Monergism - Synergism Debate
John Hendryx & Justin Moser
Response to Moser's "The Strawman's Prayer"

 

Recently I was contacted by a Arminian brother named Justin Moser who informed me that he had answered a challenge, on his personal Website, to my article entitled "The Prayer the Synergist Won't Pray". His response is called "The Strawman's Prayer: Synergism, and a Refutation of It's Mischaracterization". I have responded to Moser's questions and answers below point by point mostly for the purpose of helping those interested in this topic to draw their own conclusions based on the evidence presented.

 

Definitions

 

Monergism: "In theol., The doctrine that the Holy Spirit is the only efficient agent in regeneration - that the human will possesses no inclination to Christ or holiness until regenerated, and therefore cannot cooperate in regeneration." In this view, the new birth (or regeneration) precedes faith

 

Synergism: "In theol., the doctrine that there are two efficient agents in [that are necessary as precursors for] regeneration, namely the human will and the divine Spirit, which, in the strict sense of the term, cooperate." In this view, faith precedes new birth (or regeneration).

 

You are free to go ahead and read the original article if you have not already done so. Below the format of my response is a cut and paste of the major points of contention he has with my essay (in blue) with my response (in black). 

 

Introduction

 

For those of you who may not be familiar with the issues of this debate and do not see the practical relevance of what might seem to be doctrinal hairsplitting, I would encourage you to take the time to understand these concepts because they are core issues of the Christian faith and will radically affect our understanding and relationship to Christ. Some might ask, why is the free grace of monergistic regeneration so vitally important? First, it exalts and brings great glory to Christ. Everything about the gospel is designed to glorify Christ and abase man. We can all agree that anything that diminishes Christ’s glory is either directly or indirectly inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the estimation of this ministry and a great many preachers & theologians of the historic faith that monergism, not synergism, is the biblical doctrine of the new birth that alone rightly abases man and duly exalts Christ. Paul, after declaring that “By God’s doing you are in Christ Jesus who became to us wisdom from God and righteousness” (1 Corinthians 1:30) continues by stating that the design and ultimate end of the gift of the new life (that God effectually calls us to) is “that just as it is written, let him who boasts, boast in the Lord” (vs. 31). In other words, by understanding that Christ is the author of our faith (Heb 12:2), the initiator of regeneration, it ensures that our boasting is entirely in the Lord and guarantees that only He receives the glory. There isn’t anything we’ve done or will do, including exercising our faith, that we could boast of in our new birth in Christ. Rather it is the compelling, eye-opening, grace of God, which is wrought by the Holy Spirit, that infallibly gives rise to our faith. In other words, faith is a gift purchased by Christ's redemption. It follows then that any teaching that in any degree involves man’s doing in the process of being born again diminishes boasting in the Lord, and detracts from his glory. Since most evangelicals are synergistic (Moser's position) in their approach to the new birth, I would challenge you to let the Holy Spirit reshape your thinking as you read through the Scriptures presented on both sides of the debate. First I leave you with a few choice quotes from Edwards and Calvin to the critical nature of this doctrine.

 

Commenting on this issue Jonathan Edwards in a public lecture in Boston July 8, 1731 once said,

"We are dependent on God, not only for redemption itself but for our faith in the Redeemer; not only for the gift of His Son but for the Holy Ghost for our conversion."

In his Religious Affections Edwards said,

"There are very many of the most important things declared in the gospel, that are hid from the eyes of natural men." ...but..."as soon as ever the eyes are opened to behold the holy beauty and amiableness that is in divine things, a multitude of most important doctrines of the gospel, that depend on it (which all appear strange and dark to natural men), are at once seen to be true."

In his Institutes, John Calvin similarly remarked,

"Our mind has such an inclination to vanity that it can never cleave fast to the truth of God; and it has such a dulness that it is always blind to the light of God's truth. Accordingly, without the illumination of the Holy Spirit, the Word can do nothing. From this, also, it is clear that faith is much higher than human understanding. And it will not be enough for the mind to be illumined by the Spirit of God unless the heart is also strengthened and supported by his power.... In both ways, therefore, faith is a singular gift of God, both in that the mind of man is purged so as to be able to taste the truth of God and in that his heart is established therein. For the Spirit is not only the initiator of faith, but increases it by degrees, until by it he leads us to the Kingdom of Heaven."

Therefore, while on the surface the monergism - synergism debate may seem like a peripheral and frivolous matter, it is anything but frivolous. The synergistic doctrine that the natural man can self-regenerate, or cooperate with God by repenting and believing apart from being born again, fails both the test of Scripture and of experience since the unrenewed man can do nothing of himself to secure his salvation. Therefore it is essential that the sinner should be brought to practical conviction of the truth that even the very desire for faith is a gracious gift of God. When thus convinced by the Holy Spirit, and not before, he seeks help from the Savior. It may take time to let these concepts sink in and may require deep thinking, but it will change the perspective of your life in Christ.

 

Moser's Opening Remarks

>>>> " The article I'm responding to is called "A Prayer That a Synergist Won't Pray" by John Hendryx. Hendryx presents us with a prayer, he supposes, "...no synergist would dare pray, but is what a synergist would pray if he were consistent in his theology..." The challenge is, since the most common response is that it is a strawman, to demonstrate that it is indeed a misrepresentation of synergistic theology. Of course we should ask, which synergistic theology does he have in mind? Arminianism, after all, is but one of many which are prevalent or otherwise exist in the Christian church today. For obvious reasons, though, I'll only defend my own view."

Moser is correct to point out that there are various nuances of synergistic theology. My essay was intentionally written to cover the whole gamut of them: from Semi-Pelagianism, to Arminianism to modern day Dispensationalism.  What all these views hold in common is that they all believe that faith is something produced by our unregenerated human nature. Or to say the same thing another way, Synergism is any belief which holds that faith precedes regeneration (i.e. the new birth)…. that man cooperates with God in some way that leads to his regeneration. In fact, it should be noted that this is probably the most common theological position held by modern day evangelicals, although historically this certainly was not always the case.

 

Because Moser has accused me of using a strawman to caricature his position I think it is important that we first quickly and simply explain the basic differences of each synergistic position.

 

(1) The modern Semi-Pelagian position holds that neither grace nor the Holy Spirit are required elements in the initial coming to faith in Christ, but that the Holy Spirit only helps after the fallen sinner self-produces by adding a greater spark of faith or ability to obey. Any kind of initial grace is conspicuously absent in this theology. This means that this position holds that we can come to Christ while still in our sinful nature, apart from a prevening work of the Holy Spirit. God cooperates with man only after man himself turns toward the gospel. In other words, grace perfects nature only after the fallen sinner exercises saving faith on his own.  This position is now common in the ranks of many Pentecostals. I suppose the difference between this and a full Pelagianism might be that Pelagianism would not even need the work of grace to perfect nature at all, even after faith.

 

(2) Arminianism (Moser's position), on the other hand, believes the Spirit plays a major, but not ultimate, role in coming to faith. Arminians, thus, agree with Calvinists, that the carnal nature is “dead in sin”, has lost the free will to independently believe, and will not turn to Christ apart from some initial work of the Holy Spirit. The Remonstrance of 1610, a codification of the teachings of Jacob Arminius (1559-1609) verify the Arminian belief in Total Depravity in the 3rd and 4th articles (see endnotes). Although there may be some Wesleyans or Methodists who consider themselves Arminians who might say we haven’t entirely lost free will, that man’s nature is “sick but not quite dead.”  In either case, “prevenient grace” is meant to aid, but not entirely provoke, the generation of faith in an unregenerate person and one cannot be saved without it.  The difference from the Calvinist position is in the fact that Arminians do not believe this grace to be effectual in itself (i.e. God doesn’t actually regenerate someone by this grace). Rather, grace carries a person to a point above/outside their bondage of original sin, or places them in a tension between their old nature and God’s offer, but this does not quite make him “spiritual” as the Bible defines it either. In other words, God takes him part of the way to salvation, but the sinner must make the ultimate decision if God is to make the grace effectual. Sometimes, as a result of this emphasis of the Spirit, Semi-Pelagians will erroneously call Arminians "crypto-Calvinists”.

 

(3) Finally the large majority of modern Dispensationalists (so-called 4-point Calvinists), with a few notable exceptions, are synergists in spite of their belief in unconditional election, if such a supposition were possible. More information is available on my Website on dispensationalism for anyone who wishes to investigate this position further.



Moser Claims My Challenge Burns a Strawman

>>>And when I say synergistic, I mean it! Hendryx asserts that according to synergism faith is something "produced by our unregenerated human nature." This is simply incorrect. First, faith would not occur without God's grace affecting the sinner first (remember Prevenient Grace?). Hence, Hendryx confuses synergism (that man and God are both causal factors) with Pelagian monergism (that it is all man, and God just helps after the fact). In other words, he isn't just burning a strawman, John Hendryx is burning a strawdemon at the stake! Second, no "synergist," even of the Pelagian variety, will say faith is produced by our sinful human nature. What Hendryx is doing is projecting his own Compatibilism onto Synergistic theologies-- most synergists are not Compatibilists but hold to Freedom of Choice, or else a position on freewill similar to my own.

Moser here speaks of the main thesis of his rebuttal … that in my essay, I have misrepresented what synergists actually believe and that I have set up a straw man.  This is even evident in the very title of his essay, 'The Strawman’s Prayer".  But I wish to make it clear that I really go to great lengths on my website to try not to mischaracterize the Arminian position.  I have had long discussions with Arminian friends and professors to make sure that I have not since I would gain nothing in doing so. And I believe that I can forcefully and conclusively demonstrate that I have not done so in this essay.

Lets take a close look at the statement I made which bothered Moser so much that he characterized it as a strawman and said was simply incorrect: "Faith is not something produced by our unregenerate human nature."

In biblical parlance the term "regeneration" has the same meaning as "to be born again". So the word "unregenerate" in the sentence simply means "not born again" or "unspiritual". This is agreed upon by biblical scholars on all sides of the debate. My statement, put another way, which I think all synergists would agree with, is that while Reformed theology believes that regeneration precedes faith, synergistic theology holds that faith precedes regeneration. If synergists believe that faith precedes regeneration then it follows conclusively, in their system, that faith is something produced by our unregenerate human nature. Does the truth of my statement become clearer now? While Moser might argue that faith is co-produced by man together with God's prevenient grace, I would argue that since, in Arminianism, everyone has the full power to reject Christ during God's action of prevenient grace, it means that each person is drawing on something in himself, other than grace, to make a final decision.  So ultimately there is still an element of a human monergism in the decision. We must submit to the humbling terms of the gospel but to Moser it is not grace alone that generates in us the desire to be humble and thus turn to Christ in faith.  In Arminianism, humility and faith are self-produced.  Otherwise, why doesn’t everyone have it? Moser says because they don’t choose to, which implies that some are smarter or more faithful than others intrinsically.

In contrast to Moser’s statement, I have never denied that grace plays a role in the Arminian system and even that grace precedes the sinner’s decision. My website and the original article Moser is responding to makes this perfectly clear. The term "unregenerate", we all agree, is the opposite of "born again" or regenerate.  When I declared that synergists believe that "faith is produced by our unregenerate human nature" it is no different than saying that synergists believe that faith precedes regeneration because, in the Arminian view it is true that unregenerate people can and do exercise faith … in fact, in their system, they have to in order to be born again (or become regenerate).  Or, for that matter, to get back into salvation once they’ve backslidden and lost it. All Arminains in my experience would agree with this. Moser is the first I’ve encountered who seems to have trouble with it, although perhaps he just misunderstood what I meant.

Now the Bible speaks of two states of the human being: "carnal man" and "spiritual man".  Certainly in the Arminian view, the person deciding for Christ, while given prevenient grace, is not yet spiritual man ... but they also reject that those under the influence of prevenient grace are in the category of "carnal man". Instead the Arminian reasons that "prevenient grace" has placed man somewhere in-between the two ... a place where he has the capacity to make the decision for Christ with the full power of rejection.  But he certainly is not regenerate.  So in other words, my statement holds true that even Arminians believe, in spite of Moser's thesis to the contrary, that faith is produced by our unregenerate human nature. Therefore the major thesis of Moser’s article (included in the title) has just been debunked. 

It should be further noted that there is no biblical evidence whatsoever that God, at certain times, places man on the proverbial skyhook above his bondage to original sin where he can choose for or against Christ.  Prevenient grace is a philosophical construct not to be found in the Scriptures and this alone should be enough to cast severe doubt on its doctrinal authenticity.   The Bible never speaks of a person who is neither spiritual man nor carnal man.  He is either one or the other.  This means that one is either diametrically opposed to the will of God, never to approve of it, or that he welcomes God’s salvation in Christ with open arms.  If we ask the Arminian if a man under the influence of prevenient grace is a spiritual man he would have to answer “no” because a spiritual man is a saved man. Paul in Romans 8:7 says, “… the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot.” Only the mind of the spirit, which means that only a choice from a regenerate mind/will/heart can bring about the faith that pleases God.

 

 

Next… Are We Saved By Grace Alone through Faith Alone
OR  By Grace …
Plus Faith Alone?

 

Moser further said: Hendryx does make one true point, albeit a moot one: "While a synergist believes grace plays a role in salvation yet he does not believe salvation is by grace alone - instead it is grace plus our response which makes us to be born again" (emph. stripped). Indeed, salvation is not by grace alone: salvation is by grace through faith. This is orthodoxy, ladies and gentleman, and those who doubt this will be referred to Eph. 2:8. Sola Gratia, and Sola Fide. Of course, we can dispute how faith comes about, but either way it is irrelevant to the doctrine of salvation by grace. (deleted text) ... if Hendryx's purpose was to imply that synergists are heretical.

 

There should be no confusion here. Moser knows well enough that both Arminians and Calvinists can agree that justification comes about through faith alone. Such persons no longer trust in their own righteousness but trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone for their righteous standing before God.  But where Moser differs from Scripture, I believe, is that he does not believe that even the very desire for faith itself is a gracious work of the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:3, 2 Tim. 2:25). While the Arminian believes that the grace of God can be conferred as a result of human prayer, yet he rejects that understanding that it is grace itself which changes the hearts disposition when it sees God's beauty and excellency and thus infallibly gives rise to our turning in prayer to God.  Arminian teaching, therefore, contradicts Isaiah, and Paul who quotes him saying, "I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me" (Rom 10:20, quoting Isa. 65:1). The Arminian makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, so again he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10).

 

Does Moser mean salvation is by grace “through” faith or by grace “plus/and faith”?  Calvinists believe the Bible teaches that grace functions through faith, that is, opens the very eyes of faith, but not in grace + faith, as if it were something to tack on as part of the price of our redemption. So while Moser believes salvation is by grace through faith alone, he does not believe it is by grace alone through faith alone. This is problematic because it means he can still pray with the Pharisee,

"Thank you Lord I am not like other men. I made better use of your prevenient grace than others. I had the wisdom and humility to see with clarity and embrace Christ while my neighbor just didn't get it." 

You see, while this might be subtle, it is still about trusting in one's own righteousness and leads to human pride. By dogmatically asserting that faith, humility and wisdom do not themselves arise from grace we rob God of glory.    The very fact that some people do not have faith and humility proves that, in the Arminian system, it was not a gift of grace to begin with. The Scripture, on the other hand, emphasizes the distinction that while regeneration is by grace alone, the faith that comes through regeneration is the "faith alone" of justification.  We are indeed united to Christ by the Holy Spirit through faith, but that said, faith is God's gracious work in us (Phil 1:29). The apostle Paul said, "But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus…" (1 Cor 1:30)

 

Next I want to respond to Moser's rejection of some of the textual support I offered for Monergistic Regeneration. (John 6:63-65, Acts 16:14 and 1 John. 5:1)

 

Moser said, “…as a matter of fact, all four passage miss the mark [defending monergism]: John 6:63-65 and Acts 16:14 could just as easily support Prevenient Grace, as a good Arminian will admit that apart from God's work in a person's heart, one won't come to faith; 1Jn. 5:1 tells us nothing about the relationship between faith and being born again other than the fact that they are related; John 1:13 is the best bet here, but even then it is significant that John said "of God" rather than "of the will of God." That the born again Christian is "born of God" is beyond dispute; the background language indicates that "the will of the flesh" and "the will of man" refer to the will to procreate, not an individual's will to be saved.”

 

What is most important to all persons involved in the debate, of course, is which position is the biblical one.  So I would like to respond to some of these criticisms Moser launches against my use of certain Scripture texts where I defend the contention that God sovereignly and unconditionally determines to whom He will give spiritual understanding and raise them up to new life that they would believe. Just as shining a light in a blind man’s eyes does not help him to see, but only a restoration of his vision, so an unregenerate/unspiritual person cannot understand, apprehend or delight in spiritual things, until his mind is illumined, his spiritual faculties restored, and he is drawn by God’s irresistible beauty.  Knowing and trusting that God loves me in Christ is not something that comes naturally, but spiritually -- it is a supernatural work of God.

 

Lets review a couple of the passages that Moser criticizes me for in the above paragraph.  First, I am very pleased to see that Moser first states that “John 6:63-65 and Acts 16:14 could just as easily support Prevenient Grace, as a good Arminian will admit that apart from God's work in a person's heart, one won't come to faith”.  This is because I believe I can conclusively demonstrate that neither of these passages can support the doctrine of Prevenient Grace. 

 

John 6:63-65

 

First, lets take a close look at John 6:63-65 and show why it can only support the Reformed position. Jesus’ words are altogether clear and unmistakable as He portrays God’s monergistic work in our regeneration:


“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.  But there are some of you who do not believe." (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father." (John 6:63-65)

 

When claiming that this passage can support Arminian Prevenient grace Moser is focusing in on the text that says, “no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” Arminians indeed, like Calvinists, believe in total depravity and that no one will come to Christ apart from grace.  But to somehow think that this passage is teaching a grace that is ineffectual and resistible is to profoundly misapprehend it.  The text which says, “This is why I told you…” at the beginning of the sentence refer back specifically to what Jesus was just saying in the prior sentence. The word “this” refers to the text, ”…The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.  But there are some of you who do not believe."  So, according to this verse, then, why does Jesus say there are there some who do not believe? One answer: because no one can come unless granted from the Father. The phrase “come to me” is here synonymous with the word “believe” in the previous sentence.   This is not only obvious from the textual construction but when the Bible speaks about "coming to Christ' and 'believing in Christ" it is always referring to one and the same thing. In other words, Jesus was saying, “no one can believe unless granted from the Father.” It is the Spirit who gives life … the flesh is of no avail.  This reminds us of John 3 where Jesus says, “Flesh gives birth to flesh and Spirit gives birth to spirit”.  Again, faith is not something produced by our unregenerate nature.  We need to be reborn or we cannot see or apprehend the Kingdom. The eyes of our spiritual understanding must be opened or we will not grasp spiritual things.

 

Moser, in admitting that this passage can support Prevenient grace, is locking himself into a certain way of interpreting the text that is out of context with the entire passage. The text “granted by the Father” to Moser indicates Prevenient Grace -- that God gives ability and we decide.  But Jesus uses this phrase “granted by” or “given by the Father” several times in this same dialogue throughout John 6. Lets look at a couple of them because this should conclusively demonstrate that my interpretation above is without error.

 

Earlier in this same passage Jesus, speaking to the Jews, said the following:

 

 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”  (John 6:37) emphasis mine

 

Again, there is that same expression about God “giving” people to Jesus alongside the phrase “come to Him” that we found in John 6:63-65.  Jesus here says to the Jews that ALL, not some, but ALL persons that the Father gives to Him WILL come to him.  The Father giving is the ultimate cause of the people coming.  Now if Moser upholds his interpretation from 6:63-65 consistently then he must also hold that the text is saying the same thing – that this points to prevenient grace.  The problem obviously is that all of these same persons (ALL OF THEM) will embrace Christ in faith and never be cast out.  This passage should conclusively put away all doubt as to the biblical nature of the monergistic position.  Moser’s exegesis of John 6:63-65 has thereby been rendered logically and exegetically untenable. 

 

Here Christ, with utmost clarity, gives us insight into why some come to him and others do not. It is the Father's gracious act in giving people to the Son that will infallibly secure the effectual grace that will gather them to the Son. This is made plain in 6:39 where Jesus says the will of the Father is "That of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day." And it is with absolute certainty that Christ will carry out the will of His Father -- that all those given by the Father to the Son, will without fail come to the Son. In other words, Arminian Prevenient grace is excluded as a possible explanation for the text in question. 

 

Acts 16:14

 

Now on to Acts 16:14, which Moser also claimed “…could just as easily support Prevenient Grace”.  Remember that Arminian prevenient grace teaches that the sinner is placed in a position of grace, outside the bondage of original sin, whereby he may accept Christ freely, but also with the full power of rejection.

 

Let’s take a closer look at the passage and see why it also could not support the doctrine of Prevenient Grace as Moser asserts.  To reveal how clear this passage is I will show the text in three translations:

 

When Paul was preaching there were some bystanders and…

 

“…A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.” (NAS)

“…One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul...” (Acts 16:14) ESV


“…Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.” (NKJV)

 

Now lets simply ask, if the “Lord opened her heart to respond”, or “to take heed to Paul’s message” where is there room for the desire for resistance.  When the Scripture speaks of opening of softening of the heart in reference to God, it always speaks of God accomplishing his redemptive purpose.   When our hearts are opened “to take heed” there is no question that such a one infallibly comes to faith in Christ.  Even when Paul says, “O Corinthians, our heart is opened wide” it means that he is already completely theirs.  There is no evidence whatsoever that Luke intends us to understand this incident as one where Lydia would be able to even have the desire for, let alone, the full power of rejection.  God opens hearts TO UNDERSTAND, TO HEED.  The action goes all the way, not part of the way as Moser here would have us believe. 

 

Moser teaches that the intent of this passage is to give evidence of prevenient grace where Lydia has the option to reject even after her heart has been opened by God to take heed. Thus, he can unquestionably be understood to mean that it wasn't grace itself that ultimately makes saint and sinner to differ, but is dependent on each person’s autonomous and independent moral ability to make use (or not) of the grace God extended to them. A persons’ ability to have faith apart from grace is that which makes them to differ. Moser and his fellow Arminians are making the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and reject the biblical idea expressed above that it is the effectual gift of grace itself that even makes us obedient, humble and willing to yield to the word. The passage gives no evidence at all that God is placing Lydia in a place where she can either receive or reject the gospel.  Such a reading would be imposing an extra-biblical presupposition on the text. 

 

The same order of appearance, with regard to regeneration, occurs when Paul and Barnabas are also preaching to a group of Gentiles as historically recorded by the book of Acts:

 

“Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” Acts 13:48

 

The passage without question teaches that some (not all) of the Gentiles who heard the gospel believed because they were appointed to eternal life.  The entire witness of the Scripture make it clear that God calls His own through the word of God.  And the Scripture teaches that all those who are called will be justified (Romans 8:30).  This kind of internal calling is infallible. Paul said, “but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Cor 1:23-24). It is to those who are called, and only those, who experience the power and wisdom of God (i.e. Salvation). 

 

1 John 5:1

 

The next passage 1 John 5:1 Moser seems to brush off when he says, “1Jn. 5:1 tells us nothing about the relationship between faith and being born again other than the fact that they are related.”  I was a bit surprised to find Moser treat my use of this passage with this degree of contempt for it is one of the clearest passages on monergistic regeneration in all of Scripture.

 

"Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God

 

God is creating a people for himself by calling them out of darkness into His light by enabling them to believe the Gospel. The passage shows that the new birth (regeneration) both enables and precedes faith.  The verb tense, as viewed from the original Greek, make's the apostle’s intention unequivocal: Every one who goes on believing [present, continuous action] that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God [perfect, completed action with abiding effects]. So faith is not the cause of, but the evidence of the new birth.

 

To drive the point home, it is important to note is that John speaks of other actions that take place as the result of the new birth several times in this epistle (1 John 2:29, 1 John 3:9, 1 John 4:7, 1 John 5:1, 1 John 5:18). For example in 1 John 3:9 he says, "No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God." The exact same sequence of words is utilized. It is indicating a cause and effect relationship between the new birth (cause) and the Christian who does not continue in a life of sin (effect). Both show that the cause of regeneration brings about the effect of a life that does not continue sinning. So not only does the tense of 1 John 5:1 show belief being actualized as the result of regeneration but this is also a continuation of a pattern of speech that John uses throughout the entire epistle. Therefore it is extremely unlikely that the Apostle means anything else by this than faith is the result of our spiritual birth ... that the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit is the immediate cause of the desire that give rise to faith in the Savior. John’s frequent repetition of the events that come about as the result of regeneration reveal an unmistakable intent.

 

On a side note, not only John but also the apostle Peter shows that our living hope arises as a result of the power of Christ’s resurrection.

 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again TO A living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” (1 Pet 1:3)

 

Our living hope arises out of the new birth, which was caused by the resurrection of Christ (the pinnacle of Christ’s work on our behalf).  It may be of interest to note the clear connection that is made here between Christ’s physical resurrection and our spiritual resurrection that gives rise to our hope.

 

Response to an Moser's Analogy

Moser said: To make the distinction clear, consider this analogy: I ask my friend to make me a table out of his own scrap wood, and he does it. Now, did I contribute something substantial to his building of the table? No... the wood is all his, as is the blood, sweat, and tears that went into the construction of the table. This is fairly representative of my position on the relationship between faith and regeneration: faith initiates the process (essentially asks God to save us), but doesn't contribute any effort to that actual regeneration process. That, in fact, belongs to God. Hence, there is a true sense that I hold that regeneration is monergistic, although faith is synergistic.

 

Moser’s analogy here reveals a great deal about how he thinks about salvation.  God here does 99% of the work, but I still must contribute my 1%.  In asking his friend to make a table for him, it is clear that Moser has the desire for a table.  In order to understand what he is saying we need to transfer his analogy to spiritual decisions.  He asks us, Now, did I contribute something substantial to his building of the table? And then answers, “no”. True he did not contribute something “substantial” to the table, but here he leaves open the fact that he did contribute something….his tiny bit. And the last bastion of pride is to think that our faith is something we generate ourselves and is not something we can thank and glorify God for as His gift to us. He is claiming that the natural self, prior to being spiritually regenerated, has the capacity for spiritual desires. But the Scripture says:

 

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. "For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Cor 2:14-16)

 

Only the man who has the Spirit of Christ has the moral capacity/desire to understand spiritual things … and they alone have the mind of Christ. Prior to regeneration (the new birth) no such illumination or spiritual understanding exists.  The Bible speaks only of the spiritual man and the carnal man.  There is no state of man that is somewhere in-between as Moser and Arminians believe.  Ask Moser to provide you with biblical evidence for even the concept of Prevenient Grace. He cannot because it is a logical deduction based on human reason alone, so that a system of theology can fit the Scriptures.  In other words it is a philosophical presupposition, not a biblical doctrine.  I would challenge him to provide conclusive biblical evidence for it since it is so central that it forms a basis of their belief system.  Should we base so central a doctrine on our independent human reasoning alone or should we trust the witness of the Scripture alone when formulating doctrines?   

Again, Moser said, “faith initiates the process (essentially asks God to save us), but doesn't contribute any effort to that actual regeneration process. That, in fact, belongs to God. Hence, there is a true sense that I hold that regeneration is monergistic, although faith is synergistic.

 

We all know and agree that regeneration itself is a work of God alone.  But in Moser’s theology, faith has causal priority.  Without faith, God cannot act. Faith is the trigger, so to speak, that tells God it is OK now to do his regenerating.  And this concept brings us nicely into my challenge to synergists, which Moser graciously attempted to answer.  

 

The Synergist Challenge
(These are Moser's responses to my challenge in the original essay)

 

Q#1 "Why is it that one unregenerate person believes the gospel and not another?"

Moser answers: In short, because some choose to. God has granted each individual freedom of choice, and has or will grant sufficient grace to everyone to make such a decision. It is not by chance since choices aren't "random", not is it meritorious, since biblically, it is works that would have merited salvation if they were a factor: Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. Romans 3:27-28. Paul, here, makes it clear that any means to boast are excluded because one is not saved by works, but by faith. Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness. Romans 4:4-5. If salvation was by works, it wouldn't be favor (literally a "grace"), but what is due to him; but it is by faith, and thus it is credited as though we were righteous.

 

This kind of theology can be likened to a deaf, dumb and blind man trying to use his perceptive faculties to hear, speak and see before he was physically healed. If we do not first have an apprehension and understanding of the excellence and beauty of divine things then how can we exercise faith in Christ?  Unspiritual persons do not admire God’s beauty and excellence.  Even with Arminian Prevenient grace we do not yet have the spiritual faculty to grasp spiritual things.  Their beauty is lost on us.  All gracious or spiritual affections presuppose spiritual perception of divine truth. This perception the natural man neither has, nor can have, while he remains such. The holy character of God, when put before different men, produces delight and desire in some, loathing in others. We naturally ask, why? To answer, some delight in God, and others do not, is no answer at all. It is merely saying the same thing in other words. But this is what Moser does. He declares that choices have no cause or reason – instead that some just happen to have faith and others do not. This, however, does not answer the question at all, it merely repeats it.  In the above text Moser declares that the choice wasn’t by chance.  Then we must ask Moser, why is it that some perceive God’s beauty while others are blind to it? Why do some love Christ and others hate Him? There is something besides the act itself and such as shall account for its nature. But how is this to be accounted for? What gives rise to it? It is not from a desire for happiness, for this being something common to all men, is not a reason for the difference or the result. If the choice is to be made prior to the rising of desire towards the object, as Moser believes, then it is made in indifference and is of no moral character, and thus a person chooses Christ for no reason at all. Is this how God chooses his elect? A chance happening? If the choice is not from desire than the choice is entirely from indifferent motives. It is the motive that gives the moral character to the act. If the motive is good, the act is good; if the motive is bad, the act is bad; if the motive is indifferent, as Moser asserts, so is the act.

 

Thus, there is the necessity of such a change being wrought in the state of the soul that it can perceive the beauty and loveliness of divine things, as Jonathan Edwards once said. The Holy Spirit must impart to us a new sense that is adapted to this perception. That is, as the Bible declares, ‘giving eyes to see and ears to hear, unstopping the ears of the deaf and opening the eyes of them that were born blind, and turning them from darkness to light....’ Can there be a principle of taste of sense of beauty, distinct from the actual love or sense of beauty? So by asserting that some just happen to choose and others don’t, Moser ends up not answering this question at all. While he says he denies chance as his reason, his answer itself is nothing other than chance if there is no motive or reason for it.

 

Q#2 "Was he able to generate a right thought, produce a right affection, create right belief, while at the same time man #2 did not have the natural wherewithal to come up with the faith to be saved?"

 

Moser’s answer: “Nope: both have the means and the capability. One chose to come to faith, and the other didn't.

 

Again, to answer, “One chose to come to faith, and the other didn't” is no answer at all. It is merely saying the same thing in other words. And to make such a declaration is to wrongly assume that some of these men/women just happen to have spiritual perception and desire spiritual things (and others not).  Lets assume that God’s gives them your prevenient grace? Then what? You have only moved the goalposts closer.  These unregenerate men must still decide whether to make use of God’s gracious offer or not.  That decision itself is not motivated by grace.  God leaves them to their independent selves, some persons just happening to have a desire place their faith in God and others not.  How can Moser explain this any other way than such a decision is sheer chance?  Some happened to be born with such spiritual inclinations and others didn’t??? Since he rejects desire for Christ as being a motive, then what is it? He is left with two possibilities. Chance or holy affections that spring from a transformed, humble and obedient person.

 

Note: Moser has said that he believes prevenient grace is necessary, but when giving reasons for why people choose God he goes immediately to free will. If man has free will then why does he need prevenient grace?  Obviously there is an inconsistency in his theology. I think he might especially be confused here.

 

Q#3 "If they both made use of the same grace, did one make better use of it than the other?"

 

Again, because one decided to put faith in Jesus and the other decided not to. Hendryx continues to question beg Compatibilism.

 

It appears again that Moser assumes someone has the capacity for spiritual choices without the spiritual desire to go with it. What I find interesting at this point is that Moser implies that we don’t have to desire Christ to come to Him.  Some just come and others don’t, he argues. We can just choose against our will and desires to do something we don’t have any desire to do.  Interesting because it is inconsistent. How?  Well because like Calvinists, Arminians also believe in total depravity, that prior to any work of the Holy Spirit man is in bondage to sin and is impotent to save himself or have inclinations to come to Christ.  Strange. How is it that prior to grace, Arminians fully believe that our desires play a role in our choices?  The natural man won’t choose Christ because he loves darkness and hates the light (John 3:19, 20). Even an Arminian would agree with this.  So why do affections play a role then but not after prevenient grace? May I suggest that it is because it does not fit into their philosophical framework? It appears from this that if it is convenient Arminians believe that desires give rise to our decisions but not when it doesn’t fit into their philosophical framework.

 

The fact is that the Scripture is consistent in its testimony that water does not rise above its source and self-caused effects can never rise above the qualities or innate character of their cause. We make choices based upon the inclinations of our nature that prompts what we desire or have affection for. Here are some Scriptural examples off the top of my head to drive the point home:

 

"For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.  (Luke 6:44, 45)

“Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin..."If you were Abraham's children," said Jesus, "then you would do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41You are doing the things your own father does...44You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don't you believe me? 47He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God." John 8:34-47

“The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me,  but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock.  My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” John 10:25b-27

 

The nature of the person determines the choices he makes. In this last comment Jesus does not say “you are not part of my flock because you don’t believe”. No he says, you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. Similarly Jesus tells the Jews in his presence that they do not hear his words, BECAUSE they do not belong to God, otherwise they would believe. The same logic and understanding of reality is used by Jesus and the apostles throughout the New Testament.  So the Calvinist position that our moral nature gives rise to our choices is no mere abstract philosophical idea but is a well grounded concept in the Scriptures. People do not come to God because they hate Him (John 3:19).  Thus our affections are determinative in the choices we make. 

 

Q#4 "If prevenient grace places us in a neutral state, then what motivates one man to believe and not another?"

 

In fact, there is no such thing as a "neutral state," except perhaps in peoples who lack the capacity (e.g. infants). This however isn't quite a strawman, since I have observed this kind of thinking among synergists. But the fact is, prevenient grace need not suspend or neutralize one's depravity; rather, I hold that grace becomes another motivator, placing a person in tension between his old ways and God's Way. It is evident that this is so, as even in a regenerated Christian there is still a tendency to sin. We may have become slaves to righteousness, but the old flesh lingers on, as Calvinists themselves admit.

 

Moser here suggests that while a man is left in his sinful unregenerate state, God is wooing, encouraging and offering but never accomplishes anything inside of him (taking out the heart of stone, putting in a heart of flesh with a positive desire for Christ), which, when you think about it, is not very helpful to those who are unspiritual. If one’s heart of stone has not yet been made a heart of flesh, or their hearts & ears remain uncircumcised, then how can one want to believe? So whether the sinner is neutral, as some Arminains believe, or in tension between old ways and God’s ways, as Moser asserts they are still neither carnal or spiritual. He still has not answered why one man believes and not another.  If his philosophical presuppositions about how people can make choice freely without a desire for their object are true then lets see some biblical doctrine or Scriptural examples that put this doctrine beyond question.  Again, Moser’s presuppositions are philosophical, not biblical. 

 

Q#5  "What principle in him made him choose what he did?"

 

Once again, we see Compatibilism being question begged. But of course, don't expect any cogent arguments for Compatibilism. (I have seen few, but none have yet to overcome the logical problems emerging from Compatibilism's inherent foundation in Determinism.)

 

In fact, if any "principle" "made" one choose as one did, it was the principle that God created man with the capacity to make free choices, and granted it for him to do so. However, the question expects a determinative answer, and none will be given here.

 

I must admit that I am not attempting to defend some philosophic precept, but rather, the text of Scripture.  I have already provided some clear passages which are in complete a harmony with the fact that a person makes the choices he does because of his nature (Luke 6, John 8 & 10). It has already been conclusively demonstrated that Jesus Himself takes this view about our why we make choices as we do.  My argument is the Scripture text, not some independent human reasoning to fit some particular theological construct.  As Christians the Scripture is our ultimate presupposition …not some abstract philosophical argument.  Since Moser will not give a determinative answer we must conclude that he believes human choice has no motives, reasons or desires.  Without such things we are left with the luck of the dice. As I previously pointed out, Moser is inconsistent since he often sites desires in the making of choices when he speaks man’s bondage of total depravity.

 

Love and hate are given in the Bible as clear indicators of why we believe and love God or not.  God mercifully comes to save His own even though the Scriptures testify that we love darkness, hate the light and will not come into the light (John 3:19, 20) but those who do, do so because it has been wrought by God (vs. 20).  One must be spiritual to understand spiritual things, declares the word of God.  Spirit gives birth to Spirit. “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." (John 3:8)  The Spirit is sovereign in his determination. We freely choose God because we want to but such desires cannot exist unless God grants us a sense and delight in the excellence and beauty of spiritual things, which comes through the finished work of Christ and is applied by the Holy Spirit on whomever He wills.

 

Q#6 "If all men are neutral in prevenient grace was it by chance that one believed and not another?"

 

Nope. To suppose that choice is by "chance" grossly oversimplifies the irreducible complexity of the decision making process. Granted, some choices we make may seem to be random (perhaps in some cases, they are, I won't assert that I know), but one need not appeal to chance to escape determinism. One merely has to note that not all causes are strictly material (i.e. physical and purposeless) in nature. There is also causality which involves intent or purpose. "I chose to go to the park because it is sunny out," doesn't mean that the sun caused me to go to the park; rather, I made an intentional choice based on the fact that the sun is indeed shining. It is entirely possible that it is sunny out, yet I chose not to go to the park, and as long as that is so, one not need to suppose that choice is a crap shoot or a roulette wheel.

 

I am afraid I don’t understand why Moser keeps telling us that his own position is not deterministic when Arminianism is in fact the most deterministic of all theologies.  See my article:

 

Is Calvinism Fatalistic?

 

Ok now Moser turns around the debate and asks questions of me.

 

An Open Challenge to Monergists

A. 1. Based on what does God choose to save some people, but not others?
2. If you say His good pleasure / will / sovereign plan, what is His good pleasure / will / sovereign plan?
3. If you say it is a mystery, are you not aware that in Eph. 1 (a passage commonly used to support Unconditional Election), it says, He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him. Ephesians 1:9.
4. Since the mystery has been revealed in Jesus, where do you think (in the Bible) we can find it?

 

To ask God what basis he has for choosing some and not others is to assume that there is some principle or virtue outside and greater than God himself, which is an impossible supposition.  It is to profoundly misapprehend the nature of God and His right to do whatever He pleases because there is no higher reality than God Himself. Goodness is not something found outside of God that he appeals to but is intrinsic to His very nature.  What I find causes me the most fear for my dear Arminian brethren is that such questions imply that they do not think that God’s sovereign good pleasure is a good enough reason in itself.  It’s as if they are unwilling to yield this one right to God.  It is no different than if they were praying, “God what you want, for your own good purposes, is not a good enough reason for me.  I demand that you give an answer for Yourself. I must understand.  It would be arbitrary and unfair if you do the choosing and not us because you can’t possibly have reasons good enough since I can’t think of any.”  It is to demand that God answer for why he made the sky blue or some people to be born in Africa and some in North America.  God’s good pleasure is the crowning reason for all these things and we should rest content in that.  Anything less is to doubt the character of God.

 

When Paul said, “it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy…. [and] he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills” (Rom 9:16, 18] he also faced persons in his day [who had Arminian-like views] with similar questions:

 

19You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" 20But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" 21Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use? 22What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory (Rom 9:16-23)

 

It is also clear in the Scripture that Christ Himself teaches that He can raise up whomever He wills.

 

All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (Matt 11:27)

 

“Knowing the Father” is the same thing as being saved. This is the consistent usage of the word “know” with regard to soteriology throughout the entire text of Scripture.  The ones who know God are the same as those who Christ sovereignly chooses to reveal.  This meaning of this passage is so obvious that it should not even be up for debate. Similar ideas are used in John 5:21:

 

“For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.


To begin with, Paul would not ask this hypothetical question in Romans 9 unless He believed the ultimate determination of one’s salvation to be in the hands of God alone. Paul is saying that God has the sovereign right to do with us whatever He wants. Would people like Moser deny Him this right? Arminians will often cite man's glorious free will, a free will that God could not/will not violate. But where is the Scripture to back such an idea?  Again, another philosophical presupposition and human construct laid on top of the Scriptures so they fit a particular agenda.

 

Furthermore, since we know the character of God we must not think that, on His side, God had no reasons or causes for saving some and not others  -- “since the divine purpose always conspires with His wisdom and does nothing without reason or rashly; although these reasons and causes have not been revealed to us. In His counsels and works no cause is apparent, it is yet hidden with Him, internal to God Himself so that He has decreed nothing except justly and wisely according to His good pleasure founded on His gracious love towards us.” (Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics)  In other words, Just because we don’t know why He chooses some to faith and not others is not reason enough to reject it.  In the absence of relevant data, we, therefore, have no reason whatsoever to assume the worst, so there are no legitimate grounds for doubting the goodness of God here. He tells us many times in Scripture that He chooses whom He will and this should be good enough reason for any Christian. Therefore, to doubt that God can choose us based solely on his good pleasure, is to doubt the goodness of God. Synergists who argue this are, in effect, saying that they cannot trust God in making this choice and prefer it to be left up to the fallen individual, as if he would make a better choice than God. Let's summarize then the response to the charge of God being arbitrary or His sovereignty is not a good enough reason:

"The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law." Deuteronomy 29: 29

Moser’s next question:
B. 1. Is it true that you believe that a person will always act in accordance to his greatest desire?
2. What things do you hypothesis cause a person to desire a certain way?
3. What do you suppose causes the causes of those desires? Etc...
4. If you follow the causes back, will the not all inevitably lead to God?
5. Wouldn't this lead to the conclusion that God is the author of sin, and that all responsibility for evil rests on Him?

 

First of all, this conversation was not intended to discuss meticulous Providence, but the doctrine of regeneration and whether or not it is monergistic. However, I would be glad to indulge Moser a little on this topic since he brought it up.

 

Before I get into this however, it should be noted that Moser, in the above line of questioning, appears to deny that we make choices based on what we want most.   What I find quite odd about this position is that Arminians are themselves inconsistent on their belief about this. Sometimes Arminians do claim to make choices because of our nature. Even Arminians believe that a natural man loves darkness BECAUSE he is fallen and desires sin because of his corrupt nature.  Let me ask him, why don’t unregenerate persons choose God, apart from grace? Arminians and Calvinists have the same answer. Because they love darkness, hate the light (John 3:19) and are unwilling to lift a finger toward God apart from grace. The causes of our desires are our sinful nature. We both agree that grace is needed. Even Moser admits this so it appears to me this line of questioning brings about his own self-contradictory thoughts on the matter. We both agree, at least prior to grace, that the causes of our desires are our natures.

 

Then Moser asks about the origin of evil
If you follow the causes back, will the not all inevitably lead to God?
5. Wouldn't this lead to the conclusion that God is the author of sin, and that all responsibility for evil rests on Him?

 

Interestingly, Arminians often like to throw out what they believe to be a trump card by showing that the Calvinist position logically leads to God being the author of evil, so it can't be true.  Many Arminians will even admit that their dislike of Calvinism is on moral rather than exegetical grounds.  But below I wish to demonstrate that the Arminian position itself is even more deterministic than the Calvinist one.  I say "more" because it is really an impersonal determinism against the Calvinist’s personal determinism. 

 

While we Calvinists indeed believe God ordains all that comes to pass, providence itself is not accomplished monergistically.  We believe we still have a will to act, not in spite of God's providence, but because of it. We act freely according to our wants and desires.

 

I believe Moser is saying that unless one postulates, on God's part, a laissez-faire posture towards man's choices and actions and on man's part the complete freedom to choose one from two or more incompatible courses of action, God becomes the responsible cause of sin and thus renders himself incompatible - at least in justice- to call men to account for

their sins.

 

The Arminian definition of freedom to do otherwise where man is given bare permission to do evil as opposed to positive causality, however, does not relieve God of involvement in man's sin as Arminians generally seem to want to portray.  God made the world and man with the ability to sin in the first place. God could have made the world differently like the saints in heaven with the freedom to only do good. An omniscient, omnipotent God could have found some way to prevent mankind from sinning without inhibiting them.  So it is clear that if man is permitted to sin God is not totally unrelated to the event of man's sin.  How can you have permission unless God wills it? God knew the future before creating man and thus implicitly ordains it. God established the condition.  Permission would only be possible if there were an independent force beyond the Creator's control.  But nothing can be independent of our creator for in Him we live and move and have our being.  So the idea of bare permission makes no sense when applied to God.

 

Further, this works out in some funny ways for Arminians.  Because no Synergist could consistently assert that God foreknew who would be saved and then preach that God is trying to save every man. Surely if God knows whom He can save or who will be saved, then how can Moser say that He is trying to save more? Certainly, it is foolish to assert that God is trying to do something which He knew never could be accomplished. Also no Synergist can consistently say that God foreknew which sinners would be lost and then say it is not within God's will to allow these sinners to be lost. Why did He create them? Let Moser consider that question. God could have just as easily refrained from creating those that He knew would go to Hell. He knew where they were going before He created them. Since He went ahead and created them with full knowledge that they would be lost, it is evidently within God's providence that some sinners be lost, He evidently has some purpose in it which we human beings cannot fully discern. So this is as much a problem for Arminians as for anyone. If Moser faces this issue squarely, he will have to admit either the error of his theology or deny foreknowledge altogether. But he might say that God had to create those that perish, even against His will. However, this would make God subject to Fate.

 

God's permission is done either willingly or unwillingly.  If God were to permit us unwillingly then there must be something more powerful than God and then He is no longer God.  So if God willingly let men make choices as they do, being omniscient, knowing they will make sinful choices, and refuses to prevent them from doing so, then the Arminian position is in trouble. Knowing they will make wrong choices makes their future actions of sin a certainty. While Open Theism is outside the bounds of evangelicalism it is more consistent in its answer than Arminianism at this point. Moser's criticisms of the Calvinist view of providence then are every bit criticisms of his own position.

 

As for free will, there is no possible existence of a person's will that is detached and totally independent of the person making the choice, as Arminians assert.  The mind is choosing ...we choose because of who we are. If our wills were determined by no cause as Moser claims then we would have to know every possible cause in the universe or be omniscient.

 

But the Bible does not suggest we are free, in the Arminian sense, from God's decretive will. The entire Bible makes the opposite affirmation (Eph 1:11, Rom 8:28, Rom 11:36, 1 Cor 8:6, Dan 4:31-32). We actually want with our wills the choices that we make, even though God has ordained it. God is not chargeable as the cause of sin. The Scripture teaches that God is light and in Him there is no darkness.  His decree works through the free choices of men where they voluntarily make choices with no violence being done to their will. If you don't believe God can do that then perhaps have you acquiesced to a picture of God that must be without mystery and all rationally explained as though a scientific experiment.

 

To be certain, that man is responsible for making evil choices even though ordained by God, is based not on some philosophical speculation on my part but because it is given clear testimony to in the text of Scripture. A prominent example is Peter's sermon on the Day of Pentecost which shows God ordaining and planning the crucifixion, yet was actually carried out by evil men, who alone are culpable.

"...this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death." (Acts 2:23)

God here ordains what is perhaps the most evil event in history, the crucifixion of a sinless man. Yet God is not subject to blame because it was carried out by men with evil motives (Also see Gen 50:20).

Whatever sinfulness comes about, comes from man and not God.  Man wants to make the choices he does for reasons sufficient to him - thus from my definition man is acting freely and spontaneously.  God doesn't coerce my choices even though He ordains them yet since God already foreknows the outcome of events in Arminian theology, but did not ordain them, they are still certain and could not be otherwise.  Thus neither God nor man ultimately determines the choices of man in Arminian theology. It appears to be caused by some other force, an impersonal determinism.  YIKES!

 

Adam had the capacity to do God's preceptive will regarding the fruit. These reasons were sufficient for him when He wanted to eat the fruit.  Adam had his reasons for the choice he made and was not exercising some indifferent will.  He was not forced. He acted knowingly, willingly and spontaneously for reasons sufficient for him. God did no violence to his will so he was freely transgressing.  But Adam was not free from God's eternal decree.

 

Under ordinary circumstances he can do what he wants.  But he responds to what he wants - nothing affirms human responsibility more than the fact that he is consenting to his own will when he acts, even though such action is determined.  Sin proceeds from man, not God.  God makes the laws. Free will in itself is not what makes one responsible...rather it is the Lawgiver over him who makes him accountable for his thoughts. So God's sovereignty itself is what makes men accountable to him.

 

Next!

C. 1. What causes God to make the choices He makes?

God is sufficient unto Himself and all His decrees spring from that which is internal to Himself alone. ASEITY

 
2. Is there anything external or prior to Him which determine His choices and actions?

No, God acts according to his nature.  God is holy, so He cannot make choices that are unholy.

 
3. If God determines His own choices, isn't it at least possible for Him to make creatures capable of making self-determined choices?

Philosophical speculation with no scriptural support.

 
4. Recall Deut. 30 where God commands the Israelites to choose between His way or death and curses. God makes it quite clear that it was entirely possible for the Israelites to choose life in submission to Him (Deut. 30:11-14). Yet, the logical conclusion of Compatibilism and Determinism is that it was actually impossible that they serve and worship God (since the could have, really, only make one choice and that choice was to reject Him). Explain why your philosophy contradicts Scripture.

God gave His covenant people, the Israelites, commands to follow Him including the command to choose life.  A great number of them received God’s mercy and, in fact, did ‘choose life’. Persons under God's covenant, like persons in the covenant today, were not without the working of the Holy Spirit, so, of course it was possible for them to obey. But even unregenerate persons really just suffer from a lack of desire, not ability. Our seeming inability is really just a moral impotence which is entirely due to our willful rebellious heart. So when God commands us to obey Him this means we are fully reponsible to obey. Willful rebellion does not alleviate us of responsibility. God is not throwing up road blocks stopping us from coming to Him. Clearly then, there is no contradiction here.

 

Sometimes in the Old Testament God even reveals behind the scenes how He enabled particular Jews to obey his Word when they were called to repent: In 2 Chronicles chapter 30 when couriers with a message of repentance passed from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, and as far as Zebulun, they laughed them to scorn and mocked them when they were called to repent, "Nevertheless some men of Asher, Manasseh and Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem. The hand of God was also on Judah to give them one heart to do what the king and the princes commanded by the word of the LORD." (2 Chronicles 30:11-12) The text says some resisted the call, but all those tribes which the hand of God gave a heart to obey the Word, repented. So not only is my position not philosophy, as Moser contends, but is the very witness of Scripture itself. I believe now it is Moser who must yield to the force of this and all other texts cited or else continue to resist what is the plain and consistent witness of the Scripture. I pray it is the former.

Moser concluded, "yet, the logical conclusion of Compatibilism and Determinism is that it was actually impossible that they serve and worship God (since the could have, really, only make one choice and that choice was to reject Him."

 

I am not quite sure I follow Moser on this.  I ask him, why was it impossible for Jews to serve and worship God under Compatiblism?  And why could they make only one choice of rejecting him?  I just showed him that there were a great number of Jewish persons who were saved under the Abrahamic covenant and indeed loved God, just like now.  Jews and Gentiles alike either received mercy or were justly passed over. God has mercy on some and justice on others. In other words, what is impossible with man is possible with God.

 

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Endnotes:


Some Arminain definitions of Total Depravity and Prevenient Grace.

Prevenient grace defined as follows by "Wesley's Order of Salvation":
"Human beings are totally incapable of responding to God without God first empowering them to have faith. This empowerment is known as "Prevenient Grace." Prevenient Grace doesn't save us but, rather, comes before anything that we do, drawing us to God, making us WANT to come to God, and enabling us to have faith in God. Prevenient Grace is Universal, in as much as all humans receive it, regardless of their having heard of Jesus. It is manifested in the deep-seated desire of most humans to know God."

Remonstrance of 1610, a codification of the teachings of Jacob Arminius (1559-1609). Here are the 3rd and 4th articles of five
III.That man has not saving grace of himself, nor of the working of his own free-will, inasmuch as in his state of apostasy and sin he can for himself and by himself think nothing that is good--nothing, that is, truly good, such as saving faith is, above all else. But that it is necessary that by God, in Christ and through his Holy Spirit he be born again and renewed in understanding, affections and will and in all his faculties, that he may be able to understand, think, will, and perform what is truly good, according to the Word of God [John 15:5].

IV.That this grace of God is the beginning, the progress and the end of all good; so that even the regenerate man can neither think, will nor effect any good, nor withstand any temptation to evil, without grace precedent (or prevenient), awakening, following and co-operating. So that all good deeds and all movements towards good that can be conceived in through must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. But with respect to the mode of operation, grace is not irresistible; for it is written of many that they resisted the Holy Spirit [Acts 7 and elsewhere passim].

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"...holy affections are not heat without light" but rather, "arise from some information of the understanding, some spiritual instruction that the mind receives, some light or actual knowledge...a sense of the heart, of the supreme beauty and sweetness of the holiness or moral perfection of divine things... ...the first effect of the power of God in the heart in regeneration is to give the heart a Divine taste or sense; to cause it to have a relish of the loveliness and sweetness of the supreme excellency of the Divine nature." - Jonathan Edwards