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This discussion took place between myself and Brent Baxter on a FB Christian Discussion page. Brent, after the discussion, expressed to another that I attacked him. As you read the discussion, you must decide whether I did or not. I can tell you that I made it a point not to do so. I was hard on his handling of Scripture, but I did not attack him. He also mentioned he is pleased to converse with me because he likes the fact that I will engage in conversation to a great depth. Though Brent denies he is a Calvinist, he argued in this discourse as one. In the course of the dialogue, one will see bracketed notes. These are transcribed from the hard copy I printed, with some additional elaborations. Typos and pitiful expressions are from the discourse, a “cut and paste” into this word document.

The original post from Brent Becky Baxter (BBB)

Humbling thought

It is true that God’s word, the Bible was written for His chosen in that it is spiritually appraised by those He has enabled to hear. This enabling comes by no intrinsic value of the hearer but solely by God’s sovereign grace alone. Jesus said. Through John that His sheep hear his voice and another they simply will not follow.
It’s a work He initiates in the believer and swears by His own character to bring it to completeness.
No one knows who is going to hear. Our responsibility as faithful stewards to whom He has entrusted it, is to proclaim the gospel. Reasoning in the scripture as necessary.
This really is a good discussion group for just such fellowship

RT: I will engage. Since God enables some, but not others, then God is responsible for those who are not enabled. If I understand you correctly, this is what you are saying. I am interested in your scriptural support.

BBB: You finally got it.. never quite understood What is so hard to understand about ” He loved us even when we were dead in our trespasses and sin, He made us alive”
Further, Eph 2:3 by nature, children of wrath, leaves no capacity to consent to ones own new birth. The natural man cannot appraise his spiritual condition of needing salvation. 1 Cor 2:14

RT: Thus God is responsible for the natural man’s damnation since the natural man has no capacity to consent. The natural man is not responsible.

BBB: Genesis 2 and 3 gives a crystal clear account of who is responsible for death and damnation and it wasn’t God.
When God set before the nation of Israel life or death, their response was. ” all that the Lord has said, we will do and will obey”. Ex 23:7. Now I don’t know about anyone else but it’s pretty clear that until God puts a new heart in them they can say and do whatever, but it’s only the remnant that God reserves unto himself that are redeemed. Now the whole OT ends in showing how well their self will according to the flesh worked out for them. The arrogance of self effort for them is clearly stated in Malachi. “How have we despised you ?” They said

RT: You go to the OT to develop at NT teaching? Your remark on Ephesians is wrong. I want you to develop this from what Paul taught to Ephesus. In Gen. 2 & 3, was Adam a natural man, that is, a fleshly man? If he was, did he have freedom of will? In Deut 30, was the nation of Israel natural, that is, fleshly? Did they have freedom of will to accept or reject?

BBB: Paul in Romans 5 makes the case for the development of a N T teaching beginning in the O T. The second Adam. Follow closely Romans 5, Romans 8, 1 Cor 15:45.
Adam, had freedom of will concerning the tree of knowledge of good and evil. He ate and died that very day. Than what free will did he have thereafter ? All the choices of a dead man.
How did Israels freedom of will turn out for them ? What was the sum total of their spiritual dead state ? They couldn’t even identify their Messiah . Romams 9. 10, and 11 is not describing a frustrated God who is waiting for Israel to exercise their free will or free choice but God who is in control of who and when He will give life to the spiritually dead. This is consistent with Ezekiel and Gods intentions.
Now as far as Ephesians the spiritual death is clear. That which, while it was dead, God made alive. Paul teaches the same truth in Ephesians that he teaches throughout Romans and he is consistent with the Genesis nerative of death, the need of a new heart in Ezek 11:19. The spiritual birth of John 3

[To this point, note the following remarks he made from the dialogue: (1) “This enabling comes by no intrinsic value of the hearer but solely by God’s sovereign grace alone.” (2) “It’s a work He initiates” (3) “Eph 2:3 by nature, children of wrath, leaves no capacity to consent to ones own new birth” (4) “it’s pretty clear that until God puts a new heart in them…” (5) “but God who is in control of who and when He will give life to the spiritually dead.” To this point this boils down to this: man has no free will in relation to salvation. In other words, there is nothing he can do to initiate or do to be saved, God must do the initiating, that is, enabling him to respond.]

RT: Your remark on Romans 5 needs to be more specific. There is nothing within C-5 that speaks against freewill. With regard to your remarks on Adam, making a choice does not speak against his freewill, only a prohibition set in place concerning a particular tree. There wss [was] nothing Adam could do to generate a plan to get back to God. This speaks nothing against freewill, however. On Romans 9-11, that is answered in 9:30 – 10:3. Israel tried to establish their own plan, complementary to my point on Adam. In Ephesians, spiritual death is clear, but where does Paul speak against freewill? Moreover, your remarks along this line are contrary to Acts 10:34-35. John 3 speaks nothing about freewill (for or against), only that one must be born again from above.

BBB: The contrast between the first man Adam and the second Adam and what comes by each is not unclear or nonspecific. That would be the passages in Romans and Corinthians for those Armenians in Broward co.
As for the passage in Ephesians, here is a list of the fruit of free will from a spiritually dead person not yet made alive:
1- walked according to the course of this world
2- walked according to the prince of the power of the air
That would be Adam and Eves free will.
For Armenians that would be their free will before death, to walk according to the deceiver not according to Gods command
3- walking according to the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience
4- living in the lust of the flesh
5- indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind
6- by nature children of wrath
Now Paul justifies his theology of dead in sin in Romans 3:11 when he quotes the Psalmist that there are none who seek God. Now only a Plegian and Arminian inserts a free will to choose God in this theology
It all goes back to the difference in how one interprets the passage in Genesis 2:17, ” in the day you eat from it you will surely die “.
And therein Ron, you and I evidentially will never interpret the same

[An analysis of the foregoing: Paul’s point in the Ephesian section alluded to by Brent is in the fact those dead in sin chose to walk as Paul described, they chose willfully to live in accordance with the ways of the world. those who chose to walk in a certain way, is it possible those same ones can choose to walk in a different way? In regards to the Romans 3:11 remark, if none seek God, and God controls the who and when of a person’s salvation, then life given to the spiritually dead is a directly a consequence of God’s action. Or, to state it differently, if God chooses not to give person X an enablement to be saved, then person X is not culpable, not accountable for why he is lost.]

RT: Of course, I said nothing in relation to a confusion of contrasts in Romans 5:12-21. It’s obvious the Holy Spirit is making a contrast, but not against free will. Paul speaks about that which passed (death/life) from one to all (be it Adam or Christ), not a contrast of enabling/non-enabling or free will/non-freewill.
There is nothing in Ephesians 2 that speaks against free will, and neither does Paul intimate such a thing. Paul begins his thought in C-2 by saying God made those in Ephesus alive, but did He say how? He made us alive together having raised us up in Christ when those saved were saved by faith, something Paul said they heard (they heard the gospel taught), then obeyed that which they heard, as stated in 1:13 (cf. Acts 16:31-33). There is nothing in chapters 1 and/or 2 that speaks against free will, but there is something in chapter 1 that speaks of hearing, trusting (believing), then being sealed.
Paul’s point in the litany of Scripture (Romans 3:11ff) is NOT against free will, but only that man does not seek the Lord. I will leave off saying anything more on this point until you have something further to say.
Yes, it may be the case that you and I will not interpret the same way, but there is no chance that you are correct in your reasoning against free will. 1) You have implicitly prescribed to God culpability in one’s damnation, making man excusable, something expressly denied by Scripture (Romans 1:2). 2) God commands all people everywhere to repent, but if a person can’t repent because God has not enabled that one to do so, then point #1 is additionally established. 3) You make God partial in salvation with your teaching of enabling / non-enabling, something the Scripture expressly denies (Acts 10:34-35).

BBB: What does mans free will produce ? What is it that free will that initiates the new birth when Christ makes it clear that those He saves are according to Gods eternal purposes..
Free will connotates a will independent from any other will. Man’s free will is not Gods will or it would not be free.
As to the being made alive, its called the new birth. John 1:12. Makes no allowance for the free will of man because the receiving is qualified as that exercise of God. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

RT: Man’s free will produces that which he desires to seek. In and of himself, there is no chance that man can generate his own road to salvation. That is Paul’s point with regard to the Romans in chapters 2 through 11. The eternal purposes of God do not, and never have, mitigated man’s free will. Man’s free will can’t initiate salvation’s path, but it can respond to the Lord’s invitation as it pertains to salvation. Paul had free will to produce the fruits of his service against God’s way of righteousness, but it was his free will that generated his response to the Lord when called (Acts 26:19). Man’s free will is not God’s will; in this you are correct (Proverbs 14:12; Jeremiah 10:23), but man’s free will can align itself with God’s will (Luke 6:46). Your following remark, however, does not follow. Man’s free will may or may not be in line with God’s will. It’s all about obedience (John 3:36; Hebrews 5:8-9). Yes, being made alive in in relation to the new birth, but Paul explained how that occurred in chapter 1.
Your remark on John 1:12 is perplexing. Those who received the Lord, as the verse states, did so because they were enabled by God to do so? It says no such thing! Those who received the Lord had the right, the power, the opportunity to become children of God. Those who respond to the Lord’s invitation (Matthew 11:28-30) have free will to do so; otherwise, the Lord’s invitation is a plain mockery to those who can’t (not won’t, for “won’t” implies free will). Those who reply and obey are born of God.

BBB: Zombie theology puts the free will of the spiritually dead working alongside Gods will and gives credit to the flesh for the internal workings of the Holy Spirit in the drawing process where Christ states plainly ” no man can come to the Son except the Father draw him.” Purely the Holy Spirit’s work on the rebellious free will of the flesh. As to the mockery of God toward those He has not chosen, What man or chunk of clay can accuse God of unrighteousness in His sovereign choices ? To base an entire theology of free will on that false assumption is not is not a sound Biblical theology of sin.

RT: This is all that you can do in the way of argumentation, to be disparageing? Be that as it may, you have not refuted one single point of anything I have offered. You have dismissed it, but not refuted it. You misuse John 6:44, for you did not cite the next verse that speak of how the drawing occurs. That which you call false theology has certainly stood the test of this discussion, for if you could refute it biblically, you would have. As it is, you have not and cannot. If you want to debate the workings of the Holy Spirit, then we can, or if you want to debate what Paul meant in Romans 9, we can. Hopefully, others will find this discussion beneficial to their own studies.

Robert Kramer: Nothing new here from the reformed theology side. It’s hard to believe they actually believe they’re representing accurately the arguments they oppose. I love my brothers who are “reformed” leaning, but the constant misrepresentation of those with whom they differ continues to leave me perplexed. Seems a lot like what we see in DC today on politics. I certainly hope it’s not an intentional misrepresentation.

BBB: The only intentional misrepresentation set forth as Biblical doctrine in this thread is that man has free will to accept or reject God’s offer of salvation. And the best that has been done in argumentation is to insert the concept of free will in every passage mentioned where it is not. Every person is responsible to accept Gods offer of salvation but until God changes that persons will, he continues in his rejection.
Where in scripture do we find. “The Lord’s invitation is a plain mockery to those who can’t “. Now there is some real sound doctrine to build an argument for free will upon. The fact is God is no respecter of persons. To inject free will or even the remote concept into the Ephesian’s 2 passage or the Roman passages mentioned is pure error.
It’s not hard to separate a works religion from a salvation by grace faith. The only acceptable obedience in relation to salvation is that which is led by the Holy Spirit when a believer is filled by the Holy Spirit. The filling and leading is not a result of an active self will, but a self will that is not in control.
The follower of Christ is to die to self daily, pick up his cross and follow. And the proponents of free will say that by exercising the very thing they are to lay aside is the very thing they are to exercise. To take up ones cross and follow is done by denying himself. Now inject self will into that one and it becomes a works religion.
To acknowledge Gods sovereignty into this passage and the predestination of God for the believer makes it a work of grace on the part of God. (Matt. 16:24- )
What the Armenian and Pelagian heresies do is interpret scripture through the ideology that God’s sovereign will is always subject to the free will of lost man. That there is enough good in every human being to exercise free will to choose or reject God’s offer of salvation and that is the definition of a works religion.
Paul states clearly, in the Ephesians 2 passage with no suggestion of free will in any remote sense that we are saved by grace and that not of our selves. The works religionist adds according to man’s free will to receive or reject.
In the John 1 passage those who are given the right to become children of God, were born not of the will of blood nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man but of God. The works religionist adds except for the exercise of the free will of man
Now there is the boast before God. That one has exercise of free will because there is enough good in his lost dead soul to accept or reject Gods grace.

[Bringing the earlier italicized remarks forward from the dialogue, note the following: (1) “This enabling comes by no intrinsic value of the hearer but solely by God’s sovereign grace alone.” (2) “It’s a work He initiates” (3) “Eph 2:3 by nature, children of wrath, leaves no capacity to consent to ones own new birth” (4) “it’s pretty clear that until God puts a new heart in them…” (5) “but God who is in control of who and when He will give life to the spiritually dead.” (6) “John 1:12. Makes no allowance for the free will of man.” (7) “the internal workings of the Holy Spirit in the drawing process…” (8) “Every person is responsible to accept Gods offer of salvation but until God changes that persons will, he continues in his rejection.” It has been argued that man has no free will in relation to salvation. If man has no free will in his salvation, and if he is saved it is only because God enabled him to be saved with some inner working of the Holy Spirit, then if there is no inner working of the Holy Spirit for a man to be saved, then it is not possible for man to be responsible for his “lostness” or damnation.]

RT: Intentional misrepresentations? You are good at assertions, but wanting in evidence. If I am guilty of intentional misrepresentations, then demonstrate wherein I have done so as you have accused; to this point you have not.
You insert “no free-will,” but I have shown via the context you have misused the passage, both in Ephesians 2 and John 6. What have you done in reply, only dismiss it. Moreover, I have conclusively demonstrated you have made God partial in His handling of man in conjunction with salvation. What have you said in reply. Nothing.
You assert every man is responsible to God, but you fail to make the case for this to be so when you assert that God enables one to be saved, but not the other. There is no chance you can reconcile the idea of man being responsible to God for his “lostness,” but at the same time affirm unless God nudges him he can’t be saved! “Every person is responsible to accept Gods offer of salvation but until God changes that persons will, he continues in his rejection.” Thus, you declare, man is responsible; but if man gets no nudge from God – how can he be responsible? YOU have made God responsible for man’s “lostness.”
I have not affirmed the Lord’s invitation is a mockery to those who can’t respond to God’s invitation; instead, I have shown where YOU make it a mockery. YOU make a mockery of God’s invitation extended to all people, but unless God gives some nudge or enablement, one can ‘t be saved. You say [God speaking], “You all need to be saved, but unless I give you a nudge to be saved, you can’t.” Yes, a mockery in full-force.
You have misused Ephesians 2 to make your case, but the context does not allow you to sustain your point.
You assert that I affirm “pure error.” Very well, demonstrate that I have, rather than just assert it.
Man is responsible for his damnation, but how can man be responsible to God for his own condemnation if God does not (or did not) give him an opportunity to reply in the affirmative with an enabling nudge from God? He can’t. There is no chance you can reconcile this. None!
You speak about “works religion,” in relationship to “saved by grace,” but with your reasoning here, I wonder if you even know what Paul means when he speaks of the word “works” in Romans (for instance).
You say “the only acceptable obedience in relation to salvation is that which is led by the Holy Spirit when a believer is filled by the Holy Spirit.” Where does the Scripture teach this?
You say “The filling and leading is not a result of an active self will, but a self will that is not in control.” Where does the Scripture teach this?
You don’t know what it means to die daily or to pick up one’s cross and follow. To do such a thing as this, does one do this of his own free-will, or is this action generated from an outside source, not of his own free-will at all? Identify what the Holy Spirit means when He speaks of a “works religion,” and as you do so, be sure to develop this from the context in which the term is used, that is, assuming you can find this term in Scripture.
I await your answer to these.
The so-called definition of “works religion” is your own, not anything from Scripture supports this definition from man. Am I wrong? I await your reasoning from Scripture to show that I am wrong.
You remark that “Paul states clearly…” in Ephesians 2 that man is saved by grace and that “not of ourselves.” Fine! Your point is? The Scripture also teaches us that God’s grace teaches man to deny ungodliness and to live soberly, righteously in this world (Titus 2:11-12). Does God’s grace teach the non-free-will person?
It appears you have arrived at a point where you are frustrated in this discussion with your insertion and accusation of those who think contrary to you, calling them “works religionists.”
In John 1:12, you have failed to understand the Holy Spirit’s point. When one submits to the authority of God, believing Jesus Christ is the Son of God, then that one who submitted has the right, the power, the privilege of becoming a child of God. Vincent Word Studies states, “Here, therefore, ἐξουσία [authority, power] is not merely possibility or ability, but legitimate right derived from a competent source – the Word.”

BBB: Free will or Gods will is the great theme of scripture from Genesis to Revelation. Failing to understand scripture accurately is not unique to any one person in this thread.
God reveals the truth about Himself in Biblical Scripture. The reader can accept it or reject it. That’s the sum total of free will according to Genesis 2-3. No one can change it. There is no higher standard of right and righteousness than God Himself. Many cannot accept that God is not subject their model of what is right and what is sin.
Romans 9:11 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, 12 it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” 14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate MY power in you, and that MY name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” 20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it
That is a reality about God that the “fig leaf” of self will has no capacity to accept.
For certain, the history of Israel bears this out. This is the name that The LORD proclaims of Himself. No one can change, redefine, or reinterpret this self proclaimed excellency of His being. All would do well to believe all that He discloses.

RT: Not sure if this is something to which I should reply. I have much to say about this passage, but I wonder if there is fatigue in our conversation. To this point I have enjoyed the dialogue. I hope I have not failed you as a disputant. If you think it is warranted, I will continue. On the other hand, if you want to let it rest, then I will do so.

BBB: The text is self explanatory even a new born babe in Christ can understand it. Fatigue or not one cannot explain it away. There are many things in scripture that are hard to hear and as you and I prove once again there is much to consider. Best wishes my C D friend…

Robert Kramer: Once again, when one doesn’t agree with a Calvinist, they “don’t understand self explanatory texts even a new born Christian should understand” with the accusation of not hearing God’s Word. They believe in “heretical” theology. Brent, so if one does not believe in reformed theology/Calvinism, would you represent them as heretics ?

(This is the last bit of the discussion between Brent and me that is germane to this post.)