Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Google Earth, Membership Numbers, and the Calvinist Flyswatter

I had hoped to take some time off from blogging, but after reading “Charles” innane ramblings today, I felt I should comment.

First, I must say that Charles has improved his writing style. Either he’s changed his medication, or he has an editor. Good for Charles!

Now, on with the show. He writes:

First of all, White and Ascol are theologically adrift from Spurgeon's Calvinism. Both White and Ascol promote a theology that teaches a person must be regenerated or born again before he places faith in Jesus Christ. This is contrary to not only what Spurgeon believed but is also contrary to historic Baptist confessions.

He also mentions Calvin. (More on that below). This is yet another lie about Spurgeon. First, I’d point Charles to my earlier response to Bob L. Ross. Ross had claimed the Spurgeon did not claim that regeneration precedes faith. Yet what does Spurgeon actually state? Here is the relevant portion to help jog Charles’ short memory.

I had reminded Mr. Ross that this is what Spurgeon said about the order of regeneration to coming to Christ.

“COMING to Christ” is a very common phrase in Holy Scripture. It is used to
express those acts of the soul wherein leaving at once our self righteousness,
and our sins, we fly unto the Lord Jesus Christ, and receive his righteousness
to be our covering, and his blood to be our atonement. Coming to Christ, then,
embraces in it repentance, self-negation, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,
and it sums within itself all those things which are the necessary attendants of
these great states of heart, such as the belief of the truth, earnestness of
prayer to God, the submission of the soul to the precepts of God’s gospel, and
all those things which accompany the dawn of salvation in the soul. Coming to
Christ is just the one essential thing for a sinner’s salvation. He that cometh
not to Christ, do what he may, or think what he may is yet in “the gall of
bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity.” Coming to Christ is the very first
effect of regeneration.
No sooner is the soul quickened than it at once
discovers its lost estate, is horrified thereat, looks out for a refuge, and
believing Christ to be a suitable one, flies to him and reposes in him (emphasis
mine). Where there is not this coming to Christ, it is certain that there is as
yet no quickening; where there is no quickening, the soul is dead in trespasses
and sins, and being dead it cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Mr. Ross replied, showing his ineptitude:

>Spurgeon is simply >referring to the preliminary quickening work bu the Spirit's using His
>Sword, the >Word, in the lost, dead sinner's heart and soul -- similar to the movement
>among Ezekiel's dry bones BEFORE they came to life, and like Saul of
Tarsus' >"kicking against the prices" of the Word of God. >Spurgeon: >>and believing Christ to be a suitable one, flies to him and
>reposes in him.<< >>Did Spurgeon believe that the sinner is NOW born again! OF COURSE! For he
>has >been given faith by the Holy Spirit's using the Word of God to bring him to

Mr. Ross and Charles simply cannot read. This is all a description of what happens as a result of regeneration. For did he not say, “Coming to Christ is the very first effect of regeneration.” is it not the very definition of “coming to Christ” to say the sinner “flies to Christ and reposes in Him?” This is, according to Spurgeon, the EFFECT of REGENERATION.

Mr. Ross, not only does Spurgeon say that Coming to Christ is the first effect of regeneration. In this same sermon, he defines “Coming to Christ” for us!

He said:

COMING to Christ” is a very common phrase in Holy Scripture. It is used to
express those acts of the soul wherein leaving at once our self
righteousness, and our sins, we fly unto the Lord Jesus Christ, and receive
his righteousness to be our covering, and his blood to be our atonement.
Coming to Christ, then, embraces in it repentance, self-negation, and faith
in the Lord Jesus Christ,and it sums within itself all those things which are
the necessary attendants of these great states of heart, such as the belief
of the truth, earnestness of prayer to God, the submission of the soul to
the precepts of God’s gospel, and all those things which accompany the dawn
of salvation in the soul. Coming to Christ is just the one essential thing
for a sinner’s salvation. He that cometh not to Christ, do what he may, or
think what he may is yet in “the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of

Notice, coming to Christ, says Spurgeon is comprised of those acts whereby we fly to Christ and receive His righteousness. It embraces repentance, self-negation, and faith in Christ. It includes all things that are necessary attendants of these states of heart.

All of these he says, comprise “coming to Christ,,” Mr. Ross, and “coming to Christ,” says Spurgeon is the very first EFFECT of regeneration. If B is the EFFECT of A, it is meaningless to not state that A does not cause B. If A causes B, then the relationship of A to B is logically antecedent. A precedes B. Regeneration therefore, precedes faith. Regeneration precedes coming to Christ according to Spurgeon, and coming to Christ includes repentance and faith according to him. Therefore, Spurgeon is affirming that regeneration precedes faith, just like Boyce, Broadus, Dagg, and Charles and A.A. Hodge.

Spurgeon clear said: "Faith in the living God and his Son Jesus Christ is always the result of the new birth, and can never exist except in the regenerate. Whoever has faith is a saved man."

Speaking of A.A. Hodge, here is what he stated about this issue:

11. What is the difference between regeneration and conversion?

The term conversion is often used in a wide sense as including both the change of nature and the exercise of that nature as changed. When distinguished from regeneration, however, conversion signifies the first exercise of the new disposition implanted in regeneration, i.e., in freely turning unto God.

Regeneration is God's act; conversion is ours. Regeneration is the implantation of a gracious principle; conversion is the exercise of that principle. Regeneration is never a matter of direct consciousness to the subject of it; conversion always is such to the agent of it. Regeneration is a single act, complete in itself; and never repeated; conversion, as the beginning of holy living, is the commencement of a series, constant, endless, and progressive. "Draw me, and I will run after thee." Canticle 1: 4. This distinction is signalized by the divines of the seventeenth century (Turretin, 50. 15, Ques. 4, ?13) by the phrases "conversio habitualis seu passiva," i.e., the infusion of a gracious habit of soul by God, in respect to which the subject is passive; and "conversio actualis seu activa," i.e., the consequent acts of faith and repentance elicited by cooperative grace and acted by the subject.

(Outlines of Theology, Chapter 29).

A. A. Hodge affirmed the axiom that regeneration precedes faith, and here is what Spurgeon said about A.A. Hodge’s Outlines of Theology: "

We commend the Outlines of Theology to all who would be well instructed in the faith. It is the standard text-book of our college. We differ from its teachings upon baptism, but in almost everything else we endorse Hodge to the letter."

I’d further add that this is what Charles stated here using Timothy George’s The Theology of the Reformers in one the articles to which he points us in his latest blog entry:

"This being placed into Christ (insitio in Christo) occurs in regeneration which, Calvin was careful to point out, follows from faith as the result: Since faith receives Christ, it leads us to the possession of all His benefits. Repentance too, which is part of regeneration, is the consequence of faith." (225-226)

While not accepting his theology in toto,Southern Baptists would certainly agree with John Calvin that regeneration occurs after faith and is the result of saving faith in Jesus Christ. This was the teaching of the real founders of the SBC and as far as I can tell has been the theology of every President of the SBC since the formation of the Convention.

But here is what Calvin stated:

"Indeed the Word of God is like the sun, shining upon all those to whom it is proclaimed, but with no effect among the blind. Now, all of us are blind by nature in this respect... Accordingly, it cannot penetrate into our minds unless the Spirit, as the inner teacher, through his illumination makes entry for it."
(Calvin's Institutes 3.2.34.) Also read this little ditty:

Conversion of the Will is the Effect of
Divine Grace Inwardly Bestowed

by John Calvin

The following selection by John Calvin was taken from book 2, chapter 6-14 of The Institutes of The Christian Religion, translated by by Henry Beveridge, Esq. Chapter titles from John T. McNeill. A must read for all Christians who aspire to better understand the Bible's teaching on God's work in bringing a sinner to faith in Christ.

6. Men's inability to do good manifests itself above all in the work of redemption, which God does quite alone.

On the other hand, it may be proper to consider what the remedy is which divine grace provides for the correction and cure of natural corruption. Since the Lord, in bringing assistance, supplies us with what is lacking, the nature of that assistance will immediately make manifest its converse, viz., our penury. When the Apostle says to the Philippians, "Being confident of this very thing, that he which has begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ," (Phil. 1: 6,) there cannot be a doubt, that by the good work thus begun, he means the very commencement of conversion in the will. God, therefore, begins the good work in us by exciting in our hearts a desire, a love, and a study of righteousness, or (to speak more correctly) by turning, training, and guiding our hearts unto righteousness; and he completes this good work by confirming us unto perseverance. But lest any one should cavil that the good work thus begun by the Lord consists in aiding the will, which is in itself weak, the Spirit elsewhere declares what the will, when left to itself, is able to do. His words are, "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgements, and do them," (Ezek. 36: 26, 27.) How can it be said that the weakness of the human will is aided so as to enable it to aspire effectually to the choice of good, when the fact is, that it must be wholly transformed and renovated? If there is any softness in a stone; if you can make it tender, and flexible into any shape, then it may be said, that the human heart may be shaped for rectitude, provided that which is imperfect in it is supplemented by divine grace. But if the Spirit, by the above similitude, meant to show that no good can ever be extracted from our heart until it is made altogether new, let us not attempt to share with Him what He claims for himself alone. If it is like turning a stone into flesh when God turns us to the study of rectitude, everything proper to our own will is abolished, and that which succeeds in its place is wholly of God. I say the will is abolished, but not in so far as it is will, for in conversion everything essential to our original nature remains: I also say, that it is created anew, not because the will then begins to exist, but because it is turned from evil to good.

This, I maintains is wholly the work of God, because, as the Apostle testifies, we are not "sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves," (2 Cor. 3: 5.) Accordingly, he elsewhere says, not merely that God assists the weak or corrects the depraved will, but that he worketh in us to will, (Philip. 2: 13.) From this it is easily inferred, as I have said, that everything good in the will is entirely the result of grace. In the same sense, the Apostle elsewhere says, "It is the same God which worketh all in all," (I Cor. 12: 6.) For he is not there treating of universal government, but declaring that all the good qualities which believers possess are due to God. In using the term "all," he certainly makes God the author of spiritual life from its beginning to its end. This he had previously taught in different terms, when he said that there is "one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him," (1 Cor. 8: 6;) thus plainly extolling the new creation, by which everything of our common nature is destroyed. There is here a tacit antithesis between Adam and Christ, which he elsewhere explains more clearly when he says, "We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them," (Eph. 2: 10.) His meaning is to show in this way that our salvation is gratuitous because the beginning of goodness is from the second creation which is obtained in Christ. If any, even the minutest, ability were in ourselves, there would also be some merit. But to show our utter destitution, he argues that we merit nothing, because we are created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has prepared; again intimating by these words, that all the fruits of good works are originally and immediately from God. Hence the Psalmist, after saying that the Lord "has made us," to deprive us of all share in the work, immediately adds, "not we ourselves." That he is speaking of regeneration, which is the commencement of the spiritual life, is obvious from the context, in which the next words are, "we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture," (Psalm 100: 3.) Not contented with simply giving God the praise of our salvation, he distinctly excludes us from all share in it, just as if he had said that not one particle remains to man as a ground of boasting. The whole is of God.

7. It is not a case of the believer's "cooperation" with grace; the will is first actuated through grace

But perhaps there will be some who, while they admit that the will is in its own nature averse to righteousness, and is converted solely by the power of God, will yet hold that, when once it is prepared, it performs a part in acting. This they found upon the words of Augustine, that grace precedes every good work; the will accompanying, not leading; a handmaid, and not a guide, (August. ad Bonifac. Ep. 106.) The words thus not improperly used by this holy writer, Lombard preposterously wrests to the above effect, (Lombard, lib. 2, Dist. 25.) But I maintain, that as well in the words of the Psalmist which I have quoted, as in other passages of Scripture, two things are clearly taught, viz., that the Lord both corrects, or rather destroys, our depraved will, and also substitutes a good will from himself. In as much as it is prevented by grace, I have no objection to your calling it a handmaid; but in as much as when formed again, it is the work of the Lord, it is erroneous to say, that it accompanies preventing grace as a voluntary attendant. Therefore, Chrysostom is inaccurate in saying, that grace cannot do any thing without will, nor will any thing without grace, (Serm. de Invent. Sanct. Crucis;) as if grace did not, in terms of the passage lately quoted from Paul, produce the very will itself. The intention of Augustine, in calling the human will the handmaid of grace, was not to assign it a kind of second place to grace in the performance of good works. His object merely was to refute the pestilential dogma of Pelagius, who made human merit the first cause of salvation. As was sufficient for his purpose at the time, he contends that grace is prior to all merit, while, in the meantime, he says nothing of the other question as to the perpetual effect of grace, which, however, he handles admirably in other places. For in saying, as he often does, that the Lord prevents the unwilling in order to make him willing, and follows after the willing that he may not will in vain, he makes Him the sole author of good works. Indeed, his sentiments on this subject are too clear to need any lengthened illustration. "Men," says he, "labour to find in our will something that is our own, and not God's; how they can find it, I wot not," (August. de Remiss. Peccat., lib. 2 c. 18.) In his First Book against Pelagius and Celestius, expounding the saying of Christ, "Every man therefore that has heard, and has learned of the Father, cometh unto me," (John 6: 45,) he says, "The will is aided not only so as to know what is to be done, but also to do what it knows." And thus, when God teaches not by the letter of the Law, but by the grace of the Spirit, he so teaches, that every one who has learned, not only knowing, sees, but also willing, desires, and acting, performs.

8. Scripture imputes to God all that is for our benefit

Since we are now occupied with the chief point on which the controversy turns, let us give the reader the sum of the matter in a few, and those most unambiguous, passages of Scripture; thereafter, lest any one should charge us with distorting Scripture, let us show that the truth, which we maintain to be derived from Scripture, is not unsupported by the testimony of this holy man, (I mean Augustine.) I deem it unnecessary to bring forward every separate passage of Scripture in confirmation of my doctrine. A selection of the most choice passages will pave the way for the understanding of all those which lie scattered up and down in the sacred volume. On the other hand, I thought it not out of place to show my accordance with a man whose authority is justly of so much weight in the Christian world. It is certainly easy to prove that the commencement of good is only with God, and that none but the elect have a will inclined to good. But the cause of election must be sought out of man; and hence it follows that a right will is derived not from man himself, but from the same good pleasure by which we were chosen before the creation of the world. Another argument much akin to this may be added. The beginning of right will and action being of faith, we must see whence faith itself is. But since Scripture proclaims throughout that it is the free gift of God, it follows, that when men, who are with their whole soul naturally prone to evil, begin to have a good will, it is owing to mere grace. Therefore, when the Lord, in the conversion of his people, sets down these two things as requisite to be done, viz., to take away the heart of stone, and give a heart of flesh, he openly declares, that, in order to our conversion to righteousness, what is ours must be taken away, and that what is substituted in its place is of himself. Nor does he declare this in one passage only. For he says in Jeremiah "I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever;" and a little after he says, "I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me," (Jer. 32: 39, 40.) Again, in Ezekiel, "I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh," (Ezek. 11: 19.) He could not more clearly claim to himself, and deny to us, everything good and right in our will, than by declaring, that in our conversion there is the creation of a new spirit and a new heart. It always follows, both that nothing good can proceed from our will until it be formed again, and that after it is formed again in so far as it is good, it is of God, and not of us.

9. The Prayers in Scripture Especially Show how the beginning, continuation, and end of our blessedness come from God alone.

With this view, likewise the prayers of the saints correspond. Thus Solomon prays that the Lord may "incline our hearts unto him, to walk in his ways, and keep his commandments" (1 Kings 8: 58;) intimating that our heart is perverse, and naturally indulges in rebellion against the Divine law, until it be turned. Again, it is said in the Psalms, "Incline my heart unto thy testimonies," (Ps. 119: 36.) For we should always note the antithesis between the rebellious movement of the heart, and the correction by which it is subdued to obedience. David feeling for the time that he was deprived of directing grace, prays, "Create in me a clean heart, 0 God; and renew a right spirit within me," (Ps. 51: 10.) Is not this an acknowledgement that all the parts of the heart are full of impurity, and that the soul has received a twist, which has turned it from straight to crooked? And then, in describing the cleansing, which he earnestly demands as a thing to be created by God, does he not ascribe the work entirely to Him? If it is objected, that the prayer itself is a symptom of a pious and holy affection, it is easy to reply, that although David had already in some measure repented, he was here contrasting the sad fall which he had experienced with his former state. Therefore, speaking in the person of a man alienated from God, he properly prays for the blessings which God bestows upon his elect in regeneration. Accordingly, like one dead, he desires to be created anew, so as to become, instead of a slave of Satan, an instrument of the Holy Spirit. Strange and monstrous are the longings of our pride. There is nothing which the Lord enjoins more strictly than the religious observance of his Sabbath, in other words resting from our works; but in nothing do we show greater reluctance than to renounce our own works, and give due place to the works of God. Did not arrogance stand in the way, we could not overlook the clear testimony which Christ has borne to the efficacy of his grace. "I," said he, "am the true vine, and my Father is the husband man." "As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me," (John 15: 1, 4.) If we can no more bear fruit of ourselves than a vine can bud when rooted up and deprived of moisture, there is no longer any room to ask what the aptitude of our nature is for good. There is no ambiguity in the conclusion, "For without me ye can do nothing." He says not that we are too weak to suffice for ourselves; but, by reducing us to nothing, he excludes the idea of our possessing any, even the least ability. If, when engrafted into Christ, we bear fruit like the vine, which draws its vegetative power from the moisture of the ground, and the dew of heaven, and the fostering warmth of the sun, I see nothing in a good work, which we can call our own, without trenching upon what is due to God. It is vain to have recourse to the frivolous cavil, that the sap and the power of producing are already contained in the vine, and that, therefore, instead of deriving everything from the earth or the original root, it contributes something of its own. Our Saviour's words simply mean, that when separated from him, we are nothing but dry, useless wood, because, when so separated, we have no power to do good, as he elsewhere says, "Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted, shall be rooted up," (Matth. 15: 13.) Accordingly, in the passage already quoted from the Apostle Paul, he attributes the whole operation to God, "It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure," (Philip. 2: 13.) The first part of a good work is the will, the second is vigorous effort in the doing of it. God is the author of both. It is, therefore, robbery from God to arrogate anything to ourselves, either in the will or the act. Were it said that God gives assistance to a weak will, something might be left us; but when it is said that he makes the will, every thing good in it is placed without us. Moreover, since even a good will is still weighed down by the burden of the flesh, and prevented from rising, it is added, that, to meet the difficulties of the contest, God supplies the persevering effort until the effect is obtained. Indeed, the Apostle could not otherwise have said, as he elsewhere does, that "it is the same God which worketh all in all," (1 Cor. 12: 6;) words comprehending, as we have already observed, (sec. 6,) the whole course of the spiritual life. For which reason, David, after praying, "Teach me thy way, O Lord, I will walk in thy truths" adds, "unite my heart to fear thy name," (Ps. 86: 11;) by these words intimating, that even those who are well-affected are liable to so many distractions that they easily become vain, and fall away, if not strengthened to persevere. And hence, in another passage, after praying, "Order my steps in thy word," he requests that strength also may be given him to carry on the war, "Let not any iniquity have dominion over me," (Ps. 119: 133.) In this way, the Lord both begins and perfects the good work in us, so that it is due to Him, first, that the will conceives a love of rectitude, is inclined to desire, is moved and stimulated to pursue it; secondly, that this choice, desire, and endeavour fail not, but are carried forward to effect; and, lastly, that we go on without interruption, and persevere even to the end.

10. God's Activity Does not Produce a Possibility That we Can Exhaust, but an Actuality to Which We Cannot Add

This movement of the will is not of that description which was for many ages taught and believed, viz., a movement which thereafter leaves us the choice to obey or resist it, but one which affects us efficaciously. We must, therefore, repudiate the oft-repeated sentiment of Chrysostom, "Whom he draws, he draws willingly;" insinuating that the Lord only stretches out his hand, and waits to see whether we will be pleased to take his aid. We grant that, as man was originally constituted, he could incline to either side, but since he has taught us by his example how miserable a thing free will is if God works not in us to will and to do, of what use to us were grace imparted in such scanty measure? Nay, by our own ingratitude, we obscure and impair divine grace. The Apostle's doctrine is not, that the grace of a good will is offered to us if we will accept of it, but that God himself is pleased so to work in us as to guide, turn, and govern our heart by his Spirit, and reign in it as his own possession. Ezekiel promises that a new spirit will be given to the elect, not merely that they may be able to walk in his precepts, but that they may really walk in them, (Ezek. 11: 19; 36: 27.) And the only meaning which can be given to our Saviour's words, "Every man, therefore, that has heard and learned of the Father, cometh unto me," (John 6: 45,) is, that the grace of God is effectual in itself. This Augustine maintains in his book De Praedestinatione Sancta. This grace is not bestowed on all promiscuously, according to the common brocard, (of Occam, if I mistake not,) that it is not denied to any one who does what in him lies. Men are indeed to be taught that the favour of God is offered, without exception, to all who ask it; but since those only begin to ask whom heaven by grace inspires, even this minute portion of praise must not be withheld from him. It is the privilege of the elect to be regenerated by the Spirit of God, and then placed under his guidance and government. Wherefore Augustine justly derides some who arrogate to themselves a certain power of willing, as well as censures others who imagine that that which is a special evidence of gratuitous election is given to all, (August. de Verbis Apost. Serm. 21.) He says, "Nature is common to all, but not grace;" and he calls it a showy acuteness "which shines by mere vanity, when that which God bestows, on whom he will is attributed generally to all." Elsewhere he says, "How came you? By believing. Fear, lest by arrogating to yourself the merit of finding the right way, you perish from the right way. I came, you say, by free choice, came by my own will. Why do you boast? Would you know that even this was given you? Hear Christ exclaiming, 'No man comets unto me, except the Father which has sent me draw him.'" And from the words of John, (6: 44,) he infers it to be an incontrovertible fact, that the hearts of believers are so effectually governed from above, that they follow with undeviating affection. "Whosoever is born of God does not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him" (I John 3: 9.) That intermediate movement which the sophists imagine, a movement which every one is free to obey or to reject, is obviously excluded by the doctrine of effectual perseverance.

11. Perseverance is Exclusively God's Work; It is Neither a Reward Nor a Compliment of our Individual Act

As to perseverance, it would undoubtedly have been regarded as the gratuitous gift of God, had not the very pernicious error prevailed, that it is bestowed in proportion to human merit, according to the reception which each individual gives to the first grace. This having given rise to the idea that it was entirely in our own power to receive or reject the offered grace of God, that idea is no sooner exploded than the error founded on it must fall. The error, indeed, is twofold. For, besides teaching that our gratitude for the first grace and our legitimate use of it is rewarded by subsequent supplies of grace, its abettors add that, after this, grace does not operate alone, but only co-operates with ourselves. As to the former, we must hold that the Lord, while he daily enriches his servants, and loads them with new gifts of his grace, because he approves of and takes pleasure in the work which he has begun, finds that in them which he may follow up with larger measures of grace. To this effect are the sentences, "To him that has shall be given." "Well done, good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things," (Matth. 25: 21, 23, 29; Luke 19: 17, 26.) But here two precautions are necessary. It must not be said that the legitimate use of the first grace is rewarded by subsequent measures of grace, as if man rendered the grace of God effectual by his own industry, nor must it be thought that there is any such remuneration as to make it cease to be the gratuitous grace of God. I admit, then, that believers may expect as a blessing from God, that the better the use they make of previous, the larger the supplies they will receive of future grace; but I say that even this use is of the Lord, and that this remuneration is bestowed freely of mere good will. The trite distinction of operating and co-operating grace is employed no less sinistrously than unhappily. Augustine, indeed, used it, but softened it by a suitable definition, viz., that God, by co-operating, perfects what he begins by operating, - that both graces are the same, but obtain different names from the different manner in which they produce their effects. Whence it follows, that he does not make an apportionment between God and man, as if a proper movement on the part of each produced a mutual concurrence. All he does is to mark a multiplication of grace. To this effect, accordingly, he elsewhere says, that in man good will precedes many gifts from God; but among these gifts is this good will itself. (August. Enchiridion ad Laurent. cap. 32.) Whence it follows, that nothing is left for the will to arrogate as its own. This Paul has expressly stated. For, after saying, "It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do," he immediately adds, "of his good pleasure," (Philip. 2: 13;) indicating by this expression, that the blessing is gratuitous. As to the common saying, that after we have given admission to the first grace, our efforts co-operate with subsequent grace, this is my answer: - If it is meant that after we are once subdued by the power of the Lord to the obedience of righteousness, we proceed voluntarily, and are inclined to follow the movement of grace, I have nothing to object. For it is most certain, that where the grace of God reigns, there is also this readiness to obey. And whence this readiness, but just that the Spirit of God being everywhere consistent with himself, after first begetting a principle of obedience, cherishes and strengthens it for perseverance? If, again, it is meant that man is able of himself to be a fellow-labourer with the grace of God, I hold it to be a most pestilential delusion.

12. Man Cannot Ascribe to Himself Even One Single Good Work Apart From God's Grace

In support of this view, some make an ignorant and false application of the Apostle's words: "I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me," (1 Cor. 15: 10.) The meaning they give them is, that as Paul might have seemed to speak somewhat presumptuously in preferring himself to all the other apostles, he corrects the expression so far by referring the praise to the grace of God, but he, at the same time, calls himself a co-operator with grace. It is strange that this should have proved a stumbling-block to so many writers, otherwise respectable. The Apostle says not that the grace of God laboured with him so as to make him a co-partner in the labour. He rather transfers the whole merit of the labour to grace alone, by thus modifying his first expression, "It was not I," says he, "that laboured, but the grace of God that was present with me." Those who have adopted the erroneous interpretation have been misled by an ambiguity in the expression, or rather by a preposterous translation, in which the force of the Greek article is overlooked. For to take the words literally, the Apostle does not say that grace was a fellow-worker with him, but that the grace which was with him was sole worker. And this is taught not obscurely, though briefly, by Augustine when he says, "Good will in man precedes many gifts from God, but not all gifts, seeing that the will which precedes is itself among the number." He adds the reason, "for it is written, 'the God of my mercy shall prevent me,' (Ps. 59: 10,) and 'Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me,' (Ps. 23: 6;) it prevents him that is unwilling, and makes him willing; it follows him that is willing, that he may not will in vain." To this Bernard assents, introducing the Church as praying thus, "Draw me, who am in some measure unwilling, and make me willing; draw me, who am sluggishly lagging, and make me run," (Serm. 2 in Cantic.)

13. Augustine Also Recognizes No Independent Activity of the Human Will

Let us now hear Augustine in his own words, lest the Pelagians of our age, I mean the sophists of the Sorbonne, charge us after their wont with being opposed to all antiquity. In this indeed they imitate their father Pelagius, by whom of old a similar charge was brought against Augustine. In the second chapter of his Treatise De Correptione et Gratis, addressed to Valentinus, Augustine explains at length what I will state briefly, but in his own words, that to Adam was given the grace of persevering in goodness if he had the will; to us it is given to will, and by will overcome concupiscence: that Adam, therefore, had the power if he had the will, but did not will to have the power, whereas to us is given both the will and the power; that the original freedom of man was to be able not to sin, but that we have a much greater freedom, viz., not to be able to sin. And lest it should be supposed, as Lombard erroneously does, (lib. 2 Dist. 25,) that he is speaking of the perfection of the future state, he shortly after removes all doubt when he says, "For so much is the will of the saints inflamed by the Holy Spirit, that they are able, because they are willing; and willing, because God worketh in them so to will." For if, in such weakness, (in which, however, to suppress pride, "strength" must be made "perfect,") their own will is left to them, in such sense that, by the help of God, they are able, if they will, while at the same time God does not work in them so as to make them will; among so many temptations and infirmities the will itself would give way, and, consequently, they would not be able to persevere. Therefore, to meet the infirmity of the human will, and prevent it from failing, how weak soever it might be, divine grace was made to act on it inseparably and uninterruptedly. Augustine (ibid. cap. 14.) next entering fully into the question, how our hearts follow the movement when God affects them, necessarily says, indeed, that the Lord draws men by their own wills; wills, however, which he himself has produced. We have now an attestation by Augustine to the truth which we are specially desirous to maintain, viz., that the grace offered by the Lord is not merely one which every individual has full liberty of choosing to receive or reject, but a grace which produces in the heart both choice and will: so that all the good works which follow after are its fruit and effect; the only will which yields obedience being the will which grace itself has made. In another place, Augustine uses these words, "Every good work in us is performed only by grace," (August. Ep. 105.)

14. Augustine Does not Eliminate Man's Will, but Makes it Wholly Dependent on Grace.

In saying elsewhere that the will is not taken away by grace, but out of bad is changed into good, and after it is good is assisted, - he only means, that man is not drawn as if by an extraneous impulses without the movement of the heart, but is inwardly affected so as to obey from the heart. Declaring that grace is given specially and gratuitously to the elect, he writes in this way to Boniface: "We know that Divine grace is not given to all men, and that to those to whom it is given, it is not given either according to the merit of works, or according to the merit of the will, but by free grace: in regard to those to whom it is not given, we know that the not giving of it is a just judgement from God," (August. ad Bonifac. Ep. 106.) In the same epistle, he argues strongly against the opinion of those who hold that subsequent grace is given to human merit as a reward for not rejecting the first grace. For he presses Pelagius to confess that gratuitous grace is necessary to us for every action, and that merely from the fact of its being truly grace, it cannot be the recompense of works. But the matter cannot be more briefly summed up than in the eighth chapter of his Treatise De Correptione et Gratia, where he shows, First, that human will does not by liberty obtain grace, but by grace obtains liberty. Secondly, that by means of the same grace, the heart being impressed with a feeling of delight, is trained to persevere, and strengthened with invincible fortitude. Thirdly, that while grace governs the will, it never falls; but when grace abandons it, it falls forthwith. Fourthly, that by the free mercy of God, the will is turned to good, and when turned, perseveres. Fifthly, that the direction of the will to good, and its constancy after being so directed, depend entirely on the will of God, and not on any human merit. Thus the will, (free will, if you choose to call it so,) which is left to man, is, as he in another place (Ep. 46) describes it, a will which can neither be turned to God, nor continue in God, unless by grace; a will which, whatever its ability may be, derives all that ability from grace.

The quote by Timothy George is referring to Calvin’s view that regeneration in toto, the full range of its effects is the result of conversion, for
Calvin himself defined regeneration as the entire process of new birth, including repentance, faith, justification, and sanctification. Regeneration for him was the umbrella over all the others. It began at water baptism, but regeneration “does not take place in one moment or one day or one year.” Instead it was accomplished “through continual and sometimes even slow advances.” , ... With the exception of water baptism / padeobaptism being linked to this as a means of grace, this is actually no different than James Boyce , who wrote the Abstract of Principles of Southern Seminary and who elucidated this clearly in his Abstract of Theology and John L. Dagg in his Manual of Theology. Charles has to pretend these men never existed.

Boyce on conversion's definition:

1. A knowledge of the true God, and acceptance of him as such.

2. Knowledge of personal sin, guilt and condemnation.

3. Sorrow for sin and desire to escape condemnation.

4. Determination to turn away from sin and seek God.

5. Conviction of personal need of help in so doing.

6. Knowledge of Christ as a Saviour from sin.

7. Personal trust in Christ and his salvation.

He states:

The relation of regeneration to conversion will, therefore, appear to be one of invariable antecedence.

Wherever the appropriate truth is at the time present its relation is almost that of producing cause, for the prepared heart at once receives the truth. Hence, as this is so generally the case, they have been usually regarded as contemporaneous and by some even as identical. But that regeneration is the invariable antecedent is seen,

1. From the fact that the heart is the soil in which the seed, the word of God, is sown, and that seed only brings forth fruit in the good soil. The heart is made good soil by regeneration.

2. Regeneration (as in infants) may exist without faith and repentance, but the latter cannot exist without the former. Therefore, regeneration precedes.

3. Logically the enabling act of God must, in a creature, precede the act of the creature thus enabled. But this logical antecedence involves actual antecedence, or the best conceptions of our mind deceive us and are not reliable. For this logical antecedence exists only because the mind observes plainly a perceived dependence of the existence of the one on the other. But such dependence demands, if not causal, at least antecedent existence. Here it is only antecedent.

VI. There is not only antecedence, but in some cases an appreciable interval.

1. This is true even of conversion regarded as a mere turning to God. Between it and regeneration must intervene in some cases some period of time until the knowledge of God's existence and nature is given, before the heart turns, or even is turned towards that God.

(1.) This must be true of all infants and of all persons otherwise incapable of responsibility, as for example idiots.

(2.) There is no reason why it should not be true of some heathen. The missionaries of the cross have been sought by men, who knew nothing of Christianity, but whose hearts, unsatisfied with the religion of their fathers, were restlessly seeking for what their soul was crying out.

Boyce goes on in his Abstract of Theology to elucidate the relationship of regeneration to the sanctification and treats it as the umbrella for the whole of salvation, including conversion. The relation is one of logical and causal order not temporal. White and Ascol and the rest of us do not deny that God uses means in this (the Word of God), nor do we teach that men walk around for some indeterminate time in a regenerated state only to believe later. Regeneration and conversion are so bound together as to be indistinguishable. Charles has been perpetuating this lie for much too long. He needs to repent of gross sin, for at this point, he is continually committing sin and showing inevidence of his own regeneracy.

Dagg also states:

Various forms of expression are employed in the Scriptures, to denote the change of heart; and they signify it with various shades of meaning.. It is taking away the heart of stone, and giving a heart of flesh;[122] giving a new heart;[123] putting the law in the heart;[124] quickening or making alive;[125] a resurrection from the dead; an illumination;[126] a conversion, or turning back to God.[127] So great is the change produced, that the subject of it is called a new creature,[128] as if proceeding, like Adam, directly from the creating hand of God; and he is said to be renewed,[129] as being restored to the image of God, in which man was originally formed. With reference to the mode in which the descendants of Adam come into the world, the change is denominated regeneration;[130] and the subjects of it are said to be born again.[131]

The change is moral. The body is unchanged; and the identity of the mind is not destroyed. The individual is conscious of being the same person that he was before; but a new direction is given to the active powers of the mind, and new affections are brought into exercise. The love of God is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost.[132] No love to God had previously existed there; for the carnal heart is enmity against God. Love is the fulfilling of the law, the principle of all holy obedience; and when love is produced in the heart, the law of God is written there. As a new principle of action, inciting to a new mode of life, it renders the man a new creature. The production of love in the heart by the Holy Spirit, is the regeneration, or the new birth; for "he that loveth, is born of God."[133]

The mode in which the Holy Spirit effects this change, is beyond our investigation. All God's ways are unsearchable; and we might as well attempt to explain how he created the world, as how he new-creates the soul. With reference to this subject, the Saviour said, "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, or whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit."[134] We know, from the Holy Scriptures, that God employs his truth in the regeneration of the soul. "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth."[135] Love to God necessarily implies knowledge of God, and this knowledge it is the province of truth to impart. But knowledge is not always connected with love. The devils know, but do not love; and wicked men delight not to retain the knowledge of God,[136] because their knowledge of him is not connected with love. The mere presentation of the truth to the mind, is not all that is needed, in producing love to God in the heart. What accompanying influence the Holy Spirit uses, to render the word effectual, we cannot explain: but Paul refers to it, when he says, "Our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost."[137]--"but in the demonstration of the Spirit, and with power."[138]

The term regeneration is sometimes used in a comprehensive sense, as including the whole formation of the Christian character. At other times it is used for the first production of divine love in the heart. In the latter sense, the work is instantaneous. There is a moment known only to God, when the first holy affection exists in the soul. Truth may enter gradually, and may excite strong affections in the mind, and may for a time increase the hatred of God which naturally reigns in the heart. So Paul says, "Sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence."[139] But, in his own time and manner, God, the Holy Spirit, makes the word effectual in producing a new affection in the soul: and, when the first movement of love to God exists, the first throb of spiritual life commences.

Faith is necessary to the Christian character; and must therefore precede regeneration, when this is understood in its widest sense. Even in the restricted sense, in which it denotes the beginning of the spiritual life, faith, in the sense in which James[140] uses the term, may precede. But a faith which exists before the beginning of spiritual life, cannot be a living faith. Yet some have maintained that faith produces love. This opinion is of sufficient importance to demand a careful consideration.

So, in order to arrive at his conclusion, Charles must read his particular understanding of regeneration back into Calvin then state that Calvin did not hold the view of today’s Calvinists. But is this true? No, for Calvin is speaking as Dagg did of regeneration in its comprehensive sense and he also affirmed that the effectual call and bringing to life of the spiritual discernment of men is necessary for men to understand, believe, and repent. This is exactly what we all mean when we teach that regeneration precedes faith, for we are speaking in the more narrow sense, not in the wider sense; we differentiate just as Dagg did. Does Calvin use those words? No, but why should he? He was writing in the 16th century to a different audience. If Charles or his friends wish to object that Calvin doesn't say exactly that, then I'd reply that they need to bone up on the word-concept fallacy. However, Dagg and Boyce also agree on the ordu salutis, and, yes, they were among the founders of the SBC. Moving on...

After discussing Spurgeon and evangelism, the rest of Charles’ scrawled ramblings center on Google images of Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church, where James White is an elder and on Grace Baptist Church, Cape Coral, FL where Tom Ascol is pastor.

Here’s just a sample of his astounding powers of reason:

Let's look at the data. Lee County is part of the Royal Palm Association, which is part of the Florida Baptist Convention. The FBC reports that after twenty years of pastoring by Tom Ascol, Grace Baptist Church has 212 total members and 201 resident members. In case the numbers are off, Google provides a satellite photo of Grace Baptist Church. (You may need to "move" the picture up a bit to see the church). To provide some context, click here to see a picture of the area surrounding Tom's church.

Tom Ascol: An heir of Charles H. Spurgeon? Not likely.

I must thank Charles for his visual aids. I’ve always wanted to know what these churches looked like. Thanks, Charles! However, this is just the most absurd thing he has ever stated. Charles, did ya bother to read the Annual Church Profile of the Royal Palm Association posted on the Florida Baptist Convention website? A little bird told me that I’d find quite the revelatory information there. S/he was quite correct! FYI, the context is not a Google Earth photo of the grounds. The context is where his church fits in Royal Palm Association.

You might want to look here: http://www.flbaptist.org/images/PDFS/BAPTISMS/Royal%20Palm.pdf

How does one gain any insight into the evangelistic activity of a local church based on Charles pretty pictures and his numbers? Tom’s church has 212 members. Okay, how many attend? In my church, our attendance is nearly twice or three times that of the membership. Oh, and we just baptized four folks two Sundays ago, Charles. The average SBC church is at about 30 to 40 percent of the membership in attendance.

Incidentally, since Charles likes statistics drawn from ACP’s so much. Let’s compare the membership number of Tom’s church with the average SBC church in his association. I'll do Charles' homework for him. He can thank me later.

There are 86 churches in Royal Palm Association, listing 24,075 members in the last ACP report listed on the website of Florida Convention. Ergo, the average membership is 279 to 280. It's sightly less than 280, but, hey, what's .94 of a person look like anyway?

Also, according that report, Grace was at 163 resident members in 2004. So, they have increased by 38 to 49 members since that ACP, as we don't know the total member/resident member number from 2004. Charles forgot to tell his readers that little factoid, didn’t he?

Now, what is the median membership in this association? Charles does not bother to tell us some important facts, and this is where it gets really interesting This, Charles, is why you take a look at the entire association before rendering such comments as you have above.

Charles does not tell us how many churches are under the association average in membership. Would you believe the average membership is just 280.

Here is the median: approx. 80

Here is where Tom Ascol’s church ranked in that ACP: approx 60th. That is to say, with 2 members being the lowest membership and 5377 being the highest, Tom Ascol’s church was ranked SIXTY of 86!

The median membership is about 80 remember. Keeping that in mind, there are 46 churches with less than 100 members.

There are about 59 churches smaller than Grace Baptist.

About 71 churches have under 300.

About 75 churches have under 400.

There are about 78 churches with under 500 members.

Ergo, the average membership, even though it is quite low already is being skewed higher by the presence of 8 large churches, defined as churches of 500 or more. Here is a sample of those churches: 563, 823,1004,1862, 4820, 5377. (FYI, I'm saying about, because I might be off by a digit or two, as I did this quickly.

Charles, perhaps you need to take a course in statistics before writing analysis of this low a caliber. In context, it seems that Dr. Ascol’s church is actually growing quite well, having added 49 by calculating the difference between the numbers you cited and the number in the 2004 ACP. I think Spurgeon would be pleased. Moreover, it is one of the larger churches in the association! By the yardstick you offer, Spurgeon would very certainly be pleased. So much for your astounding powers of statistical analysis. I'd also add that Spurgeon's answer probably would not be "They aren't evangelistic enough," but "God has not seen fit to make those churches large, blessed be the Lord." What matters is a man's faithfulness in the work of evangelism and missions, Charles, not the size of his church.

Addendum, Tom Ascol has responded to the questions about attendance and his ACP in an email. He writes: FYI, we did not turn in a completed ACP last year. We did all of the statistical compilation that was asked, but then we only turned in total membership and I think a few financial stats. When the 2005 ACP for our church was posted, it had several numbers plugged in that we did not report! And they were all wrong...some significantly so. They put zero in the total baptisms, while leaving the other breakdowns blank (which we had also left blank). I may have someone check into this, since we kept careful records of what we reported and did not report. Also, our average attendance on Sunday mornings is between 300-350. Our Sunday night attendance is about 150-175 and our Wednesday night attendance is around 200.


  1. Rather than write the long response to the foolishness of the "flyswatter" I'll just say this. Charles Spurgeon was a wonderful preacher, and one of a kind. Without a doubt he'd be deeply grieved by what passes for evangelism in this day and age.

  2. Sorry about the mis-comment. This comment is for the Clause-complex, one post down. (Due to a pathetically immature person who can't win an argument with reason and evidence and must resort to a denial of service attack on the comments section, I cannot put this there).

    Hiraeth, thanks for your breakdown of the Clause myth, but I'm afraid you've entirely missed the point of those who are using this Santa analogy. No one was comparing Jesus to Santa, they were comparing God to Santa--God as in YHWH or "Father" in the Trinity, not "Son".