Total Inability in the Gospel of John

Discussion in 'Calvinism & Arminianism Debate' started by Reformed, Feb 4, 2018.

  1. Reformed Well-Known Member
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    The Westminster Dictionary of Theological terms defines total inability as the view that because of their sinfulness, humans are not able to perform any action that will lead to their salvation. God must take the initiative to give the gift of faith and repentance. Total inability does not mean that man has zero spiritual inclinations or yearnings or that he cannot understand spiritual and theological concepts. Total inability affects the sinner's ability to understand and appropriate the spiritual reality of the Gospel. I am using the term "appropriate" to describe the salvific work of the Gospel, not just cognition.

    Before I dive into some interesting passages in John's gospel, I want to address the misunderstanding by some Synergists as to the human response to the Gospel. The accusation has been made that Monergists do not believe that a sinner can seek God prior to coming to faith in Christ. That accusation is partly true, but it needs clarification. Monergists believe that sinners cannot come to faith in Christ without the Holy Spirit doing an initial work. Faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). The ability to hear comes from the work of the Holy Spirit. It is not a natural inherent ability that sinners possess. This is an important distinction to make, as I believe we will see in John's gospel. Mongergists do believe that sinners can and do seek God, but they do so because the Holy Spirit is at work in their lives. This work of the Holy Spirit is effectual; which means that it will always result in the justification by faith of the sinner who is the subject of the Spirit's work. This is different than the sinner who supposedly seeks without believing. The rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-30) was such a person. He sought eternal life but not according to the work of the Spirit. He wanted eternal life as a wage due him for his obedience to the Law. Contrast the rich young ruler's response to Jesus compared to Zaccheus (Luke 19:1-10) who sought Jesus with Spirit-given faith and repentance.

    There are two passages in John's gospel that I want to look at. The first is John 3 and the account of Jesus and Nicodemus. In John 3:3 Jesus says to Nicodemus, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." The actual Greek rendering means to be born from above, but even that was lost on Nicodemus. Nicodemus was listening to Jesus with natural hearing, not spiritual hearing. His response was, "How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?" In verse 5 Jesus had to tell Nicodemus plainly that He was speaking in spiritual terms, not physical terms, "unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God". Even though Jesus explained this spiritual truth, Nicodemus still did not understand it. He responds with, "How can these things be?" Jesus cut Nicodemus down to size when he said, "Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?" Nicodemus was a Pharisee, one of the most learned Jews of his time. He was an expert in the Law, but all his knowledge was for naught because it did not proceed from faith. At this point in his life, Nicodemus was a natural or carnal man. He is aptly described in 1 Corinthians 2:14 when it states that the natural man cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God.

    In John 8, Jesus was talking with some of the Jews. The Jews insulted Jesus by accusing Him of being born of fornication. They claimed that God was their Father. Jesus responded by saying in John 8:42, "If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me." Jesus then asks a rhetorical question in verse 43, "Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word." The Jews were not hard of hearing. Their physical ears worked just fine. However, their spiritual ears were dead to the things of God. Jesus goes on to say to them in verse 44, "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father." This is very similar to what Paul would write in Ephesians 2:1-2, "1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience." Paul told the Ephesian believers that before they came to faith in Christ they "walked" according to the course of this world. He did not say that in their spiritual deadness that they did nothing; it was just their spiritual bent was towards the devil and not God. They were in bondage to sin and not alive to righteousness. Further down in John 8:47, Jesus says to the Jews, "He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God." Sinners are not of God. Left in their sinful state they cannot hear the words of God. Yes. They may read them or audibly hear them, but they are not met with faith. That type of hearing is only possible through the work of the Holy Spirit, and it always results in a sinner being converted.
     
  2. Revmitchell Well-Known Member
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    In john ch 3 Jesus was dealing with the idea that Jews were saved based on the fact that they were Jews rather than born again. In other words they thought that they were saved because of the "flesh" birth as Jew or children of Abraham. This was clear not only in John 3 but Matt 3:9, John 8:33. Let's not turn that into some Calvinist thing. Talk about making it hard to take someone seriously.
     
  3. BobRyan Well-Known Member

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    John 12:32 "I will draw ALL mankind to Me"
    So while it is true that lost sinner without any work of God at all -- is not drawn... cannot repent or come to faith.

    It is NOT true that God failed to draw all.
    John 16 "The Holy Spirit convicts the WORLD of sin and righteousness and judgment"

    The problem with Calvinism is that it insists that God is not doing what He says He is doing
     
  4. thatbrian Well-Known Member
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    The problem is that you insist on a simplistic and literalistic interpretation which prevents you from comprehending what is actually being said.

    Mark 1:5 "And there went out to him ALL the land of Judea, and they of Jerusalem and were ALL baptized in the river Jordan"

    Were all people, without exception, baptized?

    John 8:2 "And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and ALL the people came unto him; and he sat down and taught them."

    Acts 22:15 "For thou (Paul) shalt be a witness unto ALL men of what thou hast seen or heard."

    Has Paul spoken to every person, without exception?

    Luke 23:18-19 And they all cried out at once, saying, "Away with this [Man], and release to us Barabbas" (19) who had been thrown into prison for a certain rebellion made in the city, and for murder.
     
  5. HankD Well-Known Member
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    Each "ALL" must be determined in its context.

    Therein lies the problem.

    John 3:16 ??

    HankD
     
  6. Yeshua1 Well-Known Member
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    NONE seek after the true God, none seeking after the ways of the Lord, nor His Messiah!
     
  7. thatbrian Well-Known Member
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    That's what we do when we speak to each other, isn't it? If I tell you that I was waiting in line at the DMV, "all day, you don't think I was there from 12:00 AM to 11:59:59 PM, do you?

    Regarding John 3:16, Calvinists love that text, as we do all others. We also use scripture to interpret scripture. For instance, look at John 3:16 and John 6:44 together, and what you find is that no one is "willing" to do what John 3:16 invites. He must be first made willing by God.
     
  8. HankD Well-Known Member
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    Here in Washington State - Maybe.

    And OBTW
    The devotee of Calvin - yes, he says the sinner must be made "willing", the devotee of Arminus would say "after he is made willing he must accept".


    HankD
     
  9. thatbrian Well-Known Member
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    Washington State? That explains a few things. . .

    BTW, Calvinists believe that men must respond, too.
     
  10. HankD Well-Known Member
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    Yes but the Arminius follower believes the response can be yes or no.

    HankD
     
  11. thatbrian Well-Known Member
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    So do Calvinists. Many people reject the outward call of the gospel.
     
  12. HankD Well-Known Member
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    OK there is no difference. EOS.
     
  13. thatbrian Well-Known Member
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    There is a vast difference. You just don't understand the DoG, like most who are critical of them.
     
  14. HankD Well-Known Member
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    Ya I'm a dummy.

    HankD
     
  15. Reformed Well-Known Member
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    Hank, you are no dummy. You are a good guy. Actually, you are one of the people on the BB I enjoy engaging with.

    Have a blessed day.
     
  16. SheepWhisperer Active Member

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    Yes

    no

    The Bible does not say that. The Bible DOES say that "he went away sorrowful......."
    In another account, the governor Felix, "reasoned of temperance, righteousness, and judgment to come" and the Bible says that he "trembled". The work of the Holy Spirit is to "convince the world of sin, righteousness and judgement". Therefore this account indicates that the Holy Spirit was at work here, But was not "effectual" because Felix chose to put it off.
     
  17. The Archangel Well-Known Member

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    But the Bible doesn't just leave it at "sorrowful" either. The issue with the rich young ruler is that he prized his possessions more than anything else (hence the "for" in most of the gospel accounts). He went away sorrowful precisely because he could not part with his possessions--they were his "god."

    If the Spirit had His way with this man, he would prize Christ more than anything else. We see that in the balance of the New Testament, especially in Paul in Philippians.

    Reformed is correct that the rich young ruler was seeking eternal life, and that he was seeking eternal life by the works of the Law. He did not delight in God nor the things of God. As is made clear by his sorrowful departure, he delighted in himself and dutifully (rather than delightfully) followed the Law so that God would give him eternal life. In the end, he wanted his stuff more than Christ--a clear sign of being un-regenerate.

    Blessings,

    The Archangel
     
  18. SheepWhisperer Active Member

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    Yes, it was about his possessions, I know that. But he was still in a dilemma even as he left the scene. The Bible tells us "he went away sorrowful" for a reason. And when the disciples asked "who then can be saved", Jesus told them "with God all things are possible" indicating there was still hope for "rich men", including this guy. My point was; the rich young ruler rejected and walked away from the very presence, direct words, and invitation, of Almighty God, to be saved. I mean, how many of you have had God Himself SPEAK directly to you, telling you how to have eternal life? Wait a minute!! God Himself loved this guy(according to the scripture)!! Why would Jesus(God) love somebody but "choose" not to "enable" him? And my point there, is God does love people but He doesn't "enable" people to believe: He 'draws" them by his word and His Holy Spirit but it is THEY who either believe on Him or reject.
     
  19. The Archangel Well-Known Member

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    Nothing here is drawn from the passage at hand, except your allusions to the passage. And, since you're going outside of the passage and arguing from your presuppositions, I must ask what you do when you encounter this different passage: And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed (Acts 13:48 ESV)

    The reason I bring this up is this: If you're correct in your explanation of the rich young ruler, this passage from Acts shouldn't be in the Bible at all.

    Blessings,

    The Archangel
     
  20. Yeshua1 Well-Known Member
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    The sinful nature will always reject coming to God thru the Cross of Christ, as there is no way to boast in that method! Human pride thing...