Search This Blog

Monday, December 30, 2013

Stolen Tablet. Let's Get These Creeps.

Hey, folks!

I'm excited to get back to blogging come the New Year!!

However, to whom this may concern, I need your help.

My tablet was stolen at Parkland College in Champaign, Illinois and the culprits took some pictures of themselves which I was able to nab.

If you know these guys or have seen them, let me know!!! Thanks and have a Happy New Year!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

She Must Be Silent: Is the Bible Sexist?

 When read and interpreted properly, that is applying the normative rules of scriptural hermeneutics and exegesis, we see that the Bible affirms the equal value, dignity, and humanity of women and men before their Creator.

  In her time a recognized expert in the Classics (an expert in the culture of the ancient Mediterranean), Edith Hamilton (1867-1963) had this to say about the status of women in the Bible:

 The Bible is the only literature in the world up to our century which looks at women as human beings, no better and no worse than men. The Old Testament writers considered them just as impartially as they did men, free from prejudice and even from condescension.

  I believe this to be a succinct and viable framework for how we may understand the biblical idea of "woman".
  This framework is not a politically correct, 21st century, liberal feminist view of women, where any and all differences between the sexes are obliterated in favor of a blind--er--blanket "equality".

  The Bible recognizes that men and women are created different and so in some cases will assume different roles in the created order, but without forfeiting their equal worth.

  In Genesis one, men and women are said to be made in the "image" and "likeness" of God (vs26), given joint dominion over the plant and animal kingdoms (vs.26, 27-30), and created "very good" (vs31).

  And in the latter part of Genesis two, we read of God creating the first woman (Eve) as man's "suitable helper" (Genesis 2:18), created from his own body ("helper" being the same word used of God with reference to Israel in Psalm 115:11).

  Eve is made from Adam's rib, not his feet or head, but his side, showing equality. 

  And to his new bride Adam gives a ringing tribute, one still heard at many weddings today:

    The man said,
 “This is now bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
    for she was taken out of man.”

  That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. -- Genesis 2:23-24

  Woman is so important that a man may lay aside even the relationship of his parents for her.

  This is why the idea of a man divorcing his wife (which was the only way it could be done in Bible times) is seen as repugnant to God in Scripture, for it is as if he were ripping apart his own flesh.(Matthew 19:3-6; Malachi 2:14-16).

  It is also why Paul can exhort men in Ephesians 5:28-30, "in this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body."

  He even says in verse 25 that the husband is to love his wife "just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" (i.e., to the very death).

  While some insist the Bible's view of women is sexist, if that were true, would any of this make sense?

  Would a man be commanded to love and care for his wife as he does his own body if her body was less than his?

Can we imagine an admonishment to love one's wife to the death if her life was less than one's own?

  I think not.

 Furthermore, Scripture tells us women are not the property of men, but that men and women exist interdependently.

  Consider the following passage:

Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God. -- 1 Corinthians 11:11-12

  And this one emphasizing the egalitarian nature of sexual intimacy:

The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. -- 1 Corinthians 7:3-5

  Eva Cantarella, another Classicist, says about this verse, "Another principle preached by the Christians disturbed the Romans. According to Jesus and his followers, men and women had equal dignity in marriage." (Pandora's Daughters, 157)

  Again, if the biblical writers thought it okay to subjugate and control women, would we see these kinds of statements stressing the interdependence of men and women and not absolute male control?

  Moreover, children are commanded to honor their fathers and mothers without respect to gender (Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:2), and three times the writer of Proverbs tells us to listen to our mothers as well as fathers, again without respect to gender (1:8, 6:20, 23:22).

  Obviously the word of a woman is to be respected.

 In Proverbs we're told "he who finds a wife finds a good thing" and that "a prudent wife is from the Lord" (18:22; 19:14).

  Furthermore, Paul giving his uninspired, yet nonetheless weighty opinion suggests in 1 Corinthian 7:34 that the single woman is in an excellent position to devote herself wholly to the Lord and His causes.

  And lest one think this is all lip-service, the Bible is replete with examples of noteworthy women.

  Deborah, the fourth Judge of pre-monarchial Israel, was a prophetess and warrior who orchestrated a successful attack against the Canaanites, assisted by homemaker Jael who killed the commander of the Canaanite army who had taken refuge in her tent (Judges 4-5).

  In the New Testament, Jewish convert Priscilla with her husband Aquila was a noted missionary, evangelist, and co-worker with Paul in the first century church (Acts 18:24-28; Romans 16:3-4).

  In addition, many women acted at prophetesses of God or otherwise had a gift of prophecy, such as Miriam (Exodus 15:20), Deborah (Judges 4:4), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14), Noadiah (Nehemiah 6:14), Isaiah's wife (Isaiah 8:3), Anna (Luke 2:36-39), and the daughters of Philip the evangelist (Acts 21:8-9).

  Queen Esther saved her people from extinction and the Moabitess Ruth, heralded for her love and commitment to her mother-in-law Naomi, is the great-grandmother of King David and an ancestor of the Lord Jesus Christ (both Esther and Ruth have books of the Bible after their namesakes).

  And surely the most famous woman in the Bible is Jesus' own mother Mary, a woman "highly favored" of God and truly "blessed among women" (Luke 1:28, 42)

  However, some will seek to undercut this teaching by pointing to (and surely misinterpreting) 1 Timothy 2:9-15:

  A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.  But women will be saved through childbearing--if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. 

  While at first blush these Scriptures may seem harsh, there is no explicit contradiction between the evidence we've examined showing that women in the Bible are not second-class and these verses, as I hope to show.

  Firstly, the "quietness" of verse nine is the same Greek word rendered "be silent" in the NIV (hesuchia) and it does not refer to complete silence or no talking, but to a quiet and humble demeanor, "which is precious in the sight of God" (1 Peter 3:3-4).

  This is in fact commanded of all Christians (Ephesians 4:2) and specifically for women with respect to being taught by men in the context of the church (1 Timothy 3:15) for the reasons Paul outlines.

  This does not make woman less, but different, which is not inconsistent with the biblical testimony of the inherent equality of men and women.

  However, this is not the end of the story.

  Paul says in verse fifteen, "But women will be saved through childbearing--if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety."

  This is not spiritual salvation (which is by grace not law: Eph. 2:8-9; Gal. 2:16), but a salvaging of woman's reputation which was hurt by Eve in the Fall.

  While men are blessed with leadership ( "for as woman came from man"), women have the blessing of birthing and mothering godly offspring (“so also man is born of women”).

Like Adam's sin (which is explained more in Romans and 1 Corinthians 15), Eve's sin will not have the last laugh, so even in the verses most often used to show the Bible's supposed sexism, the scales are evened out.

  I cannot end a discussion of the Bible's view of women without looking at the Lord Jesus, a true maverick when it came to his treatment of women.

  At the Well of Sychar (aka "Jacob's well") we see Jesus completely ignoring social and "religious" taboos by associating himself with a known adulterer, showing a willingness to drink from a bucket made ritually "unclean" by a Samaritan's usage, and, of course, daring to discuss the things of God with a woman. (John 1:1-42)

  None of these things mattered to Jesus; what mattered to him was her.

  Finally, Jesus interaction with the woman of Luke 7 speaks for itself:

 A Pharisee invited him to dine with him, and he entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table.  Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee.  Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.”

 Jesus said to him in reply, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. “Two people were in debt to a certain creditor; one owed five hundred days’ wages and the other owed fifty.   Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both. Which of them will love him more?” Simon said in reply, “The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.” He said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 

Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment. So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven. The others at table said to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

  But he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Friday, July 19, 2013

Finding Common Ground: 6 Things I Wish Black and White People Knew About Each Other

   Over the past few weeks, I have tried to do my own little part to mitigate a "war" between those who believe that black people are thugs and racists, unable to see past their own skin color, on one side, and those convinced that white people are the proprietors and profiteers of a power structure meant to keep minorities down and perpetuate a culture of systemic injustice, on the other side.

  I have, of course, been unsuccessful. 

  Because I took on an impossible task, I succeeded only in tying myself into knots, my points being muddled and subsumed into the cacophony of voices arguing for this side or that side.

  Upon further reflection, I think a big part of the problem is that we are talking past each other without stopping to understand each other.

   And so after yet another unproductive discussion, I'm just going to let it all out here and then give my soul a rest.

Here are the six things I want black people to know about white people.

1. Many white people feel bullied. In addition, they feel judged for things done in the past they had no control over and for being people who they aren't. They are hesitant to say or do certain things around their black friends for fear of being labeled. And they do not want special treatment, but to be held to the same standard as everyone else.

2.  They are not all the same. They didn't all vote for Mitt Romney and they do not all support George Zimmerman (many, yes; all, no). They have varied likes and dislikes, hopes and fears, opinions and values, and they want to be judged for who they are, not by the color of their skin.

3.  They don't disagree with you because you're black,  but because they think you're wrong on substance and that doesn't make them racist.

4. They are just as sick and tired of racial division as you are and wonder what to do about it.

5. There are bad eggs among them (you and I have met them), but it's unfair to judge one person by another person's character and not their own.

6. By and large, they are some really cool people. 

Here are the six things I want white people to know about black people.

1. Many black people feel bullied. Furthermore, they feel judged for doing things they haven't done and for being people who they are not. They are hesitant to say or do certain things around their white peers for fear of being labeled. They don't want to you to condescend to them, but to treat them as you would anyone else.

2.  They are not all the same. They don't all agree with the NAACP or the Congressional Black Caucus, nor do they all support Trayvon Martin (most, yes; all, no). They have varied likes and dislikes, hopes and fears, opinions and values, and they want to be judged for who they are, not by the color of their skin.

3.  They don't disagree with you because you're white, but because they think you're wrong substance and and that doesn't make them racist.

4. They are just as sick and tired of racial division as you are and wonder what to do about it.

5. There are bad eggs among them (you and I have met them), but it's unfair to judge one person by another person's character and not their own.

6.  By and large, they are some really cool people.

  "What do you know", some will say.

  And others, "don't be so naive".

  I may be ignorant and I may be naive, but God is not either.

  He knits us together in our mother's wombs and it is He whom people of every tribe, tongue, and nation will worship at the end of days.

  We are all part of the human family and, if you're a Christian, part of the family of God.

   We are not to pretend that differences between us don't exist, but to slay our pride and our prejudice in favor of the love, compassion, and understanding given by Almighty God.

 For, in the end, the only distinction that will matter is whether or not you are found in Him.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Free-Will World: Answering John MacArthur on Total Depravity: Part 2

 In my last post, I surveyed about 20 minutes of a 40 minute lecture given by Reformed preacher and seminary president John MacArthur Jr, in which he attempted to prove the doctrine of total depravity and refute the idea of man's free will and ability to cooperate with God in His salvation.

  I'm won't go over here the introductory comments I made in my last post, so if you want to know more of where I'm coming from, I'd direct you to part one.

  In this second part, especially near the end, Dr. MacArthur gets into some issues that are beyond the scope of this blog post and thus will not be addressed.

 My concern in this two-part series is MacArthur's use of Scripture and other means to support total depravity and will leave it to others to parse out any peripheral issues if they so wish.

  Around 21:55, Dr MacArthur made a certain claim which ties back to how he started his lecture.

There he said:

"[Arminians] think that the idea of man's free will and ability to contribute to his salvation is orthodox. But the fact is, this is the most historical doctrine, this doctrine of total depravity. The Bible's clear teaching of original sin has been defended as essential to Christian orthodoxy for a long time". (emphasis mine)

  As I explained multiple times in my last post, non-Calvinists do not believe that man "contributes" to his salvation, but cooperates with God in salvation by obeying the gospel.

  However, I want to focus in on MacArthur's insistence that the idea of man's free will and ability to come unto God for salvation is Pelagian.

  Dr MacArthur says, "the contemporary idea today is that there is some residual good left in the sinner. As this progression came from Pelgianism to semi-Pelagiansm and then came down to sort of contemporary Arminianism and maybe got defined a little more carefully by Wesley who was a sort of messed up Calvinist".

  It was at this point in the video I wondered why I had wasted 22 minutes of my life listening to a man who was obviously not interested in knowing and articulating accurately what non-Calvinists actually believe.

  To think that all those pastors at that conference went away thinking that John Wesley was some "sort of a messed up Calvinist" because he "wanted to give all the glory to God" (Arminians don't?) and yet still "find in man some place where man could initiate salvation on his own will".

  This is, of course, a blatant falsehood and misrepresentation of John Wesley who did indeed want to give God glory in all things, but was not semi-pelagian and so did not believe that man could "initiate salvation on his own will":

  Is man by nature filled with all manner of evil? Is he void of all good? Is he wholly fallen? Is his soul totally corrupted? Or, to come back to the text, is “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart only evil continually?” Allow this, and you are so far a Christian. Deny it, and you are but an Heathen still. (Sermon 44: On Original Sin)  

 If we need more proof, this is what Wesley said about the idea that man is basically good:

But, in the mean time, what must we do with our Bibles? — for they will never agree with this. These accounts, however pleasing to flesh and blood, are utterly irreconcilable with the scriptural. (Sermon 44: On Original Sin; paragraph 4)

  And further still:

   The Scripture avers, that “by one man’s disobedience all men were constituted sinners;” that “in Adam all died,” spiritually died, lost the life and the image of God; that fallen, sinful Adam then “begat a son in his own likeness;” — nor was it possible he should beget him in any other; for “who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?” — that consequently we, as well as other men, were by nature “dead in trespasses and sins,” “without hope, without God in the world,” and therefore “children of wrath;” that every man may say, “I was shapen in wickedness, and in sin did my mother conceive me;” that “there is no difference,” in that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” of that glorious image of God wherein man was originally created.

  I would love to know what MacArthur has read of Wesley's that would lead him to his erroneous conclusions, though I think I already know the answer: absolutely nothing.

  But let's go back before Wesley to the early Church.

  In the first three centuries of the Church there was nothing like a doctrine of total depravity, but a universal belief in man's natural God-given free-will and ability to respond positively or negative to God with respect to his offer of salvation:

“There are, indeed, innumerable passages in the Scriptures which establish with exceeding clearness the existence of freedom of will.” -- Origen (De Principiis, Book 3, ch.1)

Such examples could be repeated numerously:

"God, wishing men and angels to follow His will, resolved to create them free to do righteousness...But if the word of God foretells that some angels and men shall be certainly punished, it did so because it foreknew that they would be unchangeably [wicked], but not because God had created them so. So that if they repent, all who wish for it can obtain mercy from God" -- Justin Martyr, 100-165 (Dialogue, CXLI)

"God made man a free [agent] from the beginning, possessing his own power, even as he does his own soul, to obey the behests of God voluntarily, and not by compulsion of God. For there is no coercion with God, but a good will [towards us] is present with Him continually"

"And in man, as well as in angels, He has placed the power of choice (for angels are rational beings), so that those who had yielded obedience might justly possess what is good, given indeed by God, but preserved by themselves." -- Irenaeus, 130-200 (Against Heresies, XXXVII)

"Just as with men, who have freedom of choice as to both virtue and vice (for you would not either honour the good or punish the bad, unless vice and virtue were in their own power; and some are diligent in the matters entrusted to them by you, and others faithless), so is it among the angels." -- Athenagoras of Athens, 133?-190? (Embassy for Christian)

"For God made man free, and with power over himself.That, then, which man brought upon himself through carelessness and disobedience, this God now vouchsafes to him as a gift through His own philanthropy and pity, when men obey Him. For as man, disobeying, drew death upon himself; so, obeying the will of God, he who desires is able to procure for himself life everlasting." -- Theophilus of Antioch, second century (To Autolycus, xxvii)

"We were not created to die, but we die by our own fault. Our free-will has destroyed us; we who were free have become slaves; we have been sold through sin. Nothing evil has been created by God; we ourselves have manifested wickedness; but we, who have manifested it, are able again to reject it." -- Tatian of Syria, late second century (Address, xi)

"But with regard to what Avida has said: 'How is it that God did not so make us that we should not sin and incur condemnation?'...And how, in that case, would a man differ from a harp, on which another plays; or from a ship, which another guides...But God in His benignity chose not so to make man; but by freedom He exalted him above many of His creatures, and even made him equal with the angels" -- Bardaisan of Syria, c. 154-22 (Fragments)

  To equate a denial of total depravity or belief in freedom of the will or affirmation of man's ability to come unto God for salvation with Pelgianism or even semi-pelagianism is to show a woeful ignorance of Church history (which doesn't start with Augustine and Pelagius), by the way. 

  So much more could be said about this, but I will stop here and simply encourage the reader to read the Church Fathers for themselves and see which system of belief more accurately reflects what they taught.

  Dr. MacArthur continued to assert that Arminians believe that man, unaided by God, can make the first move in salvation (23:00).

  I addressed this charge in part one, so all I ask is now is what historical Arminians is John MacArthur reading that has led him to his conclusion about what Arminians believe?

  Few have been more up front than Roger Olson and many of the folks at the Society of Evangelical Arminians in criticizing the American "folk religious" belief that God responds to man's seeking and not the other way around

  All of this is lost on John MacArthur.

  When I shared my first post on my Facebook page, a Calvinist friend of mine (yes, I have Calvinist friends!) pointed out that all good Calvinists believe that man can come unto God for salvation, but not before being regenerated.

 Once the sinner has been regenerated, his will is renewed and can exercise/is given the "gifts" of faith and repentance.

  But with all due deference to this friend of mine and all who hold to this view, Colossians 2:11-12 says that we are raised through our faith when we were circumcised by Christ (ie: baptism):

In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

  We are raised and put off our flesh through our faith at baptism; faith precedes regeneration!

  Skipping ahead to around the 26 minute mark, Dr. MacArthur uses 2 Timothy 2:25 to show that repentance is a gift of God:

Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

  It isn't totally clear whether this is repentance unto to salvation or simply a change of mind about false doctrine, but let's assume that Paul is talking about repentance unto salvation.

  As C. Michael Moss says, "This does not deny human decision is repentance, but rather points to the fact that even our repentance is rooted in God's act and and the opportunities granted by God." (1, 2 Timothy and Titus, 221)

  W cannot force or compel God to do anything in salvation, but we must also remember that it is God who "commands all men everywhere to repent" and will not turn away anyone who comes to him (Acts 17:30; John 6:37).

  MacArthur then goes to Titus 3:3-7

 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit , whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

   I, like Dr. MacArthur, love this text of Scripture.

   I memorized Titus when I was in Bible Bowl and am currently in the process of re-memorizing it for personal study, so it seems fitting to being the conclusion of my review here.

   I have been tough on John MacArthur for his misrepresentations of historical Arminianism, John Wesley, and early Church (all which I've documented), not even touching his complete ignorance of what Jacobus Arminius taught.

  But I as listen to him talk on this verse, I think about how right he is to focus on the acts of God in salvation.   
  "He saved us"

  Yes, we believed, repented, confessed, and were baptized (ironically for MacArthur, verse 3 of this chapter is another baptism verse in the same vein as John 3), but he saved us.

  Again, the only problem is in thinking that Arminians don't believe this great truth.
  Arminians are often put in a position where we appear to defend man's free will against God's sovereignty in salvation, but nothing could be further from the truth.

  We defend man's free will and ability, not only because we recognize and reject what Calvinstic determinism does to the character of God and because this doctrine is firmly rooted in apostolic Christianity, but because we too are committed to the Scriptures and see that this doctrine is plainly taught therein. 

  To sum up:

(1.) We have seen that the slew of passages Dr. MacArthur uses in support of total depravity are not as cut and dry as he might like them to be, but, in fact, can be better interpreted in ways that do not at all imply total depravity.

(2.) We have seen that MacArthur has a flawed understanding of traditional Arminian beliefs and therefore is ill-equipped to give an accurate or fair critique of them.

(3.) We have seen that regeneration comes after faith at baptism, thus rendering the Calvinist understanding of total depravity false. Man can and should respond to God in faith and repentance before being regenerated  

  It is my hope that as we navigate the waters of Scripture, we will keep our eyes on Jesus, our guiding light, and not lose sight of all that matters, while try to rightly divide God's word.    

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Free-Will World: Answering John MacArthur on Total Depravity: Part 1

  Dr. John Fullerton MacArthur Jr. of the syndicated radio show "Grace to You" is a well known Reformed Evangelical preacher and author, as well as current president of The Master's Seminary.

   There is much I like about Dr. MacArthur, not the least of which is his biblical conservatism and emphasis on expository preaching and the sufficiency of Scripture.

 Dr. MacArthur has represented the evangelical Christian faith against liberal neo-orthodoxy and a plethora of non-Christian worldviews on national and international platforms, for which I am most appreciative.

  However, (you knew this was coming) when it comes to Dr. MacArthur's Calvinism, he and I part company.

  I freely admit that I do not enjoy listening to John MacArthur speak on Arminianism/non-Calvinism.

  This is not because I find MacArthur challenging, but because he has a bad habit of playing fast and loose with the facts, which is rather frustrating for anyone interested in a fair and balanced teaching on this subject.

 One can see this predisposition in his repeated attribution to non-Calvinists his flawed understanding of their theology, with little thought as to what they say and mean about what they believe.

  Dr. MacArthur gave a conference lecture some years ago in which he attempted to refute Arminianism using the doctrine of total depravity--a lecture I am going to critically examine in this post.

  There is a lot to unpack here, but I want start with a few introductory comments to let the reader know where I am coming from:

(1.) I am not a classical/historical Arminian, but like most of those associated with Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement, I am Arminian (in a broader sense of the term) by "happy accident".

  Practically speaking, this means I do not affirm the doctrines of original sin and total depravity (as classical Arminians do), have a different understanding of prevenient grace, and in keeping with traditional Restoration teaching, believe that baptism is directly connected to salvation.

(2.)  Given this, my approach will necessarily take a different form than that of traditionalism, though I have tried to note where MacArthur has misrepresented the Classical position, as well.

(3.) Furthermore, my views are not meant to be taken as typical for anyone in the Restoration Movement or the Arminian "family".

(4.) And, finally, this post is not intended to settle the Arminian/Calvinist debate (if that's even possible with definitude), but to show that Arminianism (classical or the SCRM position I defend) is not what John thinks it is and to explain how the texts he marshals in support of Calvinism have been misused or misunderstood.

  The doctrine of total depravity is that man's inherited sinful nature infects every part of his being and though he is not as corrupted as he could be (ie: "utter" depravity) his sinfulness prevents him from even coming to or seeking God without the unilateral, unconditional, and irresistible saving grace of God acting on his person. 

  This is in contrast the the SCRM belief that despite man's depravity, which is neither total or inherited, he is given by God the ability to come to him for salvation by the drawing power of God's Spirit.

  Why does this matter?

  If man cannot come to God unless God saves him unilaterally/monergistically ( ie: apart from man's cooperation), then it follows that God does not prima facie (at first blush) want all people to be saved (Ezek. 18:32; 1 Timothy 2:4), but damns most of humanity for not doing what He has not given them the ability to do, namely, repent and be saved.

The issue here is God's Word and His character.

 Dr. MacArthur first uses Ephesians 2:1-3 in support of total depravity:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 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. 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.

  MacArthur asserts the phrase "by nature" is equivalent to "by birth" (the classical Arminian may have no qualms here), but is this the case? 

  The word "nature", phusis in the Greek, in verse three can refer to physical birth (Gal 2:15) or it can refer to a person's distinctive qualities or long-held/cultural habits (Gal. 4:8; 1 Cor 11:14), depending on the context of the passage.

  Since Dr. MacArthur doesn't tell us why we should see the prepositional phrase "by nature" as "by birth", as opposed to one of the other options, we can only speculate.

  However, the "by birth" rendering seems to be circumvented by various phrases in verses 1-3 suggesting an acquired nature by way of sin, not birth:

"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 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. 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"

  If spiritual deadness is so intimately connected with sins and transgressions as verse one indicates, then surely Paul has in view those who are at least old enough to sin and thus become by nature deserving of wrath.

  He then goes on to state that "in Adam all died", quoting 1 Cor. 15:22, but as Dr. Jack Cottrell has noted, this is a referral to physical death, not original sin or inherited depravity, evidenced by the ensuing conversation on the resurrection of the body (Faith Once for All, 206).

 Throughout the lecture, Dr MacArthur notes that the sinner cannot be saved himself unaided by God's grace and that new birth is a miracle of God.

  Whenever you hear this, picture me saying amen and amen!

  Dr. MacArthur's only mistake is in thinking that non-Calvinists don't believe this or believe the opposite.

  Where we disagree is that man cannot choose to enter into that new birth, leaving all the responsibility for his damnation on him and all the glory for his salvation to God.

  MacArthur quotes Colossians 2:13, "when you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins".

  Amen! But how do we have our hearts circumcised? 

  Paul tells us in verses 11-12 (which Dr. MacArthur didn't mention in his lecture):

 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

  It is through faith and baptism that our hearts have been circumcised, God making us alive in Christ Jesus, not any monergistic/unilateral work. 

  Again from Cottrell, "baptism is the time when we are buried with Christ into his death to bring about the death of our sinful nature, an event called spiritual circumcision, thus preparing the way for our resurrection to new life" (Baptism, 130). 

  MacArthur then goes on to draw a connection between Lazarus and the unregenerate, namely, dead men cannot respond any command and since man is spiritually dead, he cannot respond to God's gift of grace.

  This is an ill-conceived argument, however, because even Calvinists believe that man can respond to God in his "deadness", but the responses is always in the negative:

"Though the Gospel according to Jesus may offend, it's message must not be made more palatable by watering down the content or softening the hard demands. In God's plan, the elect will believe despite the negative response of the multitudes." -- John MacArthur (Gospel According to Jesus, 91) 

  Since Dr. MacArthur agrees that "there was nothing in dead Lazarus capable of responding" (video, 9:29-9:34) and since the unsaved can respond to God (at the least in the negative), we can all agree that the cadaver is not the best analogy for the unregenerate person.

  I would argue that the "Walking Dead" is a more biblical, albeit less pious picture of the unsaved: 

(1.) Dead even though they live (Eph 2:5) 
(2.) Capable of responding to commands when prompted (Matt 11:28, 23:37)  
(3.) Unable to save themselves.

  Going on,  Dr. MacArthur quotes 1 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: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."

"This is unmistakable...salvation being the work of God", Dr. MacArthur states.

  First, non-Calvinists believe salvation is of God, the question being what is man's role (if any).

  Second, Dr. MacArthur uses the KJV--the only time he uses this version in the whole 40 minutes--which makes the verse seem like it may be referring to free-will or undetermined choice, but here's the NIV version:   
 "Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God--children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God."

  Paul is contrasting spiritual birth and physical birth/procreation, not monergism (God working alone) and synergism (man accepting God).
  Here is renowned Reformed scholar D.A Carson's appraisal of these verses in his commentary on John: 

 Being born into the family of God is quite different than being born into the human family. 'Natural descent' (lit.'of bloods', i.e a blood relationship, on the assumption that natural procreative means involves the mixing of bloods) avails nothing -- which means that heritage and race...are irrelevant to spiritual birth...Spiritual birth is not the product of sexual desire, 'the will of the flesh', here rendered 'of human decision';  it is certainly not the result of a husband's will (who is understood to take a lead in sexual matters). New birth is, finally, nothing other than an act of God.

  Being born again is the work of God alone, not having anything to do with procreation or physical birth. 

  These passages are silent about man's freedom to enter into that supernatural birth.

  Dr. MacArthur then turns to John 3:3-7:

 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again." "How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’

"But how? How does it happen?",  MacArthur says rhetorically, stating that "what Jesus says in verse 8 is just absolutely shocking to the free-will world".

  Really? Here's the verse:

 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.

 Commenting on that verse,  Dr. MacArthur says, "our Lord is saying that it's not up to you; it's up to the Holy Spirit. And you have no control over where and when the Spirit moves".

  To this I again say amen, but let's examine this further.

(A.) The "how" to the new birth question is actually given in verse five, not verse eight:
  Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.

  Cottrell gives 5 reasons why Nicodemus (and us today) would have had good reason to apply these words to baptism, which I will briefly list here.

 1. The fame of the John the Baptist's own ministry (John 1:26-31) "cannot be overemphasized", a connection Nicodemus would have readily made.
 2. Jesus own baptism in conjunction with the descent of the Spirit (Matt 3:13-16).
 3. The connection between John's use of "water" and "spirit" (Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33) and Jesus use in verse five.
 4. The relation between John's ministry of baptism and the coming Kingdom (Matt. 3:2)
 5. And, exclusively for us today, the connection between baptism and resurrection from death to life made in the NT (Rom. 6:4-5; Col 2:12) (Baptism, 32-33)

 Taken together, the reasonable man can not be impugned for seeing baptism as inseparable from new birth, thus rendering monergism false.

  But what of verse eight?

  This verse is somewhat cryptic, but, basically, it tells us that where and when the Spirit will move in a person is unknown and uncontrolled by us.
  Carson concurs with this analysis (John, 196) as do Krause and Bryant:

"One can know that the wind is present and blowing by what it does, but one cannot know its place of origin or site of its destiny; so one born of water and the Spirit may be certain of the even (i.e, the rebirth) by its results, though one may not be able to know the place of origin and final location of the Spirit. " (College Press: John, 92)

  Thus, it pleases the Spirit to give life to those who have surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in (faith and) baptism

 This is synergism: man cooperating with God's call to salvation.

  He  then quotes John 5:21:

  For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.

  We aren't told how this verse proves any particular point that Dr. M is trying to make about total depravity and since we've already addressed to whom God is pleased to give life, and affirmed that new birth is the work of God, I won't say any more about this verse. 

  Furthermore, he quotes John 6:44, "no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day" and "so if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed".

  These verses pose no apparent problem to the non-Calvinist position which, agrees that God makes the first move in salvation, but, contrary to Calvinists, God's drawing is universal (Romans 10:17; 2 Thess. 2:14; John 12:32, John 20:31) and resistible (Matt 23:27: Hebrews 3:15)

  Dr. MacArthur states "in none of these texts, by the way, did Jesus defend the sinner's ability. In none of these texts did Jesus defend free-will."  

  Well of course he didn't! 

  There is a reason that you will find not one Church Father or commentator before Augustine (in his later years, at that) who didn't believe in man's ability to exercise a will toward God by God's power (more on this in part 2). 

  Man's free-will is foundational to and assumed in all of these teachings, especially those on baptism.

Why "defend" something everyone agrees with? 

  I agree with MacArthur that just as the leopard cannot change his spots or the Ethiopian his skin (Jer 13:23), so the unregenerate whose "heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked" (Jer 17:9) cannot effect change from within himself.

  But God in His grace and mercy has given man the ability to come to Him (Matt. 11:28) , so that He can remove his heart of stone and give him a heart of flesh (Ezek 36:32).

Moving on, Romans 8:7 is said to show man's inability:

The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

Does this show man's inability? You bet it does!

But man's inability is with respect to his submission to God's law not his gospel, despite what Dr. MacArthur says.

What about 1 Corinthians 2:14, another passage MacArthur cites: 

 “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised"

"...we go back to the natural", Dr. MacArthur says, "It is his nature that is fallen, that is corrupt, unwilling and unable. He cannot understand these things...he is spiritually dead.

  The classical Arminian would probably agree with the Calvinist about the nature of the "natural man" (Picirilli; 1, 2 Corinthians, 33-35), but would invoke God's prevenient grace (or drawing) as a possible solution, whereas a person from the SCRM would be more inclined to see the "natural man" as a Christian (given the context of the letter), one who is operating according to human wisdom and can thus not know the spiritual things of God. (see here and here)

  So, there is nothing here that necessitates total depravity.

  We move on to 2 Corinthians 4:4

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

  Ironically, Dr. MacArthur makes my argument for me when he says that the remedy for this blindness or "veiling" is the preaching of the gospel (17:09-17:11) .

When the gospel is preached, the veil is removed and men can be saved (John 6:45).

We end this first part of our review with Romans 3:11:

 “There is no one righteous, not even one; 
 there is no one who understands;
    there is no one who seeks God.

  Romans 3:10-11 (taken from Psalm 14) is a damning review of the human condition (no pun intended) and should be sobering to all who read it.
  My problem is that the poetic literature in Scripture, which is to be understood in light of the didactic (teaching) portions, is being interpreted contrary to its genre in order to support the doctrine of total depravity.

 These passages give us the general condition of man, but both Calvinists and non-Calvinists agree that man is not utterly depraved, which is an inescapable conclusion if we are to interpret the wooden way in which MacArthur has.

By and through the intervention of God, man may overcome, to a certain extent, these wicked tendencies enough to come unto Christ for salvation.    

If man be damned, man be blamed, but if man be saved, God be praised!