Answering the major objection against Calvinism

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by Skandelon, Mar 3, 2007.

  1. Skandelon

    Skandelon
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    When people are confronted with Calvinistic teaching their first and most difficult objection is typically something like this:

    "How can God rightly condemn mankind with eternity in hell for not fulfilling a requirement that they are not even given the ability to fulfill."


    This is an objection to Total Depravity. The belief that mankind does not have the ability to respond positively to the call of gospel message.

    I'm interested to discuss, in a civil manner, with Calvinists on this board how they biblically respond to this objection and defend this view of Total inability.
     
  2. johnp.

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    Rom 8:7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.

    We are told that the sinful mind is at war with God and cannot be anything else. As fallen men we are controlled by the sinful nature.

    RO 8:9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.

    How's that Skandelon? :)

    john.
     
    #2 johnp., Mar 3, 2007
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  3. whatever

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    I think the fallacy in this objection is that God is somehow preventing the lost from responding to the gospel. The truth is, if Calvinists are right, that it is the person's own sin that makes him unable to respond and yet responsible for his condition. This is why most Calvinists are quick to point out that God is not the author of sin.

    How's that for a start?
     
  4. russell55

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    People are condemned for not living up to God's righteous standards, and yes, people are unable to live up to those righteous standards.

    But God's standard's aren't arbitrary. They are exactly right. They come out of his righteous character. God can't demand less, because he is righteous. He must condemn for not fulfilling the requirements, because he is righteous.

    Mankind was given the ability to fulfill those standards. They lost the ability as a result of the sin of their forefather, Adam.

    And there's the rub. God can't lower the standards, and mankind (not because of God's doing, but because of Adam's doing) can't fulfill them.

    I know you are asking about responding to the gospel message, and not fulfilling the law, but I can't answer the question about the gospel message, because I think people are condemned regardless of whether they hear the gospel or not. One does not have to be called by the gospel in order to be condemned. But that's neither here nor there, because the objection remains the same--God requiring something people can't do and then condemning them for it.
     
    #4 russell55, Mar 3, 2007
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  5. whatever

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    That's a good point. I wish I had said it like you did. You are correct that we are unable to respond because of Adam's sin. Our sinfulness alone would be enough to justify our condemnation, of course, but our condemnation and our sinfulness are both consequences of Adam's sin.
     
  6. johnp.

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    God is Sovereign. If He wants to condemn people to Hell [for no legal reason] then He is entitled to. He does as He wants.

    Condemnation on the human race came through Adam and was not as punishment on individuals sins and sinners. RO 5:18 Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men...

    God says He is just and the One that determined all in Adam to be sinners. We did nothing to gain our condemnation. :)

    john.
     
    #6 johnp., Mar 3, 2007
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  7. Skandelon

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    I've read through the story of the fall, and many NT passages dealing with the results of the fall and I'm not able to find a verse that clearly teaches that mankind loses the ability to respond positively to God's message of reconcilation. Don't get me wrong. I affirm the doctrine of original sin, in that we are all born "fallen" and thus in need of a savior...I just take issue with the idea that the message God sent for the purpose of reconciling the world to himself is somehow insufficient to envoke a positive reply.

    JP brought up Rom 8:7: "the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God."

    I agree that we are born in a sinful state that is hostile to God's law and that as long as we remain under the control of that sin nature we cannot please God...in that we cannot ever complete the demands of the law (as Russell55 pointed out). But does that say anything about the ability of a lost man to hear, believe and repent when confronted with the powerful Spirit wrought gospel? No. It only speaks of man's nature if left to himself. It says nothing of the ability of one to be reconciled by a divine message sent for the purpose of reconcilation.

    Are there any passages that do address this clearly?
     
  8. russell55

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    Yes, God does what he wants, but what he wants is always within his nature, and his nature is just. Therefore, there is always a just (legal) reason for God condeming people to hell.

    God being sovereign doesn't mean he can do anything at all. It means he can do anything in accord with his character.
     
  9. russell55

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    If you accept this, then your challenge has been answered. God can condemn people for things they can't do. It doesn't matter whether it's a command to repent and believe, or a command to fulfill all the ten commandments. We can't do it, and we're condemned for not doing it.
     
  10. dwmoeller1

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    First of all, one must realize that the concept of 'not having the ability to fulfill' is merely in one sense. Natural man is in the position of hating God. Man also has free will (the ability to freely choose whatever they desire). So, in the sense that man has free will, he is 'able' to respond positively to God. But, when one considers the fact that natural man hates God, they are 'unable' to freely respond positively to God. So, the 'inability' is not in the fact that man lacks the faculty to respond positively to God, the 'inability' is purely in the fact that man's free will combined with his hatred of God does not enable him to ever freely respond positively to God.

    If a man can respond positively to God then either the man does not hate God, or else the choice was not a free one. Since the Cist holds that man both hates God and man has free will (defined properly), then the only logical conclusion is that man is 'unable' (in one sense only) to respond to God positively.

    If one objects that natural man hates God, the Cist can only respond with verses like the following:John 3:19-20"This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed."

    1co 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
     
    #10 dwmoeller1, Mar 3, 2007
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  11. dwmoeller1

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    If one understands correctly what is meant by 'inability' (not lacking the faculty, but instead lacking anything but hate to God and the truth), then verses I posted seem pretty clear to me. Why would you consider them not to be clear on the matter?
     
  12. dwmoeller1

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    "If left to himself". What do you mean by 'if left to himself? It seems you are agreeing that natural man, in himself, lacks the 'ability' to respond positively to God. You seem to be saying that it requires the outside action of the HS to give man this ability. Correct?
     
  13. johnp.

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    Hello Russell.

    I believe God never acts against His own nature, if we can call it that, but what is the nature of that nature?

    But that is exactly what Sovereignty does mean. Not that He goes against His own desires but that all of His desires come to pass by His immediate Hand.

    Why is it just for us to suffer for the sin of Adam? Because God said so? As whatever says, our sins are plenty enough but it isn't our sins that condemn us, Adam's did.

    Hello Skandelon.

    DT 29:2 Moses summoned all the Israelites and said to them:
    Your eyes have seen all that the LORD did in Egypt to Pharaoh, to all his officials and to all his land. 3 With your own eyes you saw those great trials, those miraculous signs and great wonders. 4 But to this day the LORD has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear. 5 During the forty years that I led you through the desert, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet. 6 You ate no bread and drank no wine or other fermented drink. I did this so that you might know that I am the LORD your God.

    But to this day the LORD has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear. God must give us the ability, ears that hear and eyes to see and a mind that understands because the sinful mind is at emnity with God and cannot.

    1Cor 1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
    2 Cor 4:3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.

    There is a deficiency in us.

    john.
     
  14. dwmoeller1

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    They why does Scripture say that God cannot lie, cannot sin. That would make it sound as if God is not able to do absolutely anything.

    Or, how about logical absurdities?: Can God make a round square?

    Why is it just for us to suffer for the sin of Adam? Because God said so? As whatever says, our sins are plenty enough but it isn't our sins that condemn us, Adam's did.

    Where does Scripture say that Adams sin condemns us?
     
  15. johnp.

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    Hello dwmoeller.

    God can't sin because God is not under law and no one can prove God is Almighty by proving He can sin, sin is a weakness. God can't lie I see in one way, that is that He cannot go against what He is. This doesn't reduce Sovereignty. Why would God need to lie? He does what He desires to do. He does use liars though, 1KI 22:23 "So now the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The LORD has decreed disaster for you."

    Or a better one, why can't He give choice to His creatures and still remain Sovereign?

    RO 5:18 Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men...

    john.
     
  16. dwmoeller1

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    You say, that God, being sovereign, can do anything, then you say "He cannot go against what He is." That seems contradictory to me. What am I missing? Can or cannot God do anything?

    It doesn't matter that He may or may not want to lie. That is a red herring. The point I bring out is that Scripture says God cannot. This would lead us to the conclusion that God cannot in fact do anything. There are things God cannot do.

    Or a better one, why can't He give choice to His creatures and still remain Sovereign?

    That is a paradox, not a logical absurdity. Paradoxs are resolved with greater understanding and perspective. Logical absurdities are simply logical absurdities. Can God make a round square?

    You forgot the second half of the verse :) If you are going to use this verse to conclude that all men are condemed for Adam's sin, then you must necessarily conclude that all men will be saved because of Christ's sacrifice.

    Also, the passage does not make the equation you assert. Condemnation for all men resulted from Adam's sin, yes, but this is not the logical equivalent of saying that all men are condemned *for* Adam's sin.
     
  17. Skandelon

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    You are committing the fallacy of non-sequitur: It goes like this.

    "The bible teaches we cannot fully obey all of God's moral code (i.e. Ten Commandments) thus, we must not be able to believe in the One who fulfilled those commandments for us."

    This is biblically unfounded in my opinion. Proof that we cannot fulfill the law is in no way proof that we are unable to trust in the One who fulfilled it in our stead. You must provide biblical support for such a belief.

    Additionally, God doesn't condemn men for not fulfilling the law, as you assert. He condemns us for rejecting his Son who fulfilled the law in our stead.
     
  18. russell55

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    His nature includes all of his attributes. One of them is justice. That means it's against his nature to condemn people without a just reason for it.


    Because there is some way in which Adam's sin results in us having guilt for sin on our account.

    Our own sin and guilt condemn us, whether it is sin that becomes ours because it was done by someone who was representing us at the time, or whether it is sin that we do ourselves.
     
  19. Skandelon

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    I understand that you are defining freedom as simply, "doing what one desires," however I think this simplicitic understanding falls short in addressing true free human agency. This can be shown by simply taking your defination of freedom and applying it to the choices of a dog.

    A dog chooses according his desires, right? Does that make it a free moral creature? No, of course not. It is an instinctive creature meaning it has an "[SIZE=-1]inborn pattern of behavior that is responsive to specific stimuli." Your definition of "free will" leaves no distinction between that which is an instictive response of a dog (afterall it is according to what the dog wants) and the free moral choices of men.

    Let me ask you a question. Suppose you lied to a friend yesterday at noon, could you have chosen to "not lie" given that all other circumstances were equal? Put another way, were you able to resist the temptation to lie?


    [/SIZE]
     
  20. johnp.

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    Hello dwmoeller.

    It's the same with the horse isn't it? The horse might have the equipment to eat meat but he has no desire to. If you concentrated on the desire instead then you would see that a horse cannot eat meat.

    I think I am saying that God doesn't behave in a way that He doesn't therefore He cannot do everything. :) Sovereignty is not decided on whether we can get Him to do the things we think He can or can't but He does behave consistantly with His own desires.
    'Can God make a thing too heavy for Him to lift' isn't valid. It is contradictory and God is never contradictory. Same goes for a round square.

    God cannot do those things that stem from weakness. Do you want to prove that God cannot do something to show His weakness and by that to prove that God is weak because He is too powerful to lie? (Does that make sense?)

    Paradox is a word to use when one cannot resolve a dilemma. Mystery was left behind with the lady of the night in Babylon.

    I did not.

    I do not. And I'll give you another, Rom 11:32 For God has bound all men over to disobedience...

    john.
     

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