Archive for the ‘Darrin’ category

Your Election Ballot

January 26, 2009

No, this is not regarding the presidential election, but our own election to eternal life.















This image from a Bible Institute Colportage Association (now Moody Bible Institute) tract, from about a century ago, pretty well displays the view of salvation popular during that revivalist era, but more importantly is still representative of the misconceptions of the precious doctrine of election today. (more…)

The Gift of Faith

January 8, 2009

A question at the crux of one’s view of God’s work in salvation is, “Where does faith come from?” In this post, which in a sense follows a prior post HERE, I would like to address this issue specifically. I expect that some readers will find this piece terribly elementary, though others may think it completely ridiculous. Yet may our gracious God use something presented for His purposes.

Sometime this past year, I came across the following on a Southern Baptist church’s website, in their beliefs under the heading of Salvation:

“Due to our sinful nature, mankind can do nothing to earn God’s favor or salvation, other than accept Jesus as Savior.”

According to this statement, accepting Jesus is the one thing we can do to earn God’s favor and salvation.

My desire is not to pick at this wording, and it is quite possible that it comes across in a way that was not intended by the writer(s). However, I think it serves as a good picture of a very real perspective prominent in the SBC today.

We know that faith is essential for us in order to be partakers in the redemption and salvation procured by Jesus Christ. The basic question here is whether faith itself is something given to us or something we ourselves generate and offer of our own natural ability.

Man’s Condition

December 1, 2008


This was just intended to be a response to Andrew’s previous post, but as it grew a bit lengthy, I thought to generate a follow-up post regarding Dr. Patterson’s comments about total depravity at the “John 3:16 Conference”. I hope that SBF readers may find something useful for contemplation here as well as in the fine observations Andrew is providing. I know that we both encourage further discussion and civil debate among readers.


Man’s depravity according to Dr. Patterson is not total, and so he should not refer to it as such. If we can hear and appreciate the preaching of the gospel (the “helicopter blades” in the analogy), our intellect is not fallen, and if we desire to be saved from our condition (the sea), then our will is not fallen. So then the fall and thus our depravity are not total. It is of concern to see leaders in the SBC desiring to hold on to some language which appeases Baptists’ sense of man’s misery in sin and the need for God’s grace, but then muddying the issue with an unbiblical elevation of fallen man’s abilities. As Calvin said of early church fathers who erred regarding free will:

To avoid delivering any principle deemed absurd in the common opinion of mankind, they made it their study, therefore, to compromise between the doctrine of the Scripture and the dogmas of the philosophers.


One huge problem with the sailor analogy is that it’s quite obvious to the sailor that he’s in danger and needs saving. However, in the spiritual realm, the natural man has no sense of this. He “loves the darkness”, and spiritual things are “foolishness to him”. It was said that he can just barely hear, and so he can respond. That concept does not appear to be biblical. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” seems more appropriate. When God opens ears, the message is loud and clear, and is embraced by the hearer; when He doesn’t, he remains completely deaf.


It is awful to use the scripture about Abraham’s age and feebleness, which was in regard to fathering children, as a case for the ability to believe despite spiritual deadness. I appeal to any who use this reference as such to please stop such an embarrassing misuse of scripture. Further discussion could be provided, but really should not be necessary in this case. It’s an absurd argument.


Dr. Patterson apparently claimed that we are not guilty except through our own transgression. What then does it mean that we are “by nature children of wrath”? Why did David say “I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me”?


Our guilt was imputed to us before we did anything. One of the best ways to see this truth is to examine the “as” and “just as” comparisons in Romans 5. Of course, merely a reading of 5:18 shows us “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.” Does condemnation not imply guilt?


But beyond that, back to the direct comparison the scripture is drawing: In Christ, the second Adam, are we righteous by our actual deeds? No. Was the righteousness passed down to us via our lineage? No. Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us – we are declared righteous – even though still sinners, as Luther observed. So likewise, Adam’s guilt is not ours only when we actually transgress, nor was it merely passed down through our ancestors, but it was imputed to us as a direct consequence of Adam’s sin. Simply stated, all men in their natural state are declared guilty by God due to the guilt of Adam, and all of God’s elect are declared righteous due to the righteousness of Christ. This is quite surely the biblical perspective, and very different from that presented at this regrettable conference.



Happy Reformation Day

October 31, 2008

May the Lord bless you on this special day and make his amazing grace even more greatly impressed upon our minds. What a rich heritage we have been blessed with in enjoying the ongoing effects of the Protestant Reformation, often marked by this day in 1517. Aside from the tremendous impact this period had in shaping our western culture, leading to freedom politically, economically, etc. – this movement was truly a recovery of the gospel from the darkness characteristic of medieval times. As was said of this era – “After darkness, light”. 

Today I am thankful to be able to wear a shirt I recently ordered which quotes Luther’s observation, “Simul justus et peccator” , that is, “Justified and a sinner at the same time”. What an important truth that we are not inherently righteous, nor even yet made righteous, but we are declared righteous by God due purely to the righteousness of Christ. As Augustine observed over a millennium before the Reformation, any good within us is of God, whereas any evil is of ourselves. How appropriate for us to be humbled under the continual sin that troubles us, breaking down our pride, and to give all glory to God for counting us righteous due only to the righteousness and atonement of His holy Son! He saved us purely of His own good pleasure!

We are thankful for our inherent inability, because in us the glory and power of God can be made known. 

And so with the brothers of old, we say:

1) Grace alone! (What a precious truth! All praise and glory to our Maker for His underserved favor in choosing and saving us.)

2) Faith alone! (… and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. God has given us faith, of His own free will!)

3) Christ alone! (The only way! This also reminds us that the gospel of Christ must be preached – the internal saving call is accompanied by the external call of the gospel! God has ordained not only the ends but the means of salvation!)

4) Scripture alone! (We still appreciate and find great help in the creeds and confessions of the historic church, but the Word of God is our final rule and authority for God’s revealed truth. Praise Him for it, and let’s continue to be in the Word all the more!)

5) The glory of God alone! (This is what life is all about! As His dear children He graciously allows us to enjoy His glory forever, but He is the only one worthy! We must always point to His glory and nobody else’s.)

Grace – all of Grace! 

Happy Reformation Day.


Election vs. Foresight

September 15, 2008

As it is impossible to deny the reality of divine election upon even a cursory reading of the scriptures, it appears that the method common in many Baptist and other Protestant circles, in an effort to unite election with the human perspective of fairness and free will, is to redefine election, to strip it of any real power. You may hear reasoning such as “God looked down the corridors of time to see who would believe” and so elected them. I expect that many through the ages, and perhaps even some on this site (as the archives may attest), have aptly used scripture to show the problems with such a notion (logical inconsistencies aside), but as I have recently been reading Calvin on this, several relevant excerpts of his are given below. It is copied from the John Allen translation, as I’ve become somewhat accustomed to that one. The emboldened fonts are added here.

It is a notion commonly entertained, that God, foreseeing what would be the respective merits of every individual, makes a correspondent distinction between different persons; that he adopts as children such as will be deserving of his grace, and devotes to the damnation of death others, whose dispositions he sees will be inclined to wickedness and impiety. Thus they not only obscure election by covering it with the veil of foreknowledge, but pretend that it originates in another cause [other than God's good pleasure]. Nor is this commonly received notion the opinion of the vulgar only, for it has had great advocates in all ages….

God’s sovereign election of some, and preterition [passing by] of others, they make the subject of formal accusation against him….

Now, it is of importance to attend to what the Scripture declares respecting every individual. Paul’s assertion, that we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4), certainly precludes any consideration of merit in us; for it is as though he had said, our heavenly Father, finding nothing worthy of his choice in all the posterity of Adam, turned his views towards his Christ, to choose members from his body whom he would admit to the fellowship of life. Let believers, then, be satisfied with this reason, that we were adopted in Christ to the heavenly inheritance, because in ourselves we were incapable of such high dignity. He has a similar remark in another place, where he exhorts the Colossians to give thanks unto the Father, who had made them meet [fit] to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints.” (Col. 1:12)  If election precedes this grace of God, which makes us meet to obtain the glory of the life to come, what will God find in us to induce him to elect us? Another passage from this apostle will still more clearly express my meaning. He hath chosen us,” he says, before the foundation of the world, according to the good pleasure of his will, that we should be holy, and without blame before him” (Eph. 1:4-5); where he opposes the good pleasure of God to all our merits whatsoever.

Calvin summarizes his main theme in this, showing that the scripture,

stating them to have been chosen that they might be holy,” fully refutes the error which derives election from foreknowledge; since Paul, on the contrary, declares that all the virtue in men is the effect of election… This overturns any means of election which men imagine in themselves… For say, ‘Because he foresaw they would be holy, therefore he chose them,’ and you will invert the order of Paul. We may safely infer, then, If he chose us that we should be holy, his foresight of our future holiness was not the cause of his choice

And what consistency would there be in asserting, that things derived from election were the causes of election? A subsequent clause seems further to confirm what he had said – “according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in himself.” (Eph. 1:9) For the assertion, that God purposed in himself , is equivalent to saying, that he considered nothing out of himself, with any view to influence his determination.

- excerpts from “Institutes of the Christian Religion”, Book III, Chapter XXII

 While here Calvin may appear to be dealing with outward works, he shows in other places that this divine catalyst of election certainly applies to our will also. Perhaps in a future post more on this would be warranted. For now suffice it to say that immediately following Paul’s exhortation to believers to “work out” their salvation, he plainly states, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Phil 2:13) Now, if even we as those regenerated have need for God to grant us wills to please Him, how much more those still in need of conversion?

Sola gratia,




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