Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
A Touchstone for God-Centered Salvation Vs. Man-Centered Salvation
10/29/2010 - Alan KurschnerThe "Calvinist vs. Arminian" debate is substantially a debate between what is called "synergism" and "monergism." There is no third option (unless one is willing to affirm Pelagianism). For those who are new to the Calvinist-Arminian debate, the following is a primer on the two perennial branches of theological systems in Christianity. Or to put it another way, there are two very different ways for believers to view their salvation.
In general, the first type (the Arminian-Synergist) affirms what is called "synergism." Synergists believe that two forces in the universe are necessary to bring about regeneration in the life of the sinner. In specifics, the two forces at work (cooperation) that are necessary to bring about regeneration, or spiritual life, is the will of man and the Holy Spirit (grace).
To put it another way, the work of the Holy Spirit is dependent on the creature’s will, hence, “synergism” (working together). These individuals will sincerely say, “I believe in grace alone.” But in reality, they believe that grace is not alone (sufficient), but that man’s will is necessary for regeneration to be effective.
It could be said that these individuals are “functional” Arminians because even though some will deny the label, their theology functions synergistically (thus, how they identify themselves is inconsistent with what they teach and believe).
The second group of believers (the Calvinist-Monergist) affirm what is called “monergism.” Monergists believe that there is only one force in the universe (grace alone) that brings about regeneration in the life of the sinner. In specifics, because of the deadness of man’s spiritual state, his moral inability, the Holy Spirit performs the miracle of spiritual resurrection (regeneration) in that person, hence, “monergism” (one work). Grace is sufficient to be effective, and does not depend on some action of man.
In other words, the Holy Spirit does not merely whisper in the hardened sinner’s ear, hoping that the rebel sinner will “cooperate”; rather, while the sinner is in a state of hardness and rebellion, the Holy Spirit penetrates in the will of man and performs the miracle of spiritual life (regeneration). That is grace alone. Faith does not precede regeneration, regeneration precedes faith.
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions– it is by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2:4-5
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” John 1:12-13
He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” John 8:47Arminians cannot affirm monergism (grace alone); they must always have the creature’s will as the final determiner of their destiny, not God. Inconsistently, Arminians pray (without knowingly) Calvinisticly, “God, change my unbelieving relative’s heart.” I have never heard them pray, “God, only whisper in my relative’s ear, but don’t change their heart unless you’ve been given permission.” But the Calvinist prays and affirms biblical truth consistently.
The Famous "Read My Book" Debate on Calvinism: Now on MP3!
10/24/2010 - James WhiteFor seven years the only format you could purchase the 3-day radio discussion with George Bryson aired on The Bible Answer Man Broadcast was on CD, by contract. But, as of now, we can make the entire debate available in downloadable mp3 format! This is one of the most popular encounters on the important subject of God's sovereignty in salvation, one that, quite honestly, set many people on the road to Geneva. Rich Pierce went through and broke down the discussion by topic this weekend, as you can see here. We intend to put together an entire package of materials in time for the holidays, but we wanted to let you know this was available as soon as possible! Enjoy!
James White Speaking in the Twin Cities this Saturday
10/11/2010 - Alan Kurschner
Click Here for Information.
Join us for a day of Biblical exposition and exhortation with Dr. James White and Ryan Habbena at Signet Ring’s 2010 Annual Conference. We will focus on the declaration and defense of the doctrines of grace as well as the immense implications of these Scriptural truths. This conference is free of charge and will be held at Conquering King Fellowship in Eagan, MN from 9am to 4pm on Saturday, October 16, 2010. A free-will offering will be taken.
Session One: John 6:44
The Doctrines of Grace in One Verse — Ryan Habbena
In the midst of the glorious gospel of John, there is a verse that succinctly and definitely speaks of God¹s sovereign grace in salvation — John 6:44. In this session, Ryan will explore the teaching of this verse in its context. He will also highlight the resounding significance this verse contributes to our understanding of the powerful, effectual grace of God.
Session Two: God Purpose in Election
A Survey of the Significance of Romans 9 — Dr. James White
Few passages are as crucial to the understanding of God¹s sovereign grace as Romans chapter 9. In this session, James will survey the significance of Paul¹s teaching in this robust passage of holy Scripture. Dr. White will focus on the decisive teaching granted to us from the pen of the apostle regarding God’s freedom and purpose in election.
Session Three: Understanding “The Big Three”
Matthew 23:37, 1 Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9 — Dr. James White
In the debate over the sovereign grace of God, three verses are consistently brought up to oppose the doctrines of grace: Matthew 23:37, 1st Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9. In this session, James will unpack these passages in their contexts and demonstrate how their teaching in no way conflicts with the doctrines of God¹s sovereign grace, but rather informs and enhances our understanding of the nature and purposes of God.
Session Four: For God is at Work in You
The Mystery and Necessity of Compatibilism — Ryan Habbena
When confronted with the truths of God’s sovereign grace, many people have pressing questions: “Why evangelize?” “Why pray?” “Why pursue sanctification?” In this session, Ryan will present the Biblical dynamics of “compatibilism.” In exploring several key texts, Ryan will demonstrate that God’s sovereign grace fuels and motivates all areas of the Christian life.
Session Five: Questions and Answers
Dr. James White & Ryan Habbena
No Compromise Radio Appearance
10/07/2010 - James WhiteI was forced at gunpoint to join Mike Abendroth (one of the nefarious and widely feared Abendroth Brothers Gang) on his No Compromise Radio Program today. What was worse, he forced me to listen to Rick Warren's presentation at the DG Conference. Very painful. 350 pithy platitudes strung together on citations of the Message and the Living Bible interspersed with psychology and repeated references to how uber cool Saddleback is. But, I listened, because I was forced to! And then Mike made me go on the air and give a report! It was a traumatic experience, but I got through it. Someday I will return the favor and force Mike to race me up South Mountain. Here's the program.
The Order of Decrees - Which Came First?
10/05/2010 - Tur8infanA reader asked:
Please clarify for me, which came first, the decree of God to reprobate and damn this or that particular individual or that individual's sin against God and then the decree to reprobate and damn him for his sin?The issue of the order of decrees is a topic that seems to be of the greatest interest to us Calvinists and a few of our more learned critics. The issue is not one that directly addressed in Scripture. In other words, the Bible nowhere explicitly sets forth a logical order of decrees.
I say "logical order," because we Calvinists believe that the decrees of God are his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby he has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass. They are an eternal purpose, not something that God developed over time by taking thought like a man. They consequently have no temporal order to them. God did not literally first decree "x" and then "y," but rather God has decreed all things from all eternity.
Nevertheless, there may be a logical priority to things. For example, one might say that logically God cannot ordain to make Fred Astaire a famous personality until he first decrees to create Fred Astaire. Thus, God's decree of creation of Fred Astaire would come logically prior to God's decree to make Fred Astaire famous.
But what about the decrees of reprobation/damnation and permission of sin? Which of those comes first? That, after all is the reader's question. On this question, Calvinists are themselves divided. The view held by the real Francis Turretin and many of the Continental reformers was what is called the Infralapsarian view. On the other hand, men like Twisse (who served essentially as moderator of the Westminster Assembly) held to what is called the supralapsarian view. There are also views held by classic Amyraldians and Arminians with respect to these decrees (some modern "Arminians" and some "four point Calvinists" wouldn't necessarily fall into the same classification. Furthermore, recently Robert Reymond has proposed what he calls the "Modified Supralapsarian" position as another alternative.
The term "-lapsarian" refers to the "lapse" or "fall" of man. Supralapsarians place the decree of election (and consequently also reprobation) prior to the decree of the fall. Infralapsarians (as well as classical Amyraldians and Arminians) place the decree of election logically subsequent to the decree of the fall. Robert Reymond's modified Supralapsarian position actually places the specific decree of the fall after the decree of election, but nevertheless makes the election an election from among sinful men.
Here is a summary of the views (based on Phil Johnson's helpful page).
|Supralapsarianism||Infralapsarianism||Amyraldism||Arminianism||Reymond's Modified Supralapsarianism|
I'm hesitant to be overly dogmatic about the matter. Twisse championed the cause of the Supralapsarian position by suggesting that what is last in time must be first in mind, since God does nothing without a purpose. In other words, the goal must be what God logically considers first, and then how to obtain that goal. On the contrary, men like the real Francis Turretin argued that the discussion of God's electing some men of the same lump to be vessels of "mercy" and others of "wrath" (Romans 9:22-23). This lump, it is argued, must be the lump of fallen humanity, otherwise it would not be "mercy" or "wrath." One possible response is that the descriptions "mercy" and "wrath" are descriptions of them vessels as they stand, not as God considered them and that God's election was either to glory or destruction.
Reymond's modified position seems to attempt to get the best of both the Supra- and infralapsarian views, in that it places things in reverse chronological order, while also considering the men who are elected as sinners. My understanding is that Dr. White favors this approach, though I do not claim to speak for him on this subject. I would encourage people to follow the example of the Westminster assembly and not make the order of decrees itself a point over which to divide fellowship or exclude ministers. While only one logical order of decrees can be true, we should be careful in what amount of knowledge of the truth we demand from our fellow Christians regarding things that are less explicitly and clearly stated in Scripture.
P.S. Infralapsarianism is also sometimes referred to as "Sublapsarianism." "Sub-" and "Infra-" are supposed to mean the same thing. Personally, I find that "Infra-" contrasts better in sound to "Supra-," providing a modicum of clarity in what is often a very confusing discussion.