Dortian Calvinism Is Dead Wrong On Ephesians 2: A Review Of Timothy R. Nichols’s “Dead Man’s Faith” -- By: John H. Niemelä

Journal: Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
Volume: JOTGES 32:63 (Autumn 2019)
Article: Dortian Calvinism Is Dead Wrong On Ephesians 2: A Review Of Timothy R. Nichols’s “Dead Man’s Faith”
Author: John H. Niemelä


Dortian Calvinism Is Dead Wrong On Ephesians 2: A Review Of Timothy R. Nichols’s “Dead Man’s Faith”1

John H. Niemelä

President
Message of Life Ministries
Aurora, CO

I. Introduction

Dortian Calvinism is known by the acronym T-U-L-I-P. The first point is the T, which stands for total inability. The following sermon by Brian Anderson is typical of those who hold to this theological view. It deceives many into imagining that the unregenerate totally lack the ability to believe. They claim that regeneration must precede faith.

…the sinner is spiritually dead. He is not just very sick, and about to die. He is dead. The answer to his dilemma is not in using his free will to reach out and take the medicine [i.e., believe Jesus’ promise of life]. The answer is that God must breathe His life into him, and make him alive [before he can believe]! Now, what is the Biblical answer to this question? Is man well, sick, or dead?2

Yes, Eph 2:1 and 5 say that unbelievers are dead, but Dortians are dead wrong about what that means.

II. The Prehistory Of The Book By Nichols

Timothy Nichols argues powerfully for faith preceding regeneration. Note his title: Dead Man’s Faith. Nichols (while my student) presented a paper on Eph 2:1–10 at a 2000 pastors’s conference. The evening before speaking, he asked me to evaluate his new observation on Eph 2:8. Then he spent the night preparing for any objections. Dortian Calvinists with Ph.D. degrees were oddly silent during the question and answer period. The paper was that powerful.

In 2001, Nichols reworked his paper into a journal article: “Reverse-Engineered Outlining: A Method for Epistolary Exegesis.”3

Then, in 2004, his Th.M. thesis refined that same argument. The title was, “Dead Man’s Faith: Spiritual Death, Faith, and Regeneration in Ephesians 2:1–10, ” which title the book shares.4

He had hoped to shed the thesis format and to produce a regular book. However, ministry, family, and work encroached upon his time. Rather than delaying further, he published a word-for-word copy of his thesis.

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