most painful death invented? What made dying a big deal? It was the separation of Jesus from the Father. The Father turned His face away as Jesus died - God cannot look on sin, and on the cross, Jesus became sin for us. Jesus didn't complain about the pain as He died; the one cry of sorrow that overflowed from His heart was the pain of separation from His Father.

3 - The death that is no longer sad
When we as christians die, we leave behind the corruptible for the incorruptible. "O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The victory is ours in Christ, for in physical death we let go of this decaying body for eternal life. "And thus we shall always be with the Lord." Death does not have victory over us anymore for though to live is Christ, to die is to gain. Our gain is to be with the Lord, and to always be with Him." Ultimate life is the opposite of separate: it is eternal togetherness in pure Love, for God is Love.

I just want to end by saying that I wish death had never been a part of this world. I wish that man had never sinned, so that death would never have become necessary. Death sometimes is now necessary, and sometimes is the just and proper thing. Death to us christians is sometimes joy and hope. Death is dark, and yet has death lost it's sting? Death may be many things, but it certainly is, as its core, separation. I think now of people in movies, when another who they care is dying, and they cry frantically "Stay with me - Stay with me." A song also comes to mind, a song of a person who actually wants separation from another and cries in anger "You are dead to me!" This all is what I see of death throughout the Bible, but thanks and glory be to God, we have life through Christ Jesus our Lord. And always remember:

"Better a live dog than a dead lion."
Ecclesiastes 9:4

Death: Inability or Separation (Part 2)

IMPORTANT NOTE: This is the second part of a two part blog. If you have not had the chance to read the first part, entitled "Death," please do not read this until you have read it. This blogs builds on that one.

Previously I had mentioned two different views on death. One view is a pagan view that the death of a man is like the death of dog: the essence of the person ceases to exist and death may be mainly called inability. Farmer Frank sees farmer Joe die, and realized that farmer Joe is no longer able to help him with the harvest, or with anything else for that matter. Joe is dead and cannot do anything.

Farmer Joe

Another view is that physical death is departure from one place and entrance to another. From this view, you get the phrase "he is in a better place." The Christian view is that second view, with the added note that some people will enter a good place after death while others will be entering a truly dreadful place. All of this was discussed a bit in the last blog.

Now, I would like to discuss breifly the doctrine of Total Inability. This doctrine, in short, teaches that natural man is dead in sin and therefore unable to have faith in Christ until he is regenerated and made alive. After all, can a dead man have faith? Of course not. A dead man cannot do anything! They support this view with verses such as:

Colossians 2:13
"And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,"

Ephesians 2:1
"And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,"

There are many verses about the depravity of man, but for the most part, people who believe in total inability will harp on these verses. Man is not dying, they will say, that he can call for help. Man is not sick, so that he can sign a consent form for surgery. Man is not just wounded, but dead. Dead! Spiritually, he is completely dead, and thereby unable to do anything spiritually good! Death, they consistently imply, means complete inability.

Now, I am not in this blog concerned to debate the whole doctrine of Total Inability, but only to disagree with their interpretation of these couple of verses. Perhaps they can show me that unsaved men cannot have faith from many other verses in the Bible, but they have not shown it to me in these verses. Perhaps you can relate to these verses, and will think to yourself that it makes sense. Dead people cannot do anything; zombies are only legend. From a pagan perspective, that does make sense. Farmer Joe, when he dies, does not seem able to do anything. However, this view, as intuitive as it is, contradicts the Bible. Dead man can do nothing? Farmer Joe can do nothing? What if dead man can do things?

Luke 16:19-24

“There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table.

Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom.

The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

“Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’

This was a story told by Jesus. Yes, a story, not a parable. Here is a dead guy, and this dead guy is completely able to suffer, to think, to talk, to desire, to cry out, and to make requests. Yes, the body of Joe is not able to move itself, but the former body of Joe is not Joe. Joe is a soul, a spirit, and is able to continue to think and act after he is separated from this world. "You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body." There are a great many things I cannot do here on earth that one day I shall be able to do in heaven. When I die, I shall not be unable, but able to do so much more. My body will be limp, but my body is not me. I will be gone.

Scripturally, the main idea of death is not inability, but separation. Yes, I realize that this is counter-intuitive. It made seem obvious that a dead man cannot do anything, but I would say that to learn from the Scripture, we often need to set aside our own presuppositions. A dead man is able to do many things, and it is only his old body which is thrown off like old clothes. Now some will say to me "yes, death is separation, but it also includes inability. For when you are in heaven, you will be separated from this earth and thereby not able to witness to unsaved people anymore."

I would agree with that proposition that death includes inability, for even in the example I gave, Lazarus was unable to come to the rich man, and the rich man was unable to go back and warn his brothers. I would even agree that life includes inability, for I cannot fly. Death and life both include inability, but I believe that main idea of death is separation, and that while death can include some inability, it is not an all-inclusive inability. As I said before, life also includes inability, but is not an all-inclusive inability. When I have eternal life in heaven, I will not be able to beat God at chess, but I will be able to do other awesome stuff. Let me go back to what Biblical dead is, briefly:

  • Initial death: Spiritual death, which is the separation of our spirit from God. Isaiah 59:2 "But your iniquities have separated you from your God."

  • Physical death: The separation of a person from this physical universe. 2 Corinthians 5:8 "We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord."

  • Final death: The final and eternal separation of a person from God. Matthew 7:23 "And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’"

Pop-quiz: Q - What is deader than dead? A - Being cast away from the presence of the Lord.
The only thing more deadly than death is separation, not more inability somehow. Separation is the core concept of death.

Going back to Ephesians two
I would like to look at that the reference to being dead in sin in context a bit. One verse out of context can be taken to mean, well, almost anything you want it to mean! Sadly, I don't have room in this blog to just start quoting the whole thing, but I will spell out a progression of words in the chapter here:
We were... made alive... dead... fleshly... dead... made alive.... separate... excluded... strangers... without God... far off... brought near... peace... reconciled... etc
We were dead in sin, and the author does not leave us wondering what point he is trying to make with that. We were dead, separated, far off, and without God. We were dead in sin, for our sin had separated us from our God. This chapter is putting forward the idea of spiritual death as spiritual separation from God. It does not seem to be putting forward the idea of inability. The chapter uses the words "far out," "separate," and "without God," and yet does it once use the word "unable?" No, not once.

Now I also think that the idea that "dead men can do nothing" in regard to spiritual affairs contradicts itself plainly. For a man will say "can a dead man have faith? No. A dead man cannot even have a little faith! A wounded man may do a little, but a dead man can do nothing." Yet a physically dead man can do nothing physically, whether good or evil. If a dead man can do nothing, then a spiritually dead man could also do nothing, whether good or bad. Just a physically dead man can neither murder nor save, a spiritually dead man could neither accept Christ nor rebel against Him.

If a man is separated from the physical realm, as in physical death, he would be unable to do anything that has physical significance. In the same way, a spiritually dead man perhaps could act physically, but anything he did would not have spiritual significance. Death is inability. Physical death means inability to do anything. Spiritual death means complete inability, but only in regard to spiritual good? So then a dead man can do evil things? A dead man can do things? Death, then, does not mean inability. It is an argument that contradicts itself, and thereby shoots itself in the foot. They use a faulty analogy to prove that death is complete inability, and then define complete spiritual inability to only mean inability regarding spiritual good, and therefore not complete inability.

Going back to what I said about life and death both including inability, I want to point out especially that the dead rich man was able to cry out and ask for things. In the same way, I believe that spiritually dead people by the grace of God are able to cry out and ask Him for salvation. The idea that death is mainly stems from the natural understand of death that does not take into account the continued existence of a soul after death. I believe that the christianized version of the "death is inability" doctrine comes from faulty presuppositions that must be checked carefully against the Word of God. Biblically, I see that death is mainly separation, and only includes inability as much life does. One must define specific inabilities separate from the ideas of life or death then. Perhaps a person can prove from the Scriptures that unregenerate man cannot have faith, but I do not see that it is proved by this verse. We were dead in sin and separated from God, and I praise God that He has made me alive.

Does Faith Precede Regeneration?

I believe that faith precedes salvation because of the clear meaning of a multitude of verses.

John 10:9
I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.

Mark 16:16
He who believes and is baptized will be saved;

John 5:40
But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.

Romans 10:9
Ghat if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

Acts 16:31
So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

Belief here logically precedes salvation. And what is this salvation?

Romans 3:24
Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

Hebrews 10:10
By that will we have beensanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Romans 8:30
... and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

Titus 3:5
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.

Our salvation, then, includes justification, regeneration, sanctification, and eventual glorification.
Salvation is a package deal: We as christians have been saved, are being saved, and will be saved. Unless a particular part of salvation is specified, "salvation" refers not to one part of salvation, but to all of it. Would we be surprised if we read "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved," only to later find out that that "saved" did not include future glorification? If salvation includes justification, regeneration, sanctification, and eventual glorification, then Mark 16:16 is saying that "he who believes and is baptizes will be [justified, regenerated, sanctified, and glorified]"

Even as far back as the Old Testament, in Psalm 51, when David asks for deliverance and for salvation, he clearly includes His request for "a clean heart." For the sake of clarity, regeneration is also considered to be synonymous with the ideas of being made into a "new creation" or being "born again."

What else could these verses possibly mean?
There are a couple of possible interpretations out there. One interpretation is that the word salvation is often used in a narrower sense, and that faith is part of the salvific process, and precedes much of salvation (including justification, sanctification, and glorification) but not other parts of salvation, which could include such things as regeneration, calling, or predestination. Another common interpretation is that all the verses refer solely to justification (Rom 3:8)

I do not agree with that interpretation, based on the plain meaning of the text, and based on the Scriptural support I have given for what salvation includes. One cannot have "salvation" without having all of those. The plain reading of the text states that faith precedes salvation(including the subsets that make up salvation) Also, I do not agree with that interpretation because it is inconsistant with the rest of the Scripture, in my opinion.

It is inconsistent with God's loving desire for all to be saved
If salvation is conditional on faith, and faith is conditional on regeneration, and regeneration is "unconditional," then those who are not given unconditional regeneration are born and die without hope. God never gives them the slightest option to be saved. How does this jive with the verse that says that God desires for all to be saved? Love seeks the betterment of the one being loved, and goes out of its way to help them, like Christ's example of the good Samaritan. To save those extra people, Christ would not need to even go out of His way, or die again, but merely offer extra grace. Not only does Christ not love them enough to die for them, but does not even desire their betterment enough to give grace. How is this consistent with the Biblical view that God loves all, and that indeed He IS love? It is not consistent.

It is inconsistent with God's strong desire for all to repent
We know from 2 Peter 3:9 that God doesn't desire that anyone would perish, but wants all to come to repentance. He doesn't want people to perish, but He does let people perish, because they do not come to repentance. Even more than He wants people not to perish, He wants them to repent. If regeneration must precede faith, then not just anyone can repent, but only those who God regenerates. God regenerates the minority of people. If God strongly desires that all come to repentance, why would He give all the ability to come to repentance? It is not consistent.

It is inconsistent with God's enabling commands
We know that God is righteous, and is, in the strict meaning of the word, "reasonable." It would be unreasonable for any of us to demand something from someone which they cannot do. I have not seen one case throughout the Bible where God commanded man to do something that man could not, though God's enabling, do. Lazarus was commanded to come from the grave, and Christ's command implied also the supernatural ability given to Lazarus to obey the command and come forth from the grave. If regeneration must precede faith, then God's command to all unregenerate men to repent (Acts 17:30) would be impossible to obey. This is inconsistent with the Biblical picture of God as a just and reasonable Being who enables people to obey and thereby does not insist that we ought to do the impossible.

It is inconsistent with responsibility/blame
Throughout the Bible, man is only responsible for a choice that he has made. We are not responsible for things outside of our control that happen, but are held responsible for what we can determine. Virtue and vise are no longer praiseworthy or blameworthy if the actor had no choice. Justice is not condemning Daniel for falling onto the vase, but condemning David for determining to push Daniel with such force that Daniel had no choice but to fall onto the vase, thereby breaking it. We know that God is just, and that He holds man responsible for his actions, for what he determines to do.

Mark 16:16
He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

John 3:18
He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Matthew 12:31
Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men.

Romans 11:20
Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear.

Luke 13:3
I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.

Hebrews 3:12
Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God...

Each of verses put forward the same concept clearly: Those who choose not to believe will be held personally responsible for that choice. It is not as though they could not have acted otherwise. Those that are condemned are condemned because they do not believe. It is a causal relationship. Notice the last verse there, which instructs people to "Beware," as though they can do something about it. If regeneration precedes faith, then those that do not have faith could not possible have done anything else! This is inconsistent with the harsh judgment and clear blame of responsibility put on those who choose to commit "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit."

It is inconsistent with salvation being conditional
All of these verses, and many more, state that salvation is conditional. (He who meets the condition will be saved) If salvation is conditional, as we see that it is from the verse above, then regeneration, being a part of salvation, is conditional. The idea that regeneration precedes faith makes faith, as a condition for regeneration, impossible. In that way, it is inconsistent with the whole gist of all these verses I have quotes, and more.

What are some common objections to the interpretation that I believe?
Many people reject the idea that faith precedes regeneration because they think that the logical implications of such a belief would be disastrous. They think that my belief is inconsistent with Scripture, and object to it. What are some common objections?

Man is dead (in sin) and therefore cannot believe
To this I would respond that Biblically, death is not inability, but is separation. I will write a separate blog explaining this point more in depth. Throughout the Bible, we see that we are dead in sin, separated from God, and yet can and ought to believe. (Eph. 2:12, Acts 17:30)

Man cannot understand the things of God, and therefore cannot have faith
Unregerate man cannot "see" the kingdom of God, or truly comprehend Scripture concepts. However, Jesus Christ never commanded non-believers to understand. He commands us to have faith - childlike faith. "Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” Mark 10:15. Children believe many things they do not understand: they come into the world, trusting, and without a bit of understanding or experience. Not only can we have faith despite a lack of understand, we must!

Man would get the credit
To this, I would respond that in no Scripture does man get credit for faith. Man perhaps would get credit if his salvation were by works, but faith is not a work. Throughout the Bible, faith is consistently contrasted with works. (Rom. 3:8) They are never lumped together as one. Not only does man not get credit, in the Bible, for faith, but no christian takes credit for his own salvation. Among the many who believe that salvation is conditional on faith, not one believes that he has earned, deserved, or contributed to his salvation in any way. All say "To God be all the glory!" Salvation is of the Lord, and it so pleases Him to make it conditional, it is still of the Lord.

What does this all come to?
To wrap things up, I have put forward several of the many verses in the Bible that teach that faith logically precedes salvation. I have shown that regeneration is part of salvation, and you cannot have "salvation" without it! The request for salvation is not separate from the request for God to "create a clean heart" in us, as David prayed. Unlike what the Catholic church teaches, If you are not born again, you are not truly saved. I have mentioned an alternate interpretation of the verses, and have responded with my objections to them. I have also made mention of some objections to my interpretation, and answered them very briefly here.

If regeneration precedes faith, then this would make faith unnecessary since the person would already be saved. If a person is regenerated, then he is born of God, a member of God’s family and a possessor of eternal life. If you are a member of God’s family and a possessor of eternal life, then you are already saved. Faith, then, would be simply another fruit of the Spirit, like love and joy - why then the emphasis on salvation being conditional on faith? If faith is part of salvation, and not the condition on which salvation is given, then is the verse really saying "Be saved, and you will be saved?" But that would be repetitious!

  • New life does not come before faith, but after.
    John 20:31
    But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

  • We are never told to live and then to look, but rather to look and then live. (John 3:14-16; Numbers 21)

  • The Bible teaches that
    John 1:12
    But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.

    It does not say "But as many as have been regenerated, to them gave He the power to believe on His Name, even to those who have become the children of God."

  • Finally we have the command of Jesus Christ Himself, the same commanding voice which granted Lazarus the supernatural ability to obey His command:
    John 14:1 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me."

Ask a calvinist: What about Acts 16:31?

I've been trying to write about faith preceding regeneration, and have been trying to collect, from multiple sources, other possible meanings of the verse "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. If "saved" includes regeneration, which seems apparent from other Scriptures, then the verse reads "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be [regenerated]" Many people don't believe this, and so I have been trying to understand how they interpret that verse. As of this moment, I have not gotten very far with this.

Here is my most recent frustrating interchange on the topic:

I posted this on a overwhelmingly Calvinistic discussion site:

Does Faith Precede Regeneration?

I know that reformed theologians will say that it does. I have heard many reasons given, including, of course, the logic that because man is dead in sin, he cannot have faith until he is regenerated.

My question is this:

Acts 16:31
So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

This verse, some will say, clearly states that faith precedes salvation, and that salvation includes justification, regeneration, sanctification, and finally glorification. Hence, faith biblically precedes salvation.

What do the respected reformed theologians say about this? (IE Calvin, Spoul, Spurgeon, Piper)
What do you think about this?

Response by X 40 minutes ago

If you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ you will be saved.

The (Calvinist) Doctrines of Grace teach that exact thing.
Reply by Me 31 minutes ago

Yes, but supposing that regeneration is part of salvation,
If you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ you WILL be regenerated.

"Will" implies it being in the future... after faith...
Does faith, then, logically precede regeneration?

Or does "salvation" not include regeneration?
Response by X 23 minutes ago

This has already been explained. You hear, the Spirit quickens you and you are given faith (faith is a gift and not from yourself Ephesians 2:8,9). Simultaneously in time, but there is a logical sequence.
Reply by Me 18 minutes ago

I still don't understand your interpretation of that particular verse.

Of course reformed theologians believe that you are regenerated, and then you are given faith - at the same time, but that regeneration logically precedes faith.

I realize that. However, I am trying to respond to those who put forward that particular verse, in which faith logically precedes salvation.

Is regeneration, then, separate from salvation?
Response by X 12 minutes ago

My interpretation is what the verse says. If you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, you will be saved. It seems what is confusing you about it is that you are reading your theological baggage into a very straight-forward verse.
Response by Y 8 minutes ago

Does faith precede regeneration?
Reply by Me 1 minute ago

Rev - How do Calvinists interpret this verse? I just don't get it

Xulon - You claim that this "has already been explained" - Where?
If your interpretation is all so straight-forward, then why have you not answered my clarifying questions?
IE Is regeneration, then, separate from salvation?
Does faith, then, logically precede regeneration?
Or does "salvation" not include regeneration?


Just the other day, I came across this strawman summary of the non-calvinist understanding of salvation. I found it interesting, and decided to post pieces of it here.

Point 1:
The Arminians adopted views that paralleled the work of Erasmus, believing that man possesses a free and independent will. By this it is meant that in Eden, man's fall only partially affected his ability to choose. The will of man is neutral and not determined by his nature, therefore it is autonomous and free of any binding persuasion toward unrighteousness and sin.

Point 3:
The Arminian believes that in order to accommodate man's free will, Christ took to the cross the sins of every human being without exception. The death of Christ does not save any individual, rather it makes salvation possible for every individual. The cross is thereby limited as to its nature, becoming an incomplete work, ineffectual until completed by the free will work of man. It is the free will choice of man to accept Christ's work that completes salvation (e.g. man's decision to receive Christ accomplishes, secures, and completes an atonement which Christ did not "finish" at Calvary Himself.)

Point 4:
The Arminian believes that the Holy Spirit merely woos the man, but salvation rests ultimately upon that man's free will response to the Holy Spirit's persuasion. The free will of man can and does thwart and refuse the work of the Holy Spirit in salvation. It is man's volition, or willingness to cooperate with God that can either support or frustrate God's desire to save. With this concept of salvation great importance and weight is laid upon the work of man... The Arminian believes that faith precedes regeneration, and is the cause of regeneration, giving, as it were, the go-ahead to the Holy Spirit to do His assigned work.

Wow! If that was what I believed... I wouldn't believe it!
In actuality, I don't believe one sentence of it.
Either I'm not an Arminian, or else this is a complete misrepresentation of their position.

Arminianism (clarification)

Some people read my last note, and requested clarification. So, in contrast to what some Calvinists say that Arminians believe, I will clarify what Non-Calvinist Christians (who I know) believe. I will call them NCC for short. Now, for the record, these clarifications are off the top of my head and are probably not worded "optimally" somehow. I will be happy to further clarify any particular point.

Point 1:
"The Arminians adopted views that paralleled the work of Erasmus, believing that man possesses a free and independent will. "
NCCs believe that man's will is not "free from" a sin nature, but rather that man is the determinent of his own choices. Man is, therefore, a free agent who is responsible or culpable for his actions.

"By this it is meant that in Eden, man's fall only partially affected his ability to choose."
Eden effected every part of the being: especially the heart, and what people want to choose. Man will not choose right not because he lacks ability, but because he simply doesn't want to. He also lacks the ability to suddenly come up with enough power to always want to do right. He cannot change that. He can choose his choices.

"The will of man is neutral and not determined by his nature, therefore it is autonomous and free of any binding persuasion toward unrighteousness and sin."
Man's nature is defined by what man will always choose to do - His nature is not somehow separate from the heart and the will. The natural man is born in sin, is a slave to sin, and only through God's direct grace, is able to ask God to free him: for he cannot choose to free himself.

Point 3:
"The Arminian believes that in order to accommodate man's free will, Christ took to the cross the sins of every human being without exception. "
The NCC believes that Christ did what He did because of His ultimate purpose and good pleasure - not in order to "accommodate" anything! Christ's blood was capable of covering all people, but only the sins of the elect were "nailed to the cross."

"The death of Christ does not save any individual, rather it makes salvation possible for every individual."
The death of Christ makes salvation available to every individual AND saves select individuals. Christ died to provide salvation for all, and to procure salvation for the elect.

"The cross is thereby limited as to its nature, becoming an incomplete work, ineffectual until completed by the free will work of man."
The cross is not limited. The cross is a complete work, effectual for all that God designed it to do. For us elect, our sins being paid for, completely and effectually, on the cross was completed long before we were born. No one but God completes God's work.

"It is the free will choice of man to accept Christ's work that completes salvation "
Christ completes salvation (regeneration, sanctification, and glorification) and not us. We do not complete any of God's work - and salvation is definitely God's work.

"(e.g. man's decision to receive Christ accomplishes, secures, and completes an atonement which Christ did not "finish" at Calvary Himself.)"
God's decision to atone for those who have faith accomplishes and secures an atonement which Christ DID "finish" at Calvary Himself.

Point 4:
"The Arminian believes that the Holy Spirit merely woos the man, but salvation rests ultimately upon that man's free will response to the Holy Spirit's persuasion."
The Holy Spirit does not so much "woo" as, in the Biblical language, "convict of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment to come." The NCC believes that salvation does not rest on man's choice, but rests on God's taking pleasure in saving those who have faith.

"The free will of man can and does thwart and refuse the work of the Holy Spirit in salvation."
The work of the Holy Spirit is never thwarted. The Holy Spirit does not purpose to regenerate people who do not want help. In that case, His purpose is to convict - to render them without excuse in the day of Judgment, at which time He(as God) will glorify Himself by doing justice to them.

"It is man's volition, or willingness to cooperate with God that can either support or frustrate God's desire to save."
God's purposes are never frustrated. He desires to save all, but desires even more that all should repent. He purposes only to save those who have faith, and to leave the rest. He does not will to save those who do not want to be saved.

"With this concept of salvation great importance and weight is laid upon the work of man..."
There is no important in man's works, which are as filfthy rags. The NCC puts great importance upon realizing that, and falling prostrate before the only One who can have mercy on us. They believe that biblically, faith is not a work.

"The Arminian believes that faith precedes regeneration, and is the cause of regeneration, giving, as it were, the go-ahead to the Holy Spirit to do His assigned work."
The NCC does believe that faith precedes regeneration. However, they do not believe the post-hoc-ergo-propter-hoc logical fallacy, which states "after this, and therefore because of this." (Seriously - look it up!) The Holy Spirit only waits for the "Go-Ahead" from God Almighty, who chooses who save based on His pleasure and purpose. If the Lord pleases to save those who have faith, we tremble in gratitude and awe - knowing that nothing we did helped with, earned, or deserved salvation. We deserve hell. We take no glory in ourselves, but all glory goes to the Lord Most High.

Arminianism (a second clarification)

I suggested in a previous post, without stating it definitely, that this certain source was rather mis-representing Arminianism. Following that post, I first compared the document with Non-Calvinist-Christian doctrine. Now I have actually responded with quotes of Arminius himself. You decide for yourself whether it matches the document, or whether the document misrepresents the Arminian position.

Point 1: Partial Depravity/Free will

The Claim: The Arminians adopted views that paralleled the work of Erasmus, believing that man possesses a free and independent will. By this it is meant that in Eden, man's fall only partially affected his ability to choose.

Arminius says: In this state, the free will of man towards the true good is not only wounded, maimed, infirm, bent, and weakened; but it is also imprisoned, destroyed, and lost. And its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they be assisted by grace, but it has no powers whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace.

The Claim: The will of man is neutral and not determined by his nature, therefore it is autonomous and free of any binding persuasion toward unrighteousness and sin.

Arminius says: Exactly correspondent to this darkness of the mind, and perverseness of the heart, is the utter weakness of all the powers to perform that which is truly good, and to omit the perpetration of that which is evil, in a due mode and from a due end and cause. The subjoined sayings of Christ serve to describe this impotence. "A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit."

Point 3: Universal Atonement

The Claim: The Arminian believes that in order to accommodate man's free will, Christ took to the cross the sins of every human being without exception.

Arminius says: Is not the redemption which has been obtained by the blood of Christ, common to every man in particular, according to the love and affection of God by which he gave his Son for the world, though, according to the peremptory decree concerning the salvation of believers alone, it belongs only to some men? [Thus it was not in order to accommodate man's free will, but rather to please Himself and His love and affection that Christ paid His blood to redeem men.]

The Claim: The death of Christ does not save any individual, rather it makes salvation possible for every individual.

Arminius says: That agreeably thereunto, Jesus Christ the Savior of the world, died for all men and for every man, so that he has obtained for them all, by his death on the cross, redemption and the forgiveness of sins; yet that no one actually enjoys this forgiveness of sins except the believer. [Which is to say that the death of Christ does save some. It provides salvation for all, and procures salvation for the believer.]

The Claim: The cross is thereby limited as to its nature, becoming an incomplete work, ineffectual until completed by the free will work of man. It is the free will choice of man to accept Christ's work that completes salvation (e.g. man's decision to receive Christ accomplishes, secures, and completes an atonement which Christ did not "finish" at Calvary Himself.)

Arminius says: The strength and efficacy of the death of Christ consist in the abolishing of sin and death, and of the law, which is "the hand-writing that is against us;" and the strength or force of sin is that by which sin kills us. The efficacious benefits of the death of Christ which believers enjoy through communion with it, are principally the following: The First is the removal of the curse, which we had deserved through sin. This includes, or has connected with it, our reconciliation with God, perpetual redemption, remission of sins, and justification...

The second is deliverance from the dominion and slavery of sin, that sin may no longer exercise its power in our crucified, dead and buried body of sin, to obtain its desires by the obedience which we have usually yielded to it in our body of sin, according to the old man.
[It is Christ's effective and complete work which results in, among other things, even deliverance from the dominion of sin - which implies it is not man's work, but Christ's completely.]

Point 4: Resistible/Obstructable Grace

The Claim: The Arminian believes that the Holy Spirit merely woos the man, but salvation rests ultimately upon that man's free will response to the Holy Spirit's persuasion.

Arminius says: For all created things depend (rest ultimately) upon the Divine Power

The Claim: The free will of man can and does thwart and refuse the work of the Holy Spirit in salvation.

Arminius says: This is therefore called "the sin against the Holy Ghost, not because it is not perpetrated against the Father and the Son; (for how can it be that he does not sin against the Father and the Son, who sins against the Spirit of both?) but because it is committed against the operation of the Holy Spirit, that is, against the conviction of the truth through miracles, and against the illumination of the mind. (This is to say that it is not a refusal of the salvific purpose of the Holy Spirit, but against conviction. This is not "thwarting" but "blaspheming" and is the un-forgivable sin.)

The Claim: It is man's volition, or willingness to cooperate with God that can either support or frustrate God's desire to save.

Arminius says: ...Not impelled by necessity, as if He was unable to complete his own work without the aid of the creature; but through a desire to demonstrate his manifold wisdom.

The Claim: With this concept of salvation great importance and weight is laid upon the work of man...

Arminius says: From which the former is called "the law of works," but the Gospel "the law of faith," [Weight is laid on faith, and not the work on man]

The Claim: The Arminian believes that faith precedes regeneration, and is the cause of regeneration, giving, as it were, the go-ahead to the Holy Spirit to do His assigned work.

Arminius says: ...that we may distinguish it from Regeneration which is "the act of God." [the cause is God]

That predestination is the decree of the good pleasure of God, in Christ, by which he determined, within himself, from all eternity, to justify believers, to adopt them, and to endow them with eternal life, "to the praise of the glory of his grace," and even for the declaration of his justice. [God caused it because of His own good pleasure]

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Phenomena [We are all mistaken]

I'd like to put forward that idea that people are often wrong about stuff. People attempt to understand reality, but many times, we have only a semi-accurate model of reality in our head. How does this work? Well, that brings me to the interesting ideas of Immanuel Kant, who is an ancient and well-known philosopher. Years and years ago, he wrote about the difference between "noumenon" and "phenomenon." I'll try to describe some of theories for you now.

Phenomenon: a thing as it appears to and is constructed by the mind, as distinguished from a noumenon, or thing-in-itself.
Noumenon: a thing being perceived

Noumena, plural of noumenon, is reality. Phenomena is our mental model of reality. Why do these two often differ so much? Before I answer that question, I would like to say that much of humor is based off of these two concepts. Often what we find funny, though we do not analyze it, is funny to us because of the differences between a noumenon and phenomenon, or between two different phenomena. For example, why do we find it amusing when a guy steps on a banana peel and goes flying? Why is it even funnier when he sees the banana peel, and sidesteps it - only to fall into open manhole? It is funny because in his mental model of reality, he was safe, but before of a minor oversight, he didn't realize how very FAR from being safe he was. When his mental model of reality and true reality collide, the man goes flying! and while we all feel sorry for him, it still is just a bit amusing.

Moving on, why does our phenomena not actually match noumena? Kant proposed that it was based on three things. Firstly, sometimes our senses are not accurate. This can be exampled in the case of blindness. However, this is not the main reason for our inaccuracy. It is often said of magic tricks that "the hand is quicker than the eye," but that generally isn't true. The vast majority of magic tricks do not rely on fooling the senses, but rely on the other two ways that we can percieve things inaccurately. Magic tricks are a great example of how fascinated we are when we see clearly that our phenomena (which dictates the situation is logically impossible) contradicts noumena (which shows us clearly that it is, indeed, possible).

Secondly, we sometimes mislabel what we sense. For example, suppose I glance across the room and see a guitar. Without really thinking, in my mind I have labeled it as "a working guitar", and I go to pick it up, and find that I have mis-labeled it. I should have labeled it as "a semi-working guitar with one broken string." This is not deception of the senses, for when I look carefully from here, I can see that a string is missing. However, I am more like to be less careful than that and label it quickly.

That reminds me of this one scene in "Home Alone 3" when this kid is being hounded by these spies, and he's trying to escape with his life (and the chip). Before they arrive, he takes apart the in-ground trampoline, and puts the trampoline pad over the pool. The pool is freezing cold, of course, and he also arranges the snow and metal things so that it appears that the position of the pool and trampoline are swapped. Later, one of the spies looks out the window, sees correctly the placement of the trampoline pad and snow, but mislabels the position of the pool. He assumes that the trampoline is where it looks like it is, that the pool is also where it looks like it is, chooses to jump, and ends up in the pool. The pool is so cold that by the time the police get there maybe five minutes later, he is still in the pool, and looks like he has hypothermia. Similarly, I myself know a magic trick that is based off of the audience mislabeling my equipment.

Thirdly, occasionally we apply incorrect implications to what we have correctly seen and labeled. For example, suppose I see a jellyfish, and correctly label it in my mind as a "live jellyfish," but then think that "jellyfish are harmless, and therefore this one can't hurt me." Who knows where I got that notion? But in any case, my phenomena included, because of incorrect implications, a harmless jellyfish, while noumena includes a dangerous one. If I touch it, I'm sure that my phenomena, my mental model of the world, will instantly become more accurate. Logic used in implications. For example, I know that if A is true, then B is true. I also know that A is true. Therefore, the correct implication is that B is true. However, if I am illogical, I will come to incorrect implications. For example, suppose I believe that if A happened before B, then A must have caused B. I also know that A happened before B, and therefore I come to the incorrect implication that A caused B.

All of these may seem very abstract, but they effect the way you perceive each and every part of your life. Even as you are reading this, the lights on the screen are noumena, but your mental understanding of this blog is phenomena. It is because our mental model of the world does not match reality that we are fallible, that we do not always correctly interpret scripture, do not always program things correctly, and occasionally might trip over banana peels.

Interpreting Scripture

People make mistakes, but computers don't

Years and years ago, back in the day when computers were first making their debut, there was this idea going around that "humans make mistakes, but computers don't." Based on this idea, some people seemed to think that replacing human labor with robotic or computerized labor was an excellent idea not only because it could save money, but also because it would eliminate the possibility of human error.

Not everyone really "bought" the idea. In response to this idea, several movies were made, in which humans were replaced by computers because "computers don't make mistakes." Then, of course, things so wrong and in the end, the fate of the planet depends on the main characters stopping the mad computers! These movies seemed over-the-top, but the concepts were quite believable.

Now, it sounds rather logical to believe that humans make mistakes, and that computers cannot. Why is it, then, that computers do mess up? Why is it that we would not entrust the fate of the world to computerized machines? I think that the logical error is this: To say that humans make mistakes, but computers don't makes as little sense as saying that humans make mistakes, but programmers don't. Given that humans do make mistakes, we are can count on programmers making mistakes. So, as long as we can count on programmers making mistakes, we can count on computers messing up!

People can be wrong, but the Bible is never wrong

In a similar way, there is this idea that I heard from a few people at different points in time. The idea goes like this: Human logic is fallible, but the Bible is always true: Therefore we should never preach our opinions, but only preach what the Word of God says. The sounds pretty reasonable because first of all we know that as humans, we are wrong a lot, and also because we know that the Bible is completely accurate. However, it is incorrect to reason that "Human logic is fallible, but human interpretation of the Bible is always true." The Bible is always true, but our understanding of the Bible is rarely accurate and complete.

As long as we only quote Bible verses to one another, we are speaking truth. However, when it comes to understanding the Bible, we may get confused because of misunderstanding words, or misunderstanding concepts. If I am even to understand that "God is love," I must know what love is. Is it the same "love" that is tossed around so often in our culture? To comprehend that Paul was grieved, I must have some knowledge of what grief is. As soon as we not only quote verses, but go on to explain them or apply them to our lives, or to some topic, we are relying to some extend on our own human understanding and human logic. Because of this, we are all fallible in our understanding of Scripture.

A person may claim not to preach their own opinion, but only to preach what they see in the Word of God. However, when preaching what the "see" in the Word of God, they are speaking about what they believe it mean or logically implies, and are using their own fallible head. Unless a person only quotes the Bible word for word, without any comments or explanation, they are to an extend, preaching their own opinion.

All this is to say that although we know that the Bible contains ultimate truth, we should not give up the study of "human logic" or attempts to define words accurately. Without logic and understanding, we are practically guaranteed to interpret the Bible incorrectly. God is a God of logic, and never contradicts Himself. If we forsake logic, and read Scripture illogically, we will not truly understand what it says.

Perhaps one may think that it is an act of humility to believe the Bible (or more precisely, to believe their interpretation of the Bible) even when it seems to be illogical and contradictory. However, I would say that it is not the Bible that is illogical or contradictory, but their interpretation of the Bible. In that case, humility would be realizing that, and taking more time to question their own interpretation of the Bible.

People can be wrong, but the Bible can never be wrong. Human logic is fallible, and human interpretation of the Bible is not always true. The Bible is always true, but our understanding of the Bible is rarely accurate and complete.

There is no relation between the physical and spiritual realm

Building off of that, I have heard the idea that analogies between the physical and the spiritual realm are really quite pointless, because the spiritual realm is so different. However, I would say everything and anything we understand about the spiritual realm must be based off of our understanding of the physical realm! If I tell you that I have seen a glooflamder, you will have no idea of what that means, unless I explain in words you are familiar with how it is like things you already have experienced or understand. If something is entirely unlike anything you have experienced or have knowledge of, then you cannot understand it in the least bit! If I say "Я не понимаю, потому что я не говорю на английском языке," you will very likely not understand, because there are no understood concepts that you attach to those series of letters or sounds.

Throughout the Bible we learn by analogies between the physical and spiritual realm. God is a "rock" and a "fortress." We are all "like sheep" or "lost coins." Any analogy is sure to fall short, for no analogy is the same in every way as the concept being described. However, often an analogy will illustrate clearly one or two points being made. The spiritual and the physical realm are different, but are also similar. It is only in these similarities that we can understand that which is not tangible. This is why analogies and similes are so important, and can be found so frequently in the Bible.

To conclude, words, analogies, and human logic are not only important parts of reading and understanding the Bible, but are in fact inescapable parts of reading and understanding the Bible. The only question is whether or not you are accurate and truly logical in your reading and understanding of Scripture.

Ephesians 2:8-9 [Is saving faith a gift from God?]

I read this entry from someone else's blog, and found it so clear and helpful that I decided to repost it here. Enjoy!

A gift from God

If you look at an interlinear Greek NT, you’ll see the passage reads as follows: “For by grace ye are saved through faith, and this [τοØτο] [is] not of yourselves, [it is] the gift of God, not of works lest anyone might boast.”

The pronoun τοØτο is a demonstrative pronoun. It points out a thing that is referred to. It is neuter in gender and singular in number, meaning it can only refer to one thing, not many things. It generally refers to concepts. It could be translated “this thing.” It is nominative in case (the subject of the verb). For example, “This thing is not of yourself, [it is] the gift of God.”

A person who values expository preaching like you do needs to correctly identify the antecedent of a pronoun to identify what a pronoun refers to. In this case, “faith” is the nearest one in the passage, but that means nothing in itself, because there many places in the bible where a given pronoun does not agree with the nearest antecedent.

There is a rule in Greek grammar: pronouns must agree with their antecedent in gender and number. Their case is determined by their use in their own clause.

We’ve already established that the pronoun “this” in verse 8 is neuter in gender. The word “faith” in verse 8 is FEMININE in gender. This effectively rules out “faith” as the antecedent because “faith” does not agree with the pronoun in gender. If Paul wanted his readers to understand the pronoun as referring to “faith,” then there is no reason why he would not have used the feminine form of the demonstrative pronoun, which would be the Greek word αυτη, because this would have settled it, and the verse would essentially read, “For by grace are ye saved through faith, and this feminine thing (in this case, faith), is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

However, Paul did not use the feminine pronoun. So, what’s he talking about? If Paul intended the pronoun to refer to the idea or concept contained in the verb, the neuter form would be the one to use, and that is exactly what he did use.

Going back to the fact that the pronoun τοØτο generally takes a conceptual antecedent, if we assume that Paul is talking about an idea, the passage makes more sense. Paul is talking about how a person is saved. That is his main idea. What we have here is not a dissertation on faith, but we do have a brief dissertation on salvation in general. Salvation is not of yourselves, it is by grace, it is through faith, it is not of works, it is the gift of God. Faith is mentioned because you obviously cannot talk about how a person is saved without mentioning it.

The gift of salvation has to be personally received, and it is received by faith in Jesus. What Paul is talking about in these two verses is salvation, not faith, because faith is not the gift, it is how we receive the gift.


True Listening

I wanted to take a moment and write about a very important skill in debate: listening. I don't just mean physical listening, when one person only listens to what the other person says enough to throw their words back at them with a witty retort. I also do not mean listening and heeding, when a person listens to and then believes the other person's argument. I am speaking of the type of listening when you hear what the other person is really trying to say, think about it, and ask them questions until you are able to form in your own mind a working mental model of their point of view.

To listen to your opponent is not to hear one statement, judge it as incorrect, and move on to just trying to prove your own point. True listening is not the intent to persuade, but rather the intent to understand. Why would your opponent believe something that is obviously false? They must have reasoning and perspective that you do not have. Each thing ties into something else, and makes a complete system.

Once you understand your opponent's position, it is wise not to just accept it, but to think it over and compare it to Scripture, etc. Then, if trying to also persuade an opponent, one must clearly represent that knowledge of their position, rather than starting with putting forward an assessment of their position that they disagree with.

It seems to me that for the main part, this type of listening is a lost art in America. For the most part, people will listen to a couple points, and if at that point they see an error in your thinking, they will never go on to listen to the whole picture of what you think. They will shoot it down, but will never build a comprehensive mental model of what you actually are trying to say. That style of doing things does not seem to build either clarity or agreement, but rather frustration.

To truly listen is not so much an exercise of patience but of curiosity. Actually be interesting in what they believe (though they are wrong) and why they believe it. In many cases, though they may be wrong about one thing, they may be right about something else. I would go so far as to say that it is likely that there is something you can learn from any person.

"As the Communist atheists allowed no room in their hearts for Jesus, I decided not to leave the slightest place for Satan in mine." -Richard Wurmbrand

Let us all be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath. Myself included.

A Tribute to Calvinism

I just wanted to take a moment to write about calvinism. That is to say, I realize that I am forever writing about calvinism, but it is usually more from an adversarial position. Theologically, I am staunchly against calvinism because I do not believe that it is biblical, and I write extensively regarding that. I realize, however, that I write too much about the glass being half empty. That is to say that while I believe everything that I have written about calvinism not being accurate, I have not written enough about calvinism having some truth to it. From my point of view, not only is calvinism not correct, I also believe that it does contain a lot of truth, and has done a lot of good. I have written much against calvinism, and would now like to take a few moments to say some good words about it.


Firstly, calvinism maintains that God is not only the One who regenerates us, but is the One who promises to complete the good work that He has started in us. Reformed theology emphasizes God's part, and our reliance on him. We do not rely on ourselves to keep our salvation, but can rest in the knowledge that God never lies and never fails. The One who is able to "keep us from stumbling" has promised to see us through to the end. This rest and assurance has been lost in many american christian churches, which is sad. The doctrine that we rely on God, and not on ourselves is crucial to the christian life! I praise God for reformed theology teaching and emphasizing this truth!

Secondly, while some are worried about this or that concern in the physical universe, calvinism putting forward the idea that God is still on the throne, and that nothing happens outside of His will. Every blessing and trial is seen as being from God, and as christians, we can take deep comfort in that fact. Calvinism continually puts things in perspective: when we start starring at the frightening waves of trouble in this world, reformed doctrine points us back to the One who can tell the wind and waves to be calm. It is very easy for any of us to lose sight of the fact that God who loves us very much is watching over us and using every circumstance in our life for our good.

Thirdly, it is because of human weakness that we all tend to be rather egocentric. In contrast, the teachings of calvinism continually exhort us to pursue the glory of God above all else. God's glory is repeated and emphasized strongly in calvinism, and that is awesome! It is so easy to subconsciously switch our focus to our own little goals, and treat God as though He is there to serve us. Not so in calvinism! Again, calvinism is awesome in the way it constantly seeks God's glory and reminds us all to do the same in all that we do!

Fourthly, the theology of calvinism may be false in one extreme, but has helped to preserve the truth by keeping the other mistakes of the other extreme in check. For instance, reformed doctrine has been historically very influential in opposing the untrue doctrines of Pelagius, leading the reformation movement, and in american revival. Reformed leaders have pronounced far and wide the falseness of the ideas that salvation is the combined efforts of God and man, as so many religions teach, and that man needs God's miraculous intervention rather than just more will-power.

Fifthly, calvinism encourages the study of theology. Calvinism itself is mainly the study of biblical theology and doctrine, and as such, it encourages people not only to love God, but to put time and energy into learning who God is. Studying long theology and doctrines may be a bit dry and time-consuming, but these people realize that what we believe about God and salvation will color how we view all of life. Whether we know it or not, our doctrine will determine what we think about life, and what we do about it. In a country that promoted mental laziness, it is refreshing to have people who strongly encourage us all to diligently study more about the only part of life that truly matters: God.

Finally, and this is slightly off topic, calvinists are also awesome. I really see the fruit of the Spirit in their lives. They obviously have a heart for the Lord, and a passion for His glory. God has worked in their lives to create in them humility, love, diligence, and peace. I just want to add that I am really grateful for all my calvinist friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, and mentors!

Monergism Vs Synergism

Before I try to define monergism or synergism, I'd like to define the roots of both those words.


  • From the Greek syn-ergos, συνεργός meaning working together) is the term used to describe a situation where different entities cooperate advantageously for a final outcome. Synonymous with "teamwork" and "division of labor." [1]

  • Combined action or functioning; synergism. [2]

I couldn't find a definition for this word, but since "syn-" is more than one, together, it seems apparent that the prefix "mono-" means just one, alone. (As in the phrase "dihydrogen monoxide" which means two hydrogen and one ogygen) Monergy would then mean one energy source working along.

Moving on from that, let's look up the words "monergism" and "synergism."
These words are generally used only to discuss the theological concept of regeneration, I have found several different definitions:

  • In general, it may be defined as two or more agents working together to produce a result not obtainable by any of the agents independently. The word synergy or synergism comes from two Greek words, erg meaning to work and syn meaning together, hence synergism is a "working together." ...essentially the view that God and humanity work together, each contributing their part to accomplish salvation in and for the individual. [3]

  • Teaches that God and man work together in salvation.[4]

  • The doctrine that there are two efficient agents in regeneration, namely the human will and the divine Spirit, which, in the strict sense of the term, cooperate. [5]

  • Doctrine advanced by some Lutheran theologians that spiritual renewal is exclusively the activity of the Holy Spirit. [6]

  • The teaching that God alone is the one who saves. [7]

  • Monergism (Greek mono meaning "one" and erg meaning "work") is a term for the belief that the Holy Spirit is the only agent who effects regeneration of Christians. [3]

  • In regeneration, the Holy Spirit unites us to Christ independent of any cooperation from our unregenerated human nature. [5]

Now, these definitions seem to stay mostly true to the original concepts. Synergism is the energy of God and man working together to regenerate the individual. Regeneration is a synergistic effort in which both agents together cause the result. Monergism, on the other hand is God working to save the individual without any help from anyone. God is the one agent who causes regeneration.

Going from that, I would say that I very strongly believe in monergism. God saves us. We do not save ourselves. We cannot save or regenerate ourselves. God made us the first time, and only He can make us a new creation. We cannot even "help" regenerate ourselves somehow. Only God has that kind of power. The energy that causes and produces regeneration comes from one source: the Lord Most High. The idea that God and man would somehow work together to regenerate the person is ridiculous. In fact, I have yet to meet a christian who believes that God and man work together to regenerate a person.

Other definitions that are go a bit further in their claims:

  • "...means that the very desire for faith, by which we believe in Him who justifies the ungodly comes to us through regeneration "[5]

  • "According to monergism, faith in Christ only springs from a heart first renewed by God."[1]

  • "To the synergist, faith may arise from unregenerated human nature." [1]

My word! What does inability to have faith have to do with what energies are involved to save a person? Here we come to something very important. I mentioned before that I have never met even one christian who believes that God and man work together to regenerate a person. Where, then, did this concept of "synergism" come from?

What in the world?

As far as I can tell, it came from calvinists trying to describe the belief system of their opponents.

What calvinists believe:
God regenerates people who do not have faith, by His power and His alone, and as a result, those people will turn to Him in faith.

Non-calvinist christian in general believe:
God regenerates people, by His power and His alone. He chooses who to regenerate based on a condition: faith. The faith neither assists in salvation, neither somehow earns or merits the salvation. Salvation does not depend on the faith, but on God, and those with faith do not deserve to be saved.

The calvinists then describe their opponent's position as:
"...the doctrine that there are two efficient agents in regeneration, namely the human will and the divine Spirit, which, in the strict sense of the term, cooperate."[5]
"...essentially the view that God and humanity work together, each contributing their part to accomplish salvation in and for the individual."[3]

Seeing as the non-calvinists very specifically deny that they believe in synergism, why do the calvinists say that non-calvinists believe it? Well, to the calvinist, it seems logical that if the condition is faith, faith must somehow be a part of the salvific process. That faith is man's will working together with God to save him. They believe that this logic is necessary, and therefore to say that one must have faith to be saved, one must believe in synergism. To me, that seems quite illogical.

Now, it seems to me that everyone agrees that there is only One that saves or regenerates, and that is God Alone. The condition on which the action is taken is completely separate from the energy or process of the actual action. The condition of faith is completely separate from the energy and process of God regenerating people. For a blunt example, let us suppose that I punch everyone who calls me "Becky" hard enough that they are knocked unconscious. The condition of calling me "Becky" is entirely separate from the energy of process of me punching them hard enough to knock them out.

Previously, I said that I believe in monergism, and by those first definitions I do.
I believe that God, by His power and His alone, saves and regenerates us. However, if we are going by the extended definitions that include God saving people who do not have faith, I would have to say that I do not subscribe to that belief.

I do not believe in synergism, as I said before. Man does not "co-operate" with or somehow "assist" God to redeem or regenerate himself. The idea is preposterous! However, if we are going by the definition that "faith may arise from the unregenerated human nature," then yes I agree with that part of that definition, but would say that the wrong word is being used! That's like saying that believers will be damned, and then defining "damnation" as "going to heaven," in which case I would agree that believers will go to heaven, but would say that "damnation" is not the right word to express that concept!

Things would go a lot smoother if everyone were using the same definitions. I believe that the "extended" definitions do not fit the orignal concepts at all. That is why by the first definitions, I agree with one and disagree with the other, and yet by the "extended" definitions, I disagree with the one and agree with the other!

I believe that monergism should be solely defined as:
God, by His power and His alone, saving and regenerating a person.

Synergism should be defined as:
The action of regenerating the person is accomplished by God and man's power combined.

Let's keep it to the original concepts.

Final Example

Here I will include one last example of how the condition on which the action is taken is completely separate from the energy or process of the actual action. I am driving alone the road, and see a small body slumped on a sidewalk. I pull over, and see that there are two people lying unconscious on the pavement: an old man, and a girl who appears to be about five. I check for a pulse, and find that both of them are still alive. I think for a moment, and decide that I really don't care about the old guy, but will take the little girl to the hospital because she is so young and cute. I don't have a cell phone, or any change, and it's a bad neighborhood, so I decide to pick her up and put her in my car, and drive her to the emergency room. She makes it to the hospital, and they save her life.

Reviewing the story, the condition on which I took the girl to the hospital was that condition of being young and cute. That condition was completely separate from the energy and process of me carrying her to the car, driving her to the hospital, and them saving her life. She did not somehow assist me, and yet she fulfilled a condition. In a similar way, the condition of salvation is completely separate from God's energy and process of saving and regenerating a person.

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Romans 9 (Part 1)

Several people have asked me what I think about Romans nine, and if I would write a blog on it. I was happy to do that, of course, but I wasn't quite sure how to go about it. I'm much more used to writing about one particular point, and explain why I believe it is true, or how it cannot possible be true. Basically, I'm much more used to writing persuasive essays. To write about this whole chapter will require me to use a different method of writing.

For this blog, I'm not going to be trying to prove any points. I will not be putting forward a case, showing why it must be correct, and explaining why other ideas are mistaken. No. What I will be doing is just quoting the chapter, and writing about what it seems (to me) to be saying. If you disagree, that's fine. I'm just writing this an as answer to all those who wanted to know what I think about Romans nine. If you have a more particular discussion, IE "why do you think verse 9 means X instead of Y?" then ask me about it specifically, and I shall write you another blog!

Romans 9:

Introduction: love and concern for the unsaved of Israel

I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.

This is the introduction to the chapter, and it puts forward a couple of points very strongly. One point is that Paul loves these people very much, and because they will not all be saved, he has great sorrow in his heart. The other point is that not all Israelites will be saved. The first point really gets my attention because it shows that Paul loved non-elect people. By human standards, it sometimes seems more intelligent not to love someone if that love will do them no good, and will only cause you grief. Now, some of the audience of this letter were probably Israelites. Israelites for centuries had considered themselves to be the chosen people of God, and considered that they would attain right standing before God by following the law that God had given them. The idea that they might be in some sort of danger, that Paul would be worried or grieved over them, was to them a radical concept!

Section 1: God chooses not according to the conditions people think He should, yet God is just. God, not you, is the One who saves. God also hardens. All this is according to His choice, His reasons, not yours.

But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac your seed shall be called.”That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed. For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son.”

Since the Jews consider themselves the Children of Promise, they are not worried that they might be in danger because, after all, God would not break a promise! Paul responds to that line of thinking by putting forward first that God's promises are indeed always true, and will always come to pass. However, Paul puts forward the idea that they are misunderstanding the promise: that the chosen people are not only who they though the chosen people were. The "children of promise" are not just the literal offspring of Abraham. Paul quotes some Old Testament Scripture to back up that point.

Then Paul takes them back in time. Back to the time when God was choosing the Israelites as His people. Was God's choose merely about lineage? Was it about attaining righteousness by works?

And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”

Paul demonstrates clearly that first of all, it wasn't merely about lineage. Both Jacob and Esau were of the same line of descent. Both were "sons of Abraham," and yet not both of them were chosen to be the special people of the Lord. Paul then quotes Scripture to show that even before the children were born, God told Rebecca who He would choose. To make his point clear, he spells out twice the implication that one was not chosen over the other because of good deeds. God's choice was according to His own thoughts and purposes, and not according to the works of man. This would really have shaken up the Jews ideas: Paul has quoted verses that they all agree with, and shown that God does not choose people just because of lineage, or because of good works. Those ideals were what they had based their confidence on, and run their lives by! Needless to say, the readers probably would have had some sort of emotional reaction to these claims! The idea that they could have lived their whole life by the hebrew law, dedicated to God, making all the vows and sacrifices, and be tossed away like Esau - they probably thought "but that can't be right!"

What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.”

First Paul responds to the hypothetical question and gives the obvious answer that God is not, and could never be anything but perfectly good, pure, and just! That is the answer that the Jews were looking for, except they meant to use that answer to prove that God couldn't possibly choose people the way Paul said He did. Again Paul quotes Old Testament scripture to show that while God is holy, He also has the right to choose whoever He wants for whatever reason He wants. God in righteousness has no obligation to show mercy or compassion on anyone, and if He does, it is righteous and just that He should choose His own reasons and qualifications for picking people! God chooses not according to lineage or works, yet God is just. All this choosing is according to His choice, His reasons, not theirs!

So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.

Going on with speaking of God's mercy, Paul points out that mercy does not rely on the person who wants mercy or strives for mercy, but on the one being asked for mercy. Even in human courts, we can see that anyone can ask for mercy, and anyone can try to bribe the judge or do whatever to obtain mercy, but it all depends on the judge. In the same way, salvation comes from God. God is the one who saves. We do not save ourselves. By using the word "mercy," Paul made it obvious to Israelites that they could not gain God's favor by good works. It is obvious because first of all if you need mercy, it shows that you are not already good enough in yourself. It's also obvious because mercy is something that never ever depends on you.

For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth." Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.

After putting forward the idea that God has mercy on whomever He wills, Paul quotes a verse to put forward the corollary: God hardens whomever He wills. Still, this is in conjunction with the idea that there is no unrighteousness with God. God only hardens people's hearts justly. How is this particular situation just? That is another story, and since it's terrible off-topic, Paul never addresses it, but goes back to tie it in with his main point here: God, not you, is the One who saves and condemns. God chooses who to have mercy on, and who to harden, and still God is just. All this is according to His choice, His reasons, not yours.

Go to Part 2