You are hereThe Total Depravity of Calvinism

The Total Depravity of Calvinism

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By SuperSoulFighter - Posted on 18 January 2005

by John McPherson
One of the Calvinist doctrines I find most opposed to the clear language and teachings of the Scriptures is the "Total Depravity" of man. The Calvinist belief that unregenerate man is "utterly helpless and spiritually destitute apart from divine intervention in his heart and mind" is simply unsupportable, Biblically, and I intend to demonstrate this to be the case in this article.One of the Calvinist doctrines I find most opposed to the clear language and teachings of the Scriptures is the "Total Depravity" of man. The Calvinist belief that unregenerate man is "utterly helpless and spiritually destitute apart from divine intervention in his heart and mind" is simply unsupportable, Biblically, and I intend to demonstrate this to be the case in this article.
To begin, it is advantageous to consider the actual teachings and propositions of John Calvin himself, the originator of the doctrine of "Total Depravity" in its formalized, codified form.

(Man's natural endowments not wholly extinguished: the understanding, 12-17)

12. Supernatural gifts destroyed; natural gifts corrupted; but enough of reason remains to distinguish man from brute beasts

I feel pleased with the well-known saying which has been borrowed from the writings of Augustine, that man's natural gifts were corrupted by sin, and his supernatural gifts withdrawn; meaning by supernatural gifts the light of faith and righteousness, which would have been sufficient for the attainment of heavenly life and everlasting felicity. Man, when he withdrew his allegiance to God, was deprived of the spiritual gifts by which he had been raised to the hope of eternal salvation. Hence it follows, that he is now an exile from the kingdom of God, so that all things which pertain to the blessed life of the soul are extinguished in him until he recover them by the grace of regeneration. Among these are faith, love to God, charity towards our neighbour, the study of righteousness and holiness. All these, when restored to us by Christ, are to be regarded as adventitious and above nature. If so, we infer that they were previously abolished. On the other hand, soundness of mind and integrity of heart were, at the same time, withdrawn, and it is this which constitutes the corruption of natural gifts. For although there is still some residue of intelligence and judgement as well as will, we cannot call a mind sound and entire which is both weak and immersed in darkness. As to the will, its depravity is but too well known.

Therefore, since reason, by which man discerns between good and evil, and by which he understands and judges, is a natural gift, it could not be entirely destroyed; but being partly weakened and partly corrupted, a shapeless ruin is all that remains. In this sense it is said, (John 1: 5,) that "the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not;" these words clearly expressing both points, viz., that in the perverted and degenerate nature of man there are still some sparks which show that he is a rational animal, and differs from the brutes, inasmuch as he is endued with intelligence, and yet, that this light is so smothered by clouds of darkness that it cannot shine forth to any good effect.

In like manner, the will, because inseparable from the nature of man, did not perish, but was so enslaved by depraved lusts as to be incapable of one righteous desire. The definition now given is complete, but there are several points which require to be explained. (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book II, Chapter 2)

Typically, as can be seen above, Calvin relies heavily on the thinking of the ECFs, and their theorizing concerning man's "fallen state". John 1:5, the one verse cited by Calvin in the development of his ideas, is ripped out of its context, and made to mean something other than its originally intended, contextually-established interpretation. The "light" shone in WHICH "darkness". It was the "light" of WHICH "men"? John 1 deserves better, more careful treatment than this.

In John 1:10,11 we read the following: "10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him."

We find strong, clear evidence of rhetorical parallelism in the verses, above. John essentially equates "the world" with "His own", establishing his usage of "world" as a reference to the Old Covenant "world" of "God's own People". Tracing this contextual usage in reverse, we find that "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word WAS God" does NOT necessarily refer to the Genesis account of God's creation of the physical planet, universe and natural system of things. In all probability, in fact, it refers to the creation of the Old Covenant "world" at Mt. Sinai, in the giving of the Law to Moses. Christ Jesus was YHWH of the Israelites, who met with Moses and personally delivered the Law to him. "All things were made by Him and without Him was not anything made that was made". Christ Jesus dictated the creation of "all things" pertinent to the structure of the civilization/society known as Old Covenant Israel. "In Him was Light and that Light was the Light of men." YHWH appeared to the ancient Israelites as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He was known to dwell in unapproachable light (1Tim. 6:14-16). In other words, we arrive at verse 5 with the understanding that the Light of Christ Jesus' Truth shone in the darkness of ISRAEL'S spiritual lack of understanding and rejection of their own God - and they did NOT "comprehend" Him. They didn't recognize or acknowledge Him as their own Messiah.

It can be seen, therefore, that John Calvin has launched his ideas on exegetically shaky ground.

Earlier in his treatment of this issue, Calvin makes these statements:

Having seen that the dominion of sin, ever since the first man was brought under it, not only extends to the whole race, but has complete possession of every soul, it now remains to consider more closely, whether from the period of being thus enslaved, we have been deprived of all liberty; and if any portion still remains, how far its power extends. In order to facilitate the answer to this questions it may be proper in passing to point out the course which our inquiry ought to take. The best method of avoiding error is to consider the dangers which beset us on either side. (1) Man being devoid of all uprightness, immediately takes occasion from the fact to indulge in sloth, and having no ability in himself for the study of righteousness, treats the whole subject as if he had no concern in it. (2) On the other hand, man cannot arrogate any thing, however minute, to himself, without robbing God of his honour, and through rash confidence subjecting himself to a fall.

To keep free of both these rocks, our proper course will be, first, to show that man has no remaining good in himself, and is beset on every side by the most miserable destitution; and then teach him to aspire to the goodness of which he is devoid, and the liberty of which he has been deprived: thus giving him a stronger stimulus to exertion than he could have if he imagined himself possessed of the highest virtue. How necessary the latter point is, everybody sees. As to the former, several seem to entertain more doubt than they ought. For it being admitted as incontrovertible that man is not to be denied any thing that is truly his own, it ought also to be admitted, that he is to be deprived of every thing like false boasting. If man had no title to glory in himself, when, by the kindness of his Maker, he was distinguished by the noblest ornaments, how much ought he to be humbled now, when his ingratitude has thrust him down from the highest glory to extreme ignominy? At the time when he was raised to the highest pinnacle of honour, all which Scripture attributes to him is, that he was created in the image of God, thereby intimating that the blessings in which his happiness consisted were not his own, but derived by divine communication. What remains, therefore, now that man is stript of all his glory, than to acknowledge the God for whose kindness he failed to be grateful, when he was loaded with the riches of his grace? Not having glorified him by the acknowledgement of his blessings, now, at least, he ought to glorify him by the confession of his poverty.

In truth, it is no less useful for us to renounce all the praise of wisdom and virtue, than to aim at the glory of God. Those who invest us with more than we possess only add sacrilege to our ruin. For when we are taught to contend in our own strength, what more is done than to lift us up, and then leave us to lean on a reed which immediately gives way? Indeed, our strength is exaggerated when it is compared to a reed. All that foolish men invent and prattle on this subject is mere smoke. Wherefore, it is not without reason that Augustine so often repeats the well-known saying, that free will is more destroyed than established by its defenders, (August. in Evang. Joann. Tract. 81.) It was necessary to premise this much for the sake of some who, when they hear that human virtue is totally overthrown, in order that the power of God in man may be exalted, conceive an utter dislike to the whole subject, as if it were perilous, not to say superfluous, whereas it is manifestly both most necessary and most useful.(Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book II, Chapter 2)

Calvin's shortcomings involve both a failure to treat the Scriptures directly with any sense of exegetical, contextual integrity and accuracy coupled with an obsessive need for unachievable "humility" (humanly speaking) in our consideration of God and His relationship to man. An individual who is so focussed on such a need, viewing it as over-riding all other considerations, has (in all likelihood) issues with vanity and pride in his own heart and mind. It is highly possible that Calvin held his own views, beliefs and self in rather high esteem, and realized that nothing of such a self-opinion would be appropriate in any examination of God's perfection vs. man's imperfection and limitations. Unfortunately, Calvin's obsession with the need for "humility" (or at least the sensed need for the perpetual PORTRAYAL of such an attitude) warped and distorted his understanding of the Scriptures relevant to this discussion.

Going back to Genesis 4, we find a fascinating discussion between God and Cain providing us with tremendous insight into the TRUE nature of man's innermost being.

6 So the Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it." (Gen. 4:6,7)

First of all, note God's rhetorical question in v.6. The correct, intended response is YES - if you DO WELL (that which is pleasing in God's sight), YOU WILL BE ACCEPTED BY GOD. Remember, Cain was NOT "spiritually regenerated" in the New Testament sense of that phrase, at this time. He was in a "fallen" state, and yet God is communicating with him and has specific EXPECTATIONS of him, based on certain inherent, created qualities within his heart, mind and will which were clearly still functional and active.

The final statement to Cain, above, sets Calvin's arguments to rest completely. It nails the coffin shut on his view of mankind's supposed "total depravity". Cain had the LEGITIMATE OPTION to "rule over" the bias toward sin within him. He COULD over-rule his own, sinful tendencies and still do that which was pleasing to God AUTONOMOUSLY. No other interpretation of those verses is either tenable or supportable, when the language and context are given their due weight.

In John 6:28,29 the Jews asked Christ Jesus an intriguing question, and His response is highly informative.

28 Then they said to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" 29 Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent."

In effect, the "work of God" was that which the Jews were capable of "working" IN AND OF THEMSELVES - AUTONOMOUSLY. Christ's words actually indicate that this "work of God" (faith in Christ Jesus) did not have its SOURCE in God, but rather was the ONLY "work" they were capable of that would meet with His approval. In other words - they were capable of exercising SAVING FAITH, autonomously.

Romans 10:9-17 provides us with a detailed description of the mechanics of saving faith.

"9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame."

12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For "whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." 14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!" 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our report?" 17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."

Note v.17 in particular. NOWHERE in this description of the process of the awakening of saving faith within one's heart and mind is there ANY indication that GOD confers saving faith through the sovereign, supernatural imposition of it upon the individual's heart and mind. NOWHERE do we see any evidence of this activity on God's part WHATSOEVER.

Again, Calvin's doctine falls demonstrably short of the Truth. Calvin and the exegetes who adhere to his views, consistently misappropriate Biblical texts to suit their predetermined conclusions, utterly ignoring the clear context.

John G. Reisinger exemplifies this approach rather well.

What does the phrase "total depravity" mean?

I. Negative. Let us note what we do NOT mean by "total depravity."
A. We do not mean that man is without a conscience or any sense of right or wrong.

B. Total depravity does not mean that every sinner is devoid of all the qualities that are both pleasing to men and useful to society when those qualities are judged only by a human standard.

C. We are not saying that every sinner is prone to every form of sin.

D. We do not mean that every sinner is as intense as he can be in his sin.

II. Positive. What we DO mean by "total depravity." What DOES the Bible itself teach?

A. Every sinner, including you and me, is destitute of, or without, that love to God which constitutes the fundamental and all-inclusive demand of God's law.

B. Total depravity means that every sinner is guilty of elevating some lower affection or desire above regard for God, His Law and the Gospel.

C. That "something else" that all men love is an idol called "self" or "me."

D. Every sinner is possessed with a nature, inherited from Adam's fall, that is completely hostile toward God.

E. By total depravity, we mean that every part of man's being and nature has been affected by sin.

F. Man has a nature that will not permit him to choose God or righteousness.

Note that point F in particular directly contradicts the Scriptures I have cited, above. For these points, Reisinger provides no textual support.

Reisinger goes on to amplify upon these points as follows:

Doctor Bible is going to examine seven individual faculties of the sinner. In each case the result will show total inability. Here are seven things that God says a sinner cannot do. It is essential that we see that the Holy Spirit uses the word "cannot" in all seven instances. To say, "Well, the sinner really can do these things if he only wants to," is to not only misunderstand the Bible, it is to flat out contradict it! As we shall see later, man's "will not," or his refusal to repent and believe the gospel, is the direct effect of the "cannot" of total depravity. More about this in a moment.

First, the man is totally BLIND.

A lost man CANNOT see! "I tell you the truth, no one CAN SEE the kingdom of God unless he is born again" (John 3:3). The "see" means to realize, or to experience, or to appreciate. Christ is saying that man does not have the spiritual ability to even desire the kingdom of God until he is first "born again."

Reisinger universalizes John 3:3 with no attention given to the fact that this private discussion between Christ and Nicodemus was focussed exclusively on the spiritual economy of the Isralite "world" of THAT day. IF there is any, secondary application of this principle of "seeing" the Kingdom BEYOND the pre-AD 70 era and spiritual experience, it must be established through parallel Scriptures elsewhere verifying this fact, through clear, relevance and application to OUR era signified within their immediate contexts. The JEWS were unable to RECOGNIZE the Truth of the gospel in Christ Jesus and His Kingdom apart from spiritual rebirth. Is that true for mankind as a whole? That is an open question if we rely solely upon John 3:3.

Second, the man is mentally deranged.

He CANNOT UNDERSTAND a single thing that is spiritual. "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither CAN he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (I Cor 2:14). Again we must notice the cause and effect. The word "because" in this text is very important. The natural, or unregenerate man, cannot understand spiritual things because those things are spiritually discerned and the lost man does not have the Spirit until he is "born of the Spirit."

Note Reisinger's abuse of the phrase "natural man", failing to address Paul's usage of that terminology, and its TRUE, First Century significance.

In Romans 11, Paul uses the term "natural" to refer to the "elect Jews/Israelites" who were grafted OUT of the "vine". The emphasis in 1Cor. 2:6-16 is upon the "age" associated with the Old Covenant "world". Within THAT "age" and "world", the "natural man" was the Israelite/Jew who had not yet responded in faith to the gospel of Christ Jesus and remained uniquely "darkened", spiritually, in adherence to the Mosaic Law alone.

To attempt to make a case for the "mental derangement" of unregenerate humanity on the basis of 1Cor. 2:14 is utterly fallacious and an outright abuse of the Scripture, particularly in view of the contextually established, exclusively FIRST CENTURY intent of that text.

Third, the man is stone deaf.

He CANNOT HEAR any spiritual truth. This is verdict of Christ Himself. "Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word" (John 8:43). Again we have the same cause and effect relationship. Jesus is more emphatic this time and adds the word "even." Why did the Jews not understand our Lord's words? He said it was because ye cannot. Just as the ability to see is the gift God, so is the ability to hear. All men are not given that ability. See Matthew 13:9-18.

Reisinger jumps from the application of Christ's words to the JEWS, above, to a UNIVERSAL APPLICATION of His words to ALL OF HUMANITY, WITHOUT contextual justification or warrant of any kind whatsoever. Once again, Reisinger typifies the Calvinist approach to the Word of God.

Fourth, the man is completely powerless.

He CANNOT even want to receive spiritual help. A comparison of two verses of Scripture will establish this awful fact. The first verse shows us why a lost sinner cannot receive truth and grace.

Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. (John 14:17)

John 14:17 is inaccurately and unjustifiably universalized in a false treament of the NT term "world". Rather than a planetary, global term encompassing all of humanity, its TRUE intent involved an exclusive focus upon the JEWISH "world" of the pre-AD 70 First Century era of history. Thus, this text really has NO application to the spiritual state of mankind as a whole. Reisinger once again drops the ball here.

I could go on and on evaluating text after text, comparing Scripture with Scripture and consistently finding the Calvinist case falling short of an accurate exegetical treatment of those Scriptures.

Full Preterism dictates that we address both the TEXTUAL and HISTORICAL contexts of any Scripture we endeavor to anlyze in order to determine its ORIGINALLY INTENDED meaning. Calvin and those who have followed in his footsteps interpretively, have mistreated and misapplied the Word of God, thereby misdiagnosing the human condition apart from God.

I find that unregenerate, non-Covenantal man is FULLY CAPABLE of acknowledging God's Truth as valid and desirable, APART from any sovereign imposition of enlightenment and "saving faith" upon that "fallen" individual's heart and mind. Man has the inherent, CREATED CAPACITY to respond favorably to God's requirements and Truth AUTONOMOUSLY. Hence, the name for my particular soteriological position - AUTONOMISM. I find the Scriptures fully in support of this view, except where the uniquely "darkened" spiritual state of the pre-AD 70 Israelites/Jews was in view.

From my own, personal experience furthermore, I find that non-Covenantal people show an interest in spiritual things and truths related to God the Creator and this realm of reality He has created, provided those things and ideas have some rational, objective basis for them. For the most part, people turn to mysticism and denial of a rational framework for spiritual things due to disillusionment over the misapplication and misinterpretation of the Truth so characteristic of mainstream, futurist Churchianity.

As Preterists, let us set a much higher standard than the Calvinists and futurists have done, by choosing to remain rigorously contextual in our handling of the Word of God, as it shapes our beliefs in ALL areas.

Serving the Truth,

John McPherson

DougShuffield's picture

Does Christ save us with our help? Must we supply the faith to believe the gospel? Or is saving faith a gift itself that flows from the cross? (Eph 2:8)

If we say that Christ saves us with our help what we are actually saying when you think about it is that we save ourselves with Christ's help.

Which is it?

- Doug

SuperSoulFighter's picture

What you really need to ask yourself, Doug, is "Does God sovereignly impose salvation on SOME and not on OTHERS?" Is that truly Biblical, for OUR period of history? The answer, as you'll discover in your study of the Scriptures, is NO. He does NOT do this. He sovereignly ensured that the pre-AD 70 "ELECT" of the Old Covenant "world" were saved. But NO-ONE else has salvation so guaranteed for them, prior to their personal, autonomous CHOICE to respond favorably to the Truth, by faith.

You never arrive at accurate answers, when you frame your questions rhetorically in such a way that the predetermined answer supports your presuppositions.

God needs NO help in actively regenerating a person, supernaturally. The actual ACT of spiritual regeneration is all HIS doing. But that act is IN RESPONSE to the initial, autonomous CHOICE of the individual. A person must take the first step, by faith, and reach out to God, in response to their interaction with His Truth. God then takes the NEXT STEP, of spiritually renewing that person's innermost being.

I always find it odd that Calvinists INSIST that the "gift of God" in Eph. 2:8 is not just the GRACE, but the FAITH also. I just don't see it there. It's a fallacy to believe that the language dictates such an interpretation. The autonomous "act of faith" is NOT an Old Covenant, Mosaic Judaistic "work" (which v.9 refers to). So the subject of faith's nature and source is really not dealt with in this text at all, as far as I'm concerned. Rather, Paul simply states that the gracious provision of salvation was accomplished in conjunction with their faith.

Virgil's picture


You used "autonomous" twice here in this post and elsewhere. Which one or two or three definition of "autonomy" do you mean in regards to man's CHOICE, and elaborate a little if you will?

1 : the quality or state of being self-governing; especially : the right of self-government

2 : self-directing freedom and especially moral independence

3 : a self-governing state


SuperSoulFighter's picture

Glad to help, Kurt. Here is the definition of "autonomous" I find to be truest to my intended usage of it in my comments and the article, above:

1. Not controlled by others or by outside forces; independent: an autonomous judiciary; an autonomous division of a corporate conglomerate.
2. Independent in mind or judgment; self-directed. (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, Copyright 2000)

The individual who has NOT submitted to the authority of God (as an unregenerate, non-Covenantal person) is truly "self-directed", in the truest sense of that term. These individuals are "independent" and reliant solely upon their own resources to make choices and determine "right" from "wrong". This ultimately yields a state of confusion and dissatisfaction, until that person autonomously CHOOSES to yield that autonomy to the Lordship/sovereignty of God and become one of His Kingdom citizens, as an act of faith.

I trust that clarifies my position, Kurt.


BillyVern's picture


If the "autonomous are "reliant solely upon their own resources to make choices and determine 'right' from 'wrong" and "[t]his ultimately yields a state of confusion and dissatisfaction," how can they be in a state (remember, they are "confused" by your very words) to "CHOOSE to yield that autonomy to the Lordship/sovereignty of God" ?????


SuperSoulFighter's picture

In their state of "confusion", they are not necessarily completely incapable of "right" or "good" choices. It's just that they don't fully comprehend the basis for them, and they have no objective, external authority upon which they may rely for verification of those choices as being "good".

When these people make the "good" and "right" choice to surrender their autonomy to GOD - their confusion is brought to an end.


DrDre's picture

"In their state of 'confusion,' they are not necessarily completely incapable of 'right' or 'good' choices."

John, please provide Scriptual support for this view, especially when it comes to "surrender[ing] their autonomy to God."


Dr. Dre

SciotaMicks's picture

Did Abraham have saving faith which flowed from the cross?

davecollins's picture

Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness. God looked at the blood flowing from the cross as the propitiation for Abrahams sin, hence his salvation. (This is the only way anyone has ever been made righteous)

DavidF's picture


You are “universalizing” Cain’s experience, applying it to “man’s innermost being”, but then you blister Reisinger for universalizing his proof-texts.

By your own reasoning (which clashes with Scriptural examples), the spiritual economy of the pre-flood era is not the same as the post A.D. 70 era, and therefore “this text [Gen. 4] really has NO application to the spiritual state of mankind as a whole“ (your quote).

This discriminatory attitude of yours doesn’t help your message.


SuperSoulFighter's picture

The scenario I believe is the Biblical soteriological model presents the history of Old Covenant Israel - from its inception as a distinct "world" and spiritual economy, to its conclusion and termination in 70 AD - as unique and separate from the spiritual state and economy of the remainder of mankind, including the pre-flood period of human history.

It is appropriate, I believe, to make a case for the universal human condition on the basis of Genesis accounts of mankind's interactions with God - particularly immediately after the "fall" - rather than rip "proof texts" out of their context in the New Testament. The New Testament era (transitional period between the Covenants) was particularly unique, and the Scriptures devoted to that period of history require extra care in assessing their First Century significance, first and foremost.

I believe mankind in general (non-Covenantal people) are in the same spiritual situation as the people immediately following man's spiritual "fall" from fellowship with His Creator. In this I may differ from Virgil and Pelagius. I believe the people who were affected by Christ's redemptive work and the termination of the Old Covenant "world" and spiritual economy were the Covenant People themselves, primarily. The rest of humanity benefits from interaction with the New Covenant People on an everyday basis - but on the whole, unregenerate humanity partakes of the same "fallen" nature as Cain, Seth and their descendants.

Perhaps you could clarify how my reasoning "clashes with Scriptural examples", David. Many thanks!


DavidF's picture


Concerning spiritual economies. Adam’s descendents are involved with two primary spiritual periods: (1) The pre parousia severance from God, and; (2) The post A.D. 70 presence with God.

The entire period between Adam’s fall and the parousia of the Christ was clothed in the same spiritual status, the same spiritual economy, the same news for all men that a Deliverer was coming (Gen. 3:15).

Therefore, the “end” in A.D. 70 was not simply the end of OT Israel and their world but more significantly it was the end of a horrifying epoch when God’s elected ones were subjugated by spiritual separation from the presence of God. Adam and all the elect eagerly looked for the Christ to bring them into the presence of God ”…to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.” Heb. 9:28.

There are the sub-economies and sub-ages that you emphasized but they do not over-ride the central themes which define the two primary spiritual periods. The Scriptures clearly show the small number of doctrinal issues that have changed from one spiritual sub-age to the next, but your attempt to show GREAT changes doctrinally between pre and post A.D. 70 ages is not written there.


SuperSoulFighter's picture

DavidF - interesting thoughts, some of which I partially am in agreement with. However, I see the Scriptures positing a stark contrast and very clear dichotomy between the POST-AD 70, eteranl era of human history, and the PRE-AD 70 era.

I noticed that you failed to address Gen. 4:7. This one text clearly refutes Calvin's view that man immediately AFTER Adam's "fall" had no power to do ANYTHING pleasing to God, in and of himself. Nor would he DESIRE to do so. God clearly indicates otherwise, in His coversation with Cain.

Calvin's understanding of the Biblical view of "total depravity" is bankrupt and baseless. There is no other perspective permissible by the clear language of the Scriptures.

DrDre's picture

You raise the same issue that Erasmus did to Luther. If you are interested in being a fair and balanced (hope Fox doesnt sue for copyright infringements) disciple read Luther's rather good reply in the Bondage of the Will. Luther is to Augustine as Erasmus was to Pelagius, however they were discussing Deut 30:11-14...

Dr. Dre

SuperSoulFighter's picture

Thanks for the tip, DrDre. I'm pleased to hear that Erasmus and I had similar views. I'll be happy to review and critique Luther's "Bondage of the Will". There is much in Luther's thought and beliefs that I find repellent and clearly contrary to Scripture. I'm sure his thoughts in this area will be no exception.

Thanks again for clarifying where we stand, in terms of our relationships to various historical "schools of thought".

DavidF's picture


Regarding Cain. God expects all men to obey His commands, and Cain no less, but that does not mean as depraved sinners we have the capacity in and of ourselves to do so. All men have inherited Adam’s depraved nature and therefore they choose sin over obedience which in turn perpetuates and deepens their depravity. “The ways of a wicked man ensnare him, the cords of his sin hold him fast.” Pr. 5.

Gen. 4:6-7 does not say Cain has ability to master sin, God simply tells him what he should do. But on the other hand, there are plenty of passages where God reveals that fallen man literally has “no” ability to do good. God’s remedy for our inability is the Christ, who alone is able.


SuperSoulFighter's picture

David, I have been reviewing God's words to Cain in Gen. 4:7, and come to no other conclusion than that Cain had the legitimate ability to over-rule his own, sin nature independently of God's intervention. God's specific wording in instructing him that "you SHOULD rule over it" necessitates the understanding that Cain HAD such an ability. Otherwise, God is revealed as highly deceitful, if not an outright liar here (to no purpose).

If God had said "you should TRY to rule over it" or "your efforts to overcome your own, sin nature will be fruitless" - there would be a clear basis for taking Calvin's view. But God said no such thing. He CLEARLY instructs Cain to over-ride the sinful promptings within him. There's no argument here, David. None. Calvin's view has ZERO basis in the Word of God.

DavidF's picture

Well, I cannot agree with you John. God says "No one does good, not even one." Therefore, every mere mortal is totally depraved, including Cain. If God views the OT Israelites as completely depraved then how much more everyone else?

SuperSoulFighter's picture

By the way, I should add that ABEL clearly achieved righteousness before God AUTONOMOUSLY, through the act of faith by offering sacrifices pleasing to God. This was APART from any spiritual regenerative work within Him on God's part.

"that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar." (Matt. 22:35)

By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks. (Heb. 11:4)

Abel was declared righteous on the basis of his autonomous FAITH, David. It's just that simple.


God clearly declared that Abel was a PARTAKER of His righteousness on the basis of his autonomous choice to conform to God's requirements, BY FAITH.

DavidF's picture

A man’s faith in Christ is an act of God. “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” RO. 10.

When Christ walked the earth 2000 years ago, He spoke His word to the multitudes and they heard Him with their physical ears, however, only the elect had spiritual ears to hear the message and faith came only to them. “If anyone has [Spiritual] ears to hear, let him hear.” Mark 4:23.

Abel, Abraham and all the OT elect were influenced by God to believe in God. “…In order that God's purpose in election might stand: not by [autonomous] works but by him who calls…It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy… God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.” Ro. 9:11-18.

“It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort”. Man does not have self-sufficiency in spiritual matters.

A man’s faith in Christ is an act of God. “…He who began a good work in you…” Phil. 1:6.

A man’s faith in Christ is not self-directed and detached from God’s prompting. “…it is by grace [God’s influence] you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by [autonomous] works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Eph. 2:8-10.


SuperSoulFighter's picture

A man’s faith in Christ is an act of God. “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” RO. 10.

Actually, David, that text does NOT say what you are trying to MAKE it say. It states that faith is an inner response to HEARING the message of Truth (not having "saving faith" IMPOSED by God through ENLIGHTENMENT of the heart and mind). In other words, once again the autonomous RESPONSE of the individual to the Truth is emphasized. Yes, God initiated salvation in a very general, universal sense through His written revelation of Himself and His Truth. But man's RESPONSE to hearing/reading of that Truth is INDEPENDENT of an manipulation of His will, heart and mind by God.

When Christ walked the earth 2000 years ago, He spoke His word to the multitudes and they heard Him with their physical ears, however, only the elect had spiritual ears to hear the message and faith came only to them. “If anyone has [Spiritual] ears to hear, let him hear.” Mark 4:23.

Yes, and the "elect" were limited to THAT period of time and spiritual economy. Mark 4:23 was limited to Christ's original hearers and followers in the pre-AD 70 period of history (Eph. 1:12).

Abel, Abraham and all the OT elect were influenced by God to believe in God. “…In order that God's purpose in election might stand: not by [autonomous] works but by him who calls…It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy… God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.” Ro. 9:11-18.

"..."In Isaac your seed shall be called." Note that the process of "election" REALLLY began with ISAAC (Romans 9:7, above). Abel wasn't "elected" according to that "elective process", since he was antecedent to "election". So the argument doesn't apply to his autonomous CHOICE.

“It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort”. Man does not have self-sufficiency in spiritual matters.

It ABSOLUTELY depends on man's autonomous choice, otherwise God has no Just basis for receiving some into His Presence for eternity and rejecting the rest. Man is not "self-sufficient" to accomplish his own spiritual regeneration, BUT - he definitely provides God with the OPPORTUNITY to regenerate him through an AUTONOMOUS FAITH RESPONSE to God's Truth.

A man’s faith in Christ is an act of God. “…He who began a good work in you…” Phil. 1:6.

The "good work" God began in the believers was SPIRITUAL REGENERATION - NOT "saving faith". Faith is an integral element in the human mind and heart. EVERYONE has "faith" in SOMETHING. To exercise faith in the one, True GOD results in GOD regenerating/recreating the individual's heart and mind.

A man’s faith in Christ is not self-directed and detached from God’s prompting. “…it is by grace [God’s influence] you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by [autonomous] works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Eph. 2:8-10.

Your editorial square-bracketed insertions do damage to the Scriptures here, David. You have distorted their meaning to suit your own presuppositions. Allow me to insert the CORRECT and ACCURATE meanings, editorially.

" is by grace [God's provision of a Saviour and revelation of His Full Truth in Christ] you have been saved, through faith [the autonomous act of exercising belief in the validity and Truth of Christ and His gospel] - and this [provision of the gracious gift of a Saviour and Truth] not from yourselves, it [the gift of a Saviour and gospel/Truth] is the gift of God - not by [Old Covenant, Levitical priesthood/sacrificial system] works, so that no one can boast....".

The ONLY people God exerted His influence upon (rather forcefully) unto salvation were the ELECT of the pre-AD 70 period of history. Yes, THEIR wills were uniquely LIMITED. THEY had the Truth imposed upon them in a highly UNIQUE way (i.e. Saul/Paul's conversion on the Damascus road). That very LIMITED and EXCLUSIVE group ceased to exist in this realm and on this planet in 70 AD. The process of "election" ENDED with them, when their specific number was complete. They were "elected" OUT OF the Old Covenant "world", and when that "world" was eternally terminated, the need for "election" likewise ceased, forever.

There is the TRUE context of the Scriptures and ideas you have presented, David. I trust these thoughts bring increased clarity to the subject for you.


DavidF's picture

Well, at least you admit the pre A.D. 70 elect were forced "unto salvation", and the bottom line of the issue is this: Nothing is written to say it is not God's mode of action still to this day.


SuperSoulFighter's picture

The problem, David, is that for the Old Covenant Israelites - the "light that was in them" had become "great darkness". THEY were uniquely darkened, spiritually, because they had rejected the light of the revelation of their own God to them.

"But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!" (Matt. 6:23)

"18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,

19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and THEIR FOOLISH HEARTS WERE DARKENED." (Rom. 1:18-21) Only ONE People had a personal relationship with the God of Israel, and THAT People (to whom was committed stewardship of the Truth - God's written revelation of Himself in the Law) SUPPRESSED the Truth in unrighteousness (v.18), turned to IDOLATRY instead of worshipping the one, True God and became uniquely DARKENED spiritually - beyond the spiritual "darkness" of the average, unregenerate, non-Covenantal person.

DavidF's picture


This is how I look at universalizing Scriptures. Passages written about post A.D. 70 are few when compared to the bulk of Scripture, so realistically we must examine God’s revealed will in Scripture and either accept or reject it for use at this time in history. If God universalizes passages in the Bible then it is completely within reason to apply it universally today.

For example:

God told OT Israel, “No one living is righteous”, “not even one.” (Ps 143:2 & 14:3). He reveals Israel’s total depravity. Then God Himself universalizes this passage to envelope all persons, Gentile and Judean in Ro. 3:9-10. He continues this universalizing of humanity’s total depravity in Ro. 3:9-18, and He exhaustively emphasizes the point.

Ro. 3:11 “There is no one who understands”. Universalized total depravity from Ps. 14:2.

Ro. 3:11 “No one who seeks God”. Universalized total depravity from Ps. 14:2.

Ro. 3: 12 “All have turned away”. Universalized total depravity from Ps. 14:3.

Ro. 3:12 “They have together become worthless”. Universalized total depravity from Ps. 14:3

Ro. 3:12 “There is no one who does good, not even one”. Universalized total depravity from Ps. 14:3

Ro. 3:13 “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit“. Universalized total depravity from Ps. 5:9.

Ro. 3:13 “The poison of vipers is on their lips.” Universalized total depravity from Ps.140:3.

Ro. 3:14“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” Universalized total depravity from Ps. 10:7.

Ro. 3:15 “Their feet are swift to shed (blood)”. Universalized total depravity from Isa. 59:7

Ro. 3:16 “Ruin and misery mark their ways, 17and the way of peace they do not know.” Universalized total depravity from Isa. 59:7-8

Ro. 3:18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Universalized total depravity from Ps. 36:1

All men are depraved, totally. A universal truth.

Since God Himself has universalized this truth about depravity, then it is wrong for you to denounce people who teach it, like Reisinger. God reveals that all men are powerless in and of themselves, and not only that, they are ALL spiritually running away from Him - at a full sprint. The elect would keep right on going if the Shepherd did not stop them.

His shepherds staff is absolutely effective to hook the depraved spiritual necks of His own sheep before they perish, even though it is against their will. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us”. 1 John 3:1.


SuperSoulFighter's picture

You rely heavily on Psalm 14 to supposedly provide a contextual basis for "universalizing" Romans 3:11-18, David. Let's see if Psalm 14 REALLY has all of mankind in view.

1 To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, They have done abominable works, There is none who does good. 2 The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God. 3 They have all turned aside, They have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No, not one.

4 Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge, Who eat up my people as they eat bread, And do not call on the Lord? 5 There they are in great fear, For God is with the generation of the righteous. 6 You shame the counsel of the poor, But the Lord is his refuge. 7 Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion! When the Lord brings back the captivity of His people, Let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad.

Interestingly, David - KING DAVID wrote this Psalm. He uses the phrase "the children of men" in verse 2. Let's see if David himself used that phrase elsewhere in Scripture, enabling us to contextually determine what he MEANT by that phrase.

17 Then Saul knew David's voice, and said, "Is that your voice, my son David?" And David said, "It is my voice, my lord, O king." 18 And he said, "Why does my lord thus pursue his servant? For what have I done, or what evil is in my hand? 19 Now therefore, please, let my lord the king hear the words of his servant: If the Lord has stirred you up against me, let Him accept an offering. But if it is the children of men, may they be cursed before the Lord, for they have driven me out this day from sharing in the inheritance of the Lord, saying, 'Go, serve other gods.' (1Sam. 26:17-19)

Clearly, in David's words to Saul, above, he is indicating that certain of the ISRAELITE PEOPLE who were conspiring against him in Saul's court were likely responsible for Saul's vendetta against him. Within the context of the situation and his words, it is ludicrous to suggest that David had mankind as a whole in view. Likewise, in his usage of the phrase "the children of men", it is appropriate to understand his meaning as a reference to certain reprobate ISRAELITES - NOT humanity as a whole. In fact, in Romans 1:18-32, God details (through Paul) the corruption and degradation to which the ISRAELITES and JEWS descended throughout their idolatrous history. Thus, it can be seen that the language of Psalm 14 readily (and indeed, most accurately) applies exclusively to the ISRAELITES and their spiritual economy/relationship with their God.

In verse 4, God differentiates between the "workers of iniquity" and "my people". Of course, as Preterists we understand that God's TRUE Covenant People were the "elect" or "remnant" who were His by faith. The remainder of the Israelites were, to some extent, "workers of iniquity". Note how David differentiates between the Israelites as a whole, and the "generation of the righteous". A specific "generation" is a SUBSET within the history of a People or Nation.

The "counsel of the poor" once again indicates a specific SUBSET within a Nation or civilization - the poor (v.6). There is no necessity whatsoever to interpret any of this as "universal" in implication.

The Lord brought back the "captivity of His People" when He delivered His People from the "captivity" of Sheol in the Great Resurrection of the First Century. Their salvation coming out of "Zion" was a reference to its having originated in the New Jerusalem - the heavenly City they all anticipated. "Jacob and Israel", in other words, referred to SPIRITUAL Israel - the spiritual seed of Abraham.

There is NO justification for interpreting either Psalm 14 OR Romans 3. In Rom. 3:1-10, the focus and context is CLEARLY on the Israelites/Jews and their spiritual situation. This context is further emphasized in vss. 19-22.

Your false "universalism" of Romans 3:11-18 doesn't wash, David. It's just not tenable, Scripturally speaking. In the instances of Psalms 5:9, 140:3, 10:7 and 36:1, David CLEARLY refers to "evildoers" who were PERSONALLY involved with him and his life DIRECTLY. In other words, he is referring to his fellow ISRAELITES who were practicing iniquity. He is NOT considering evildoers among mankind as a whole. Such an interpretation is absurd. Look at Psalm 140:4,5, "4 Keep me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked; Preserve me from violent men, Who have purposed to make my steps stumble. 5 The proud have hidden a snare for me, and cords; They have spread a net by the wayside; They have set traps for me." David was contemplating SPECIFIC stratagems devised against HIM, PERSONALLY by people he KNEW PERSONALLY. These are not general meditations upon the potential wickedness of evildoers among mankind as a whole, and they certainly DO NOT identify all non-Covenantal people as evildoers consistently capable of this level of wickedness and deceit. David is contemplating the activities of Israelites who were EXCEPTIONALLY wicked.

1 Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. 2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear. 3 For your hands are defiled with blood, And your fingers with iniquity; Your lips have spoken lies, Your tongue has muttered perversity. 4 No one calls for justice, Nor does any plead for truth. They trust in empty words and speak lies; They conceive evil and bring forth iniquity. 5 They hatch vipers' eggs and weave the spider's web; He who eats of their eggs dies, And from that which is crushed a viper breaks out. 6 Their webs will not become garments, Nor will they cover themselves with their works; Their works are works of iniquity, And the act of violence is in their hands. 7 Their feet run to evil, And they make haste to shed innocent blood; Their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; Wasting and destruction are in their paths. (Isaiah 59:1-7)

You attempted to "prove" a universal application of Romans 3:15, David, through correlation of it with its source as a statement in Isaiah 59:7,8. I get the impression you are citing a Calvinist commentary of some kind. Such an abuse of the Scriptures is SHAMEFUL, David. Snatching verses here and there, not even CONSIDERING their context. I have just demonstrated, in simply QUOTING part of the chapter, that the OPPOSITE is proven - the OLD COVENANT PEOPLE OF ISRAEL WERE EXCLUSIVELY IN VIEW, in Isaiah 59. YOU should have taken the time to check the context, David, and thereby avoided embarassment. It is PLAIN in v.2 that the ISRAELITES whose iniquities had "separated them from THEIR God" are the exclusive focus of this chapter. There is no argument in favor of your view here, David. Quite the opposite. You have successfully established MY position even further, in pointing out that the language of Romans 3 is taken from texts exclusively focussing on the spiritual state of the Old Covenant People in the Old Testament.

It's time to get honest with your Bible and God, David. Dump those commentaries in a dumpster somewhere and start interacting directly with the Word of God alone.

Hoping for better things for you,

John McPherson

DavidF's picture


I guess you misunderstood me. I clearly wrote that Ps. 14 was directed to Israel, specifically for your sake because I know how you think on this. I did not say that Ps. 14 was universal for all men, although I am convinced it can be interpreted that way.

No, rather I used Ro. 3:9-18 as an example of God Himself universalizing Ps. 14 and other OT passages. Please note carefully now; Ro. 3:9-10 explicitly states “Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one…”

Judeans and Gentiles are both revealed as depraved here, by God Himself. That means ALL men are depraved.

Just for your info, I did not read any commentaries for my response. Its just simple reasoning when I look at the passage. It makes the best sense to me.


SuperSoulFighter's picture

I apologize for misreading your intent and statements in relation to Psalm 14, etc. David. I re-read your previous post and you ARE clear concerning your view that the OT passages are "universalized" in Romans 3.

So let's take a look at Romans 3.

1 What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? 2 Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God. 3 For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? 4 Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: "That You may be justified in Your words, And may overcome when You are judged." But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.) 6 Certainly not! For then how will God judge the world? 7 For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? 8 And why not say, "Let us do evil that good may come"?--as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just.

The chapter opens with a careful consideration of the JEWISH spiritual state and economy. "The world" of v.6, within that context, is "the world" of Old Covenant Judaism. So the context is solidly established as pre-AD 70 Old Covenant Judaism.

9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. 10 As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one; 11 There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. 12 They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one." 13 "Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit"; "The poison of asps is under their lips"; 14 "Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness." 15 "Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 Destruction and misery are in their ways; 17 And the way of peace they have not known." 18 "There is no fear of God before their eyes." 19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all THE WORLD may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

Paul quotes various statements from THE LAW in vss. 10-18, David and then in v.19, he CLEARLY states that those statements are relevant exclusively to those who are UNDER THE LAW (i.e. Old Covenant Jews/Israelites). SO. What does Paul mean in v.9, when he states that he has previously "charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin"? As a former Jewish religious leader himself, was Paul involved in instructing Greek proselytes concerning their relationship to the God of Israel via Old Covenant Law? I believe he was. He MAY have been referring to his role in that respect, previous to his salvation.

Another possibility (the more likely one) is that Paul viewed BOTH the Jews and Greeks of his day as being accountable to the Old Covenant Law, since by that Law alone (previous to the establishment of the New Covenant of grace as a means of access to God) were they enabled to enter into Covenant relationship with the Creator and God of Israel. Thus, the Old Covenant Law pronounced upon the sinfulness of anyone who became a citizen of that "world" - whether by birth OR as a Gentile proselyte. In fact, the evidence suggests that Paul viewed Gentiles and Greeks AFTER becoming proselytes as STILL being Gentiles and Greeks, and this was likely a common aspect of the culture of his day - particularly among the Jews.

I'm pleased to hear that you didn't read any commentaries in the preparation of your response, David. I realize that "simple reasoning" when you look at the passage SEEMS to suggest what you were indicating - UNTIL one looks more closely at the context.


DavidF's picture

Nonetheless, I think the act of reading commentaries is very beneficial. God still expresses His work through the writings of His people. Even your own comments here are "commentaries"! Surely you don't want them purged into the dumpster do you?

SuperSoulFighter's picture

Of COURSE reading the ideas and views of others can be beneficial and instructive (both positively AND negatively), David. But when it comes to framing your OWN arguments and case, I would suggest that you remain reliant upon careful exegetical treatments of the Scriptures alone. Making reference to the ideas of others while formulating your own position in a discussion only clouds the issue.

I think you probably DID avoid direct reference while composing your previous response, to which I responded, above - but try to rely more on the Scriptures alone and less on commentaries, as much as possible. The more we allow OTHERS (including me) to shape our thinking, the less we permit GOD to work directly within our hearts and minds via His Word. Just a friendly, helpful piece of counsel. Take it or leave it, for what it's worth.


DavidF's picture

Sorry John, but I just cannot see the logic in your position. It is completely acceptable to teach one another and consequently to learn from one another. This is a primary way God works to clarify truth to us. “…teach and admonish one another with all wisdom…” (Col. 3:16) “…the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach…” (2 Tim 2:24).

The ideas that others have learned from God will usually apply to us also, and to ignore them is akin to reinventing the wheel; such a waste of time. This quote from sums up the essence of how God opens His wonders to His people, whether they are great astronomers or theologians.

“Isaac Newton was probably the greatest scientist of all time and is considered by many to be the greatest astronomer in history… Yet in the final analysis, we should also recognize that Newton was inspired and greatly aided by the laws, theories and observations of those before him. As he said, "I stand upon the shoulders of the giants of the past.”


Jer2329's picture


You make a very convincing case for "the 'mental derangement' of unregenerate humanity."


SuperSoulFighter's picture

Well, that was certainly not my intent, Dave! I'm not sure how I managed to miss the mark on my objective so drastically, but perhaps you can fill me in a little further from YOUR perspective.

Quite frankly, referring to unregenerate humanity as "mentally deranged" is extremism and essentially ludicrous - particularly when viewing man from God's perspective as revealed in His Word. Perhaps you have an alternative perspective, however, that could shed further light on such an absurd characterization of mankind's "fallen" mind.


BillyVern's picture

This is a great treat. Two articles written on this subject by Preterists that I agree with.
How do Calvanists justify saying Matt 5, 6, and 7 are not messages for those who would be/were/are in His kingdom? They appear to see some kind of a parenthesis in the Gospels? Grace was not apprehended at that time by His followers?

SuperSoulFighter's picture

Thanks, Billy! I appreciate your words of encouragement and agreement! Like Virgil said - this is coincidental, although I was aware that Virgil had something planned in following up on his series exploring Calvinism's shortcomings. Neither one of us, however, had any idea what the other was planning in terms of specifics.

I guess the best way to answer your question concerning the Calvinist treatment of the Sermon on the Mount, Billy, is to reiterate that Calvinists lack the accurate historical, textual context enabling them to interpet the Scriptures accurately.

In actual fact, the Sermon on the Mount sets before the First Century followers of Christ an essentially unachievable standard, should they desire to find their salvation solely in Mosaic Judaism. The tendency at the time Christ preached these things was to feel fairly confident about acceptance with God if one was reasonably consistent in keeping the Law (or part of it) - whichever parts were most convenient and compatible with the individual's preferred lifestyle.

Christ Jesus revealed that even the righteousness of the Pharisees was not good enough in God's eyes. He looked for evidence of INTERNAL conformity to the INTENT of His Law. Failing to provide evidence of such a conformity ensured one's place in hell.

17 "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

21 "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.' 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause F19 shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire. 23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. 26 Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.

27 "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.' 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. 31 "Furthermore it has been said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.

33 "Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.' 34 But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God's throne; 35 nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No.' For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.

38 "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.

43 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matt. 5:17-48)

For those still attempting to live lives worthy of God's approval under the Old Covenant Law, Christ set before them God's TRUE standard by which their acceptance with Him would be ensured. Obviously, the standard was much higher than was humanly achievable by anyone who ever lived (other than Christ Himself). Rather than simply coming out and stating "Your Law-based so-called righteousness isn't cutting it with God", He explained in detail what God's REAL expectations of them were.

19 "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 "The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! 24 "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

25 "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 28 So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matt. 6:19-34)

If you ever want to see hypocrites actively living in denial of their claims, watch the response of futurist adherents of "Churchianity" to the preaching (and misapplication of its contents to people today) of the passage above. How many go and give away everything, choosing to live day-to-day without any serious thought for the future, financially, trusting in the Father's provision for them, alone?

These instructions, of course, are for the First Century followers of Christ, and were NOT intended to be eternal guidelines for ALL who would ever believe in His name throughout human history to come.

Here is an example of the shortcomings of the Calvinist exegetical treatment of the Sermon on the Mount by one of its greatest preachers - none other than C.H. Spurgeon.

But, I must pass on, for the next point in which the Christian is to excel is in purity. Read from the twenty-seventh to the thirty-second verse—I do not go into particulars, but purity is earnestly commanded. The ungodly man says, "Well, I do not commit any act of fornication; you do not hear me sing a lascivious song," and saying that he feels content: but the Christian's Master expects us to carry the point a great deal farther. An unchaste look is a crime to us, and an evil thought is a sin. Oh, it shocks me beyond measure when I hear of professedly Christian people who fall into the commission of immodest actions,—not such as are called criminal in common society, but loose, fleshly, and full of lasciviousness. I beseech you all of you in your conversation with one other, avoid anything which has the appearance of impurity in this respect. Looks and gestures step by step lead on to fouler things, and sport which begins in folly ends in lewdness. Be ye chaste as the driven snow, let not an immodest glance defile you. We do not like to say much about these things, they are so delicate, and we tremble lest we should suggest what we would prevent; but, oh, by the tears of Jesus, by the wounds of Jesus, by the death of Jesus, hate even the garment spotted by the flesh; and avoid everything that savours of unchastity. Flee youthful lusts as Joseph did. Run any risk sooner than fall into uncleanness, for it is a deep ditch, and the abhorred of the Lord shall fall therein. Strong temptation lie in wait for the young in a great city like this, but let the young man learn of God to cleanse his way, by taking heed there to according to his word. May you all be kept from falling, and be presented faultless before the presence of God with exceeding great joy. You are not to be commonly chaste, you are to be much more than that: the very look and thought of impurity are to be hateful to you. Help us, O Spirit of God. (excerpt from "A Call to Holy Living", Sermon No. 1029, delivered Jan. 14, 1872 at The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, England. The portion above focusses specifically on Matt. 5:27-32)

It is evident that even the great C.H. Spurgeon downplayed the rigorous, demanding inferences of Christ's language, here, in his efforts to find some sort of application to the current (post-AD 70) Christian experience. Rather than admit that there may be NO application whatsoever, the pattern of thought and interpretive treatment of the Scriptures permitted for no other view than that every text had SOME immediate, direct application to the Christian today, and that there was no "break" or differentiation between First Century followers of Christ and ourselves.

Thus, even the great homileticians of history are found wanting in their interpretations and expostulations supposedly expressing God's intended meaning in His Word.


DrDre's picture

The sermon on the mount is not a stumbling block to those w/Calvinistic tendencies. You can exegete the sermon on the mount via the preteristic paradigm and it does not destroy Calvinistic leanings. Jesus makes it clear what he was talking about, when he repeatedly stated you have heard this, but I say this. It is clear that he had the Mosaic Law run against common watered down interpretations and Rabbinical midrashes. He restored the pristineness and the high standard God wanted w/the law in the beginning. Spurgeon's shortcomings come from the fact that he wasn't a preterist. Thanks for your input...

Dr. Dre

SuperSoulFighter's picture

Exactly, DrDre. You summarized my response, above, nicely. Thank you.

And you're welcome!

BillyVern's picture

I think I am following your train of thought. ??

It is my understanding that there is/was nothing wrong with the Law of Moses.

It served its purpose.
However, It was not suffecient by itself.

Faith was the thing they, those who worked at being Godly through many additional requirements, failed to get a hold on.
The first two commandments are inseperable from Christ's discourse.

The law of Moses was inserted because of wickedness.

Jesus inserts the essence of the law into our being now through the New Birth.

Dare I say _ if we have truly been born from above we can see the kingdom and are more then capable of living according to the higher standard Christ set, (In Matt. 5, 6, and 7), having entered it through obedience by faith.

If I see the intent properly, then Christians who are in the kingdom do walk as Jesus walked. Not in some ethereal mythological sense, not according to some hard impossible to follow dogma, but in down to the earth practically. In holiness.

This being tied to doing what helps and does not injure your neighbor. Loving others like you love yourself, (the law) and going beyond this through Christ to the point of even loving others more then your own self.

I actually believe that in some cases accepting "Preterism," in a sense, has led some individuals to lay down their life for their brethern. They no longer live as they once did and there has been much pain and separation for many.


SuperSoulFighter's picture

I think I am following your train of thought. ??

It is my understanding that there is/was nothing wrong with the Law of Moses.

It served its purpose.
However, It was not suffecient by itself.

As a means of achieving "salvation" (eternal acceptance by God), the Mosaic Law was imperfect and ineffectual, by itself. Faith in the Redeemer/Messiah and His ultimate, propitiatory sacrifice on behalf of the truly penitent in heart was the key to appropriation of the Law's true intent while it was still active as an external sytem.

You are correct, Vern, in understanding spiritual rebirth as an internalization of the Law's "essence". It becomes part of the fabric of our very being and nature to instinctively live according to its intent.

This does not mean, however, that we will naturally manifest the behaviours detailed in the Sermon on the Mount. The attitudes identified therein are certainly characteristic of spiritually reborn Kingdom citizens, but the more detailed behavioural requirements governing everyday situations experienced by the First Century Jews really have no application to us today.

Good thoughts, Vern! You're definitely getting a good handle on this subject.

Virgil's picture

Just as a quick note: John and I did not consult on putting together our arguments or articles, in fact I didn't even know he was planning on posting this column here. Amazingly enough, we both come to the same conclusions!

SuperSoulFighter's picture

It's amazing how we arrived at the same conclusions through simple, contextual hermeneutics, eh, Virgil? There is great hope for all who are willing to interpret the Scriptures according to the same, straightforward principle.

You're a blessing, brother! Again - thanks for re-opening these discussions and re-examinations of Preterist soteriology, and the inevitable conclusions and ramifications of our hermeneutical approach to the Word of God.

John McPherson

davecollins's picture

John, It is possible you are placing too much stock in the Lord's conversation with Cain. Do you think maybe he was told to do something that he was unable to do, to show that he could not?

The Law was given to show Israel their need of a Savior, since they could not keep it. God looks at the heart and their heart was desperately wicked. This is an example of the Lord demanding a people to do something they could not do.

SuperSoulFighter's picture

Hi, Dave! Good comments and questions. I've considered these possibilites previously, and here's my "take" on both of those items.

God clearly had specific expectations of Cain, and was clarifying Cain's spiritual situation and relationship with Him via the very real possibilities of either obedience/conformity to His will or disobedience/rebellion against His will. God speaks of sin "lying at the door" as a reference to the active influence of the "sin nature" on his conscience - that inner principle actively at work within the heart and mind of man prompting him to differentiate between "good" and "evil". God's clear injunction to Cain in his final statement is that Cain had the CAPACITY to "rule over" his sinful nature, over-ride it (in and of his own, volitional effort) and perform actions meeting with God's approval and acceptance. Any other interpretation portrays God as highly deceptive, coercive and possibly sadistic. God is DIRECT with people, characteristically. If people are unable to peform that which they commit themselves to, He warns them of the rash, extreme nature of their promises and Covenants. He warns them of their ultimate inability to keep those Covenants. He makes it clear that people are only capable of a certain level of obedience and conformity to the will of God, as a general rule.

God gave Israel MANY chances to keep their essentially impossible Covenant with God, but they not only violated that Covenant with Him - they actually actively REJECTED Him as their God, despising both His Law AND His Person as their Sovereign. Israel was a UNIQUE people group in this regard. They were established as an exemplary Nation (or that was the intent), to manifest to the rest of mankind around them the benefits of interacting with each other according to the prescribed behaviours dictated by their God, in His infinite wisdom. Instead, they exemplified the desperate wickedness the human being is capable of when he chooses to DEFY His Creator, violating a very sacred and binding contract with Him.

There are very marked and clear differences between CAIN'S spiritual situation and that of the Israelites/Jews, Dave. Mankind as a whole has much more in common with Cain, Abel and Seth than they do with the Israelites/Jews under the Mosaic Law.

Furthermore, Calvin's case is BUILT upon the idea that post-"fall" man had NO ability whatsoever to desire anything that would please God, nor would he have any interest in the things that God takes pleasure in. In Calvin's view, "fallen" man is utterly incapable of resisting or overcoming his "sin nature" in any way. Gen. 4:7 defeats Calvin's view of "total depravity" rather effectively.

davecollins's picture

John, thanks for taking the time and effort to respond.
[You wrote]In Calvin's view, "fallen" man is utterly incapable of resisting or overcoming his "sin nature" in any way. Gen. 4:7 defeats Calvin's view of "total depravity" rather effectively.

I think it would be a clearer victory if Cain actually DID overcome his "sin-nature" and invite his younger brother to a ball field, rather than a killing field.

John, I am tracking with you on context and specific audience relevance...But since all of the Bible was written before the fall of Jerusalemm how can you be so dogmatic that the method and mechanics of pre-AD70 salvation has changed? If God had to gaurantee Himself a people,thru election, to establish the New Covenant age, what would be the difference now?

Doesn't it still require the Word of God, Divinely enpowered, to become spiritually alive in Christ. Do we not still have to respond in faith to God's plan of redemption? This was the method used in the early church(Jew and Gentile) and the method we use today..except you tell me that God had to elect then, but post A.D. 70 we choose Him.

Thanks for your response,John
( BTW it's 73 degrees today in Houston, hope your winter is not too cold :>)dave

SuperSoulFighter's picture

John, thanks for taking the time and effort to respond.

You're welcome, Dave!

[You wrote]In Calvin's view, "fallen" man is utterly incapable of resisting or overcoming his "sin nature" in any way. Gen. 4:7 defeats Calvin's view of "total depravity" rather effectively.

I think it would be a clearer victory if Cain actually DID overcome his "sin-nature" and invite his younger brother to a ball field, rather than a killing field.

I think it should be noted that "righteous Abel" (Matt. 22:35) DID resist his own "sin nature", quite obviously, and acted in a way meeting with God's approval and acceptance. He partook of the very same "fallen nature" that Cain had - but he CHOSE to exercise faith in God and make a sacrifice in keeping with God's requirements. Here is how Heb. 11:4 identifies this process in Abel.

"By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks."

Notice that he was declared righteous in RESPONSE to his faith. It was not a righteousness imputed to him BEFORE he exercised faith, in and of himself, but AFTER. On the basis of his autonomous CHOICE, God declared that he was a partaker of His righteousness.

There is NO indication whatsoever that Abel's "sin nature" was eliminated or neutralized in any way prior to his making an acceptable sacrifice to God by faith. Rather, his "sin nature" was over-ridden by his autonomous choice, and he received God's approval and blessing as a result.

John, I am tracking with you on context and specific audience relevance...But since all of the Bible was written before the fall of Jerusalemm how can you be so dogmatic that the method and mechanics of pre-AD70 salvation has changed? If God had to gaurantee Himself a people,thru election, to establish the New Covenant age, what would be the difference now?

There would be no difference, if the Scriptures didn't explicitly state that there was one. Here are some texts for your consideration, Dave.

7 Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, F10 "The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone," F11 8 and "A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense." F12 They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. 9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. 11 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, 12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. (1Peter 2:7-12)

Note that that First Century generation was a "chosen generation". They were uniquely ordained of God to fulfill a very specific, unique role in redemptive history.

Eph. 1:12 further establishes the process of election/predestination as being exclusively Old Covenant era (pre-AD 70) in context and application. The First Century saints, in particular, are in view in Eph. 1. "that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory." The wee conjunction "that" indicates "in order that", providing a direct purpose statement to the preceding discussion of election/predestionation from the foundation of THEIR "world" (v.4).

Finally, in Romans 9, Paul gives a thumbnail sketch of the history of "predestination/election" as it was developed within the history of Old Covenant Israel, declaring its purpose. In verses 27-29 we read the following, "27 Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel: "Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, The remnant will be saved. 28 For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, Because the Lord will make a short work upon the earth." 29 And as Isaiah said before: "Unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, We would have become like Sodom, And we would have been made like Gomorrah."

The Lord made a "short work" upon the "earth" of His Old Covenant People, in bringing to an end His "work" of "election" from among their numbers. He specifically pre-selected certain individuals who would be guaranteed salvation, and/or would play key roles in the history of His Old Covenant Nation (such as that played by Pharaoh, on the basis of God's foreordination/predestination). God brought the "work" of "predestination/election" to an end when he terminated the history and "world" of the Old Covenant People. It was exclusive to THEIR "world", and had no relationship to people beyond it, except as they had involvement directly with the His Old Covenant People.

Doesn't it still require the Word of God, Divinely enpowered, to become spiritually alive in Christ. Do we not still have to respond in faith to God's plan of redemption? This was the method used in the early church(Jew and Gentile) and the method we use today..except you tell me that God had to elect then, but post A.D. 70 we choose Him.

Not ALL of the New Testament saints were "elected" unto salvation. Some of them came of their own, free will - and they were the ones with the potential to "fall away", to whom the warnings related thereto were delivered. The "elect" were the "core Church". THEIR numbers were specific and their salvation was assured. When the last of the "elect" responded to the gospel in faith and was saved, Rom. 11:26 was fulfilled - God brought to an end the "world" of His Old Covenant People.

I trust these comments help to clarify things better, Dave!

It's been quite mild here lately - although we have had ALOT of rain, with the attendant problems to be expected of such weather (i.e. flooding, slides, etc.). It hasn't been 73 F here, by any means - but it's been mild for Canada! I DO envy the warmth you're enjoying!

Thanks for your involvement and good questions here, Dave!


davecollins's picture

Thanks John, Your view is interesting and thought provoking. I'll keep studying! Have a great day!

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