Dedicated to the devotional, exegetical and philosophical study of theological paradox in Conservative, Thoroughly Biblical, Historically Orthodox, Essentially Reformed theology . . . to the glory of God alone!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Discussion of the Ordo Salutis

In case anyone is interested, I am having an interesting conversation with some Arminian brothers here:

Pretty interesting stuff.

Here is my attempt to describe a Biblical Ordo Salutis:

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Response to Leighton Flowers: What is the "Dead" State of Fallen Man?

Perhaps, dear reader, you are aware of the criticisms of Calvinism recently put forth by Leighton Flowers, a Southern Baptist preacher, professor and Youth Evangelism Director for the Texas Baptists. Flowers is a prolific podcaster and blogger who presents a distinctively Baptist approach to non-Calvinism. I have listened to nearly every podcast he has released, and have briefly interacted with him on the "About" page of his blog site, In what would seem to be an amazingly courageous move, Flowers has also debated the formidable High Calvinist heavyweight, James White. Unfortunately, this was an epic exercise in missing the point, and I found both of their debate presentations and post-debate follow up responses equally disappointing.

This photo was Leighton's humorous take on
his recent debate with James White
See the debate here:

There are a lot of good things to say about Leighton Flowers, so let's start there:
  • He is respectful in his manner of dialogue with opponents
  • He conducts himself with humility
  • He generally speaks positively of Calvinists and accepts them as brothers
  • He articulates a clear theology of salvation from a "traditionalist" (i.e., non-Calvinistic) Baptist perspective
  • He serves as a ministry leader, and is not just a "talking head" with opinions
  • He has a sense of humor (a characteristic that is woefully lacking in so many Calvinist/Arminian dialogues on the internet)
There are some notes of concern as well, and at least one of them is genuinely alarming:
  • He doesn't always have his facts straight (as an example, in one of his podcasts he mentions D.A. Carson as an example of a non-Calvinist scholar - Huh???)
  • He frequently overstates the persuading power of his views, which have not actually proven persuasive to thoughtful, Biblically grounded Calvinists
  • He often presses illustrations to logical extremes that amount to "straw man" arguments
  • He sometimes ignores critical distinctions that are consistently drawn by mainstream Calvinists
  • In contradiction to his typically respectful comments about Calvinists, he has actually said more than once that he believes this passage might refer to them:
    • And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. (2 Peter 3:15-16)
We can only assume that Flowers has not thought through the implications of that last point, which are quite inflammatory. Viewed charitably, the statement is a bit out of character, though nonetheless troubling. All in all, Leighton is far friendlier toward Calvinists than many others who engage in this type of debate.


Let's take a brief look at an issue Leighton Flowers has often mentioned in his polemic against Calvinism. According to Flowers, Calvinists routinely compare man's "dead" state to that of Lazarus in the tomb, while he prefers to relate it to the state of the prodigal son in Luke 15. The prodigal son was only figuratively dead, right? He still had the natural ability to return to his father, right? So, perhaps fallen man is just "mostly dead":

Leighton's view ignores both the context and the content of Ephesians 2:1-3, which states:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Agreeing with Leighton, the clear implication of this text is not that fallen man is incapable of doing anything. However, it is actually much worse than that. According to this text, fallen man is incapable of doing anything that is not sinful. Humanity's "dead" acts are trespasses against God's law and are worldly, demonic, disobedient, fleshly and lust-driven. Believing in Christ for salvation does not seem to fit with this set of "dead" capabilities that remain in fallen human beings.

Much more telling, and far more detrimental to Leighton's position, is the obvious context of Ephesians 2. See Ephesians 1:19-20, which comes just a few verses prior:
... and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places ...
Without question, the flow of the text shows us that Paul is linking the believers' dead state prior to salvation with Jesus' dead state prior to his resurrection. Was Jesus "mostly dead" in the tomb, or was He "all the way dead"? Does Jesus' death and burial more closely resemble that of Lazarus, or that of the prodigal son?

This context-based exegesis stands like a sumo wrestler in opposition to a weak speculation that draws all of its force from the misapplication of an unrelated passage.

Reminding us of the three most important rules for proper Biblical interpretation: context, context, and context.

The whole Bible, taken in context, will always lead us inexorably to something along the lines of Calvinism. An army of critics will never change this, though they may push back with all their might.