Election is not the problem…sin is

20 10 2006

I have been thinking a lot recently about free-will, the nature of sin, divine election and so forth. I have come accross this quote by Packer and was greatly encouraged. If you have not read this book, it is a must.

The Bible never says that sinners miss heaven because they are not elect, but because they ‘neglect the great salvation’, and because they will not repent and believe.

The last judgment will abundantly prove that it is not the want of God’s election, so much as laziness, the love of sin, unbelief, and unwillingness to come to Christ, which ruins the souls that are lost. God gives men what they choose, not the opposite of what they choose. Those who choose death, therefore have only themselves to thank that God does not give them life” J.I. Packer, Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God




37 responses

20 10 2006

That is a good quote thanks for sharing. The title of this entry really caught my eye. Sometimes we tend to “blame” situations on election but a biblical view on it does put things into perspective. Great quote.
Thanks again!

20 10 2006

awesome post ! i love this quote !!!!!!!!

21 10 2006
Barry Wallace

Hi, Erik. First, let me say that I agree with Packer and with you, and that this is a good quote from a very good book. However, is it not still a “want of God’s election” that makes a distinction between men in the final analysis? We also were guilty of “laziness, the love of sin, unbelief, and unwillingness to come to Christ,” yet we believed and others did not. Why not? The only answer for a Calvinist is a “want of God’s election.” The stumbling block which Packer seems to want to remove, remains.

21 10 2006

Ahah! Trying to provoke me, huh? You do know how to keep me busy. Before I begin, I would just like to say that it is a very good quote and reminds us of our responsiblity as Christians to keep ourselves pure and holy and not take God and his forgiveness for granted. That being said, I believe the passage of scripture that Packer is referring to is Hebrews 2. Here are the first four verses of that chapter:

“1. We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 2. For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, 3. how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”

I don’t have much time, so I will give you my abbreviated version. The first thing to realize is that he is writing to those whom he believes are true Christians. He even includes himself by saying, “we must pay more carefull attention . . .” These aren’t just Sunday-church-goers who show their faces in church then live like Christ means nothing to them the rest of the week. They are true followers of Christ. This verse tells us better than any the consequences of sin even for the true Christian. First he establishes who must be carefull – “we.” Then he tells us what to be carefull of – “that we don’t drift away.” That first sentence alone gives me reason to question Calvinism. Then he goes on to add that if what the angels say is binding and EVERY violation and disobedience receives its just punishment. What punishment is there for the Calvinist who will be forgiven without a doubt? Reminder: he is speaking to those whom he believes are true Christians. Disobeying God is a sin. Violating God’s law is a sin. So, what is the just punishment that is bound by the message of angels?

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Death. Reminder: he is speaking to those whom he believes are true Christians. So, if these things are true, then we ask his next question, “how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?” It doesn’t ask how we can ignore such a great salvation, it asks how will we escape if we do ignore salvation. Reminder: he is speaking to those whom he believes are true Christians (himself included) If ignoring such a great salvation wasn’t a possibility for someone who is a true believer, what is this passage all about? Forgive me for being naiive, but I just can’t figure out any other way of looking at this when taken in context and realizing that the author is talking to believers and including himself in the warning.

Again, I don’t want my response to detract from the message of the quote. It is a good quote and my intention is not to take away from that or divert the focus from the message it gives.

21 10 2006

Hey Eric,
It’s so cool that you mentioned that book-I’ve been reading that for my predestination debate-I’m really enjoying it. I especially like his explanation of antinomy in the second chapter.

23 10 2006
Pastor Steve

I just waltzed by your website and was intrigued by the entry. Not really the quote, but the reaction to this quote.
My first question… Is the quote referring to an exposition of the passage in Hebrews 2?
I haven’t read this book so I wouldn’t want to jump to any conclusions like some may be inclined.
2nd question… (assuming this is a passage from Hebrews 2) the question relates to understanding the word “salvation”. This paragraph is linked with the previous (the word in salvation of verse 14 is the same word carried onto this next paragraph). In addition the word “therefore” is an inferential conjunction continuing the idea previously discussed earlier. How are we to understand the word salvation (sotaria)?

My hint but not to give you my full answer: Check out a good Greek lexicon before coming to any conclusion about what this word has to mean in every single passage. Second, is “justification” an event or a process in the life of a christian? How can someone be a Christian and still waiting to inherit “justification”?

I hope this opens up a good can of theological worms!!

In Christ,

24 10 2006

You are very right about my ussumption of the passage of scripture. I don’t know if that is what he was referring to or not. That is just the only place I can think of that talks about igoring/neglecting a great salvation. I could be very wrong. Next, I think the most important part of the passage in Hebrews is not the word salvation, but the word escape. It could say – how shall we escape if we ignore such a great coupon – my point would be the same. There is a question of escaping for the true believer, otherwise he would not have said it to the people he did or included himself in the warning.
I believe justification happens at conversion. I don’t remember seeing where we are waiting to inherit it. We are justified fully in Christ, right?
I like my worms fried.

24 10 2006

to all: sorry about the delayed response, i’ve been out of town ‘retreating’ , when you return from a retreat what do you call it?

anyway, the Packer quote is not ‘directly’ linked to any discussion of Hebrews 2, no doubt the inference to such a passage is there, and we could assume that he was speaking of this. I believe his point is to eradicate any false views of injustice with God and his election and place the ‘blame’ if you will for hell squarely where it belongs: with the sinner. In otherwords, the reason for hell is not a lack of election, but rather the reality of sin.

Steve: i believe that a christian cannot be a christian w/o justification, that is w/o the divine declaration of a righteouness on the unrighteous sinner based upon the merits of the righteous One, Jesus CHrist, who was charged with sin, though he never sinned (2 Cor. 5.21). I do not believe justification to be a process (contra Roman Catholics) but rather sanctification to be a progressive reality (being conformed into the likeness of Jesus). So the positionally reality of justification (declared righteous) is practically realized through sanctification (made righteous) and will ultimatley realized at glorification (conformed into the image of Christ).

Hebrews…hmmm that is a bag of worms. ch. 2, 6, 10, & 12 give warnings to any who would consider neglecting such a precious salvation and so distinquish themselves as unconverted or in some cases apostates, or professors who never were never possessors of saving faith.

the quote was a little afterthought that i enjoyed, i can’t wait to talk about the Calvinism posts that are forthcoming ;-D…..(not directed at you javaguy, i like to write about the sovereignty of God in the gospel …)


24 10 2006

I had recently read something that encouraged me to think Godly in prespective to Salvation & God’s sovereignty. Nothing new that Erik had not mentioned about in his Christ exalting posts/comments. A good read nonetheless.

24 10 2006
Barry Wallace

Welcome home, Erik (maybe you call it “advancing,” as opposed to “retreating”)!

I look forward to your posts on God’s sovereignty in the gospel. I’m curious if you’ve had time to give a little thought to the questions I posed. I understand what Packer wants to do, but I don’t think he accomplishes his aim, as my questions reflect.

We were just as responsible for our sin, and just as deserving of judgment as anyone else. If it is God’s gracious election that rescues some of us from sin (and I believe it is), then is it not a “want of God’s election” that leaves others in sin? I’m not trying to be argumentative. It’s a sincere question, and I look forward to your response.

24 10 2006

Barry, perhaps it is advancing…

in terms of ‘leaving’ in sin, i suppose the answer would yes be a lack of election, because humanity does not have the ability to get out of sinful bondage. We must be careful not to confuse ability with responsibility. Man is still responsible to be righteous, however, we in our sin our dead (eph. 2.1-3) and enemies (rom. 5.10) engaged in evil deeds (Col. 1.21) lack the ability. This is where the supernatural calling and efficacious grace of the Holy Spirit brings the sinner to life.

I think Packer’s quote hits a different tune though:
“The last judgment will abundantly prove that it is not the want of God’s election, so much as laziness, the love of sin, unbelief, and unwillingness to come to Christ, which ruins the souls that are lost”

he basically says it is sin that ruins not a lack of election. which it sounds like you would agree with.

and also he says that sinners miss heaven because they will not believe not because they are not elect. I think he is hitting the ‘primary’ reason for damnation here and not so much further explanation. and in so doing aquit God of any apparent injustice.

So, i think i get what you are saying but i don’t think that Packer is saying just that.

what do you think?

do you go to church in Sikeston MO? I see the page linked to your name here. We drive through there on our way to Memphis to visit family.



24 10 2006

sincere question here. I understand that the Calvinist believes that the sinner condemns himself through the lack of want of Christ. I agree with this. Sproul explained this concept well in his book “Chosen by God” (if I knew how to make a link, I would) What I don’t get is hou we can still say that it is fully our responsibility if the only way to have a want for Christ is for God to give it to us. If we were all worthy of salvation to begin with and only those who neglected that savation became condemned, I could understand this concept. But it is clear in scripture that it is quite the opposite. We are all unworthy of savation and according to Calvin, only those whom God places a desire in their heart for him escape that. If that choice is His and His alone, how can He say that the sinner is without excuse? Many Reformed ideas make sense to me, though I may not agree with them, but this one just doesn’t make sense. It shows God saying one thing and doing another. I can’t think of any other instance in the Bible that demonstrates this kind of paradox. That may simply be because I can’t think of them, but it still seems true to me. With the non-Reformed view, however, it is not a paradox at all. It simply means what it says.

Pickled worms aren’t bad either.

25 10 2006


good questions: “What I don’t get is hou we can still say that it is fully our responsibility if the only way to have a want for Christ is for God to give it to us…..If that choice is His and His alone, how can He say that the sinner is without excuse?”

i think what i wrote in the previous comment applies here, perhaps you did not see it:

“we must be careful not to confuse ability with responsibility. Man is still responsible to be righteous, however, we in our sin our dead (eph. 2.1-3) and enemies (rom. 5.10) engaged in evil deeds (Col. 1.21) lack the ability. This is where the supernatural calling and efficacious grace of the Holy Spirit brings the sinner to life.”

why does God have to give us a desire for Christ, or call us to himself (Jn. 6.44)? Is that God’s responsibility or grace? See, the impediment for belief is not election but sin. Unbelief is sin. To somehow impugn God with injustice because we are sinful is the product of self-worship. God is not obligated to save any from their sin…but it is his grace that he supplies, in spite of our sin, to call or draw us to himself…because we would not come on our own. The ‘no excuse’ comes down to our guilt. God has always said the same thing, “walk with me adam”….however, one day adam decided to cut himself off at the knees. God’s command never changed, “walk with me”…however, now adam said, “i can’t”…now who’s fault is that?


25 10 2006
Barry Wallace

Hi, javaguy.

I could suggest a number of good articles that explore the relationship between moral inability and moral responsibility, which are both Biblical concepts. Some of them are probably even better than this one by John Piper, but it’s still one of my favorite:


You may be interested in that article, too. He actually disagrees with Packer’s view of an antinomy between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. It’s pretty thought-provoking.

Hi, Erik.

I do agree that Packer is trying to acquit God of any apparent injustice, but I don’t think he succeeds. The apostle Paul justifies God’s actions in a rather different way, I think, in Romans 9, by saying that God has the right to harden whom He will, and have mercy on whom He will.

I do live in Sikeston, Erik. We called a new pastor a little over a year ago, and I really like him. If you’re ever passing though on a Sunday, you should drop in on us!

25 10 2006


Perhaps I could have been more clear in the initial post….the section in the book (pp.105-6) where the quote is taken is dealing with his defense of why “the sovereignty of God in grace does not affect anything that we ahve said about the nature and duty of evangelism”…basically reaffirming the need for the christian to obey the commands from the soveriegn God and that God will bring about salvation in accordance with his sovereign will. I like the Piper article and was in no way defending or promoting an antinomy between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. I believe the bible teaches both and they are not in need of reconcilation (perhaps clarification…but not reconciliation)…as Spurgeon said, “they are friends…friends do not need reconciliation”. thanks!

25 10 2006
Barry Wallace

Hey, Erik. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’ve enjoyed the discussion, and certainly always need my own thinking on this (and every other!) subject sharpened.

Blessings to you, brother. Hope you can make it to Sikeston some day.

25 10 2006
gavin brown

Jonathan Edwards agreed that the will is free, but only to choose what it is capable of choosing, among which he does not included the ability to choose God. This is one of the presuppositions behind the idea that regeneration precedes faith.

I would need a bit more context to make a judgment on what Packer meant in the quote you posted. Anyone who knows him, however, knows that he is an unabashed Calvinist.

God bless.

26 10 2006

Erik, I actually did understand you the first time. The problem is that anyway you look at it, the Reformed view holds that God is the only one who can cause someone to desire, choose, have the ability, act on their responsibility . . . however you want to say it. I’m not trying to wiggle out of our responsibility for our sin. We are responsible and accountable for each and every one of our sins and God can’t be blamed in any way for that. The question is not on the sinner, but the saved. I’m not asking why the sinner is condemned, I am asking why the Christian is saved. The only answer for the Calvinist is that God effectually caused that person to come to Him. That is an action on God’s part. He is not simply sitting back and letting the sinners condemn themselves, he is actively causing some to come to him and others not. Uner these conditions, I would find it hard to even call it responsibility. Responsibility indicates an ability to have an effect on something. If the only way for us to act on that responsibility is for God to make us able to, why does God say we have no excuse? I realize some (or all) of you are just shaking your heads thinking, do we really have to explain it in detail to him? No you don’t, though I’m sure some of you would be more than willing to do that for me. I have read Sproul’s explanation, I also read the link Barry gave and I understand what is being said. It is just that in every case, the emphasis is on the sinner, not the saved. This reasoning explains perfectly why man is sinful and held accountable for that sin, but it doesn’t address the reverse. Why is the chosen one chosen? Simply because it is God’s pleasure, right? Fine, but that doesn’t work with “you have no excuse.” Yes, Adam cut his own legs so that he wasn’t able to answer God’s call to walk with him, That doesn’t explain how he could be caused to walk again. If the ONLY way is for God to give him legs again if He so desired, then . . .

Gavin, Sproul also addressed this and iit is almost on the mark. I may write more on it later, but this response is alrealy long enough so let me just ask this question: What is the selfish or sinful motivation behind the decision of a non-believer to jump on a grenade to save the lives of his comrads? I don’t consider this an infallible question because I won’t presume to know what goies through a person’s mind at that moment, nor will I presume to know what might happen between that person and God at that moment, but it would certainly seem that the soldier was making a choice that would have absolutely no personal benefits which is what the center of sin is – self.

26 10 2006

“I’m not asking why the sinner is condemned, I am asking why the Christian is saved. The only answer for the Calvinist is that God effectually caused that person to come to Him. That is an action on God’s part. He is not simply sitting back and letting the sinners condemn themselves, he is actively causing some to come to him and others not”

JG: the simple and biblical answer is grace. Why? There is nothing of value in me or anyone else. So you are asking the right question, why would God save any?! This is the heart of why we worship this gracious, loving, merciful God! And it is, as is all things that God does, for his own pleasure:

The whole responsibility/ability thing is key here. You know in reading the NT (and the Old for that matter) that you see God offering salvation/restoration to those who are in sin…and what is their response often times? NO. So is this God’s fault? Afterall what do they need salvation for in the first place? Their sin! Is this God’s fault? Of course not. The idea of having no excuse is tied to the fact that man is accountable to his creator. The fact that man has no excuse is directly related to the fact that man has no reason to boast in their salvation because it was all of God (Eph. 2.8-9).

The answer is grace. And why? You are right, for his own pleasure. It is straight out of Ephesians 1, which I’m sure you’re familiar with:

Ephesian s 1:3-6 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestine d us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

cf. also: v.12 …to the praise of His glory. /// v.14…to the praise of His glory. //

It has helped me to think God-centered thoughts relative to salvation. The primary purpose in the salvation of sinners is not my salavation, it is a blessed by-product no doubt, but the primary purpose of my salvation is to make a worshipper to give God glory. For indeed God is a seeker, seeking true worshippers, that he might receive the glory and pleasure in the gracious redemption of sinful enemies, and that no man may boast in anyone or anything but Jesus Christ, the supreme object of the Father’s affections:

Galatians 6.14 But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

I hope this is helpful.

“I realize some (or all) of you are just shaking your heads thinking, do we really have to explain it in detail to him?”

C’mon man…do you think there is anything that I would rather talk about than the unmerited grace of God that flows from heaven to a helpless sinner like me!? This is where it is at man. And I do hope that it proves helpful for you and others.


26 10 2006
Barry Wallace

“It has helped me to think God-centered thoughts relative to salvation. The primary purpose in the salvation of sinners is not my salvation, it is a blessed by-product no doubt, but the primary purpose of my salvation is to make a worshiper to give God glory. For indeed God is a seeker, seeking true worshipers, that he might receive the glory and pleasure in the gracious redemption of sinful enemies, and that no man may boast in anyone or anything but Jesus Christ, the supreme object of the Father’s affections”

Great paragraph! Our main problem–[sin (self-centeredness)]–actually prevents us from thinking right–[righteous (God-centered)]–thoughts about salvation and everything else.

27 10 2006

I didn’t think that Calvinists believed that God offered salvation to everyone. That is kind of the point. How could he “offer” something knowing that only those whom he chooses will accept it then say that the others had no excuse when there was absolutely nothing they could do about it?

P.S. Sorry for all the typos on the last post, I did something to my internet settings and the font for this kind of thing is so small I have to copy and paste it in another program in order to read it. So when I type, I am just hoping that I get it right.

27 10 2006

JG: I do believe that God offers salvation to everyone. In the general call of the gospel we have God offering salvation (legitimately, i believe)-

mark 1.15: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

matthew 11:28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-lade n, and I will give you rest.

acts 17:30 The times of ignorance God overlooked , but now he command s all people everywher e to repent

…otherwise the tears of Jesus seem pretty empty (Lk. 19.41)

God does offer salvation to all but does not act to save all. the ‘no excuse’ comes down to the fact that the primary reason for damnation (or lack of salvation) is sin…to which we have ‘no excuse’.

…sorry to hear about the font…may i suggest firefox?! J

can you fix it under tools?

27 10 2006


Tried tools. Tried Settings. Tried prayer. No luck. Guess I’ll just have to go with the good ol’ 1-800 #.

Hmm . . . I still don’t quite get how God can offer salvation to everyone but only allow those whom he has called to respond and still say the others are without excuse.

Side note: I really do appreciate the time and patience you give with all these posts, responses, prayer, and research. Being a pastor’s kid, I understand the time commitment involved in a full time ministry and know that you must be a busy man. So I thank you for what you do to accomodate people like me and genuine concern for the furthering of God’s kingdom.


27 10 2006

It isn’t a question of if God will ‘allow those whom He has called to respond,’ but a question of will those sinners whom He calls overcome their desire for sin in order to respond to the gospel? The answer that is evident from Romans 3 is that the sinner is unable to do anything good, and therefore unable to respond to the call without divine grace.
I insist that every conversation on calvinism start with Total Depravity as it is often called because once you realize that you are totally unable to do anything good apart from God, you will realize that you need God to choose you because you are incapable of choosing God.

30 10 2006

It isn’t either of those questions. The point I am trying very hard to make is that it doesn’t matter what order you put the words, it doesn’t matter who responds to what. The thing that is relevant to this discussion is that when it comes down to it, the Calvinist believes that God predestines some for salvation and not others. I have no problem with God doing this if that is what he wants to do. But when he says that those he didn’t predestine have no excuse, it doesn’t make sense. I know not everything has to make sense when it comes to God but here is the deal: from the Armenian view, it makes perfect sense. No confusion, no explaining this with that so that the other thing makes sense. It simply makes sense.

Romans 3 – where exactly does it mention “the call?” I agree with you. It does start with total depravity. I also agree that we are totally unable to do anything good apart from God. I would like it if you showed me where it says we are “incapable of choosing God.” I can think of several places where it says just the opposite including Joshua 24

” 14 Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshipped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.

15 But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.

16 Then the people answered, Far be it from us to forsake the LORD to serve other gods!

17 It was the LORD our God himself who brought us and our fathers up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we travelled.

18 And the LORD drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the LORD, because he is our God.

19 Joshua said to the people, You are not able to serve the LORD. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins.

20 If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.

21 But the people said to Joshua, No! We will serve the LORD.

22 Then Joshua said, You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the LORD. Yes, we are witnesses, they replied.”

Deut. 30:19 ” 19 This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

And many others. Please, take my requests seriously, because I am more curious than I am sarcastic. Show me where you find these things that you proclaim. Tell me how verses like the ones above don’t put the responsibility of choice on us.

For more on my view of total depravity, read my blog.

31 10 2006

JG: I would like you look at few verses below, showing our inability to choose God or please Him apart from Him enabling us :

“the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor. 2:14)

“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (Jn. 6:44)

“No one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” (Jn. 6:65)

“So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom. 8:8)

31 10 2006

I am not saying we don’t need God. I am not saying we are capable of anything without God. It is what God enables us to do by making Himself plain to us. Without God, we would never scratch a fingernail on the door of salvation. It is at the point where we become aware of God that we become accountable and able to make a choice. God makes himself known to us so that we are without excuse. Does this mean he gave everyone a “call?” I can’t presume to know the answer to that, but it is clear that simply seeing God’s creation is enough for us to be held accountable for our choice. In reference to 1 Cor. – this verse is talking about how we receive the Spirit of God when we are saved. There is a “before” and an “after.” Before we are saved, we do not have the spirit and cannot understand it. After we we are saved, we do have the spirit. This passage says nothing about how we came to be saved. Again, I am not saying I think we can choose God without him doing something. I just don’t think it has to be the “irresitible inward call” in order for us to make a choice. Like so many passages, if it is looked at only from the viewpoint of a Calvinist, the conclusions are already made, but stop and actually read that passage without Calvinistic pressumptions tied to it. It doesn’t say anything about if we can choose Him or not. That is a pressumption made because of Reformed thinking.
John 6:44 and 6:65- Again, nothing about not being able to make a choice. I have read about what “draw” means in the original text and it does indicate more than just enticing. It does, however, still leave room for rejection. I still believe that we are incapable of coming to Christ without God acting in some way. This doesn’t mean he makes the choice for us.
Romans 8:8 – we do not please God until we are actually saved. It says nothing about how we come to that point.

Think about this. Regardless of if you are Reformed or not, you believe we make a choice and that choice must be genuine. The Calvinist believes that God acts on those he has chosen so that it is genuine, but either way, a choice is made. This means that there is a period of time where enough is known about God for us to consider choosing Him or rejecting Him. It isn’t a shot in the dark at something we know nothing about. It is a choice made because we have been made aware of God because He has made Himself known to us. This happens BEFORE we choose Him. Isn’t it possible that we could make that same choice without Him having to act on some? Being made aware of God is not the same thing as being acted on by God. I believe, because of what it says in the Bible, that this is enough to hold us accountable for and thus enough to make a choice on. It is still only through God making Himself known to us that we become aware of Him, and so these passages still hold true, but it doesn’t presume anything upon them. Sorry for rambling, but I guess you all are getting used to it.

31 10 2006


Thanks for the lengthiness, I think it has fleshed a few things out for me in terms of how you are thinking. I really wish I had a bit more time here/now, but this will do in the interim:

>>>”It is at the point where we become aware of God that we become accountable and able to make a choice.”

Accountability is forged in the fact that God created us. Rom. 1 makes that clear:
Romans 1:18-20 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

This is clear as day. Humanity is not in need to additional revelation to be damned or accountable, we already are and…are w/o excuse.

Suppose that you were in jail with 50 other guys for just reasons. And one came and decided to bail out 10 guys to work in his coffee factory to roast his beans. The guy who posts the bail is free to pick who he wants, isn’t he? And so why do the other 40 guys remain in jail? Are they not accountable to serve their time in response to their crime? Are they able to bemoan the nice coffee guy for not choosing them? perhaps. but at the end of the day they are there for their crime and not for the lack of choice. (i know that every analogy breaks down, but hopefully this helps)…

>>>Does this mean he gave everyone a “call?”
The Scripture answers this clearly:
Romans 8:29-30 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestine d to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestine d, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

The ones who are called (by and through the Holy Spirit, not in a general, but specific sense) are the ones who are saved. God does not ‘call’ everyone in this way, he does call everyone in a general way though (cf. Acts 17.30-31)

>>>Isn’t it possible that we could make that same choice without Him having to act on some?
If you understand depravity in light of Eph. 2.1-3; Rom. 3.9-18, 23, Col. 1.21, etc..then no way. We are dead spiritually not in a coma. There is NO way that ANY could respond to God lest he attend the general call of the gospel with the specific and salvific power of the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn. 6.44; Rom. 8.29-30).

Hope this helps, bad analogies aside.

Some posts are forthcoming…Lord willing…just working on a couple of other things right now.


1 11 2006

Wow! I liked the original quote, but the discussion was even better. These are the same things I wrestle through, and just when I think I’ve got it, I get confused all over again. :^) I truly look forward to your forthcoming posts on this topic.

1 11 2006

I’m not exactly sure how I can explain what I’m thinking. I agree with you that we are unable to make a choice for God without his influence. It is the form that influence takes and the effect it has on our decision that I disagree with you about. You believe that the influence from God needed to choose Him comes in the form of an irresistible call given only to those whom are chosen. The effect of that call is, as I said, irresistible and is never rejected. I believe the influence from God comes in the form of Him making Himself known to us as expressed in Romans 1 which you quoted above. The effect is man being aware of God and understanding enough about Him to be able to make a choice for or against Him. My view of Total Depravity is best demonstrated by imagining a world where God does not make Himself known through what has been made. If there was no evidence of God through His creation and nothing to cause man to be aware of God, we would be utterly sinful, dead in our transgressions, fully unable to choose God. Not only would we be this way in such a scenario, we are that way now. That is our human nature. That is why God has made Himself known. So that we are without excuse. Without God’s influence, we have absolutely NO hope of salvation. Again, I don’t believe we can make any kind of choice for God without Him.

Your view: God’s influence enables and causes us to choose Him.
My view: God’s influence enables us to choose Him, but allows that choice to be a free-will choice, foreknown by God, but not pre-determined by Him.

I hope this helps explain a little better that I do believe in Total Depravity as firmly as you do.
By the way, nice illustration. It would make my day if I found out that God roasted coffee beans.

Through all of this discussion, (which has been exactly what I have needed) my hope is that we all are earnestly seeking the truth. A few years ago, God laid a truth upon my heart and it led me to a form a saying that speaks to me every day and makes me think before making any decision.

“Don’t look for ways to prove that you are right. Look for ways to find the truth.”

I sincerely enter this discussion with an open mind, willing to accept whatever God shows me as truth and I hope everyone else will do the same.

1 11 2006

Your recent comments bring me back to the same points I tried to explain in my past post. It all comes down to recognizing what total depravity really means when taught in passages like Romans 3. Total depravity as outlined in Romans 3:10-11,12,17 does not allow for man to be able to choose good, namely God. Choosing God with free will(even if enabled in part by God) is an action that the unregenerate soul is uncapable of since…they don’t do good (Romans 3:12) and they don’t seek for God (Romans 3:11) nor do they even know the path of peace (Romans 3:17).

Here is an analogy that I think accurately portrays the difference in our views of “total” depravity.
My view: God is holy and we are dead at the bottom of the ocean so no life-preserver will help.
Your view: God is holy* and we are dead at the bottom of the ocean but God revives u s so that we can float at the top of the sea and decide whether or not to grab the life-preserver that He throws.
*=God really isn’t that holy (set apart) because He is now compared to a being that is somewhat ‘good.’

You see the problem still remains that God says that He saved us when we were
“dead in our trespasses and sins” not “revived from our trespasses and sins.”


1 11 2006


Hmm . . . something to think about. Thank you for that insight.

1 11 2006

Great distinction / illustration / point Jim!

not only are we alienated from God in our sin but God is also alienated from us by his holiness…how we needed and still need a Mediator!

2 11 2006

So, I have thought about it. Your last statement really gave me pause to think. And I did really think about it. This is what finally jumped at me: God is just as Holy, He is just as Sovereign, He is just as omniscient and omnipotent no matter what He decides to do. If He only revives us so that we can make a choice, that doesn’t question His authority or power. It isn’t that He isn’t capable of doing that, it is just that he chooses to do it that way. The same thought process could be taken from level to level. Is he any less Holy or sovereign because He doesn’t instantly heal any sickness in one of His Chosen? Is He any less Holy or Sovereign because he doesn’t immediately take us to Heaven the moment we are saved? I hesitate to rate His holiness by any standard that is based on man. His holiness gives him the power and right to do whatever He wants and it would be holy simply because it is God who does it. I think the problem lies in what you understand “revived” to mean. We are still dead in our trespasses. We can’t do good. We can’t seek God. We don’t know the path of peace. I honestly don’t think choosing God is an “act of goodness.” Nor do I think it is “seeking Him.” I think that it is a moment of understanding where we realize the truth about God and accept or reject Him. I don’t think it falls under a category of either pre-regenerate or post-regenerate. It is just “the moment.” Obviously it is more than that. I just don’t know how to put it in words. I still would like to know your thoughts on those passages I mentioned a while back in Joshua and Duet. Those seem to say very clearly that there is a choice to be made.

2 11 2006

I am shocked that you try to say that choosing God is not a good thing!?!? Choosing God is the very opposite of sin. Think about every instance where we are tempted by sin…I can either look on a woman with lust, or choose God instead. I can either think prideful thoughts, or choose to think of God instead. Every case of sin is a decision between the sin and choosing God. Choosing God is by definition THE act of goodness for the Christian. This is one major piece that separates Christians from other monotheistic religions.

Logically, this act of choosing God is either done by the person of their own abilities or by God working in the person. Either the person choosing God because God caused it to happen or because the soul caused it to happen. Something has to be the cause of this all happening, and the distinction between the Calvinist and the Arminian is that the Calvinist recognizes that the cause must be only God while the Arminian tries to make it God+man.

As for Joshua and Deut, I’ll leave the full exposition to others but I’ll give a quick explanation here. Calvinists agree with you that there is a choice to be made. The difference is that we insist that we can’t make the proper choice, and we need God to make it happen. These passages are not a problem at all for the Calvinist, because we recognize the responsibility to make the proper choices (notice that choosing God is the implied act of goodness), but when understood in the whole context of scripture, we know that there is more to the story.

3 11 2006

I actually was almost sorry I hit the “submit comment” button after writing that post. Not because I disagree with it, but because I am unable to explain my thoughts properly and so they come across wrong. I am not saying that choosing God is not a good thing. I am saying that it is separate from choosing to do good. The choice to follow Christ is an act of submission. It is acknowledging God’s sovereignty. It is beliving God. It is not done in an effort to “do good.” It is done as a final declaration of faith and submission. The inability to “do good” as implied in Romans 3 is the inability to cause one’s soul to choose to do good for goodness, or God’s sake. I believe this is different than the actual choice to become a follower of Christ. I can’t just say to forget what I wrote in the last post, but at the same time, I do want you to know that I was unable to put into words the thoughts that I wanted.

I am still trying to figure out how to make you understand that the ArmInian, (notice the “I” not “E”) does not believe that we have any power to gain salvation without God. It really isn’t God+ man, it is God allowing man. One thing I have come to understand through my study is that both sides of the story tend to look at the other view through the eyes of their own perception. What I mean, is that when looking at individual arguments and verses and passages and debates and instances, both sides tend to impose the rest of their belief system on their view of that individual instance thus not really understanding how the other view actually perceives it. Did you follow that? I think this is what is happening with the Total Depravity issue. It is no fault of anyone’s but I think you are not able or not willing or not thinking to actually look at it from the Arminian view. We are absolutely dead in sin, unable to choose good or God, engulfed in our wickedness and there is nothing we can do to change that. That is Total Depravity. Period. It isn’t until God reveals Himself to us that we are able to make a decision. I can understand your view of this and anticipate your arguments to this comment, but it really all comes back to the Bible telling us that we are without excuse. If taken for face value, there is absolutely no way the Calvinist can say that because it doesn’t matter if the chosen one made a conscious decision, or if God manipulated it, or any other way you might describe it. Ultimately, by the Calvinistic view, God is the one and only one who decides who will be saved. “you have no excuse” means nothing. I am not frustrated with you or anyone on this post. I actually appreciate the time and effort given to discuss these things with me. My frustration comes from the fact that I can’t seem to get you to understand that concept. Yes, the sinner chooses sin and the Chosen chooses God, but why does the chosen choose God? Is it because he has decided on his own to do good? No, it is because God CAUSED him to where He did not CAUSE the sinner to do the same. It simply doesn’t fit. We have to come up with little theories to explain why this is so. I am just as guilty. I repeat: I am just as guilty. I think that is a flaw of our human nature. We must have a form and an outline for everything. As a result, we come up with these views that best explain our rationale and create theories to fill in the gaps. So why do I argue for Arminianism? Trust me, it’s not because I think it is flawless. It is because I believe that taken as a whole, this is what the Bible says. You can point out passages to me and I can point out passages to you and we will never agree and the meaning of those individual passages. That is why I look for what the Bible seems to say when taken as a whole. I would love to go into that a little more, but this response is long enough and I am neglecting work, so I will save it for another time.

4 11 2006
Election is not the problem…sin is (part ii) « Irish Calvinist

[…] In Romans chapter 1 the apostle tells us that humanity is ‘without excuse’. There has been much discussion on this post relative to what and how this could be. I thought it might be better to take this text insert it in another post and make some comments relative to the verse. Hopefully this serves as helpful. […]

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