Responding to a Disenchanted Calvinist – Part Five

reflections-disenchanted-calvinist-disquieting-realities-calvinism-ronnie-w-rogers-paperback-cover-art At this point in the book, Pastor Rogers has shown us pretty much everything he has to offer in response to Calvinism.  It is clear where he stands, what his arguments will most likely be, and what he sees as disquieting realities of Calvinism.  From this point on in the book he tries to outline some additional complaints, but does not really provide anything that has not already been implicitly or explicitly stated.  The hope, then, is to pick up the pace even more so than before (and I will link back to previous posts with any objections he raises or re-raises that have already been addressed in this review).  The chapters for this Part are:

Chapter X: World vs. Elect

Chapter XI: Faith and Regeneration

Chapter XII: Faith and Works

Chapter XIII: Preaching of the Gospel

Chapter XIV: The Unpardonable Sin

Wasting no time, here goes:

 

     Chapter X: World vs. Elect

I have dealt with this issue in part already, so I will direct the reader to that post (under Chapter VII: Love of God; first couple paragraphs).

His first affirmation is a blanket use of the word “all.”  Which in his understanding becomes a one-dimensional word.  I’ve already tried to show the inconsistency in trying to apply the same definition to all uses of the word “all.”

Expecting this answer, Pastor Rogers sets out to show how all may be limited at times, but it is also universal at times (this of course was never in doubt).  He says:

“Everyone most assuredly agrees that “all” in Romans 3:9 means every Jew and Greek rather than Jews and Greeks as a group” (46).

This is true of course.  But the point of the matter is that the context sets the meaning for the word all.  In fact Romans 3:9 could be a reference to just Jews and Greeks (as people groups), truthfully it wouldn’t matter, because if someone were to object that they weren’t a Jew or Greek, I would simply refer to the earlier chapters of Romans (especially chapter 1, vv. 18-32) or Ephesians 2:1-3.  Romans 3:9 may in fact reference just those two groups, but it is a universal truth defended by the rest of Scripture.  Pastor Rogers’s use of the word all in an unqualified sense can’t be defended the same way, because for every John 3:16 (used in an Arminian sense) there is a John 17:9 (used in a Calvinistic sense); so then we need to try to find the context and not make the Scriptures contradict one another as Pastor Rogers’s Synergism inevitably does.

“If one says ‘all,’ with regard to salvation, means all classes of men, but not all men in every class, then why does it not mean all classes of men but not all men in every class in Romans 3:23, where it says, ‘All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God?'” (47).

Answer: It does. You’ll find it really doesn’t matter; Paul is addressing how every person (or group of people…doesn’t matter; whether with the law or without it), is under the wrath of God apart from His Son.

Note: At this point in the review, one such as myself wants to give a full refutation of everything Pastor Rogers says, but it becomes very tedious due to the nature of the book.  1) He repeats many of the same arguments that have already been answered; he simply rewords them to fit a specific subject.  2) The book is absolutely replete with straw man argumentation.  I have already pointed out several, and to finish this chapter would require me to point out several more.

With that said, let’s move on to the next chapter (for any further discussion of his objections feel free to comment and I will answer).

 

     Chapter XI: Faith and Regeneration

“I affirm that faith precedes and is the prerequisite for regeneration–being born again (John 1:12-13, 3:3, 3:15-16, 3:36, 5:24, 6:40, 7:39, 12:36, 20:31; 1 Peter 1:23, 1 John 5:1,4).  These Scriptures all show that spiritual life follows the sinner placing his faith in Jesus Christ” (53).

For those unaware, here is a quick summary of the Calvinist soteriology as opposed to the Synergist:

Calvinist: Predestined, Called, Regenerated (born again), granted Faith and Repentance, Justified, Adopted, Sanctified, Glorified.

Synergist: (I don’t actually know, it varies, but they generally all look like this:) Called, exercises Faith and Repentance, Regenerated (born again), Saved, Predestined(?), Sanctified, Glorified.

But please take note of the Calvinist soteriology, because it is the confusion of those doctrines, and their placement in the soteriology, that causes the confusion that Pastor Rogers presents here.  Let’s look at the verses he provides to see why:

John 1:12-13: I really–in all honesty–have a difficult time understanding how a “once-Calvinist” could possibly think this verse would have any weight against the Calvinist soteriology.  John says God gave those that believe, “the right to become children of God” (Adoption!).  Any Calvinist worth his salt knows this is true, adoption follows faith (believing) and repentance.  But what does the verse go on to say about these “children of God” who believed? That they were “born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”  I truly do not understand how it could be much more clear.  But I think this verse reference is sufficiently…refuted.

John 3:3: Again, I just don’t get this reference.  In order to see the Kingdom of Heaven they must be born again.  How are they born again?  He/she must be ” born of water and the Spirit.”  To make it more clear, Jesus tells us that no one knows where the Spirit blows, because it is like the wind.  Thus no one knows who the Spirit will cause to be born again (v.8). Refuted…

John 3:15-16: Huh?  I can see how he would interpret this, but the only way you could use this against the Calvinist understanding is to conflate Regeneration, Justification, and Faith…

John 3:36: Same. See above.

John 5:24: Same.  What Calvinist denies these words?  We implore all men everywhere to believe on the Son.  We just believe that those whom God chooses to save will do so.

John 6:40: And who are the ones who will believe?  We see 4 verses later, 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”  This is refuted by the context.

John 7:39: Don’t think you can stretch this to mean what PR is attempting to make it mean.  Does he truly believe that the Spirit wasn’t involved already?  Obviously the Spirit was sent in a “different” way following the ascension of Jesus to the right hand of the Father.

John 12:36: Same problem as John 1:12-13 above.  Conflation of two doctrines (Adoption and Regeneration).  But as John 1:13 says, these children are born of God.

John 20:31: John says a similar thing to Christians in 1 John, verse 3 and 4.  But again there is nothing in this passage that shows us that Regeneration does not enable the believing that takes place…the burden of proof is on Pastor Rogers, because the prooftexts for Regeneration preceding Faith are numerous.

1 Peter 1:23: If anything this proves the opposite.  I would say read this verse from 3 to the end of the chapter, and see if you truly believe the idea here is that our faith and repentance causes God to then save us…or if that sounds closer to a works righteousness (one that is earned or deserved).  In fact, see what Verse 3 has to say very explicitly, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercyhe has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”  How much more clear can it be?  The Bible makes much more sense when taken in full context, and Calvinism sounds a lot more Biblicist than the “man-made system of theology” it is accused of being.

1 John 5:1,4: Please read the verse…  If anything this strengthens the Calvinist position.  “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.”  It really is much easier to let the Scriptures speak for themselves.  I thank Pastor Rogers for making this nice list of Calvinistic verses.

To think that man causes himself to be born again–in my mind–subverts the very point of the Gospel.  That is, to lay down our efforts and trust in Christ.  But this trusting and believing are the work of the Spirit in our heart in the first place.

One of the most wonderful and vivid depictions of this great work of God in our hearts is shown in Ezekiel 36:22-27:

“It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name…And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name…I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” (emphasis mine)

It is the work of the Spirit to cause a stoney heart, dead in its sin, and make it live to God.  Anything short of that is replacing God’s work with man’s, and robbing God of what is His (if it could be done).

Chapter XII: Faith and Works

I think with this short chapter Pastor Rogers is trying to show that faith is not a work, therefore it is not right for a Calvinist to say that Synergists believe in a works-based salvation.  I’ll agree that a Synergist does not technically advocate a Pharisaical works righteousness, but it is certainly true that they give themselves ground for boasting (i.e. Eph 2:9-10) and that is the logical end.  No matter how much it is denied, the faith (i.e. action/work/doing) of a person merits regeneration and justification.

“I affirm that faith is a gift of God, but not in the sense that God only gave the gift to some” (61).

This has already been stated by Pastor Rogers, but it still assumes a prevenient grace that has not yet been proven.  Mainly because there is no reasonable defense of the doctrine of prevenient grace.  There is no reason to believe that every single person alive is given the same measure of faith, grace, promptings of the Holy Spirit, etc.  I repeat…there is no Scriptural basis for it, not one proof text.

“I further disaffirm that salvation is synergistic in any sense in which man is seen as meritoriously contributing rather than merely receiving” (62).

I will not accuse Pastor Rogers of being disingenuous here, but I would like for him to expand on this a bit, especially considering everything he has said up to this point (i.e. man must make the choice, predestination and election are based on the choice of man, faith is the prerequisite to the Holy Spirit’s working, etc).

“I disaffirm that salvation by faith can be reduced to meaning ‘justification by faith’ because salvation by faith is used biblically to mean more than merely justification [cites scriptures that have already been dealt with].  This is in direct conflict with Calvinists who argue that when the Bible speaks of salvation by faith, it is actually speaking of justification, which according to Calvinism, comes after regeneration and the irresistible bestowal of faith” (62).

This actually isn’t correct, but I see what he is trying to do here.  Actually most Calvinists would say that salvation encompasses everything from Regeneration to Justification to Glorification.  Salvation, technically speaking, is the end state.  But of course there is a sense of “already but not yet.”  So without specific examples from Pastor Rogers, without exegesis of any passages, and a lack of any other proof for his statement, I have to say again: who cares if you disaffirm it? Just because someone states that they disaffirm God’s existence doesn’t mean I’m going to abandon the argument…evidence and proof need be provided (and in this case, it needs to be provided from the Bible, not mere opinion).

 

     Chapter XIII: Preaching of the Gospel

“I affirm that a truly good faith offer seems to necessitate a willingness to tell a person that Christ died for them.  For example, Paul said to the Corinthians, ‘For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures’ (1 Corinthians 15:1-3).  Thus, he told them Christ died for ‘our sins’ when they were lost” (64).

Early on, Pastor Rogers accuses the Calvinist of putting on their spectacles before interpreting passages, but I think it can be proven again and again that this is exactly what the Synergist must do.  I am completely content to let the verses speak for themselves…in their proper context.  My challenge still stands: for someone to show me an example of Christ or the Apostles telling a group of known unbelievers that He died for their sins specifically.

1 Corinthians 15:1-3 clearly doesn’t work unless you forget that Paul is speaking to a Church…and “our” would apply directly to those believers in that church.  When PR says, “he told them Christ died for ‘our sins’ when they were lost,” he is adding something that is not there.  And it is plain to anyone not already wearing the spectacles of their traditionalism.

He goes on to use Luke 22:20 and Acts 3:26 in the same way.  Because in Luke, Judas is sitting there.  See!  Proof positive, except no one else knew that Judas was a reprobate (except the all-knowing Jesus), so it is completely understandable that He would say such a thing to a group of professing disciples.  If you want to apply that kind of reasoning to every passage in which Judas is also being spoken to, you may find yourself running into trouble.

Acts 3:26 doesn’t even make sense in the context Pastor Rogers is attempting to use it, especially because a few verses earlier Peter says, “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out…”  That their sins might then be blotted out.  Not that they already were!  Context…

The Word of God deserves more respect than just grabbing verses out that fit our preconceived paradigms.

Speaking of Acts 3:26 later, after quoting from John MacArthur, and accusing Calvinist of the dreaded “double-talk,” Pastor Rogers again erects the straw man that he shall commence to burn down more easily.

“From a non-Calvinist interpretation, it is indeed an eternal tragedy [that the majority of the crowd that Peter spoke to would not repent], but from a Calvinist perspective, it is not.  Because according to Calvinism’s unconditional election, irresistible selective regeneration, and monergistic salvation [redundant much], their non-repentance was exactly what God desired and predetermined that they could only do; they will spend eternity in torment, as He also desired” (65).

I’m not entirely sure where Pastor Rogers gets his interpretation of ‘desire[s]’ when he talks like this.  I think he actually believes the Calvinist God to be some sort of sadist.  Calvinists believe God has purpose in all things; Pastor Rogers does not.  Calvinists believe God can derive glory from the outcome of man’s failure to repent; Pastor Rogers does not.  Calvinists believe man chooses his sin, as he has from Adam, and that he refuses the real offer of salvation from God; Pastor Rogers does not seem to understand this.  Calvinists believe God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked; Pastor Rogers seems to think Calvinists say He does.

Someone get the hose, this burning straw man is about to set the whole field on fire..

Must I go on?  Let’s go to the next chapter.

 

      Chapter XIV: The Unpardonable Sin

Here is where Pastor Rogers will attempt to defend his idea of prevenient grace (even though it surely falls short, because Pastor Rogers contends that all men everywhere have these ‘grace enablements,’ but the Unpardonable Sin can only apply to those who’ve heard the Gospel personally, as he will say).

“I affirm that the unpardonable sin, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (Matt 12:30-32), is rejection of the gospel, the message of Christ, when a person is enabled by grace and therefore given full knowledge of who Christ really is under the conviction of the Holy Spirit” (75).

I believe the idea here is to defend his window theory of salvation.  That people are enlightened to a certain degree (regenerated to a certain degree?), and then must make the final choice.  It sounds good, I guess…until you take it to what might be called a disquieting reality.  Namely, that God could be thwarted in His salvific mission.  God could enable everyone to a certain degree, leaving the last little bit to man’s libertarian free will, but in the end fail miserably in saving any.  It’s a good thing we’ve had so many people make the right decision; and when they get to heaven and they’re asked why they should be let into God’s kingdom, they can happily say “because of me, and my right choice.”

Another question comes to mind: are only those who have the Gospel preached to them given this grace enablement?  This window of opportunity?  (Figuring out his stance on this question is rather like nailing a gust of wind to the wall)  If so, then it seems rather unloving of God to not make sure the Gospel is preached to the whole world, making sure every single individual in existence had an equal chance.  Just saying.

This of course never proves his point about grace enablements either, because he goes on to say:

“I disaffirm that [the unpardonable sin] is rejecting the gospel of Christ because many if not most do this at some time prior to salvation” (79).

So does this mean that some are actually enabled by God to a certain degree, but others are not?  That seems a bit selective…almost elective.  I disagree with him to a degree here; I think it is the [perpetual] rejection of the gospel of Christ (“For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins” -Heb 10:26), but I also think that it is more so from someone who once professed a belief in Jesus, in other words, apostasy…and this has been the understanding of most.

“I disaffirm that it is possible for a Christian to commit this sin” (79).

Here is an odd disaffirmation; why can a Christian not commit this sin?  At what point do I lose my libertarian free will?  I’ve asked this before, but Pastor Rogers’s system of belief leaves one quite befuddled as to why a non-believer has libertarian free will to accept or reject the Gospel…but a born again believer does not.  The issue is not what keeps us in God’s good graces, but what put us there in the first place.  If it was us, then I believe you can’t say that we don’t have just as much ability to later reject it.  If it was Him, then I believe He has given us a new heart that longs for the things of God; and that “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion” (Phil 1:6), because He is the “author and finisher,” “founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

I will agree with Pastor Rogers that the unpardonable sin is a person being presented with the Gospel and then rejecting it, despite the lengths to which they may have enjoyed its benefits (i.e. enlightenment, partaking of the Holy Spirit, tasting the word of God, being part of a church, communion, baptism, fellowship, etc. etc.) or been a proclaimer of it (Matt 7:21-23).  Pastor Rogers is attempting to say that these people partook in some type of regeneration (as if God gave them a new heart), but that is not what is going on, and to say so is to admit to losing your salvation.  The fact is, those who are truly born again will not fall away or reject these things  (Heb 10:39) and those who do were never truly Regenerated or of us (1 John 2:19).

Another way of looking at this is by the parable of the sower and the soils (or ground); Matthew 13.  There were four types of ground that the seed fell on, but only one of them was truly a believer (v. 23), the good soil.  Who made that soil good?  From Pastor Rogers’s perspective it was the person himself; from a Calvinist perspective it was God.  But take notice of the rocky ground hearer (v. 20-21), because he sprung up, he appeared to be a true believer (he may have exhibited many signs of belief, joined a church, partook in the blessings, been a preacher, etc), but he withers and dies (he abandons the faith…is it because he was partially regenerated? Or was it because Jesus never knew him).

The fact is, this is a prime example of Pastor Rogers taking his system of belief and reading back into passages such as Hebrews 6:4-6 and Hebrews 10:26ff what is not there.  It is a quite a leap to take his idea of prevenient grace, or window theory, and impose it on the text.  The idea is simply not stated anywhere in the Bible, and there is no reason to do so in Hebrews 6 or 10.

Yet, it is difficult to address exactly what Pastor Rogers is trying to say here, because he tends to flip flop on what exactly he is saying (all are enabled, some are enabled, some aren’t…).

Til next time,

SDG,

Jon

See the author’s response to my review: here.

 

 

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~ by TSL on February 27, 2013.

One Response to “Responding to a Disenchanted Calvinist – Part Five”

  1. […] I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, & […]

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