Friday, December 23, 2005

Everybody Loves Raymond...but "Raymond doesn't like Calvin"

As a follow-up to my last post about Calvin and the gift of faith, I’d like to respond to some comments directed towards me in the “comments section” on my friend John Mark’s blog found here.

To quickly summarize, John Calvin has been in the theological laboratories of some recent anti-Calvinist authors. After twisting, turning, and poking at Calvin’s writings, they’ve reinvented John Calvin to be a non-Calvinist.

For those of you who want to play along at home, one of the arguments against Calvinists and John Calvin goes like this:

1. Calvinists believe faith is a gift from God, given only to specific people.

2. Some Calvinists appeal to Ephesians 2:8-9 as proof that faith is a gift from God.

3. John Calvin did not believe Ephesians 2:8-9 teaches faith to be a gift from God.

4. Therefore, those Calvinists who do believe Ephesians 2:8-9 teach faith is a gift from God perpetuate an extreme form of Calvinism, one that John Calvin himself would not affirm.

A "mystery guy" by the name of Ray stopped by John Mark’s blog and took some shots at me. He was determined to defend the work coming out of the anti-Calvinist theological laboratories. Particularly, he was intent on the notion that Calvin contradicted himself on his comments on Ephesians 2:8-9.

Since this post is a bit of a brawl, Ray’s words will be in black; my words will be in blue.
****************************************************************

Ray says: “This was an interesting article and shows what many who've tried to get a fix on John Calvin's beliefs on a subject have found, viz., that Calvin is hard to pin down since he appears to contradict himself on important issues.”

Swan replies: I’m curious to who the “many” are you’re referring to. Which many conclude, “Calvin contradicts himself”? I've read dozens of books discussing Calvin. Only the worst of them say silly things like "John Calvin contradicted himself on his comments on Ephesians 2:8-9."

Ray says: “Swan's pastor is correct when he said, ‘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.’ Clearly a wise pastor.”

Swan replies: First of all, this pastor was not my pastor. Secondly, Reformed people do not “follow a fallible man.” They follow Christ. Thirdly, you have not demonstrated a contradiction in Calvin’s writings, but only asserted it. Nor have you demonstrated the error of my analysis of Calvin. For Calvin’s complete commentary on Ephesians see: Calvin's Ephesians Commentary. Here is the relevant section from Calvin:

“Ought we not then to be silent about free-will, and good intentions, and fancied preparations, and merits, and satisfactions? There is none of these which does not claim a share of praise in the salvation of men; so that the praise of grace would not, as Paul shews, remain undiminished. When, on the part of man, the act of receiving salvation is made to consist in faith alone, all other means, on which men are accustomed to rely, are discarded. Faith, then, brings a man empty to God, that he may be filled with the blessings of Christ. And so he adds, not of yourselves; that claiming nothing for themselves, they may acknowledge God alone as the author of their salvation.... This passage affords an easy refutation of the idle cavil by which Papists attempt to evade the argument, that we are justified without works. Paul, they tell us, is speaking about ceremonies. But the present question is not confined to one class of works. Nothing can be more clear than this. The whole righteousness of man, which consists in works, — nay, the whole man, and everything that he can call his own, is set aside. We must attend to the contrast between God and Man, between grace and works. Why should God be contrasted with man, if the controversy related to nothing more than ceremonies? Papists themselves are compelled to own that Paul ascribes to the grace of God the whole glory of our salvation, but endeavor to do away with this admission by another contrivance. This mode of expression, they tell us, is employed, because God bestows the first grace. It is really foolish to imagine that they can succeed in this way, since Paul excludes man and his utmost ability,—not only from the commencement, but throughout,—from the whole work of obtaining salvation. But it is still more absurd to overlook the apostle's inference, lest any man should boast. Some room must always remain for man's boasting, so long as, independently of grace, merits are of any avail. Paul's doctrine is overthrown, unless the whole praise is rendered to God alone and to his mercy. And here we must advert to a very common error in the interpretation of this passage. Many persons restrict the word gift to faith alone. But Paul is only repeating in other words the former sentiment. His meaning is, not 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.”

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.

Ray says: “This brings me to my point. Since it's clear that basing one's argument on Calvin is risky, why doesn't Swan go to the heart of the argument, i.e., the grammar of Eph 2:8-9. This passage teaches clearly that salvation and not faith is the referent to gift.”

Swan replies: You’ve misunderstood the nature of my statements. I have never argued, “Faith is a gift from God because Calvin says so”. Rather, the nature of my comments are historical, and are intended to disprove the historical analysis of Dr. Geisler and Mr. Olson. The grammar shows that the phrase “for it is by grace you have been saved through faith” is what the word “that” refers to. 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.

Ray Says: “Swan appears to ignore this important, even crux argument. Instead, he goes back to quoting Calvin to support the fact that Calvin didn't really mean what Calvin said directly in addressing this very same grammatical point. Amazing!”

Swan replies: No, what I did was show that Calvin consistently believed faith was a gift, and then I offered some minor explanations about the immediate context of Calvin’s comments. Simply, Calvin’s words are not that difficult to understand here if one simply reads them in context. Geisler, Olson, and Ray come to inaccurate conclusions because you’re not reading carefully.

Ray says: “Swan apparently didn't take to heart the wise counsel of his pastor.”

Swan replies: This man was not “Swan’s pastor.” Swan’s Pastors would never make such silly arguments. They know how to read books and understand contexts correctly.

Ray says: “In reading Olson, I was very impressed with his strategy that shows Calvinism to be a deductive theology.”

Swan replies: I was not impressed with Gordon Olson’s book. Quite frankly, the book is an awkward read and in need of severe editing. He basically regurgitates the anti-reformed arguments of Geisler and Laurence Vance. He sets up a false caricature. Calvinists (as well as non-Calvinists) use both inductive and deductive reasoning. We do so because we are human, and God's truth is consistent and knowable.

Ray Says: “Interestingly, one doesn't have to look far to find an illustrative example. Swan provides just that when he quotes White's comments on Calvin's response to Rome's claims in the Potter's Freedom: "nay, the whole man, and everything that he can call his own, is set aside. We must attend to the contrast between God and Man, between grace and works;" and "since Paul excludes man and his utmost ability, - not only from the commencement, but throughout, -” from the whole work of obtaining salvation." We suggest that the person who honestly wishes to know where Calvin would stand on the debate today would find these to be the key affirmations, for if Geisler's position is correct, and "anyone can believe," then Calvin's entire position is overthrown. WOULD NOT SUCH A FAITH BE SOMETHING THE MAN COULD "CALL HIS OWN"? CALVIN SAYS IT IS SET ASIDE. WOULD THIS NOT BE PART OF MAN'S "UTMOST ABILITY" ESPECIALLY AT THE VERY "COMMENCEMENT" OF SALVATION"? Paul excludes it from the whole work of obtaining salvation, Calvin teaches.” (Emphasis mine) Notice that White is going way beyond what Calvin SAYS, and telling us what he believes (based on White's Reformed Theology) Calvin MEANT. White hangs his hat on it. If this is not deductive theology, I don't know what else it is.

Swan replies: Ray, I suggest you put Dr. Olson’s book away because it seems to be confusing you. What James White pointed out was simply what any good Calvin scholar would point out: John Calvin believed in the bondage of the will, consistently throughout his writings. You seem to want to imply that John Calvin forgot about the bondage of the will when he wrote his Ephesians commentary. All of sudden, Calvin believed in free will. This is simply ludicrous. Go back and re-read Calvin. Read the entire commentary on Ephesians. If you want to argue that Calvin “contradicts himself”- do so by reading Calvin, not Gordon Olson or Norman Geisler.

Ray says: In fact, I'm always struck by the consistency of Reformed writers in reading their theology into text of scripture. If there were ever a hallmark of a false religion, deductive reasoning is it. I'm also equally struck by the Reformed writer's inability to see it. If you post any additional argument in the future, I would ask that you pay particular attention to tracing your argument from its inductive roots. If you don't I will and will certainly call you on it. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." Or is it? "Be saved, and thou shalt believe." Ray --

Swan replies: I’m always struck by the inability of people to understand simple material in context. You’ve demonstrated this repeatedly, both in your understanding of Calvin and of my comments. During the next few months on this blog, I will take a closer look at Olson’s attack of “deductive reasoning” (I find it funny that Olson’s book argues using deductive reasoning at points).

22 comments:

Ellen said...

I keep going back to "Paedofaith" - it has so much to say.

Is faith a gift? If not, how do you get it? Is there an element of having to reason your way into it?

How old do you have to be before you can reason your way into faith?

Matthew 18: 5"And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. 6But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

How little was this child? Verse 2 says "little".

Matthew 21:15-16
But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, "Hosanna to the Son of David," they were indignant.

"Do you hear what these children are saying?" they asked him.
"Yes," replied Jesus, "have you never read,
" 'From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise'?"

Jesus had an audience when he cleared the temple, and it was the little ones.

Can unbelievers praise God?

If infants can praise God, are they believers?

If so, how do they get the faith to believe, if it is not a gift?

FM483 said...

In other passages, like Mark 10:14, Jesus says, "Let the little children come to me...". The Greek word for children in this text is "paidia", which means babes in arms. This must refer to baptism, since there is no other Scriptural way for babies to "come to him".

Ellen said...

This must refer to baptism, since there is no other Scriptural way for babies to "come to him".

The passage is pretty clear that the physical bodies of the children were being scolded by the disciples for trying to physically touch Christ. Jesus took them in His arms - that's physically.

Why "must" this refer to baptism?

James Swan said...

Hi ellen,

I will try to address some of the issues you've raised. Thanks again for stopping by.

James

FM483 said...

Ellen posed the question about passages like Mark 10:14 and why it would be referring to Baptism. My response is - how else does the Scripture clearly spell out how Christ comes to babes in arm? There are so many references to Baptism in the New Testament that this is clearly the intended meaning. Scripture verses such as "Baptism saves" and "the washing of regeneration" and "Go and Baptize...". It boils down to whether you believe God is active in Baptism or whether it is a legal ordinance performed by man.

Ellen said...

If Baptism saves, in the always literal way - we are left with three choices.

Every infant that is baptized is saved forever

or

The faith that that accompanies baptism/salvation may not be a persevering faith

or

Salvation comes by something other than faith.

FM483 said...

Ellen - think about your last post. If salvation is a GIFT - as Scripture says (e.g. Eph 2:8ff), and believers are ADOPTED children of God, and believers never merited ADOPTION, salvation cannot depend upon a person. Otherwise, Grace is not Grace, but is of works. The natural man always thinks in terms of earning something. That is the Law written on the heart of all men. the Gospel is totally alien to creation. which is why you and I are even having this discussion. Salvation by Grace through Faith is simply too good to be true to man.

Ellen said...

Look at my choices - my question does not center around grace through faith, it centers around the "work" that baptism does.

If baptism is what saves, then I listed my 3 choices.

Follow me...

Baptism saves
- a baby is baptized - they are saved

and yet we know that not all baptized babies are saved...

- Does this mean that the baptism was not effective (but baptism saves)
- Does it mean that the grace that saves through faith is not a persevering faith (or grace)?
- Does it mean (if we belive in the perseverence of the saints) and (if baptism saves) that if baptism saves us, then it is not grace through faith.

I grew up Arminian and (while I agree with infant baptism) I don't have my mind quite wrapped around what that baptism does.

The quandry I've listed above shows that.

In a nutshell, if baptism saves and you cannot lose salvation, then why do some baptized infants grow up to fall away?

If it is baptism that saves and we baptize babies, where does faith fit in?

FM483 said...

Ellen - I think I understand your question. The Lutheran Confessions state that there are certain Means God has chosen by which to bring the salvation won by Christ to men: the preached Word, Baptism, and the Lord's Supper. Lutherans believe that man PASSIVELY receives the righteousness of Christ with absolutely no contribution on his part. Concerning "free will", Lutherans, along with Calvinists, believe man is born in bondage to sin and is spiritually DEAD. Man, by himself, cannot come to God - instead it is God the Good Shepherd Who comes to him. All men in a sense have "free will" but not "free choice". Hence, the natural man in the temporal realm can choose wife and career, etc... but cannot choose anything spiritually right. Natural man is in absolute bondage to sin and death and merely chooses one sin or the other. All men continually are in this position outside of Christ. Hence, baptised babies can reject their salvation later in life. Hence all the Scriptural warnings of remaining in the Word and fixing our eyes upon Jesus - the author and perfecter of our faith.

FM483 said...

Ellen - I think I understand your question. The Lutheran Confessions state that there are certain Means God has chosen by which to bring the salvation won by Christ to men: the preached Word, Baptism, and the Lord's Supper. Lutherans believe that man PASSIVELY receives the righteousness of Christ with absolutely no contribution on his part. Concerning "free will", Lutherans, along with Calvinists, believe man is born in bondage to sin and is spiritually DEAD. Man, by himself, cannot come to God - instead it is God the Good Shepherd Who comes to him. All men in a sense have "free will" but not "free choice". Hence, the natural man in the temporal realm can choose wife and career, etc... but cannot choose anything spiritually right. Natural man is in absolute bondage to sin and death and merely chooses one sin or the other. All men continually are in this position outside of Christ. Hence, baptised babies can reject their salvation later in life. Hence all the Scriptural warnings of remaining in the Word and fixing our eyes upon Jesus - the author and perfecter of our faith.

Ellen said...

So then, Lutherans cannot claim perseverence of the saints?

FM483 said...

Ellen - You asked whether Lutherans believe in the "perseverance of the saints". If by that term you mean "once saved always saved", then the answer is that Lutherans do not believe this. Because the Scriptures are continually warning believers to remain firm in the Word, the devil is a roaring lion seeking to devour, etc.... Lutherans believe that nothing can steal believers from the Hand of God, but believers are simultaneously saints and sinners. Therefore, sinners continue to sin and can always reject the Grace of God. By their own will a person cannot seek God and does not do this. The Holy Spirit comes to mankind through the Word and in the sacraments and through the gift of faith men passively receive the blessings of God in Christ: the forgiveness of sins and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. However, since believers have not yet been resurrected, their Old Adam continues to tear them down, the Law always accusing, and the Holy Spirit redirecting them to the cross. This is the life-long cycle of repentance. As a believer, I am both saint and sinner. As a sinner I always sin. I can reject God and His gifts but cannot of my own will desire them. This desire is strictly the work of the Grace of God.

Ellen said...

The Holy Spirit comes to mankind through the Word and in the sacraments and through the gift of faith men passively receive the blessings of God in Christ: the forgiveness of sins and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

So then it would appear that before salvation, we do not have free will, but afterward, we do.

If faith is a gift of God and there is nothing that we can do to get it on our own, that is not free will.

If there is something that we can choose to do after we're saved to lose our salvation, that is free will.

What am I missing?

Scott said...

By the Power of the Holy Spirit I am able to remain in Christ. In Christ I have freedom. In myself I am in bondage to sin. Sans the Holy Spirit I am in despair and I do not choose God because it is not in me to do so. The Holy Spirit comes to me by hearing the word of God and in that hearing the Holy Spirit works to lead me to Christ who is my salvation.

FM483 said...

Ellen - I think you are close to understanding the point of the Lutheran (and scriptural) position on "free will". Unconverted, natural man does not have "free will" with respect to spiritual matters. he does have "free will" with respect to temporal issues. That is how the world functions, being dominated mostly by unbelievers! However, once the Holy Spirit comes to man through the Word and sacraments, then a New Creation is brought to life inside that man: he is both saint(New Creation) and sinner(Old Adam). This dualistic nature is described by the struggle of the apostle Paul in Romans chapter 7. The New Creation always does the will of God and delights in His ways. The Old Adam cannot please God and continually sins. Without faith in Christ there is nothing that pleases God(Hebrews 11:6). The only works pleasing to God are referred to as Fruits Of The Holy Spirit (Galatians chapter 5) and these are done automatically by the New Creation inside believers. One cannot produce these by an act of their human will - every outward "good deed" is always a mixture of motives and hence is sinful, even though your neighbor may be aided by them. So, believers are the only people who have any "free will" or better put, "free choice". Unbelievers can only continue to sin, even if their deeds benefit their neighbor, since their motives are always absent faith in Christ. Hence, you often see Scripture stating facts about Christians and their love for others, particularly their fellow believers. These are DESCRIPTIONS of the New Creation, not PRESCRIPTIONS of how a man becomes a New Creation. Only believers grafted into the True Vine, Christ Himself(John chp 15) can produce good fruit - because a good tree does so automatically. He is the Vine - believers are the branches. Without Him we can do NOTHING.(John chpt 15).

FM483 said...

Ellen - I think you are close to understanding the point of the Lutheran (and scriptural) position on "free will". Unconverted, natural man does not have "free will" with respect to spiritual matters. he does have "free will" with respect to temporal issues. That is how the world functions, being dominated mostly by unbelievers! However, once the Holy Spirit comes to man through the Word and sacraments, then a New Creation is brought to life inside that man: he is both saint(New Creation) and sinner(Old Adam). This dualistic nature is described by the struggle of the apostle Paul in Romans chapter 7. The New Creation always does the will of God and delights in His ways. The Old Adam cannot please God and continually sins. Without faith in Christ there is nothing that pleases God(Hebrews 11:6). The only works pleasing to God are referred to as Fruits Of The Holy Spirit (Galatians chapter 5) and these are done automatically by the New Creation inside believers. One cannot produce these by an act of their human will - every outward "good deed" is always a mixture of motives and hence is sinful, even though your neighbor may be aided by them. So, believers are the only people who have any "free will" or better put, "free choice". Unbelievers can only continue to sin, even if their deeds benefit their neighbor, since their motives are always absent faith in Christ. Hence, you often see Scripture stating facts about Christians and their love for others, particularly their fellow believers. These are DESCRIPTIONS of the New Creation, not PRESCRIPTIONS of how a man becomes a New Creation. Only believers grafted into the True Vine, Christ Himself(John chp 15) can produce good fruit - because a good tree does so automatically. He is the Vine - believers are the branches. Without Him we can do NOTHING.(John chpt 15).

Ray said...

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. 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.

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. 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? 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.

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

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. 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.) 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.

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

FM483 said...

Ephes. 2:8-9
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, [9] not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Reading these two verses together, the point being made is your salvation is a result of the Grace of God, the vehicle being Faith, and it has absolutely nothing to do with any will or work of man. Otherwise it is not Grace (the unmerited, undeserved, and un-asked for kindness of God on account of Christ). Unless you define Grace differently. The Scriptures repeatedly testify to God as the Initiator and the One Who completes our Faith:
Hebrews 12:2
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Believers were created by the will of God, not man:

John 1:13
who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Ray said...

For FM483 -

Notice how you're adding things that aren't in the text of scripture, viz., ...nothing to do with the WILL or work of man. "Will is not in the text." You have added it because you believe it fits your theological grid. That's called deductive theology. Why do you Reformed folks limit God's creativity by saying he can't self limit his sovereignty to allow man some free choices?

Adding things to God's Word is dangerous (See Gal 1:6-9) to your health.

FM483 said...

Ray - If I am adding to the Word of God, why do all these fine translations state otherwise? By the way, I am not Reformed. I am a Lutheran.

John 1:13
who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (English Standard Version)


John 1:13
Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (King James Version)


John 1:13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (New American Standard Version)

Ray said...

FM,

If you haven't read Olson (Beyond Calvinism & Arminianism), I'd recommend it. He addresses this passage in particular on pgs. 214-215. It's a good example of where inductive study begins, i.e., getting your theology from the Bible instead of Reformed tradition.

If you read Olson's analysis, you'll see that vs. 13 can't be interpreted without the context from vs. 12 where there's a clear sequence of (1) receiving, (2) being given the right (exousia), and (3) to become the children of God. Verse 13 interpreted in this context shows that the phrase regarding being born of God refers to the act of becoming the children of God (based on being given the authority (right)) which is conditioned on believing. Verse 12 clearly shows that those who were given the authority to become children of God are those who have believed. There's nothing in verse 12 or 13 that demands the phrase attributing those born of God to the act of believing. It's important that you see this. Here is a good example of where Reformed scholars distort God's Word to support their theology.

By the way, both Olson and Geisler don't hang there hat on any one verse, but show that none of the so called proof texts offered by the Reformed folks teach that faith is a gift or that God causes men to believe. Instead, God offers men objective facts so they have an opportunity to believe, and they are held accountable if they choose not to believe. If you read the book of John which uses "believe" 98 times, you'll see what I mean. Have you ever though about how God can hold someone accountable to believe if they can't believe because God himself did not give them the ability?

You owe it to yourself (and others you'll communicate with in the future) to get this right. Look at both sides and you'll see how badly the Reformed writers twist this verse and others to arrive at their nonsense conclusions.

FM483 said...

After reading your post, I reread the John's gospel. You referred me back to John 1:12. I refer you back to verse 11, whuich says that "His own did not receive Him". You see, faith is a gift from God to all men. John 3:16 says this also. Why some "receive" into their hearts the gospel message and are saved and others not is a mystery. The Scriptures tell us that some people receive the message in faith, but most do not. Man's sin prevents him from believing. He has a darkened mind and his will is in bondage to Satan. The Scriptures clearly say that man prior to conversion is DEAD spiritually. Man requires death and resurrection. This happens at Baptism. It is the Lazarus situation for each and every man, where the Word of God creates an entirely New Creation inside believers. The Scriptures tell us God wishes all men to be saved, yet most will not receive the gift of faith. Hence, the laments of Christ over Jerusalem(Matthew 23:37) and other clear verses stating how stubborn and stiff-necked people can be. Why do some believe and others do not? The Scriptures do not clearly tell us why, but rather state the fact that receiving the gift of faith by Grace, a man grasps salvation in Christ. He becomes a New Creation. Everything done to man prior to and after conversion is the work of God. Man passively receives. This is Grace.