Monday, April 12, 2010

Formal Calvinism vs. Arminianism Debate, Cross-ex part 3 of 5

This is the first "formal" debate in which I've participated (with rules and such). For readers who are on facebook, they may find both sides of the debate here. If others are interested, they may email me for a word document. The format, set by my opponent, will be as follows:

"Opening Statement period (~1,000 words each)

First Rebuttal period (really depends on the opening statement, and you can provide as much rebuttal as possible)

Second Rebuttal period (really depends on the first rebuttal statements, and you can provide as much rebuttal as possible)

Cross Examination - each side asks 10 questions (there is no limit to the response word count)

Closing Statement period (~2,000 maximum, otherwise below that number is fine)"

Cross examination

Question 5 (me): I have argued that “if God's knowledge is contingent on the wills of temporal creatures, God cannot be eternally omniscient.” In response, you have referenced “Messianic Jewish” perspectives (1), God’s predictive power (2), and Matthew Henry (3), yet I respectively find these references vague (1), an indication of a misunderstanding that God’s predictive power would be proportional to man’s allegedly free will (2), or irrelevant (3). My question, then, is not whether God is eternally omniscient or whether we have free will, but rather how God can possibly know from eternity our [allegedly] antecedently uncaused choices.

(Word count: 100)

Answer 5 (Arminian): The Father is omniscient in Jeremiah 17:10, The Son is omniscient in John 21:17 and the Holy Spirit is omniscient in 1 Corinthians 2:10-11.

Let’s go through some philosophy. ‘Determinism’ is the belief that all events, including human choices, are determined or caused by another (in this case, Theistic Determinism means that God directly or indirectly has caused me to write this verse paragraph). Proponents of this view believe that human choices are the result of antecedent causes, which in turn were caused by prior causes.

Conceptions of the nature of human choice (as well as free will choices) fall within three categories,

1. Determinism,
2. Indeterminism
3. Self-determinism.

A deterministic ideology looks to actions caused by another, an indeterminist to uncaused actions, and a self-determinist to self-caused actions. I will only look at Determinism (because Ryan holds to that view, and Self-determinism, because ultimately that is what the Arminian believes in. Indeterminism is ridiculous due to the fact that such reasoning would make the world we live in to be irrational and it abuses the Heisenberg principle)

Determinism (5-Point Calvinism): There are two basic kinds of determinism, naturalistic and theistic. Naturalistic determinism is Humans who simply act according to what has been programmed into them – B. F. Skinner, “Beyond Behaviorism, Beyond Freedom and Dignity”

As you can see, Ryan who holds a very strong Calvinistic theology believes to some degree of theistic determinism.

Jonathan Edwards in his, “The Freedom of the Will”, related all actions ultimately to God as First Cause. “Free choice” for Edwards is doing what one desires, and God is the Author of the heart’s desires (and it is clear that Ryan in the unofficial thread – made adherence to such a declaration).

God is sovereign, in control of all and so ultimately the cause of all. Fallen humanity is totally without freedom of the affections, so they can do whatever they want, but what they want will forever be in the control of their corrupt, world-directed heart. God’s grace controls actions as God controls desires and their attendant thoughts and actions.

Non-determinists respond that a self-caused action is not impossible, and all actions need not be attributed to the First Cause (God). Some actions can be caused by human beings to whom God gave free moral agency. Free choice is not, as Ryan contends, doing what one desires (with God giving the desires). Rather, it is doing what one decides, which is not always the same thing. One need not reject God’s sovereign control to deny determinism. God can control by omniscience as well as by causal power.

A hard determinist believes all acts are caused by God, that God is the only efficient Cause. A soft determinist holds that God as the Primary Cause is compatible with human free choice as the secondary Cause. I am more lenient on the latter.

Self-Determinism (Arminian): According to this view, a person’s moral acts are not caused by another or uncaused, but are caused by oneself. It is important to know at the outset precisely what is meant by self-determinism or free choice. Negatively, it means that a moral action is not uncaused or caused by another (God). It is neither indeterminate nor determined by another (God). Positively, it is morally self-determined, an act freely chosen, without compulsion, in which one could have done otherwise (Yourself).

Either moral actions are uncaused (indeterminism), caused by another (determinism), or caused by oneself (self-determinism / soft determinism). However, no action can be uncaused, since this violates the fundamental rational principle that every event has a cause (as stated briefly above). Neither can a person’s actions be caused by others, for in that case they would not be personal actions. Further, if one’s acts are caused by another, then how can he or she be held responsible for them?

But Ryan declares that he has responded to such in his “Anticipated Objections”, and with this, let’s see what Ryan said (ultimately) about Man's free will, "It is certainly we who choose, feel, think, and act – and yet it is all in accordance with God’s determinative purpose."

He further states, "A fallback objection I have sometimes faced is that “even if the above argument is invalid, man cannot be faulted for his choosing that which he was predetermined to choose.” This is an example of the fallacy of begging-the-question"

And he finalises this by saying, "The fact that we are subject to God’s law despite how He has made us should not be surprising, for it the fact that He made us for His own ends functions as the very means by which Paul substantiates his claim that God is sovereign and man is responsible."

How can Charles Caldwell Ryrie (for example in my first rebuttal) beg the question when he clearly demonstrates in his philosophical reasoning that, "Thus, the biblical doctrine gives proper place to human responsibility. What’s going to be is going to be through certain means and procedures and responsible human actions. Ephesians 1:11 spotlights all things, not solely ends."

He does not beg the question when he gives a logical [realistic] illustration of two persons having a discussion. I cannot see how that illustration is begging the question / circular reasoning because go back to my Luciferianistic motive ideology.

When Ryan writes, "it is in fact God’s sovereignty which responsibility presupposes." - that is one of two things.

1. A complete contradiction in terms of the TULIP doctrine in proportion with our daily life.

2. God is Xerxes I.

The denial that some actions can be free is self-defeating. A complete determinist insists that both determinists and non-determinists are determined to believe what they believe. However, determinists believe self-determinists are wrong and ought to change their view. But “ought to change” implies freedom to change, which is contrary to determinism. If God is the cause of all human actions, then human beings are not morally responsible. And it makes no sense to praise human beings for doing good or to blame them for doing evil.

If human beings are free, are they outside God’s sovereignty? Either God determines all, or else he is not sovereign. And if he determines all, then there are no self-determined acts. However it is sufficient to note that God sovereignly delegated free choice to some of his creatures. There was no necessity for him to do so; he exercised his free will. So human freedom is a sovereignly given power to make moral choices.

Only absolute freedom would be contrary to God’s absolute sovereignty. But human freedom is a limited freedom. Humans are not free to become God themselves! A contingent being cannot become a Necessary Being. For a Necessary Being cannot come to be. It must always be what it is.
It is objected that either free, good acts spring from God’s grace, or else from our own initiative. But if the latter, they are not the result of God’s grace as seen in Ephesians 2:8–9. However, this does not necessarily follow. Free will itself is a gracious gift. Further, special grace is not forced coercively onto the person. Rather, grace works persuasively. The hard determinist’s position confuses the nature of faith. The ability of a person to receive God’s gracious gift of salvation is not the same as working for it. To think so is to give credit for the gift to the receiver, rather than to the Giver.

Others objections as seen in this debate by Ryan; that self-determinism are contrary to God’s predestination. But self-determinists respond that God can predetermine in several ways.

He can determine,
1. Contrary to free choice (forcing the person to do what he or she does not choose to do);
2. Based on free choices already made (waiting to see what the person will do);
3. Knowing omnisciently what the person will do.

1 Peter 1:2
(2) Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.

Romans 8:29
(29) For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

Positions 2 or 3 insist that God can determine the future by free choice, since he omnisciently knows for sure how they will freely act. So, it is determined from the standpoint of God’s infallible knowledge but free from the vantage point of human choice.

Connected with the argument from strong determinism is that, while Adam had free choice (Romans 5:12), fallen human beings are in bondage to sin and not free to respond to God. But this view is contrary to both God’s consistent call on people to repent (Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38) and believe (John 3:16; 3:36; Acts 16:31), as well as to direct statements that even unbelievers have the ability to respond to God’s grace, John 7:17
(17) If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.

Romans 7:18
(18) For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

1 Corinthians 9:17
(17) For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.

1 Peter 5:2
(2) Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;

This argument continues that if humans have the ability to respond, then salvation is not of grace (Ephesians 2:8–9) but by human effort. However, this is confusion about the nature of faith – with which I have tirelessly tried to explain throughout this entire rebuttal. The ability of a person to receive God’s gracious gift of salvation is not the same as working for it. To think so is to give credit for the gift to the receiver rather than to the Giver who graciously gave it for [all] to receive.

Words: 1,500 (excluding quotes)

Question 6 (me): Notwithstanding your more Pelagianistic comments (compare “The Father will draw the person, yet he [must] come first!” to John 6:44), a number of passages in Scripture support the doctrine of irresistible grace (1 Corinthians 1:23-24, Romans 8:28-30, John 6:37-44, 10:3-5), for it is obvious to any non-universalist that not all men without exception are so called/drawn. Since conditioning God’s effectual call on faith would be circular (cf. my comments on Romans 8:29-30 in first rebuttal) and John 8:47, 10:26 explicitly state election isn’t conditioned upon faith, how do you harmonize these aforementioned passages with Arminianism?

(Words count: 100)

Answer 6 (Arminian): Let us review the passages you cite to see if there is any apparent ratification in proportion with your defence of irresistible grace.

1 Corinthians 1:23-24
(23) But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
(24) But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

Adam Clarke states – “Those, both of Jews and Greeks, who were by the preaching of the Gospel called or invited to the marriage feast, and have accordingly believed in Christ Jesus; they prove this doctrine to be divinely powerful, to enlighten and convert the soul, and to be a proof of God’s infinite wisdom, which has found out such an effectual way to glorify both his justice and mercy, and save, to the uttermost, all that come to him through Christ Jesus. The called, or invited, κλητοι, is a title of genuine Christians, and is frequently used in the New Testament. Ἁγιοι, saints, is used in the same sense.”

Romans 8:28-30
(28) And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
(29) For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
(30) Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

Romans 8:28–30 pretty much gives us [the] run-down of the sovereign purposes of God, when Paul said those who have been justified will be glorified. He does not say only some who have truly been saved are going to persevere to the end and then make it; he does not say that only some who are justified will eventually be glorified. What is stated is that those who have been justified are also guaranteed to be glorified by God the Father.

Furthermore, Ephesians 1:4, and 11–12 states that believers have been chosen to bring glory to God. If God knew one would lose his salvation, He would not have chosen him to begin with. But this does not mean that God did predestined Anton LaVey to thus be a reprobate, or that God purposely did not seek him thereafter – especially through his saints (isn’t the whole purpose Christians to preach the bible, and to preach the Gospel to every creature true?).

John 6:37-44
(37) All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
(38) For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.
(39) And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.
(40) And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
(41) The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven.
(42) And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?
(43) Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves.
(44) No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.

According to John 6:37–40, the believer is a gift given by God the Father to the Son because of the Son’s obedience. And because the believer is God’s gift to the Son, Jesus is always going to keep him.

Verse 40 specifically states that, “every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day”. This included Anton LaVey – but he did not ‘see’ nor hearken to come to the glorious Gospel of Christ. Hence he died in his sins.

Matthew Henry commentates, “The discovery of their guilt, danger, and remedy, by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, makes men willing and glad to come, and to give up every thing which hinders applying to him for salvation. The Father's will is, that not one of those who were given to the Son, should be rejected or lost by him. No one will come, till Divine grace has subdued, and in part changed his heart; therefore no one who comes will ever be cast out. The gospel finds none willing to be saved in the humbling, holy manner, made known therein; but God draws with his word and the Holy Ghost; and man's duty is to hear and learn; that is to say, to receive the grace offered, and consent to the promise. None had seen the Father but his beloved Son; and the Jews must expect to be taught by his inward power upon their minds, and by his word, and the ministers whom he sent among them.”

John 10:3-5
(3) To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
(4) And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
(5) And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.

Matthew Henry commentates, “Here is a parable or similitude, taken from the customs of the East, in the management of sheep. Men, as creatures depending on their Creator, are called the sheep of his pasture. The church of God in the world is as a sheep-fold, exposed to deceivers and persecutors. The great Shepherd of the sheep knows all that are his, guards them by his providence, guides them by his Spirit and word, and goes before them, as the Eastern shepherds went before their sheep, to set them in the way of his steps. Ministers must serve the sheep in their spiritual concerns. The Spirit of Christ will set before them an open door. The sheep of Christ will observe their Shepherd, and be cautious and shy of strangers, who would draw them from faith in him to fancies about him.”

John 10:1–39, contains the discourse on the Good Shepherd as prophesied in Zechariah 13:7
(7) Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.

The prophet predicted that the rejection of the Messianic Shepherd will include His death which, in turn, will result in the scattering of the flock of Israel. The theme of the Messiah as the Good Shepherd is picked up by Jesus in John 10:1–18.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd (verses 1–6).

The Pharisees, their present shepherds, have gained rule over the flock and who climbeth up some other way like a thief and a robber (verse 1).

Jesus, however, came the right way because He came the way the Old Testament prophets predicted (verse 2).

His own sheep recognised Jesus to be the True Shepherd and they follow Him (verses 3–6). They are the poor of the flock of Zechariah 11.

Jesus then declared Himself to be the door of the sheep (verses 7–10).

Not only is He the shepherd, but He is the door of the sheepfold (verse 7).

Those who usurped authority before Him are thieves and robbers and not true shepherds (verse 8).

Those individual sheep who came through Him as the door will find salvation and spiritual food and pasture (verse 9).

The believing remnant will find this to be true. The Messianic Shepherd has come to provide the sheep with abundant life (verse 10).

Verses 7–10 likewise makes it clear that the Messiah is the door and all who can be saved, must enter by Him only. John 14:6 defends this.

Whereas earlier (verses 1–6) Jesus pictured Himself as the Good Shepherd, He now identifies Himself in that role (verses 11–18).

He is the Good Shepherd and a good shepherd will willingly lay down His life for the sheep (verse 11).

The hireling has no love for the sheep and will flee in the face of danger leaving the sheep to be destroyed (verses 12–13).

However, Jesus the Good Shepherd will lay down His life for His sheep (verses 14–15).

Furthermore, Jesus has other sheep … which are not of this fold (verse 16). The sheep of this fold are the Jewish sheep. The fold is Israel and the believing sheep of this fold are the Remnant of Israel. The other sheep are the Gentile believers. The Good Shepherd will unite together the believing Jewish and Gentile sheep to become one flock under one shepherd. This new one flock is the same as the one new man of Ephesians 2:11–16. It is the Church, the Body of Messiah with the Messiah as its Head. It is to achieve this new unity that the Messiah will die (verses 17–18).

Some of these truths are repeated in verses 26–30, adding the aspect that the Messiah’s sheep have eternal security. In Matthew 25:31–46, the Gentile believers of the Tribulation were also pictured as sheep.

John 10:24
(24) Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.

In reviewing John 10:24ff, Yeshua answers the charge of obscurity and makes four statements.

1. Jesus had already told them clearly in two ways: by His words and by His works (verse 25).

2. The real problem is that they are not His sheep (verse 26). They have not [believed] on Him, so they are not His sheep. Because they are not His sheep, they do not understand the statements He is making.

3. He points out that His sheep, the believers, do recognise Him and do understand what He is saying and do know exactly who He claims to be (verses 27–29). His sheep recognise His voice and they do follow Him (verse 27). Because [they] have [accepted] Him, they have eternal life (verse 28). Because they have eternal life, His sheep cannot lose their salvation (verses 28–29).

4. Having pointed out that the real problem is not that He has been obscure, but their lack of [faith].

As far as irresistible grace goes, we might summarise as follows:
1) Man has no ability and, therefore, cannot believe the gospel;
2) Man is powerless to resist the Spirit;
3) God doesn’t make anybody do anything; and
4) He makes the elect believe in Christ in accordance with His sovereign plan.

Rather confusing, isn’t it?

How is it possible for someone with no ability to believe the gospel and with no ability or power to resist the Spirit’s will to be personally responsible for believing or rejecting the gospel message?

Faith (as seen in point 4 above in my John 10 exegesis) is the single biblical condition for regeneration, but the Calvinist position insists:

1) that man can’t believe and is powerless to do so.

2) that God must regenerate only those so elected for salvation because he has already elected some and He cannot fail.

That all men descend from Adam and are guilty of sin argues for man’s lost condition and the universal need for eternal life. That the gospel message is intended for the whole world of mankind not only suggests that everyone needs eternal life, but also asserts its efficiency (as well as the sufficiency) to regenerate anyone and everyone in the whole world who hears that message and believes in Christ.

The gospel message itself is indeed “whosoever will” (John 3:16). This fact in no way relegates the Holy Spirit to obscurity. The omnipresent Holy Spirit regenerates the sinner as he believes the gospel. Such regeneration is a divinely powerful act, but it is always performed in conjunction with faith in Christ. So, since the need is universal (sin), the message is universal (the gospel), and the condition for regeneration is universal (faith in Christ), it follows that the effect and efficiency of God’s plan in accord with the gospel offer to all is universal.

The Bible simply places the responsibility of belief directly on the one who hears the clear gospel message. It disallows any excuse for unbelief.

"When Jewish leaders persecuted Jesus and sought to kill Him, He got to the heart of their problem: “But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” ([John] 5:40). The general call of the gospel becomes effective when it is joined with faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ; “He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son” (1 John 5:10)." - Earl D. Radmacher, Salvation

Notice the simple and clear wording when Radmacher says, “The general call of the gospel becomes effective when it is joined with faith.” The difference between the general call and the effectual call of God is this: The general call is the message announced to all, i.e., the invitation. The effectual call is the message believed, the invitation received, and the correspondingly powerful work of the Holy Spirit that, at the time of faith, produces eternal life in the one who believes. The effectual call is the gospel message joined with faith, and the explanation need be no more complicated than that.

There is no necessity, either biblically, logically, or otherwise, to insist that the Holy Spirit imposes eternal life on anyone in an irresistible fashion, makes them willing, makes them willing to be willing, or gives them faith, etc., so as to fulfil God’s sovereign plan. This is so because His sovereign plan insists upon human responsibility, and thus, human freedom. And human freedom is validated when one freely believes in Christ alone.

So, can the gift of eternal life be resisted? The biblical answer is yes. The gifts of God, salvation or otherwise, are never imposed by an irresistible force, but are simply and freely received.

Does God’s sovereignty or absolute control of the universe require us to conclude that He forces selected people (the elect) to receive His gift of salvation and to enter into a holy union with Him? No, because he has made mankind an offer which cannot be exceeded.

God is not indebted to us, nor is He obligated to save us. Now, if Jesus’ death was intended to benefit only the elect, the Holy Spirit would indeed be obligated to save those for whom His death was intended. But if Jesus’ death was intended for all, God would in no way be under obligation.

Is it an affront to God to suggest that the Holy Spirit can be resisted? No, because, again, the question presupposes that rejection of the gospel offer for eternal life is the same as personal resistance to the Holy Spirit while the Holy Spirit is somehow pressing and pressuring the sinner for a decision. Rather, the rejection of Christ is indeed resistance to the message that the Holy Spirit has inspired.

Words: 1,700 (excluding quotes)

Question 5 (Arminian): Defining free choice as “doing what one desires” is contrary to experience. For people do not always do what they desire, nor do they always desire to do what they do as seen in Romans 7:15–16.

If God must give the desire before one can perform an act, then God must have given Lucifer the desire to rebel against him. But this is impossible, for in that case God would be giving a desire against God. God would in effect be against himself, which is impossible?

God could have predetermined things in accordance with free choice, rather than in contradiction to it. Even the Calvinistic Westminster Confession of Faith declares that “Although in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first cause, all things come to pass immutably and infallibly, yet by the same providence he ordereth them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently” (5.2).

What are your thoughts on this?

Words: 160

Answer 5 (me): “The will always chooses according to its strongest inclination at the moment” – Jonathan Edwards

The above is indeed regarded by Calvinists as an accurate understanding of the will. The qualification that we will what we most strongly desire avoids the pitfalls of Robert’s Romans 7 objection. Furthermore, there is no contradiction between predestination and the idea that man wills what he most strongly desires; indeed, that is the very means by which God predestines! He controls our desires directly (e.g. regeneration) or indirectly (e.g. temptation via evil spirits) and thusly controls in what manner we will.

Historically, “free will or choice” has a multiplicity of meanings. Augustine believed fallen man was free to sin but not free to do good. This is another good definition with which all Calvinists could agree. However, to avoid confusion, I explicitly defined it in my opening statement as “the doctrine that… man is said to be capable of actuating one of two or more possible courses of action.” This was for convenience sake so that Robert and I could avoid frivolous quibbling. To disassociate myself from that definition of free will, I counted it as easier to simply deny free will first and then explain, as I have done, why this does not mean men cannot actually choose or will. With all this in mind, I can proceed to Robert’s two points:

1. “God could have predetermined things in accordance with free choice, rather than in contradiction to it.”

It appears, given Robert’s distaste for what he mistakenly believed to have been the Calvinist understanding of free will/choice, he has reverted to referring to it per the definition provided in my opening statement. It makes little difference, because I already anticipated this and any other counter-factual “why” question Robert may ask when I wrote:

“…God has decreed all things to His glory. Robert can contend – but not substantiate – that a counter-factual world would more greatly manifest God’s glory.”

2. “If God must give the desire before one can perform an act, then God must have given Lucifer the desire to rebel against him. But this is impossible, for in that case God would be giving a desire against God. God would in effect be against himself, which is impossible?”

As Scripture is silent as to the specifics of Satan’s fall – at least as far as Robert’s question is concerned – all I have to do to rebut his charge and defend my beliefs is present a speculatory answer which may be synthesized with Scripture in general and my belief that God predestines all things in particular. I will answer Robert in part as I did a friend who asked me how God could have predestined Satan to sin apart from direct temptation (which is a concept I totally reject in line with James 1):

//I would assume [He did so] in the same manner as He has on any other occasion, i.e. by affecting Satan's inclination in such a way that his pride became that which he most strongly desired to act upon.//

Moreover, it doesn't seem impossible that, since God created Satan and other rational creatures with a capacity to be tempted and sin, He could also have created said creatures with the necessity to sin, given certain circumstances. I speak more to myself when I write this could resurrect the “passive predestination” position I recanted some time ago. This would require further reflection and far more space than I have left, however, and I judge what I’ve already written to have sufficiently satisfied the conditions I have outlined above.

(Word count: 600)

Question 6 (Arminian): In exegeting 1 John 2:1-2, Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum states, “Not only is He our Advocate, He is also our propitiation (verse 2). The word “to propitiate” means “to satisfy or to appease the wrath of God.” By propitiation, we mean that “the wrath of God against sin has been appeased; it has been propitiated; it has been satisfied.”

He points out that the Messiah is the propitiation, not just for believers but also for unbelievers; not for ours [sins] only, but for [those of] the whole world. The Messiah is the propitiation for the world.

The Messiah is the satisfaction for sins, both for us, that is, the elect; and for the world, the non-elect. This verse clearly teaches unlimited atonement; the Messiah died for the sins of all men, not just for the elect. Because He died for the sins of all men, it means that the blood of the Messiah has satisfied God’s wrath against sin for all, though salvation is only applied to those who believe.

Whereas propitiation affects everybody, the application of salvation is only for believers; therefore, He is the Advocate for believers only. What He is in verse 1, our Advocate, is true of believers only; what He is in verse 2, the propitiation, is true of both believers and unbelievers.

However, the emphasis is this: His past death as Savior of the world is the basis of His present ministry as the Advocate for believers who sin.”

Do you agree?

Words: 10 (excluding excerpts)

Answer 6 (me): There are, in general, several points Fruchtenbaum makes with which I agree as well as several with which I disagree:


- Not only is He our Advocate, He is also our propitiation.
- “To propitiate” means “to satisfy or to appease the wrath of God.”
- The emphasis is this: His past death as Savior of the world is the basis of His present ministry as the Advocate for believers who sin.


- This verse clearly teaches unlimited atonement.
- The Messiah died for the sins of all men, not just for the elect.
- The blood of the Messiah has satisfied God’s wrath against sin for all, though salvation is only applied to those who believe.

Reasons for disagreement

1. My explanation of 1 John 2:2 provided in my first rebuttal, especially the parallel demonstrated between it and John 11:51-52, has not been shown to be false. Indeed, much of John’s letters are written with the intention that it be known that Christ died for all men without distinction (Revelation 5:9). Instead, I was asked whether or not I would “find God to be love” if I were reprobate. The answer is “obviously not, as reprobates suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1). The question is not relevant to my points and seems to beg an appeal to emotions (of reprobates, no less).

2. As I have said throughout this debate, to say Christ died “for” a person is to say Christ “intended to save” Him. What sense does it make to say that Christ, by His death and resurrection, intended to save those whose destinies were already fixed by having died in wickedness? What sense does it make to say that the Son failed to fulfill the will of the Father, given that the Father desires the salvation of all men without exception and universalism is false? What sense does it make to say that the Father’s desires or will can be resisted? No sense.

3. As Spurgeon noted, while Calvinists limit the scope (intention) of the atonement, Arminians limit its power. Both the logical consequences of point 2 and passages I have elsewhere exegeted (e.g. Romans 8:32; 2 Corinthians 5:14, cf. Romans 6:8) substantiate that the intention of Christ’s sacrificial work cannot be separated from the application of it. It is true that Jesus is not only the propitiator (Advocate) but also the propitiation. Ironically, Fruchtenbaum misses the import of what he rightly recognized as the emphasis of 1 John 2:2, for as Robert Reymond wrote:

“It is highly unlikely that Christ’s high-priestly work of sacrifice and intercession, two parts of one harmonious work, would be carried out with different objects in view—the former (the sacrifice) for all mankind, the latter (the intercession) for only some people. Since Jesus expressly declared that his intercessory work is conductednot in behalf of the world but for the elect (“I am not praying for the world,” he said, “but for those you [the Father] have given me,” and later he prayed, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message” [John 17:9, 20; see Luke 22:31–32], that is, for God’s elect [see Rom. 8:32–34]), consistency of purpose demands that his sacrificial work would be conducted in behalf of the same group for whom he carries out his intercessory work. It is difficult to believe that Christ would refuse to intercede for a portion of those for whose sin he, by his blood, made expiation!”

(Word count: 594)

No comments: