Section 8A .. A Question Of Salvation/Calvinism

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Calvinism Part II A -  Total Inability

One would expect that when a major belief system stands or falls on a single point, there should be unequivocal proof for this doctrine in the Scriptures. This is far from the case.

Carol Brooks.

Index To All Sections

 Part 1: An Introduction to John Calvin and his Doctrines of Grace

Part 2Introduction to the acronym T.U.L.I.P - each letter stands for one of the five fundamental tenets of Calvinism.
You Are Here 001orange 2A. Total Inability
2BUnconditional Election
 2C. Limited Atonement
 2D. Irresistible Grace
  2E. Perseverance of The Saints

 Part 3: When the Gospel Becomes a Lie
 Part 4: God’s Sovereignty and Character
Part 5: Hypocrisy Unlimited
 Part 6: Conclusion

  Part 7: The Sins of Augustine.

Part 8: Calvinism in the First 1500 Years

  Calvinism And The Book of Romans HERE


Romans 1:21

    For even though they knew God, they did not honor (Gk.edoxasan ) Him as God or give thanks (Gk. eucharistesan ) but they became (Gk. emataiothesan ) futile (Gk. mataioo ) in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened (Gk. eskotisthe )

Because they did not actively glorify or honor God they became wicked and idolatrous and their fooling hearts were darkened, which brings up the question of how totally depraved people can "become futile in their speculations" and how can completely depraved hearts become darkened?



Introduction - Total Inability.. The Cornerstone
Calvinism teaches that people are so corrupt that on their own initiative, it is actually impossible for them to repent of their sins, turn to Christ and be saved. In fact, they don't even have the desire to do so. Their only hope is if God, by His grace, sovereignly changes their wills.

Part I - Adam
Total Inability and The Fall
Calvin believed and taught that man total corruption and inability to accept God's offered of salvation is rooted in Adam and Eve's sin. The problem is that the Bible invalidates every one of his ideas. See Adam.. Morally Perfect and Immortal?, Death Before Sin? Did Adam Die Spiritually or Physically?

Did God "Forget" To Mention The Most Devastating Consequence Of Adam's Sin
A Corrupt Stock Produced Corrupt Offspring?

Part II - Of Their Own Accord No One Ever Seeks or Obeys God?
Isaiah 64:6-7 - A Proof Text?

Sure! If you ignore the textual and historical context.

Romans 3:10-18:
says there is none righteous...  no one who understands ... none who seeks God. However,if one examines the source of Paul's quotes a very different picture emerges.

An angel talked to this "totally depraved" but somehow 'God fearing' man and told him that God had noticed and was pleased with him

The Choice Given The Israelites by Moses and Joshua
Although Calvinism teaches that people do not even have the desire to respond to God note the people's response to three of Joshua's statements.

Part III - Supposed Proof Texts From The New Testament

1 Corinthians 2:14
What are to we make of the term "natural man"

Ephesians 2:1-3
Spiritually or Physically Dead?

Tyre and Sidon

Total Inability, the Gospel and an 'Unreasonable' God?
A call to repentance assumes the ability to respond

Total Inability
is represented by the first letter of the acronym TULIP.

 The Cornerstone
Calvinism rightly maintains that humanity was born with a propensity or inclination to sin - a fact that is not only proved from the Scriptures, but the daily newspaper. However, it goes far beyond this, teaching that people are so corrupt that it is actually impossible for them on their own initiative to repent of their sins, turn to Christ and be saved. In fact, they don't even have the desire to do so unless God sovereignly changes their wills by a grace that cannot be resisted (irresistible grace).

If man is indeed incapable of saying, doing, thinking or believing anything that would set his feet on the road to salvation, then one can understand why God would have to step in if anyone at all is to be saved. However, as said in the introduction - the last four points of Calvinism are completely dependent on the first. In other words, Total Inability is the foundation and cornerstone of the entire superstructure.

When a major belief system stands or falls on a single point (total inability in this case), there should be unequivocal proof for it in the Scriptures. But, far from this being the case, the Biblical silence is deafening when it comes to several 'proofs' that that Calvinism insists are completely by the Book.

So lets take a trip back in time to where it was all supposed to have started... the account of the creation of Adam and Eve,and their first sin as related in the book of Genesis.

Part I - Total Inability and The Fall
Calvin believed and taught that the reason man was so totally corrupt and unable to choose to follow God or choose to accept God's offered salvation is rooted in Adam and Eve's sin. Since all "sinned in Adam" every single person who came after Adam inherited his guilt. None are innocent, not even infants. In other words, when they fell, we fell.  What's more... there is absolutely nothing we can do about this situation. See Original Sin.. Fact or Fable

John Calvin once said...

    "...the corruption by which we are held bound as with chains originated in the first man's revolt against his Maker."  [01]

Adam.. Morally Perfect and Immortal?
It is sometimes assumed that Adam was created morally perfect and immortal but his sin caused him to become totally corrupt and alienated from God qualities that he then passed on to all his descendants. The Westminster Confession of Faith is a Reformed statement of Faith. The 1647 version says (All Emphasis Added)

    After God had made all other creatures, He created man, male and female, with reasoning and immortal souls, rendering them fit to live that life for Him for which they were created; - being made in the image of God, in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness; having the law of God written in their hearts, and having the power to fulfill it; [02]

However, nowhere in the Genesis account (or anywhere else in the Bible for that matter) does it say Adam and Eve were created immortal or morally perfect. Nowhere does it say they had "the law of God written in their hearts". To claim either one is to is going above and beyond what the Scriptures tells us.

Certainly Adam and Eve were probably innocent, as is anyone who has never encountered anything evil or bad. In light of the fact that they hid themselves when God came to the garden (Genesis: 3:7,8) it is reasonable to surmise that the fact that their disobedience caused them to feel guilty and lose some of this innocence.

Death Before Sin?
John Calvin would have us believe that Adam's fall and its effect upon the rest of the human was "arranged" by God at "His own pleasure". (Emphasis Added)

God not only foresaw the fall of the first man, and in him the ruin of his posterity; but also at his own pleasure arranged it. For as it belongs to his wisdom to foreknow all future events, so it belongs to his power to rule and govern them by his hand... [03]

(It 'pleased' God to arrange the ruin of most of mankind? I strongly suggest you read the character of God on THIS page)

And, since God only planned to elect some to salvation, the rest of humanity was doomed to eternal death before Adam sinned. Yet, the Bible tells us that God warned Adam that death would come into existence IF he disobeyed.

    but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die."  (Genesis 2:17 NASB)

And, as Paul taught, that was exactly what happened. Sin and death initially entered the world through one man. (Emphasis Added) However, notice that it says "Death spread to all men, because all have sinned". It does not say, "Death spread to all men because Adam sinned". It was through one man that sin entered the world, but death passed to all men because each and every man sinned himself.

    Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned  (Romans 5:12 NASB)

Repeating what was said in the introduction - although the doctrine of "total depravity" is commonly associated with John Calvin, he based it on Augustine's theology and writings. In other words, Augustine was the source of most of what is known as Calvinism today. Because Augustine spoke Latin not Greek he possibly relied on Jerome's Latin Translation or the earlier, less than accurate, Latin translations. However in the case of Romans 5:12, it seems that the Vulgate did not differ from  the earlier translations.

    "By one man sin entered the world, and death by sin; so death passed upon all men, for in him all men sinned."

This is a far from an accurate translation of the Greek. "Because all men sinned" is far more correct. [https://biblehub.com/interlinear/romans/5-12.htm]

Did Adam Die Spiritually or Physically?
In Genesis: 2:17 God tells Adam that in the day he eats of the forbidden fruit he will "surely die" but, as we well know, although both Adam and Eve ate of the tree neither of them died physically anytime soon but went on to have several sons. In fact, Adam lived to the ripe old age of 930 (Genesis: 5:5).

As the argument usually goes because Adam's physical death did not occur "in the day" that he sinned, God must have been speaking of a spiritual death or a separation from Him. Therefore when Paul said "through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin" in Romans 5:12 he must have been talking about a 'spiritual death'.

However is this accurate? Did Adam die spiritually or was God talking of a physical death? If the latter, what are we to make of the fact that Adam certainly did not die "in the day" he ate of the forbidden fruit? For Details See Adam.. Physical or Spiritual Death?

Did God "Forget" To Mention The Most Devastating Consequence Of Adam's Sin i.e
A Corrupt Stock Produced Corrupt Offspring?
The Canons of Dordt state that

    Man was originally formed after the image of God. His understanding was adorned with a true and saving knowledge of his Creator and of spiritual things; his heart and will were upright; all his affections pure; and the whole man was holy... Man after the fall begat children in his own likeness. A corrupt stock produced a corrupt offspring. Hence all the posterity of Adam, Christ only excepted, have derived corruption from their original parent, not by imitation, as the Pelagians of old asserted, but by the propagation of a vicious nature. [04]

About this Calvin wrote

    I again ask how it is that the fall of Adam involves so many nations with their infant children in eternal death without remedy unless that it so seemed meet to God? Here the most loquacious tongues must be dumb. The decree, I admit, is, dreadful; and yet it is impossible to deny that God foreknew what the end of man was to be before he made him, and foreknew, because he had so ordained by his decree. [05]

One would think that if Adam's transgression had such a monumental effect on all future generations it would at least be mentioned in the Genesis account. Much to the contrary the silence is deafening. It is nowhere stated (or even implied) that Adam's sin was passed down to anyone.

All we are told is because Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Good and Evil God did not want them to also partake of the Tree of Life, and live for ever therefore He banished them from the garden (Genesis: 3:22-23). The man was cursed with having to work for food and the ground (that was also cursed) would reward him with thorns and thistles (Genesis: 3:17-19). The woman was cursed with great pain in childbirth (Genesis: 3:16).

However all these curses fade into insignificance when compared to the fact that trillions of Adam's descendants would inherit his sin and not be able to respond to God. Yet, the book breathes not a single word about this.

Why not?

Did God just forget or simply neglect to mention the most devastating consequence of all?

Or perhaps we should just go with the innumerable passages of Scripture that clearly and unambiguously tell us that no person can bear the guilt (or innocence) of another - that everyone will answer for their own sins and misdeeds, and that our eternal destiny is determined by our conduct not by inheritance. For example,

    "Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin. (Deuteronomy 24:16 NASB)

    "In those days they will not say again, 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, And the children's teeth are set on edge.' "But everyone will die for his own iniquity; each man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth will be set on edge. (Jeremiah 31:29-30 NASB)

    "The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son's iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.  (Ezekiel 18:20 NASB)

On the other hand, what we cannot ignore is that in Romans 5 Paul seems to be saying that something happened to all humanity because of Adam's sin. Which begs the question... What exactly was it that Adam passed down to his descendants? The answer may very well be found in relatively new scientific discoveries... the emerging field of Epigenetics.

See Original Sin or Epigenetics

Part II - Of Their Own Accord No One Ever Seeks or Obeys God
Isaiah 64:6-7:

    For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls on Your name, who arouses himself to take hold of You; For You have hidden Your face from us and have delivered us into the power of our iniquities.

Isaiah 64:6 has long been used as a proof-text for two totally separate but equally unfounded beliefs.

    1) Calvinism uses it to establish the idea that everything the natural man does is wicked... even good deeds. This helps to set up the dogma of "total inability," the engine which drives the entire Calvinist soteriology. (IPS note: Soteriology deals with the nature and means of salvation).

    2) The Evangelical uses it to show that good works, obedience, virtue are all useless. This sets the stage for the doctrine of "accepting Christ" through a once-for-all act of faith.  [07]

The problem is that both parties ignore the textual and historical context. An accurate understanding depends on not reading this verse (or any other) in isolation but within the flow of the entire chapter. If they quoted the verse in context, it becomes glaringly obvious that the text is not a universal theological statement made to everyone in every age.  Much to the contrary, it is directed at a specific group of people at a specific point in time.

See Filthy Rags - the Bible often speaks of "righteous" people.

And  Context is CRUCIAL

Romans 3:10-18: No One Seeks God

    "There is none righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, there is none who seeks God. All have turned aside, together they have become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongues they keep deceiving; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their paths: And the path of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Although these verses from Romans say nothing about man's ability or inability to receive the gospel or to exercise faith, they are often quoted to bolster the claims of universal depravity - that no one ever seeks after God.  However if this were the case it would completely contradict Hebrews 11:6 which clearly states that God rewards those that diligently seek Him. (Calvinism teaches that man does not even seek God unless given the grace to do so)

    And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6 NASB)

Additionally, if one examines the source of Paul's quotes a very different picture emerges. The Psalms in question do not show that righteous people have never lived but, much to the contrary, often spoke of God's protection and favor towards the virtuous people of that day. And that not only can men call upon God but when they do, He actually answers them.

The million dollar question then is why Paul presented one side of the coin, but ignored the verses that speak of God's support and favor for those who feared Him.  Actually he didn't. See None That Seeketh?


According to Calvinism, an unregenerate man cannot be obedient to God's instructions. Yet the God-fearing Roman centurion heard and obeyed.

    (2) a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually. (3)  About the ninth hour of the day he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God who had just come in and said to him, "Cornelius!" (4)  And fixing his gaze on him and being much alarmed, he said, "What is it, Lord?" And he said to him, "Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God. (5)  "Now dispatch some men to Joppa and send for a man named Simon, who is also called Peter;(Acts 10:1-5)

We all know the rest of the story. Peter was also alerted in a vision not to call unclean what God had cleansed, therefore went with Cornelius' messengers to his home and preached the Gospel to him, his relatives and his near friends (V. 24). The result? "the Holy Spirit fell on all them that heard the word". (V. 44).

Certainly this story is remarkable in itself. It was God's first offer of salvation to the Gentiles and fulfillment of the prophecy in Matthew 16:19, where Jesus said Peter held the keys of the kingdom. (Peter was the one to first unlock the doors to both groups - the Jews (on Pentecost) and the Gentiles (beginning with Cornelius). However let examine a few aspects of the story. According to Calvinism, man is totally depraved before he is regenerated by God's irresistible grace, yet

    1) Luke said some very complimentary things about Cornelius, calling him a devout, God-fearing, prayerful man. (What happened to Total Depravity?)

    2) An angel actually talked to this totally depraved man before Peter arrived and told him that God had noticed and was pleased with his prayers and alms.

    3) The angel told Cornelius to send for Peter. He had to do something before he could even hear what Peter had to say and before the Holy Spirit fell on him and his family.

The Choice Given The Israelites by Moses and Joshua (All Emphasis Added)
In Deuteronomy 30 Moses told the Israelites that he was setting before them life and death as two straightforward alternatives for them to choose between. There was not the slightest suggestion that any of the listeners were incapable of complying with the commands.

    "See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. (Deuteronomy 30:15-16 NASB)

He then went on to instruct them to command their children to obey the law -the only thing that would prolong their lives in the land across the Jordan.

    he said to them, "Take to your heart all the words with which I am warning you today, which you shall command your sons to observe carefully, even all the words of this law. "For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life. And by this word you will prolong your days in the land, which you are about to cross the Jordan to possess." (Deuteronomy 32:46-47 NASB)

Joshua repeated a similar message more than once.

    "If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." (Joshua 24:15 NASB) Also See Joshua 1:7-9

The People's Response - We Will Serve The Lord
Although Calvinism teaches that people do not even have the desire to serve God note the people's response to three of Joshua's statements

    If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you after He has done good to you." The people said to Joshua, "No, but we will serve the Lord."

    Joshua said to the people, "You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen for yourselves the Lord, to serve Him." And they said, "We are witnesses." "

    Now therefore, put away the foreign gods which are in your midst, and incline your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel." The people said to Joshua, "We will serve the Lord our God and we will obey His voice." (Joshua 24:20-24 NASB)

And if you wish to dismiss this as lip service, Joshua did not. He took their commitment to keeping God's commandments very seriously. The next verse tells us that He "made a covenant with the people that day" (V.25) going as far as to write those words in the book of the law of God. He then took "a large stone and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the Lord (V.26) as a witness to the promises made by the people,

Joshua said to all the people, "Behold, this stone shall be for a witness against us, for it has heard all the words of the Lord which He spoke to us; thus it shall be for a witness against you, so that you do not deny your God." (Joshua 24:27 NASB)

Part III - Supposed Proof Texts From The New Testament
John 5:21: "For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes. 

Read in isolation, this verse seems to give Calvinism some plausibility because they assume that if He wishes, Jesus gives spiritual life to those who are dead in trespasses and sins. However, this is not at all the case if the verse is read in context...

    After Jesus healed the lame man of Bethesda on the Sabbath, he told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.(V. 15) Then the Jews "persecuted Jesus, because he did these things on the Sabbath" (V.16).  Jesus' response was to tell them "My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working" (V.17).  This stirred the people up even further since He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but was also "making Himself equal with God" (V.18).

    Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. "For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel. "For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.  John 5:19-21 NASB)

The focus of the exchange had shifted from the healing of the lame man to Jesus' claim to be one with the Father. Considering that the power to raise the physically dead is one of the highest attributes of divinity that God says belongs to Him alone (Deuteronomy 32:39) Jesus was telling them that He, like the Father had authority over physical life and death

John 6:44 - "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws (Gr. helkyse) him"
This verses is commonly proffered as a proof text for Total Inability.

Calvinism interprets the word "drawing" to exclusively apply to the 'elect' and be irresistible. However, it is both universal and resistible. Jesus used the same Greek word when He said "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw (Gr. helkyse) all men to Myself.” In other words, just as the standard or ensigns of commanders of regiments were rallying points that people gathered around, the Messiah was raised up on the cross had the power to draw all to Him. However, only some would respond positively.

This does not mean that because God draws all people He also regenerates or gives life to all people. The Scriptures provide plenty of evidence that people can and do resist Him. Take Acts 7:51 for example,

    You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.  (NASB)

In his book Chosen by God, R. C. Sproul, chairman and president of Ligonier Ministries, says this (Emphasis Added)

A cardinal point or Reformed theology [Calvinism] is the maxim: "Regeneration precedes faith." Our nature is so corrupt, the power of sin is so great, that unless God does a supernatural work in our souls we will never choose Christ. We do not believe in order to be born again; we are born again in order to believe." [08]

In other words, the 'drawing' John speaks of refers to being being regenerated (being 'born again') and until that happens no one can come to Christ. However, just one chapter earlier Jesus told the Jews that they were "unwilling" to come to Him so that they may have life.  (John 5:40 NASB)

And here we have two completely contradictory and irreconcilable statements - Jesus says people have life as a result of coming to Him. Calvinism claims that a person has to be given life before they can come to Him. For the Calvinist interpretation to be accurate, Jesus should have said, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me first gives him life."

More In Part II D -  Irresistible Grace

Acts 16:14
And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple of the city of Thyatira, one that worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened (Gk. dianoigơ) to give heed unto the things which were spoken by Paul.

Calvinists claim that God's grace opened Lydia's heart to receive the word which she heard and was saved. However, the account that states that Lydia was already "a worshiper of God" which she couldn't have been if she was so totally depraved.

Calvinists tend to ask why would God have to open Lydia's heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul? in other words, it would be a violation of her 'free will'.  However, the same Greek word is used in Luke 24:45,

    Then He opened (Gk. dianoigơ) their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, (Luke 24:45-46 NASB)

In other words Jesus enabled them fully to comprehend the meaning of the prophecies which foretold His death and resurrection. Similarly God enabled Lydia to fully understand that what Paul said was true.


Romans 8:7:
because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so.

The argument here is that the "carnal mind," of depraved people cannot obey God's laws. However, you have to consider the verse in context which begins a couple of chapters earlier.

Very briefly, Paul tells us in Romans 6 that righteousness is required of those who have been justified by faith. They cannot continue to live in sin, but are instructed to present themselves unto God as alive from the dead and as instruments of righteousness (V.13). However our flesh is weak. Romans 7 describes the frustration of trying to do it on one's own. The chapter ends with Paul's thanks to God effecting a deliverance that conscience, the Law, and human strength could not do.

He begins chapter 8 telling the Romans that the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set them free from the law of sin and of death and there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

However, he goes on to warn that in order to please God he has to walk according to the Spirit.  Anyone whose mind is set only on earthly things "does not subject itself to the law of God for it is not even able to do so. "

Romans 9:30-32:
What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone

Regardless of how wrong they were about the method, the very fact that the Jews pursued righteousness directly contradicts Calvinism's doctrine of Total Depravity, as do these other verses which all speak of God being found by people who diligently sought Him. Apparently unregenerate men can attempt to find God and save their souls.

    "As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever.  (1 Chronicles 28:9 NASB)

    Seek the Lord while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near.  (Isaiah 55:6 NASB)

    'You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.  (Jeremiah 29:13 NASB)

    and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; (Acts 17:26-27 NASB)

    And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6 NASB)

Besides which, not only can unregenerate men attempt to find God and save their souls, but God apparently looks with favor on some "totally depraved" individuals as well. Cornelius was a perfect example (Above) 

Also See Calvinism and The Book of Romans

1 Corinthians 2:14:
But a natural (Gk. psuchikos) 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. (1 Corinthians 2:14 NASB)

The Calvinist's presuppositions lead him to conclude that the 'natural' man Paul speaks about is the unregenerate sinner who is so mired in sin, that he is unable to grasp the gospel unless given the grace to do so. But is this the case?

As has been said many times on this site, virtually all verses in the Bible can only be fully understood and assessed as part of the surrounding verses, which form the setting, or the big picture. Ignoring verse numbers and reading at least several paragraphs, if not the whole chapter will almost always result in the discovery of a very clear theme and distinct message, which will often illuminate or throw a different light on a particular verse. In other words the verse may not mean exactly what you had been lead to believe, or thought it meant.

See Context is CRUCIAL

Thus 1 Corinthians 2:14 can only be correctly understood if read in context - in this case verses 1:18 through the end of chapter 2. The earlier verses of chapter 1 deal with Paul's appeal to the Corinthians not to be divided into factions based on who baptized them. However, beginning with verse 18, he changes subject and from then until the end of chapter two uses the word wisdom (sophia) some thirteen times, and wise (sophos) four, making wisdom the dominant theme.

Paul was telling the Corinthians that the cultural elite or upper crust of society - the wise men, scholars, and philosophers of the day were not believers simply because, as he put it, a crucified Messiah was a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the pseudo-intellectual Gentiles. In other words, the world rejects the Gospel because it judges it by its own standards.

    For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1:22-25 NASB)

God chose a 'foolish' thing to shame the things that are wise and strong (V.27). He came to the Corinthians preaching noting but a crucified Lord. If the rulers had understood God's wisdom, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 

Just as one cannot know the mind of another person, unless revealed by that person (2:11), the only way for man to know and understand this mystery was if God revealed it to him by His Spirit. Just how the Spirit reveals God's Divine plan is told us in verse 13... 

    The "Natural" Man: But what are to we make of the term "natural man" in 1 Corinthians 2:14? The Calvinist insists that when Paul uses the term "natural man" he means man in his natural-born degenerate state. But note other New Testament uses of this word, 

       it is sown a natural (Gk. psuchikos) body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural (Gk. psuchikos) body, there is also a spiritual body. So also it is written, "The first man, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. (1 Corinthians 15:44-46 NASB)

      This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural (Gk. psuchikos) , demonic. (James 3:15 NASB)

      These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded (Gk. psuchikos), devoid of the Spirit. (Jude 1:19 NASB)

    In other words psuchikos refers to a sensual person ruled by the physical (or the five senses), rather than by the spiritual, which is usually unseen and experienced only by faith. A man who lives as if there was nothing beyond this physical life cannot understand spiritual things.

    This is supported by the fact that psuchikos (G5591) is derived from phusikos (G5446), which in turn is derived from phusis (G5449) used in Romans 2:14 which states

      For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively (Gk. phusis) the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, (Romans 2:14-15 NASB)

    These verses have to be some of the most compelling in the case against Total Inability saying as they do, that although the Gentiles did not have the benefit of God's written law they could instinctively keep the law because their consciences distinguished right from wrong. No one can "instinctively" keep the requirements of the law if they are totally depraved.

    Additionally 1 Corinthians 2:14 does not say that the natural man cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God, but that he does not do so because they are foolishness to him, which is exactly the theme of...

    Ephesians 2:1-3:
    And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.

    Two conclusions are usually drawn from these three verses. Calvinism believe that when Paul says we were "dead in trespasses and sins", it means that since man is born spiritually dead he can not receive spiritual truth (the Gospel).

    However the problem with this is that the Greek word nekros (translated dead) is used some 130 other times in the New Testament. Except for a couple of instances where it is used metaphorically the word is always used to describe a literal physical death - often that of Jesus Himself.

      that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead (Gk. nekros), you will be saved;  (Romans 10:9 NASB)

      "But God raised Him from the dead (Gk. nekros); and for many days He appeared to those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, the very ones who are now His witnesses to the people. (Acts 13:30-31 NASB)

      Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead (Gk. nekros). (John 12:1 NASB)

    If you wish to claim that nekros is being used figuratively or spiritually Jesus did not rise physically and John was very mistaken - Lazarus wasn't dead at all.

    Keeping it simple, when Paul said "you were dead" he was simply stating that the unregenerate were as good as physically dead.

    See more about this in What and Where is Hell? Part IV... Those Overlooked Greek Words

    Tyre and Sidon
    And what are we to make of our Lord's words in the eleventh chapter of Matthew...

      Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. "Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. (Matthew 11:20-22 NASB)

    Very clearly, according to Jesus, Tyre and Sidon would have repented had they witnessed the miracles Jesus performed in Chorazin and Bethsaida. But If Total Inability is true then even if Jesus did ten times as many miracles the people of the two cities would not have changed their minds or behavior.

    Total Inability, The Gospel and An 'Unreasonable' God?
    If our Total Inability makes it impossible for us to voluntarily believe in Christ why did God command that man repent and believe. A call to repentance assumes the ability to respond

      "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent,  (Acts 17:30 NASB)

      This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.  (1 John 3:23 NASB)

    When God gives a command and threatens to punish those who do not obey it, one would imagine that the recipients are capable of doing so. But, according to Calvinism, man is so morally corrupt that under his own steam he is incapable of repenting and believing.

    If these instructions came from a human I suspect that we would wonder how long they had been off their medication. Yet we unquestioningly accept this completely unreasonable behavior as Godly, passing it off under various excuses such His ways and thoughts are above our ways and thoughts (Isaiah 55:9). or that no one can know "the mind of the Lord" (Romans 11:34).

    I however somehow doubt that "the mind of the Lord" includes Him being completely unreasonable.

    Continue On To Part II B - Unconditional Election.
    Before the creation of the world God selected a portion of humanity to be saved. This election is not based on God looking into the future and seeing that the person would have some particular virtues or faith but is a decision based solely upon God's will. (Or as some Calvinists like to put it.. His good pleasure). HERE

    Or Return to Index To Tulip

    End Notes - Total Inability
    [01] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, translated by Henry Beveridge (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans), reprinted 1983, vol. II, Chapter 5. The Arguments Usually Alleged In Support Of Free Will Refuted. Pg. 273. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.iv.vi.html

    [02] The 1647 Westminster Confession of Faith. Chapter 4: Of Creation. http://www.apuritansmind.com/westminster-standards/chapter-4/

    [03] John Calvin. Institutes of the Christian Religion. https://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.v.xxiv.html

    [04] Third And Fourth Heads Of Doctrine. Article 1. https://prts.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Canons-of-Dort-with-Intro.pdf

    [05] Institutes of the Christian Religion. Chapter 23. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.v.xxiv.html

    [06] ibid.

    [07] Steve Jones. Filthy Rags? http://www.auburn.edu/~allenkc/openhse/rags.html. Link is no longer valid

    [08] R. C. Sproul. Chosen By God,  Tyndale Momentum (September 21, 1994) Pg. 55


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