Answering Rolley Haggard on Calvinism

In reaction to my recent feature article, "The Depravity Question: A Worldview Perspective on The New Calvinism," Pointificator Rolley Haggard launched a critique of not only Calvinism as Christian theology, but also of Calvinists as a group of Christians.

Among the charges, Rolley accuses Calvinists of consigning all non-Calvinists to heathendom for being “culpably . . . obstinately . . . heretically resistant” to the truth, and that to take the Reformed view of faith in salvation “is to take our eyes off Christ and His finished work...”

Most of Calvinism itself, he contends, is “utterly bankrupt.” And he suggests that to believe it is to glory in something other than the cross of Christ.

Rolley’s response to my article seems odd, especially since the intention and message of my article was to call Christians from all traditions—Calvinist, Arminian and Catholic alike—to embrace their common, historic theology of sin. In furthering this end, I even quoted Jacob Arminius, founder of Arminian theology and Calvin’s chief opponent in history.

Now, I’m not interested in making a full defense of Reformed Theology here. As a freshly minted Calvinist, I lack the training or credentials to speak with any authority. But like Rolley, I can recall years on the opposing team, and a firm (if ill-informed) conviction that Christians who believed otherwise had been seriously hoodwinked. There was even a time when I called what I now cherish heresy.

Nevertheless, through the patient effort of friends, my study of the Scriptures, and deepened understanding of history, I eventually admitted that my salvation—like that of every true believer—rests upon the rock of God’s sovereign choice, not my works or willingness. And though everything in my flesh hated the thought, I had to confess that, unless the words of Romans 8, 9, 10 and 11, John 6 and 17, and Ephesians 1 and 2 are unintelligible, God chose me, not because of anything in me or about me but purely “for the pleasure of his will,” and “for the praise of his glorious grace.” (Ephesians 1:5-6)

But most importantly, like Charles H. Spurgeon, I realized that nothing save God’s irresistible grace could account for the reconciliation of a sinner as stubborn as I am:

“Looking back on my past life,” Spurgeon writes, “I can see that the dawning of it all was of God; of God effectively. . . . I did not commence my spiritual life—no, I rather kicked, and struggled against the things of the Spirit: when He drew me, for a time I did not run after Him: there was a natural hatred in my soul of everything holy and good. Wooings were lost upon me—warnings were cast to the wind—thunders were despised; and as for the whispers of His love, they were rejected as being less than nothing and vanity. But, sure I am, I can say now, speaking on behalf of myself, 'He only is my salvation.'”

Is faith “by its very nature, a repudiation of works” as Rolley insists? Yes. But this is only half of the story. Scripture makes it clear that even our cry of faith, by which we surrender to God’s grace our attempts at self-justification, is itself a gift of grace.

Contrary to Rolley’s generalizations, Calvinists do not view as rebels or heretics those brothers and sisters who lack a full understanding of God’s sovereign grace. The Lord's decision to save us does not depend upon our compete comprehension of that salvation. This is why I expect to meet in Heaven anyone whose faith rests in Christ alone—whether they be Reformed, Arminian, Catholic, Protestant, or whatever our friend Rolley is.

But as fully as I count my non-Calvinist brethren among God’s elect, I can no longer confess any Gospel but the one which so plainly leaps from the pages of Scripture—the Gospel of sovereign, unmerited, unsought grace which Isaac Watts so beautifully immortalized in his hymn, “How Sweet and Awesome is the Place”:

While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast,
Each of us cry, with thankful tongues,
"Lord, why was I a guest?"

"Why was I made to hear Thy voice,
And enter while there's room,
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?"

'Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly drew us in;
Else we had still refused to taste,
And perished in our sin.

Pity the nations, O our God,
Constrain the earth to come;
Send Thy victorious Word abroad,
And bring the strangers home.

We long to see Thy churches full,
That all the chosen race
May, with one voice and heart and soul,
Sing Thy redeeming grace.

For the curious seeking further reading on this subject, I commend to you three of the resources which changed my heart and mind: Charles Spurgeon’s A Defense of Calvinism, a brief (and powerful) video from R. C. Sproul laying the foundation of sovereign grace in salvation, and a sermon from pastor Jim McClarty on total atonement.


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Thank you Tim. I hope no one was offended by my, er, "overenthusiasm".
Illuminating Debate
A few 'blog-site- specific' points before I respond on an issue or two I raised:
1. Encouraged that everyone discusses/debates civilly, even to the point that most people sign their names (or at least a nickname/eponym) to what they write. That illustrates transparency.
3. I'm a frequent peruser, rare commenter, and the reason I'm a rare commenter is that one really has to bring their "'A' game" to this commenting party. The regulars here are really, really sharp.

Anyway, following my question/comment, I got most of the info I needed and a little bit of courteous push-back on my contention, paraphrased "Perhaps the two camps (and various sub-camps in between) have equally full, just different, conclusions on these issues of soteriology." The courteous push-back was (again, paraphrased): 1. I might be peddling 'post-modern' mish-mash for allowing both sides the ability to claim a full understanding. and 2. I was violating a law of mutual non-contradiction.

Thus, I read that, and initially consigned myself to crawling back into my hole (see "'A' game preface above).

But, I decided to wade back, let me splash around a bit more ;-)

Certainly (to the second critique), my statement should not be construed as my believing two contradictory premises simultaneously. After all, 2+2 does equal 4 (nothing else), and the Giants AND the Patriots both did not win last night. To place my soteriological position squarely on the record, in context, and within a Calvinist TULIP framework, I'm a 4-Pointer - I part ways with the "L" - the limited atonement, or particular redemption. Thus, my belief/position puts me at non-agreement with many commenters on this string.

But, I might be wrong. Shane might be right; Rolley might be right; LeeQuod might be right. Any of you might be right (including me), and yet I don't see that viewpoint falling squarely into the trap of mutual non-contradiction.

Why not? I see it as one of the mysteries. True, from our limited earthly perspective, both A and B cannot be right - the truth of one negates the truth of the other. And yes - there's Flaming Truth!!, but I thought that Flaming Truth!! was Jesus as Savior, miraculous resurrection, virgin birth, etc. I would certainly be one of the first to part ways with someone who denies any of those.

Further, I thought there was a general wholesale concurrence within Western Evangelical thought with the maxim (attributed to Augustine) 'In essentials unity, in non-essentials charity, in all things love.'

IMHO, I always thought the 'non-essentials' (the secondary issues) included things such as Monergism vs Synergism, OEC vs YEC vs ID, completarianism vs egalitarianism, and on. Is this debate (and many like it) just simply the result of one elevating an (ostensible) non-essential to the level of essential?

Rolley-esque diversion (with apologies): I've always imagined what might happen in heaven to the person who approaches Jesus and asks Him: "OK, so which was it? Calvinism or Arminianism? Monergism or Synergism?" And Jesus might simply say: "Yes."

And to my 'veiled insult.' I wish I had written more charitably, though I struggle even as I type to imagine what phrase captures it better.

Perhaps I am insulted. In Shane's view, I will always 'lack a full understanding' until I accept the 5th point of Calvinism. In Ken Ham's view, I will always deny the authority of the Bible because I accept the possibility of an old universe and old earth. In the view of CBMW, I do not understand the 'clear teaching of Scripture' if I think a woman preaching is OK or if a woman running for President is OK.

This is insulting to me because I: 1. Do believe I have a full understanding of salvation, 2. Do uphold the inerrancy of Scripture, and 3. Do see the clear teaching of Scripture in another way.

This also becomes insulting because there is often a unidirectional exclusionary attitude toward those of different convictions. Examples? Look for the Arminian (non 5-Pt Calvinists?) speakers at "Together (harumph!) for the Gospel." Look for OEC viewpoints at Christian homeschool conventions (they're rare). Look for a woman pastor (not a token pastor's wife) to sit on the Board of the Council of Biblical (harumph, again) Manhood and Womanhood.

Thanks again for the civil discourse. Again, I've learned a lot. I can't tell how long this is by typing in this tiny box, so if it's excessive, you have my apologies and explanation that I'm just a dumb vet. I could've hard shortened my comment if I'd had a better liberal arts university experience. Cheers and happy day to all. Tim Snider
Full Circle
Shane, you began [ ] with a thinly-veiled promotion of five-point Calvinism, distinguishable as such by your insistence upon a view of depravity that necessitates irresistible grace.

I countered [ ] saying there is no moral obligation to adopt the Calvinistic view of depravity – i.e., God isn’t more pleased and doesn’t want us to be Calvinistic, merely evangelical (i.e., truly incumbent through faith on Christ alone for acceptance before the bar of divine justice). I at no time questioned your motives for promoting the Calvinistic view (laudably, you want to steer folks away from Pelagianism). I did and still do challenge your method, however. Proposing Calvinism as the best and only sure antidote against a slide into Pelagianism is grossly disproportionate to Biblical revelation which teaches almost without any arguable exception faith alone without additional qualification. It is also a disservice to other non-Calvinistic theological traditions that are at least equally as pleasing to God.

You subsequently [ ] declared it odd that I would challenge your original piece saying, “especially since the intention and message of my article was to call Christians from all traditions—Calvinist, Arminian and Catholic alike—to embrace their common, historic theology of sin.” But your original piece conflated prevenient grace with irresistible grace and implied that even Arminians, if they would be true to their historic tradition, would agree with you on your view of depravity, and hence the need for irresistible grace, and by extension Calvinism.

At one point you were willing to say, “If all I ever do is coax Pelagians to orthodox Arminianism, I will feel accomplished and blessed.” But it seems to me that that ostensible concession has been eviscerated by the preponderance of other of your statements inimical to that sentiment. It suggests I was correct when I claimed,

“If other Christians “refuse” to concede the Calvinists’ particular view of God’s sovereignty and man’s inability, many Calvinists [note the word “many”; for the record you left that out, giving the impression that I allege this of all] hotly contend such folks are either deaf, dumb, and blind to what is “patently obvious on virtually every page of Scripture.” Or worse, that they are willfully -- read “culpably,” read “obstinately,” read “heretically” -- resistant to what they secretly know is true, but through sinful pride are stubbornly unwilling to acknowledge.”

How else, Shane, are we to construe statements such as the one you just made: “If you find yourself unable to accept this sovereign prerogative of God's to pass over those He has not chosen for salvation, then the Apostle has strong words for you in verses 19-23.”?

What you fail to grasp, my friend and brother, is that I reject what you call “God’s sovereign prerogative” not because I would flout any jot or tittle of the truth, but because I am persuaded it is not the truth. And I think also that I have the Spirit of God.
Rolley, dear closer-than-a-brother friend, I absolutely agree with you that we should debate these issues. The key word for me, though, is "we" - as in "not *us* vs. *them*".

Shane (and the jokes over Gregory/Shane didn't evolve, but were intelligently designed :-D ), I see this issue of God's sovereignty as anything but trivial, which is why I commend the study of Calvin's theology to everyone. But my Scripture reference was to 1 Cor. 1, not 1 Cor 3; Paul also has strong words for those who would divide the Body into "us" and "them". So you can talk about Monergism and Synergism all you want, and I'm completely on board. What I don't like is "Monergist" and "Synergist", which become prejudicial labels and, as Tim noted, often become put-downs. They easily substitute for real study and real debate of the type Rolley wants (and I and others would much prefer).

Personally, I see this particular issue as not unlike the particle/wave duality of physics: If you measure from an eternal perspective, you'll see that God has had everything foreordained from the very beginning; if you measure from the perspective of earthly lifetimes, we are absolutely responsible to "make a decision" for Christ. (Years ago I heard a tape of R.C. Sproul criticizing Billy Graham over some theological point. I was shocked; I thought everyone in Christendom supported the Billy Graham Crusades wholeheartedly.) So I can agree with you about Calvinism without being a Calvinist, and I can agree with Rolley that Calvinism is bankrupt in extremis. Ultimately, I think God in His wisdom left this an open question so we could wrestle with it, although at times I think "such knowledge is too wonderful for me". (Ps. 139:6, FYI)

Shane, your original article was titled "The Depravity Question". I thought "Oh, good - we'll get to wrestle with the various perspectives on that issue!" Instead, though, you used labels to divide 5-Point Calvinists from everyone else - and not on just Total Depravity, but apparently on all 5 Points - which has the effect of making people defensive, and actually reduces the discussion of the issue itself. Rolley is incredibly capable of arguing an issue with grace and incredible humor, but even he has reacted in a manner suggesting he takes this a bit personally. (I take it personally, too, because Rolley's my friend and I will defend him, even if I disagree with him. In this case, though, I believe he's right - Calvinism has gone overboard in denying any personal responsibility on the part of believers, which is actually harming the Body.)

So feel free to argue the issues of Calvinism all you want, but please avoid calling names. There was a guy around this blog some years ago who had studied under Francis Schaeffer's widow, was quite proud of the fact, and spent most of his time here trying to cause division. (He especially had it in for the Centurions Program.) He's no longer here because I think Gina thumped him with her YOD. Or maybe he got tired of us ignoring him. In either event, I wouldn't like it if your extremely valuable opinions were to be quashed or ignored. I think I have a lot to learn from you and Rolley going hammer-and-tongs at each other... provided it's over a specific issue, and not simply "Calvinism versus those systems of belief which are incorrect". You've done well in focusing on Monergism; just remember that Paul also said "and such were some of you". (I like to keep a mirror nearby as I write.)

Besides, if we're going to get into issues to argue about and labels to slap on people, I don't know if Dave the Swede manages IT for PFM (hint), but he has the temerity to be a Papist. Even so, I love the guy. I even love some Orthodox folk. How about you?
Furthermore Gregory, I'd like to give two illuminating examples. And yes, Gina I do know it is three in a row. I don't intend to give anymore until others have had their turn.

One example is from sci-fi the other is from Japanese legend.
In Cordelia's Honor the Regent of Barrayar, Aral Vorkosigan learns that a friend of his killed a man in a duel. He indeed ordered his execution as was his responsibility under the law. But while talking to his wife, he said nothing of his rights. Instead the night before he was in agony and told his wife so.

Another example is the tale of the 39 Ronin. A band of masterless Samurai murdered the Daimyo responsible for their old master's murder. The Shogun ordered them to commit suicide. And then ordered that flowers be put on their graves for their loyalty. And that tale remains told in Japan today.

Both of these were honorable rulers by the standards of their respective societies. And both passed the sentence the law demanded. And neither liked doing so.

And Aral never asked his wife to go to exasperating lengths to defend his rights as regent. And the Shogun never asked the Japanese people to defend his rights as Shogun. And both grieved about it just as much as everyone else.
To add to that, Gregory, it is worth reminding you that Abraham never received any harsh words for thinking the judgement on Sodom to be rather-awkward.
"Rolley: No, I am not willing to go on record as worshiping a God who predestines anyone to Hell, because such a God appears nowhere in Scripture.

I am, however, willing (as Calvin did) to worship a God who could justly send every, last sinful member of our race to Hell, but chose to have mercy on some, as Paul says He does in Romans 9:15.

If you find yourself unable to accept this sovereign prerogative of God's to pass over those He has not chosen for salvation, then the Apostle has strong words for you in verses 19-23. =)"

I am aware of that. I also think double predestination is a logical consequence.
And the other part, besides the fact that it looks rather like an attempted intimidation is assuming the premise that God did in fact do so, which is what is in dispute.
And Job 42:8 indicates that there are also some harsh words for those who go overboard in trying to defend Sovereignity for Him.
"why do the 5-Point Calvinists often label everyone else as Arminian?"

An excellent question, Tim! For the answer, we'll need some etymology:

ar-: prefix, from the Old Irish, meaning "in front of".

minius: variant of Old English "minus", meaning "small".

I.e., you're either a Five Point Calvinist, or obviously you have a tiny frontal lobe that makes it difficult for you to reason effectively.

Which ties in with your comment, of course.

And it's why I quoted Robert Benchley, earlier.

(OK, so the etymology is tongue-in-cheek fictional - but I certainly have been treated, myself, as stupid for claiming to be a 4-Pointer, a 3.5-Pointer, or any other variant that indicates I'm trying to be thoughtful and sensitive rather than just accepting the party line, irrespective of the feelings and insights of someone like Rolley.)
Tim, it is not an insult. If a person cannot say that he thinks those he disagrees with are wrong, he cannot have an opinion as that is the logical consequence of having any opinion whatsoever. I do not necessarily view as rebels or heretics those who lack my fuller and more complete understanding either.
The Bottom Line, for Rolley Haggard
“The proper activity of professing Christians who disagree with one another is neither to ignore, nor to conceal, nor even to minimize their differences, but to debate them.” (John Stott, “Christ the Controversialist”, p. 22)

“We are ‘to maintain the truth in love,’ being neither truthless in our love, nor loveless in our truth, but holding the two in balance.” (p. 19)

“We need to distinguish between the tolerant mind and the tolerant spirit. Tolerant in spirit a Christian should always be, loving, understanding, forgiving and forbearing others, making allowances for them, and giving them the benefit of the doubt, for true love ‘bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things’. [And thank you, LeeQuod, Prince of Saints, for I know that this is what you are underscoring, and rightly so, my beloved friend]. But how can we be tolerant in mind of what God has plainly revealed to be either evil or erroneous?” (p. 8)

G. K. Chesterton said: “The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid”. Shane’s bio says that he loves to compete and argue. I hope to give him great pleasure.

But all that said, if anyone, Shane included – indeed, especially Shane – but also Lee, Kevin, Jason, Kelvin, Dan, Alan, Tim, William (and anyone else who had more sense than to come into the kitchen while the cooks were fussing over the sauce) – if anyone has taken offense at anything I have said, I apologize most sincerely, most sincerely indeed.

But I don’t retract a word. If we are ever going to “get this all worked out”, this is precisely how it’s going to get done (IMHO).

Bottom line: I defer to Gina, in the fear of YOD, to determine if/when I ever step over the editor’s bottom line. In the meantime I welcome criticism of all I say and the way I say it. After what I just quoted I think I would be a hypocrite not to. And I prefer not to have to answer that charge on the day of judgment (Proverbs 15:32).
Rolley: No, I am not willing to go on record as worshiping a God who predestines anyone to Hell, because such a God appears nowhere in Scripture.

I am, however, willing (as Calvin did) to worship a God who could justly send every, last sinful member of our race to Hell, but chose to have mercy on some, as Paul says He does in Romans 9:15.

If you find yourself unable to accept this sovereign prerogative of God's to pass over those He has not chosen for salvation, then the Apostle has strong words for you in verses 19-23. =)

Indeed, Worldviews have consequences. And I am glad you recognize this as essentially a question about what God is like. I agree. But you must understand that the consequences of your worldview are questions about the perspicuity of scripture, the seriousness of sin, the assurance of salvation, what Christ actually accomplished on the cross and the ability of God to ever, truly save anyone. These are the consequences which led me, when I began to mature in faith, to abandon Arminian theology as vain and ungodly nonsense.

Lee: You dismiss this entire discussion as trivial. Of course, generations of Christians and the greatest minds since the Reformation disagree with you. In fact, I don't think it's possible to overstate the tininess of the minority you place yourself in when you compare the question of God's sovereignty in salvation--something which scripture and theologians have spent enormous amounts of space elaborating--with the petty squabbles of 1 Corinthians 3.

"Christ did not send us to argue, but to preach the gospel..." you say. I agree. But what gospel? When I grant that Arminianism is within orthodoxy, I do not mean that it is true. Only that it acknowledges, amidst its errors, those truths which are essential for salvation to take place (i.e. "You are a born sinner. Christ died to save born sinners. Repent and believe on Christ and you will be saved").

But the caveats which Arminianism (and all Synergistic soteriology) adds in--i.e. "man is depraved, but God enables all men to overcome that depravity," "your election depends upon your free-will decision," "Jesus' blood pays for everyone's sins, even those who will go to Hell," "God calls us to salvation, but we can resist Him," and "blood-bought saints who were foreknown, predestined, called and justified by the Father can revoke their salvation"-- are all, in my view, abhorrent to scripture.

Tim: If you want to get right down to it, "Calvinism" and "Arminianism" aren't really two sets of five points. They are ways of thinking about salvation. That's why I really prefer the terms "Monergism" and "Synergism." One means that God is the sole actor in salvation, the other means that God and man act together. So basically, there are people who call themselves x-point Calvinists who aren't Monergists. But there is no one who calls himself an Arminian of any stripe who isn't a Synergist. Admittedly, the term "Arminian" now encompasses a whole slew of Pelagian and semi-Pelagian humanistic mush, much of which would have horrified both namesakes. But the fact is that most people who disagree with the statement "God is the sole actor in salvation" use the shorthand "Arminian" to describe themselves. That's why we've been using it here. If you prefer, I will drop it.

And no, there were no "veiled insults" in any portion of my main article, or this blog entry. If you see any, you must know my own intentions better than I do. =)

But your proposition that the contradictory theologies of Calvinism and Arminianism are both equally full--"just different"--understandings of scripture, bothers me. I think it will bother Lee and Rolley, too. We here at BreakPoint talk a lot about relativism and Postmodernism. But as one of the most influential Calvinists of the last century (who turned 100 this year) said, "There is Truth! Flaming Truth!"

What Francis Schaeffer taught (and we all should understand) is that two contradictory ideas cannot both be true. Either one conforms to reality and the other falls short, or they both do. Let's dispense with this futile attempt to placate both parties.

Finally, let me go on the record: My name is Gregory Shane Morris. I go by Shane (which is why it ends up on all my blog entries), but I am in the comment system as Gregory. It has, indeed, evolved into a sort of joke. I can't say that I mind (until the Alan Ladd references start, that is).
I've learned greatly from reading these exchanges. Thanks. I have one question and one comment.

My question is: Within the realm of the Calvinism vs Arminianism debate, why do the 5-Point Calvinists often label everyone else as Arminian? (At least that's my frequent observation.) I thought there were 5 points of Arminianism also; hence, if you agree with 4 points of Calvinism, you are often lumped in with Arminians, even though you line up with that group less.

My comment is directed toward the ending of Gregory/Shane's (inside joke? I guess) piece where he writes: "Calvinists do not view as rebels or heretics those brothers and sisters who lack a full understanding of God’s sovereign grace." I read that as a bit of a veiled insult hidden behind some apparent charity. Gregory/Shane: Perhaps those non-Calvinists don't LACK a thing. Perhaps their understanding is equally FULL. Perhaps it's just a different understanding. Perhaps.

Tim Snider
Or maybe in the next five-hundred years or so it will cause another generation of war and chaos.
The bottom line, for LeeQuod
(Hmmm, which version would Five Pointers prefer? Probably New King Jimmy...)

Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Gina’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Calvin,” or “I am of Arminius,” or “I am of Wesley,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Calvin crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Calvin?

I don't think that any of you are old enough to have been baptized by Calvin, lest anyone should say that Calvin had baptized in his own name. He probably baptized some, himself, but who knows? Besides, who cares? For Christ did not send us to argue, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.


I suppose a true Five Pointer would never put a nickel in a Salvation Army bell-ringer's bucket, to avoid supporting Semi-Pelagianism at all cost. Nor would they donate used clothing.


It's one thing to discuss important doctrinal issues. Its another thing to give those issues a label like "Calvinism" and argue that everyone should either wholly agree, or wholly disagree. As a new Christian, sometime before Shane was born, I worried a lot that I was picking the wrong side and that it would have permanent consequences. I've since learned that one can go from non-Calvinist to Calvinist (as Shane did) or Calvinist to non-Calvinist (as Rolley did) and not suffer - but maybe even be the better for it.

And maybe, in the **next** 500 years or so, we'll get this all worked out.
Kinda Figured You’d Jump on that, Shane

If you are willing to go on record saying some people are honestly able to love “with all the heart, soul, mind, and might” a deity who predestines people to Hell, then I am willing to go on record conceding that the will of certain folks is, indeed, in some sort of serious bondage.

From the beloved Chuckster: “For years I’ve taught how important it is that we embrace a worldview that comports to reality; how important it is that we test the validity of any worldview. Push a worldview to its logical conclusions, and if you can live with those conclusions, well, the worldview proves to be rational.” ( )

The converse is also true.

Welcome to Worldview 101, my friend.
"I was forced to admit how irrelevant my will was in the process by which God gave me New Birth. "Free will" theology seems to me now about as sensible as telling my mother I gave her permission to conceive and bear me."

Would you be pleased to learn that your sibling had been aborted?
It's a powerful teacher. Even more so when we actually take the time to examine it. Taking my cue from Charles Spurgeon, I remember looking back on my own salvation and walk with Christ. That was probably the single most convincing argument for Calvinism I have ever heard (and experienced).

I was forced to admit how irrelevant my will was in the process by which God gave me New Birth. "Free will" theology seems to me now about as sensible as telling my mother I gave her permission to conceive and bear me.
>>"So I’ll go ahead and lay all my cards on the table right now. If God really is the sort of Person Shane thinks He is, then the simple, honest truth is, I cannot love Him with all my heart, soul, mind, and might, despite the fact that He says that is His “first and Great Commandment.” I can’t do it. I’m just being painfully honest. (Talk about the implications of a worldview)."

It is amazing, Rolley, how accurately you echo the words of Erasmus in his "On Free Will." As a Protestant, it should interest you that the instigator of the Reformation utterly condemned and denounced this view, and dismantled it so fully with scripture and logic in his "Bondage of the Will," that Erasmus basically resigned public life in disgrace.

I speak of course, of Martin Luther, that Augustinian monk and Catholic scholar who dared to open his own church's annals and rediscover salvation by grace through faith, predestination, and the great truths which were always there, waiting to be read.

Unlike you, Rolley, I do not see the church as progressively evolving correct doctrine. I think it's been here since the beginning, when it was "delivered once, for all to the saints," and that the Reformation reignited the old Gospel which had so long been suppressed (but not extinct).

I'm also pretty shocked that you see the modern church--with all its excesses of emotion, scandals, biblical illiteracy and worldliness--as on the cusp of some great, doctrinal breakthrough or theological golden age.

If your observations of modern Christianity lead you to such a conclusion, I'm frankly no longer surprised by the conclusions you arrive at from reading scripture.
Not Smug at all, Gracious Brother Kevin
I, for one, reject the “antinomy” idea as merely a glorified synonym for contradiction, and an unfortunate contributor to much of the cognitive dissonance and resignation amongst Christians that anyone will ever be able to satisfyingly put it all together.

I believe the doctrine of salvation is completely rational (see Isaiah 1:18), but also, that as good as post-Reformation evangelical theology today is, we are not quite “there” yet in terms of articulating it so that “he may run that readeth” (Hab 2:2).

And, of course, it goes without saying that I completely disagree with Calvinists, who would contend that they do, in fact, understand these things quite well, thank you. But having been in their camp for so long – indeed, being a leader, a “ten point Calvinist” as one friend liked to refer to me – I know where they are coming from, and in large measure I know where they misunderstand both the text (the letter) and the spirit of the law.

To tip my hand a bit more, I also believe that, by and large, contemporary Christian music has caught the spirit of Biblical Christianity (cf. Jason Gray’s “More Like Falling in Love” – taken from a remark by G. K. Chesterton that “our religion should look less like a theory and more like a love affair”), and that with each passing year the church’s collective sense of the truth is being refined as together we continue to examine, debate, dialogue, and reformulate our understanding of the truth as it is in Jesus. I see divine purpose in all this “due process”, best summarized, perhaps, in Romans 11:30-32: God is out to save everyone He can.

My concise view on God’s sovereignty is this: that the sovereignty of God is the sovereignty of Love. God certainly has all power to do absolutely anything. But would He? Or would He only, always, act consistently with His nature, love?

Jesus is the key. In Him are hid “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”. “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.”

Oh, dear
I do not mean to trivialize this real heart-concern on the part of anyone, nor am I trying to suggest that this subject is not of great significance. If I have conveyed that inadvertently, please forgive me.
I believe the technical term for this kind of matter is 'antinomy,' that is, something in which conflicting viewpoints are both apparently true. (I am pleased this kind of thing is also an issue in the secular world, such as in the issue of determinism and free will.)
To me, it seems clear that Scripture clearly teaches both: man is free and his choices matter, and God is completely sovereign. Doesn't Paul himself teach both of these viewpoints in successive chapters in Romans?

And I COMPLETELY understand how one's apprehension of a certain biblical truth can be absolutely essential for one's very existence and survival: my own life-history is peppered with many times where that has been true. (Or do I mean 'salted'?)

I agree with Packer that "the proper study of mankind is God" and yes, this debate does come to His Person and His ways, nothing less. And I will acknowledge, too, that not knowing Love very well, I often gravitate to a cerebral understanding of essential matters, and discount the very real part that Love plays in this universe. (to which you may reply: "yeah? so how's that working out for you?")

Please forgive me if I have seemed dismissive or glib. But I guess I do feel that there are certain aspects of the Person of God and His ways where our most appropriate response is silent, watchful humility. (Does that sound smug? I hope not!)
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