Patrick A. Quick, since coming across my website some time back, has engaged me on different aspects of Calvinism. During the course of that dialogue, which we have agreed to keep private, Pat has demonstrated himself to be both amicable and honest. Therefore, I look forward to this new aspect of our dialogue, which we have agreed to make public. This part of our dialogue, which is currently a work in progress, begins with the concept of Total Depravity, which, in our opinion, is a good place to start a dialogue about Calvinism. If you'd like to know more about the Reformed Baptist Church, then click here or click here
From Patrick A. Quick, email@example.com, on 9 September 1999
Thanks for speaking to me on the important issues of salvation. We have agreed to speak first of what Calvinistic theology calls "Total Depravity". From the Calvinist view, this would be the terminology used to describe what the Bible teaches regarding the state of sin that man is in, considered as "unregenerate", or before a person is "saved". Most evangelical Christians agree that men are sinners. Where the disagreement comes, is to what extent. This then is where the debate centers -- we might ask this question: Does the Bible reveal to us that unconverted men are just "sick" in sin, or is man "dead" in sin? First it might be appropriate to state what I don't mean by total depravity, or imply. I think the Bible presents a balance that is found in Calvinistic theology that is not found in other systems. Either a system focuses or emphasizes God's sovereignty to the exclusion of man's responsibility [forms of Hyper-Calvinism, and fatalistic determinism] or the other extreme emphasizes man's free-will over God's sovereignty [Arminianism and Pelagiansim]. I like to think that Calvinism properly understood is the balance that is evidenced in the Bible.
I don't want to make each of my statements too long, so I'll close and have you give your response. But let me present a quote from our London Baptist Confession of faith, 1689. (To see this document, click here) Chapter 3, Paragraph 1 "God hath decreed in Himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein; nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established" (emphases mine, PAQ).
I would like in my next statement, to present some passages in the Scriptures from the perspective of how I see them teaching this topic of man's sinfulness, along with some illustrations that have been helpful to me in understanding these truths.
God Bless, Pat
Reply from Allan Turner on 11 September 1999
You start by asking, "Does the Bible reveal to us that unconverted men are just 'sick' in sin, or is man 'dead' in sin?" The answer is, "Both." In Isaiah 1:5-6, bodily sickness is used as an analogy of Israel's improper spiritual condition. In 1 Corinthians 11:30, I believe "sickly" probably describes a spiritual condition, rather than a physical condition. Even so, the Bible also describes the unregenerate as being "dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 1:20;2:1,5;5:14;Colossians 2:13;1 Timothy 6:6). These are not two different conditions, as you seem to indicate, but one, which is described as both sickness and death.
As you wrote of the extremes of Hyper-Calvinism and Arminianism, I was made to wonder if you would classify John Calvin, a man whose doctrine you defend, as a Hyper-Calvinist. Calvin, you must know, wrote, "Predestination we call the eternal decree of God, by which He has determined in Himself, what He would have to become of every individual of mankind. For they are not all created with a similar destiny; but eternal life is foreordained for some and eternal death for others. Every man, therefore, being created for one or the other of these ends, we say is predestined either to life or to death" (Institutes, Book III, Chapter XXI, Section 5). According to those like yourself, who take a more "balanced" view, as you call it, Hyper-Calvinism isn't a very wholesome doctrine. Even so, it sounds to me like Calvin may have been one of those dreaded "Hyper-Calvinists after all."
Furthermore, instead of just citing the London Baptist Confession of Faith, 1689, Chapter 3, Paragraph 1, perhaps you'll take some time in your next response to explain to us how what you've cited is not an absolute contradiction in terms.
I'll refrain from any further comments until you begin to deal with the scriptures involved. I'm looking forward to your next response.
Yours in service to Him,
From Patrick A. Quick, firstname.lastname@example.org, on 12 September 1999
Instead of my giving an attempt at explaining what Hyper-Calvinism is—which could turn into a debate by itself, I would like to refer you and your readers to a very good "primer" on this subject that is available on the web. Here is the Link: http://www.gty.org/~phil/articles/hypercal.htm
I am not the author, but the author is a Calvinist of our "circles"—in his beliefs of salvational issues, we have all in common. I saw this material before in another forum, so I am not at all hesitant to fully recommend this material as to what I believe is the truth regarding Hyper-Calvinism. I would rather continue back to my intention of looking at some Scriptures regarding total depravity in my next message to you. I pray this is ok with you. If not, let me know.
God Bless, Pat
Reply from Allan Turner on 12 September 1999
That's fine, but the question was not, "What is Hyper-Calvinism?" The question had to do with whether you would classify John Calvin as a Hyper-Calvinist. Would you?
Yours in service to Him,
From Patrick A. Quick, email@example.com, on 13 September 1999
I thought I mentioned in that same msg, that—no, I did not think Calvin would be considered today a "hyper-calvinist". In fact, it's interesting to see how others interpret Calvin on Calvinism. Haaaa. But it's true. Although you quoted a pretty strong predestinarian quote there, Calvin has made some comments that might supprise you. Like thing such as Jesus died for the whole world--even referring to non-beleivers. At the time Calvin lived, there was no Remonstrance, and Dordt debating going on over the doctrine that is now known as "limited atonement". Well, back to our discussion . . . .
From Patrick A. Quick, firstname.lastname@example.org, on 13 September 1999
In continuing our discussion, I did ask whether man was sick or dead. And I agree completely with you in respect to the fact that the Bible uses both as illustrations of men in sin. My point was however, that there is a difference between using "only" sickness, and not death. For if that was the case, then we might conclude that man still was "able" spiritually. In other words, a very weak sick person still can do some things. Yet, the Bible also uses the term "dead". Here's where I see an important factor. A person can be sick, but not dead. However, a dead person is also "very very sick" :) See what I mean? In other words, the "sickness" of a dead person has reached it's ultimate conclusion. Sickness can lead to death, but once a person is dead, that is it.
And this is just the teaching of Scripture. Man is "dead", in his sin. Not just the sick and still ok, type of sick. Here is my next question: Doesn't "dead" necessarily imply "inability"? In other words, if a person was just sick and needed help to "help themselves"--then that is one thing. But when we, or the Scriptures use the word "dead", this to me implies that there is nothing a man can do to help God save himself. Let me put forth a passagee to look at.
Ephesians 2:1 "And you hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins"—The state of unregenerated men is a state of death. The solution is not for God to "help" them, but to give them a completely "new life". The new birth. As I said, to me the meaning of the word "dead" must necessarily imply "inability". I do not mean that dead means "non-existence". James says the body without the spirit is dead. When the spirit leaves the body, the spirit which was the source of life, leaves that body, so the body is considered, dead. The body is still there, it didn't cease to exist, but it was "separated" from its life source. Just so, in this passage of Ephesians, we are told what dead in tresspasses and sins was.
Eph 2:12 1) "That at that time ye were "without" [dead, separated] Christ. It wasn't that Christ was there just a "little bit"—there is "no" connection to Christ. 2) having "no" hope—here again, this pictures the condition not as needing help, but being "totally" depraved. 3) without God in the world.
Now, as I said in my previous message, I would give a passage. Explain what I saw there, and then give an illustration. Here is one that I think is appropriate. I don't know if you can agree with it or not. I know all illustrations men use, break down, so be patient and kind hearted here—let me know if "anything" about this illustration works for you. It is the analogy of a light switch. The modern kind that can go very dim lighting to all the way bright. So that there is motion in the dial. But when you tell me to go turn on the lights, I can turn the knob through all it's motion--a range that is accesible. Yet, while there is "no" current at all--not just a weak current or not just "intermittant" current. I can say that the knob does turn, but since it is "dead" "without" "no connection"-- the light will not go on.
The comparison is this. Man does make decisions. God does not cause men to sin. Man is responsible. Ye, unsaved men are not "connected" to God, Christ, and the life source in order to have salvation. Men are not "broken" knobs, bent wires that just need straightening out. Rather, we need completely to be connected and given that life source from God himself. Now, here, I know you do not agree with me, but I will still maintain this is the teaching of Scripture, that "faith is a gift".
In my next e-mail I would like to quote Ephesians 2:8-9 and give the grammatical reasoning why I think this teaches that faith is a gift.
So, I hope I was able to answer your question or rather comment about what I said–"These are not two different conditions, as you seem to indicate, but one, which is described as both sickness and death." (Pat: only one includes the other, it does not work the reverse way)
Love in Christ, Pat
From Patrick A. Quick, email@example.com, on 13 September 1999
I wanted to address your comment: "Furthermore, instead of just citing the London Baptist Confession of Faith, 1689, Chapter 3, Paragraph 1, perhaps you'll take some time in your next response to explain to us how what you've cited is not an absolute contradiction in terms."
I don't think I can debate or answer satisfactorily the "seeming" contradiction between man's responsibility and God's sovereignty. I'll leave that to the philosophy experts. I would rather keep to the texts of the Bible. All I can say is that the Bible teaches both truths. Two good examples: 1) Joseph was sold into Egypt. The sum of this is told by Joseph himself "you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good"—Joseph does not let his brothers off the hook, and say "God is so sovereign, that you have no responsibility". Also, even tho we might not be able to reconcile this, it is also plainly stated that: "God MEANT it for good"—the very same event, which included the evil will, and actions of moral agents. I marvel at how God was working providentially to bring all of these things together (i.e. Rom 8:28)
2). The most important event in all of history, the death of Christ, we are told explicitely "by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God"—these things were done. God was not a mere standby. Acts also states "by thy hand these things were done"—yet, again, we see "at the same time"—"you by wicked hands have taken and slain"
How to reconcile these things? I honestly do not know. I prefer to think that Calvinism is the system that keeps these truths in balance. D.A. Carson calls this biblical perspective "compatibilism". Holding to each truth—one without destroying the other.
There are many more Scriptures that I would like to speak of that show these two truths as we progress in our discussion.
God Bless, Pat
From Patrick A. Quick, firstname.lastname@example.org, on 20 September 1999
In our discussion of the Calvinistic doctrine of "Total Depravity", I posit that faith is a gift. I would like to support this Scripturally, by presenting an exegetical explanation of Ephesians 2:8-9, and say that since faith is "given" to men, then this necessarily implies that man's free will is not the source of faith. Please keep in mind that I am not saying that faith is not man's duty or is not necessary, I am saying faith does not come from man as the "original source". (I believe regeneration comes first, then faith is a gift and result of regeneration)
I understand the Biblical teaching to be that we "exercise" a faith that has it's origin outside of ourselves.
Also, let me acknowledge A.T. Robertson, who you might want to cite as an expert to say this passage of Scripture does not teach faith is a gift. Although ATR is a recognized scholar, the point to remember here is, that in his grammar, he himself acknowledges the rules to which he reaches his conclusion, is only "generally". With that said and done, let's look at the passage.
The issue under consideration is from Eph. 2:8 – basically stated, what is the reference made by the word "this" in the phrase "this not of yourselves"? The word is in the neuter case, "touto" in Greek, while the word "faith," ("pistis" in Greek) is a feminine word. Please keep in mind that scholars have their own opinions based on evidence, just like you and I do. But all honest Greek experts also admit that when it comes to gender references, particularly of a general pronoun like "touto" —these rules are not "hard and fast". In our case, of "touto" we should not "automatically" rule out that it might be referring to "pistis" in the previous clause. Indeed, the closeness of "pistis" to "touto" (the only word between them is "and") would argue that "touto" does refer to "pistis," even though the gender is different. This understanding also agrees with the meaning of "touto" or "this" in Greek. "Touto" means "this," in the sense of what is close at hand. In modern English we often don't distinguish "this" and "that," but in Greek they are different. "This" refers to something closer at hand, "that" (Greek "ekeinos") refers to something further away.
There is however another consideration that makes it most likely that the gender of "touto" is not "the" deciding factor here as your side would assert, and that is that "touto" must refer to something and there simply is no other noun in the area that is neuter.
"Grace" in "by grace are ye saved" is "also feminine"!,therefore although we might not agree that "touto has to" refer to "pistis" if a person is consistent with those same rules, it cannot refer to "charis" or "grace" either. The only other option is that it refers to the "idea" of salvation by grace, but this is not a common Greek use at all. Therefore, since "pistis" is the closest noun, in fact it is in apposition, that is directly related, to "touto," it would seem best (most accurate and faithful to the text) to conclude that "touto" could not refer to anything but "faith."
Finally, "touto" is in the neuter because it is also in apposition to "gift", which is neuter. And, when a pronoun refers to two nouns, it can take the gender of either. Look again at the passage without the phrase "and this not of yourselves," what do we have? "By grace you are saved through faith, it is a gift of God." Again, what can "gift" refer to, either "grace" or "faith," but in either case the message is the same, salvation comes from God. The fact is that both Grace and Faith are gifts of God, but again, "faith" is the word closest to "gift" so our conclusion is that "gift" does refer to "faith." I like to take out a phrase under consideration and see if the position still makes sense. Try it, and then re-insert it. The inserted phrase, "and this not of yourselves" only makes the Calvinistic conclusion stronger.
The best evidence for a conclusion should come from context. In the context before us, two things are clearly said that make our understanding of the faith being the gift of God the necessarily proper one. First in verse 5 Paul says, "you being dead in your trespasses and sins...." Dead people don't respond until "after being made alive", dead people cannot believe because that is the definition of "dead." So when Paul says "dead in trespasses and sins," he means "spiritually dead— spiritually separated, cut off—cannot have faith" Thus faith cannot be evidence of anything but resurrection, something no one does to himself when he is dead. Second, Paul says in verse 10 "We are his workmanship, created...." This is not physical, but spiritual creation. Again, who creates himself? No one. We are no more able to create spiritual lives in ourselves than Lazarus was able to resurrect himself— he was totally dependent upon Jesus. (inability from himself). The message of this passage is a single message, God saves you, you have faith, yes, but you are not the source of it - and this of course is what non-Calvinist systems argue against.
Remember, that if you would rather have "touto" reference the whole previous clause, which is allowable and very acceptable by the rules of grammar, the weight of agument still swings to the Calvinist side, because it would still mean that "salvation by grace through faith" is the "gift" of God referred to, and it would be completely illegitimate to extract either grace or faith when the text itself has put them together. One could not say, "faith is not a part of that gift." Indeed, if the whole clause is taken as a reference "faith" must be included in that which is a gift of God, and the point is again in the text that faith/grace are "not of works, in other words—they are gifts of God.
In my next e-mail, I would like to give some quotes from acknowledged theologians in support of this position. Interestingly, one of them comes from Lewis Sperry Chafer who left Presbyterianism, yet still believed in man's total depravity and inability.
God bless you richly,
Reply from Allan Turner on 1 October 1999
You said at the beginning that you would understand my busy schedule. Even so, I'm sorry it has taken me so long to respond to your last email. Many things have been pressing for completion, and I do appreciate your good attitude about this.
It appears to me that you have created a bit of a problem for yourself. If, as you say, the Bible is actually making a distinction between being spiritually "sick" and spiritually "dead," then when is a person just spiritually "sick" and not "dead"? I understand the Bible to be using these two terms to refer to the same condition, and therefore I do not have to define a difference between them. On the other hand, in your zeal to defend your definition of "dead," which you believe is total inability, you open yourself up to a category that your own doctrine does not accept. For you, man is either totally depraved and unable to exercise faith in God or he is regenerate, in which case he will believe. Where, in your doctrine, is there any room for the merely sick? I will be awaiting your reply.
Furthermore, I found your exegesis of Ephesians 2:8 to be interesting, erudite, and flawed. Can be, could be, maybe, are all possibilities, but the interpretations that go with them are not found in the mainstream of Bible scholarship on this issue. By the traditionally accepted rules, which you cited, the neuter touto would not normally refer to Grace or Faith, which are both feminine, but to the divine act of saving us. In other words, "This" (i.e., that you have been saved) is a gift from God and, as such, has absolutely nothing to do with the Ephesians themselves—that is, they did not work for it (verse 9). Let me say it one more time: The source and origin of this gift was "not of" the Ephesians, but "of God." This is what I believe this passage is teaching, and I think most informed non-Calvinists would agree with me. How, as you claim, the weight of this interpretation swings to the Calvinist side completely eludes me. So, perhaps in your next response you'll take the time to enlighten me.
Pat, your exposition of Ephesians 2:12 reflects your Calvinist predisposition. But contrary to your claim, "no hope" does not describe the condition of being "'totally' depraved." Instead, it describes the condition of those who are "without Christ." The only hope anyone has is "in Him" (cf. Ephesians 1).
Your effort to explain a quote you introduced into this discussion (the London Baptist Confession of Faith, 1689, Chapter 3, Paragraph 1), which I thought was for the purpose of clarifying your position, served only, it now seems, to muddy the waters. You first introduced it as an explanation, but now admit that it explains nothing. You then turn to passages which admittedly are difficult ones for Calvinists, because they require them to do lip-service to man's "free will" while, at the same time, extolling God's Sovereignty, which, by your own definition, says that "God hath decreed in Himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass." Talk about digging yourself a hole! I believe God is Sovereign, and I have had much to say about this on this website (click here to see one example), but I do not believe you Calvinists correctly define the concept. God's Sovereignty does not preclude man's free will. And don't try to tell me that man is totally depraved but somehow has free will, as that's just not possible, and you well know it. This is, however, your dilemma!
Ironically, the passages you cite demonstrate my belief concerning man's free moral agency (or free will). Joseph's brothers did what they did to hurt him, but God, in His providence, turns it into Joseph's good and the good of a whole race of people. How does Calvinism make that compatible? It doesn't! Therefore, your erroneous doctrine has created for you an unsolvable conundrum. In your effort to make your own case, you have unwittingly cited the solution to this "problem," from a non-determinist view. You refer to Acts 2:23, which says: "Him, being delivered by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death." This passage says that these men, of their own free wills (if God is not the author of sin, then "lawless hands" has to be a reference to their own free wills), did what they wanted to do (they crucified and killed Jesus). Nevertheless, in all this, God was actually giving (i.e., "delivering") His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (cf. John 3:16). This was done by His "determined counsel" and "foreknowledge." Pat, if you factor foreknowledge of the contingent, free will choices of men into the Sovereign's "decree," then I have no problem with it; but this is not what you Calvinists do. What you say is that God decreed it, therefore, He foreknew it. Just as belief and baptism (two different things) work together in Mark 16:16 to accomplish something (salvation), so God's "determined counsel" and "foreknowledge" (two different things) work together in Acts 2:23 to accomplish something (salvation). If man's free will was not involved, then why would He have even mention "foreknowledge"? If, on the other hand, man's free will was involved, and the context clearly teaches it was, then God, who determined to deliver His Son up to be crucified, would need to foreknow the contingent, free will choices of men. The Scripture teaches that this is exactly the case.
Finally, your interpretation of what the apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8 is a contradiction of what he wrote in Colossians 2:11-14, where he said:In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with [Him] through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. (NKJV)Notice that the apostle describes our condition prior to baptism (which is an act performed by faith), as one of "being dead in [our] trespasses and the uncircumcision of [our] flesh" (verse 13). In other words, Paul says that after faith (this refutes your doctrine), but before baptism (this substantiates mine), we were dead in our trespasses. That baptism (viz., "circumcision of Christ") is the demarcation point for regeneration is absolutely clear (cf. verse 11). This is, of course, exactly what Mark says in Mark 16:16, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (NJKV). This is exactly what Paul writes in Romans 6:1-6:What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be [in the likeness] of [His] resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with [Him,] that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. (NKJV)But on the contrary, you claim that regeneration comes before faith and baptism. So, am I to believe Paul, a Holy Spirit inspired apostle, or you? As much as I respect you, I'm sure you know my answer.
Yours in service to Him,
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