The Doctrines of Grace have been a glorious and world shattering discovery for us. We feel that these precious truths have truly allowed us to see the biblical teaching of God and man in a systematic way. God’s Sovereignty and holiness are accented to their proper place, man’s depravity is manifested in its truest sense, the atonement is seen in its perfection and God’s power is manifested in His elective purposes, in true regeneration and in bringing saints to glory. We have been so affected by these doctrines that we have a special section on this website devoted to materials relating to them. While these truths are so clearly seen in scripture, there are still those who would argue that the systematic understanding of God’s salvation is unbiblical.
I saw this article written by Steve Hays in which he presents an overview of the bible from Genesis to Revelation demonstrating that the bible does in fact teach the theology that is found in what is often referred to as Calvinism. I thought it might be worthwhile to share with those who had perhaps not seen it. Hays does a good job in presenting text after text and commenting of the proper interpretation of these texts. enjoy!
“A preacher may induce a man to believe what Scripture says about his lost condition, persuade him to bow to the divine verdict, and then accept Christ as his personal Savior. No man wants to go to hell, and fire is assured intellectually that Christ stands ready as a fire escape, on the sole condition that he jump into His arms (“rest on His finished work”), thousands will do so. But a hundred preachers are unable to make an unregenerate person realize the dreadful nature of sin, or show him that he has been a lifelong rebel against God, or change his heart so that he now hates himself and longs to please God and serve Christ. Only the Spirit can bring man to the place where he is willing to forsake every idol, cut off a hindering right hand or pluck out an offending right eye.” —A. W. Pink
Awhile back while I was observing a class at my work, a lady (who happened to be the daughter of a Baptist Minister) expressed during a conversation how she thought that people in general were inherently good but oftentimes swayed from this goodness and did evil things. She was articulating a very popular ideology that most people adhere to which makes them feel good about the world in which they live. What she meant by her statement was when people do something that is evil then they are merely acting outside of what they are. I obviously disagreed with her understanding of human nature and morality but I quickly realized there wasn’t room to discuss these items any further.
The bible teaches something different than what this nice lady was telling me. The bible teaches that men and women are by nature fallen and that doing good deeds essentially goes against their nature as humans. This doesn’t mean that men can’t do good or that they are as evil as they can be but that the fall of Adam (keeping in mind Adam’s headship as federal head of mankind) has corrupted all of man both extensively (all men are corrupt) and intensively (all of man has been corrupted). Men have a sin nature and while they can produce good thoughts, emotions and deeds, this is going against their natural tendency in God’s eyes. There are many texts that could be utilized to prove my assertion that men are born in sin (Psalm 51:5) that they naturally have a tendency to do the opposite of what is pleasing to God ( Romans 8:7-8; 1 Corinthians 2:14) and that they cannot change on their own (Jeremiah 13:23; Job 14:4; John 6:37-44). This is nothing new to Christianity and while there are some deviations from the doctrine of human depravity, most people who take the scripture with any seriousness recognized this biblical teaching. When Adam fell, sin entered into the world and as men multiply the sin nature is passed down.
I would like to concentrate today however on a couple of texts from the book of Genesis which I believe illustrates for us the reality of the depravity of human kind after the fall of Adam and the passing down of this corrupt nature. I want to look at two texts that exemplify the reality of this natural corruption from the very beginning. This is not some new phenomenon that occurred in the last century but from the very start of human existence, men have been morally affected by sin. The first text we will examine is Genesis 6:5 and the second is Genesis 8:21. The first text is prior to the flood and the second text directly after the flood in the days of Noah. I chose these two texts since it demonstrates that the line of men, even after an apocalyptic event such as the flood, continued to be corrupted. Not only this but that the ultimate and logical conclusion that the sin nature that is passed down through the descendants of men is not a different nature but ultimately the same corrupt one.
Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them… Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Genesis 6:1,5)
After the fall in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve began to bare children and Genesis chapter 5 gives us a list of the descendants of our federal head Adam. When we arrive at chapter 6, we see the beginning of the spread of humanity whereas the daughters of these descendants of Adam & Eve began to multiply on the face of the land (Gen. 6:1). The daughters of the children of Adam were “beautiful” and the sons of God[i] took them as their wives. My desire is not to get into the identity of the sons of God but merely to demonstrate that the taking of the daughters of the descendants of Adam in marriage. I’m not convinced that the mingling of the sons of God and the daughters of Adam’s descendants was the only act of sin that God saw in v. 5 but certainly it may have played a large part in Yahweh being lead to anger. What we must remember in these texts is that the multiplication of the descendants of Adam didn’t provide perfect people but that the sin nature of Adam’s prosperity was passed down.
Yahweh saw two things that give us an understanding of the sin of human kind. He saw (a) the wickedness of man was great on the earth and (b) He saw that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. What God saw was both the extensiveness of sin and the intensiveness of sin[ii]. This is a far contrast from what Yahweh saw after He had created where He could say God saw all that he had made, and behold, it was very good (Genesis 1:31). The extent of the sin was not secluded and rampant among a few individuals but was widespread. The language of section A is used to demonstrate the universality of the sin that existed and still exists today. There are none on this earth whether in the days of Noah or in our present age who have not felt the reality of the sin nature. The Psalmist made it clear that all are guilty and none seeks good (Psalm 14:1-3) and most importantly that this occurs at the time of birth (Psalm 51:5). While all creation has been affected by the fall (Romans 8:20-22), the text is explicitly referring to man’s wickedness.
The intensity of the sin is not focused upon in section B where we see that man’s outward demonstration of sin and it extensive portrayal is even more fully intensified by the fact that even the inner man is corrupted by sin. The very depth of his affections that the mind ponders have been perverted by sin. Whenever men create thoughts from their hearts they are continuously evil. This is the natural outpouring of the heart which Jeremiah tells us the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick… (Jeremiah 17:9). The idea of continuity here is that human beings never cease to sin nor are they able to do so. So long as men create thoughts from their hearts, sin affects those thoughts! We are still today born as the descendants of Adam and until we become the descendants of the 2nd Adam, we remain in this sin condition.
We read in the book of Proverbs As in water face reflects face, So the heart of man reflects man. Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied (Proverbs 27:19-20) Water was a primitive way of looking at our reflection. Today, we have mirrors in our bathrooms and hallways so that we can look at ourselves in a more clear fashion. It’s not abnormal to stare at ourselves to see how hair looks or what a certain piece of clothing looks like on us. The purpose of the mirror and our reflection is to see our physical features, our exterior attributes or our outer likeness so as to have an understanding of how others view us.
In the same way that the water reflects our exterior attributes, so does a man’s heart reflects the man because it exposes, not his exterior attributes, but his inner self. It essentially exposes to us (ourselves) who we really are and often times to others as well. The scriptures tell us clearly about man’s heart: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?(Jeremiah 17:9) In the book of Ezekiel , we read that man’s heart is one of stone. This wicked heart made of stone reflects the very essence of a person, his thoughts and his very nature. Your probably thinking “hold on now, I have love in my heart hence it isn’t “desperately wicked” as you say!! You see the heart is capable to doing good but the question is does it function in the full capacity of goodness? The question is have you ever really taken into account what your inner thoughts and desires are? You might identify them as your “secret thoughts”, those desires that no one knows about? You know you have them, we all have them. Examples:
- Thinking about money, person pulls out a large amount of money, you wish you had that money = coveting
- Job Promotion someone else gets = jealousy,
- Don’t want to lose your friend, you start thinking of ways to make the other look bad, perhaps make stuff up about them = bearing false witness.
All these things are self beneficial and you think them simply so you can get ahead. You see you’re not satisfied with what finances the Lord has given you, you’re not satisfied with the job God has given you and the relationships you’re in. The heart exposes man’s dissatisfaction, it manifests his lustful desires and reveals to a person who they really are. The problem is; people don’t listen to their heart! They push aside their condemning thoughts or merely define them as “normal”. I’m going to remember the good things and ignore the bad things. You see these aren’t normal thoughts; these aren’t the natural feelings, they are the feelings of a rebellious heart, a heart that is dead to God.
The term in-house debate is generally used of biblical beliefs that are not agreed upon en toto and have been discussed very passionately within the church. An age old debate that has surfaced time and time again is on the subject of predestination & election. The debate has been primarily amongst those who call themselves Calvinists and Arminians with a slightly modified version of these two views which I call 4-point Arminianism. Each view has significant implications with regards to the doctrine of salvation.
Calvinists would argue that God has predestined a certain number of individuals before the foundation of the world unto salvation and that man is totally dependant on God to save him because man has been so corrupted by the fall that he does not desire salvation. Men are brought to faith through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit and God grants men faith & repentance. Calvinism summarizes its theology through the five points of Calvinism:
- Total Depravity: This states that men are born in this world enslaved to sin and sin has affected their whole being including their will where they no inclination towards God or His gospel.
- Unconditional Election: This states that from eternity past God has chosen a particular people to whom He will show favour especially through salvation. This election is not based upon anything within man, any good works or even an autonomous faith.
- Limited Atonement: This view is also called Particular Redemption in which Christ’s death is particular and definite. Christ’s death actually accomplishes what it set out to do and is effective for the elect.
- Irresistible Grace: This is the idea that God’s grace overcomes the rebellious will of the sinner and where God grants the sinner faith & repentance through the Holy Spirit.
- Perseverance of the Saints: This is the teaching that those who are the elect will persevere to the end because it is God’s persevering in them and hence they are secure in God.
To summarize all this, Salvation is the work of God and God alone.
Arminians see salvation as cooperation between man & God for the salvation of souls. All men have the ability to choose for God and Christ died potentially for all men equally. The Holy Spirit convicts sinners of their sin and men must exercise their free will in an autonomous sense in faith towards Christ. The Arminian theology can also be summarized with five points:
- Human Free Will: This is the view that man has a sinful nature due to the fall yet still possesses the capacity to believe in Christ and sin has not totally corrupted man.
- Conditional Election: This is the view that God’s election is based upon the active working of His foreknowledge in order to see into the future and know who will finally believe on His Son.
- Universal Atonement: This is the doctrine that states that Christ’s death was universal and hence meant for all mankind equally.
- Prevenient Grace: This is the understanding that God’s grace is never “irresistible” and that is can always be rejected under any circumstance. Arminians still see the necessity of grace in helping man.
- Falling from Grace: This point states that men who have received Christ can fall from grace at any time and salvation is dependant on the faithfulness of the individual.
To summarize all this, Salvation is the cooperative work of God and man.
4-point arminianism is very similar to Arminianism but has some one differing point that sets it apart. The big difference between the two is that 4-point arminianism would affirm a modified version of the 5th point of Calvinism in that they believe in a form of eternal security. Once an individual has placed his faith in Christ then there is nothing that can cause to fall away. The vast majority of evangelicals today hold to this view.
We would like to know where you stand. Your comments are welcomed!
The debate between the Calvinist understanding of soteriology and that of Arminianism has been going on for centuries now. It has been an in-house debate in many churches there has been good some productive discussions between the two sides while in others it has brought heat rather than light. The heat has been somewhat turned up over the last couple of days due to a statement soon to be published by the Southern Baptist Convention titled “A Statement of Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation”. The statement basically declares, for the most part, Calvinism as false teaching and goes on to imply that it has no place in the convention. It seems they are issuing a warning that “new Calvinists” are invading their organization in order to steal the sheep. I’m not an expert on this issue but there are those who would disagree with this argument. Sadly, after reading the statement, I can see why they would believe it was false. The problem is that this statement is nothing more than a caricature of what Calvinists believe and a denial of some fundamental doctrines including original sin. Read the statement for yourself below. This statement is very divisive and will have a huge negative impact in churches throughout North America who look to this organization for guidance. I pray that there will be wisdom in handling this issue as to not create such a controversy as to see churches split.
A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation
Every generation of Southern Baptists has the duty to articulate the truths of its faith with particular attention to the issues that are impacting contemporary mission and ministry. The precipitating issue for this statement is the rise of a movement called “New Calvinism” among Southern Baptists. This movement is committed to advancing in the churches an exclusively Calvinistic understanding of salvation, characterized by an aggressive insistence on the “Doctrines of Grace” (“TULIP”), and to the goal of making Calvinism the central Southern Baptist position on God’s plan of salvation.
While Calvinists have been present in Southern Baptist life from its earliest days and have made very important contributions to our history and theology, the majority of Southern Baptists do not embrace Calvinism. Even the minority of Southern Baptists who have identified themselves as Calvinists generally modify its teachings in order to mitigate certain unacceptable conclusions (e.g., anti-missionism, hyper-Calvinism, double predestination, limited atonement, etc.). The very fact that there is a plurality of views on Calvinism designed to deal with these weaknesses (variously described as “3-point,” “4-point,” “moderate,” etc.) would seem to call for circumspection and humility with respect to the system and to those who disagree with it. For the most part, Southern Baptists have been glad to relegate disagreements over Calvinism to secondary status along with other important but “non-essential” theological matters. The Southern Baptist majority has fellowshipped happily with its Calvinist brethren while kindly resisting Calvinism itself. And, to their credit, most Southern Baptist Calvinists have not demanded the adoption of their view as the standard. We would be fine if this consensus continued, but some New Calvinists seem to be pushing for a radical alteration of this long- standing arrangement.
We propose that what most Southern Baptists believe about salvation can rightly be called “Traditional” Southern Baptist soteriology, which should be understood in distinction to “Calvinist” soteriology. Traditional Southern Baptist soteriology is articulated in a general way in the Baptist Faith and Message, “Article IV.” While some earlier Baptist confessions were shaped by Calvinism, the clear trajectory of the BF&M since 1925 is away from Calvinism. For almost a century, Southern Baptists have found that a sound, biblical soteriology can be taught, maintained, and defended without subscribing to Calvinism. Traditional Southern Baptist soteriology is grounded in the conviction that every person can and must be saved by a personal and free decision to respond to the Gospel by trusting in Christ Jesus alone as Savior and Lord. Without ascribing to Calvinism, Southern Baptists have reached around the world with the Gospel message of salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone. Baptists have been well-served by a straightforward soteriology rooted in the fact that Christ is willing and able to save any and every sinner.New Calvinism presents us with a duty and an opportunity to more carefully express what is generally believed by Southern Baptists about salvation. It is no longer helpful to identify ourselves by how many points of convergence we have with Calvinism. While we are not insisting that every Southern Baptist affirm the soteriological statement below in order to have a place in the Southern Baptist family, we are asserting that the vast majority of Southern Baptists are not Calvinists and that they do not want Calvinism to become the standard view in Southern Baptist life. We believe it is time to move beyond Calvinism as a reference point for Baptist soteriology.
Below is what we believe to be the essence of a “Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation.” We believe that most Southern Baptists, regardless of how they have described their personal understanding of the doctrine of salvation, will find the following statement consistent with what the Bible teaches and what Southern Baptists have generally believed about the nature of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
Articles of Affirmation and Denial
Article One: The Gospel
We affirm that the Gospel is the good news that God has made a way of salvation through the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ for any person. This is in keeping with God’s desire for every person to be saved.
We deny that only a select few are capable of responding to the Gospel while the rest are predestined to an eternity in hell.
Genesis 3:15; Psalm 2:1-12; Ezekiel 18:23, 32; Luke 19.10; Luke 24:45-49; John 1:1-18, 3:16; Romans 1:1-6, 5:8; 8:34; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Galatians 4:4-7; Colossians 1:21-23; 1 Timothy 2:3-4; Hebrews 1:1-3; 4:14-16; 2 Peter 3:9
Article Two: The Sinfulness of Man
We affirm that, because of the fall of Adam, every person inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin and that every person who is capable of moral action will sin. Each person’s sin alone brings the wrath of a holy God, broken fellowship with Him, ever-worsening selfishness and destructiveness, death, and condemnation to an eternity in hell.
We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned. While no sinner is remotely capable of achieving salvation through his own effort, we deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel.
Genesis 3:15-24; 6:5; Deuteronomy 1:39; Isaiah 6:5, 7:15-16;53:6; Jeremiah 17:5,9, 31:29-30; Ezekiel 18:19-20; Romans 1:18-32; 3:9-18, 5:12, 6:23; 7:9; Matthew 7:21-23; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; 6:9-10;15:22; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Hebrews 9:27-28; Revelation 20:11-15
Article Three: The Atonement of Christ We affirm that the penal substitution of Christ is the only available and effective sacrifice for the sins of every person.
We deny that this atonement results in salvation without a person’s free response of repentance and faith. We deny that God imposes or withholds this atonement without respect to an act of the person’s free will. We deny that Christ died only for the sins of those who will be saved.
Psalm 22:1-31; Isaiah 53:1-12; John 12:32, 14:6; Acts 10:39-43; Acts 16:30-32; Romans 3:21-26; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:10-14; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:13-20; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; Hebrews 9:12-15, 24-28; 10:1-18; I John 1:7; 2:2
Article Four: The Grace of God
We affirm that grace is God’s generous decision to provide salvation for any person by taking all of the initiative in providing atonement, in freely offering the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit, and in uniting the believer to Christ through the Holy Spirit by faith.
We deny that grace negates the necessity of a free response of faith or that it cannot be resisted. We deny that the response of faith is in any way a meritorious work that earns salvation.
Ezra 9:8; Proverbs 3:34; Zechariah 12:10; Matthew 19:16-30, 23:37; Luke 10:1-12; Acts 15:11; 20:24; Romans 3:24, 27-28; 5:6, 8, 15-21; Galatians 1:6; 2:21; 5; Ephesians 2:8-10; Philippians 3:2-9; Colossians 2:13-17; Hebrews 4:16; 9:28; 1 John 4:19
Article Five: The Regeneration of the Sinner
We affirm that any person who responds to the Gospel with repentance and faith is born again through the power of the Holy Spirit. He is a new creation in Christ and enters, at the moment he believes, into eternal life.
We deny that any person is regenerated prior to or apart from hearing and responding to the Gospel.
Luke 15:24; John 3:3; 7:37-39; 10:10; 16:7-14; Acts 2:37-39; Romans 6:4-11; 10:14; 1 Corinthians 15:22; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 2:20; 6:15; Colossians 2:13; 1 Peter 3:18
Article Six: The Election to Salvation
We affirm that, in reference to salvation, election speaks of God’s eternal, gracious, and certain plan in Christ to have a people who are His by repentance and faith.
We deny that election means that, from eternity, God predestined certain people for salvation and others for condemnation.
Genesis 1:26-28; 12:1-3; Exodus 19:6; Jeremiah 31:31-33; Matthew 24:31; 25:34; John 6:70; 15:16; Romans 8:29- 30, 33;9:6-8; 11:7; 1 Corinthians 1:1-2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2:11-22; 3:1-11; 4:4-13; 1 Timothy 2:3-4; 1 Peter 1:1-2; 1 Peter 2:9; 2 Peter 3:9; Revelation 7:9-10
Article Seven: The Sovereignty of God
We affirm God’s eternal knowledge of and sovereignty over every person’s salvation orcondemnation.
We deny that God’s sovereignty and knowledge require Him to cause a person’s acceptance or rejection of faith in Christ.
Genesis 1:1; 6:5-8; 18:16-33; 22; 2 Samuel 24:13-14; 1 Chronicles 29:10-20; 2 Chronicles 7:14; Joel 2:32; Psalm 23; 51:4; 139:1-6; Proverbs 15:3; John 6:44; Romans 11:3; Titus 3:3-7; James 1:13-15; Hebrews 11:6, 12:28; 1 Peter 1:17
Article Eight: The Free Will of Man
We affirm that God, as an expression of His sovereignty, endows each person with actual free will (the ability to choose between two options), which must be exercised in accepting or rejecting God’s gracious call to salvation by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel.
We deny that the decision of faith is an act of God rather than a response of the person. We deny that there is an “effectual call” for certain people that is different from a “general call” to any person who hears and understands the Gospel.
Genesis 1:26-28; Numbers 21:8-9; Deuteronomy 30:19; Joshua 24:15; 1 Samuel 8:1-22; 2 Samuel 24:13-14; Esther 3:12-14; Matthew 7:13-14; 11:20-24; Mark 10:17-22; Luke 9:23-24; 13:34; 15:17-20; Romans 10:9-10; Titus 2:12; Revelation 22:17
Article Nine: The Security of the Believer
We affirm that when a person responds in faith to the Gospel, God promises to complete the process of salvation in the believer into eternity. This process begins with justification, whereby the sinner is immediately acquitted of all sin and granted peace with God; continues in sanctification, whereby the saved are progressively conformed to the image of Christ by the indwelling Holy Spirit; and concludes in glorification, whereby the saint enjoys life with Christ in heaven forever.
We deny that this Holy Spirit-sealed relationship can ever be broken. We deny even the possibility of apostasy.
John 10:28-29; 14:1-4; 16:12-14; Philippians 1:6; Romans 3:21-26; 8:29,30; 35-39; 12:1-3; 2 Corinthians 4:17; Ephesians 1:13-14; Philippians 3:12; Colossians 1:21-22; 1 John 2:19; 3:2; 5:13-15; 2 Timothy 1:12; Hebrews 13:5; James 1:12; Jude 24-25
Article Ten: The Great Commission
We affirm that the Lord Jesus Christ commissioned His church to preach the good news of salvation to all people to the ends of the earth. We affirm that the proclamation of the Gospel is God’s means of bringing any person to salvation.
We deny that salvation is possible outside of a faith response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Psalm 51:13; Proverbs 11:30; Isaiah 52:7; Matthew 28:19-20; John 14:6; Acts 1:8; 4:12; 10:42-43; Romans 1:16, 10:13-15; 1 Corinthians 1:17-21; Ephesians 3:7-9; 6:19-20; Philippians 1:12-14; 1 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Timothy 2:5; 2 Timothy 4:1-5