Dialogue With A South African Calvinist
(Part Two)

Flower boarder

Reply from Allan Turner on July 22, 2006


I’ll begin by responding to your last remarks first. You say that my interpretation of 2 Timothy 2:24-26 is wrong, in that the verses are not talking about “time and opportunity” at all, but God’s enabling ability—that is, you believe these folks couldn't repent until God had directly acted upon them with His “irresistible grace,” thereby making (forcing) them believe when they otherwise would have not been inclined or able to do so. And where is all that in the text? So, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, is it not? In other words, we both are called upon to interpret these verses: I have done so based upon my understanding of other clear passages which teach that man, although sin-sick, is able to positively respond to the gospel of his own free will—passages, not just incidentally, that I mentioned in my response of June 30. You, on the other hand, are interpreting these verses in light of Calvinistic doctrine. So, the proof you offer for your interpretation is Calvinistic and the proof I offer is non-Calvinistic. What the readers will have to do is determine for themselves, based on their own study of these and other relevant passages, who they believe has articulated the Scriptural position. With this said, I’ll now address your overall response to my June 30 reply.

You spent your first reply trying to prove that the “natural man” in 1 Corinthians 2:14 is exclusively the unregenerated man and the “carnal mind” of Romans 8:6-7 is exclusively the mind of the unregenerated person. I told you that if you could prove this, “then you’ve got your Calvinistic proof-texts.” Well, guess what? You failed. You used 1 Corinthians 1:18 to try and “prove” your point, but this passage proves nothing of the sort. The verse says, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” This verse can mean what you say it means only when interpreted within the Calvinistic framework, for the text does not say that those who are perishing are exclusively the unregenerated persons, as you claim, but that the “natural man,” namely, the one who is thinking carnally, considers the gospel to be nothing but foolishness, which is perfectly consistent with my exegeses of these passages in my June 30 response. Further, that the “natural man” (Greek psuchikos) is translated as “unspiritual” in James 3:15, as you pointed out, is also consistent with the arguments I made in my June 30 reply. Perhaps you ought to go back and read those arguments again, for it seems to me that you did not fully understand them.

What I Believe, Teach, And Have Written In This Debate

I believe and teach, as I wrote to you previously, that the natural man is a person who is not thinking spiritually, whether unregenerated or not. You, however, think this carnally-minded person is exclusively the unregenerated person, that is, an individual who has never been saved or “born again.” Again, I believe the carnally-minded person is not limited to only those who have never been saved, but includes anyone (Christian or not) who is thinking unspiritually (i.e., carnally). As I wrote before, the person who is thinking this way “cannot,” as long as he continues to do so, obey the law of God. I went into no little detail demonstrating from the Scriptures how this was the case (please read again my remarks on Romans 8:7a in my June 30 response). The fact that those who think carnally do not have the Spirit of God dwelling in them is not proof, as you suppose, that all such people had never initially been redeemed, only that they were no longer in such a condition, which is exactly what I believe, teach, and have written in this debate.

Two Paths: The Difference Between The Law And The Gospel

In your critique of my statement, “For sure, they [speaking of Romans 8:7-8 and 1 Corinthians 2:14] teach that the person being controlled by a carnally thinking mind is unable to do something, all right, but this inability is clearly related contextually to the law, not the gospel,” you ask, “If a person is unable to submit to God’s law, what makes him able to submit to Christ and his gospel?” As I pointed out in my June 30 response, the carnally minded person “cannot” or is “unable” to respond to the law of God because the carnal, fleshly thinking mind and the law of God are diametrically opposed to one another. In other words, as long as a person is thinking carnally, he cannot, does not, and will not obey the law of God. But, and you of all people should know this, there is a big difference between the law of God and the grace of God (cf. John 1:17, Romans 6:14-15). But because you seem unaware of this difference, I feel compelled to offer the following explanation.

In Romans 1:16-17, the apostle Paul wrote:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

When Paul discusses the gospel in the book of Romans, his main concern is not the difference between sin and salvation. Instead, his primary purpose is to contrast the two possible ways of salvation: either by grace through faith, or by law through works. Thus, in theory, at least, there are two roads to God. Even so, Paul’s point is that one of these roads (works of law) has been thoroughly and permanently blocked by our sin. Try as we might, we can never get right with God by personal righteousness and law-keeping, for “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Consequently, all of us have failed to keep God’s law perfectly. But praise be to God, He has not left us to perish. Instead, He has graciously provided an alternative route: FAITH—the only genuine road to God, and the only way to salvation for sinners. So, to understand just what it means to be “saved by grace through faith” (Ephesians 2:8) and to be “heirs of grace” (1 Peter 3:7; Titus 3:7), one must understand the difference between law and grace.

Law vs. Grace

The Bible places the two systems of law and grace in sharp contrast to each other. As was previously noted, John says:

And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:16-17).

In complete agreement with John, Paul warns, “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4). He says of Christians that we are “not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14). “Under law” is a phrase that describes the state of every person at the beginning of his life. God is the God of “law and order.” He created the universe to operate according to natural law, and for his human creatures to live according to moral law. When a person’s moral consciousness develops, he is confronted with God’s moral law, either by general revelation (viz., nature [cf. Romans 1:18-32; 2:14-15]) or special revelation (i.e., the Bible). If one remains within a system or framework of law, then on judgment day he will be judged according to the rules or terms of law. These rules may be stated quite succinctly:

Keep the law; escape the penalty.
Break the law; suffer the penalty

In Deuteronomy 30:19, Moses said:

I call heaven and earth as witness today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.

This is the way law operates. As long as we are under law, we must realize that these are the rules that apply to us. If we keep God’s law, we escape the penalty of hell. Thus, it is possible, at least theoretically, to be justified by our perfect works in obedience to God’s commandments. However, the problem with this system is that just one sin makes us a lawbreaker and subjects us to the penalty. As James says:

For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all (James 2:10).

Paul makes this same point when he says:

For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them” (Galatians 3:10).

Thus, to be saved under law (which is where we all begin), one must live an absolutely perfect life. But the terrifying reality is that “There are none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). This means that as long as we remain under law, we are bound to be lost, and it is just here that the gospel finds its appeal. God has provided an alternative to law—another way to be saved. It is the way of grace. It is a totally different system, and it operates according to a completely different set of ground rules.

Under grace, one approaches God for salvation on the following simple terms:

Keep the law, but suffer the penalty.
Break the law, but escape the penalty

Thank God, then, for grace, for under grace, a lawbreaker (a sinner like you and me) may escape the penalty of eternal damnation. Therefore, “Break the law, but escape the penalty” is good news indeed. For in our present condition, and without God’s magnificent and merciful grace, we don’t stand a chance of ever making it to heaven.

But wait a minute, one might say, isn’t there something wrong with these terms? After all, why should one who keeps the law suffer the penalty, while the one who breaks the law escapes the penalty? This doesn’t seem fair!, you might think, and you are right. It is not fair, and it is not supposed to be, for if it were fair, it would not be grace. Law is fair. Grace, on the other hand, is much more than fair.

Okay, you say, but just one more minute. You can accept, you say, even embrace with open arms, the second part of the system, i.e., “Break the law, yet escape the penalty.” That’s great, because that’s our only hope, you say, but what about that first rule: “Keep the law, yet suffer the penalty”—surely this is going too far! How can that be grace, you are thinking, and who would ever agree to such a thing?

Grace Isn’t Fair

It is just here that we must understand that grace is different from our ordinary way of thinking, for it does not fit within the framework of law and justice, or even our sense of fairness. This is especially true of the statement, “Keep the law, yet suffer the penalty.” Nevertheless, this is the very element of grace that makes it grace. Without this provision, the other one, which says, “Break the law, yet escape the penalty,” would not be possible. After all, to whom does the first provision apply? Who has kept the law perfectly? Only one person: Christ, sinless Jesus of Nazareth. But even though He kept the law perfectly, He suffered the penalty. Why? Because, only the demands of grace could nail our spotless Lord to the cruel cross of Calvary, for in His sinless death, He suffered the full penalty of the law in our place, and thus made it possible for us, as actual lawbreakers, to escape the penalty. Again, praise God for His magnificent grace and mercy! This system of grace is summed up perfectly in 2 Corinthians 5:21, which says:

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

In other words, Jesus took our sins upon Him and paid the price so that we could receive an imputed righteousness (i.e., a righteousness graciously put to our account by a God who loved us in spite of our sins), “even the righteousness of God which is through faith in Jesus Christ” (Romans 3:22a). And as Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Here, then, is the choice: We can remain under law, to our certain condemnation; or we can accept the free gift of grace and become “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17). Of course, choice is not something you Calvinists think we human beings actually have. But if we humans do have free-will choices to make, and the Bible says we do, then the false system of Calvinism comes crashing down, and you and your cohorts know it. This is why you do everything in your power to try and explain away the clear teachings of Scripture.

But one thing needs to be made transparent here. In distinguishing between law and grace, I am not talking about the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament. What I’ve said here about law applies to any form of God’s law in any age. No one was ever saved by keeping, perfectly, the Old Testament, or law of Moses. And by the same token, no one is saved by perfectly keeping the New Testament commandments either. Why? Because once a person has sinned, law, in any form, is unable to save him. Remember, the law says, “Break the law; suffer the penalty.” What, then, was the purpose of the Old Testament law? Paul says it was given “because of transgressions” until the “Seed” (Jesus Christ) should come (cf. Galatians 3:19). This tells us that it was given to help control man’s sinful tendencies, and to make it clear, ultimately, that every man is a sinner and thus cannot be saved by perfect law-keeping. Paul says, “for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20). Thus, “the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24). In other words, as our schoolmaster, the law taught us that Christ, as the manifestation of God’s grace, was the only source of salvation. This means that the law itself was never intended to be a means of salvation.

In Galatians 3:21-25, Paul wrote:

Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.

What this means is that Old Testament saints who were saved were saved by grace just like we are today. Abraham is the New Testament’s favorite example of this truth. In fact, Paul uses Abraham to prove his main point, which is that “a man is justified by faith apart from the law” (Romans 3:28). The full blessings of salvation and eternal life were offered to Abraham and his family, and through him to all peoples of the earth. “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). “And the Scriptures, foreseeing that God would justify the nations by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, ‘In you all the nations shall be blessed.’ So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham” (Galatians 3:8-9). “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs, according to the promise” (Galatians 3:28-29).

Now, how did Abraham receive his glorious inheritance? How did anyone else in the Old Testament era receive it? How does anyone receive it in the New Testament age? Paul says the inheritance does not depend on perfect law-keeping, but on God’s promise. “For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise” (Galatians 3:18). Thus, Abraham received the blessing through faith in God’s promise. “For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith” (Romans 4:13). “And [Abraham] believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6, quoted in Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:6; and also mentioned in James 2:23).

The apostle Paul makes it clear that the inheritance of grace is shared by all in the family of Abraham. Who is it, then, who belongs to Abraham’s family? Those who, like Abraham, believe in (trust in) the promise of God—that is, Abraham is “the father of all who believe” (Romans 4:16). As he said in Galatians 3:26-29:

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Saved By Grace Through Faith

In Ephesians 2:8-9, the Scriptures say:

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

Therefore, how sad it is to see Christians who continue to think like the Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14:

Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed with himself, “God I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner!” I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be abased, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

On Judgment Day, I am afraid some, like the Pharisee (and I’m including some of my own brethren in this), will appeal to keeping the commandments for entry into heaven. On the other hand, the true child of God will appeal to his trust (I’m talking “faith” here) in God’s promise of salvation through the grace manifested in connection with the precious blood of the Savior, Jesus Christ. Therefore, and contrary to what you think, I realize, and I’m thankful, that our salvation depends not on our weaknesses, but on God’s strength. In other words, our salvation does not depend upon our ability to keep law perfectly, but on God’s ability to save us by faith as He promised. When we realize this, we can truly begin to live under grace as our most loving Heavenly Father surely intended:

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:1).

Not By “Faith Alone”

Notice that neither the salvation of Ephesians 2:8, nor the justification of Romans 5:1, are through or by “faith alone,” as you Calvinists assert. Luther, Calvin et al. were wrong when they argued that “faith alone” is what these passages were really saying. In other words, these were never more than bold assertions by these men, which means that all such thinking must be categorized with the “doctrines of men” so clearly condemned in the Bible (cf. Matthew 15:19; Mark 7:7; and Colossians 2:22). In point of fact, the Bible makes it quite clear that we are not saved by faith alone: “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” (James 2:14). “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17). “But do you not know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:20). “Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?” (James 2:22). “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (James 2:24). “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26).

You can see, then, why Martin Luther thought the book of James to be “a right strawy epistle,” questioning whether a book of such inferior worth even belonged in the New Testament. In other words, if you don’t like it, get rid of it. Yes, I know he thought the epistle of James contradicted what he believed Paul to have taught in his epistles—namely, that one is saved or justified by “faith alone,” but as we’ve seen, Paul never taught any such thing. And if Luther had been willing to honestly consider what James wrote by inspiration, he could have come to the correct understanding that Paul and James were not contradicting one another at all. Salvation is not by “faith alone,” and the Bible clearly says so (cf. James 2:24). Therefore, the doctrine of “faith alone” was the figment of Luther’s very fertile imagination, and the same holds true for Calvin and the rest of the Protestant cohort. Again, neither Paul, nor any of the New Testament writers, ever taught salvation by faith alone, and I challenge you to prove conclusively that Paul or any of the other New Testament writers ever did.

Paul And James Are In Harmony

Fact is, and this is going to surprise you, the Faith Only Doctrine is just as dead in the book of Romans as it is in the epistle of James. In Romans 1:5 (and the emphases in these following verses are mine—AT), Paul wrote, “through whom [speaking of Jesus Christ] we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name.” In Romans 16: 25-27, he wrote: “Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret since the world began but now has been made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures has been made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith—to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen” The faith under discussion here, in my opinion, is objective faith, that is to say, “the objective standard”—namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ (cf. Jude 3). Therefore, the obedience here is the obedience from the heart (cf. Romans 6:17) that is always the demonstration of biblical faith (i.e. the “saving faith” that is depicted many places in God’s Word).

Saving Faith Is A Faith That Works

But what, someone might ask, is saving faith? Well, it is certainly more than mental assent, for we are told that some of the Jewish leaders “believed in” Jesus, but would not, when all was said and done, confess Him “lest they be put out of the synagogue” (John 12:42). Consider, then, that in Romans 10:10, Paul said, “For with the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation.” Again, in Hebrews 11:6, the writer, who I happen to believe was probably Paul, said, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for all who come to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” In other words, saving faith does not just give mental assent to God’s existence, but it further involves the disposition or willingness to both trust in and rely upon the object of one’s belief. Thus, saving faith is not just knowing there is a God who loves us and has sent His only begotten Son into this world to die for us—although it certainly includes all this. But more than this, what makes it truly saving faith is a trust in and reliance upon Jesus Christ as Lord of one’s life. What this means is that without the faith that makes Jesus Lord, and this is a faith that is willing to obey, there can be no real salvation.

The Importance Of Obedience

Speaking of Jesus Christ, Hebrews 5:9 says: “And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” Then in Romans 6:17-18: “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” In 1 Peter 1:22a, the Bible says, “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit.” Then in 2 Thessalonians 1:7b-8, it says, “…when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

But From Whence Does Such Saving Faith Come?

In answering this question, Calvinists, like yourself, who believe that unregenerated man is totally depraved and completely unable to respond positively to the gospel by faith, believe faith is given directly by God in some “better felt than told experience.” On the other hand, the Bible, in Romans 10:14-17, says:

How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed: “Their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.”

Unregenerated man, although he is certainly sin-sick and morally depraved, is not totally depraved and unable to respond to the gospel invitation, as you Calvinists think. Consequently, the Bible over and over again calls upon man to obey the gospel and, by so doing, “save [himself] from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:40, KJV). But you Calvinists cannot allow such a thing, for you claim that if unregenerated man can respond in such a fashion, this would have man working out his own salvation (cf. Philippians 2:12), which would somehow denigrate the sovereignty of God. This, you Calvinists say, would be to admit that man could somehow earn salvation. No, no, no. Man, who is a sinner, cannot do anything to earn salvation. But he can, and must, render obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ in order to be saved. As I pointed out in my June 30 response:

Contrary to Calvinist doctrine, the Bible teaches that sin-sick man is not totally depraved and therefore absolutely unable to obey the gospel. Instead, the gospel is to be preached to all men and women everywhere—men and women who the Bible describes as being dead in sin (cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:1; Ephesians 2:5; et cetera). This means that although their thinking is distorted and depraved, it is not totally distorted nor totally depraved, as you Calvinists teach. On the contrary, those who are dead in their sins can, upon hearing the gospel, render obedience to it in faith and repentance, both of which clearly require free moral agency.

For example, in Colossians 2:11-14, Paul wrote: “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, 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. 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, 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 His cross.” Notice how this passage flies in the face of Calvinistic doctrine. These individuals had heard the gospel and had obeyed it, thus they were raised up to walk in “newness of life,” as Romans 6:4b calls it, or “alive,” as it is referred to here. Before being “raised,” these had been “dead in [their] trespasses.” In other words, before being raised and made alive, they were exercising themselves positively to the gospel.

Your doctrine, of course, would have them already raised and made alive when the inspired apostle says they were still dead in their trespasses. In obeying the gospel, these sinners had been able to put off the “body of the sins of the flesh” by the circumcision of Christ which, in the immediate context, is described as being “buried with Him in baptism, in which [they] were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God.” So, if this was the only passage that refutes Calvinism, and I’ve already demonstrated it isn’t, then it would be sufficient to show that your interpretation is contrary with the truths taught in God’s word.

Have you made any effort to answer this? No. All you want to do is pick here and there at what I’ve taken the time to write, like a tired old woman might try to pluck a chicken, and this is most disappointing coming on the heels of you taking the time to contact me and let me know that you wanted to have a meaningful discussion. Okay, then, let’s have it. However, I have no interest in continuing a discussion with someone who is not disciplined enough to do what he said he would do. More than a few people regularly read this site and they know that the ball is in your court. And if I might be permitted to mix metaphors here, it is time to either “cut the mustard” or “shuck the corn and show the cob,” as we say here in the deep south of the good ol’ US of A.

So, if you are willing to devote yourself to having a meaningful discussion, making an honest effort to deal with the arguments I have made, then I assure you that I am more than willing to respond in kind. But if not, this discussion is over.


From Christiaan De Villiers, Johannesburg, South Africa on July 23, 2006

Ok. Thanks for your time.

Reply from Allan Turner on July 23, 2006


You admitted in your July 5 response that you had “only dealt with a small portion of [my response].” You then went on to say, “But I will make every effort to deal with the other relevant scriptures as well, as soon as I can.” Finally, you said you would conclude your response as soon as you got back from being away for a week. So, do I take it that you do not intend to make good on your promises?


From Christiaan De Villiers, Johannesburg, South Africa on July 23, 2006

Hi Allan

It was my understanding that you wanted to end the correspondence. But I will be happy to send the rest of my response, if you want to continue. I certainly don't want to waste your time, as you implied I was doing. As to my interpretation of Romans 8:7 - 8, 1 Corinthians 2:14, and 2 Timothy 2:25, I rest my case.

Reply from Allan Turner on July 23, 2006


Here is what I said:

I have no interest in continuing a discussion with someone who is not disciplined enough to do what he said he would do. More than a few people regularly read this site and they know that the ball is in your court. And if I might be permitted to mix metaphors here, it is time to either “cut the mustard” or “shuck the corn and show the cob,” as we say here in the deep south of the good ol’ US of A.

So, if you are willing to devote yourself to having a meaningful discussion, making an honest effort to deal with the arguments I have made, then I assure you that I am more than willing to respond in kind. But if not, this discussion is over.

That didn't mean that I wasn't willing, only that you needed to be. So, if you are, then do it!


From Christiaan De Villiers, Johannesburg, South Africa on July 23, 2006


You claim that I have not dealt with your arguments. Here is what I will do. I will take the time re-read everything that you and I have said, in other words, Iam going to work through every argument again. I felt like I did deal fairly with your arguments, but if after I analyze the dialogue I find that I have not, you can expect an apology from me. Does that sound fair? Give me a few days. I understand you are very busy and I certainly don't want to waste your time.


Reply from Allan Turner on July 23, 2006

Fair enough.

From Christiaan De Villiers, Johannesburg, South Africa on July 31, 2006

Dear Allan

Before I resume my response there is an important issue I need to address. In my response on 5 July I kindly asked you to refraim from your claims that I am reading my "Calvinistic presuppostions" into the text and I then explained why neither you nor I can claim to approach Bible with neutral or completely objective mind. In your response on June 30th you claimed that interpretation of 2 Timothy 2: 24-26 is distorted due to my Calvinistic presuppositions. In the same paragraph you implied that you were approaching the Bible "free of such thinking." I man not going to spend to much time repeating myself. Please read my response on July 5th again. It is the second to last paragraph. Although you might be free of Calvinist thinking, you by no means are free of another form of preconceived theology. I can rightly accuse you of reading your "free will" presuppostions into the text, because that is exactly what you are doing. You approach the Bible assuming libertarian free will. The idea of libertarian free will is an assumption, nothing more. It is an idea that finds it's origin in western thought, not the Bible. A perfect example is the way you deal with 2 Timothy 2: 24-26. Let me quote your last response:

"You say that my interpretation of 2 Timothy 2: 24-26 is wrong, in that the verses are not talking about 'time and oppurtunity' at all, but God's enabling ability - that is, you believe these folks couldn't repent until God had directly acted upon them with his 'irresistible grace,' thereby making (forcing) them believe when they otherwise would have not been inclined or able to do so."

You immediatly assume that for God to enable these people to believe, he must force them against their wills. Neither I, nor any Calvinist, believe that God forces or coerces people to do anything. So please don't put words in my mouth. You know very well that I did not use the word "forced." If that is what you understand Calvinism teaches then you have completely misunderstood Calvinism. It is nothing more than a misrepresentation of what true Calvinists believe. You assume that because God causes someone to do something (as Calvinists believe) that this takes away their freedom. This conclusion is the result of forcing western logic onto the text. Biblical authors never reasoned this way. God has the ability to cause someone to carry out a certain action without violating their will. I, and every other true Calvinist, admit that the relationship between divine sovereignty and human responsiblity is finally a mystery. Thomas Schreiner makes the following comment:

"Those that insist that human freedom and individual faith must rule out divine determination of all things are those who end up subscribing to western logical categories."

Let me state a clear example that God can indeed cause someone to repent without forcing them to do so. In Ezekiel 36: 26 it says the following: "And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules." Here God explicitly states that he will cause them to obey him. Does this mean that they are now puppets on a string forced to obey against their wills? No such indication is given. This scripture affirms what I have been asserting all along. That unless God enables them to repent, they will by no means do so. You see Allan, that in order for you to avoid the clear teaching of 2 Timothy 2: 24-26 you must insert the words "time and oppurtunity." This passage does not read, " God may perhaps grant them the time and oppurtunity to repent." So who is the one reading his own ideas into the text? Let your readers judge. This leads me to a crucial question: If man is able to repent and believe by himself, then what need is there for the Holy Spirit in conversion? Is not the Holy Spirit the one who gives understanding of the Scriptures and open blind eyes? But according to your theology, there is no need for the Holy Spirit. Man is completely able to open his own eyes. Allan, I want to be honest with you. It is quite clear from your response and the rest of your criticism of Calvinism that you have an emotional pre-commitment to the idea of libertarian free will. You have made use of logic to interpret texts such as 2 Timothy 2: 24-26. Logic is good of course; we must apply logic, but not at the cost of the plain teaching of scripture. Our reason must be guided by divine revelation.

Now on to my interpretation of John 6:44, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him."

Here is your response to my interpretation of this passage:

"So, the drawing that the Father does and the coming we do, according to Jesus, is by being 'taught by God.' This, again according to Jesus, is clearly a hearing and a learning process and not the irresistible grace or better felt than told experience you Calvinists are so fond of talking about. Yes, the Father draws us, but he does so by calling us (cf. Acts 2:39; Philipians 3:14; 1 Thessalonians4:7; 1 Corinthians 1:26; Ephesians 1: 18, to cite some of the many passages that so teach) through the gospel (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:14a)."

Let me respond to what you have said thus far. This verse is saying that a person cannot believe in Christ unless God draws that person to Christ. But the drawing fererred to here cannot be limited to the gospel call. If that were so, then everyone who heard the gospel would be saved, and we both know that's not true. Many who hear the gospel reject it. We must interpret this passage in light of John 6: 37. Those who are drawn to Christ are limited to those who are given to Jesus by the Father. Only those who are given to Jesus by the Father are drawn to him. And notice also that all who are drawn to Jesus he will raise on the last day. Those who come to Jesus through the drawing of the Father are guaranteed a resurrection to life. Obviously, if drawing simply meant the calling by the gospel then all who hear it would believe in Christ and be raised on the day of resurrection. We both know that this is not so. So whatever it means to be "taught by God," it cannot simply mean the preaching of the gospel alone. So what do I take John 6: 45 to mean? Well, I gladly affirm, with you, that the gospel is the means of regeneration. But while I believe the gospel is necessary to save, I do not believe it is sufficient apart from the Holy Spirit. Paul says, "We know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction" ( 1 Thessalonians 1: 4-5). Acts 16: 14 gives us some insight on how this drawing might work, "The Lord opened her (Lydia's) heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul." The Greek word for "pay attention to" could also be translated "follow" or "adhere." Paul preached the word, but if the Lord had not "opened her heart," she would have rejected Paul's message.

Your response continues: "The hearers of the gospel are not incapable of learning from it, as you Calvinists claim, but are, in fact, expected to positively respond to it by rendering obedience. Obedience 'from the heart' (Romans 6: 17) can only be offered by a creature with free moral agency, for if one is not free to exercise his or her will, then there is no way that anything that follows could be called obedience."

Do Calvinists believe that a person is free to exercise his or her will? Most certainly. Where did you get the idea that we believe otherwise? We define freedom as the ability to act according to your desires. I'm typing these words right now because I want to type them. No one is forcing me to do it. Freedom simply means to act without restraint. I do what I want to do. Yet what I want to do is exactly what God has planned for me to do. How this works is a mystery, but I'm happy to accept that mystery. Regarding your exegesis of Romans 6:17, I have already given you a response. You can find it in my 5 July response.

As regards to my interpretation of Romans 8: 7 - 8 and 1 Corinthians 2: 14, I have already shown you why I believe that the "natural man" refers exclusively to the unregenerate. I have shown you that the "natural man" is devoid of the Spirit (Romans 8: 9; Jude 19). How you can take the natural man as meaning anything else is beyond me, especially after I explained it so nicely. I clearly pointed out to you that the word translated "natural man" (Greek psuchikos) is referring to those who do not have the Spirit of God. This can only be talking about unbelievers, since the same Greek word (psuchikos) is referring to those who are devoid of the Spirit in Jude 19. This word has exactly the same meaning in Jude 19, 1 Corinthians 2:14, and James 3:15 as pointed out by my Greek lexicon. I am not going to repeat my argument for Romans 8 : 7 - 8. I think I made it clear enough why those "in the flesh" do not have the Spirit of God.

Let's move on to your argument regarding the law and grace. In your last response you said the following:

"The fact that those who think carnally do not have the Spirit of Goddwelling in them is not proof, as you suppose, that all such people had never initially been redeemed, only that they were no longer in sucha position, which is exactly what I believe, teach, and have written in this debate."

Allan, honestly, this is nothing more than conjecture. Nowhere in the text will you find evidence that these people once had the Spirit of God. This is simply a desparate argument. There is absolutely no reason to think that these carnally minded people were once regenerate.

Regarding your distiction between law and grace, I see no reason to disagree with you. You seem to have articulated it very nicely. But I do not see how this disproves the doctrine of total depravity. In order to articulate my position I have decided to quote New Testament scholar Douglass Moo from his Epistle to the Romans. This is his exegesis on Romans 8: 7 - 8:

"The 'law of God' remains a standard by which the conduct of unbelievers can be measured and condemned. Believers are no longer 'under the law' (Rom. 6: 14, 15), subject to its binding authority (7:4); but unbelievers are subject still to this power of the 'old age.' Second, Paul's assessment of person's apart from Christ may justly be summed up in the theological categories of 'total depravity' and 'total inability.' What this means is that every person apart from Christ is thoroughly in the grip of the power of sin, and that this power extends to all the person's faculties. This Paul has enunciated clearly by accusing all non-Christians of having a 'mind-set,' a total life direction, that is innately hostile to God (v.7). Verse8...plainly shows that no person can rescue himselffrom this condition. As long as that person is 'in the flesh' - and only the Sprit can rescue us from this envelopment in the flesh - he or she is 'totally unable' to please God.

This comes from the pen of a seasoned theologian, and its better than I could have said it. It confirms what I myself have said.

Chris De Villiers

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