The Gospel

Saturday, September 27, 2008



Ligonier West Coast Conference - Q&A Session II

September 27, 2008 @ 1:55 PM  |  Posted By: Alex Chediak

One asked:  "How can man be responsible to believe in Jesus Christ if he is not able to do so?" 

The response was that man is unable to believe in Christ, but he is responsible for that inability.  The command that people repent and believe remains.  Dr. Duncan referred us to Martin Luther's 
The Bondage of The Will.  Also, see the objection that Paul anticipates in Romans 9.  


Another asked how we can maintain fellowship with Arminians in a local church setting.  Dr. Duncan responded that we ought to adorn our doctrine with love and grace, but we ought not to equivocate on what we believe.  Dr. Sproul noted that historically the Calvinism-Arminianism debate has been understood as an "intramural" debate--a debate among fellow Christians. But extreme forms (like open theism) preclude fellowship.  If someone wants to join a Calvinistic church and wants to simultaneously spread the word that Calvinists are "heratics", that person will disturb the peace of that church.  Such a situation should be avoided.  But many Arminians, Dr. Sproul noted, are well-intentioned in their attempts to reconcile human volition and divine sovereignty. 


Sproul acknowledged that presuppositional apologetics is the majority report, but he is not sure why.  Presuppositional apologetics is "easier" and requires "less thought", since it allows us to simply tell the non-Christian that he has the "wrong presuppositions" (and that he needs to start with the presupposition that God exists, etc.).  Both Ligon Duncan and R.C. Sproul hold to classical apologetics view (as did Hodge, Warfield, and many others).  


Sproul rejected the "equal ultimacy" view (whereby God symmetrically acts in the lives of both the elect and the reprobate--
actively softening the elect and actively hardening the reprobate).  Rather, God positively (actively) intervenes in the life of the elect.  However, he leaves the reprobate (passively) to their own devices.  Double predestination is asymmetrical.  He does not create fresh evil in the hearts of the reprobate.  They are already sinful and heading away from God.  They need no assistance in doing so.


A woman noted that as an Arminian evangelizing was easier and simpler.  Now, as a Calvinist, she feels that she has a ton to say to a non-Christian, and she doesn't know how to condense it into a brief word. 

Dr. Sproul responded that in a brief period of time we can talk to people about the holiness of God, and (hence) our unholiness, and (hence) our manifest need for a Savior. Also, the apostles in Acts give us a great model for evangelism. John MacArthur spoke of the thief on the cross, the only person to whom Jesus granted assurance of salvation. That man, in a relatively short period of time acknowledged Jesus was going to outlive the crucifixion, enter a kingdom, and that he was going to face judgment. He had a lot of sound theology.  John suggested we first go after the sin issue and then the offer of forgiveness in Christ.  Evangelistically, we should look for those in whom God is doing a work of conviction regarding sin, righteousness, and judgment. 


Go after the works issue (salvation by works -- at least to the "highest levels of heaven"), go after the polytheism issue.  They are anything but Christians.  Duncan noted that they "play it both ways": they teach that evangelical Christians have corrupt teaching and that they (Mormons) alone have the "true teaching," but then they turn around and want to give every appearance of being just like evangelicals. 


Dr. MacArthur noted that women are "saved" from any stigma that comes from society in their (God-honoring) decision to invest in the lives of their young children.  


The issue is what was God's intention in sending His son to die for sinners?  Was God's desire to make salvation possible for everyone, but guaranteed for nobody?  Or was it to guarantee the salvation of the elect?  So the death of Christ is sufficient for every person to be saved, but it is efficient (effective) for the salvation of the elect [and the latter was God's intention]. 

John pointed to the verse "Savior of all, especially those who believe."  God is a Savior at heart.  He grants common grace for the non-Christian.  He preserves lives.  He tells Adam "on the day you eat, you shall surely die" --- but then allows Adam to live 900 years.  [If "savior" is 
eternal in this verse, then you have universalism in the first half of the verse, and you cannot explain the second.]


Is it OK?  Sproul noted that some forms of birth control are abortive, and these are not OK.  Beyond that, Sproul noted that he (personally) is concerned with a pro-birth control mentality which says "children are a burden, we do not welcome them."  So he is uncomfortable with its widespread use (even in its conception-prevention forms).  John noted that when God gave women a cycle whereby they can only conceive children at certain times each month, He was granting us a measure of control over how many children to have.  And it is a decision that couples need to make together before the Lord.

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