And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 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— 3 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. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— (Ephesians 2:1-5 ESV)
Before I get into the critique of this article I would like to say I appreciate Evan and his work, and also I appreciate him accurately representing what Calvinists believe in his first paragraph, starting off with
Calvinists interpret the phrase “dead in sin” in this passage to mean that a man is like a corpse in that he can’t respond to God unless God first makes him alive.
I’d change “can’t respond” to “can’t respond positively* other than that, this is a fair representation.
Matthew Henry in his commentary on these verses state
A man dead in trespasses and sins has no desire for spiritual pleasures. When we look upon a corpse, it gives an awful feeling. A never-dying spirit is now fled, and has left nothing but the ruins of a man
However, my first point of contention comes right after. Regarding Adam and Eve, after they ate of the tree of knowledge, Evan states
But were they spiritual corpses unable to hear or respond to God? No. This is seen a few verses later when we read that God was in the garden and asked Adam “Where are you?” and Adam responded “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” (Genesis 3:8-10). Although Adam was “dead in sin”, he was able to hear God’s voice and communicate with him.
Notice in Genesis 3:8-10, God initiates this conversation(Parallel this with Prevenient Grace), while Adam is hiding from God. He doesn’t want to be seen by God, he is guilty and he knows it. Adam is in a certain stage here, Adam knows he’s a sinner at this point. He blames his wife and God implicitly “the woman you gave me” (Genesis 3:12) and was not really repenting, just playing the blame game until when? God made a sacrifice for them.(Genesis 3:21) Parallel that with Christ’s sacrifice. Hebrews 9:22 states
Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
This in no way causes a problem for Calvinism or Monergism for that matter, because God initiated, judged, and had mercy on Adam and Eve. Evan then goes off talking about how Cain responded to God, here’s the problem, however. The way Cain responded to God is no different than the Pharisees speaking with God manifest in the flesh, This is not *just* a spiritual event. Obviously, this is different than a normal situation, because I don’t think Evan would affirm we hear God’s voice audibly as Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel did. We acknowledge that people dead in sins could physically speak to Jesus in the flesh, in the same way, I don’t think someone dead in sins would have a problem physically speaking to God, We are not saying that people won’t respond, we are saying they won’t respond positively, so I think this whole paragraph is irrelevant to the discussion. Evan is operating under the assumption that man responds to God apart from grace, I know he doesn’t believe this, I know he affirms a resistible prevenient grace, I know he is not a pelagian, but that’s where this argument is going with its confusion of categories. Notice also, how Adam, Eve, and Cain all responded negatively, which is exactly the Calvinist’s point, they’d only respond positively if they didn’t have a heart of stone, and it was replaced with a heart of flesh, something God alone does. (Jeremiah 17:9, Ezekiel 36:26) Evan then goes on to use the parable of the prodigal son, and misses the purpose of the parable and reads his theology into it Matthew Henry said it best in his commentary on the parable
The parable of the prodigal son shows the nature of repentance, and the Lord’s readiness to welcome and bless all who return to him. It fully sets forth the riches of gospel grace; and it has been, and will be, while the world stands, of unspeakable use to poor sinners, to direct and to encourage them in repenting and returning to God.
Again, Evan is implicitly denying his own theology with the way he argues this parable when he ignores prevenient grace. In the parable the Father was waiting for him to return, this could parallel to the general call of the gospel by God. However, the son was a son of the father, so if we for a moment think the Father as God and we as the son, this actually speaks more to God’s forgiveness, his grace, and his drawing of his son to himself, What did the son think before he returned? I’m suffering, but my Father can alleviate that suffering even if I was merely serving him and not even be treated as a son anymore, was he not drawn to repentance because of his Father’s kindness? Which is exactly what the apostle Paul says of God in Romans 2:4 (ESV)
Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
What gave me a good laugh afterward, was Evan having to explain how he was not a pelagian, because perhaps he realized his objections were very pelagian, and as predicted acknowledged prevenient grace, but didn’t do so in his argumentation.
Evan confuses physically dead for spiritually dead, He thinks someone with a heart of stone can make a positive act of faith and become a heart of flesh after God gives a resistible prevenient grace, despite the fact that faith, like grace, is a gift from Godand makes the best sense of the text of Ephesians 2:8-9. We are blessed to even have faith in God and that I can acknowledge that despite our disagreements both me and Evan have faith in God, we both worship the Lord Jesus Christ, and that is a wonderful thing.