A humble and hungry disciple is a wonderful thing in God’s kingdom. They are humble not because they have no pride, but because they hate the pride that they see in their own hearts. They long to deny themselves and take up their cross. They often confess more than is necessary, and they have no doubt that they deserve every rebuke you send their way. These spiritual children are hungry for whatever God has for them. If you encourage them to share the Gospel boldly, they might embarrass you by standing on the table and telling everyone in the restaurant that Jesus commands everyone to repent. If you encourage them to meet with you for morning-prayer, they might become your living alarm clock that is not equipped with the gracious feature of a snooze button. They are humble and hungry, willing to do anything to serve God, no matter what the cost.
These disciples are quick to obey any commands and also quick to doubt their own motives. They hunger for pure spiritual milk and humbly receive the word of God that is able to save their souls. This passion and vulnerability makes them fit for growth in God’s kingdom. But these same qualities can also make them a target for deception. As natural children are easy to manipulate in their innocence and ignorance, so are spiritual children. Zeal can make them hasty, and humility can make them naïve.
When they hear the doctrines of Calvinism they usually give them little thought. The new disciple believes that God loves everyone and wants all people to come to repentance. So a teaching which says God does not want everyone to be saved makes no sense to them. They have hope for people and sincerely believe that if they labor and pray for souls to come into the kingdom, they will. So the doctrine which teaches that God has already unilaterally determined how many will be saved and that absolutely nothing can change that number, seems unbelievable to them.
But sooner or later they read a passage in the Bible that shocks and confuses them. They read something like, “Before the twins were born, God loved Jacob and hated Esau” (Rom. 9:13). Then their heads begin to spin. They can’t make heads or tails of it. At this point they usually ask their mentor what it means and wholeheartedly accept whatever explanation that is given, whether it makes any sense or not. If the explanation didn’t really clear it up for them, they consciously avoid such passages in the future. This is a dangerous situation. And it is for this reason that the Calvinism section of this blog was written. Disciples must be armed with clear and biblical interpretations of these “calvinist verses.”
One of the common testimonies of Calvinists goes something like this, “I didn’t accept Calvinist theology because I wanted to. In fact, I hoped that it wasn’t true. I only accepted it because I couldn’t ignore what the Bible plainly teaches.” This confession is their honest experience and I’m sure it usually is said from a place of humility. A brother cannot be faulted for his testimony. But sometimes that same testimony is spoken with an air of superiority by people who take great pride in their theological system, and though the words are the same the testimony is expressed with an accusatory tone. When shared from such an attitude it carries with it a subtle accusation, “You don’t follow the Bible, but your desires. You want the Bible to teach that God loves everyone, so you refuse to submit to the truth of God’s word.”
Eventually the disciple meets a Calvinist who believes that their theological system is the Gospel and hears the testimony of their conversion, with the accompanying subtle accusation slipped in the tone. This accusation often has its intended effect on the sensitive conscience of the humble follower of Christ. The disciple knows that he continually wrestles to submit his will to the will of God. So he begins to wonder if he is guilty of the charge of ignoring the Scripture in order to protect his preferred perspective about God. As he meditates on this accusation he has to admit that it seems to accurately describe the struggle in his heart. After all, he does avoid certain passages in the Bible because they seem to teach the unpleasant doctrines of Reformed Theology. And though he has read many verses in the Bible that seem to disprove the claims of Calvinism, he cannot deny that his main objection to that theology is that he doesn’t like what it says about the character of God. This accusation brings the disciple into self-doubt and prepares his heart for Calvinism. By accepting the subtle accusation that his Spirit-renewed conscience is actually just human reasoning, he is stepping into dangerous territory.
The Calvinist’s confession also carries with it a strange suggestion, again, usually without his awareness. The suggestion goes something like this, “If something is hard to accept, accepting it must prove a sincere devotion to God.” By submitting to a view of God that is distasteful to his understanding of justice and mercy he feels reassured that he is devoted to God’s word.
The Calvinist’s testimony, when spoken in pride, has been used to accuse and manipulate his brother in Christ. After the Christian has been humbled by the subtle accusation that he is more devoted to his desires than to God’s word, the strange assumption that things unpleasant to man are most glorifying to God can begin to work its magic. The disciple is now eager to prove his devotion to God’s truth. In this state of mind he turns to Romans 9:20 and reads, “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’” He can resist no more; he falls on his knees and solemnly vows, “I will no longer fight against your truth. I will submit to your word and abandon my human reasoning based on carnal desires.”
But it is not only the zealous and haughty Calvinist that can lead his brother into error. Even godly and humble Calvinists, who do not boast in their system more than in their Savior, can unwittingly be used to influence their brethren in the wrong direction. When the godly Calvinist shares the testimony of how they came to embrace the Doctrines of Grace, the disciple cannot help but see in himself the same struggle that the Calvinist admits he had before his acceptance of TULIP. In his testimony the godly Calvinist will honestly admit that the reason that he resisted Reformed Theology was because it was distasteful to him. He will also share the peace he now has since he has submitted to God’s word instead of his own human reasoning.
This will often make the disciple defensive, and he will deal with the Calvinist in a less than brotherly manner. But, when the disciple is convicted of his pride, he will confess and forsake his arrogant attitude. At this point he is more open to listen to the humble Calvinist brother share about how God-honoring the Doctrines of Grace are, and what peace and humility it has brought to his walk with the Lord. He humbly tells the disciple to be honest with the plain teaching of Scripture and humble himself before God and his word.
The disciple determines to face the issue head on because of the godly character of the one who gave him the advice. In this state of mind he turns to Romans 9:20 and reads, “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’” He can resist no more; he falls on his knees and solemnly vows, “I will no longer fight against your truth. I will submit to your word and abandon my human reasoning based on carnal desires.” The result is the same, whether the Calvinist brother is humble or haughty, because the source of the deception is not in the Calvinist, but in theological system, namely Calvinism.
With this sincere commitment the disciple’s theology is now set in stone. The error of Calvinism has taken hold of his conscience, and it will not easily loosen its grip. From this point on he cannot question any verses that seems to teach Calvinism. He must take them at face value. If his heart at any point begins to doubt the interpretation of Reformed Theology on Romans chapter 8 and 9, Ephesians chapter 1 and 2, or John chapter 6, he rebukes himself, “Don’t doubt God’s word because it doesn’t satisfy your carnal desires, just submit!”
Passages that he once tried to avoid have now become the only verses in the Bible clear enough to interpret the meaning of every other verse in the Bible. Any verse that seems to disprove the doctrines of Total Inability, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints must be carefully reinterpreted until it lines up with his understanding of these key passages. Any line of reasoning that seems to oppose his newly found calvinistic understanding of God’s word is clearly humanistic and worldly, and it must be rejected as a carnal attempt to lead him away from a sincere devotion to the word of God.
The error in this scenario is not that he so unreservedly submits to God’s word, but that he assumes his understanding of God’s word is accurate. He accepts the apparent meaning of certain verses, not because it is confirmed by the rest of Scripture, but because it is the quickest means of proving his devotion to God’s word and silencing the accusations assailing his heart. He is afraid to allow his conscience to influence him. He forgets that when he repented of his sin and became a Christian his conscience had been molded by the testimony of the Gospel message. He already knows what, “God loves everyone and Christ is the Savior of the world” means. He doesn’t need to have it reinterpreted for him.
The theological system of Calvinism comes to deceive and manipulate the sincere devotion of God’s children. It tempts them into accepting error by implying that to refuse it shows that they are more committed to human philosophy and the free will of man than they are to the sovereign rights of God as the Creator. To be clear, we are not saying that Calvinists always call people to a hasty commitment to Calvinism. On the contrary, they will often say, “Take time to study and see what God’s word says.” It is not the Calvinist that pushes the disciple, though some Calvinists are certainly pushy, but it is the domineering nature of Calvinism itself that manipulates the disciple.
Calvinism boasts that it has a monopoly on devotion. It is the hardest philosophy to swallow, so it must be the most God glorify theology on the market. After all, it says that God is everything and that Man is nothing. God is the only participant in salvation and mankind does nothing to “help” God save him. As the disciple looks into the claims of Calvinism, he always hears the challenge poking at his heart, “See, another clear verse! Why are you so rebellious? Why do you keep holding onto your human philosophy? Submit to the word, unless you really are rebel! Do you really want to refuse to give God the glory due his name?!”
Calvinism is like a manipulative elder brother influencing his little brother into a sinful action. The elder brother doesn’t have to say, “Steal that candy bar for me or I will hit you.” He has a more foolproof way of getting his little brother to do his dirty work. Instead of direct intimidation he uses simple psychology. He says, “You are too little to be here with us big boys. Go home!” To this the younger brother predictably replies, “I am big!” “Ok,” the elder brother continues, “then steal that candy bar to prove it. But I know you will not do it. You’re a chicken! You’re too small to do it!” it is not hard to guess what happens next. The little brother promptly steals the candy bar.
The first strategy of intimidation would leave the little brother with an excuse, “My brother made me do it.” But the second strategy is ingenious. It ensures that the younger brother has no one else to blame, because he chose to do it all by himself. This is the strategy of Calvinism’s irresistible error. Calvinism doesn’t require pushy salesmen for its theology. Calvinists can present Reformed Theology and say, “Take it or leave it. It is up to you. You just have to decide if you want to submit to the Bible or your own understanding. But, I do encourage you to seriously consider this challenge from Paul, ‘Who are you, O man, to answer back to God?’”
No more urging is needed; the zeal of the disciple will do the rest. The hungry and humble disciple feels compelled to prove his devotion. Calvinism informs him that he doesn’t believe the biblical view of God’s universal love because the Bible teaches such a doctrine, but because that is what he wants to believe. By accepting the harsh doctrines of Calvinism, the disciple can prove once and for all that he doesn’t follow God according to his own understanding. The simple accusation of pride and rebellion, coupled with his ignorance of the meaning of a number of passages, can coerce the humble disciple as successfully as the older brother’s accusation about the younger brother being a chicken.
Of course it is not only new believers who fall prey to the accusing claims of Calvinism. Converts to Reformed Theology might have been believers in Christ for many years or even decades before they submit to the paradigm of TULIP. Nevertheless, most converts to this system will have similarities in their testimony. Many, if not most, will share how they resisted accepting Calvinism for a long time because they despised how it seemed to belittle the goodness of God and/or that it seemed so fatalistic. And most, if not all, will share that the ultimate reason that they finally accepted TULIP is because it is “the plain teaching of the Bible.” They sincerely believe that certain verses can be taken in no other sense than in a calvinistic sense. This is not to say they do not have other reasons for accepting Reformed Theology, but I believe that the large majority of such converts would not have made this leap without being firmly convinced that it is the clear teaching of particular passages in the Bible.
Ironically, the error they have made is that they have leaned on their own understanding of some particular verses, instead of submitting to the plain teaching of God’s word and trusting in the Lord with all of their hearts. Their Spirit-renewed consciences long warned them against submitting to their own reasoning about certain passages of Scripture, but they were not able to persevere in submitting to the whole tenor of biblical revelation until they had a better understanding of the “calvinist verses.” Instead, they chose to submit God’s word to their misunderstanding of a number of passages in the Bible.
Of course a Calvinist would object at this point and say that they are following the whole tenor of Scripture. They will argue that the Bible clearly teaches: “Mankind is utterly dead in sin and therefore totally unable to respond positively to the Gospel without the irresistible grace of God, in accordance with His eternal and unconditional election, monergistically regenerating the totally depraved soul first.” But of course, the reason they think this represents the biblical message is because they have chosen to view everything in the Bible through the lens of a misinterpretation of a few key passages. If they did not misunderstand the passages in question, they would never see the biblical message as they presently do. Basically, they have found a few odd looking pine trees in a pine forest, misidentified them as oak trees, and then declared that the entire forest consists only of oak trees. They can’t see the forest for the trees! And they can’t see the biblical message because of a number of passages which they have misinterpreted and made the cornerstone of their theology.
It is for this reason that the Calvinism section of this blog has been written. We want to look at several of the passages that usually trouble the honest, but uninformed, disciple of Christ. We will present these passages in light of their historical, theological and scriptural context in order to shed some much needed perspective on what they are actually teaching. Admittedly, it is unrealistic to imagine that every point of interpretation in this book is completely accurate. Nevertheless, after finishing this book it should be beyond doubt to the reader that each passage, when proper perspective is given, cannot carry the calvinistic interpretation without ignoring the context. As it has often been said, “A text without a context is simply a pretext for a prooftext.”
Let it be said at this point, that I consider Calvinists who have repented of their rebellion against God and trusted in and submitted to Jesus Christ as my brothers and sisters in the faith. And many of them would put me to shame with their love and devotion to our common Savior. Nevertheless, I am convinced that the theological system of Calvinism tends to lead people to a mechanical view of salvation which becomes a stumbling block to many in their walk with the Lord. The errors of Calvinism, though not damning, are certainly serious enough to warrant a strong caution against embracing them. Not only does it distort the character of God, but it often leads to the extremes of overconfidence or despair in those that embrace it. Some are led to be too cavalier believing they will never fall, and others secretly fear they are not among the elect.
The errors and dangers of TULIP are many. But if I had to boil it down to one issue that makes Calvinism dangerous, it would be that it sets up a system of theology as the only lens through which to understand every passage in the Bible. The Bible is not to be viewed through Covenantal Theology (i.e. the underlying paradigm of Reformed Theology) or through the Doctrines of Grace, but through the Person and Gospel of Jesus Christ (Luke 24:44-46). This aspect of Calvinism makes it a stronghold according to Paul’s definition in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5. We must let each passage of Scripture speak freely and not submit it to any philosophical understanding or system. We must submit to God and His word, and let Him give us understanding as He sees fit. We are not saved through holding to a proper systematic theology, but by trusting in, submitting to, and following Jesus Christ. His word is a lamp for our feet, and we must not block the light of that word with a system of theology, even an airtight logical system of theology like Calvinism. We must let every passage shine freely, though it means we don’t always know how to make it all fit together in a nice package.
Though Calvinism comes with many dangers, many calvinistic Christians, as mentioned above, are able to rise above these temptations and live godly lives that truly honor Christ. For such calvinistic believers I have the utmost respect. But, the dangers are real enough, and the consequences serious enough, that people must be encouraged to avoid embracing the calvinistic theological system.
Finally, it must be said, this book is not for Calvinists, though they are more than welcome to read it. This is written for people that are on the fence. Those who feel the weight of Calvinism’s accusing suggestion bearing down on their conscience. It is my hope that many will see that TULIP’s interpretations do not stand up to the context of each passage. And if this is seen, then the philosophical arguments of Calvinism will also be seen for what they really are, mere human philosophy.
“Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”
49 thoughts on “The Making of a Calvinist (Calvinism’s Bold Accusation)”
Reblogged this on wernerschwartz.
This is excellent!!
As someone who has been analyzing the language processes involved in false advertisements for products, I’ve used that knowledge base as I’ve quietly analyzed Calvinist language from a distance.
Don’t get involved with them in word-definition debates (which is one of the red-flags!)
Don’t engage them in an adversarial posture declaring to them you don’t believe their claims.
Just sit back and quietly watch, looking for signs of language manipulation….you *WILL* find it!
What I’ve consistently observed over time is their working philosophy is: “How one plays the game is not important….winning the game is what is important!”
There is a difference between the intent to inform by correct-reasoning and the intent to persuade.
The former sincerely desires your well being, the later works to use you as an asset.
The tactic of not speaking the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth is a major red-flag!
The English language, the Greek language, and logic all have well-defined per-existing rules and lexical definitions to words have been well-established by leading scholars.
What one will observe by quietly watching Calvinism over time, is a consistent strategy to alter those rules and definitions at will in order to gain the advantage.
He who controls word definitions controls the reading of the text.
An organization that creates a bible where original words are replaced with altered words which guarantee a controlled reading of the text would be only too obvious a manipulation of scripture.
Calvinists are way too smart for that.
What Calvinism does as a consistent strategy instead, is teach people to psychologically replace words in the text with altered meanings, deviating from well established lexical boundaries, and thus deviating from the boundaries of honesty. This is the same tactic used by the lawyer in Luke 10 who wants to alter the meaning of the word “neighbor” in order make the text read what he wants it to say.
Calvin’s golden calf is the doctrine of divine mono-causality.
Look for signs of Calvinist’s altering the definitions of words to force them to mean “causation”.
Look for signs of debates wrangling over word definitions.
Look for signs of a supremacy-persona, and other Gnosticism indicators.
Look for subtle hidden indicators of a deity who is morally dualistic (yin-yang morality)
An indicator that a deity is anthropomorphic is a deity that is morally dualistic.
Calvin’s god is a god who does not speak the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth, in his word when he speaks to his people.
Calvin’s god asserts (A) with his “revealed” will, while denying (A) with his “secret” will.
And Psalms 115:8 tells us that we become like the deity we worship.
And this is what you will observe consistently in Calvinist language, asserting (A) while subtly denying it.
Unfortunately, Calvinism has forced us the sad chore of recognizing disingenuous indoctrination tactics.
It is a true saying that in all of professing Christianity, Calvinism perennially retains the title of being the most subtle beast in the field (Genesis 3:1)
I agree with your brief assessment of Calvinism, you mention Romans 9:13 (good verse to prove your point) I can see how The Calvinist disciple would stumble upon a verse like that and be overwhelmed with the thought of Scripture contradicting itself, but scripture does not. The word hate in its original meaning according to the context of the verse means “love less” The reason why I mention this is because I feel like a lot of doctrines emerge from semantics. Most people read Gods word, take it at face value (as you said) without doing proper exegesis or a study of the original languages.
Good input. thx
Justin – I really don’t believe that this is the appropriate venue to debate your mistaken beliefs of Arminianism. I was mainly trying to praise you and Chris for your charity towards each other and let you know that Arminianism is not about free will. You don’t appear to have taken that as fact and are still hammering away at your mistaken belief about free will. Chris has given you a great statement in that freed will is actually a better understanding.
1) Read Arminius himself
2) Read Olson’s book
I would be glad to discuss with you after you have done those things. You can write me privately at email@example.com. I have a vicious spam blocker so you will need to reference this conversation in the subject line.
Well, OK. I thought I was clearly dealing with the subject of freed will. Arminianism is about man being able to ultimately resist anything God does to draw him, right?
I’ll be sure to email you if I read Arminius and/or Olsen.
Justin – Nope, Arminianism is not about man being able to resist anything God does to draw him. Arminianism is about God’s Character in light of a plenary understanding of God’s Word.
I’m glad that you are going to seminary. Wesley will help you to see the beauty of God’s impeccable, complex, wonderful character as described by God, Himself, in His Word.
Me & Justin have alot to hash out & time to make up for. For us this is a better venue than twitter wth its 140 characters.
I believe my answer was clear, but such subtle differences take time to see & sometimes many versions of the same statements are needed. So im willing to take it one step at a time.
But, i do recommend to justin that he thoughtfully read “arminian theology” by roger olson if he is interested in understanding the difference in what his experience tells him arminianism is and what i nelieve it is.
OK. I’ll bow out and let you two work it out. I appreciate the charity you two show each other 🙂
Thanks for ur input bro. It is always helpful. I stay silent often cause u and a couple other guys answer all the questions so well. So, Dont bow out too long;) haha! I need u around here!
But as i said, me & justin have to make up for some lost time.
Justin and Chris – I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you two working out your differences with each other. I wish more Christians would do this.
Every Christian should read Calvin’s Institutes as well as Arminius writings as well as Luther’s all with the lens of God’s Word, as man’s writings are fallible. God’s Word is not.
One thing I would like to point out. Unfortunately, many Arminians are saddled with the “you believe in free will” part of the debate by our Calvinist brothers. Arminians could care less about free will, it is not an integral part of Arminian theology as many would like people to believe about Arminianism.
Arminianism, pure and simple, is about one thing and one thing only. What does a plenary understanding of God’s Word say about God’s character? Arminians believe that Calvinism sacrifices God’s character on the altar of divine exhaustive determinism, the very reason that Arminius broke from Beza’s brand of Calvinism. Arminius took steps to remove evil far from any connection with God’s impeccable character.
If Calvinists could understand that about Arminianism, I believe that much of the debating would go away.
That’s my $0.02
Hi doc – thanks for your encouragement. I didn’t mean to broad-brush, but in my experience as an Arminian for years, and in my interaction with many different types of synergists like Arminians, JW’s, Mormons, and RCatholics, the issue always comes down to a reading of the Bible which places the ultimate decision to believe in the will of the person, not with God. I’ve lately seen a few people seeming to say otherwise, but isn’t that the essence of your understanding of the acceptance of salvation? God enables, woos, calls, draws, even in a sense pleads, but the decision to believe is ultimately made by the sinner before they are born again, right? That was my understanding of the decision of salvation as an Arminian, and it is what I hear from synergists of the like. In that sense, the person has the “free-will” to choose yes or no for Jesus, although they are not born again until they choose yes.
Is that not accurate?
Justin – Thanks for responding. I wonder if the Arminianism that you speak of is actually semi-pelagianism. I’m speaking of Classical Arminianism or Reformation Arminianism which are firmly rooted in the Five Sola Tradition. This is what Arminius taught. Have you read any of Arminius writings? They are VERY inexpensive in the kindle version.
I’m a tad bit uncomfortable with you putting Arminians in the same category as JW’s, Mormons and RCatholics when we have much more in common with our Calvinist brothers.
Olson, in his book, Arminian theology, directly addresses what you are speaking of in Chapter 4: Myth #4: The heart of Arminianism is Belief in Free Will.
I think the simplist way for u to see the slight error in ur understanding of our view is to think of Adam. Did Adam’s free will create or bring him into God’s grace? Did Adam choose to be created? Of course the answer to all of these is no. Grace was given to him before he asked for it (i.e. prevenient grace). It showed him truth & enabled him to walk in righteousness & faith.
That is my view of what God does with sinners by prevenient grace. He doesnt ask their permission, & their free will doesnt choose to believe. He enables them to not resist his work in their hearts. They cant “not resist” by their “free will”, they are bound in sin & have no free will but that which leads to sin. It is a divine act (not something natural left over in Man from before the fall) of enables the will of men to not resist the work of God’s Spirit in their hearts.
So what part does free will play in bringing us to faith & keeping us there? It is not choosing to allow God to work in us, but it is us not resisting what God is working in. & let me be clear, this “not resisting” is supernatural enablement. So what can we credit free will with? The same thing we can credit Adam’s free will with, namely, resisting the Holy Spirit. Something he didnt have to do be necessity because his heart & will was free by grace. And for men under the influence of divine grace (acts16:14 for example) their will is freed to not resist what God has already begun inside of them.
This might not be acceptable to u because of ur view of “spiritual death” being comparable to physical death, but that is another issue. It is important that u first try to understand how what i just explained is different than the unintentional & understandable strawman u just presented in ur comment. If it looks like im saying the same thing as u but trying to dance around the issue, please take time to meditate on the example of adam and the way i presented my view. I can assure u there is a difference. It might seem subtle, but it is the difference between Salvation by Grace + free will & salvation by God’s grace alone! It might be subtle, but it is not mere sophistry.
Arminians dont believe in free will, but in freed will.
drwayman – the only comparison I’m making is the identical sounding belief in the choice of man as the location of the ultimate decision for salvation or against. RCatholics (esp looking at Trent) insist on prevenient grace and at times seem to truly be in the grace camp. JW’s and Mormons also believe that God is in some way enabling choice and that it is up to us to ultimately make that decision.
The comparison may sting a bit, but I’m not trying to go guilt by association as in heresy upon you like them. What I am getting at is the underlying, unbiblical philosophizing which makes way for the will of man to be determinative.
Boiling all of this down as best I can, Arminianism teaches that man can always resist God’s call to salvation, and that God will never create the born again spirit in a man until he has chosen to receive Christ.
Is that not right?
If so, then I’m sorry but the reformed understanding is accurate: those who go to heaven can know they do so because they did better with an opportunity than those who received the very same opportunity and go to hell. Yes or no?
The reformed understanding of Arminianism, that is.
Chris: I totally get it. Adam received graces he did not and could not ask for, as do we (although we cannot make a direct comparison as Adam had the grace of a sin-free nature).
Like I said to the other gentleman: if it ultimately boils down to me making the decision to no longer resist God’s saving grace, and to believe on Jesus for salvation, then I have something, no matter how small, to boast in over against my neighbor who got the same prevenient grace and did not choose Christ hence going to hell.
Biblical theology is so beautiful because I would have always resisted God’s grace to the pit of hell unless He had first saved me so that I might believe. The decision I made to believe in Jesus was rooted in the new birth which preceded it.
Until the moment adam fell into sin, cud he boast? He cudnt boast that every good he was receiving was from God. And it wud be silly for him to boast that up to that point he had chosen God & thus helped God’s grace.
Now, do u ever boast that God chose u & not ur non-elect neighbor? Im sure u dont, that wud be foreign to ur view of God’s kindness to u. In the same way, an arminian that understands arminianism wud never consider boasting that his choice makes him different than his neighbor.
Cud a calvinist boast that they r special compared to others? Yes, but most wudnt dream of it.
Cud an arminian boast that he is not resisting God’s grace, but his neighbor is? Yes, but he wud never dream of it. He knows & feels very deeply that the determination “to will and to act according to God’s good pleasure” is from God, not himself.
I meant “He cudnt boast that every good he was receiving from God was because of his free will” (speaking of adam above)
Late here and i need to crash. I dont check comments every day cause i dont always have time to answer sufficiently. So if i dont respond immediately know that 1,000 years is as a day;)
I wanted to adress one more point on this issue of free will, namely spiritual death.
Col 2:14? (arond abouts) makes it clear that one can come to faith before being “made alive wth christ” whilse still “dead in sin”.
The calvinist view usually compares spiritual death with physical death, & then uses lazarus as an illustration.
First problem with that is that john 11 was not meant to illustrate spiritual resurection but physical. In john 11 jesus proves his claims in john 5. So the second meaning (john likes double meanings) in lazarus raisings is proving john 5.
Second problem is that jesus illustrates elsewhere the nature of spiritual death. It is not some inability to be aware of anything spiritual in the same way a dead man is unaware of the world. Jesus taught that it means relational alienation in the paraable of the prodigal son. This son was dead & is now alive.
3rd problem- christians are “dead to sin”, paul said he has been crucified to the world. But this doesnt mean their is not communication between the lust of the fleshly desires & the christian. So “dead” isnt the same similar to physical death in the sense of completely oblivious to. Consider God speaking wth Adam after he sinned, he was able to hear and respond to God by God’s grace.
4th problem- the bible doesnt just use “dead” to describe the sinners state. Jesus said sinners are “sick & need a physician” . They are lost and need a shepherd. Blind and need a light. Etc.
This doesnt mean that men retain the ability to respond to God wthout grace. Both calvinists & arminians agree man is totally depraved. But they also agree that god gives prevenient or common grace which keeps men from being as dead as we wud be wthout the supernatural light of conscience, & other graces.
So, the idea that one has to be unilaterally regenerated to believe is unbiblical & merely a philisophical necessity for the calvinistic system to work without a glitch. Consider this: if a spirit is born again will it (super)naturally & inevitably come to trust in God? Calvinism wud say yes. But adam was a spirit alive by God’s grace, & yet he didnt ineveitably (at least not for long) trust in God & submit to his authority.
The idea of prevenient grace is very very very close to the idea of regeneration leading to faith, but without the little idea of a spirit being dead like lazuris was, & unable to be aware of anything truly spiritual. God by grace brings a man to a point where he can hear the word without resistance, while still allowing him (like he did with adam) to resist the word.
Think on these things bro, i have to crash out;)
Oh, and drwayman – I have not read Arminius, but for that matter neither have I read Calvin. I am wary to do too much reading outside of the Bible in systematics and dogmatics at this point because I am entirely interested in deriving my understanding of theology as much as possible from the Word first and then from Church history second. I did sign up for and will begin seminary training this fall – but I joined a Methodist/Wesleyan institution so as to have my understanding challenged from every angle. I suppose eventually I will read the Calvinists…
Sure he would, bro. I’ve known at least a few believers who boast in their decision and free-will choice of Christ. That’s why Paul writes that we are saved by grace through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.
We (monergists) see in this verse that Paul is glorying in his God-given faith which is not of himself, his God-given salvation which is not of himself, all due to the grace of God which is in spite of himself. Because even my choice was enabled and caused by God’s will, there is literally nothing to boast in, whatsoever, not even that I didn’t resist any longer. I know it seems like hair-splitting, but the difference ends up being enormous.
And I get the feeling that you guys are missing the thing I keep saying: I was Arminian like you. I railed against Calvinism because I thought it was not “fair” of God to choose whom He would for salvation, but that our love for Him would be fake if He drew us to Himself apart from our will. I understand! I may not be putting it so exactly that you can see it, but I get it 🙂
Nevertheless I fellowship with and abide with the errors of Arminians in my own church. There are folks all around my life who do not believe as I do – I do not take a hammer to them. I let them speak. The only reason I am on here making a point of arguing these doctrines is because I deeply believe that Chris has not seen what it is the Bible is saying and that we confess in the reformed tradition… yet we could go on for years probably. Thanks for sharing your thoughts again.
I think u read my comments too quickly, since ur response spells out what i just denied;)
We can hash it out over the long haul tweet by tweet.
Christopher – I have been following your blog and greatly appreciate what you have been saying.
My experience with Calvinists is consistent with what you are teaching on this blog.
Stay the course!!
Christopher – forgive the double post. I am always humored when I see Calvinists react so strongly to information/disinformation about Calvinism.
If Calvinism is true, then God is the one who is actually causing you to write such, you have no choice. Meticulous determinism just ends up so that Calvinists shoot themselves in the foot.
i agree, calvinism is a black hole of determinism. but our calvinist brethren are often very practical souls who are able to ignore the conclusions of fatalism. those who follow it consistently they call hyper-calvinism, i call them consistent-calvinists 😉
Thx for the encouragement bro. It is good to know the posts are helpful to some out there.
But i do hope im communicating more about Calvinism that Calvinists. Sometimes it is hard for me to maintain the distinction in my posts,but i do want to make sure i put the emphasis on the system of calvinism more than on my calvinist brethren. anyway, i hope my posts dont prejudice people against calvinists more than is necessary.
Christopher – Thanks for making the distinction between Calvinists and Calvinism. Forgive my sloppiness in not being clearer about that issue. I believe Calvinists to be brothers and sisters in Christ. I believe Calvinism is heterodoxy.
no worries. i was afraid i was giving the wrong impression, so i forgot to notice if u were or not;-)
I’ve read your post. Brother Chris, I urge you to take this post down immediately – it is almost entirely inaccurate in your assessment of each point. I am not saying that because you see salvation differently than I do. I love you in Christ and am worried that this article will be believed by your people. I would be willing to work with you on constructing something accurate and fair in discussing this topic, but as it stands I have rarely in my years as a Christian seen such a straw man portrayal of Calvinism and those who love the doctrines of grace 😦 😦 😦
Maybe you have different experiences than I do, but this post is simply not representative of truth, and truth is what we ought to be aimed at.
Wow, ur passion is very tangible. It caused me to go back and reread what i have written. The only thing i see that could be miscronstrued is the phrase “the calvinist’s boast”. That cud be taken as a shot at calvinists, but it was not written wth that intention, and unless a calvinist reads it, i dont think it will be taken that way. Since i have heard that line of argument endless times, i think it is just, but will try to find a softer way to phrase it.
I really appreciate ur zeal for ur system of theology, and ur sincere desire to see truth exalted. As well as ur desire to see that readers are protected. But i must stand by what i have written. It is the result of both pastoral experience and theological inquiry. It was written with pastoral intentions from a sincere and honest heart with no intention of creating “a strawman argument”. Nor do i believe it is such an argument or i wud delete it immediately since i despise such practices. It was not aimed at my brothers who consider themselves calvinist but at a system of theology that i believe is dangerous for the spiritual health of disciples.
I hope people who are being hounded by the accusations of calvinism will read it and understand better what they are experiencing spiritually. This is a spiritual matter that must be discerned as such. It is possible ur just reading it from a scholastic point of view whereas it is written for pastoral purposes. I hope those suffering the accusations i wrote about will learn that ignoring their spirit renewed conscience is “neither right nor safe” and will be encouraged to shake off unjust condemnation and dig deeper into the scriptures.
Sincerely in Christ,
Oh, but I must, must retort that:
1) I have no zeal for a “system of theology” other than Christ and Him crucified – the gospel, the grace of God magnified, Christ’s soon return; everything the Scripture teaches. For example, I have much hesitancy with the extent of the atonement and how to deal with questions of limited atonement precisely because it is so hard to pinpoint in the Scriptures.
2) Your post is indeed aimed at Calvinists and not just at a system of theology you believe is dangerous. Who is it who is pushing this system onto these unsuspecting, pure-hearted lambs you describe? If it is not the Calvinists who are pressuring the disciples, then who or what is? Your entire line of reasoning comes from the beginning belief that Calvinists have been hoodwinked into ignoring the spirit-renewed conscience, and that we go about to basically capture the weak-minded into the same trap. For instance, I am definitely on a mission to guide disciples into a greater vision of God through His Word, teaching the entire volume of Scripture. This expository faithfulness most often will lead us into what can be called Calvinism. That makes me a part of your perceived “Big Brother” mentality… yet I would never try to coerce or push someone into adopting something which the Holy Spirit is not revealing yet. I have amazing, heart warming stories of brothers and sisters who first were very upset and hateful towards the sovereign grace of God and who later are freed and rejoicing in Him in a much greater way – their walks with Christ becoming deeper and wider; their love for the lost growing deeper and wider. And guess how they had their eyes opened? By reading the Scriptures and studying them as a whole…
You err so much though. Putting aside emotional appeals through phrases like “big brother” which is entirely negative and even manipulative (that which you loathe in the Calvinists), let’s deal with things in a more careful, responsible manner. On twitter you state that Augustine, Calvin, Edwards, etc all got it wrong in salvation theology. You then state you’ve seen the arguments and name a few chapters of Scripture… but what about the other 1180 chapters? Calvinism (a label I eschew but makes it easier to communicate what I mean) is an entire biblical theology of A) who God is and B) what He has done and is doing. It is not easily dismissed as being contained only in 5-10 chapters!
These types of arguments and assertions from you seem to indicate that you don’t really have the understanding of the issues that you seem to state you do have. Instead of broad-brushing Calvinism as you have in this article, why don’t we deal with the issues and put aside emotional appeals? Please tell me what Calvinists you have read in your studies – and I mean real interaction with these peoples’ writings and hard work, not just a surface level glance.
3) Most of all, I am absolutely reading from a pastoral POV, not so much a scholastic – I believe there is great spiritual robbery to those who do not understand and rejoice in the doctrines of sovereign grace. I love my free-willism/Arminian brothers, and believe them to be well-meaning, but I believe that the system of theology you have embraced is a pale shade of the glorious gospel of free grace that is sometimes unfortunately nicknamed Calvinism.
Lastly, I believe very sincerely that you have not been exposed to the actual greatness of the doctrines of sovereign grace. The Holy Spirit has breathed such a blessing of excitement and joy into my life and many others lives from coming to an understanding of God which is unlimited by our philosophical fears – Arminianism and free-willism I believe strongly is a natural man’s default position in the fear of bowing to an all-powerful, all-free grace God of the universe. We look for and strain to find anything which gives us control, which is at its base fearful and a lack of faith in the goodness of God. Pastorally, free-will teachings can end up putting us in a position of fear and pride because we are told it is “up to us,” and that God is waiting for us to help Him fulfill His plan. I cannot think of much that is more of an unbiblical pressure on the saints.
Psalm 115:3 “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.”(NASB)
I pray you receive this with the love and respect due to you, my elder and brother in Christ.
Thx again for ur input. I never thought of “big brother” in the sense like a govt conspiracy thing. If i can think of a way to reword that i will. It was just a way to present someone smarter manipulating someone naive. And the big brother represented calvinism not calvinists. I think that was clear even in the first draft. After so long out of the country sometimes i forget the nuance of some english phrases.
As for the calvinist’s role in the manipulation of disciples,as i mentioned, i intended to present them as naive of their role as possible. Because i believe them sincere in their beliefs and unintentional in their spread of error. After ur original comments i realized i didnt do that as well as i thought i did. But as the post stands now, it is as clear as possible wthout letting them off the hook entirely, which wud be inaccurate. but this by no means is meant to demonize them. Because i believe they are usually “sincere and well meaning”;) jk
I didnt mean to insult u by saying u r devoted to “ur system of theology”. Sorry for my choice of words.
Justin, out of respect for u as my brother, and all my calvinist brethren out there who stumble upon this post i hav meticulously changed the wording. I am certain that u will not see the changes u wanted, but i hav done my best to put the blame on calvinism and not on calvinists. I was guided by that same principle in the first draft, but ur calvinist eyes 🙂 helped me to see more wording i cud adjust.
This post was not written for calvinists and so i did not expect them to take such an interest in it. I dont feel called to convert calvinists to a more biblical theology, but help disciples who face many obstacles on their road of faith; calvinism being one of them. But im glad u took issue with this post because it helped me too sharpen it. I wud not want to give disciples a dislike for their calvinistic brothers, since that wud be an obstacle for them. Hopefully the new wording will help avoid that as much as is possible when dealing wth this subject.
In the end, im sure ur indignation, and that of other calvinists that read this, will remain fervant against this post. But as i mentioned in my last comment, this is a spiritual matter. Most calvinists are unaware that they posses the attitudes and mindsets i discussed here. For that reason the will feel misrepresented. I regret that is the case, but it cannot be avoided.
I pray we will both continue to grow in our love for god and one another, and our knowledge of his truth.
I appreciate this.
Dear Christopher, Excellent post and very gracious. Don’t change it too much to accommodate complaints, so that it loses it’s force. From what I have seen and read it’s a pretty fair assessment, certainly of the Calvinism that I have come across, and I am sorely tempted to think that the Calvinists who aren’t like this and feel misrepresented are a mostly mythical bunch. I have only met so far one possible exception to his representation.
One minor stylistic whinge, I don’t know if it’s trendy or something de rigeur for those under 50 but the spelling? “cud, wud, ur, u, i” etc looks like you typed it in great haste after 4 gin and tonics on a mobile phone with a faulty screen and were getting charged by the character for the post. It jars horribly with the obviously literate and informed nature of your approach. My wife spells like this, but she also has extremely serious dyslexia! Keep up the good work.
Haha! (note:This reply is made on my cell phone;)
All the changes im going to make on it have been done already. Justin (i think that was his name) only confirmed my post with his comments,in my opinion.
I will hav to check my post for the dislexia (;-) u mentioned. all my posts are done on an old fashioned computer so i usually avoid cell phone short hand. but the corrections i made were done on a mobile device. if u r refering to my comments after the posts, well, all the old fogies out there will hav to live with it;) haha!
thx 4 d coments (i.e. Thank you very much for your excellent comments;-)
Chris, I don’t want to give you the impression that I am angry or dislike you. The issue here is that you are in error and doing the very thing you are trying to prevent: hurting the sheep. Your recent comment below where you say I “only confirmed” your original post is obviously your way of saying I am a coercive bully as described in the post. Am I wrong?
glad to have u back in the discussion.
u confirmed the post in two ways.
1. u mentioned the process of conversion to calvinism by several people.
2. ur tone was maybe stronger than u intended to communicate. it came across as insisting that i take down my post & let u help me write it correctly.
since u soon after asked me to have no more contact with u,my suspicion that ur tone was heated was confirmed.
i believe if u read the post & compare them wth ur comments u will see many parrallels.
Let’s be real. You spend a ton of time shooting your guns at Calvinism, and you feel it is a dangerous, hurtful system. OK. So do a lot of other types of people.
I asked you, and you did not respond to my question, who and which reformed writers and sources you have studied in order to get your expertise in this battle you are fighting? When you did not answer that question, it told me you are not interested in being challenged in depth, but would rather shoot tweets back and forth with people.
I know I am probably reading you wrong, and that is why I am trying again to communicate with you. You’re my brother. We have an eternity of fellowship ahead of us, and I love you in Christ Jesus. Soooooo…. I yearn to iron these types of things out with brothers and feel a sharp pain in my heart when I see your errors. Am I being clear?
i have read piper,sproul,many older books i can get on kindle(sorry dont know authors names,but most available on kindle),the book “why i am not arminian” (and several of that sort).
i probably did not answer that question cause ur comment sounded more like a rant than an actual fesire for info. usually when i get comments like that i try to give a “soft answer to turn away wrath”.
again,i dont think i misunderstood ur tone,since soon after u asked me to severe all communication with u.
Well, I hope I can clarify things. I needed to stop having the conversation with you because it feels like you are not interacting with my ideas. It seems you are speaking as in a speech – and my questions were brushed aside. I have conversations with Arminians in real life and on Twitter on a fairly regular basis, and I rarely end up upset, especially to the point of cutting off conversation. Nic Don, for example, is really off in his theology IMO, but him and I interact and exchange thoughts easily. Why? We answer each others questions and I know he is willing to listen to both sides.
That is what seems to be missing here. Again, whom and what have you studied to become familiar with Reformed theology?
I think what upset u was my comment that calvinism was “very demonic”. That made u very emotional. I tried to get u to look at the context & the tone in which i said it,but ur opinion of me was already established wth my choice of words. I had other calvinist friends look at the comment ,which was written to an arminian in response to his comment, & they recognized that i was not saying it flippantly. But the word, and i suppose my strong views on what u hold to be truth, was too hard to accept.
It was for this reason that i soon after removed the comment out of respect for my calvinist brethren, though i do not hold that i said it wth a wrong attitude or in away that others cudnt understand my tone.
I was enjoying our interaction on twitter greatly up untilthat point and had told my wife about you. I considered u thoughtfull and engaging. If u arewilling to think about it, i believe u felt the same way, until that unfortunate comment of mine made u question the tone in which i was discussing the issues. So again, alls i can say is that the comment i made was not intended to harm or be offensive. Since it did cause harm & offense, it was removed. I hope that the absense of that comment anywhere on this comments page will attestto my sincerity about the regret i have about how it affected my relationship wth u. At that point in my twitter experience u were becoming one of my favorite people, and when u told me we wudnt talk again until heaven i was grieved for quite a while.
I hope we can move past this episode. I am glad to talk about the issues of the calvinism/arminianism debate, though i am sick of the subjuct:) i am all debated out wth my other twitter friends. Though i still make comments on twitter about the cal/arm debate (because i still have a few books i determined to read on the subject), u will notice that i am not blogging on that topic at present ans tweeting less and less about it.
One other thing i wud like to correct in your opinion of me. U said on twitter that my goal is to convert calvinists to arminianism. This is not true at all. Though i wud be happy to see calvinists accept what i see as a more biblical view of God, that is not my reason for posting about the topic.
I tweet about it for the following reasons:
1. It is the subject i have been studying about. So it is constantly on my mind for the last few months.
2. I am trying towork out my own theology about subjects related to free will, depravity & sovereignty. For that purpose i followed many calvinist brethren so i cud discuss with them. In thatwayihave come to understand better what i read. It is always better to have a lliving sounding board when reading about a topic. My calvinist bros helped me greatly. I have changed my opinion on many topics, some of them huge,since we last spoke.
3. I am a pastor & i am relatedto a fellowship of churches that is arminian. But many of the people in my fellowship (many of which are on twitter) are not always clear about the issues between the 2 theological systems. So i tweet, and many of them retweet, my comments. I do this because i believe calvinism is growing in influence and is an unhealthy theology. As a pastor and leader i seek to guard the flock from what i see is a threat.
Let me note with all sincereity before the Lord, I do not believe i am called to convert calvinists to arminianism. As i told one brother, i am content that he never changes his views because i believe calvinists are my brethren. And again, i believe trying to convert calvinists is not time well spent, i have never seen a calvinist turn back from calvinism. I was surprised to recently find a book on kindle of a baptist pastor who was calvinist for 30 years who recanted that theology. I didnt know it was possible, but all things are possible wth God;) j/k
I have never thought my debates with calvinists wud convert them, but i do think those with whom i have debated have learned something from me & i from them. Forexample, u got me thinking on the issue of penal substitution, which i hav not stopped thinking about since we last talked.
I hope we can move on bro.
Yes. God bless you too. Time for me to grow up some.
I’m sorry to have grieved you. Please forgive me for the sin I am sure is in some of my response. This is very hard for me because of what joy and glory I have realized in Christ through so-called Calvinism. What I had as an Arminian was often fear and bitterness, as well as pride over unbelievers because I had chosen better than them. Realizing that the Word of God freed me from all of that has been wonderful – so yes, comments about demonic this and manipulative that are sure to cause me lots of pain.
I am puzzled that you could have carefully read the reformed authors and returned to the Bible to see only the free-will of man as the determining factor in salvation. Truly puzzling, BUT, I accept that as your understanding right now, and that we have eternity to straighten it out. Pardon any rudeness again, please.
No worries, all is well. And for my sloppy language, i again apologize.
As for free will, we arminians, though we are often strawmaned(;-) do not believe freewill saves anyone but only damns people. Though many arminians have spoken loosely with their words and given much ammunition to those on the other side of the issue. Myself included. For us grace alone saves. We do not choose to believe, but grace enables us to believe. And grace also enables us to not resist that enabling grace. But like adam who was walking in the light & grace of god, we believe God allows us to resist though he enables us (before he asks our permission mind u;) to not resist.
I wud like to follow u on twitter if that is acceptable so we can have more regular interaction. Though i have recently tried to limit the length of debates on the subject, for u i will talk about any issues u might have wth my views. I have recently started tweeting less about calvinism and more about calvinism sothat my calvinist brethren dont feel obligated to debate, but istill make such comments more than most people. Again, the reason is that i am still finishing off my reading on the subject. Anyway, hope we can reconnect.
I haven’t read the article yet, but your comment about the demonic nature of Calvinism leads me to immediately conclude that you have an utter straw man caricature of the Reformed understanding of the gospel. This grieves me deeply. I will read the article and try to reply intelligently 😦
“big brother”， the more i think about you, the deeper i know how lost and demonic and evil you are. this is really a sad thing.
behold, “big brother” is still deceiving little brothers all over the world, believing that they are so devoted to the Word of God.