Question: In your Q&A of Dec. 2003 (re: Phil Johnson/John MacArthur) you wrote, “Refute my reasoning if you can, but don’t call me a liar.” As an avid reader of about everything you write (except What Love Is This?— I’m a Calvinist), I made marginal notes. One reads, “Dave’s right, MacArthur’s Calvinism is not consistent.” But later, I also wrote, “Dave doesn’t understand Romans:4:16, It is by faith that it might be by grace.” My friend and mentor, Dave, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate you and your work...but you are mistaken about Calvinism. Please allow me to help you a bit: 1) Man is as spiritually dead as a dog is physically and cannot respond to any kind of stimuli. Man is totally depraved. 2) But God loved and chose some whom He would save. 3) Those whom He loved, He would grant to be born again. Faith and repentance are inseparable graces granted simultaneously with the new birth. There you have it. I have tried to refute your reasoning. P.S. You are right to challenge these pseudo-Calvinists concerning their claims that God loves everyone, even if He doesn’t choose [to save] everyone.
Answer: I don’t understand Romans:4:16? No, I understand it well. Paul points out that Abraham was justified without works before the law as proof that salvation is not by works but by God’s grace. That “it is of faith, that it might be by grace,”simply reflects the fact that grace and works are mutually exclusive (Rom:11:6)as are faith and works (4:5).
Instead of what Paul clearly says, amazingly in 4:16 you claim to find Calvinism’s peculiar definition of total depravity, its idea that God doesn’t love all, and its teaching that God must sovereignly regenerate the spiritually dead so that He can then give them faith to believe. There is nothing even remotely related to such doctrines in Romans:4:16 or anywhere else in Scripture.
You declare that “faith and repentance are inseparable graces granted simultaneously with the new birth.” How do you find that in Romans:4:16? It is neither there nor anywhere else in the Bible—nor in Calvinism! Granted simultaneously? On the contrary, Calvinism claims God must first regenerate the spiritually dead, and only then can He give them faith to believe the gospel: “Therefore all men...without the regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit...are neither able nor willing to return to God...”[Synod of Dort]; “The Reformed view of predestination teaches that before a person can choose Christ...he must be born again...one does not first believe, then become reborn...” [R.C. Sproul, Chosen by God, p. 10]; “A cardinal point of Reformed theology is the maxim, ‘Regeneration precedes faith’ [Sproul, Chosen, p. 72].” A.W. Pink insists, “A man is not regenerated because he has first believed in Christ, but he believes in Christ because he has been regenerated.” I could quote many others declaring the same. Do you have another Calvinism?
Contrary to Calvinism, the Bible repeatedly puts faith first: “...that believing ye might have life” (Jn:20:31); the Galatians had become “the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal:3:26); “Being born again...by the word of God...which by the gospel is preached unto you” (1 Pt 1:23-25), “them that believe to the saving of the soul” (Heb:10:39), etc., etc.
Of course, the new birth is “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God”—but it is to those who “received him...believe[d] on his name” (Jn:1:11-13).
You say, “God loved [some] and chose some whom He would save.” You deny that God loves all, that He would have all men to be saved, and that He offers salvation to all by grace through faith. You misrepresent and malign the God of the Bible and make Him less loving than we must be!
You err in equating spiritual death with physical death. The physically dead can’t believe, but they can’t sin either. The spiritually dead can sin and also can hear and believe: “The hour...now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live” (Jn:5:25); “he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live...” (Jn:11:25), etc.