f The Wittenberg Door: Who is Sovereign in Salvation?- Part 5 – Arminianism: Free Will with Partial Depravity

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Who is Sovereign in Salvation?- Part 5 – Arminianism: Free Will with Partial Depravity

In our last post on this topic we took a look at two analogies (one from Billy Graham and the other from Hank Hanegraaff) that are pressed into service on behalf of the Arminian Free Will with Partial Depravity position. We also considered an excerpt from George Bryson written as part of a Christian Research Journal debate he had with Calvinist James White.

In this post we’ll take a closer look at the two analogies by comparing them to Scripture.


  • Illustration One: Take and Drink
    A man lies terribly ill in a hospital room. Next to him on a table is a medicine that will cure him. All he must do is take the vile, put it to his lips, and drink, and he’ll be made well.

  • Illustration Two: The Beggar and the King
    A beggar sits at the side of the road as the king's procession approaches. When the king draws near, he, the king, extends his hand to the beggar and reveals a precious gift. All the beggar must do to avail himself of the treasure is to reach-out and take hold.

The question is, do the above illustrations truly represent the plight of fallen man? Is it the case that man is simply spiritually impoverished or just very ill? To answer these questions we must consider the extent and the result of the Fall.

Guilt Imputed. Corruption Imparted

In the third chapter of Genesis, we read of our first parents’ sin. Because Adam represented us as our federal head, we all sinned in him (Rom. 5:12–19). The resulting corruption is passed on to us all, and its extent is total—every aspect of our being has been affected:

  • Our heart (emotions and affections)—Rom.1:24–27; 1 Tim. 6:10; 2 Tim. 3:4

  • Our mind (thoughts and understanding)—Gen. 6:5; 1 Cor. 1:21; Eph. 4:17

  • Our will (constitution and moral vitality)—John 8:34; Rom 7:14–24; Eph.2:1–3; 2 Pet. 2:19

Furthermore, Scripture teaches that Adam’s sin brought spiritual death to us all (Gen. 2:16–17, 3:1–7; Rom. 5:12; Eph. 2:1–3; Col. 2:13). As a result, men are spiritually deaf, blind, and completely corrupted (Ecc. 9:3; Jer. 17:9; Rom. 8:7–8; 1 Cor. 2:14); also, men are slaves of sin (John. 8:34; Rom. 6:20; Tit. 3:3) and children of the devil (Eph. 2:1–2; 2 Tim. 2:25–26; 1 John 3:10).


As we have seen, man is not simply ill or spiritually impoverished—he’s dead. Dead men cannot “take and drink” or accept a free gift from a king, not unless they are first made alive. Crassly put, dead men do what dead men do—they rot, they don’t search for God.

as it is written,

(Rom. 3:10–12)

In the next post in this serious we’ll take a look at the Scriptures Mr. Bryson used to support his position to see if they make the case for Free Will with Partial Depravity (i.e., Even though fallen, man can, with God’s help, freely choose Christ) and thus trump the above case made for Total Depravity.

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Blogger a helmet said...

Hello The Catechizer,

The question that is now interesting to ponder is, what it is like when someone is spiritually raised. Imagine a person who was spiritually dead and is now spiritually alive. Of course, you cannot be partly alive and partly dead. If you are "dead to sin" (Rom. 6,2+10) and "dead in sin" (Eph 2:1) then this is full and not just partial. You cannot be a bit living and a bit dead, or else the analogies don't make any sense altogether.

Imagine such a person who is now alive. What is this like? Does this person know that he/she is spiritually alive? Or is that just a matter of faith? How does anyone identify a spiritually alive person? If you have "died to sin", then you actually cannot sin anymore. But surely everybody does still sin.

Is there a difference between "dead in sin" (Eph 2:1) and "dead to sin" (Rom 6,2)? A spiritually alive person must be knowable as such.

Are you spiritually alive?
If so, how do you know that? Are there certain feelings, an inner voice or just a personal conviction? How do the living ones identify each other? I think these question remain ever open.

If you cannot know, whether you are dead or alive, how do you know whether your faith is alright and not fainted? Is there a smooth tranistion between dead and alive? If no, then the limit must be identifiable. Those are crucial questions.

Do you know what the problem is? I have never met a reformed person who could tell whether he was spiritually alive but everybody simply pointed to his present faith as proof. No-one has been able to testify of his spiritual life. There are no works performed by reformed persons, that others could not do as well. So there seems to be absolutely nothing within a reformed christian person, which is not also in others. If there is a secret life in them, how can it ever be verified? How can it ever be shown?

-a helmet

10:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We are in agreement that the scripture clearly teaches that we are incapable of coming to God of our own accord. (John 6:44)

However, your viewpoint puts a limitation on God for which there is no biblical warrant. Namely, that God is unable to draw someone prior to regeneration. This error is largely due to the overextension of the spiritually dead / physically dead analogy. The argument goes that since we are spiritually dead there is nothing that we can do, other than rot, to use your words.

Analogies are useful but they break down at some point, otherwise, it wouldn’t be an analogy. They would be exactly identical.

Perhaps you can explain how the “dead will hear” (John 5:25) if the dead can only “rot”.

2:45 PM  
Blogger a helmet said...

Hello Mark,

I don't buy into the analogies either. And I did not suggest them. Why does such an equation of "spiritual death" = "physical death" have to be made? Why does the spiritual dead man have to be compared to a physical dead corpse? I dont't know.

Calvinists are quick to point out that "world" does not always mean "world", and that "all" does not always mean "all". But "dead" must always mean "dead"? Why?

-a helmet

6:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey a helmet,

Sorry I wasn't clear. I was directing that to the person who wrote the article.

The inconsistency on the literalism with 'world' and 'all' when it's enforced so strongly other places is odd. You would think the more common words (world, all) would be the ones about which there would be the least ambiguity.

12:32 PM  
Blogger The Catechizer and The Deacon said...

Greetings, Mark and a helmet. You both have good questions and I think others will benefit from the answers, so I'll answer them in an upcoming post. Thanks for asking the questions.

9:00 AM  

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