[The following is my opening statement in a formal e-mail debate between Arminians and Christians, along with some tolerant "Calvinists" and observers.]
Hello, my name is Marc. Before I get into answering some of the questions Mark posed, I want to articulate a foundation from which I will be answering these questions and also help those who are the "observers" who might not be familiar with some of the terminology and who might not know what the gospel is.
The foundation from which I will be answering all questions is the gospel. The gospel is the starting point and the ending point of this discussion. The gospel has to do with the person and work of Jesus Christ. "For I decided not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ, and Him having been crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2).
In the gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed (Romans 1:17). What is this righteousness? Does it really matter whether or not someone knows, understands, and believes this righteousness? God says through the Apostle Paul that anyone who is ignorant of this righteousness is lost, guilty of trying to establish a righteousness of his own (Romans 10:1-3). Jesus Christ said that those who do not believe the gospel will be damned (Mark 16:16). Thus, it is imperative that we know what this righteousness is. It is a matter of life and death.
As I hope this discussion will make clear, the righteousness that is revealed in the gospel is how God, who is totally righteous and will "by no means will clear [the guilty]" (Numbers 14:18), saves filthy sinners and yet remains righteous in punishing all sin. It shows how God is "just and justifying the [one] that [is] of the faith in Jesus" (Romans 3:26). It shows how God is "a just God and a Savior" (Isaiah 45:21).
How is it that vile, rotten, hell-deserving sinners enter into fellowship with God, who is pure and holy and undefiled and hates sin? Here is where the precious gospel -- the good news -- is revealed. During this whole discussion, be sure to remember this: The gospel is the good news of salvation based on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone. In the perfect life of Christ, Christ's perfect sinless righteousness is imputed to (charged to the account of) all God's people. In the death of Christ, all the sins of all God's people are imputed to (charged to the account of) Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ fully paid the penalty that His people deserved. Thus, "It has been finished" (John 19:30); all that needed to be done to secure the salvation of God's people was done by Christ's righteous life and atoning death. This is the good news. There will not be one sinner in hell whom Christ represented in His life and death.
In this gospel the glory of God, in all His attributes, is revealed. And God reveals throughout Holy Scriptures that He does all things for His glory. The glory of God is the reason for everything. And the glory of God shines forth most brightly in the gospel. When God regenerates someone, God glorifies Himself by causing that person to believe the true gospel of salvation based on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ.
What about those who attempt to diminish or extinguish the glory of God or claim some glory for themselves? God has no tolerance for such people. He declares, "I [am] Jehovah, that is My name; and I will not give My glory to another" (Isaiah 42:8).
Most religion today that comes in the name of Christianity promotes a different gospel than the gospel of the Bible. They promote a "gospel" that conditions salvation in some part, in some way, to some degree, on the sinner. They promote a "gospel" that says that the difference between saved and lost, between heaven and hell, is not what Christ did but what the sinner does. They say that Christ did no more for those in heaven than He did for those in hell. This false gospel is damnable blasphemy. And if anyone preaches such a false gospel, no matter what his reputation or outward appearance, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:8-9). If anyone reading this sees anyone in this discussion putting forth a "gospel" that bases at least some of salvation on the sinner, you know that God calls him accursed. He is not a Christian. If anyone does not abide in the doctrine of Christ, he does not have God (2 John 9). If anyone will speak peace (will call the person a "brother in Christ") to one who believes in a false gospel, then he, too, is evil (2 John 11).
This gets to the issue of the current "great debate." It is my understanding that there are some on this cc list who believe and promote and preach the false gospel of salvation conditioned on the sinner. This false gospel sometimes goes under the name "Arminianism" (which I will explain shortly). I want to make sure to make this very clear at the outset: I do not consider these people to be my brothers in Christ. This is not just a "friendly debate" between fellow Christians; it is a matter of light versus darkness, good versus evil, the truth versus the lie, the bride of Christ versus the mother of harlots. I count Arminians as my arch enemies. They are blasphemers. They are the deceivers and the deceived. They are the blind leading the blind. They are under a strong delusion. I am not trying in this debate to "convince fellow Christians" that "the Reformed way is the best choice among a host of legitimate, though less consistent, Christian viewpoints." Not at all. If God does not see fit to change the wicked hearts of these men, then they will continue to believe, promote, and preach their false gospel. If they give an "interpretation" of a Scripture passage that puts forth their false gospel and I come along and give the true gospel meaning of the verse, then it is not just a "matter of opinion among Christians" or "Christians seeing it in different ways." One is the truth, and the other is the lie. And only God can enable one to see the truth.
One of the ways in which the false gospel has been manifested is in what is called "The Five Points of Arminianism." I will list these points below:
1. Partial Depravity. This is the belief that the sinner is not totally unable to come to God; instead, the sinner has a "free will" to be able to accept salvation or to reject salvation.
2. Conditional Election. This is the belief that God chose to save certain people before the foundation of the world based on what He saw they would do; God chose those who He foresaw would accept salvation.
3. Universal Atonement. This is the belief that Jesus Christ died for everyone without exception; Jesus Christ paid the sin debt for everyone, made an atonement for everyone, redeemed everyone, including those who eventually end up in hell.
4. Resistible Grace. This is the belief that a sinner can resist God's will and remain unsaved even when God wants to save him.
5. Conditional Perseverance. This is the belief that one can lose his salvation after being saved and that one's continuing in the faith is conditioned on the person and not on Christ's work.
As all believers will immediately see, these are lies. Arminianism is absolute blasphemy against the work of Christ. Some of you might be saying, "But the preacher I know doesn't believe in a couple of these points." What you must realize is that a belief in JUST ONE of these indicates a belief in a false gospel.
Over against these five blasphemous points of Arminianism are the Five Points of Christianity. They are as follows:
1. Total depravity. Every human being by nature is under the wrath of God, owing a debt to God's law and justice that they cannot pay. They have no ability nor desire to come to the true God for salvation. Rm. 3:9-12, 1 Cor. 2:14. Is. 64:6-7. Jn. 6:44. Rm. 8:5-8. Col. 2:13. Eph. 2:5.
2. Unconditional Election. God chose to save some people by the blood and righteousness of Christ before the foundation of the world based solely upon His good pleasure to do so. Jn. 6:37,65. Mt. 13:10- 15. Acts 13:48. Rm. 8:28-30; 9:11-24 Eph. 1:3-6,11. 2 Ths. 2:13. 2 Tim. 1:9. 1 Pt. 2:7-8.
3. Particular, Effectual Redemption. God sent Christ into the world to represent all those whom He chose before the foundation of the world and to make full atonement for all God's people. This atonement saves all for whom it was intended; there will not be a single person for whom Christ died in hell. Mt. 1:21. Jn. 5:21. Mt. 20:28. Jn. 10:11. Jn. 10:27-28. Acts 20:28. Eph. 5:25.
4. Irresistible Grace. All those whom God chose and for whom Christ died will come to Him and will be saved through the work of the Holy Spirit. God is never thwarted in His plan to save those whom He chose and for whom Christ died. Jn. 6:37. Rm. 8:28-30. Jn. 10:27.
5. Preservation of God's People. All those whom God chose and for whom Christ died and who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit will be preserved by God until their dying breath and caused to continue to walk in the way of truth and to continue believing the true gospel. Jn. 6:37. Rm. 8:28-30. Jn. 10:28-29. 2 Cor. 1:21-22. Eph. 1:13-14. Phl. 1:6.
All on this cc list have now been shown the gospel and its doctrines. The discussion will be based on these things.
"If anyone has an ear, let him hear" (Revelation 13:9).
To God ALONE be the glory,
Marc D. Carpenter
[The following is my response to the first set of questions in the debate put forth by the moderator.]
What is the role of God in salvation, and what is the role of man?
"Salvation [belongs] to Jehovah!" (Jonah 2:9)
Man has as much to do with his salvation as the dry bones did with causing themselves to live. (Ezekiel 37)
Man has as much to do with his salvation as Lazarus did with raising himself from the dead. (John 11)
Both of these involved a command: "O dry bones, hear the word of the Jehovah ..." (Ezekiel 37:4ff). "Lazarus! Here! Outside!" (John 11:43). And in both of these situations, it was God who caused the dead to live and to obey the command.
Throughout Scripture, salvation is described as God's work completely. In the chapter right before the "dry bones" chapter, God says this:
"And I will also GIVE you a new heart, and I will PUT a new spirit within you. And I will TAKE AWAY the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will GIVE to you a heart of flesh. And I will PUT My Spirit within you and CAUSE you to walk in My statutes, and YOU SHALL keep My judgments and do [them]" (Ezekiel 36: 26-27). Does this look like God is waiting for the sinner to do something before He saves him?
Scripture states clearly that man in his natural state is spiritually DEAD. He CANNOT obey God and CANNOT do anything that is pleasing to God. He owes a debt to God's perfect law and inflexible justice that he cannot pay.
"[There is] not a righteous [one], not even one!" "[There is] not [one] understanding; [there is] not [one] seeking God." All turned away, [they] became worthless together, not [one] is doing goodness, not so much as one!" (Romans 3:10-12).
"But a natural man does not receive the things of [the] Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he is not able to know [them], because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:14).
"No one is able to come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up in the last day" (John 6:44).
"For the ones that are according to flesh mind the things of the flesh. And the ones according to Spirit [mind] the things of the Spirit. For the mind of the flesh [is] death, but the mind of the Spirit [is] life and peace; because the mind of the flesh [is] enmity towards God; for it is not being subjected to the Law of God, for neither can it [be]. And those being in the flesh are not able to please God" (Romans 8:5-8).
"And you, being dead in the deviations and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all the deviations, blotting out the handwriting in the ordinances against us, which was contrary to us, even [He] has taken it out of the midst, nailing it to the cross;" (Colossians 2: 13-14).
"even we being dead in deviations, [He] made us alive together with Christ (by grace you are being saved)" (Ephesians 2:5).
Thus, the role of man in salvation is that of the dead sinner. The role of God in salvation is that of the almighty sovereign Lord who brings the sinner to life by putting a new heart in him and by putting the Holy Spirit within him and causing Him to have faith -- to believe the true gospel. Christ's righteousness is imputed to him, and he is no longer under the curse of sin.
Does God love everyone, or just some? Who did Jesus come to save?
Throughout the New Testament, God's love is equated with Christ's work. Here are some examples:
"By this the love of God was revealed in us, because His Son, the Only begotten, God has sent into the world that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son [to be] a propitiation relating to our sins" (1 John 4:9-10).
"Greater love than this has no one, that anyone should lay down his soul for his friends" (John 15:13)
"And the hope does not put [us] to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through [the] Holy Spirit given to us; for we yet being without strength, in due time Christ died for ungodly ones. For with difficulty one will die for a just one, (for perhaps one even dares to die for the sake of the good one), but God commends His love to us in [this], that we being yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:5-8)
"But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love [with] which He loved us, even we being dead in deviations, [He] made us alive together with Christ (by grace you are being saved), and raised [us] up together and seated [us] together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus, that He might demonstrate in the ages coming on, the exceeding great riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:4-7).
"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the assembly and gave Himself up on its behalf, that He might sanctify it, cleansing [it] by the washing of the water in [the] Word, " (Ephesians 5:25-26).
"By this we have known the love [of God], because that [One] laid down His life for us;" (1 John 3:16).
So, whom did Jesus come to save? We see in the passages above that Jesus came to save his friends, the church.
Here are more passages on whom Jesus came to save:
"I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life on behalf of the sheep. ... I am the Good Shepherd, and I know those that [are] Mine, and I am known by the [ones that are] Mine. Even as the Father knows Me, I also know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep" (John 10:11,14-15). Jesus came to save His sheep.
"And she will bear a son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). Jesus came to save His people.
"For just as the Father raises the dead, and gives life, so also the Son gives life to whomever He wills" (John 5:21). Jesus came to save those whom He willed to save.
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that everyone believing into Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). Jesus came to save those who believe in Him. And we know from John 5:21 and many other passages that God causes the belief. Thus, Jesus came to save those God caused to believe in Him, from the whole world without distinction of Jew or Gentile.
"Then take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit placed you [as] overseers, to shepherd the assembly of God which He purchased through [His] own blood" (Acts 20:28). Jesus came to save the church of God.
So, as you can see, the preachers of the false gospel who say, "God has done all He can do, and now it's up to you" are spewing forth Satanic blasphemy. When God sets out to DO something, He ACCOMPLISHES what He set out to DO! But our God [is] in Heaven; He has done all that He has pleased" (Psalm 115:3). Does God save all He intends to save? "It is I, speaking in righteousness, MIGHTY TO SAVE" (Isaiah 63:1). Those who deny that God saves all He intends to save accuse God of being impotent to save, not mighty to save.
Why did God grieve over Israel's unrepentance if He Himself ordained it? What does Romans 9 mean, if God wants everyone to be saved?
God HATES all sin. He is holy and righteous; he cannot but hate all sin. God also ordained the sin that He hates, in order to glorify Himself. If God did not ordain all things, then there are some things that are outside of His control, which would make him to be not God. Here is an example: God ordained that Christ be crucified. Were those who crucified Christ sinning? Of course -- they were doing a wicked thing. This wickedness was ordained by God for His glory. Peter said this very thing in his sermon at Pentecost: "this One given [to you] by the before-determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, [you] having taken by lawless hands, having crucified [Him], you killed [Him]" (Acts 2:23). This was God's plan, and this plan included the sin of crucifying Christ.
Romans 9 means what it says; God loves some and hates others; He has mercy and compassion on whoever He wants; salvation does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs but totally on God; God hardens whoever He wants to harden (those whom He has prepared for destruction); that the election of Jacob was not conditioned on any good God foresaw that Jacob would do; and that the reprobation of Esau was not conditioned on any evil God foresaw that Esau would do; that those who say, "Why does God then blame us for our sins, since we can't resist His will?" have no right to question God's choice of making some for salvation and others for destruction and are actually defiantly talking back to Almighty God; and that God prepared some for destruction (and actively hardened their hearts) in order to make His power known and to make His grace known to those He prepared for salvation. Quite easy to understand. The reason the false-gospel advocates get so upset with this chapter is that they see the implications of it -- that it is TOTALLY GOD WHO DOES EVERYTHING FOR HIS OWN GLORY, including saving some and damning others.
What are the ramifications of believing in predestination as opposed to believing in free will? Does one extreme or the other misrepresent the God of the Bible?
I think my first post addressed this question. Those who believe that any part of salvation is conditioned on the sinner do not believe the gospel, and God's Word says that those who do not believe the gospel are lost. Arminianism misrepresents the God of the Bible because it promotes its own god, made in the image of man. Arminians hate the true God and cling to their idols that they call "God" and "Jesus." In the Ten Commandments, God makes it very clear that those who do not worship the true God are God-haters: "you shall not bow to them, and you shall not serve them; for I [am] Jehovah your God, a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of fathers on sons, on the third and on the fourth [generation], to those that HATE ME" (Exodus 20:5). God is jealous for His own glory; those who worship a god of their own imaginations are under His wrath.
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