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Rom. 9 & Eph. 1
Eph. 1 - Exegesis
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The Human Condition According to Calvinists
The Calvinist view of the human condition is one of complete and utter depravity. They do not deny that man sometimes does things that are good. However, his fallen condition makes it utterly impossible for him to live righteously. He inevitably gives in to his fallen nature inherited from Adam. Because of this, he is utterly incapable of producing what is necessary for salvation — faith. Man's apparent free will is guided by his passions, which are corrupt. Yes, he is free to choose. But, he does not have the capacity to choose what is good because the pressure from his fallen nature overpowers his reasoning abilities. Therefore, if man is to be saved, God must do everything necessary, including giving him the faith to believe, regenerating his nature so that he can believe.
Since Calvinists believe man is incapable of responding to God's offer of salvation, they presume that God enlightens only those who are elect with a supernatural understanding that is withheld from the non-elect. Without this illumination, or infusion of understanding, which God gives or withholds according to His choice, man cannot respond to God. God ultimately decides by His sovereignty whether to provide what is necessary for man to believe the Gospel. He withholds this revelation from all the non-elect, but provides it for the "elect."
As is obvious, the real issue at stake between Calvinists and true Arminians is not whether man is capable of conjuring up faith, or procuring his own salvation by the power of his free will. Rather, it is whether or not God empowers all who hear the Gospel, or only the elect, to respond in faith when the Holy Spirit draws them to repentance. In other words, true Arminians believe that God's Spirit gives people the capacity to believe and exercise a truly "free will," even those who ultimately resist and reject Christ.
Most Evangelicals do not realize the idea of the guilt of Adam's "original sin" being common to all was not held by the early Church prior to the fourth century. The earliest church taught that physical death of Adam and all his descendants was the result of Adam's sin. Augustine, the real father of Calvinism, taught "spiritual death" and the perpetual guilt of Adam's sin contrary to all the Church Fathers that preceded him since the time of the Apostles. Boettner claimed that the "death" promised to Adam was not physical death, but "spiritual death." The early Church did not agree. While there were three different views regarding the "death" promised to Adam, all related to his physical death. The three views were as follows:
The Scripture used to support the Catholic and Protestant idea of "original sin" is Romans 5:12-21.
The immediate question that must be answered is whether "death" in this passage was the death of the body, as the earliest Christians believed, or "spiritual death" as Augustine claimed. Our position is that this passage speaks exclusively of physical death. The result of Adam's sin was a curse on creation, which included the death of all flesh. Catholics claim that the phrase "because all sinned" in verse 12 means that all potentially were in Adam, therefore all of us participated in Adam's sin.6 They claim it means death spread to all men, because all sinned [being in Adam's loins]. But that interpretation seems to conflict with the next two verses, which appear to give an exception to the previous statement. That is, even though "death" is experienced by all Adam's descendants, those before the Law was given partook of death as well even though they were not guilty of breaking the Law because they lived before the Law.
The most natural reading of this passage is that the penalty of physical death, through corruption of the flesh, was the penalty for Adam's sin. It was passed on to his descendants as well because we too, like Adam, all sin. This explains why Paul would make the exception in verses 13-14.
It goes without saying that if Adam's body was cursed, becoming corruptible, all of his natural descendants would inherit the same defect of their flesh. This raises the question about what effects the fall of Adam had on the soul and spirit of man. The Bible is very vague on this point. But the early Church taught that the soul of man was corrupted by its association with his corrupt body. That is, the flesh of man exerts a strong corrupting influence on his soul. While he was created "good," he does not always do what is good because of this corruption of the flesh.
Tertullian (2nd cent.), in his Treatise on the Soul, argues that our having a "soul" is what differentiates humans from animals. In chapters xv-xvi, he argued against those who thought that humans are no different than animals. That is, the "soul" is a figment of our imagination. In support of his denial of this, Tertullian called upon Plato and the philosophers. Plato taught that the "soul" of man distinguished him from animals. He thought that the soul had two parts, the "rational" and "irrational." He had to make this distinction in order to explain the fact that man sometimes acts in a very rational way, but at other times allows his passions and emotions to rule his behavior, contrary to rational thought. Plato thought that man was created this way, with both a "rational" and "irrational" part of his soul.
Tertullian argued that Plato was almost right. That is, the early Christians agreed that man's soul was partly "rational" and partly "irrational." But, Tertullian disagreed with Plato's thinking that this is how man was created. Rather, he claimed that the irrational behavior, when man is ruled by his passions instead of sound reasoning, was the result of the fall of Adam. Tertullian did not argue that man shares in the GUILT of Adam's sin. Rather, he was explaining that the "irrational" part, being driven by one's passions or emotions contrary to sound reason, is inherited from Adam because of his sin. This "irrational" part of all of us is most definitely inherited from Adam. It is now a part of our nature.
Verse 19 states that "as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous."
Catholics and Reformed believers think this verse proves that we all share the guilt for Adam's sin. That is, we are born sinners because we share in Adam's original sin. But, Paul did not explain HOW Adam's sin caused all to become sinners. The Catholic doctrine is an assumption, an inference from this text. But it is not a necessary inference. The early Church thought that the physical flesh became corrupt due to the fall, and so this corrupt nature is passed on to all Adam's descendants by procreation. This corrupt nature leaves man powerless to overcome his tendency to sin against God. In this way, all are made sinners by one man's disobedience, while at the same time not holding all men responsible for what Adam Himself did long before we were born. The early Church strongly upheld the idea that each person is responsible before God for his own sins alone. We concur with this view.
"Original Sin" as taught by Catholics and Protestants is not biblical, in our estimation. It also impugns God's character, condemning people for things they have not done.
Are All Capable
The offers of salvation to the unsaved include direct appeals to the reasoning powers of unsaved men, their inherent ability to choose, and their ability to seek after God. For example:
These kinds of general offers to all the unsaved strongly imply that all who choose to come can be saved. If not, the offers cannot be genuine and sincere. In today's climate, if Calvinism is true, God could be sued for false advertising.
Mankind is not physically dead. Nor, is his mental capacity to reason dead. Paul used "death" as a metaphor for a helpless condition. The above verses, and many others, assume that man has the capacity to respond to God by his own choice, to exercise his own free will, at least when God is calling Him to repentance. The effect of that decision is also clearly stated in the above verses. God will save him. Therefore, it is obvious that being "dead in sins" does NOT imply the inability to accept God's offer of grace and mercy when it is presented in truth and being drawn by the Spirit. It merely implies that one cannot save himself. And that his being rescued from this condition depends entirely on God's power to save.
Are Men Born
In this passage Paul indicated that unsaved man has the knowledge of God. Verse 19 says "that which may be known of God is manifest in them." The word "known" here means "well known." And this knowledge is "manifest IN THEM." The verse continues by saying that "God hath shown it unto them." Here we have God's interacting with fallen man, making the effort to reach them by revealing Himself to them. Verse 20 says even God's "eternal power and Godhead" are revealed to them through the creation. Verse 21 says that they "knew God" yet turned away to wallow in their sin. The word for "knew" is "ginosko," the same word that is the basis of "foreknowledge" in Romans 8:29. Notice they "BECAME vain" and their hearts "WERE darkened." This describes a process of hardening, not a fixed state that existed since their birth. Verse 26 says "for this cause he gave them up..." Clearly, God abandoned the reprobates BECAUSE of their actions in rejecting Him in favor of their lusts, even after God attempted to reach out to them, giving them at least limited knowledge of Himself. Verse 28 says "And even as they did not like to RETAIN God in their KNOWLEDGE, God gave them over..." The word for knowledge in this verse is "epignosis" which means to have "full discernment." Notice the word "retain." This means while having such knowledge of God they did not wish to CONTINUE knowing God. Notice that the reason God gave them over to a reprobate mind is clearly stated by Paul. It was because of their choice. They did not like to retain God in their minds, but chose their sin instead.
To summarize the main
points in this
passage we could say that;
While the concept of "total depravity" is biblical, it does not apply to all mankind, only to those who have become reprobates or apostates through their free choice to reject God in favor of their own lusts despite God's drawing them. That is, "totally depraved" is the result of willful and repeated rejection of God's grace and mercy. Babies are born innocent. As Paul states in Rom. 7, "I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me." (Rom. 7:9-11)
We can easily see from Romans 1 that there are more than one state of fallen man. It is a matter of a downward spiral, from innocent, to sinner, to reprobate. Some have constantly and so fully rejected God over a period of time, God has given up on them, giving them over to a "reprobate mind," totally incapable of responding to the gospel. For these there is no hope of salvation. However, this demands that at some point they were NOT totally depraved, albeit being in a state of "dead in sins."
Does God Draw
Christ enlightens "EVERY MAN THAT COMETH INTO THE WORLD!" He draws "ALL MEN" unto Himself. Surely He drew those Paul described in Romans 1.
We agree with Calvinists that being "dead in sins" means that one cannot save himself, and without such enlightenment, one cannot choose God. However, we do not agree that God only gives such light to the "elect." It is perfectly clear that God draws and enlightens ALL MEN, by revealing Himself through creation and through the gospel, even those who will become reprobates and go straight to hell.