Calvinist Identity Issues: What is a Calvinist?

I write this in deep fear that I’m going to get a poke in the nose from Rick Patrick.

Actually, his light-hearted complaint about being labeled a Calvinist made me think about a problem with the whole debate.  I left a comment on that post, but thought I would expand the concept as a separate post and ask the question I think we need to answer.

What do you mean when you call someone a Calvinist?

As I watch the sometimes intense discussion of Calvinism here and elsewhere, I can’t help but think that one root of the problem is often the definition of the term.  I mean one thing when I use the term and you mean something else.  So we argue based on our different definitions when our views are not all that different.

Dr. Al Mohler got a lot of this going with comments he made at the 2006 Pastor’s Conference suggesting that all Southern Baptists, in one form or another, are Calvinists. If ever a statement has been taken out of context, it was that one.

Can we agree that Mohler is not a stupid man?  He knows that there are many Southern Baptists who are do not believe the tenants of strict Calvinism.  He wasn’t saying that.  In fact, these comments were made within the context of the debate with noted non-Calvinist, Dr. Paige Patterson. Thabite Anyabwile has a loose transcript of the debate available here, for those who are interested in what was actually said.

Mohler’s point was not that all Baptists should be labeled Calvinists or that only Calvinists are true Baptists.  The point he was making is that all Southern Baptists share theological roots with Calvinism.  He was not trying to assert the ridiculous, contrary to how some have painted his comments.  Again, he’s not stupid.  He knows that there are many Baptists who reject the “doctrines of grace” as defined by Calvinists.

You can read some of the quotes from the debate and what Mohler was actually trying to say here.

When Mohler said that all Baptists share theological roots with Calvinism, he was casting a wide net.  So, here’s my point: If you accept his presuppositions and definitions, Mohler was right.  The vast majority of Southern Baptists have a theology that owes much to Calvinism, even if they do not subscribe to the Calvinist system. That’s what he was trying to say.

But that brings us back to the original question.  What is a Calvinist?

But I still have doubts as to whether or not I’m a Calvinist.  I don’t have doubts about what I believe – I’m fairly comfortable with my theological understanding, even though no human doctrinal system codifies truth completely.  I know what I believe, I just don’t know if it makes me a Calvinist or not.

Where I Stand on Calvinism

The issue of God’s sovereignty in salvation and human responsibility is one of those logical antinomy issues like the Trinity and the dual nature of Christ.  The Bible often affirms as true two things that cannot both be logically true.  Isaiah 55:8-9 is key to my theological understanding.  His ways are higher and his thoughts are higher.  God has a logic and understanding which we fallen human beings cannot grasp.   Our job is not always to understand God but to trust him and his Word.  Here are some examples of these antinomies.

  • God is one.  God is three.  You don’t understand that and neither do I.  If you think you understand it, you probably have accepted a simple solution to an unsolvable logical problem.
  • Jesus was fully man and fully God.  Huh?  Trying to completely understand that will sprain your brain.
  • And I believe that the sovereignty/responsibility debate is just such a conundrum.

So, do I believe that God chose before the foundation of the world those who would be saved, based solely on his sovereign grace and not on any merit or anticipation of action on the part of the chosen one?  Yes.

Do I believe that human beings are responsible moral agents who must make a genuine, free choice to trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, to repent and believe?  Yes I do.  As I read scripture, God’s sovereignty over salvation is pretty clear.

How can both be true?  How can God choose me but I must also choose him?  I don’t know.  Ask God.  I’m just not sure I can completely buy into the monergistic systems some have presented.

I think the problem comes when our love for human logic makes us want to choose one side of this or the other.  Some want to embrace a radical monergism (certainly not all Calvinists fit this bill) that makes the faith of man just a programmed response to the sovereign call of God.  Why then did Peter exhort the Jews with many words to make a choice on the day of Pentecost?  And those who say, “God chose those he knew would choose him.”  Really?  That’s nonsense.  We love him because he first loved us.  Any system that ignores the fact that God’s choice came first doesn’t match the biblical evidence.

So, I’m caught in between.  I cannot deny the sovereignty of God in salvation, but I cannot reduce man’s choice in a way that some Calvinists I’ve known do.  I’m kinda in between Calvinism and and Baptist non-Calvinism and I’m not completely sure where I fit.

What is Your Definition?

I’ve read hardcore Calvinists who have claimed that you are not really a Calvinist unless you buy the whole system – infant Baptism, covenant theology, Calvinist ecclesiologies, all five points of the TULIP system, etc.  Certainly, by their definition, I am most certainly NOT a Calvinist.

At the other extreme are those who say that if you hold to some form of eternal security you are basically living in Calvin’s world.  By that system, of course I’m a Calvinist.

For most, I think, the watershed issue is whether God’s choice or man’s is the root of salvation.  Do we choose God because he chose us, or does he choose us because he foresees that we will choose him?

So, here’s my question today.  When you say, “He’s a Calvinist,” what do you mean?  What makes someone a Calvinist or not a Calvinist?

How can we have a civil and productive discussion of the TRUTH of Calvinism if we can’t even agree on the ESSENCE of Calvinism?

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to give a clear, concise and comprehensive definition of Calvinism.  Warning, this blog post will self-destruct in 5 seconds…





  1. Daniel says

    Articles like this are why I persist in reading this blog. No attack, just clearly and plainly stating your view and a genuine interest in other’s coherent responses. I hope you get them, coherent responses, that is.

  2. volfan007 says


    What you believe on this issue, and what I believe is very, very close, although I’m not a 5 point Calvinist. And, I’d have to agree with Dr. Mohler that all Baptists, who believe in eternal security and salvation by grace thru faith are Calvinistic. But, if by that Dr. Mohler meant that all Southern Baptists came from aggressive, 5 point Calvinists types like we have today; and we need to get back to that in the SBC; then I cant agree with him. That would be like the Founders view.

    So, of course, all Baptists, who arent Free Will Baptists, are Calvinistic. We arent Arminian. But, I think we should distinguish between someone who is Calvinistic in their theology, and someone who is an aggressive, obsessed Calvinist.


    • Bill Mac says

      David: Wouldn’t you agree that being aggressive and obsessed is a bad thing, no matter what the topic? I’ve noticed a lot of aggressive, obsessed behavior in the SBC blogosphere from Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike. I’ve noticed obsessions about certain persons. I’ve noticed obsessions about cultural issues. I’ve noticed obsessions for and against Calvinism. Despite your assertion that Baptists aren’t Arminians, I’m seeing, if not obsession, a new and surprisingly strong interest in Arminianism in the SBC blogosphere.

      Aggressiveness and obsession are both bad things, no matter what the subject, but those traits aren’t exclusive to Calvinists, although I’ll agree with you that there are aggressive, obsessed Calvinists out there. Despite what the aggressive, obsessed anti-Calvinists out there are saying, I don’t think Mohler, Founders, and SBTS are the source of these people. Some people are just inclined to that.

      • says

        You make a good point. Aggressive, obsessed Calvinists, anti-Cslvinists, BI, anti-BI – all cause problems. When you lose balance and become obsessed it becomes a problem. And just for clarity, I am not saying you are anti-Calvinist, David. Just making a theoretical point. Aggressive and obsessive Christians advocating a viewpoint are usually off-putting.

    • says

      I’d really love a good solid definition of what an aggressive Calvinist is and what specifically is the difference with new Calvinism and old Calvinism. Alongside this definition I would love for a list of people who fit the definition and an example of why they fit the definition. If the definition is fair and the label is true of their position I don’t think it would be slander to say, “____ believes X, I define X as being an aggressive Calvinist, therefore I consider ___ to be what I would call an aggressive Calvinist”.

      I say this b/c these terms are being thrown all around the blogosphere and I am still uncertain who and what it is referring to. Like Bill Mac said aggressive/obssessed anything (except Jesus) is probably a bad thing. Problem is I’m not sure we are all working from the same definition of an “aggressive Calvinist”.

  3. Zack says

    Throwing in a new Clavinism post during the last week of the year strikes me as a bit risky: You might have to revise your Top 10 SBC Voices list, again.

  4. says

    A little more serious than my previous point, a couple of tweaks.

    “The Bible often affirms as true two things that cannot both be logically true.”

    I would tweak this to say (and suspect you would agree from the other things you say), the Bible often affirms as true two things that we are unable to understand as both being logically true. The weakness is not with logic or with God’s action but with our ability to understand.

    As for my definition, I’m reluctant to refer to a person as Calvinist unless he affirms at least four, and preferably all five, points (and that’s not even getting into whether or not five points are really enough! :) ). I don’t think a three-point Calvinist exist, and lots who call themselves four pointers aren’t. Labels matter, and I think we need a certain degree of precision with our labels. Sort of like Al Mohler says with yoga – if you do the exercises but not the meditation, then it isn’t yoga and you should call it something else. If you affirm some points of Calvinism and not others, that’s all well and good, but you should call it something else.

    That said, I reject the notion that a Calvinist must accept things like infant baptism, etc. The term Calvinism has come to refer specifically to the doctrines of God and salvation. I can accept using the term Reformed in a broader sense to describe one who accepts the whole package so I tend to describe myself as Calvinist rather than Reformed, though there are plenty who use the terms as basically interchangeable.

  5. Bill Mac says

    I used to think that only 5 pointers should rightly be called Calvinists. Not in an exclusive club sort of way, but simply for clarity. Now I would say that 4 pointers who aren’t universalists are pretty much Calvinists, since they limit the atonement in one way or another.

    The bottom line for me is that I don’t think God tries, and I don’t think God fails. So I can’t really accept a system that suggests that God is trying to save as many people as He can, and by all accounts failing most of the time. I can’t accept a system that holds the idea that if only we had witnessed better, chosen our words more carefully, gotten in their face more, prayed harder, had more or better or longer altar calls, passed out more tracts, or if they had lived just a little bit longer, then some people would be in heaven instead of hell. I believe we have free will in so far as our nature allows. But I do not believe our free will is inviolate, but rather it is subsumed under God’s sovereignty.

  6. says

    Then there are also the definitions:
    Hyper-Calvinist – anyone who is more Calvinist than me.
    Arminian – anyone who is less Calvinist than me.

    Why are there “Semi-Arminians” but no “Semi-Calvinists?”

    There seem to be “Calvinists,” “5-point Calvinists,” and “CALVINISTS!”

    As I mentioned recently, I’ve heard off and on all my life that all Baptists are Calvinists since we at least believe in eternal security (perseverance of the saints). And, depending on how they are defined, other (but most would say not all) of the 5 points of Calvinism.

    I and others have sometimes distinguished them as Moderate Calvinists, as opposed to Strict Calvinists or 5-point Calvinists.

    Although some Moderate Calvinists prefer to be called “Non-Calvinists.”

    And some 5-point Calvinists say they are not Calvinists.

    I guess someone can use the terms however they chose, but it helps for them to define or explain how they are using them.
    David R. Brumbelow

    • Greg Buchanan says

      Ranting about your interactions with various people is ok, but I think you missed the point of the post…

      what do YOU mean when you say: he is a calvinist?

      How do YOU define that Mr Brumbelow? What are YOUR parameters? Where do YOU draw the line? Dont’ cop out and only rant about “them” whoever “they” are… (I think Fox Mulder knows who they are)

        • volfan007 says

          me either. I didnt take David’s comments as a rant, and I didnt think he was mad or upset. Geeeez.


        • Greg Buchanan says

          eh… rant was probably too strong a word… sorry.

          I’m not upset, just that you seemed to have a strong opinion (from past discussions) and for clarity I just wanted to know what Dave wants to know: what do you mean/how do you define “calvinism/calvinist” when you are posting.

          Not upset at all. I was actually trying to joke with the X-Files reference. And, to show that I’m not a hypocrite by commenting and not defining, I posted my take/understanding what I think of when I define calvinism/calvinist.

          Did not mean to offend…

          • Bruce H says


            Just a question, nothing behind it. When you say “strong opinion”, is that what is meant when a person says, “I believe in…..”? Seems it would because that causes a change in course for that person. :-)

  7. Jonathan S. Jenkins says

    I think ultimately all Southern Baptists are calvinisticto some degree even staunch noncalvinists, such as, P. Patterson, S. Lemke, and J. Vines have said as much. The determining factor at this point in Baptist theology in my opinion is how does one believe on “the doctrines of grace” or “limited atonement” and “unconditional election”. These are the points most people disagree on and might be the best benchmarks to set as to whther a person qualifies as a Calvinst. As if that actually matters in the grand scheme of things.

  8. reformedsteve says

    Calvinism is often used to describe those Christians who believe that biblical truth, in regards to soteriology, is best summed up with the five points of Calvinism; total depravity (man is unable to save himself), unconditional election (God has chosen those who will be saved), limited atonement (Christ only died for those who will be saved), irresistible grace (God will overcome the elects sinfulness), and perseverance of the saints (Once saved always saved).

    When baptists speak of Calvinism they are almost always referring to soteriology and so that is why I went with the above definition.

    • Dave Miller says

      So, if I adhere to only four of those points, I’m not a Calvinist?

      You are taking, if i understand you, the more strict interpretation of Calvinist identity – that the Calvinist system hangs or falls together.

      Am I understanding you?

      • reformedsteve says

        It’s my personal belief that labels, such as Calvinism, should be used to help point out distinctives. So, if you believe 4 of the 5 points then you would say so, ie “I’m a 4 point Calvinist”. As far as I am concerned it would also be valid to say, “I’m a two point Calvinist (T and P).” Calvinism is just a theological term that is defined by a particular system of thought within soteriology. Just as Baptist is a term that deals mostly with ecclesiology.

        In my case, I go with reformed baptist. I feel it more accurately labels my perspective. That being reformed (Calvinist) and baptist (credobaptism).

        • Dave Miller says

          I agree with you that labels, unless used pejoratively, can be very helpful in summarizing positions. Four-point, 5-point, etc – these terms are pretty descriptive. The more general term, “Calvinist” is not so nearly easy to define.

  9. Lydia says

    “The point he was making is that all Southern Baptists share theological roots with Calvinism”

    I find this premise ridiculous. Jesus came before Calvin (wink) and the church was started in the first Century and soon after the New Testament. What on earth does Calvin have to do with that?

    Our “theological roots” come from much farther back than Calvin. Since they happen to intersect with some things Calvin wrote or practiced, that is one thing. But they also intersect with some things Menno Simms wrote. That does not make us Mennonites. Although we could claim it and insist we are “Mennonites” based upon what is claimed about Calvinism.

    There seem to be some who give the impression that they think Christianity started in the 1500’s…because Calvin finally was able to define it for everyone.

    • Dave Miller says

      Lydia, your schema here lacks historical credibility. We all want to believe that our doctrine goes back to the NT. But we are all also the products of the process of historical theology. Whether you like it or not, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and many others have had an effect on the formulation of your beliefs.

      • Lydia says

        “Lydia, your schema here lacks historical credibility.”

        Dave, I would have been disappointed if you had said, Lydia, that is a good point. :o) But I wonder why “history” has the “credibility” and not just spiritual truths? If history is the guide then you have to admit there are plenty of things many of us agree with Menno Simms concerning (just using him as an example). So why are we not 4 or 5 pt mennonites? Because he had no power and position like Calvin and did not publish a lot because he was busy hiding from the Reformers. :o)

        ” We all want to believe that our doctrine goes back to the NT. But we are all also the products of the process of historical theology. Whether you like it or not, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and many others have had an effect on the formulation of your beliefs.”

        I would much prefer we are products of the the Best Teacher Jesus promised: The Holy Spirit. Then perhaps Calvin would stop getting the credit. (wink)

        I know this won’t be popular but this focus on Calvinism borders on idolatry to me.

        • Dave Miller says

          Wouldn’t it be kind of arrogant to assume that we do not build upon the teachings of those who have studied throughout history. You are creating a false dichotomy between history and biblical doctrine.

          We are not the first people to attempt to study and interpret the Bible.

          And, just for the record, it was Menno Simons.

          • says

            You are creating a false dichotomy between history and biblical doctrine.


            The Holy Spirit also uses people to teach and carry out theological truths. I’m not sure it would have been beyond God’s power to have given Menno Simons a greater historical and theological influence in the SBC.

            Actually, there are denominations out there who have been influenced and promote Simons’ work which people are free to join.

          • Lydia says


            “You are creating a false dichotomy between history and biblical doctrine”

            Some can choose to study history for spiritual truth, I suppose. So and so’s systematic theology. I am guilty of it, too, btw.

            I am trying to figure out why we do this when we have been given the Best Teacher.

          • Dave Miller says

            Because, Lydia, those great figures in church history that we study also had that Great Teacher and we can learn from their labors and their studies. We don’t have to start over from the beginning every generation. We build on what the previous generation learned from the previous generation.

            My dad is a Bible teacher from whom I learned many things. That doesn’t mean that he replaced Christ as the great teacher. It just means that my dad helped me better understand the teachings of Christ.

            Learning from Calvin (even if you don’t call yourself a Calvinist) or sharing some theological roots with Calvinists does not in any way belittle Christ or his standing as the great teacher.

  10. says

    Dave Miller,

    As an Arminian, I would say that you are a Calvinist, not a “non-Calvinist” nor an Arminian. If we ask R.C. Sproul Sr., however, he may say something else entirely, depending upon your views of the atonement, haha.

    Nevertheless, even if a person is soft on the issue of “Limited Atonement,” or perhaps even “Irresistible Grace” (regeneration preceding faith), the fact that one holds to “Unconditional Election” and “Perseverance of the Saints” would, at the very least, make one Calvinistic.

    I think there are many, many Southern Baptists who fall into this category. They may not be sold-out Dortian or Westminster (Presbyterian) Calvinists, but they are certainly Calvinistic.

    You made an excellent point about the need for identity. Arminians (and other “non-Calvinists,” especially in the SBC) sense the same need to be properly identified. Classical Arminians want to be distinguished from Wesleyan-Arminians, for example.

    God bless.

  11. Bruce H says


    I liked what you said and how you said it in such a short written form. :-) I agree with what you said, too.

    When I read Job 38-40 each year to bring my thoughts aright I am humbled by any comprehension of God that He has allowed me to know about Himself. It is like a mental tune up that sets the timing of my thoughts before they exit my mouth, sometimes. :-) In my meditation times I have to explore things too big for me to understand about God. It is when I begin to explain those thoughts that my slurring of the Perfect is noticeable. It seems that is what we do when we begin to touch on the subject of Calvinism. Doctors have every part of the body identified down to the smallest bacteria and there is no conflict. Try that with God and you split the church.

    One thing I find rest in is, God chose me before the foundation of the world and now we are connected. I love the song, “I am His and He is Mine”. When I was single I was on a date. We were going back to her parent’s house and I saw a coon on the side of the road. I’m a little ADD, so, to top off the evening I immediately thought it would be an opportunity to display my bravery. I stopped, backed up and got the coon in my headlights. He didn’t run off so I exited my truck and began to walk around behind him. He didn’t run off so I eased up behind him. He didn’t run off and I’m thinking, “I’m committed now.” So, I reached down quickly and grabbed him behind the neck. All of a sudden his front hands wrapped around my thumb on one side of his neck and my fingers on the other side. I had him and he had me. At the time I was not thinking how great of an illustration this would be. He really had me and I sure wasn’t going to find out what would happen if I decided let go. We were connected. The event ended well. The coon was sick. I took him home and put him in a cage. After a week I let him go. The illustration I came away with was that the security I have in God is found in the election He designed. I certainly don’t want to let go of Him and I am sure he has plans for me if I try to let go of Him.

    It is funny how election causes some of us “prisoners of sin” to see the stars and some to just see the bars.

    Great post Dave.

      • Bruce H says

        First, I didn’t have you there to tell me he was sick. Second, I always thought of romance as having her believing in the Prince Charming hero type. Third, I am more ADD than Calvinist. Actually, ADHLAS (Attention Deficit, Hey Look a Squirrel). Finally, you have to take their temperature to really find out.

        Besides, where would a teacher be without really good illustrations?

  12. says


    Thanks for the “civil” tone of the post. I know my name will not be associated with that kind of tone but that is not my intention. I do at times, respond at times with an antagonistic tone because this kind of writing does at times demand it; but I am far from being the ONLY one guilty of that! I promise I do TRY to do better!!! Even the civility of tone is in the “eye of the beholder.”

    To me THE central determining factor in whether someone is a Calvinist or not is really focused on ONE major point and that is his or her position on regeneration. If an individual sees regeneration as being essential PRIOR to repentance and believing faith, I would say that settles things firmly in the Calvinist camp.

    If repentance and faith are required to experience regeneration, then that individual would not be a Calvinist, as I see it.

    I agree with some of the posts above that seem to indicate that there is a misunderstanding of a number of differing theological positions. It seems to me to be a fair evaluation. There is a reason that this is so epidemic.

    I believe a lot of folks are guilty of accepting certain positions that are thought out and presented by others and because it sounds good and has been thoroughly thought thru by certain individuals, many have accepted it as well as their arguments both for and against it. I see a LOT of that.

    I am afraid there are a LOT of folks have no real idea WHAT the Scriptures say to them outside what they have read others have said they say.

    You did not ask about that… but I humbly added it.

    I think a LOT of accusations have been cast against folks who do not think the way we do and that has caused a LOT of problems. I get accused of that quite often but I maintain it is extremely difficult for someone who does not really know WHY they believe what they believe, to even be able to understand WHY anyone else believes what he believes.

    Grateful to be in His Grip!!


    • says

      I think that is a workable definition. If you put regeneration before faith you are Calvinist. If faith precedes regeneration, you aren’t.

      That’s at least a pretty good attempt at a definition.

  13. Smuschany says

    Hehe…time to make this thread more interesting.

    I just wish to point out that a “Full” Calvinist, that is one who agrees with the core tenets of Calvinism, ie “the five points” can agree with the BFM2000 completely with very little “wiggling”. The same can not be said by those who are Arminian, that is those who agrees with the core tenents of the Remonstrants. The remonstrants believed that believers are never free from the possibility of falling from grace. IE loosing ones salvation. This clearly contradicts the BFM2000.

    As others have said, there has been a growing interest in, if not full adherence to Arminiansm by some SBC folk in recent years. Not only that, but some of these folk have been the most outspoken in claiming that a Calvinist can not be a baptist. This I find very interesting, as it is so completely convoluted, it is a wonder anyone can think straight with so many contradictions running in their heads.

    • says

      “The remonstrants believed that believers are never free from the possibility of falling from grace.”

      Just to clarify and correct – that is not the case. I’m a five pointer with no particular desire to defend Arminian theology, but I do want it to be presented properly. The Remonstrants – and Arminius himself – left the question open. The fifth article states, “But whether they are capable, through negligence, of forsaking again the first beginnings of their life in Christ, of again returning to this present evil world, of turning away from the holy doctrine which was delivered them, of losing a good conscience, of becoming devoid of grace, that must be more particularly determined out of the Holy Scriptures before they can teach it with the full persuasion of their minds.” – in other words, they did not feel ready to determine one way or another. Later Arminians clearly taught that salvation could be lost, and it became a major tenant of the Wesleyan movement, but classical Arminianism leaves the question open.

      The difference, then, between the BF&M and the Remonstrants on this point is that while the Remonstrants leave it an open question, the BF&M takes a firm position. Thus it is possible to be a classical Arminian while affirming the BF&M. I think we have more Arminians in our midst than are willing to take the name.

      • says


        Thanks, man! You took up our cause. :) The piece from which you quoted, however, is the Remonstrance of 1610. By 1618, in the “Opinion of the Remonstrants,” they had finalized and solidified their position. Points 3 and 4 under the Fifth Article read:

        3. True believers can fall from true faith and can fall into such sins as cannot be consistent with true and justifying faith; not only is it possible for this to happen, but it even happens frequently.

        4. True believers are able to fall through their own fault into shameful and atrocious deeds, to persevere and to die in them; and therefore finally to fall and to perish.

        Honestly, the “Opinions of the Remonstrants” of 1618 is a relatively new (and previously forgotten) piece to me. I had read it over four years ago and then forgot about it. I’ve been using the 1610 confession for years, forgetting all about their final stance of 1618.

        Still, I personally know a few lay people in the SBC who self-identify as “Classical Arminian,” yet hold to Perseverance of the Saints or Eternal Security.

        I did, however, use to think that being a Calvinist in the SBC was harder than being an Arminian. Lately, I’ve witnessed the contrary. With some SBC churches, if one claims to be a “non-Calvinist,” he can (typically) be hired as a SB pastor easily enough. If he calls himself a Calvinist or an Arminian, eyebrows are raised in some circles.

        Since the SBC actually does have Calvinist roots, where in the world did all these “Arminian” and “non-Calvinists” come from? What generation of SBCers dropped the Calvinist ball? (Where’s our Baptist historians?)

        • says

          “What generation of SBCers dropped the Calvinist ball?”

          I had a theology prof in seminary who asked a similar question. He said it is easy to trace the shift in some areas, but he wasn’t sure what was behind the shift from Calvinism. My guess it has to do with the rise of revivalism and embracing the practices and teaches of Finney, heretic though he was.

          As for the security issue, part of my response is based on conversations with you, but much of it comes from Olson’s Arminian Theology book where he really argues the point that classical Arminians can go either way.

          • says

            Yes, if I misled you, it was due to ignorance. I completely forgot about the 1618 piece. Evidently, so has Roger Olson, since on his site recently he also quoted the same 1610 confession in defense of ambiguity. He holds to Eternal Security, so the 1610 confession helped his position that day. I forgot to comment on that post about the 1618 confession. Perhaps I shall do so now.

          • says


            Would the canons of Dordt have been in response to the 1610 or 1618 articles? I know the Dutch synod was 1618-19 but I would suspect they were dealing with the 1610 articles. Arminius himself can be shown to hold an ambiguous position, perhaps the classical designation should point to the views of Arminius and the 1610 articles rather than what came in 1618.

    • says

      I did my genealogy a couple of years back. One of my wife’s ancestors was a signatory to the Remonstrance. Not sure if that nullifies our marriage or not.

  14. cb scott says


    Thanks for this post. Thanks for having the grit to post it. I appreciate your honesty about the struggles we have as is revealed in this statement:

    “God has a logic and understanding which we fallen human beings cannot grasp. Our job is not always to understand God but to trust him and his Word.”

    I appreciate you stating that. Your honesty here is not unlike that of Danny Akin in an article he wrote recently related to this issue. My appreciation of him grew with its reading also. Our quest to understand God’s eternal truths should never end in this life and I am thankful that you are will to share that yours has not.

  15. Greg Buchanan says

    I personally limit my definition of calvinism to the realm of soteriology. I’m never speaking of infant baptism, CT, or NCT. I learned about those things in church history, but since they were not directly relevant in my church, I didn’t add them to my definition. I see more of those “extras” of reformed theology on blogs (unless I happen to hear RC Sproul on the radio :) ).

    I’m not sure if I’m a “5-pointer” and I don’t really care. I used to be what I consider a traditional/typical SB regarding salvation: it’s everyone’s free choice. And, if anyone is to get to heaven, then we have to tell them. therefore, we had to learn the ACTS of salvation, then the Roman Road came along when I was in high school. In between, there were tons of tracts that we used in the youth group (for distribution where ever) or in the youth choir when we sang (mostly the mall or a beach in Galveston).

    What was impressed upon me was that I would be more spiritual (or at least have greater respect @ church) by leading more & more people to faith in Jesus. I was terrified of screwing it up and leading them to hell. It was only later while studying in seminary that I came to realize that I don’t/can’t lead anyone to faith; that is the job of the Holy Spirit. I can tell the Gospel, share the story, answer questions to the best of my ability, but in the end, it is the Holy Spirit who softens (or hardens) hearts to hear and respond to the Gospel, it is NOT ME or my elloquence or how well I have the FAITH outline memorized.

    I found a freedom and power and boldness to witness in the confines of soverign grace soteriology: I build relationships (or not), share the Gospel as I can, and leave the saving up to God. I believe in the power of prayer, but not in myself; just in the power of God to do what He wills. I no longer concern myself with notches inmy belt of how many I’ve led to the Lord, that is God’s glory alone.

  16. Bill Mac says

    Just a friendly FYI: It’s tenets

    Bob: I agree with you about regeneration preceding faith (which I hold to), however I have seen bandied about in the anti-Calvinist wing of the blogosphere the idea that regeneration preceding faith as some sort of fringe philosophy even among Calvinists. As if the “good Calvinists” wouldn’t believe any such thing.

    • says

      You wrote, “I have seen bandied about in the anti-Calvinist wing of the blogosphere the idea that regeneration preceding faith as some sort of fringe philosophy even among Calvinists. As if the “good Calvinists” wouldn’t believe any such thing.”

      Sorry… not following you there. I obviously am on the other side of the regeneration position so I am in the anti-Calvinist camp. So am interested in what you meant in your comment.


      • Bill Mac says

        You stated that believing regeneration precedes faith puts one in the Calvinist camp. I agreed with you. I then added that I have seen in some corners of the anti-Calvinist blogosphere that regeneration preceding faith was not normative even among Calvinists.

        • says

          If I am understanding you correctly, that just means that they do not know what they are talking about, for sure. Which is epidemic in a LOT of these discussions.


      • says


        Why are you anti-ME? Seriously, though, why anti? Are we Calvinists THAT bad for the church? For the record, I’m not anti-you. Love ya man.

        • says


          I was asking for clarification on Bill’s statement.. I was not saying anything about anti-Calvinist but I do not consider you in that category! LOL

          Appreciate our dialogue!


  17. says


    I, like you (if I understand you correctly), would classify myself as an Antinomist (not an antinomian, though) on this question. There are too many Bible passages that seem to teach both sides of the equation, and none that clearly teach that both cannot be true at the same time. That is just our human reasoning that says they both cannot be true. So I prefer to leave it up to God to work out the apparent discrepancies, and believe the passages that appear to teach the Calvinist side of the question as well as those that appear to teach the other side.

    With regard to limited atonement (or, as some prefer, “definite atonement,” or “particular redemption”), within the scope of the antinomy I accept, I can also accept “limited” as a legitimate way to describe God’s eternal perspective with regard specifically to “applied atonement” as over against “potential atonement.” But when we are also talking about “potential atonement,” I cannot jump on board at that point.

    What does that make me? I guess from one perspective, that makes me a 4 1/2 point Calvinist. But at the same time, I could probably be called a 3 or 4-point Arminian (I can’t buy into even 1/2 of the possibility of a truly redeemed individual losing his/her salvation, no matter whose perspective you look at it from; nor do I believe in the inherent goodness of man, beyond the lasting remnants of common grace through the imprint of the imago Dei).

    At the risk of being called a theological idiot, though, other than the legitimate point of being able to assure people of their salvation and to learn to trust in Christ alone and not in their own works, I don’t get what the big deal in this endless argument is, anyway. Sure, if somebody’s so-called Calvinism gives them a justification for not sharing their faith or for not supporting missions, I have a problem with that. But who in SBC-dom today is saying that?

    Other than those couple of valid and important points, isn’t a lot of this discussion basically the equivalent of arguing over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

    • says

      One thing I have found, David, is that when I advocate the antinomy principle, those who are passionate on either side of the equation just seem to think that this is “theological idiocy.”

      And, of course, angels do not dance on the head of a pin. They are all Baptist and know that dancing is a sin.

    • says


      Other than those couple of valid and important points, isn’t a lot of this discussion basically the equivalent of arguing over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

      If you wouldn’t mind a “non-Dave” individual responding :) … I have often thought the same. I then concluded that these issues do matter (to whom they matter) because these issues speak to another, perhaps more important, doctrine — that of the nature and character of God.

      I’d be curious to learn if any others share the same notion.

      • says

        My take is God puts things in the Bible for a reason. However difficult it may be to understand, we should strive to understand. We may never come to what we consider a satisfactory resolution (such as my understanding of Revelation to date), but we never stop trying, never stop considering, never stop wrestling to know more and more of the truth.

        I can readily acknowledge that there are many things we will never understand, but at the same time I want to do my best to ensure I understand as much as possible of that which God has revealed.

        • says


          Legitimate point. We should all seek to understand God’s revealed will and correct doctrine as clearly as possible. In the big scheme of things, though, when compared to other points of doctrine, I think a proportionately greater amount of ink has been spilled over this particular discussion than what it really merits. And, besides that, it has often created division where there ought to be none.

          In the theological triage model, though many would agree that this discussion is at best a level 2, and some, even a level 3 issue, it is often treated, in regard to the amount and the intensity of debate it engenders as a level 1 issue.

          • says

            I’d say the significance is for two factors:

            1. Even if something is a lower-level issue in terms of theological orthodoxy (one can be a Christian non-Calvinist; I’ve even met one or two!) it is still important in terms of biblical faithfulness. We all want to be true to what the Scriptures teach. We want to believe what God has given. It does not matter how minor the point, I want to be correct in my understanding of Scripture. The issue of Calvinism covers a lot of ground, which makes it all the more significant in terms of understanding the Bible.

            2. These doctrines have pretty strong implications for life: What do we understand about God? About our own salvation? How does our soteriology inform our evangelistic practices? I think some of the greatest failings of evangelization today have come through practices that follow non-Calvinist implications – as I saw someone mention earlier, if we only work harder, if we only do more, if we only find any means possible to get people to respond. Whether or not the response is genuine is almost beside the point, so long as they say certain words and do certain things, they are good. And so we have the seeker sensitive movement and many churches that throw doctrine out because it is not attractive to lost people and we have study after study from Lifeway to see how lost people respond to various aspects of church life and every bit of that is ridiculous. Evangelize? Absolutely! But put not your trust in method for it is God who saves.

      • says

        I’d agree with that William. I think the saying what your doctrine is determines how you live and view the Bible is correct. I would not put it at a 1 but certainly a 2 or 3.

    • says

      To use the TULIP format:

      Total depravity – Count me in. Easiest thing to prove in scripture is that man is desperately wicked. When someone says, “human beings are basically good” you know they haven’t been into the Word in a while

      Unconditional Election – Gotcha. It’s grace, not our merit that is at the root of God’s choice.

      Limited atonement – there is some scripture that supports this and some that doesn’t. I go with some kind of “sufficient for all, efficient only in the elect” kind of thing. Maybe this is also an antinomy. Particular Redemption makes logical sense within the strict Calvinist system but there is too much scripture that has to be “explained” to make it work.

      Irresistible Grace – God finishes what he starts and it is his grace and call that are effectual. But I (like many others) struggle with this idea. God works in us to create a thirst for redemption.

      Perseverance – Amen.

      So, I’m all in on three points. I’m mostly in on a fourth (usually describe myself as four-point, but with some monergistic misgivings) and I waffle on #5 – can’t really go there.

      • Bruce H says


        It seems that Limited Atonement has a degree of time and space. If it is an eternal work or a work of God we would have no ability to measure it. What do we measure it with? (See Job 38:5) Moses was instructed to place a serpent upon a pole for those who were snake bitten, in Numbers 21:7, 8, to simply look and be healed and it was exemplified for salvation by Jesus in John 3:14. It seemed so easy to look upon the serpent than determine its volume or capacity to heal. We know it was effectual for those in the wilderness, but it was not limited healing.

    • cb scott says

      David Rogers,

      We are close in agreement on many things and this issue is one of them. If I could just get you to “Identify” with Baptist ecclesiology, I might be convinced you are not really a spy sent among us by the Plymouth Brethren.

      • says


        If I am not a true member of the Plymouth Brethren, do you think it’s possible I am among the “false brethren” referred to in Gal. 2:4?

        “And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage.”

        After all, the best spies are able to blend in the best.

  18. says

    Chris Roberts,

    (The site wouldn’t let me respond to your last question up there, so I did so down here.)

    I think the Dortians reacted initially to the 1610 piece. The Remonstrants’ ambiguity in 1610 (as well as Arminius’ own ambiguity) was still intolerable: of course the elect could not forfeit salvation — salvation was given as a monergistic gift of God, and He doesn’t take that away. I don’t think they viewed ambiguity on the issue viable.

    But the nail in the coffin for the Dortians (whether supra- or infralapsarian) was the 1618 “Opinions” piece. IMO, this is why the “P” was so very important. Affirming Unconditional Election should have been a given for Perseverance. But in order to contradict the Remonstrants, as well as to boldly state what is orthodox teaching on the issue, the “P” was boldly declared and well articulated.

  19. Christiane says

    Here is where Christ comes in:

    thanks to the Incarnation,
    He IS the Divine Freedom
    He IS human freedom

    In Him is reconciled the Sovereignty of God AND full human free will.

    You cannot fathom ‘God’s Sovereign Plan’ as opposed OR in conflict with man’s free will simply because the Person of Jesus Christ is BOTH true Man and true God . . . reconciling the two Natures.

    The debate that represents Determinism in loggerheads with human free will . . .
    that is a modern debate.

    But the Incarnation proves to be the answer to how it is that the reconcilation of God’s Plan for us comes together with true human freedom, in a way that is profoundly perfect, the two natures existing without conflict in the Person of Our Lord Christ. This is the classic Christian teaching.

  20. volfan007 says

    Okay, if I respond to this comment thread, some people will accuse me of being obsessed with anti-Calvinism….because, as I told them, about the only time I ever talk about this issue is when responding to what someone else has said, or there’s something fueling my desire to talk about it…as in Dr. Mohler’s comments, or a new Driscoll sighting, or a new song about Piper, etc.

    So, I’ll just not comment here.


    • Dave Miller says

      Here’s a question for you David. Simply, how do you define Calvinism? What is a Calvinist?

      • volfan007 says

        trying to tempt me, Dave? uh uh…aint gonna fall to your tempting ways….stop holding that apple out in front of me… get thee behind me….

        oh…okay, I’m alright.



  21. says

    There are many medical and biological terms that describe me accurately ; but I am still called a person , human or Christian without straining my brain to decipher others definitions. Separate and divide us into “clubs” which always demand leadership positions over which the omnicient can fight. I belong in this discussion like my whole body does when I walk thru the doors at the hospital not really mindful of what definitions will befall me in each medical practice – and I don’t want to know . I may be a Christian and I may not but it does me and others absolutely no good to try and brake down something we don’t understand and are asked to define. More “cures” will be found and terms created in our future – but we don’t need to understand them to take whatever real advantage of their theory they may have.

  22. says

    Greg Buchanan,

    You asked what I believe.

    I suppose I believe the most common use of “Calvinist” today in the SBC is primarily referring to those who believe in the five points of Calvinism. Some might call them Strict Calvinists or 5-point Calvinists.

    I’m also aware that there are a hundred different versions of Calvinists; that’s why I find it sometimes frustrating to hear a Calvinist say, ”Calvinists don’t believe that,” or, “A Calvinist would not do that.” That depends on which Calvinists you’re talking about.

    I would consider all Southern Baptists to be, in a sense, Calvinist. The majority in the SBC who are not 5-pointers, would believe in any where from 1 to 4 of the points of Calvinism (also depending on how the 5 points are defined). I sometimes call them Moderate Calvinists. Some of them, however, prefer the term, non-Calvinist. Either term is fine with me.

    What do I personally believe? On a bad day I’m a Hyper-Calvinist. But most days I would be a version of a Moderate Calvinist. I also fully understand there are tensions between the Sovereignty of God and the Free Will of Man that we will never resolve in this life. Scripture teaches both.

    I believe in Revival Meetings, Evangelism, the Roman Road, the Sinner’s Prayer, and Public Invitations during a Worship Service.

    I also believe we can spend too much time worrying about the finer points of the Sovereignty of God, the Free Will of Man, and Salvation. I’m for the “Roman Road Plan of Salvation” and I’m for saving all we can.
    David R. Brumbelow

    • Dave Miller says

      I think you bring up a good point here, David. A lot of the debate is between that which is known only to God and that which we know.

      God may know who and who is not elect. We don’t. Our job is to proclaim the gospel to all regardless, to call them to salvation and to leave God’s job to God.

      Our job is to proclaim. God’s is to save. And that doesn’t really change regardless of how many points you ascribe to.

    • Greg Buchanan says

      Thanks David B!

      I also believe we can spend too much time worrying about the finer points of the Sovereignty of God, the Free Will of Man, and Salvation. I’m for the “Roman Road Plan of Salvation” and I’m for saving all we can.


  23. Christiane says

    I’ve always seen the ‘Limited Atonement’ argument as a ‘challenge’ to the integrity of the doctrine of the Incarnation. The Greek Fathers upheld the integrity of the Incarnation:
    Jesus Christ was true God AND true Man, fully capable of reconciling all mankind to God through His Cross, because His human nature was fully human, representing all of the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, in every way, except that He had no sin in Him.
    St. Gregory of Nazianzus speaks of the integrity of the Sacred Humanity affecting Christ’s work on the Cross, this:
    “That which was not assumed is not healed;
    but that which is united to God is saved”

    • Dave Miller says

      It’s amazing how you can take a biblical doctrine like the incarnation of Christ and turn it into a universalistic falsity. The Incarnation does not negate justification or redemption or atonement or any of those doctrines.

      Jesus was God come as man to die for our sins and redeem those who repent and believe. To use the Incarnation to advocate false doctrine is a sad.

    • says

      All are automatically born in Adam; not all are automatically born in Christ. He does not stand as the representative for the whole race but only for those who, by faith, are united with him.

    • Greg Buchanan says

      You are taking that line out of context from Letters (101.5). What Gregory of Nyssa is arguing is the Eastern Fathers view that Jesus redeemed Fallen sinful nature by entering out nature; i.e. Jesus took on not just human flesh in order to redeem all aspects of humanity from birth to death.

      Some early Eastern Fathers apparently believed (as some do today) that in order to completely redeem fallen man, Jesus had to take on sinful flesh and be subject to Satan (the power of the prince of the air); which sounds strangely like Joyce Meyers teaching that Jesus was subject to Satan in Hell after the crucifixtion to fully pay for man’s sin. Both of these are false teachings and rejected by evangelical believers AND the Magistrum of the Roman Catholic Church.

      Gregory was speaking about the FULLNESS of the Divine Incarnation that Jesus was FULLY human from birth to death that He might redeem the entire human experience: “that which was not assumed is not healed; but that which is united to God is saved.” By His full humanity, humans are capable of being saved. This in no way implies that ALL of humanity can be or will be saved.

      Universal salvation is NOT a true doctrine taught by the Magistrum or any orthodox Protestant church anywhere. Where it is taught and believed one is likely to find it is not the only heresy in the room.

  24. says

    All, I wonder. Would a Baptist wh agreed with the London Confession of 1689 be considered a full Calvinist? i.e a full 5-pointer?

    On my reading of it, and knowing its close similarity to the WCF (which is full Calvinist), I would think if you could affirm that confession then you would be a Calvinist.

    Short of affirming fully the 5 points, I would think “Calvinistic” would be a sufficient label.

  25. says

    Let me comment on my own comment, “Short of affirming fully the 5 points, I would think “Calvinistic” would be a sufficient label.”

    That is if you hold to a majority of the 5 points. Maybe TUP. I do think most can affirm some form of L, at least from the practical outworking of redemption. “I” is often too much to handle for many.

    • Dave Miller says

      It is true that none among Biblical Christianity believe that Christ’s death redeemed all. So, in one sense, we all agree that the atonement was limited in one form or another.

      There is a continuum on this issue, not just extreme points.

  26. Ron Hale says


    You ask … what is a Calvinist?

    Here is what I think a “high Calvinist” is:

    “A “high Calvinist” (supralapsarian) could be described as one who sees God the Father choosing a people (a certain number of persons before creation), Jesus the Son of God died for them (them alone, the elect – not the whole world), and God the Holy Spirit works to make Christ’s death effective by bringing the elect (only those chosen before creation) to Christ, thereby causing them (drawing or dragging them) to obey the gospel. The “high Calvinist” believes the entire process of (predestination, election, regeneration, and salvation) is the work of God determining who will be the recipients of his salvation or ensuring salvation for those he chose before the foundation of the world.”


    • says

      You mention supralapsarian but you may want to go look the word up; the distinction is between supralapsarian and infralapsarian, and both are Calvinist positions. Both groups would affirm your description (with some clarifications and tweaks). What you describe is not “high” Calvinism or “low” Calvinism but (with the clarifications and tweaks already noted) “Calvinism”. Trying to describe anything else as being Calvinism is basically meaningless. Moderate Calvinism, as some describe themselves, is not Calvinism.

      • Ron Hale says


        Oh … then please share with me your personal definitive definition of what a supralapasarian is …


        • says

          Ron, here is are definitions from a calvinist theologian. I hope the blockquotes thing works:

          The terms“supralapsarianism,” and “infralapsarianism” (sometimes called “sublapsarianism”) have to do with the logical order of God’s eternal decrees of salvation. The question, basically, is this: did God’s decree to save a certain people come before (supra) or after (infra) his decree to permit the fall (laps). Infralapsarians argue that, in order not to charge God with injustice or sin, it is necessary that God’s election of men to salvation be made from a field of men who are sinners already; hence, the decree to ordain the fall must logically come before the decree to elect men to salvation. Otherwise, in ordaining to destruction men who had not yet fallen, the charge could be made against God that he was responsible for their sin and rebellion, which his eternal plan demanded of them. But no, the supralapsarian responds, God’s eternal plan to redeem some and not others from the outset, while requiring sin and the Fall, does not logically make God culpable, and furthermore, it better fits the biblical evidence of God’s prerogative to use evil for the accomplishment of his prior designs. God’s ultimate purpose for creation and redemptive history is the triumph of the Lamb both in the destruction of his enemies and the salvation of his people; and this plan logically requires the existence of sin, and also of God’s triumph over that sin through righteous judgment and sovereign mercy. If God’s ultimate purpose in history is the display of his glory in the person and work of Christ; and if the manifold glory of Christ includes righteous wrath against sin; then God’s eternal purpose of redemption necessitated the Fall, and did not just respond to it.

          The basic schema of infralapsarianism and supralapsarianism may be displayed as follows:

          1. the decree to create the world and (all) men
          2. the decree that (all) men would fall
          3. the election of some fallen men to salvation in Christ (and the reprobation of the others)
          4. the decree to redeem the elect by the cross work of Christ
          5. the decree to apply Christ’s redemptive benefits to the elect

          Supralapsarianism (historical)
          1. the election of some men to salvation in Christ (and the reprobation of the others)
          2. the decree to create the world and both kinds of men
          3. the decree that all men would fall
          4. the decree to redeem the elect, who are now sinners, by the cross work of Christ
          5. the decree to apply Christ’s redemptive benefits to these elect sinners

          These lists display the traditional understandings of the lapsarian question. However, recent theologians have noted that neither list accurately depicts the logical way in which all reasonable creatures pursue their goals: first, they determine what they ultimately and primarily want, and then they walk backwards, as it were, through all the steps necessary to get there. If God’s ultimate goal is the glory of the Lamb in sovereign mercy and righteous judgment, then there is a need for sinners; if there are to be sinners, there must be a fall; if there is a fall, there must be a world created in righteousness; hence, the logical order of God’s decrees would be a modified supralapsarianism, as follows:

          Supralapsarianism (modified)

          1. the election of some men to salvation in Christ (and the reprobation of the rest of sinful
          mankind in order to make known the riches of God’s gracious mercy to the elect)
          2. the decree to apply Christ’s redemptive benefits to the elect sinners
          3. the decree to redeem the elect sinners by the cross work of Christ
          4. the decree that men should fall
          5. the decree to create the world and men

          In any discussion of the lapsarian debate, it should be emphasized what all the views have in common: and that is, that God decreed all the events of his eternal redemption from before the creation of the world. Logically, perhaps, the last scheme is the most defensible; however, no position should be so heartily embraced as to be made binding upon men’s consciences; the scriptures do not address the topic clearly enough for so firm an adherence. Perhaps a story from the life of Martin Luther would be instructive here: when some inquisitive theologian asked him what God was doing before he created the world, Luther quipped, “He was busy creating hell for foolish theologians who pry into such questions”. The response is a little tongue-in-cheek, of course, but perhaps there is some wisdom in it, particularly when we are addressing the lapsarian question.

          [All of the above lists are taken from Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1998), pp. 479-489.]

        • says

          It would still be best to look it up yourself, but here is an explanation from the Chris Robert School of Summary:

          The supra/infra distinction is not about what God would do but when God decided that he would do it. Packer talks about the distinction a bit in his lectures on Puritan theology. This is the matter of the divine decrees (Sam Storms also discusses this in his book Chosen for Life). Both positions would agree that God has ordained all that comes to pass; the question is which did he ordain first – the fall, or election. Supra holds that the fall came first, infra holds that election came first (not the particular acts but the decision to do/permit/ordain these things). As Erickson says: “The terminology relates to whether logically, the decree to save comes before or after the decree to permit the fall.”

          Some, like me, think this is basically a fruitless discussion. It is highly abstract and doesn’t really bring anything useful to the table one way or another. Herman Bavinck in his Dogmatics, also held that neither of these positions were particularly useful (though his reasons were a bit different and more… comprehensive than mine). The terms supra and infra have no application to the majority of Calvinists, who may have never even heard of the terms and aren’t on either side of that discussion.

          • Ron Hale says


            I would encourage you to “look up” Dr. Ken Keathley’s chapter 12 on the work of God in Salvation in the book: A Theology for the Church (edited by: Dr. Akin). On pages 710-713, he shows some important differences in supra and infra.

            Blessings, Ron

          • says


            As my sources might indicate, I’ve done a little reading on the distinctions. Does what Keathley says indicate something other than what I’ve mentioned above? I’ll note that my sources quoted or noted above are pretty solid fellows: Packer, Storms, Bavinck, and Erickson. I’m inclined to trust their discussions on these positions.

          • says


            You’re right, the way I worded it, it’s backwards. Part of that was because I was trying to avoid bringing in too much detail, hard to avoid with supra/infra heh.

            A better way of putting it is to place election not in reference to the fall but in reference to creation: supra says that even before God decided to created people, God decided to elect some and reject others. He then decided to create objects of salvation/judgment. Infra places his decision to create first, then the fall, then election.

            Either way, my point is that what Ron describes as supra can properly be used to describe both supra and infra, and Calvinism in general. His description had nothing to do with the supra/infra debate.

    • says

      I’ve landed in the supra camp many years ago, but I do like Dr. Reymond’s modification. I ran across it a few years ago and so I suppose I would now be in that “modified” camp.

      Chris is right, in that either supra or infra are firmly Calvinists positions.

      All said, the Luther quote, while a little strong (and tongue in cheek) arrests me. At the end of the day I don’t think we can know which is correct.

      • says

        The Luther quote pretty well summarizes my position on the lapsarian issue. :) I don’t really see it as a helpful debate, particularly since it is not a matter given any real attention in Scripture.

      • Ron Hale says


        You shared: “Chris is right, in that either supra or infra are firmly Calvinists positions.”

        I know, and I am neither, but I did enjoy writing a personal definition in my “5:27PM” post.


      • Ron Hale says

        Dr. Keathley at Southeastern writes that Supralapsarianism (the position of the orginal Reformers) is the minority position within Calvinism today — do you agree?

        • says


          What is your source to say it was the position of the original reformers, and which reformers? As I recall from Packer, at least in Calvin’s time this was not an issue. He certainly doesn’t use the terms, and doesn’t seem to have any discussions that specifically relate. Packer and others have tried to piece together from Calvin’s writings to determine where he would fall and they generally conclude that Calvin probably would have taken an infra position.

          • says

            Some quotes from Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology:

            “The position of Calvin himself as to this point has been disputed. As it was not in his day a special matter of discussion, certain passages may be quoted from his writings which favour the supralapsarian and other passages which favour the infralapsarian view. In the “Consensus Genevensis,” written by him, there is an explicit assertion of the infralapsarian doctrine.”

            “In the ”Formula Consensus Helvetica,” drawn up as the testimony of the Swiss churches in 1675, whose principal authors were Heidegger and Turrettin, there is a formal repudiation of the supralapsarian view.”

            “In the Synod of Dort, which embraced delegates from all the Reformed churches on the Continent and in Great Britain, a large majority of the members were infralapsarians, Gomarus and Voetius being the prominent advocates of the opposite view. The canons of that synod, while avoiding any extreme statements, were so framed as to give a symbolical authority to the infralapsarian doctrine.”

            “The infralapsarian view is still more obviously assumed in the answers to the 19th and 20th questions in the [Westminster] “Shorter Catechism.””

            So at least from Hodge’s perspective, there has been a rather strong tendency toward the infra position among many who have been fairly instrumental in the Reformed tradition.

            As I’ve said elsewhere, I think it’s ultimately a pointless exercise and I don’t much care where a person falls on the supra/infra scale; on the whole both sides agree about election, etc.

        • says

          Daniel says differently.

          Let me at once add that [Supralapsarianism] did not arise early in the Reformation. This was not the theory of Luther, Melanchthon or any of the Lutherans. Nor was it held by Zwingli, Bucer, Vermigli, Bullinger or the other ?First Generation Calvinists. A few scholars have attempted to see it in Calvin, but I agree with most in saying that it arose in ?Second Generation Calvinism and was not held by Calvin. And it need hardly be said that Augustine or Gottschalk did not hold it. The closest one can find it before the Reformation was in a few unusual theories of Duns Scotus, a Catholic theologian who reacted against the prevailing theology of Thomas Aquinas, but he did not move back to Augustine but in a new area.[Curt Daniel. The History and Theology of Calvinism.102.]

          Daniel goes on to say that Supralapsarianism has always been a minority Calvinist view and that it is not taught in any of the major Reformed Confessions.

          • Ron Hale says

            Mark and Chris,
            Earlier I referred to the work of Dr. Kenneth Keathley in — A Theology For the Church, edited by Dr. Daniel L. Akin. On page 710, in his chapter on The Work of God: Salvation, Dr. Keathley writes:

            “Supralapsarianism is sometimes called “high Calvinism.” The original Reformers held this position as did several at the Synod of Dort; however, it is a minority view within Calvinism today. Supralapsarianism contends that God is the ultimate cause of the choices of both types of individuals – those who accept Christ and those who reject him. God decided (or ordained) to choose certain ones to eternal life (the elect) and to reject others to eternal condemnation (the reprobate). God logically made this decision before all other decisions, and his subsequent choices are simply the logical outcome of this first double decree.”

            Prior to this paragraph, he wrote, “The position called supralapsarianism (supra – “before” and Lapse –“fall,” hence “before the fall”) argues that God’s decrees to save some and to damn others logically occurred prior to his decision to ordain the fall.”

            I think that I have a couple of quotes of Calvin in the Institutes … pointing to Calvin holding the supra view.


        • says


          Been out tonight. Frankly I don’t know. From what I read below it would seem so. It’s a tough one and as I said, we just don’t know.

  27. Jim G. says

    Hi Dave and all,

    I think I will broaden this a little. What I would call a Calvinist in our present day is one who identifies with John Calvin’s views of providence and Christology. I’ll explain.

    First off on Christology, Calvin was somewhat novel in that he saw a one-way communication of properties between the natures in Jesus. He was fine with the divine nature sharing human properties (a la Acts 20:28 the church “God bought with his own blood”), but he did not allow the human to share in the divine properties (a la Luther and the real presence of the flesh of Christ in the bread of communion). This “Calvinistic Extra” (“The finite cannot contain the infinite”) is a trademark of Calvinism of all flavors.

    Second, Calvin (like Luther and Zwingli before him) held to meticulous determinism as his view of providence. The second hallmark of Calvinism is this view of providence whereby God decrees in eternity and then in time renders certain all that occurs. Of course such a view of providence will filter down into soteriology to become the engine that drives the TULIP train. All of the magisterial Reformers, as good disciples of the “via moderna” reading of Aristotle, follow William of Ockham’s conception of God as primarily the unknowable will/power, and try to answer Ockham’s dilemma by equating sovereignty with meticulous determinism.

    So I would say that a contemporary Calvinist holds to Calvin’s views of the “communicatio” and providence. I think all have that in common and makes a good “least common denominator.”


    Jim G.

  28. volfan007 says

    I think that most people are referring to someone who’s at least a 4 1/2 point Calvinist…in the least…when they’re referring to a Calvinist.

    Aggressive, obsessed Calvinists are those whom…well, this is a little harder to define, but when you see it, you know it….kind of like trying to define good BBQ….hard to define…but when you eat it, you know it. But, I’ll give it a try….an aggressive, obsessed Calvinists is someone who is bent on converting people, churches, the SBC to 5 point Calvinism; they’re quite often teaching Calvinism; talking about Calvinism; some say that people who arent Calvinists are not preaching a true Gospel; some would refuse to vote for people to be in leadership positions who arent at least 4 1/2 point Calvinists; and there’s some other things…..


  29. prchrbill says

    Sorry, I didn’t read all the posts, so if I am repeating someone else, I apologize.
    The battleground is the same battleground that it was during the reformation, that is, Total Depravity/Original sin.
    We would agree that God is sovereign over all things, but in our depravity, we do not recognize the extent of our depravity.

    Luther and Erasmus battled over this and it seems that even good Southern Baptists would side with Erasmus.

    I hope that the gravity of my last statement sinks in.

    With that….
    I am prchrbill

  30. says

    Nathan Finn tweeted: RT @stevemckinion: Harrison’s awake & interacting. Docs say that’s good news. Still not out of danger but not worse either #pray4harrison

    Thank you for all the prayers.

  31. says

    Here is one definition of Calvinism.

    One of the most popular ways of defining Calvinism is in terms of the Five Points, viz: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints (= TULIP). Since these were explicitly formulated at Dort at a critical time in the development of Calvinism, they must be taken into account in any definition of Reformed theology. However, one problem is with point #3. Many Calvinists have moderated or rejected limited atonement; whether they are true or inconsistent is debated, but they are nevertheless Calvinists. The 5 do not stand and fall together, but the 4 certainly do. (More on this later). [Curt Daniel.The History And Theology Of Calvinism.23.]

    Daniel further explains.

    The Sovereignty of God. This is the root of the TULIP. Understand it and the TULIP grows logically and naturally out of it; reject it and one cannot accept TULIP or be considered a Calvinist. It is the final sine qua non. To be precise, it is not sovereignty per se, nor even the Reformed view of it as a distinct attribute of God that is determinative. Rather, it is the way in which Calvinists describe it in relationship to the other attributes of God. Other systems either minimalize or deny this attribute, while Calvinists give it the proper place – both in relation to the other attributes and Man as creation and sinner.[Ibid., 24.]

  32. says

    So far, here are the answers to my question, what is a Calvinist?
    We’ve had strict interpretations – all 5 points or close.
    we’ve had more complex theological views – see the discussion of lapsarian views and Jim G’s discussion of Calvin’s view of providence and the inner workings of Christ’s dual nature.
    Perhaps the easiest and most practical view focused on whether regeneration precedes faith or not.

    So far, productive on the whole.

    • prchrbill says

      I think that is a great question.

      Since I can point to the scriptures and see that faith comes by hearing the word of Christ, I can then say that faith, as pointed out by Eph 2 is something that comes from God.
      Since my faith is given to my by God, we then have to wrestle with does God give saving faith to dead men or does God resurrect dead men and give them faith.
      Since we were quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins, I can only conclude that I was dead and when God raised me from the dead He gave me faith. A logical order, not a temporal order.

      If the faith comes from me, that is I produce it, then I as a dead man have produced a good work. But that is simply impossible because as a dead man, all my good works are filthy rags. And if I produced this faith, then God based all His decisions on what creatures accomplish, not according to the good pleasure of His will.

      It is my faith, but God gave it to me. I did not create it or produce it on my own.

      And with that….
      I am prchrbill

  33. says

    I have a question for you theological types. Is there a middle position between monergism and complete synergism. Can’t buy the “God did his part now you do yours” construct. But monergism as I’ve heard it proclaimed goes too far. Maybe I’ve just heard it presented wrong.

    • Jim G. says

      Hi Dave,

      I don’t think there is a middle ground. Monergism means one worker. Synergism means I cooperate with God generally (which means 2 workers). I don’t think there is a whole number between 1 and 2. 1 One-and-a-half workers doesn’t cut it, at least I don’t think. So I don’t think there is a middle ground.

      Although I think Molinism is an ingenious attempt, I’m not satisfied with it.

      Jim G.

  34. says

    Dave, I’m not sure there is a middle position. Below is a comment from Schaff concerning these issues.

    The Greek church adhered to her undeveloped synergism, which coordinates the human will and divine grace as factors in the work of conversion; the Latin church, under the influence of Augustine, advanced to the system of a divine, monergism, which gives God all the glory, and makes freedom itself a result of grace; while Pelagianism, on the contrary, represented the principle of a human monergism, which ascribes the chief merit of conversion to man, and reduces grace to a mere external auxiliary. After Augustine’s death, however the intermediate system of Semi-Pelagianism, akin to the Greek synergism, became prevalent in the West.

    Philip Schaff and David Schley Schaff, History of the Christian Church (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

    • says

      Mark, et al,

      Here is a definition from ( great site too):

      Monergism: In regeneration, the Holy Spirit unites us to Christ independent of any cooperation from our unregenerated human nature. He quickens us through the outward call cast forth by the preaching of His Word, disarms our innate hostility, removes our blindness, illumines our mind, creates understanding, turns our heart of stone to a heart of flesh — giving rise to a delight in His Word — all that we might, with our renewed affections, willingly & gladly embrace Christ. The Prophet Ezekiel inspired by the Holy Spirit asserted “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.” (Eze 11:19, also 36:26) The Apostle Paul said, “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.” (1 Thess 1, 4, 5). I.e. In regeneration the word does not work alone but must be accompanied by the “germination” of the Holy Spirit. And again “…you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.” (1 Pet 1:23)

      The Century Dictionary defines it as follows:

      “In theology, the doctrine that the Holy Spirit is the only efficient agent in regeneration – that the human will possesses no inclination to holiness until regenerated, and therefore cannot cooperate in regeneration.”

      It means that the very desire for faith, by which we believe in Him who justifies the ungodly comes to us through regeneration — and if anyone says that this belongs to us by nature and not by a gift of grace, that is, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit amending our will and turning it from unbelief to faith and from godlessness to godliness, he/she ignores the teaching of the Apostles, for Paul says, “…Even when we were dead in sins, [God] hath quickened us together with Christ, by grace ye are saved.” and “…he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:5) And again, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). or if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, “What have you that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7), and, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10).

      It is in contrast to synergism which the Century Dictionary defines as

      “…the doctrine that there are two efficient agents in regeneration, namely the human will and the divine Spirit, which, in the strict sense of the term, cooperate. This theory accordingly holds that the soul has not lost in the fall all inclination toward holiness, nor all power to seek for it under the influence of ordinary motives.”

  35. says

    Ron, given my Daniel quote and your Keathley quote we may need to define what is meant by the “original reformers”.

    The Oxford Dictionary seems to agree with my Daniel quote above.

    It was [Calvin’s] followers who boldly asserted such doctrines as supralapsarianism. Though logical consistency may appear to favour the supralapsarian position, the milder sublapsarian doctrine (q.v.) has been generally dominant among Calvinists, esp. since the Synod of Dort (1618).

    F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 3rd ed. rev. (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 1570-71.

    • Ron Hale says

      I’ve read where Phillip R. Johnson says that T. Beza was a supra; that’s pretty close — Calvin’s son-in-law. Beza once said, “Those who suffer for eternity in hell can at least take comfort in the fact that they are there for the greater glory of God.”

      I’ll check more on Calvin.

      I’m turning in … too much excitement for a non-Calvinist like me.


  36. says

    One of the things I have learned during my 54 years as professing, practicing believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and nearly 50 years as an ordained Southern Baptist Minister is that the doctrines of grace are meant to be preached as evangelistic, soul-winning truths. My oraining pastor was a professed supralapsarian, hyper calvinist (his terms describing himself in preaching and in personal conversation), and he preached some of the most pressing, evangelistic invitational sermons I have ever heard. In fact, let me add here, that Jonathan Edwards has a sermon on the subject, “Pressing into The Kingdom.” From Dr. Campbell and Jonathan Edwards along with George Whitefield and others, I learned that Sovereign Grace (my preferred term for these truths) is, indeed, evangelistic. One great help in the process was a statement by a Dr. Eusden in his Introduction to his translation of William Ames’ Marrow of Divinity (the first theology text book used at Harvard University in the 1600s) stated: ?Predestination is an invitation to begin one’s spiritual pilgrimage….” I started looking at the passges that teach Predestination, Total Depravity/inability, Unconditional Election, Limiited Atonement/Particular Redemption, Irresisitible Grace, Perseverance/Preservation of the Saints, and Reprobation, and I found that apparently they were used to present God’s Gospel to sinners. Look at the woman of Canaan in Mt.15:21-28, Jesus said in her hearing, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Her response was to come to Him and worship Him. Then He spoke of it not being meet or good to take the children’s bread and to cast it to dogs. Her response was to agree with him, admitting in fact that she was in religious terms, depraved and disabled as a dog, that she was as unclean and as reprobate as a dog, and that it would not be right to give the children’s bread to such she was, but she said no one objected to the dogs eating the crumbs falling from their little masters’ table (who would even think of insisting that their children eat the crumbs that fell to floor (in those days, perhaps, a dirt floor)). Jesus called her belief that mere crumbs, pitifully small crumbs of His favor, help, would be more than enough to meet her needs, great faith, something He never said of any of His Apostles

    There is more, but the point I want to press upon readers is that these truths are invitational in nature; they are like therapeutic paradoxes, designed to accomplish the very opposite of what seems so clearly implied. Since that was the theology of the First and Second Great Awakenings and of the launching of the Great Century of Missions, should we not expect the same theology to once more regain its former status. I preached a message, A Great Awakening, to the Pastors’ Prayer Meeting of the Sandy Creek Assn. (which grew out of the labors of men converted in the First Great Awakening, experienced the Second Great Awakening, and participated in the Launching of the Great Century of Missions) in 1973 (I also preached the 5th and 10th anniversary services of that Prayer Meeting on the subject, A Third Great Awakening). I began praying at that time for such a visitation, for a Third Great Awakening. As time passed and my knowledge of biblical precepts improved, I began to expand that prayer to take in the whole earth and every soul on it, beginning, hopefully, with this generation, and continuing for a thousand generations. Additionally, due to the influence of John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ and his remark about the blood being of such value as to redeemed a thousand worlds, I began to include a thousand and then thousands and thousands of worlds, if man should reach the stars. We really need to visit again, Jonathan Edwards’ Humble Attempt which inspired William Carey and a host of others to begin praying for the propoagation of the Gospel among foreign lands, Edwards has almost a 100 prophecies/promises that we might plead at the throne of grace for another visitation like that of the Great Awakenings and the beginnings of Missions.

  37. says

    I’ll try to answer your original question. I appreciate the answers above but I’ll just quote our good President and say, “that’s above my pay grade.”
    When I refer to someone as a Calvinist I am usually speaking of someone who will quote from Romans and refuses to read from Jonah. Simple, yes, but it’s effective for me. I grew up around Calvinists who mocked anyone who quoted Scripture that spoke to God “changing” his mind as if it was a mistake that it was in the Bible.
    Therefore for me the issue is better defined by the personality of the person speaking to the issue. If they take the view that my poor soul needs converting to Calvinism (a rote reciting of belief) then they are Calvinists and I have better things to do with my time. However, if they are willing to admit that there are Scriptures that poke some holes in Ole Calvin’s flower and yet still confess themselves as Calvinists (those who hold to a system because it best defines their understanding of Scripture) then I’ll listen while they talk.
    Since the infatuation with Calvinism is growing in the younger circles I have had to work to keep myself sane. I recently took a tip from the Chex Mix commercials and have glued an ESV cover over my Bible. This works very well for those who are quick to judge. Also, since I once grew Tulips for a leaving, I have a little knowledge as to how you should care for such a delicate flower.

    • says

      I don’t think people were mocking Daniel, but God does not change his mind. The Bible is written to human beings using human language to convey a point, but God is God he does not change his mind.

      • says

        And I am one who thinks that in soteriology, Calvinism is pretty Biblically solid. It’s hard to read all the Bible and not come to a Calvinist view.

        I would disagree with Dave on the monergism issue because I am a monergist through and through and it does not make people into robots. I think Dave either misunderstands monergism or it has not been fully told to him. I find it a beautiful doctrine on God and keeps God who He is in the Bible while keeping with what scripture teaches on human responsibility. And I would reply to the robot statement that I would gladly be a robot or puppet if God were pulling the strings. :)

        • says

          I would also ask what is obedience to God after we are Christians, when God leads us into a ministry or vocation or whatever else He tugs at our heartstrings to do if it is not God calling the shots. Do we trust God fully enough to be a puppet or robot? I do. That is not at all saying I am more spiritual because I am also a person who sins greatly. But my desires have changed, God changed and is changing them just as he did when he changed my desires(turned my stone heart into flesh) to run to Christ and know my need for a Savior.

          • says

            The Baptist Confession of 1689 says this on Free Will:

            Paragraph 1. God has endued the will of man with that natural liberty and power of acting upon choice, that it is neither forced, nor by any necessity of nature determined to do good or evil.1
            1 Matt. 17:12; James 1:14; Deut. 30:19

            Paragraph 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,2 but yet was unstable, so that he might fall from it.3
            2 Eccles. 7:29
            3 Gen. 3:6

            Paragraph 3. Man, by his fall into a state of sin, has wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation;4 so as a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin,5 is not able by his own strength to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.6
            4 Rom. 5:6, 8:7
            5 Eph. 2:1,5
            6 Titus 3:3-5; John 6:44

            Paragraph 4. When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, He frees him from his natural bondage under sin,7 and by His grace alone enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good;8 yet so as that by reason of his remaining corruptions, he does not perfectly, nor only will, that which is good, but does also will that which is evil.9
            7 Col. 1:13; John 8:36
            8 Phil. 2:13
            9 Rom. 7:15,18,19,21,23

            Paragraph 5. This will of man is made perfectly and immutably free to good alone in
            the state of glory only.10
            10 Eph. 4:13

      • Daniel says

        In the group that I was raised in I heard several pastors, my father included, yell; “you can’t quote that Scripture in reference to Salvation,” when someone would bring up any of the OT instances where Scripture states, “God repented.” I probably would disagree with very very little concerning Dave’s initial post but because of my background I have a short rope when it comes to Calvinists.
        Did my father and his circle take it to an extreme? Yes, absolutely yes. Are they a small portion of those who would call themselves Calvinists? Possibly. A short answer for me would be: I believe in the absolute sovereignty of God and the complete responsibility of man.

  38. volfan007 says

    Faith is faith; works are works. Faith is not a work; faith is faith. I think people really get confusing when they start saying things like,”If faith is something that people could do, then that would be works; it wouldnt be faith.” Nonsense. Faith and repentance is what God told us to do to recieve His gift of salvation….Acts 20:20-21. ANd, faith is no more works, than calling on the Lord is works…Romans 10:9-13. Calling on the Lord is not a work; it’s just expressing faith. Repentance is not a work; it’s repentance.

    When I hear things said that faith becomes a work, or this or that makes repentance become a work; then that’s when I start thinking that people have gone over the edge….and their theology is going astray….


    • says

      David – A Faith that does not produce good works is a dead Faith. James 2:18 Faith without Works is Dead – James 2:17 . Close paraphrase of both because it seems that either seminarians are not being taught well ; or , they don’t understand ; or , people just like seeing their name in print making a solid Bible teaching an ” Either / Or ” as opposed to the obvious teaching that while both are different yet have their own purpose they compliment each other and together give a greater fulfillment in peoples lives.

      • says

        Jack: This is not speaking of faith that is required to gain salvation. When we have Christ as our Savior through faith we can’t help but do good works because as the Apostle Paul says we are now new creations.

        Roman and James fit together as a hand in a glove. Yes, we sin but the difference is now we hate our sin, we repent of that sin. I’m sorry but you have just taken James 2:17 out of context.

    • says

      So David, what good inside of a human being would produce this faith that is required by a Holy God? What good in a human being produces faith in Jesus Christ and where does this faith come from?

      • volfan007 says

        There is no good inside of a human that would produce faith. Faith is responding to the calling and convicting of the Holy Spirit…as He works in the hearts of men, according to the light they have shed upon them….

        If we’ll respond in faith, then God will accept us; like he did with Abel. If we repond by works, in our own way; God will not accept us; like with Cain.

        But, if anyone gets saved, then it’s only because of the working of God in their life. If anyone is lost, it’s only because they rejected the light they have shed upon them…rejected the working of God in their life….rejected God.


          • volfan007 says


            Faith is faith. The moment that a person is willing to turn to God…God gives him repentance. The moment that a person is willing to put their faith in Jesus, God gives them faith. And, of course, the only way that a person can turn to God and put their faith in Jesus, is because of the drawing of the Holy Spirit…the working of the Spirit in their heart.

            Now, faith is not a work. Repentance is not a work. But, faith and repentance lead to good works, because a person is changed. But, they are not works.

            If a person is saved, then it’s only because of the drawing of the Holy Spirit. AND, if a person is lost, its only because they have rejected the light shed upon them…. they chose to not respond to God’s calling….


  39. says

    Ok gentlemen and ladies,

    I’ve said elsewhere my background, but I don’t know if I have done so here. My legitimate question(s):

    Can I be accepted in a SBC church on staff? Is that even a possibility?

    1. Graduated from Mid America Baptist in the 1980s. Ordained in a SBC church in 1987.

    2. Left the SBC in 1992 to become a pastor in the PCA. Graduated PCA seminary in 1996.

    3. Left formal pastoral ministry in 1999. Demitted the Teaching Elder (pastoral, ordained) position in the PCA.

    4. Became a Ruling Elder (ordained “lay” elder) in the PCA in 2004. Still a RE in PCA.

    5. Now, Head a non-denominational ministry in partnership with evangelical churches in Haiti, mostly Baptistic.

    So am I always an outsider to the SBC?

    Am I still ordained by the SBC? I still have the ordination certificate.

    I would really appreciate your thoughts. You won’t hurt my feelings, so fire away.

    And, if there is a better forum (I really don’t want to hijack this post) that would be fine as well.

    Thanks, Les

    • Dave Miller says

      The SBC does not credential or blackball people (at least not officially). You can be a Southern Baptist pastor if a Southern Baptist church hires you as a pastor. It’s that simple. Because each SBC church is autonomous, all you have to do is get hired by one SBC church.

    • says

      Thanks Dave for the response. I’m not necessarily looking to get back into a pastorate. But I have wondered whether I would still be considered an ordained SBC pastor.

      • Dave Miller says

        Ordination is a local church issue. If the church that ordained you has not revoked your ordination papers, you are still ordained as a Baptist minister.

    • cb scott says


      It seems that your primary question here is:

      “Can I be accepted in a SBC church on staff? Is that even a possibility?”

      Based on what you reveal here, a church which uses any discernment would ask questions of you if you were seeking to enter local church ministries again. Some primary questions that would seem very appropriate would be:

      1. Why did you leave local church vocational ministries in a Baptist church?
      2. Why did you leave local church vocational ministries in a Presbyterian church?
      3. If there were specific personal problems that caused you to leave local church vocational ministries, are those problem still present?
      (a). Have they been biblical resolved?
      (b). Is it possible to resolve them in such a way that you would still be a proper candidate for vocational ministries in a local church?
      4. What are your theological convictions at this present time and why do you now embrace those theological convictions?

      If a local church has any discernment as to who and what kind of person they interview for a ministry position, someone would, should, and must ask you those questions and more before you would be allowed to enter minister in a vocational position in a Baptist church or a Presbyterian church either, for that matter.

      A local church that would not ask you such questions and many more is a local church that is very negligent in its accountability to God and its congregants.

      • says


        You are absolutely right in my opinion. In a variation of that (Groucho I think) quote, “I wouldn’t want to be a member of any club that would have me as a member,” I wouldn’t want to be part of any church position, Baptist or Presbyterian, that would not probe deeply into the things you mentioned, and other questions as well.


      • says

        Also, cb, perhaps what I am really asking is, “Am I still an ordained Baptist minister?” Dave above says yes.

        I know this is off topic so I understand if this line of discussion dies. I just don’t have a forum among my Baptist brothers for these kinds of questions.

        • cb scott says


          Dave stated that ordination is a local church issue. I agree with Dave in that respect. I also believe that a local church is the only entity biblically qualified to publicly ordain a person to the gospel ministry. I do not know if Dave agree with me in that respect.

          At the same time, it is my opinion that any other local church can and does have the biblical right (and responsibility in my opinion) to recognize or refuse to recognize the ordination bestowed on a person by another local church.

          I also believe it is the responsibility of a local church in a circumstance wherein a person who was/is ordained has committed acts or holds heretical views contrary to scriptural teachings, to specifically inform other local churches of the offenses and encourage those churches to refuse to recognize the person as a viable candidate to vocational service in a local church.

          Simply because a person was ordained to the gospel ministry in the past does not mean he is biblically qualified to serve in a ministry position at the present.

          It is my contention that the ordination of an individual by a local congregation is simply making public a recognition that God’s calling appears to be upon the life of a person. How a person currently lives before God and humanity determines his qualification to serve vocationally in a local church. A certificate of ordination hanging on a wall only signifies that at one time in a person’s life, a local church deemed him worthy to ordain to the gospel ministry.

          Finally, it is my contention that those who serve vocationally in a local church must be first and foremost called of God to do so and for no other reason should a person make a public request for ordination by a local church.

          • says


            Thanks. Very well said and very satisfying to know there are Southern Baptists out there who feel as you do.

            God bless.

  40. Bill Mac says

    Perhaps we should define what Calvinists are not, and see if any of our non-Calvinist brethren disagree:

    Calvinists are not anti-evangelical. Non-Calvinists don’t really use this one much anymore, unless they’re from Missouri. There’s just too much evidence to the contrary.

    Calvinists are not anti-congregational. Elder-led does not mean elder-rule. Any honest look at the issue will come to that conclusion.

    Calvinists are not anti-invitation. The invitation of the Gospel is to come to Christ, not to come to the front. Some Calvinists are anti-altar-call, some are not.

    Calvinists are not-anti-missionary. See #1 above.

    Calvinists are not pro-alcohol. I mean c’mon, who is? Most moderationists I know are personal abstainers. I fully believe in the right of you crazy southerners to eat corn-bread with teeth-cracking bits of fried pig in it, but I am hardly promoting it, since it is clearly nasty.

    Calvinists aren’t trying to wrest control of the SBC away from non-Calvinists. Obviously Calvinists think they are right in their theology, and when given an opportunity, try to convince others. Who doesn’t do this? This happens all the time by practically everyone.

    These above apply to Calvinists as a whole. I’ve no doubt that we can find someone calling themselves a Calvinist who doesn’t fit what I have said. I’m pretty sure I could find a boatload of non-Calvinists who are equally guilty of most of those above.

    What do you think?

  41. volfan007 says

    Charles Spurgeon, famous Baptist Pastor, did not believe in regeneration before faith.

    He said, ““If I am to preach the faith in Christ to a man who is regenerated, then the man, being regenerated, is saved already, and it is an unnecessary and ridiculous thing for me to preach Christ to him, and bid him to believe in order to be saved when he is saved already, being regenerate. Am I only to preach faith to those who have it? Absurd, indeed! Is not this waiting till the man is cured and then bringing him the medicine? This is preaching Christ to the righteous and not to sinners.” [Sermon entitled The Warrant of Faith].


    • says


      If you read that entire sermon, Spurgeon is countering the Hyper-Calvinism of his day. Here he is not making a statement on whether regeneration precedes faith or vice versa. What he is saying is that if you only are to preach the gospel to those that are “already regenerate” then it’s kind of a ridiculous thing. The preaching of the gospel–in Spurgeon’s mind–was the means that God used to awaken an unregenerate sinner. If he’s already regenerate then preaching faith in Christ is silly b/c in Spurgeon’s mind regeneration always leads to faith. If that person is regenerate then he already has faith.

      Here Spurgeon is saying nothing about the order of salvation. But in other sermons Faith and Regeneration (as Debbie pointed to below) to name one he seems pretty clearly to believe that regeneration precedes faith.

    • says

      David, I believe if you check the context of that quote, Spurgeon was reacting to some in prior days and in his day who were essentially saying that a man must have faith before one can preach the gospel to him. Spurgeon said that is like offering life, not to a dead man, but to one already living.

  42. says

    Here is another great sermon by Charles Spurgeon on Regeneration. He says this:

    And now we must say, that regeneration consists in this. God the Holy Spirit, in a supernatural manner—mark, by the word supernatural I mean just what it strictly means; supernatural, more than natural—works upon the hearts of men, and they by the operations of the divine Spirit become regenerate men; but without the Spirit they never can be regenerated. And unless God the Holy Spirit, who “worketh in us to will and to do,” should operate upon the will and the conscience, regeneration is an absolute impossibility, and therefore so is salvation. “What!” says one, “do you mean to say that God absolutely interposes in the salvation of every man to make him regenerate?” I do indeed; in the salvation of every person there is an actual putting forth of the divine power, whereby the dead sinner is quickened, the unwilling sinner is made willing, the desperately hard sinner has his conscience made tender; and he who rejected God and despised Christ, is brought to cast himself down at the feet of Jesus.


  43. says

    The link you gave David is not a sermon by Charles Spurgeon but an interpretation taken out of context of a sermon by Charles Spurgeon. If you want to know what Spurgeon believed, don’t do like David Hunt, but actually read what Charles Spurgeon has written. His many sermons in full are out there. I am a avid reader of Spurgeon and have been for years. Full sermons. Not interpretations.

  44. says

    Mike, I must have been typing as you were. Well said. Context, David.

    And BTW, are you and other non-5 pointers prepared to follow Spurgeon on all his views of soteriology? That would be really good.

  45. volfan007 says

    Bob Ross has probably done more study on Spurgeon than any other person on the planet. Bob Ross will tell you in a New York minute that Spurgeon did not believe in regeneration before faith.


    • volfan007 says

      BTW, I like Spurgeon. I’m reading his devotion book, “Morning by Morning” at this time. I used his commentary on the Psalms when I preached thru the Psalms. So, yea, I like Spurgeon.

      Of course, that doesnt mean that he’s 100% correct about everything, either.


      • volfan007 says

        Well, Debbie…let me see…should I believe a man, who’s studied Spurgeon more than anyone on this planet, or should I believe Debbie? I think I’ll believe Bob Ross.


    • says


      It never ceases to amuse me how non-Calvinists want to redeem Spurgeon from his Calvinism, but quotes such as the one you gave above simply will not work because they do not mean what you say they mean. Ripping a quote out of context and trying to make it fit somewhere else may be the popular postmodern means of biblical interpretation, but it doesn’t change the actual meaning of the text, whether one is dealing with the Bible, the US constitution, or sermons from Spurgeon.

      • volfan007 says


        Talk to Bob Ross…read some of his writings on Spurgeon. Go to Calvinist Flyswatter blog and read the things that Bob writes. The man has spent years studying Spurgeon. Are you saying that you know Spurgeon better than him?


        • says

          Here is an example. Ross says that Spurgeon, like John Gill, rejected regeneration preceding faith. I thought it was quite odd that Ross would say Gill rejects this doctrine:

          “The “pre-faith regeneration” theory as taught by Shedd and Berkhof, and as it is being popularized today in writings by Pedobaptist R. C. Sproul and Reformed Baptist James White, Pedobaptist Iain Murray, and some in the Founders movement among Southern Baptists, not only differs from our Calvinist creedal standards and the theology of the Puritans, but from Baptists such as John Gill, Alexander Booth, A. H. Strong, C. H. Spurgeon, and others.”

          I can’t speak for the others but I can say emphatically that Gill believed regeneration preceded faith and that faith was a product of regeneration. Here is a quote from Gill himself, from Chapter 11 of Book VI of his Body of Doctrinal Divinity – the whole chapter is a profound, God-exalting presentation of God’s grace in regeneration, and nails home again and again Gill’s view that first came election and adoption, then came regeneration, then came attributes such as faith (emphasis in the quote is mine):

          “Its very name, regeneration, shows the nature of it; and clearly suggests, that it is out of the power of man to effect it: as men contribute nothing to their first birth, so neither to the second; as no man generates himself, so neither can he regenerate himself; as an infant is passive in its natural generation, and has no concern in it; so passive is a man in his spiritual generation, and is no more assisting in it. It is an implantation of that grace in the hearts of men which was not there before; faith is one part of it, said to be not of ourselves, but the gift of God; and hope is another, without which men are, while in a state of unregeneracy; and love is of such a nature, that if a man would give all he has for it, it would utterly be contemned; it is a maxim that will hold, nil dat quod non habet, nothing can give that which it has not: a man destitute of grace, cannot give grace, neither to himself nor to another.”

          If Ross can be so blatantly wrong about Gill, I assume he can also be blatantly wrong about Spurgeon.

          • says

            It’s interesting that he’d put Gill with Spurgeon, given that Spurgeon considered Gill the “Coryphaeus of hyper-Calvinism”.

            I would have thought it would have helped his argument to have put Gill with Sproul, White, etc.

          • says

            In a quote by Charles Spurgeon he said:

            “My eminent predecessor, Dr. [John] Gill, was told, by a certain member of his congregation who ought to have known better, that if he published his book, The Cause of God and Truth, he would lose some of his best friends, and that his income would fall off. The doctor said, ‘I can afford to be poor, but I cannot afford to injure my conscience;’ and he has left his mantle as well as his chair in our vestry.”

        • says

          Yes. I am saying that I know better than him. I have read Spurgeon for over twenty years. Read Spurgeon David, not those who think they have read Spurgeon. You don’t even have to take my word for it.

          • says

            Read Gill not those who take his words out of context and say they “know him and are experts.” What is an expert but someone who calls themselves or other people who call them an expert.

            There are experts who say the Bible is a book of tales. They or others say they are an expert on the Bible but are they really? Expert at twisting maybe.

          • says

            It’s interesting that he’d put Gill with Spurgeon, given that Spurgeon considered Gill the “Coryphaeus of hyper-Calvinism”.

            One point Mike. That is wrong as well. Charles Spurgeon pastored at the church that was in fact the former church John Gill pastored.

          • says

            Debbie, that’s a quote directly from Spurgeon. He felt Gill was the predecessor of Hyper-Calvinism…but if they only followed Gill and no further they’d have been okay. That’s straight from Spurgeon.

          • says

            Whole quote from Spurgeons work on commentaries:
            Gill is the Coryphaeus of hyper-Calvinism, but if his followers never went beyond their master, they would not go very far astray.

            Coryphaeus is like saying Gill is the choir director of Hyper-Calvinists

    • says

      I’ve looked a little at Bob Ross’ work on Spurgeon and Regeneration. First of all I’m grateful for his work in preserving the works of Spurgeon.

      But I must say I think he is rewriting history with an agenda. (Can’t we all be tempted to this). It looks to me, and I could be wrong, that Ross is taking Spurgeon’s arguments against Hyper-Calvinism and then conflating those quotes with his own agenda against “regeneration precedes faith”.

      Spurgeon spent a good amount of his time arguing with the Hyper-Calvinist of his day that thought faith was not a duty of all mankind. Most of what Spurgeon is writing on this topic is dealing with that very question. But Ross has him answering a question concerning the ordo salutis. That is not what
      Spurgeon is concerned with answering.

      Look at places where Spurgeon’s argument is against Arminianism. There he seems to pretty forcefully argue that no man can believe upon Christ unless God first has given him new life. Then he would say things like, “coming to Christ is the very first effect of regeneration.” In those times he seems to be attempting some sort of ordo salutis answer. Because in his debate with Arminians (as he called them) the question he is concerned with answering is where faith comes from.

      So what I see happening is that Bob Ross, for all his study of Spurgeon, is making Spurgeon answer question’s he’s not even asking. Just my two cents.

    • volfan007 says

      I come very close to believing like Spurgeon. I dont agree with him 100%. I dont think I’ve ever found anyone that I agreed with 100%. But, I do hold with him on many, many things.

      I also use John McArthurs study Bible while preparing sermons. Its very good. I also do not agree with him 100%, but his study Bible is excellent.


  46. says

    Bob L. Ross is one who tries to dispute Calvinism by taking words and twisting them. Spurgeon is not the only Calvinist writer this man has attempted to take a statement out of context and write as though the Calvinist writer did not believe in regeneration. One of many times would be here. I am grateful he introduces such writers to the public, but it’s what he does with their words that I am against.

    “Charles” and Bob L Ross vs. Scripture And The Confessions

    • cb scott says


      On a personal note, if I may. The article you reference here was written by Gene M. Bridges. Have you had communication with him in the last year or so?

      Gene M. Bridges was/ maybe still is (I don’t know where he is now) one of the best of the best of the early Baptist bloggers. No one could defeat Gene M. Bridges in a blog fight. No one. He was, hands down, the best.

      A person may not have agreed with Gene M. Bridges on various issues, but you had to admire his mind and his ability to craft an argument.

      So, if any of you out there know anything or where Gene M. Bridges may be, I would be grateful if you would share that information.

      • Dave Miller says

        Those were some wild days back then. A lot of the folks at the heart of blogging back then have gone into the federal bloggers relocation program.

        • cb scott says

          I was relocated to Nebraska. It was OK ’till the leaves began to fall off of the trees and I went to a Nebraska football game? That’s what they called it anyway.

          I could not take it for more than one quarter so I handcuffed my case manager to a door in the stadium men’s room, climb out of a window, and here I am!

      • says


        As you may know, Gene has an illness which may have taken him out of his regular blogging. He and I used to trade emails fairly regularly and then he was gone. We were also on a private discussion board together.

        If I recall correctly, he re-appeared earlier this year on Triablogue. I have a few email addresses for him, but the emails do not get an answer. I asked one of his blogging partners and he was not sure of Gene’s status either.

        If I hear anything I will try to let you know. He certainly was brilliant.

        • cb scott says

          Thanks Mark and Debbie.

          I knew of his illness and I know he had some hard roads in life. I met him once. You are right Mark, he certainly was or is brilliant, whichever the case may be. I think the guy really loved Jesus. He was the real deal.

    • says

      Debbie, that is quite a detailed refutation of Mr. Ross and a case for regeneration precedes faith. Thanks for linking to it.

  47. says

    I’ve not read much Bob Ross, or frankly, nearly as much Spurgeon as some people! But when your blog name is “Calvinist Flyswatter” one wonders if there is an agenda!

  48. Dave Miller says

    My deep disappointment is that Rick Patrick is evidently involved in church business this week and was not here to absorb the shot I took at him at the beginning of the post.

    Sad face.

    • cb scott says

      Dave Miller,

      I was visiting in a home yesterday. A lady was visiting in the same home while I was there. She asked me if I knew Rick Patrick. I told here I knew of him and had listened to him preach on his church website, but had not spent time with him as of yet.

      She stated that Rick was an exceptional pastor and a very good preacher. In a world where we hear bad things said about pastors far too often, I thought I would pass that along.

      • Dave Miller says

        Yeah, Rick is a good guy – especially for someone in SEC territory. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try to rile him up, does it? That’s how we show affection at SBC Voices.

        • cb scott says

          That’s why you pay me the Big Bucks to stay here Dave. Remember? To make sure everyone feels affection or affected, which ever the case may be. :-)

  49. says

    I probably first heard of Bob Ross as far back as the Fall of ’58, and for sure I knew of him in the early sixties and would meet him briefly in the late 60s. We had one letter debate (there was no internet and no blogs then). He was in considerable distress at the time over a disappointment in a fellow minister and family relationship. That break precipitated his antagonism to Sovereign Grace which he had been preaching previous to that problem. Another problem was a problem with ecclesiology. I talked with Bob once earlier in this year in regards to a purchase of an index of Spurgeon’s MTP, my copy having been misplaced. I would later have a run in with that fellow minister too and be precipitated toward a change, especially with regard to the matter of ecclesiology. I also had a debate by letter and in a certain Baptist paper in the 60s with a Primitive Baptist Elder…and it led to my learning that Regeneration precedes conversion, the view of Gill, Boyce, Spurgeon, Dargan, White (a circular letter on the Holy Spirit about 1803 in the Philadelphia Minutes), and others. Some calvinists, e.g., A.H.Strong, hold that regeneration and conversion occur simulataneously, that regeneration is the Divine side and conversion is the human side. The doctrine in the 1600s and 1700s apparently was that regeneration occurred by the work of the Holy Spirit alone and with out any means, while conversion involved the word preached and God could and does work with means, by means, and against means. The basis for this is the idea of conception and delivery at birth, the former being the regenerating aspect and the latter the conversion aspect, and it is founded by some on Jn.3:3-8, where the word for born is the word that is used by the Angel to Mary concerning the conception of Christ, and Jas.1:18 where it says, “wherefore by His own will begat he us with the word of truth” Anakueo refers to the delivery of a child at birth, and anagennao refers to conception (in this case from above). One of the things a Sovereign Grace Believer will discover is that he that is consistent with himself is consistent with a fool, whereas you might appear very inconsistent to others when you are being consistent with the word of God…which presents seemingly antithetical precepts and never bothers to reconcile them for a variety of reasons. I love theology and have spent most of my life thinking on the teachings of the word of God, and I do appreciate John Piper’s remarks about the passion that the word of God evokes in preachers. It is like a raging desire, a storm in the heart, a fire in the bones, a divine light that must be shared, and it will leave the preacher of it sick with longing when he cannot preach.

    • cb scott says

      “I probably first heard of Bob Ross as far back as the Fall of ’58…”


      Did you guys go to the same Day Care Center or what? Did you actually mean 1958?

      How long have you been in Baptist life? Have I ever met you?

      • says

        For those who don’t know, Bob Ross has the Pilgrim Bookstore on Preston Road in Pasadena, Texas. He is especially well-known for publishing all of Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s sermons. I think he first began publishing them in the 1960s.

        If you find yourself in the Houston, TX area, go by his bookstore; he has books you’ll never find in regular Christian bookstores. Plan on spending some time, and money, there.
        David R. Brumbelow

        • says

          I’ve never heard of him. But is this the same Bob Ross at Calvinist Flyswatter? That site is pure poison. If ever there was an “attack” blog, that one qualifies. One example of his venom about when Tom Ascol was struck by lightening:

          An unanswered question is, why did the Lord strike Tom down with a bolt of lightning? Was it because the Lord got tired of Tom’s promotion of lies and discord among brethren? Did Tom finally see the light (pun intended), realize the discord he was causing and attempt to lessen the trash talk that so frequently filled his blog?

          Is this the same Bob Ross?

          • Dave Miller says

            Rejoicing that Ascol got struck by lightning? Yeah, that might qualify as “anti-Calvinist.”


          • says

            Dave Miller,

            I’ve seen a lot of vitriol on the blogosphere, but nothing quite like what I saw over at Mr. Ross’ site. It is a serious matter to call a brother and fellow minister of the gospel a liar publicly. I see far less venomous attacks among non-believers!

          • Bill Mac says

            This is the guy who seems to have spent a great deal of energy making Spurgeon into the poster child for anti-Calvinism. He is beyond the pale, and hardly an authority.

          • Bill Mac says

            If SBCers are getting info from Bob Ross, it is no wonder the anti-Calvinism ranks are growing. Implying God struck Tom Ascol with lightning because of his Founders work? Calling those who believe regeneration precedes faith heretics? Calvinists can be really obnoxious, but I have never seen vitriol the likes of this.

          • says

            Dave, Debbie and Bill Mac,

            I’m further shocked that more on this forum are not jumping up to condemn such unChristian discourse! Man, the anti-Calvinists decry the so called aggressive Calvinists who apparently want to take over and rid the SBC of all others. And then some refer to this man as a credible source? Really?

            Hopefully the reason there is not more condemnation of Mr. Ross’ writings is because not many are actually going over there and reading.

          • Dave Miller says

            Les, to be honest, I rarely hear of Bob Ross. I just wandered through his blog, and I would agree that it is not the kind of tone we should hope for in Christian blogs.

            But, to be honest, I never read it and hadn’t heard of it in a long time.

          • says

            There really are a few good Texans.

            And yes, Bob Ross has been known to get involved in a debate or two. Sometimes enthusiastically.

            Some might be surprised to know he is more Calvinist than many realize.

            But if you’re by his bookstore, it’s worth checking out.
            David R. Brumbelow

          • Bill Mac says

            Bob Ross aside, there are some good Texans. Primarily because Texans prefer their BBQ to be beef instead of pork, which is of course totally correct. Brisket beats butt any day of the week.

          • Bill Mac says

            Calvinism aside, I can’t believe the BBQ comment didn’t get any reaction. Where are Southern priorities?

          • cb scott says

            Bill Mac,

            Some comments are just beyond the pale of “good taste” and deserve no response from people of culture who know better.

          • cb scott says

            David R. Brumbelow,

            You are right. Also very astute.

            If he is not a LONGHORN NATION fan but was thought to be, it would be a serious charge for him to live with and hurtful to his peaceful nature.

  50. says

    Great post! You did well to identify God’s sovereignty and man’s culpability as what we must believe to be biblically orthodox wherever we fall in the Calvinist-Arminian spectrum. As far as that goes, I argue that it is a matter of philosophical categorization rather than basic logic that identifies the tension here. Let me approach this another way: how do we know that God’s sovereignty logically negates man’s culpability? Romans 9 would seem to indicate that this is a false philosophical construct.

    I always challenge my own understanding of things because I’m not sure if what I think understand is skewed by being steeped in pop philosophy. I know I need to reject anything that disagrees with the Bible (given a good hermeneutic). So I ask myself also, are the things that you say we cannot understand truly not understandable? Are they understandable if I change any philosophical underpinnings that I didn’t get from the Bible? I don’t have a problem with quantum mechanics, for example, because I understand the relationship between the non-uniformity of time and electromagnetic radiation. Once we understand that there is a difference between observation from a disparate frame of reference and the existential behavior of what we observe then particle behavior becomes fairly easy to understand. Theological tension is no different. And I suggest that theological tension is a blessing because it provides a means for transforming our minds and focusing us on what is important.

    That brings me back to the discussion at hand. I agree with all 5 points of Calvinism. But those are only centered on the soteriological category. Calvin believed other things like paedobaptism that I don’t agree with. So I’m glad you brought that up in your article. There are a range of Calvinists also that include heretical hyper-Calvinists as well as compatibilists like myself. It includes supra- and infra-lapsarians. It includes paedo- and credo-baptists. So what I’m getting at is that the term “Calvinist” is a bit broad. It requires modification every time it’s used.

  51. Todd Myers says

    This is a interesting topic that has had great influence on me. I was brought up in the SBC and later went to a Reformed Presbyterian for 10 years. Someone said that the SBC is calvinistic since it believes in eternal security……I however would state that the SBC has some calvinistic tendencies and that the SBC has allowed some tenants of calvinism to influence its theology. I think that someone who believes in the 5 points (TULIP) of calvinism is a true calvinist. I do NOT think that one must also hold to covenant theology and infant baptism to be considered a calvinist. I think that one who does also hold to this is simply a true Presbyterian. If you look back at the teaching of Charles Spurgeon he believed he was a calvinist and yet he believed in believers baptism. He was a Reformed Baptist. I also think you can use the term “Reformed” in place of calvinist to not associate ones self directly with the presbyterians.

    Myself, I am a calvinist the way that I described it above. I believe the 5 points of calvinism but I do not hold to covenant theology or infant baptism. It is clear to me in scripture that God chooses us first. It is not based on anything that he thought we may do, in choosing him or any good work. Not based on us at all. We indeed are born sinners and I take that to mean that we are dead in our sin. A dead man can’t save himself or do anything at all to count toward salvation. It is all of God, he chooses us so that we can then choose him. He gets all the glory this way.

    After I started going to the Presbyterian church I struggled for the first year or two about all the calvinist reformed thoughts. So I would study scripture and read books by RC Sproul (holds to calvinistic covenant theology) and by John Piper (reformed baptist) I finally took the view of calvinism as I stated above with me when I left the presbyterians but I did not take their view of baptism or covenant theology.

    It is good to remember that God is sovereign and that He is in control no matter to what extent of calvinism you hold to.

    I believe that God first did a work in me so that I woke up to choose him.

    I am not a pastor nor a theologian so I hope that my jumbled thoughts above make since to you.

  52. says

    Dear C.B.: The Fall of ’58 was my first year of college. I turn 71 this coming Friday 12/30/11. I turned 54 on 12/7/2011. The first is my natural birth and the second is the spiritual birth. As to Bob, any one getting into a debate with him is asking to get squashed. He is an accomplished controversialist, having as a mentor, the note landmarker of Eastern Kentucky, John R. Gilpin. And Bob will like many in his situation will be mot aggressive, though I know of one prominent Reformed Baptist Minister who has ministered to his situation. I suppose, if we had been through what Bob has been through, we would be even more acidic and acerbic in our efforts.

    What our anticalvinists often forget is that the desire to make converts can result in a superficial theology and preaching, manipulation, and even base presentations, like the evangelist who lied to get people forward in a revival meeting. Anyone who will treat us good, when we are down, will earn a great deal of good will and acceptance. I know of one minister who will not allow for any word of criticism with reference to Jews, because when his SBC church bounced him, the Jews were the ones who helped him.

    My 6 years of research in Baptist History was an eye opening experience; it taught me much about doctrines and practices and how they are intimately connected. Viceral (sp?) responses are often evoked by vicious and devestating betrayals by those in whom we have reposed our confidence. Permit me to give you an illustration from all of that research. Primitive Baptists, for example, thought they would preserve the Faith by following the doctrine of illumination/a divine gift for preaching, and some of them wound up calling Missionary Baptists the Antichrist (to put that in perspective, before the Primitive/Missionary split the Baptists (Regulars and Separates) use to call other Portestants their pedobaptist brethren). The Missionary Baptists had a two-sided doctrine of ministerial qualification, education and illumination (this was the original position before the split), but some of them stressed education to the virtual neglect of illumination. In any case some Missionary Baptists called the Primitives the Antichrist. I should also point out that some Primitives, following their doctrinal polarization, went to the extreme of not even teaching their children the Bible or doing anything for their instruction, a matter about which the Bible leaves no options: One must teach the children. Missionary Baptists following their own polarization reached the point where they actually virtually manipulation their children into making professions of faith, when they were not ready for it.

    The question is what is a healthy theology and a healthy advocacy of it. That is what I stumbled across, and what I found was of little interest to many. The teachings of Scripture are so constructed that they can enable a believer to become balanced, flexible, creative, constant, and magnetic. How they do this is: 1. The original precepts are composed of two-sided and apparently contradictory ideas (and they are not meant to be reconciled though the human mind does not like apparent contradictions). 2. These two-side doctrines are intended to set up a tension in the mind, a desirable tension, one that enables the believer to respond objectively or subjectively as the presenting situation indicates. 3. Polarization on one side or the other of two-sided truth leads to efforts to apply the one-sided truth with the expectation of getting the results that indicate Divine blessing. 3. But since such one-sided teaching and consequent effort is skewed, the results are problematic although they might appear otherwise at first. 4. It is almost as if there is a feed-back mechanism, a delimiting factor in the application of one-sided truths which either leads to a greater divorce from reality which becomes in turn a form of insanity (it was in discussing this with the chairman of a State Univ. Dept. of Psychology that led to an invitation to do an M.A.; Ph.D. under the chairman as he was doing research in that area..My wife said, do it or you will be sorry. I didn’t, choosing instead a D.Min program, because all I wanted to do was preach. 10 years later I wound up doing an M.A. in Counseling). 5. One can look to the other side of the original two-sided teaching, decide that it is the truth, and switch poles, with eventually the same results. 6. Or one can reconsider the two-sidedness and find the tension that enables balance, flexibility, creativity, constancy, and magnetism. This is the original Sovereign Grace or calvinism as some call it (the later term really becomes more applicable as to the two-sidedness in the theological developments of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, but it is exceedingly difficult to work out just how this came to be. There is a liberating experience involved, one historians will find in the memoirs of John Gano, John Leland, Luther Rice, Whitefield, Edwards, and others. The understanding of biblical orthodoxy is sadly wanting even by its advocates. They have few models of how it is to be preached and practiced, and i would say that the mentors of today practice what they have learned but it lacks the perspective of its earlier advocates in the centuries just mentioned. This does not mean they were perfect, but they had a greater degree of freedom to experiment without being shot out of the saddle (shades of my great grandfather, a texas trail driver and gunman who knew Billy the Kid and Jesse James). That is why we do not understand Shubal Stearns and Daniel Marshall have eldresses in the Sandy Creek Assn. AFter their passing, the Regulars with the exception of a few could not stand such a violation of their understanding of Scripture. The Separates reached a peak that only a few of the Regulars (Gano, possible Backus though I have not been able to get the time and wherewithal to study the latter) ever attained.

    Mush as Jefferson disliked most recognized churches, still he attended the meetings of the Baptist Church that met in the Captital Building in D.C., and he acknowledge the contribution that Baptist had made to religious liberty (the rascal practically had to do it as his statute of religious liberty was the result of the fact that the Baptists refused to make a deal with Washington, Henry, and the Presbyterians to accept a compromise and become beneficiaries of state support in Virginia.

    Ladies and gentlemen, if you only knew what there is in our churhc records, the memoirs of our early ministers, you would be utterly astounded and your respect for Sovereign Grace would be increased manifold. I must close as I could teach a course in Baptist History (and did in seminary extension back in 2003-2004 for an assn.).

  53. says


    I will have limited internet today and am driving 12 hours tomorrow back to Florida. I would like to know when Calvinists say that total depravity of man actually happened; where man had to be regenerated before he could respond to God at all.

    Also… another question that really has me confused has to do with calling to the ministry. I am assuming that everyone here who is in the ministry, has answered God’s call on his life to serve Him in ministry. Are there people who are called to preach but refuse to do so? Also, are there preachers who are called to preach, surrender to preach and then due to various circumstances in their lives, walk away from the ministry? How does the Calvinist reconcile these scenarios?

    Was the “preacher” who walks away from the ministry for whatever reason, not really called in the first place and that is why he got out? Did God call someone to the ministry not know what kind of mess he would make of his life?

    I am just curious and am really looking at the tenets of Calvinism in order to better understand them.

    Would appreciate your help in answers from you and your readers.

    May God bless you all and thanks again for allowing me to participate in the discussions.


    • says

      Hey Bob. Safe travels.

      Here are a few of my thoughts on your questions on “calling.”

      I believe I was called to preach back in 1984. Went to seminary, preached in several churches till 1998. In 1997-98 I began to experience burnout and struggled to know whether I should continue in the pastorate. I read a lot about it in the bible and books on the subject. I sought counsel from many older, wiser pastors and seminary profs.

      I concluded: I cannot say for certainty that a “call” to preach is a lifetime, forever call to preach. i.e. God can change our call.

      I also rediscovered what the Reformers rediscovered…that all our various callings are from God. Surely the call to preach is highly important and unique in some ways. But “the Church” had gotten to the place in the middle ages where a “spiritual” calling was deemed higher and better in God’s sight.

      “Oh, you’re a trash man? Well when you become closer to God and more spiritual and REALLY want to please God you’ll become a missionary or a preacher!” That kind of thinking had developed.

      The Reformers recovered the idea that whatever our calling in life, a trash man or a shop keeper or a missionary…these are all pleasing to God and we should be careful not to elevate one over the other.

      I left vocational ministry in 1998 (there was no moral or legal or home issue) and went into financial services for the next 12 years. Today I get paid by an insurance agency to direct a faith based non-profit caring for orphans in Haiti.

      So with that background,

      “Are there people who are called to preach but refuse to do so?” Like Jonah? I think that could very well be.

      Also, are there preachers who are called to preach, surrender to preach and then due to various circumstances in their lives, walk away from the ministry? Yes. See above. A “call” change?

      How does the Calvinist reconcile these scenarios? I don’t understand why a Calvinist (as opposed to a non-Calvinist?) needs to reconcile these scenarios.

      Was the “preacher” who walks away from the ministry for whatever reason, not really called in the first place and that is why he got out? Could be.

      Did God call someone to the ministry not know what kind of mess he would make of his life? If it was a true and valid call, no. he knows all things, valid call or not valid call. And it is a reminder of how messy ALL our lives can be.


  54. Bruce H says


    Whether a person is chosen pre-creation or post/pre-creation the events that unfold have to be known by God. If our works in faith continue, it proves something.
    “But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?” James 2:20 If a man becomes a minister, has the church he came from done their due diligence? Many churches do not and it is not the fault of the person that considers himself “called”.
    One thing we do not do as believers in the body of Christ is continual vigilance of recognizing God’s will. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may PROVE what [is] that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2. The call to the ministry or any direction in life is not an individual effort. The “whole body” (not just deacons or preachers) must work with a person to verify their calling. It sure would place more confidence in God if we did that.

  55. says

    Ok… guess I should not have asked two questions at one time. Can someone speak to the first question…. dealing with when total depravity actually came into effec when regeneration was necessary for the dead men to respond to god.



    • says


      Sorry. I got caught up in answering the “call” question.

      The LBCF says re the fall of man:

      ” Our first parents, by this sin, fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and we in them whereby death came upon all: all becoming dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body.”

      I agree.

  56. says

    A question for Bob Hadley. On one blog post you said that salvation was synergistic. What did you mean by this? What do you mean by “salvation is synergistic?”

  57. Rick Patrick says

    Hey Dave,

    No poke in the nose. [Just got back in town from driving the youth group to a Winter Retreat in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. I return to face two grieving families, including the heartbreaking death of one very beautiful 16 year old girl involved in a car accident, the third such death in our community in slightly more than a year. Obviously, we covet your prayers.]

    If Mohler and others would simply say that all Southern Baptists are “at least somewhat Calvinistic” I could readily accept such a description as a two-pointer. But that’s really not what they’re saying if you read their actual words. I don’t want to have to spin it back afterwards. I would rather they nail it accurately up front.

    I am now given to understand that some Calvinists are claiming a full seven points. On a seven point Likert scale, for example, if you answered a “two” it would not be right to claim that you were pretty much a “seven” or even that you were fairly “sevenistic.”

    Here’s the money quote that probably sparked my whole little rant: “The truth of the matter is that Baptists have always been Calvinists, or more precisely, particular in their view of the atonement.” — Randy Davis

    And the infamous Mohler quote: “It was not until well into the twentieth century that any knowledgeable person could claim that Southern Baptists were anything but Calvinists.”

    Frankly, both Davis and Mohler overstate their case, just as I playfully overstated my proposed overreaction.

    Can we not agree that someone who only believes in 28-40% of a specific philosophy should probably not be identified as one of its proponents?

    Everyone may hate labels, but I think we could advance the peace on this issue if we found clearer ones for the various levels of calvinistic commitment–especially if we’re adding new points.