I was sent to a link by a friend who got it from a friend of his attempting to disprove Calvinism. The article is by a fellow named Steve Jones who attempts to critique Calvinism. In this post, I would like to write a rebuttal to it.
Before we start, I would like to mention that it is odd that there is no description of who this guy "Steve Jones" is. I am a proponent that someone who wants to dispute something should not be anonymous. In other words, take responsibility for what you are posting. A second issue I have is that it is hosted on the website of a guy, Ken Allen, who seems to be a universalist with his "True Grace Ministries." While this does not mean that the article is discredited, this poses a question as to the motive behind Steve Jones and what he currently holds to. In other words, I question the use of this article by an evangelical to attempt to discredit Calvinism. Why does Steve Jones decide to post his article on a site maintained by someone at least sympathetic to universalism? In fact, is Steve Jones a universalist himself, judging by his citation of the heretics Clark Pinnock and Faustus Socinus, both of whom had universalistic tendencies? Do evangelicals really want to utilize arguments by a probable universalist just to fight a common enemy, Calvinism, noting that Universalism is just as much an enemy to Evangelical Arminianism as it is to Calvinism?
The author's experience
The author Steve Jones claimed to a former Calvinist. While that seems to portray him as a more credible source as one coming from within the movement, the question to be asked is how much does he really understand of Calvinism? Was he formerly a Calvinist who truly understood the arguments behind Calvinism and then reject it when he was convinced by the Scriptures otherwise? Or was he a former Calvinist in the sense of mere identification of the movement without going deeply into it? I would submit the latter, since he does not deal with the major texts and arguments, as we shall see.
According to the author, the main point of Calvinism lies in is embrace of Total Depravity (which he mistook for a related point Total Inability). Remove that point, and the rest of the other 4 points crashes. In his words, "to question his point [Total Inability] is to question all of it." This is a candid admission which shows the inconsistency of Evangelical Arminianism, which lives in a perpetual tension of being Evangelical and being Arminian.
The first issue here of course is with Jones' seemingly minor point of confusing Total Depravity with Total Inability. The former necessitates the latter, but they are nevertheless distinct. Total Depravity has to with the depravity of Man, while total inability pertains only to the will. If Jones wants to establish credibility, he has already lost it at the start.
Nevertheless, we will start with the first point raised by Jones: Total Inability. According to Jones, total inability teaches that
"Man has sunk so far through the Fall that he is no longer capable of believing the gospel. He can no more repent and believe than a dead man can rise up and walk. This is all the result of the sin of Adam, who communicated th is [sic this] absolute inability, this loss of free will, to all his posterity."
This however is not a true definition of Total Inability. Total Inability does not teach that Man is no longer capable of believing the Gospel, but that he is no longer capable of doing any spiritual good. It is not the Gospel that is even primarily in mind, but that of obeying God's Law. Of course, believing the Gospel is a spiritual good which Man cannot do, but the primary focus of total inability goes beyond that. That Jones later gives a proper understanding of it shows his carelessness and does not bode well for this article.
The Genesis Account
Jones starts by attacking the very nature of the Fall. In his words, "if this [total inability] is true, we would surely expect to find some mention of it in the Genesis account." Here we see the worst of the practice of proof-texting and extreme biblicism. This idea of how Scripture is written and truths are taught in Scripture is just horrendous, as if Scripture must teach everything explicitly right from the start! Instead, what we have to do is to read all of Scripture and interpret all of Scripture in the light of all of Scripture (tota Scriptura).
In this, Jones did not actually interact with the biblical texts or even Calvinists' interpretation of these texts. Jones just did a mere hand-waving and claimed that "two primary texts adduced to prove the doctrine of Original Sin (Rom 5; 1 Cor. 15) say nothing about Total Inability." Even if one disagrees with the exegesis of Calvinists proving Total Inability, one should interact with the exegesis and prove why it is wrong. Mere hand-waving is a cop-out altogether.
Rom. 5 for example is an excellent place that speaks about total depravity, in terms of death. But even before we go there, Jones just hand-waved through the Genesis account, as if mere hand-waving means he can discount the actual teaching of the text. For example, we read in Gen. 2:17 of God's prohibition for Adam (and Eve) to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, for "in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" (מ֥וֹת תָּמֽוּת). Was God lying in Gen. 3 when Adam and Eve were not immediately struck dead on the spot? Or are we to take the "day" there as meaning one thousand years (and totally ignoring the context of 2 Peter 3:8 in the process) and claimed that Adam did die within that "day"? Rather, if we believe God, then it must be the case that some form of death did actually occur when Adam and Eve did partake of the fruit, which is spiritual death.
The narrative of subsequent chapter in Genesis has already clued us in to how this spiritual death is worked out in the experience of humanity. We have the first murder of Abel by Cain in Gen. 4, the multiplication of evil until Gen. 6:8 can say that "every intention of the thoughts of his [Man's] heart was only evil continually." Only someone deaf to the teachings of Scripture is unable to see that spiritual death is manifested in evil.
Rom. 5: 12-18 continues in a fuller manner the discussion of what sin does. According to the plain teaching of the text of Scripture, death is the product of sin (v. 12). Yes, it is written that death came about because all sinned, but this idea that "all sinned" speaks of federal headship because in verse 15 the "many died through one man's trespass" and that "death reigned through that one man" (v. 17).
The focus of the Genesis account, subsequent chapter and Rom. 5 focuses on the death motif. From this, we are then to continue to ask the question: What does this spiritual death mean for us?
In Eph. 2:1-3, we see the teaching of Scripture on the motif of spiritual death. According to the Scriptures, spiritual death is "following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air [i.e. Satan], the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience." Spiritual death therefore includes disobedience and a turning away from good.
So from Gen. 6:8, we see that spiritual death includes the will of men towards evil continually, not just once in a while. In Eph. 2:1-3, we see that it includes disobedience. Finally, we turn to Rom. 3:9-11 to see that being under sin means that no one seeks God.
Contrary to Jones therefore, the Scriptures do teach total inability. Such is found in the motif of spiritual death that is up front in the Genesis account. To claim that "there is not a trace of such teaching there" is to ignore the whole teaching of Scripture which informs us what being "spiritually dead" means. It ignores even the biblical theological progression in the book of Genesis itself with its progression from the Fall in Gen. 3 to the wickedness of Man in Gen. 6.
The denial of Adam's original perfection here is another exercise in biblicism, as if just because Scriptures did not explicitly teach it therefore it is not true. Nothing could be further from the truth.
First of all, we look at the motif of death and spiritual death in Scripture. We see in passages like Rom. 6:11 and 1 Peter 3:18 that spiritually alive means to be able to respond to God. Consequently, spiritual death is not being able to respond to God, a point explicitly stated in Rom. 3:9-11. In the Genesis narrative, we see that Adam before the Fall had communion with God. After the Fall however, God came in judgment upon Adam and Eve and pronounced the curses upon them. Adam and Eve were therefore spiritually alive before the Fall, and spiritually dead after.
If being made spiritually alive in Rom. 6:11 is to be dead to sin, therefore Adam and Eve prior to the Fall as spiritually alive were dead to sin and did not sin. If we define original perfection as sinlessness, then certainly Adam and Eve were originally perfect.
Contrary to Jones therefore, the Bible does teach this truth. The only problem is that Jones seems to be morally incapable of considering the truths of Scripture in this regard, and thinks that any truth not explicitly taught in the passage is not true at all. Through the motifs of spiritual life and spiritual death, we can see all these truths taught in Scripture, including the transmission of spiritual death to all of Adam's descendants (c.f. Rom. 5:12-18).
As we have mentioned before, it is illuminating to see Jones citing the heretic Faustus Socinus, and then the Racovian Catechism. Both of these sources are contrary to biblical Christianity historically. Do Arminians really want to quote sources that embrace some form of universalism in order to discredit Calvinism? Socinus denied the Trinity as well. Do Arminians really want to go down that road?
[to be continued]