Unable/Unwilling

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by JonC δοῦλος, Dec 13, 2014.

  1. JonC

    JonC
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    I’ve been studying the doctrine that man will not believe on their own (apart from God). I know that this is not a Calvinistic distinctive as Arminianism also holds to this belief (as does other non-Calvinistic camps) so I am not posting in the Cal/Arm area…but I don’t mind it being moved to pacify the hyper-sensitive.

    My question regards the inability of man to choose God. Reading Scripture I see many passages showing where man is unwilling (unwilling, stiff-necked, rebellious, etc....typically a result of an unwillingness) but the closest I can see from unable is the statement that the lost are spiritually dead (which goes more with being blind, deaf, hardened, etc). Are there any passages that specifically states that men are unable….that the failure of the lost is a failure in ability rather than willingness?
     
    #1 JonC, Dec 13, 2014
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  2. DHK

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    No, and that is why the "Total Inability" of Calvinism is wrong.

    God commands all men to repent, Paul said to the Athenian pagan idolaters who had never heard the gospel before. Now they heard. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. They had the choice before them. Repent and put your faith in God, or reject him. Some were willing and others not.

    Look unto me all the ends of the earth.

    Whosoever will shall come.

    For God so loved the world...

    There is not one individual in this world that the Lord would refuse if he or she should come to the Lord.
     
  3. Iconoclast

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    yes the starters Romans 8 7 1 Corinthians 2:14 ....there are many more
    the carnal mind cannot the natural man cannot in 6:44 no man can
     
    #3 Iconoclast, Dec 13, 2014
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  4. JamesL

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    The biggest flaw on both sides of the vicious debate...

    Is the erroneous idea that there is a choice to make. And the choice is usually not portrayed as a decision to believe the gospel. Rather, it is ambiguously relegated to choosing "God" or choosing "Christ"

    However, when the nuts and bolts are laid bare, the "choice" boils down to obedience, commitment, and other forms of works.

    Scripture states plainly that faith comes by hearing the word of God preached, and that we are born again by the word that is preached. That God desires all to come to a knowledge of the truth.

    Also, there isn't a single scripture aimed at an unbeliever calling for him to make a choice. But there are those which say plainly that some would not believe.

    Much like a flat earth adherent going up in a rocket, seeing the earth develop into a sphere. He would simply become convinced of the truth - passively.

    But if he was stubborn enough, he could resist the truth - actively.

    And that is exactly how scripture portrays the gospel. Passively received, actively rejected
     
  5. DHK

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    Classic Calvinism.
    How passive was Saul on the road to Damascus? So passive he will never remember that incident??
    What about the Ethiopian Eunuch, and why did he want to be baptized?
    What about the Philippian jailer who asked "what must I do to be saved?"
    The answer: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ."
    --It wasn't a passive belief, a mental assent. It was an active belief, from the heart--a belief that demanded change in his life. It was very active, for the belief (faith) had an object, and that object was Christ who changes all men who come to him.

    Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.
    The invitation is always to "come."

    There is a choice to make. Paul knew that these unsaved pagans were capable of making a choice when he said:
    [FONT=&quot]Acts 17:30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:[/FONT]
    --He wouldn't have given a command impossible for these idolaters to keep. It was their choice: to obey or not to obey. We all have that choice. We are not robots--the elect, pre-programmed to obey.
     
  6. JamesL

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    I wish you would either learn how to read, or learn how to be honest.

    Can you provide any quote from me espousing the nonsensical notion of mental assent? Wait, I'll answer that....no. you can't.

    so, since you didn't read it in anything I wrote, that only leaves the honesty issue to deal with.

    You ought to be ashamed of yourself, really
     
  7. JonC

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    I don’t see why Calvinism would be dependent on inability rather than unwillingness, but I agree that this often what is presented as Total Depravity. And this is not a Calvinistic issue (as I indicated, Arminians are among other non-Calvinists who believe that men will not or cannot come to God apart from the work of the Holy Spirit). In fact, it does appear to me that “inability” grants the lost a bit more sympathy and a bit less guilt than “unwillingness” would allow. My question is if there is support for inability over unwillingness…and so far I tend to agree with you that there is not.
    In Romans 8:7, Paul has already described people who “set their minds on the things of the flesh” and goes on to say that not only do they refuse to submit to God’s law, but that they cannot keep it. Why? Paul has just told us in 8:5-6, they set their minds on the things of the flesh. This verse does not prove inability over unwillingness (although Paul also says that they are according to the flesh and so they set their minds on the flesh). This is the same with 1 Corinthians 2:14. The natural mind does not accept the things of the Spirit.
    I understand how you draw strength and support for your position through these verses, but (apart from predisposition) the passages that you provided do not prove inability over unwillingness. I guess my question to you is whether or not there is a passage that specifically states inability (I think we can all agree that there are passages that state an unwillingness).
    :thumbsup: Good post, James. I have never thought about it that way, but I agree with you. I’ll have to add this to my “keep up with” notes. The gospel is passively received, actively rejected.

    PS: DHK...he said passively received...not a passive belief.
     
    #7 JonC, Dec 13, 2014
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  8. DHK

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    Don't read into my post than is there. It is honest and straightforward. I used the term "mental assent" as you used the word "passive."
    But here is what you said before that:
    This is not true.
    The quote from Acts 11:30 makes this statement false.
    Acts 11:30 is a command to the Athenians to make a choice. The command is to repent. Now they must repent. They have the choice to obey the command or not to obey. What happened.

    [FONT=&quot]Acts 17:33 So Paul departed from among them.
    34 Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.[/FONT]
    --Certain believed, and it gives some of their names. The others did not.

    What was the attitude of the others?
    [FONT=&quot]Acts 17:32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.[/FONT]

    Some mocked him; others believed. They had a choice. They made their choice. Some rejected Christ; others believed. It was their choice.
    They weren't pre-programmed robots.

    Paul called on them to repent.
    He also told them that it was God who created all things, even having his hand in the course of history---why---
    [FONT=&quot]Acts 17:27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:[/FONT]
    --That they should seek the Lord.
    God created all things. He made them all, all men, of one blood. He, in his sovereignty allowed kings and kingdoms to be set up and torn down. He has had his hand in it all. They could look back and see the hand of God. All of this was so that they "should seek the Lord."
    And furthermore, "God is not far from every one of us."
    That statement in and of itself suggests that He is so near that He makes himself available for us to call upon him. He is merciful and gracious to us. And this is what Paul was teaching to the unsaved Athenians.
     
  9. Iconoclast

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    JonC

    Hello JonC

    You are not reading the passage correctly. Paul is contrasting The believer and the unbeliever.He does that in verses 5-6....not in 7-

    5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh;

    but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
    6 For to be carnally minded is death;


    but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
    Here is a clear contrast...there are only two men carnal/dead/flesh
    Spiritualand alive

    You have misread this--- one group[carnal fleshly minded} is contrasted...

    In verse 7-8 he focuses on the unsaved;
    he explains their total inability...and gives the exact reason;

    7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God:

    They hate God;
    http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0020.htm
    Spurgeon;
    There is no difficulty in understanding my text; it needs scarcely any explanation. We all know that the word "carnal" here signifies fleshly. The old translators rendered the passage thus; "The mind of the flesh is enmity against God"—that is to say, the natural mind, that soul which we inherit from our fathers, that which was born within us when our bodies were fashioned by God. The fleshly mind, the phronema sarkos, the lusts, the passions of the soul; it is this which has gone astray from God, and become enmity against him.

    But, before we enter upon a discussion of the doctrine of the text, observe how strongly the Apostle expresses it. "The carnal mind," he says, "is ENMITY against God." He uses a noun, and not an adjective. He does not say it is opposed to God merely, but it is positive enmity. It is not black, but blackness; it is not at enmity, but enmity itself; it is not corrupt, but corruption; it is not rebellious, it is rebellion; it is not wicked, it is wickedness itself. [/COLOR

    ]The heart, though it be deceitful, is positively deceit; it is evil in the concrete, sin in the essence; it is the distillation, the quintessence of all things that are vile; it is not envious against God, it is envy; it is not at enmity, it is actual enmity.
    Nor need we say a word to explain that it is "enmity against God." It does not charge manhood with an aversion merely to the dominion, laws, or doctrines of Jehovah; but it strikes a deeper and surer blow. It does not strike man upon the head; it penetrates into his heart; it lays the axe at the root of the tree, and pronounces him "enmity against God," against the person of the Godhead, against the Deity, against the mighty Maker of this world; not at enmity against his Bible or against his gospel, though that were true, but against God himself, against his essence, his existence, and his person. Let us, then, weigh the words of the text, for they are solemn words. They are well put together by that master of eloquence, Paul, and they were moreover, dictated by the Holy Spirit, who telleth man how to speak aright. May he help us to expound, as he has already given us the passage to explain.
    We shall be called upon to notice, this morning, first, the truthfulness of this assertion; secondly, the universality of the evil here complained of; thirdly, we will still further enter into the depths of the subject, and press it to your hearts, by showing the enormity of the evil; and after that, should we have time, we will deduce one or two doctrines from the general fact.



    for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.

    8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God

    sure it does...the word cannot...speaks to power or ability...


    You mis read again.....it does not say the natural mind does not accept....
    it says it does not have the power or ability to....it CANNOT.
    .

    if you look at the root words...it speaks of power..[dunamis, from which we get the English word dynamite]
    Study these passages out...it is the answer in part:thumbsup:
     
  10. convicted1

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    Go to John 11 and read about Jesus bringing Lazurus out from the tomb. Lazarus, of his own accord, or his own will, could not come out. He was dead. It took Jesus calling out to him, quickening him to then be able to come out from the grasp of the tomb. This is a natural event that speaks a Spiritual truth.


    Unless God calls out to the spiritually dead, they're still firmly grasp in sin's grip...
     
  11. JamesL

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    All you have to do is scour your scripture quotations, and underline any of the words choose, choice, chose, decide, decision, decided

    you provide an underlined quotation and you might have a case. Otherwise, you should acknowledge that you're reading into scripture what you want it to say.

    Scripture says that faith comes by hearing the word of God. I can quote and underline those EXACT words in scripture, and you cannot do the same to support your position

    See any difference there?

    Sola Scriptura or philosophy imposed upon scripture? I'll take the former
     
  12. DHK

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    That is not sola scriptura per se.
    I expounded the scripture for you, which is sola scriptura. I defended my position with other Scriptures. Remember that we are using one translation that has been translated from another language at least 1500 years or more after it was originally written. Different words could have been used in translation. But if it is only words that you are interested in, and not the meaning of the passage, not the actual exposition of the passage, then we can simply go to a concordance and find passages like:

    [FONT=&quot]Joshua 24:15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.[/FONT]

    [FONT=&quot]Isaiah 65:12 Therefore will I number you to the sword, and ye shall all bow down to the slaughter: because when I called, ye did not answer; when I spake, ye did not hear; but did evil before mine eyes, and did choose that wherein I delighted not.[/FONT]

    Joe 3:14 Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.

    [FONT=&quot]Judges 5:8 They chose new gods; then was war in the gates: was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel?[/FONT]
    --Isn't it interesting how Israel had the free will to depart from the worship of Jehovah and choose to worship new gods, committing idolatry. They can choose to worship Jehovah or commit idolatry.
    The unsaved can do the same thing, has the same choice. Paul put that choice before the Athenians. Some were saved and some were not.

    The statement in Acts 17 is clear:
    [FONT=&quot]Acts 17:34 Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed:
    They made that choice didn't they?
    [/FONT]
     
  13. JonC

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    Hi Iconoclast,

    Paul contrasts “those according to the flesh” with “those according to the Spirit.” I agree with you that this is ontological. Yes, Paul is contrasting the believer and the unbeliever. When I view verse 8 within the context of the entire passage, I still do not see it speaking to ability (by necessity, excluding willful disobedience) in terms of coming out of the flesh (they cannot please God because they are in the flesh….but we both agree on this).

    In the 1 Corinthians passage, I believe this speaks more to our discussion:

    1 Corinthians 2:16 For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ.
    Those who are not in Christ cannot understand the things of God. I agree with you here as well.

    When I was asking about unwillingness vs. inability, I did not mean ability to understand (1 Cor. 2:14) or the ability to please God while remaining in the flesh (Rom 8:7). What I mean is unwillingness rather than the inability to repent from the flesh.

    I understand that ontologically it can all be boiled down to those in the flesh cannot please God. But what I am asking for are verses that accuse those in rebellion for inability rather than unwillingness. Perhaps it isn’t a big issue, as Scripture at least says that none are righteous and all….as James points out….actively rebel against God. I still think that the doctrine inability, through emphasis, provides a reasonable excuse which is not present in Scripture. But I am open to being shown I’m wrong. Or perhaps I'm looking at inability vs. unwillingness when it may be both.
     
    #13 JonC, Dec 14, 2014
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  14. Van

    Van
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    It depends

    You may find where "inability or unable" is used to translate some Greek word in the dynamic equivalence versions, where the translators tell you what they think the thought was.

    However, if you stick with word for word translation philosophy versions, like the NASB95, you will not find support for total spiritual inability of all fallen men at all times.

    You will find "no one seeks God" which Calvinism reads as "no one seeks God at any time." However, plenty of verses teach fallen men do seek God with no mention of irresistible grace or enabling grace.

    In Matthew 13, the first soil is "unable" to hear or understand the gospel, but this does not refer to all men, i.e. the 2d, 3rd, and 4th soils.

    At 1 Cor. 2:14, we see fallen men are unable to understand "spiritual things." Calvinists again read this as "all spiritual things" but that is error, for in just a few verses, we see Paul speaking to new Christians "as men of flesh" for they can only understand milk. Obviously, then 1 Cor. 2:14 should be understood as indicating fallen men, lacking the indwelling of the Spirit, cannot understand "some spiritual things, i.e. spiritual meat.

    Finally, Calvinists understand being "in the flesh" as being fallen, unregenerate, but this is error as well. To be "in the flesh" is to set our minds on fleshly desires, and in that condition we are unable to please God. However, if fallen men set their minds on godly desires, then they can please God.
     
    #14 Van, Dec 14, 2014
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  15. JonC

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    I’ve not read those passages in other translations. Perhaps you are right (I’ve been using the NASB95). Even so, I do agree with the Calvinists on the point that no one seeks God, and that God draws men. But that’s another topic. I'm not sure why this automatically ends up as the world against the Calvinists...or vise versa.

    Good point. They are "unable" to hear because of the hardness of their hearts. Again, however, they have set their minds on the flesh because their natures are according to the flesh. Without the work of the Holy Spirit "conditioning" the soil, it will not receive the "seed." Their willful disobedience (their rejection of what is manifested of God) coincides with a hardened heart. My point being that their disobedience and rebellion is willful, not merely an outcome of their ontological makeup.


    Does it make sense what I am saying about unwillingness carrying more of a condemnation than inability? I can understand it either way, but I am more inclined towards James point. I understand those being saved as the Holy Spirit working in their lives (their hearts…wills/minds) towards a genuine belief. But I do think that we are naturally inclined to rely on our own righteousness. And those who say that men are unwilling, that they set their minds on the flesh (even through this “setting” is ontological), seem to be more in step with the biblical reasoning for their condemnation.
     
    #15 JonC, Dec 14, 2014
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  16. Iconoclast

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    go to Romans 8 9 and you get the answer actually 9 to 14 where Paul explains that anyone not having the Spirit of God is unable and unwilling you have to have the ability to will to do something to please God which they don't have because they don't have the Spirit of God
     
  17. DHK

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    Can an unsaved person pray to a holy God and his prayers be heard?
    I have heard many testimonies that go something like this: "God, if there is a God, reveal yourself to me."
    Now, that is mostly on the mission field where some Muslim or another has not had the chance to hear the gospel or the gospel message explained. And in some manner God has answered their prayer.
    I believe we have a Biblical example of that in the person of Cornelius.
    The Lord said to him: "Thy prayers have been heard." He wasn't saved.
     
  18. JonC

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    Yes. One's spiritual status does not effect God's hearing. If the unsaved person calls on the Lord (for salvation) he will be saved. It is, I believe, a matter of the will here. But without the work of the Spirit, the man will remain unwilling (except in a self-centered/ on man's "own terms" context).
     
  19. Van

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    So long as you agree you are adding to scripture fine. But since the addition (at any time) conflicts with Matthew 23:13 where unregenerate men were seeking God, I cannot see why you would agree.

    Again you are adding to scripture. Nothing in the Matthew 13 story says the second, third and forth soils were altered by enabling or irresistible grace. We agree that all fallen people are corrupt and predisposed to sin. But to add on and say this fallen condition makes them unable to seek God at any time is without foundation in scripture. There are more than a dozen examples of people coming to Christ seeking the righteousness of God, such as disciples, the rich young ruler and on and on. Doctrine should not be based on an argument from silence.

    Yes, unless we are responsible for our choices, good or bad, the appeal of the gospel is lost. If it is a forgone conclusion, then life is an illusion and we are just speaking our lines.

    The setting is not fixed, we can set our minds on fleshly desires, hence be "in the flesh" or we can set our minds on godly things, such as the righteousness of God.

    Bottom line, Total Spiritual Inability is a mistaken doctrine, created by selectively choosing parts of scripture and adding man-made spin.

    The rich young ruler was "dead" in sin, fallen, unregenerate but he believed in God and was seeking eternal life. Thus he was both willing and able to seek God.
     
  20. Van

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    One of the well know ways to try to deflect all the examples of fallen men seeking God is to say they were seeking God in the wrong way, and only if God enables them, will they seek God in the "right" way. However, lets look at Matthew 23:13 were fallen men were seeking God. Their effort was in the "right" way because they were actually "entering heaven." So the deflection fails. Bottom line, some fallen men do seek God some of the time is taught in scripture. And some of these choose to trust fully in Christ, i.e. the fourth soil.
     

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