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DFW Theology & Apologetics Meetup Message Board › The Arminian Challenge

The Arminian Challenge

A former member
Post #: 1
HI Todd,

I just joined and am enjoying the discussion thread!

I do not know how to"highlight" a portion of someone's text in my response, so I just cut and paste :-o (How do you do it?)

You wrote:
"After God changes our hearts, we WANT to come to Christ. He is not forcing us to come to him against our will. He changes our hearts so that we now have the WILL to come to him. We WILLINGLY come to Christ after he changes our hearts and opens our eyes to see and UNDERSTAND the truth about us and our sin as well as the truth about Jesus and his grace"

I have a few questions for your consideration:
What about His initial changing of our hearts so that we now have the will to come to HIm....is not that initial changing of the heart so that our desperately wicked heart can see His love for us and our need for HIm an enforcement against our will? If our hearts are so desperately wicked that we can not even see our need for Him, then that means He FORCES that initial change of our hearts, which preceeds our inevitable enlightenment of Truth and willingness to come to Him. So, He may not force our willingingness to come to Him, but He forces that initial change of the heart, no? This brings up a few other questions...

If God makes such a change of our hearts so that we are inevitably enlightened and willingly come to HIm, that must mean that He does not change everyone's hearts since there are those who have and will reject Him. So, how is God a loving God if He chooses to change some of our hearts so that we are willing to come to Him, but not everyone's hearts although we all are in the same Fallen state and have the same desperately wicked heart? How does that coincide with His character of being Just, Gracious, and Loving?

Also, how does His decision to change only some hearts and not others jive with John 3:16?...seems like John 3:16 would need to have a disclaimer clause linked to it (John 3:161/2, if you will) explaining that the "whosoever" is really a misnomer-- it actually is limited to those who were chosen by God to have their hearts changed by Him first...the remaining individuals that compromise the true definition of "whosever" who were not chosen to have their hearts changed are actually not included in "whosoever."

Hmmmmm....

Edited by Leah: added quote tags to make post more readable
A former member
Post #: 2

I invite anyone to show me an example of New Testament scripture where "understanding" of the truth of the Gospel is attributed to anyone besides regenerate Christians.

NOTE: I will accept any form of the word "understanding" (such as "understands," "understand," etc.).


Hi Todd

You raise an interesting point that brings up a few questions. I wonder if finding the word "understanding" is really what is needed in your argument...

For example, if you look at Luke 18:18-24, you'll find a similar scenario. The rich, young ruler is unregenerate--he is obviously Jewish b/c he has been trying to follow the 10 commandments since youth. He realizes that something is still amiss--either he knows he has not followed them all perfectly or he is deceived into thinking he has but something about Jesus and His teaching makes him want to confirm that he will inherit eternal life. So he asks Jesus what he must do to receive eternal life.

I love how Jesus does not even address the ruler's delusion that he has followed every commandment--lol! Jesus tells him he still needs sell his posessions, give to the poor, and follow Him. Jesus, is not giving him another legalistic prescription for eternal life...the point is that he must believe/trust Jesus--in this scenario, via selling and giving to the poor and following Jesus who appeared to have nothing. Given that the ruler was rich, he did not want to give up those things even though he understood what Jesus was telling him to do---to trust/believe Him although it meant a huge sacrifice (albeit a minor sacrifice compared to the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus would soon endure for him). It was just too hard to give up the "good life" --he did not want to give it up. He went away sad b/c he understood that he needed to believe/trust Jesus, but if receiving eternal life meant that he had to give up his earthly pleasures/riches, he wasn't havin' it...

Or, what about Luke 8:4-15?...If a changed heart is needed before one willing accepts the Gospel, the parable of seeds no longer makes sense: The 2nd and 3rd examples of the seed in the parable would not exist--Following the Calvinist viewpoint, God either changes a person's heart or not, so if her heart is changed, how can she receive the word and be enlightened, but the Gospel "withers and dies" after she accepts it as in the 2nd example--was God not able to sustain the regeneration of her heart because she was just too sinful? Or what about the Gospel being "choked" out by the cares of the world as in the 3rd example--was God not able to sustain the regeneration of her heart because the temptations of the world were more enticing than God and what He has to offer? Also, if a changed heart is needed prior to a willingness to accept the Gospel, why even give examples 1-3 in the parable? Either your heart is changed first and you will be like example 4 with the good soil, or your heart is not changed first, thus, you can not even recognize or receive Truth, so you are like example #1.

Hmmmmm....

Edited by Leah - fixed coding
Todd H.
Hedgcoth
Group Organizer
Bedford, TX
Post #: 20
Hey Kim,

Welcome to the Theology group! I'm very pleased to see your eagerness and participation in our discussion. We're all looking forward to meeting you in person one of these Thursday nights. It'll be great to have you there.

Ok, I'll do my best to respond to your questions and comments...

1. Yes, God "opens our eyes" and changes our hearts. I guess you're right in saying that God "forces us" to open our eyes and change our hearts since it's not something that we would ever have asked for. When a baby soils his diaper, we don't wait to be asked to change it. We just do it. I think God has mercy on us by giving us what we never would have asked for.

2. Yes, God does not change everyone's hearts. Why does he change some people's hearts and not others? Nobody knows other than it pleased God to do so. I don't think the Bible supplies any other reason. God has mercy on everyone to some extent ("common grace"). Like Jesus said, God makes the rain to fall on the righteous and unrighteous. But just because God does not show the same degree of mercy and grace to all does not mean that he is not loving and merciful. Romans 9 says God has mercy on whomever he wills and he hardens (the opposite of opening one's eyes) whomever he wills. I know it sounds harsh but that's what the Bible says, so I've got to believe it.

3. Regarding John 3:16, we have to read and interpret "world" in light of other scriptures. When it says "God so loved the world," it seems to indicate that God loved every single person in the world. But if that were the case, then why did Jesus say that he was NOT praying for the world (John 17:9) and that he did not reveal himself to the whole world but only to those that God the Father gave him out of the world (John 17:6). We can't stop reading at John 3:16 to determine the truth about God. We must look at the whole counsel of scripture.

4. Also regarding John 3:16, it says "whosoever will" and that phrase is accurate. None of us wants to come to Christ (we don't "will" to come to Christ) until God takes the action and opens our eyes so that we can see and understand the truth. "Whosoever will" will be saved. But nobody "will" unless God changes his or her heart. Until God changes our heart and opens our eyes, our "will" is to reject God; not to come to him.

5. That brings up a question that I have for you. If we are all slaves to sin (as it says in Romans 6), would that affect our will so that we would never want to come to Christ? If our hearts are so evil and sinful that we would never come to Christ, then how do you account for those of us who do come to Christ? Are our hearts less evil?

6. Regarding the "Rich Young Ruler," I agree with you that the young man "understood" the words that Jesus was saying and "understood" what Jesus wanted him to do. He understood the words of Jesus but he didn't understand the truth. One of the examples I always give is this: When my sister was a little girl, she was told by our mother that she should look both ways before crossing the street so she wouldn't get hit by a car. One day my sister (probably only 3 or 4 years old) was crossing the street (while my mom was watching her). She stopped in the middle of the street, turned around and yelled to my mother, "See mom? I didn't get run over by a car!" Did my sister understand what my mother was saying to her? Yes. But did my sister REALLY understand what my mother was telling her? No. When I asked the original "understanding" question, I was not referring to an understanding of the literal meaning of the gospel. There are many unregenerate folks who can accurately state what the gospel is all about. But they don't TRULY understand the truth of the gospel. I think that was the case with the rich young ruler. He understood what Jesus was saying; but he didn't understand what Jesus was saying. If he had truly understood, he would have done what Jesus had said.

Here's another one of my analogies that demonstrates "understanding"...

Let's say that we meet a 3-year-old and offer him 5 pounds of your favorite candy or $10,000. Most 3-year-olds would choose the candy (even though it's far less valuable). Nobody forced the 3-year-old to take the less valuable gift; nobody prevented the 3-year-old from choosing the more valuable gift. Now that same 3-year-old is 30 years old. Which choice do you think he will make now? Obviously, he will choose the more valuable gift. Nobody forced him to choose the more valuable gift. Nobody prevented him from choosing the less valuable gift. So what is the difference between a 3-year-old and a 30-year-old? Understanding. The gifts are the same in both scenarios. Nothing has changed in the equation except the degree of understanding that the person had.

I extend that analogy to our question. We are all born into the world with no understanding (Romans 3). How do we get that understanding? Do some people get it on their own and other people fail to get it on their own? I don't think so. The Bible says that understanding is given to Christians (not because they deserve it; but because God has grace on them) (1 John 5:20).

7. Regarding Luke 8:4-15 (the Parable of the Sower), I don't think that each "soil" or "ground" represents regenerate people. I think only the last (the "good soil") represents the regenerate believer. If you look at the same parable in Matthew 13, Jesus says (in Matthew 13:23), "As for what was sown in the good soil, this is the one who hears the word and UNDERSTANDS it." I think only the "good soil" represents true regeneration, but that would make a good discussion for Denny's tonight.

Thanks again for the questions and comments. We need you to make it to Denny's on Thursday nights!

Talk to you soon.

Todd
A former member
Post #: 3
I will definately try to make it this week or next...looking forward to it!

Thanks for your responses! I've been so busy that I haven't had the chance to read any other threads yet (or learn how to quote specific sections in my reply), but I'm workin' on it! Until then, I had a few thoughts/responses...


3. Regarding John 3:16, we have to read and interpret "world" in light of other scriptures. When it says "God so loved the world," it seems to indicate that God loved every single person in the world. But if that were the case, then why did Jesus say that he was NOT praying for the world (John 17:9) and that he did not reveal himself to the whole world but only to those that God the Father gave him out of the world (John 17:6). We can't stop reading at John 3:16 to determine the truth about God. We must look at the whole counsel of scripture.
I’m with you here, you must look at the whole counsel of scripture, which is why it is a stretch to interpret Jesus’ prayer in John 17 as anything more than a literal prayer specifically for the 12 disciples (Matthias who would be added to replace Judas) that were chosen out of the world if you read it in context. Jesus only revealed who He was to them and not one of them perished except the one (Judas) who was prophesied to perish. He was praying for the disciples since they were about to do a mighty work (via the Holy Spirit) spreading the gospel and establishing the Church that was to no longer be only for the Jews but for Gentiles as well…He also prayed for “those who believe in Me because of their words…” which were the new believers of that time. Both the disciples and the new believers of that time would suffer much and some ultimately have their lives taken brutally because of their beliefs under the reign of Nero. (But, an important point is that we, present-day and future believers, are also included in “those…” Jesus referred to because we have all come to know Him via the Holy Spirit through the disciples words—aka epistles.)

4. Also regarding John 3:16, it says "whosoever will" and that phrase is accurate. None of us wants to come to Christ (we don't "will" to come to Christ) until God takes the action and opens our eyes so that we can see and understand the truth. "Whosoever will" will be saved. But nobody "will" unless God changes his or her heart. Until God changes our heart and opens our eyes, our "will" is to reject God; not to come to him.
I’m with you here…I agree that we will not want to come to Christ unless God opens ours eyes so we can see and understand truth...but I still think we still have a choice in whether or not we then choose to come to Him. On one hand it is crazy, I concur, to think of someone not wanting to come to Him if he truly understands…but that is where the dissonance enters and I don’t have an answer. <long sigh>

5. That brings up a question that I have for you. If we are all slaves to sin (as it says in Romans 6), would that affect our will so that we would never want to come to Christ? If our hearts are so evil and sinful that we would never come to Christ, then how do you account for those of us who do come to Christ? Are our hearts less evil?
No, I don’t think it would affect our will that way. I don’t think being a slave has anything to do with our will—it just is because of the Fall, and we had no choice in the matter since we were born slaves to sin. I don’t know how some reject Christ...the only thing I can think of is that they truly don’t understand as you explained about the rich young ruler, which makes sense to me by the way—good analogy, thanks! But here is where I am left with dissonance again if I accept this line of reasoning: How is it that Adam chose to leave his perfect union with God, especially when he, unlike us, had a perfect, holy nature and was not a slave to sin with a desperately wicked heart, and, therefore, knew God in a way that we will never know Him this side of Heaven—as a person who is perfect and without sin? How could he have that true understanding and actual experience and still choose to “reject” (aka disobey, thus, die/eternally separate from) God?...

Theological attempts to address this issue remain unsettling. Both double-predestination and supralapsarianism, to me, are ridiculous…I personally can not see God’s character in either. I also do not fully agree with infralapsarianism, amyraldism, or arminianism. <long sigh>

Hmmmmmm…

Todd H.
Hedgcoth
Group Organizer
Bedford, TX
Post #: 22
Hey Kim,

Great reply. Here are my responses...

3. I agree that Jesus' prayer was primarily for the 12 disciples. However, Jesus states explicitly that he is praying for future believers as well (including us). Jesus said, "I do not pray for these (12) only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word..." (John 17:20). Everything that Jesus asked God the Father for in John 17 is true of believers throughout the ages. He was praying for all of the elect chosen out of the world; not just his 12 disciples.

4. Yes, I agree that we DO make a choice when we come to Christ (after God has opened our eyes and hearts). But anyone who has his or her heart opened and eyes opened by God will always CHOOSE to come to Christ. There is no example anywhere in the New Testament where someone had his or her heart opened WITHOUT that person coming to Christ. This actually gets to my original "Arminian Challenge" which prompted this discussion thread. I challenged any "non-Calvinist" to show me anywhere in the New Testament where it says that someone "understood" the truth (or had his heart "opened" by God) and did not become a Christian.

5. Here is a verse that I think proves that our sinful state or "original sin" (being born in Adam's image) corrupts our will: "For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot." (Romans 8:7). This verse indicates that the "totally depraved" heart will never submit to God and come to Christ. I think that our sin affects all parts of our mind, attitudes, will, personality, etc. Why would sin affect every other part of our humanity but it wouldn't affect our will? At any rate, it seems that Romans 8:7 contradicts the notion that sin doesn't affect the will. (This would be another great discussion for Thursday nights.) We DO choose sin but it comes naturally for us. We choose nevertheless. Pigs choose to root around in filth because it pleases them; they like it. But it also comes naturally to them. It's part of their nature. Everyone (both man and animals) makes choices that follow their nature. This is why God must give us a new nature; so we can choose to live according to that nature instead of the old nature. (Romans 8:5-6 -- "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.") Therefore, just because we are born with a sin nature does not mean that we have no choice in the matter or that we bear no responsibility. The Bible clearly says we do choose evil and will be held accountable.

5a. The point about Adam and Eve is an excellent one. Why would they choose evil when they had no sin nature? They were the only human beings who truly had "free will." The rest of us (born from Adam and Eve) have a will that is in bondage to sin (which must be changed by God to a new nature and a new will that is again free like Adam and Eve's originally). Adam and Eve were living under the "Covenant of Works" which made their relationship with God completely dependent upon their works of righteousness. Jesus (as the "Second Adam") succeeded where Adam failed. Now the righteousness of Christians is based on Jesus' perfect obedience (instead of our obedience).

5b. I don't remember the definitions of supra or infra off-hand. I always forget. But I definitely the scriptures teach that our sin nature affects our will and choices (as stated above). It would be interesting to go through the definitions of all the terms you mentioned on Thursday night (which scripture references that support and oppose each position).

Thanks again for the great response.

Todd
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