Total Depravity: What is it? What is it not?

I recently read Jeff Riddle's blog, and he has a new Bible tract that he is publishing. He chose to share the section on Total Depravity. I was increasingly helped by it, and wanted to share it with you. I also planted a couple of videos by Jerry Johnson of that is not directly related, but helps us understand some things concerning our sin and this subject. I hope they are as helpful to you as they were to me.

The Vision (8.29.13): What is "Total Depravity?"

Note:  The article below begins an occasional five part series on the doctrines of grace (or “the five points of Calvinism”).  I abbreviated this material from a previously written discipleship booklet, and Bonnie Beach is helping me format it into a tract that we can copy and distribute when we minister this Saturday at the Fluvanna Correctional Center.

The Biblical doctrines of grace are sometimes referred to by the acronym:  TULIP.  Each letter in TULIP stands for one foundational doctrine in the doctrines of grace.  The “T” in TULIP stands for “Total Depravity” (or “radical depravity”).

Total Depravity maintains that the extent of the impact of sin since the fall (Gen 3) is so devastating as to make any human being’s salvation completely dependent on the work of God alone. 

This doctrine takes seriously the hideous nature of human sin.  Those who are not believers generally hold an optimistic view of human nature.  They believe that people are basically good and only are corrupted due to culture or environment.  The Biblical teaches, however, that men are sinners who reject God.

In Romans 3:11 Paul said, “There is none that understandeth; there is none that seeketh after God.”  He was describing the plight of unregenerate (unconverted) human beings.  The Bible holds out the scandalous truth that the only way a sinner becomes a seeker of the one true God is when God sovereignly opens his heart to believe the gospel (see the model conversion of Lydia in Acts 16:15:  “whose heart the Lord opened”).

A firm understanding of the sinful human condition is required for the gospel rightly to be understood.  We must hear the “bad news” of God’s wrath, before we can understand the “good news” of his love, mercy, and grace.

Seven reflections on Total Depravity:

1.      Total Depravity does not mean we are as bad as we possibly can be.

Total depravity is often misinterpreted as saying that mankind is somehow sub-human. Total depravity, however, is not absolute depravity.  We are not all Hitlers!   Even as sinners, we are still God’s image bearers (see Gen 9:6; Psalm 8; James 3:9).  Still, we are completely dependent upon God alone for salvation.

2.     Sin’s impact is total in that it touches the totality of our being.

This is where the term “radical depravity” is perhaps more helpful.  The English word “radical” comes from the Latin word radix meaning root or foundation.  Sin reaches to our roots.  It is basic to our present condition.  Sin is radical in that it impacts every aspect of life:  physically, emotionally, rationally, intellectually, personally, politically, and spiritually.  In Romans 7:18 Paul confessed:  “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing.”

3.     Sin is universal (impacting all human beings).

In Romans 3:23, Paul said, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”  In the days of Noah the Lord looked at mankind and saw that “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen 6:5).  The prophet Jeremiah lamented:  “The heart is deceitful above allthings, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9).  It has well been said that, “the best of men are men at best.”

4.     We are sinners from birth.

The Bible teaches that we inherit a sin nature at birth from our first parents, Adam and Eve (cf. Rom 5:17; 1 Cor 15:21-22).  This is sometimes called “original sin.”  In Psalm 51:5 David says, “I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (cf. Ps 58:3).  As one has put it, “We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners.”

5.      In addition to our inherited sin nature we also commit actual sins.

Every human being not only has an inclination to sin, but when given time and opportunity he willfully breaks God’s commands.  In Isaiah 53:6 we read, “All we like sheep have gone astray.”    John notes, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).  Sin is not merely theoretical but actual in our lives.

6.     Apart from regeneration (a change of heart), no sinner willingly chooses God.

Jesus told Nicodemus, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).  A new birth experience (regeneration) is required before a person can willingly turn to Christ!

Paul describes the spiritual dullness of the unconverted:   “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:14).  In 2 Corinthians 4:3, he describes unbelievers as “blinded” to the truth.

In light of this condition we must talk about human inability.  The unregenerate do not welcome the light of Christ (see John 3:18).  They do not seek God (Rom 3:11).

Apart from regeneration, repentance, and faith in Christ, we remain “children of wrath” who deserve a holy God’s righteous judgment (see Eph 2:1-3).

It is painful to come to grips with this reality.  The flesh will revolt against the Bible’s condemnation of what we falsely believe to be our innate spiritual goodness.  The unsaved usually have a “But I’m a good person!” mentality.  We must be honest, however, about what the Bible teaches and humble in understanding our condition.

7.      Total Depravity accentuates the gap between the holiness of God and the sinfulness of mankind.

Psalm 5:5 declares, “thou hatest all workers of iniquity.”  Psalm 7:11 adds that “God is angry with the wicked every day.”  His eyes are too pure to look upon unrighteousness (see Hab 1:13).  God not only hates sin, but he hates sinners.  The Puritan minister Ralph Venning wrote:  “God hates man for sin.”

The truth of Scripture is that Christ saves us from experiencing the wrath of God for our sin.  John 3:36 declares, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”  Likewise, in Romans 5:9, Paul declares that “being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him [Jesus].”  Until we understand the magnitude of human sin we will not perceive the magnitude of salvation.


Sin is not a minor hurdle we must overcome with merely a little bit of God's help.  It is an insurmountable obstacle that will only be overcome by God setting down to set us over it.

An honest and sober reckoning of unregenerate man's plight in sin is a necessary starting point to understand properly the solution offered by God's grace in Christ. 

Copyright 2013 Jeffrey T. Riddle.  Copies of this article may be reproduced in whole or in part for non-profit use, including personal and corporate Bible study.  For information on ordering print copies, email

This is humbling. God is supreme.


  1. Jerry hasn't responded to my ffew comments on his channel. But let me ask you this, does Christ have free human will? If not, what is going on in Gethsemane. And if so, where did he get it?

  2. I would say that Christ does have free will (which displays His human nature), but his ultimate desire was to fulfill the Will of the Father, and that is consistent with His nature as the Son of God. So even though on one hand, He lowered Himself to be human, experienced human suffering, and felt the desire to avoid it (which is natural); Jesus out of His divine nature (which always has the upper hand) followed through with the Will of the Father. Jesus wasn't born into sin like us. There was no Total Depravity with Jesus. Nevertheless, He lived under the curse of this sinful world, and suffered in every way. Therefore, He can relate to you and me. I have to admit your question is an interesting one. I have never thought about it. However, Jesus was 100% God and 100% Man. It is ultimately a paradox, and because of that fact, my explanation will most likely be inadequate. But, my best try at this is to say that the Free Will of Jesus was Divine and Human. Jesus is the God-Man, and we are not. Jesus entered the Created World as a living Man and destroyed sin, and turned back the curse for the sake of the elect. The Divine always has the upper hand. No matter how you slice it, when it comes to sinful man and his fallen nature, he is dead in His trespasses and sins. Jesus was never dead to have to be awakened by the Power of the Holy Spirit. All of the sinful Human beings in the world are born dead into the corruption of sin. The Will of God and His free will always precedes the will of fallen man. So trying to compare the free will of the Savior with the free will of a dead sinner is like comparing apples to oranges. Jesus was Divine before time began, but we need the power of the Divine to be resurrected and to live eternally. Your free will cannot raise the dead. Only God's free will can do that.

    1. Thanks for your reply.
      "I would say that Christ does have free will"

      Which will? Christ has two.

      "and that is consistent with His nature as the Son of God"

      Which Nature? Christ has two. You seem to imply only one blended will/nature in Christ.

      "Jesus out of His divine nature (which always has the upper hand) followed through with the Will of the Father"

      But Christ's divine will and Nature is precicely the same will and Nature as the Father. The "upper hand" means coercion, compulsion, or determination of the human in Christ by the divine, but that's the ancient heresies of Mono-energism/Monotheletism.

      If human nature is naturally depraved, and Christ assumed our nature from his mother "without change" as Chalcedon says, why would his humanity not be depraved? (Note: I am not saying it is) Are Natures sinful, or are Persons sinful. Do Natures sin, or Persons?

      "Jesus was 100% God and 100% Man"

      Actually, I think this may be leading you to imply one will and nature in Christ. The single Person of Christ is 100% divine, not human. WCF 8 is incorrect when it affirms "which Person is fully God and fully man". The eternal Logos/Word/Person is divine only. This divine Person has a divine nature and a human nature without confusion, change, division or separation.

      "the Free Will of Jesus was Divine and Human"

      But Christ has two wills, not one. Is only the divine will free? If so, then Christ freely willed our salvation as God only. Yet Gethsemane shows Christ freely laying down the good human desire to preserve his life, which as you mentioned is natural. If this is compelled by his divine will you have Monotheletism and he doesn't accomplish our salvation freely as man.

      "The Will of God and His free will always precedes the will of fallen man. So trying to compare the free will of the Savior with the free will of a dead sinner is like comparing apples to oranges."

      Do you think Christ's human will and nature are different from ours? If every aspect of his humanity is not consubstantial with us, there is no salvation. The ancient father's and Ecumenical Councils stood firm on this. He was without sin, not because his humanity is different than ours, but because he is a divine Person, but also because sin does not inhere in Nature.

      Christ was not consubstantial with human Persons (the elect) but with human nature. He did not take on human Persons, but human Nature. Which is why he tastes death for every man and why even the damned are raised in resurrection.

      It seems Calvinism is forced between making Christ's humanity in some way different from ours on one hand or falling into Mono-energism/Monothelitism on the other. It is noteable that Calvinism and Pelagianism are strange bedfellows, in that both are monergistic. The former according to grace and the latter according to nature. But a proper Christology shows both to be incorrect.

    2. I have to agree with your response concerning Monotheletism. I am not a Monotheletist. I agree that Christ has two natures, and apologize for not being clear. I mentioned in my previous post that my explanation would probably be inadequate. I appreciate you clearing that up.

      The best way that I can explain the nature of Christ is to say He is 100% God and 100% Man. He isn't 50% God and 50% man which is Monotheletism. To say so would be heresy. He is fully human, and fully divine. This is the paradox I was referring to. Here is what I have come to find. I am appreciative of Systematic Theology and Man's attempt to organize Biblical teaching through this science. However it isn't a perfect science because we are imperfect men in a fallen world. The Bible is not exhaustive, it is sufficient. Therefore, there are many ideas that Scripture lays down we can know to a point, then we reach the cliff where God says: "That is all you need to know." The Divine Attributes and Nature is one of those things. My goal is to try and speak as the Bible speaks. It isn't easy. I know that I have not always done this well, and I pray for God's grace to help me stay on the right path. Nevertheless, we must study and learn all we can about God. The Trinity is another paradox. God is three persons, each person is God, yet there is only one God. A three leaf clover was used by St. Patrick to illustrate this truth, yet it is inadequate to fully display the truth of this Biblical teaching. Unconverted men have begun religions and denominations in rebellion to this idea because they just "had" to make it understandible. Isaiah said in his book in chapter 55:7-13 NKJV

      "7 Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. 8 "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the Lord. 9 "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. 10 "For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater, 11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. 12 "For you shall go out with joy, And be led out with peace; The mountains and the hills Shall break forth into singing before you, And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. 13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree, And instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; And it shall be to the Lord for a name, For an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off."

    3. God always has the upper hand. He is the source of life. Temporal, and eternal. I agree that there is no confusion, but there is "mystery" and God never agreed to share everything with us.

      Ephesians 1:7-12 NKJV says: "7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, 9 having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, 10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth--in Him. 11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory."

      See, no matter how you slice it, Predestination is what it is. προορίζω - means: to predetermine, decide beforehand. That is one reason why I say God has the upper hand. He is God, and to say otherwise would not be correct with Scripture. Yes, you have a choice, but to say that choice is apart from the predetermined will of God is un-Biblical.

      Yes, Jesus had a human will, but that will was not tainted with the stain of sin as ours. Therefore, The Divine will and Human will of Jesus work perfectly to do the will of the Father. We on the other hand are dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). Ephesians 2 NKJV says:

      "1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. 11 Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh--who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands-- 12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. 19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit."

    4. In verse 1, Paul says we were "dead" νεκρός - which means: "one that has breathed his last, lifeless" How can a dead man choose anything? This isn't coercion. It's not like God says: "Ok, I am going to make you choose me!" all the while we are screaming: "No, no, please don't make me!" That would be coercion. You presuppose free will in the context of our fallen world, by thinking that somehow it is unjust for God not to allow us to choose. You see, humans are already condemned through Adam and are "dead" as Paul so eloquently put it. The only way for a dead man to live is for the Author of life to give it to him. I cannot make myself live temporally or eternally. Then you may ask why. I really don't know why other than to quote Romans 9: 14-23 NKJV:

      "14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! 15 For He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion." 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth." 18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. 19 You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?" 20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, "Why have you made me like this?" 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? 22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory,"

      So, God has predetermined that some vessel are chosen for redemption, and some for destruction. We are all condemned already. Only God can awaken a dead man. Therefore, whether I like it or not isn't the issue. I cannot say it is unjust because I am an unjust fallen sinner. How can I impute my righteousness to God. Who am I to tell Him He is unrighteous for His choice. All I know is that there is no partiality with God in this (Romans 2:11). We cannot say that we have obtained favor by some quality we possess. Therefore, only God gets the glory. If we say that "He chose me" or "I chose Him" because of some work we have done, then it contradicts Scripture and gives glory to man and not God. Only He is worthy. I appreciate the attempt of Synergistic Theology, but it falls short of Salvation by grace through faith. It is a Salvation by some grace, by some works, and that is not found in Scripture. God has the upper hand.

    5. Thanks for your response.
      First, Monotheletism is either that Christ had no human will or that his human will was dragged along (upper hand) by his divine will. This is why the 6th Council affirms Christ's free human will with the fact that he gets it as a constituent aspect of our human nature. Christ has free will because he got it from his mother...from us! The Council affirms his human will freely follows without resistance or compulsion, just as we see in Gethsemane. His human will is employed by his one divine Person, so he can never act against Nature or against God (sin). We are human Persons and in our fallen condition can and do act against Nature and against God.

      You said you wish to speak as the bible speaks, but this is how Sola scriptura always reduces to solo. Everyone determines for themselves the "plain meaning of the bible". What seems clear to one is off the radar to the other. Incessant schism, which is forbidden in scripture, is the result. I agree with the mystery and limitation of our knowlege, which is why scripture affirms the church as the pillar and foundation of the truth. The Spirit leads her into all truth, but it is solo when we determine the identity of the church through our own interpretation of scripture.

      Predestination in scripture is always in Christ. All things will be recapitulated and summed up in him, including creation. I know, being a former Calvinist, that Predestination is made to be some overarching theme that even Christ himself is subordinated to. Determinism in Christ is monoenergism. Romans 9 has nothing to do with individual election to heaven and hell, it is about the freedom of God to give salvation to the Gentiles in spite of Israel's covenantal birth right, which God freely turns on its head for the purpose of having mercy on all. St Paul specifically shows the group who was hardened, blinded, cast away, fallen, broken off in Romans 9 are able to be grafted in again in Romans 11. Yet for Calvinism, those hardened and blinded ones were elect for damnation.
      Again, to highlight the case, in Calvinism the pedophile is determined by the inscrutable decree to commit his act at 9:45 tonight. He has no other option available to him because of the decree. And this is for the full display of the glory of God. For Calvinism, evil is necessary for God, and hence, so is creation. But God is light and in him is no darkness at all. He was fully and perfectly glorified in the eternal perichoresis of the communion of the Holy Trinity and without need of creation.

      You make our Nature to be utterly dead in relation to God and yet it is our exact Nature and condition that Christ assumed from Mary. If we are dead by nature, then Christ's humanity is passive and dead. Again...monoenergism.
      What is not assumed is not healed. Our fallen Nature doesn't need forgiveness, it needs healing. Our Persons need forgiveness of sin because Persons sin, not Natures. We absolutely cannot save ourselves but Calvinism unwittingly removes all human energy/activity from man (Christ too?) because it has a faulty anthropology. We must get our anthropology from the consummate man, Christ Jesus and not from fallen or even unfallen Adam. If we are to see what humanity is to be and what its capabilities are we look at Christ and get our anthropology from the 2nd Adam slain from before the foundation of the world.
      The various scriptural descriptions of our condition must be understood in the light of what occurs in Christ. In the west, there is usually a fear of "merit" in salvation. In the ancient Orthodox church, merit is not a category of thought like it is in the Protestant west and their mother Rome. The humanity of Christ isn't meritting, but it is freely participating in the life of God and being deified, recapitulating Adam, Israel, human nature and all creation. Salvation isn't earned it is participated in by Persons who are mercifully brought into the loving communion of the Trinity in and through Christ.
      Grace and peace.

    6. Thanks again.
      I'll start with your last point, as this may get too long.
      Romans 9 is not about individual election to heaven and hell. All of the OT references used there help give the context that Romans 9-11 is about. Scripture does not say that Pharoah is raised up "that I might damn thee" but "that I may SHOW my power IN YOU and that my name be declared IN ALL THE EARTH" [emphasis, not yelling;-)]. Damnation is not something ever "declared" or "shown" publicly, God is accomplishing his salvific purposes ON EARTH. "Destruction" in Rom 9 is not damnation. Esau isn't elect for damnation, but God turns birthright on it's head to show his freedom to bring messiah by promise through Jacob, who is called Israel. Notice the play on this when God calls "Israel" (Jacob) my FIRSTBORN, which he physically wasn't. "Two nations are in thy womb" is what their mother was told, and the older will serve the younger, not be elect for damnation. Through making Pharoah a vessel of "wrath", which we see is not election to damnation, Israel is thrust to the promised land to bring forth the Messiah. Then Israel themselves become vessels of wrath (broken off) by the potter, but this is not election to damnation either, but for the purpose of showing mercy to the Gentiles, which for the Jews would bring all the collective objection we see addressed by St Paul in ch9. Who are you O Israel to complain that God is not free to blow the doors of salvation open to the "dogs", this doesn't break your priveleged covenants (birthright). Those who stumble at the stumbling stone hope to inherit the covenantal blessings automatically and not by faith. Now St Paul proceeds to discuss the provoking of Israel through bringing salvation to the Gentiles. Yet the very ones who did not have faith (cast away, broken off, blinded, hardened, did not spare, disobedient, vessels of wrath, etc) are shown in ch 11 to be brought freely into the covenantal blessings by faith. And to top it off, he shows further that the principle still applies in the New Covenant, namely that those who have been freely made partakers of the vine by faith either Jew or Gentile, can be broken off again if they abide not in faith.

    7. I affirm we are dead in sin, but Calvinism pushes the metaphor beyond even the text. "Dead means Dead!" But dead means not able to give oneself life, not that there is no Natural human energy/operation to come to the place where life is completely gratuitously given, when the gospel is heard. Eph 2 describes not dead Natures, but Persons fulfilling the desires of flesh who are dead in Personal tresspasses and sins, so this does not support total depravity. Besides, notice the chapter says they were "made alive and raised with Christ". Romans 6 shows us where we "died, were buried, raised, united with Christ, crucified with him, freed from sin" baptism. The Regeneration in scripture is baptismal, not monergistic. Look at all the baptism passages and you will see this. We come to baptism, which is the circumcision of Christ (Col 2:11)"in which you were also raised". Here again we see the same words "buried, made alive, forgiven, together with Christ" etc. This is why St Peter says "baptism now saves you.....through the resurrection of Christ." Infants were circumcised as entry to the covenantal blessings and baptism is the circumcision of Christ. Believer's children are not little heathens until they can personally choose, they are brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord....the blessings of covenantal inclusion. They may Personally depart freely later, but the merciful God is inclusive. "Bring the little children to me, for of such is the kingdom", "become like a little child".....they are not Naturally depraved little devils, hated by God.

      Remember, Calvinism holds that Adam did not fall by a free misuse of his good will, but by the decree before all time. For Calvinist's, Adam was never really posse non peccare, because he was determined to sin by decree.

      Baptist successionism has been debunked by Protestants themselves. It is revealing if they wish to trace themselves through all kinds of heretics along the way....Waldenses, Albigenses, etc, just because they opposed Rome. That is not being the pillar and foundation of the truth.

      Out of time, more on the unity and singularity of the church later, if you permit.

    8. I have to say that you know your Theology. Before you revealed your denomination, I had a feeling you were with the Eastern Orthodox Church. I was about to ask you. Interestingly enough, I am actually reading through the Orthodox Study Bible as we speak. It is a good read. I am in agreement with the Orthodox Church on Textual Choice when it comes to the New Testament, and I am fascinated by their adherence to the Septuagint for the Old Testament. I rented a lot once from a Man and Woman once who were Russian Orthodox. They were great landlords and very kind people.

      As far as the Sola/Solo argument, I agree with you to a point. Men do tend to privately interpret the Bible and without proper Hermeneutics come to the wrong conclusions many times. That is why we have the local church. One has to do some interpretational gymnastics for the Word to say something other than what it says. It happens a lot! I don't think it is a stretch however to claim what I posted about Predestination. The Bible text is clear concerning God's will.

      As far as pedigree goes, the Pharisees and Sadducees claimed their pedigree to Abraham and Moses to Jesus our Lord. In the history of the Church there were surviving groups of Christians in the West who were not connected to the Roman Church, who were in fact connected to the Christians at Antioch and other areas. This is where the Baptists came from. Groups like the Vaudois and others existed long before Peter Waldo. There are historical records connecting them to the early church, and that they were a thorn in the side of Rome. These groups were persecuted severely. These groups were not from the Roman/Protestant movement. However, what Wycliffe, Tyndale, Calvin, Luther, and many others did in the Reformation was a good thing, because the Roman Church had strayed far from Early Christianity. Just like the Pharisees and Sadducees, claiming a pedigree doesn't equal a faithful and accurate Church. It also doesn't equal faithful interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. The Scriptures themselves testify of Churches who began to fall early into error in the days of the Apostles. The Corinthian Church is a classic example of this. So how can we have faith in pedigree? Every Christian Church can claim a lineage to the first Church. I will admit that there haven't been any Schisms in the Eastern Church other than the Roman Church splitting off, but that doesn't prove the Orthodox Church hasn't strayed from Biblical teaching in some areas.

      It is true that God uses evil to His own purposes. Joseph testifies of this in Genesis when he told his brothers: "You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good." However, God isn't the author of evil. Man in his "free will" in the garden chose to do evil and follow the devil into destruction by defecting from God. When that happened, spiritual death instantly occurred in the soul of Man. In that choice, we as descendants of Adam were all bound to death unless the glorious life-giver decides to come and open our eyes that we may see, give illumination so to speak, so we can choose what is right. However, God isn't obligated to do so. Some vessels are left to their own devices and set for destruction, and some are chosen for righteousness as the "text" says. I didn't say it. As to the why, I don't know. It may seem unjust from our limited human perspective, but God doesn't owe fallen man anything. He is displaying His Justice and Mercy through His perfect plan. It is beyond us. Nevertheless, if you desire God, then there is a good chance that you have been illuminated. Only the faithful and true believers will finish the race. Grace and peace to you as well.

    9. Where is this predestined to hell stuff coming from? I suppose you could claim that, but the text of Scripture teaches that in Adam's free will he fell. Therefore, Christ Jesus was sent to rescue those whom God foreknew. Not the seed of the flesh, but the seed of faith (Romans 9:6-8). I am just repeating what the text says. You can formulate Theologies to steer people from the unpleasant realities that are taught here, but we cannot avoid the context. To quote John Piper:

      "Romans 9 is an explanation for why the word of God has not failed even though God’s chosen people, Israel, as a whole, are not turning to Christ and being saved. The sovereignty of God’s grace is brought in as the final ground of God’s faithfulness in spite of Israel’s failure, and therefore as the deepest foundation for the precious promises of Romans 8. For if God is not faithful to his word, we can’t count on Romans 8 either."

      How can Romans 9 not be referring to salvation in addition to what you stated about about God showing His power? What kind of mercy is God displaying? What are the purposes of the vessels of righteousness and wrath? How can you be God's people apart from salvation? If you believe on Jesus isn't that salvation? Romans 10:9 says "if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." Romans 9 refers to many things, but God's overarching redemptive plan is taught here. It is beginning to tell us the truth that salvation is not a work of the flesh, but of the Holy Spirit. The children of the seed of faith are the children of Abraham as Hebrews teaches. What is the purpose of man other than to be placed on earth for the Glory of God? Romans 9 is kind of like pulling back the veil to let us see a glimpse into what is going on behind the scenes. I encourage everyone to read Romans as a whole, and let the text speak for itself. Faith is how salvation is obtained, and that is referred to in Romans 9. Ephesians 2:8-10 tells us that faith is a gift of God's grace, not a product of human works. What we have to believe is what the Bible says about the way God does it. And if God is doing it that way, then he made choices before the foundation of the world for the glory of the crucified Christ to do it that way. If I were to formulate my own doctrine of salvation, it would look more like yours. It is more palatable. However, I must adhere to the clear language and teaching of Scripture. To quote Piper again:

      "He saves some of those that he desires would be saved. He becomes the decisive opener of Lydia's heart, but not Judas' heart. God grants some to believe (Philippians 1:29). He grants some repentance (2 Timothy 2:26). So some of those that he desires would be saved he saves."

      This is a hard saying, but it is clearly taught in Scripture.

    10. As far as infant baptism goes, I can't leave that one. Jesus did call the little children to Himself, but there is no textual evidence that He baptized them. Romans 4:9-12 clearly teaches that Abraham received the promise while uncircumcised. If physical circumcision was so powerful to save, why did God promise Abraham such a wonderful thing while uncircumcised? Why is Paul referring to it here in Romans? The answer is in the text. So that he might be the father of "all" who believe. The religious Pharisees and Sadducees thought they had it all figured out. They told Jesus: "We have Abraham as our father." However, Paul shows us that salvation is not, and never has been of the flesh, but of faith, which is the result of the "baptism" of the Holy Spirit, not of water. I will quote John Piper here giving 5 reason we do not baptize infants:

      There are many reasons for this conviction. Let me mention five that I will pass over quickly so that I can come to the main issue in Romans 4:11, where some of those who believe in infant baptism build their case. I pass over these quickly because I have dealt with them before in the sermon series on baptism in the spring of 1997. You can get those sermons and read them or listen to them.

      1-In every New Testament command and instance of baptism the requirement of faith precedes baptism. So infants incapable of faith are not to be baptized.
      2-There are no explicit instances of infant baptism in all the Bible. In the three "household baptisms" mentioned (household of Lydia, Acts 16:15; household of the Philippian jailer, Acts 16:30–33; household of Stephanus, 1 Corinthians 1:16) no mention is made of infants, and in the case of the Philippian jailer, Luke says explicitly, "they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house" (Acts 16:32), implying that the household who were baptized could understand the Word.
      3-Paul (in Colossians 2:12) explicitly defined baptism as an act done through faith: ". . . having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God." In baptism you were raised up with Christ through faith—your own faith, not your parents' faith. If it is not "through faith"—if it is not an outward expression of inward faith—it is not baptism.
      4-The apostle Peter, in his first letter, defined baptism this way, ". . . not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 3:21). Baptism is "an appeal to God for a good conscience." It is an outward act and expression of inner confession and prayer to God for cleansing, that the one being baptized does, not his parents.
      5-When the New Testament church debated in Acts 15 whether circumcision should still be required of believers as part of becoming a Christian, it is astonishing that not once in that entire debate did anyone say anything about baptism standing in the place of circumcision. If baptism is the simple replacement of circumcision as a sign of the new covenant, and thus valid for children as well as for adults, as circumcision was, surely this would have been the time to develop the argument and so show that circumcision was no longer necessary. But it is not even mentioned.

    11. Re: baptism,
      The unanimous consensus of the church before the Reformation stands opposed to your view. Same with the eucharist by the way. Salvation is by faith but not without baptism, except in extenuating circumstances, but when God commanded circumcision in the OT it is not optional but brings folks into the covenant wherein God saves by faith. Circumcision of the heart in the baptism of Christ is also not optional and is the occasion of the act of God. Just like marriage, sexual activity 5 minutes before marriage is sin, yet 5 minutes after is blessed. Scripture says "what God has joined together". When did that occur? The ceremonial/liturgical activity of man is precicely the place where God also acts to join them. God is acting in baptism just as the scripture and the church unanimously declares. And this is not apart from faith, but it is the free gracious act of God. A baptized child, or adult for that matter, can depart the faith.

      Again, your Piper quotes are my former Reformed Baptist position, but this is not in submission to the church which is the pillar and foundation of the truth. Even the Lutheran's, Anglicans and Reformed cry out against you, here. By what authority do you depart from the ancient practice? Scripture? It is sola reducing to solo. Your Protestant opponents also claim it is from the inception of the church. This is about covenant, and the merciful God. And there are patristic references long before the fourth century. Scripture nowhere says that OT covenantal inclusion of children has been revoked. That is what a Jew would expect if your position is true.
      The bottom line is who has been given authority to define and declare what is truth and error, and what is the meaning of the scriptures? Sola reduces to solo every time, and this leads to doctrinal anarchy.

    12. By the way, we do not sprinkle. We do the ancient practice of triple immersion. You see this in early fathers :-)

  3. By the way, those who don't know what Monotheletism is, just check out the following link.

  4. "but the text of Scripture teaches that in Adam's free will he fell"

    The text says lots of things the Reformed completely disagree on, this is no different. For you, Adam falls by decree.

    Though I was once gaga for Piper too, he has many problems that betray proper Triadology and Christology:

    "You can formulate Theologies to steer people from the unpleasant realities that are taught here"

    Form theologies? What Calvinism holds was formed centuries after the faith was once for all given to the saints. Augustine explicitly denied Sola Fide yet he gets a free pass as some proto-Reformed father. Again, Sola reduces to solo every time as the Lutheran's and others are in complete disagreement with you. Who has authority to define heresy with certainty? You will select a tradtion you agree with from you reading of scripture.

    "How can Romans 9 not be referring to salvation"

    It is. But not individual election to heaven and hell. It's about the salvific purposes of God in the world in light of Israel's fall and the Gentiles acceptance. St Paul is not answering the question why does God choose to save one and damn another? Remember, the ones you hold to be reprobated are able to be included in ch 11. Also, St Paul himself disciplines his body in 1 Cor 9:27 lest after he preached to others, he himself may become Reprobate, which he warns about in Romans 11 as well.

    " How can you be God's people apart from salvation?"

    Exactly. And yet, as St Paul says we stand by faith and fall through unbelief, Old or New covenant.

  5. Well. I think we are at an impasse for now. I am not as committed to the structure of any Theological System as much as I am to the Bible and the God of the Bible. You are trying to define my Theology for me by putting words in my mouth. Adam did have free will. There is no dispute there. It still doesn't mean that the teachings of Romans are any less clear than what is conveyed in the text of Scripture. It is clear also that all manmade systems fall short of truly conveying the ideas set out in the Bible. Some are very clear, and some not so much. If I am to hold to any Church documents apart from the Bible, it would be the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the 1689 Baptist Confession.

    1. Well, thanks for allowing me the interaction on your blog. Forgive me if I placed something on you that you do not hold. I would just say that it seems to be special pleading to accept and exegete a canon by Tradition and not the rest of the faith of that very same Tradition. May you find joy in pursuing union and communion with the Holy Trinity through Christ our true God.

    2. Sure thing. You have helped me to think and search out some things. I have been encouraged to study and maybe think of some questions to ask. I know that the Orthodox Church places a great deal not only on the Bible, but Tradition as well. Great stock is placed in the claim to the unbroken line from the early Church. Not all Tradition is bad, and I think we may agree on more than we disagree on. I do think that your perspective of Calvinism or Reformed Theology is bent a little toward thinking of it as fatalism. Hyper-Calvinism is fatalism. I am not a Hyper-Calvinist. I don't deny the responsibility or role of man in salvation. I think we agree that from our own human perspective, man must confess his sins, and repent. I realize that Orthodox Christians place more confidence in the Liturgy and the Eucharist. I won't get into that right now. You can if you would like to. However, I agree that you and I are responsible and free to decide either to follow Christ, or not. It is a daily choice. Doesn't the Bible tell us to work out our own Salvation with fear and trembling? Where we disagree is the underlying "how" behind the scenes. The inner workings of grace that God provides. You are a Synergist, and I am a Monergist. I do place great stock in God's sovereignty over Man's free will. I am cynical of men, even men who are preachers and priests. All men have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Only at the end will the Christian be perfected. I suppose the blurred lines will be clearer one day. We are not the only ones to discuss these great truths. I appreciate your patience.

    3. Thanks. No, it isn't a form of Calvinism that the Church's Christology exposes, but all of it. I don't see how the charge of Monotheletism and Monoenergism can be avoided in Calvinism, I tried. And when Sola scriptura in every form completely dissolved, the real authority of the church that we see in scripture stood out.
      Remember, we are not helping God save us but we are participating freely in the communion of Persons of the Trinity in Christ. Love must be freely reciprocated. Synergy is what Christology reveals, both the human and divine wills and energies must be freely active, yet it is the human that is in complete need of deification, even in Christ. This is why the Incarnation itself is so important. Not just to get Christ a body so he can get to the cross, but God and man are united ontologically in Him.
      Grace and peace.

    4. Sounds like Semi-Pelagianism to me. If you do not have the inspired written word of God, then all you have is man's opinion. That is a very unsettling thought. I disagree that Sola Scriptura has crumbled, it is just that men tend not to interpret the Bible within the bounds of preservation. Many men like to add opinions to explain their personal fancies, and some subtract things due to irrational cynicism. That is the Solo you are referring to. Proper hermeneutics is important. Hermeneutics is the art and science of interpretation. I recommend reading the text at the following link.

    5. The rules for Protestant hermeneutics are subjective and extra-biblical. Solo.
      Some of the principles are good in themselves, but interpretation must be done within the church with those who have the mind of Christ through the centuries, led by the Spirit. We can't just pick and choose from the Tradition and call it the regula fide. And even using the exact same set of hermeneutical principles, there is incessant schism and division. No, there is somthing much more divine at play that keeps the unity of the church.
      The 66 Protestant canon was not the canon of anyone before the later Reformation. Yet even the canon you use is completely received by Tradition. It is not verified by scripture alone! You do not know Esther or Revelation or any book is actually scripture without the church. Unless you have a burning in the bosom. Sola falls from the get go.
      Was the Acts 15 Council the opinions of men? It was what seemed good to the Holy Spirit AND US! Synergistic, in the divine/human sense, guided by the Spirit. The promises of Christ to the one church he established bear this out. Men don't form the Tradition, they receive, follow and obey it because it comes by the Spirit of God, this is how your canon came about. The scipture is part of the Tradition of the church! One example of scripture and Tradition, you cannot show from scripture the holy days, liturgy, feasts, and life of the synagogue, yet Jesus submitted to it.

  6. Greetings men,

    I realize I am coming late to the conversation, but wanted to add a few questions for Canadian:

    1. Regarding sola scriptura vs. solo scriptura: I am assuming you have read Keith Mathison's "The Shape of Sola Scriptura" where he makes much of this distinction. Your critique here would be on target (and I would be in agreement) if Phil were a "No creed but Christ, no book but the Bible" Church of Christ Campbellite type, but, as I understand it, he is a Reformed Baptist who holds to the Second London Confession as a subordinate (to Scripture) confessional standard. Would adherence to this confessional standard in Biblical interpretation provide enough ecclesiastical oversight to his interpretation of the Bible to convince you that he (and others like him) are not solo scriptura fanatics? Or can one only rightly understand Scripture if he is a part of the Orthodox communion?

    2. Regarding the Church Fathers and ecclesiastical unity: First, when folk begin citing the Church Fathers as authorities I always think of a friend of mine's observation that the "Church Fathers" really ought to be called "The Church Infants." Their views often reflect how quickly the early church departed from Biblical fidelity (e.g. the establishment of a monarchical episcopacy rather than the bishop [episkopos] as pastor in a local church). Anyhow, you seem to make much of how superior the Orthodox system is as far as providing an authoritative interpretation of Scripture and checking schismatic fanatacism, but I wonder if you might not have a bit of "new convert naiveté" on this score. Have there not been major disagreements and even schisms that have occurred (are occurring) among the various auto-cephalous Orthodox communions? One example would be the Old-Rite Russian Orthodox Church's division from the mainstream Russian Orthodox Church in the 19th century. Why didn't the supposedly superior Orthodox ecclesiology prevent such a division (and others among the Orthodox)? Could I accuse such Orthodox schismatics of solo traditione? Is it possible that a Calvinistic Presbyterian and a Reformed Baptist might have more catholic fellowship based on their Biblical and confessional agreement on soteriology than an Old-Rite and mainline Russian Orthodox?

    3. Regarding canon: Just one factual point. You note that the 66 book Protestant canon was a late development. The issue here really has to do with the OT and apocrypha, since the Orthodox also agree with the 27 books of the NT. Right? OK, that being the case, what do you make of the fact that the canon of the Hebrew Bible (its closure generally dated to c. 100 A.D. at Jamnia)agrees with the Protestant OT? Would that make the Protestant canon based on a more ancient and more reliable ecclesiastical tradition than the RC and Orthodox OT canon?

    4. Regarding Jesus and synagogue traditions: It seems to me that what we see in the NT is Jesus not following extra-biblical synagogue traditions but OT traditions (circumcision, observing Sabbath, observing Passover, etc.). Would this indicate that the example of Jesus is submission to Scripture rather than tradition? Can you give me a Gospel citation of Jesus observing a synagogue custom that has no OT warrant?

    1. Pr. Jeff, thanks for your response.
      Sorry about the delay, but for now, due to time limitations, I can only respond to portions of your points.

      Yes, Mathison's book was formative in pressing me toward Orthodoxy. He does good work in distinguishing Sola and Solo as a distinct position in regards to subordinate authority, creeds, confessions, and the regula fide. I realize that "Sola" adherents are not "solo-type fanatics" that describes much of evangelicalism.
      To use your example of our host Phil, the problem with holding LBCF as a subordinate authority is not his sincerity, faithfulness or diligence, but rather that he has chosen this tradition from among other options through his personal interpretation of the scriptures. If Phil takes a look at the WCF/3 Forms of Unity, 39 Articles, or the Formula of Concord, to name just 3 other confessional lines, and selects the LBCF, he does so because he believes the majority of the doctrinal propositions defined in their confessional statements are unbiblical to him. He refuses to submit to the Lutheran Formula, for example, presumably because he disagrees with baptismal regeneration and the Lord's Supper, among other things. He does not submit to any authority until he finds one that sufficiently agrees with his personal interpretation. Yet the Lutheran has done the exact same thing and looks at Phil like he's missing the "plain meaning of the bible."
      If 10 guys go to the same scriptures, 2 may become Lutheran (1 Miss. and 1 ELCA), one becomes fundy Baptist, one Reformed Baptist (which is an oxymoron for TR's), 3 go Reformed (1 Fed Vision, 1 PCUSA, 1 URC), 2 Anglican (1 AngloCatholic, 1 Evangelical type Episcopalian), and a Methodist. Now if we exclude those who do not care where they are (which happens in Orthodoxy as much as anywhere else) and find the most devout in every Protestant group, they will defend their submission to, or creation of, a church because it is the most biblical to them. And this says nothing of drilling down into the thousands of offshoots within each branch.
      The bottom line is that all these are not in communion with one another (1 Cor 10:17). There is incessant division over dogma and praxis, and how to interpret the sources.
      So in the Sola paradigm, there is nothing to principally distinguish it from Solo because the individual is his own final authority, and this makes the above authorities subordinate to him and his interpretation. Hence, they become no authority at all. Nothing they say is binding or normative for all Christians, unlike what we see in the ancient Conciliar church (Acts 16:4). And if he is convinced by a smarter exegete from one of the other traditions, he will change his allegiance and "submit" to a new subordinate authority. Why? Because he agrees with THEM now. Submission is always contingent upon personal agreement. Sola always reduces to solo.

    2. For the Orthodox convert, however, he uses the same God-given faculties that the other guy used. He prays and reads scripture and looks at history, etc. But there is something very different going on. He's looking for the church that Christ established. He does not form a theology and then go look for her. He follows the church century by century and watches where the faith once for all delivered to the saints goes, what they believed, how they worshipped, what they embraced and rejected. He watches when divisions occur and takes note of who is deviating from what came before, not who is deviating from what he thinks the bible means.
      ***Note Schaff's excellent and very short description of this here:

      When he finds that church of the apostles and of those who were with them, and of those who formed the canon of scripture, and of those who articulated the Conciliar definitions of Triadology and Christology, and who evangelized the whole known world. When he finds what scripture calls the pillar and foundation of the truth, which is what she IS in every age (and NOT just what she aught to be, but may not be for endless centuries), he then obeys Hebrews 13 and submits to those that have authority over him. There she is, she is not changing for anyone, she is not becoming user friendly, or performing, or itching ears. Though she is full of sinners, she is preserved by the indwelling Spirit. Christ promised to lead her into all truth, be with her until the end of the age, gates of hades not prevailing in any age, and schism is not an option. This is not blind submission but obedience to Christ whose body is neither torn assunder, nor inherently invisible (ecclesial docetism).

      No one is infallible and the father's did not agree on everything, but the patristic consensus has a unity in the Spirit. There is unity without uniformity. Like the Trinity, as Jesus alludes to in John 17, the church is an undivided loving communion of Persons worshipping in their local churches in submission to their bishop who is in communion with all the other bishops. The Russian Old Rite assemblies are in schism. They are not in communion with the Orthodox churches. Just like Rome. When schism occurs, communion is withheld and unity is broken. There were various Arian, Nestorian, and Monophsite schism's. This is always disastrous for Christian witness in the world, as the bond of love is broken and dashed on the rocks for all to see, in spite of the fact that Christ's visible body is undivided and the unity of His church remains.

      No church in the NT ordained their own elders, not one. This was always done for them in every church by those authorized to do so, Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5.
      This reveals the different roles of what is called bishop from what is called presbyter (the early terms may have been interchanged but the roles were not). These were bishops who could ordain local pastors over vast areas, yet those ordained by them did not have the same authority to also ordain others. This isn't an innovation, but apostolic.

      Jamnia removed the LXX use and the deuterocanon in reaction to the Christian use of them. Why would we give more credence to Christ-rejecting-Jewish-tradition, over what the church had received from Christ and the apostles?
      Here is a brief related video:

      Grace and peace.

    3. I appreciate Pastor Jeff for his response. To follow up, I don't understand how my belief in the LBCF is any different than your belief and confidence in the Eastern Church and its heritage. You said: "he has chosen this tradition from among other options through his personal interpretation of the scriptures." How did you come to the conclusion that the Eastern Church was the way to go? Was it a combination of the Scriptures, Mathison, and Eastern tradition? How is that different? Was it not your own solo interpretation that led you to where you are at the current time? You said: "He does not submit to any authority until he finds one that sufficiently agrees with his personal interpretation. Yet the Lutheran has done the exact same thing and looks at Phil like he's missing the "plain meaning of the bible." Isn't that what you are doing by personally adhering to the Eastern Church? Aren't you looking at me as if I am missing the plain meaning of Scripture and Eastern Tradition?

      You said: The bottom line is that all these are not in communion with one another (1 Cor 10:17). There is incessant division over dogma and praxis, and how to interpret the sources. This is true, and I agree that there should be more unity in the Church, but this doesn't prove anything. The East-West Schism was the first large schism recorded in Church History, however there were plenty of schisms in the early church as has already been sited. Jesus even said when speaking of the last days: "11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he (solo) who endures to the end shall be saved." Matthew 24:11-13 NKJV. The salvation is not only collective, but personal. It is possible for a Church to be attacked by the devil and for weak men to be led astray by their own lusts. It happened in the Corinthian Church. It can happen to any Church. In fact, one could make the case that if there aren't occasional struggles inside the Local and Universal Church, then the Church is dead, and is no threat to the devil. False brethren will always try to infiltrate a fellowship of true believers.

      As far as the example at the end of the first response to Pastor Jeff's post, I don't disagree that there is truth in that statement about sola to solo. However, it is a straw man. Individuals, whether they are from the Eastern Church, RCC, Protestant, Baptist, or some other denomination choose their affiliation upon their personal understanding of God. Do we wrongly interpret the Scriptures from time to time? Absolutely. So do all men. You can read the Church Fathers to see that. There was just as much division and disagreement among them as there is today. Justin Martyr, Augustine, Cryprian, Tertullian, and many others were not uniform across the board in their beliefs.

    4. You said: "He's (The Eastern Believer) looking for the church that Christ established. He does not form a theology and then go look for her. He follows the church century by century and watches where the faith once for all delivered to the saints goes, what they believed, how they worshipped, what they embraced and rejected. He watches when divisions occur and takes note of who is deviating from what came before, not who is deviating from what he thinks the bible means."

      I think Pastor Jeff answered this in his second point. "Regarding the Church Fathers and ecclesiastical unity: First, when folk begin citing the Church Fathers as authorities I always think of a friend of mine's observation that the "Church Fathers" really ought to be called "The Church Infants." Their views often reflect how quickly the early church departed from Biblical fidelity (e.g. the establishment of a monarchical episcopacy rather than the bishop [episkopos] as pastor in a local church). Anyhow, you seem to make much of how superior the Orthodox system is as far as providing an authoritative interpretation of Scripture and checking schismatic fanatacism, but I wonder if you might not have a bit of "new convert naiveté" on this score. Have there not been major disagreements and even schisms that have occurred (are occurring) among the various auto-cephalous Orthodox communions? One example would be the Old-Rite Russian Orthodox Church's division from the mainstream Russian Orthodox Church in the 19th century. Why didn't the supposedly superior Orthodox ecclesiology prevent such a division (and others among the Orthodox)? Could I accuse such Orthodox schismatics of solo traditione? Is it possible that a Calvinistic Presbyterian and a Reformed Baptist might have more catholic fellowship based on their Biblical and confessional agreement on soteriology than an Old-Rite and mainline Russian Orthodox?"

    5. Similar to the Dispensational Premillenialist misunderstanding of Spiritual Israel and Physical Israel, as well as the Prosperity Gospel preachers when misunderstanding the Promises of God and the Kingdom to come, I am afraid that you have missed the understanding in Scripture of the distinction of the Visible and Invisible Church. The invisible church is as you proposed. The gates of Hell, Hades, Sheol, (or whatever transliteration you prefer) will not prevail against the Church of Jesus Christ. This is the eternal church of God. No compromise. However, on this earth in this fallen world, the Church is in a struggle. Believers are being persecuted, killed, and marginalized. Also, churches are being infiltrated, split, and tampered with. This struggle is made clear in Scripture. One example in Matthew 7:15, Jesus says, "Beware of the false prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves." And a bit further on in that passage, Jesus tells us plainly, "Not everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven . . . Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me'"(Mt. 7:22,23). The sobering truth we learn from Jesus is that not everyone who belongs to the visible church belongs to the invisible church. I wish it were as easy clean and clear cut as you describe, and sometimes it is. But, just like some Protestant, Baptist, and RC Churches have inconsistent teachings when it comes to the Bible, the Eastern Church has the same issue. Pastor Jeff mentioned one when he mentioned "Their views (Early Church Fathers) often reflect how quickly the early church departed from Biblical fidelity (e.g. the establishment of a monarchical episcopacy rather than the bishop [episkopos] as pastor in a local church)." It is clear, you can compare the current Eastern hierarchy with the system presented in the epistles of Paul and there is a difference. You can call it solo, but I am not the only one who sees this. I am no grammar expert, but I know enough to understand the difference. Even Jesus said :"6 They (Pharisees and Sadducees) love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, 7 greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, 'Rabbi, Rabbi.' 8 But you, do not be called 'Rabbi'; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. 9 Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. 11 But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Matthew 23:6-12 NKJ. Orthodox priests love to refer to themselves as "Your Eminence." This is one reason we Baptists refer to one another as "brother," or the group as "the brethren." The Scripture is an excellent asset in holding "the brethren" accountable.

    6. Phil,
      Thanks for taking the time to respond. Let me say that I am not here for sport or to prove a point or win an argument. I do not have convertitis. I would have been quite content to leave well enough alone and enjoy my little Baptist fellowship, the core of which were Calvinists. I still love those folks and see them when possible. I did not want Orthodoxy to be the truth. I came at Orthodox and Catholics with sola's loaded, until I had my keester handed to me in gentleness and love.

      2 Timothy 2:23-25
      But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.
      And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men....

      So I hope that my tone comes across as courteous and not arrogant. Remember, I am not talking about anyone's salvation because they are not Orthodox. God knows all things, and is the lover of mankind. I am sharing the fact that the church's Christology rebuked my former position. I fought it. When I realized I was attacking the one I loved, I submitted what I thought scripture said to what was defined by the church.

      I hope to touch on a few of the points you have made, if you will permit.

    7. "How is that different? Was it not your own solo interpretation that led you to where you are at the current time?"

      No. As I mentioned in my earlier comment, I didn't go to the sources and interpret them independant of the of the church that was there. I didn't submit to the use of icons because I first agreed, I saw the universal church's authority in the 7th Council. No Christian could just opt out. I realized that as a Prot I accepted the church's Conciliar authority when it seemed obvious to me but rejected their authority when I disagreed. I went to find out what the ancient church believed, how she worshipped and how she moved through history. I didn't place interpretive conditions upon her. In scripture and history, the church has an authority by the grace of Christ. We are to submit, as we see the group of Pharisaical Christians in Acts 15. They expect circumcision and lawkeeping for Christians and had the apparent weight of scripture on their side (uncircumcized were cut off from the people, etc). Yet when the Council makes it's determinations, all of them completely submit and there is no schism. No one can run off and start their own church from their interpretation of scripture.

      "Aren't you looking at me as if I am missing the plain meaning of Scripture and Eastern Tradition?"

      No. The scripture is an ecclesial text, inspired of God and is interpreted and understood within the context of the life of the church, through which it came. You don't just go to the scripture to find out who you think the church is, that is solo and it ends up necessarily in division. We can say all day to one another what we think scripture means, but the church being connected to Christ her head, has the ability and authority to tell us what the content of the faith is. Find the church Christ established, and you will have the truth, if 1 Tim 3:15 means anything.


    8. "I agree that there should be more unity in the Church, but this doesn't prove anything."

      Jesus prayed the church will be one, as the Trinity is an undivided communion of Persons.
      What does "more" unity look like. Is schism even a sin in Protestantism like it is in scripture? Schism from who, exactly? Schism presupposes an undivided body that can be forsaken.

      "choose their affiliation upon their personal understanding of God"

      I submitted to the church to have my understanding of God properly formed. Of course the decision to submit was personal, but I didn't choose Orthodoxy because it agreed with my view of God from scripture or tradition. I recognized the communion of the Trinity was given in fullness within the Church.

      "There was just as much division and disagreement among them as there is today. Justin Martyr, Augustine, Cryprian, Tertullian, and many others were not uniform across the board in their beliefs."

      There were various opinions of certain things, of course. Actually it is Augustine who quite radically innovates in many areas and takes the Latin west in a different trajectory which ends up in Anselm, Aquinas and Rome. But Augustine is no proto-Calvinist, for sure. But the consensus of the father's cries out against nearly every Protestant distinctive. Again, uniformity is not needed to share eucharistic unity.

      "Their views often reflect how quickly the early church departed from Biblical fidelity"

      What is biblical fidelity? Are the Lutherans showing biblical fidelity when they charge Calvinists with Nestorian tendencies? How do you know? Who has authority to define heresy with certainty? I showed in scripture the different abilities of bishops and presbyters, this is also evident from the beginning. No church ordained their own elders. "Biblical fidelity" always ends up in solo if attempted from outside the life of church. Does anyone have the authority and ability to speak as St Paul did in 1 Cor 10 and 11 about the eucharist? "For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread..." He recieved it from the Lord and delivered it to the church yet the church from the beginning unanimously holds the eucharist to be the deified body and blood of Christ.
      Why did the early Reformers hold Mary to be ever virgin? Because the tradition of the church was retained and it clarified what scripture meant. But they were selective and not submissive, because they rightly were reacting to Rome's many attrocities and innovations. Their mother, Rome was already in schism when they got there.

  7. I appreciate your dedication and commitment to your perspective. It is actually ok with me that you try to win the discussion. I don't see this as an argument per se, just a friendly disagreement between two men on a journey. There is no ill spirit here. You know, it is funny, I was raised in the Lutheran Church. My parents are still dedicated members. I was baptized and confirmed there. I have a deep appreciation and love for the High Church music, the liturgy, and many other aspects concerning their dedication to doctrine. There is a stirring in my soul when I hear O day of rest and gladness, or Holy, Holy, Holy. I love tradition. Much of it is good if looked at with a sanctified heart and a desire for God. I came to the perspective I am at because of the Holy Spirit and the Written and Inspired Word of God along with the help of the brethren. You can call it solo, but it wasn't. I mean, it was and it wasn't. I won't deny that all men are solo when we examine their decisions from a human philosophical perspective. However, as we get back to our original discussion, Solomon testified: "A man's heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps." (Prov. 16:9) I trust God is directing my steps, and I pray that He will guide yours as well. I have enjoyed the discussion.

    1. "You can call it solo, but it wasn't. I mean, it was and it wasn't."


      I too have enjoyed. May you discover the joy of participation in the fullness of the life of God in Christ.


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