Thursday, September 06, 2007

Christian experience as a line of evidence

From Paul Helm:
[P]ersonal Christian experience is an important strand of evidence for the truth of the Christian faith. The question of how people are to be convinced of the truth of the Christian revelation, particularly if they come from a non-Christian background, has concerned theologians ever since the death of the apostles, and numerous proposals have been made. Some have said that the truth of the Christian revelation is established by human reason, while others have appealed to the historical credibility and trustworthiness of the revelation. Some have appealed to the authority of the church while still others have insisted that faith authenticates itself.

It would be rash to dismiss any of these lines of argument out of hand. A revelation that was manifestly logically incoherent could hardly be from the God of truth, nor could a revelation that claimed to reveal what has taken place in history retain credibility if it could be shown to be historically baseless. It could hardly be the case that Jesus Christ was crucified under Pontius Pilate if there never was such a man or if he had lived a hundred years earlier or later.

Among these various lines of evidence individual Christian experience has an important and an often underestimated place. It goes without saying that the experience of one person or of countless people cannot alter the truth. If Jesus Christ was not crucified then the existence of a million people who are convinced that He was crucified will not change history. Christianity is not true or even credible simply because countless people have believed that it is credible.

So personal experience cannot change history or objective truth of any kind. Yet one important feature of the Christian gospel is that it is not an abstract or theoretical set of doctrines or historical facts, but that it makes claims which hold good when put to the test in the everyday lives of people, of anyone. The diagnosis of human need in Scripture, the warnings about human plight before God, and the invitations to people to find forgiveness and new life in Christ, are found to hold true for all those who take these words seriously and who respond to them appropriately. Just as one way in which a doctor establishes his skill is in the making of accurate diagnoses, diagnoses which are found to hold good in fact, so the credibility of the gospel is to be established not only by rational argument or historical investigation, important as these are, but by the personal experience of its converting and liberating effects. For if the Christian gospel is true these effects will be found in human lives into which the gospel comes. And the fact that they are found to occur gives general credibility to the claims of the gospel. The fact that not every one finds the good news acceptable has an explanation (e.g. John 5:44), but whoever comes to Jesus will under no circumstances be turned away (John 6:35, 37).

In the third place Christian experience of God's grace is important as an evidence to others of the credibility and reality of what Christians profess to believe. This is a repeated theme of the New Testament. The reality of the truth is seen in changed lives. And the New Testament writers repeatedly draw attention to the inconsistency and hollowness of professing one thing and doing another (e.g. Matt. 23:13-28).

34 comments:

  1. Paul Helm is a capable Calvinist philosopher so I am wondering about a couple of things in his words here. First, he seems to be speaking of changed lives as evidence for the truth of Christianity. He seems to be taking an evidentialist approach to apologetics here. Without reviewing the disagreements between the evidentialist and presuppositional approaches to apologetics, it seems that the evidentialist approach is a method used primarily by people who are not Calvinists (i.e., believing that various evidences can be appealed to and the nonbeliever **can properly reason** about them and even come to saving faith as a result of these evidences). Second, if someone believes in depravity in the calvinistic sense as Helm does, then what real impact do any evidences have including changed lives of Christians, upon hearts incapable of responding with saving faith unless regenerated first? Regeneration according to some Calvinists must occur before someone can have faith. But evidences do not cause regeneration and regeneration is a miraculous action by God not involving human actions whatsoever. So how does Helm’s discussion of the usefulness of evidences of changed lives fit with a calvinism that claims that regeneration must occur first, that the spiritually dead cannot understand spiritual things, cannot reason properly about spiritual realities, are hostile to God, and that spiritual things including evidences of changed lives will just bounce off of the nonbeliever like water off of a duck’s back? I can understand how someone who is not a Calvinist (and does not believe in depravity in the calvinistic sense) would appeal to evidences including changed lives in their apologetic approach, seeking to persuade or see nonbelieving people’s hearts changed by reason and evidence. But a Calvinist who believes in depravity, the incapacity of nonbelievers to reasons properly about spiritual things, in the necessity of regeneration preceding faith, it does not seem to fit. A non-Calvinist apologist like John Warwick Montgomery or William Craig may appeal to evidences in this way, but a Calvinist like Helm who believes in total depravity?

    Robert

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  2. Robert,

    Disclaimer: I'm not well-educated in presuppositional vs. evidential apologetics. I'm speaking from my limited familiarity, with my own thoughts about it. I'll welcome correction or expansion.

    I don't believe Helm is proposing that historical and personal evidences on their own efficacy can bring an unregenerate human to faith. However, neither do presuppositional arguments. That is, showing the bankruptcy of non-Christian worldviews won't convince an unbeliever to repent any more than will heaping up evidence.

    For the non-elect, both types of argument can have the function of removing a sinner's excuses for disbelief, show-casing the justice of their condemnation.

    For the elect, both types of argument can be part of the means God uses to bring them to faith.

    I'll be interested to see what presuppositionalists say about this.

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  3. Robert: What real impact do any evidences have including changed lives of Christians, upon hearts incapable of responding with saving faith unless regenerated first?

    Vytautas: In Effectual calling, God's Spirit convinces us of our sin and misery, enlightens our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renews our wills, and he persuades and enables us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel. ( Q 31 in Shorter Catachism)

    I think the evidences/reasons can be used by the Holy Spirit in persuading us to embrace Chist.

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  4. "The reality of the truth is seen in changed lives."

    A close friend of mine converted to Buddhism a couple years ago, and his life has really changed a lot. So according to what Helm says, this would seem to indicate the presence of truth.

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  5. Eli,

    Your analysis of the logic of the situation is correct. A changed life is not sufficient to establish truth.

    Your understanding of what Helm claimed is not. He did not argue that experience is sufficient. He said that the reality of the truth is seen in changed lives, not that the truth is established by changed lives. On the contrary, every bit of this passage argues that experience is a valid component of an apologetic. In other words, changed lives are necessary but not sufficient. If Christianity is true, lives will change.

    Helm said, "For if the Christian gospel is true these effects will be found in human lives into which the gospel comes. And the fact that they are found to occur gives general credibility to the claims of the gospel." Buddhism might possess the same general credibility as Christianity on the same grounds--but it will fail on other grounds.


    Going back to my previous post: I found the Wikipedia article helpful. (I'd appreciate it if some presuppositionalists could vouch for it.) From the last paragraph:

    "Van Tillians in particular utilize evidence from many other disciplines (physical sciences, archaeology, philosophy, etc.) — as understood according to the Christian presuppositions — to argue in even "broader circles," seeking to demonstrate that all the universe, when understood correctly, plainly declares the wonders of the Creator."

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  6. Robert,

    "First, he seems to be speaking of changed lives as evidence for the truth of Christianity. He seems to be taking an evidentialist approach to apologetics here. Without reviewing the disagreements between the evidentialist and presuppositional approaches to apologetics, it seems that the evidentialist approach is a method used primarily by people who are not Calvinists."

    Helm has argued that Calvin himself should be better classified as an "evidentialist." See his "John Calvin's Ideas." So, to claim that he's not being a good "Calvinist" by employing "evidentialist" tactics would be met by him saying that since Calvin was an evidentialist, how could this count against Helm's Calvinism! Not saying he's right or wrong here, just pointing out that he'd have something to say about your classifications.

    Furthermore, "evidences" can play a large role. The could be used to butress and strengthen people who already believe the Christain worldview, but are doubting for some reason. They could play the role of defeater-defeaters, etc.

    And, I doubt Helm thinks that these arguments "save" in and of themselves. But, I'm sure that as a good calvinist, he would say that God could use them as means to bring his elect in.

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  7. A few quick comments:

    1.Calvinism doesn’t have an official version of apologetics.

    Princeton (e.g. Warfield, W. H. Green) was more evidentialist in emphasis. And let’s not forget that Van Til wasn’t the only one doing apologetics at Westminster. Stonehouse, Allis, and Young were also doing apologetics in their defensive of Scripture, and their defense ran along the evidentialist lines of Princeton.

    2.Robert is caricaturing Calvinism (what else is new?) by equating Calvinism with Hyper-Calvinism. But God works through means. Remember, Calvinism has a strong doctrine of providence. It’s not all about miracles like regeneration.

    Apologetics will be effective for the elect, since God will regenerate them, thereby creating in them a predisposition to believe good arguments for the Christian faith.

    Regeneration doesn’t create evidence. Rather, it creates (more precisely, recreates) a mind receptive to evidence.

    3.Robert is also committing a category mistake by confusing the argument from religious experience with evidential apologetics. But evidentialism accentuates public, historical evidence—not private, personal experience. The objective dimension rather than the subjective dimension.

    4.The Puritans, most of whom were Calvinists, were profoundly concerned with “experimental religion.” Just read Owen or Edwards on religious experience.

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  8. I am not sure that my point is understood, but I will make brief replies to some of the replies.

    Vytautas said:

    “I think the evidences/reasons can be used by the Holy Spirit in persuading us to embrace Chist.”

    I thought that regeneration precedes faith (according to the Calvinists here) and that this regeneration is what produces faith. So the nonbeliever is incapable of any kind of positive spiritual response (due to his depravity), until he is regenerated. Once regenerated, then faith inevitably comes afterwards. Since regeneration is a miraculous action by God completely independent of any means, “evidences/reasons” have no part to play in the regeneration of an individual. And the person is in fact saved when he/she is regenerated, so that the “evidences/reasons” played no part in his being saved/regenerated.

    Paul Manata said:

    “Helm has argued that Calvin himself should be better classified as an "evidentialist." See his "John Calvin's Ideas." So, to claim that he's not being a good "Calvinist" by employing "evidentialist" tactics would be met by him saying that since Calvin was an evidentialist, how could this count against Helm's Calvinism! Not saying he's right or wrong here, just pointing out that he'd have something to say about your classifications.”

    My point is that any Calvinist using or endorsing evidentialist apologetics is allowing for non-Calvinist ideas into his thinking. For example, the evidentialist believes that the non-believer is perfectly capable of understanding some spiritual things and evaluating truth claims and evidences including such scriptural truth claims like the resurrection (if the nonbeliever can properly reason about these evidences for the resurrection, then how does **that** fit with total depravity?).

    “Furthermore, "evidences" can play a large role. The could be used to butress and strengthen people who already believe the Christain worldview, but are doubting for some reason. They could play the role of defeater-defeaters, etc.”

    I have a friend who sometimes reminds me that the primary positive usefulness of apologetics is not for nonbelievers but for strengthening the faith of people who are already believers. Example - when they see how reliable scripture is, and how well the scripture was preserved down through the years, this fact strengthens the faith they already have in scripture. Your point is well taken, evidences can be very useful for people who are Christians.

    “And, I doubt Helm thinks that these arguments "save" in and of themselves. But, I'm sure that as a good calvinist, he would say that God could use them as means to bring his elect in.”

    I have no doubt that Helm does not believe that arguments of any kind save “in and of themselves”. That is not my point. Stated another way: if regeneration precedes faith and if regeneration is a miraculous action by God done completely independent of any other means (miracles usually are instantaneous and not involving means but are direct actions of God) then what place do evidences or reasons have if the key is regeneration and regeneration is a direct miracle of God independent of reasons or evidence?

    steve said:

    “1.Calvinism doesn’t have an official version of apologetics.”

    Never claimed that it did. Though it seems to me that a Calvinist who takes total depravity seriously is not going to hold some of the presuppositions held by evidentialists (e.g. like appealing to the reasoning abilities of nonbelievers believing that they can reason properly about spiritual things in their state of nonbelief).

    “2.Robert is caricaturing Calvinism (what else is new?) by equating Calvinism with Hyper-Calvinism. But God works through means. Remember, Calvinism has a strong doctrine of providence. It’s not all about miracles like regeneration.”

    I am not the one who claims that regeneration precedes faith, you folks make that argument. My problem is that if this is true, then a person is saved by the miraculous act of regeneration. And this act of regeneration is done by God alone, independent of means (which would include apologetics and providing reasons, arguments and evidences). So evidence and reasons and apologetics have no relation with this miracle which then inevitably produces faith as a consequence.

    God does indeed work through means (e.g. He uses the preaching by His people to get the gospel out to others). But regeneration which according to you folks precedes faith, is a miraculous action by God, not involving means. Since regeneration does not involve means, it does not involve evidences or reasons. So there really is no need for apologetics in such a system. What a person really needs is to be regenerated. And God regenerates these persons without means, without apologetics. Once he is regenerated, then if apologetics has a positive effect upon him it is only as he is a saved person and can now use his reason properly and understand spiritual things. Prior to regeneration he is spiritually dead incapable of understanding spiritual things, hostile to God, etc. Etc.

    “Apologetics will be effective for the elect, since God will regenerate them, thereby creating in them a predisposition to believe good arguments for the Christian faith.”

    According to this statement, they are regenerated before apologetics will have any positive effect. If apologetics had the positive effect before they were regenerated then this would go against your conception of depravity. You folks are the ones who argue the nonbeliever is spiritually dead, like a spiritual corpse incapable of any positive response or positive action. If they have a predisposition to believe good arguments for the Christian faith, is this not due to them having been regenerated according to your system? So again they have to be saved/regenerated first, before apologetics has any positive effect.

    “Regeneration doesn’t create evidence. Rather, it creates (more precisely, recreates) a mind receptive to evidence.”

    So according to you, a mind receptive to evidence is a creation of regeneration. And so someone not having this mind created by regeneration will not be receptive of evidence, or will be incapable of being receptive to any evidence because he is spiritually dead, correct? And if he is non-receptive to evidence prior to regeneration, then what place does apologetics have for this person in their unbelieving and spiritually unreceptive state?

    “3.Robert is also committing a category mistake by confusing the argument from religious experience with evidential apologetics. But evidentialism accentuates public, historical evidence—not private, personal experience. The objective dimension rather than the subjective dimension.”

    Seems that **any** evidence is going to bounce off of the nonbeliever who has not had his “mind created by regeneration” to be receptive of evidence of spiritual realities and truth.

    The person who is not a Calvinist who does not hold to the calvinistic conception of depravity can believe that nonbelievers though corrupted by sin in every aspect of their being including in their minds and in their thinking, are nevertheless capable of reasoning and understanding spiritual things to some extent. And it is because they can understand, because they can reason, to some extent, that apologetics has a useful place.

    Robert

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  9. My point is that any Calvinist using or endorsing evidentialist apologetics is allowing for non-Calvinist ideas into his thinking. For example, the evidentialist believes that the non-believer is perfectly capable of understanding some spiritual things and evaluating truth claims and evidences including such scriptural truth claims like the resurrection (if the nonbeliever can properly reason about these evidences for the resurrection, then how does **that** fit with total depravity?)

    A. It fits with total depravity insofar as each person carries the image of God on his soul and is able to make intellectual judgments based on the evidence.

    Total depravity does not mean that person cannot make intellectual judgments and adjudiate evidences. Rather it refers to the *authority* of those judgments. He may intellectually affirm Jesus rose from the grave but still not bend his knee to Jesus as Lord.

    By the way, it is the Arminians who have historically denied the innate idea/knowledge of God in man. See, for example, "The Denial of the Innate Idea of God in Dutch Remonstrant Theology from Episcopius to Van Limborch," by John E. Platt in Protestant Scholasticism Essays in Reassessment.

    B. And it would only be a "non-Calvinist" idea if it was assuming libertarian freedom and denying the innate idea of God in man.

    C. Which gets us to Robert. Assuming he's a believer in libertarian action theory, why does he believe one man believes the evidences and not the other?

    And this act of regeneration is done by God alone, independent of means (which would include apologetics and providing reasons, arguments and evidences

    No, that's hyper-Calvinism at worst and a very narrow strand of Dutch Reformed theology at best.

    See: http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/08/regeneration-and-flyswatter-part-two.html

    God's call is made effectual by the Word and the Spirit. It is important to see that the Word and the Spirit are here conjoined as two vital factors of regeneration. The Holy Spirit is not working apart from the Word or against the Word, but with the Word. Nor is the Word working alone without the presence and power of the Spirit. (Sproul, The Heart of Reformed Theology 190 - 191.)

    While regeneration is a sovereign act of God according to election, it is an encouraging fact both for the sinner and the preacher of the word that God's regenerating grace is commonly bestowed where the preparatory work is performed. This is the rule, under the gospel dispensation. He who reads and meditates upon the word of God is ordinarily enlightened by the Holy Ghost, perhaps in the very act of reading, or hearing, or meditating. "While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word," Acts 10 : 44. He who asks for regenerating grace may be regenerated perhaps in the act of praying. God has appointed certain human acts whereby to make ready the heart of man for the divine act. Without attentive reading and hearing of the word, and prayer, the soul is not a fit subject for regenerating grace. (Shedd, Regeneration, cf: http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/Shedd_Regeneration.html

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  10. While the other responses to Robert are already sufficient to neutralize his "complaint" against Calvinism, there is one more thing I'd like to point out. Robert said:
    ---
    I thought that regeneration precedes faith (according to the Calvinists here) and that this regeneration is what produces faith. So the nonbeliever is incapable of any kind of positive spiritual response (due to his depravity), until he is regenerated. Once regenerated, then faith inevitably comes afterwards. Since regeneration is a miraculous action by God completely independent of any means, “evidences/reasons” have no part to play in the regeneration of an individual. And the person is in fact saved when he/she is regenerated, so that the “evidences/reasons” played no part in his being saved/regenerated.
    ---

    There is something missing in the above. Even if we pretend Robert's false impression of Calvinism is accurate for the moment, something very important is missing. Allow me to emphasize a couple of key quotes:

    "I thought that regeneration precedes faith...and that this regeneration is what produces faith. ...Once regenerated, then faith inevitably comes afterwards."

    So what's the problem with the above? Only this: there is no object for "faith" in the above.

    Regeneration precedes faith...in Whom?

    Faith without an object is blind fideism. Christian faith requires faith in Christ, and that requires a certain knowledge of Christ. When God regenerates a sinner, the evidence for who He is becomes clear to the sinner. God isn't creating brand-new knowledge in the sinner; He is renewing the mind so that the plain things of God can be perceived.

    I think those who try to put up presuppositionalism and evidentialism as if they are diametrically opposed, as if you could only have one and not the other, do a great disservice to the Christian faith. Presuppositionalism is great at pointing out how the depravity of man warps man's ability to view the evidence of God's nature--but it does not deny that that evidence exists! Evidentialism is great at presenting that evidence in the first place--and evidentialism does not require one to deny depravity.

    Therefore, Robert's wall is a false wall. There is no reason that presuppositional apologetics cannot go hand in hand with evidentialist apologetics--in fact, the Bible itself engages in both methods.

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  11. Robert,

    "My point is that any Calvinist using or endorsing evidentialist apologetics is allowing for non-Calvinist ideas into his thinking."

    And my point was that Helm takes it that he has shown (at least produced decent arguments for) that *Calvin himself* is best classified as an *evidentialist.* So, your critique would be a shock to Helm, and to Calvin, and to many Calvinists.

    And, perhaps you should define 'evidentialist apologetics.'

    And, I don't see how someone being 'totally depraved' means that they can't recognize that the evidence is on the side of, say, the resurrection. Is it that they can't see this without God's grace? But this is in every situation, no? So, do you think that calvinist Christian police detectives should not tell the D.A. to "look at the evidence" that points to so-an-so's guilt?

    And, I believe that guys like Wykstra put forward versions of evidentialism that can escape much of your criticisms.

    Now, of course, if an "evidentialist apologetic" is taken to mean that beliefs cannot be justified or warranted without evidence in their favor, then we'd have problems there. But not because of any uniquely Calvinistic beliefs.

    Anyway, if you haven't caught my point, I'm saying that you're not really arguing but asserting. And the assertions are sloppy. You need to tie together premises and conclusions.

    "For example, the evidentialist believes that the non-believer is perfectly capable of understanding some spiritual things and evaluating truth claims and evidences including such scriptural truth claims like the resurrection (if the nonbeliever can properly reason about these evidences for the resurrection, then how does **that** fit with total depravity?)."

    Because there's a difference between faith and intellectual assent.

    Take my biological brother, for example. I've argued with him ad nauseum. He now *believes* that Christian theism is true, and he *understands* the spiritual points I've made to him (and even admits that he's a sinner). But, he refuses to *trust and rest* in Christ alone. He says, "I believe it, I just don't want to live that way. I like to party."

    And, furthermore, as Gene pointed out, you're misunderstanding total depravity. Usually one tries to understand his opponant before critiquing him. Total depravity says that sin has affected all of mans faculties. What, do you belive that the mind is a pure, untainted, blank slate? Has sin not affected our noetic faculties?

    "Your point is well taken, evidences can be very useful for people who are Christians."

    Right. And so not *every time* you see a Calvinist giving "evidences* does it mean that they are "trying to save unbelievers" by the evidences. Hence you may have jumped the gun. And, furthermore, Helm is giving arguments for why *the believer* is justified in his beliefs. So, he's taking a Christian view of things (e.g., he's not reducing these experiences to C-fibers firing) and showing that on our view we have evidences for what we believe. Most responses to this are just question-begging. When people say that Christains don;t have "evidences" for their beliefs they're usually assuming a naturalistic and physicalistic picture of the world.

    "I have no doubt that Helm does not believe that arguments of any kind save “in and of themselves”. That is not my point. Stated another way: if regeneration precedes faith and if regeneration is a miraculous action by God done completely independent of any other means (miracles usually are instantaneous and not involving means but are direct actions of God) then what place do evidences or reasons have if the key is regeneration and regeneration is a direct miracle of God independent of reasons or evidence?"

    i) Evidences play many roles. You just admitted one such role above. So why now ask "what place does evidence have?"

    ii) Regeneration is an act by God. But most Calvinists have believed that God doesn't just "zap" his unregenerated elect as they're watching football games. It is usually in the context of hearing the gospel call.

    iii) Furthermore, yuou're assuming that the *only* role that apologetics has is to "bring people to belief." But, this is not so. It has the role of mouth-shutting sometimes.

    iv) But, sometimes God will take away intellectual barriers before he regenerates someone. The apologist may be used in taking away these barriers.

    v) Apologetics is "giving an answer of reason for what you believe." In the locus classicus of apologetic texts, I Pet. 3:15, we don't read anything about our *resons* or *answers* being what saves people. So, the apologist faithfully does his job, God does His job. In either case, my apologetic could be used to bring the man to salvation, or to damn him all the more on judgment day.

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  12. Hi Tim,

    "Going back to my previous post: I found the Wikipedia article helpful. (I'd appreciate it if some presuppositionalists could vouch for it.) From the last paragraph:

    Yes; in fact that sounds like something John Frame would have written.

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  13. PAUL MANATA SAID:

    ”And, perhaps you should define 'evidentialist apologetics.'”

    It is not so much the definition of evidentialist apologetics, it is the assumptions held by those who espouse evidentialist apologetics. Assumptions that do not seem to square with the calvinistic conception of depravity. Example, the evidentialists that I know believe that they can reason with the nonbeliever about all sorts of things including spiritual things, with the nonbeliever being perfectly capable of understanding all that is said. On the other hand, the Calvinists will say that while the unbeliever can understand some things, they cannot understand spiritual things at all (often citing 1 Cor. 2:14 “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him and HE CANNOT UNDERSTAND THEM, because they are spiritually appraised” and emphasizing the HE CANNOT UNDERSTAND THEM).

    When I write to someone in English I do so with the assumption that they understand English and so communication and understanding can and will occur. Further I assume when speaking to the nonbeliever that they can follow the logic of my arguments and they can understand what I am talking about. Some Calvinists speak about the nonbeliever **as if** they cannot understand spiritual things or arguments whatsoever, then they appeal to 1 Cor. 2:14 and other favorite proof texts.

    ”And, I don't see how someone being 'totally depraved' means that they can't recognize that the evidence is on the side of, say, the resurrection. Is it that they can't see this without God's grace? But this is in every situation, no? So, do you think that Calvinist Christian police detectives should not tell the D.A. to "look at the evidence" that points to so-an-so's guilt?”

    I believe that the bible teaches as Storms puts it “the totality of their being is polluted by sin and selfishness”. But I am not a Calvinist and your conception of depravity goes beyond merely teaching that the effects of sin are extensive and universal. Again, the Calvinists that I know will start with the idea of the extensiveness and universality of sin and then extrapolate from this to the conclusion that the nonbeliever cannot understand spiritual things and so must be regenerated first before they are capable of understanding and properly responding to the gospel message.

    To prevent speaking past each other, Paul how would you define depravity?

    And how would your definition be different than mine which agrees with Storms that “the totality of their being is polluted by sin and selfishness?” It seems to me that non-Calvinists like myself and Calvinists like yourself are not operating from the same conception of depravity.

    ”Now, of course, if an "evidentialist apologetic" is taken to mean that beliefs cannot be justified or warranted without evidence in their favor, then we'd have problems there. But not because of any uniquely Calvinistic beliefs.”

    I would suggest that all reasonable people (both believers and nonbelievers) believe that beliefs that are true will be justified or warranted **with** evidence.

    ”Because there's a difference between faith and intellectual assent.”

    Right just like the difference between the devil who believes in God knows with certainty of God’s existence, and the believer who invests personal trust in the Lord. The Spirit is the one who shows people who Jesus is, what He did, how a person is saved, etc. etc. Apart from the work of the Spirit no one could believe, no one could have a faith response to the gospel message.

    ”Take my biological brother, for example. I've argued with him ad nauseum. He now *believes* that Christian theism is true, and he *understands* the spiritual points I've made to him (and even admits that he's a sinner). But, he refuses to *trust and rest* in Christ alone. He says, "I believe it, I just don't want to live that way. I like to party."”

    Well this kinda proves my point, assuming your brother is a nonbeliever, he understands spiritual things without a problem. His problem is not intellectual, his problem is one of submission, of authority. He refuses to bow to the Lordship of Christ. He refuses to humble himself before the Lord. Jesus made it clear that anyone who wanted to be his follower had to submit to Him as Lord. I run into this kind of thing lots of times when witnessing to people: they understand but they do not want to submit to God. They want to retain their own authority so that no one tells them what to do, say, or think! Not even God! So the problem with these folks is not an inability to understand spiritual things, but a desire to remain “in control”, a desire to continue to play God.

    ”And, furthermore, as Gene pointed out, you're misunderstanding total depravity. Usually one tries to understand his opponant before critiquing him. Total depravity says that sin has affected all of mans faculties.”

    Again, the non-Calvinist who takes their bible seriously believes that “sin has affected all of mans faculties”. All bible-believing Christians believe that. But Calvinists have a different conception of depravity.

    “ What, do you belive that the mind is a pure, untainted, blank slate?”

    Nope, I don’t believe that and I have made it clear that I do not believe that.

    “Has sin not affected our noetic faculties?”

    Affected, but not destroyed, not made people incapable of following an argument or understanding spiritual things.

    ”When people say that Christains don;t have "evidences" for their beliefs they're usually assuming a naturalistic and physicalistic picture of the world.”

    Most people are just throwing up smokescreens so that they can remain in control of their lives and not submit to anyone else’s authority including God’s. The evidences are there, but the problem is not lack of evidence, but the desire to retain “personal autonomy”, to do it as Sinatra put it: “I did it my way”!

    ”i) Evidences play many roles. You just admitted one such role above. So why now ask "what place does evidence have?"”

    I meant in relation to someone who holds the calvinistic conception of depravity. Those Calvinists who claim that nonbelievers are incapable of understanding spiritual things due to **depravity**.

    ”ii) Regeneration is an act by God. But most Calvinists have believed that God doesn't just "zap" his unregenerated elect as they're watching football games. It is usually in the context of hearing the gospel call.”

    But this “zapping” or regeneration is a miraculous act of God independent of physical or natural means is it not? Or does this miraculous action involve physical and natural means? My conception of miracles is that they do not involve any physical or natural means whatsoever, they occur by the pure power and activity of God alone.

    ”iii) Furthermore, yuou're assuming that the *only* role that apologetics has is to "bring people to belief." But, this is not so. It has the role of mouth-shutting sometimes.”

    When did I ever say it is **only** to “bring people to belief”? I have already clearly stated that it is helpful for believers as well.

    ”iv) But, sometimes God will take away intellectual barriers before he regenerates someone. The apologist may be used in taking away these barriers.”

    Been there done that.

    ”v) Apologetics is "giving an answer of reason for what you believe." In the locus classicus of apologetic texts, I Pet. 3:15, we don't read anything about our *resons* or *answers* being what saves people. So, the apologist faithfully does his job, God does His job. In either case, my apologetic could be used to bring the man to salvation, or to damn him all the more on judgment day.”
    We are to be ready to give an answer to those who ask. What is often left out is that the text speaks of the nonbeliever asking questions that we then answer. These questions occur because the nonbeliever sees that we are different, that we act different, and so the questions come. A life transformed by the grace of God leads to observable differences and then the questions come!

    Our answers and evidences do not save people. People are saved only when as a result of the work of the Spirit people realize who Jesus is, what He did, confess their sinfulness, humble themselves before God and throw their confidence completely upon the finished work of Christ as the basis of their salvation/justification

    Robert

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  14. Very interesting discussion so far. I am going to post a bit more from Shedd’s article, and then ask a few questions:

    >> He who asks for regenerating grace may be regenerated perhaps in the act of praying. God has appointed certain human acts whereby to make ready the heart of man for the divine act. Without attentive reading and hearing of the word, and prayer, the soul is not a fit subject for regenerating grace. By " fitness" is not meant holiness, or even the faintest desire for holiness; but a conviction of guilt and danger, a sense of sin and utter impotence to everything spiritually good. Such an experience as this " breaks up the fallow ground," to employ the Scripture metaphor. Jer. 4:3; Hosea 10:12. When the Holy Ghost finds this preparation, then he usually intervenes with his quickening agency. The effect of prevenient grace in conviction is commonly followed by special grace in regeneration; the fact of the outward call is a reason both for the sinner and the minister of the word, for expecting the inward call. Yet regeneration, after all the preparation that has been made by conviction and legal illumination, depends upon the sovereign will of God. "The wind bloweth where it listeth, so is every one that is born of the Spirit," John 3: 8. Regeneration rests upon God's election, and not upon man's preparative acts; upon special grace, and not upon common grace…Salvation is in the highest degree probable for any person who earnestly and diligently uses common grace, and the means of common grace. (http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/Shedd_Regeneration.html .)>>

    Does anyone else find some of Shedd’s comments inconsistent with the “T” of TULIP? For instance, “He who asks for regenerating grace” sure seems at odds with one who is spiritually “DEAD”; but rather, is more consistent with one who is spiritually “WOUNDED”.

    In many Reformed works, I find a certain criticism of the phrase “prevenient grace”; once again, the phrase seems inconsistent with total inability, and appears to be more consistent with Arminianism. Do any other Reformed theologians use this phrase?

    And finally, any thoughts on: “Salvation is in the highest degree probable for any person who earnestly and diligently uses common grace”?


    Grace and peace,

    David

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  15. Given the number of other commenters who have weighed in, I don’t know if I really need to add anything to what I originally said. Keep in mind my original disclaimer: I didn’t claim to be offering a systematic response—just a few quick comments.

    robert said...

    “Though it seems to me that a Calvinist who takes total depravity seriously is not going to hold some of the presuppositions held by evidentialists (e.g. like appealing to the reasoning abilities of nonbelievers believing that they can reason properly about spiritual things in their state of nonbelief).”

    Now your equivocating by confounding the use of *evidence* with *evidentialism* as an apologetic system. None of this begins to follow from the Helm material. Rather, you’re just using this as a pretext to attack Calvinism.

    “My problem is that if this is true, then a person is saved by the miraculous act of regeneration.”

    This is simplistic. Regeneration doesn’t “save” a person. There are several elements in salvation. Regeneration is a necessary, but insufficient condition of salvation. But where regeneration occurs, the other conditions will also be met.

    “So evidence and reasons and apologetics have no relation with this miracle which then inevitably produces faith as a consequence.”

    Wrong again. Where do you come up with this stuff, anyway?

    Regeneration doesn’t inevitably produce faith. It creates an automatic predisposition to exercise saving faith when the mind is presented, whether before or after, with suitable evidence. If evidence is presented prior to regeneration, then that will expedite the transition to saving faith since the regenerate will already have a knowledge of the object of faith (as well as many supporting reasons).

    *Believers* believe in something. Regeneration is no a substitute for evidence, just as evidence is no substitute for regeneration.

    “So there really is no need for apologetics in such a system.”

    Simplistic. It doesn’t create faith, but it grounds faith, and may often supply the object of faith—although preaching or Bible reading can also supply the object of faith. In apologetics you get the object of faith (assuming it’s an orthodox version of apologetics) plus supporting arguments.

    “What a person really needs is to be regenerated.”

    False dichotomy.

    “And God regenerates these persons without means, without apologetics.”

    They are regenerated apart from means, but they don’t believe apart from means. Saving grace (e.g. regeneration) and the means of grace (e.g. the gospel) go together.

    “Prior to regeneration he is spiritually dead incapable of understanding spiritual things, hostile to God, etc. Etc.”

    Even unbelievers can understand the gospel and supporting arguments for the Gospel, or the Bible in general, and that’s a useful preliminary step.

    Indeed, “unbelievers” can believe many portions of Scripture, but that’s not the same thing as saving faith.

    A seed won’t grow without water and fertile soil, but watering and fertilizing unseeded soil won’t make anything grow. Sowing seeds of knowledge in the mind of the unregenerate doesn’t, of itself, trigger saving faith, but it supplies a necessary condition. You can’t reap what you don’t sow. You can’t water or fertilize the gospel unless you plant the gospel in the first place.

    “If apologetics had the positive effect before they were regenerated then this would go against your conception of depravity. You folks are the ones who argue the nonbeliever is spiritually dead, like a spiritual corpse incapable of any positive response or positive action.”

    Another caricature of Calvinism. What Reformed theologians have you actually read?

    The unregenerate cannot bring themselves to a state of saving faith, but they can bring themselves to church, they can bring themselves to a Bible study or a prayer service, &c. There are many things the natural man can do.

    “So according to you, a mind receptive to evidence is a creation of regeneration. And so someone not having this mind created by regeneration will not be receptive of evidence, or will be incapable of being receptive to any evidence because he is spiritually dead, correct?”

    He will be unreceptive to saving faith. But he is capable of believing the evidence short of saving faith. And that queues him up for salvation, although it doesn’t guarantee that he will take the final step—since regeneration is beyond his control. But the means of grace are not.

    “And if he is non-receptive to evidence prior to regeneration, then what place does apologetics have for this person in their unbelieving and spiritually unreceptive state? “

    Among other things, it can move him into a spiritually conducive environment.

    “Seems that **any** evidence is going to bounce off of the nonbeliever who has not had his “mind created by regeneration” to be receptive of evidence of spiritual realities and truth.”

    You continue to equivocate. The argument from religious experience is not the same thing as “evidence” in “evidentialism.”

    “And it is because they can understand, because they can reason, to some extent, that apologetics has a useful place.”

    Yet another straw man argument. Calvinism doesn’t deny that unbelievers can use their reason to grasp apologetic arguments or understand theological propositions.

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  16. Does anyone else find some of Shedd’s comments inconsistent with the “T” of TULIP? For instance, “He who asks for regenerating grace” sure seems at odds with one who is spiritually “DEAD”; but rather, is more consistent with one who is spiritually “WOUNDED”.

    It would only be inconsistent if he was asking for the right reasons, but he may ask out of his own self-interest or because he was instructed to do so.

    In many Reformed works, I find a certain criticism of the phrase “prevenient grace”; once again, the phrase seems inconsistent with total inability, and appears to be more consistent with Arminianism. Do any other Reformed theologians use this phrase?


    What Reformed works are rejecting here is universal prevenient grace (UPG). UPG is a stock Arminian concept. The Reformed believe in common grace that is prevenient to all, but prevenient special grace, that which comes by the cross for the purpose of leading a man to a saving knowledge of Christ, is effectual, not ineffectual. UPG proponents try to hide behind it to say they accept total depravity by using UPG to alleviate it, but they must still account for the reason men positively respond to the gospel from an unregenerate state, given the contraints of libertarian freedom.


    And finally, any thoughts on: “Salvation is in the highest degree probable for any person who earnestly and diligently uses common grace”?


    This is, in essence, a repetition of Paschal's wager. Granted Paschal was Roman Catholic, but his point was that the person who actually goes to church and participates in the life of the church is, all other things being equal, more likely than the heathen to come to saving faith. That's true even in Reformed thinking, insofar as they are sitting the "way of grace." The visible, local church is an artifact of the New Covenant, and assuming it is preaching the gospel and operating properly, that person will be exposed to the gospel more than if he never went. In terms of probability, he is "more likely" to be saved than not. Likewise, we affirm, " As the providence of God doth in general reach to all creatures, so after a more special manner it taketh care of his church, and disposeth of all things to the good thereof." (LBCF 5.7) However, we would add to that a caveat: it also increases his culpability on the day of judgment, for if he does this and yet rejects the gospel, he is putting himself in the position of those in the wilderness generation and falling under the condemnations in Hebrews. He is like the Jews who had all the precepts of the Law and the Prophets and rejected the Messiah when he came in person. That's why our confession, like the LBCF2 read:As for those wicked and ungodly men whom God, as the righteous judge, for former sin doth blind and harden; from them he not only withholdeth his grace, whereby they might have been enlightened in their understanding, and wrought upon their hearts; but sometimes also withdraweth the gifts which they had, and exposeth them to such objects as their corruption makes occasion of sin; and withal, gives them over to their own lusts, the temptations of the world, and the power of Satan, whereby it comes to pass that they harden themselves,under those means which God useth for the softening of others. (5.6)

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  17. Robert said:

    "Assumptions that do not seem to square with the calvinistic conception of depravity. Example, the evidentialists that I know believe that they can reason with the nonbeliever about all sorts of things including spiritual things, with the nonbeliever being perfectly capable of understanding all that is said."

    All presuppositionalists I know believe that they can "reason" with unbelievers about all sorts of things, including spiritual things. You're not really offering critiques, you're offering charicatures. Anyway, this trades on how we understand "reason." I don't take it as "unaided" and "ultimately authoriative." But, that it is a "tool" and must be used "in submission to God," doesn't hinder me from "reasoning" with unbelievers; *even if they disagree with my conception of reason.* So, you're not attacking Calvinism, presuppositionalism, Helm, or any one here for that matter. You're beating up on some straw men.

    " On the other hand, the Calvinists will say that while the unbeliever can understand some things, they cannot understand spiritual things at all (often citing 1 Cor. 2:14 “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him and HE CANNOT UNDERSTAND THEM, because they are spiritually appraised” and emphasizing the HE CANNOT UNDERSTAND THEM)."

    And? I don't get it. Are you trying to critique the Bible? If not, then you must believe that the exegetical intent of this passage isn't talking about apologetics, right? Your critiques are very ambiguous and trade on equivocations. Your're not bothering to cite anyone, analyze the situation, you just cite "some guys you know."

    "Some Calvinists speak about the nonbeliever **as if** they cannot understand spiritual things or arguments whatsoever, then they appeal to 1 Cor. 2:14 and other favorite proof texts."

    Is your argument against Calvinism and presuppositionalism, or is it against "some Calvinists" who say this and that?

    "I believe that the bible teaches as Storms puts it “the totality of their being is polluted by sin and selfishness”. But I am not a Calvinist and your conception of depravity goes beyond merely teaching that the effects of sin are extensive and universal."

    Huh? Where do you get this stuff? Why are you speaking for me? And, why am I being held to what "some Calvinists" have said?

    "Again, the Calvinists that I know will start with the idea of the extensiveness and universality of sin and then extrapolate from this to the conclusion that the nonbeliever cannot understand spiritual things and so must be regenerated first before they are capable of understanding and properly responding to the gospel message."

    Yeah, your problem is because you're not bothering to understand anyone.

    There's a distinction between accepting the Gospel in a saving way, and in accepting truths of/about Jesus/God/Christianity in a merely intellectual way. I mean, even demons believe, right?

    So, when the "Calvinists you know" say that, they are talking about accepting christ as savior and Lord. As placing their trust in his obedience (both active and passive).

    But, one need not be "regenerated" to say, "Okay, you can answer these problems against your faith."

    "And how would your definition be different than mine which agrees with Storms that “the totality of their being is polluted by sin and selfishness?” It seems to me that non-Calvinists like myself and Calvinists like yourself are not operating from the same conception of depravity."

    I agree with the Confession, for starters: “Man, by his fall Into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; so as a natural man, being altogether averse from good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.”


    "I would suggest that all reasonable people (both believers and nonbelievers) believe that beliefs that are true will be justified or warranted **with** evidence."

    That's not what i said. I said that a belief *must have* evidence for it to be justified and warranted.

    So, I don't know how to take you. Siffice it to say, there are many beliefs that we do not now (nor may we ever) have evidence for them, yet we are justified and warranted in believing them (one example being the belief in other minds, e.g.,).

    "Well this kinda proves my point, assuming your brother is a nonbeliever, he understands spiritual things without a problem. His problem is not intellectual, his problem is one of submission, of authority. He refuses to bow to the Lordship of Christ."

    Right, and rather than "proving your point" perhaps this is a "showing you you're attacking straw men." You see, rather than say, "Oh, I guess my criticisms was off the mark" you say, "Oh, Paul can't mean what he said 'cause he's a nasty Calvinist, so he must be mistaken and is therefore proving my point."

    So, I thank you for granting *my* point and admitting you attacked a straw man.

    "Affected, but not destroyed, not made people incapable of following an argument or understanding spiritual things."

    And where have presuppositionalists said this? Perhaps they have said thinsg that *you take* to be like this, but that's because you fail to do the homework required to understand them.

    Van Til writes, "We are well aware of the fact that non-Christian have a great deal of knowledge about this world which is true as far as it goes. That is, there is a sense in which we can and must allow for the value of knowledge of non-Christians."
    (Introduction to Systematic Theology, p. 26)

    Doesn't look like that presuppositionalist enfant terrible thought that our ability to reason and think was "destroyed."

    So, with that, I've shown that your objections are overgeneralized, hasty, lacking in knowledge of your opponent, and flat out at odds with what Calvinists and presuppositionalists themselves have claimed.

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  18. I had written:

    So evidence and reasons and apologetics have no relation with this miracle which then inevitably produces faith as a consequence.

    Steve Hays responded:

    ”Wrong again. Where do you come up with this stuff, anyway?

    Regeneration doesn’t inevitably produce faith. It creates an automatic predisposition to exercise saving faith when the mind is presented, whether before or after, with suitable evidence.”

    Many examples could be produced but I will provide only the following from Monergism.com. Here are statements by John Henryx in an article titled TWO VIEWS OF REGENERATION. Under the heading of monergism, Henryx makes a couple of statements:

    “Regeneration has causal priority to faith (Just as a person must have eyes before they see and ears prior to their ability to hear, so one must first have a new heart in order to understand spiritual truth)

    Faith is not produced by our unregenerated human nature. It is the immediate and inevitable product of the new nature. The new heart (by nature) loves Christ.”

    According to the first statement, a person must have a new heart (i.e. be regenerated) IN ORDER TO UNDERSTAND SPIRITUAL TRUTH. The corollary then is that if one does not have this new heart, is not regenerated, then they cannot understand spiritual truth.

    According to the second statement, faith is an INEVITABLE PRODUCT of the new nature. So this statement is saying that regeneration produces faith as an INEVITABLE PRODUCT. Statements such as these by Henryx are common and represent what many Calvinists believe in regard to regeneration.

    Consider the contrast:

    REGENERATION DOESN’T INEVITABLY PRODUCE FAITH (Hays)

    And

    FAITH . . . IS THE IMMEDIATE AND INEVITABLE PRODUCT OF THE NEW NATURE (Henryx)

    These are contradictory statements, both cannot be true. Henryx seems to be representative of what Calvinists believe in regards to regeneration, Hays is not.

    Robert

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  19. Hello Gene,

    Thanks for responding. At the risk of sounding somewhat judgmental, I found your third response to be excellent, the second interesting and in need of clarification, but the first a bit condescending.

    On the second: Shedd seemed to be equating “prevenient grace” with “common grace”; is not “common grace” universal?

    On the first: “It would only be inconsistent if he was asking for the right reasons, but he may ask out of his own self-interest or because he was instructed to do so.”

    I shall assume that the “he” referred to in your reponse is me. Since I am probably the foremost authority (in the finite realm) on my intentions, I can assure you that I “was asking for the right reasons.” Yet with that said, because the question was/is of interest to ME, then yes, “self-interest” is, of couse, invovled (right reasons and self-interest are not mutually exclusive). And in ending, I was NOT “instructed to do so”.


    Grace and peace,

    David

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  20. David,

    "He" does not refer to you, David. Rather it refers to the "He" in Shedd's statement, for you quoted Shedd.

    Here is the quote:

    He who asks for regenerating grace...

    Shedd seemed to be equating “prevenient grace” with “common grace”; is not “common grace” universal?

    Okay, this isn't what you said before. In your last question you referred to the criticism of "prevenient grace" in "some Reformed theologians." That is what I was responding to - the use of "prevenient grace" as a term when it is spoken of "critically."

    Prevenient grace, when criticised by Reformed theologians is usually a referent to the UPG of Arminianism.

    Prevenient grace when spoken of in a positive sense can refer to either common grace (which is typically indexed to the Noahic Covenant in the covenantal theologies) or is a reference to the prevenient, effectual (as opposed to universal, prevenient, ineffectual grace in Arminianism) grace of God exercised toward the elect.

    "Prevenient" only refers to that which goes before, that which "prevenes."

    In Arminianism, UPG is not common grace, as understood in Reformed parlance. Rather, UPG is a grace that comes by way of the cross. Depending on the Arminian theologian, the basic concept is that one of the benefits of the atonement is UPG, and this, in turn alleviates the bondage of the will.

    Monergism.com has a few articles on UPG that can explain further.

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  21. Robert is now resorting to divide-and-conquer sophistries instead of dealing with my supporting arguments.

    And let’s consider one of the little snippets that he quoted from Henryx:

    “Regeneration has causal priority to faith (Just as a person must have eyes before they see and ears prior to their ability to hear.”

    Now, do you really suppose he things that if you restore a blind man’s sight, that he can see in the dark, or that if you restore a deaf man’s hearing, he can hear in a soundproof room?

    No, if we were to develop Hendryx’s analogy to its logical conclusion, the restoration of sight or hearing would only be a necessary condition to see and hear. One would still need the external stimulus of light waves and sound waves to actually use one’s restored sensory organs in order to perceive sights and sounds.

    If Robert wants to play this game, I can easily email Hendryx and ask him if he thinks that regeneration apart from the knowledge of the gospel is sufficient to create faith in Christ.

    If you want to make a public fool of yourself, Robert, I’m happy to call your bluff. But you would be well-advised to back up a few paces before your reputation goes up in smoke.

    As to how representative my position is, here is what Warfield has to say:

    “Faith is the gift of God; but it does not in the least follow that the faith that God gives is an irrational faith, that is, a faith without grounds in right reason. It is beyond all question only the prepared heart that can fitly respond to the ‘reasons’; but how can even a prepared heart respond, when there are no ‘reasons’ to draw out its action? One might as well say that photography is independent of light, because no light can make an impression unless the plate is prepared to receive it. The Holy Spirit does not work a blind, an ungrounded faith in the heart. What is supplied by his creative energy in working faith is not a ready-made faith, rooted in nothing and clinging without reason to its object; nor yet new grounds of belief in the object presented, but just a new ability of the heart to respond to the grounds of faith, sufficient in themselves, already present to the understanding,” Selected Shorter Writings 2:98-99.

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  22. Robert,

    I don't think you're trying to understand people in their own terms. You said:

    "REGENERATION DOESN’T INEVITABLY PRODUCE FAITH (Hays)

    And

    FAITH . . . IS THE IMMEDIATE AND INEVITABLE PRODUCT OF THE NEW NATURE (Henryx)

    These are contradictory statements, both cannot be true. "

    Well, yes, those are contradictory...But mainly just in the same sense that Paul and James are contradictory on justification. We're dealing with different senses of "inevitable".

    In the sentence right before the bit you quoted, Steve said, "But where regeneration occurs, the other conditions will also be met." In that sense, faith is the inevitable product of the new nature. It will happen, every time.

    Steve was very carefully making the point that the process of coming to faith involves more than the new nature. In that sense, he said that regeneration doesn't inevitably result in faith--not of itself.


    However, it does look like Henryx and Hays are disagreeing on the "immediate" issue. That is, Henryx seems to be saying that the regenerated heart will immediately have faith, while Hays is saying it may take time after regeneration before faith grows. And I don't know who is more representative of what Calvinists believe in regards to regeneration, but I don't think the disagreement is nearly so substantial as you seem to think.

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  23. "Again, the Calvinists that I know will start with the idea of the extensiveness and universality of sin and then extrapolate from this to the conclusion that the nonbeliever cannot understand spiritual things and so must be regenerated first before they are capable of understanding and properly responding to the gospel message."


    And the Calvinists that many of us know will argue exegetically for the causal priority of regeneration out of, let's say 1 John 5:1 and its parallel texts.

    I would also point out that simply criticizing Calvinism does not substantiate your own position. You'll need an argument from the constraints of "free will," specifically libertarian freedom that will explain why, given the same prevening conditions, in this case, the "evidences," one man believes them and not the other.


    REGENERATION DOESN’T INEVITABLY PRODUCE FAITH (Hays)

    And

    FAITH . . . IS THE IMMEDIATE AND INEVITABLE PRODUCT OF THE NEW NATURE (Henryx)

    These are contradictory statements, both cannot be true. Henryx seems to be representative of what Calvinists believe in regards to regeneration, Hays is not.


    It would behoove you to try to understand what Steve is saying. Steve has previously stated God doesn't regenerate an individual to leave him in a state of unbelief.

    See: http://blog.solagratia.org/2007/02/15/a-credible-profession-of-faith/

    What regeneration does is "recreate" the nature of the person who when presented with the right object, will certainly turn to it. Notice what Steve actually stated:

    It creates an automatic predisposition to exercise saving faith when the mind is presented, whether before or after, with suitable evidence.

    John's statement is also clear: Faith is not produced by our unregenerated human nature. It is the immediate and inevitable product of the new nature.

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  24. Tim said:

    "However, it does look like Henryx and Hays are disagreeing on the 'immediate' issue. That is, Henryx seems to be saying that the regenerated heart will immediately have faith, while Hays is saying it may take time after regeneration before faith grows. And I don't know who is more representative of what Calvinists believe in regards to regeneration, but I don't think the disagreement is nearly so substantial as you seem to think."

    Thanks, Tim. Two clarifications:


    1.In the West, dogmatic terminology uses a lot of Latin derivatives (along with some Greek and German derivatives). This carries the danger that we will take a word to mean whatever it means in modern, colloquial usage, rather than what it meant when it was originally introduced into the theological lexicon.

    Since you and I speak contemporary English rather than Latin, the first connotation of “immediate” which comes to mind is synonymous with “instantaneous.”

    But in terms of traditional usage, it doesn’t carry a temporal connotation. Rather, to be “immediate” is to be unmediated. There is no intervening medium that facilitates the effect.

    2.There is also a difference between faith and self-conscious faith. I remember C. Everett Koop once saying that he began attending Tenth Presbyterian when he was an unbeliever. After several months, he became aware of the fact that, at some point, he had made the transition from an unbeliever to a believer. He was now hearing the sermon as an insider rather than an outsider to the faith. But he couldn’t pinpoint when, exactly, that transformation occurred.

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  25. Paul you think that I am not properly taking into consideration Calvinist views. In order to prevent this from happening I asked you a question which you did not answer, and I will ask it again:

    To prevent speaking past each other, Paul how would you define depravity?

    Robert

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  26. Robert,

    "Paul you think that I am not properly taking into consideration Calvinist views. In order to prevent this from happening I asked you a question which you did not answer, and I will ask it again:

    To prevent speaking past each other, Paul how would you define depravity?"


    Not only are you misrepresenting Calvinist views, you're not even reading what I write. Your "agenda" is what hinders the conversation.

    Anyway, let me quote what I *previously* said:

    First, I quoted you:

    "And how would your definition be different than mine which agrees with Storms ... It seems to me that non-Calvinists like myself and Calvinists like yourself are not operating from the same conception of depravity."


    I then replied:

    "I agree with the Confession, for starters: 'Man, by his fall Into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; so as a natural man, being altogether averse from good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.'"

    But, more than your inability to read what I write, rather than skimming in a haze of emotions, I cited where you misrepresent calvinist and Presuppositionalist views.

    For example, you said that Calvinists and Presuppositionalists believe that the noetic effects of sin imply that our noetic faculties are "destroyed." I then cited Cornelius Van Til (Calvinist and Presuppositionalist) to the contrary. So, I have "Robert's" mischaracterization on the one hand, and Van Til's words which contradict "Robert" on the other. Thus I have substantiated my claims about your ability to interact with our side.

    I also drew further distinctions which you have failed to take into account.

    This, and your haste in accusing me of not answering you when in fact I did, turns out to be good for me. I am busy right now. I don't have time to get into a dialog with someone who has an agenda. I especially don't have the time when my interlocutor does not even read the words I take my time to type up. So, I thank you for the out and I wish you better luck (since you're an Arminain! :-) with the other posters.

    ~PM

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  27. Rut-roh

    ...Robert emphasizes with double **s. Example: "**can properly reason**"

    ...Henry emphasized with double **s. Example: "**unless they are drawn**" and "**be**"

    ...Robert appeared out of the blue with lots of quotes from Henry's comments

    ...Robert thinks Triabloguers persecute Henry

    ...Robert uses Henry's arguments as if they were his own

    Tell me it ain't so. Robert = Henry?

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  28. ...and Robert TYPES IN ALL CAPS just like Henry.

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  29. Paul said:

    “This, and your haste in accusing me of not answering you when in fact I did, turns out to be good for me. I am busy right now. I don't have time to get into a dialog with someone who has an agenda. I especially don't have the time when my interlocutor does not even read the words I take my time to type up. So, I thank you for the out and I wish you better luck (since you're an Arminain! :-) with the other posters.”

    Paul I must confess that sometimes I may not have read some posts carefully enough, including yours. I missed your citation of the confession regarding your view of depravity. It appears that I also exasperated you in doing so. Sorry about that, I dabble on blogs occasionally and because I do not have time to read every post or follow every thread, I will sometimes miss things. Of course when you are responsible for a prison ministry that involves about 9,000 inmates and you are married and have a family and you are involved in a local church, there really isn’t much time to read every post as I should. I know what the bible says about sin and its effects and I have seen the extensiveness of sin including just how bad it can be for some folks with my prison experiences. I have also seen the power of the gospel to transform people first hand. Of late I have been studying Calvinism and in particular its view of depravity. I have read your blog here for a while but felt compelled to comment when you folks began insulting and attacking another professing Christian. In inmate culture insults and personal attacks both verbal and physical are quite common. I am repeatedly sharing scripture with them on what the bible says in regards to the use of the tongue. On this blog, I have often seen people engage in insults in the same way that inmates do, with others they don’t like and disagree with. This is a sensitive issue for me as I am constantly telling people including Christian inmates and my own staff and prison staff that they have a higher standard in regard to the way they speak to others. So when I see professing Christians trading insults just like the inmates that does bother me. Paul I will take special care to read your posts more carefully in the future.

    Robert

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