Question: Hi Dr. Bob, I appreciate your honesty and heart attitude. Calvin was indeed used of the Lord, but surely wasn't perfect, and also a man of his time. I too don't think there is a case for perseverance to those who for extended time are in sin. Perhaps I should have asked my question on Calvin more carefully. In Ephesians 2:8-9, do you think "faith" is a gift of God? I have heard / read some argue yes, some no, some seem to say yes, but only because *all* salvation is a gift, so that would include faith. I guess what I am asking too, is do you feel faith comes before regeneration, or faith is a result of regeneration? What do you think are the most compelling arguments for either answer? I really respect your opinion – do you still get involved with languages of the Scriptures? Your website mentions your expertise in O.T. area. Is Greek N.T. much the same? Thanks! And God Bless
Response: To take your second question first, yes, I spend a good deal of time every day in Greek. My Classics research is centered almost exclusively in Greek (historiography mainly - much Thucydides) and, of course, my Bible studies are based upon original exegesis of the NT. I got into Classics (and Greek) for the sake of the New Testament. As to your question about faith, the "it" of Ephesians 2:8 is the fact and process of salvation, not faith per se. Clearly everything we have and everything we are is a gift of God, but the problem with misreading this verse is that it suggests that believers and unbelievers have nothing whatsoever to do with their own status; that God has predetermined them for heaven or hell irrespective of any free will choice they might make in time - and that is most certainly not the case: Christ died for all so that all might be saved. The reason many are not saved is a result of their own decision not to accept Him.
I think the chicken-egg question of faith-regeneration has a lot to do with over-theologizing the NT. It seems clear to me that anyone reading/hearing the gospel as it is presented in the Bible would come to the conclusion that he/she is being asked to put faith in Jesus Christ, that is, give firm allegiance to Him as Savior and follow Him faithfully in this life. This is certainly an act of choice, choice which must be from faith not undisputed knowledge because we can't see it all with irrefutable clarity now (otherwise it wouldn't be much of a choice from a moral point of view). Certainly, we get this free will, we get this ability to choose, we get this ability to exercise faith, from God, who is our Creator, and from whom we have received everything we have. But I do believe it is a choice (everybody has the ability; not everybody exercises it). God knew about it; God planned it; God wrote it in His book (His decrees); God gave us everything we needed to make it (including the faith-ability to believe); but He still lets us make the choice - or not. Most people in the history of the world, to my own personal chagrin and astonishment, are very happy to do without Him, thank you very much, even though the issue of death and eternity stares us all square in the face sooner or later. So I guess the round-about answer to your question is that I don't necessarily see it in these traditional terms one way or the other.
For a more on these matters, please see the following links:
Choosing Hell: Questions about Salvation and the Love of God.
God's Free Gift of Salvation.
Free-Will Faith and the Will of God
Faith: What is it?
Free-Will Faith in the Plan of God.
The Plan of God and Individual Salvation.
The Plan of God
Hope this is of some help to you - best wishes in your searching!,
Yours in Christ,