My suggestions for newly minted Calvinists…

There was a time, over a decade ago, when someone introduced me to the Doctrines of Grace. For a few years after that moment, the amazing truth of God’s exhaustive sovereignty was all I sought to talk about. When the church I was attending made it clear that Calvinism was unwelcome, I left and found a church where the pastor was Calvinistic, soon he was out and the Purpose Driven movement took root, I fought what I saw was (and truly is) an affront to God’s Word and sovereignty and eventually was pushed to the periphery of the church. My wife and I sought a new church and found one that was confessional, and true to the Word of God.

Given these experiences, I have a few suggestions for those folks who find themselves newly exposed to the concepts of Calvinism, the Reformed understanding of the faith and the Doctrines of Grace in general.

One caveat… most of these points refer to where you are NOW. The intention is to get you solid food, grow you in the faith, and prepare you for your purpose in the economy of God.

  1. Realize there is more to Reformed theology then just TULIP. – Reformed theology covers the gamut of theological concepts from soteriology (the understanding of how salvation occurs) to eschatology (the end times.) Don’t be so focused on TULIP that you miss the foundations for it.
  2. Beware the desire for crusade – You may feel compelled to reform your Arminian or Purpose-Driven megachurch. RESIST THE URGE. While your intention may be good, your methods and understanding of God’s plan and purpose is probably muddled. I recommend discussing Calvinism with your elders/pastors and if they’re opposed to it lovingly and calmly notify them that you intend to seek membership elsewhere. Put a damper on your desire to fight or argue until you are firmly established and being fed the Gospel weekly.
  3. Do find a solid, confessional Reformed church. -Try here, here , here or here. Your initial desire once you leave your old church will be to find a Reformed or Calvinistic church that fits your chosen worship style etc. I recommend getting out of your comfort zone, visit a confessionally Reformed church. Notice the traditions therein and feel free to ask an elder or pastor after the service why they do church the way they do. You may find the hymns stuffy, the service rigid, the prayers long… but there are probably good, Biblical reasons why the church does what it does. Since you’re on this quest to conform to a more Biblical position, perhaps there are other areas of theology that you might need to likewise conform.
  4. Read, Read, Read – There is a vast treasury of Reformed knowledge and tradition freely available. Do not be afraid to explore concepts outside of your current position. If you’re a Baptist, read paedobaptist literature to understand their position, it will help you defend your own. Likewise, if you’re a Dispensationalist, read as to why Covenantal Amillennialists believe what they believe.
  5. LOVE – You may find yourself debating everyone. Temper this urge. Remember that you are to explain the truth IN LOVE. It is hard to show love when you’re yelling at someone. Be aware that what you now believe is completely foreign to most folks, and it will require supernatural intervention for them to accept it. Use the “Columbo method” in discussion, ask questions about passages of Scripture, be slow to interject. Learn to listen.
  6. Avoid debates on minor issues. – It’s fine to discuss, it’s fine to debate, but avoid meaningless debates. Don’t debate atheists on minutia, give them the Gospel and move on. Recognize that no matter how good your arguments are, how sound your logic, how eloquent your message… unless the Spirit of God opens their heart, they will not, and cannot understand or believe what you’re saying. The only means by which they can come to understanding is through the clear proclamation of the Gospel, and that should be your primary intent. There are times and places for public debate and even those well gifted for it, right after you change positions is not that time.

I’m sure there are more, and others will add some. Think about this and let me know what you think.

The Church and Israel – A Scriptural Perspective

A week or so a go a newly minted Calvinist entered the #prosapologian chat room and had some “questions” regarding Covenant Theology. (Just a note for those of you with well formed opinions, don’t say “I have a few questions” and then open up with a cannon volley.)  After some discussion it was clear that our definition of “Israel” was quite different. My friend RazorsKiss and I decided to engage this fellow and chose to move it to an email discussion. They sent the first email (which I won’t post here) but since RK was busy, I wrote the first reply. What follows is the text of my reply.


Tony and Gary,

Thanks for stopping by #prosapologian. I appreciate folks who are willing to wrestle through these difficult issues.  Firstly, I note from the way you write that you’re fairly new to Calvinism. (Don’t confuse Arminians with Armenians, I’ve attended an Armenian Reformed service!)  I’d like to praise God that He was gracious to you and opened your heart and mind to the doctrines of grace. I’d like to suggest however that “Calvinism” doesn’t stop at the 5 points, but it encompasses a covenantal understanding of God’s dealings with mankind.

Secondly I’d like to suggest that no one takes eschatological writings truly, completely literally. Dispensationalists have, for years, interpreted the various imagery in Revelation and Daniel not literally, but symbolically referring to helicopters, kingdoms, men with UPC codes on their hands and the like. I was part of a Dispensational church for almost twenty years, so I’m aware of their claim to “literal” meanings.

It seems literal interpretations are only made in contrast to specific points of other millennial views. I therefore suggest that, every time you read a passage with a specific Dispensational meaning, ask yourself “is this truly literal” and also, “why would the author of a prophetic, and apocalyptic book write “literally”, and also, is it truly possible that no one until the 1800s properly exegeted the text of the Bible?

Thirdly, rather than start with the Old Testament, which was in many ways veiled until the coming of Christ, I believe should start by letting the authors of the New Testament, the God-breathed commentary on the Old Testament, define our terms. That means we should start with the New Testament and read the Apostle’s understanding backwards into it, as the author of Hebrews does time and again.

I’ll focus on the New Testament witness as to the nature of Israel and the church in this email. Maybe RK intends a different direction.

The authors of New Testament uses the term “Israel” in a few different ways, Paul himself uses it in different ways in the same section. For our purposes, however, I’d like to focus on a distinction Paul makes time and again in his writing between those of the “flesh” and those of the “Spirit”.  You may have read or heard this concept preached on in regards to Romans 8:5-9, wherein Paul tells us that there are those whose minds are set on the flesh and those on the Spirit. Paul talks about this same group in Galatians 4:23-25, and elsewhere… specifically Romans 9.

You may know Romans 9 well in an apologetic sense, as far as it speaking of predestination. However the first part should not be missed, for in it Paul tells us an important point regarding Israel. I will highlight the important points.

Romans 9:6-8
6It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. 7Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 8In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.

So to summarize Paul’s point:  Paul wishes the Jews would turn to Christ. But he notes, this is not a failure on God’s part, or his plan. He states: for not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. He then explains that Israel is defined by election not human descent. Thus “it is the children of promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.”  From here Paul launches into his famous polemic regarding God’s election unto salvation and predestination of believers. Point of fact, you cannot have one without the other. That is, everyone who is a child in the likeness of Isaac (elected by grace), are Israel.

Remember the Spirit/flesh distinction here, for Paul is expressing that concept in relation to Isaac and Ishmael, true Israel vs those simply of Abraham’s lineage. Paul returns to this point in Galatians wherein we find the following:

Galatians 3:7-8
Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.”

What Paul is saying in his God-breathed commentary on the Old Testament is that true Israel is and always was those who were faithful to God. In Gal 3:8 here it is clear: foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham. Thus Israel has always included Gentiles in the promise made in Gen 12. Again Paul writes:

Galatians 3:26-29
 26You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Paul directly ties being a son of God to being the “seed of Abraham.” Thus the covenant in Gen 12 was never made with non-elect Jews, but was in fact intended for the elect of God. That doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a natural, earthly fulfillment, but as with so many concepts in Scripture there is the earthly (bread and wine) and the heavenly (body and blood). God uses earthly things to represent the heavenly. So while an imperfect, type and shadow of the temple, Jerusalem and Israel was visible on the Earth, they pointed to the ultimate fulfillment of the temple in heaven, the New Jerusalem and Christ himself (and we in Christ).

Gal 4:24-26
24These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. 25Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. 26But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.

Notice Paul’s immediate declaration of the figurative nature of the covenants, Mt. Sinai and the like. Notice that in v25 Paul specifically identifies national Israel, the Jews, with Hagar and thus Ishmael. Thus, Paul is identifying the Jewish people with Arabs even. They are no different than Gentiles now in need of gracious salvation through faith in Christ.

Gal 4:28-31
28Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29At that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. 30But what does the Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.” 31Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.

Paul identifies the Gentile believers in Galatia with Isaac as children of the promise (vs the flesh).  At this point you should be reminded of Romans 2:27-29:

27Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

Thus the Israel Paul refers to here then are those in the mold of Isaac, who are children of promise, that is, those who are elect unto salvation. Ultimately Christ is the archetype of Isaac, Christ the impossible child born to a virgin, the God-Man.

To be clear, Israel are those collected people of God in any age, though more specifically, the elect.  While it is simultaneously true that the New Covenant is made with Israel and the church, the church is the Israel of the New Covenant. The church hasn’t replaced Israel, it is Israel. Jewish people who come to faith do not enter into Judaism again, but into the church, the Israel of God under the New Covenant.

Thus when we look back to the prophecies of the Old Testament relating the New Covenant to the people of Israel, we must recognize, as Christ taught, that He is the center of the story. The Bible therefore is a testimony of God’s redemptive purpose in Christ throughout history. It is not primarily a story of Jewish people.

You write that MacArthur states:

“I believe that Israel is the literal seed of Abraham”

This is the hardest thing for me to understand, Paul the Apostle specifically states about the Gentile believers in Galatia: “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

[ Paul makes it clear in Galatians that the “literal seed” of Abraham is Christ, and that we become the “literal seed” though faith in Him. There is no other seed! ]

“I believe that Israel is in the midst of Ezekiel 37… They have bones and sinews and flesh, but no breath in them yet… the Spirit (ruach) has not returned to them….yet.

Remember that the prophetic books often mix concepts mid-stream, as the prophecies are often multi-layered. Also note that the chapter distinctions are man made. Thus, Ezekiel 37 follows the promise of the New Covenant in 36, and is talking not about Jews, but about the people of God. Notice that Ezekiel 37 is a perfect picture of the regeneration that every believer goes through. The Word is preached and the dead are raised unto new life in Christ. Try reading Eze 37 followed with Eph 2:1-9. (That is, take the Apostle’s understanding and read it into the Old Testament, never read the Old Testament apart from that.)

I believe that Israel will receive their Messiah and Jesus Christ will literally sit on the Throne of HIS father David and reign over the House of Jacob forever as the Angel prophesied in Luke 1:32, 33″

We have. Christ is our Messiah, Jesus Christ literally sits on the Throne of His Father, God, and reigns over His house (as He is the archtype of Isaac, Moses, Joshua, Jacob, David, etc.)  We reign with Him now, as believers through the New Covenant which is in effect now.

Remember that the book of Hebrews, where much of this is fleshed out, is written to a mixed group of Gentile and Jewish Christians. Therein we find the claims of the New Covenant fulfilled in Christ for us now, not at some later date.

The fact that a nation has taken the name “Israel” today and is made of primarily Jews really has nothing to do with Scripture. Remember, it is the God-breathed commentary on the Old Testament, the New Testament, that must define our understanding of these things

You write:

…that is until it leads to the supersession of Israel and allegorizing scripture simply because it hasn’t happened yet or it is difficult to explain in a literal sense.

It is God who states:

Heb 11:8-10
8By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.

and later

Heb 11:13-16
13These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

Israel’s promise was not of an earthly land, though it was the type and shadow of that to come, but of a heavenly dwelling where they would be ruled by God. Therefore the church does not replace Israel, rather, the church is the fulfillment of Israel’s type and shadow.

So here are my points:

  • Israel must be defined by the New Testament authors who provide us with a God-breathed commentary on the OT. (Gal 4:24)
  • Abraham had the Gospel preached to him. (Gal 3:7-8)
  • Abraham’s promise was for a people made up of many nations and specifically Gentiles. (Gal 3:8)
  • Abraham believed the promise of God had a specific heavenly fulfillment. (Heb 11:10)
  • The OT believers were not looking specifically for land but the kingdom of heaven. (Heb 11:14-16)
  • God, through Paul, defines Israel as the people of promise, who have had faith in him in all eras. (Rom 9:6-8, Gal 3:7, Gal 4:28, etc)

It is with this Biblical framework that we can now approach the Old Testament prophecies.

RK might have some to add about Romans 11 and elsewhere. I’ve got to get back to work.


I followed up later with:

One more thought I’ve been ruminating on.  When you read Rom 11 wherein we find “until the fullness of the Gentiles comes in”, you gotta ask, “into what”.   Our reply is: Israel.

Israel is not replaced by the church, but the church is, in a sense, a subset of Israel (though subset is a misnomer, Israel is the Hebrew name by which the people of God are so named.) Remember that Abraham was not a “Jew” until called by God, Rehab was not a Jew and the people Nineveh were not Jews, and so on.

It is possible, according to Rom 11, that at some point in the future, a majority of the elect will again be genetic Jews, but for now it is a majority of Gentiles who are of the elect as we would posit that Satan is bound (as Christ said “now is the time for the ruler of this world to be cast out”) and the nations are no longer allowed to be deceived during this period of time.

But that’s another discussion. 😉


Baptism Debates – Paedocommunion discussions

Found a great resource on these topics including debates and discussions:

9 November 2007 – Topic: BAPTISM
Click to listen to audio#33 – Baptism and the Covenant

Dr. Gregg Strawbridge and Dr. James White debate the issues of Baptism and the Covenant. Part 1 – 64 MIN; Part 2 – 73 MIN

13 December 2007 – Topic: BAPTISM
Click to listen to audio #36 – Believer’s Baptism

Dr. Thomas Schreiner

3 January 2008 – Topic: Baptism
Click to listen to audio#40 – Why Baptize Babies?

Pastor Mark Horne


14 November 2006 – Topic: COMMUNION
Click to listen to audio#3 – Introduction to Covenant Communion

Covenant Communion is discussed with Pastor Gregg Strawbridge. 63 MIN

 29 April 2009
Click to listen to audio#77 – Children at the Lord’s Table?

Dr. Cornelis Venema

14 November 2006 – Topic: COMMUNION
Click to listen to audio#3 – Introduction to Covenant Communion

Covenant Communion is discussed with Pastor Gregg Strawbridge. 63 MIN


25 June 2007
Click to listen to audio#87 – Recovering the Reformed Confession

Dr. R. Scott Clark joins Covenant Radio to discuss his book Recovering the Reformed Confession: Our Theology, Piety, and Practice

Baptism and Communion… Circumcision and Passover

My friend, Turretinfan has posted a response to Dr. White who wrote in response to R Scott Clark’s reponse to my last post. (Got it?) In this post, Turretinfan states:

The unbloody sign of baptism replaces the bloody sign of circumcision (just as the unbloody Lord’s Supper replaces the bloody Passover).

 Therefore, if you’re keeping score, circumcision = baptism, passover =Lord’s Supper.

Now, most Paedobaptists (specifically Reformed ones) baptize infants on the basis of the infants inclusion in the covenant of grace via the infant’s parent’s faith. That is, because of Federal Headship, that is, because the federal head (father) of the household is a believer all those in the household should be baptized. This concept came out in the debate between Pastor Bill Shisko and Dr. White a while back. Pastor Shisko stated that because the father of a household believed, everyone in the household should be baptized, regardless of faith (including teenaged unbelievers.)

However, when it comes to the Supper, these same folks note that Paul warns in 1 Corinthians 11 that those who partake of the Supper are to do so in a worthy manner and that “he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly”. Their claim is therefore that since Scripture demands that one be able to “judge the body rightly” (NASB) and those who partake without “discerning the body” (ESV) do in fact “eats and drinks judgment on himself”. Thus they view that only those who have professed faith and are able to “discern the body” are proper recipients of the Supper.

The report by the OPC (Orthodox Presbyterian Church) on Paedocommunion of 1987 also makes the connection of Communion to the Passover stating (this report was not adopted by the OPC):

The Passover was in some sense transformed into the Lord’s Supper.

In the words of institution our Lord transformed the words used at the covenant-instituting meal at Sinai (Ex. 24). (one exception)…

Children did participate in the first Passover, and were at least permitted to participate in subsequent celebrations of it, while in the New Testament there is no explicit prohibition or command regarding the participation of children in the Lord’s Supper. (one exception)

The interchangeability of Old Testament and New Testament sacramental terminology demonstrates the fundamental unity of the covenant (and its sacraments). Cf. I Cor. 5:7; 10:2; Col. 2:11

As there was a definitive Passover and then a commemorative, so there was a definitive Lord’s Supper and then a commemorative; in both cases the latter was the celebration of an accomplished redemption.

It should be clear therefore that Presbyterians (and the Dutch Reformed who argue likewise) view Communion as the fulfilled type of Passover. Note also that this report recognizes that children partook of passover and that the OT and NT sacramental terminology is interchangeable and there is “fundamental unity of the covenant (and its sacraments).  Yet they recognize that 1 Corinthians 11 requires some responsibility on the part of the partaker to “discern the body”, that is that the elements being served are representations of Christ’s shed body and blood and in such are holy things that God uses as means of grace to His people.

[ Baptists who have trouble with this last bit should take into account Keach’s Catechism, a baptist catechism created by one of the writers of the London Baptist Confession of Faith wherein he writes:

Q. 95. What are the outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption?
A. The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption are His ordinances, especially the Word, Baptism, the Lord’s Supper and Prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation.

Q. 98. How do Baptism and the Lord’s Supper become effectual means of salvation?
A. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper become effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them or in him that administers them, but only by the blessing of Christ and the working of His Spirit in them that by faith receive them.

Q. 99. Wherein do Baptism and the Lord’s Supper differ from the other ordinances of God?
A. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper differ from the other ordinances of God in that they were specially instituted by Christ to represent and apply to believers the benefits of the new covenant by visible and outward signs.

The Baptists of the 17th century had no difficulty with covenantal and sacramental language as commonly used by their paedobaptist brethren. I encourage Baptist believers to read Keach’s Catechism as well as the LBCF if this terminology troubles them.  ]

Within the past few decades the debate within Protestant Paedobaptist circles over the issue of paedocommunion has been no small matter. No less than R. C. Sproul Jr., son of respected Presbyterian pastor, teacher and Reformed celebrity R.C. Sproul, has taken the position that consistent understanding of covenantal theology requires paedocommunion as the counterpart to paedobaptism. That is, if baptism is the circumcision of the New Covenant and the Lord’s Supper is the Passover of the New Covenant, and if infants and children were the right recipients in the Old Covenant administration, then they are the proper recipients of the means of grace in the New Covenant administration. They believe therefore that since federal headship is the means by which a infant is considered the proper subject of baptism, and since both baptism and the Supper are “means of grace”, and since the Old Testament pattern is that infants and children were proper subjects of both circumcision and the passover, they should likewise be the proper subjects of the New Covenant fulfillment of those types. The “Federal Vision” movement reignited this debate to some extent with many of whom this label has been applied to taking the paedocommunionist viewpoint. 

We Baptists agree with our paedobaptist brethren of the anti-paedocommunion stripe in this one point, that faith is in fact a requirement for communion. 1 Corinthians 11 clearly expresses the view that one must be able to generally understand what is going on to be considered a right recipient of the elements.

We however believe that the Scriptural pattern, time and again is that one is to “believe and be baptized” (Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38 , Acts 8:12, Acts 18:8, etc.) and that one is to “repent and be baptized”. We do not believe that Acts 2:39, usually partially quoted, provides any support for the view that faith is not a requirement of baptism. In fact, we note that there is much, much more support in Scripture for the view that faith is a requirement of baptism than there is for faith being a requirement of the Supper. If one is just looking content-wise, the number of verses relating baptism and faith far outnumber those for faith and communion.

That said, one must wonder why, if one can have the sign and seal of the New Covenant administered to them without their believing, and in fact (as some argue) even if they’re unbelieving members of a believing household, on the basis of federal headship, why federal headship does not apply in the one sign that Christ Himself calls “the New Covenant in my blood”. Why, if federal headship alone dismisses all the requirements of faith for baptism in Scripture does it not also apply to the Supper? Surely the faith of the federal head of the family, and their ability to discern the body, can apply for the Supper as well as baptism?

Why is there unity in the sign of circumcision but disunity in the sign of passover? Why are infants and children denied these means of grace?

I would like to suggest that it is simply inconsistent for paedobaptists to administer baptism to their children on the basis of federal headship and yet deny them the body and blood of our Savior. I would also like to suggest that this inconsistency shows a major crack in their argument for paedobaptism, for when it comes to the Supper they argue like Baptists demanding evidence of faith before allowing them at the table.

Dr. White, in his debate with Pastor Shisko asked about the nature of the New Covenant and why infants and children baptized therein are lost if they truly considered “in” the New Covenant. I don’t believe he got an adequate answer then. I also note that a post-debate follow-up in the New Horizons magazine Pastor Shisko wrote:

We should stop using the term “paedobaptism” (baptism of infants) and use the more biblical expression “oikobaptism” (baptism of households). The point is not that infants were baptized in the New Testament, but that whole households were baptized…. Certainly in the missionary context of Acts, there had to be faith in new converts to Christianity before they could receive the sign and seal of Christian baptism (in the same way that Abraham received the sign and seal of circumcision only after he believed the promises of God, Rom. 4:11-12). But even as whole families were received as part of the covenant people in all previous ages, so that pattern continues in the New Testament. If, in fact, this household principle was abrogated in the new covenant, one would not expect the household formula to be used as it is in the New Testament.

Yet in the very next month’s issue the following was written by James T. Dennison about paedocommunion:

But we dare not admit children without a credible profession of faith. Far from bestowing privileges of blessing upon them, to do so is to hang millstones about their necks.

In that same issue Stuart R. Jones wrote:

Precisely how much discernment a child is capable of and how much understanding is necessary for worthy participation is another matter. The new covenant is simultaneously more accessible and deeper than the old covenant. The demands of the new law are simpler and more far-reaching as the royal law of love. The call to daily cross-bearing is more far-reaching than rabbinic parsing of Old Testament law.

The strange, inconsistent nature of this argument should be evident without much further posting. Even though there is not a single verse in Scripture commanding, commending or even suggesting the baptism of infants, and in fact many, many verses clearly stating the pattern of “believe and be baptized”, paedobaptists argue that infants and children should be baptized in the New Covenant because they were circumcised in the Old. And yet, though infants and children partook of the passover meal in the Old Covenant, since there is one passage stating that one should “discern the body” as a requirement for partaking the Supper, they bar the table to infants.

Finally, I want to note the nature of the paedobaptist argument against the Baptist position. As seen in R. Scott Clark’s replies to my previous post, there seems to be a lot of rhetorical dishonesty in regard to how Baptists both view other believers and their own children. Just as Clark declared that ” According to the Baptists I’m not a Christian” Pastor Shisko calls into doubt the Baptist’s love and care for their children, or belief in the saving nature of the New Covenant saying “Baptist views cannot account for the language used of children in the New Testament. While it is true that Jesus did not baptize little children, what did he mean when he took little children and said, “Of such is the kingdom of heaven”” and “On a Baptist model, how is it that children are included among “the saints” in Ephesians 6:1-3 and Colossians 3:20 (cf. Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:2)?”. Both of these men have enough contact with Reformed Baptists to know that these statements and these questions are illegitimate. Reformed Baptists believe that Protestant Paedobaptists are believers, we also believe that God saves children of believers by the same power that raised Christ from the dead, with or without their baptism or partaking of the Supper. Again, Baptists believe that their children may in fact be members of the New Covenant, we do not require a profession of faith to “prove that one is elect” or “regenerate”, rather, we note the clear pattern of Scripture that those who profess faith are the proper recipients of both baptism and the Supper. Furthermore we suggest that, given the nature of their argument against paedocommunion they recognize that our argument against paedobaptism is identical in nature. Thus either their argument against our position is untenable or their argument against paedocommunion is, but they cannot have it both ways.


I found another article by R. Scott Clark on infant baptism in which he states:

Passover (like the other feasts) differed from circumcision, however, in the same way that baptism and the LORD’s supper differ: circumcision, the first covenant sign was applied to infants and adults alike, and was a mark of entrance into God’s covenant people. The Passover feast was restricted to those who are able to understand God’s redeeming acts because it was a sign designed to nurture and lead to growth.

 Yet the OPC states:

Children did participate in the first Passover, and were at least permitted to participate in subsequent celebrations of it.

Who is right?

Ergun Caner’s LaffOlympics

Ergun Caner got wiff of Sacred Sandwich’s spoof of his foolishness and decided to retort.

The problem is, Sacred Sandwich’s spoof is based on the man’s own words, whereas his is based on strawman argumentation, again proving that Arminians simply cannot objectively deal with their opponents claims nor Scripture itself.

Thus, Caner’s spoof is nothing more than the theological equivelent of the old grade school quip “I know you are but what am I?”

Ergun Caner remains a dishonest man who’s teaching is contrary to the word of God.

Ergun Caner Redefines Redefinition

While Emir Caner seems to have had the sense to remove his offensive and dishonest blog post (oops, it’s back!), Ergun Caner’s latest post on his website shows the kind of redefinition and dishonesty that seems to be indigenous to Arminians. It seems that not a single Arminian church leader, author or seminary president can refrain from sleight of hand or simple dishonesty when discussing matters of Calvinistic doctrine. Whether in their sermons, where they redefine historically defined terms such as “hyper-Calvinism” to their own liking, debates, where they ignore the actual position of their opponents and build strawmen of the corpse of Servetus, or in discussion where they unfailingly will fall victim to Godwin’s Law.

Today, again, Ergun Caner proves that he is no different from the rest. (Even Dave Hunt had the veracity to have his ignorance displayed on the pages of a book.) When not redefining historic terms, Ergun Caner is rewriting history, conspicuously leaving out specific facts to make his position seem better. Yes, it is true that “James White found the rules imposed by the moderator, Brett O’Donnell, to be unacceptable…”, but Ergun leaves out the fact that this was only after Mr. “talk-as-fast-as-you-can-to-win-a-debate” O’Donnell unilaterally changed the agreed upon format and demanded sole rights to the debate recordings.

Someone needs to remind Ergun Caner that LYING BY OMISSION IS STILL LYING.

Next Mr. Caner mentions “Johnny” Hunt’s nomination to presidency of the SBC. He goes on to mention how the “Baptists are Calvinists” websites started blistering him”… (play violins here.) Well the fact of the matter is that Dr. Hunt had recently preached a “sermon” wherein he misrepresented Calvinism similarly to Caner’s own sermons at the Thomas Rd. Baptist Church. Again, can these men accurately represent their “brother” and “sister” Baptists in Christ, or are they incapable of telling the truth?

Consider this little gem of disinformation: To the question, “Q: ALL OF THIS SEEMS SO MEAN SPIRITED. WHY HAVE YOU RESPONDED?” Caner responds “Because the manner in which Dr White has thrown statements and accusations around unanswered. He calls Dr. Geisler an “Arminian,” even though he is a moderate Calvinist.”

While Mr. Geisler single-handedly DEFINED the word “moderate-Calvinist”, it really means “a position identical to that of “Arminians” and has no historical weight or value. If Caner thinks Geisler is a “moderate-Calvinist”, what was Calvin? Spurgeon? John MacArthur!!??

Caner then posits the following question, “Q: HOW DO YOU DEFINE HYPER CALVINIST?” Caner responds to his faux questioner:

“If a person holds to reprobation, this is a clear sign. If anyone believes that God has created souls damned to hell, and predestined them to hell, then they would be a poster child for Hyper Calvinism.”

Of course asking a subjective question like this is akin to asking Bill Clinton “how do you define sex”, but apart from that Caner’s answer shows that he hasn’t an ounce of integrity in him. If he bothered to pick up a theological dictionary he’d fine the real definition for the word and stop this asinine game… even wikipedia (for once) gets this right. Why is it such a challenge for Ergun Caner, and others, to accurately define words and the positions they’re arguing against? Because, that would mean they would expose the underlying inconsistencies and downright unbiblical aspects of their belief systems to scrutiny.

Caner goes on:

“A second point would be the issue of infant damnation. Drs. Akin and Mohler have been explicit on the fact that if an infant dies, they go to heaven. Dr. White does not believe it is that “simple.” If anyone believes that there is even the possibility of an infant (”non-elect”) going to hell, that would be clear hyper Calvinism. Since they do not like that term, I have also offered neo-Calvinist. Apparently that isn’t acceptable either.”

As I’ve shown in my own blog postings, this issue is one in which many Calvinists disagree. Regardless of one’s position on this topic, it in no way has anything to do with the definition of “hyper-Calvinism”. In fact, even while disagreeing on this topic, said Calvinists can still remain in fellowship, whereas we separate from those who are true hyper-calvinists. None of this stops Caner from posting it though; he goes right on redefining historic terms.

As to Mohler’s position on the topic, I believe I have shown it to be quite Pelagian in this one aspect. I also challenge Ergun Caner or any other person who sympathizes with his position on universal infant salvation to read my posts here and at and respond Biblically.

“Those who fit in that category usually define “hyper Calvinist” in terms of an ethic – they say that since we cannot know the fixed number, we tell everyone. They call it a “well-intentioned offer.” That is simply poor logic.”

Get a grip, Ergun. You’re the president of a seminary. Doesn’t your library have a theological dictionary, or a least one history book? Surely you should know that a hyper-Calvinist is one who denies a “well-intentioned offer”. This is simply inexcusable and would be laughable if not coming from a seminary president. I expect such misrepresentation from Internet pseudo-apologists and adolescent bloggers, but one would hope that the president of Liberty Seminary would be able to accurately define such terms.

A: (Laughs) Well, the short answer is “poorly!” Any student of mine knows that I despise Microsoft Word, with its automatic respellings. It may have been a “Word” issue, but I am not above misspelling the word myself! If I did misspell the word, I take full responsibility. I appreciate all attempts to correct my poor spelling, as long as those who do, do not mind my correcting their poor theology!

Next Caner addresses his usage of “Armenian” rather than “Arminian” in recent posts. Rather than accepting the fact that he neither understands the term, knows the historical position of said position, let alone knows how it is spelled and allowing himself to be corrected, he blames Microsoft. Yes, MICROSOFT. [ht: bluewoad, MS Word does not have Armenian as an autocorrect for Arminian. Thus, Caner has lied again.] You’d think the president of a seminary would take the time to proof read material before publishing it for public consumption… you’d think. But the fact of the matter is that, as shown so clearly in his sermons and posts, Caner doesn’t know what an Arminian is (and he is one), much less an Armenian!

As to “correcting their poor theology”, how has he ever done this except by misrepresentation and dishonesty? Caner cannot even get the facts right in this blog post, much less in a sermon. If you want to “correct” someone’s theology, Mr. Caner, be man enough to debate someone fairly rather than barking from your bully pulpit.

Next Caner identifies his wrongly citing John Gill (heh, now if you want to really talk about hyper-Calvinism…). Caner then again repaints history with his broad “Anabaptist” brush:

“Gill was a Baptist, and pastored the same church as Spurgeon. I should have cited the legion of others who in fact did persecute us – Cotton Mather rejoiced at the firing of Henry Dunster from Harvard when he denied infant baptism”

This doesn’t really address the depth of the error. Caner didn’t even know these facts about Baptist history until after someone pointed it out to him! And as to Henry Dunster’s firing from Harvard, one has to remember that Harvard used to be a conservative Presbyterian school. Would Caner fire someone from Liberty for accepting Open Theism (assuming he knew what the term meant!)? These red herrings have nothing to do with the real issue, which is that Baptists do have history as Calvinistic.

The arrogance of their posts, however, had to be answered. A casual reading of their writings would force one to think that the entire Christian world is Calvinist! Yet such luminaries as Billy Sunday, Jerry Vines, Jerry Falwell, Billy Graham, Norman Geisler, Gary Habermas, Charles Stanley, the entire Charismatic movement, Methodists, and general atonement Baptists are overlooked. Anyone who studies Church History would know that the Reformed movement is an important one, but a small portion of Christianity on the whole.

Does Caner really think that these men and movements, some good, some terrible are more central to Baptist history than the Protestant Reformation? Is Caner truly this ignorant? Is the Charismatic movement really more important to Christianity than the Protestant Reformation? My goodness, Martin Luther is rolling over in his grave. If it weren’t for the Protestant Reformation Caner would still be worshiping Mohammed.

Caner then redefines his own positions:

A: Yes, absolutely. For a small portion of these people, just daring to question the Bezian movement is heresy.

The context of that quote was in regards to Calvinist beliefs, not their declaration of what is and isn’t heresy. Here Caner is simply lying. If anyone bothers listening to Caner’s sermon wherein this claim was made, he was accusing Calvinists of heretical error.

“There are plenty of schools to which the neo-Calvinists can go, but Liberty will be a lighthouse for missions and evangelism to the “whosoever wills.” Period.”

You Calvinists at Liberty take note, Ergun Caner has declared you persona-non-grata at Liberty. The truth that the Reformers fought and died for, that our Baptist forefathers endured hardship over and that today’s apologists are lambasted for has been declared off-limits for you at Liberty. It seems that Caner’s “whosoever wills to be ignorant” is what plays in today’s seminaries… it is a short step from this kind of revisionism, dishonesty and luke-warm attitude toward the truth of Scripture that has most seminaries and churches turning to liberalism, post-modernism and forsaking Christ.

Regardless of whether you’re a Calvinist or not, the kind of dishonesty that the Caners, O’Donnell and Liberty Seminary have shown during this entire debacle must be exposed and opposed. Men like this have no right to the claim of seminary president, much less pastors or teachers in the church of our Sovereign Lord Jesus Christ.

Ergun Caner, Emir Caner & Brett O’Donnel are Liars

After months of preparation, the debate over the issue of “Baptists and Calvinism” has been cancelled. After agreeing to a format, Brett O’Donnell and the Caner brothers changed the rules. Yet, at Ergun Caner’s blog one finds:

Calvinist Debate Cancelled by Hyper-calvinist
James White backs out of the debate. Refused to submit to moderator rules. Details will follow tonight.

Simply put, these men are liars. Not only does Ergun continue to mislabel Dr. White as a hyper-Calvinist (as if Ergun Caner has ever met one in his life), he misrepresents the actual events. One can read the entire exchange at Alpha & Omega Ministries website.

Ergun Caner has posted a brazen account of their deception at the Liberty Seminary website. Notice that he omits the fact that they (O’Donnell specifically) unilaterally chose to change the agreed upon format! Lying by omission is still lying.

Why is it so easy for folks in evangelical circles to lie and deny it? It seems rampant.

Response to John Stebbe – Infant Salvation

(Reposted from Calvinist Gadfly…)

# John Stebbe Says:

Micah, I had said that I would respond on your other site (radongas). But I was about to post and saw that I have to set up an account for myself to post, and I just don’t want to do that. So I’ll respond here to comments you made on the other site, if that’s agreeable to you.

“I will go to him” (2 Sam 12:23) I agree with you that this verse does not teach universal salvation of those dying in infancy. I believe that we may possibly infer from this verse that there is an afterlife, but it would be difficult to go farther, based on this verse alone.

You wrote:
Mar 10:14 and Luke 18:16, wherein Christ says “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Christ’s point is not that all who die in infancy obtain “instant heaven” rather, that citizenship in the kingdom of God is based on child-like faith.

John here: I agree again.

Mohler cited Deut 1:39:
“And the little ones that you said would be taken captive, your children who do not yet know good from bad–they will enter the land. I will give it to them and they will take possession of it.”

I think that this passage does teach that these little ones are in a state of innocence. Not that they do not possess a sin nature, but that they have not committed any actual sins. The question of whether a person is punished in hell because of their sinful nature, or their sins actually committed, or neither, or both, is not addressed by this passage, in my view.

You wrote:
Mohler goes on, “The imputation of Adam’s sin and guilt explains our inability to respond to God without regeneration, but the Bible does not teach that we will answer for Adam’s sin.”

John here:
I think Mohler has a point here. In the parable of the sheep and the goats, Christ condemns many people to eternal punishment because of their sins of omission (“You did not visit me in prison,” . . . etc.). In the parable, no one is condemned because of his sin nature inherited from Adam. Their condemnation is for events in their lives which they would have been aware of (in this case, sins of omission).

And MacArthur notes:
“Scripture teaches that all condemned sinners earned their eternal punishment by their sins.
“How do I know that? Because whenever you go to the judgment seat, this is what you see: Revelation 20, verses 11 and 12. Here’s the great, white throne, this is the final judgment of all the ungodly of all history, and the One sitting upon the throne from whose presence earth and heaven flood away and no place was found (for them, obviously), the great judge, God, has committed that judgment to Christ, it tells us in John 5. There is Christ, the great judge, on the throne, and verse 12, “I saw the dead, the great, the small standing before the throne and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged”–listen to this–“from the things which were written in the books according to their deeds; and the sea gave up the dead which were in it and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them and they were judged every one of them according to their”–what? “Deeds” or “works.”

And another point from MacArthur:
“Revelation, chapter 5, says, verses 9 and 10, that ‘In heaven there were people praising Christ from every tongue and tribe and people and nation.’ You know that passage? Revelation 5:9 and 10? Do you know there are tribes and nations that have never heard the gospel, but there will still be representatives from those tribes and nations in heaven praising Christ because they died in their infancy or childhood or without the ability to understand?”

You wrote:
Mohler seems to limit the extent of original sin so as to have it affect the will, but not actually transfer guilt. But this is not what the Bible presents. Romans 5 and elsewhere clearly express that “in Adam all die”, we who call ourselves Reformed acknowledge that this is spiritual death, but apart from being made “alive in Christ” there is no solution to spiritual death and its result is condemnation unto damnation. Unless one is graciously transferred from the headship of Adam into the headship of Christ, they will die… not just die physically, but they will face the second death. This is what the doctrine of imputation is about, Adam’s sin imputed to me (as well as my own sins being put in my acct) because Adam was my federal head. Likewise Christ’s obedience and death is credited to me, apart from my own actions, and His resurrection secures my justification resulting in salvation. If Adam’s sin doesn’t make me guilty, on what basis can I be declared righteous in the sight of God on the basis of Christ’s obedience in my stead? Imputation must work both ways, or its not imputation… if we want to seriously believe in the righteousness of Christ imputed to the believer, we must also believe in the sinfulness of Adam imputed to the unbeliever.

John here:
Sure, in Adam all die. All are born spiritually dead. All are born unable to respond to the Gospel. I have heard of “double-predestination,” but I have not yet heard of “double-imputation.” I have heard of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, of course, but I have not as of yet heard of Adam’s sin being “imputed” to us. Reformed writers may have referred to this, but it has thus far escaped my notice.

You and I are born with a sinful nature, to be sure, but in all instances where Scripture speaks of people who are to be punished in hell, the rationale for the punishment is the person’s deeds, not his inherited predisposition.

You asked me to interact with the points you made on the Radongas site, and I have been happy to do so (though not exhaustively, I will admit). Now, Micah, I will ask you to interact with a point I raised here on the Gadfly site. You say that we don’t know with certainty that all those dying in infancy are among the elect. Imagine, then, that you are an aborted child who finds himself suffering in Hell. You may ask yourself, “Why am I here in this place of punishment?” What answer would there be? Everyone possesses a sin nature, that’s true, but these aborted children have not committed any actual sin, nor had they any opportunity for such sinning.

Thanks, Micah, for your willingness to work through this issue with me.

Blessings to you,

John Stebbe

Micah Says:

Deut 1:39 does not teach that all little ones are in a state of ‘innocence”. Remember that the reason God is sparing the young of Israel (notice, this applies to Israel only, not to the Amalekites, not the Egyptians etc) is that they’re not guilty of the *particular sin*, this says nothing about their salvation either, merely their mortal lives. This verse can teach us that God is gracious and gives us much leeway, but in no way can it teach universal-paedo-salvation.

Parable of Sheep and goats – remember Christ tells the Pharisees that they do not believe *because you are not my sheep*, not the other way around. The reason sheep are sheep is because they are chosen into His flock, the reason goats are goats is because they are not of His flock, Christ does describe what goats do, but it is because of their sinful nature and slavery to sin that they respond in that manner. We all inherit their goat-ness from Adam but we get to be sheep because God chooses us.

MacArthur is a five point Calvinist, thus he recognizes that justification is by the imputed righetousness of Christ… it therefore is reasonable to accept that he also believes in Adam’s sin imputed. He writes,

“All humans are born in sin. If infants were not sinful, if they were not morally corrupt, then they wouldn’t die. If they were born innocent or pure or morally neutral, there would be no basis for their death! The very fact that they die indicates that the disease of sin is there in them, because sin is the killer. It is in their inherited sin nature that the seeds of death are planted.” (”THE SALVATION OF BABIES WHO DIE”)

So while MacArthur recognizes original sin, he doesn’t consistently apply this to his understanding of salvation and infants. Regardless, he and Mohler differ on reasoning. MacArthur later states:

“…all children who die before they reach the condition of accountability, by which they convincingly understand their sin and corruption and embrace the gospel by faith, are graciously saved eternally by God through the work of Jesus Christ, being elect by sovereign choice.”

It is my position in my blog post that MacArthur’s reasoning for this is flawed.

(Just a note here, MacArthur’s flaw is this: “…all children who die before they reach the condition of accountability… are graciously saved eternally by God through the work of Jesus Christ, being elect by sovereign choice.” No where in Scripture does it suggest that the infants of the Amalekites or other lost groups were saved. I wonder if the Jews would have comforted their enemies with such a claim.)

MacArthur does not, as you indicate, believe that babies are saved because they didn’t commit sin or are innocent but rather because he cannot understand how they’re morally culpable having not heard or understood.

God rightly condemns men who do not hear the Gospel every day… so to say that He cannot justly condemn babies on the same basis is groundless. Since no one can understand the Gospel apart from the supernatural work of God in regeneration, could this not be said of adults?

MacArthur’s attempts to use Rev 5:9-10, while having nothing to do with the infant’s supposed innocence, are flawed because those verses do not even speak to the subject of infants. Sadly I find here again that he also without foundation.

You write:

“Sure, in Adam all die. All are born spiritually dead. All are born unable to respond to the Gospel. I have heard of “double-predestination,” but I have not yet heard of “double-imputation.””

Quoting MacArthur again:

Psalm 58:3, “The wicked are estranged from the womb and those who speak lies go astray from birth.” Psalm 143:2, “In thy sight, no one living is righteous;” no one living! That is from conception on: in the womb, at birth, in infancy, in childhood, or adulthood–no one is righteous!”

Hopefully by now you can see MacArthur’s inconsistency. 😉

I was involved in an online debate, the entirety of which I have reposted at my blog regarding Total Depravity. In that debate the issue of “dobule imputation” comes up. You might read through it, though my final reply in the series perhaps explains this best.

Consider for a moment that you state: “Sure, in Adam all die. All are born spiritually dead.”

This indicates to me that at least you have some concept of federal headship, whereby Adam represented all mankind in Eden. In creating Adam and placing him in the garden, God selected a first representative for us. In falling Adam cast the whole human race into sin. Thus, all humans die, it is a result of Adam’s sin. As it is written, “…death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam…” Why is this the case? Because “…through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men…” and also “through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners.”

As MacArthur notes, if Adam’s sin was not imputed to us, there would be no reason for infants to die at all.

Also, I firmly believe that infants and the infirm need a Savior. Far from innocent, everyone is “estranged from the womb” from God and requires the atoning death of Christ in order to reconcile them.

Thus, without the imputation of the sin of Adam, no one who does not physically commit a sin needs saving. Piper’s group writes: “…the consequences of Adam’s sin are twofold (original sin and imputed sin), the remedy of our salvation is also twofold…”

Like a person who becomes a citizen of a country at war with another, we are born at war with God. Our representative, Adam, was justly chosen by God to act on our behalf in the Garden. In Adam’s falling, his whole posterity fell and in Adam’s sin we all sinned.

This is how Christ is the “second Adam”. By God’s grace alone men, women and even children are placed into Christ and thus escape the final curse of the fall. Christ then is our second representative who was victorious where Adam failed. A.w. Pink notes: “…death furnished proof that sin was ‘imputed’—because men were guilty of Adam’s offence.”

You write:
“You and I are born with a sinful nature, to be sure, but in all instances where Scripture speaks of people who are to be punished in hell, the rationale for the punishment is the person’s deeds, not his inherited predisposition.”

Consider Romans 9,

” for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, “THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER. Just as it is written, “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.””

Esau was condemned prior to his birth, not because God ‘foresaw’ that Esau would be the troublemaker, Jacob in fact turns out to be a rebellious liar who fights with God, but because God chose Jacob over Esau. Esau was justly condmened even before he was born, and yet God justly chose Jacob likewise before he was born, not on the basis of deeds they did or would do. Our sinful deeds therefore are results of our kinship to Adam and futher evidence of our guilt before God.

Finally you write:

“Imagine, then, that you are an aborted child who finds himself suffering in Hell. You may ask yourself, “Why am I here in this place of punishment?” What answer would there be? Everyone possesses a sin nature, that’s true, but these aborted children have not committed any actual sin, nor had they any opportunity for such sinning.”

These kinds of exercises, while emotionally gripping, are merely the philosophizing of men apart from Scriptural basis. Everyone who is sent to hell is sent there justly because Adam represented them in the fall and everyone who is sent to heaven is there justly because Christ represented them in His life, death, burial and resurrection. The evidence that one is in Adam is expressed throughout Paul’s letters, “the deeds of the flesh are evident” he writes. The evil we do is a result of our being “in the flesh”, that is, “in Adam.” Paul contrasts this with “the deeds of the Spirit…” which is evidence of our being “in Christ”.

If anyone is sent to hell, apart from commiting acutal sin on this temporal plane of existance, knows that they were justly represented by Adam in Eden, whom God chose to so represent them. Surely no one can talk back to God.

In Christ,

– also note, I don’t believe every infant is condemned… I just don’t believe it is proper to extend to unbelievers the hope that their children get “instant heaven” on the basis of Bible verses that say nothing of the sort.

Total Depravity – 2004 Debate

Because of the loss of the forums at Reaching For Christ (where I used to do 99% of my posting), due to lack of time and funds of everyone involved, a lengthy debate between myself, Mark Ennis and two Church of Christ elders was lost except for at the Church of Christ website. I’m going to post the debate here, in entirety for others to read/use.

I hope this is edifying for everyone.

: The scriptures teach total (hereditary) depravity

Affirming: Mark Ennis (aka MarkE) and Micah Burke

Denying: Kieran Murphy (aka Papasmurph) and Steve Kearney.

On the due date each paper will be submitted …

Round 1 – Opening statements by Micah and Kieran – 2000 word limit due April 2, 2004

Round 2 – Rebuttal Statements by Mark and Steve – 1500 word limit due April 16, 2004

Round 3 (Short Questions and Short Answers) – Mark / Micah’s 5 Questions for Kieran & Steve due April 23, 2004.

Kieran and Steve’s answers due April 28, 2004

Round 4 (Short Questions and Short Answers) – Kieran / Steve’s 5 Questions for Mark & Micah due May 3, 2004.

Mark and Micah’s answers due May 7, 2004

Round 5 – Rebuttal Statements by Mark and Steve – 1000 word limit due May. 14, 2004

Round 6 – Closing Statements by Micah and Kieran – 2000 word limit due May 21, 2004

Total Depravity – Micah’s First Post

Total Depravity

The doctrine of Total Depravity is the Biblical expression of the effects of sin on human nature. One’s view of salvation is primarily defined by his view of sin and the effects of the fall on mankind.

Total Depravity does not mean that every person will be as bad as they can be, but that the effects of the fall affect them physically, and spiritually. This does not mean that men do not do things that appear civilly good, but that according to God’s perfect standard they all fall short. Therefore, man is rebellious toward God and cannot nor will not do anything to affect his own salvation. Men have a will free to choose what to eat, where to go, and what to wear, but not the ability to salvifically choose righteousness or to ‘cooperate’ in some manner.

The Bible is filled with commands of God to sinful men and though God commands something, it does not mean that God also grants the ability to do it. God commanded the Israelites to abide by all of His Law, yet Scripture informs us that they were unable.

The Fall

Gen 2:16-17 The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 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.”

This agreement God made with Adam whereby he could remain in the garden and live so long as he did not partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God promised death for disobedience of His command.

Gen 3:19 – By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.

Adam broke this agreement, partaking of the fruit of the tree and so suffered the penalty of the agreement, death. Not only did this curse come to Adam, but to his offspring as well.

Gen 5:3 When Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years; he became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth.

Because Seth was born in the likeness of Adam, he so partook of the curse of Adam. Although Seth and other offspring were still in the image of God, they were fallen, no longer “good.”[1] This agreement was, therefore, not just with Adam. As expressed in Romans 5, Adam’s actions affected his offspring as well.

Rom 5:14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.

Romans teaches that “death reigned”, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam. A person did not therefore need to engage in sinfulness to endure the same judgment declared upon Adam.

Rom 5:15-17 But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.

Romans 5 explains that “if by the transgression of the one the many died”, that is, by Adam’s one sin many died. There can be no ambiguity in this; it is by the one transgression of Adam that many died and resulted in condemnation on many.

When Romans 5:17 states “death reigned through the one,” it explains in verse 14 that Adam, being a type of Christ to come, was a representative of his people, all of mankind, just as Christ is a representative of His people, the church. Therefore, all who are in Adam partake in the same condemnation he received.

1Co 15:22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.

While Adam did not immediately physically die, God’s punishment was not withheld. Adam died spiritually and was consequently separated from communion with God. His hostility toward God was immediately evident in his actions.

Regardless of one’s opinion of how this curse is transmitted, it is evident from the Scripture that all of us do endure condemnation not just for our own sins, but also of Adam. Adam’s sin is imputed to us. Thus, “by the transgression of the one the many died.” Much like an infant born in a country at war with another, no one could claim that the infant was not also at war. The infant is born, as a citizen of said country at war with the other. Scripture likewise describes men as enemies of God.[2]

Dead in sin

The complete nature of this spiritual death is established throughout the entire Bible. From the writings of the Psalmist, to the writings of Paul we find clear indication that spiritual death is upon every man. Far from a mere sickness as some suggest, spiritual deadness is likened to enslavement. Christ Himself said:

John 8:34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.”

One might argue that this indicates that the actual commission of sin is required for one to be enslaved to sin, but the Psalmist speaks otherwise,

Psalms 58:3 – The wicked are estranged from the womb; These who speak lies go astray from birth.

This condition is universal, as Paul writes in Romans 3:9-10 “…for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; “THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD””. It is therefore evident that we are all wicked, from birth, as all have turned aside and not one of us does good while we are yet enslaved to sin. As it is written, “All have sinned…”3[3]

This is no more clearly illustrated than in Ephesians 2:1-4 and its sister passages in Colossians.

Eph 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. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

This spiritual deadness is so complete that all of us walk according to the ways of the world and Satan. All of us live in lust and indulge the desires of our flesh and are “by nature children of wrath.” Paul explains in Ephesians 1:4-5 that through Christ we are ‘made alive’ just as 1 Corinthians 15:22 states that “in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive”. Thus, the case for Adam’s headship over mankind is made evident and the only possibility for redemption from the curse of Adam is in the headship Christ.

Col 1:21 – And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds

Paul, in Colossians, explains that prior to God’s grace, we were alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds. The evil deeds are a result of the hostility and not a cause of this condition. Later Paul writes,

Col 2:13 – When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions

Paralleling Ephesians 1, Paul declares men to be ‘dead in… transgressions’. Paul explains further…

Unable to please God

Noting this concept of the ‘uncircumcision of your flesh’ we find clarification for this condition in the book of Romans, wherein Paul more clearly details the symptoms of being ‘dead in sin’.

Rom 8:5 – For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.

Paul describes two types of people, those whose minds are “set on the things of the flesh” and those whose minds are set on “the things of the Spirit.” Paul later (in verse 9) explains their differences. First, Paul explains the symptoms of one whose mind is set on the flesh.

Rom 8:6-8 – For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 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, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Here is death, as God promised, “You will surely die.” The person whose mind is set on the flesh is dead in their sins, he is hostile toward God (just as Col 1:21 expresses), he does not subject himself to the law of God and he is not able to do so. This person cannot please God. This is the spiritual death spoken of in the aforementioned verses clearly defined.

Both Jesus and Paul explain elsewhere that such a person cannot even understand the things of the Spirit of God as to accept them4[4]. The only way the Apostles knew and listened to the Spirit is because the Spirit abided with and was to be in them.

1Cor 2:14 – But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

For one to be saved they must be able to hear and understand the message of the Gospel[5], this is impossible for ‘natural man’. What does Paul tell us is the difference between those minds are “set on the things of the flesh” and those whose minds are set on “the things of the Spirit”?

Rom 8:9 – However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.

For one not to be in the flesh, the Spirit of God must dwell in them. Without the Spirit of God dwelling in them, they are not in Christ and remain in Adam. Therefore, the following is true of the person who does not have the Spirit of God in them:

They are hostile toward God

Do not subject themselves to the law of God

Cannot subject themselves to the law of God

Cannot please God

The person, in whom the Spirit does dwell, however, has his mind “set on the things of the Spirit”. He is able to understand Spiritual things, can subject himself to God’s Law, and can please God by faith in His Son. Thus it is written in the first verse in Romans 8, “There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.”


The doctrine of Total Depravity is a proper explanation of the Biblical doctrine of man’s sinful nature and inability to affect his own salvation. Again, this does not mean that men cannot act in accordance with civil law when it pleases them or choose what food to eat. It does mean that men cannot please God as to be saved apart from the Spirit of God dwelling in them. Many historical heresies began with an incomplete understanding or outright denial of this truth.


[1] Gen 1:31, Rom 3:12

[2] Rom 5:10

[3] Rom 3:23

[4] John 14:17

[5] Mat 13:23