Maybe we hate Calvinism because we don’t understand it.

by Dan Barnes on February 15, 2012 · 175 comments

I have been reading a lot of blogs, and I have been reading a lot of opinions on Calvinism, and it seems to me, most people tend to despise what they hear and don’t really get.  I don’t mean to sound condescending, but I think it’s becoming a prejudice, we all band together to despise something we don’t understand.  It’s sort of human nature.  I have come to the point that I have stopped describing myself as a Calvinist, because people automatically make assumptions about me.  That I don’t do evangelism (I wrote a book of evangelism) and that I don’t want to do church plants.  I don’t share the gospel and I am sort of cold and closed off.

I don’t have time to address all the misconceptions I see when it comes to Calvinism, and I don’t wanna get anywhere near TULIP.  I want to talk about the main issue I see, that we put God into the human limitation of time, and we get so caught up on “which came first” and “when and where” and “who is responsible” and we make God fit our ideas.  Once we take the limitations off God, things begin to open up.

I proposed a theology I called “Woven” because it fits together in intersection of man’s ability to have choice and responsibility and God’s sovereign action and His plan.  It all fits together into a grand tapestry that we call Salvation.  We have to take into account that God calls and God elects, the scripture is clear on it.  The other side of the coin, we have responsibility and choice and we take actions and if we neglect those responsibilities, the consequences are eternity separated from God.  The best example of this is found in the book of Genesis.  The birth of the nation of Israel is a wonderful example of how man’s will plays right into God’s sovereign and unmovable plan for humanity.

In Genesis chapter 15, God makes a Covenant in Abraham, telling him that his offspring will have possession of the land.  He then says something interesting, God tells Abraham his offspring will be afflicted for 400 years and then return, and in verse 16, God tells him it’s because the “iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”  God has already decided to use the Israelites to judge the Amorites, even though they had yet to do anything.  I know, it’s simply foreknowledge, but stick with me.

To get the whole thing to work, first Jacob has to have a wife, to have decedents (notice I skipped the whole ‘Jacob I loves, Esau I hated thing’).  Jacob falls in love, but his uncle tricks him and he marries the wrong girl.  Then he marries the right girl, but has children with his first wife and two hand maids before he ever has a child with the favored wife.  Why is this important?  Because the younger is loved more than the eldest born, so they make a decision to get rid of him.  Look at all this human choice that happening.  They sell him into slavery into Egypt.  He has some people make some choices that land him in jail.  Then he ends up as the second most powerful man in Egypt, brings down the whole family and eventually Israel spends 400 years in oppression, then goes to punish the Amorites and take their land.

So, did all of these people have a choice?  What is just by the coincidence of their choice that God’s plan played out exactly like He told Abraham it would?  Of course these people made choices, and of course they are responsible for their choices, but God’s plan unfolded exactly like He said it would.

Does it work that way with Salvation?  A Wovenest would say “yes”, that the Eternal God has an Eternal Plan that we don’t fathom and cannot understand.  We know that God has a plan, the He has elected some and shaped their path.  That is in God’s eternal plan that is outside of time and space and we have no way to even begin to comprehend how it works.  For us, stuck in time, it seems like a contradiction, so we decide that Calvinism must turn us into robots with no choice and no ability for free thinking.  I believe we come to this conclusion because our thinking is so limited.

We experience God in time and in our frame of reference.  God interacts with us in time and in a way we can have relationship with Him.  Lets take Moses for an example.  God tells Moses “I’m gonna kill all the Israelites and make a great nation out of you”.  Moses says “no, don’t do that”.  God then changes His mind. . .  but God doesn’t change His mind.  God was working with Moses where Moses is to build relationship with Moses.  Moses grew in relationship to God, God knew He wasn’t going to wipe out the entire nation, but there is part of God that comes to have a relationship with us.  The greatest expression of this is the person of Jesus Christ, who is God, yet left His divine power to the point there are things He doesn’t know.  He doesn’t know when the end will come, only the Father know, yet Jesus is still God.  Jesus is the embodiment of that nature of God that seeks personal relationship.  It’s the aspect of the Father that we cry out Abba Father too.  He loves us and meets us where we are and reveals Himself in a way that we connect and grow with.  Moses didn’t really talk God into anything from an eternal standpoint, but at that moment in time, at that place in that relationship, God and man talked and man reasoned with God and God relented.  It’s an amazing thing.

In Salvation, we share the Good News, the Holy Spirit convicts of sin, a sinner confesses, repents and places their faith in Jesus Christ.  At that moment, they are touching God at that moment in time, they are reaching to God and God is there and a sinner is redeemed and all of Heaven rejoices.  If we step back, in eternity, that moment was predestined to happen, God knew it was going to happen, God set it in motion.  He created the person, He took them to the place, He is the Holy Spirit convicting of sin, that moment, this moment and every other moment was set in motion by the will of God.  God stands on the outside of time, and He does what He wants without limits and without restraint, aside from those He places on Himself.  We are unaware, unable to even interact with God on this level until the day we too exit time for eternity.

My point is, so often with the C word is dropped, we have such narrow thoughts and opinions.  I don’t think most Calvinists are as narrow as they are portrayed.  Sure there are some, but there are people who picket the funerals of our men and women in uniform, they call themselves Baptists, but I don’t think we want to be lumped into one group with them, do we?  The Anti-Calvinist sentiment has some flavor of prejudice to me, maybe we would seek to learn about something we don’t understand instead of just blasting it.  That being said, blast away!

1 Bruce H. February 15, 2012 at 10:06 am

Prejudice is a paradigm that is reinforced by experiences. Limited to just a few negative thoughts, we seldom want to increase our knowledge of something in order to balance our way of thinking and understanding. Myself, I think Baptists are more afraid of being filled with the Holy Spirit than being Calvinist, but that is just me. We have experienced a medium paradigm change of the Holy Spirit because of the Pentecostals and Charismatics over the past 40 years. We have relaxed in some areas and remain firm in others. It has brought us balance.

It seems to me that the non-Calvinist comes to his conclusion naturally. They realized they were not saved and then decided to get saved and said the prayer, was baptized and began their new life in Christ. It did look like they did something and it was their own idea, too, so to speak. If that way of thinking is reinforced it becomes a difficult paradigm to break through. That is what happened to me. Early in my Christian walk I began to have these urges or drives to get the true meaning of words like faith, wisdom, understanding and, then, grace. Oh, grace! What a wonderful word. It means so much more than just “unmerited favor” and I discovered it, no, the Holy Spirit revealed it to me by grace. When I was teaching my Sunday School class as a non-Calvinist I was sharing my new discovery about grace. A young lady interrupted me to let me know that what I was teaching was Calvinistic. That week was the second time I experienced a real paradigm change in belief. The first was my salvation experience. Now, everything fits.

The good thing about people hating Calvinism is that they become focused on the idea. The same affect happens when we focus on racism, or anything we hate or disagree with. Notice today, only a very few small groups openly hate blacks, yet they get so much negative attention from those who have had a paradigm change toward racism. We may be faced with a New Calvinism that is more acceptable in our future as it is continually addressed and people are focused on the main points. I think it is important to discuss this topic continually so even we get the best understanding of this great truth about God.

I have come a long way since my paradigm change. I have to describe myself as a Calvinist with a Limited Atonement issue. I lean more toward defining it as: for humans only.

2 Rick Patrick February 15, 2012 at 10:12 am

Dan,

Nicely written. Well reasoned. I consider myself a Non-Calvinist but not an Anti-Calvinist. Your post was about theology and you did a very fine job presenting yours. However, in my opinion, most of the concerns Southern Baptists have with the New Calvinism are not related to theology per se. Most of the concerns are with perceived attitudes and the thorny challenges faced in our churches and in our denomination as we try to respond to growing numbers of young people who do not believe the same doctrines as their parents and grandparents.

In other words, I disagree with the premise that we Non-Calvinists don’t get your theology simply because we disagree with it. The whole “we hate what we don’t understand” idea sort of assumes the Non-Calvinist must not really “get” Calvinism or else he would believe it. There must be room for us to totally comprehend what you are saying, yet reject it in favor of another theological view.

Consider the possibility that most of the “concerns” over New Calvinism (I don’t think it’s really “hatred”) are related to practical implications in our church and convention and not to the theological doctrines of soteriology and ecclesiology.

Thanks for your excellent post.

3 Howell Scott February 15, 2012 at 11:06 am

Rick,

You hit the nail on the head with your statement:

“Consider the possibility that most of the “concerns” over New Calvinism (I don’t think it’s really “hatred”) are related to practical implications in our church and convention and not to the theological doctrines of soteriology and ecclesiology.”

As one who believes in all 5 points of the Doctrines of Grace, for me at least, this issue is not about theology as much as it is about methodology and ecclesiology as it relates to cooperation and identity within the SBC. I think Dan wrote an excellent article and I appreciate his take on the matter. However, the question that should be asked is how can someone like you, who describes himself as a “Non-Calvinist,” and someone like me, who describes himself as a “Calvinist” (although inconsistent in my practice), both agree that the underlying premise of Dan’s piece is flawed and that this whole issue touches, not necessarily on theology, but on the “practical implications in our church and convention?” Riddle me that! Thanks and God bless,

Howell

4 Bob Hadley February 15, 2012 at 11:13 am

Seems to me the thrust of Dan’s article has to do with theology and not concerns related to practical implications of participation at all. I agree personally, that is solely my problem with Calvinism; other than the fact that I disagree with Calvinism personally; I fully accept and support the understanding that there are those who do embrace it. I am not comfortable with the level of influence this group has in the entities of the SBC.

I do not see any of that at all in Dan’s article.

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5 Dan Barnes February 15, 2012 at 11:28 am

You are correct Bob, because I was writing in response from what I have observed from the “anti-Calvinist” crowd, not so much the “non-Calvinists” groups, which is usually my 2.5 point friends. Total Depravity, Perseverance of the Saints, predestination is in the Bible somewhere, let’s not talk about it too much. My article is in response to those who want to say that Calvinism is completely wrong, un-Biblical, abhorrent and leading to the death of the SBC. I feel there is a discriminatory nature, some finger pointing and harsh critique out there, and certainly not all who are not Calvinists are involved. Just addressing that sub-group, but thank you for your interactions.

6 Greg Buchanan February 15, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Red-herring alert:


The whole “we hate what we don’t understand” idea sort of assumes the Non-Calvinist must not really “get” Calvinism or else he would believe it.

Dan never stated that if a non-calvinist understood calvinism/doctrines-of-grace better they would believe it. Simply that the narrow minded knee-jerk reaction that leads to pejorative statements like this (growing numbers of young people who do not believe the same doctrines as their parents and grandparents) would hopefully cease.

7 Bob Hadley February 15, 2012 at 2:29 pm

That is a red herring alert for sure…

oozing with intelligence.

Bob

8 Greg Buchanan February 15, 2012 at 4:37 pm

Did you press “Submit” before you were done with your reply or are you being condescending?

9 Bob Hadley February 15, 2012 at 10:28 am

Couple comments. This ought to be an interesting comment section. Let all the wovenists come forward.

First to Bruce, I think you have hit on something that is probably more relevant than I had realized. The more attention Calvinism receives, I would probably agree the more popular it will become. I am not so sure it is because people understand it better, but probably because they might not examine it well enough and simply embrace their version of it. Not all will do that of course and there are many who will never even look at the issue and will no doubt maintain their experiential view of their conversion, which by the way does have Biblical support.

Now to the post itself.

While it may be true of many, the following statement does not fit me: I think it’s becoming a prejudice, we all band together to despise something we don’t understand. Of course, I know there area eyebrows being raised at that statement because there are those who honesty believe the only people who are NOT Calvinists are those who do not understand it for if they understood it they would be one.

I had someone tell me once, that they understood where I was because they were once there but had moved on to embrace Calvinism… to which I responded, you are incorrect. If you were ever where I am, you would not be a Calvinist. I actually had that same argument used by a charismatic as well. Interesting.

You wrote, “We know that God has a plan, the He has elected some and shaped their path.” Then you go on to say, “If we step back, in eternity, that moment was predestined to happen, God knew it was going to happen, God set it in motion. He created the person, He took them to the place, He is the Holy Spirit convicting of sin, that moment, this moment and every other moment was set in motion by the will of God.”

That is why some disagree with Calvinism. It is not because we do not understand it, it is because we do not believe that is what the Bible teaches. There is a difference and there may be folks who fit your statement; it does not apply to all.

You wrote: “I don’t think most Calvinists are as narrow as they are portrayed.” I agree with that statement. However, it must be understood there is a profound difference in speaking against Calvinism and Calvinists.

To your next statement, “Sure there are some, but there are people who picket the funerals of our men and women in uniform, they call themselves Baptists, but I don’t think we want to be lumped into one group with them, do we?” You do know these folks (Westboro) consider themselves Calvinist right? Just asking and this is not in any way meant in any other way than to point out their own self professing theology. That is it.

Your final statement, maybe we would seek to learn about something we don’t understand instead of just blasting it.

Are you suggesting that you understand the issue you are speaking about well enough to make the statements you made about those who disagree with calvinism because “they do not understand it?” Just a thought.

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10 Bruce H. February 15, 2012 at 10:55 am

Bob,

A supporting verse in scripture is the principle related to all of truth’s conflicting arguments. It is the thesis of Paul’s letter to the Romans. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.” Men despise the “gospel” and Paul was saying he was not ashamed of it in his evangelistic approach to depraved mankind. The gospel is offensive and that seems to be where change begins; in the offensive nature of the truth.

I do not think Calvinist have the whole truth and neither do non-Calvinist because God is incomprehensible. Once we can place God’s anatomy in a medical book, psychology book or metaphysical book we have created only a “super god” and that is what I guard myself against. Let’s spark the irons and let that deepen our roots of truth in the God who is incomprehensible.

11 Bob Hadley February 15, 2012 at 11:16 am

Not sure what prompted this response, but thanks.

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12 Bruce H. February 15, 2012 at 11:43 am

Maybe it is what produces the “popularity” that I was addressing. The gospel is offensive to the world. Billy Graham began crusades of presenting the gospel at a place in time that the gospel was turning more offensive. It was God’s timing and had good success. Christianity became popular in a way. I see the Calvinistic issue rising at a time Baptist seem to be at a crossroad in their identity. If it strengthens our faith on both sides it will be good. If it only becomes popular, I think much will be missed or lost and traditionalism can sneak in. It is not a time for compromise, but a time of deepening our faith and putting it into practice.

Hope that helps clarify my response.

13 Dan Barnes February 15, 2012 at 11:30 am

“That is why some disagree with Calvinism. It is not because we do not understand it, it is because we do not believe that is what the Bible teaches.”

Can you give me Biblical reference please?

14 josh February 15, 2012 at 10:41 am

Beautifully done, Dan.

15 David R. Brumbelow February 15, 2012 at 10:49 am

Dan,
You said, “…I have been reading a lot of opinions on Calvinism, and it seems to me, most people tend to despise what they hear and don’t really get…[we] despise something we don’t understand.”

I’m sure some do. On the other hand, first, I do not despise Calvinism.
Second, I think I do get it, understand it; although no one is going to fully understand all the many nuances and variations of numerous kinds of Calvinism.
I don’t despise it, I simply disagree with 5point Calvinism and militant Calvinism.
David R. Brumbelow

16 Dan Barnes February 15, 2012 at 11:31 am

So do I David. So do I.

17 Dan Barnes February 15, 2012 at 11:32 am

I’m a 7 pointer.

18 Dan Barnes February 17, 2012 at 10:36 am

That wad a joke. No one laughed

19 David February 15, 2012 at 11:35 am

My opposition to Calvinism is not because of a misunderstanding of the theology but because of real life expereinces with self identified Calvinists and most importantly seeing the limited growth of Calvinist denominaitons -namey the Presbyerian Church in America (PCA). My first experience with a calvinist was hearing Dr. Cortez Cooper, the pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville and one of the founders of teh PCA. He very stridently (and angrily) said that “The Arminialists are wrong when they say that Christains choose ot sin! When Christains sin it is because of spirtual lukemia. I understand that we all have a sin nature. however, i cannot deny that when I commit an individual sin it is because of my choosing. how can we hold murderers and thieves resposible for crimes if they can write it off to “spiritual lukemia”? It deosn’t hold water logically or theologically. Paul says in Romans 1 that even the Gentiles area law unto themselves.

Before you write off Dr. Cooper, he was one of the founders of the largest Calvinistic denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America which according to wikipedia.org has only 346,000 members. It is illogical to me that the SBC with some 16 million members should be striving to become like a denomination which is 1/5 of its size. Even the larger Presbyterain Church USA only had 3 million members at its peak in 1965 – after being in America since the 1700′s it only reached 1% of our present population and was never a historically regionally based denomination like the SBC. My argument is based on the actual results not my opinion or the personalities involved.

One last comment: For all of the discussion regarding changing the name of the SBC to Great Commission Baptist, again I don’t see the arguments holding water. If you look at KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) and Cracker Barrel Restaurants, they don’t seem to find that having a “southern identity” has been an impediment to their expansion outside of the former Confederate states so why is it that the SBC finds this to be a problem. (Cracker Barrel does quite the opposite and uses the word country in their ads! and KFC is quite popular in China and the Middle East) The reality is that very few churches put SBC on their signs and some don’t put even “Baptist” on their name so I don’t see how the name change should be some catalyst for growth. The real discussion has to be how each individual church can grow given the community in which they exist.

20 Greg Buchanan February 15, 2012 at 1:46 pm

So, you are agreeing with the lost people (including Ghandi) who say that if it weren’t for all the Christians, they would believe in Jesus? Except in reference to calvinism (aka, the doctrines of grace)?

I believe that my faith is deeper because I studied and (more or less) now agree with woven theology. I’m not saying that calvinism is THE TRUTH, but that I experienced a deeper understanding of God. You might not and that is fine too.

It is sad that you will not explore these ideas in the search for knowing more of God’s grace just because you had a bad-taste-in-your-mouth experience with someone who isn’t even in the SBC???

21 David February 15, 2012 at 6:43 pm

First of all,I am not in anny way saying in regards otlost people, that if “it weren’t for the Christians, they would believe in Jesus.” However, what I am saying is that when one looks at the implementation of Calvinistic theology in the real world (and not in the idealism of a seminary) the results have been disapointing. I gave specific numbers regarding the number of members of the PCA, the flagship denominaiton of modern day conservative Calvinism and you did not respond, but instead chose to focus on your own “deeper faith” experience in “woven theology. Because I am in the business world, my natural inclination is to look at “the fruit” or the bottom line results and from that perspective Reformed theology has had poor results in America. I already mentioned the 346,000 members of the PCA, however the even larger Presbyterian Church USA only reached 3 million members at its height in 1965. And if we go back to this country’s early history, the New England Puritans (often called Pilgrims) were staunch Calvinists, yet many of their congregations became Unitarians around 1830 and as a result, Boston and New Engalnd in general is one of the most secular parts of the U.S. By contrast, around the same time, the Sandy Creek revival was taking place in the southern states and as a result, the south came to be known as the “Bible Belt” as a result.

In my opinion, many of the young pastors who have so enthusiastically embraced 5 pt. Calvinism proabaly haven’t looked at the historical results of the 500 plus years Calvinism has been pracitced and their enthusiasm is based on the fact that it is being taught (in seminary) as a superior theology and many hip, young cool pastors like Mark Driscoll are preaching it, so now it is the “cool” thing to preach. When I look at Driscoll’s recent controversial book on marriage as well as the examples of authoritarianism and control in his church that have been exposed on the Wartburg blog, I have to be concerned that this is where evangelical Christianity is heading.

The big picture is that the SBC had its greatest number of baptisms in 1971 and presently the number is similar to that of the 1950′s. It is hard to see that practicing a Calvinistic theology which the PCA has practiced will bring the SBC a different result with an increase in baptisms? The logic just isn’t there. But again, most of the 20′s and 30 somethings who are so “gung ho” on 5 pt. Calvinism don’t look at things from a historical perpsective or from my perepsective of being in the business world and looking at bottom line numerical results. Their “experience” is more important.

22 Dan Barnes February 15, 2012 at 6:47 pm

SBC has it’s roots in Calvinistic puritanism.

23 David February 15, 2012 at 11:32 pm

The SBC’s historical roots go back to the first Baptist church in America which is First Baptist Church in Providence Rhode Island where Roger Williams, the foundr, experienced oppostion frorm the Puritans who did not want any other “religions” around. In fact the origin for the whole idea of a “Separation of Church and State” goes back to a letter which Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Baptists of Rhode Island who were experiencing persecution from the Puriians who wanted to impose a state religion. Jefferson wrote them that in the new United States, they would not have to worry because there would be a separation of church and state and not a state church like there had previously been in the colonies. Some of these Baptists of New England left their church in Maine and traveled to Charleston, SC to start the first Baptist church in the South – this was in the late 1600′s. All of the Baptist churches in the south trace their roots back to that church in Charleston which I think is still in existence today and the roots go further back to Roger Williams who was not a Puritan, but was in fact opposed by them. Just thought I would give a quick history lesson!

24 Dan Barnes February 16, 2012 at 12:07 pm

David, I am not wanting to sound condenseding, but it’s pretty absurd to think that Baptist just popped out of no where with Roger Williams. Baptists started in England and Holland, influenced by Zwingli, Calvin, and the movement of the Separatists. The push began with John Smyth, who was a Puritan and reformed. In the 1700s there were Baptist churches in American that came from the English churches. Rogers came on the scene as an Anglican converted in a Separatist, coming to America in 1630. He ministered in Salem, but his Separatist views were not tolerated, so he went to Plymouth. Williams was later arrested for his views, and he was only a Baptist for a few months before he left the group. John Clarke was very influential, also a reformed Separatist.

There is my addition to your history lesson.

25 Ryan Abernathy February 15, 2012 at 7:02 pm

I would be careful giving credence to ANYTHING on the Wartburg blog. Those ladies keep their axes sharp and lash out at anything that doesn’t agree with their limited worldview. The article calling Mars Hill a cult for practicing church discipline was the worst piece of yellow “journalism” I have read in my life.

Funny that you point out that SBC baptisms were at an all time high in 1971 BEFORE the CR. It’s sad how 30+ years of culture warring and rooting out “liberals and moderates” have led to fewer people following Jesus. Maybe we could do better if we stopped fighting each other and started accepting the fact that our agreement should be on the person and work of Christ and not on non-essentials.

Bet that’ll happen real soon… :(

26 David February 15, 2012 at 7:46 pm

The fact that the peek year for baptisms took place in 1971 before the CR should cause some discussion to see if theology is not the only factor in causing growth in the body of Christ and what actually is causing growth. Like you mentioned that “30 years of culture waring and rooting out “liberals and moderates” have led to fewer people following Jesus”, my concern is that the present effort at Southern Seminary and SEBTS to implement Calvinism isn’t another theological battle which will not lead to more people following Jesus. I definitely believe that there had to be a course correction at some of the seminaries, however, I question the catalyst for the recent rise in Calvinism which is being discussed. Once the battle for the Bible was won, what was the catalyst to go in a different direction?

To me the more pressing question should be, “Why were there more baptisms in 1971 and what can be done to get their again?” The real underlying issue is that there were far more children enrolled in Sunday School back in the 1970′s and the overwhelming majority of people make a profession of faith before the age of 18. Many pastors probably would prefer to think that their preaching is the key, however, the evidence shows that the children’s and youth ministries are just as important.

To get back to the discussion on Calvinism, again my concern is that the empirical evidence on Calvinism in America doesn’t lead me to think that its implementation in the SBC will lead to 1971. Why should the SBC expect a different result from other denominations with that theology? My impression form reading the blogs is first of all everything from before the CR was awful so tallking about 1971 is off limits. Secondly, I don’t sense that there is a serious discussion about how to get more kids in Sunday School and then keep College age kids who have grown up in the church from leaving when they reach that age and young adulthood. Until, that discussion takes place, all the battles over theology won’t make a difference in trying to grow the body of Christ and see an increase in baptisms as we have seen over the last 30 plus years.

27 Dan Barnes February 15, 2012 at 8:01 pm

Did you really just drop a CR reference in my post? Come on.

28 TFW February 16, 2012 at 12:38 pm

Ryan, I couldn’t agree with you more about Wartburg. Every post is negative; they offer no constructive ideas on how to improve situations they have issues with (other than, “get rid of him”); as far as I can tell, there is nothing about Christianity that they like; their discussions always revert back to criticisms of their top targets; and what ever you do don’t disagree with them or they (and their little band of supporters) will label you and dismiss you. I finally had to stop reading them. Life is too short to listen to people who continually complain.

29 Dan Barnes February 15, 2012 at 2:09 pm

I am not sure how a hyper-Calvinist denomination (my mother was a Presbyterian, and a hyper-Calvinist) will doom the SBC if we hold to a theology that has a similar name, but is different in almost every way. Perhaps you need to explore the Calvinist ideas apart from the PCA.

30 David February 15, 2012 at 3:37 pm

Dan, It is hard for me to see how one can’t expect the SBC to not become like the PCA when it ascribes to the same theology? And why is that whenever someone brings up an argument against Calvinism, the response is “Oh, that’s Hyper-Calvinism, that’s not the Calvinism to which we believe.” From the lay person’s perspective, all I have to go on is what I have seen over the years. Also, I think at the very core, there is an attractiveness to Calvinism from this perespective: It takes the pressure off of the pastor to answer the question, “How many were saved this week, or year?” – I doubt you will ever here that discussion in a PCA setting. To be quite honest, if I were a pastor, I would probably like the pressure to be off and to be able to use the predestination argument as a rebuttal to all the pressure to get so many saved every Sunday!!

Another aspect of the PCA which I think many in the SBC find quite appealing is the ability to have uniformity in all aspects of theology and church polity (It would certainly eliminate alot of the arguments you read on blogs!) The autonomy of the local church (which is unique ot the SBC) is always going to be a challenge to the denominaiton when Seminary Presidents and other denominational officials have their agendas yet find them stymied when local churches don’t agree – A good example mentioned on this blog is when recent Seminary grads with a Calvinistic theology find push back from local congregations or the questions of closed communion, who’s baptism is legit, etc. (the Baptist Identity quesitons) These questions are ususally answered by the Presbyterian church authority and not left up to the individual chuch. Many would say, “It would sure make life easier, if there were some authority to answer these church polity questions.”

31 Greg Buchanan February 15, 2012 at 6:03 pm

all I have to go on is what I have seen over the years

This is your primary problem, David. What you should go on is what you have studied. If you study and disagree with Calvinism/Doctrines of Grace/whatever title, then fine; that’s your prerogative.

But don’t protest an idea because of SOME of it’s supposed adherents. Study it for yourself to see if these wackos are wrong or if the idea itself is wacko.

32 David February 15, 2012 at 8:31 pm

I am not doubting the theological basis for the Doctrines of Grace, there are certainly plenty of verses in the Bible to support that view (namely Romans 9). Likewise there are verses which non -Calvinists can offer as well. Again my perspective is from what I see as “the fruit” of practicing this theology over time and we now have the advantage of being able to look at 500 years in which Reformed Theology/Doctrines of Grace have been practiced. I am looking at the churches in Europe and America which have been known for their Calvinistic or Reformed theology or whateveer label one ascribes and in my opinion the results have been disapointing. My perepsective is not trying to win a theological argument, my perspective is how can the church be Biblically sound and have an impact on the world as seen through people making professions of faith in Christ and being baptized. As I stated in an earlier post, 1971 was the peak year for baptisms in the SBC, what can be done to get back to those days. I personally have a hard time believing that Reformed theology is the ticket to getting there. I don’t see any discussion about what was going on in 1971 and it is considered almost off limts because it was before the CR, however, I don’t think that is a logical way to see it.

33 Dan Barnes February 15, 2012 at 6:10 pm

“Calvinist” is like “Baptist”. Fred Phelps calls himself a “Baptist”. I don’t picket everything I go to. You are lumping a lot of people into the same category.

34 David February 15, 2012 at 8:15 pm

I agree with your Fred Phelps analogy. My only objection is that Dr. Cortez Cooper formerly of Christ Presbyterian in Nashville is a most respected pastor and I’m sure is popular with many in the Reformed circles of the SBC, so I wouldn’t want to label him as a fringe character like Phelps.

35 Dan Barnes February 15, 2012 at 6:12 pm

“To be quite honest, if I were a pastor, I would probably like the pressure to be off and to be able to use the predestination argument as a rebuttal to all the pressure to get so many saved every Sunday!!”

We all agree that Salvation is God’s word, I don’t “get so many saved”. I don’t get anyone saved.

36 Bill Lonas February 15, 2012 at 6:14 pm

David, the other extreme would be to feel that since you didn’t have X number of salvations this week then you need to change the message to make it more palatable to our culture.

You know, we need more drama, how about a mime and please put on some nice piano music in the background for the invitation?

37 David February 15, 2012 at 11:47 pm

I agree with the thought behind what you are saying that it is like the Holy SPirit has no role to play and there is a greater concern with as you say making “it more palatable to our culture.” However, it also seems to me that across the board churches do make a concience effort to, if not make it more palatable to our culture, the hot word is now “relevant” and now everyone feels compelled to wear grungy jeans (and tattoos and piercings are a plus, too!) How many churches today will you hear the “Doxology” or “The Old Rugged Cross” Even the old Billy Graham crusades used the song in the background during the invitation. So from what I have observed all churches do make some efforts in that way regardless of their stated theology.

38 Les February 15, 2012 at 8:36 pm

David,

I can’t defend or condemn Cooper for that statement without seeing the context. Dr. Cooper, who died not long ago, was an outstanding pastor as I understand it.

As to the PCA, I have been PCA churches for 20 years. They started small, separating from the liberal PCUSA in 1973. The website says,

“In December 1973, delegates, representing some 260 congregations with a combined communicant membership of over 41,000 that had left the PCUS, gathered at Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama, and organized the National Presbyterian Church, which later became the Presbyterian Church in America.”

For a number years until recently the PCA was growing at a good rate.

Also, the PCA has a pretty good missions presence in the world. Again from the website,

“The influence of the PCA extends far beyond the walls of the local church.  Mission to the World has 519 career missionaries in almost 60 nations of the world, 169 two-year missionaries, and over 6500 short term missionaries.  Because of the unique relationship between Mission to the World with over thirty mission organizations with whom some of our missionaries are working, some consider that the influence is far greater than our size might indicate.  Indeed, PCA churches support an additional 690 career missionaries, covering over 130 nations.  Further, with more than 100 chaplains in the military, Veterans Administration, prisons, and hospitals, and 45 college and university campus ministers, the Gospel is proclaimed to a rather large audience around the world not reached through usual outreach channels.  Because of the emphasis on education, there are many members of the PCA who are teachers and professors at all levels, including a significant number of large universities and theological seminaries.”

All that said, and D James Kennedy and EE notwithstanding, far too many PCA congregations are woefully lacking in evangelistic outreach, to their shame.

Last, history tells us that Calvinism has been a great positive influence in missionary endeavors around the world.

39 David February 16, 2012 at 12:00 am

I don’t doubt that Dr. Cooper was a great pastor – Christ Pes is one of the largest churches in Nashville, I just disagreed with a statement he made.

Yet another group is splitting from the liberal Prebyterian Church USA. Presently, a group called the Evangelical Order of Presbyterians is forming (they have previously called themselves the Fellowship of Presbyterians). The decision to permit the ordination of gays was the last straw, so this group which had been hoping and praying for a renewal in their denominaiton has chosen to leave. Many of the largest churches in the PCUSA like Peachtree Pres in Atlanta and Menlo Park Pres in CA are leaving to become part of this new denomination.

40 KEN February 15, 2012 at 11:36 am

TO BOB HADLEY:
“We know that God has a plan, the He has elected some and shaped their path.” Then you go on to say, “If we step back, in eternity, that moment was predestined to happen, God knew it was going to happen, God set it in motion. He created the person, He took them to the place, He is the Holy Spirit convicting of sin, that moment, this moment and every other moment was set in motion by the will of God.”
(Bob”s reply to the above statment) That is why some disagree with Calvinism. It is not because we do not understand it, it is because we do not believe that is what the Bible teaches.

Bob am I understanding you correctly that you do not believe God controls the life of man kind? If not God than who?

41 Greg Buchanan February 15, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Ken, I also want to know what Bob is saying…

because we do not believe that is what the Bible teaches

Proverbs 16:9 -
- The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. (ESV)
- A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps and makes them sure. (AMP)
- A man’s heart plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps. (NKJV)
- In their hearts humans plan their course,
but the LORD establishes their steps. (NIV)
- A man’s heart plans his way,
but the LORD determines his steps. (HCSB)
- A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps. (KJV)

Seems to me that the Bible teaches exactly that.

42 Bob Hadley February 15, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Thanks for the question. Let me correct the statement I made, instead of we let me say I do not believe God effectually calls anyone to repentance as Calvinism contends. I am not even a 1-point calvinist. It would seem to me that the answer to your question, does God control the life of mankind would obviously be “no” or we would not be in the mess we are in today; not only in this discussion but in every aspect of what we call life in our world today.

One of the oddities I see in Calvinism is this notion that God controls “one single decision or event” in a person’s life (who is the elect and I guess none in the lives of the non-elect) and everything else He somehow leaves up to us and the Holy Spirit.

I believe God has established Himself as a God of love who can be loved in return. God is incomplete control of everything that He chooses to control. He has provided a way for man who is separated from Him to come to Him in the person of His Son, who is called Emmanuel, God with us and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the new born child of God brings His perpetual presence into our hearts and into our lives and along with that, the power to gain the mind of Christ, which was ironically summed up in the statement, “The Father and I are one and I am come to do His perfect will.”

><>”

43 Bob Hadley February 15, 2012 at 2:18 pm

God is in complete control of everything that He chooses to control.

Sorry for the typo.

><>”

44 Dan Barnes February 15, 2012 at 2:57 pm

I see your point Bob, unfortunately I can’t justify it structurally. I have to put Romans 9, Ephesians 1, II Peter 1, and many of the words of Jesus into my theology. I can’t just ignore that it states over and over that God calls the elect. I may not understand it, but it’s what happened to me when I was saved. I didn’t choose, I didn’t come, I was called and I was moved by the Holy Spirit.

As for the “mess” we are in. It seems clear from Romans 1, Romans 9, and Exodus that God allows the tares to grow for His purpose, to show His mercy and hold back His wrath to demonstrate His power. If you don’t believe me, just read Romans 9:22 and 23. Pharaoh did horrible things, and God hardened his heart.

45 KEN February 16, 2012 at 11:50 am

All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. John 6:37

as it is written, “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE;
THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; Romans 3:10-11

No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. John 6:44

This to me is election. If God did not draw you than you are not saved. Why do we have so much problem with election. We do not seem to have a problem in the OT with God choosing Israel as His people.

46 Bill Lonas February 15, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Well, I’m really against labels (except for ‘born-again’ – I LOVE that one!).

I understand both sides of the aisle in this debate. I believe what the Bible teaches. We are all dead in our sins and deserve judgment, the Holy Spirit awakens the dead heart and convicts it of sin, God (by His grace) grants repentance to the sinner and the sinner repents, confesses Jesus Christ as Lord and is then set apart for His use. The believer is sealed with Holy Spirit and eternally secure.

My problem with the ‘church’ today is that so much emphasis is being put on trying to coerce a person (if only we could have a better drama, or presentation, or more lights and fog etc..) into raising a hand and/or saying a prayer and then fill out the card – then, bang! You’re in! There’s hardly EVER the mention of a person’s need to repent and/or an estimation of the heavy cost of following Christ.

Meanwhile, as time goes on this person NEVER shows any ‘fruit worthy of repentance’, continues to be in love with the world, has no desire to worship the living God or read His word.

Some would call him/her a ‘carnal’ Christian.

I would call him/her a false convert.

Does that make me a Calvinist?

47 Dan Barnes February 15, 2012 at 12:02 pm

No, just makes you a wise man.

48 Christiane February 15, 2012 at 1:04 pm

:)

49 John Wylie February 15, 2012 at 12:31 pm

Bill,

While I certainly agree with spirit of your comment, I was wondering, do you believe in the possibility of a carnal Christian?

50 Bill Lonas February 15, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Thanks for the question John.

I believe we all stumble in many ways (James 3:2). According to Romans 8, those who are in Christ Jesus do not walk according to the flesh anymore but walk according to the Spirit – if the Spirit of God dwells in them (v1,9). During our daily walk we sometimes take a misstep for sure, but we are still headed in the right general direction – we never leave the road entirely, so to speak.

My problem with the ‘carnal’ card is that it gets played so much that it is used to excuse the most ungodly lifestyles in the name of ‘grace’. In today’s ‘church’ its almost like people want to see how close they can get to sin without crossing the line when it really should be how far can we stay away from it because we want to worship God in spirit and in truth.

For example, the term ‘Christian porn star’ would be an oxymoron.

On the other hand, a pastor could fall into sexual sin and still be saved (although he would no longer qualify to be an overseer – but that’s for another message thread). But if he continued in that lifestyle unrepentant and especially if he started claiming that he really didn’t see anything wrong with it (‘God made me this way’) then I would seriously question his salvation.

Every child of God is disciplined when he/she is disobedient (Hebrews 12:6-7). A person who is under the discipline of the LORD cannot continue in sin without remorse. Like any good father would, God goes after His children who are being disobedient. He corrects them.

51 Bruce H. February 15, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Dan,

You said, “I proposed a theology I called “Woven” because it fits together in intersection of man’s ability to have choice and responsibility and God’s sovereign action and His plan.”

This is a very similar position I take, however, the two (2) ideas have to stand on their own without the support of the other. Intersecting them without one single scripture of support is difficult. It is more Godlike to allow the ideas to stand alone. When you think of the one God and the Godhead you may not be able to weave them together in the mind, though they are the same. They are separate individually and yet one simultaneously. Our minds cannot blend the two separate thoughts, but again, that is God. When I teach that truth I use a large stick figure 3D cube drawn on the white board. You can stare at it and see it change flow directions but you cannot see each direction simultaneously. That’s the way we were made. We are only made in the image of God but we are not God. When I was born again I received the Spirit and there is peace with those separate thoughts of truth even though I cannot mesh them together and put them in writing.

52 Dan Barnes February 15, 2012 at 1:04 pm

I believe it gets even more complicated than that, because of the nature of God is beyond our comprehension, and His eternal nature is something we can’t even interact with. As a result, God has revealed Himself to us in a nature that is temporal and that we can interact with. That is where many of the personifications of God come from. God changing His mind with Moses, God “looking” for Adam and Eve, God asking questions, and expressing want and desire. In her eternal nature, God has no lack, He doesn’t ask, look or want. He takes on these attributes for our benefit, to relate and build relationship with us. Both of these natures are in the Father, they are both The Father, and therefore are simply one part of the Trinity. This dichotomy is also seen in the Son, being fully God and fully man. The Holy Spirit, being God in us. The God Head is so much more gloriously complex than we ever can express, and as soon as we begin to take the limits and restrains of our understanding off the person and nature of God, then we see things really come to life. At least that’s my opinion.

53 Bruce H. February 15, 2012 at 1:13 pm

Amen.

54 Christiane February 15, 2012 at 1:14 pm

if people would know God, let them look at Christ

in all the two thousand years of Christianity, there has been no man who has come to tell us more about ‘God’ than the Person of Jesus Christ Who spoke in the very person of God.

So if we celebrate any as revealing to us a ‘God’ who is inconsistent with the God revealed to us through Jesus Christ, then we have not found truth

55 Christiane February 15, 2012 at 3:11 pm

If Christian people are uncomfortable with the ‘mystery’ that is God, then they may try to search out man-made thought systems to ‘explain’ to them so that they can be more assured;
but therein lies the problem . . .
we CAN know God exists from our reason,
because He has given the gift of reason to us, and His imprint is on all of Creation, which reason can affirm
. . . but we cannot know the full mystery of God, so we must trust in Him and place our hope in Him as the Source of a faith which does not deny reason, but goes beyond it to certitude.

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart;
and lean not unto thine own understanding.”
(Proverbs 3:5)

. . . ‘though He slay me, yet will I trust Him . . ‘
(from Job 13)

“25 For I know that my Redeemer liveth,
and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
26 and though after my skin worms destroy this body,
yet in my flesh shall I see God:
27 whom I shall see for myself
and mine eyes shall behold, and not another ” (from Job 19)

if people would know God, let them look to Christ and no other

56 Bill Mac February 15, 2012 at 1:14 pm

Great article Dan. I first became a Calvinist when I realized that my “choice” to follow Christ had been shaped by a million circumstances that led up to it. And each of those circumstances had been shaped by a million others, and so on backwards through eternity. Why was I the kind of person on whom the message would resonate? Why did I encounter the persons who would witness to me? Why was I living in circumstances where the Gospel was available to me?

Our faith is not simply a choice; it is the culmination of an individual plan for each of us, created and known by God from eternity past, and initiated from the first moment of creation. Every moment of your life, all that you know, and don’t know, and have experienced; all the joys and griefs were building to the supreme moment when you would surrender yourself to Christ. You became who you were born to be. Who you were destined to be. We are not robots. We are a masterpiece of creation that God has been painting for eternity. Our joy in fulfilling the great commission is God’s gracious gift to us, giving us a part in the creation masterpiece of other souls who will come to him.

57 Les February 15, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Bill Mac, “Like” button!

58 Bruce H. February 15, 2012 at 2:07 pm

In the story of the “Pearl of Great Price”, was it the man’s will or the Pearl of great price that had the greatest affect? Our move to action is seldom based upon our own will, it is mainly based upon the incomprehensible value of the object discovered. Consider Judas and then Paul. All of the lost and saved fall between these two.

59 Bob Hadley February 15, 2012 at 2:33 pm

According to the Calvinist neither is true…

God designed the pearl and gave it its value and determined that the man would own it so the man found it and consequently bought it. Simple.

><>”

60 Bruce H. February 15, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Bob,

That will not preach.

The wind blows where it will and, at the same time, even the wind and waves obey Him. The last breakfast was a display of His will over 153 fish, He paid taxes by having the disciples catch one particular fish with money is his mouth and it seems that a donkey that had never been ridden was available and the will of its master didn’t have a problem with the disciples taking them. Also, Noah didn’t seem to have a problem with the animals coming 2 by 2 on their own. It is funny that Jesus called His 12 disciples and there was no comment in scripture that anyone tried to reject His call to leave all and follow Him, even Judas. You would think that the pressure He put on Paul wouldn’t be compared to the pressure on Pharaoh, yet He hardened Pharaoh’s heart, not Paul’s. I think the dilemma with the will of man is that it comes down to “my decision” or “God’s decision”. Calvinist want to stay as far away from anything that could be considered “credited” to something we did or came up with own our own. That would fall under “works” and it specifically states, “not of works lest anyone should boast”. One cannot boast when it is all of grace. That is why I would put the emphasis on the power of the Pearl of Great Price rather than the will of the man even though his will is greatly affected.

61 Dan Barnes February 15, 2012 at 3:24 pm

I am not sure I agree with your analysis Bob. Yes, God created the Pearl, but there is so much going on at play. The man must assign value to the pearl, which is done in a concert of what God has placed in us to be valuable and what we value. The man’s steps will take him to the pearl, the desire that come in him was given by God but initiated by man. Man takes the initiative with the hand of God upon Him. Had God now brought the man to the pearl, he would not desire it, but seeing the pearl, he desires it on his own, understanding that he doesn’t possess it, but he must. All this is laid out according to God’s eternal plan of the man owning the pearl, but our actions and motivations are not insignificant to God, because the goal of the pearl is falling in love with the pearl’s merchant. The truth is in the journey as much as the destination.

62 Bob Hadley February 15, 2012 at 3:42 pm

There really is not much to say about my comment; it is certainly not my philosophy since I am not a Calvinist. Personally I find Bruce’s comment and concluding statement, “it is mainly based upon the incomprehensible value of the object discovered” rather odd in and of itself. I guess I missed something there.

I was sort of being a little tongue and cheek in my response in the first place. It was a play on determinism that I see in calvinism, not my own theological position.

So, Bruce, you are most certainly correct, that will not preach, at least for me!

><>”

63 Bruce H. February 15, 2012 at 4:20 pm

Bob,

I had a feeling there was a little tongue in cheek there. It is tough for me to convey my thoughts like you guys. I didn’t have good English teachers and wasn’t a good English student, either.

Maybe if I said, “If I was thinking about buying a foreclosed house that no one lived in and went into the attic and found an over sized suitcase packed full of $100 bills I would hide it under the insulation and my will to purchase the house wouldn’t be on the price, style or location but how all that money affected me.” I think it is the affect of the money that causes one to sell all he has to obtain the incomprehensible value of the suitcase. Jesus is the Pearl of Great Price and He was full of grace and truth. That, to me, is what becomes incomprehensibly valuable to make me respond to the call of Christ through the Holy Spirit. Calvinist call that Irresistible Grace, I guess. I only have my salvation experience to go by, like we all do, and that seems to fit for me.

64 Bob Hadley February 15, 2012 at 4:29 pm

OK. Here is where I agree with you. The problem is that I believe God’s love for me demonstrated at Calvary is indeed what makes Him One who can be loved; as a result of that and the convicting work of the Holy Spirit in my heart, I understand that I am a sinner and there is great value in turning to Christ so I place my trust in the promises of God and He hears my prayer and forgives my sin and the Holy Spirit takes up residence in my heart and I am now part of His forever family: I am an heir of God and a joint heir with Jesus!

That is how I would describe the following statement that you made: “That, to me, is what becomes incomprehensibly valuable to make me respond to the call of Christ through the Holy Spirit.” That was my experience.

The problem is that would be a very liberal or loose explanation of what Calvinists see as “irresistible grace” as you indicate in your next comment. My illustration ealier about the pearl would be much more correct where irresitible grace would be concerned. God did it THEN you did it. I simply cannot go there.

Here is a question that puzzles me with irresistible grace… why would Jesus say that it is harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to go to heaven, if irresistible grace were true?

Anyone have an idea on that one???

><>”

65 Bruce H. February 15, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Bob,

It may be how Jesus was defining a “rich man”. The rich young ruler couldn’t grasp the concept of total commitment or works. The poor are rich in faith, but not all poor are rich in faith. Maybe just the poor defined as Christians. Matthew was a tax collector and possibly had great or good wealth. Either way, he followed Jesus and the rich young ruler didn’t. I have read about “common” grace and “irresistible” grace in Calvinism. It seems that both can bring a person to salvation. John 6:37 says, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me (irresistible grace), and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out (common grace). It is “hard” for a rich man to go to heaven, maybe not “impossible”.

66 Bob Hadley February 15, 2012 at 6:26 pm

The rich young ruler went away sorrowful (according to the tenets of Calvinism) because he was was not effectually called. Period. He is totally depraved. He is dead. He cannot not sin. He cannot follow Jesus unless God graces him with regeneration and then nothing he has will keep him from coming to Jesus.

So… once again, given the fallacy of irresistible grace, Jesus statement about the camel and the rich man makes no real sense. If he is regenerated by God… there is NO difficulty. Riches have absolutely nothing to do with it.

This is but one example of why I personally do not believe IG is a Biblically sound principle.

><>”

67 Les February 15, 2012 at 6:40 pm

Bob, the rich man and the camel. It was hyperbole. Simple. Jesus is demonstrating the utter impossibility for man to effect his own salvation.

But keep reading.

“And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:26-27 ESV)

“The rich young ruler went away sorrowful (according to the tenets of Calvinism) because he was was not effectually called.”

No the immediate reason he went away sorrowful is that he was exposed as loving possessions more than God and he refused to repent. That he was not effectually called is also true at that time. Sort of like I was “generally” called numerous over many ears as I heard the gospel and called to repent and believe. But I was not effectually called to later.

“He is totally depraved. He is dead. He cannot not sin. He cannot follow Jesus unless God graces him with regeneration and then nothing he has will keep him from coming to Jesus.”

Totally depraved, agree. Dead? Yes, spiritually. We can assume he was physically alive because he listened and then walked away. Cannot sin? Where did you get that? Cannot follow Jesus? Will not!

68 dr. james willingham February 15, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Understanding is a difficult matter, a matter of great difficulty. Why? Because one must be taught of God in order to truly understand and respond as intended. Jesus said it so well: “Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unot them that are wihtou, all these things are done in parables: That seing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; least at any time they should be converted.”(Mk.4:11,12). Embracing the impossible is the path to victory, to salvation, to deliverance. How does one do such a thing, when it is clearly impossible. Like the man who cried, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief (his very belief was unbelief).” The intellectual depths of what we deal with in the Sovereign Grace of the Gospel is of such nature as to challenge us to a life long thinking and laboring for the glory of Christ Jesus our Lord. The spiritual depths follow upon comprehension (that is in our appreciation of such). For 54 years, two months and 8 days I have been thinking about these truths, and these truths have changed the way I think. Like William Carey and John Newton, I can appreciate the idea of how wretched and miserable a worm I am. It sure puts a hitch in the get-along of one’s arrogance. The changes that are now occurring are, I trust, in answer to prayers for the Third Great Awakening. The only one who really controls the process, the participants, and the precepts of such a visitation is the Sovereign Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will bring down and lift up. He will set the beggar on the dung hill on the throne, a truly humbling experience, one that leaves the person with no reason for pride in self or position. It is in the depths of so-called calvinism, really, Sovereign Grace, that one finds the greatest reasons for meditating in depth and responding with an all-consuming, overwhelming, incredibly intense devotion and zeal for His triumph, wanting to have it in the only way possible, the right way, in victories honestly and ethically won by truth, by living out with zeal and tenderness and gentleness the life that God ordains for His servants. Brethren and Sisters, we are going to win the whole earth beginning with one generation (hopefully this one) and continuing for a thousand generations and reaching perhaps thousands of planets as mankind spreads to the stars (God permitting). Our prayers must be enlarged, intensified, and Christ-exalting, willing that any one should lead. Shall we pray?

69 Jack Wolford February 15, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Hate is a strong word . The world only has so many Calvinists that can spend if not all day long , at least most of the week worrying about it. They are usually people employed by some religious ” entity”. Most that belong to churches attend a couple times on Sunday , maybe once during the week and volunteer with a church group. In this church group there are people that really can and do have an effect on the Hershey Company’s brutalizing children on cocoa farms in Africa , children in China with a carpel tunnel syndrome so bad from making electronics their hands are permanently deformed – all this in just today’s news . If you live in our Country your biggest concern could be you have lost your automobile related job in Michigan or Wisconsin or be a teacher etc. in many States that are out of work. It might be our church members play a part in the Immigration snafu that has businesses shutting down , children who are citizens who have been left here with no parents , crops rotting creating acres of garbage & flys or are influencing successfully the Courts of several States to change these laws that were not well thought out. Just look at the Names of the Cabinets in the U.S. Government – like Agriculture , Transportation , Homeland Security etc., etc., at which our church members are employed 24 hours a day . My point is simply that you would have us who are the majority concentrate on your concern of Calvinism to the detriment of all else . It’s O.K. when you discuss among yourselves ; but , when people rebel – almost an entire denomination you call it “hate” . That’s not fair . I think some of you are narrow minded in what this world is about and the challenges it has . I would expect that in students in seminaries and church employees but not of our population as a whole . People do have other responsibilities every day to survive and don’t want to be the brunt or blame of any group – minority/majority/ social / whatever. The SBC is in trouble now because they have tried to recover from the current climate by appealing only to select groups. Now you feel ” ignored , hated and are upset every day complaining about it – even while not much is done to prevent church employees from molesting our children and members which is also in todays news. None of this leads to a Godly solution that will involve mostly everybody – in my humble opinion and unless you absolutely know different .

70 Dan Barnes February 15, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Jack, I am not seeing how your post relates to the topic at hand.

71 Bill Lonas February 15, 2012 at 3:29 pm

Jack,

Just exactly how does..

1 – reversing the Hershey Company’s child labor practices in Africa
2 – reversing adolescent carpel-tunnel syndrome in China
3 – fixing the immigration ‘snafu’ in America
4 – the rotting crops problem
5 – overturning State and/or federal laws

..have ANYTHING at all to do with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the purpose of the church?

If the church is busy about doing those things to the detriment of biblical truth then I think that explains the mess she is in.

72 Christiane February 15, 2012 at 3:44 pm

Hi BILL LOMAS,

may I suggest that there is no evil in our world for which the Gospel of Our Lord is not an answer?

73 Christiane February 15, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Can Christian people see the misery around them and not respond in compassion ? I ask this because it is Our Lord to Whom we stand witness, and Whose Way we follow, and He entered into our world to share in our own sufferings.

So if we would bear witness to Him, we can remember that He was a man of sorrows and felt compassion for others, and was profoundly acquainted with human suffering. because HE chose to enter into it for our sake.
Then, so must we follow in His Example, so that people can come to know Him through us.

74 Bill Lonas February 15, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Hi Christiane,

“may I suggest that there is no evil in our world for which the Gospel of Our Lord is not an answer?”

Sure, the Gospel is THE answer. That’s my whole point.

Christ came to die a substitutionary death for sinners. He did not come to correct child labor laws, fix the ozone layer or enforce immigration laws.

The church is His body, His bride. We are His ambassadors who are pleading with people to be reconciled to God.

The church is the ‘pillar and ground of truth’ (1 Tim. 3:15). The church’s primary function is not to try and make the world a better place but to plead with sinners to be reconciled to God.

Should we speak out against immorality and ungodliness? Of course we should, because Christ is morally pure and perfect AND He calls His people to be so as well.

Should we reach out in tangible ways to help those in need? Of course we should because Christ says we are to love our neighbors as ourselves.

The Bible is clear. Our world is not getting better, but worse. It will continue to get worse and wickedness and deception will continue to rise until Christ Himself returns to reign.

We are not on a savable planet, but rather on a sinking ship. Too often, the church is attempting to mend a broken leg.

Meanwhile the person is bleeding from the jugular vein.

75 Jack Wolford February 15, 2012 at 8:36 pm

Bill Lomas – on post #65 – ” Christ came to die a sustitutionary death for sinners ” Only Bill – Only . ” He did not come to correct child labor laws ” Then why do people pray to God to correct conditions ? Are they making a mistake – shouldn’t do that . Embarrassing themselves and don’t know it. I never knew all that was wrong !

76 Jack Wolford February 15, 2012 at 6:45 pm

Bill Lonas – In answer to your question on post # 55 . IF you are are trying to be leaders in the Faith – then you must try to lead in all departments as God does. To solely concentrate on one idea – Calvinism – is short changing the church and those that listen to you for however long that may be when they wonder if you are even cognisant of anything else. Intelligence encompasses a wide field of view .

77 Bill Lonas February 16, 2012 at 10:21 am

Jack, I am afraid I have offended you by my post. Hindsight being what it is I see now that my comment #67 seemed a bit harsh. It was not intended to be a personal attack on you in any way. I am deeply sorry and ask for your forgiveness.

I thought my last paragraph summed it up nicely, but I should have been clearer:

“If the church is busy about doing those things to the detriment of biblical truth then I think that explains the mess she is in.”
My point is that there is a growing attitude within the church (not such the SBC either) to forsake doctrinal truth for the sake of ‘loving people for Jesus’. I mean, who cares if someone denies the deity of Christ, there’s people living in sub-standard housing! Let’s forget our differences, partner beside them and solve society’s ills.
All in the name of Jesus.
Except there’s over a dozen different men named Jesus being proliferated around out there. Let’s see, there is:
-the Jesus that wants you to be rich
-the ‘hippie’ Jesus that just loves everybody
-the ‘sissy’ Jesus who desperately needs us in order to accomplish his agenda
-the ‘Rodney King’ Jesus who just wants everyone to ‘get along’
-the ‘mommas boy’ Jesus that can only be accessed through intercession with Mary
-the ‘half-brother of Lucifer’ Jesus that is the offspring of a god-man from the planet Kolob
-the ‘prophet’ Jesus that will come back and be Mohammed’s right-hand man to set up an Islamic caliphate
-the Jesus who just might be God but He sure did lie a lot about Hell

And so on….

As for your comment # 72. I couldn’t agree more – that’s why I try and teach the whole counsel of God. Are you implying I am not OR just making a general observation?

78 Jack Wolford February 16, 2012 at 5:22 pm

Bill Lonas post # 75 – First , unless my name is spelled out there is no personal attack ever and particularly if they are over 65 years old and possibly senile much like c b something or other. Mine were only general observations which I won’t repeat in entirety ;but , I couldn’t make it through a day much less life limiting my thoughts to only one area . I was trying to say that a well rounded person in whatever job can better relate to people – attract more friends and get more done and have more fun doing it . Thanx for the reply.

79 John Wylie February 15, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Dan,

I always appreciate your articles, but I would like to throw out another thought, could it be possible that Calvinists also don’t understand Noncalvinism? I am generally supportive of my Calvinist brothers, but if there is one thing that bugs me it’s the arrogance that some of them put off toward Noncalvinists. Could it be that we basically understand each other’s postions we just disagree?

80 Bill Mac February 15, 2012 at 2:53 pm

John: I’m not totally disagreeing, I just want to point out that I suspect most SBC Calvinists spent much, if not most of their Christian life as non-Calvinists, and not vice versa. So it is possible that we understand both sides better. Maybe not.

81 John Wylie February 15, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Bill Mac,

I must admit that you have a great point there.

82 Dan Barnes February 15, 2012 at 3:32 pm

I agree Bill, I was the non-Calvinist until the last 7 or so years. When I was first asked about it, I was a young missionary serving in a small church as Intrium, and I didn’t even know what a Calvinist was. I believed in Eternal Security and that man was totally depraved, I knew the Bible talked about predestination, but I didn’t deal with it. I was a solid 2.5 point, unaware Southern Baptist and had no concept of Calvinism. I have since read the Institutes.

83 Bill Mac February 15, 2012 at 2:51 pm

It seems to me that the dilemma is this: Can God accomplish what He wishes while leaving man with the freedom of choice? Calvinists obviously say yes. Non-Calvinists, I think, say no. I say I think because I don’t want to mischaracterize what non-Calvinists believe.

A related question is this: Is man’s will inviolate? Is it off limits, even to God? Calvinists say no. Non-Calvinists, I think, say yes, that God will never interfere with a human’s will.

Calvinists acknowledge man’s choice in coming to Christ, but that his choice is made possible by God’s act of turning his will. Non-Calvinists, I think, say no, that’s off limits.

84 John Wylie February 15, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Bill Mac,

Your post demonstrates that the misunderstanding that I mentioned above is on both sides of the fence. The problem with any discussion like this the fact that there are different degrees of Calvinism and for that matter Noncalvinism. I have Calvinist friends who would disagree totally with your first paragraph, they don’t believe that man’s choice plays a role whatsoever. You have some who believe in regeneration resulting in faith and some who believe in faith resulting in regeneration.

Further, as a Noncalvinist I do believe that God interferes with human will. We pray all the time for God to open people’s hearts, to soften their heart, to make them receptive to the Gospel.

85 Bill Mac February 15, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Further, as a Noncalvinist I do believe that God interferes with human will. We pray all the time for God to open people’s hearts, to soften their heart, to make them receptive to the Gospel.

John: I may just be a lousy Calvinist, but the paragraph above is pretty much my understanding of regeneration, leading to faith.

As to man’s choice playing no role, I don’t see how you can have Romans 10:9,10 without an exercise of man’s will. No mentally competent person is saved without a choice to trust Christ. If any Calvinist thinks otherwise, they may well be a hyper.

It may be that they mean that man’s choice is not the primary factor in salvation, with God being reactive.

86 John Wylie February 15, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Bill Mac,

I always enjoy conversing with you, because you always have very thoughtful responses. I personally hold that faith results in regeneration. I don’t believe God convicting the heart is a regeneration, I believe that regeneration and the new birth are the same thing. I personally hold to a type of prevenient grace and that when the Holy Spirit shows a person their need for salvation that person has been granted a divine prerogative to either accept or reject. I believe that the general call (invitation) carries with it the ability to accept or reject.

87 John Wylie February 15, 2012 at 3:36 pm

I know this is going to sound crazy but I think that these discussions are difficult because we try to analyze salvation as flawed men, when salvation comes from an incomprehensible God. Here’s the crazy thing: I believe that Arminians and Calvinists are both half right.

88 Bruce H. February 15, 2012 at 3:47 pm

John,

Being half right or one-sided may place God on the level of man; explainable. If both had full credibility and both existed; incomprehensible. I lean that way.

89 John Wylie February 15, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Bruce H.,

I’m sorry I didn’t understand your comment. What do you mean? I’m sorry I’m a little slow on the up take.

90 Bruce H. February 15, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Sorry, John.

It takes much more space to explain what I wanted to say and I didn’t take the time to detail it.

Basically, the points on both sides conflict with each other. Both have scriptural support and both have much credibility. I agree with the “weaving” concept which would allow both to exist where both have full scriptural support. Many say marriage is a 50/50 relationship but in reality it is suppose to be a 100/100 relationship. That is the best way for a marriage to work. I see the same in the Arminians and Calvinists controversy. Instead of 50/50 it would be more incomprehensible to say 100/100 for it to be God. I know it will not be 100/100 but neither will it be 50/50. God cannot be described properly in words using earthly symbols. If so, He would be on the level of super human rather than God. He is so much more that the finite can expound upon. I think I understand where you were going, I just wanted to extend it a little more. Hope that helps.

91 John Wylie February 15, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Wow I couldn’t agree more. The problem I’ve always have had with this whole debate is that both sides have passages that prove their side of the equation. I believe that God sovereignly offers the gift of salvation, a gift that only He could initiate and facilitate. I also belive because God has initiated this relationship of salvation with mankind, everyone who comes into contact with the Gospel has been given a Divinely given prerogative to accept or reject. Further, I don’t believe that accepting an invitation is a work or anything to boast about.

92 Bill Mac February 15, 2012 at 4:25 pm

My movement to Calvinist was borne out of frustration that friends and family were not Christians and somehow it was my fault. If I prayed harder, witnessed longer, faster, better, etc. That if they died without trusting Christ, their eternity would be upon me. I understand that that is not non-Calvinist doctrine, but something very close to that is taught (or implied) in churches. My friend Michael Spencer called it “wretched urgency.”

When I realized that they would not come to Christ without a change of heart, and that change of heart had nothing to do with the quality/frequency of my evangelistic efforts, that was amazingly liberating. Sharing faith is my job. Changing hearts is God’s.

93 Jeff Meyer February 15, 2012 at 3:22 pm

I REALLY don’t want to derail this, but this statement:

“We pray all the time for God to open people’s hearts, to soften their heart, to make them receptive to the Gospel.”

is very interesting to me.

Can God answer that prayer by actually opening the heart in such a way that there is no way the person will not come to Christ? That’s a distinctively Calvinist thought.

Or can God open a person’s heart and yet that person will still not come to Christ? In that case, what is the effect of opening or softening? What’s the point? Does God know exactly how far He would need to open or soften a heart for the person to absolutely understand or be 100% convicted and stop just short?

I fully admit, evidently I really don’t understand the concepts of “opening” and “softening” in the context of “nonCalvinism.” I’m not trying to be snarky, I really want to know how you work through those thoughts.

Thanks!
Jeff.

94 Dan Barnes February 15, 2012 at 3:35 pm

It gets really fun when we consider the fact that God is not limited in time, so our prayers for someone’s salvation can have an effect on their status as elect at the foundation of the world, because time is only an issue for us.

Once you throw the limits of time out the window, election and predestination don’t matter. If salvation is God’s work and He does the saving, it only matters to us “WHEN” He made that choice. To God, there is no “WHEN”, cause He is eternal. Prayer moves time. Trippy huh.

95 Christiane February 15, 2012 at 4:23 pm

what is even more ‘trippy’ is that every human being possesses an immortal soul, and this thought was beautifully expressed by St. Monica to her son, Augustine:

“our life is just a shell . . . fragile, temporary . . .
but there is something that lives within us that
is NOT fragile, it is NOT temporary . . .
we are already living an eternal life, my son.”

96 Jeff Meyer February 15, 2012 at 4:27 pm

So, can I pray that God prevents Adam from eating the fruit from the tree? :)

Or maybe that my friend who died hating Jesus would be counted among the elect?

So, God has a plan to save my great-great-great-great-grandpa, but His plan is to use my prayer hundreds of years after he dies to set his elect status at the beginning of the universe?

That sounds like a strange bit of logic to my simple mind.

97 Jeff Meyer February 15, 2012 at 4:37 pm

Sorry, just had another thought – so, if my GGGGGrandpa is elect, and God’s plan all along was to use my prayer 500 years later to set his elect flag at the foundation of the world, my GGGGGrandpa was living the life of an elect person even though the means had not happened yet.

Flash forward – am I elect because of prayers of people who aren’t even alive yet and who won’t live for thousands of years?

Sorry – I don’t buy that. :)

98 Jeff Meyer February 15, 2012 at 4:49 pm

Sheesh – one more and I’ll stop. I promise.

Given your belief, do you practice praying for the dead? Should I be praying for all my friends and relatives who have died? Should I be praying for Judas’ eternal soul?

That sounds REALLY Catholic. Wait, that IS REALLY Catholic.

99 Greg Buchanan February 15, 2012 at 4:50 pm

This line of thought is why Faith in a Sovereign God is easier and preferable to a discussion on temporal mechanics, with or with out the math.

100 Dan Barnes February 15, 2012 at 6:21 pm

Jeff, you can pray all you want, but God can still (and often does) say no, especially when you are making extreme, semi-radical and ridicules requests to make a point. The other side is to say “no, God can’t. . . “. You pick.

101 Jeff Meyer February 15, 2012 at 7:13 pm

Hey Dan,

I honestly wasn’t trying to be snarky, and I do understand that we can pray anything we want but God sometimes says “no.”

The thoughts running through my head were “how does the fact that God exists outside of time affect my prayers?”

I could have completely misunderstood you, were you saying that prayers for people today affect their election in the past or that praying for people in the past affects their election in the past?

I was assuming the latter – if that is not what you were saying, please strike those three posts of mine as the ramblings of a blathering idiot.

102 Bruce H. February 15, 2012 at 3:53 pm

Consider reading the prayer of Jesus for all believers in the future in John 17:20-26

“I do not pray for these alone (the disciples), but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, [are] in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare [it], that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”

Is His prayer being answered?

103 Jeff Meyer February 15, 2012 at 5:09 pm

I absolutely believe that prayer is being answered, but I must be missing something. What does Jesus’ prayer have to do with the question? (Again, not trying to be snarky, I’m genuinely missing something.)

Are you talking about all the “may” and “might” words in there?

104 Christiane February 15, 2012 at 5:19 pm

JEFF, His prayer IS our prayer . . .

105 Bruce H. February 15, 2012 at 5:40 pm

Jeff,

There is a difference when we pray and when Jesus prays. In Romans 8:26,27 it says, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us [fn] with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit [is], because He makes intercession for the saints according to [the will of] God.”

Your comments seem silly according to this scripture. If you are trying to make fun of God’s sovereignty because you have an issue with Calvinism you should be very careful with your questions. I placed the prayer of Jesus there for you to look at and see that even His prayer is not answered each year throughout history. There is division within the church, but not all. It seems to me that Jesus is where His prayer is answered not in our silly concepts.

106 Jeff Meyer February 15, 2012 at 5:52 pm

Bruce – I think you missed something – I don’t have any issue at all with Calvinism. In fact, I’d place myself firmly in the “5 or more points” camp.

My barrage of questions was solely related to the idea of praying now to change/affect things in the past.

For the record, I pray all the time that God would save specific people. That He would do what only He can do and sovereignly, powerfully, raise them from spiritual death to spiritual life. I fully believe that nobody will seek God on their own, ever, unless God first breathes life into their dead spirit.

That is the perspective my question came from – basically if you don’t believe that, then how do you expect God to answer a prayer that someone be saved?

I was questioning “nonCalvinism”, not Calvinism.

107 Bruce H. February 15, 2012 at 5:57 pm

Thanks for the clarification, Jeff. I “feel” better. :-)

108 cb scott February 15, 2012 at 6:00 pm

“Bruce – I think you missed something…”

Now that is an understatement!

109 Dan Barnes February 15, 2012 at 6:23 pm

You don’t get it Jeff. I was speaking of prayer in relation to election. If someone is elect, yet we are commanded to pray for the salvation of people, would it not then make rational sense that our prayers have an effect, otherwise why be commanded to pray? If our prayers have effect on election, when does election happen? Can God change election before the foundation of the world? It doesn’t have anything to do with prayers travelling back in time and changing the past. I am not sure how you even came to that point.

110 Jeff Meyer February 15, 2012 at 7:17 pm

Dan – I get it now. I completely misread your post. Funny story – I saw it through the lens of “changing things in the past” because I had that conversation just about a month ago with someone.

Sorry about that – I *think* I am on the same page as you – God elected everyone who would ever be saved “from the foundations of the world”. We are commanded to pray for others. Those are the means by which God saves people. He elects the people and the means by which those people come to faith.

My mind was set on the idea that somehow, my election was set by people 1000 years from now praying for me. I still don’t think that’s the way it is, but I have no problem saying that God ordained my salvation through the prayers of my friends who I know were praying for me before I was saved.

I am truly sorry for misunderstanding. I’ll read more carefully next time.

111 Dan Barnes February 15, 2012 at 7:24 pm

We are on the same page Jeff.

112 Bill Mac February 15, 2012 at 4:24 pm

This is the problem I have as well. A partial softening just doesn’t make sense to me.

This is the bottom line for me, whatever label you want to put on it: God gets what He wants. I don’t think He tries and I don’t think He fails. So I don’t think He is trying to save people and failing to get through to them. I don’t think there are people in hell who would have come to Christ if only they had lived a little longer or been witnessed to a little more. Maybe I’m wrong about that.

113 John Wylie February 15, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Not trying to be argumentative, but did God get what he wanted when Satan fell? How about when Adam and Eve fell? Does God get what He wants when anyone is damned? I personally don’t believe He did. Ezek. 33:11; 1 Tim. 2:4

114 Jeff Meyer February 15, 2012 at 5:42 pm

John -

Also not trying to be argumentative, but “yes”, “yes”, and “yes”.

Proverbs 16:4:

(ESV) The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.

(NIV) The LORD works out everything for his own ends–even the wicked for a day of disaster.

(NASB) The LORD has made everything for its own purpose, Even the wicked for the day of evil.

Yes, even the wicked fulfill a purpose. Satan fulfills God’s purposes, Pharaoh fulfilled God’s purpose.

Heck, even Judas:

John 13:27 (ESV) Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”

Genesis 50:20 (ESV) As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

Yes, god has good ends for evil means. And note – it does not say “You meant it for evil and God used it for good.” God meant for Joseph to be sold into slavery, and he meant it for good. But He brought it about by the evil intentions of the hearts of his brothers.

Very much like the King of Assyria in Isaiah 10.

And yes, God always gets his way:

Isaiah 14:27 (ESV) For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?

115 Jim G. February 15, 2012 at 5:49 pm

Jeff,

Aren’t you breaking some hermeneutical rules for proverbs? I mean, if you take Proverbs 16:4 to be absolutely propositionally true, don’t you need to do the same with Prov 22:6 and make it universally true that every child raised up in a loving home grows up to be a wonderful man/woman?

Calvin did the same thing.

Jim G.

116 John Wylie February 15, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Jeff,

With all due respect, the Ezekiel passage I listed above clearly says that God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked but His desire is for the wicked to repent and believe. The 1 Timothy passage says that it’s God desire for all mankind to be saved and yet many won’t be saved.

117 Dan Barnes February 15, 2012 at 6:30 pm

God temporally doesn’t delight in the death of the wicked, because of his relationship. Romans 9 tells us He created the wicked and will destroy them for His purposes.

Best example. I Samuel 15:11, God says “i regret that I made Saul King”. I Samuel 15:29 “Ant also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for hi is not a man, that he should have regret.” I Samuel 15:35b “And the LORD regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.”

God’s temporal, in time, relational nature regrets that Saul who he loves is rejected. God is grieved when His created is destroyed, yet in His eternal nature, He does not regret, He does not change. We can’t interact with the eternal nature, we interact with the temporal nature.

So disagree with me in a way that doesn’t cause scripture to contradict itself.

118 John Wylie February 15, 2012 at 6:41 pm

Dan,

I thought you gave a pretty good answer to my question. But, I trust that your last statement was not designed to offend. Because although your answer was great and well informed and all that, there is actually not a passage that I know of (that’s not to say it doesn’t exist) that teaches that God is different temporally than He is eternally. I believe that God doesn’t ever take pleasure in the death of the wicked and that He desires all mankind to be saved.

119 Dan Barnes February 15, 2012 at 6:50 pm

I never said he took pleasure. Romans 9 says they were created to demonstrate His nature, and Pharaoh was raised up for His purposes. Not pleasure.

There is no verse in the Bible that says man chooses salvation either, but somehow we come to that conclusion. Says nothing about a “personal relationship” and the alter call is not a Biblical idea. We either read the scripture and come to an understanding of the truth, or we simply ONLY use scripture, and toss out any any inference. Can’t have both.

120 John Wylie February 15, 2012 at 6:57 pm

Dan read your first sentence in your original reply to my comment. You basically said that God not delighting in the death of the wicked is simply temporal, and then you contrasted how God relates to these things temporally versus eternally. You have to admit that whether you intended to or not there is an implication that God does take pleasure in the death of the wicked in his eternality. If not than what was the whole point of your response?

121 Dan Barnes February 15, 2012 at 7:26 pm

Sorry, not my intention. I am not sure I would attribute things like delight to the eternal nature of God, I’ll have to think through that one.

122 Bill Mac February 15, 2012 at 9:23 pm

“Not trying to be argumentative, but did God get what he wanted when Satan fell? How about when Adam and Eve fell? “

John: Hard questions I know, but if one accepts God’s complete foreknowledge, then God knew how Satan, humans, creation, etc, would end up before he did the first act of creation. And yet he went ahead with it. So in ways we cannot imagine, it must have seemed, even in light of Satan and humanity’s rebellion, the best course of action.

These are not questions that are trouble only for Calvinists. All orthodox Christians must affirm that God creates untold numbers of people whom he knows will not come to him, and are destined for an eternity separate from him. Only the heresy of Open Theism escapes that dilemma (while opening a thousand more).

123 John Wylie February 15, 2012 at 9:51 pm

Bill Mac,

I agree with the dilemma that you speak of. However, personally I have less of a problem with a God who allows these things than with one who wills them. I just can’t see how an ardent Calvinist can deny God being the author of sin and double predestinarianism, to me they are both logical conclusions of that theological framework. By the way, I’m not accusing all Calvinists of esousing those things I’m just saying it seems to be a logical conclusion.

124 Bill Mac February 15, 2012 at 10:11 pm

I guess it depends on how we are using the word “will.”

If I know my actions are going to have a certain bad result, and I go forward with the action, then in a certain sense that bad thing is my will, in that I thought it better for that bad thing to happen than for me not to have performed that initial action.

I hate to fall into typical Calvin-speak and start talking about decretive will vs moral will, but there is some sense to it.

Honestly I think the word “allow” is a bit of a cop out, especially when applied to God. Let’s say I concede that Satan is the author of sin. Well, God is the author of Satan. What is more, God was the author of Satan knowing that Satan would be the author of sin. God did not hope Satan would not sin, any more than he hoped Adam would not sin. God doesn’t hope for anything.

If you allow people to die in a fire, while it was in your power to save them, is it any comfort that you didn’t set the fire in the first place?

125 Jim G. February 15, 2012 at 4:27 pm

Hi Bill,

Now hold on just a cotton pickin’ minute…just kidding.

The only two groups of non-Calvinists who believe human free will is inviolable are Pelagians and (maybe) open theists. I’m not sure all open theists would say human will is always inviolable.

EVERY other sub-species in the non-Calvinist pot would not so enthrone human free will. Even Arminius was a disciple of Beza, you know.

I continue to be amazed at how much ignorance there is among SBC Calvinists over theologically-sophisticated rejections of Calvinism. For most theologically-astute non-Calvinists, human free will is not the big issue – never was, and never will be.

The real issue is the character of God. Human free will is only a by-product of the real discussion. Full-blown, Institutes- and Westminster-related 5-point Calvinism is a direct assault on what non-Calvinists see as the essential character of God – his goodness and trustworthiness.

Whether one agrees that Calvinism denigrates the character of God is a matter of opinion and debate. But I would say the vast majority of sophisticated rejections of Calvinism are on those grounds.

Jim G.

126 Bill Lonas February 15, 2012 at 5:18 pm

So, exactly how is Calvinism a ‘direct assault on what non-Calvinists see as the essential character of God – his goodness and trustworthiness.’ ?

127 Jim G. February 15, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Hi Bill,

Short answers to a complicated issue-

Unconditional election to reprobation
His fore-ordination of all sin
The breach between the revealed and hidden will of God
Saying Satan as the enemy when he is foreordained to be so
Our inability to live life as if strict determinism were true

That’s enough to start us off. You may not agree with these things, but I don’t think it is too hard to see that some would.

Jim G.

128 Bill Lonas February 15, 2012 at 6:03 pm

Thanks Jim.

I understand those points. However, instead of diminishing God’s ‘goodness and trustworthiness’ maybe it’s illuminating His majesty and power?

Isn’t this exactly what Paul points out in Romans 9:22-24?

“What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?”

Same example with Christ. The woman caught in adultery could have been legally stoned by Jesus as an example – He could have easily thrown the first stone. But He didn’t. Did His grace diminish His holiness at all?

129 Jim G. February 15, 2012 at 6:12 pm

Hi Bill,

As I said above, you may not agree with these things, but I don’t think it is too hard to see that some would.

Remember, there are two great streams of traditions in the history of Christianity. Augustinianism/Calvinism is one. The (for lack of a better word) free-will tradition is another. They exist side-by-side throughout Christian history.

Jim G.

130 Les February 15, 2012 at 6:16 pm

Jim et al,

Maybe related to these and other questions is Geoff Thomas, Baptist pastor in Great Britain, and a sermon he gave on Deut. 29.29. Among other things he said,

The revelation we have is in the Bible and it is one which is full of profundities. It plumbs the depths, and it reaches the heavens. It stretches the human intellect and in many ways it informs fully the human mind, and it informs it to the utmost of its capacity. Yet it is also possible to stand before that revelation and ask it questions which it is not in a position to answer. It is, on the one hand, a comprehensive revelation, adequate for all God’s purposes, adequate for our salvation and adequate for our being conformed to the image of Christ, and yet it is not an exhaustive revelation. It doesn’t tell us everything about God. It doesn’t answer even all those questions which we are able to formulate. And even as we say that we know that there must be many questions which we cannot even formulate. Now a great lesson stands behind this text. It tells us above all that we men and women possess a true and reliable divine revelation, and that it is an adequate revelation for all we need during our lives. We know that the wages of sin is death. We know that the Bible can fully equip us for all the good works we are required to do during our lives. Yet Moses also tells us that that revelation from God has its limitations; there are secret things that God chooses not to reveal to us now, either temporarily, until the new heavens and earth or perhaps for eternity. Let me remind you of the secret things which belong to the Lord. Knowing about them will save us from worry, frustration and needless speculation.

Now I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t discuss these things re Calvinism/Non-Calvinism. Not at all. But Pastor Thomas reminds us that at some level there are things we will not be able to know, as in some of the things in the list above.

Next I will quote part of the same sermon on knowing whether one is elect or not, including a powerful Calvinists’ gospel appeal. Might Cs and NCs agree with how he presents the gospel? We’ll see.

131 Les February 15, 2012 at 6:19 pm

Pastor Thomas on “WHETHER GOD HAS CHOSEN US IN ETERNITY TO BE HIS CHILDREN IS HIDDEN FROM US UNTIL WE TRUST IN HIM”

Some people get so perplexed over the question, ‘Am I elect? Has God chosen me? Am I numbered amongst that great company which is as vast as the grains of sand on a beach?’ Sometimes people have become very interested in the gospel and are on the threshold of faith pondering whether to follow Jesus and then they start to say, ‘But what if God has not chosen me? Have I got any right to come to Christ?’ They get tormented by this question, ‘Am I elect?’

There is no way before you put your trust in Jesus Christ that you or any single person can know whether he’s a believer, or that he’d been numbered amongst the elect. We cannot look into the Lamb’s Book of Life and see if our names are recorded there. It is a totally inaccessible list. We cannot look into the depths of the divine heart and see whether our names are written there in marks of indelible grace. To try to look for it is a futile undertaking. We don’t know if it is there before we come to Jesus Christ, and put our trust in him. We know in saving faith, because our faith in Christ alone is the sign of our election. Or we can say it like this, that Christ is a sign of our election. If I have Christ as my Lord and Saviour, if he is my teacher, my great High Priest and my Shepherd King then and only then will I know that I am elect. If I can say from my heart, ‘I am trusting Thee Lord Jesus, trusting only Thee,’ then I can know that God chose me from before the foundation of the world. That is the order you get at the opening of the letter to the Ephesians; first, ‘Paul to the faithful in Christ Jesus’ (v.1), that is, to those whose faith is in Christ Jesus: ‘he chose us in him before the creation of the world’ (v.4), that is, to the chosen ones. You trust and then you know that, wonder of wonders, he chose you in Christ before the creation of the world.

Let me ask you what is a sinner’s warrant to come right up to Jesus Christ and trust in him as Lord and Saviour? What right do we have to receive him as our God? Do we come because we know we are elect? Did any single soul come because he knew before his conversion that he was an elect person? No. He came because he was invited to come and commanded to come. He came because there is an universal offer of God in the gospel. We came because to every sinner of mankind – to every such soul – God says ‘Come!’ All of you labouring and heavy laden, all of you stand within the orbit of God’s offer of his Son to become your Saviour. It doesn’t matter who you are. We all have all kinds of disabilities and disadvantages. We all possess all kinds of excuses. We are so sinful. We are so hypocritical. We have all left it too late. We are so unconvinced and unprepared. We are different from other people. We are unusual people. We are all willing to find some point at which by our own uniqueness we are disqualified from coming to Christ.

We have no right before God to do that. We don’t know whether we are elect. No one knows whether he is elect, but we do know that we are bidden. We do know that God is beseeching us to come to Jesus Christ. The Lord has given all men a warrant to come to him. It’s in the invitation he makes to all who labour and are heavy laden. If today you are able to understand the most elementary invitation then you respond to it. When Daddy or Mummy says to you, ‘Come here for a moment my lovely girl,’ then you can understand what they are saying, and you should honour them by obeying. You go to them. You are only 3 years of age but you know what your parents are saying and you respond to that invitation. When you start to walk to them, then they don’t say, ‘What are you doing? Who gave you the right to come to me?’ They’d never say that would they? You’d rightly be so hurt if they said that, and you’d cry and protest, ‘. . . but you asked me to come to you. I am only obeying your invitation.’ So it is when Jesus says to you, ‘Come to me,’ then he is giving you the right to come, and he is urging on you the response of obedience. So if you are so old that you know that you are a sinner, then you need a Saviour from your sins, and that Saviour says to you, ‘Come to me and I will give you rest from your convicted conscience, and rest from the burden of your guilt, and rest from having to walk through life alone. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me for I am meek and lowly of heart, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’

Maybe you have lived for long years right to old age without God, often hearing the gospel, and always saying no. I am saying that you still have the right to come to him. He has not taken it away. It is still a day of grace. His mandate, his invitation is still sincere. Come to him, just as you are. If you tarry till you’re better you will never come at all, not the righteous, sinners Jesus came to call.

I find it useful to distinguish between two great words, a Christ who is offered to all, and a salvation that is promised to believers. The two words are ‘offer’ and ‘promise.’ I do not promise salvation to everyone in this distinguished congregation today. I don’t say to every one of you, ‘I promise each one of you heaven and the fulness of joy at God’s right hand for evermore. I want to guarantee this for everyone here.’ I cannot preach that. I can say to every single one who trusts in Christ, ‘I promise you salvation. I guarantee you salvation. If you have mustard seed faith . . . if it is as fine as a spider’s thread, if it is lodged in Jesus, then I promise you that Jesus Christ keeps his word and that every one who believes in him will not perish but will have everlasting life. That is the guarantee of the gospel, no matter how immature, and how hesitant and how backslidden and inconsistent your faith might be. If it is there, and if it is in the Lord Jesus . . . if you say I shall live and die trusting in Jesus . . . then I promise you salvation.

But I don’t promise salvation to all. I offer salvation to all. I have good news for every sinner. I can go to the worst man in the town and I can say to him, ‘I have a Saviour here for you; I have a teacher who will tell you what you must do to be saved and how you should live; I have a great high priest whose atoning blood can make the foulest clean, who ever lives to make intercession for us; I have a Shepherd here who will guide and provide for you all through your life and will not leave you when you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, and he is for you. I offer this full salvation to you, from condemnation to glory, an infallible and effectual salvation, an utterly free salvation to be taken without money and without price, the free offer of this divine salvation accomplished by Jesus Christ, and it is here and it is being offered to you now and to every one here. I don’t know if you’re elect, and you don’t know if you’re elect, but you know that you are called by Jesus Christ to come to him. So often you’ve had the invitations of God’s gospel and that it is a sincere and unembarrassed divine offer to every single soul. God desires you to hear and believe it and come to his Son. In that offer there is no more to find out. There is no small print that says only for those who have the tingle factor, only those who know they are elect. No. There is nothing at all like that. Then don’t let’s trifle with our soul’s salvation over the decree of election. Such a decree exists but you may not wrest it to your own destruction by demanding from God that you know first of all that he has chosen you before you will trust in his Son, because no one has ever known whether or not they are elect before they trust in Christ. Not one. What we know is this, that at this moment God’s desire is that you become his child, that you become saved from sin through the cross of his Son.

We know that we are called by God to come to Jesus, and we know that God is calling us to him now. There is nothing secret about that; it is revealed to us and to our children that we come to the Saviour as he pleads with us to come. We drop every argument now for our refusal to come, and we come just as we are. You come to him now. Every one here who is not a Christian (and you know who you are) and you come to Jesus Christ and be saved.

I wouldn’t normally put such a long quote in here, but it’s so good.

132 Jim G. February 15, 2012 at 6:30 pm

Hi Les,

I have no problems with what Pastor Thomas said in the above quote. I have a problem with people using Deut 29:29 as a pretext for partitioning the will of God (something the Deut text is not talking about) into secret and revealed components, whereby they often contradict one another while the former is deterministic. I’m not saying you are doing this, but I think it is a poor biblical pretext for such a doctrine.

Jim G.

133 Frank February 15, 2012 at 10:09 pm

Bill L, good points. When one dimension of God’s character is over-emphasized the result is always a distorted image: like His love versus His wrath.

Also, there seems to be an underlying theme in these Calvin discussions that our knowledge is somehow complete in regard to the decrees of God.

That’s a lot like the JW’s and other cults which whittle God down to a nice manageable size.

I have no problem with such discussions as long as we realize we are like a tourist standing before the Mona Lisa analyzing the skills of Leonardo.

134 Christiane February 15, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Agreed.

In my own faith, the concept of ‘the wrath of God’ is interpreted much differently than in five-point Calvinism. As is, ‘God’s justice’.
And for sure, God as the author of creating individuals so that they are designed to do wrong . . . and THEN, pay for it for all eternity . . . that ‘double-predestination’ teaching is certainly rejected as not taught by Lord Christ.

135 Dan Barnes February 15, 2012 at 7:08 pm

I am not a fan of double predestination, but how do you read Romans 9:22 and 23?

136 Chief Katie February 16, 2012 at 8:26 pm

Christiane,

The entire idea of double predestination is not something Calvinism teaches. It is a conclusion that men come to. We eschew the entire idea of of ‘equal ultimacy’.

This should help:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Sawg2PX2aI

God Bless

137 Les February 17, 2012 at 10:47 am

Chief Katie,

You stated that Calvinism does not teach double predestination (DP). That is not correct. While not all Calvinists will agree with DP, very many do. I do. Here is what I wrote over at SBC Today a few days ago,

“RC Sproul writes in an essay refuting the notion some try to maintain, i.e. single election,

“Has not God chosen from eternity not to elect some people? If so, then we have an eternal choice of non-election which we call reprobation. The inference is clear and necessary, yet some shrink from drawing it.”

John L. Girardeau writes,

“Reprobation is God’s eternal purpose, presupposing his foreknowledge of the fall of mankind into sin through their own fault, and grounded in the sovereign pleasure of his own will, not to elect to salvation certain individual men, – that is, to pass them by, and to continue them under condemnation for their sins, – in order to the glory of his justice.”

Using that definition, I’ll state that I do believe in DP or reprobation. And this is not inconsistent with the BF&M.”

In addition, The OPC, surely a Calvinist church says on their website:

The Orthodox Presbyterian Church states, in its official Confession and Catechisms, that God has chosen some out of the human race to be saved through the finished work of Christ, thus inheriting eternal life. It also acknowledges that others of the same human race are not chosen to eternal life and therefore foreordained to everlasting punishment. This teaching is clearly stated, for example, in the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter III, section 3 which says this:

By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestined unto eternal life, and others foreordained to everlasting death.
In other words, God sovereignly ordains the eternal destiny of every human being—the lost as well as the saved. This has sometimes been called “double predestination.”

More at http://www.opc.org/qa.html?question_id=229

138 Chief Katie February 17, 2012 at 11:27 am

Les,

I hear your point of view. I don’t see any reason to try to pin one theologin against another. Obviously we can’t get two Christians together that will agree completely on almost any doctrine.

So, let me rephrase. I don’t personally know anyone that teaches ‘equal ultimacy’. But we do recognize, that ultimately, that is the logical conclusion. The big difference is that God doesn’t send people to hell, they send themselves.

Arminian doctrine doesn’t really have any better conclusion. Seriously, if God is omniscient, then He knows who will accept Him and who won’t. Given this, there is no doubt that God allows people to be born, that He knows will be consigned to hell. Whether they are not elected, or whether God knows already who will not accept Him… those same people are headed for hell, and there is no doubt (at least in my mind) about it. I don’t see that one view of God is superior given the bottom line here.

139 Les February 17, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Chief Katie,

Yes, theologians differ and we could pit one against the other all day I’m sure.

One thing you said may need some expansion and clarification.

“I don’t personally know anyone that teaches ‘equal ultimacy’.”

I don’t either. Double predestination for the Calvinist is not the same as “equal ultimacy.” The OPC article I quoted above goes on to say,

“However, a careful study of the Westminster Standards will show that this is never to be understood to say—or even imply—that these are parallel to each other in some symmetrical way (as if every aspect in the one case has a corresponding aspect in the other). In the case of the elect there is a divine intervention called regeneration. This is a sovereign work of God the Holy Spirit whereby a sinner who is spiritually dead is made alive. It is this that enables a sinner to see and enter the Kingdom of God (as Jesus teaches in John 3). In other words, God works in those whom he has chosen to enable them to repent and believe. It follows that all the praise, credit and glory belongs to him alone. It does not belong to the elect sinner who repents and believes. In the case of those who are not elect, however, there is no internal work of God. It is not God who makes them evil. They already are evil. In their case the Word of God only hardens them in their sin. And it is to them alone—and not to God—that the blame therefore must belong for their final reprobation.

There is a God-decreed finality in both the predestination of the elect to eternal life and the foreordination of reprobate to condemnation. But there is no symmetry between them. It was for this very reason that the Westminster Assembly never used the Scriptural term predestination in speaking of the lost, but instead the term foreordination.”

I think that needs to be clear. RC Sproul on this says,

“Classical Reformed theology rejects the doctrine of equal ultimacy. Thought some have labeled this doctrine “hyper-Calvinism” I prefer to call it “sub-Calvinism,” or even more precisely, “anti-Calvinism.” Though Calvinism certainly holds to a kind of double predestination, it does not embrace equal ultimacy. The Reformed view makes a crucial distinction between God’s positive and negative decrees. God positively decrees the election of some and he negatively decrees the reprobation of others. The difference between positive and negative does not refer to the outcome (though the outcome indeed is either positive or negative), but to the manner by which God brings his decrees to pass in history.

God bless,

Les

140 Bruce H. February 17, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Chief Katie,

My Sunday School class is a mixed bag when it comes to Calvinism and non-Calvinism. When I was teaching the predestination issue I drew a time-line through the middle of the white board. One end of the line was identified as the “foundation of the world” and the other end was the “final judgement”. I placed a number on the right side of final judgement to represent all the saved people. On top of the time line I explained God’s “election” and below the line I explained God’s “foreknowledge” as it is defined by Arminian’s. I told them that the end result is the same, not the number of saved necessarily, but that God knows who will go to hell and He knows that from both thoughts. I told them to live out their faith in their evangelistic efforts and minister to the saved around us right now and the questions we cannot comprehend will be answered in the near future.

141 volfan007 February 15, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Hey yall, here’s what I believe with all of my heart….

http://youtu.be/AjR_A2pGPrY

Hallelujah,

David

142 D.R. Randle February 15, 2012 at 6:15 pm

David that is a terrific song – we sing it as often as we can at my Church. It was written by some wonderful, theologically sound Calvinists. Glad to see you supporting some Calvinists these days. Maybe there is a chance for cooperation between us.

143 volfan007 February 15, 2012 at 10:56 pm

DR,

I’m a Biblicist. If what’s written in a song fits the Bible,then I’m all for it. And, this is a great, worship song.

David

144 formeratheist February 15, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Man, I’m just tired of this Calvinism / anti-Calvinism debate and all the fallout, dissension and frustration from it. If we devoted as much time to evangelism and ministering to those in need as we do to this debate and blogging about it, what impact might it have? I believe all theology (Calvinism, Arminianism, etc.) is flawed. I think it is foolish for a flawed, imperfect human being to think he can totally grasp and define a perfect, holy, majestic, wonderful God completely. Maybe the Calvinist camp has some things right? Maybe the non-Calvinists have some things right? Maybe they both have some things wrong? If I can fully comprehend God, his will and his actions through a man made theology, then God is too small. Our mortal minds cannot fully grasp the grandness of God. We have the perfect, God breathed infallible word of God to reveal these things to us, but in all our messed up condition, even that confuses us sometimes. The Word is not confusing or flawed, we as humans are confused and flawed and therefore our perception is influenced by that fact.

I am not a Calvnist, anti-Calvinist, non-Calvinist, etc. etc. etc. but I am a Christian. As I ministered in jail today and listened to the devestated lives of men in my group today, nobody brought up their stance on Calvinism. They brought up the faith and doubts that they struggle with daily in their Christian lives.

Calvinism and non/anti-Calvinism are not the biggest threat to the SBC because of a systematic set of beliefs, but because they are one massive distraction from the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and our call to proclaim it to a lost and dying world. It’s not that I misunderstand Calvinism, it’s that Calvinism (and theology in general) misunderstands the totality of God’s marvel. It makes us view him one-dimensionally. I pray we wake up and unite and refuse to let this issue divide us.

Randy

145 Jeff Meyer February 15, 2012 at 5:25 pm

I respect your thoughts, but you know what – I have had the EXACT same thing said to me about saying Jesus is God. Or that the bible is true. Or any other “theology” that you preach just as much as I do.

Should we say “Man, I’m just tired of this whole ‘Jesus is God’ debate and all the fallout, dissension and frustration from it. If we devoted as much time to evangelism and ministering to those in need as we do to this debate and blogging about it, what impact might it have? I believe all theology (Arianism, Orthodox Christianity, etc.) is flawed. I think it is foolish for a flawed, imperfect human being to think he can totally grasp and define a perfect, holy, majestic, wonderful God completely.”

Some people see this debate as a way to draw closer to God. The height of arrogance is thinking we know enough about Him to stop trying to figure things out about Him, not in trying to figure Him out.

And correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think anyone on either side has ever said that they have it all figured out or that that’s even their goal. They simply believe that they have a more correct system of beliefs (yes – I said SYSTEM. Everybody has one, even you) than the other guys.

And you know what – the bible even commands us to seek the truth.

I think God calls us to wrestle and wrestle hard with these things.

But it sounds like you are suggesting that we give up seeking the truth, punt this issue, and just leave it alone.

146 Squirrel February 15, 2012 at 5:40 pm

Well said, Jeff.

147 Bill Lonas February 15, 2012 at 5:46 pm

Actually, I believe God designed for disagreement on some things within the body of Christ (I know that is very Calvinistic of me). On things other than the essential doctrines of course.

I mean, think about it, if we all absolutely agreed on every minutiae of Scripture then we would have to create a governing body to control the dissemination of that truth just that same way.

We’d have another Church of Rome.

P.S. I’m glad the Reformers didn’t ‘punt’ on their issues.

148 formeratheist February 15, 2012 at 5:47 pm

“But it sounds like you are suggesting that we give up seeking the truth, punt this issue, and just leave it alone.”

Nope, but I can see where you draw that conclusion. Thanks for responding. I guess my real hope is that we can agree to disagree on this issue (Calvinism / non-Calvinism), and move on past it. I hope that makes better sense. We serve the same Savior, yet may have different theologies. It sounds to me like no matter where we fall in this long standing debate that we all agree on evangelizing. That should be a bridge between us. I bet a presentation of the Gospel by a Calvinist sounds alot like the presentation of the Gospel by a non-Calvinist.

I feel like we get hung up on the finer points of theology and neglect the fundamental basics of what we are all called to do – Go and preach the Gospel.

Maybe I am shaped by my personal experience. I was an ardent atheist until March 31, 2002, and it was not talk about Calvinism, Arminianism or any other -ism that led me to Christ. It was the glorious Gospel message of my deplorable sin juxtaposed against the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. A Calvinist would say I was pre-destined and elected. An Arminianist would say I made a choice. Why can’t we simply say I was saved through the mystery of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 16:25-27)? I don’t understand why HE would die for ME and love ME who hated HIM. Blows my mind.

Both sides of this argument have gone over the line in their views of the other. Sure there are many moderates, but I am weary of the polarizing, dogmatic, hyper stances of both sides: Calvinists who say the Gospel is Calvinism and Calvinism is the Gospel, and non/anti-Calvinists who say Calvinists are heretics and teach doctrines of the devil.

It’s sad and unfortunate that these issues are dividing us when we have so many things we can be united on. In closing, you’ve inadvertantly extrapolated my argument to a degree I would never embrace and I hope I’ve clarified that a little for you and the other readers.

Randy

149 Frank February 15, 2012 at 5:59 pm

I don’t get that Randy is saying, “don’t seek the truth.” I just don’t (and I don’t want to put words in his mouth) think he see’s Calvin as important as Jesus.

The Bible clearly lays out the discussion of the deity of Christ. I don’t see the Calvinism/Non-Calvinism debate as equivalent, personally.

I see the Calvinism/Non-Calvinism debate as mostly artificial. I don’t know of a single text that clearly sets forth a distinctive narrative addressing the five points (four points, 3, 2, but I think maybe 1).

There are theologians who have expressed the opinion that the whole idea of systematic theology is a non-Biblical (not un-Biblical) approach to theology that is primary revealed as a narrative.

So, what I get from Randy is not “stop discussing theology,” but stop “fussing over it.” I don’t see any division being created in discussion of whether or not Jesus is God.

150 formeratheist February 15, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Wow Frank, thanks for succinctly articulating what I was trying to say. That’s it exactly.

Randy

151 Frank February 15, 2012 at 10:12 pm

Thanks for the thanks, Randy. I used call myself “formeridiot,” but some people took exception to the “former” part.

152 Fletcher February 16, 2012 at 11:42 am

Frank,

I was about to write a response, but you said it much better. Of course discussing things like the deity of Christ is important. Calvinism debate just isn’t on the same level.

And to Jeff regarding the point of people assuming they have everything figured out. While I haven;t seen anyone on here behave like that, unfortunately many of us have experienced individuals over this debate who are exactly like that. It took a few years for me to set aside my hostility towards calvinism because of that attitude. Thankfully, since then I have met others who are far more rational despite my disagreeing with them.

153 volfan007 February 15, 2012 at 5:20 pm

Maybe this is what we should focus on……

http://youtu.be/ojBca7C-d-U

Hallelujah!

David

154 Bruce H. February 15, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Great message in song. Amen.

Thanks

155 John Wylie February 15, 2012 at 5:38 pm

Actually I thought this was about the most civil discussion on the subject that we’ve had in a long time. We’ve just been sort of bouncing ideas off of each other.

156 Jeff Meyer February 15, 2012 at 5:45 pm

Agreed.

157 Jim G. February 15, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Dan,

I appreciate what you are trying to do, but do you know for a fact that “God” stands outside of time? I think that assumption can be challenged. For example, Jesus is God and is he outside of time? He has taken on human flesh and we are temporally between his ascension and second coming. Can creation (Jesus’ flesh) be timeless?

I think there is more thinking to be done here.

Jim G.

158 Dan Barnes February 15, 2012 at 7:13 pm

I explained all that Jim. Since God is in all places, it’s not much to look at God being both inside and outside time. God exists in that temporal (inside time) nature to relate to us, but created time from the outside. Eternity exists outside of time, and I think flesh is timeless, based on the fact the resurrected flesh is “incorruptible” (I Corinthians 15:54) that the moral puts on immortal. We spend eternity with God, so yes, I believe that Jesus came into time, existed in time, ascended to eternity outside of time, but still interacts with us in time, even though He is no longer limited by time. It’s the “either/or” sort of thing that I think has us in trouble. It’s not that God is either in time or out of time. God made time, God uses time, time is subject to God, not the other way around.

159 Dan Barnes February 15, 2012 at 7:15 pm

I have had lots of thinking on this, and talked to a lot of skeptics, but I need some solid Biblical reproof. I haven’t had any of that yet.

160 Bill Lonas February 15, 2012 at 6:22 pm

Well, gotta go for now. It’s Wednesday night and I get the wonderful privilege of teaching a group of 8th grade boys the Word of God.

See ya’ll in the morning!

161 Doug Hibbard February 15, 2012 at 7:12 pm

I just lost the whole discussion because I misread “Penguins” where someone wrote “Pelagian.”

Through the whole trail, I’m wondering what’s “Semi-Penguin” and where do they preach? Do they wear a tuxedo shirt/jacket and jeans in the pulpit?

Bother.

Time to go finish cooking Wednesday night supper for the church. May my brain be more useful there. We’re having fried…chicken. Yeah, chicken. Not penguin.

162 Lydia February 15, 2012 at 9:08 pm

“Same example with Christ. The woman caught in adultery could have been legally stoned by Jesus as an example – He could have easily thrown the first stone. But He didn’t. Did His grace diminish His holiness at all?”

No, He could not. Not “legally” under OT law. It takes 2 to tango, so to speak. She was not the only guilty party but the only one drug out to be judged.

163 Bill Lonas February 16, 2012 at 10:42 am

The fact that the man was not brought before Jesus does not absolve the guilt of the woman. She was ‘caught in adultery’. Quite frankly, it could have easily been the man instead brought to Jesus instead of the woman. Why they chose to bring the woman instead is not mentioned anywhere in the text.

According to Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:22 both parties were to be put to death. I agree.

Why could that not have been done separately?

Besides, I think the point being made is clear enough – even if it has to claw its way out of the hole I’m digging for it.

164 Bill Mac February 16, 2012 at 11:01 am

The Jews were not permitted to perform capital punishment under Roman rule.

165 Bill Lonas February 16, 2012 at 11:17 am

And yet they stoned Stephen anyway.

166 Bill Mac February 16, 2012 at 11:41 am

That’s true. But it wasn’t in the temple in the middle of town. And they broke the law.

167 Frank February 15, 2012 at 10:25 pm

Bill Mac said, “””If you allow people to die in a fire, while it was in your power to save them, is it any comfort that you didn’t set the fire in the first place?”””

Morally, there is no comfort whatsoever in that regard, but judicially there is a very significant different. When people try to hold God responsible for some “perceived bad thing” (and we don’t know the end of all things so that is presumptuous at the outset) they confuse “ultimate” cause with “proximate” cause.

By definition God is “ultimately” responsible for everything, but He is never proximately responsible for evil. It takes this kind of hair-splitting to even make such a discussion seem logical.

In reality, there is a responsibility that God has consumate with His Holiness and in perfect concert with His sovereign grace that we as humans simply cannot understand.

These discussion remind me of giving monkeys (sorry no offense meant) paint and brushes and hoping to come up with another Last Supper.

168 Jim G. February 15, 2012 at 10:40 pm

Hi Frank,

By “definition” God is responsible for everything? By whose definition?

So there is no moral responsibility for ultimate causation but there is for proximate causation? How are you able to arrive at this?

Jim G.

169 Bill Mac February 15, 2012 at 11:05 pm

I think there is a difference between “responsible” and “guilty” (although the latter is not, I think, the word I want).

Parents are, up to a certain age, responsible for the acts of their children, although they are not technically guilty of the acts of their children. Pet owners are held responsible for the negative actions of their pets, even though they didn’t bite people themselves.

Ship captains are responsible for all that occurs on their ship and those under their command.

God is not guilty of sin, but He is responsible for His creation. I don’t see how he could not be, (unless one is an open theist, but even then I don’t think that does it).

Perhaps Howell or one of our other lawyers (if we have some) can weigh in on this. I hope we can discuss this without acrimony. This thread is going pretty well so far (despite the opinion of some lurker trolls).

170 Bill Mac February 16, 2012 at 11:51 am

I’m just bumping this up, because I’d like to see this fleshed out a bit more.

171 dr. james willingham February 16, 2012 at 12:03 am

This blog has produced an amazing amount of level head discussion. There have disagreements, but none that I can think of as going beyond the standards of good taste and courtesy, considering that the participants are considering matters of great controversy. As to the history issue, David mentions Roger Williams, but it always pays to look at what the individual has written. In one of the volumes (I think he has 3 volumes, but my memory grows hazy after 40″ years and I last looked at Williams’ works in the Low Library of Columbia Univ. in the Summer of 1971) Williams wrote to Dr. John Clarke that he thought the Baptist position was the right one, though he ahd trouble with the issue of authority for baptism. He also reaffirmed his commitment to Sovereign Grace theology. He was in his soteriology, like his colleague, Dr. Clarke, very much a Puritan, a calvinist, if you please. He just happened to be one who also believed in religious liberty as did Clarke, and they made a team that worked for years to put that biblical truth into law and practice in Rhode Island.
I would like to point out for the benefit of discussants that the theology we are considering in this blog and the responses is the theology that was dominant in the settling of America. It was the theology of the Puritans, Reformed, Anglicans, and Baptists. There was some variations, but, generally, speaking the theology focused on the Sovereignty of God in salvation as well as other areas of life. The Intellectual Historians for the Puritans display a degree of amazement at how steadfast and committed the Puritans were. How would you like to have church members who faithfully take notes on your sermons and keep that notebook for future references. If memory serves correctly, I think some 200-300, perhaps as many as 500 notebooks can be found in New England, notebooks that provide a record of the pastor’s preaching in the local church (in this case pastors in several churches). Also the students in the local schools were likely to be examined by the teacher on Monday about the pastor’s sermon on Sunday. The Puritan ministers were the most educated person, usually, in the community. They led as pastors of Congregational churches, and that theology of calvinism would be the main source of inspiration and maintenance of the First and Second Great Awakenings and of the launching of the Great Century of Missions. This is the theology that will, rightly considered and understood and implemented, lead, in my understanding of the facts concerning such events, to the Third Great Awakening, one which shall win the whole earth and every soul on it beginning (hopefully) with this generation and continuing for a thousand generations…and perhaps reaching thousands of planets as mankind spreads to the stars.

172 Jim Pemberton February 16, 2012 at 3:48 pm

That’s why it’s important to try to understand whoever you decide to oppose instead of assuming that you already understand. And it goes both ways. James White and Greg Koukl both always preach to learn what those who oppose you truly believe.

I think the reason we don’t is because the human intellect has a kind of inertia. We tend to think that the way we understand the world is the only way to understand the world and we resist trying. In terms of Bloom’s taxonomy, I believe this falls under the category of analysis. We each have established systems of categories in our minds for analyzing information. The difference between one level of intelligence and another is the number of different categories we have. The reason people “talk past each other” is because one person speaks out of one system of categories and the other person analyzes what was said using a wholly different system of categories.

Incidentally, this is an important hermeneutical principle. We often analyze what the Bible says based on categories established by our present-day culture and popular philosophies. However, we must learn to understand the Bible using the categories that were used by the human authors that God used to produce the scriptures. This principle shows up in all good hermeneutical systems using different verbiage to describe and label it. But the point is that this is a practice that we need to master in order to understand the Bible better. So why not apply it to help us understand each other better?

173 dr. james willingham February 17, 2012 at 5:16 pm

It is in look at double predestination more closely that we discover things about it. One has remarked above that the doctrine is not symmetrical. An astute observation. In fact, all the teachings of the Bible seem to be asymmetrical which might explain why both poles of each doctrine set up a tension in the human mind and spirit which enables a person to be balanced, flexible, creative, magnetic, and constant. Could it be that our real problem with God’s revealed teachings is how we look at them, seeing them in the way of prejudice and not as they really are, the most freedom favoring principles in this world. When Jesus asked the rich young ruler to sell all he had, give to the poor, and follow Him, He knew He was asking the young man to do the impossible. That was the invitation: Do the impossible. Funny, we will not have God make such demands, but we will sing about it with reference to ourselves, e.g., dream the impossible dream. The hardest, most difficult, even the seemingly most inimical teachings of our Lord are invitations of the most pressing kind, the freest that ever existed or exists now or will exist. Is any one hearing me? Does any one grasp what I am saying. Remember Jesus speaking to the man with the demon possessed son, “If you can believe.” The man’s initial respons was, “I believe,” but his next was the admission of his inability, “Help my unbelief.” When he realized that even his belief was an insult to our Lord, for he had just said, “If you can do anything, help us.” That “if” said his belief was just so much unbelief, a dishonor to Christ and God. However, when he embraced that thought, then he received the Lord’s help. Who hears what I am saying? Who understands?

174 Gina February 22, 2012 at 5:15 pm

This may be considered “off topic” but thought it was pretty important that Jacob & his son Joseph have been lumped together as one person here, unless I missed something.

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