Let's be reasonable with one another, shall we?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Why Do I Have a Problem?

Ya know, I have a real problem with the statement "faith is a gift." As I have said in other posts in the past (some of which are in my sidebar) ... if one means that the capacity for faith is a gift just in the same sense that the capacity for taking a breath is a gift ... then ... no problem. Everything we do or think is only allowable as a gift from God. But ... when I hear people, people that I love in my church ... ladies ... saying things like, "Even the faith that we have to believe in Him is a gift from Him." or ... "We don't believe ... it is all of God, He gives us the belief, He decides who has the faith." ... I get really bothered.

Why? Why does it bother me so much? Is it because I want to rob God of His power? Is it because I don't want God to get all the credit He is due? Is it because I think man deserves some credit? The answer is absolutely NO! I believe in the omniscient, all powerful God, just like other Bible believers.

My problem with the statement that faith is a gift is twofold.

Firstly, I don't find it in the Bible. As was demonstrated in this post, the most common Scripture reference for the idea that faith is a gift ... is not saying that faith is a gift. At best, one could say that some men, some reputable teachers believe that Ephesians 2:8-9 is saying that faith is a gift, but an equal number of greek-savvy expositors say that Ephesians 2:8-9 is not saying that, but it is saying that salvation is a gift. So ... at best ... this view of Ephesians 2:8-9 is debatable. Check out my diagram.

My second reason springs off the first. While it is sweet to say that God gave me my faith and it had nothing to do with me ... while this gives Him all the credit for my entering into the salvation that He has provided ... it is a two edged sword. Why do I say it is a two-edged sword? Because this also makes God responsible for unbelief. Slice it and dice it any way you want, but if God gifts some with faith, He witholds faith from others, determining hell for them. Therefore, they have an excuse. This is unbiblical. God says that those who enter hell are "without excuse."

If the "faith is a gift" philosophy is right, I imagine someday at the white throne judgement all the people who will say, "But God, you witheld faith from me. I see now that your Word says that the gospel is the power of salvation for everyone who believes. Well, faith is a gift and you never gave it to me, so it is your fault that I did not believe am not saved. I heard the gospel plenty, but I couldn't believe, because I wasn't able. Why didn't you give me faith? I had no hope at all."

While that is a rather comical presentation and I know some Calvinist will slice it and dice it, there is a truth there which can't be avoided.

This philosophy that beleif is provided by God ... that faith is a gift, while well-intentioned, really lays blame at God's feet ... and He is above it. I find that unacceptable and unbiblical.

45 Comments:

  • What about in Hebrews where it says God is the author and finisher of our faith?

    or this:
    Faith is a good thing, all good things come from our Father in heaven, therefore faith is from God.
    Nowhere in the Bible is God obligated to have mercy on all unbelievers so God is blameless where he gives faith to all or not.

    BTW, I don't consider myself a calvinist, I just agree with them on this point. Roses are sweeter than tulips anyways! ;-)

    By Anonymous Michael Thompson, at 3/12/2007 10:34 AM  

  • Hi Rose,

    I recently reposted Divine Pets where I talk to the issue of us being made in the image of God. So, I would agree with you when you say the gift of faith is in the same genre as breathing. Being made in the image of God involves our choice to exercise faith or not.

    Blessings, Bob

    By Blogger Kansas Bob, at 3/12/2007 11:14 AM  

  • Michael,
    Thanks for the comment. I think "author of our faith" means he is the example of perfect faith in God's plan. He endured the cross ... He had perfect faith in God's promises and plan, as the PERFECT man.

    Also - that he planned out that which we are having faith in. He made the plan of salvation and completed it - He is it's author. I don't see that as saying that he has gifted some with faith and not others.

    I have a post on Roses/Tulips that I am going to put up here one of these days. :~)

    Bob,
    Thanks! It is nice when someone sees it the same way as I do. I don't feel so lonely then. I will read Divine Pets.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 3/12/2007 11:39 AM  

  • Rose, interesting thoughts. I have heard Daniel from Doulogos explain this in detail and from what I can gather, Calvinists basically believe that God has picked some for salvation and some for destruction, hence the reasoning faith as a gift.

    While obviously God has the right and prerogative to choose whom He will, I think many see the means of faith being a gift completely linked with an elect being regenerated to be able to believe or exercise faith.

    I am curious though, are there people who would believe faith can be received apart from the hearing of the word of God?

    By Blogger Jim, at 3/12/2007 1:01 PM  

  • By the way,
    Brian Hedrick (Bhedr) brought this article to my attention many months ago. When I read it, it was really great for me because it was like hearing my own thoughts laid out by someone else. However, the author has so much more experience! He has really been around the block. Mr. Comfort really makes it simple, too and 'down to earth.' (You know ... we simple-minded non-calvinists).
    Read it!

    By Blogger Rose~, at 3/12/2007 1:46 PM  

  • Thanks, Jim,
    I agree with your assessment of why some hold the philosophy of faith being a gift. It fits with the way they view salvation. It fits with the limited view.

    That is a really good question that you ask.

    [Does anyone] believe faith can be received apart from the hearing of the word of God?

    Interesting. I think the Bible is pretty clear on the answer to that.

    -----------
    This view that faith is a gift implies a lot about countries where the Word of God has not gone out. Rather than shaming Christians for not having sent (or become) missionaries to these places in the past, it would simply mean that all of the hundreds and thousands of years of no one hearing the Word and coming to faith was simply because the countries were full of non-elect. This is the necessary conclusion.

    Then again, if someone can come to faith apart from the Word of God, then there is an answer for that.

    hmmmmmm....

    By Blogger Rose~, at 3/12/2007 1:55 PM  

  • Hi, Rose, great post. I would agree with you that God gives the ability to believe, but the actual belief is a choice that man makes.

    By Anonymous Gordon Cloud, at 3/12/2007 3:32 PM  

  • Rose, I just perused that article by Ron Comfort; there are some really good thoughts in there.

    God bless,
    Jim

    By Blogger Jim, at 3/12/2007 4:48 PM  

  • Hi Rose,

    You know we agree. I wonder if those in opposition would perceive all faith as a gift? How could we say that the great faith that an atheist must have in order to believe there is no God would come as a gift as well?

    By Blogger Kc, at 3/12/2007 4:51 PM  

  • Hi Rose,

    Thanks for your explanation on the other blog, re: "later Calvinism." I suppose it might be accurate to say that there always has been three kinds of Calvinism: The hyper stuff (which denies man's responsibility) the authentic 5 point kind (which affirms it) and then the "mild whiff" kind which basically only runs with Eternal Security, but nothing else. (And affirms man's responsibility also.)

    Re: this blog. I don't think any Calvinist teaches that men come to faith apart from the word of God. However, I willingly stand to be corrected, if someone is willing to correct me. Do I smell straw here?

    As ever, there are two sides to the hundreds and thousands of years of many folk not hearing the gospel. The danger always arises when only one side is presented. Yes, we may chide and shame lazy Christians who have sat back and let their responsibility as missionaries go to ruin. We are guided on this matter by the command of God in Mark 16:15 etc.,
    On the other hand (without denying the first) all Christians have to deal with the fact that God concentrated his purposes in the OT largely on the little nation of Israel (Amos 3:2) setting his electing love upon them (as opposed to other nations) unconditionally (because He loved them: Deuteronomy 7:7) Who was telling our ancient forefathers in the Americas and Western Europe during these long centuries about the salvation of God? Was there any command to the Jewish people to go and win the heathen lost for the coming Christ? What happened to those Gentiles who died without hearing? What will they say in the Day of Judgement? Did God grant them faith (as you obviously believe) but send them no messenger? Is this a mockery? Is this their excuse in the Day of Judgement? Is God *obliged* to anything to save a guilty sinner? If so, then it ceases to be grace, but debt. If He is not obliged to save any, then is He obliged to save all? At the Great White Throne, every mouth will be stopped because the whole world is guilty (Romans 3:19) Guilty of all kinds of heinous sins. The cry "You didn't give me faith" would only be relevant if God was obliged to do so. Again, you cannot obligate grace, or you have destroyed it. Deserved mercy is a contradiction.

    While I am all for making every last effort to get missionaries into the far flung countries of the world, as if it depended all on me, yet I also recognise that God is in sovereign control of who will even hear the gospel. I see Satan hinder the gospel from going forth (1 Thess 2:18) but I also see the Spirit disallowing it also in certain cases (Acts 16:7) I rest on two fundamental principles of God's word: Christ is building His church and the gates of hell (in all that this phrase means) will not prevail against it and the Judge of all the earth will do right. If the miracles that had been done in Capernaum etc., had've been done in Tyre and Sidon, men would have repented. But they weren't. God could have done so, but He didn't and left those men in their sins to perish. It falls to us to say (as the Lord Jesus did) "Even so Father, for it seemed good in thy sight" (Matthew 11:25)

    I accept there are a lot of questions in this post, and I don't expect answers to them all. Again. I am totally 100% for missionary work and Calvinists have not been found wanting in church history in this respect. However, we have all to face the fact that God does not sit helpless while Christians dither. The Spirit forbade the Apostles to go into Bithynia in Acts 16, as mentioned above, but sent them instead into Macedonia. Could He not have sent them to both places and equipped them and opened each and every necessary door? Of course He could. But in His sovereignty, He dcreed otherwise and none can stay His hand, nor say unto Him, "What doest thou?"

    By Blogger goodnightsafehome, at 3/12/2007 5:25 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger Antonio, at 3/12/2007 8:42 PM  

  • Calvinism:

    anti-rational
    anti-intellectual

    illogical

    It is high time they at least 'fessed up.

    By Blogger Antonio, at 3/12/2007 8:43 PM  

  • Rose -

    Another gem. I can't tell you how loud my "Amen" was when I read this post but my once asleep children can! Loved the article by Comfort - thanks! We're hosting a GES regional conference this weekend - could I have your permission to use the Ephesians 2 diagram? I'm covering that in a James 2 workshop.

    In Christ,

    JL

    By Blogger Jon Lee, at 3/12/2007 10:30 PM  

  • Good stuff, Rose.

    Keep it up.

    Before long, the "rose" will supplant the "tulip."

    I'm for it.

    By Blogger tjp, at 3/13/2007 6:10 AM  

  • Hi Rose,

    I read in here a lot more than I comment; I do enjoy reading as you ‘work out your salvation’ on your blog. I love the questions you pose for pondering, and your sweet spirit encourages me as we wrestle with God on difficult and weighty issues. J

    A couple of things. First, I have no problem at all with faith being a gift from God, as I believe the preponderance of Scripture overwhelmingly points to a sovereign God, who is indeed in control of His creation. James 1 :17 - Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above.. 1 Cor 8:6 - yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him… John 1:2 - All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. And of course Eph 2:8-9. And these are just a very few verses! The OT is replete with passages and stories that clearly show us that God is sovereign, that it is He who ‘gives and takes away,’ that He ‘causes,’ ‘brings about’ etc. We are also told that we are the clay; He is the potter and who are we to question the potter? In Daniel 4:35, we’re told, “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?'

    All that to say that ‘faith’ falls under the sovereign control of God, just like everything else, and he gifts it, as it were, to whomever He pleases.

    Also, consider this. In a statement that would say God is ‘unfair’ in His saving whomever He chooses (giving saving faith to someone), lies the underlying assumption that our salvation IS what’s fair. And the truth is, if we get what’s ‘fair’ we all get hell. That God mercifully chooses, calls and causes saving faith in a person is a wonderful demonstration of His mercy. Nowhere in Scripture do we find that God has obligated Himself to save all people. On the contrary, He actually tells us that He has mercy on whom He has mercy, and compassion on whom He has compassion. And this is clearly, clearly seen throughout Scripture. Jesus recounts the story in Luke 4:25-30, of the widow that Elijah was sent to during the famine. He says there were many widows, but Elijah was sent to only one. He also tells of the many lepers, but only one was healed.


    Now, before two years ago, did all this run completely contrary to my own theology about God? Oh, most assuredly it did! But the Scriptures cannot be ignored – the whole counsel of Scripture. And it is the totality of Scripture that leads me to try to hold a right view of God and a right view of who I am before Him. If we are truly to hold the view that God is sovereign – then we must realize that His sovereignty is not limited, and it’s certainly not dependent on man in any way. If we are to believe that we can exercise faith on our own accord, then we’ve just given ourselves something to boast in and take credit for, which goes against what the Word actually says.

    OK, sorry this is long. It’s getting ready to thunderstorm here in my part of Texas, so I’d better scoot on home!

    By Blogger Gayla, at 3/13/2007 4:38 PM  

  • Jim said:

    I am curious though, are there people who would believe faith can be received apart from the hearing of the word of God?

    You know how they would respond to that, "God ordains the means, as well as the end", the means in the Calvinist schema would be the "instrumentality" of the Word of God.

    Btw, I hold to an infralapsarian view of election myself . . . not that I want to, but I believe it makes the most sense of many passages of scripture.

    Good article, Rose.

    Bobby

    By Anonymous bobby grow, at 3/13/2007 4:41 PM  

  • Can a man obligate God to give him grace? If so, then grace is not grace, it is a wage.

    Acts 15:11 says, But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are." (NASB) - which is to say that our salvation is a gift of God's grace.

    In Ephesians 2:8 however, salvation is by grace through faith - which is to say that our salvation is a gift of God's grace through faith. I hope this is obvious, but I will be redundant just in case - If our faith here produced the grace that saved us, it wouldn't be grace.

    Philippians 1:29 says, "For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,..."

    I think a lot of people interpret Philippians 1:29 in a literal sense - that is, they expect that it means exactly what is being said - that the ability to believe was something that was granted by God.

    I see Ephesians 2:5,7-9 and Phillipans 1:29 saying the same thing in different words - that God saves us, and that the ability to believe is a grace that is given to us - not something we produce, or we could boast about it.

    Jim said from what I can gather, Calvinists basically believe that God has picked some for salvation and some for destruction, hence the reasoning faith as a gift.

    Actually Calvinists tend to believe that God loves everyone and desires all men to be saved - but that in spite of God's love for them, and willingness to forgive them - all men reject God, that "none seek Him - not even one". So when a person does seek God, the Calvinist understands that in a way that doesn't contradict the fact that none seek God - the Calvinist understands it to mean that God is drawing this man to himself as an act of grace - the man was a sinner, condemned, and like all other men, was not seeking God - but in an act of grace - God chose, and because God chose him, even though left to his own devices he would continue to rebel - yet because God chooses to draw this one to himself, this one comes.

    You see Jim, when evening came the owner of the vineyard began to give the wages beginning with the last to the first. When those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a full day's pay, so that when the first came, and seeing the grace of the owner towards the former, they supposed that they would receive more pay than had been agreed upon. That is, they presumed that the owner, in order to be "fair" would have to pay them more. They didn't understand grace at all. When they had received only a days wage they complained against the landowner. His response was that there was nothing evil about his generosity. It was true that these men who came lately to the work did not deserve a full day's wage - but his generosity towards these latter was an act of grace, and it wouldn't have been an act of grace had he been obligated to do so. These men didn't see that - they didn't understand that grace is not grace if you have a right to demand it.

    So to Jim, the Calvinist regards all men as lost, and none deserving of grace. When God saves a man it isn't that the Calvinist says - God has damned the rest - for God has damned us all - and justly so - rather it is that the Calvinist says that God has been gracious to some - and this grace wouldn't be grace if he were obligated to give it to all.

    There may well be some Calvinists out there who do reason as you suggest, and regard faith as a gift merely because it satisfies some (presumably) convenient and (presumably) poorly thought out theological presupposition. But I suspect that there are few, and where they can be found, they cannot remain there long for such a weak foundation is sure to crumble quickly given even the most superfical scrutiny.

    But I beg you to consider the possibility that there may indeed be some Calvinists who see grace as grace is, and as refuse to romance the modern doppleganger that most people have embraced.

    Just a thought mind you.

    By Blogger Daniel, at 3/13/2007 6:49 PM  

  • "for God has damned us all"

    Are you cursing here?

    I guess that would make you a damned Calvinist!

    I'll take Comfort and the Rose on this one - not buying it Daniel.

    By Blogger Jon Lee, at 3/13/2007 7:11 PM  

  • Jon Lee, what would be your take on the Scripture texts that haven been cited?

    By Blogger Gayla, at 3/13/2007 8:15 PM  

  • "If we are truly to hold the view that God is sovereign – then we must realize that His sovereignty is not limited"

    If God cannot lie and He has made the sovereign decree that "whoever believes in (Jesus Christ) shall have eternal life" - hasn't He sovereignly bound His own sovereignty by allowing anyone to be saved?

    By Blogger Jon Lee, at 3/13/2007 8:22 PM  

  • Yeah Comfort is a good friend of Dads. Course Dad has a Calvinstic perspective. Some good thoughts by Comfort though. Many Calvinists can get like KJV onlyist. I have always felt that way. I don't agree with all of Comforts thoughts but I am glad he wrote the article because we can get so caught up in controversy and wanting to be right that we never know how far it is going to take us.

    By Anonymous bhedr, at 3/13/2007 9:34 PM  

  • Jon Lee asks, "Are you cursing here?"

    No Jon, I was just paraphrasing what scripture abundantly teaches.

    Jon Lee asks, If God cannot lie and He has made the sovereign decree that "whoever believes in (Jesus Christ) shall have eternal life" - hasn't He sovereignly bound His own sovereignty by allowing anyone to be saved?

    Not at all. God "allowed" everyone and anyone to be saved - but everyone rejected that offer which is why God sovereignly elected some from amongst those who rejected that open inviation and it is these who rejected Him whom He brings them to glory - that is why we call it grace - because He came to us some of us after all of us rejected Him.

    God truly would have saved someone had someone actually come to him - but no one did - that is why He draws men to Christ as the scriptures teach.

    By Blogger Daniel, at 3/13/2007 10:55 PM  

  • BTW Rose,

    Even though I don't agree with all you posted...I do appreciate you coming out and being forthright. There is nothing wrong with it. Sometimes its good to be straight forward and passionate. If we don't then we can become like Dan Rather I think in chasing Nixons ghost and Watergate for the past decades. Anyway, this has been my point. I don't know whether you can see this or not. I think there is that blindspot perhaps those who favor an Arminian perspective may have as well. I've tried to be as objective about things as I can over the past few months while holding to a Calvinist perspective. I have wanted to be helpful here as much as possible while recognizing that we look to Christ for salvation and that is what saves us.

    I'll see you around. That is all my 2 cents for now. You guys take care,

    Brian

    By Anonymous bhedr, at 3/13/2007 11:17 PM  

  • Oh and BTW Daniel,

    If perhaps you were infering me and you may not have been but just to cover ground here let me say that I am just trying to relate to the Arminian plight as I do think as in Comforts case he has suffered unfairly, but let me offer a hearty Amen to your understanding and what you have so well articulated. And remember that all those who got those rewards despite their complaining were saved:-)

    I do not hold to Bunyans postion that they will be cast into hell as in the case of ignorance who was implying I am sure the Quakers as he argued with them.

    Your understanding is correct but it can be taken to far and I think you know that.

    Once again...have fun guys, but I am a little tuckered in the debates for now..I was just further responding because me name was brought up and methinks I needed to:-)

    By Anonymous bhedr, at 3/13/2007 11:29 PM  

  • Rose, you always have the best discussions here! ;-)

    I offered my previous comment, not to be belligerent, but to try and illustrate a point. It would seem that those who hold to a form of election apart from Christ also hold that the belief, or faith, through which we are saved, is imposed on us and that God’s grace is the imposition of that belief.

    I find our belief in Christ differs from other beliefs only in its origin. While other beliefs are formed out of natural experience and/or reason, our belief in Christ is based solely on the testimony of the Holy Spirit concerning Jesus and is apart from any other reason or experience. The grace of God that brings salvation is the revelation of Jesus Christ and it is through our belief in God’s own testimony concerning His Son that we come to have faith. Neither grace nor faith is salvation. They are the means by which and the means through which God saves us.

    I understand that all those who would find the word foolishness and refuse to obey the Gospel command to believe must remain condemned with no hope at all and the word will be a testimony against them. This clearly leaves man alone responsible for unbelief but God alone the author of all salvation. A man cannot glory in his faith, as it is incumbent on all men to believe, but if he believes not then one day he must face the shame of his disobedience and he is without excuse.

    It seems that most here agree that God loves all men and desires that all men be saved but it has been proposed that all men reject/have rejected salvation by virtue of the fact that no man seeks God. I understand Romans 10:14 to indicate that all men are ignorant of Christ apart from the Gospel and so I must ask how it is they could reject someone they cannot know?

    I find the scripture to teach that it is by God’s grace that Christ is revealed in us and if we believe what is revealed in our heart then God creates us as a new creature in Christ Jesus. It is the new creature in Christ that is elect both to eternal life and to the good works foreordained in Him before the foundation of the world.

    I am confident it is not with intent, but I can’t help but find any form of election apart from Christ to be egocentric. Election is only in the body of Christ and the only way into His body is by grace through faith, not by grace through foreordination.

    By Blogger Kc, at 3/14/2007 8:46 AM  

  • Daniel:

    I did not mean to insinuate that God is obligated to give equal grace to each person, or that He is obligated at all.

    However, as you quoted; "God is not willing that any should perish..." Further you said that God draws men to Himself, in fact scripture says that He will draw all men to Himself.

    If God did not provide the means of Salvation (ie: atonement) for all men, then how can they be saved? Have they not then been chosen for destruction? I know this is what you believe, but does it not conflict with the above verses referenced? If not, please explain.

    By Blogger Jim, at 3/14/2007 11:15 AM  

  • "Not at all. God "allowed" everyone and anyone to be saved - but everyone rejected that offer which is why God sovereignly elected some from amongst those who rejected that open inviation and it is these who rejected Him whom He brings them to glory - that is why we call it grace - because He came to us some of us after all of us rejected Him."

    I do think your infralapsarian view is the best. The best of the worst in my mind. You must feel awfully special that God chose you specifically for grace and chose not to give grace to countless others. What if you didn't want to be saved - what a waste of grace that would be!

    By Blogger Jon Lee, at 3/14/2007 12:02 PM  

  • "I find the scripture to teach that it is by God’s grace that Christ is revealed in us and if we believe what is revealed in our heart then God creates us as a new creature in Christ Jesus. It is the new creature in Christ that is elect both to eternal life and to the good works foreordained in Him before the foundation of the world.

    I am confident it is not with intent, but I can’t help but find any form of election apart from Christ to be egocentric. Election is only in the body of Christ and the only way into His body is by grace through faith, not by grace through foreordination."

    KC -

    This is so well put...

    JL

    By Blogger Jon Lee, at 3/14/2007 12:09 PM  

  • Daniel -

    "Jon Lee asks, "Are you cursing here?"

    No Jon, I was just paraphrasing what scripture abundantly teaches."

    This was tongue in cheek.

    For the record, I respect your love for God and His Word. I just can't get past the contradictions that young 26 year old Mr. Calvin seems to have produced out of God's Word, which is perfect and true.

    By Blogger Jon Lee, at 3/14/2007 12:20 PM  

  • Jon Lee said, "You must feel awfully special that God chose you specifically for grace and chose not to give grace to countless others."

    Seriously Jon, from where do you glean that any one of us here thinks this? Feel special???? That he chose to save me drives me to my knees in gratitude, as it should each one of us who has been saved by His grace.

    "What if you didn't want to be saved - what a waste of grace that would be!"

    Now Jon, I'm not sure if you're being serious here, or sarcastic, so I'll ask: Do you truly believe that Scripture shows that God saves people who don't want it?

    And I'll ask again, how do you treat the texts that have been cited?

    By Blogger Gayla, at 3/14/2007 1:07 PM  

  • Hi Rose,

    I realize I'm getting in on the tail end of this (or maybe it's really just the beginning), but I'm curious how you handle Peter's language.

    1 Peter 1:3

    "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,"


    So Peter says that someone caused us to be born again and that someone is God. Of course, you might say that there's a difference between being born again and being saved. I think I've read someone trying to make that argument before.

    Or how about 2 Peter 1:1

    "Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:"

    Peter is addressing these believers as those who have received a faith of the same kind as his own. So they "received" the faith. Wouldn't that imply that someone gave it to them.

    Of course, you might say that it doesn't imply a forceful placing of the gift in the person's hands as if to say that person has no other choice but to take the gift. But this passage does seem to imply that the faith was a gift.

    Or maybe when Paul is writing to the Phillipians (1:29,30)

    "For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me."

    So two things were granted to the Phillippians, one was to believe in Christ, the other was to suffer for His sake. And "believe" I would equate with "faith". So faith was granted to them.

    Of course you might say that it was "granted to them" so they must have asked for it first. And I would say then they must have asked for the suffering first too.

    I guess, my thought process kind of goes like this. If faith wasn't given to me, if God's Spirit didn't warm my heart and enable me to receive that faith, then there must be such a thing as luck, or serendipity or maybe the planets were aligned in the proper way or something. I guess I could thank my lucky stars that I had two Godly parents who cared enough about my immortal soul to share the Gospel with me. And that they were articulate enough to convince me that what they were telling me is true.

    Maybe you can convince me otherwise.

    In Christ,
    Ten Cent

    By Anonymous Ten Cent, at 3/14/2007 1:29 PM  

  • Gayla -

    "Now Jon, I'm not sure if you're being serious here, or sarcastic, so I'll ask: Do you truly believe that Scripture shows that God saves people who don't want it?"

    I am being sarcastic. But if God only "gifts" faith to those who want it - doesn't it fall back on man's will and not God's sovereignty?

    "And I'll ask again, how do you treat the texts that have been cited?"

    I'm sorry but there's so much scripture flying around - can you give me two or three verses to start. Thanks!

    By Blogger Jon Lee, at 3/14/2007 4:11 PM  

  • Rose, I'm sure you're considering all of these thoughts. ;-)

    I note that there have been many verses offered in the belief they contradict any form of election other than double predestination and no one, as yet, has ventured to offer an alternative interpretation. While I would never claim authority in this I certainly have had to settle my own understanding of these text and I think it only fair that the call for an alternative rendering be answered. I will try to address each one briefly and if a point of contention is found further then we might discuss it with your kind permission.

    If we perceive God as the author of our faith then we credit him with the origin of our belief. In this respect many of the verses offered need no alternative rendering but rather an alternative to the philosophy of Determinism. For example Acts 15:11 can only be viewed as proving double predestination given a Determinist perspective with sovereignty meaning "all controlling" in opposition to the alternative meaning of "having all power and authority". If we believe we are saved then it is we ourselves that believe, not God believing in us.

    With respect to Ephesians 2:8, once again, it is neither grace nor faith that saves us it is God and He does so by His grace through our faith. Our salvation is not the grace whereby we are saved, nor the faith through which we are saved, but rather the creation of the new creature in Christ consequential to the conception of God's grace through our faith.

    Philippians 1:29 should be read literally without implying an imposed belief given that all aspects of the verse are in view, especially comma usage. These Philippians were not only to believe on Christ but it was given that they should also suffer for His sake.

    The remaining verses in Ephesians offer no evidence of any new or special ability given to men in order that God save them. If a man must be altered in any way in order to receive God's grace then that man can rightly glory in his new and special ability. It is a gift from God to glorify the man and he is created a new creature in the flesh, apart from Christ and apart from faith and can now save himself through his new and special ability. If on the other hand the ability to believe the truth is inherent to all men then no man who believes can glory in his knowledge of the truth but rather in God who revealed it to him by His grace. This leaves only shame and condemnation for those who believe not and they are solely responsible for their sin as God is not willing that any should perish but desires that all men would come to a knowledge of the truth. Believing is no more a labor or toil than hearing the preached word.

    The scripture from 1st and 2nd Peter affirm that is God who saves us by His grace but in no way imply that either our salvation or our faith is imposed on us or kept from anyone who would believe.

    By Blogger Kc, at 3/14/2007 4:58 PM  

  • KC, the question still remains - what, upon hearing the Word of God, enables one man to believe while another does not?

    Also, a question regarding the imposition of salvation or faith on a man - how would you interpret the story of Saul/Paul on the road to Damascus?

    By Blogger Gayla, at 3/14/2007 7:08 PM  

  • Geesh! How am I supposed to keep up with this?!

    I have read all of these comments as they have come in.

    Gayla,
    Boasting? I feel that I have blown that charge out of the water here. For me, anyways. This charge of boasting in the ability to believe is pointless. Is the testimony of the HS so weak that He cannot convict sinners of it unless He gifts them with faith? Gayla, I just don't see it like you do at all. Your view, while valiant in the effort to take no credit to oneself, not even for belief in the gospel, makes God predestinanting certain ones for hell. It also is dangerously close to making God responsible for sin. Not me.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 3/14/2007 7:20 PM  

  • more later...

    By Blogger Rose~, at 3/14/2007 7:20 PM  

  • Hi again Rose! ;-)

    Gayla, I appreciate your question and I think it will help to identify that the primary foundation of our arguments are philosophical and not scriptural.

    The question, "What enables a man?" must of course be answered, "God" for in Him we live and move and have our being. I think it then fair to say that it is God that enables a man to believe and so we would agree the ability comes from God. Where we would differ is in "when" God enables us to believe.

    My contention is that God creates all men with the ability to believe, as they are able to form many beliefs, both true and untrue and that faith in Christ is not born out of any new ability given or created in a man but by simply using their own God-given ability to believe the testimony of the Holy Spirit concerning the implanted word of God.

    The UE adherent must say that belief in Christ not only differs in origin but is so foreign to a man that he is "totally and utterly incapable of believing in Jesus". The implication in this is that belief is somehow a supernatural ability when nowhere do the scriptures indicate this to be so, to the contrary, the ability to believe a thing or to believe not is inherent in all men. The only reason to posit such a notion is in order to allow our faith to conform to a Deterministic view on the sovereignty of God. This leaves the UE adherent with the necessity of having to either extend spiritual death to include other natural abilities, such as hearing and believing or having to alter the meaning of belief whenever the object of belief is the Gospel. Neither of these tenants is logical or scriptural. I say there is nothing special in a man at all when God saves him and that it is not belief that is divine but rather the revelation of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. The man need simply believe what is revealed in his heart.

    By Blogger Kc, at 3/14/2007 9:09 PM  

  • Forgive me, I would say that Christ revealed Himself in a most glorious manner to Saul. ;-)

    By Blogger Kc, at 3/14/2007 9:11 PM  

  • Gayla writes:
    ----------
    the question still remains - what, upon hearing the Word of God, enables one man to believe while another does not?
    ----------
    The subjective nature of the mind to which the gospel promise is addressed is an important factor. Being open to the communication and having a willingness to consider the message will allow the Spirit using the instrumentality of the Word of God to persuade/convince the potential convert.

    If one is closed to the gospel message, he will not be open nor consider the message.

    Jesus commands that we "strive to enter the narrow gate". This would obviously include diligently seeking the truth and being open to knowledge and information.

    Belief comes when one is persuaded that something is true. When we, by an act of our will, determine to be open-minded and considerate of the gospel message, we are in fact giving the message permission to act upon us in such a way as to convince us. When we are convinced of the truth of the gospel promise, we believe it as a passive result.

    Gayla continues:
    ----------
    Also, a question regarding the imposition of salvation or faith on a man - how would you interpret the story of Saul/Paul on the road to Damascus?
    ----------
    Let me ask you a question. Do you find it so hard for a man to believe someone (IOW, Jesus) who struck him to the ground with a supernatural light and spoke to him from heaven?

    I tell you the truth. That would have been enough for me to believe in my unregenerate state!

    Antonio

    By Blogger Antonio, at 3/14/2007 10:57 PM  

  • Gayla,
    I wanted to come right back to the computer last evening and add one more thing, but I got so caught up in chores and kids etc... but here it is:
    This idea of faith being something to boast about unless it is considered a gift - you are in good company making that charge. My pastor said that exact same thing from the pulpit some months back. I hear that a lot. So, I guess I could tell you that you are in good company saying that?
    Anyways, I hope you don't think my comment sounded hostile, but I just don't appreciate that argument - I think it is taking a biblical idea against boasting in works and applying it to faith in aa awkward, deformed way that is never done in the Bible regarding saving faith in the gospel.
    Let's just say it gets my dander up. ;~) God bless you sister.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 3/15/2007 9:42 AM  

  • Rose, of course I didn't view your first comment as hostile. :)

    I appreciate the spirited discussions here, and everyone always conducts themselves in a kindly manner. I fully believe in iron sharpening iron and I welcome the opportunity,in my own life, to be challenged to think and to wrestle with difficult texts.

    KC & Antonio, thank you for your replies. I hesitate to belabor the points, since we don't really see eye-to-eye on some of this stuff, but... :)

    KC said, "My contention is that God creates all men with the ability to believe, as they are able to form many beliefs, both true and untrue and that faith in Christ is not born out of any new ability given or created in a man but by simply using their own God-given ability to believe the testimony of the Holy Spirit concerning the implanted word of God."

    My main thought on this is that if God created all men with the ability to believe, then why don't all men believe? (b/c as we know God is God and is worthy of our belief) It would still boil down to: there must be something in one man that causes him to believe while another does not. What is that 'thing?' Is that thing intelligence? Is the 1st man smarter than the 2nd? How can that be, when the Bible speaks to the fact that we are saved not by anything found in us. And Paul says that no one seeks after God. So what is the 'thing?'

    Also, maybe the foundational problem is, as you said, a philosophical difference rather than scriptural. I confess that I don't really have any other basis for my argument other than Scripture. As I see it, though, we shouldn't be arguing the philosophical. It seems to me that all of this 'should' be based solely on Scripture. Or am I not seeing something!?

    Basically, I believe the totality of Scripture in what God reveals about Himself and about man. I cannot ignore (tough) passages that speak to God's sovereignty and the fact that He is in control of His creation. Psalm 103:19, Isa 45:7, Isa 66:1 (repeated in Acts 7:49), Dan 4:34-25 - just to name a very few.

    Acts 16:14 tells us, 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.

    Who opened her heart to give her understanding? God.

    Ok, gotta get to payrolll....

    By Blogger Gayla, at 3/15/2007 10:36 AM  

  • Gayla, why do some people choose to keep to the speed limit and others do not?

    Why are some men faithful to their wives and others not?

    Why are some people willing to listen to the opinions of others and others preferring to be ignorant and obstinate?

    I think we can safely put the question of why some believe along with those questions.

    There are many factors at work that result in some people choosing certain actions over others. There are many reasons why a person may become open to the message of the Gospel (dissatisfaction with life, uncertainty about death, guilt over behaviour, breakdown of relationships etc).

    Every Blessing in Christ

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 3/15/2007 11:27 AM  

  • Rose, thanks for allowing the space for discussion. If you feel we’ve high-jacked this thread please let me know.

    Gayla it’s a pleasure to discuss our differences in this manner and I appreciate all you’ve said here. I think you’ve nailed the real question in asking, “why don’t all men believe?”

    We agree the scripture is the only authoritative source for finding our answer and that our understanding is invalid if it fails to satisfy the scripture but unfortunately it is philosophy that frames both our approach and our interpretation. A prime example is in the approach we each use to answer this question. Presupposing that God determines all things you would search to see what God would add in a man that he might believe. My presupposition being that, though God has established our boundaries, He created each of us in accordance with His will that all men be saved having all we would need to obey His command and that it is not God who adds rebellion in a man but man himself. While God most surely created the vessel He did not ordain that it be filled with wrath and fit for destruction. I would then find that it is not a thing God adds that allows a man to believe but a thing a man adds that would cause him to reject the truth, namely pride in its various forms. Does God move that we might be saved? Absolutely and it is He alone who can save us but as you already pointed out there is no record where He saved anyone who rejected His Christ, His salvation. Where you might say God controls all things I would say God is in control but not all controlling.

    By Blogger Kc, at 3/15/2007 12:05 PM  

  • What if instead of seeing faith as a gift, one sees regeneration as a gift?


    And if one sees regeneration as God's gracious gift of:

    -giving eyes to see and ears to hear

    -making them born again, before which they cannot even see the kingdom (let alone see the kingdom, like the kingdom, and choose the kingdom) (John 3:3-6)

    -making those who are dead alive (Eph 2:1-3)

    -opening hearts to believe (Acts 16:14)

    -drawing them to Christ, because they cannot come otherwise (John 6:44)

    -changing their hearts (Ezek 36:26-27) so that they no longer love the darkness and hate the light, but now they love the Light of the World (John 8:12) and believe in Him and are justified freely by His grace

    Then really the gift is not so much faith, but the ability to see and thereby trust the object of faith, Jesus the Christ.

    Really, I think gets more to the biblical understanding of things with regard to God's gift.

    Everyone has faith in something or someone, but the unregenerate do not really have Christ available as an option because the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.

    The natural man (or woman) does not understand the things of God because they are spiritually discerned.

    They don't believe because they don't want to. They will never want to until Christ appears as trustworthy to them, which cannot happen apart from divine grace.

    By Blogger GUNNY, at 3/21/2007 1:07 AM  

  • Gayla: "How can that be, when the Bible speaks to the fact that we are saved not by anything found in us. And Paul says that no one seeks after God. So what is the 'thing?'"

    Gayla, if you're still checking and reading this thread, I think that TJP has explained the Romans 3:11 scripture perfectly. The point being that none of us would seek God without the spirit of God drawing us. These people were left to their own sin. That would be the condition of man if we're left to our own sin. But thankfully we are not as God is ever drawing us.

    There is nothing found in us (i.e., righteousness) that is worthy of salvation. However, we all do have faith (in general) within us. It is man's responsibility to place that faith in Christ. We hear the gospel and some of us believe right away and some eventually believe after hearing the gospel over a period of time.

    http://liver-and-onions.blogspot.com/2007/02/there-is-none-that-seeketh-god-absolute.html#links

    By Blogger Dawn, at 3/27/2007 5:25 PM  

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