Monthly Archives: December 2013

How Can a Dead Person Believe Unless God Makes Him Alive?

How can a dead person believe unless God first makes him alive? This is a question that is asked by Calvinists. Ephesians 2:1-9 states that we are dead in sin, that we are saved by grace, and that we are made alive in Christ. And there are many other passages that state we are dead in sin. Given that a physically dead corpse can’t do anything, how can a spiritually dead person do anything like believe? Could Lazarus raise himself from the dead? Of course not!

The implication here is that a corpse can’t do anything. A corpse can’t consent to being made alive, and so therefore it must be God who makes us believe. So says the Calvinist.

How does the Arminian come to a different conclusion? It’s important to start by noting that we strongly agree with what scripture teaches. Humanity is dead in sin. We are saved by grace. We are made alive in Christ. We can not believe in Christ unless God first gives us the grace to enable us to believe.

The disagreement is over the Biblical definition of what spiritual death entails, as it relates to our relationship with God. Being spiritually dead does not mean that we are corpses that have no spirit and make no decisions, as the Calvinist implies. Instead, being spiritually dead means that our sins have hardened our hearts and have separated us from God. To “be dead” in this sense is to be separated from Christ, and to not desire to be reconciled with Him. To be alive in Christ is to love Him and to be in relationship with Him. Our sins keep us separated from God and we are dependent on Him to initiate the reconciliation that enables us to believe.

The Calvinist mixes a non-religious understanding of physical death with the Bible’s definition of spiritual death. The Calvinist is defining spiritual death as a corpse with no spirit, like Lazarus was before Jesus raised him from the dead. But a spiritually dead person is not the same as a physically dead one. Prior to God’s grace, a non-believer does not seek God, but he is still physically alive, still has a spirit, and still makes decisions. After God begins to draw the non-believer through grace (and He draws everyone), then the non-believer is enabled to believe.

This kind of death (separation) first took place after the fall of Adam and Eve. After they sinned they did not immediately die physically, but they were immediately separated from God. The first thing they tried to do was to hide themselves from God (Genesis 3:8).

Speaking of non-believers, Paul describes spiritual death in Ephesians 4:18-19:

They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.

Notice that in this passage the non-believer is not a corpse unable to make decisions. Non-believers are “darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.”

Jesus also describes death this way twice in the parable of the Prodigal son (Luke 15). Speaking to the servants the father says “this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” To his older son the father says “we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

In the parable the son was not a corpse. He was able to make decisions, including the decision to go home. Yet, the father still said he was dead! That’s because the son was separated from relationship with his father, and was dependent on the generosity of his father in order to be reconciled. The same is true of us in our spiritual death and separation from our Father.

Jesus describes the concept of separation and its effects in John 15:5-8

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

We are alive in Christ. Separated from him we can do nothing. When we are spiritually dead, it means that we are hardened against God, and are not in relationship with Him. We are dependent on His drawing grace that enables us to believe.

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Filed under Arminianism, Calvinism, Calvinist proof texts, faith, grace, hardening

Calvinist Christmas Songs – Humor

Some of these are mine, but most are stolen from the twitter hash  #CalvinistChristmasSongs.

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Joy to the Elect

Deck the Shelves With Books by Piper

Good Christian Men Read Boice

Oh Come All Ye Chosen

Servetus Roasting on an Open Fire

All I want for Christmas is my ESV

I Saw Edwards Dissing Santa Claus

Last Christmas You Gave You My Heart

Grandma Got Run Over Because It Was Predestined

I’m Dreaming of a James White Christmas

Little Driscoll Boy

“He’s making a list, checking it twice, gunna decide who’s naughty and nice.”

Have Yourself a Merry Little Conference (for MacArthur fans)

 

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Filed under humor, Uncategorized

Link: Rachel, stop whac-a-moling other Christians. Please.

Good thoughts from  Derek Ouellette on Rachel Held Evans’ criticism of Dave Ramsey.  I wholeheartedly agree.

He writes:

As a Christian I’m compelled to challenge Evans ungenerous assumptions about Dave’s teaching. He is her brother in the Lord. So I have to ask myself why she would jump to such preemptive conclusions, then plaster her opinion of his teachings all over a secular media source prompting scoffers in the comments to make claims like:

“just one more in a countless line of scammers using a bronze age book of stories to squeeze money out of gullible fools. It’s been going on for 2000 years!”

This is why it is so important for Christians to address each other in Christian venue’s. The image of the Church is already in disrepair and I think Evans’ taking to CNN to offer heavy-handed accusations to a fellow Christian does Christ more harm than good.

Rachel, please put down your hammer and stop whac-a-moling other Christians.

See Derek’s post here.

Evans frequently takes things too far with those she disagrees with. She is not charitable.  She doesn’t give the benefit of the doubt to her brothers and sisters in Christ.  She did the same thing with Calvinists John Piper and Mark Driscoll (who any casual reader of the blog with know I’m not fans of).  She refers to their “god” (in lower case), and attributes beliefs to them that they do not hold, or would at least have a more nuanced way of expressing. It’s gotten to the point I don’t care to follow her anymore. And that’s a shame, because sometimes she is inspiring.

Our family has benefited from taking Ramsey’s class. A few years ago we had student loans, car loans, and additional consumer debt. Now we have everything paid off but the mortgage, and have money in savings. We have definitely benefited from his class.  We’re able to give more, and we have more “financial peace” because of it.

Having said that, I don’t agree with Ramsey on everything. I would like to see him focus more on simplicity, and less on acquiring stuff – even if it’s paid for. But overall he’s a solid teacher.

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Filed under Dave Ramsey, Rachel Held Evans

Why Does One Person Believe in Jesus and not Another?

This is a question I sometimes get from Calvinists.  They ask, “Why does one person believe in Jesus and not the other?”  The short answer to the question is: One person chose to believe and the other did not choose to.

Now, let’s take a look at the question and flesh it out a bit.  The root problem is that the question is posed from a deterministic framework, and assumes the answer.  In effect, the questioner is asking, “What necessitates a choice that is not necessitated?”  Arminians reject the assumption of the question.  Through the drawing of Jesus, each person is given the capability to make the choice to believe.  Because of God’s grace, any person and every person can chose to believe.  There is nothing in the person or in his experiences that necessitates him choosing one way or the other.

This is what makes us responsible to God.  A person is accountable for what he does when he has the ability to do it, or to do otherwise.  I can’t demand that my son flap his arms and fly, and then punish him for not flying.  That would be unjust.  Similarly, if a puppet pulls out a gun and shoots someone in the audience, the puppet is not accountable for his action, the guy pulling the strings is.  The puppet can’t do anything other than what he has been determined to do.  Only the ability to make genuine choices is what makes us accountable to God.  And this is what Calvinists misses.

Everyone innately understands who God is, because God has revealed himself to everyone.  Paul writes that God has shown himself to everyone, that he has made his nature plain to us, and that we understand who he is.  It is for this reason we are without excuse (Romans 1).  Paul also writes that the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to everyone (Titus 2). And John tells us that Jesus is in the process of drawing everyone to himself (John 12).  So we have an understanding of who God is, we have an innate desire1 to seek him, his salvation has appeared to us, and he is drawing all of us.  That is why the conscious rejection of Jesus is such a serious matter.  Because we can do otherwise.

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1This post has also been translated to Portuguese. You can find it here: Por que uma Pessoa Crê em Jesus e Outra Não?  The person who translated it had a concern that the phrase “we have an innate desire to seek him” might be interpreted by some to be a denial of “Total Depravity” (which I do hold to). Here is my clarification to her:  Hi Gloria, Thanks for translating the post, I’m excited that you are sharing it with others! What I mean by “innate desire” is not that the non-believer has an ability to seek God, but rather that that the non-believer has a need that only God can fill. Before believing each one of us has an empty place in our heart, and this emptiness can only be filled by God. When he draws us through grace, we realize that we need him and that he will replace our emptiness with joy. C.S. Lewis stated it like this: “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” I hope that helps! Thanks again for the translation, and God bless!

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Filed under Arminianism, Calvinism, Prevenient Grace