The parable of the sower and the soils is found in Matthew 13, Mark 4, and Luke 8. There is some disagreement about what types of people the four soils represent. I’d like to get your opinions on three possible interpretations. I’ll give mine. 1. The five-point Arminian view The five-point Arminians believe the rocky and thorny soils represent Christians who lose their salvation. It is true that the people represented by the rocky soil receive the word with joy (Matthew 13:20; Mark 4:16), and “they believe for a while” (Luke 8:13). This “belief” seems to have been mere assent rather than a true surrender in repentance and faith. Their assent was similar to that mentioned by James (James 2:14, 17, 19) in regard to non-Christians and demons, and it was also similar to that mentioned by Luke in regard to Simon Magus (Acts 8:13) who believed and was baptized but remained unsaved. There are two indications that the people represented by the rocky soil and thorny soil never made a true commitment. First, the people represented by the rocky soil are initially described as having “no root” (Matthew 13:6; Mark 4:6), and they are later described as having “no firm root” (Matthew 13:21; Mark 4:17; Luke 8:13). In contrast, Christians are described in Colossians 2:7 as “having been firmly rooted,” and they are described in Ephesians 3:17 as being “rooted and grounded in love.” Second, the person represented by the thorny soil is described as becoming unfruitful as the word is gradually choked (Matthew 13:22). We learn in Luke 8:14 that these “thorny soil” people “bring no fruit to maturity.” All true Christians produce good fruit: “Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit” (Matthew 7:17). In the parable, only the people represented by the good soil produce good fruit: “And the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance” (Luke 8:15). 2. The five-point Calvinist view Many five-point Calvinists believe the rocky and thorny soils represent people who experience common grace rather then special, regenerating grace. John Calvin in a comment on Hebrews 6:6 said that common grace rather than regenerating grace was applied to the lost: “But the apostle is not talking here about theft, or perjury, or murder, or drunkenness or adultery. He is referring to a complete falling away from the Gospel, not one in which the sinner has offended God in some one point only, but in which he has utterly renounced His grace. [. . .] Now there arises from this a new question, as to how it can be that one who has once arrived at this point can afterwards fall away. [. . .] My answer is this, that God certainly bestows His Spirit of regeneration only on the elect, and that they are distinguished from the reprobate in the fact that they are re-made in His image, and they receive the earnest of the Spirit in the hope of an inheritance to come, and by the same Spirit the Gospel is sealed in their hearts. But I do not see that this is any reason why He should not touch the reprobate with a taste of His grace, or illumine their minds with some glimmerings of His light, or affect them with some sense of His goodness, or to some extent engrave His Word in their hearts. Otherwise where would be that passing faith which Mark mentions (4.17)? [. . .] Such men are deprived, as they deserve, of the Spirit of God, and are given over to a reprobate mind, so that they are delivered to the devil and go on rushing to their doom. Thus it comes about that they do not cease from adding one sin to another until they are so hardened that they despise God or rail at Him in furious hate like men in despair.” (John Calvin, “The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews,” trans. William B. Johnston, Calvin’s Commentaries, ed. David W. Torrance and Thomas F. Torrance, pages 74-77) It is true that the people represented by the good soil are the only ones who are mentioned as understanding the word. It is also true, however, that the people represented by the soil beside the road are the only ones who are mentioned as not understanding the word, and thus they are not able to “believe and be saved” (Luke 8:12). The people represented by the rocky soil receive (Greek “dechomai”) the word and believe (Luke 8:13), and thus there is a clear indication that they are able to spiritually understand the word. Many five-point Calvinists interpret John 3:3 as meaning a non-Christian cannot “see” (spiritually understand) the kingdom until he is regenerated. Jesus used the word “dechomai” in Mark 10:15 to discuss the receptivity of children: “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it at all.” James Brooks, a former professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, discussed this verse: “Note that the kingdom is both to be received and entered—two ideas that stand side by side throughout the Bible. The blessings of the kingdom are to be received as a gift, yet we enter the kingdom through responsive faith and obedience.” (James Brooks, "Mark," The New American Commentary, page 160) The “rocky soil” people received the word but did not enter the kingdom. The “rocky and thorny soil” people “profess to know God” (Titus 1:15-16), and indeed they have “known the way of righteousness” but “turn away” (2 Peter 2:21) as Judas Iscariot did. 3. The modified (three-point Calvinist, two-point Arminian; TUP) view Like the five-point Calvinist view, this view recognizes that only the good soil represents true Christians. Unlike the five-point Calvinist view, this view interprets the rocky and thorny soils as people who experience the special, illuminating conviction of the Holy Spirit but do not make an ultimate, final decision to surrender to Christ in repentance and faith. Notice the difference between the rocky soil and good soil in the following verses: Matthew 13:20 – rocky soil receives (lambano) Matthew 13:23 – good soil understands (suneimi) Mark 4:16 – rocky soil receives (lambano) Mark 4:20 – good soil accepts (paradexomai) Luke 8:13 – rocky soil receives (dexomai) Luke 8:15 – good soil holds it fast (katexo) Mark said that the people represented by the good soil “hear the word and accept it, and bear fruit” (Mark 4:20). The word accept (paradechomai in Greek) is used in Mark 4:20. The same word is also used in Acts 22:18: “And I saw Him saying to me, ‘Make haste, and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about Me.’” The Complete Word Study New Testament has the following entry for paradechomai in relation to Mark 4:20: “To receive, embrace with assent and obedience (Mark 4:20, Acts 22:18.” (Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study New Testament, Chattanooga, Tennessee: AMG Publishers, 1991, page 944) In contrast, the word “receive” (lambano in Greek) is used to describe the non-Christians who hear the word and receive it with joy (Matthew 13:20; Mark 4:16) for a temporary period of time. Thus, Mark used two different Greek words to contrast the good soil’s acceptance of the word and the rocky soil’s reception of the word. The same lexicon mentioned above has this comment for “lambano”: “To take in whatever manner. Almost syn. with dechomai (1209), to take or receive, and yet distinct from it in that lambano sometimes means to receive as merely a self-prompted action without necessarily signifying a favorable reception (Gal. 2:6).” (Ibid., page 931) In fact, the word “dechomai” is used to describe the rocky soil’s reception in Luke 8:13. The elect will eventually accept the word with obedience, but the non-elect will never accept it in that sense. We can say that the “rocky and thorny soil” people in the parable were hesitating between two opinions (1 Kings 18:21), and they did not want to make an ultimate, final decision to surrender to Jesus in repentance and faith. Thus, it appears that the people represented by the rocky and thorny soils experienced special grace, not common grace. In the modified view, regeneration comes after conversion (faith/repentance) rather than before it. The special, illuminating conviction of the Holy Spirit temporarily counteracts the effects of total depravity so that the non-Christian can make an ultimate, final choice with true free will. I think the modified view best explains the passage. Any comments?