Thursday, February 16, 2006

A Limited Atonement?

I've responded to Nathan's post about Limited Atonement over at Daniel's blog. See his Monday, January 30, 2006 entry: Are you sure that you want to say it like that? entry.

[I brought this post here so that it would be easier to access and for posterity.]

Nathan: “Judging us to be in error and not seeking reconciliation is a characteristic of the Pharisees.

Why do you write such caustic words? Can you not just agree to disagree without always charging people of being something they are not or doing things they have not done? First we’re not humbling ourselves and now we’re Pharisees. Can you please lay off the ad hominem? I don’t believe that any one of us who disagrees with you is in ANY way Pharisaical. Please Stop.

Has it ever occurred to you that maybe someone just doesn't have the time to pursue a rebuttal, but wants to voice their dissent?

It’s one thing to challenge us, it is completely another to slander or belittle us.

I will attempt to “seek reconciliation.”

Nathan: "If we are wrong, by all means show us!

Mark 16:15; Luke 2:10,30-32; John 3:16; Romans 5:18, 11:32; 2 Cor 5:14-15; I Tim 2:1-6,4:10; Heb 2:9; Titus 2:11-12; II Peter 2:1.

Nathan: “Again, why do we 'force' our understading into the text and determine that 'world' in 1John 2:2 cannot mean all without exception? Because taking world to mean everyone:

A) Is inconsistent with a plethora of other passages (detailing the nature of the atonement and whether Christ actually accomplished anything in His death).

Jesus accomplished the means of salvation for every man/whosoever will. He was THE passover lamb, right? Just as those who applied the blood on the lintel posts in Egypt were spared physical death, those who are covered in/apply Jesus' blood by believing and receiving Him are spared spiritual death. The passover meal was open to anyone (Jew or Gentile) who would commit to the God of the Israelites and be circumcised. A commitment first and then a circumcision. (Exodus 12)

Please provide the scripture from the OT where it states that those who were saved by looking ahead to the Messiah were given saving grace first.

Jesus died for everyone, but not everyone will accept His gift. So the atonement is limited only insofar as one must believe and receive Him for the atonement to be effective. That doesn’t in any way cause His death to be in vain. If only ONE person accepted Jesus out of all the world, His death would still not be in vain. The only way it would be in vain is if no one ever accepted His death. But please feel free to provide the scripture which states that Jesus' death is in vain if He died for everyone, but not everyone will accept that atonement.

As an aside, Abraham was not circumcised when He “believed” God and his faith was accounted to him for righteousness. Abraham believed and then he was circumcised. Right? And that is how the NT teaches it. Repent + Believe/Faith + Receive = Saving Grace. God gives us a new heart upon our receiving the Lord’s gift of grace. The word of God by the Spirit of God renews our minds/hearts.

Nathan: "B) Is inconsistent with basic logic and rational."

It is only inconsistent with the logic and rationale of Calvinists. It is perfectly consistent, logical and rational to what the word of God teaches. And that is that salvation is available to every man (i.e., whosoever believes/faiths). Jesus died for all (Heb 2:9), but only those who believe and receive will have their sins atoned.

Nathan: "C) Is inconsistent with the actual meaning of the word 'propitiation'."

Please tell us what propitiation actually means since you think we don't seem to understand it.

Nathan: "E) Ignores the many other uses of the term -in the same book and by the same author- where world does not mean every man without exception."

It depends upon the context.

Nathan: "F) Is easily reconcilable with John 11:49"

So. John 11:49 is merely honing in on the fact that the atonement is only effective to those who believe and receive which is something that will happen to men from every part of the world. This scripture doesn't hurt my position, but rather affirms it.

Nathan: "G) Affirms what every true Christian believes (but will not always admit): that there is a limit to who Christ died for -otherwise all men would be saved."

I admit that the atonement is only effectual to those who believe and receive the Lord. But Jesus’ death was the propitiaton that was made available to all men (whosoever will). Calvinists have made up the part that Jesus' death requires all men to be saved if He died for all men.

Hebrews 2:9But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

1 John 2:2And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

Luke 2:10,14And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

1 Timothy 2:1-6I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

All emphasis added to the scriptures.

Nathan: “I just blogged about this recently and I argued that we must understand the intent of the atonement before we understand the extent. That is, if Christ actually accomplished anything by His death, then we must put a limit on it. So your options are: Christ did not actually save anyone, thus you would agree with the Roman Catholics that 'grace' must be added to by our merit. OR, you must affirm that Christ did accomplish something in His death, thus if He died for all then all will be saved.

OR, we can go with what the word of God actually states and know that Jesus died for all and only those who believe and receive will have their sins atoned.

NathanDo you guys realize that you are agreeing with the Catholic view of the atonement? That is, Christ did 99% of the work, but our obedience here on earth determines whether you can appropriate that 99%?

Do you realize that we do NOT agree with the Catholic view of atonement? Do you realize that Calvinists have just made up this so-called 99/1 % ratio? Do you realize that faith is not a work? Do you realize that it is 100% of God’s grace that saves us when we believe and receive because we have no power within us to save ourselves and that NONE of us deserves to be saved? Do you realize that God LOVES everyone?

Nathan: “Have the Catholics gotten this right?


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Monday, February 13, 2006

Eye on Good Deeds of the "Lost"

A poster named Eye has responded to a portion of Nathan's response to my "Rightly Dividing The Word of Truth" blog post. I think Eye has made some very good points so I've brought them here as a blog post. Hopefully Nathan, or anyone else who holds to Calvinism, will respond.

Here are Eye's first comments on total depravity.

Here is Eye's comment:


I read in one of Nathan’s previous posts some things that didn’t square with Scripture. Since you and I are discussing Cornelius, I thought I would take the liberty to review one of Nathan’s comments in light of Acts 10.

Nathan said: “Furthermore, your example of ‘lost’ people performing good deeds is a little ridiculous. Any deed that is done out of a heart that is not submitted to Christ is not a good deed –it is from selfish motives. Someone who has elevated something else above Christ (they have not submitted to Him as Lord and savior) does good deeds only for whatever else is elevated above Christ: namely self.

Interesting comment from Nathan in light of the fact that Cornelius, after Pentecost, as an unregenerated man (the Calvinist must prove by Scripture he was regenerated), actually did do good deeds – see Acts 10:2 ‘A devout man, and one that feared God with his entire household, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.’

Wow – let’s see what the Bible says about Cornelius. Sounds to me like Cornelius had more going on in the ‘good deed’ categories than most so-called Christians I know! He was ‘devout’, oh and he feared God, and not only him but his entire household, and let’s not forget that he gave ‘much alms’ to the people. Now that’s a good deed, and I dare say there were no tax deductions in that day so he was most likely giving of his wealth with no strings attached right off the top. Most impressive indeed -- now I submit that Cornelius did these things because he ‘feared’ God. Cornelius was seeking after God as an unregenerated man. The Calvinist must imply that he was regenerated because it is clearly not in the text. Moreover, as we established from Acts 10 in the previous post, God sent an angel to Cornelius to confirm that his prayers and alms came up for a memorial before God. I do believe praying to God and giving alms to the poor are considered good deeds – just ask any first grader.

Acts 10:3-4 He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius. And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.

Now here’s where it gets interesting. The above referenced passage says that Cornelius was afraid. Notice the angel did not say ‘fear not’ to him. I believe the Scripture is clearly affirming the fact that Cornelius is not regenerated, and obviously not saved – and this is after the Cross and Pentecost. Based on the Calvinistic construct you must first be regenerated so that you can then place faith in Jesus so that you then can become born again. There are numerous other places in Scripture where people are confronted by angels and those who are in covenant with God are told they need not fear. However, in this case, there was no ‘fear not’ issued. Those who are estranged from God are left in their fear, because ‘fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ Proverbs 9:10. Therefore I humbly submit that Cornelius was not born again yet, nor was he regenerated. Now, let’s check out this verse.

Romans 1:16 "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."

This verse in Romans 1:16 clearly states that the ‘gospel of Christ’ is the POWER (dunamis – superantural power of God; we get dynamite from the root dunamis) of God unto salvation to every one that believeth (believeth -- pistus in Greek – same word as faith). What’s incredibly interesting to me based on this verse is the fact that the Bible says the gospel of Christ is the power or catalyst that gets one saved, not some mystical or ‘secret work of regeneration’ that occurs prior to someone placing faith in Jesus. I’ve yet to find that teaching anywhere in clear Scripture. Actually the opposite is what the clear teaching of Scripture states. We must first place our faith in Jesus before we can be born again. Please see this Scripture:

John 1:12-13 "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, [even] to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."

Now the word power (EXOUSIA) is indeed a very interesting word in the Greek – please see Strong’s definition below. For brevity, I stopped after the 3 point – it continues in detail beyond…

1) power of choice, liberty of doing as one pleases
a) leave or permission
2) physical and mental power
a) the ability or strength with which one is endued, which he either possesses or exercises
3) the power of authority (influence) and of right (privilege)

This clearly teaches that the new birth is conditioned upon you receiving Jesus Christ. To qoute one old preacher, “There is not a case in the history of the universe where any man was ever ‘born again’ until he received Jesus Christ, and to say that total depravity extends to acts of the will is nonsense.” EXOUSIA pretty much confirms that – see definition above. First you must ‘receive’ Him, and then He gives you the power to become the sons of God. You don’t receive in a vacuum; again just study Cornelieus’ testimony as outlined in the Scripture.

Nathan – in case you read this, don’t you realize that John 6 is before the Cross and prior to Pentecost? In other words, it is still technically during the Old Covnenant. I don’t believe the Scripture supports the idea that any ‘Old Covenant’ saint was ever regenerated before placing their faith God. We do know that Abraham was saved because Galatians 3:6 says so. So, he here is an example of a man that was ‘Old Covenant’ saved by believing (FAITHING) the promise that Messiah would come and He would become sin who knew no sin. 2 Corinthians 5:14 – 21 clearly teaches ‘that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them’. Again in John 6, Jesus is specifically addressing his ‘chosen’ disciples and the Jews in that passage. Moreover, have you ever ‘seen’ Jesus with your two eyes like the people who were beholding him during that famous passage? John 6:40 says that everyone that ‘seeth’ the Son and believeth on Him, him will He raise up at the last day. I haven’t seen any Calvinist with enough honesty to preach that – literally seeing and believing ensures you are resurrected. To take this chapter and clearly build a construct and apply it to the entire counsel of Scripture is foolish. We do see where Jesus later confronts Thomas and tells him in John 20 that there will be those who do believe in Him and they haven’t had the ability to ‘see’ Him! Will they be resurrected? Of course they will!


Excellent post, Eye!

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Eye on Total Depravity

A poster named Eye has made some very astute comments on my "Rightly Dividing The Word of Truth" blog post that I think bear repeating.

Here are Eye's comments:


Thanks for the opportunity to post a comment. I’ve read your posts and I thank God for your stand for the Truth of His Word. I too have looked into this ‘raging’ debate around the systematic theologic construct commonly called ‘Calvinism’. Yes, the debating is centuries old and it will most likely continue until the LORD returns. However, one of the articles I read recently on this topic by a man who is now a former Calvinist struck a chord in me that continues to resonate. He said that if you can cast doubt on the Calvinist’s definition of ‘total depravity’ – that is, man is incapable of searching the things of God, much less exercising his free will to follow God or choose the things of God, then you can topple the rest of the construct. Let me hasten to add that God’s Holy Spirit will lead us into His Truth if we submit ourselves to Him. With that, if I may, I’ll offer acouple of passages and a few comments around them. The first is from the beginning of God’s creation shortly after the fall of Adam and Eve and the second is right after Pentecost. If you will, at the very beginning of the two Testaments!

Genesis 4:3-13
And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper? And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground. And now [art] thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand; When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth. And Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear.

Did you see it? God actually singled out a ‘totally depraved’ man – Cain – and confronted him over his offering and his attitude. God also lovingly ‘challenges’ Cain (and I humbly submit that one can easily see God provides Cain with a choice). The choice is to ‘doest well’ as the KJB says and if Cain does the right thing regarding his offering to the LORD, the LORD promises him that he will be accepted by God. Amazing, a ‘totally depraved’ man is faced with a ‘choice’ to seek and obey God or not to seek Him and as a result he disobeys Him. We know the rest of the story – Cain made the wrong choice. Cain had a body and a soul and his spirit was dead as a result of the fall of Adam and Eve. Truly he was a sinner in need of a savior. God told Adam and Eve, who in turn had told their children, about God’s plan (Genesis 3:15). I humbly submit that I believe God must have informed them of His desire for a sacrificial system which Abel obviously believed and followed. Abel obeyed and Cain did not – Cain chose to do it his way.

The nuggets I glean from this passage are that even in the beginning of earth’s history, shortly after sin entered into the human race, God was actively persuing His creation. God personally encounters Cain in love and with His holy conviction. God does not force or make Cain do anything. He simply holds him accountable for his actions and He asks him to ‘contemplate’ his sinful state (disobeying the understood proper sacrifice methodology). God’s dealing with Cain is motivated by His desire to see Cain ‘do well’ and follow God. It can’t be any clearer. Cain had a choice, yes even as a ‘totally depraved’ man – a choice to follow God. But yet, the Calvinist rejects the idea that a totally depraved man can do such a thing!

John Piper’s qoute from on Total Depravity, “In summary, total depravity means that our rebellion against God is total, everything we do in this rebellion is sin, our inability to submit to God or reform ourselves is total, and we are therefore totally deserving of eternal punishment.

I ask a simple question. Did not God ask Cain to reform, or better yet repent of his sin and ‘choose’ to “doest well”? The resounding answer is YES! Then God, who created frail man certainly knows our limitations and capabilities. Why would God ask His creation to do something He knows they can’t possibly do – to follow the Calvinistic argument of total depravity? Absolutely makes no sense does it? Then I humbly submit that God put Cain to a test that He knew the outcome of, but He still gave Cain a choice. We don’t know how long Cain wrestled with this, but we do know he failed. Again, a totally depraved man had a choice to make regarding God!

I also submit an early Church example right after Pentecost at the beginning of the Church and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit – Cornelius.

Acts 10: 1-4
There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway. He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius. And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.

Notice once again that a totally depraved man is ‘seeking’ God! That’s not supposed to be happening according to our Calvinist friends. Get this, his prayers and alms were actually recognized by God, so much so, He summonsed an angel to inform Cornelius.

Acts 10: 22
And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee."

Again, a totally depraved man that actually ‘feareth God’!

Acts 10:30 - 35
And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God. Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter; he is lodged in the house of one Simon a tanner by the sea side: who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee. Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God. Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.

Notice above that a totally depraved man fears God and get this – he is also working righteousness! And, let’s don’t forget he is also accepted by God.

Acts 10:44
While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.

Finally, we see that Cornelius heard the Gospel and was saved along with his household. I’m unable to find any reference in these straight forward passages to regeneration prior to placing faith in Jesus! If it’s there, the Calvinist must prove it.

My apologies for the long post, but this has been on my heart for some time! Keep up the good work and fight the good fight.

In Him,


Eye, I can agree with Piper's definition of total depravity; however, because of the grace of God He doesn't leave us in that depravity. We are totally depraved because of being born with a sin nature, but God has given us all enough grace to stave off the total part of our depravity. It is what we do with His grace that determines how God will deal with us individually, he either hardens us or sheds more light on us. Some he hardens more than others. I think that is because of what they have allowed to cultivate in their hearts, though He does continue to draw. (Please feel free to point out the error in my thinking as I believe discussion helps us to learn from each other.) I do seem to recall a scripture where he does cease to draw, but I can't remember what it is. And it may be something that I've misinterpreted. I find it very odd that the Calvinist agrees that God's grace is prevalent in every way...BUT NOT when it comes to salvation? The most IMPORTANT part of our lives?

Like you pointed out in the account of Cain and Abel, God's grace is extended to us ALL. He shows us that grace throughout the entire bible! He allows things to happen to us, as sinners (and even when we're His children), so that we will cry out to Him and lean on Him. It is absurd to think that because we're spiritually dead that that means we cannot understand that there is hell to pay if we don't choose the path to righteousness, or that we cannot choose to stay out of hell.

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