The following is based upon recent discussions. Though not verbatim, it nonetheless accurately represents the gist of what has been encountered both recently, and over the years.
Semi-Pelagian: When people hear the gospel, they have the natural ability to either accept christ or to reject him; to make a decision for him or to decide against him; to invite him into their heart or to harden their heart against him.
Christian: Not so; God makes it abundantly clear that the person who has not been born from above, who is still in their natural (unquickened) state cannot accept/receive/take for themselves the Lord Jesus Christ. We read in 1 Corinthians 2:14
“But the NATURAL man RECEIVETH NOT [DECHOMAI/G1209/accepts not, takes not hold of, grasps not, does not appropriate for himself, does not favourably receive] the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: NEITHER CAN HE KNOW [them], because they are spiritually discerned.”
Semi-Pelagian: Yes, but a person can still turn to god and accept jesus. Man has free-will!
Christian: The passage above clearly stated that the natural (i.e., the not-yet-born-from-above) man cannot accept/receive Christ, and the spiritual things concerning Him, because such things must be spiritually discerned. We know from Revelation 19:10 that the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. The natural man cannot spiritually discern such things because, spiritually, they are dead. We read in Ephesians 2:1-2, 5-6:
“And you [hath he quickened], WHO WERE DEAD in trespasses and sins; 2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: … 5 EVEN WHEN WE WERE DEAD IN SINS, HATH QUICKENED US TOGETHER WITH CHRIST, (by grace ye are saved;) 6 And hath raised [us] up together, and made [us] sit together in heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus…”
Semi-Pelagian: Yes, but a person can still turn to god and accept jesus. We are not so dead that we cannot reach out to him, ask for mercy, and accept him into our hearts! As long as we repent and believe, we can turn to him, and he will be there waiting for us!
Christian: God makes it clear through the apostle Paul in Romans 8:8
“So then they that are in the flesh CANNOT please God.”
Repenting is spiritual, believing is spiritual, and true repentance and faith are both very pleasing to God. If those still in the flesh cannot please God, it means they cannot muster-up that (pleasing) repentance and faith that accompanies true salvation. Besides, both repentance and faith are gifts from God. God must grant repentance, and grant faith, and since these things are spiritual, being spiritually discerned, they can only be granted to those whom He has made spiritually alive.
Of faith we read: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God…” [Ephesians 2:8] -and- “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake…” [Philippians 1:29].
Of repentance we read: “When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” [Acts 11:18] -and- “In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth…” [2 Timothy 2:25].
In James 1:17a, the Holy Spirit makes it clear that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights…,” and this includes the good and perfect gifts of God-wrought repentance and faith in Christ Jesus, the Lord.
Semi-Pelagian: Yes, but we are not robots! God isn’t our puppet master. We still have to come to christ, make a decision for him, repent, and believe, and then god will save us. You have to repent and believe first, then you become born again, and then you become saved. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have free-will, and god does not interfere with our will!
Christian: Of course God interferes with the will of mankind, both the saved and the unsaved. Concerning those who God causes to become true (believing) Christians, we read in Psalm 110:3a “Thy people [shall be] willing in the day of Thy power…” Moreover, we read in Philippians 2:13 “…it is God which worketh in [the Christian] both to will and to do of [his] good pleasure…” God works in His people, overriding their natural/carnal/fleshly will, and working (in the day of His power) His will in them, causing them to not only be willing to do, but to actually do… of His good pleasure.
Semi-Pelagian: Yes, but though god can make us both will certain things, and do certain things… sometimes…, he doesn’t do it often, and he definitely doesn’t do it all of the time! When it comes to getting saved, that’s our will, our freewill is involved. We need to exercise our freewill and make a decision for christ! We have to invite Him into our heart.
Christian: Consider what you are saying. Have you not read Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart [is] deceitful above all [things], and desperately wicked [sick, as with sin]: who can know it?” Why would the Lord Jesus Christ, God the Word made flesh, want to come into your, or anyone else’s, desperately wicked (sin-sick) heart? Our natural hearts are so filthy by nature, that He would never want to dwell therein. Moreover, our hearts are so bad, that we couldn’t even trust them to truly seek after the Lord in the first place. Our hearts love sin by nature, and by nature, they are enslaved to it.
Also, God teaches us in Ezekiel 36:25-27 that if HE saves you, or anyone else, He will ‘sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will [He] cleanse you. 26 A NEW HEART also will [He] give you, and a NEW SPIRIT will [He] put within you: and [He] will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and [He] will give you an heart of flesh. 27 And [He] will put [His] Spirit within you, and CAUSE YOU to walk in [His] statutes, and ye shall keep [His] judgments, and do [them].”
If He causes you to do His will (i.e., to walk in His statutes and keep His judgments), He is overriding your so-called free-will, interfering with your so-called free-will, disregarding the natural/worldly/carnal so that His blessed will, will be done. Furthermore, speaking of the natural heart and will (for the biblical seat of the will is the heart), that which is a slave of self, sin in the world, and the forces of Satan, cannot be deemed “free.” God in Christ must set you free, and when He does so, making you alive in Him, He gives the elect sinner a new heart, a new spirit… Thus, the Lord Jesus Christ has no desire to be “invited” into a stony, unregenerate heart — only a new, God-given one will do — at that occurs only after spiritual life has been given.
Semi-Pelagian: Yes, but there are plenty of passages that teach that we must make the decision. We have to exercise OUR will. We have to choose him, decide for him. You make us puppets; god loves and respects our freewill and wouldn’t do anything to interfere with it, or to infringe upon it, except in very few cases!
Christian: Have you truly not heard what’s already been said? Your responses are proof that true, spiritual faith must be worked out by God. I cannot convince you; I have no power to do so, for flesh and blood cannot, and thus does not, reveal these things in any edifying sense. It must be given to you, revealed to you, by God the Father in heaven. Faith comes from Him but He uses means to manifest it. God uses His holy word (the Bible), as applied by the Holy Spirit, to work faith in the believer. Although faith indeed comes by this hearing…, one must be GIVEN “ears to hear” God’s precious word. It seems that, in light of your staunch disagreement, “…the LORD HATH NOT GIVEN you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day” [Deuteronomy 29:4]. We have to understand that, spiritually-speaking, “The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD hath made even both of them” [Proverbs 20:12], and if you lack such, then nothing I say will matter, at least not effectually (as in, unto unto your everlasting good).
Semi-Pelagian: Yes, but I know I’m saved. I know I have ears to hear. I know that I have a freewill and made a decision for christ about [x number of…] years ago. I invited christ into my heart, having accepted him; he saved me; and that is how he saves everyone. He doesn’t force salvation down anyone’s throats!
Christian: I am more than content with Him forcing me to be saved; I would rather have Him use overwhelming force, and MAKE ME a child of His, a true believer in Him, than to have Him leave me to myself, to my own carnal strength and reasoning, in the (false) hope that my sinful, fallen will is enough for me to “free myself” from the bondage of sin, all so that I could “make a decision for Him,” “inviting Him into my sin-sick heart,” and “accepting” Him, when He is the One who I need to make me acceptable in Him. Relying upon my fallen self-will makes absolutely no logical, experimental, or biblical sense to me. In addition, I believe the Lord Jesus when He declares “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and [that] your fruit should remain…” [John 15:16].
Besides, have you not read what else happens when God gives His people ears to hear? They come to an actual belief in the True Christ and the True Gospel. In Acts 13:48 we read “when the Gentiles heard [the Truth], they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and AS MANY AS WERE ORDAINED TO [tassō/G5021/put into place concerning, assigned to, APPOINTED TO] ETERNAL LIFE ***BELIEVED***.”
God gives His people spiritual life. At the same time, He gives them a new heart and a new spirit. At the same time, He draws them to Christ. At which point, He works in them repentance and faith. He only does this for the elect, for all of those whom Christ came to seek and to save (i.e., for all those whom The Father chose in Christ from before the foundation of the world, and gave to Him, and ordained to/appointed to/assigned to eternal life in/by/through Him. This is why not everyone believes, not everyone is born again (it is because God doesn’t elect, predestinate, ordain/appoint, and effectually call, and work good in, everyone — only His elect people). Not everyone is given the gift of eternal life, a new heart and spirit, a hearing ear, spiritual understanding, true repentance, a God-wrought faith, and all of the other things that accompany true salvation. Only the elect, only those appointed unto life, are brought to believe and have a share in all of these things.
Semi-Pelagian: Yes, but we still have to do… something! If our will plays no part, then that means we have no say as to if, or when, we get saved. If we have no say in it, it means that some people never had (or have) a chance to be saved. That would mean God created sentient beings knowing that they would fall, knowing that they would be under His judgment, and knowing that they would have no chance to get saved (ending up in Hell). I can’t worship a God like that, I want nothing to do with such a God; I think such a God is evil! Like John Wesley said, such teaching makes God worse than the devil!!!
Christian: In a real sense (you’re heated rhetoric aside), you speak far more truth (concerning yourself) with such words, than you realise. When you say that you want nothing to do with such a God, you are admitting that you want nothing to do with the True God, even the True God and Christ of the Bible. You say that you cannot worship a God who would create sentient beings, knowing some would fall, but also knowing that they would never become saved, or “have a chance” to become saved. And yet, for which of the fallen angels, and for which of the demons, did Christ die? Clearly it was for none of them. God created beings far more powerful, and awe-inspiring, than natural, fallen man. He knew some of them would fall, having NO HOPE of redemption. You say such a God is evil, I say your words and arguments are evil. You say you want nothing to do with Him but pray that He holds no similar sentiment towards you (my prayer is that such is not the case, and that He grants you life, repentance, and faith to believe; since, today is the day of salvation, their is still hope).
Think about the insanity of it all. You reject the only True God and Saviour, the only one who is both Just and Justifier. You fail to realise that the Thrice-Holy God hates sin, and that He is absolutely righteous and just to damn all who rebel against Him, sinning against Him. This should humble us, bringing us to our knees, rather than serving as an excuse to rail against Him.
Semi-Pelagian: Yes, but I was talking about man not demons and fallen angels. It would be wrong for God to do it concerning man… but we all know that the devils deserve it. Anyway, you all really like to twist scripture and argue things we didn’t say. You “Calvinists” need to read the Bible more and stop taking verses out of context, and listening to men to get your theology. Your arguments make no sense in light of the Bible. You portray god as evil, and you just like to use fancy words, and say things that sound good to confuse people. But despite all that, the Bible is clear that man has freewill. The scripture is filled with passages about our freewill, and how the only way a person can be born again is to make a decision for christ, accepting him, making him lord over our lives… and we do this by exercising that will!.
Christian: Such a will indeed needs to be exorcised; nonetheless, you say that we need to stick to the Bible more, and yet we are the ones most apt to quote Scripture, much Scripture no less, all within the necessary context. You say we need to stop listening to men but you are the ones more apt to post quotes from men, and links to men, rather than performing your own biblical due diligence, and prayerfully reasoning such out for yourselves. You are so caught up in defending and promoting the idol of “free will,” that you ignore (or erroneously explain away) key passages like:
Romans 9:16 “So then [it is] not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.”
John 1:12-13 “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, [even] to them that believe on his name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
The Lord Jesus is clear when He stated in John 6:44 and 6:65:
“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him [G1670/helkō/to draw, or drag, often in the sense of being against active or passive resistance]: nd I will raise him up at the last day. … 65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.”
This is why we read in Psalm 65:4
“Blessed [is the man whom] thou choosest, and causest to approach [unto thee, that] he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, [even] of thy holy temple.”
Unless God chooses, draws, and causes, it won’t happen. Again, per Philippians 2:13 God, Himself, must work in the person being saved (and who is saved) both to will and to do of His good pleasure. If God is not effectually working in the person, per the will of the Father, through eternal vital union with Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, nothing truly good, and pleasing in the sight of God, will be done.
Semi-Pelagian: Yes, but though you “Calvinists” love to use those passages, you all use them incorrectly! You twist them like you do all of the other passages you use; none of them have anything to do with election, and predestination, and us not having free-will, and all of that. All you do is repeatedly deny scripture, twist scripture, when god is clear that we have freewill and that we have to exercise that freewill to make a decision for christ! Everyone I witness to, I tell them, I’m sure to tell them that god loves them, and that he has a wonderful plan for their lives! I tell them that god is standing at the door knocking, and knocking, and knocking, just waiting for them to let him in. Then I ask people “Have you said the sinner’s prayer? If not, you should do so right now! All you need to do is make the decision, and then repeat after me “dear god… I know that I don’t…””
Christian: Look, I got you, I am familiar with the talking points. Nonetheless, neither my salvation, nor anyone else’s is conditioned upon the human will, human prayers, or any human “decision-making.” Salvation is conditioned solely upon Christ alone, and His finished (propitiatory, atoning, redeeming) work on the cross. All glory be to Him, and to the Godhead in Him (of whom He is the fulness bodily). At this point, I must leave it at that. I hope you consider diligently what has been said, looking outside of yourself and your so-called free-will, and seeking to find rest in the sovereign will, mercy, and grace of God, through Christ Jesus the Lord.
Semi-Pelagian: Yes, but I don’t need to do all that. I know I’m already saved. In fact, I can remember the exact day that I accepted jesus into my heart and said the…
Christian: Please… consider what’s been relayed already. I really must leave it in God’s hands at this point. There are some excellent resources, sermons, and studies available if you are interested.