Conditional Election in the Incarnation

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Defenders of unconditional election will generally deny that there are any examples of God choosing a person based on qualities internal to them in Scripture. Many of them will also assert that if God depends on human decisions (if He “waits on man to respond” as it is sometimes said) to accomplish salvation, then this robs God of his glory and sovereignty, because its really man’s choice that counts, not God’s.

Luke 1:28-30
“Hail Mary, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God…”

If defenders of unconditional election are correct about these two ideas, then why does it seem that in Christ’s incarnate economy, the very foundation of our salvation, God elects Mary based on a faith that she chooses to have? Notice the lack of “God elected you to accept grace” language; rather, its “God elected you because you accepted grace”. And if God conditionally elected in something as great as the Incarnation, why not think God conditionally elects in personal election of believers unto salvation?

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23 Responses to “Conditional Election in the Incarnation”

  1. David Says:

    Hey, nice blog! I was wondering when you would see the light and switch to wordpress. Isn’t it so much better? 🙂

    I’m not seeing where you’re finding the “faith she chose to have” or the “because she accepted grace” language in the verse you’ve quoted. It’s refreshing to see you posting much shorter entries, I admit! But perhaps a bit more elaboration on this one? 🙂

  2. David Says:

    Oh nice, now that you’re on wordpress too I get my picture when I comment! 😛

  3. MG Says:

    David–

    Gabriel seems to be recognizing a quality that Mary has (“Hail Mary, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”). He also uses the language of her having “found favor with God”. Finding seems to be a volitional action that a human person engages in; you are seeking an object and coming into contact with it. This seems to be a recognition of qualities internal to Mary that make her an appropriate vessel for the Incarnation. God’s election of Mary to be the Ark of the New Covenant seems to here be based on her moral qualities and her responsiveness.

    Also, notice how it is her response that makes God’s execution of his plan appropriate: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” This seems to involve volition and to tie up God’s plans with Mary’s exercise of faith.

  4. MG Says:

    I think a more substantial criticism of the above is the fact that Mary was already saved when God elected her to be the God-bearer. I wonder if that invalidates my argument. Maybe… do you think you could develop that more David?

  5. David Says:

    If “full of grace” would say anything, it would seem to me to suggest that she was, well, already full of grace (before her willful decision to accept God’s call). This seems to jive perfectly with U and I.

    I don’t think a strong case can be made that “finding favor” implies seeking it. It isn’t difficult to imagine some young maiden in a certain kingdom who is very beautiful and so catches the attention of the King. And if the King were to send a messenger to the young maiden, it would seem perfectly acceptable to say to her “you have found favor with the King” despite the fact that she has not actively sought after his favor. Of course, in this example the young maiden is chosen because of her beauty, but the principle would work even if she was only chosen based solely on the purpose of the King.

    As far as her response goes, this is why arguments from narrative are so tricky. You can’t really use that to prove that God’s predestining was dependent on her response without presupposing it. It could just as easily be argued that she responded faithfully because she was predestined.

    I would certainly agree that Mary was saved (in the narrow Protestant sense at least) at this time. But I don’t think we need to follow that line of thought in order to show that conditional election doesn’t necessarily follow from this passage.

  6. MG Says:

    Yes, of course she was already full of grace. And yes, it is possible that the “finding favor” is not based on seeking the king.

    But the problem with your idea that “it could just as easily be argued that she responded faithfully because she was predestined” is that this runs in the face of what the text *seems* to be saying. Now, reading a text some way other than how it seems is not necessarily bad, if you have very good reasons for doing so.

    So for instance, you probably have seen that one hockey game movie that some Reformed people use as an example of how God “chooses his team” where there is apparently no reason at all for why the coach chooses the players he does. In this movie, it is *possible* he has some other reason for choosing them involving qualities internal to them. But that’s not what *seems* to be happening. We would need very good reason for thinking this, if we were to interpret it that way.

    Normally when someone’s good qualities are acknowledged, this involves a recognition of virtue that they have and of qualities that they have personally developed. I think the burden of proof is on you to give us a reason for reading recognition of virtue and “finding favor” as talking about unconditional election and effectual calling.

    Also, finding favor must be read as not involving any kind of human qualities at all if you are going to maintain the idea that this passage is at face value compatible with U and I. Where do you propose to find that in the text?

    Again, I’m not saying your interpretation is false or impossible, just that it is initially implausible. If you think that the evidence for U and I is really strong elsewhere, then I guess you could read this without the synergistic connotations I’ve suggested.

  7. Searching for the Church Says:

    Isn’t the objection that this verse is in itself ambiguous and must be interpreted in accord with the correct interprative framework? “You have found favor with God,” could simply mean, “God has chosen from the millions of available young Jewish maidens, and, out of his superabundant goodness and generosity, he has chosen you, despite your lack of intrinsic merits.”You are right there is no, “God has elected you” language, but if totaly depravity is true, then we oughtn’t expect it… it is assumed.

  8. Keith Buhler Says:

    Isn’t the objection that this verse is in itself ambiguous and must be interpreted in accord with the correct interprative framework?

    “You have found favor with God,” could simply mean, “God has chosen from the millions of available young Jewish maidens, and, out of his superabundant goodness and generosity, he has chosen you, despite your lack of intrinsic merits.”

    You are right there is no, “God has elected you” language, but if totaly depravity is true, then we oughtn’t expect it… it is assumed.

  9. MG Says:

    Keith–

    First of all, its safe to say that someone who is “full of grace” is probably saved, so I don’t think total depravity will come into play here.

    Second, there is an undeniable emphasis on synergy here. There is divine initiative, for sure, but it is based on qualities Mary has (and seems to be responsible for); she also responds and her response drastically affects the way the world will proceed.

    Like I said above in comment # 4, this argument probably doesn’t show as much as I had originally hoped it would. It isn’t as strong of a punch in favor of synergism about salvation as I would like to have thought, because Mary is already saved, and many who are monergists about initial salvation are synergists about “sanctification”. Nevertheless, having so much weight on the shoulders of a human being who is not an uncreated hypostasis seems awfully peculiar for a God who would feel “robbed of his glory” (as some Reformed would say this implies) if human beings made free choices to be saved on a small scale.

  10. MG Says:

    By the way, I didn’t know you guys had that Mere Orthodoxy blog! Expect comments soon.

  11. David Says:

    MG,

    My last comment probably should have just been, “arguments from narrative are tricky.” That was really the most important point I made.

    I think Keith basically saw where I was going. When you have a passage of narrative it only makes sense to interpret it in light of passages that are explicitly didactic in nature. I don’t see the logic in saying “Well, Paul can’t be talking about this method of salvation x here, because it sure SEEMS like Mary in this story is being saved via method y.”

    This all sounds like those typical questions Reformed people get asked, like, “why bother to evangelize if the elect will be saved no matter what?” I suppose you could argue that simply because the Apostles call people to repentance in Acts that reformed soteriology must be false, but I don’t see how you can do that without begging the question.

  12. Mark Krause Says:

    Why not beg the question? I love begging the question! It’s my favorite.

  13. MG Says:

    David–

    Don’t you think its a little weird if there’s no narrative evidence for Reformed theology at all, and if numerous events *seem* to contradict it? Don’t you think we should be able to garner support for a theological position by looking at *what happens* in the story of Christ? If you think there is narrative support for Reformed theology, I’d like to hear where. I’m suspicious of anyone who says that in order to understand what happens in the Gospels, you have to read Paul.

  14. David Says:

    “I’m suspicious of anyone who says that in order to understand what happens in the Gospels, you have to read Paul.”

    I wouldn’t say that at all. But I’m suspicious of anyone who gives more weight to a narrative than to explicit teaching. In any case, all I’m arguing with this passage is that it isn’t at all obvious from the events of the story alone whether or not unconditional election and/or irresistible grace are true. Any such conclusions must be read into the narrative.

    Nor was I suggesting that this passage actually *seems* to favor your position over a Reformed one. What I meant to say was that IF you think that this passage SEEMS to contradict unconditional election (which, again, I don’t think it does), THEN it would still be wrong for you to rule out prima facia a Reformed understanding of Paul.

    As for narrative that supports Reformed theology, do all the stories between Genesis 1 and Revelation 22 count? 🙂 Kidding aside, that’s a pretty vague question, and I’m not entirely sure what you’re asking for. But off the top of my head I’d say Acts 14:38 is a good one (though, again, you’ll notice that that is Luke *explaining* the narrative).

  15. David Says:

    Oops, that should be Acts 13:48! But I’m sure that if there had been a 38th verse in Acts 14, it would have been explicitly Calvinist. 😛

  16. MG Says:

    David–

    You wrote:

    “I wouldn’t say that at all. But I’m suspicious of anyone who gives more weight to a narrative than to explicit teaching. In any case, all I’m arguing with this passage is that it isn’t at all obvious from the events of the story alone whether or not unconditional election and/or irresistible grace are true. Any such conclusions must be read into the narrative.”

    What do you mean “gives more weight”? Do you mean that it serves a clarificatory function? This may be helpful often. But what about stories where the meaning jumps out at us? Lets say there’s a story where the meaning is about a particular subject and seems really obvious, and that “explicit teaching” on the subject is scant and unclear. Shouldn’t we let the narrative adjudicate between views on this subject?

    While I agree that “it isn’t at all obvious from the events of the story alone whether or not unconditional election and/or irresistible grace are true”, I don’t think the story doesn’t seem prima facie to favor one view. Sure, this story *alone* can’t decide on this issue; there are too many variables. But it does seem to be stressing human volition in response to divine initiative. That’s all I’m getting at. The “Arminian” isn’t reading his view into the text, whereas the Calvinist is. Remember, I’m not saying that’s necessarily bad, if there are strong arguments elsewhere for unconditional election and effectual calling. But again, that’s conditional upon whether those strong arguments are available. Otherwise, we should read the text to say what it seems to be saying.

    “Nor was I suggesting that this passage actually *seems* to favor your position over a Reformed one. What I meant to say was that IF you think that this passage SEEMS to contradict unconditional election (which, again, I don’t think it does), THEN it would still be wrong for you to rule out prima facia a Reformed understanding of Paul.”

    Sure, if Paul seemed to be saying Calvinistic stuff, then we shouldn’t rule out the possibility that this passage can be read Calvinistically. But that’s a big if–one that I have yet to see anyone argue with enough persuasive power to motivate a preference for the Reformed view.

    “As for narrative that supports Reformed theology, do all the stories between Genesis 1 and Revelation 22 count? 🙂 Kidding aside, that’s a pretty vague question, and I’m not entirely sure what you’re asking for. But off the top of my head I’d say Acts 14:38 is a good one (though, again, you’ll notice that that is Luke *explaining* the narrative).”

    When I say “narrative that supports Reformed theology”, I mean the kind of thing that I threw out in this post. Are there any events, actions, or interpretations thereof in biblical narratives that seem to imply any of the 5 points of Calvinism? (Take a look at my post “Narrative and Normativity (1): Outlining a Particularist Approach” for more specifics)

    I would suggest you read some Arminian theologians’ responses to Calvinism. This verse has been dealt with by various authors in at least two mutually-supporting and satisfactory ways (even Open Theists can deal with it, like Greg Boyd in his book Satan and the Problem of Evil). Early interpreters such as Chrysostom pointed out the fact that the ordination could be taken to mean “ordained on the basis of divine foreknowledge” piggybacking off of Romans 8:28 and 1 Peter 1:2. I find this response quite satisfactory: those whom God foreknew would freely respond, he appointed to eternal life; that class of persons who were around in that situation then performed the action of faith, and believed by divine grace. Another possible response that has been favored by modern commentators (see for instance William Macdonald’s essay “The Biblical Doctrine of Election” in The Grace of God, the Will of Man; I think Shank makes the same argument in Elect in the Son; and I’d guess Witherington’s Acts commentary says the same though I haven’t checked) is to take the verb “ordained” in the middle voice. So the text would say “all who would be appointed for eternal life believed” instead of “all who were appointed for eternal life believed”. Those people who would be ordained according to their free choice believed. This takes away any unconditional connotations of election without having to even appeal to anything outside the passage. So I don’t think this constitutes prima facie support for Reformed theology from narrative at all. If the middle voice is just as acceptable, then this is a toss-up. And the people are said to have “believed” which is an action that you do; this hardly seems like something the author would want to include if he wanted to clearly convey Reformed theology.

  17. David Says:

    MG,

    I think we’re more in agreement than disagreement about how best to interpret and formulate theology from narratives with respect to “explicit teaching.” Yes, if something in a narrative seems to be jumping out at me AND there is little or very unclear teaching on it elsewhere, then I would happily defer to what seems to be going on in the narrative. But I hardly think a case can be made that there is little or very unclear teaching on unconditional election outside of narratives (whether or not you find arguments for the Calvinist interpretation of Paul is another matter).

    I’m familiar with those interpretations of Acts 13:48, and I don’t find them at all persuasive. But notice what your Chrysostomian interpretation does. It reads something into the text that isn’t there. Just as your narrative passage above lacks the explicit language of “God elected you to accept grace”, so this passage lacks the language of “ordained on the basis of divine foreknowledge.” So it seems to me that this passage meets the challenge quite well.

    You said: “And the people are said to have “believed” which is an action that you do; this hardly seems like something the author would want to include if he wanted to clearly convey Reformed theology.”

    What about Reformed soteriology precludes the act of believing? In fact, one major argument given in favor of Reformed theology (in “faith alone” Protestant circles) is that the Holy Spirit must be the one activey regenerating you and allowing you to accept Christ, or else your salvation would be based on your righteous act to believe.

  18. MG Says:

    David–

    I think we agree for the most part too, but I don’t see how you can say that Luke’s narrative of the incarnation doesn’t have human-volitional overtones. Again, I don’t think its a proof or something, but it does favor one view.

    Yes I admit the Chrysostom interpretation reads foreknowledge into the text. If we’re taking your route that we can use explicit teaching that is clearer elsewhere to support a narrative interpretation, then this is okay, and in fact preferable.

    But there might be reasons internal to the text to not read it that way… (I will comment again in a little bit)

  19. David Says:

    I’m not denying that there are overtones, undertones, or any other sort of tones of human volition in Scripture, and I can see them in this passage as well.

    I think one misunderstanding we might be having here is over what I’m suggesting the implications of Calvinist soteriology to be. I’m sure you already know this, but just to be clear, I’m not suggesting that God moves people about like puppets on strings of grace. Obviously I would lay the blame for sinful actions on the agents themselves, not God, so I would have no problem with even explicit allusions to human volition in cases of sin.

    But now you’re asking about righteous, maybe even saving actions. Do I find a problem locating human volition somewhere in those actions? Not at all. Again, a lot the “5 points” are talking about the supernatural activity of God that is, for the most part, beyond our ability to understand or detect. So I have no problem with a narrative recording someone’s free choice to accept salvation, since I would merely argue that Paul (and Jesus!) tells us what is going on “behind the scenes” as it were, and that the person’s free choice is only possible because of the prior regenerating act of the Holy Spirit. And some narrative passages do seem to support this, such as when Peter declares Jesus to be the Son of God and Jesus tells him that he could not have known this unless it was revealed to him, or when Jesus tells Nicodemus that someone must first be born again before they can even see the kingdom. Again, there are non-Calvinist ways to read these passages, but the only reason to do so would be a prior understanding of how election/grace works.

    Now, if what you’re asking for is a narrative passage that says, “and then the Holy Spirit entered so-and-so and monergistically regenerated him, enabling him to choose to follow Christ” then I’ll admit I don’t have one, but I hardly think that would prove any points. I don’t see any passages of narrative (as we have already established, the original example of this post included) that say “and then the Holy Spirit entered so-and-so and synergistically regenerated him to a point where he could libertarianly choose to follow Christ or not, and based on no prior determined causes he chose to follow Christ.” 😛

  20. David Says:

    Sorry it’s been so long. Very busy end of the semester.

    You said: “Again, I don’t think its a proof or something, but it does favor one view.”

    I touched on this a little in my comment above, but I don’t think the presence of human volition actually favors one view or the other, since both views include human volition in some respect. In other words, you could argue that Calvinism really doesn’t leave any room for genuine human volition, but as things stand, Calvinists think that it does. So the simple presence of human volition in the narrative can’t be an argument (weak, implicit or otherwise) against the Calvinist position unless you first argue that Calvinism can’t really accommodate human volition in the first place.

    You also said: “Yes I admit the Chrysostom interpretation reads foreknowledge into the text. If we’re taking your route that we can use explicit teaching that is clearer elsewhere to support a narrative interpretation, then this is okay, and in fact preferable.”

    Exactly. So what we have then is a narrative passage that sure seems to be teaching Calvinism, but not necessarily, depending on how you interpret more explicit teaching. That’s all I wanted to show. (Interestingly, however, I don’t actually think that the Arminian and the Calvinist are on equal ground here, since, as I mentioned above, I don’t think any passages of Scripture actually seem to favor, even prima facie, the Arminian view, as where I do think that passages such as this one favor Calvinism. Of course that can be disputed).

  21. MG Says:

    David–

    You wrote:

    “I think one misunderstanding we might be having here is over what I’m suggesting the implications of Calvinist soteriology to be. I’m sure you already know this, but just to be clear, I’m not suggesting that God moves people about like puppets on strings of grace. Obviously I would lay the blame for sinful actions on the agents themselves, not God, so I would have no problem with even explicit allusions to human volition in cases of sin.”

    Do you think that what is ultimately relevant for whether or not a passage supports Reformed theology is (a) what you take to be the implications of Reformed theology, and whether the passage is consistent with them or (b) what the implications of Reformed theology actually are, and whether the passage is consistent with them?

    You wrote:

    “But now you’re asking about righteous, maybe even saving actions. Do I find a problem locating human volition somewhere in those actions? Not at all. Again, a lot the “5 points” are talking about the supernatural activity of God that is, for the most part, beyond our ability to understand or detect. So I have no problem with a narrative recording someone’s free choice to accept salvation, since I would merely argue that Paul (and Jesus!) tells us what is going on “behind the scenes” as it were, and that the person’s free choice is only possible because of the prior regenerating act of the Holy Spirit.”

    But if there are passages that seem at face value to say that salvific regeneration (as distinct from prevenient grace) comes after a human free choice, then do you think this counts against Reformed theology?

    You wrote:

    “And some narrative passages do seem to support this, such as when Peter declares Jesus to be the Son of God and Jesus tells him that he could not have known this unless it was revealed to him, or when Jesus tells Nicodemus that someone must first be born again before they can even see the kingdom.”

    The Nicodemus incident is technically not narrative in the sense of a series of events with implicit doctrinal content. Nonetheless, I think there may be reasons from within the passage itself to question your read. Consider the fact that “whoever believes in him may have eternal life” is stated twice, in verses 15 and 16. It does not say that whoever has been given eternal life will believe in Him. This seems to be saying that belief precedes regeneration. If belief follows regeneration, then why does Jesus seem to put it the other way around?

    With the Peter stuff, yes, this incident does look more monergistic than most. There are weaker-than-normal overtones of human volition in the immediate context. The overtones of human volition become stronger in the wider surrounding context. However, what does this incident prove, if it is monergistic? That Peter was monergistically regenerated by God on the spot? First of all, this incident isn’t talking about salvation as you would define salvation. After all, it seems implausible to say that Peter got saved on the spot here. If he was saved here on the spot, then why did he cry out to Jesus on the water (14:28-33) and have his request answered (the principle is stated elsewhere that sinners are not heard by God; so I guess Peter was not a sinner at that point)? Second, if we think about what happens later in Jesus’ life, it seems unlikely that Peter maintained faith in Christ in a way consistent with monergism. Those who deny Christ are rejected by Him (something that seems plausible within the narrative itself, given the negative light it casts on Peter, but receives strong principled support from 2 Timothy 2:11-13). If Peter was monergistically regenerated, and will necessarily persevere, why is he denying Christ? Third, it seems that Peter does have a volitional part to play here. After all, he confesses Christ’s divine Sonship. This act of confession is obviously in some sense a human thing. Why couldn’t we take the divine act of revealing as a kind of prevenient grace, and the act of confession as the response to that grace? This doesn’t seem too implausible from the way the story goes.

    You wrote:

    “Again, there are non-Calvinist ways to read these passages, but the only reason to do so would be a prior understanding of how election/grace works.”

    I don’t agree with the Nicodemus incident, and I only slightly agree with the Peter incident. How would you respond? If my considerations can’t be refuted (if you can’t show my reasoning invalid), but only balanced out by additional arguments from context, it seems that you don’t have a strong argument here in favor of monergism.

    You wrote:

    “Now, if what you’re asking for is a narrative passage that says, “and then the Holy Spirit entered so-and-so and monergistically regenerated him, enabling him to choose to follow Christ” then I’ll admit I don’t have one, but I hardly think that would prove any points. I don’t see any passages of narrative (as we have already established, the original example of this post included) that say “and then the Holy Spirit entered so-and-so and synergistically regenerated him to a point where he could libertarianly choose to follow Christ or not, and based on no prior determined causes he chose to follow Christ.” :P”

    Of course; agreed.

  22. MG Says:

    David–

    You wrote:

    “I touched on this a little in my comment above, but I don’t think the presence of human volition actually favors one view or the other, since both views include human volition in some respect. In other words, you could argue that Calvinism really doesn’t leave any room for genuine human volition, but as things stand, Calvinists think that it does. So the simple presence of human volition in the narrative can’t be an argument (weak, implicit or otherwise) against the Calvinist position unless you first argue that Calvinism can’t really accommodate human volition in the first place.”

    I don’t think that’s necessary in order to show that the presence of some volition-talk counts against Calvinism. What would do the trick is showing incidents where regeneration precedes faith/free choice.

    “Exactly. So what we have then is a narrative passage that sure seems to be teaching Calvinism, but not necessarily, depending on how you interpret more explicit teaching. That’s all I wanted to show. (Interestingly, however, I don’t actually think that the Arminian and the Calvinist are on equal ground here, since, as I mentioned above, I don’t think any passages of Scripture actually seem to favor, even prima facie, the Arminian view, as where I do think that passages such as this one favor Calvinism. Of course that can be disputed).”

    Did you give an argument *against* the middle voice reading? Because if this reading is just as plausible, then there is no narrative evidence *for* monergism here. So I’m pushing back on the paragraph you wrote where you said that this does *seem* to be teaching Calvinism. I don’t think it *seems* to be teaching a monergistic view of regeneration at all. If the middle-voice interpretation isn’t able to be ruled out or shown to be less plausible, then this passage can’t be used to support a Reformed view of soteriology.

    Also, notice how in verse 46 the Jews are said to do an action to themselves in response to the preaching of the word of God: they deem themselves unworthy of eternal life. So there is, within the surrounding context of the passage, an idea of “people doing stuff to themselves in the process of being saved or damned”. This increases the plausibility of the middle voice read.

  23. David Says:

    “Do you think that what is ultimately relevant for whether or not a passage supports Reformed theology is (a) what you take to be the implications of Reformed theology, and whether the passage is consistent with them or (b) what the implications of Reformed theology actually are, and whether the passage is consistent with them?”

    Well, I would say that (a) and (b) are the same, so I’ll just say “yes.”

    “But if there are passages that seem at face value to say that salvific regeneration (as distinct from prevenient grace) comes after a human free choice, then do you think this counts against Reformed theology?”

    Probably, yes. The problem is that I don’t think there are any such passages. Taking your original example, I wouldn’t say that there is any evidence in this narrative that Mary wasn’t “saved” until after she chose to accept the angel’s words. Strictly speaking, if Reformed theology is correct, Mary was saved from before the foundation of the world, and since the narrative doesn’t explicitly tell us when the Holy Spirit regenerated her, it is just as safe to assume that it was before her choice as it is to assume that it was after.

    Once again, I think you’re just going to have a hard time trying to cast significant doubt on Reformed soteriology based on narrative passages that don’t speak explicitly to the relevant issues.

    “Whoever believes in Him may have eternal life” doesn’t mean that belief precedes regeneration, only that belief precedes…well…eternal life. And we both agree on that.

    As for Peter, the incident need not show that Peter was “saved” right at that moment. That isn’t the point. The point is merely to show that certain necessary prerequisites for salvation are apparently not granted to all people. You asked: “Why couldn’t we take the divine act of revealing as a kind of prevenient grace, and the act of confession as the response to that grace? This doesn’t seem too implausible from the way the story goes.” No, but equally plausible is the reading that only because of the initial act of monergistic grace on God’s part is Peter enabled to synergistically make the confession. Once again, I see no reason why Calvinism can’t accommodate human volition, since everything is synergy post-regeneration (albeit a synergy that doesn’t ultimately allow for apostasy).

    “What would do the trick is showing incidents where regeneration precedes faith/free choice.”

    I assume you meant to say, “where a free choice precedes regeneration”? And, once again, I don’t think you’ll find such a passage.

    Regarding the “middle voice” argument, I’m not at all familiar with it (nor with Greek, for that matter), so I simply can’t speak to it.

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