Soteriology in the Middle (Part II)
“…He saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.”
In my last post I said that in following posts we’d be taking a look at what I’d call a “moderate” and more biblical perspective on Soteriology in contrast to the classic Calvinistic and Arminian systems of Soteriology. Specifically in this post we will be talking about regeneration- the new birth. The Bible is very clear that the person who is truly a child of God, accepted and forgiven for their sins in light of the atonement of the cross of Christ being applied to them through faith is born-again. The Holy Spirit has come to indwell them and sealed them for the day of redemption. He has made them a new person spiritually speaking.
But how does the new birth come about in a person’s life? That is really the question that is before us. Do people have enough good left in them in their fallen state to simply make a decision to trust in Christ when presented with the gospel message apart from any divine enablement to do so as Pelagians teach? Is a person born-again in a moment in time because by exercise of their own free-will they put their faith in Jesus’ work performed in their behalf on the cross as Arminians would contend? Does God sovereignly make people born-again before they exercise or express faith in Jesus as Calvinists would say? Or is there another way in the midst of these approaches to answering this question that gives the best account for the most biblical passages that deal with the issue at hand?
Arminianism and Calvinism on Depravity
Pelagianism is generally rejected by orthodox Christians. So we won’t specifically deal with that system of thought in this post other than to say up front that what is often flippantly termed “Arminianism” today is truly Pelagianism when you consider primary manuscripts written by the architects and proponents of these systems. So let’s shift our focus to the Arminian and Calvinistic answers to our question. We will start by stating the Arminian and Calvinistic views of the depravity of mankind. The Arminian position (or Remonstrance if you like) was originally articulated by Jacobus Arminius (16th-17th Century). Arminius taught in regard to human depravity that “In this [fallen] state, the free will of man towards the true good is not only wounded, 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.”
To be fare, I did not represent the Calvinists as well as I could have in my descriptions of some of the five points in my last post. Some dear and close Calvinist friends pointed these spots out to me in regard to my last post and I want to remedy those mistakes here lest I inadvertently create a straw man to argue against in dealing with these subjects. So in putting forth the Calvinistic view of the depravity of man (a view not drastically different from Arminius’ own view described above) allow me to quote from a classic Calvinist confession on the subject- the London Baptist Confession of 1689:
“As the consequence of his fall into a state of sin, man has lost all ability to will the performance of any of those works, spiritually good, that accompany salvation. As a natural (unspiritual) man he is dead in sin and altogether opposed to that which is good. Hence he is not able, by any strength of his own, to turn himself to God, or even to prepare himself to turn to God.”
What both of the above views have in common is that they agree on what we would theologically call Total Inability. The idea is that due to the fall of mankind human beings cannot, will not, and do not desire to trust in Jesus for their salvation apart from God liberating them from their bondage to sin and enabling them to do so.
Scriptural Affirmations of Total Inability
Both classic Arminianism and Classic Calvinism affirm Total Inability because Scripture itself does so. Consider the following verses:
John 6:44- “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Romans 8:7-9: “Because the carnal mind [is] enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.”
1 Corinthians 2:14: “But 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.”
God Must do Something
Most orthodox believers agree in light of verses like those above that there is a spiritual blinding and/or deadness that must be illuminated or reversed through spiritual resurrection which must take place to enable a sinner to trust in Christ. Again, the question is what is that work that God does to bring about the ability of a person to trust in Jesus and believe the biblical gospel? Arminians believe God has universally granted the ability of all individuals to choose Christ by restoring their originally God-given free will through Prevenient Grace. The doctrine of Prevenient Grace is defined well by the Church of the Nazarene:
“…through the fall of Adam they (Humans) became depraved so that they cannot now turn and prepare themselves by their own natural strength and works to faith and calling upon God. But we also believe that the grace of God through Jesus Christ is freely bestowed upon all people, enabling all who will to turn from sin to righteousness, believe on Jesus Christ for pardon and cleansing from sin, and follow good works pleasing and acceptable in His sight.”
Calvinists have a different explanation of the work that God does to enable faith in the life of the sinner. They infer from verses that teach Total Inability that the work God does to produce the possibility of faith in the elect is the work of new birth (regeneration), though in truth verses describing Total Inability do not explicitly say this is so or demand such a conclusion. They contend that regeneration precedes faith. This is a logical inference they term as a logical necessity based on their view of Total Depravity. As noted in my last post on Soteriology R.C. Sproul states the Calvinist view that regeneration precedes faith this way: “We do not believe in order to be born-again. We are born-again in order to believe.”
Let us be clear that if a person is born-again before they exercise or express faith in Jesus that they are saved before they exercise or express faith in Jesus. In saying they are “saved” I do not mean that they have experienced every dynamic of biblical salvation at the moment of regeneration. For example I understand that glorification is part of the wider biblical theology of salvation and that no Calvinist would claim a person is glorified at the moment of regeneration. None-the-less, God Himself equates the work of regeneration with being a literal work of salvation in the person who experiences the new birth. Consider the following statement of God in Holy Scripture:
“…He saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.”
Some Calvinists understanding of the weight of stating that a person is “saved” before they exercise or express faith in Jesus because of God’s secret work of regeneration in their hearts causes them to prefer that their position not be characterized this way. But as shown from scripture above this would necessarily be the unavoidable reality if regeneration does indeed precede faith. Even the great preacher and committed Calvinist C.H. Surgeon acknowledged that when people are regenerated they are saved. In his sermon Warrant of Faith he conceded, “…man, being regenerated, is saved already, and it is an unnecessary and ridiculous thing for me to preach Christ to him, and bid him believe in order to be saved when he is saved already, being regenerate.” But we are saved “thru regeneration” according to the Holy Spirit inspired Apostle Paul. If advocates of the idea that regeneration precedes faith don’t like to be characterized as believing a person is saved before they exercise or express faith, it is their position that must be abandoned and not the characterization of their position by those who articulate it scripturally.
What Does God Do?
I am in the moderate middle on the exact work that God does to enable sinners to put their faith in Jesus for salvation. I am not Pelagian because I believe in Total Inability. I am not Classically Arminian because I do not believe that mankind is automatically and universally in a state of Prevenient Grace due to the merits of Christ on the cross and therefore able to make a free-will decision to trust in Jesus at any given time. I am not a Five Point Calvinist because I don’t believe the work that must be done on behalf of sinners to enable them to come to faith is the work of regeneration. I am somewhere in the midst of each of these views.
Stated positively, I believe that all people are totally depraved and as such are in a state of Total Inability when it comes to desiring or being able to actually choose to respond to the gospel message in faith. I believe that God sovereignly works in the hearts of people to bring them to a place where they understand their need to trust in Christ and understand that Jesus is the solution to their sin. I believe that upon bringing them to this place of understanding those who are “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” are effectively brought to faith in the gospel and repentance through the convicting and enabling work of the Holy Spirit. When the sinner enabled by God heeds the command of the gospel in faith they are regenerated through faith as scripture declares, and born-again.
Soteriological Moderates (which I consider myself) are able to affirm verses on Total Inability while not twisting sequential verses which describe the order of events at salvation and demonstrate that faith is the vehicle that brings regeneration into a sinner’s life, not the result of regeneration. A handful of verses that clearly demonstrate that faith precedes regeneration would include:
Ephesians 1:13-14: “In Him you also [trusted], after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”
According to Paul the order of salvation goes like this: A person hears the gospel. Next, they believe the gospel. Lastly, having believed the gospel they heard they are sealed with the Holy Spirit. They hear, they believe, they receive the sealing of the Spirit. A Calvinist ordering of this might say they hear, they receive the Spirit, they believe. That is not what the verse states.
Galatians 3:2; 14c: “This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?… we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”
Again, reception of the Spirit is through faith. Faith is not the result of involuntarily being born-again through a secret work of God in the heart.
John 20:30-31: “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 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.”
The Apostle John, a teacher of Total Inability in John 6:44, found room in his understanding of Total Inability to believe that faith still precedes new life (regeneration). He compiled the massive account of Jesus’ life and miracles found in the Gospel of John so that his readers might believe that Jesus is the “Christ, the Son of God,” and that “believing” they may have life in His name. Note that new life through Jesus comes to a person after or through believing according to John. Again, a Calvinist rendering of this would say something like, “I write of these works of Jesus that God might give you spiritual life so that you can believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” Again, this is not what scripture says.
What I’ve chosen to call illumination (2 Cor. 4:6) must remove the hindrance of Total Inability so a person can put their faith in the gospel to be born-again. Some kind of illumination must precede faith so that we can believe. But these sequential verses demonstrate clearly, and I believe irrefutably, that faith precedes regeneration. Such a picture is portrayed in Acts 16:14:
“Now a certain woman named Lydia heard [us]. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.”
At the moment of this woman’s conversion “the Lord opened her heart” to enable her to believe the gospel Paul was preaching. Upon opening her heart she was able to “heed” or respond to the gospel Paul preached.
A defining moment in my position on the order of salvation came when I began to think about how Old Testament saints were saved, or counted righteous before God. Most evangelicals believe that the gift of regeneration is a special work of God which He performs in His people during the New Testament age alone. If the Calvinist is right and regeneration must occur in a person’s life before they can exercise saving faith in the gospel, how is it that Abraham “believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness” if he was never regenerated? To be clear, Scripture tells us that the thing Abraham “believed” (or put his faith in) so as to be accounted righteous before God is nothing less than the Gospel!
Galatians 3:8-9: And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, [saying], “In you all the nations shall be blessed. So then those who [are] of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.”
Indeed it is not only Abraham who was able to respond to God’s promises in faith apart from being regenerated, but Hebrews chapter eleven lists a mountain of Old Testament (and therefore unregenerate) saints who somehow were able to believe in the promises of God looking forward to the cross in a saving way.
So here’s the issue: I believe that Abraham was in a state of Total Inability. I believe that I (in the New Testament age) am in a state of Total Inability. God did something in Abraham that was effective and sufficient to enable him to have saving “faith” in the promises of God that was not regeneration! And yet, though I am no more dead in my sin than Abraham, the Calvinist would tell me that I must be regenerated or I cannot exercise or express faith in the gospel. Am I to conclude that Abraham was less bound by Total Inability than I am? Or am I to conclude that I am dead spiritually to a more intense degree than Abraham? This is inconsistent and contradictory and devastating to the idea that regeneration must precede faith.
When I’ve asked the question of how Old Testament saints were able to exercise faith apart from regeneration to advocates of the doctrine that regeneration precedes faith I have yet to see them answer how this can be. They end up affirming the moderate position by saying things like, “Well clearly God had to do something even though it wasn’t regeneration.” To which I say, ABSOLUTELY! And I would contend that it is the same thing He does to enable people to come to saving faith today. He works in us to enable the response of faith to the gospel. Upon our response of faith to the gospel we are born-again. Call that work of enablement what you will. I’ve chosen to call it illumination. What’s clear is that while a sovereign work of divine enablement must precede faith, faith most certainly precedes regeneration. Until next time…
 Titus 3:5b NKJV
 Romans 8:14-17
 1 Corinthians 6:19
 Ephesians 1:13
 2 Corinthians 5:17
 A Faith to Confess: The Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689
 2 Corinthians 4:4-6
 Ephesians 2:1-3
 John 12:32; 16:7-11; Acts 16:14
 Nazarene Manual. 2005-2009
 Sproul, R.C. Chosen by God. Page 73.
 Titus 3:5b Emphasis Added
 Spurgeon, C.H. Warrant of Faith
 1 Peter 1:2 NKJV
 John 16:7-11;
 Acts 16:14 NKJV
 Genesis 15 6 quoted in Galatians 3:6 NKJV
Great article. I appreciate your thoughts and the clarity of them. On a related note, what are your thoughts about what Jon Courson has to say in regards to Eph 2:8 (in relation to our deadness before Christ):
In verses Eph_2:4-7, we saw God’s work for us as He brought us back from the dead and raised us to sit with Him in heavenly places. Here in verses Eph_2:8-9, we see His work in us. “It might be God’s work,” you say, “but it’s my faith.” No. Here, Paul says specifically that even the faith it took to be saved is not of ourselves. Why? Because dead men don’t have faith. That is why Paul declares that there is none that seeks after God, no not one (Rom_3:11). “Then what part did I have in salvation?” you ask. None. You were elected before the foundation of the world, and the faith you finally exercised to receive Jesus Christ was faith that God Himself put in your heart. That is why Jesus declared, “No man can come unto Me except the Father draws Him” (Joh_6:44). The entire orb of salvation is totally due to God’s grace. We become worshipers now and eternally because His work in us and for us is truly amazing.
Would you say that the thrust of Ephesians 2:8-9 is that the grace is a gift or the faith? Based on the next verse (that it’s not a result of works), I’ve always interpreted the passage to be referring to the grace that’s a gift. That’s not to say that the Holy Spirit isn’t clearly involved in the faith. Kellen did a great job showing that very clearly in his article.
Good men from both the Arminian and Calvinistic persuasions disagree as to whether or not Ephesians 2:8-9 is saying that salvation by grace alone, or also the faith that procures our salvation is what is referred to by Paul as “the gift of God.” Either way, many from both camps agree no matter what is specifically being said in this context in regard to faith that a gift of faith from God is needed for people to respond to the gospel in faith.
And yet, both Calvinists and non-Calvinists also agree that once the gift of faith is given the exercise of that faith in the gospel which brings us the saving grace of God is our own. In there book The Doctrines of Grace Boice and Ryken say from the Calvinist perspective that, “1) turning from sin, which is repentance; and 2) turning to Christ, which is faith. These are both things that we do. That is, God does not repent for us, nor does he believe for us. We must repent. We must believe. Nevertheless, both repentance and faith occur in us because of God’s prior work of regeneration.” From what I would say is the moderate perspective, to explain his position David Guzik quoted Clark on this passage in Ephesians: “Clarke emphatically states that the original Greek is clear in noting that when it says it is the gift of God, the it referred to is salvation, not faith. The great Greek scholar Dean Alford also clearly pointed out that the this not of yourselves referred to salvation, not to faith in this passage.”
But Guzik then goes on to say, “Yet, even our faith is a gift of God. We cannot believe in Jesus unless God does a prior work in us, for we are blinded by our own deadness and by the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4).” Then Guzik quotes Clarke again, ““But it may be asked: Is not faith the gift of God? Yes, as to the grace by which it is produced; but the grace or power to believe, and the act of believing, are two different things. Without the grace or power to believe no man ever did or can believe; but with that power the act of faith is a man’s own. God never believes for any man, no more than he repents for him; the penitent, through this grace enabling him, believes for himself.”
Boice and Ryken are Calvinists and Guzik is not. Whether based on this passage or not all three seem to agree that faith and repentance are a gift that God gives to us, but that they are gifts we must exercise. This perspective seems consistent to me with verses such as 2 Timothy 2:24-26 which read, “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth,and [that] they may come to their senses [and escape] the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to [do] his will.” So, way too long of a story shorter, I would tend to agree with Courson. 🙂
The reformed position would then be that the “gift of faith” is only given to those elected for salvation. To which I always respond with Romans 12…
Romans 12:3 ~ For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
Grace given to all those in the church and a mesaure faith to “every man.” But then they respond, “Every man there is referring to those that are saved and not all humanity.”
The problem here is that it’s a one-for-one exchange of punches back and forth. My major concern comes when one (like Piper) will say things like “Calvinism is the gospel.” Therefore, if you don’t hold to Calvinism then you are unorthodox.
Great post Kellen.
It’s true man. As I was reading Romans 12:3 above I already had the response picked out. “To every man that is among you” is the church. I have heard many claim that Calvinism is nothing other than the gospel. And yet, Piper, Spurgeon, Sproul, and others who I’ve heard make such a claim never go so far as to say you must be a Five Pointer to be saved. Whatever the level of their convictions, they know that is too far, I believe because of the caution of the Holy Spirit within. Unfortunately I can remember a time when I was so passionately committed to the Five Points that I was ready to call “Arminians” apostate and heretical. Thankfully, my father-in-law (a committed Calvinist) was quick to graciously exhort me to abandon such a notion. I believe that whenever we call something “the gospel” we’d better make sure we’re talking about the essential truths one must believe to become born-again, or we better do some quick defining of terms lest we add to the gospel inadvertently. Thanks for the encouragement. This has been a challenging set of posts to undertake, partly because I know there is no systematized soteriology that is air-tight and mystery free.
Thanks, Pastor Kellen. That’s a perfect clarification.
Enjoyed your delineation of your searching on the topic of what I call the “ability of fallen mankind to accept/believe or reject what is being communicated to them from God in His call, instructions and commands”. The following is some of the history and results of my searching.
Before I was saved, the preaching of the gospel that I heard was in a style of communication that implied to me that I had the inherent ability to accept or reject God’s call to believe in Christ as my savior in order to be saved. Therefore, I concluded that the preacher believed the same about mans ability. Also, when I actually looked up the scriptures that were used in the sermons, the text implied to me that I, of my own will, needed to make a decision to accept Christ as my savior in order to be saved. I had no idea that the preacher might not actually believe man had the inherent ability to accept or reject God’s call. For several months God was convicting me of my sin, that hell was my destiny, and that I needed my sins forgiven by faith in Christ. I was saved believing that I had the inherent ability to accept or reject God’s call to accept Christ as my savior.
As a new believer, I began to study the word of God from that perspective. As I came across the few verses (approximately much less than 0.5%) when interpreted in a certain way could syllogistically be used to build an implied theology of “no inherent ability of man to accept or reject God’s call to trust His word, to follow His commands and to believe in Christ as our savior”, I only temporarily mentally noted that those few verses by themselves could possibly be interpreted in a way that could be used to build the implied theology of “no inherent ability of man to accept or reject God’s call” if a person ignored the implication of the majority of the Scripture and the implication of the style of communication used by God in the Scripture. I proceeded to interpret those few verses from an “inherent ability of man to accept or reject God’s call”, which is the precedence set by the majority of scriptures in the Bible and the communication style of the word of God; and I did not have any problems understanding and interpreting them from that perspective or precedence. During those early years of my Christian life I had not even heard of Calvinism. The style of communication used by God in the Bible is the same style people use every day of their lives — which is a style that obviously is built on an understood foundation that implies and assumes the hearer has the free will ability to accept or reject what is being communicated to them. Also, according to my reasoning capacity the mere existence of communications from God to man through His inspired word (the Bible), in which He tries to convince mankind to accept His call, instructions and commands, implies to me that mankind has the inherent free will ability to accept or reject His call, instructions and commands. To me, even the mere existence of TULIP proof texts, such as Romans 9, implies that mankind has the inherent free will ability to accept or reject His call, instructions and commands even though some Christians interpret those TULIP proof texts in such a way as to try to prove that mankind does not have the free will ability to accept or reject God’s call, instructions and commands.
Years later I begin to come across Calvinists and heard their teaching and read of their theology of “no inherent ability of man to accept or reject God’s call”. Their teaching and teaching method of using less than 0.5% of the Bible had a scholarly aura about it because they did a very good job of doing an academic syllogistic development using their interpretation of those few verses. It seemed strange to me that Calvinists would let the implication of approximately less than 0.5% of the Scripture set the precedence when the implication of approximately 99.5% of the Scripture contradicted their conclusion. My experience indicates to me that a lot of people that get saved, intuitively/logically see this implied understood “inherent ability of man to accept/believe or reject God’s call” in the majority of the Bible without even being fully cognizant of it; and therefore, like I was at first, are unable to rationally explain it at first. Also, like myself, they intuitively/logically let that set the precedence and automatically interpret Calvinism’s 0.5%, or less, supporting Scripture verses from “the inherent ability of man to accept/believe or reject God’s call” precedent perspective. I have found Calvinism’s 0.5%, or less, Scripture verses are easily understood from the “inherent ability of man to accept/believe or reject God’s call” perspective.
When a strict Calvinist would give their interpretation to me of those few scriptures in their syllogistic logic loop chain, the thought that repeatedly came to my mind was, “What about the rest of the Scripture, the majority of Scripture!” Each time I asked them about a verse or section of the Scripture that obviously implied the “inherent ability of man to accept or reject God’s call (which call is through the Scripture and drawing of the Holy Spirit)”, they would jump back to repeating their academic and scholarly syllogistic logic loop chain, based on less than 0.5% of the Scripture. After I had asked them about many more verses in the Bible that implied this “inherent ability of man to accept or reject God’s call”, they would start accusing me of having a proof-texting mentality. At first, I was baffled, because I had never heard of the idea of proof-texting before. Later, I realized that they were also proof-texting.
I soon realized that there was something wrong with my method of discussing my conclusions with them. Finally, I realized that they were experts at getting folk like me to get started on a verse hurdling contest, and then they would start accusing folk like me of being guilty of proof-texting. From that point on, I very early in discussions with Calvinists point out to them the majority implication of the Bible, instead of getting caught up in a verse hurdling contest.
Now days, when I ask Calvinists to interpret the 99.5%, or greater, of the Scripture, that reeks with the implication “that man has the inherent ability to accept/believe or reject what is being communicated to them from God (which communication is through the Scripture and drawing of the Holy Spirit)” from their “no inherent ability of man to accept/believe or reject” perspective, the usual answer I get is along this line is: “Yes, God communicates with man in a style that implies that man has the inherent ability to accept/believe or reject what is being communicated to them from Him, but God knows that man does not have that inherent ability.” To me, that response seems to imply that God has been deceiving mankind on this theological issue for millennia, implying that God is a deceiver. When I tell them that implies that God is a deceiver, they usually respond by saying that “— My (God’s) ways (are) higher than your ways — from Isa. 55:9”. This type of response is what I get from the majority of strict TULIP type Calvinists (5 point Cal.) and strict TUIP Calvinists (4 point Cal.).
Also, when I ask strict Calvinists why 95%, or the majority, of the time they preach in a communication style that also implies “that man has the inherent ability to believe or reject what is being communicated to them”, they usually reply by saying, “that is the way God does it in the Bible” (which indicates that they are aware that the majority of the Bible implies that man has the inherent ability to accept/believe or reject what is being communicated to them from God). To me, that answer seems to be saying, “If God is deceiving man on this issue in the Bible, then so can we.”
I have met Christians that claim to be Calvinists, that I mentally like to think of as baffled-Calvinists. These baffled-Calvinists are mentally confounded between the highly intellectual, scholarly, and academic syllogistic chain reasoning argument presented by strict TULIP and TUIP (5 point and 4 point) Calvinists and their own common sense logical reasoning ability that sees that the majority (great than 99.5%) of the Bible and the communication style of God in the Bible reeks with an obvious implication of the inherent ability of man to accept/believe or reject what is being communicated to them from God; they see the obvious contradiction. In an effort to resolve this contradiction, these Baffled-Calvinists will say that (TUI, TU and free will) are true and that we can not understand it because “— My (God’s) ways (are) higher than your ways — from Isa. 55:9”. To me, their answer seems to imply that God is justifying their internally contradictory theology. Worse yet, their answer seems to imply that God is just in being a God that contradicts Himself. I do not believe it is logically proper to use Isa. 55:9 to justify internally contradictory theology. Isa. 55:9 can be used to explain some hard to understand theology (such as the Trinity), but not internally contradictory theology. In the case of man’s free will and God electing people for salvation before He created the world, it is wise to apply the mystery of “— My (God’s) ways (are) higher than your ways — from Isa. 55:9” to the question of “How can God foreknow those whom He can convince to make a free will decision to accept His call in the new testament, that is, to repent and accept Christ as their savior?” than to justify God being a God that is just in contradicting Himself. Also, I have met Christians that claim to believe in “inherent ability of man to accept/believe or reject God’s call, instructions/teachings, commands and promises”, but they also are mentally confounded between the highly intellectual, scholarly, and academic syllogistic chain reasoning argument presented by strict TULIP and TUIP Calvinists and their own common sense logical reasoning ability that sees that the “majority (great than 99.5%) of the Bible and the communication style of God in the Bible” reeks with an obvious implication of the inherent ability of man to accept/believe or reject what is being communicated to them from God; they also see the obvious contradiction. I like to call them baffled-free-willers. Again In an effort to resolve this contradiction, these baffled-free-willers will say that both (the Calvinist’s total depravity concept and free will) are both true and that we can not understand it because “— My (God’s) ways (are) higher than your ways — from Isa. 55:9”. To me, their answer seems to imply that God is justifying their internally contradictory theology and justifying God being illogical (contradictory).
I refer to myself as an “inherent-free-willer” which means I believe in the inherent ability of mankind to accept/believe or reject God’s call (which is through the Scripture and drawing of the Holy Spirit); I believe humans are born corrupted with an added sin nature because of Adam’s and Eve’s sin — that is, fallen and corrupted mankind is now bi-natured having two natures (good and evil) in accordance with Adam’s and Eve’s sin of eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; I believe that it makes no difference whether or not a person has free will the Bible says that no one can come to Christ unless the Father who sent Christ has granted him to be drawn (John 6:65,44) by [the convicting, drawing work of the Holy Spirit and the word of God]; I believe in the eternal security of the believer; I do not believe in the Calvinistic concepts of total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement and irresistible grace; I believe that God has elected before the beginning of the world those in the new testament era whom He foreknew He could convince to believe/trust in Christ as their sacrifice for the forgiveness of their sins; and I believe that God has elected before the beginning of the world those before the new testament era whom He foreknew He could convince to accept/believe His call, instructions/teachings, commands and promises.
The churches that I have regularly attended, so far, in my Christian life are churches that were/are inhabited by a mixture of “inherent-free-willers”, “baffled-Calvinists”, “baffled-free-willers”, “modified Arminians that believe in eternal security” and some “Molinists”. I have found that these types of Christians worship, minister and fellowship together without fighting over their differences in the area of free will of man; they just discuss their differences in the area of the free will of man. I believe the peaceful fellowship occurs because all these types have one thing in common in the area of the free will of man; that is, in the practical everyday world, they all witness, teach and preach in a communication style (the same communication style God used in the Bible, His word to mankind) that implies the free will of man to either accept/believe or reject God’s communications and call to mankind.
David C. Geminden