But SBC Calvinists Believe That Too

The Southern Baptist Convention has certainly seen a mellowing out of what came to be quite a heated debate once again over Calvinism after the publishing of “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation” in May 2012.  Of course, Dr. Frank Page’s appointment of the Calvinism Advisory Committee the next month in June 2012 and the unifying document they crafted and published in June 2013 called “Truth, Trust, and Testimony in a Time of Tension” (aka, T5) has had a great deal to do with the mellowing out we are now enjoying, or at least I am.

Nevertheless, there are those still in the convention that are really concerned about the “problem of Calvinism.”  In fact, I recently overheard a group of men eating breakfast before attending the Tennessee Baptist Convention discussing the issue of Calvinism in the SBC.  One of them declared about Calvinism, “Why if I believed that, I’d never go out and share the gospel because it would already be decided who’s going to be saved!”  Apparently this man understood SBC Calvinists to believe that people are saved apart from hearing and believing the gospel of Jesus Christ, which tells me that there’s still work to be done in communicating what SBC Calvinists actually believe.  I thought to myself and almost chimed in across the aisle, “No, SBC Calvinists believe too that we’ve got to share the gospel if anybody’s going to be saved.”  Unfortunately, that fellow had a misunderstanding of what SBC Calvinists believe.

There are certainly differences between the SBC Calvinist and Non-Calvinist (or Traditionalist, Savabilist, Hankinsian, Hobbs-Rogers Tradition, or whatever the label de jour is) positions on salvation, but some are false differences like with the man above.  In other words, people think there’s a difference when there is actually agreement.  SBC Non-Calvinists want to say, “We believe this, and you don’t.”  But, SBC Calvinists want to say back, “No, we believe that too!”  So, in the hope of clarity that will lead to greater unity in our convention, here are three things SBC Calvinists and Non-Calvinists actually agree on:

1.  Nobody will be saved unless they hear the gospel and believe on Jesus.

There seems to be this notion that SBC Calvinists believe that God just saves whomever He wants regardless of that person’s personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  That is in fact not the case.  Instead, SBC Calvinists agree wholeheartedly with their other SBC brethren that the gospel must be preached to every single person without discretion.  They too affirm that hearing and receiving the gospel is man’s only hope for salvation.  Therefore, God saves nobody apart from hearing and receiving the gospel of Jesus Christ.  It’s for this reason that our duty and joy is to spread the Good News to the ends of the earth with much haste and beg every person to believe on Jesus.

2.  Every person who wants to be saved will be saved.

Some seem to think that SBC Calvinists believe that there will be people who will want to be saved but will be turned away because God did not elect them for salvation.  Along those same lines, these folks conceive that SBC Calvinists believe God will save people who never wanted to be saved and will drag them kicking and screaming into heaven.  However, that is not what SBC Calvinists believe.

SBC Calvinists completely agree with their other SBC brethren that every person who wants to be saved will be saved and that those who don’t want to be saved won’t be.  Therefore, there will be nobody on the Day of Judgment who will truthfully declare before the Lord that they wanted to be saved, but God would not let them.  Those that did not want to be saved will not be saved, and those that want to be saved will be saved.  Nobody is saved or condemned against their will.  Both sides agree on this.

3.  You can know you are elect and have assurance of heaven.

It is assumed by some that SBC Calvinists cannot ever know if a person is elect.  They misunderstand SBC Calvinists to think that even if a person trusts Christ, they can never really know if they are elect and subsequently can never have assurance they will be let into heaven.  However, that is just not true of SBC Calvinists.  SBC Calvinists agree with their other SBC brethren that a person can know whether or not they are elect.

So, how do you know if you’re elect?  SBC Calvinists along with their other SBC brethren1 say that you know you are elect if and only if you repent and believe on Jesus.  God never reveals the status of a person’s election except through a relationship with Jesus Christ.  So, election is directly connected to saving faith.  Every believer in Christ can know they are elect and have assurance of heaven.

____________________

May the dialogue between SBC Calvinists and Non-Calvinists that has been called for in the T5 document continue.  Where there are genuine differences, may we seek to understand each other, but where false differences exist, may we quickly get past them so that we can rejoice in the vast unity we have together as we work to win the world to Jesus.

1I have run into some in the SBC who would say that every single person is elect regardless of their faith in Christ.  They would say that God elected everybody for salvation but leaves it up to us as to whether or not we are actually saved.  However, it seems to me that this view is the vast minority.  The majority position is the elect are only those who believe on Christ, such that there is a 1:1 correlation between those who trust in Christ and those who are elect.  Both SBC Calvinists and Non-Calvinists fit into this majority view although they disagree as to how it is a person becomes elect.

~Ben Simpson  :  @JBenSimpson  :  JBenSimpson.com  :  West Main Baptist Church

Comments

  1. says

    Thanks for this, I think I can remain an SBC Calvinist now. ;-)
    I have run into some who say God elects everyone because He is not willing that any should perish. And I usually say, Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated. But I don’t always say it outloud.
    THere are some out there, who blog a lot, who will never be satisfied with any amount of de-tente, and no amount of personal outreach and gospel preaching on calvinistic baptist’s parts will convince them that we can and should all be evangelistic.
    When someone says, “If I believed that I wouldn’t ever share the gospel.” I am tempted to ask, “And you share it now?” It’s the command of Christ! For crying out loud. We are all commissioned to do it. (Notice how I used ‘all’ there, not as everybody in the world but all the redeemed.)

  2. says

    I have no dog in the Calvinist fight, in part because I dislike theological positions that strike me as divisive or unnecessarily combative. As well, it doesn’t seem to make a very large impact on us and our work here. I leave the research into the subject and the subsequent debate to those smarter and more concerned with the topic.

    However, I enjoy comments like this from Mr. Simpson. Clarifying statements that seek common ground should always be welcome whatever our differences as SBC members.

    • Dave Miller says

      I think you are right (it happens from time to time, right?) that the key here is to write articles that enlighten and explain the positions, not just polemics. This article is a good example of that somewhat elusive ideal.

  3. Hank Walker says

    Thank you, Ben! It grieves me that so much time and ink (real or digital) has been spent on straw man arguments that never get to the heart of the common ground our variously labeled brethren hold in practical theology. If a church (or individual) doesn’t evangelize, it is because of disobedience to the Great Commission – not because of Calvinism. Ironically, some of the fastest growing churches in the Convention (by Baptism, not sheep swapping) are led by Calvinistic pastors.
    Nonetheless, your gracious and well-balanced approach to this matter is refreshing and much appreciated!

  4. says

    Ben,

    Ok, I will be the first non-Calvinist to bite. :)

    1. Nobody will be saved unless they hear the gospel and believe on Jesus.
    Are you saying that one who is elect by God will not get into heaven because we did not get the gospel to him/her?

    2. Every person who wants to be saved will be saved. Are you saying that a person does not have to have his/her heart changed before they will “want to be saved”? IOW, their heart needs to be regenerated before they will desire to be saved.

    3. You can know you are elect and have assurance of heaven. I am not so sure the “all people are elect for salvation” is a minority view. Will have to do more research on that statement.

    • Bill Mac says

      I’ll take a stab at some answers:

      1. The only way to be saved is to respond to the Gospel. If God has elected someone to salvation then he will provide the means for salvation.

      2. Yes, we believe God changes the heart to make one willing. What Ben is talking about primarily, I think, is the idea that God turns people away who are willing but not elect. Not a chance. Whosoever will means just that, even if we disagree about the extent to which God impacts that will.

      3. I don’t know what the minority or majority view is. I just get tired of non-Calvinists telling me that I can’t have assurance of salvation because I can’t be sure I’m elect.

    • says

      Tim,

      1. Nobody enters into heaven without hearing and believing the gospel. Period.

      2. I didn’t address what the Spirit must do. Of course, SBC Calvinists and Non-Calvinists disagree on the causal relationship of regeneration and faith. However, both sides agree that God will turn nobody away that wants to be saved. God neither saves nor condemns anybody against their will.

      3. You may be right that the “everybody is elect” view is the majority, but from my experience, the average SBC’er says that “God chooses those who choose Him.” When I look at the Traditional Statement, it seems to support this latter view.

  5. Ken Allen says

    The issues are more specific than general. What individuals are believing and living is the issue? I’ve had a Calvinist tell me that I am wrong when I say, “We will harvest more if we spread more seed.” They said, “God will save who He will save, does not matter about seed sowing.” Another by-product of hyper Calvinism is the belief that God pre-determines besetting sin – look up on youtube John Piper discussion on this topic. Many young pastors are believing this because those in the “in” crowd believe it. They are apart of the passion event (college students gathering) in Atlanta. Finally the issue is behavior – specifically most of the Calvinists I know have to clarify when people profess faith in Christ. It almost like they would rather we not share the gospel because someone might not really be saved. Belief effects behavior. We’ve gone from easy-believism to no-tellism.

    • Dave Miller says

      Ken, I think your comment brings up an important point. We need to distinguish what “a Calvinist” says and what Calvinists (as a whole) believe. The same would be true of Arminians, or anyone else on the non-Calvinist continuum.

      Each side has people who say and do unwise things. But every opinion within the point of view does not represent the point of view.

  6. says

    As one who holds to unconditional election, I must say that Calvinists go too far by including in their prefaith regeneration nearly every aspect of salvation except justification. The question as I see it is whether God can bring a sinner to faith without first indwelling him with the Holy Spirit, uniting him with Christ, giving him a righteous nature, cleansing him of sin, bringing him to spiritual life and causing him to be “born again”—and I don’t find in Scripture that all that is necessary prior to faith.

    In their endeavor to ensure that God is held as the disposer of the destinies of men, the pivotal importance of faith (as it is found throughout Scripture) is stripped of its substance, as faith becomes a fruit of the process and a mere formality. In its place, regeneration is given pivotal importance in the salvation process; and once a man is regenerated, all else falls like dominoes, one after another. Although they have stripped faith of the substance of its importance, they have kept the Biblical language of the necessity of faith for salvation. However, the salvation they have in mind is mainly justification. Salvation is much more than justification—it includes the many things that they put ahead of faith, such as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and spiritual union with Christ. In fact, it is the substantial reality of union with Christ within the believer that is the ultimate end of salvation. And a faith that is the necessary and immediate result of God’s unilateral regeneration is in no sense pivotal. That which is rigid is no hinge. Salvation cannot turn on that which offers no turning. If faith is the necessary effect of regeneration, then regeneration, not faith, is the true cause of the effect of salvation. In such a scheme, imploring men to believe would make no more sense than imploring them to be regenerated.

    • says

      Ken,

      It seems to me that you may be overstating what Calvinists believe. You said,

      “In their endeavor to ensure that God is held as the disposer of the destinies of men, the pivotal importance of faith (as it is found throughout Scripture) is stripped of its substance, as faith becomes a fruit of the process and a mere formality. In its place, regeneration is given pivotal importance in the salvation process; and once a man is regenerated, all else falls like dominoes, one after another.”

      I do think that Calvinists will agree that “faith becomes a fruit of the process” but not agree that it becomes “a mere formality.” Yes, regeneration is pivotal in that without it nothing else can come about. Unless and until a man is quickened, he cannot, and will not, place his faith in Christ. He cannot, and will not, repent.

      I know you know that when we speak of salvation in a general sense, we all agree that there is a logical order though not necessarily a discernable order by humans…even ones who are saved.

      So I don’t think that Calvinists have collapsed everything into regeneration or justification. But we do heartily acknowledge that without the quickening of the Holy Spirit, there will be nothing else. A spiritually dead man cannot and will not on his own exercise saving faith nor will he repent (conversion).

      Spurgeon captures it well:

      “No sooner is the soul quickened, than it at once discovers its lost estate, is horrified thereat, looks for a refuge, and believing Christ to be a suitable one, flies to him and reposes in him.” – C.H. Spurgeon

      All else does necessarily follow as he is a new creation.

      Blessings brother.

      • says

        Les,

        When faith is made a fruit of the process, then it is in no sense pivotal. That which is rigid is no hinge. Salvation cannot turn on that which offers no turning—and salvation turning upon faith is really what the non-Calvinists mean by the statement, “Nobody will be saved unless they hear the gospel and believe.” For Calvinists to say, “We believe that too,” is misleading, since what they mean by that is very different and salvation does not turn upon faith for them. If faith is the necessary effect of regeneration, then regeneration, not faith, is the only thing upon which salvation turns.

        • says

          Ken,

          For Calvinists to say that they too believe “Nobody will be saved unless they hear the gospel and believe” is in no way misleading. It is straightforward, focusing on the human side of the salvation equation. By your argument, most Non-Calvinists are misleading as well when they claim this truth because most would say that there must be a drawing of the Holy Spirit in order for a person to believe on Christ. So, you would have them to say, “Nobody is saved unless they hear the gospel, are drawn by the Holy Spirit, and believe.” By your argument, only Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians could claim this and not be misleading.

          • says

            You misunderstood me, Ben. I meant that it is misleading for Calvinists to offer to non-Calvinists, “We believe that too.” It reminds me of a book on Arminianism by Olson that I read once. There were so many of what seemed “teflon-like” claims (offered to the Calvinist objections) that were, “Arminians believe that too,” that I threw my hands up and one point and said out loud, “Well, then, I guess Arminians are Calvinists!” Take for example the Arminian claim, “We believe in total depravity too.” While they believe in the form, they have gutted the doctrine of all substance by holding that this total depravity has been nullified in all men—“but we believe in it just as the Calvinists do.” Now, doesn’t that seem somewhat misleading?

            Speaking as a centrist, I believe that salvation turns upon faith. The drawing of the Holy Spirit is needed in order for a man to believe only in the sense that it is certain that he will not come otherwise. The inability of sinners consist only in the moral will, which offers no excuse. If I cannot do what I ought only because my wicked heart does not want to do what I ought, then I have no excuse precisely because I could have and should have done what I ought. Calvinists take the inability too far, making it a total inability, which logically leads to the idea that the sinner could not come to Christ no matter how much he might want to. Look up the difference between a moral inability and a natural inability, as taught by Andrew Fuller in The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation.

          • says

            Ken,

            Obviously you’ve thought a lot on this. I have as well, and we could go round and round I suppose, but at the end of the day, I agree with my SBC Non-Calvinist brethren that God saves nobody apart from hearing and receiving the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yes, there is disagreement as to the effect sin has had on man. (BTW, I agree with you on it being a moral inability.) Yes, there is disagreement as to how much God must do to bring a sinner to salvation. But, there is no disagreement over the fact that God saves nobody apart from hearing and receiving the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that everybody who believes on Christ will indeed be saved.

            Again, as I said above, there are differences for sure between the two camps, but let’s not make differences where there aren’t any.

          • Debbie Kaufman says

            Calvinists believe the Bible is the final authority and it clearly says: “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” Romans 10:7. Hearing the Gospel is the means God chose to save. We are to go into all the world according to scripture, we believe scripture, we do as scripture commands.

        • says

          Ken, with all due respect, “When faith is made a fruit of the process, then it is in no sense pivotal.” Says who? You of course, but that is not proof that faith is not pivotal.

          Faith is necessary for salvation. The bible says so. On that we all agree. But faith cannot happen in a spiritually dead man. One may certainly say that regeneration and faith are both pivotal. One may even add conversion, etc. Because, without any of the components of the order of salvation, salvation does not happen.

          Jesus said belief is necessary. He also said regeneration is necessary.

          Blessings,

          Les

          • says

            Les,

            As a certain fruit of the process, faith is not pivotal by the mere force of the language. A pivot point is a turning point, like a hinge on a door. That is why we say that salvation hinges or turns upon faith—or that faith is pivotal. But this language is misleading if no turning of one or the other direction is possible at the point of faith. It is only proper to speak of something being conditional upon another thing if that there is a possibility of the condition not being met. In Calvinism, once we pass the point of regeneration, there are no other points at which it remains possible to turn one way or the other—no possibility that “conditions” will not be met. So when you say that faith is pivotal to salvation, you are asserting the sound of something but denying the substance of it, since the only true pivot point is regeneration. As I said earlier, that which is rigid is no hinge, and nothing turns upon that which offers no turning.

          • says

            Ken,

            I suppose definitions need to be clarified. You said, “faith is not pivotal by the mere force of the language. A pivot point is a turning point, like a hinge on a door.”

            I was using another accepted definition in Webster’s dictionary, “vitally important.”

            On that, faith’s “vital importance,” we can agree, right?

            BTW, let’s establish that in my use here, “vital” means “of the utmost importance.”

            Blessings,

            Les

          • says

            Les,

            The importance of faith that we find in Scripture comes from the prospect of its absence. In other words, using pivotal to mean vitally important does not escape the connotation of a turning point from which this vital thing may be had or not had. Since there is no possibility that anyone who is regenerated will fail to believe, then that shifts the vital importance to regeneration. You see, once we pass the point in the salvation process where failure to meet the conditions is possible, then the lack of failure as an option makes the remainder of the salvation process to be less consequentially important. Faith becomes a mere event in the sequence of events that will result without fail.

          • says

            Ken,

            Calvinists have no problem affirming the certainty of the elect being ultimately saved. Of course. And as far as I know, Calvinists have no problem affirming the efficacious nature of calling and regeneration.

            But these do nothing to lessen the vital importance, even necessary, of man’s faith exercise. It seems you are trying to theoretically say that a Calvinist cannot affirm the vital importance of any component of salvation unless there is an alternate choice, once past regeneration.

            But God has willed to use means in saving man and one vital and necessary means is faith. The new man now has a new will and must exercise his will to believe. As Dabney put it,

            It is objected that this doctrine of almighty grace would destroy man’s free-agency. This is not true. All men whom God does not regenerate retain their natural freedom unimpaired by anything which he does to them.
            It is true that these use their freedom, as in variably, as voluntarily, by choosing their self-will and unregenerate state. But in doing this they choose in perfect accordance with their own preference, and this the only kind of free-agency known to men of common sense. The unregenerate choose just what they prefer, and therefore choose freely; but so long as not renewed by almighty grace, they always prefer to remain unregenerate, because it is fallen man’s nature. The truly regenerate do not lose their free-agency by effectual calling, but regain a truer and higher freedom; for the almighty power which renews them does not force them into a new line of conduct contrary to their own preferences, but reverses the original disposition itself which regulates preference. Under this renewed disposition they now act just as freely as when they were voluntary sinners, but far more reasonably and happily. For they act the new and right preference, which almighty grace has put in place of the old one.

            Necessary faith and freely exercised.

            I don’t think we need to continue to go back and forth. I think we know each other’s position and are unlikely to sway the other.

            Blessings,

            Les

          • says

            Ok, Les, but I think if you read all of Dabney, you will find that he is more to my liking than to yours on many points, and he is not the usual Calvinist.

          • says

            Ken,

            I’d be shocked is Dabney or any other notable theologian past or present agreed with me on all points. By my definition, that would render them notable for the wrong reason. :)

            Les

  7. Richard Beal says

    I agree that the dialogue must continue. Returning here to Mississippi I have encountered some interesting aspects of the “problem”. In a recent Transitional Ministry conference it was shared that pulpit committees that ask for orientation are, among other things, given a copy of Frank Page’s book on Calvinism. When I asked my DOM if this reflects a problem, he shared about a few churches where SBC high-Calvinist pastors had ceased giving invitations, leadership was limited to those who were “five pointers”, and baptisms suffered as well as cooperation with the association. I shared with him my experience where a few “reformed” Baptist churches were started on my field (Venezuela) and they were divisive, arrogant in their relationships with other fellow Baptist, and frankly, parasitic in that their growth was more at the expense of other Baptist churches than through baptisms. I acknowledge that we as Baptist owe a huge debt to the reformers but not all of Calvinism is profitable to good doctrine or practice, and folks like Nettles (Your Next Pastor Should Be a Calvinist) are not helping.
    Richard Beal

      • volfan007 says

        I just heard about 3 Southern Seminary students telling a young man that he should go to Southern, because it’s the ONLY SB seminary that preaches the TRUE Gospel. And, he was told that Southwestern and New Orleans were bad seminaries.

        It’s really gonna be hard to have cooperation and unity, and have civil dialogues, as long as this kind of stuff keeps going on.

        I’m all for us getting along….and working together….and being able to disagree on minor issues in a civil manner. We should be able to do this. And, we should be able to do this, unless we have one group thinking that they have the TRUE Gospel, and Non Calvinists do not preach the true Gospel….it’s really hard to get along with people, who look down on you, as being a perverter of the Gospel.

        David

        • Bill Mac says

          David: You’re right, Calvinists shouldn’t do that. But that is not the only side of the aisle where that rhetoric comes from. I’ve seen more than once in the anti-Calvinist blogosphere that Calvinists preach a different (ie: false) Gospel.

        • says

          David, the opinion of a 3 seminary students shouldn’t carry that much weight with you, should it? Talking about “Calvinists” and getting along and all because of what 3 KIDS think?

          How about saying they sure got a lot to learn if they hope to get anywhere with their seminary degree…….

          • Volfan007 says

            The sad thing is that I have of things like this before…this was not a one time occurrence. If this is just young and stupid talking, then yea, you are right. But, if this attitude and thinking is coming thru the Profs…then, well, it’s gonna be very hard to have unity.

            David

  8. William says

    Ben, question: If you refuse to share the Gospel will some people go to hell who otherwise would go to heaven?

    My view on the reduction of rancor is that there is no less a division among SBCers that before Page’s ad hoc, informal committee. Just wait.

    • says

      William, first off, how dare any believer refuse to share the gospel! That is wickedness.

      Second, Christ will lose none that the Father has given Him. If you refuse to share, God will send another in your place to your great shame and will do so “till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.”

      You may be right over the division and rancor, but those that continue to play up our divisions over these nuances of soteriology are marginalizing themselves in the SBC.

      • William Thornton says

        Ben, thanks for the answer.

        The simple answer would have been “no.” It doesn’t matter if you share the Gospel or not, insofar as the eternal destiny of people. It does matter to you personally in regards to your obedience to the Lord. So, why wouldn’t one conclude that for the example you started with (“Why if I believed that, I’d never go out and share the gospel because it would already be decided who’s going to be saved!”) the man’s behavior is consistent with what you teach and believe?

        While I take the Dave Miller approach to these things (I think he has often noted the antinomy inherent in the system), I am always flummoxed when Calvinists trot out the same examples, like the one you did above. Guess that makes us even, since non-Cs have a herd of examples they trot out as well.

        • Tarheel says

          On those lines….

          Why would anyone who believes (as many non calvinsts do) that those who never hear the gospel go to heaven share the gospel with anyone?

          Isn’t it better to tell no one, in hopes they never hear the gospel and by default become objects of Gods love .than it is to tell people everywher allowing them the opportunity to reject and become by choice objects of His wrath?

          I say tell everyone so that “whosoever will” may come, so that all who are appointed to believe will do so, so that “faith can come by hearing”, and so as to be obedient to clear instruction given us by the Lord.

      • says

        William,

        You asked: “So, why wouldn’t one conclude that for the example you started with (‘Why if I believed that, I’d never go out and share the gospel because it would already be decided who’s going to be saved!’) the man’s behavior is consistent with what you teach and believe?”

        Surely you know the answer to this, but let me say it again: if nobody shares the gospel, nobody will be saved. It’s absolutely imperative that we share the gospel if we want to see anybody saved. That’s why that man’s behavior is inconsistent with what I teach and believe. He seemed to think that we can all just keep the gospel to ourselves and people would be saved anyways. Wrong!

        • William Thornton says

          You are responding as I expected, just not to what I said.

          It is already decided who is saved.

          If you (or your non-c example guy) never shares the gospel no fewer people will be saved and no more people will be condemned.

          this, his conclusion was completely understandable and indeed based on your beliefs, although I understand you to not counsel such a course.

          Perhaps you can explain how God can sovereignly elect and then the aggregate of His followers thwart His will such that no one will be saved.

          • Les Prouty says

            William,

            I’m not Ben obviously. But when you said, “Perhaps you can explain how God can sovereignly elect and then the aggregate of His followers thwart His will such that no one will be saved,” I’m still trying to understand what you are asking. Could you please explain a little more? Thanks brother.

            Les

          • William Thornton says

            I was asking Ben about the micro scenario: If it is true that if Ben refuses to share the Gospel then heaven will not be less populated nor hell more populated. In that sense the man in his example was completely rational.

            But Ben, like most Calvinists, is really big on the macro scenario when the micro scenario gets dicey.

            OK, so let’s think big. Ben said: “He seemed to think that we can all just keep the gospel to ourselves and people would be saved anyways. Wrong!” …meaning that if God’s people acted in the aggregate to not share the Gospel, God would be thwarted in saving anyone.

            There is a point where Calvinist discussion must move to finess and obfuscation or devolve into nonsense. Maybe Calvin worked that all out. I don’t see it working much in these discussions.

          • Les Prouty says

            William, ok. I think I see what you were getting at.

            So I’ll speak for me, one of those obfuscation people and nonsense people, a Calvinist according to your definition :)

            In the hypothetical of all Christians in the aggregate not sharing the goepel from this day forward, God’s elect would still be saved even without us. The elect cannot not (I know, double negative) be saved. We cannot thwart His will in any instance, ever, including the salvation of anyone.

            Of course, it’s a hypothetical. And we also know that He has charged us with the ministry of reconciliation. And with being heralds of the good news. We all agree on this.

            My take on what Ben was saying on that sentence where he ended it with Wrong! Is that the thinking that some go to where we can just not evangelize because God will save His elect anyway, is wrong thinking. It is tru in the hypotheticals. But not a tru or biblical way of thinking.

            Serve back to you brother.

          • William Thornton says

            Les, I think I have been pretty careful not to call anyone here obfuscators or nonsense people.

            When you say that “the elect cannot not…be saved” that makes Ben’s primary example and his reaction to it more confusing, since it absolutely makes no difference to the lost whether or not any individual shares the gospel.

            I stipulate that I know no SBC Calvinists who behave in this way.

          • Debbie Kaufman says

            “I was asking Ben about the micro scenario: If it is true that if Ben refuses to share the Gospel then heaven will not be less populated nor hell more populated. In that sense the man in his example was completely rational.”

            William: If you read Ben’s comment along with others it makes a difference, and it is vital that the Gospel be shared. The Bible is clear on this and we do believe the Bible to be the final authority. Faith comes through hearing the message of Jesus Christ. It must be shared. It must be told. Missions is vital.

            But….if I for example do not share the Gospel, God’s purposes will not be lost. He is God. He will send another person to share the Gospel. That person will be saved if God so purposes. That is good news, not heresy, not bad news. Why act as if it is? It’s wonderful.

            We as Christians should want to share Christ. We are so in love with Christ that we want to share. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. But we are also human. Can you honestly say that you have shared with every single person you have encountered in your entire Christian life? I can’t. I have missed many opportunities. But God is faithful.

          • says

            William,

            I know you have not called any obfuscators and nonsense people. I was just having a little fun based on your statement, “There is a point where Calvinist discussion must move to finess and obfuscation or devolve into nonsense.”

            As for the rest, I’ll get out of the way and Ben can take it up for himself. I think I’ve been pretty clear on where I think Calvinism stands on this.

            Blessings brother.

          • Nick Horton says

            William,

            “I was asking Ben about the micro scenario: If it is true that if Ben refuses to share the Gospel then heaven will not be less populated nor hell more populated. In that sense the man in his example was completely rational.”

            What of the soul of the individual who refuses to share the gospel? Why should we assume that the disobedient is saved? Whether you think God saved you without your involvement or with it, you are called to obedience to him. Christ says in multiple instances that obedience to him and his commandments is proof of love for him.

            So, for the hyper-calvinist to claim that they don’t need to share the gospel with anyone is a direct repudiation of obedience to the command of Christ. This aspect seems to have been ignored in the false assumption that the person who steadfastly refuses to share the gospel is saved.

            God will save all that he wills to be saved. God is sovereign, man is responsible. This causes cognitive dissonance in our minds, but in the economy of God whose ways are above our ways, it works.

          • William Thornton says

            Nick, you said:
            “So, for the hyper-calvinist to claim that they don’t need to share the gospel with anyone is a direct repudiation of obedience to the command of Christ.”

            No argument from me but then it isn’t an issue I questioned.

            The issue was, if Ben doesn’t share the gospel will there be any less people in heaven or more in hell? If the answer is ‘no’ then hyper-C or whatever, it doesn’t matter in that regard if Ben or the man in his example, or you, share the gospel.

            I’ll leave it to you to judge the status of one who refuses to share the gospel, though my preference is for The Lord to do this.

          • Nick Horton says

            William you said;
            “The issue was, if Ben doesn’t share the gospel will there be any less people in heaven or more in hell? If the answer is ‘no’ then hyper-C or whatever, it doesn’t matter in that regard if Ben or the man in his example, or you, share the gospel.”

            No there will not. The Bible speaks of a sovereign God. I am, as can now probably be told, Calvinist in my soteriology. God is sovereign, but man is responsible. I don’t claim to know the nuances of this. What I do know is that God has commissioned all of us, regardless of our belief in monergism or synergism, to share the Gospel. It is not for me to judge God, it is for me to obey God. Before clever logic, reasoning of God’s motive, or complex theological structures, comes the plain command of Jesus to baptize and make disciples.

            None of us will care about our views on calvinism or arminianism when we die and see Jesus face to face. We will care whether we were obedient and shared HIS gospel.

    • Dave Miller says

      William, the key is not to pretend that there are no divisions, but to recognize that our divisions, put in their proper perspective, do not prevent our cooperation in mission as Southern Baptists.

  9. Debbie Kaufman says

    Tim: I believe a heart has to be regenerated to see their need for a Savior, to believe the Gospel message and to outwardly(or inwardly) accept Christ as their Savior. For example to pray the sinners prayer, a person’s heart must be changed by the Holy Spirit. I believe this is what the Bible teaches.

    Ephesians 2, which is just one of many chapters supports this.

    This means to me that people I would have given up on in praying and witnessing will be saved. When the Holy Spirit lays someone on my or any Christian’s heart to be saved, even though I may never know it, I believe God is doing a work in that person and that person or persons will be saved.

    • Debbie Kaufman says

      “When the Holy Spirit lays someone on my or any Christian’s heart to be saved,”

      The words after Christian’s heart should be pray. When the Holy Spirit lays someone on our hearts to pray for.

  10. says

    Isn’t also true that in Calvinism, election is not proven by faith but by perseverance? The question for the Calvinist is not, do I have faith, but what kind of faith do I have? And the only way to answer that is to wait until the end to see if you if you had the kind that persevered to the end.

    • Bill Mac says

      Ken,

      Isn’t that the same question for any Christian who believes salvation cannot be lost, including most baptists?

      I think the idea of proving election is silly. All we know is what we believe, right now.

      • says

        Bill,

        You said, “I think the idea of proving election is silly. All we know is what we believe, right now.” Why do you contrast knowledge with belief? The opening article asserted, “SBC Calvinists… say that you know you are elect if and only if you repent and believe on Jesus.” While this is true experientially, it is not true to the Calvinist theology. Calvinist, like ell believers, can know that they are in Christ and forever secure only because those in Christ are forever secure—and because the Calvinist doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints is incorrect.

        You also asked, “Isn’t that the same question for any Christian who believes salvation cannot be lost, including most baptists?” No, because “the Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are sons of God.” I will grant that a man can lie to himself—but, will you also grant that God is able to communicate with full certainty to any man that which He wants to communicate to him? The difference, then, between the man who is justifiably certain and the one who is self-deceived, is not the chronological duration of the faith but whether that faith is genuine. The indicators of genuine faith go beyond certainty and will distinguish between the two, including love for God, love for the fellowship of believers, love for fellow men, a hunger for righteousness in the daily life, a mourning over sin and hatred of it, a hunger and love for reading God’s word, a desire to serve God, etc.

        • Bill Mac says

          I agree that assurance has an objective and subjective component. I honestly still don’t see why Calvinists can’t believe this. I’m not following your arguments on perseverance.

          BTW, I have no problem disagreeing with traditional Calvinist doctrine (like inherited guilt for example). I just don’t see where I’m missing this one.

    • Hank Walker says

      Ken, you’ve highlighted an important point in regard to perseverance of the saints. Except for the oft stated, “once saved, always saved” mantra, I haven’t seen much SBC interaction on this point. I think your statement, regarding the nature of faith is perceptive, but may be a little incomplete. Calvin, and more so, the Puritan and Particular Baptist theologians placed varying emphases on “assurance,” and “security.” Phenomenologically, the Christian (and his observers/fellow believers) could rest in the security of believing that if one had expressed faith, God would be faithful and just to complete His work (thus, by grace, persevering them until the end). Their “assurance” of salvation could often fall into the realm of the subjective – either through self-knowledge of sin or evident fruit of sinful praxis in their outward testimony. This is one of the reasons for so much talk of “experimental religion,” and “affections” and “mortification/vivification.” Nonetheless, a surgically precise treatment of perseverance would acknowledge that “faith that falters before the finish was faulty from the first.”

  11. Debbie Kaufman says

    “Second, Christ will lose none that the Father has given Him. If you refuse to share, God will send another in your place to your great shame and will do so “till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.””

    Amen Ben.

    • Debbie Kaufman says

      Although I would disagree with “to your great shame.” We are human, opportunities are missed, but God will not shame us and I see that nowhere in scripture.

  12. says

    I’ve said before and I’m going to keep saying it: the worst thing about Calvinism and Calvinists, is what Baptists say about them.

    The dissertation above sets out a pretty well thought-out expose, other than the fact that it doesn’t mention that the reason Calvinists (the ones I’ve been around, at least) evangelize is because God tells us to. So it’s a matter of obedience.

    Which I like a lot better than the usual Baptist hand-wringing guilt-laden reasons too frequently demonstrated by us Baptists.

    • says

      Bob,

      Good words. If I may add to your comment that in addition to why Calvinists evangelize (obedience), another significant reason is that according to scripture evangelism is the usual God ordained means whereby He saves people. He has chosen to use us imperfect vessels as part of the means to accomplish His ends…the salvation os sinners.

      Thanks brother,

      Les

  13. volfan007 says

    The difference between a Calvinist and a SB Non Calvinist is that Non’s believe that God really does desire to save every person. AND, that every person on this planet really can be saved. We believe that God’s desire is to save every person, and He is working towards that end. And, the Elect are the ones, who respond in repentance and faith to the Gospel message and the calling of the Holy Spirit. AND, that every person on this planet can be one of the Elect…the Chosen.

    Calvinists believe that God really only desires to save the Elect, and only the Elect truly have a chance of being saved. The Elect will be saved no matter what. And, everyone else on the planet really have no chance to be saved, because God does not sincerely want them to be saved.

    I see that as the biggest difference between SB Calvinists and SB Non-Calvinists, or Traditionalists.

    David

    PS. I love my Calvinist Brothers and Sisters in Christ, and just because I disagree with them on minor points of theology does not mean that I hate them, or that I want to kick them out of the SBC, or that I want to throw them into a river with a stone tied around their necks, or that I want to burn them at the stake.

      • volfan007 says

        Traditionalists are the middle. We’re not Arminians. We’re not Semi Pelagians. We’re not Calvinists. We reject that whole Augustinian philosophical grid. I don’t know how much more middle Traditionalists can be, or that anyone could claim to be more middle than us. We are in the line of Hobbs and Adrian Rogers.

        David

        • says

          You are wrong on that, David. When it comes to Calvinism v. “non-Calvinism,” the issue has always centered on the question of determinism v. libertarianism (or in other words, how free is the will of men?). The middle of that debate has always been those who hold to compatibilism/soft-determinism/antinomy (or in other words, men must freely choose, but God made the master choice in eternity past, and the reconciliation of those two points is mysterious but not contradictory). Take a look at the Spectrum Chart for more details.

    • Debbie Kaufman says

      Calvinists believe that every person on this planet can be saved if God so desires, yet they are not David. The Elect are more than you are led to believe. Read the writings of Reformed writers of the past and present. I think you would be amazed at what we truly believe.

  14. parsonsmike says

    Ken,
    Actually the chronological difference between the person with true faith and the who has deceived himself is an actuality. The one who has true faith perservers until the end- his death. But the one deceived only ‘perservers’ until they either stop caring or they get saved. But certainly they could die decieved: “Lord, Lord,” they will cry at judgment day, “Did we not do all these good works in your name?”

    The difference then, to them, is not apparent as they still walk in darkness. But those whose faith is genuine, have a real trust in God. The idea then is to discern the difference, not necessarily by themselves for themselves, but by others. For example, my father in law used to be a deacon and seemingly a committed Chtistian

    • Debbie Kaufman says

      I had a cousin who “became a Christian” because he thought his wife who had left him would come back, so he repeated the sinner’s prayer. When she didn’t come back, he abandoned Christianity for several years. Later in his life he realized his need for a Savior and was amazingly changing until his death of cancer.

      • Volfan007 says

        Your cousin’s false conversion has nothing to do with the sinners prayer. It has everything to do with him thinking that he could manipulate God to get his marriage back. I saw this in jail ministry a lot. They just wanted God to get them out of jail. But, praise God many of them did get truly saved, thank God that your cousin got saved before it was too late.

        David

        • Debbie Kaufman says

          David: Where in all of my statement did I mention that the sinner’s prayer was wrong? I prayed the sinner’s prayer and have nothing against it. It’s words to guide the person to accept Christ.

          My cousin’s problem was that he thought by “accepting Christ” all of his problems would be solved. They weren’t. He left Christianity and went back to where he was. That was my point. He went into it with a agenda.

  15. parsonsmike says

    Ken,
    Yet in the 20+ years I knew him, he never went to church, never gave to the church, and never outwardly prayed with his family or , as far as I know, never witnessed for Jesus, BUT he sang Gospel songs in the shower, and when asked said he was of the faith. Why did he leave the church? He had some sort of personal disagreement with another member.
    Was he saved?
    I say he wasnt although of course God is his judge.
    OSAS doctrines might say he was saved.
    PAS doctrine says no. He didnt perserver.

      • parsonsmike says

        Ken,
        PAS says the same. The question is not one the theologian can answer for everyone, but rather what we must each discern for ourselves: “Am I genuinely saved?”
        Those decieved, like my wife’s dad, answer “yes”. When he served as a deacon, he was considered saved by the church. He still considered himself saved (OSAS).
        Your objections are just theological debate points that dont really play out in peoples lives. People under PAS who are saved have the same assurance of salvation, the wotness of the Spirit

    • Debbie Kaufman says

      parsonmike: I would disagree that going to church or not going to church , giving or not giving to the church is a sign one is or is not a Christian. Faith in Christ is the only way to salvation and this is seen in ways we don’t always observe. I think we judge with human eyes. Man looks on the outside, God looks on the heart and we have a set of rules that the Bible does not.

  16. parsonsmike says

    Ken,
    After he died, his wife started back up in church and as far as anyone could tell died with peace before God. OSAS and PAS would both say: probably saved, as would I.
    We can speak theologically about others, but not everyone has the same amount of faith or assurance. I think that outwardly my in laws seemed to have assurance but who knows what was in their hearts?

  17. dr. james willingham says

    Southern Baptists, such as the fellow mentioned by Brother Simpson in the blog above, have forgotten that the whole modern missionary movement was launched by five point Calvinists such as William Carey, Andrew Fuller, and others, that the First and Second Great Awakenings were a blessing enjoyed by those who used that theology as a an electric shock to society, bring about a moral transformation. And those who have come to believe in Sovereign Grace, the Doctrines of Grace, or Calvinism, have had little or no examples of how to preach, practice, propagate this theology in the past century. In fact, they often lack, and I think of myself as one who lacked even though I did have some examples to help me, examples which I failed to heed at the time.

    However, eventually, it began to dawn upon me that there was a way to preach and practice this Gospel lifestyle, a way that honors our Lord and His message. This way is also tied up with the understanding of the truths and how they are actually to be implemented; it likewise includes and appreciation for the phenomenon which is like that called therapeutic paradoxes in counseling or, in other words, the God’s use of opposites to accomplish His purposes. What is often called in popular terms, reverse psychology has a correlation with theological parallels which can be found in the pages of Holy Scripture and exemplified in the records of the Awakenings and the Great Century of Missions

    • says

      Dr. Willingham,

      I have great respect for you, although we disagree about some things. However, I object to your attempted use of Andrew Fuller as a supposed standard 5-point Calvinist. Have you or have you not read his Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation? It is a masterpiece of Baptist Centrism, and the arguments that he makes I have had to defend against many current 5-point Calvinists. Just try to distinguish between the natural inability and the moral inability of sinners, and you will have many standard Calvinists objecting strongly. And his atonement views, though better than the usual Calvinist view, bring even more objections.

        • says

          Edwards was the first to use it, but that takes nothing away from Fuller’s use of the distinction. Of course, 5-point Calvinists want to claim Fuller as their own, but they do not agree with much of his teaching because it is centrist rather than standard Calvinist.

          Haykin states:

          Fuller was a five-point Calvinist through and through. Yes, he did argue, against Hyper-Calvinism, that repentance and faith were duties…

          Let me point out that to Fuller, nothing was a duty except that which one was naturally able to comply with. See how that flies with the standard Calvinists. Haykin continues…

          Hyper-Calvinists had argued that sinners are unable to do anything spiritually good, and thus are under no obligation to exercise faith in Christ. They supported their argument by reference to such texts as John 6:44… and 1 Corinthians 2:14… The inability of which these passages speak, Fuller contended in response, is a moral inability, which is rooted in the sinful disposition of the heart. Men and women refuse to come to Christ because of their aversion to him. They fail to understand the gospel and the things of the Spirit because they lack the means by which such matters are understood, namely, the presence of the indwelling Spirit. And they lack the Spirit because their hearts are closed to God. These verses are not speaking of a physical inability—such as insanity or mental deficiency—which excuses its subject of blame.

          I disagree with the spin that Haykin seems to be putting on Fuller here. The moral inability of which Fuller speaks is not an inability to understand, but an unwillingness to comply with what is understood. Haykin continues:

          In making this distinction between physical and moral inability, which Fuller derived from Jonathan Edwards, Fuller was seeking to affirm a scriptural paradox: sinful men and women are utterly powerless to turn to God except through the regenerative work of God’s Holy Spirit, yet this powerlessness is the result of their own sinful hearts.

          This is a complete mischaracterization of what “Fuller was seeking to affirm” in “making this distinction between physical and moral inability.” He was arguing against hyper-C’s, and all of them fully agreed already that sinful men and women are utterly powerless to turn to God except through the regenerative work of God’s Holy Spirit, yet this powerlessness is the result of their own sinful hearts.” To preach that would be “preaching to the choir.” The purpose of making this distinction was to affirm that sinners are not all together powerless in every way, but only powerless in the same sense that any man is powerless to do that to which he is totally averse. In other words, he was arguing that the inability of sinners extends only to their unwillingness to come to Christ—that they could come if they wanted to, and that they ought to come as they are obligated to, but due only to their own wickedness they will refuse to come unless the Holy Spirit intervenes.

          • says

            See how much more reading you just gave folks! :)

            I found an interesting comment on the history of this topic.

            In fact, general habits of making distinction between physical and moral causes came from Jesuit theologian Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621) but the language of natural and moral inability first gained currency though the Scottish theologian, John Cameron, during the seventeenth century. More prominently, it was Cameron’s pupil, Moise Amyraut (1596-1664), who put the categories of natural and moral on the theological map. Moreover, Joseph Truman (1631-1671) also made similar distinctions in “A Discourse of Natural and Moral Impotency.” Yet, as Paul Ramsey rightly argued, Edwards was the “first to formulate fully adequately this distinction.”

            I want to ask you a question so I understand something. Does holding to the moral-natural distinction like Fuller make someone less of a Calvinist?

          • says

            Mark,

            You asked, “Does holding to the moral-natural distinction like Fuller make someone less of a Calvinist?”

            It depends on how you’re defining Calvinist. Even Fuller considered himself a 5-pointer; but his teaching was so different from the usual Calvinist as to make him a centrist. So in one sense, holding to the moral-natural distinction would make one a better Calvinist, in the sense of improving upon Calvinism itself without having to abandon “the Calvinist heritage.” But it brings up the question of how far one can vary from the standard teachings of Calvinism and still be a Calvinist. Evidently, many Calvinists such as Haykin leave room enough to include Fuller, but I think they do so by glossing over the differences.

            As for the history of the moral-natural difference, it really should not have needed any theologians to “come up with it.” As Fuller taught, it is understood by all that the blindness of those who wish to see (such as Bartimaeus) is fundamentally different from the blindness of those who have eyes to see but refuse. No man born blind ever hated the light, and Scriptural passages that speak of inability must be understood according to the context as to which kind of inability is meant “could not speak to him peaceably;” and no one reading that would get the impression that they had no choice in the matter.

          • says

            Correction—part of my last comment got snipped:

            Change: “No man born blind ever hated the light, and Scriptural passages that speak of inability must be understood according to the context as to which kind of inability is meant “could not speak to him peaceably;” and no one reading that would get the impression that they had no choice in the matter.”

            To read: “No man born blind ever hated the light, and Scriptural passages that speak of inability must be understood according to the context as to which kind of inability is meant. Fuller pointed out that it is written in Scripture that Joseph’s brothers “could not speak to him peaceably;” and no one reading that would get the impression that they had no choice in the matter.”

  18. Bill Mac says

    Here’s an honest question for our non-Calvinist friends:

    Do you consider man’s will to be inviolate?

        • Volfan007 says

          Of course man’s will is not off limits to God. The only way a man can be saved is if the Holy Spirit calls and convicts. But, man is free and responsible to choose whether to respond to that working of God.

          David

          • Bill Mac says

            David: (or anyone else who cares to answer)

            Do you believe God provides calling, conviction, and opportunity to respond to the Gospel to all people equally?

          • Volfan007 says

            Equally? No. But, all men have the light of creation and conscience… All of us…..and those who get the light of the Gospel have the greatest light, and thus, the greater opportunity and responsibility. Men need more light….so we need to get the Gospel out to the world…the more light they have then the more people will get saved.

            David

            Ps. And now, let the fun begin….lol.

          • Bill Mac says

            David: All men have enough light to condemn them, but not all men have enough light to save them. Is that what you are saying?

          • Bill Mac says

            David: I don’t follow. Light for salvation only comes from the Gospel, and all people do not have an opportunity to hear the Gospel.

          • says

            To any who only have natural revelation of the truth of God’s existence, if they would fully embrace all that God has revealed to them, then God would “drop a missionary on their head” with the gospel (as I’ve heard it preached before). Any who genuinely believe the former will in faith receive the latter.

          • Karen in OK says

            Bill Mac,
            Thanks for asking what I wanted to, but you did it far more succinctly. Ken and David, I have always been taught by my non-Calvinist pastors that everyone does NOT have an opportunity to be saved. That there will be any number of people in Hell who are there only because I was too lazy / disobedient to witness to them. That they would have accepted Christ otherwise. Also, that God simply has not explained to us why so many have died never having heard of Christ. Non-elect having nothing to do with it. That has always been presented to me as all the more reason to get out there.
            In short, Calvinism isn’t any more cold sounding to me than this.

          • says

            Karen,

            In the Voices article, “Compatibilism: A More Immanent Grace,” I wrote the following:

            Just as the sinner can find no defense in the fact that God is ultimately in control, and the unbeliever can find no excuse in the fact that God is ultimately in control, believers can take no ease in the fact that God will only save those whom He has already elected. The Church cannot escape the fact that there are many who perish for lack of a little more influence—such as one more witness or one presentation of the gospel that would have been enough to bring them to their knees in repentant faith. There will be many who could have been reached and might have been converted but were not, because the laborers were few. An important component of the urgency of the gospel is the implication that God’s unconditional election in eternity past is not a limitation on whom may be saved as a result of our efforts, but a mysterious correlation to how much labor is applied to the fields that are “white with harvest.”

          • volfan007 says

            Bill Mac,

            The light of creation and conscience tells man that there is a Creator God, and that there are rights and wrongs, and that we must answer to this Creator God, one day, in judgment. This light shows them that they need to get right with this Creator God.

            Of course, it’s not enough light to lead them to salvation. That’s why more Gospel light is needed….to shine the Light more brightly to a lost world in the darkness of sin. The Gospel is the light that shows people how to be saved. And, the more we’ll share the Gospel, and the more missionaries we get out there, then the more people God will elect.

            David

          • Karen in OK says

            These threaded comments are difficult to respond to. Thanks for the link, Ken. I will have to read it several more times to begin to follow what everyone was saying.
            David, it does seem to me from your further response, too, that I could simplistically sum up the traditional SBC view as not being either Calvinist or Arminian. In that, my salvation would not have been accomplished ultimately without SOME OTHER human’s obedience. Not God’s election, not my “decision”, but somebody else’s choice to tell me or not. That from a human earthbound viewpoint, if THAT somebody had been disobedient, God might have or might not have sent somebody else. From an emotional standpoint, if nothing else, Calvinism is actually more comforting.
            (No, I am not disputing that people must repent and believe the Gospel in order to be saved. And I did come to faith in Christ by a pastor presenting the Gospel in VBS.)

          • volfan007 says

            Karen,

            You know what’s funny? The more we will get out there, in the world, and witness to lost people, then the more people God elects.

            And, you know what? God gave us a command to go the nations for a reason. He earnestly, sincerely desires to save all people….not just all kinds of people, but all people. And so, to have the heart of God, we must be witnesses and support missions.

            David

          • Les Prouty says

            David,

            “The more we will get out there, in the world, and witness to lost people, then the more people God elects.”

            Do you see election as happening in time, all the time as men, women and children come to faith? In other words, do you believe that God’s decision to elect someone doesn’t happen until a given person professes faith?

            Thanks brother.

          • volfan007 says

            The Elect are the people, who repent and put their faith in Jesus. And, anyone can be one of God’s elect. Because, if any of us are saved, it’s only because God CHOSE to come to us, and save us. And, God has CHOSEN to save anyone, who repents and puts their faith in Jesus. In fact, in His PREDESTINED plan, God has planned to save anyone, who will respond the calling and convicting of the Holy Spirit in repentance and faith. And, God has planned before the world began to save all of those people, who surrender their hearts to Jesus in faith.

            David

          • Les Prouty says

            David,

            Thanks for making it clearer for me. I very respectfully disagree, but I think we both knew that. :)

            Thanks brother.

          • says

            David,

            The problem with that is that no man comes on his own. When God foresaw who would come, He was also foreseeing all those things that He did to bring that person to faith. His actions and the actions of men together form an infinitely complex interaction. Men’s actions are changed by God’s actions, and God’s actions are changed by men’s actions.

            It’s like that game we played as kids, “pick-up sticks.” If you randomly pile a hundred sticks on the table, with half of them representing God and the other half men, then you get the idea. You can’t move one without moving many others. One change affects many others.

            My point is that God’s foreknowledge of what men will do was not (as we might imagine it) a “first glance” picture, free of any planned interaction on God’s part. If that were the case, then God would have seen that no one would embrace Him by faith — all would reject Him. Instead, God’s plan of what will actually happen is a fully “processed” orchestration, of which God has worked out every infinitely complex interaction between what men will do and what God will do (and how men will react and how God will react) down to the last infinite detail. Therefore, there is no possible foreknowledge that God can have of what any man will do whose life has not already been interacted with by God.

            Since God is unavoidably in the mix, then the question of what any particular man would do apart from God’s influence is irrelevant, since God’s influence is unavoidable. Do you see what I’m saying? There is no way for God in His foreknowledge to compare different men to see which will believe and which will reject as a difference merely between the men. Rather, since God’s interactions and influence have affected all men to some infinitely variable degree, then the variable is not merely the men but the extent of God’s influence.

          • Bill Mac says

            David: That’s my point. All people do not have equal opportunity to respond to the Gospel. Therefore all people do not experience the same calling and conviction.

            Non-calvinism seems to demand that God treats every sinner exactly the same way, and we know that simply isn’t true.

          • volfan007 says

            Bill Mac,

            We do not expect or demand that God treat everyone the same. We just believe what the Bible teaches about God’s desire to save everyone on the planet, and that every man can be saved. We just believe what the Bible teaches about men making the decision to follow Christ, or to reject Him.

            David

          • Bill Mac says

            David: My point is that however we characterize God’s desire to save everyone, that desire does not translate into God actively trying to save everyone. However God may have desired to save north american people in the first century, he did not provide them the means of salvation.

          • volfan007 says

            Bill Mac,

            If the Church hadn’t turned so religious and heretic before the Reformation, and had continued to be soul winning and mission minded and truly preaching the Gospel, then maybe the American Indians would’ve had missionaries a lot earlier than they did. Maybe the people of Africa and S. American would have had true preachers of the Gospel shining the Light of Jesus on them much earlier than what happened.
            So, it wasn’t God’s fault that the Gospel wasn’t going out to people, who didn’t have it. It was a dead Churches fault.

            It’s just like today….if more SB’s were actively seeking to win people to Jesus, then we’d see more people in the USA get saved. But, a lot of SB’s have lost their first love, and thus they’ve lost their evangelistic zeal.

            David

          • Bill Mac says

            David: All that may be true, but the point remains. God does not try to save all people equally. No matter how zealous the first Christians were, millions of people have lived and died with absolutely no access to the Gospel. So however you characterize God’s desire to save everyone, he does not provide everyone the opportunity to be saved.

        • says

          I, for one, do not hold man’s will to be inviolate. However, I—like many Southern Baptists—disagree with the assumption that seems to be shared by both Calvinists and Libertarians (Trads, Arminians, etc.), to wit, that God’s determining and man’s freedom of will are irreconcilable. The Libertarian assumes what is not true, that no matter how free man’s will is, it is not really free if God determines the outcome. And the Calvinist tacitly agrees with this by portraying God as overriding the will of men. Neither seem to get the fact that God is powerful enough to let men freely act and decide, while still having every decision and even go according to how He has sovereignly planned.

          • Debbie Kaufman says

            Ken: I believe the scripture teaches that God is not inactive, but active in everything including salvation. I believe God is very active and has been since before the beginning. Daniel 4: 34 and 35; Romans 9:19-21, John 1:1, 14, 10:30, Romans 5:8, 2 Corinthians 5:21 for starters.

          • Les Prouty says

            Ken, maybe you’ve said this and I missed it but do you believe that God acts to change man’s will in any measure?

            Blessings

          • says

            Yes, Les, I do. But God can use soft methods with absolute certainty of success—but soft, persuasive methods, just the same, which do not cross the line of coercion.

          • Les Prouty says

            Thanks Ken. If I may ask a bit more, you said, “Yes, Les, I do. But God can use soft methods with absolute certainty of success—but soft, persuasive methods, just the same, which do not cross the line of coercion.”

            Are you ok with the WCF when it says (below), “he freeth him from his natural bondage under sin; and, by his grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good.”

            As I see it God has to supernaturally do something to man’s natural will which is in bondage and thereby unwilling to believe in Jesus. Would you agree?

            Thanks brother.

          • says

            Brother Les,

            This is another place where the distinction between the two kinds of inability is important. When Joseph’s brethren “could not speak peaceably to him,” we are not to think that they had an excuse, as if they could not speak peaceably to him no matter how much they might want to. Right? We all understand that they did have a choice, right? And yet, it tells us that “they could not.” The inability is only in the moral sense (or figurative sense), and not the natural sense (or literal sense) of the word, “(in-)ability” (or “could not”). It’s the same with the idea of bondage. If the inability is only of the moral sense, then so is the bondage that is associated with it. In other words, the inability consists in their unwillingness, and the bondage speaks to the absolute certainty that anyone with a sinful, self-centered heart will continue to make only self-centered, sinful choices , unless and until the Holy Spirit intervenes.

            Even if this certainty of continued unwillingness to believe is only counteracted by the intervention of the Holy Spirit, that does not mean that the nonelect could not have come in faith if they had chosen to do what is their rightful obligation. Rather, it means only that it is utterly certain that the nonelect will not choose to come, even though they lack no natural ability in the matter. The Holy Spirit successfully persuades those whom the Father has unconditionally chosen in eternity past—but that persuasion does not overcome an inability that is total, but an inability that consists only in an unwillingness that will with certainty continue without such persuasion.

          • Les Prouty says

            Ken,

            Sorry I can’t reply with more. But really, I think we are in agreement. What you are saying seems to me to be consistent with the WCF. I agree the inability is moral if that is how I’m reading you. Not physical, as in the brothers could physically do something but it was a moral issue.

            In any case, I have grown children coming in so we can make the trip to sweet home Alabama and ultimately to to the Iron Bowl. War Eagle!

            Blessings brother.

            Les

        • Les Prouty says

          Ken, I affirm the following for the WCF which that these two are both true according to scripture. They are reconcilable (compatible).

          1. God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that it is neither forced, nor, by any absolute necessity of nature, determined to good, or evil.

          2. Man, in his state of innocency, had freedom, and power to will and to do that which was good and well pleasing to God; but yet, mutably, so that he might fall from it.

          3. Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation: so as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.

          4. When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, he freeth him from his natural bondage under sin; and, by his grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good; yet so, as that by reason of his remaining corruption, he doth not perfectly, nor only, will that which is good, but doth also will that which is evil.

          5. The will of man is made perfectly and immutably free to good alone, in the state of glory only.

        • Karen in OK says

          I agree with you, David, that missions is an integral part of God’s plan. Yet, if God truly desired for all to be saved, and hearing is essential, then it seems to me that those that never hear were non-elect according to Calvinists OR God was willing for His desire to be thwarted by sinful Christians. Thus, God’s true desire was overridden by something else.
          So Calvinists and SBC traditionalists, it seems to me, get to the same result – lots of people in Hell who did not hear about Christ.
          On a purely emotional level, to me, the Calvinist view that the only-wise God intended it for reasons He hasn’t told me is more palatable than that God had a general desire that He allowed to be thwarted.

          • says

            Both Cal’s and Trad’s miss the complexity in God’s will on this one point, such that He might indeed have a strong motivation to save all, but which is constrained in some way by the necessities of justice. On other points, it is well accepted among Calvinists that God’s will is not simple. Is it God’s will for a man to sin? If God’s will is simple, then the answer should be a simple yes or no. But the Calvinist must give a two-part answer, to which I agree: God hates sin and it is never His will from an immediate, moral perspective; however, all events (even sins) are part of God’s eternal plan, and are thus foreordained and part of His will.

            How could the same God who hates sin will for sin to occur? The answer is that He allows what is repugnant to His nature in order to accomplish what is to His greatest glory. Jesus was sinfully betrayed, falsely accused, unrighteously tried and executed—yet, such atrocious sin was planned by God from the beginning. God’s strong hatred for sin is constrained by the exigencies of what He wants to accomplish.

            The same principle should be applied to God’s desire for the salvation of the nonelect. Why assume that since God ultimately only saves some, then God had no desire to save any more? The God who calls all men everywhere to repent is the same God who in eternity past made His plan and chose to save only some. How can the same God have done that? It only makes biblical sense if there was some reason why all could not be saved. It cannot be true that the God who is so loving could choose to lose so many merely out of indifference.

            If we look to the Old Testament and see how God dealt with Israel’s idolatry, we find examples of God saving only a remnant. Sin must have consequences, even for the race of man. If mankind had not sinned in Eden, then all men would remain in God’s blessed approval—all men would be elect and none would be lost. But because we did sin in Eden, then God’s eternal plan necessarily elected only some and not all. Any individual who perishes is punished only for his own sin; but the fact that so many will perish is the consequence of the sin of the race in Adam. We do not need to fully understand the mysteries of God’s nature to see that this is the result—that God’s grace is limited in its application to the race, such that not all will be saved even though all could have been saved. Either such exigencies of God’s justice have bearing on how many will be saved, or an indifference in God’s nature is the only valid conclusion.

          • volfan007 says

            It’s not that God didn’t desire to save them. God does truly, sincerely desires to save all people. 1 Timothy 2:1-4; 2 Peter 2:1; Ezekiel 33:11; and many, many other Scriptures showing God’s earnest desire to save every person on the planet.

            God’s will is not thwarted by anyone. God also desires that we live a holy life as Christians. That doesn’t happen, either.

            Also, I don’t think it was God’s will for the man at Corinth to live with his Dad’s wife….do you? But, he did it. Did he thwart God’s will?

            David

          • says

            God’s will is complex, and must be seen from two perspectives: what He desires in any particular act based on His moral, good and loving nature; and what He has willed to occur in His plan for His greatest glory. From the perspective of what He desires based on His natrure, it is never His will for sin to occur; but He willed to allow sin to be a part of His plan for humanity, in order that Christ could be the Savior of the world, to God’s greatest glory.

      • Les Prouty says

        Bill Mac, I think you are getting at the heart of the matter. Looking forward to some responses.

        Les

  19. volfan007 says

    ” I always ask my Calvinist friends if John Wesley was predestined to be an Arminian.” –Warren Wiersbe.

      • volfan007 says

        Well, Ken, to put it another way…..I wonder why God has let so many Christians be Traditional SB’s, and Methodists, and Presbyterians, and Assembly of God, and all the other types of Believers? I wonder why a Sovereign God didn’t make us all be Calvinists?

        David

        • says

          Why does He let us continue to sin? He must have His reasons for making us wait for perfection (of character and understanding) until the next life.

          The reason we have so many denominations is because our forefathers in the faith were so concerned for the truth that they thought it was worth dividing over. Had they not had such a strong concern for the truth, they would not have preserved it as well as they have. Theological truth must be systematic—it must fit together like a doctrinal house built on a foundation where every doctrinal beam fits together with every other. Since men are imperfect, we are unable to perfectly understand how this doctrinal house fits together, so an assortment of different ideas of how it all fits together was developed, based on differences that these founders considered as non-negotiable. Each of these doctrinal houses works well enough as a self-contained unit, and in many ways, each denomination was a different perspective on the same truth—each having a certain handle on the essentials of the truth and a certain degree of error. However, to discard these denominational differences would mean to discard the systematic understanding of Biblical truth—knocking down all the doctrinal houses, as it were. Truth is strongest when it is systematically understood. Therefore, division was necessary for the strength and preservation of the universal Church.

        • says

          But Southern Baptists are a unique denomination, and the only one, I think, that consists of people of different (but similar enough) systems of theology united around core propositions and shared missions.

        • Les Prouty says

          David, my mistake. Should have been God allows US to be wrong. But you figured out my error.

          As to Piper, not sure what you mean. I’m not really a follower of any preacher. I’ve read some Piper and generally like what I’ve read. Are you meaning he says we ARE robots?

          Thanks brother.

          • volfan007 says

            Piper seems to think that everything happens because God wants it to happen that way….like God is dictating history, and every detail of man’s existence….like a puppet master.

            I believe in the sovereignty of God. I believe that nothing happens on this Earth unless God allows it to happen, or causes it to happen. I believe He is active in the history of the world. But, I also believe that God lets people choose things. He is not dictating life to the point of man having no choice, or that God wants evil things to happen. I believe that sometimes we don’t have things, because we haven’t asked God for those things. Sometimes we have not, because we asked not. And, Jesus could do no miracles and great works in Nazareth, because of their lack of faith in Him. I believe that some people are lost and going to Hell….not because God didn’t want them to go to Heaven, but because they rejected the offer of grace.

            David

          • Christiane says

            Hi VOL
            you wrote: “I believe that some people are lost and going to Hell….not because God didn’t want them to go to Heaven, but because they rejected the offer of grace. ”

            I agree.
            ‘grace’ as they knew it was a ‘word’, little more, and their shallow understanding of their own ‘salvation’ was little more than a preservation of ‘self’.
            They placed themselves above the call of Christ to love as He had loved us.

            Your belief is backed up by this from St. Matthew’s Gospel:
            “”I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite Me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe Me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after Me.’
            44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help You?’
            45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.’”

            ‘grace’ is a free gift . . . but if truly received, we will die to ‘self’ which is the only way to be reborn ‘in Christ’

          • says

            David,

            If God merely lets people choose, then He leaves them lost, because sinners will never choose Him unless he successfully persuades them first. And whether or not His influence is successful is entirely up to Him, since all men are entirely on the resistant side. God knows every man completely and knows exactly what influences and events would be necessary in order to bring any man to his knees in repentant faith. No man is too difficult for God. God is in control of all circumstances of life, even to the determining of when a person will die. It is God who chooses whether or not to bring to bear in any man’s life the extent of influence that God knows would result in a successful persuasion and conversion. For the man who would have repented and believed if he had lived one more day, who was it who both knew this fact and decided to end his life the day prior to his conversion? For the myriad lost who live their lives in places without the gospel and die lost, even though we know empriically that some would convert if we brought the gospel to them, who is it who decides whether or not they die prior to hearing? God has the master choice, and is the ultimate determiner of the destinies of men.

          • Les Prouty says

            David,

            “Piper seems to think that everything happens because God wants it to happen that way….like God is dictating history, and every detail of man’s existence….like a puppet master.”

            I’ve certainly not read or heard all of Piper. But I’m inclined to think he does not see God like a puppet master. I’ve read enough of his views on the sovereignty of God to think maybe you’ve misunderstood something he has written.

            Blessings brother,

            Les

    • Tarheel says

      Warren wiersbe also wrote this in “be hopeful” his commentary on 1 Peter.

      These words are in keeping with Calvinist theology.

      “This miracle [the new birth] all began with God: we were chosen by the Father (Eph. 1:3-4).  This took place in the deep counsels of eternity, and we knew nothing about it until it was revealed to us in the Word of God.  This election was not based on anything we had done, because we were not even on the scene.  Nor was it based on anything God saw that we would be or do.  God’s election was based wholly on His grace and love.  We cannot explain it (Rom. 11:33-36), but we can rejoice in it.

      ‘Foreknowledge’ does not suggest that God merely knew ahead of time that we would believe, and therefore He chose us.  This would raise the question.’Who or what made us decide for Christ?’  and would take our salvation completely out of God’s hands.  In the Bible, ‘to foreknow’ means ‘to set on’s love upon a person pr persons in a personal way.’  It is used this way in Amos 3:2: ‘You only have I known of all the families of the earth.’  God set His electing love on the nation of Israel.  Other verses that use ‘know’ in this special sense are 1 Corinthians 8:3, John 10:14, 27; Matthew 7:23; and Psalm 1:6.

      But the plan of salvation includes more than the Father’s electing love; it also includes the work of the Spirit in convicting the sinner and bringing him to faith in Christ.  The best commentary on this is 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14.  Also, the Son of God had to die on the cross for our sins, or there could be no salvation.  We have been chosen by the Father, purchased by the Son, and set apart by the Spirit.  It takes all three if there is to be a true experience of salvation.”

      :-)

        • volfan007 says

          I also believe that God chose to save you and me not based on anything we’ve done, nor on who we are. God just chose to save us based on His love, mercy, and grace.

          In His omniscience, God knows everything. Of course, He knows… before we’re ever even born….who will be His, and who won’t. He knows us as His own….before we’re ever born again. He knows everything, and He is not bound by time, like we are. He can already see something as if it has already happened. So, yes, the Lord knows all of those people, who are His.

          And yes, no one comes to the Father, unless they’re drawn by the Holy Spirit. It takes the working of God in the heart of a man, woman, boy, or girl, in order for them to get saved.

          You see, I can agree with most of what Warren Weirsbe said above, and still believe that all men can truly be saved, and that God sincerely desires that every person be saved, and that they must make that choice….a real, true choice.

          David

  20. says

    Ken,

    I think you misunderstood my last comment on the historical distinction between moral-natural ability. I only meant to point out the Edwards (whom Fuller followed) was not the first to hold to that distinction.

    As far as some in the SBC go, if Fuller is any kind of 5-pointer he is 5 too many points. For example, I read in volume 1 of Fuller’s “Works” while addressing total depravity he wrote, “Men, by nature, are totally unable to love God with their heart, soul, mind, and strength.” I know there is more context to Fuller’s statements, but they definitely do not fall in the Traditionalist camp.

    BTW, have you listened to the conference audio from “Andrew Fuller and his Controversies” from September 27-28, 2013?

    Oh, and you may be interested in Helm’s post where he speaks to the topic of moral inability here: http://paulhelmsdeep.blogspot.com/2013/03/pink-and-murray-and-jonathan-edwards.html

    • says

      Thanks for the links, Mark. I may listen to the audio tomorrow. I read the Helm article just now. Very interesting. I may have to study Edwards some more.

      I read Edwards’ Original Sin years ago, and was disappointed with his philosophy of identity and the idea that all creation is recreated each moment. It really seemed to me to be a poor attempt to reconcile the realistic and nominalistic views of justice by nominalizing all of substantial reality—in effect, absorbing all of substantial reality into the mere thoughts of God.

      As I said to David earlier, Traditionalists are not centrists. In the never-ending debate between determinists and libertarians, they are clearly libertarians. The SBC has had for a very long time a large core of middlers who hold to some form of compatibilism, antinomy, congruism, or a combination thereof; and it is these who are the true centrists, holding to both unconditional election and the free will response of men to the gospel (with regeneration being God’s response to faith). As some famous baptist in history once said (and I’ve forgotten the name), we hold to “Calvinism with a little bit of Arminianism.”

  21. volfan007 says

    Bill Mac,

    You said, “David: All that may be true, but the point remains. God does not try to save all people equally. No matter how zealous the first Christians were, millions of people have lived and died with absolutely no access to the Gospel. So however you characterize God’s desire to save everyone, he does not provide everyone the opportunity to be saved.”

    Yes, I said that earlier…..not every person has the same amount of light shed upon them. But, they still have light. AND, God still desires that they be saved. And, man can still be saved…all men….and, man must make that choice.

    David

      • volfan007 says

        If they did hear the Gospel, then they could be saved. And, if they’d respond the light they have, right now, God would move upon someone to get to them to preach the Gospel.

        David

  22. Bill Mac says

    You are saying that if a first century north american pagan suddenly decided he wanted to follow the god of his best understanding, that God would have sent someone to him with the Gospel? Are you sure about that?

    • says

      Bill, that is absolutely true. There are no dilemma’s with God. If it was logistically impossible (?) then it was also true that NO first century north american pagan ever decided to fully embrace what God had revealed.

  23. Bill Mac says

    Ken,

    I agree, especially with the last part. Non-Calvinists comfort themselves with fictitious scenarios like this because it makes their understanding of God look more loving and fair than the Calvinist understanding of God. But my point remains that God does not seem to love all people equally in the active salvific sense, for He does not give all people equal opportunity to be saved. He does not provide equal light or equal opportunity.

  24. Dale Pugh says

    “Non-Calvinists comfort themselves with fictitious scenarios like this……”
    And we wonder why things go sour in these exchanges when people attempt to have a meaningful discussion. Being dismissive is rarely helpful, and it’s one reason why some of us have bowed out of the conversation.

  25. Bill Mac says

    Dale: I apologize for the tone of that sentence. I often don’t think twice about what I write until I push Post.

    I’m trying to point out that most non-Calvinists have the same problems as Calvinists when it comes to who ends up not being saved. Non-Calvinists tend to portray God as actively trying to save as many people as he can, and I don’t think that view bears up to scrutiny.

    • says

      Bill,

      Both ends of the spectrum have the same problem because they both share the same faulty assumption, to wit, that if God both desired for all to be saved and was the Determiner in full control of who would be saved then God would necessarily save all. This assumption is false, and rejecting it would bring the two ends closer together.

      Some Calvinists conclude that since it is out of God’s love that He saves, and since He saves only some, then God’s “saving love” is a “distinguishing” love. John Murry, Redemption: Accomplished and Applied, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955), pp. 9-10, states:

      …The Scripture informs us that this love of God from which the atonement flows and of which it is the expression is a love that is distinguishing… The love of God from which the atonement springs is not a distinctionless love; it is a love that elects and predestinates.

      Such a conclusion does not follow. Merely because God elected only some and saves only some does not mean that it was out of His love that He limited salvation, as if it was His love that was limited or limiting. Such a “distinguishing” love would also be a distinguishing hate. The very same God who chooses to save also chooses to let others perish. However, there are different reasons for each, and the false conclusion that both the choice to save some and the choice to not save others flow from the love of God is a monstrous portrayal of a two-sided love that is also hate. Make no mistake: God does select some for salvation and not others, and He does indeed distinguish between the elect and the nonelect in His eternal plan and salvation; however, the decision not to save all, but to let many perish, does not come from any limiting aspect of His love, but from other pressing exigencies in His nature relating to His justice and His glory.

      Only because God knew that the race would sin did He choose an elect that did not include all of humanity. Only because God so loved humanity did He choose any to be saved. There really is nothing special about the few that He has chosen when compared to the rest, as we are members of humanity just like the rest, fallen and unworthy. Because God so loves humanity, and because He has chosen to save some, then He is able to pour out His love for humanity in a special way on those whom He has chosen. Though He has a love for all humanity, He is not able to pour it out on the rest by saving them, though it is manifested in temporal ways, such as general blessings, and in His revelations of Himself to even the nonelect. Even the fact that they perish due not to God’s indifference in the temporal but only to their own unwillingness to come is itself a limited manifestation of the love of God (since it would be much different if God were not willing no matter how willing the nonelect might be).

    • Dale Pugh says

      I appreciate that.
      Some of us DO think it bears up to scrutiny, and we think it’s biblical. If brothers and sisters can discuss it without burying their heads in arrogance, then maybe we can make some progress towards understanding one another. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to happen very often.
      I’ve grown weary of it, but then I read something that cuts across the grain and I make a comment. Oh well……

      • Bill Mac says

        Dale: When you say it’s biblical, to what are you specifically referring? The idea that God is actively trying to save as many people as he can?

        If so, what then of my examples? What of those who never hear? Who can (or could) never hear? What of those God hardened, or blinded?

        God knew that man would fall before he created them, and yet he did. He new Satan would fall before he created him, and the untold misery Satan would cause, and yet he did. God did not have to allow the serpent to tempt Eve, and yet he did. None of these things were demanded by free will. Free will did not demand that God make Adam’s sin nature inheritable, and yet he did. God could have provided Christ almost immediately, but he waited thousands of years. He could have provided a method of dissemination of that remedy that was not so slow and subject to human frailty and disobedience, and yet he did not.

        I’m not accusing God of anything wrong. I believe all his ways are perfect. I’m trying to point out why I can’t get my head around the idea that God is trying something and seemingly failing most of the time. You can say it is we who are failing and not God but that is not satisfactory, especially to those who are in hell.

          • Bill Mac says

            Or anyone. I don’t believe what I believe because it gives me comfort, but because I believe it’s true. But I’m not under the illusion that I can’t be wrong.

          • Dale Pugh says

            Bill Mac:
            And I knew that would be your response when I said it.
            I don’t think I’ve stated what I believe, have I? Did I say, “I believe”? No. I said, “Some of us believe…” What I believe isn’t the point I’m making. My point is that I choose to join hands with and labor alongside those of differing biblical interpretations based on my understanding of Christ’s call for me to be His disciple. I can be wrong too. I have been wrong many times, I’m sure.
            As to the question of what I believe: The fact is that I do believe that “all” means “all.” That “whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” That “He is not willing that any should perish.” I also believe that He is sovereign and yet He affords us the opportunity to choose. I believe that He is actively at work through the church spreading the Good News. I believe that “this gospel shall be preached to all the nations, and then the end will come”. I believe that many who have heard, who do hear, and who will hear this gospel will be saved. I believe that others will not be saved when they hear it. I believe that I have a responsibility to go and to support those who are going where I can’t go. I believe that God saves through His grace and that it has nothing to do with man’s own righteousness. I believe that God draws people by the power of His Spirit. I believe that people are saved by grace through faith. I believe that we’d accomplish a whole lot more if we quit trying to wrap our heads around when what happens, why it happens, how it happens, and who we quote about it happening and simply accept the fact that, this side of heaven, we’ll never have all the answers to our questions.
            Do I understand all of God’s ways? No. Do you understand all of God’s ways? No. But that isn’t the point. He can’t be fully understood.
            This I know: All the arguing we do on this blog over this hasn’t contributed one iota to anyone ever coming to know the power of God to save through Jesus Christ. Does anyone honestly think that someone reads all this and says, “Wow! That makes such perfect sense! I need to believe that!”? We may get our theological jollies out of it, but so what? I’m not saying that it’s wrong to discuss it, but when people arrogantly belittle and deride another’s position it makes me want to spit. When we call one another “heretic” it accomplishes nothing. When we go around and around and around over the same ground day after day we accomplish nothing.
            We can say, “But Calvinists believe that too!” Someone else can respond, “But Arminians believe that too!” Another might shout, “Traditionalists believe that too!” So what? When we divide ourselves and draw lines in the sand, we set ourselves up for failure. We aren’t united for the sake of the gospel. We’re looking for those of our own “affinity” group to “network” with.
            That’s my opinion. Have fun with it.
            Oh, just so don’t come back with, “But you didn’t address what I said in my last statement,” I know I didn’t address what you said in your last statement.

          • Bill Mac says

            Dale: We’ve always had some good discussions in the past and I regret the way this exchange has gone. I made a flippant remark and I apologized for it. I was truly interested in what you thought. I enter these discussions because I like the give and take of opposing viewpoints. I’m not under the illusion that my brilliant arguments are going to finally bring peace between Calvinists and non-Calvinists. I’d be surprised that anyone thinks that. We enter these discussions because we like to discuss. For the record I don’t think I’ve ever called anyone a heretic. I agree with pretty much everything you said in your “I believe” paragraph.

          • Dale Pugh says

            I apologize for directing my ire toward you, Bill Mac. It wasn’t in any way meant to be a personal attack on you. My issue is much more…….”global.” I should have made it clear that my remarks were more general than they came across.
            The fact that you, a Calvinist, can agree with pretty much everything I, a non-Calvinist, said about my beliefs shed some light on things, I think. We probably agree on many more things than we disagree on. And we can stand shoulder-to-shoulder in cooperative kingdom work. I’m glad that’s the reality with most of us here!
            Again, forgive me, brother.

          • says

            Dale,

            The ironic thing is that this Calvinism discussion of 160 some comments was still amiable right up to the point that you declared that all such discussions go bad… :)

  26. says

    God could have kept Satan and his allies from sinning, just as He kept the other 2/3rds of angels from sinning. And He could have kept Adam and Eve from sinning. But Christ on the cross was the purpose of all of creation in the first place. So God incorporated sin into His plan precisely so that He could become a man and die for the sins of men, saving a people for Himself—a redeemed people and not a self-righteous people, saved by a self-sacrificing God and not merely an omnipotent God.

    • says

      Ken,
      Also an omniscient God as well, One knowing the end.
      A redeemed people chosen by that God to redeem.
      And this all knowing God also knew that there would be people He did not choose to redeem, that would need Him to redeem them as much as the ones He did and does redeem.
      So there are two camps:
      One says that God allows people to choose Him and redeems those that chose Him.
      The other camp says that God chooses whom to redeem and therefore per force whom not to redeem.
      There is no real middle ground that where God wants everyone to be saved but chooses only some. That makes God out to be confused and at odds with Himself.
      For God did self sacrifice but is also omnipotent: the sacrifice was His choice, those redeemed are His choice, and both justice and mercy are fulfilled.
      So did [does, will] the cross of Christ satisfy justice for all those God has and will redeem?
      So did [does, will] the cross of Christ satisfy justice for any of those God does not redeem?
      And are these redeemed folk chosen by God from before the foundation of the world to be redeemed in due time?

      Then it seems that the purpose of the cross is to redeem the elect. And that the sacrifice God made was for those He would redeem.
      Plainly, Jesus went to the cross to make a sacrifice to redeem those He had chosen to redeem. There is no plan of God to redeem not a single person more than originally chosen.

      • says

        Ken,
        To hypothicate and ask, “Then does God turn away the willing?” is to misunderstand how anyone becomes willing. Anyone who is willing is willing because God has drawn them to Himself. So God turns away no one who is willing. Whosoever will is the elect because whosoever will are those drawn by God.

        The Bible tells us we all have sinned. We say all people have a sin nature. And we see that truth played out in the world, as we know that everybody we get to know are morally imperfect. And yet the willing are only those whom God draws. No one else is willing. Even those that are now willing were once not willing and would have stayed unwilling except God drew them to Himself and brought them to a different state.
        This tells us two things:
        [1] We should seek to proclaim the Gospel to all people for we can not know who in advance God will draw to Himself. We preach the Gospel and God saves as He sees fit.
        [2] Unless God draws, none will be willing. And this has implications.

        Our message of the Gospel is the best news in the world, ever. People everywhere seek to prolong their lives and to live them in a better way. And yet they turn up their noses at the greatest news ever. They are not called unbelievers because they agree with us that our news is the greatest but just not for them, but rather they are called unbelievers because they hear the Gospel and think it foolish. And part of being willing to turn to God through Jesus the Son is believing in the heart the veracity of the Gospel message which includes its exclusiveness [Jesus is the ONLY way].

        No one can follow from the heart a path they consider foolishness. There is two components that must come together: knowledge and understanding. They must hear the Gospel and they must understand-it-as-truth. We supply knowledge by our proclaiming it. The Holy Spirit alone provides the understanding-it-as-truth part which is part of God’s drawing the sinner to Himself. As long as they know what we are saying and yet consider it foolishness, they can not from the heart submit to the Gospel.

        1st Cor. 1 tells us” For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

        We know that as long it is folly to them they remain perishing. But that when they see it as we do, as the power of God, they are being saved.

  27. dr. james willingham says

    When one speaks of God loving all of humanity, one really needs to be careful about distinctions. For instance, there is a need to deal with the reality that God says He also hates some, Esau and all workers of iniquity. However, having said that much, there is still the need to look at how God treats the wicked everyday. John Gill said that God treats the wicked so well that no one in his right mind would condemn God for sending them to Hell. I think Gill was speaking with reference to how the wicked responded to such treatment – with base ingratitude. There is also the reality that God actually treats them with love, that is, He shows love to the one whom He is said to hate. Also there is the important reality that the number of the saved is going to far exceed that of the number that perish, the former number being a number that no one can number (Rev.7:9) and throw in a million billion planets and every one on all of them along with the earth and that for a thousand generations and anywhere from 20,000-900,000 years and you have a numbers problem that boggles the mind.

    We also need to realize that the preaching of the opposites has a place in the Gospel message, serving as they do in some instances to reach some unreachables and untouchables that one would never expect to reach. Just consider how opposite Jonah’s message was, along with the prophet himself, to the people whom it won. Talk about a therapeutic paradox; it is like telling a fellow to quit smoking by telling him to smoke nonstop. After all, he will become sick as a dog, if it does not do him in first, and he will be unable to continue. There is a depth to the wisdom of the Bible, intellectualism for those able to receive it, that defies human comprehension, and it was intended to do so. Nothing like a good paradox to stretch the human mind. Has yours been stretched any, lately, by the thought that God might win more souls by the teaching that Christ died for the elect, the sheep, the church, than the idea that He died for everyone? Are there examples in the Bible, where God won people by opposites. I mean besides Jonah? Try Mt. 15:21-28 and Luke 4:16-31. Same use of opposites in both cases; in one it works; in the other the listeners try to murder the Lord. When will we get understanding?

  28. Andrew Barker says

    Ben, I can see that you are having difficulty in seeing the problem which comes with the Calvinistic stance on election. All Christians have assurance when things are going well. All Christians may at some point have doubts in their mind as to whether or not their salvation is genuine.

    For non-Calvinists, if they doubt they may question if they were sincere or if their response was just an emotional reaction to events. But what they don’t have to contend with is whether or not God has elected them. This is because they will have been taught that they are elect because they responded. They may not feel it, they may not believe it but they will not be questioning God’s choice of them as elect.

    For Calvinists who have been taught that God chose them and elected them before birth there is the additional concern of “was I ever elect?” This is compounded because there are no verses which will clear this up and you know this as fact because it’s been discussed many a time. The verses which are sometimes used can actually be quite unhelpful because if persevering to the end is how you know you’re elect, then telling this to someone who’s already doubting is hardly going to make things better.

    So yes, I do see more problems for some Calvinists regarding assurance but it is a problem of their own making.

    • Les Prouty says

      Andrew,

      I don’t think Ben is having a problem with the Calvinist view and assurance. There really isn’t a problem, except in some non Calvinists minds.

      But I wonder is you really meant to say this this way, “For non-Calvinists, if they doubt they may question if they were sincere or if their response was just an emotional reaction to events. But what they don’t have to contend with is whether or not God has elected them. This is because they will have been taught that they are elect because they responded. They may not feel it, they may not believe it but they will not be questioning God’s choice of them as elect.”

      You say that is a NC doubts, they may question if their response was just an emotional one. Or if they were sincere.

      The you say the NC doesn’t have to contend with whether or not they’re elect because they have been taught that they are elect “because they responded.”

      Do you see they problem there? But what I’d their response wasn’t sincere or was just emotional? As you said earlier?

      Brother. NCs are certainly free to continue to say we can’t have assurance because we are Calvinists. But it just ain’t true.

      Blessings to you brother,

      Les

    • says

      Andrew! It’s good to see you over here on neutral ground where things can be discussed without the interference of a cranky moderation troll and a broken record spouting Mohler, Mahaney, and YRR every other keystroke. Breathe in the fresh air, my friend! It’s sweet!

      You feel that I’m having a problem, Andrew, understanding the effect the doctrine of unconditional election has on the doctrine of assurance, but I assure you I am not. Whether it’s a more Calvinistic or a more Arminian understanding of election, biblical assurance is biblical assurance. You have simply conjured up a difference in your head, Andrew.

      Biblical assurance never arises out of a person’s election. It only comes from their continued faith in Christ. Andrew, that’s it! And that’s true for a more Calvinistic and a more Arminian brother. We don’t look to our election for assurance. We look to Christ!

  29. Andrew Barker says

    Ben, I’m not sure where you get the idea that this site is not moderated. It certainly is. If I were to describe the moderator on this site as fat and cranky, he would have ‘words’ with me and rightly so! I would agree though, let’s beep Mohler, Mahoney and the YRR out of this. They are an irrelevance.

    I’m 100% with you on your statement that those who are continuing in the faith do not or at least are likely not to have any problems with assurance of faith. But that is really as close to a statement of the obvious as I want to come.

    My point is simply this. If a person is not continuing well and they begin to have doubts creeping in they are likely to question every stage of what they perceive as their route to conversion. If they have been taught that they did not choose God, but that He chose them, they can and will question whether God ever really did chose them, will they not? That’s all I’m saying Ben.

    • Doug Hibbard says

      We’re all working on the “fat” around here–note the “Fit Pastor” posts.

      As to cranky?

      Yep. But we love him anyway.

    • Dave Miller says

      I get called much worse than fat (a designation whose accuracy is indisputable) and cranky (I refuse to answer).

    • Debbie Kaufman says

      Andrew Barker: No they won’t. If they do, then God is doing a work in them or why would they care?

      • Andrew Barker says

        Debbie Kaufman “No they won’t. If they do, then God is doing a work in them or why would they care? ”

        Well, either they will or they won’t, but they can’t have it both ways and neither can you!

    • Bill Mac says

      Andrew: I can tell you that I don’t know any Calvinists who think this way. I can’t say that none do.

    • Tarheel says

      Great and helpful discussion. BP did a good job, IMO of reporting without commentary.

      I’m looking forward to listening to the actual discussion in the next few days.

      This is one reason why I have such great respect and admiration for both Hankins and Mohler….they are each an example to all of us.

      I disagree with Hankins on many points but I do not suspect his salvation, faithfulness to scripture, or commitment to the gospel. I simply see him as in error regarding some issues of soteriology.

      I think both men are great leaders in this discussion.

  30. says

    I agree that both sides can work together proclaiming the Gospel by word and deed:
    Jesus Christ is the risen Lord of all and anyone who submits to Him in faith will be saved while those that reject Him will perish in their sins.

  31. Kim says

    So….SBC Calvinists are not actually Calvinists at all?

    I may be misunderstanding, but based on what I know of Calvinism and what I am reading here, I would say that there are distinct differences between Calvinism and SBC Calvinism, distinct enough that I wouldn’t call SBC Calvinists “Calvinists”.

    Feel free to correct me if I am wrong.

    • says

      Kim,
      The problem with labels is that they are imprecise as to the various positions held by those that fall under that label or category. Calvinists do not agree on all points of doctrine. Some claim to be Calvinists even though they do not hold all 5 points of it. Others would say that one is not a Calvinist unless they hold to all 5 points. And there is the same problem with Arminianists and Traditionalists and Centrists and Antimonians, etc.
      The label is a generalization of beliefs. I would think, that if asked, most SBC Calvinists would say that they call themselves Calvinists because they mainly agree with what is generally considered Calvinistic doctrine.
      You can call me what you want, just not late for dinner.