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Drew

I agree with you whole heartedly.

However, I do have some concerns about what is not in the post.

I fear that many of your readers who believe in decision theology do so because they believe that the only other option is Calvinism, and so they will see you as teaching Limited Atonement and abolishing the Universal Atonment for all. This seems to abolish any reason for evangelism or any means by which evangelism can take place, and to be a full-fledged rejection of the teaching that God desires all to be saved and does not delight in the death of the wicked.

It seems that most people struggle with holding the paradoxal viewpoint - although Biblical - that we are both saved apart from anything from within ourselves and that yet God desires all to come to knowledge of the truth. It is like Luther is known for saying, most people are like a drunken man riding a horse - he falls off to one side, tries to pick himself up and right straight, only to fall over to the other side. For the benefit of drunks on both sides, it is important to make sure we reject both errors at the same time and hold the Biblical paradox as it stands, and end in the mystery of the Christian Faith. As Leo the Great noted, all the key aspects of our faith are ultimately mysteries, and so we ought to always find ourselves back in confusion whenever we ponder any controversial point, for it is precisely the unwillingness of our unbelieving hearts to let the mystery of the Faith remain mysterious that leads us into every error and heresy.

Therefore, it is important that the Biblical position is always indicated that 1) God desires all to come to knowledge of the truth and be converted, and 2) no man is converted of his own willing, but instead by the Word of God sowing/creating a willing faith in the heart of the unbeliever - and note that all FIVE of those mentioned in the Smalcald Articles (Baptism, Holy Communion, the Gospel Proclamation, Absolution, & the Conversation/Consolation of the Saints) are means by which the Word is sown and the faithful are nourished. If these aspects are not asserted simultaneously, we sound to most outside the orthodox doctrine to be either a Calvinist w/ Limited Atonement or an Arminian/Catholic/Pelagian with their willing oneself unto salvation. As we all know who are loyal to the Truth alone know, these extremes are both anti-Biblical and of the Lie, and therefore we ought not to give the Lie any power to take hold in the minds of the weak, lest they be led away and fail at the final hour.

Erica

Chris,
I agree with what you said however, personally I grew up with all those buzz words. They are fabricated into my being no matter how hard I try not to use them. How do you personally describe the moment you began a personal relationaship with Christ?

Steve Newell

Erica,

One doesn't start the relationship with Christ, Christ begins the relationship with the individual. We then respond to what Christ has done for us, in that he saves us. This is how it works. In my opinion, we should not look to a time the we "made a decision" by at the cross. Our assurance isn't based on what we do or did, but based on Christ's work on the Cross and the promises of God associated with Christ's work.

I cannot remember the date when my relationship with Christ started. I was properly an little child since I grew up hearing the Gospel and I believed it. Later on, I "accepted" Christ, but I have come to realize that I was already saved and I just did the thing that Baptist do (alter call). I only remember that I was in 3rd grade. To me, the date doesn't matter.

Chris Rosebrough

Erica,

Good to see you on the board. How are Joe and the kids?

This is a great question.

Ironically your question has a buzz phrase in it. That phrase is 'personal relationship with Christ'.

I would really want to unpack that phrase to know what you mean by it.

If you mean attending church, regularly receiving the Lord's supper, praying and reading my Bible as the fruits of faith and the sign of an interactive relationship with God then maybe that is how I would describe it.

Chris gave me faith. Christ accepted me. Christ gave me the Holy Spirit.

The fruit of that faith is God's sanctifying work displayed in humble fruit and good works.

Anastasia Theodoridis

But isn't it true that a gift is *offered* rather than *imposed*? Does a person not have the ability, once the gift is offered, to reject it?

Anastasia

Kelly

A person does have the ability to reject the gift, Anastasia. (Great name by the way!) It's Calvinism that teaches otherwise. As Drew said, there *are* other options besides Arminianism and Calvinism, though this seems to be a well-kept secret in most evangelical circles!

Quite a lot of people have a problem with the idea of God "imposing" his gift of salvation on people, as though it were somehow rude or unfair of him; as though he has no right to our lives. I beg to differ. First of all, God is not forcing something terrible on us-- he is saving us! Was Jesus wrong to force Lazarus from death back to life? Is it unfair for a man to save a drowning person and to pull him back to the ship even though that person is too incapacitated to "accept" the lifeline? We should view God's salvation this way instead of resenting it. If we are dead and lost, we need resurrection and saving.

Secondly, such talk of accepting a gift presumes that only adults receive gifts from God and can be saved. Get rid of the presupposition. You can give an infant a gift without them formally "accepting" it and saying thank you, can't you? The infant may reject the gift later, but they have no ability to appropriate it willfully in the first place, and we view that as being okay. Likewise, an adoptee does not choose its adoptive parents. It all depends on the grace and mercy of the ones taking care of the helpless one.

Anastasia Theodoridis

Thanks for the clear explanation with great examples.

I have no problem with God just simply bestowing something.

But if we still have the freedom to reject the gift when it is given, then we aren't really talking about imposing anything, are we? We can still accept the gift we are given or reject it, can't we? IOW, make a decision. Is this the middle road you mention, or am I missing something?

Thing is, if our destiny is to be conformed to the image of the Son (Romans 8:29) -- well, He is radically free; therefore, to be conformed to Him, so must we be free.

And other other thing is, you can't force someone to be free!

Anastasia
glad you like my name :-)

Kelly

What I'm saying is that we do not make a decision to accept salvation while we are still unregenerated sinners-- it's spiritually impossible just like raising yourself from the dead is physically impossible-- yet we can reject salvation after we have received it. Being inclined to sin, we are free to reject our faith, so no, God does not impose or force anyone to stay in his grace and salvation. If Lazarus decided to jump off a cliff after Jesus raised him, he could have. A child that did not choose to be born can grow up and choose suicide. You can reject something even if it's impossible to choose it in the first place. So God doesn't force us to be free. But he does declare us to be free by virtue of Christ's death for the sins of the world. By his grace I believe this, and therefore I receive the benefits of this freedom.

I wouldn't necessarily use the Romans 8:29 verse as a prooftext for this subject-- that can lead to weird places. (Like the apocryphal account that Jesus told his disciples that he would make Mary Magdalene to be a man so she could be saved. This is hardly what "being conformed to the image of the Son" means, but out of context and apart from the rest of Scripture someone could attempt to make such an argument.)

Anastasia Theodoridis

Thanks for the clarifications.

Suppose God gives His salvation to 100 people and 15 of them reject it. Then can we say it is because they rejected it that they wound up in hell, and because the other 85 accepted it that they wound up in heaven?

Thank you in advance.

Anastasia

Anastasia Theodoridis

Maybe that question still contains the presupposition you suggested I get rid of, about babies, so in an effort to ditch it, I'll reword. If the 85 end up in heaven, can we say it's because they did not reject the salvation God gave them?

I hope that's better.

:-)

Anastasia

Kelly

I struggled with this concept when I was in high school and university. The question at the Bible study of the church I was going to at the time was, "How does a person get themselves saved? What actually gets you the door?" By this point I realized I couldn't bring myself to say "By accepting Christ" because that places the credit for attaining salvation squarely in the lap of the individual receiving the free gift, giving them something to boast about over and against "those other sinners who weren't as clever as I was to accept Christ." (I actually heard this attitude quite frequently about the unsaved among my Christian friends.) So the only answer I could come up with was that we get eternal life by "not rejecting" the work of the Holy Spirit to bring Christ to us. I was part-way there... but talking this way still leaves room for boasting.

This is because all of these ways of talking about attaining salvation are still focusing on what the *individual* is doing; how they are innately more receptive to the Spirit than the unsaved, or how they are somehow better at "not rejecting" the Spirit than those who do. What I'm proposing is that it's not about us at all. God is the one who calls, justifies, and sanctifies us. When we talk about how a person is saved, it should be the work of Christ that we're talking about, not all of our personal responses to the work of Christ that saved us. That's not to say that how we react is unimportant. But our reaction doesn't get us eternal life; Jesus did.

I'd sum it up like this: Jesus died on the cross and won salvation for 100% of the world. That salvation is applied to us personally and individually when God graciously awakens faith in our hearts to receive this Gospel through the power of his Word. If a person is saved, it is God's doing. If a person is damned, it is their own doing. And a person may be condemned even without a conscious rejection of the received Gospel; the reason that a man is condemned is because he is a sinner inherently, not necessarily because he made one particular bad and sinful decision.

Anastasia Theodoridis

Your answers are so well thought, and so to the point; thank you!

Well, I just don't see how we can get around the fact that some people (consciously or not) reject Christ while others embrace Him. That seems just unavoidable.

But I also think it's a litle bit like a terrorist who had plotted against this country and he has a heart attack and some kind American offers to perform the necessary open heart surgery for him. Does he really get any credit for signing the consent form? Does he really have any grounds for boasting in himself? In other words, anybody who is inclined to boast about his non-rejection of Christ is on a wrong path and still far from Him.

So let's do focus on God's work. So if you'll bear with me, I'll ask about that. To whom does God grant these gifts, of free choice, of faith, of repentance, etc.? To all who hear the Gospel, I suppose you'll say?

Anastasia

Kelly

Many do reject Christ, and others embrace him. But it's not their "embracing" that saves them; this is their reaction to the fact that God has already saved them. If God hadn't saved them through his Word, they'd still be his enemies and not inclined to embrace him at all. I'm not quite sure what you mean by God giving the "gift of free choice." God saves through faith in his Word and promises of Christ, despite the fact that our hearts are hardened against him and our will is contrary to his. That salvation changes us and makes us willing to listen to God, since he has given us his Spirit, without whom we cannot discern spiritual things. We certainly are not saved because we are "less resistant" to God than other people. That is again putting the focus on us, as if there were something superior inside of us that attains salvation where others fail.

God grants the gifts of faith and repentance to all whom he has called to receive the Gospel in faith. He has planned our salvation since the beginning of the world. Yet it is also true that he desires than none should perish. Thus we believe that it is Scriptural to hold that God chooses us in Christ for our salvation, yet he does not will or choose anyone to be damned. If we are saved, God gets 100% of the credit; if we are lost, we get 100% of the credit. It sounds like a paradox, but it is what the Bible teaches.

Anastasia Theodoridis

If I've followed what you're saying, God grants freedom of choice to those He saves. (Correct me if I'm wrong.) So maybe my question, to whom does God grant free choice, faith, repentance, etc. amounts to asking, whom does God save? Does that make better sense?

You said He saves "all whom He has called to receive the Gospel in faith" Do you mean all who hear His gospel, but not those who don't? Do you mean only some who hear the Gospel? Or do you mean something else? Do we even know?

Certainly it is out of the question that any credit should be attached to us; that much I clearly realize.

Anastasia

Kelly

God has won and accomplished salvation for absolutely everybody in the world, once and for all. He has reconciled the world to himself in his death and triumph over sin. However, not all have faith-- obviously not all who have heard the Gospel receive it in faith and are saved. God has chosen us, in Christ, to receive his gifts. Our human tendency is to say, "What determining factor makes God give this gift of faith to certain ones? What criteria does God use to determine who shall be the recipients of these gifts?" One reason that we want to know so badly is because it is innate for us to want to cling to some shred of deserving or cooperating with our own salvation-- so the line of thinking goes that Jesus only "potentially" saved us when he died instead of actually doing it, and what really seals the deal is our personal cooperation in the matter with God. Another reason is because we are afraid that God choosing some to be saved, apart from our input, is unfair-- as though God desires some to be damned, or is not allowed to be generous to whomever he likes in spite of the fact that all rightly deserve nothing (i.e. Matthew 20:1-16). The only answer is that it is God's good pleasure to reveal the kingdom to us little children through Christ. God does not choose any to be damned; the Bible only speaks of the faithful having been elected for salvation.

God has saved the world through Christ; God has extended that salvation to us personally through the gift of faith in his promises in Christ. Those who are not in Christ are not saved.

The reason that Chris needs to write posts like this in the first place is because, in theory, Christians will generally claim that they believe that obviously no credit should be attached to us when it comes to attaining salvation. But then the theology they're working with takes away with the left hand what it gives with the right with a contradictory statement like: "Jesus did everything you need to be saved, now all you have to do is..."

John

Hello all, hope you're well. Here's how I try to understand it... People are sinners. Sinners deserve hell. Therefore, those who are going to hell are getting what they deserve. Can someone complain about getting what they deserve? God would be entirely justified to let us all rot in our sins for eternity. The only thing that saves Christians from hell is that Jesus chose us from the foundation of the world and predestined us for adoption. (Ephesians 1:4-5) I don't think ANYBODY is going to be sitting around in Heaven saying "Phew! That was a good choice I made by deciding for Christ!"

Ben

God desires all to be saved! Christ died on the cross over 2000 years ago for everyone. The cross is enough for us all. So, we could say 100 years ago the gift of salvation was already waiting for you before you were born. By saying we "accept" Christ we are saying that WE did something. GOD did everything. The pastor who wrote this article was on issues Etc. (www.issuesetc.org) and told this story. He and his son were making pizza. The son came in while the dad was making it, played with some of the dough and then ran off to tell mom that HE (the son) made the pizza. This what we try to do. We try to "accept" Jesus or make a personal decision for Christ and then tell every WE did something when all along God did everything by sending us his Son Jesus Christ to died a bloody painful UNDESERVED death on the cross and 3 days later rise again to defeat sin, death, and the devil. We by our actions are damned to hell but Christ is the perfect atonement for us all and takes our place before God allowing us to be declared NOT GUILTY. Grace Alone!

Kelly

Ben and John-- amen and amen.

More on the difference between the way Christians describe "accepting" versus simply "receiving" salvation from God. Sometimes it's difficult to explain what is so works-oriented about saying that God's gifts to us are essentially worthless and ineffectual for us until we tell him, "I accept!" (Most evangelicals don't recognize the exercising of their will and decisions as their own human works-- they've been largely conditioned to think of "works" being Roman Catholic things like praying so many Hail Marys, doing penance, or what have you... despite Romans 9:15-16.) Analogies can be helpful.

When you humbly speak about a gift you got at a birthday present, do you say, "I accepted a lovely sweater from my friend"? Or do you say, "My friend gave me a lovely sweater" or "I received a wonderful present from them"? To say "I accept!" for a gift like this is to say that this gift requires your inspection, approval, and ultimate decision that it's worthy of you. It's all your call, not the gift-giver's. And it is an incredibly pompous way of speaking of God's gifts to us, but it's so widespread.

Erica

Chris,
I am a idiot! I forget I even posted a comment on here until today! Thank you for your response.
"Chris gave me faith. Christ accepted me. Christ gave me the Holy Spirit." What do you mean by Chris gave me faith? I am confused?
"The fruit of that faith is God's sanctifying work displayed in humble fruit and good works." I would absolutely agree with this!
When you are talking to someone else what is a simple phrase or do you use a simple phrase to describe what Christ has done for you and what ones response should be to that?
Joe is doing well! He is squaring away everything for semimary in the fall! He has a few job leads that look a lot better than where he is at now! Hey, thanks for your help! I don't even know what to say besides thanks! The girls are doing great! We are trying to figure out where to sent the oldest to kindergarten! If you are ever in the GR area you should stop bye!

Anastasia Theodoridis

"God has won and accomplished salvation for absolutely everybody in the world, once and for all."

Yet, it doesn't appear to have been effectual for all.

Why not?

ISTM there are two choices. Either we say the answer is buried in the mystery of human beings -- leaving us to explain how this is does not involve any merit. Or we say the answer is buried in the mystery of God -- leaving us to explain how this doesn't make God arbitrary.

Sound like you are opting for the latter? If so, what's the explanation?

Anastasia

bubba

Hmmm,
choose this day whom you will serve.....as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord

Steve Newell

Bubba,

Joshua was already a believer when he made this statement. The question is this: "Can a non-believer make this same statement?"

J. K. Jones

Conversion is God’s work, but regeneration is a work performed on our will. We are made willing to respond to the gospel, but we do respond to the gospel. We do make a decision for Christ in that sense.

Anastasia Theodoridis

So do you say God regenerates everybody, thereby giving them at least a *chance* (which they can then reject)or do you say God only gives to some the willingness to respond to the gospel, even though, you say, He wills that everyone be saved?

Anastasia

Kelly

Sorry, was on vacation for a week. Hopefully people are still reading responses.

God gives us the ability to trust in him = God gives us faith. If God did not give us faith, and sustain us in it, we'd still be dead in our sins and enemies of God. Faith is not a human work, but the gift and working of God. (Eph. 2:8; John 6:29, 63-65; John 1:12-13; etc.)

The death of Christ only benefits those who receive it in faith. To those who persist in the rejection of God, they receive judgment.

A further note to Bubba-- Joshua was also speaking to a nation-ful of people who had been called and chosen by God, brought into his covenant WITHOUT MAKING A DECISION for him. God did not ask their permission to enter into a covenant with them; he took them to himself. Hard to make a decision when you're 8 days old being circumcised. If you read the WHOLE chapter of Joshua 24, it is a wonderful testimony of all the works of God. You also used elipses to cut out a critical part of the verse. Joshua then reminds the people to continue to serve the true God; but if this doesn't seem good to them, "choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve" from amongst the FALSE gods! This says nothing about even believers choosing the true God, much less unbelievers.

J.K.J.-- I don't think I get the distinction you're drawing between conversion and regeneration. If you're saying that the Holy Spirit gives us a little nudge in the right direction, enabling us to fill in the rest of the gap to regeneration through our own willpower, I heartily disagree. If you're saying that the Spirit opens our hearts to the Gospel and as a result, we respond in faith having already been enlightened by God's salvation through his Word, I would agree.

Anastasia-- Not everyone is regenerated and clearly not everyone has faith. "Arbitrary" as a description of God would be uncharitable, if it is our own fault that we reject him although he has graciously provided the remission of sins for the whole world. Again, he has the right to be generous and to "have mercy on whom he will have mercy" as his Word says. Salvation being all God's doing and damnation being all man's doing is a Scriptural mystery of God. The *unscriptual* mystery of being saved both by "grace alone" as well as saved by "grace plus human merit" is not a workable or Scriptural paradox for Christians to embrace. The mysteries you and I accept must be firmly grounded in Scripture, not speculation or human reasoning and preferences.

Anastasia Theodoridis

How can it be our own fault that we reject him if we never from the moment we were conceived unti lthe moment we die, we never had the least ability to do otherwise?

No doubt God is entitled to have mercy on as many or as few as He pleases, and whatever he chooses, sinners have no right to complain.

But against this theology one may complain, since this is supposed to be the God who is love, the God who wants all to be saved, and that makes it appear we have Scripture contradicting Scripture. Isn't that supposed to indicate a mistake somewhere along the line? (Not in Scripture, to be sure.)

Anastasia

Kelly

Jesus is both God and man. This is the scriptural position, yet it looks like a contradiction. Does that mean we reject it or try to explain it away? Some people have. But orthodox Christians hold to the biblical paradox.
Likewise, we are at once both sinner and saint. Lots of people take issue with that one. It's a true Christian paradox. There are very many such statements in our faith. Bottom line is, if the Bible teaches it, we hold to it even if our reason protests.

We are a sinful race, inheriting the sin of our father just as a newborn can inherit AIDS from a parent. This doesn't mean that God is unfair. It means that sin happened here-- sin that corrupts our whole nature and results in willful rebellion against God. It's all of our sin, and we are indeed all responsible and accountable for it (Romans 3:19). But the good news is that even though all men die through the sin of one man, through one man all are made alive (1 Cor. 15:21-22). This salvation coming through one man is seen as grossly unfair to many humanists and secularists. But for us, it is the mercy of God in Christ. We should be focusing on the fact that Christ took away every single one of those sins so that we wouldn't have to be condemned by our nature. "Why some and not others?" is a question that all Christian churches ask, but they must resolve to deal with the issue biblically and with Christ at the center. Christ did not save us because we were righteous and made good decisions in coming to him. He saved us precisely because we could not and did not come to him.

If God desires that all be saved (and he does), and as a result we conclude that the Bible was wrong in saying that God saves us single-handedly without our input, then we've got a problem. We're trying to uphold a statement that is not Biblical, pitting Scripture against our reason in order to avoid a paradox. I'd rather not do that.

Personally I think that Christians since the Enlightenment have become increasingly frightened of anything rationally inexplicable in their church's doctrine, even if it's perfectly biblical. (This is part of the reason that fundamentalism was born; you have people taking issue with the virgin birth for being illogical, and so on.)

Did I mention that we named our little daughter Anastasia? :o)

Anastasia Theodoridis

“If God desires that all be saved (and he does), and as a result we conclude that the Bible was wrong in saying that God saves us single-handedly without our input, then we've got a problem.”

So would doing the reverse: If God saves us single-handedly without our input and as a result we conclude that the Bible was wrong in saying that God desires all be saved, then we have the same problem, only in reverse. Either way makes it a question of pitting Scripture not against our reason, but against itself.

If Scripture says something my reason cannot comprehend, such as the virgin birth, fine; my poor reason needs correction and enlightenment. But if Scripture appears to contradict itself, doesn’t that (by the principle of sola scriptura) indicate we’ve misunderstood something, somewhere?

Because every heterodox believer, from Origen to Arius to the pope to Calvin, contradicts Scripture in some way, and invariably he uses some other Scriptural passage(s) to do it. So if we decide not to apply sola scriptura and instead allow for *any* contradiction of Scripture, even a contradiction *by* Scripture itself (as in practice is nearly always the case), then upon what basis do we decide *which* contradictions are legitimate paradoxes and which simply represent error carried to its illogical conclusion?

Anastasia

Cool name you gave your little daughter! Please say hello to her from me.

Kelly

You are correct-- we have the same problem in reverse, and it's still called "not submitting to Scripture's testimony." The fact that God wants all to be saved, and that he saves us single-handedly, are both true because they are both scriptural. Reason needs to submit to this.

There are thousands of agnostics that believe that Scripture contradicts itself on any number of points, and therefore is wrong and illegitimate. True believers accept "contradictions" as long as they are biblical. Sola Scriptura does not mean that our reason grasps everything the Bible has to tell us. It means that Scripture is the bottom-line basis for all of our doctrine. It also does not mean that we ignore what the church has always believed, taught, and confessed on the matter. On the contrary, we uphold the apostolic doctrine as found in God's Word. The Bible is easy to misinterpret because many assume that Sola Scriptura implies each person having a private interpretation of the text. This isn't the case (as evidenced by the number of heresies sprouting up regarding the nature of the Trinity in the history of the early church). But the hermeneutic that you're working with matters; that will be the lens through which you view everything else. That's a whole ball of wax itself. I'm basically proposing that Christ is the center of all of Scripture-- not God's sovereignty, nor the obedience that we owe God, nor anything else.

I'll try to make it simpler in the matter of decision theology, since that's the specific topic we're dealing with. How does the Bible teach that an unbeliever is able to make a decision for Christ and that becoming a Christian is done by willfully committing one's life to God? And does the Bible come out and actually say that this is wrong anywhere? I believe it does.

Anastasia Theodoridis

Where I think we can agree:

that we poor sinners get zero credit in any of this
that Christ is indeed the center of Scripture
that human reason is not only finite but benighted by sin
that *at some point* being a Christian does involve willfully committing ones life to God; that is, we are not going to find ourselves in heaven some day against our will or even without it
that we must not deny what the church has always held
that private interpretation is ruled out (by Scripture itself, even)

The issues are only (1) at what point freedom of will is granted us and (2) whether freedom of will is granted to all.

That’s (perhaps) a small point compared with the larger one this discussion has raised, namely what IS the hermeneutic we’re working with here? If you say submit to this paradox or contradiction or whatever it is because it is biblical, well, that’s the same thing a heretic will tell me. And he will quote his verses to “prove” it, too.

So of all these seemingly biblical contradictions or paradoxes we are offered, how shall we decide which to accept and which to reject? By what hermeneutic shall we discern and discriminate?

Anastasia

Kelly

Becoming a Christian does not involve willfully committing one's life to God. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Christians can choose the things of God, though in weakness. Our will is "freed" when Christ sets us free. Once we are saved, we are free to choose other than sin, free to seek God and to do the good works which we are called to do in Christ. And indeed, free to reject the gift we have been given (if we can really call the sinful nature that lingers "freedom"). The original post and discussion is really about being saved in the first place; attaining salvation, and if man has a role in that. Have we ever reached any sort of consensus about that?

What sort of heretical paradoxes are you thinking of, and which are the biblical texts that are being used to prove them? If a person comes up with a teaching that they claim is biblical but has never existed in the history of Christendom, it's pretty safe to assume they're wrong. If a person posits a theory that is flat-out *denied* by Scripture, or proves to be wrong when taking the whole of God's Word into account (Scripture interpreting Scripture), it must be rejected. There's a difference between a seemingly irrational, but biblical, contradiction (i.e. God is all-powerful and desires all to be saved, yet not everyone is saved), and something which the Bible itself states as being untrue. For example, Jesus is not both God-and-man as well as merely a man.

The Bible actually says that becoming a child of God through faith does not happen through the will of man or human decision. It says that God chose us to be saved, not the other way around. No Bible passage says otherwise. If that screws with our notions of "responsibility" in attaining our own salvation, so be it.

Anastasia Theodoridis

Well, no, consensus has eluded us and probably will continue to. But by now I feel in danger of wearing out my welcome, so perhaps you’d like to leave our disagreement there? I’ll just list some of the reasons I disagree and we can agree to disagree, or you can have the last word, or we can even continue, whatever you please.

1.) The way my church interprets the verses you’ve cited is quite different. (But you don’t want my church’s propaganda on your website, so I refrain from elaborating.)

2.) Even though on the face of it, what you say sounds convincing, I have major problems with it. It just conflicts with too much, such as St. Paul’s admonition in I Corinthians 9:24-27 and Philippians 3:10-15 about attaining to the resurrection, winning the crown (of life).

3.) What you say also defines matters in such a way as to make God inescapably arbitrary. If His choosing of one but not another is not based upon anything about us, then *whatever* the reason, it is arbitrary. Romans 8:29 explicitly says, those He foreknew He predestined. He chose us, and not we Him, true! But He chose those He knew would accept Him. (I know, that leaves me having to explain how this does not imply any human merit. The answer is, because salvation doesn’t operate on the basis of merit. So, not to worry; the merit question does not arise. I have ZERO merit, but even if I had enough merit to reach from here to the moon and back, it would do me no more good than having a ticket to attend Sunday morning church services; things just do not work that way.)

4.) Further, this doctrine certainly does put (glaring) limits upon God’s infinite love, because He cannot, without sophistry, be said to love those He doesn’t choose, those He lets be tormented in hell without their ever having had a chance, when He had both the power and (supposedly) the will to save them and it was all up to Him.

5.) Not only that, but where there is no free will, it’s true that there can be no merit, but for the very same reason there can be no blame, either.

6.) And then there is the hermeneutical problem, and it’s huge.

As for me, I do not hold to sola scriptura, but I do at least believe its most basic, minimum meaning: that whatever contradicts Scripture must be thrown out!

And this applies even, and especially, when it’s a case of one Scripture appearing to contradict another, because the Holy Spirit does not reveal contra¬dictory things. Christian doctrine is consistent. Thus, when we come upon an apparent contra¬diction, it’s a sure indication that our reasoning has gone astray somewhere and the thing to do is find the correct interpretation, which will reconcile *all* that the Holy Spirit has revealed. *That*, surely, is what submitting our reason to Scripture means.

Once we allow *any* contradiction of Scripture by Scripture, then we have to have some criterion for deciding which contradictions are supposedly legitimate, and which are heresy. And that yardstick by definition will have to be something outside of (and above) Scripture – such as, when you said if it had never been heard of before in the history of the church, it’s a pretty safe bet it’s error. That’s true, although it is no longer sola scriptura.

On the other hand, NOT having such a yardstick would undermine not merely sola scriptura but *any and all* authority of Scripture, because then there’s no way to tell anything. If the pope tells you Matthew 16:28 means the papacy is the rock on which the church is built, you cannot come back and tell him that contradicts Christ’s instructions not to lord it over one another and the last shall be first and so forth – because he will tell you that’s a legitimate biblical contradiction you must swallow. You cannot understand it, but you must submit to it. You will have no basis for telling him his contradiction is error, while your contradiction is truth.

Such (and more!) are the difficulties all this raises for me. Obviously, your mileage differs. Okay.

Great discussion, and a joy to dialogue with someone as well-versed, smart, and articulate as you. Thanks very much!

Anastasia

Anastasia Theodoridis

P.S.) It's a small world...you have a daughter named Anastasia and I have a granddaughter named Kelly! (Just now thought of mentioning that.)

A.

Matt

Hey folks,

I almost hate to intrude on a very good dialogue, but perhaps a few distinctions might help clarify things.

First off, have no fear of wearing out your welcome, Anastasia; you're one of the more articulate contributors to a discussion on this important issue. Perhaps the first question we should ask is WHY the role of a personal decision is so crucial. For someone following Calvinist thought, the major issue is that a personal decision would weaken God's sovereignty. For many Evangelicals, what is at stake is the extent of God's unbounded love. For me, the question comes back to where my assurance for salvation comes from. (I'll let you guess what shade of Christian that makes me!)

I'd like to respond to your points, but first a brief explanation of my own hermeneutic. I do hold to sola scriptura, but more importantly, I hold also to solus Christus. Jesus declares that the Scriptures point to him, and their primary purpose is to turn us toward reliance on Christ for our complete salvation. (More on this on your 6th point.)

1.) This is difficult to respond to without your elaboration, as there are so many and various presuppositions that affect interpretation. Hopefully the responses to your later points will be helpful here.

2.) As I think I've read somewhere else on this site, context is king. To that I'll add that we must make a distinction between justification (how we're saved) and sanctification (how we live and are made more holy AFTER being saved).
1 Cor 9 is speaking almost entirely of how a Christian should live POST-conversion. Paul writes in verses 16 and 17 that the things he's doing (evangelizing in this case) aren't any reason for him to boast; they are simply necessary. For salvation? By no means! But do these works mean nothing, then? By no means! But notice, there is still the possibility of being disqualified. (Incidentally, an over-literal reading of verse 24 would also indicate that only one person would make it into heaven if salvation is the prize!)
For the Phil 3 passage, we must go back at least as far as verse 7. The gain Paul had as the Hebrew of Hebrews he counted as loss because of the worth of knowing Jesus. Knowing's not exactly a choice. (Believe me, there are some things I wish I didn't know, like the taste of a poorly-made Bloody Mary!) Regardless, the gist of the passage is that these are all strivings AFTER he has become a Christian. Of course, this is operating under the assumption that Paul was writing to the church at Philippi after Jesus confronted him on the road to Tarsus.
I'm not entirely certain where your "crown of life" reference comes from; the only ones I can find are crowns of glory, righteousness, or life that come after enduring trials and temptations. Inserting (of life) as a gloss can be dangerous, particularly if it changes the meaning of what is being said.

3.) This one's tough; we don't like things that seem to happen without reason. Unfortunately, I can only plead along with Job, Isaiah and Paul, "Who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?"

4.) God's love is most certainly infinite. However, his infinite love does not negate sin's consequences; God is also a perfectly just God. We are not saved because the consequence of sin, eternal death, simply disappeared, but rather because Jesus took that consequence on himself as he suffered abandonment on the cross. The sacrifice occurred; it has lasting effect. If we reject Jesus, we reject the sacrifice and we get exactly what we've earned. This does not imply any lack of love--ask any parent who has had to discipline their child.

5.) This is setting up a false dichotomy. It fits well within human reason, but it's simply not biblical. The only real "either/or" in the Bible is that we are either going to heaven or hell after we die. Just about everything else seems to be "both/and".

6.) Okay, here's the biggie! First, a fun little double entendre: The Word of God must be interpreted by the Word of God. This means not only that Scripture interprets Scripture, but also that the written Word must be interpreted by the Living Word, that is, Christ. Passages that are unclear must be read in light of passages that are clear, and the Gestalt points to Jesus Christ. The key phrase in what you said is that proper interpretation will reconcile "all that the Holy Spirit has revealed". Through the Bible, the Holy Spirit has revealed what we need to know for salvation: Jesus died and rose again to defeat death and Satan, and bring us back to the Father.
In other words, Christ is the yardstick, and he certainly is outside of and above the Scriptures that testify to him. (I would definitely avoid using the church's history as the determining criterion, although it can be a useful guide at times.)
If the Pope tells me Matt 16.18 means the papacy is the rock on which the church is built, I wouldn't point to other passages of lording it over, etc, but rather that the referent for "rock" is Peter's confession, not Peter himself. (Particularly in light of vv. 22-23!) This is the interpretation that most clearly reveals Christ, the Son of the living God.

So to wrap things up, as we read the Bible we must be certain to distinguish between how we are converted and what we do after conversion. And, more importantly, what are you relying on to get into heaven? If you're depending on your choice, your act of opening your heart or giving your heart to Jesus, you're in trouble. If, however, you trust in Jesus' triumph and God's mercy, you're safe in His arms, whether the starting point looked like a baby getting a bath in a fancy onesy or a hyperactive teenager racing down the aisle to an altar call.

I don't know if all this will help to assuage your concerns or difficulties, but I pray that it at least provides some insight.

God bless! (And thanks for putting up with a VERY long post!)

Anastasia Theodoridis

Hi, Matt,

Glad you joined the conversation. Thanks for your insights and the nuances.

1.) Yes, of course commenting is difficult when I haven’t been specific. Understood.

2.) Re the passage in 1 Corinthians 9, see v. 25; isn’t an incorruptible crown the crown of life of which Revelation speaks? Do Lutherans see it as something else?

Re: Philippians 3, the goal specified, yet to be attained, is resurrection from the dead. In other words, full salvation.

3.) Yes, I sympathize entirely with you in your pleading, "Who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?" but it isn’t the mind of the Lord I am questioning; it’s the mind of Lutherans.

4 & 5.) See, I cannot see how any of this is loving *or* just! Or biblical, either. To blame people who never had any chance to choose otherwise than they have done, is that a Lutheran idea of justice? (I’d say the blame goes to whoever or whatever took away, before they were even conceived, their freedom to choose God. Don’t know who or what that would be, for Lutherans…anyway, also blameworthy would be Whoever had the power and the will to restore that freedom to them and didn’t do it.) To suppose God would never even give some people any chance for salvation, although it was all in His exclusive power, but would leave them to face never-ending torment and horror, is that really the Lutheran idea of infinite love? Is it really, truly biblical, this God who “loves” like that, whose “justice” is like that, and who ultimately doesn’t even accomplish His own will, although He is omnipotent? Or must there not be at least one mistaken interpretation or assumption or pre-supposition here, somewhere along the line?

I cannot even imagine anyone truly loving a God like that – for Himself, I mean; I can well imagine lots of people loving Him for what He can give them (heaven), which means loving Him for self-serving purposes, which means it isn’t true love at all.

Detour about credit
As far as I’m concerned, there is no issue about who gets credit if I choose to accept God’s gift (supposing I’m able, which I realize is the point in contention). He gets the credit, gets it all. In fact, it’s *much more* to His glory if His creatures accept Him of their own free will than if He had to force them or bypass their will. To put it crudely (with the story of Job in mind), He gets greater bragging rights vis-à-vis the devil. (“Look, Lucifer, that man had a real, genuine, free choice and he chose ME!”)

Many years ago, there was a man interviewed on the Tonight Show who had tried to commit suicide by jumping off the Oakland Bay Bridge. “And the moment I jumped,” he said, “I had this glorious, overpowering realization of how precious life is.” (Fine time to realize that!) Well, anyway, suppose I do the same, without the last-minute revelation. Then the rescue squad arrives and someone swims out to tie me to a life vest and haul me to shore. Suppose he drowns in the process, but does succeed in saving me. Is there really any fear I’ll get some smidgeon of credit for merely letting him? I’m the one who had forfeited my life and the life of my rescuer too!

What credit is there in the totally self-serving act of accepting to be rescued? But supposing, for a moment, I did get some small credit; it wouldn’t begin to be enough even to wipe out my debit column, much less put anything in my credit column. And if it did put something in my credit column, so what? Is the sovereign God obliged to save me because of my teensy-weensy, pathetic little credit? Or suppose I collect a whole mountain of credit; it would be like collecting Monopoly money; it isn’t good for anything. If God saves me, it isn’t because of my Monopoly money; it’s because He has freely chosen to, because He loves me, and did love me and did will to save me before I was born, before I was conceived, before the world began. Same as He loves everyone.

Another detour, about relying upon God for salvation

Just choosing to accept God’s gift – or, rather, choosing to begin accepting it, or rather, choosing to TRY to begin trying to accept it! – does not, by a long shot, equate to relying upon my own decision for my salvation. God doesn’t save me because of my decision. He saves me because He wants to. He saves me because He loves me.

6.) I like what you say about whichever interpretation best shows forth Christ, and I agree. Mostly. But, some observations about it:

-- I’m not sure that’s sola scriptura any more.

-- It doesn’t seem to address the issue of contradictions, or of resolving them in a way that reconciles and accounts for (and uses!) *all* of what the Holy Sprit has said in Scripture.

-- It also seems (maybe) to beg the question, because how does one determine what most clearly reveals Christ? You have to know who He is first, to be able to make that evaluation. How do you do that? By what is in Scripture, I should think a Lutheran would say – or not?

Blessings to you, too!
Anastasia

P.S.) Human reason should indeed submit to higher reason (God’s) but we all need to know the difference between that and submitting to nonsense because they’re opposites. The hermeneutical question is how to tell the difference.

Matt

Anastasia,

Congratulations! You nailed me as a Lutheran on the first try! (Which is actually pretty comforting…)

For both the crown and the resurrection, the closest analogy I can give is an inheritance that I know is coming to me, that has been promised to me, but that I do not physically hold in my hand until a later time. Another way to approach it is to ask: If Paul fell over and died from a heart attack in the middle of writing Phil 3.12, would he be going to heaven? If so, why? He confesses that he has not yet attained the goal; if this means that he still had some work to do (reading "by any means possible" as his own action), then he was hellbound, and we'd better re-think the whole "salvation by grace alone" business. But we know that Paul was not depending on his own righteousness (including a righteous decision), but the righteousness from God (v 9) and that he did not consider that he had made the resurrection his own (v 13), even by naming it and claiming it.

All this is skating around the heart of the issue, however, which up to now seems to have been centered on credit and blame. But perhaps we're asking the wrong question. I say this because I am quite heartened by your detours, which cut straight through the fat of "credit" to the important matters. Your Monopoly analogy is beautiful, and your comments on relying on God are right on the mark. The danger comes when someone claims that you MUST make a "Yes" decision to be saved. That claim replaces lots of tough laws with one condition, still negating salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone.

Now, let's dispense with some loaded language and caricatures. Your depiction of God under points 4 and 5 is truly a dark, vicious, arbitrary picture. It's tempting to respond by asking what kind of God is so weak that he must resort to being some sort of salesman who not only can't convince everyone to believe in him, but worse yet, relies on human flunkies to get out a sales pitch that doesn't seem to be working in the vast majority of the world. However, both of these pictures are extrapolations of our own personal fears of who God is and what he does.

If there is a mistaken assumption here, it is that we assume that humans begin relatively neutral. We imagine that we begin on some earthly plane and then either get shunted down to hell or up to heaven. We also have the presupposition that if something bad happens to someone, blame must be assigned, and that if something good happens, credit must be given. This is simply the way human reason works. The problem is, since Adam's fall, we start out in the red. We begin our lives deserving hell. We are by nature sinful, unclean, corrupt, and rebellious. The proof is in the fact that we all die, sometimes after barely taking a breath out of the womb.

With this in mind, God's love is apparent in that he sent Jesus to rescue us from eternal punishment, to pull us from the pit that we put ourselves into.

Now before my brain gets too foggy with the late hour, just a couple things on your observations on interpretation:
--When we're talking about "solas" we're not talking in a vacuum. Each of the four classical solas answer a particular question. How are we saved? By grace alone. How does that grace come to us? By faith alone. What is to be our guide? Scripture alone. And then there's the overarching one: How do we understand grace, faith, and Scripture? Through Christ alone.
--The simplest response to most apparent contradictions is to see them in light of Law and Gospel. Law highlights all the spots and sins in our lives (including original sin) that drive us to the need for a savior. Gospel highlights the Savior himself. In showing forth Christ, we not only see the perfect life that we cannot possibly live, but also the perfect life that was lived for us in our place.
As for accounting for and using ALL of what is in Scripture: Old Testament historical accounts reveal the unfolding of God's plan for salvation, eventually accomplished through Jesus; passages that give commands and orders show us why we need Jesus (we can't possibly fulfill all that God requires!); and passages that speak of how we are saved obviously point to Christ.
--If I draw the conclusion from any passage that anything can be done apart from Christ, that interpretation does not reveal Christ. If I conclude that any passage is simply a nifty little story, that interpretation does not reveal Christ. If I treat the Bible merely as a handbook for well-being or instruction manual for moral living, that interpretation does not reveal Christ.
If I interpret Scripture by using the passages that clearly and indubitably state who Christ is and what he did, those writings that put Jesus forth as Savior of all people, then that interpretation reveals Christ. In our wonderfully Lutheran, circular way of putting things, we know Jesus through the Scriptures, and we know the Scriptures through Jesus. But the beginning of the circle is the Holy Spirit who puts faith and understanding of who Jesus is in our hearts in the first place. (His sheep know his voice!)

In His Grace,
Matt

Anastasia Theodoridis

Dear Matt,

Oops. Screeching halt. Before we go any farther, I want to apologize with all my heart if I have caricatured the Lutheran position. I tried very hard to use neutral language, but I see I did use two “loaded” nouns, “torment” and “horror”. I also tried very hard to be accurate and factual, avoiding any metaphors or comparisons and just saying it the way I thought I had heard it, both here and from Lutherans elsewhere. Apparently I have failed. I don’t yet know where, but I apologize anyway, and hope to be corrected.

Yes, I agree with can dispense with the idea that any blame needs to be assigned. I also agree we don’t start out neutral, but sick, corrupt, and dying.

So, with all that in mind, please allow me to try again, and see if I can succeed any better. If not, I earnestly entreat you and others, somebody, anybody to tell me what the difference is between my understanding of what Lutheranism teaches and what it really teaches.

Rewording my questions a bit, then:


Do Lutherans believe there are people who cannot and never could choose anything but evil, to whom God never even gives any chance for salvation, but leaves them to face eternal hell even though He has full ability to save them? If so, do Lutherans really think that is God’s infinite love? Or do Lutherans really think that is justice?

Is it really, truly biblical, to think of God “loving” like that, administering “justice” like that, and ultimately not even accomplishing His own will, although He is omnipotent?

Anastasia

Anastasia Theodoridis

P.S.) I hope the above is not a caricature. But if it is, please explain why and how it is and I shall correct myself accordingly.

Anastasia

Kelly

Do Christians believe that there are people who cannot and never could choose not to have cancer, to whom God never gives a chance for physical healing, but leaves them to endure suffering even though he is fully able to heal them? If so, do Christians really think that this is God's infinite love? Or is that justice? If God desires good for us and not evil, how could he so weak as to not even accomplish his own will, although he is omnipotent?

This, in fact, is the caricature. This is how unbelievers view Christianity-- as though God himself created evil for the purpose of randomly torturing people-- and it completely overlooks Christ. Until we get it through our heads that sin is a problem of the human race, and not a problem of God's, the issue of evil and how sin affects us will never even begin to make sense to us.

Yes, God would be perfectly just in condemning every single one of us. He wiped out the population of the world once already, because every inclination of their hearts was evil right from the start. We are an evil race. But God has saved our evil race through the death of his Son. He didn't have to offer mercy to a single one of us, but he offers it to all. The issue is not, "Why didn't this unfair God give everyone the gift of faith?" The issue is more like, "Why did God save the whole world and draw anyone to himself at all?"

Your questions are really another variation of, "Why does God allow evil?" I believe all Christian churches would agree that the will of God in what he reveals in Scripture is a mystery and a paradox. But we know that Christ has conquered the power of evil, and that is our hope and the hope of the whole world.

Anastasia Theodoridis

I take that for a “yes” to my questions, and point out again that these questions are not meant to challenge God, but to challenge Lutheran understandings of Him. Thus, from my viewpoint, they are not a variant of “Why does God permit evil?” but are more like, why do Lutherans attribute these things to Him?

The cancer analogy certainly would be caricature, yes. But of course it doesn’t work as an analogy, because cancer is temporal and hell is everlasting. Also, if God lets someone have cancer, and maybe even die from it, one can (and should) believe this is for some good and loving reason, such as to bring me to repentance, to teach me to rely upon Him alone, to put earthly things into their proper perspective for me, to purify me, and so forth – whereas letting someone suffer forever in hell when He had the complete and exclusive ability to prevent that, nobody can imagine that to be in any way loving.

Similarly, destroying the world can be thought just, provided the destroyed sinners had the free will to have chosen the good, but didn’t. Ditto letting them burn in hell.

God, as absolutely sovereign, is of course not required to be loving or just. But a conclusion that sees Him as less than that, I suggest, shows some faulty interpretation of Scripture and/or some faulty reasoning somewhere, and it would be worth discovering where.

Now, having received in plain terms the answers I sought, I conclude my participation in this thread with thanks especially to Kelly and Matt and the rest of you as well.

May God bless and save us all!

love,
Anastasia

Matt

For anyone who might still be following along, it might be salutary to check out Paul's presentation of election in Romans 8 through 11. So many times folks on either side of the debate pick and choose their prooftexts from these chapters without looking at the general direction and purpose of Paul's argument.

8.28 begins with God working for good for those called according to his purpose, and continues on to reveal the fact of predestination. However, the key is verse 31: If God is for us, who can be against us? God's election (and the lack of our decision) is intended to be a point of comfort and assurance that nothing can tear us away from the love of God. This is the first and foremost reason Paul even brings the issue up.

Chapter 9 bears the load of all those hard verses most of us don't like, and those that are often left in the vacuum for an overly stark "Thus saith the Lord" approach to predestination. But again, Paul's focus constantly returns to God's love and mercy (vv 16-17) Of course, we are reminded that we mortals have no right to question God's judgement, but once again in vv 25-26 the focus returns to those who are drawn in from a group that "should not" be included.

The same basic themes continue throughout these chapters, and they end not only with the paradox of God "consigning all to disobedience that he may have mercy on all" (11.32), but also with an exclamation of praise: From him and through him and to him are all things--to him be glory forever!

In short, as Paul presents it, the doctrine of predestination is to begin as a comfort, a revelation of God's love, and should ultimately lead one to His glory.

Adam Roe

Anastasia,

I've read your comments here and on other boards and have always appreciated your demeanor and the insights that you offer. As such, I feel a little unprepared to answer someone of such impressive intellect, but please allow me to offer some observations on things that I think may be missing so far in the conversation.

Do Lutherans believe there are people who cannot and never could choose anything but evil, to whom God never even gives any chance for salvation, but leaves them to face eternal hell even though He has full ability to save them? If so, do Lutherans really think that is God’s infinite love? Or do Lutherans really think that is justice?

It helps to recognize that at the heart of conversion in Lutheran theology are the means of grace (Scripture and the sacraments). It isn't that we believe one person is less capable. It's that we believe all people are equally incapable apart from what God does through the means. So, instead of allowing men to flounder, God regenerates people through the preaching of His Word and through the sacraments. God's regenerative work is, therefore, working in a very concrete, organic way for Lutherans; not as an irresistible force that is thrust upon the individual, as is the view among many Reformed and Calvinist Christians. As such, it isn't a matter of some people being more evil than others. It's a matter of whether, after being regenerated by the Holy Spirit through the means of grace, the person will choose to reject the work that was already done for him. With this understanding, it is perhaps more clear to say we receive the work of Christ in salvation. We are passive because salvation can not be grasped apart from that which is revealed. We cannot, therefore, be rightly said to have "made a decision," but we can choose to reject that which has been given.

So, how does a person remain in Christ? Isn't that in some sense a matter of personal choice?

The answer is yes, but it is a passive choice. We again go back to the means of grace. We remain in faith through the work of the Holy Spirit, Who continually points us back to Christ through repentance and renews us through the sacraments. We confess our sin and hear the words of God's forgiveness through absolution. We remain in Him by receiving His body and blood (John 6:52-59). At all points, though, it's God Who does the work. We simply respond to that sacramental union by turning back to Him.

So, to summarize, justification and sanctification are passive for the Lutheran. We believe Jesus did all the work of salvation on the cross and we receive that work personally when the Holy Spirit regenerates and creates faith in a person through the preaching of the Word and through the sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist. We also believe that there is some sense of free will in sanctification, but the will is one that receives. It is not meritoriously active.

Does that help at all?

Blessings to you,
Adam

Kelly

Many theologians have written about the nature of loving God combined with the existence of hell. Again, the caricature is that of the unbeliever doubting that the God of their reasoned imagination could possibly be both. We do not know details about the soul in eternity except for what the Bible tells us. God definitely predestined the saved to eternal life. God desires that none should be lost. God saves us though we are dead in sin and unable to come to him. Mankind is thoroughly sinful and deservers nothing but eternal death. All of these things are true.

God did not prepare hell for unbelievers, but for the devil and his angels. Unfortunately, through Adam, mankind has been enslaved to sin, death and the devil. But God in his mercy has dealt with that for all mankind, and nowhere in Scripture is God presented as obligated to be merciful on our terms.

You said that destroying the world could be thought just as long as the destroyed sinners had the free will to choose the good, but didn't. Did no infant or child die in the Flood?

"..Whereas letting someone suffer forever in hell when He had the complete and exclusive ability to prevent that, nobody can imagine that to be in any way loving." Are you suggesting that God is, by nature, utterly incapable of overriding or changing human will in the process of saving someone? A weak God, indeed. For if he has that ability, but perhaps chooses not to use it because he's waiting for humans to regenerate themselves and come to him, you still have the same problem-- he could have saved those who rejected him from hell, but didn't.

Anastasia Theodoridis

If God waits for people who by grace have truly free will to choose to come to Him to be regenerated, yet some do not, at least He has given everyone a chance.

Anastasia

P.S. Romans 9 addresses the question, why did God create people He already knew would not choose Him?

Kelly

I don't know, why did God create you and me, knowing that *we* would not choose him?

;o)

(It's the fun of using two different languages to communicate.)

I've no idea what you're seeing in Romans 9 that bolsters a point you've made. I've been hinting at this passage throughout my whole argument. "It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy."

I'm not interested in speculating on "it would have been nicer of God to do things my way." I'm interested in what the Bible specifically reveals about the matter. And I don't see Lazarus deciding to get up and come to Jesus to get regenerated, or any suggestion in Scripture that this happens spiritually, either. I see the opposite.

This is usually when good blog discussions have run their course... when you get to the real root of the approach, and realize the approaches are fundamentally incompatible.

tope

i want you to post the above text to my mail.

haley

what is decision theology???
who founded it???
when was it created???
where was it created???
please post back

Douglas

haley,

you will find information about the source of "Decisionism" in here
'Decisions For Christ' - The Measure of Success? and in the links on "Altar Calls" in the comments.

"At the root of all of this is a common error in modern times, known as "Decisional Regeneration". It teaches that man essentially has the power to cause himself to become born again by making a "decision". We saw this misunderstanding in the Christian concert description above, where it said "765 people changed their eternal destiny". The Purpose Driven Life book teaches it, encouraging the reader to pray a simple life changing prayer. Though they usually don't think of it in these terms, so many church leaders today believe they are getting man to save himself by making a "decision". But
Decisional Regeneration is simply not biblical, nor does it have historical precedent prior the the 19th century.
"

Old time "altar calls" and "decisional regeneration" is still practiced in many churches today.

Rick Warren gives a form of it in his "Purpose Driven Life" book on pages 58-59 in the rote prayer he gets people to pray and the assurance he gives them after they pray that prayer. See pastor Gary Gilley's article; The Gospel According to Warren. How many false conversions does Mr. Warren create through that unrepentant prayer he gets them to pray? Warren hasn't even proclaimed the true biblical gospel in the first seven day/chapters of that book and many of the texts of Scripture that he has used in the first seven chapters are twisted and distorted texts. Thank God that God saves some people in spite of that and not because of it.

Juan Rivera

This "anti- Decision Theology" crusade is frankly, disgusting. It is amazing how a simple doctrine can be turned upside down by fanatics, who seem to be more "Lutheran" than Luther. The very Luther who wrote the Bondage of the Will, is the very one who on his 2nd Ascension Day sermon defined faith as: "making a mature consideration and then firmly believing in the Word of God!" (Vol. 6, Sermons) Also, in his exposition on the Magnificat, Luther says: "the day I made up my mind to be a Christian..."
Faith is a gift of God- but God did not make AUTOMATONS (See Pieper on the subject). BEFORE WE BELIEVED THE GOSPEL we were "dead in sins and trespasses." The gift of Faith given by Christ through the Gospel is meant to be APPROPRIATED- this is why Jesus over and over again said with authority "YOUR FAITH has saved you; YOUR FAITH has healed you! Perhaps you should start by ACCEPTING CHRIST AS YOUR LORD AND SAVIOR rather than pushing your "Banana Theology." Even Pieper spoke against Monergism

This whole thing is ridiculous and we Lutherans should be ASHAMED. No wonder only 12% of our Churches gain 1 adult convert a year!!! God DOES NOT impute salvation upon ANYONE. If you want to believe that- you're not a Lutheran, you're a Calvinist.

David

Perhaps someone can clear this up for me, as I am confused. How can being saved not involve a decision at some point by the person being saved?

I agree that man is by nature self-seeking, not God-seeking, and man does not seek after God until God seeks him out and he is finally made aware of his sin and his need for God, and even then most people still don't seek after God. I also agree it is God who does the work of salvation, as man is unable to make atonement for his sins without spending eternity in Hell.

However, there is still the necessity for a person to make a decision to trust in God in order to be made righteous through Christ's sacrifice and escape an eternity in Hell. If there is no decision to be made by man at any point, then there's not really any purpose for Christianity or life in general. Why not take us all to Heaven or Hell now, since our decisions in life supposedly have no effect on where we go?

There's nothing wrong with asking "Have you made a decision to follow Christ?". The problem is that most people don't have any clue what it means to follow Christ, and all they did was make a decision to walk forward in church. It should just be made clear that following Christ involves much, much more than just coming forward at church one time.

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A Little Leaven

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