Saturday, December 31, 2005

Calvin on Ephesians 2:8-9 "The Return of Ray"

Pictured Above: C. Gordon Olson's magnum opus that attempts to forge a "middle path" between the Calvinism vs. Arminianism debate. The "middle path" is no short cut. The book spans over 500 pages.


I have previously posted two blogs discussing John Calvin, God’s gift of faith, and Ephesians 2:8-9:

Did Jon Calvin Believe Faith is a Gift given From God?

Everybody Loves Raymond.... But Raymond doesn't like Calvin

In the second link, a mystery man named Ray critiqued my analysis, and I responded accordingly. Well, Ray came back for more, and offered some further comments. My apologies for a longer blog entry. I’m trying to keep them short. I’m fairly convinced very few people read long writings.

Ray’s words will be in black, my words will be in blue (pun intended).

*****************************************************************
Ray Says: “Well, it sounds like we’ve hit a sensitive nerve. Mr. Swan (or is it Dr. Swan?) had a ready answer for my objections to his article.”

Swan replies: It’s not a sensitive nerve; it is simply a response to your comments. It is not “Dr. Swan,” but that title sure does have a nice “ring” to it.

Ray Says: “He suggests that I’m the worst of readers of Calvin since I believe Calvin contradicts himself on important issues. Notice how I was misquoted by Dr. Swan at this point. Hopefully, he wasn’t angry. Since he’s a new creation in Christ and no doubt abiding in Him, he can’t sin according to 1 Jn 3:6. I guess this was a simple oversight.”

Swan replies: I suggested previously you weren’t reading Calvin “carefully”. I also expressed amazement in your inability to understand Calvin in context. I don’t see where I misquoted you. You suggested first: scholars have a hard time with Calvin because he “appears” to contradict himself. Second: you affirmed agreement with a pastor who held Calvin did contradict himself on his comments on Ephesians 2:8-9.

Ray says: “But Dr. Swan brings up a good point. Did Calvin believe that faith is a gift from God or is it as I believe, a response to the offer of a gift by God? Dr. Swan showed examples in Calvin's writings other than Eph 2:8-9 that show Calvin believes faith to be a gift."

Swan replies: Calvin does not agree with you. He clearly held faith was a supernatural gift given by God to spiritually dead sinners. Sinners do not have the ability, according to Calvin, to muster up enough of their own faith to accept an offer of salvation without God first doing something supernatural to their spiritual inability to believe.

Ray says: "But wait a minute! Did Olson or Geisler claim that Calvin didn't believe faith was a gift or is it their claim that Eph 2:8-9 cannot be used as proof texts? I think Dr. Swan is guilty of going beyond what Olson and Geisler have said. Notice Dr. Swan's comment, "Both Geisler and Olson assert that Calvin did not believe faith was the gift of God, and his commentary on Ephesians 2:8-9 proves this." What kind of error would you call this Dr. Swan? Neither Olson nor Geisler ever claim that Calvin didn't believe faith is a gift of God. Did you really read them?"

Swan replies: Ok, I think I figured out what going on here. It appears you’re quoting me from John Mark’s blog. John Mark seems to have edited my words, I had sent him a huge document, and he extracted some sections from it to post on his blog. He posted this snippet:

Both Geisler and Olson assert that Calvin did not believe faith was the gift of God, and his commentary on Ephesians 2:8-9 proves this. Geisler says, “But even John Calvin said of this text that "he does not mean that faith is the gift of God, but that salvation is given to us by God, or, that we obtain it by the gift of God.”<26> Olson comments similarly

Actually what I had originally written was that Olson and Geisler’s position was “similar”:

I once talked with a pastor who dismissed the Calvinist assertion that faith is a gift of God. An important facet of his argument was that even Calvin did not teach this, and his commentary on Ephesians 2:8-9 proves it. Both Geisler and Olson assert a similar position. Geisler says, “But even John Calvin said of this text that "he does not mean that faith is the gift of God, but that salvation is given to us by God, or, that we obtain it by the gift of God.”<26>"

On both John Mark’s blog (and my own) I clarified my position:

Thus, Calvinists cannot be said to be “extreme” for holding that faith is the gift of God. It should be obvious that Geisler and Olson are in error if they are intending to assert that modern day Calvinists have gone beyond Calvin in believing faith to be a gift from God. In fairness, neither of these men explicitly asserts this, but the logical deduction is inherent in their comments, and the pastor I spoke with made the deduction. Neither Olson nor Geisler provide any positive statements like the above quotes. The pastor I spoke to seemed quite confident Calvin never believed faith to be a gift from God. When I brought these other Calvin passages to his attention, he had to agree that Calvin did in fact teach this doctrine. He then simply asserted that Calvin contradicted himself with comments on Ephesians 2:8-9, and this contradiction is a clear example of why Christians should never follow a fallible man.”

Ray says: “What they are claiming is that extreme Calvinists have an arsenal of proof texts to show that faith is the gift of God, and that Eph 2:8-9, as one, doesn't hold water. Olson and Geisler both go on to show that the remaining purported proof texts are equally weak. Indeed, their point is that Extreme Calvinism is an egregious example of a system of theology that is quick to read into texts of scripture what they want to hear rather than what it says. Interestingly, you have helped them prove their point with your examples of misquotes, going beyond what writers have said, misunderstanding what they have said, and then trashing them with flawed deduction and your own eisegesis."

Swan replies: What Olson and Geisler do is attempt to prove John Calvin was not a Calvinist. Norman Geisler calls those who (allegedly) go beyond Calvin “extreme Calvinists,” while mediates who interpret him (allegedly) correctly are “moderate Calvinists”:

An extreme Calvinist is someone who is more Calvinistic than John Calvin (1509 – 1564), the founder of Calvinism. Since it can be argued that John Calvin did not believe in limited atonement…then it would follow that those who do are extreme Calvinists.”

Source: Norman Geisler, Chosen But Free (1st edition) (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1999), 55.

Geisler says also,

At first blush, it may seem absurd to ask whether John Calvin was a Calvinist. But he was not the first in the history of thought to have his views be distorted by his disciples. In fact, many of the great thinkers were misunderstood by their followers.”

Source: Norman Geisler, Chosen But Free (1st edition) (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1999), 155.

The example of Calvin’s comment of Ephesians 2:8-9 is used by both Geisler and Olson. I find it extremely curious that neither Geisler nor Olson point out that Calvin explicitly noted Faith was a gift from God, but rather attempt to perpetuate a disharmony between Calvin and modern-day Calvinists by citing his comments selectively. Secondarily, I think they blew it on interpreting Calvin’s comment in context.

Ray says: "Let's look closer at Dr. Swan's review of my comments to his blog. Even though it's obvious that Calvin believes faith is a gift, he clearly does not believe that Eph 2:8-9 show that it's a gift."

Swan replies: As has been pointed out before, Calvin says that the error is restricting the word “gift” to faith alone.

Ray Says: “Amazingly, given the grammar, Calvin, Olson, Geisler and Ray to the contrary, Dr. Swan believes that Eph 2:8-9 does teach that faith is a gift. Let's look at his quote. He says, “Thus, grace, salvation, and faith are all the “gift of God.” It isn’t simply faith. It is the entire phrase. It is spurious logic to suggest that grace and salvation are gifts, but faith isn’t.”

Swan replies: A rendering of the grammar shows that the entirety of the phrase, “For by grace you have been saved through faith” is what the word “that”(touto) refers to. “touto” is a neuter singular demonstrative pronoun, and a proper exegesis would suggest that one looks for a singular neuter noun before it, but there aren’t any in the first part of the phrase in question. “Grace” is feminine singular; “Have been saved” is a masculine participle; and of course, as we all know, “faith” is feminine singular. In Ephesians 2:8-9, the neuter pronoun serves to wrap up the phrase into a single unity.

Ray Says: “Dr. Swan also says, " Note Calvin’s point: many people “restrict the word gift to faith alone.” But Calvin says that the entirety of salvation is the gift of God: that is, grace, salvation, and faith.." This is amazing. Calvin absolutely does not say that faith is included in the entirety of salvation. You are the only who says that. (Is this not eisegesis?) In fact Calvin goes out of his way to point out that to find faith as a gift in Eph 2:8-9 is an error. If what Dr. Swan says is true then I believe I can rest my case on Calvin being hard to pin down since he clearly contradicts himself. In fact, it's so confusing that even Dr. Swan got it wrong, and even suggests that Calvin is confused since he says one thing (Eph 2:8-9 is not teaching faith to be a gift) and believing another (Swan: "Calvin's point is…." and "Thus, grace, salvation, and faith are all the “gift of God.” It isn’t simply faith. It is the entire phrase. It is spurious logic to suggest that grace and salvation are gifts, but faith isn’t."”

Swan replies: Your comments clearly show your unfamiliarity with the historical/theological context in which Calvin wrote, thus you fall victim to anachronism. Those who restricted the word “gift” to “faith” alone were not extreme Calvinists like James Swan, RC Sproul or James White. They were Roman Catholics. Therefore, your interpretation of Calvin will never make sense, and you will always see a “contradiction”. Answer this question: why would a Roman Catholic want to restrict the word “gift” to “faith” alone? If you can answer this, you will grip Calvin in context.

Ray says: "I think Dr. Swan has been reading too much Calvin, White, and Sproul and not enough Olson and Geisler.”

Swan replies: In a situation like this, in which the question is “what did John Calvin believe?” It’s best to simply read Calvin, and reference multiple authors afterwards.

Ray says: "But let's look at the what Eph 2:8-9 really says . Reading the passage without straining, I would say that the grammar is saying that “salvation” is the gift, not grace, not faith, and its unlikely the whole phrase."

Swan replies: Your heroes say differently. Gordon Olson notes that touto “refers to the whole concept of salvation by grace” (Beyond Calvinism and Arminianism, 221). Norman Geisler says, “…(touto)…refers to the whole process of ‘salvation by grace through faith” (Chosen But Free, 183). I stated a similar position above. Paul is referring to salvation as a whole. Grace most definitely is a gift- it cannot be earned. If it could, it would not be grace. Faith is also a gift, as Philippians 1:29 so plainly teaches, as well as other passages. The entirety of salvation is a gift.

Ray says: "Grace is the means from God’s side (instrumental dative –te chariti), and faith is the meritless mechanism (dia + genitive) by which man appropriates the gift of salvation. (Though meritless we are held accountable for the choice.)"

Swan replies: Interesting choice of words: faith is the “Merit-less mechanism by which man appropriates the gift of salvation.” My Bible states that Jesus is the author and perfecter of faith. He begins it, and He is its goal. This is why it is “merit-less.” This is why it “appropriates the gift of salvation. It is not something that I authored. It has been created by Christ.

Ray says: “That faith is meritless and the means by which anyone can appropriate the gift is well illustrated by John 3:14-15 and the Israelite being immediately healed by simply looking at the brazen serpent. Would anyone consider this “look” a gift? I would say that the healing is the gift? The gift is offered, and the Israelite can either accept it or reject it. The provision of the brazen serpent and all of God’s power to effect the outcome could also be considered the gift, but God does require a volitional response, and that is provided by simply looking.”

Swan replies: John 3:14-15 describes that the crucifixion of Christ would result in the salvation of those who believe. It doesn’t delve into who is able to believe. Earlier, Christ tells Nicodemus that one must be born again to enter the kingdom of God. Look at the passage. No one chooses to be born. You didn’t choose your parents. Christ says, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” “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.”

Ray says: "Bottom line: Olson and Geisler are solid in their exegesis. You Dr. Swan, however,………well the above discussion says it all."

Swan replies: Dr Geisler and Mr. Olson are lacking in historical exegesis. Had they taken the time to read Calvin in context, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

2 comments:

Ray said...

As Mr. Swan has done, I'll do the same, i.e., reply in kind.

*****************************************************************

Ray Says: “Well, it sounds like we’ve hit a sensitive nerve. Mr. Swan (or is it Dr. Swan?) had a ready answer for my objections to his article.”

Swan replies: It’s not a sensitive nerve; it is simply a response to your comments. It is not “Dr. Swan,” but that title sure does have a nice “ring” to it.

Ray Responds: Regarding "Dr. Swan," you have my best wishes in achieving it, assuming that it is a goal. One caution, however; I know very few with the degree who weren't just a little "puffed up" and maybe a little too willing to say something when true wisdom would direct otherwise. If the knowledge is used for noble ends, then it's a good thing.
--------------
Ray Says: “He suggests that I’m the worst of readers of Calvin since I believe Calvin contradicts himself on important issues. Notice how I was misquoted by Dr. Swan at this point. Hopefully, he wasn’t angry. Since he’s a new creation in Christ and no doubt abiding in Him, he can’t sin according to 1 Jn 3:6. I guess this was a simple oversight.”

Swan replies: I suggested previously you weren’t reading Calvin “carefully”. I also expressed amazement in your inability to understand Calvin in context. I don’t see where I misquoted you. You suggested first: scholars have a hard time with Calvin because he “appears” to jI contradict himself. Second: you affirmed agreement with a pastor who held Calvin did contradict himself on his comments on Ephesians 2:8-9.

Ray Responds: Your charge that I as well as Geisler and Olson are not reading Calvin carefully bears some scrutiny. I’ve spend considerable time reading Calvin as you suggested. Clearly, Calvin believes faith to be a gift from God. Your point is well made. However, as I’ve said, and indeed as you’ve also said in your original post (to be fair to both Geisler & Olson that they don’t explicitly say Calvin doesn’t believe faith to be the gift of God) both Geisler and Olson are not challenging this fact. Instead, they are addressing the fact that extreme Calvinists use Eph 2:8-9 (among others) to bolster their case that faith is a gift from God. I think they would have a case were it not for the use of “alone” in the sentence “Many persons restrict the word gift to faith alone.” It’s use, however, links Calvin's comments to his broader views and supports your claim that he is not contradicting himself here, but is rather only addressing an aside that appears to have been a problem in his day (as ours also) that some take “gift” to refer only to faith.

Speaking of asides, I believe my original complaint about Calvin is somewhat justified. Calvin is hard to understand. In my reading, I came across a similar text in his commentary where he makes what seems to be an unqualified statement that faith is not a gift. It is found in his commentary on John 6:29 and is quoted as follows: “Those who infer from this passage that faith is the gift of God are mistaken; for Christ does not now show what God produces in us, but what he wishes and requires from us.”

Regardless of how clear (or unclear) Calvin expresses himself, the point that both Geisler and Olson are trying to make is simply that the inductive evidence to support extreme Calvinist’s view that faith is a gift is wanting. Perhaps you should focus on this broader issue as well, for if you also believe as Calvin and other extreme Calvinists do, I believe you err.

By the way, you did misquote me, but it’s not significant now.
--------------
Ray says: “But Dr. Swan brings up a good point. Did Calvin believe that faith is a gift from God or is it as I believe, a response to the offer of a gift by God? Dr. Swan showed examples in Calvin's writings other than Eph 2:8-9 that show Calvin believes faith to be a gift."

Swan replies: Calvin does not agree with you. He clearly held faith was a supernatural gift given by God to spiritually dead sinners. Sinners do not have the ability, according to Calvin, to muster up enough of their own faith to accept an offer of salvation without God first doing something supernatural to their spiritual inability to believe.

Ray Responds: There's no dispute here. Calvin and I absolutely disagree. I think that, he, you and all those who think faith is a gift are wrong. Scripture simply does not teach it, and all attempts to show the contrary are good examples of eisegesis. This is both Olson's and Geisler's point which apparently you still don't apprehend.
--------------
Ray says: "But wait a minute! Did Olson or Geisler claim that Calvin didn't believe faith was a gift or is it their claim that Eph 2:8-9 cannot be used as proof texts? I think Dr. Swan is guilty of going beyond what Olson and Geisler have said. Notice Dr. Swan's comment, "Both Geisler and Olson assert that Calvin did not believe faith was the gift of God, and his commentary on Ephesians 2:8-9 proves this." What kind of error would you call this Dr. Swan? Neither Olson nor Geisler ever claim that Calvin didn't believe faith is a gift of God. Did you really read them?"

Swan replies: Ok, I think I figured out what going on here. It appears you’re quoting me from John Mark’s blog. John Mark seems to have edited my words, I had sent him a huge document, and he extracted some sections from it to post on his blog.

He posted this snippet:“Both Geisler and Olson assert that Calvin did not believe faith was the gift of God, and his commentary on Ephesians 2:8-9 proves this. Geisler says, “But even John Calvin said of this text that "he does not mean that faith is the gift of God, but that salvation is given to us by God, or, that we obtain it by the gift of God.”<26>

Olson comments similarly”Actually what I had originally written was that Olson and Geisler’s position was “similar”:“I once talked with a pastor who dismissed the Calvinist assertion that faith is a gift of God. An important facet of his argument was that even Calvin did not teach this, and his commentary on Ephesians 2:8-9 proves it. Both Geisler and Olson assert a similar position. Geisler says, “But even John Calvin said of this text that "he does not mean that faith is the gift of God, but that salvation is given to us by God, or, that we obtain it by the gift of God.”<26>"

On both John Mark’s blog (and my own) I clarified my position:“Thus, Calvinists cannot be said to be “extreme” for holding that faith is the gift of God. It should be obvious that Geisler and Olson are in error if they are intending to assert that modern day Calvinists have gone beyond Calvin in believing faith to be a gift from God. In fairness, neither of these men explicitly asserts this, but the logical deduction is inherent in their comments, and the pastor I spoke with made the deduction. Neither Olson nor Geisler provide any positive statements like the above quotes.

The pastor I spoke to seemed quite confident Calvin never believed faith to be a gift from God. When I brought these other Calvin passages to his attention, he had to agree that Calvin did in fact teach this doctrine. He then simply asserted that Calvin contradicted himself with comments on Ephesians 2:8-9, and this contradiction is a clear example of why Christians should never follow a fallible man.”

Ray Responds: You stand clarified.

Your statement, however, that Calvinists cannot be said to be extreme for holding that faith is the gift of God is irrelevant since neither Geisler nor Olson claim that holding that “faith is the gift of God” makes one an extreme Calvinist. Lewis Sperry Chafer held that Eph 2:8 teaches that faith is the gift of God (Systematic Theology, Vol III, pg. 216), and yet he’s far from an extreme Calvinist.
--------------
Ray says: “What they are claiming is that extreme Calvinists have an arsenal of proof texts to show that faith is the gift of God, and that Eph 2:8-9, as one, doesn't hold water. Olson and Geisler both go on to show that the remaining purported proof texts are equally weak. Indeed, their point is that Extreme Calvinism is an egregious example of a system of theology that is quick to read into texts of scripture what they want to hear rather than what it says. Interestingly, you have helped them prove their point with your examples of misquotes, going beyond what writers have said, misunderstanding what they have said, and then trashing them with flawed deduction and your own eisegesis."

Swan replies: What Olson and Geisler do is attempt to prove John Calvin was not a Calvinist. Norman Geisler calls those who (allegedly) go beyond Calvin “extreme Calvinists,” while mediates who interpret him (allegedly) correctly are “moderate Calvinists”:“An extreme Calvinist is someone who is more Calvinistic than John Calvin (1509 – 1564), the founder of Calvinism. Since it can be argued that John Calvin did not believe in limited atonement…then it would follow that those who do are extreme Calvinists.”

Source: Norman Geisler, Chosen But Free (1st edition) (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1999), 55.

Geisler says also,“At first blush, it may seem absurd to ask whether John Calvin was a Calvinist. But he was not the first in the history of thought to have his views be distorted by his disciples. In fact, many of the great thinkers were misunderstood by their followers.”

Source: Norman Geisler, Chosen But Free (1st edition) (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1999), 155.

The example of Calvin’s comment of Ephesians 2:8-9 is used by both Geisler and Olson. I find it extremely curious that neither Geisler nor Olson point out that Calvin explicitly noted Faith was a gift from God, but rather attempt to perpetuate a disharmony between Calvin and modern-day Calvinists by citing his comments selectively. Secondarily, I think they blew it on interpreting Calvin’s comment in context.

Ray Responds: I think you’re side stepping the issue here. In fact, you really haven’t responded to the charges of eisegesis. That’s both Geisler’s and Olson’s point. When
Geisler defines extreme Calvinism, he rests the biggest part of his case on “Limited Atonement,” not whether faith is a gift or not although they are related. Since Calvin did not embrace “limited atonement,” Geisler makes the case that Calvin is not a Dortian Calvinist, and I think he makes a good case. Look at the inductive data he provides. Notice how Geisler even enlists the support of John Owen (Chosen But Free, 2nd Edition, pg. 164) in Owen's comments on Heb 9:28.
--------------
Ray says: "Let's look closer at Dr. Swan's review of my comments to his blog. Even though it's obvious that Calvin believes faith is a gift, he clearly does not believe that Eph 2:8-9 show that it's a gift."

Swan replies: As has been pointed out before, Calvin says that the error is restricting the word “gift” to faith alone.

Ray Responds: You are right! No dispute.
--------------
Ray Says: “Amazingly, given the grammar, Calvin, Olson, Geisler and Ray to the contrary, Dr. Swan believes that Eph 2:8-9 does teach that faith is a gift. Let's look at his quote. He says, “Thus, grace, salvation, and faith are all the “gift of God.” It isn’t simply faith. It is the entire phrase. It is spurious logic to suggest that grace and salvation are gifts, but faith isn’t.”

Swan replies: A rendering of the grammar shows that the entirety of the phrase, “For by grace you have been saved through faith” is what the word “that”(touto) refers to. “touto” is a neuter singular demonstrative pronoun, and a proper exegesis would suggest that one looks for a singular neuter noun before it, but there aren’t any in the first part of the phrase in question. “Grace” is feminine singular; “Have been saved” is a masculine participle; and of course, as we all know, “faith” is feminine singular. In Ephesians 2:8-9, the neuter pronoun serves to wrap up the phrase into a single unity.

Ray Responds: I believe the referent is “salvation,” not the whole phrase. It's unlikely we'll ever get a final authoritative answer on it this side of heaven. Interesting, that A. T. Robertson agrees with me. To me the fact that the perfect periphrastic is used is not insignificant. Regardless, this issue is no longer disputed. The grammar unquestionably supports my conclusion. It's support for your position is not as strong, but can't be ruled out. However, I would suggest that to say "that" refers to all that goes into this salvation is theological, not grammatical which makes it vulnerable to eisegesis.
--------------
Ray Says: “Dr. Swan also says, " Note Calvin’s point: many people “restrict the word gift to faith alone.” But Calvin says that the entirety of salvation is the gift of God: that is, grace, salvation, and faith.." This is amazing. Calvin absolutely does not say that faith is included in the entirety of salvation. You are the only who says that. (Is this not eisegesis?) In fact Calvin goes out of his way to point out that to find faith as a gift in Eph 2:8-9 is an error. If what Dr. Swan says is true then I believe I can rest my case on Calvin being hard to pin down since he clearly contradicts himself. In fact, it's so confusing that even Dr. Swan got it wrong, and even suggests that Calvin is confused since he says one thing (Eph 2:8-9 is not teaching faith to be a gift) and believing another (Swan: "Calvin's point is…." and "Thus, grace, salvation, and faith are all the “gift of God.” It isn’t simply faith. It is the entire phrase. It is spurious logic to suggest that grace and salvation are gifts, but faith isn’t."”

Swan replies: Your comments clearly show your unfamiliarity with the historical/theological context in which Calvin wrote, thus you fall victim to anachronism. Those who restricted the word “gift” to “faith” alone were not extreme Calvinists like James Swan, RC Sproul or James White. They were Roman Catholics. Therefore, your interpretation of Calvin will never make sense, and you will always see a “contradiction”. Answer this question: why would a Roman Catholic want to restrict the word “gift” to “faith” alone? If you can answer this, you will grip Calvin in context.

Ray Responds: Again, I accept your position. The comment on understanding Calvin’s response to the Roman Catholics is helpful. Thanks. But I disagree with what you call spurious logic. At this point you’re interpreting Calvin, not Eph 2:8-9. To me, the grammar is the only issue. That keeps me from becoming an eisegete.
--------------
Ray says: "I think Dr. Swan has been reading too much Calvin, White, and Sproul and not enough Olson and Geisler.”

Swan replies: In a situation like this, in which the question is “what did John Calvin believe?” It’s best to simply read Calvin, and reference multiple authors afterwards.

Ray Responds: You’re right. I did. It worked.
--------------
Ray says: "But let's look at the what Eph 2:8-9 really says . Reading the passage without straining, I would say that the grammar is saying that “salvation” is the gift, not grace, not faith, and its unlikely the whole phrase."

Swan replies: Your heroes say differently. Gordon Olson notes that touto “refers to the whole concept of salvation by grace” (Beyond Calvinism and Arminianism, 221). Norman Geisler says, “…(touto)…refers to the whole process of ‘salvation by grace through faith” (Chosen But Free, 183). I stated a similar position above. Paul is referring to salvation as a whole. Grace most definitely is a gift- it cannot be earned. If it could, it would not be grace. Faith is also a gift, as Philippians 1:29 so plainly teaches, as well as other passages. The entirety of salvation is a gift.

Ray Responds: We addressed this above. I think you, Calvin and other extreme Calvinists are eisegeting, and Geisler and Olson have given you lots of inductive data to consider. You should read them carefully. This issue is not insignificant. I read Calvin (painful!).
--------------
Ray says: "Grace is the means from God’s side (instrumental dative –te chariti), and faith is the meritless mechanism (dia + genitive) by which man appropriates the gift of salvation. (Though meritless we are held accountable for the choice.)"

Swan replies: Interesting choice of words: faith is the “Merit-less mechanism by which man appropriates the gift of salvation.” My Bible states that Jesus is the author and perfecter of faith. He begins it, and He is its goal. This is why it is “merit-less.” This is why it “appropriates the gift of salvation. It is not something that I authored. It has been created by Christ.

Ray Responds: Yes, but to receive a gift requires a response from the recipient. And if the recipient is other than an automaton, it is meaningful. Otherwise, the only thing God demonstrates with mankind is his omniscience. There’s much more to God than that.
--------------
Ray says: “That faith is meritless and the means by which anyone can appropriate the gift is well illustrated by John 3:14-15 and the Israelite being immediately healed by simply looking at the brazen serpent. Would anyone consider this “look” a gift? I would say that the healing is the gift? The gift is offered, and the Israelite can either accept it or reject it. The provision of the brazen serpent and all of God’s power to effect the outcome could also be considered the gift, but God does require a volitional response, and that is provided by simply looking.”

Swan replies: John 3:14-15 describes that the crucifixion of Christ would result in the salvation of those who believe. It doesn’t delve into who is able to believe. Earlier, Christ tells Nicodemus that one must be born again to enter the kingdom of God. Look at the passage. No one chooses to be born. You didn’t choose your parents. Christ says, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” “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.”

Ray Responds: All I can say is that if that’s all you see in this passage, then you are to be pitied. God’s majesty, grace, and the gospel could not be better illustrated. Sadly, not many will see it.
--------------
Ray says: "Bottom line: Olson and Geisler are solid in their exegesis. You Dr. Swan, however,………well the above discussion says it all."

Swan replies: Dr Geisler and Mr. Olson are lacking in historical exegesis. Had they taken the time to read Calvin in context, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

Ray Responds: I think you got ‘em on a minor point. However, don’t miss the forest for this little twig.

johnMark said...

Jim,
I didn't alter your paper. At least, not on purpose. I will have to go back and look to see what I have. I'm sorry if something got messed up in the copy & paste. Maybe I have an older version of the paper?

Anyways, I just wanted to let you know that I didn't purposely alter anything. I have been away for about a week getting the family all moved in.

Blessings,
Mark