Freedom of the will, regeneration and faith: D.C. Carson’s “It’s up to you.”

I was discussing with a Christian friend the songs he sings in church, songs such as “At the foot of the cross,” (Worship and Wordship: What songs shall we sing in Church?).

In these songs, I described the radical contrast between monergism (regeneration and justification are totally of God) and synergism (regeneration and justification involve cooperation between man and God). Synergism is the common view among professing Christians, whereas the monergistic position belongs to Reformed (of the Reformation) Christianity.

The synergistic position will naturally receive more sympathy with the world for whom the freedom to choose one’s beliefs is what makes us human.

If, as the monergist claims, regeneration (born again) and justification (made right with God), are all of God, then this, argues the synergist, would mean that a person is unable to come freely to God, unable to freely accept Him. This inference is not biblically sound. The New Testament teaches that a battle rages between the natural self (the “flesh”) and the “new creature” in Christ. Every born-again person does indeed accept Christ, but he can only do so after his fallen will has been resurrected (“quickened” – Ephesians 2:1-3). In other words, only when the effects of the Fall are reversed (through a unilateral divine act of regeneration), only then will a sinner, as Jesus said, become free to know the truth (not all truth, of course), only then will he become free to believe/accept the truth.

D.C. Carson. In his “Christianity: Why it’s important and how to live it” says (discussing the difficult notion of the Trinity):

“It’s up to us to welcome him (God), even if he’s difficult to explain.”

So,  “it’s up to us,” –   it’s our decision.” Do you want Jesus? No one’s forcing you now. It’s up to you, ’cause God is so high up that he’s left it up to you down here.

Here’s a prayer from a monergist friend: We pray that he will surrender his life to You.” So, if you surrender (hand/render over) your life, God will remove your stony heart that makes it impossible for you to surrender in the first place. So, like Carson, he fluffs it. The bothersome thing, though, is that he doesn’t see any difference (theological or linguistic) between “surrendering” (handing your life over) to Jesus and “accepting” Jesus.

I was praying recently with a synergist relative who prayed: “Please send the Holy Spirit to them.” After the prayer, I asked, “don’t you believe that the Holy Spirit is hammering on everybody’s door begging to be let in (a synergistic interpretation of ‘I stand at the door and knock’) but in your prayer you ask God to send the Holy Spirit to them?” My relative turned on me: “the problem with you is you walk around everywhere with your red pen; you lack the social graces.” The thing is biblical grace can be so unsocial, so unkind, so mean, so divisive, so judgmental.

“I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy” Unfair? “Who are you to talk back to God?” (Romans 9). Every synergist is a synergist on their feet and a monergist on their knees.

Here is a part of Charles Spurgeon’s ironic “Arminian’s prayer.”

“There are many that wilI go to hell as much bought with the blood of Christ as I was; they had as much of the Holy Ghost given to them; they had as good a chance, and were as much blessed as l am. It was not thy grace that made us to differ; I know it did a great deal, still I turned the point; I made use of what was given me, and others did not—that is the difference between me and them” (Inviting your dead enemy to surrender: The chicken and the egg of regeneration and faith).

Make your mind up; it’s up to you. Or is it?

A while later.  Now D.C. has really gone and upset the apple cart. I returned to reading further in his book when I came across this degenerate-looking sentence:

“Regeneration is the process triggered by our faith where the Holy Spirit works to reconfigure us from the core so we can rightly love God and show His importance to the world around us.”

Carson has it back to front; faith does not trigger regeneration. Hw’s put the regenerative horse before (that is, behind!) the faith cart. For us monergists/Calvinists, it is regeneration that triggers faith, for  the dead have no triggers  of faith. Or to return to my horse ‘n cart, the horse of regeneration drags the motionless dead cart to life. “He has quickened you (brought you to life)” (Ephesians 2). Only then do you get faith, which is the second part of God’s gift after regeneration.

9 thoughts on “Freedom of the will, regeneration and faith: D.C. Carson’s “It’s up to you.”

  1. There are so many objections to what you say…so many to fill entire large rooms of the vatican libraries. And I could perhaps answer you even with only one objection from one of my own personal experience, or one line of the Scriptures or even a small differential equation 🙂 that would easily challenge your assumptions on free will and salvation but I am not going to do it…the reason is….if you need this idea to work around God…so be it…

    • Maria, your indignation is natural.

      Augustine of Hippo said “Grant what You command, and command what you desire,” which, to be understood better, should read, “Command what you desire, and grant what you command.”

      You know, of course, what God’s greatest commandment is: the Sch’ma Yisroel (Hear O Israel):
      “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”

      Augustine understood that unless God granted gave (gifted) him the ability to obey, he was powerless. Such is the hold that incipient sin has over the dead soul.

      “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ” (Colossians 2:13).

      “1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2).

      Romans 9 should be crystal clear. What it shows, however, that not only crystal but also clarity is a gift (granted) of God:

      “13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

      14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses,

      ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
      and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’

      16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.”

      Maria, I don’t see how any amount of libraries are going to be of any help in getting out of this sovereignly ordained pickle.

      By the way, my main argument in my post was that even though DA Carson believes and teaches the Reformed doctrine of regeneration then faith, he fluffed his lines. That is why every Christian teacher worth his/her salt needs to be a good detective and get into forensics big time.

      Keep ’em peeled – which God, of course, has to grant you.

  2. Repent and be saved. The message speaks for itself over & over again. A great King does what He pleases. He doesnt need to Control his subjects as he is the King who righteously judges all things in the end. God is a fair and just God.

    19 This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (Deaut 30:18-20)

    • Of course repent and be saved. God has to use words to call his elect (those he chooses) who so happen to be mixed in with the non-elect.

      You are only made free once you know the truth, and you only know the truth when you have been raised from death to life (Ephesians). There are no robots just those made alive with Christ and the living dead.

      So, God is in control of our lives – without which no one would be saved – but not in the way you think.

      • Raphael, u know I dont believe that in its entirity. One has to examine ones perspective of things. God most definately has given us choice & free will. There is too much evidence for this to ignore. .. im afraid, that we are without excuse my friend. We have been given choice but many choose death. .. GOd is a great King. He does as he pleases ~ .. why is it difficult for people to feel that God loses power in giving us choice? Surely the greatest of all doesn’t has no need! Election may be difficult for us to understand as humans cannot percieve the future. God knows all things & elects those who would seek after him. That is my point of view for now – until it is revealed to me otherwise ~ 🙂

        • “Election” is not God choosing those who choose Him. Provide a few of your proofs that it is otherwise.

          A person is free to follow his heart, which he does pretty well. What does his heart want? The Bible is clear; not God (the God of the Bible). All are born dead to the things of God. Are you saying that some are less dead than others, that you were less dead than someone else who rejected Jesus?

          Here was your grave. Jesus came along and prodded you (with his “prevenient” grace). You opened your deadish eye. You blinked “yes;” you made a decision to permit Jesus to regenerate all the other bits that were not radically dead. You were born again. Here is someone else’s grave. Jesus gives a prod, not His first, but his twentieth. The only thing this person (his will) can move is a little bit of ear, which wiggles a twentieth no. “Oh, well, says, Jesus, I’ll keep trying until that ear ceases to wiggle and am convinced he or she is stone dead. As Rabbi Blumenthal puts it “the fact that we are alive means that God has hope for us.” God is hoping – often against hope – that attempt 21 will work. As you know, God, by his very nature, cannot hope, for he knows all things from all eternity. And from eternity he chooses those who will come to faith; that is why he knows who will.

          “It’s a good thing, says the Trinity, that we foresaw that at least a few would make the right decision; otherwise we certainly wouldn’t have made any plans, at least as radical as the one we made.”

          Thank God that the plan of redemption did not depend on you and me but on God – on his mercy, for his elect, who had done nothing to deserve it, but whom He selected to have mercy.

          “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” (Romans 9). It’s not fair!!!!!

          What’s the difference between you and someone who rejects Christ? Was it something good in you and something bad in the other person? You will say it was God’s mercy and you didn’t deserve to be saved. If you say that, you deceive yourself, for the only reason, you have insisted, that God saved you (and not that other “reject”) is that you chose Christ (while the other sod didn’t). This means there was something good in you that made that good decision.

          I await your verses to prove otherwise.

  3. Man sins despite his upright nature – Eccl. 7:29
    Created in Gods image Gen. 9:6, I Cor. 11:7, James 3:9 every sinner is the author of his own moral depravity. He becomes a sinner after he reaches the “age of accountability Isaiah 7:16, Deut. 1:39, Rom. 2:15, Rom. 5:14, Rom. 9:11
    Gods law is written in our hearts Rom. 2: 14,15

    ~ And, thank goodness to Google for a quick research on a vital subject in minimal available time – This is pretty much my take on the subject, so well put on this forum : I believe in election not in the way the World would believe it as God is not of the world. As I said before – How can we concieve eternity and omniscience -All-knowledge?

    Deuteronomy 30:19, 20 .. as another put it, “Had God predestinated each Israelite either to love him and gain life or to disregard him and merit death, His words would have been both meaningless and insincere. Do you believe that God, “a lover of justice” and the very personification of love, would act in such an arbitrary way?” Psalm 37:28; 1 John 4:8
    20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. John 17:20-21
    Why would the Lord Jesus ask the Father for those who will believe in Him through the word of the chosen apostles? .. Those who will believe in Him.

    On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. John 7:37
    (The illustration is not Jesus going around Splashing living water on those who are pre-ordained, but rather an offer to receive a free gift)

    “17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.
    Rev. 22:17

    Believe – Repent – Receive the Gift of Life

    (1Kings 8:47-48; Psalm 7:12; Jeremiah 5: 1-3; Matt.3:2; Matt.4:17; Luke13:3; Luke 15:7,10; Luke 24:47; Act 2:38; Acts 8:22;…. )

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s