One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is One Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” The scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that He is One, and there is no one else besides Him; and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love One’s neighbor as Himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions.
Question: Does this mean that he was “not far” from receiving Irresistible Grace, or that such a profession is compatible with someone who has just received it?
One of the most significant challenges of Calvinism, is just how often Calvinism must be inferred.
One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians: “Notice that Jesus affirms the scribe’s correct response by saying, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God’ (v. 34). Had this guy ‘arrived’ yet? No. But Jesus has no problem affirming the fact that he’s heading the right direction due to his acknowledgment of Jesus’ own wisdom. I’ll grant that this is a unique time in salvation history because the Old Covenant is in the process of being fulfilled by the New Covenant which Jesus is inaugurating, but it doesn’t change the fact that Jesus overtly acknowledges the incremental nature of one’s transfer of allegiance to the kingdom of God. As has already been noted here, Calvinists have to somehow explain why God works in such an incremental way if there’s no transition period between allegiance to sin and allegiance to God in Christ.” (SEA, emphasis mine)
With Calvinism, there is no increment. There is only the regenerate and unregenerate.
The same may be said of John 10:37-38: “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.” This also shows an incremental approach. Clearly, if they had an Irresistible Grace, they would not only have believed in Him, but also believed in the miracles too. Conversely, if they were not one of the secret elect, who are irresistibly regenerated, then how will the miracles make any difference? Of course, the unrepentant were hardened by God, but not by some means of voodoo, but by the manner of the Message and its Messenger, viz. the parables, the message of repentance and a humble Savior rather than a conquering King. (Another Scriptural example of the transition in conversion is found in the parable of the Seed & the Sower.)
The miracles are compelling, as the Pharisee, Nicodemus, confirmed: “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” (John 3:2)
The accuracy of Christ’s message is compelling, as the Scribe confirmed: “Right, Teacher; You have truly stated....”
Nevertheless, without repentance, it will all be rejected.
Jesus stated: “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:3)
Another member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians: “…our experience shows that there is a transition from one condition to another. In other words, it is true that at first, apart from the work of the Spirit, apart from Prevenient Grace, the unbeliever has no desire for God is not seeking after God is often hostile to God, etc. But what the Calvinist leaves out, because of his system, is the work of the Spirit, which leads a person from the condition referred to in Romans 8:5, 1 Cor. 2:14, and Romans 3:10-18 (which is lost, uninterested and unseeking) to a condition where they begin to seek, begin to have some interest and begin to understand some spiritual things, as the Spirit works in them. It is this transitional condition that they leave out, and it is this transitional condition that results in salvation if they do not resist the Spirit. If they do resist the Spirit, then they gain knowledge and understanding of spiritual things (which is not true of the unbeliever apart from the work of the Spirit) and yet are not saved. But a person who has, in fact, experienced the powerful and supernatural work of the Spirit in this transitional state, may not yet be saved (or may never get saved), but it is wrong to describe them with Romans 8:5, 1 Cor. 2:14 or Romans 3:10-18. They are lost, but they are also enlightened directly by the Holy Spirit. Those of us who evangelize regularly have seen this up close. We have seen people transition from the completely lost condition that those verses describe, to a more open state and yet in this open state, the person is not yet a believer. And it is in this open state that they then accept or reject Christ. So I think we need to be strong in pointing this out, that there is the totally lost state, and the saved state, but also the state in between, the transitional state, where the person is still lost and not saved and yet those proof texts used by Calvinists do not apply to that person.”
Another member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians: “This is a real problem for Calvinism because they maintain that someone cannot seek God unless regenerated. But clearly, many people seek God before being regenerated. The biblical point is that people cannot seek God on their own, apart from grace. The Calvinist scheme really leaves no room for a process of someone coming to faith. Their scheme tends to leave only two options, rabid God-hater or regenerated God-lover, with no process to go from one to the other. But that is far from reality. Now, of course, the sophisticated Calvinist would not affirm this to be their position, but it seems logically demanded by their distinctive doctrines, such as the Calvinist view of being dead in sin (as opposed to being dead via ‘separation’) and regeneration preceding faith.”
The problem with Calvinism is that it cannot account for a transition state in the conversion process, because conversion from rabid God-hater (dead in sin) to regenerated God-lover (Born Again) would theoretically have to be seamless and instantaneous or else you would have Born Again unbelievers running around, and for an indefinite period of time until full conversion is completed.