Calvinism, Ephesians 2 and Anthropology

“Anthropology .the science that deals with the origins, physical and cultural development, biological characteristics, and social customs and beliefs of humankind.2.the study of human beings’ similarity to and divergence from other animals.3.the science of humans and their works.4.Also called philosophical anthropology, the study of the nature and essence of humankind.”

In debate, one of the favorite parries a Calvinist uses is to read Ephesians 2:1-9 (or some portion of it). Of course, what they want to do is set a logic trap. After reading the textual portion, they will ask, “What does the word “dead” mean?” They are ready to say, “Dead does not mean asleep, it doesn’t mean unconscious, dead means dead and a dead man can do nothing for himself. He does not need to be awakened or resusitated, he must be resurrected and only God has the power to raise the dead.”

This is one of their primary arguments for election. A dead man cannot repent. He is insensitve to anything and everything spiritual. He is, as they put it, “totally depraved.” In order to be regenerated (Ordo Salutus – Order of Salvation) a person must first be resurrected (or regenerated) sovereignly by God, without the cooperation of the man. Once a man is regenerated, he then (and only then) has the capacity to repent. There are verses which will support this concept that men, without the aid of God and on their own volition, have absolutely no ability to turn to God in repentance.

Jeremiah 17:9 
“ The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?
Romans 3:11
There is none who understands;There is none who seeks after God.

Wesleyan’s agree with high-Calvinists that men, without the aid of God and on their own volition, have no ability to turn to God. While they agree with Calvinists on this point that will not go as far. The Wesleyan will say that God IS speaking and is continually making Himself known and drawing men in a variety of ways. God  speaks through general revelation, the creation (the cosmos and the natural world), through the law written upon the heart, he speaks through Scripture which is going out into all of the earth. More could be said and other examples given but this should suffice to explain that “the grace of God is teaching all men. His voice has gone out into the whole earth.”

Wesleyan’s see Ordo Salutis differently. They argue that a person (soul) is awakened through a number of ways. God gains attention through conscience, circumstances, the law of God, creation, the witness of others, the hearing of Scripture, etc.) to the reality of God,  they become aware of his or her accountability to a Holy God,  the Spirit convicts one of sin (separation) and need and repentance (reconciliation) may or may not take place. The grace of God is resistible. The Spirit of God does not always (or continue) to strive with man.  

Ephesians 2:1-9 (American Standard Version)

1 And you did he make alive, when ye were dead through your trespasses and sins, 2 wherein ye once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the powers of the air, of the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience; 3 among whom we also all once lived in the lust of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest:– 4 but God, being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved), 6 and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus: 7 that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus: 8 for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not of works, that no man should glory.

At first this sound like game over, checkmate. That’s it, isn’t it? And the Calvinist is right. If man is no more than a spirit and a body then there is nothing more to talk about. The non-Calvinist should just shuffle his papers, put them in his briefcase, close it, hang his head and walk off of the platform.

The question however remains, is the Calvinist understanding of the nature of man correct? If a person is not a trinity (trichotomist – spirit, soul and body) and only a dichotomy (spirit and body) – if spirit and soul are the same thing – then there is no case. If spirit and body is all that God has to work with the “Electionist” is right. The man must be raised not awakened.

Though the scripture says that man is dead it also declares him to be also blind. How could it be that a man who is dead can be blind? Why would a Calvinist choose one text but ignore another? The Calvinist does not just ignore one text, if necessary, he will ignore a hundred.

Here is the verse that I have in mind.

2 Corinthians 4:4

In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

The Bible goes on to say in various places that men are not only blind but they are also lost, decieved, led astray and more.  

 The Bible is clear that God made man in His own likeness and image. This was a special creation where God breathed into him (Adam) the breath of life and he became a living soul (a unique individual with self awareness and conscience – a person). I think that the Calvinist will agree with me on this point, when Adam sinned his spirit was made dead and his person was marred (countenance fallen). When Adam sinned he was dead but he was also conscious of his sin and hid from God’s presence. So yes, we agree, the man is dead, separated from the life of God.

However, we also argue that Adam knew that he was naked and that he had made a huge error with disasterous consequences.

Still, the Bible does make a distinction between spirit and soul. For milennia the soul has been consider the seat of the will (personhood). The will has been universally understood to be the confluence of knowledge (intellect) and emotion. Here are a couple of verses in support of this concept that a spirit and a soul are different from each other.

Hebrews 4:12 (New King James Version)

12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

1 Thessalonians 5:23
And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The spirit is dead but the soul is conscious and very much alive. The soul (personhood and will) responds to external stimuli. The Bible says that the law of God is written upon every heart. The law of God is perfect converting the soul.  The law was given to convince men of sin.

At the risk of being redundant, I will restate the case once more. The soul of man is aware of God’s glory and majesty displayed in the heavens. Because of this, men are without excuse. The circumstances of life (joy, birth, illness, tragedy) can speak regarding the meaning of life and the inevitablity of death. All of this, we believe, gives God an angle in the turning of a person’s heart toward him. The Bible over and over says as much when it says such things as, “The entrance of Thy word giveth light” or “Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” In fact, there is so much evidence that man is conscious and has the ability, in fact, even the responsibilty to turn from sin unto God that it is virtually impossible to site each one. Over and over men are warned, “Hear and your soul shall live.” A dead man is beyond hearing. 

I invite the Electionist to carefully read and consider the follow text. Nothing could be clearer and farther from hard-edged Calvinism and  “Particular Predestination.”

Romans 2:4-6 (King James Version)

4Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? 5But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; 6Who will render to every man according to his deeds:

In conclusion, this writer agrees with the Calvinist that man is dead. He agrees that man cannot regenerate himself. All men are without hope. Yet, he disagrees with the assertion that anthropology is as Calvinism describes it. Men bear the image of God and though fallen and defaced they continue to bear some resemblance to God. Because of this all men are eternally valuable.  Down deep each one has a longing for God and home and as with the Prodigal and the theif on the cross who both came to their senses so it is possible for all men to do similarly. 

John 1:9
That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.


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