The total inability of the Gospel

Discussion in 'Calvinism/Arminianism Debate' started by Skandelon, Nov 24, 2013.

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  1. Skandelon

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    Calvinism teaches that man's nature is totally unable to respond willingly even to the powerful Holy Spirit inspired gospel truth, yet they claim to still support the concept of human responsibility. How one can be unable to respond, but yet deemed response-able seems contradictory, to say the least. Do we define "responsible" as, "being punished for something you for which you are not response able?"

    I contend that what Calvinism is actually saying is that the gospel has total inability. The gospel is weaker than the fallen nature of man. The gospel, which is produced, inspired and carried by the Holy Spirit, is insufficient to enable a response.

    See, its not just about the nature of man being totally unable, its about the WORD of God being unable to enable a response. So, Calvinists can spend all day attempting to show us what we all already know, that men need divine assistance, but can they produce even one text which teaches that the gospel is not sufficient in providing that needed assistance by enabling a response?
     
  2. Reformed

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    Skan,

    Can you help me a bit before I engage? I am not sure why you believe Calvinism believes in the total inability of the Gospel. Can you provide me with the exegetical basis for your claim?
     
  3. Skandelon

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    I'm attempting to show that our difference has less to do with what we believe about the nature of man, as we both affirm Original Sin and depravity. We both affirm man inherits the fallen nature.

    The REAL difference is our view of the gospel. I believe the gospel is powerful enough of an appeal to enable a fallen man to respond, which is why we are justly held response-able for our response to that revelation. Calvinists believe the gospel is powerless apart from the inward irresistible work of regeneration, thus meaning that everyone who hears the gospel apart from being regenerated have a perfectly legitimate excuse for their rejection of it.
     
  4. Revmitchell

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    That is a good point considering that Paul said:

    Rom 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
     
  5. Reformed

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    Okay. I understand what you are trying to do. I am looking for the scriptural basis for your position. It will help me in responding. Thanks in advance.
     
  6. Skandelon

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    Any text which refers to the power of the gospel, or the effectiveness of the Word of God would be supportive of my view. Also, just the common affirmation that God hold's men responsible for their response to the gospel message suggests that men are enabled to respond to it. The appeal (or even command) implies the ability to respond willingly. Only a clear and undeniable revelation from God would lead someone to deny such.

    Romans 1:16, Heb. 4:12, John 6:63, 1 Peter 1:22-25, John 12:46-50, Rom. 10:17,14; Is. 40:38; Is. 55:11 etc
     
  7. Skandelon

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    Mark 4 and Matt. 13, where Jesus teaches that he is hiding the truth in parables from the Jewish leaders of that day so as to prevent them from believing and being forgiven, suggests that that the truth spoken clearly COULD lead to faith and healing. Jesus was intentionally hiding this truth from them to provide redemption for the world.
     
  8. quantumfaith

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    :applause::applause::applause:

    Now this is the posture one should use when engaging in debate. Thanks and I hope this example continues, regardless of how distinct the differences might be.
     
  9. Skandelon

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    I agree completely. Reformed has been very cordial and Christlike in all of his discussions with me thus far. It is very refreshing!
     
  10. Benjamin

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    Ahem :confused:....no such animal...

    Yes, I was going through your list. While I did it was with my Calvie glasses on and a Calvie tricks my sleeve upon which I could turn each scripture away from the meaning of having Gospel power to "all" men. This is not difficult to do. The problem is that although you gave a great outline of a good logical argument the opponent will typically suggest the power of the Word is only speaking/enabling to the pre-elect.

    Result, you can go on forever about the genuineness of the call...but the C will say, I turn to the scripture and then he will interpret it to mean genuine to the elect, those with predestined ears to hear.

    Problem for the C, while he preaches the Gospel to all men, he does not believe it is applicable to all men. The C does not typically include this (little apparently insignificant point) in his gospel. I like to ask about the morality of not including this bit of info in the Gospel, I get many excuses, like that it not part of the Gospel. But I still think there is a moral dilemma in not telling the whole truth, for God is nothing but Truth. Why keep the secret??? As Rev said Rom 1:16.

    Frustrating is that you point to the logic of this argument forever, but it will be avoided. How? Well the C will tell you they go by the scriptures not man's logic. Oh, but they don't use logic when they read their presuppositions into it that the scriptures are speaking to the elect??? Try to pin them on this and they will take you in circles forever going back to the scriptures.

    ...and the saga continues...

    Yes, I agree too that he is typically very cordial, this is, until you try to forcibly pin him to his Determinist' logic. ;) Of course, they way one tries to pin could probably be improved upon and I would admit that I personally could do better at using a more gentle approach in doing so. I just haven't found a very good way yet to forcibly pin someone with gentleness if they refuse to be pinned. Problems, problems... :)
     
    #10 Benjamin, Nov 24, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 24, 2013
  11. Skandelon

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    Oops. Added a "3" for some reason... 40:8 is what I meant...
     
  12. Reformed

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    Skan,

    I am not ignoring what you have to say. I certainly do see its logic. But logic must also be tied to the clear teaching of Scripture. I must weigh every teaching against the Word of God. If it passes that test then so be it.

    Let me add that although you were thorough in posting scriptures, that is not exactly exegesis. I would much rather take a specific text and unpack it. What does that passage have to say to us within its context? For example, you cite Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." You believe this verse provides equal access to the Gospel to all who hear it. A person does not have to be regenerated prior to being able to exercise faith (believe). I look at this passage and praise God that the Gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. When I preach the Gospel, I preach it as though everyone who hears it is able to respond. I do not qualify the hearer to check whether or not they are elect. But while I believe that the Gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, I also know that only those whom the Father has called will believe it (Eph. 1:4, 5). I also know that the unregenerate sinner is incapable of saving faith while still in his sin (Rom. 8:7; 1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 2:1; Col. 2:13).

    Hebrews 4:12 describes the function of the Word of God, not the ability of man to believe the Gospel. I am not sure why you cited this passage.

    You cite John 6:63. I assume you cite it in defense of the individual being able to respond to the Spirit who gives life. But two verses later we read these words:

    John 6:65 And He was saying, "For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to me unless it has been granted him from the Father." The elect are chosen by the Father and given to the Son.

    John 6:37 "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out."

    1 Peter 1:22-25 is written to believers. Any appeal made in this passage is made to those who already have the Spirit.

    Again, John 12:46-50 must be balanced by earlier passages such as John 6:37, 35.

    Romans 10:9-17 I hope you do not mind that I expanded the passage you cited to include these additional verses. I would say "Amen!" to the promise contained in this passage. "Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved." But Skan, here is the rub. Once again we are left with a passage that stands alone. When faced with the myriad of other passages that point to man's inability, and the Father giving the elect to the Son, they color inside the lines. It does not negatively effect how the Calvinist preacher proclaims the Gospel. I have already gone on record stating that I preach the Gospel to all, as if all are able to believe. When I preach I am just part of the means God uses to proclaim the good news. Nothing more.

    Isaiah 40:8 expresses the truth of the eternality of the Word of God. Great truth but I am not sure how that fits into this discussion.

    Isaiah 55:11 states that God's will of decree, His purpose, will be accomplished. Again, a fantastic truth, but how does not fit into our discussion?
     
  13. Reformed

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    Skan, please believe me when I say that I will make every effort to continue our discussions in a manner befitting a child of God. That does not mean that either one of us should be afraid to speak the truth as we see it. Sometimes that means being a bit blunt. Such is the manner of debate. But I have been guilty of getting personal in my past debates. As a minister of the Gospel I am appalled when I read some of my old posts. I have not always been Christ-like and I have repented of that. The fact that others have noticed a change in my behavior is a testimony to God. Soli Deo Gloria!
     
  14. Skandelon

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    Agreed. But there are plenty of those provided from much smarter commentators than I am and I imagine you are well educated enough to have read many of them...or at least have the capacity to look them up if you were unfamiliar with my perspective.

    It seems strange to me to suggest that a sinner in need of reconciliation is unable to respond to God's appeal to be reconciled because he is not yet reconciled. Isn't that kind of like saying that the recently found cure for cancer is unable to cure those with cancer because they have cancer?

    Again, it speaks to the power and sufficiency of the Word, something Calvinist's deny. The power for the Calvinist is in the irresistible work of regeneration, not the Word.

    Jesus acknowledges that the very words that he speaks have great significance...they are 'spirit and life.'
    The context is the same as Mark 4 or Matt. 13, where Jesus is hiding the truth in parables to prevent the Jewish leaders from believing and being healed. The Jews (with the exception of a preselected few) are being hardened/blinded in their rebellion so as to accomplish the crucifixion.

    Jesus tells us exactly why his audience is wasn't enabled to believe in John 12:39-41 and it has nothing to do with their inborn depraved nature. It has to do with their being hardened by God. Paul explains this in Romans 11, as the Jews are being 'cut off' and the Gentiles are being 'grafted in.'

    It is not until the gospel is commissioned and sent to all the world, after Christ is raised up, that He draws all men to himself. God's means of enabling/drawing mankind is the Gospel.

    Most of scripture would be addressed to the church, the point of this passage was to show the means by which we have been born again..."For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. ...And this is the word that was preached to you."

    See, it says we are born again THROUGH the word that was preached. The Word is the means by which God enables faith.

    I'm not sure how that answers the teaching of Jesus which teaches that we are judged by the very word of God. This is to show that we are held RESPONSIBLE for the gospel truth, which certainly implies we are response-able to the gospel truth.

    I John 17 Jesus speaks of his apostles being given to him and then later he prays for those who might believe through their message. I believe the concept of being individually chosen and given to the Messiah in the flesh while he was here on earth is unique to the Apostles, and in fact is what gives them their authority.

    Again, the power for the Calvinist seems to rest in the inward work of regeneration, not God's Word. These verses serve to show that the Word, the spoken Word of God, has power and can enable response. The truth will set you free! Faith comes by hearing the Word.
     
  15. Reformed

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    No doubt there are men who are our betters on both sides of the debate. I borrow the phrase, "I stand on the shoulders of giants". But I believe it is important that we exegete the Word for ourselves; especially in a message board venue where our words may influence others.

    I do not know why this should appear strange to you. The Reformed view of regeneration has been well-stated on this board ad infinitum, ad nauseaum. Now, I can understand why you would disagree with it. I hate to keep going back to Rom. 8:7; 1 Cor. 2:14; and Eph. 2:1 but they are bedrock verses that attest to the fact that sinful man is not able to understand the things of the Spirit of God. Unless God makes the first move no man can believe.

    Perhaps part of the strangeness you refer to has to do with your view of equity? Many Arminians believe that God must give each person an equal chance to hear and respond to the Gospel. In other words God must be fair. But the truth is that God is not equitable or fair; at least not in human terms. God is not beholding to anyone.

    I STRONGLY disagree with this. The framers of the 1689 Second London Baptist Confession of Faith wrote:

    No one is saved without the preaching of the Gospel, i.e. the Word of God. It is the Holy Spirit that regenerates the dead sinner allowing him to believe the words of life. Regeneration and the preaching of the Gospel, through the Word, are inexorably linked.

    We are generally in agreement here, although we differ in our respective conclusions in respect to man's ability.

    You are conflating means (God hardening) with the fact that the sinner is unwilling and unable to believe apart from divine action (1 Cor. 2:14; Rom. 8:7).

    If by "until the Gospel is commissioned" you mean at Pentecost, then we are agreed.

    If that was your point, the sufficiency of Scripture in salvation, that we are agreed. That has never been a point of contention for Calvinists. In fact it is embedded in Dordt's credo of Sola Scriptura.

    See my last comment.

    Take away the constructed word "response-able" and we are in agreement. There is side of me, specifically the "pull yourself up from your bootstraps" American side, that would love to be able to say I was "response-able" in regards to the Gospel. It would put me in charge. It would become my decision as to whether I would believe in Christ. God would be on the sidelines rooting for me, but ultimately it would come down to whether I was willing to believe. But I cannot get away from 1 Cor. 2:14; Rom. 8:7; Eph. 2:1; and Col. 2:13.

    We simply disagree. Yes. Christ called the Apostles. Yes. He commissioned them and gave them authority. But effectual calling was not limited to the Apostles. The Samaritan Woman, the Roman Centurion, Zacchaeus et. al are examples of individuals chosen during Christ's first advent.

    I have already strongly objected to this statement and sufficiently dealt with it earlier in this post.
     
    #15 Reformed, Nov 25, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 25, 2013
  16. Skandelon

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    I agree, and if we want to unpack any particular passage, that is fine. But for the sake of brevity in a discourse that is already becoming novel-like I feel it is okay to appeal to the 'giants' at times. :)

    I didn't mean strange as in 'new,' but as in 'it doesn't make common sense,' and thus needs to be WELL established in the text to accept it as truth. I realize Calvinists feel that it has been well established, but obviously I disagree.

    Maybe these are verses we should unpack individually because what is interesting about these passage is that not one of them even mentions the gospel, yet they are the most used passages as proof text for the concept that the gospel is insufficient to enable a response.

    I think we tend to forget that these authors, the inspired apostles, who are pinning the very words being plucked from their context ARE discerning for the rest of us the 'deep things of the Spirit' as they write the very Word of God.

    Think about that for a second. To take a text where the Spirit of God is explaining his mysteries through an inspired vessel (like Paul) and conclude that people are not able to understand what he is discerning for them because it requires a work of the Holy Spirit is kind of like saying during a flood, "No, rescue crew, go on without me, I'm depending on God to rescue me." Could it not be that God is working through the people to rescue you? Could it be that God is working to enable men to respond through the very means that you claim are not sufficient to enable a response?

    For the sake of brevity, I'll stop here for now...
     
  17. Skandelon

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    I meant to say that Calvinists deny the sufficiency of the Word apart from an additional work of Regeneration.

    The Word is a powerful work of the Holy Spirit
    and
    Regeneration is a powerful work of the Holy Spirit.

    You believe BOTH powerful works of the Holy Spirit are necessary to enable a response, even though men who are never regenerated are still held RESPONSE-ABLE by God.

    I believe that men who hear the Word have NO EXCUSE for their rejection of it. I believe they are trading the truth in for lies and stand completely without any excuse whatsoever. They can't say, for example, "I wasn't granted the ability to respond...or God made me unable to hear, see, understand or turn....or God hated me...or I wasn't chosen...or I was not given what was necessary to respond." That is NOT BIBLICAL. They stand condemned for their unbelief in the face of God's CLEAR call, command, appeal or whatever you want to call His divine revelation.

    Neither of those verses you list mention the gospel call or the ability of man to believe it. Secondly, why do you assume I believe a sinner could be willing and able 'apart from divine action' when the gospel call itself is a powerful divine act? That is my point. You don't seem to acknowledge that the gospel, and everything that goes with it, IS God's initiative and it is perfectly sufficient to enable a response.

    Again, it is sufficient for the elect who have been regenerated, but not all. That is the difference. The POWER in your system is the inward working, not the outward means of the gospel appeal. I believe God regularly works through means to bring inward provoking of the will and change. Like when Jonah's will had to be convinced to go to Ninveh...God didn't use an inward irresistible means to supernaturally change his desires, but instead He used a storm and a big fish (circumstances). God works through means to bring about his desires, but these means aren't always effectual. They can be resisted and for that we are held responsible.
     
  18. Yeshua1

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    the Holy Spirit MUST do His work to open the eyes/ears/hearts of sinners, for the natural man receives not the things of the Lord, for they cannot understand and grasped what is really being said/meant apart from the Holy spirit making them understand with hearing and believing!

    the Gospel is indded the power of God to salvation, and it accomplished its task among the Elect to receive it!
     
  19. Skandelon

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    How can you conclude that someone being confronted by the Holy Spirit wrought, inspired truth of God's Holy Word is "apart from the Holy Spirit?"

    We all agree that no one can understand or be believe divine mysteries a part from a work of the Holy Spirit, but you all seem to assume that His work in producing, preserving and proclaiming the WORD isn't actually a WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT!!!
     
  20. Yeshua1

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    the Bible is just another book to a sinner, until the Holy Spirit quickens him to read/hear with understanding, and turn to jesus and be saved!

    I heard Billy graham preach many crusades while a teenager, but not until college one night did He make me understand 'what it all meant!"
     
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