Hi Averagefellar. You said, “In the thread started by KoreaHog, I have returned, the belief that at some point all people come to a neutral position during their life was put forth.”

I didn’t say, “All people come to a neutral position during their life.” I think that some non-elect people do, and some don’t. Some non-elect people never hear the gospel and are never placed under the special conviction of the Holy Spirit. Elect people who die before reaching the age of accountability are never placed under the special conviction of the Holy Spirit.

You said, “A moral equipoise, granted by God, where they choose from a clean slate.”

Well, I didn’t say that either. For clarity, you might want to quote me rather than paraphrase me. I don’t think you are intentionally misrepresenting my position. (In fact, I think you are very well intentioned, and I enjoy discussing this with you.) Adam was in a “zero, zero” type of equipoise. In other words Adam did not have any evil inclinations before his first sin, and he did not have any good inclinations before he became biased toward sin. These days, when a non-Christian is under the special conviction of the Holy Spirit, he is allowed to form a bias from a “fifty, fifty” type of equipoise, not a clean slate by any means. In other words, before he forms a bias, his depraved, sinful inclinations are exactly balanced by the good inclinations worked through his conscience by the Holy Spirit during the time of special conviction. From this perspective, he can compare the clean with the dirty as Moses did, and like Moses, by faith and “as seeing Him who is unseen” (Hebrews 11:27) he can leave his old life behind. His depravity is temporarily counteracted during this special conviction (tasting) event, and if he is an elect non-Christian, he eventually makes an ultimate, final decision to surrender his life to Jesus in repentance and faith (to swallow the living bread). There may be several special conviction (tasting) events. A non-elect non-Christian eventually makes an ultimate, final decision to reject Jesus as Lord and Savior. This willful, unpardonable sin of rejection hastens a natural hardening process.

You asked for some Scriptures relating to equipoise.

1 Kings 18:21 – “And Elijah came near to all the people and said, ‘How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.’ But the people did not answer him a word.”

Hebrews 6:4-8 – “For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame. For ground that drinks the rain which often falls upon it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.”

Hebrews 10:26-29 – “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgement, and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?”

Deuteronomy 30:19 – “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants.”

Joshua 24:15 – “And if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

Hebrews 11:24-27 – “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin; considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.”

Mark 10:17, 21-23 – “And as He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and began asking Him, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’. . . . And looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him, and said to him, ‘One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ But at these words his face fell, and he went away grieved, for he was one who owned much property. And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, ‘How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!’ ”

John 5:24-25 – “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear shall live.”

Psalm 34:8 – “O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!”

John 5:39-40 – “You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life.”

Acts 17:11-12 – “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men.”

Acts 26:27-29 – “ ‘King Agrippa, do you believe the Prophets? I know that you do.’ And Agrippa replied to Paul, ‘In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.’ And Paul said, ‘I would to God, that whether in a short or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these chains.’ ”

2 Peter 2:1, 20-21 – “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. . . . For if after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them.”

I would be glad to discuss the above Scripture passages with you. I have already talked about Adam being in equipoise. Let me repeat Augustine’s words about that equipoise:

“We should ask what the first man himself was like when he was created, rather than how his descendants have been propagated. [. . .] They speak as if it were impossible for human nature to be endowed with some intermediate state, besides folly and wisdom, which could be called neither folly nor wisdom.”
(Augustine, “The Free Choice of the Will,” trans. Robert P. Russell, The Fathers of the Church: A New Translation, ed. Roy Joseph Deferrari, vol. 59, Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, Inc., 1968, pages 228-229)

Augustine believed that Adam’s rebellion from a position of neutrality (equipoise) brought a just punishment from God:

“Accordingly, if a man was created in a state where, though yet unwise, he could receive a command that he ought certainly to obey, it is neither surprising that he could be seduced, nor an injustice that he should suffer punishment for failing to obey. Neither is the Creator the cause of his vice, since it was not yet a vice for man to be without wisdom when he had not yet received the power to have it. Yet he did have something that would enable him to advance towards what he did not yet have, provided he was willing to make good use of it.”
(Ibid., pages 229-230)

Augustine repeated that there was a “middle state” (equipoise) from which Adam rebelled:

“This makes it clear that there is a middle state which cannot go by either name. So, too, when the first man passed from the heights of wisdom to folly, the transition was neither foolish nor wise. It is something like sleep and wakefulness, where falling asleep is not the same as sleeping and where awakening is not the same as being awake, but where there is a passing from one state to another. There is, however, this difference, that the latter generally happen involuntarily, while the former are always voluntary, which is why the punishments that follow are perfectly just.”
(Ibid., pages 231-232)

I’ll also repeat what John Calvin said about Adam’s equipoise:

“Adam could have stood if he would, since he fell merely by his own will, because his will was flexible to either side, and he was not endued with constancy to persevere. . . . Yet there is no excuse for man; he received so much, that he was the voluntary procurer of his own destruction; but God was under no necessity to give him any other than a mutable will, midway between sin and indefectibility (medium et caducam).”
(Calvin, Institutes I. xv. 8)

I’ll also repeat what Arthur Pink said about Adam’s equipoise:

“In unfallen Adam the will was free, free in both directions, free toward good and free toward evil. Adam was created in a state of innocency, but not in a state of holiness, as is so often assumed and asserted. Adam’s will was therefore in a condition of moral equipoise: that is to say, in Adam there was no constraining bias in him toward either good or evil, and as such, Adam differed radically from all his descendants, as well as from ‘the Man Christ Jesus.’ ”
(Pink, The Sovereignty of God, page 135)

You also discussed total depravity. Here’s an excerpt from my manuscript about total depravity that you may want to discuss:

Total depravity means that all human beings are born with an inclination to commit sin due to Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden (Romans 5:19), and that every part of their being is tainted by sin. They are spiritually dead people until God makes them alive at the time of the regeneration event. A totally depraved person never wants to embrace Christ more than he wants anything else. Notice the depravity described in Ephesians 2:1-5:

“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly
walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the
power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of
disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our
flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature
children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because
of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our
transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been
saved).”

The fact that all non-Christians are depraved would seem to indicate that all non-Christians are like passive puppets, manipulated by their innate, sinful desires.

Many Arminians admit that all people are born totally depraved, but Arminians also say that God “enlightens every man” (John 1:9) and that God draws all people to Christ (John 12:32). Thus, Arminians believe that the effects of total depravity are negated by prevenient (preceding) grace and that all people have true free will and are not passive at any point during their conversion to Christianity. According to John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” John Calvin denied that prevenient grace was adequate for salvation; rather, he said that regenerating grace was necessary as he commented on the verse:

“Further, it ought to be clear that the Evangelist is speaking only of man’s natural endowments, and does not touch upon regenerating grace. [. . .] But since he has darkened the light which he retains by his stupidity and wickedness, it is necessary that the Son of God take on a new office, that of a mediator, and restore the ruined man by the Spirit of regeneration. Therefore, those who confuse the light of which the Evangelist speaks with the gospel and the doctrine which deals with our salvation, philosophize absurdly and in an irrelevant manner.”
(John Calvin, Calvin: Commentaries, ed. and trans. Joseph Haroutunian, 1958, page 132)

Most five-point Calvinists believe that non-Christians as free agents can freely choose to sin but cannot freely choose to surrender to Jesus in repentance and faith until God changes their will during the regeneration event. Many five-point Calvinists refer to John 3:3: “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’” They interpret the word “see” in the verse as “perceive” or “discern,” and they say that an unregenerated person cannot perceive the kingdom of God well enough to choose it. In contrast, Arminians and modified Calvinists interpret the word “see” in John 3:3 as “participate in” or “experience” as in the phrase “see death” found in Luke 2:26: “And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”

Five-point Calvinists believe that unregenerated non-Christians cannot repent because their will is inclined toward sin. Therefore, they believe that non-Christians are totally passive during the event where they are regenerated (born again, given new life). They use John 1:13 to show that regeneration is totally a work of God: “Who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Many Arminians and modified Calvinists agree that the regeneration event is totally a work of God, but they believe that faith is required for regeneration. The modified Calvinist Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, described faith as a condition for regeneration: “In the fourth Gospel we read that faith is not only a sign but also a condition of the new birth: ‘To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God’ (John 1:12).”
(Danny Akin, “1, 2, 3 John,” The New American Commentary, page 189)

Arminians and modified Calvinists believe John 1:12 indicates that the receivers of Christ were believing in Christ at the time they were born again. Many five-point Calvinists use the concept of adoption to interpret the phrase “He gave the right to become children of God” in John 1:12, and this view can be traced back to the 1742 Philadelphia Baptist Confession of Faith, the nearly identical 1689 Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, and Calvin himself. Thus many five-point Calvinists say that the phrase refers to adoption, not the new birth, and they see God as adopting children (John 1:12) to whom He has already given birth (John 1:13).

In describing the order of events in the salvation process—especially in regard to regeneration, justification, faith, and repentance—it is important to distinguish between the logical order and the temporal order of events. Sometimes events seem to occur at exactly the same point in time in terms of a chronological/temporal frame of reference, but one of the events may be a logical precursor or requirement for another event that occurs at the same point in time.

In contrast to Arminians and modified Calvinists, five-point Calvinists believe regeneration is a necessary precursor to repentance and faith. The five-point Calvinist R.C. Sproul, founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries and a theology professor at Reformed Theological Seminary, comments on regeneration:

“In regeneration, God changes our hearts. He gives us a new disposition, a
new inclination. He plants a desire for Christ in our hearts. We can never
trust Christ for our salvation unless we first desire him. This is why we said
earlier that regeneration precedes faith. Without rebirth we have no desire
for Christ. Without a desire for Christ we will never choose Christ.
Therefore we conclude that before anyone ever will believe, before anyone
can believe, God must first change the disposition of his heart.”
(Sproul, Chosen By God, pages 118-119)

Five-point Calvinists believe newly regenerated persons are capable of perceiving clearly God’s righteous standard, and as the conversion process progresses (often almost instantaneously), they surrender to Christ in repentance and faith. Five-point Calvinists also believe that repentance and faith are necessary precursors for justification (salvation from the penalty of sin) and receiving the gift of the permanently indwelling Holy Spirit.

On the contrary, both Arminians and modified Calvinists believe that repentance and faith are requirements for both the regeneration event and justification; thus, a spiritually dead person can repent and place his faith in Christ under certain circumstances. The modified Calvinist Millard Erickson, president of the Evangelical Theological Society in 2002, described his view of the order of salvation:

“We are not talking here about temporal succession. Conversion and new
birth occur simultaneously. Rather, the question is whether one is
converted because of God’s work of regeneration within, or whether God
regenerates the individual because of his or her repentance and belief. It
must be acknowledged that, from a logical standpoint, the usual Calvinistic
position makes good sense. If we sinful humans are unable to believe and
respond to God’s gospel without some special working of his within us,
how can anyone, even the elect, believe unless first rendered capable of
belief through regeneration? To say that conversion is prior to regeneration
would seem to be a denial of total depravity.
Nonetheless, the biblical evidence favors the position that conversion is
prior to regeneration. Various appeals to respond to the gospel imply that
conversion results in regeneration.”
(Erickson, Christian Theology, pages 944-945)

Many modified Calvinists believe a non-Christian is a totally depraved free agent with no true free will until the time God begins the conversion process and brings him under the special, illuminating conviction of the Holy Spirit. Such modified Calvinists believe the non-Christian has true free will during times of special conviction and is therefore not passive during the conversion process. They also believe the culmination of the conversion process is the regeneration event when the Holy Spirit permanently indwells the person after the person surrenders to Christ in repentance and faith.