Thursday, April 24, 2008

Is it possible that Acts 13:48 is simply a figure of speech?

Man o man, simply unbelievable. How many times has this passage been explained to these folks!
It is so frustrating.

And talking about frustration, this thread is just sad really.


RC Interviews Ben Stein regarding his new movie "Expelled"

I enjoyed this interview and I hope you do too!
I especially love the praise Stein gives to RC near the end. Imagine us dumb Christians being able to reason and use logic and sit in the presence of well known people and come accross as intelligent!


Don't forget to watch the trailer I put up a few days ago here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The tract I wrote in 2003...

This article was what really started my battles with other Calvinists of the Neo-Amerauldian-Quasi Calvinist kind.

Is John 3:16 the "whole" gospel?


The Narrow path - Just how wide?

Today I just listened to John Macarthur Jnr preach on "Total depravity" at a conference, (and while I am mentioning this conference, please, please do not miss RC Sprouls sermon on the gospel!-also provided below)

Now here is my concern. After hearing Steve Gregg in the recent debate with James White, and having read a lot of Mr Greggs theology and having even interacted with the man several times, I was struck with just how he himself would react to John Macarthur's sermon.
There would be little if any point of contact between the two men on the subject of total depravity and just about every other statement made by Macarthur, and he makes some very big and crucial statements!

I am concerned not only for Mr Gregg, but for the people he seems to have a huge influence over.
I am going to ask Mr Gregg and others there at his board to listen to the sermon and see if there is a reaction.

Every single text given by Macarthur with explanation I know is rejected by Gregg.

Here is the message

And here is the RC Sermon!

Monday, April 21, 2008

"One trick Ponies--The Ponterites!"

It seems a few of my opponents are not happy with Dr Whites short response to them.
Full article here from Mr Byrne.

James Whites audio response below.

Ben Stein EXPELLED Super Trailer

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A brief critique by Tartanarmy to “Why I am an Arminian” Part 1

A brief critique by Tartanarmy to “Why I am an Arminian” Part 1
by Keith Schooley

I thought to address some of these articles as they are written simply and with a degree of organisation I have rarely encountered from those who oppose Calvinism and Reformed thought.
I hope to be helpful and give support for the “doctrines of grace”, a.k.a Calvinism.

I have chosen to interact with the writers article as it is written, mainly for simplicity and thoroughness.
My comments are in Blue.


Why I Am an Arminian, Part 1 of 2
by Keith Schooley

The following paper is meant to be an overview of what I believe with regard to the doctrine of Divine election. The first half, contained in this post, will explain why Arminianism--the rejection of unconditional divine election of specific individuals to salvation--is so often defended only in reaction to the Calvinist position, and will attempt to make a positive, Biblical case for Arminianism, without specific reference to the Calvinist position. The second half of the paper will discuss the Calvinist critique of Arminianism and attempt to respond to that critique from the Arminian point of view. The paper as a whole is merely intended to be an overview, not an exhaustive examination of the issues that surround divine election; a close exegetical study of the Biblical passages that bear upon divine election is necessary to decide upon one position or another.

I should note that I consider the whole controversy something that should be a friendly debate among fellow believers, not a test of orthodoxy.

Introduction: Against Reaction to Calvinism

I. Since the Reformation, what has come to be known as "Calvinism" or Reformed theology has been the fundamental interpretive grid through which the doctrine of election has been historically understood by Protestants. This is to say that the Reformers established a dominant Protestant tradition upholding some form of unconditional divine election of specific individuals to salvation (largely by contrast to the medieval Roman Catholic position). Those that differed from this position, notably Jacobus Arminius, John Wesley, and the traditions that arose from them, did so largely in reaction to a prior Reformed tradition. (For convenience’ sake, this paper will use the terms "Calvinism" and "Reformed" in reference to all Protestant traditions, including Lutheran, that espouse unconditional, particular election to salvation, and Wesleyan and Arminian interchangeably in reference to all Protestant traditions that reject unconditional, particular election.)

Please simply note that as a result of the Arminian rejection of the Protestant and reformed views, they, “the Arminians” have sided with Rome against the reformers on these matters. On these issues the Arminians would stand alongside Rome today over and against the Protestants on the issues dealing with free will, election and predestination etc. This is no secret to reformed believers today, who constantly hear the same arguments coming not only from Arminians, but any other Synergistic system, including Rome, Islam and the cults also. What this “prior” position mentioned above is, has not been mentioned so I have no comment to make on that at this point. It sounds confusing, because how can there be a “prior reformed” position, when the reformation was taking place. Such would have a prior reformation to the real one. I am not sure what is exactly being said by the writer above. Maybe it is a reference to the Anabaptists, I am not sure. If so, then that is another tradition and could be discussed.

II. The result of this is that even today, advocates of an Arminian position find themselves generally arguing defensively--that is to say, attempting to refute established Calvinistic doctrines rather than developing a positive case for an alternative point of view. This is seen most clearly in defenses of the Arminian position that are cast (as rebuttals) within the framework of the "five points" of Calvinism. A number of reasons for the continuing of this situation exist:

Yes, and let us never forget that the five points were “given” as a response to Arminianism which condemned Arminianism as heresy, see The Canons of Dort,

Click here

by the Orthodox Churches at that time in History, so it is accurate to say that Arminianism was rejected as unorthodox and that fact is very important for a full understanding, at least in the historical context.

1. For most people who haven’t been specifically taught unconditional, particular election, the possibility of anyone coming to faith through the gospel seems to be the natural understanding of scripture.[See Note 1 below]

Please be aware of the not so hidden assumption here, namely that those not really taught and familiar with these doctrines in scripture, will inevitable come to a “natural” understanding of this doctrine. This speaks volumes to those trained by the “revelation” of God’s Word in juxtaposition to a natural understanding.

Therefore, most people never bother to defend Arminianism except when confronting a specific Calvinistic challenge; and so they end up doing so reactively, rather than proactively.

Of course, this would not be necessary if one had a positive case to begin with, which an examination of any positive case for Arminianism has been found wanting way back in history and just as much today, in fact even more so which I will argue later on or in the next article I respond to.

2. Arminians would hold that their position is an assumption which undergirds scripture (just as the Bible doesn’t defend God’s existence but rather everywhere assumes it) rather than a doctrine to be proven by explicit scriptural statement.

This is quite an overstatement when one really thinks about it. It fails to be even semi-aware of such things as presuppositions, tradition and any other appeal to foundations. To compare the existence of God as assumed to the libertarian freedom of man as assumed seems very bold and arrogant to me. This perhaps explains why libertarian assumption is just so prevalent amongst Non Calvinists.

3. For the above reasons and because of the historical prominence of this question within Reformation debate, the issue of election rises to a greater importance for the Calvinist than for the Arminian.

This makes no sense at all. It is only prominent amongst Calvinists because Arminianism came along and challenged the reformed Churches, otherwise it would not be so prominent. Think about it.

4. The "five points" are taught within the Reformed tradition, whereas the possibility of anyone who hears the gospel coming to saving faith is simply a working assumption within the Wesleyan tradition.

The five points are not taught as much as they should be, but that is not the isuue. The “working” assumption for the reformed is that “God is at work” in saving souls, and we as Ambassadors have the privilege of proclaiming the gospel to everyone, and we leave to God the Holy Spirit, whom He will save. This idea that only Arminians have a “working” gospel for all, is question begging and confuses the differences between us.

III. The practical result of this situation is that Calvinism is generally thought to be the only intellectually respectable form of evangelicalism.

This sounds like sour grapes and a smokescreen. I and many others claim no superior intellectual prowess or respectability (not even a College education) and yet the simple can comprehend Calvinism. The reason their are so many scholars who are reformed speaks more to Arminianism and it’s bankruptcy than to reformed intellectualism.

IV. A defense of the Arminian position needs to be made, but it cannot be made merely in reaction to the Calvinistic position; that is to concede to the opposition the terms of debate.

Is that not what the Arminians did historically? The Arminians rallied and presented their views against certain teachings and were thoroughly and patiently dealt with and then entirely rejected, hence that shall ever be the case, at least again historically.

V. A positive case needs to be made for Arminianism. Two points must be understood regarding the following treatise:

I actually would like to see a positive case, which of course may mean different things to different people, but if Scripture is abundantly exegeted with consistent hermeneutics, then fire away!

1. Some of the foundations of such a case will be common to both Calvinistic and Arminian understandings of scripture--so to assert something as essential to the Arminian position is not necessarily to deny that Calvinists may agree; and
2. Since the immediate point is to build a positive case for Arminianism without reference to Calvinism, some Arminian assertions to which Calvinists have historically responded will need to be laid down without immediate engagement with Reformed criticism. A later section of the paper will be devoted to the Reformed critique of Arminian assertions and to the Arminian response.

To which I shall attempt to interact in the next instalment.

[1] This "naive Arminianism" in itself is neither an argument for or against Arminianism: one could argue that the average Christian hasn’t studied the Bible closely enough to recognize the implication of passages dealing with election, or one could argue that Calvinism is a system of interpretation not naturally arising from Scripture but imposed upon it. What the present writer is concerned with here is the practical implication of "natural Arminianism" that Arminianism tends to be taught only in reaction to Calvinism, as opposed to being taught on its own.

Interesting terminology.

The Positive Case for Arminianism

I. The Mercy of God
Arminianism is based in the first instance on an expansive understanding of God’s mercy.

A. Favorably compared with His justice
Throughout Scripture, the theme of the Lord’s mercy is prominent, if not preeminent. Where it is contextually related to the Lord’s justice, it is always treated as more fundamental to God’s character. The seminal scripture in this regard would be Exodus 34.6-7:
The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands [or, "a thousand generations," cf. Ex. 20.6], and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.It is difficult to imagine that a comparison of attributes is not intentional. First and overwhelmingly, God identifies Himself with those attributes that stress His mercy, and only subsequently identifies Himself in terms of justice. In contrast to the "third and fourth generation" to which He punishes sin, He stipulates "a thousand" whom He forgives.

I will just say at this point, that to in any way, make any characteristic of God predominate (except perhaps God’s Holiness) is a faulty premise and somewhat misleading. Many passages address the attributes of God, and pitting “mercy” over “justice” is misleading if not outright dangerous and could miss-characterise God, which I believe Arminianism does. The “Justice” of God in scripture is so wrapped up in so many categories, that to merely suggest it has a lesser importance than “mercy” is just not taught in scripture. When we consider that such categories as punishment, discipline, righteousness and even such things as “love” and “mercy” could not even be properly understood apart from Justice, is in itself essential to keep in mind. Here are some passages that come to mind explicitly mentioning these two equally important attributes.

Psa 85:10 Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

Psa 89:14 Justice and judgment are the foundation of Your throne; mercy and truth shall go before Your face. Isa 16:5 And in mercy the throne shall be established; and he shall sit on it in truth in the tabernacle of David, judging and seeking judgment, and speeding righteousness.
Pro 16:6 By mercy and truth, iniquity is purged, and by the fear of Jehovah men turn away from evil.
Also consider Psa 57:10, Psa 86:15,

If we mistakenly pit mercy and justice against each other in any sense, could we ever really truly say,
Psalms 119:97. Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day

The atonement itself is in many ways a triumph of mercy over justice--compelled by His own nature to remain just, God nonetheless finds a way to extend mercy to those who justly deserve death, even at the cost of His own Son (Rom. 4.25). This is not to say that God is not ultimately just, or that His mercy somehow obviates His justice; it is merely to state that where the scriptures bring these two attributes together, mercy is always magnified over justice.

I simply do not agree. I know that if we look at this from our own fallen perspective, we could reason that way in some sense, but I believe scripture does not do that, at least not in the way the writer here is suggesting, but I respect this writer for his honest statements, which I have long believed Arminians hold dear but obscures the attributes of God or at least makes God seem imbalanced. This also may explain why Arminians generally spend much effort pleading these emotional traits within God toward all men in general.

It would thus seem to be unbiblical to regard God’s mercy as somehow restricted as compared with His justice.

I agree with that thought, but Calvinists do not attempt to separate these attributes like Arminians certainly feel a need to do.

B. Desire for none to perish/love expressed universally
Scripture notably records God’s desire to see the wicked--spoken of inclusively; i.e., all the wicked--come to salvation: "I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live" (Ezek. 33.11; cf. 3.18-19, 13.22);

This subject could easily be splintered off to a separate debate, but I shall merely at this point suggest that Gods desires and or intentions are ably summed up in Rom 9 and other places.

Rom 9:15 For He said to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion."

Rom 9:16 So then it is not of the one willing, nor of the one running, but of God, the One showing mercy.
Jesus Himself also tells us,

Joh 17:9 I pray for them. I do not pray for the world, but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.

Those passages offered by Arminians are often not about salvation per say or how one is saved or some such thing. Those above in Ezekiel are such passages, and in context, refer to God announcing to Israel, who had believed God wanted to kill His people, therefore why seek the Lord? God responded to correct that assumption by the people of Israel at that particular time. Read the entire contexts rather than plucking a passage or passages out of their context.

The passages I quoted above are clear enough are they not? Why even go to Ezekiel?
There are other passages that tell us that God does indeed desire the death of the wicked, Gen 6:7, Gen 18:28, Exo 23:27, Lev 23:30, Lev 26:30, Deu 7:16, Deu 9:14, Deu 31:3, Psa 52:5, Psa 101:8, Psa 118:10, Jer 12:17, Jer 15:3, Jer 15:6, Jer 25:9, Jer 31:28, Jer 49:38, Jer 51:20, Eze 5:16, Eze 6:3, Eze 9:8, Eze 14:9, Eze 20:13, Eze 25:7, Eze 25:16, Eze 34:16, Amo 9:8, Zep 2:5, Zec 12:9, so if we have contradiction, then perhaps our interpretations need re-thinking.

I would refer the reader to comments made by John Knox, Samuel Rutherford and Gillespie for further thought on the matter.
Personally, for me to become an Arminian, I would have to discard at least half of the Bible!

Click here

"The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3.9);

Another passage often quoted, which in context is referring to believers and not all men without exception. Here I can do no better than to quote from the standard commentary on 2 Peter, whose interpretation is all the more telling as coming from an exegete who is by no means a card-carrying Calvinist: "God's patience with his own people, delaying the final judgment to give them the opportunity of repentance, provides at least a partial answer to the problem of eschatological delay...The author remains close to his Jewish source, for in Jewish thought it was usually for the sake of the repentance of his own people that God delayed judgment. Here it is for the sake of the repentance of 2 Peter's Christian readers. No doubt repentance from those sins into which some of them had been enticed by the false teachers (2:14,18; 3:17) is especially in mind," R. Bauckham, Word Biblical Commentary, Volume 50, Jude, 2 Peter (Word, 1983), 312-13.

Here is a helpful video

Click here

More soon

Strike whilst the iron is hot!

Over at Steve Gregg’s board where I am not allowed to post, there is an interesting thread. Actually there are many interesting threads over there, but I digress. It is interesting because Calvin is misquoted and when this is pointed out, there then seems to be an avalanche of "well I don't care what Calvin said" blah blah blah, and then more irrelevant attacks upon Calvin.
All of this right in the context of misquoting Calvin nonetheless!

How can you even begin to reason with folks like that?
I tried and obviously failed.

If a Calvinist gets anywhere near exposing the falseness of Arminianism, their end becomes immanent.

I welcome Non Calvinists to come here and interact, and I will be patient with them, I promise!

The thread is here.


Thoughts of Francis Turretin: One of my Theological Opponents on the Atonement

Click here


Steve Gregg, mind and heart reader extraordinair.

As one who was banned from Steve's forum and accused of many different motives etc, I see Paul T has experienced the exact same treatment. I do not know Paul T, but I feel his pain. Mr Gregg has some issues for sure.


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Thoughts of Francis Turretin: YnottonY transcribes a DL conversation

Thoughts of Francis Turretin: YnottonY transcribes a DL conversation

For those who have any memory of my battles with Trey Austin, Tony Byrne and David Ponter, the link above is interesting to say the least.

See also my post here.


Friday, April 18, 2008

My wee response to "why I am not a Calvinist" Part 3/3

My interaction is in blue.
By Tartanarmy

To be sure, the Calvinist theologian in me had responses to this question, yet none of them sufficed. For example, John Frame states God’s eternal decree to damn “does not prejudice our assurance of salvation.” This is because our “assurance is not based on our reading of the eternal decrees of God, which are secret unless God reveals them, but on the promises of God” (The Doctrine of God, 334). Yet as we shall see, one’s ability to believe the promises of God in a saving manner is conditioned upon God’s eternal decree. Therefore, my Calvinistic theology presented my needs for assurance with an epistemological problem: in order to have assurance I needed to know the status of my election, something that by definition is secret and cannot be known.

The writer does not seem to follow an argument logically. If, as Frame has stated, that the assurance from our perspective is based upon “promise”, then that is all we need to know. We have no right to claim knowledge about God’s decrees, especially with expected or demanded certainty. Epistemologically, promise is good enough, because God cannot lie, hence His promises are trustworthy. If one believes and continues to believe, then one is elect and continues to be elect, so saying that election is a secret misses the point and is moot. Of course, we as individuals can be as certain of our election as we are as certain of our believing, but the grace and mercy in Christ encourages us by reminding us that our election is known and can be experienced just as Christ told his disciples to rejoice not that the Demons were subject (think any other outward or strong spiritual reality) to them but that their names are written in Heaven!

What the writer seems to be implying is that he wants to know right “now”, whether he will in the end persevere and be saved. “I want it now” seems to be the catch cry of the modern mindset.
Unless we have that kind of knowledge then Calvinism makes no sense seems to be the argument!
Where is the fear and worship of GOD?
Php 2:12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, cultivate your own salvation with fear and trembling.
Php 2:13 For it is God who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.

A Crisis of Faith and Common Sense

After intense study of all these matters I came to doubt many of the core beliefs of the faith. I did not express my doubts to many people, though I often confessed to others that I was struggling with a terrifying fear of death and did not know I was saved. One evening, I had dinner with a friend and confided my struggles with Calvinism and how it had undermined my assurance.

Where is, or rather why has Calvinism been lumped as the culprit?

From what I have read thus far, I cannot even begin to see where Calvinism has been the root cause of this writers problems.

I certainly can see vague association, misapplied inference, bare assertions without interaction with true Calvinism and I can see false logic and plenty of emotional opinion, but in all honesty I can see no robust and therefore genuine Calvinist culprit from what this writer has written.

Ironically, as we are discussing “assurance”, at this point, let me ask a relevant and yet simple question. How can a man have assurance about salvation, if it is he who ultimately makes the difference as to whether or not he will be saved?
Why not agonise over the fear of undoing everything you have supposedly done in order to get into salvation? Now, I think that is a genuine and far more scary thing to fear and cause ones assurance to significantly deteriorate. Think about it.

In a wry tone he asked, “So why do you keep believing in Calvinism?” I said that I thought it was a correct interpretation of the Bible. He said, “Well, if you are having doubts about your salvation you are missing out on something very basic to your faith.”

This is where it gets really interesting, and in fact I actually agree with the advice here given by this person, both points actually. No Calvinist I know, believes in Calvinism per say. Let me explain. Calvinism as a system of exegesis, or to be historically correct, is a response to the errors of Arminianism (which is what the 5 points are!)

What saves is “believing” in Jesus Christ, not Calvinism per say. Calvinism is all about exalting Jesus Christ and His Word! That is Calvinism in a nutshell.

It is not something in and of itself to be believed in the academic sense, meaning as a system of thought that leads to salvation or some such idea. Every part of Calvinism, whether it be the five points (a defence against Arminianism) or the decrees of God, Covenant theology, Systematic theology, Biblical theology, and other important doctrines, all of these doctrines are to be intrinsically moulded to a being, namely God Himself, made known in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Hence, being a Calvinist is not a means to an end but rather is the fruit of knowing God and His Word.
The more we understand and know God, the more Calvinist and or reformed we become, so believing in Calvinism is not the dog that wags the tail, it is all about God and His glory.

Suddenly it dawned on me like a ray of light: I had constructed a complex and unassailable system of doctrine that was denying me my birthright.


Shortly after this I reassessed my belief in Calvinism and let it corrode under the sweet promises of Scripture: that eternal life is given to all those who believe in the Son of God—Jesus Christ.

No ex-Calvinist could have ever written such a thing with a straight face. Sorry for being harsh here but as a Calvinist who affirms the above statement it just made me scratch my head in wonder as to what you actually were embracing as a so called Calvinist.

Studying Luke’s Gospel, an introductory commentary on the text, standard apologetic arguments for the resurrection, and Dallas Willard’s reflections on the teachings of Jesus revived my faith in a personal God who came in universal love to offer abundant life to all who believe in him. It is the most precious news on the face of the planet.

Apart from the Universal emotional stuff, Calvinists affirm the rest, well, real Calvinists at least.
Let me ask some more questions.
Did Jesus come to offer universal salvation for every single person without exception?
Did God plan and purpose for everyone’s salvation with the intention of saving everyone?
Does Jesus Christ intercede as a great High Priest for all men without exception?

Is this precious news (which it is) is it precious to everyone that hears it?
Or is it precious to only those who decide to receive it over against those others who do not choose to receive it?

Biblical truth is found in the details and exegesis of scripture, which I for one would love to hear from the Arminian but have not as yet been able to find. I was kind of hoping this writer might have been the exception.

Yet I did not simply let my belief in Calvinism die without a serious attempt at preserving it.

At this point I simply refuse to accept that what you were indeed holding had any relation to real historical Calvinist defined Calvinism at all. What you seem to have embraced was a hybrid of sorts, with a mixture of Calvinist ideas read through the lens of faulty human understanding and certainly not Spirit led instruction based upon the scriptures. That much I can see thus far in your article and I know you will not like me saying that, but nonetheless it certainly reads that way.
You are merely a confused Christian which has swapped one set of beliefs for another set of beliefs.

What follows are my thoughts and conclusions from a engaged study of a book co-authored by one of my professors on the subject of assurance.

My advice is for you to let the scriptures themselves speak.

The Problem of Assurance

The problem of assurance has a long and checkered history in Calvinistic theology.

I’m sorry, but there is a vast amount of unanimity amongst Calvinists on the subject of assurance, even when certain methods were practised. The word “checkered” does not fit with the facts.

Perhaps the most devout practitioners of Calvinism, the Puritans of the 17th and 18th centuries, wrestled deeply with the problem and devised many innovative and ingenious solutions to it. Covenant theology was one idea where God’s immutable nature is said to be bound by a contractual agreement with humankind to never revoke his promise of salvation by faith in Christ through grace alone.

Is that it? A few comments so loaded dispels Calvinism?
I was wondering when the good Puritans would get a mention, and when they do, it is negative assertion! Covenant Theology is an idea?

Have you not read and yet understood when scripture suggests such ideas as “Gen 17:7 And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your seed after you in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God to you and to your seed after you.

Another idea was constructing a theology of discernment that worked to distinguish between “reliable” and “unreliable signs” of regeneration and authentic faith. Many of the Puritan Paperbacks you can still purchase today deal with discerning between true and false expressions of such weighty matters as love, repentance, holiness, and faith. The most famous, and arguably the best treatise in this genre is Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards. It is a very good book, one of the greatest in American theology.

Yet each of these “solutions” is riddled with the same epistemological problem. Covenant theology more or less states the terms and conditions of the promises that we must believe in order to be saved. This does not in any way give us assurance that we will be able to meet these conditions, for the ability to meet them, according to the argument from grace, is contingent upon God’s unconditional choice to save. Edwards’ Religious Affections, though powerful and stirring in many ways, often leaves one introspective like every other argument in this genre. Does one truly have the “reliable signs” at work in one’s heart or not?

It seems that this writer really has a fixation with assurance and his perceived argument with Calvinism or at least his version of it, did not answer his epistemological urges. Yet, true Calvinism has much to say regarding this subject, and especially the work cited here by Edwards! Maybe the correction of being fixated upon “assurance” may be balanced by carefully reading the very last chapter in that work by Edwards, titled “XII. Gracious and holy affections have their exercise and fruit in Christian practice”.

Answering these questions almost always is a subjective exercise. John Owen’s treatment of assurance, particularly the warning passage in Hebrews 6:4-6, makes a number of claims that are terrifying to consider. For example he asserts that an insincere believer (one that is not truly saved) can be “enlightened” yet not changed, renewed, or transformed. He or she may “taste of the heavenly gift,” meaning the Holy Spirit, yet still not experience the regenerating work of the Spirit. We may even experience gifting of the Spirit (like Simon Magus did [Acts 8:15-21]), yet fail to taste “the goodness of God, and the powers to come” (Quoted in Schreiner & Caneday: The Race Set Before Us, 195-96).

Thus one can have the experiences of a genuine Christian, yet not be a genuine Christian.

Owen does not say however, that they were “Genuine” Christians at all!
This is misrepresenting the situation.
Owen believed that “genuine” Christians cannot but be genuine Christians, and such have every assurance based upon the Word of God.
The following scripture is useful here, 1Jn 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they were of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out so that it might be revealed that they were not all of us.

Therefore, whatever “evidence” we muster in favor of making our election sure could very well be spurious.

Again, over simplification plus it trumps revealed revelation from the Word, and shifts one's emphasis to human expreience as a foundation. A man will either go to the Word or go to his own opinion

As many of us know, we have shared deep fellowship with those who are no longer walking with the Lord. For Owen and company, this means that they did not “fall away;” rather, they never were truly saved. We thought they were saved for the same reasons we think we are saved, yet we are led to conclude they never were saved. Therefore, we have no reason to be assured of our own salvation since our faith, which is seemingly genuine, could in fact be a sham.

Let us look at these two assertions in light of scripture.

1/ We thought they were saved for the same reasons we think we are saved, yet we are led to conclude they never were saved.
2/ Therefore, we have no reason to be assured of our own salvation since our faith, which is seemingly genuine, could in fact be a sham.

Does two necessarily follow from one?
The scripture I previously quoted answers this assertion
1Jn 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they were of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out so that it might be revealed that they were not all of us.

1/ They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they were of us, they would have continued with us
2/ But they went out so that it might be revealed that they were not all of us.

Are the ‘us’ referred to here (mentioned 5 times) in this passage left to believe in what could be called a potential “sham”, based upon the others going out, as this writer asserts above?
Or is it reasonable to conclude something with a bit more certainty?

I mean, shouldn’t we be all the more diligent to press on when seeing this, and make our calling and election sure? (2Pe 1:10) Or do we just decide to find our strength and confidence in the false profession of these people leaving, and then cry all the way to our own potential demise?

What sayeth the scripture?
Joh 10:27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.

A Possible solution?

Perhaps the best book I’ve read on Calvinism in conjunction with a serious study in biblical theology is Tom Schreiner and A.B. Caneday’s The Race Set Before Us. This is a carefully reasoned and trenchantly argued book that is perhaps the best in print on the subject of perseverance and assurance from the Calvinist perspective. The meticulous attention paid to different viewpoints, the thorough exegesis, and the pastoral sensitivity make it a “must read” for anyone in search of real and weighty answers to the vexing problems listed above. The authors do not make the error in the argument from grace that so many Calvinists do in that they treat the sanctification and the perseverance of the chosen believer true to compatibilist terms that dignify his or her responsibility in salvation.

In summary, the book’s argument seeks to make sense of the biblical warnings against falling away (see Rom 8:13; 11:17-24; I Cor 9:27; Gal 5:4; Col 1:23; I Thess 3:5; I Tim 1:19-20; II Tim 2:17-18; Heb 6:4-6; 10:26-31; Jas 5:19-20; II Pet 2:20-22), and criticizes three popular views of perseverance and assurance common among Christians as well as a fourth that is idiosyncratic to certain thinkers in the scholarly world (see here for more my initial interaction with this book). The first of which they repudiate is the simple “loss of salvation” view, which means what it says: genuine believers are able to lose their salvation by failing to persevere. Second is the “loss of rewards” view, which simply entails the loss of certain benefits in heaven, though not salvation, if one walks away from the faith. Third is the “test of genuineness” view which is the view of Owen (above) where a believer devises a system of biblical “tests” that looks for true signs of faithfulness. Falling away proves one never was genuinely regenerated in the first place. The fourth view is the so-called “hypothetical view” that only imagines the idea of a believer falling away, yet maintains the reality of which an impossibility.

Schreiner and Caneday give serious arguments demonstrating flaws in each of these views, if not dismantling them entirely, and present their own view of the warnings: the “means of salvation view” (pp. 38-40). In this view the warnings are the means of eliciting faith in God’s promises, and do not imply the possibility of having salvation and falling away from it. No true believer will fail to heed the warnings, thus rendering them compatible with God’s sovereign election and human responsibility. The warnings, then, function as a means of God’s grace to the elect that only the elect are able to heed via the sovereign grace of God. The solution is ingenious because it directs the believer and unbeliever to the promises of God through the warning passages and honors the responsibility of the believer to persevere in believing them. Yet it is not unlike the other views in that it is not without its own problems.

Well, I have not read the work so I shall not comment on it.
I will say briefly though, that only a reformed Covenantal view of scripture can best answer these matters regarding the warnings and those that do actually fall away.
We would have to look at such concepts as Visible/Invisible Church distinctions.
Who do the writers address as Church and or Christians and in what sense and context etc.

These matters involve deeper exegesis and getting to the heart of the context and immediate cultural setting the early Church writers found themselves in. I know that may sound a little obtuse, but otherwise I would need to write another article all by itself discussing Covenant Theology and all of its implications, so I will spare you all of such an endeavour!

The Molinist Objection

At this point I must tread carefully since I am waging disagreement with a professor from my school. Though I have not taken one of his classes, I am told Professor Caneday does not suffer fools lightly and is very able in defending his view (his blog is here). Yet I will persist with an objection that he has anticipated and formulated a rebuttal to in the appendix to his book. This objection was articulated in an article by William Lane Craig entitled “Lest Anyone Should Fall”: A Middle Knowledge Perspective on Perseverance and Apostolic Warnings where he essentially argues that the “means of salvation view” is actually more coherent in a “middle knowledge” perspective.

I would like to see how that obtains, but given what understanding I have of Molinism, time is too precious to set aside for such a study at this point in time. I find the middle knowledge view to be poor and see no need for such a philosophical negation of what scripture plainly reveals on the matter!
Therefore I will not interact with Molinism due to lack of personal interest in it, and maintain what the writer expresses about it from this article as irrelevant. I am mainly interested in the world that is, and the one the Bible talks about, not some hypothetical possible worlds that scripture never addresses.

Middle knowledge is the view of God’s knowledge that contains what his creatures would freely do in any given circumstances (or “possible world”) before he creates the world. This contrasts with the Calvinist perspective in that it allows for libertarian free will, which is a view of freedom that is incompatible with causal determinism. Without diving into the details of this highly technical view and how it relates to the issue at hand, Craig’s view of middle knowledge boils down to the following proposition:

1. If the warnings had not been given, the believers would have fallen away.

He asks,

Does the [Calvinist] regard (1) as true or not? If he holds that (1) is true, then it seems clear that the believers are in fact capable of falling away, for in the closest possible worlds in which the antecedent of (1) is true, they do fall away.

How do Schreiner and Caneday respond to the question “Are believers capable of falling away?” The answer is not so clear. Since Schreiner and Caneday are Calvinists the short answer is that they cannot. Textually, they argue that the warnings do not imply falling away anymore than road signs warning of slippery bridges imply we will slide off the road; they point to conceivable outcomes, not probable consequences (See pp. 208). However, this seems to miss the point by confusing probability with possibility. A conceivable outcome is not that much different from a possible outcome, especially when we consider the warnings against backsliding and shipwrecking the faith. The supposition, “If you swallow arsenic you will die” doesn’t prove one will or that it is likely one will swallow arsenic. Yet it treats swallowing arsenic as a real possibility. One is capable of swallowing arsenic in the same way someone is capable of falling away (see Rom 8:13). This creates a problem for the Calvinist view since this possibility is exactly what it denies. Schreiner and Caneday’s rebuttal of Craig does not seem to deal with the substance of his proposition and instead gets bogged down in calling attention to fallacies of argumentation and misrepresentation concerning tangent details that lead up to it. While I grant they may be technically correct in naming these, they are not fatal to Craig’s concluding proposition which is the first premise in an otherwise sound argument. As far as I can tell Craig is able to make sense of the real possibility of falling away and the means necessary for guarding against it via God’s middle knowledge, which Calvinism cannot.

Highly philosophical and way too out there for my finite brain to seriously contemplate.
If that be interpreted as a weakness, then so be it.
I never liked Star Trek either!

The Irrelevance of the Solution

However, even if the Molinist objection is shown to fail, I am not sure that Schreiner and Caneday’s view can transcend the problems of the “test of genuineness” view. When reflecting on “fallen runners” Schreiner and Caneday contrast the lives of Peter and Judas. Both Peter and Judas “failed to persevere” in their own ways. Yet Jesus intercedes for Peter so that his faith will not fail (Luke 22:31-32), and in the end he is restored. The fate of Judas, however, is one of judgment as he goes to his bitter death with much remorse, but no repentance. Schreiner and Caneday conclude that for those whom Christ intercedes (Heb 7:25) they will persevere. Those that have not been “given by the Father to the Son” will eternally perish (pp. 248-49; 251-53). Peter represents the former and Judas the latter. Therefore, we are back to the same epistemological problem:

how can we know the Father has given us to the Son and that Christ is interceding on our behalf?

By believing scripture is the simple answer.

1Pe 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has regenerated us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
1Pe 1:4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and unfading, reserved in Heaven for you
1Pe 1:5 by the power of God, having been kept through faith to a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time;
1Pe 1:6 in which you greatly rejoice, yet a little while, if need be, grieving in manifold temptations;
1Pe 1:7 so that the trial of your faith (being much more precious than that of gold that perishes, but being proven through fire) might be found to praise and honor and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,
1Pe 1:8 whom having not seen, you love; in whom not yet seeing, but believing in Him you exult with unspeakable joy, and having been glorified,
1Pe 1:9 obtaining the end of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Without having the knowledge of our eternal election we can have no assurance that we will persevere, for we have no assurance we will be given the grace to exercise the faith necessary for our salvation.

See above scriptures. There are many more that could be put forth.

Thus the warnings are meaningless to the unregenerate and the “means of salvation” solution to the problem of assurance is irrelevant.

I for one would like to hear a positive presentation that provides answers to these assertions from a non Calvinist. One full of scriptural references and the like. I am waiting.

Concluding Thoughts

There are many, many other issues that I could write about, but this post has gone on long enough. However, I want to be clear with my Calvinist brothers and sisters that I do not look back on my time in Calvinism with disdain or regret.

I would if I held to the kind of Calvinism you held to, and I mean that sincerely and not as an offense.

While in the end the drawbacks far outweighed the benefits, the benefits were duly enriching. Through Calvinism I came to respect both reason and biblical authority and that neither are properly honored without the other. I came to learn the great truths of the gospel in a deeper way that helped solidify my faith in the grace of God over and against my own works. It taught me that God answers to no one and may do whatever he pleases. I see no reason to hold Calvinism or those who teach it in contempt, nor do I claim to have believed it in the way it has been traditionally understood. This post is simply my intellectual autobiography and concluding reasons from my encounter with Calvinism. As an Arminian Molinist I am not naïve to the problems in my view. However, I think there are less problems in it that serve my faith better. In my view I can rest on the universal love of God expressed through Christ; this is the anchor or my soul. No longer must I speculate about the secret discriminations of a “God behind the God”—for I can fix my eyes on Christ and run the race with joy, scorning the same shame of the world, the same shame it heaped on the crucified God.

Thanks for your views and I hope that you are not offended at this Calvinist for interacting with what you have written.
I do appreciate the way in which you have written your article, and like yourself I am a wee bit polemical myself!

Remember this, and be a man; return it on your heart, O sinners.
Remember former things from forever; for I am God, and no other is God, even none like Me,
declaring the end from the beginning, and from the past things which were not done, saying, My purpose shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure; Isa 46:8-10


Thursday, April 17, 2008

My wee response to "why I am not a Calvinist" Part 2/3

My interaction is in blue.
By Tartanarmy

The argument from grace would have us believe God is 100% responsible for our salvation and that we are 0% responsible for it, for grace alone is causally sufficient for our faith in Christ (See Paul Helm in Divine Foreknowledge: 4 Views, 170). If this is true, however, compatibilism is false and we are left with hard determinism. Human freedom, thus, is nothing more than an illusion.

How so? Where is the refutation?
If a person is “as a created being remember as distinct from God who is God” is actually determining actions based upon his own desires and will, and God is at the same time using said actions for His purposes, then where exactly is the illusion?
The Arminian says “illusion” where he ought to say “I do not like that kind of freedom”, just like the person in Romans 9 argued against the Apostle Paul! see Rom 9:19, "You will then say to me, Why does He yet find fault? For who has resisted His will?"

Ant tell me this. In Gen 50, did Joseph and all those events and people seem illusory, even when God used their actions etc for the very purpose of saving many people alive? Those actions included so many sins and desires of men, and yet God’s will was done by these exact actions of men!
Gen 50:20 But as for you, you thought evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save a great many people alive.

How about the death of our Savior? Scripture tells us that God ordained exactly what the wicked and responsible actions of men were doing, but exactly for God’s purpose to be done! Same actions, same events and yet God’s will is perfectly done and men are rightly judged for these very sinful and freely desirous actions! Act 2:23 , Act 3:18, Acts 4:25-28.
Act 2:23 this One given to you by the before-determined counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken and by lawless hands, crucifying Him, you put Him to death;

Ironically enough, an argument for incompatibilism seems to be given in the end. Of course, the more careful Calvinists theologians deny this and hold that human beings are responsible for their salvation (as we will see below), but in my view this softens the idea that God is “solely responsible” for our salvation and leaves the argument from grace significantly qualified, rendering its rhetorical value greatly diminished.

Therefore, while it is in the view of this author that Calvinism puts forward many interesting and even believable arguments from Scriptural proof texts, it nevertheless leaves us with an illogical and unintelligible construct that is inconsistent and confusing, and in my case, damaging.

This is nothing but bare assertion. Where is the argumentation?
Am I missing something here?

My Journey to this Conclusion

My journey away from Calvinism began not unlike other journeys with intense reflection on the last letter of the so called “TULIP”: the letter “P”—perseverance of the saints. The first four points of the TULIP all focus on the order of salvation before the moment of saving faith, the last point deals with the state of the believer afterwards. Many who have not studied “5 point” Calvinism in depth are attracted to the teaching of the fifth point, because it ensures a “once saved always saved” theology of eternal security.

Just for the record again, no Calvinist holds to this “once saved always saved” idea that is so common today. The idea has become a shadow of what the “P” is teaching, and incidentally, the idea of “perseverance of the Saints” logically and more importantly Biblically follows from the four other points of Calvinism. The doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints is stated in the Westminster Confession in the following words: “They whom God hath accepted In His Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.”1 Or in other words we believe that those who once become true Christians cannot totally fall away and be lost, — that while they may fall into sin temporarily, they will eventually return and be saved.

This doctrine does not stand alone but is a necessary part of the Calvinistic system of theology.

This certainly was the case with me. The possibility of falling away is a dreadful prospect, and the idea of God’s sustaining grace guaranteeing my safety was most assuring. How the letter “P” in the TULIP could be said to be the weakest link was not apparent to me.

Nor me. The Scripture proof for this doctrine is abundant and clear.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord,” Rom. 8:35-39

“Sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under law, but under grace,” Rom. 6:14. “He that believeth hath eternal life,” John 6:47. “He that heareth my word, and believeth Him that sent me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life,” John 5:24.

if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever,” John 6:51
“Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up unto eternal life,” John 4:14
“Being confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ,” Phil. 1:6. “Jehovah will perfect that which concerneth me,” Ps. 138:8

“The gifts and calling of God are not repented of,” Rom. 11:29.
“The witness is this, that God gave unto us eternal life,” I John 5:11.
“These things have I written unto you that ye may know that ye have eternal life,” I John 5:13.
“For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified,” Heb. 10:14.
“The Lord will deliver me from every evil work, and will save me unto His heavenly kingdom,” II Tim. 4:18.
“For whom He foreknew, He also foreordained. . . . and whom He foreordained, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified,” Rom. 8:29.
“Having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,” Eph. 1:5.

Jesus declared, “I give unto them (the true followers, or ‘sheep’) eternal life; and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who hath given them unto me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand,” John 10:28

“Because I live, ye shall live also,” John 14:19
Paul warned the Ephesians, “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, in whom ye were sealed unto the day of redemption,” Eph. 4:30. He had no fear of apostasy for he could confidently say, “Thanks be to God who always leadeth us in triumph in Christ,” II Cor. 2:14.

Christ makes intercession for His people (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25), and we are told that the Father hears Him always (John 11:42)

Hence the Arminian, holding that Christians may fall away, must deny either the passages which declare that Christ does make intercession for His people, or he must deny those which declare that His prayers are always heard. Let us consider here how well protected we are: Christ is at the right hand of God pleading for us, and in addition to that, the Holy Spirit makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered, Rom. 8:26.

In the wonderful promise of Jer. 32:40, God has promised to preserve believers from their own backslidings: “And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, and I will not turn away from following them, to do them good; and I will put my fear in their hearts, that they may not depart from me.” And in Ezek. 11:19, 20, He promises to take from them the “stony heart,” and to give them a “heart of flesh,” so that they shall walk in his statutes and keep his ordinances, and so that they shall be His people and He their God. Peter tells us that Christians cannot fall away, for they “by the power of God are guarded through faith unto a salvation ready to be revealed at the last time,” I Peter 1:5. Paul says, “God is able to make all grace to abound unto you; that ye, having always all sufficiency in everything, may abound unto every good work,” II Cor. 9:8. He declares that the Lord’s servant “shall be made to stand; for the Lord hath power to make him stand,” Rom. 14:4.

And Christians have the further promise, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as man can bear: but God is faithful, and will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation make also the way of escape, that ye may be able to endure it,” I Cor. 10:13. Their removal from certain temptations which would be too strong for them is an absolute and free gift from God, since it is entirely an arrangement of His providence as to what temptations they encounter in the course of their lives, and what ones they escape. “The Lord is faithful and will establish you and guard you from the evil one,” II Thess. 3:3. And again, “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him and delivereth them,” Ps. 34:7. Amid all his trials and hardships Paul could say, ‘We are pressed on every side, yet not straightened; perplexed, yet not unto despair; pursued, yet not forsaken; smitten down, yet not destroyed; . . . knowing that He that raised up the Lord Jesus Christ shall raise us also with Jesus,” II Cor. 4:8,9,14.

The saints, even in this world, are compared to a tree that does not wither, Ps. 1:3; to the cedars which flourish on Mount Lebanon, Ps. 92:12; to Mount Zion which cannot be moved, but which abideth forever, Ps. 125:1; and to a house built on a rock. Matt. 7:24. The Lord is with them in their old age, Is. 46:4, and is their guide even unto death, Ps 48:14, so that they cannot be totally and finally lost.

Another strong argument is to be noticed concerning the Lamb’s book of life. The disciples were told to rejoice, not so much over the fact that the demons were subject to them, but that their names were written in the Lamb’s book of life. This book is a catalogue of the elect, determined by the unalterable counsel of God, and can neither be increased nor diminished. The names of the righteous are found there; but the names of those who perish have never been written there from the foundation of the world. God does not make the mistake of writing in the book of life a name which He will later have to blot out. Hence none of the Lord’s own ever perish. Jesus told His disciples to find their chief joy in the fact that their names were written in heaven, Luke 10:20; yet there would have been small grounds for joy in this respect if their names written in heaven one day could have been blotted out the next. Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Our citizenship is in heaven,” 3:20; and to Timothy he wrote, “The Lord knoweth them that are His,” II Tim. 2:19. For the Scripture teaching concerning the book of life, see Luke 10:20; Phil 4:3; Rev. 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12-15; 21:27.

An Excurse on the TULIP

A common misconception of the TULIP is that it is thought that one can affirm one, two, three, or even four of the points and still be a Calvinist. Hence, the phenomenon of “4 point” Calvinists who commonly affirm all but the “L”—limited atonement (who would want to limit the atonement?).

Just to be clear. All views limit the atonement in one way or the other, so let us bear that in mind.

But the fact of the matter is they were designed to be an interlocking logical unit where if you deny one, you deny them all. J.I. Packer argues that if you are a one-point Calvinist, then you are a 5 point Calvinist. If “L” is compromised as “unlimited” then, following from the belief that Christ’s death objectively accomplishes forgiveness on behalf of sinners, universalism—or the doctrine that everyone is saved—is implicated. If “T” (total depravity) is denied then humanity may be able to move towards God without divine assistance. If “I” (irresistible grace) is denied then it is possible for humanity to thwart God’s will to save sinners. If “U” is denied (unconditional election) then God’s choice to save us is conditioned by a foreseen response to him rooting the decision for salvation in ourselves and not in God. And of course, if “P” is denied, then our fallen will is able to overcome God’s saving purposes. All this I learned from good Calvinist teachers before I started to seriously reflect on how “P” could be a faulty premise in the argument.

Just as well I listed those couple of scriptures above regarding this “P”....

An Excurse on Relevance

At this point, if the reader is still with me, I would enjoin him or her to remember that all theology is pastoral theology. I do not engage in this logical exercise for the sake of intellectual escapism or cerebral entertainment. Many of the questions that engage these issues are questions of the heart that muse late in the night, or when prayer is not answered, or when a loved one is resistant to efforts of evangelism. I share these logical parameters and arguments to better explain how I encountered and overcame deep psychological dissonance within my faith that was often filled with doubt and despair. I came to the conclusion long ago that we often opt for our theological positions out of pastoral needs rather than by rational argumentation.

Apart from the highly emotive language, I find it rather interesting that this particular writer seems to be hinting that Calvinism may in fact be the result of “pastoral needs” and then setting up a false dichotomy between that and “rational argumentation”. This thinking seems disjointed and very emotive as I just stated. Why a good Pastor cannot use rational argumentation and yet give good counsel seems strange if that is what is seemingly being said.
There seems to be some kind of presupposition and or philosophical bent to it.

To be sure, our faith seeks understanding as the head follows the heart in its quest to make sense of deep and enduring questions that perplex and befuddle. This is not to say this is a proper way to do theology (for that would be to work towards ascertaining the true teachings of Scripture), but it is typical and incredibly influential. All of us must be in tune with our pastoral needs before we make any big decisions about these matters.

Seems to wishy-washy to me and certainly without argument.

How Can I Know I Am Saved?

My problems with “P” began late one night after awaking from a dream wherein I vividly stood before God as a condemned man. After confidently thinking I would enter the Kingdom for having trusted Christ for salvation I heard the dreadful words, “Depart from me, for I never knew you.” I awoke in an absolute terror and cold sweat as I contemplated the echoing words in my mind. It was perhaps the only moment in my life I could say I felt what it is like to have absolutely no hope.

I dont mean to interrupt the flow here, but my first reaction is how come this thought did not obtain beforehand, before when this writer became a Calvinist, or when he first heard of his standing before a holy God? It is a legitimate thought I think.

No amount of effort, prayer, faith or repentance could change God’s immutable verdict. It had been decided. Of course, was only a dream and I recovered after a few hours of meditation. Yet the experience elicited a profound theological question: Had my eternal fate already been decided?

Why is it, that every error always seems to come from man and his thoughts apart from scripture? Is it just me, or is it that man has decided to be at the centre of all things, including the pre-eminance of our thoughts? I mean, do we get Arminians giving us a rational and Biblical argument that explains how a mans fate is certainly or at least even possiblynot” in God’s hands?
Where is the positive case that mans fate is in his own hands? I want to see the evidence, not from human opinion, but scripture please.

As a student of theology who has wrestled with these issues for a good seven years I now can see how there were many other questions that were contained in this question, but as a terrified believer with seemingly no hope such matters were painfully insignificant. Unfortunately, these moments of dread would continue for six months and I developed an incredible fear of death. It seemed to me that the only way I could know I was saved was by knowing the status of my eternal election.

Big mistake but I won’t go into that here. Whatever happened to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved”.

Was I chosen by God for salvation or was I eternally damned before I had done anything good or bad?

This statement is just like "Hyper"-calvinism only with different presupositions, but with its emphasis upon decree without careful biblical qualification, and an emphasis upon the secret will of God, again without careful qualification, and hence is utterly unbalanced and certainly has no meaningful relationship to Calvinism.

Part 3 next.


My wee response to "why I am not a Calvinist" Part 1/3

My interaction is in blue.
By Tartanarmy

Why I'm Not A Calvinist

In this post I give my autobiographical and intellectual reasons for rejecting Calvinism

This is a post I have been thinking about and working on for quite some time. It is not meant to be an exhaustive critique of Calvinism or an argument for the purity of non-Calvinist theology. It is a response to the genuine inquiries of those who ask why I no longer hold to the Calvinistic “doctrines of grace” and “sovereignty of God.” Confessional intellectual autobiography and polemical discourse are the genres in which I write, and hopefully it will be apparent at which places I vacillate between the two. I have made a concerted effort to downplay the use of technical jargon, though some will be necessary. When words idiosyncratic to the issues emerge I will do my best to explain them, but I plead for grace in advance for any presumed vocabulary that may be foreign to the gentle reader.

I shall begin by giving the argument that persuaded me to embrace Calvinism followed by a critique of that argument.

In offering a response to this written article, I have decided to simply interact with what is written. I am a Calvinist, and have been since the day I was converted to Jesus Christ my Lord. My first concern here is the idea that an argument per say is what essentially causes anyone to be persuaded to a particular view of Scripture and the truth of it. No Calvinist as far as I know has ever believed that an argument in and of itself is what makes a person change their views. There is an old saying that suggests what we win people with is what we win them to, and that saying is underpinned with the reformed idea from scripture, that it is God the Holy Spirit who persuades people, as the essential point, otherwise, no matter what the argument may be, it in and of itself is not enough to persuade people to embrace the things of God. I just want to get that on the record here as I interact with this article. So, my main point thus far is I am concerned by the writers idea that he embraced Calvinism because of some kind of argument, and that the writer was not in fact persuaded because of the Holy Spirit applying the truth of scripture and hence truly being a Calvinist in the sense that is what Calvinism actually teaches. In other words, no one will ever embrace Calvinism by their free will, which obviously includes human reasoning and the truth or falsity of arguments alone, even good and powerful arguments. Therefore, the argument can now be made by me, that the writer never really was a Calvinist. At least on the premise that any argument can essentially be the deciding means whereby one becomes a Calvinist.

Then I will survey the major intellectual and personal problem I endured as a Calvinist and show how it served to undermine my faith. Finally I will conclude by highlighting the benefits I received from being a Calvinist and identify my own position. Surely, there will be disagreement and I am not naïve to the possibility of inviting scorn. My only request is that this be read with the same hermeneutic of charity that I have tried to extend to the writings and teachings of Calvinists themselves.

No problem, I shall do my best to be fair and balanced also.

Calvinism’s Strongest Argument

Historical theology’s teaching on the freedom and bondage of the human will almost always begins with the dispute between Augustine and Pelagius. Without diving into all of the historical details of the debate, the disagreement was simple yet profound in answering the following question: Do we do righteous works by our own power or by the grace of God? Pelagius argued the former, Augustine argued the latter. History sided with Augustine and “Pelagianism” was deemed a heresy.

And history got it right.

I understand the writers wish to be polemical and that is fine, but just so we are clear, I simply wish to suggest for the record that “history is right” not because someone counted heads and had a vote or something, but rather because God Himself guides His Church and shall Himself refute error by the faithful preaching and teaching of His Word in all ages. Not trying to be picky here, just trying to keep ideas in a context that is accurate.

The human will is so in bondage to sin that it is incapable of pleasing God in any meaningful way.

Again just for accuracy, the Calvinist teaching maintains that men can and often do very good and meaningful things that in and of themselves may in fact please God. These good actions of men are a part of what reformed Theology calls “Common grace”. However, we make a distinction with regards to what pleases God in relation to “inherent righteousness and holiness” which is acceptable to God. No man in and of himself has this kind of inherent righteousness post Adamic fall. Therefore, mans efforts to please God in this respect are impossible. That is Calvinism very briefly.

So much so that it is necessary for God to graciously intervene and “regenerate” our hearts so that we can move towards him. The analogy often given to help us understand this parallels that of resurrecting from the dead: we are dead in sin and God makes us alive in righteousness so that we might have faith in him. Calvinists are wholly and biblically correct to insist that we need divine assistance to draw near God.

Actually, Divine assistance should be Divine enablement.

From this, Calvinism makes its strongest argument: the argument from grace. Simply put, the argument states that since we are so incapable of pleasing God by our good works he must intervene to save us according to his own power and will. We contribute nothing to our salvation. He is the author and perfector of our faith from beginning to end and any claim we make for the explanation as to why we are saved, be it good works, wise decision-making, or persistent perseverance under trial, in effect “takes credit” for our salvation and renders grace meaningless. God’s glory is compromised and we are able to boast before God. This understanding of salvation is broadly described as “mongergism,” which means that God is solely responsible for our salvation.

When I first encountered this argument I found it persuasive and still find it persuasive in several ways.

Glad to hear an accurate summary, and also glad to hear you still find the argument regarding Monergism persuasive.

There is not a Calvinist in print today who does not appeal to this as the first order of arguments against Arminianism or any free will theology that would claim “synergism”—the idea that God and humanity cooperate in bringing about salvation. However, over time certain flaws became evident to me as I persisted in my Calvinistic faith. The way these flaws emerged will be described below, but I will begin with the result of those flaws in formal argument.
I would just like to get on the record that as far as “Regeneration” is concerned, Monergism is correct. However, “Sanctification” which is the ongoing part until “Glorification” is Synergistic, in that both Man and God are at work. We need to be careful when we just throw out the word “Salvation”, as it is a loaded term, which in Scripture includes, regeneration, conversion, justification, sanctification, adoption, redemption and many more concepts within a certain context.

Calvinism’s Biggest Weakness

The problem with mongerism, or the argument from grace, is that it ends up taking so much away from the human will that it takes on things it would rather distance itself from.

This might get interesting.

If God is solely responsible for our salvation, then it seems that he is also solely responsible for our damnation.

Now, before moving on, I think it pertinent to get on the record what the Calvinist understanding here “exactly” is with regards to damnation. Now please also remember what I just said in reference to “Salvation” above and how it is a loaded term in scripture. Election unto life eternal and damnation of the reprobate are two totally loaded ideas and Calvinism is very careful when articulating these two concepts from scripture. First of all, election to salvation is an “active” work of God, whereby He is “overcoming” the present tense rebellion of sinners who are justifiably held accountable for their sins and rebellion. It is a gracious act of God on behalf of some sinners. But damnation is entirely different. This is “not” an active work of God upon a sinner. It is a passive act that leaves sinners in their sin and rebellion. No added work is needed to be done by God in bringing sinners to judgement and damnation. They are justly left to themselves and their sin which they themselves prefer. There can be no charge brought against God for not showing mercy and grace to some sinners. Grace alone demands that God is under no obligation to save anyone at all. This distinction needs to be very much kept at the forefront of our thinking when discussing this particular issue, and hence I introduce it to the record for the purpose of this interaction.

God’s eternal choice to save some and not others is unconditional.

Again, just for the Calvinist record, God’s choice of some sinners to be saved is not based upon any condition “in the person being saved”, and hence has no condition in that sense, but rather the choice is wholly and only known to God alone for His choice of family. But, as far as “Justification” is concerned, God enables the sinner, when He regenerates them, to meet the condition of repentance and faith, which are gifts and fruits of conversion. See how important it is to break up the loaded term “salvation”? If we make no proper biblical distinctions, we will quickly make mistakes and get confused and or over simply these proper distinctions.

Yet if we hold to unconditional election unto salvation, then it seems we must hold to its logical corollary: unconditional reprobation unto damnation.

This does not follow at all. Please see why I commented above regarding these distinctions and hence now see how the error of over simplification results in error. Men are damned “precisely because of their condition”, which is rebellion and sin against God by nature, practise and choice.

Therefore, in same manner, we are apparently saved by God’s grace apart from works and we are damned by God’s condemnation apart from works (Rom 9:11-13). To be sure, I know of no Calvinist that would accept this, and there are a number of reasons why we shall examine below.

Well, I hope it is for something near what I have thus far suggested.

The first reason why Calvinists reject this argument is by distinguishing the natures of election and reprobation. Reformed Baptist theologian Wayne Grudem says “the cause of election lies in God, and the cause of reprobation lies in the sinner.” Another distinguishing feature between the two categories is “that the ground of election is God’s grace, whereas the ground of reprobation is God’s justice” (Bible Doctrine, 292). This reasoning, however, fails for it seems to say that election is unconditional and reprobation is conditional. If election is not conditional, meaning it is not in response to foreseen faith or received grace, then on what basis is God’s decision to condemn made conditional, meaning it is in response to foreseen sins?

It is in regards to the current state of “any” man born in the flesh. Nothing to do with foreseen sin or any other reason. The whole world lies under the condition of being “guilty” before God and condemned apart from grace.

Calvinists might try to wriggle out of this dilemma by speculating about the logical order of God’s degrees.

The argument from the decrees is moot and does not help nor hinder what we may perceive regarding salvation, damnation etc. All views regarding the order of the decrees has man being “viewed as a sinner under the just condemnation for his sin” and hence the argument is irrelevant to any point regarding this specific notion of conditions etc.

God’s decree to permit the Fall could be logically prior to his decree to save some and leave others to judgment. But this is to no avail, because in both cases the decree to allow sin into the created order and the decree to save some and damn the others is found in God. To assert an asymmetry between election and reprobation (as Frame does. See The Doctrine of God, 334) is virtually meaningless, because we act in accordance with God’s “secret will” (or “will of decree”) which, according to Grudem, is made up of those “hidden decrees by which he governs the universe and determines everything that will happen” (Bible Doctrine, 97). Therefore, the idea of responding to knowledge obtained by divine foresight is nonsense in this system. In Calvinism God cannot be conditioned by his creatures in this way, for humanity’s will to sin is rendered certain by divine decree. God may be conditioned by his own decree, but it is not clear how the following proposition, “A loving God desires to save all and at the same time desires the damnation of many for his glory” avoids logical contradiction.

The order of decrees is Semantics and merely deals with logical order. God does not desire the salvation of all as far as salvific intention is concerned. It is only confused Calvinists that argue this way and I am not one of them. God desires to show mercy to whom He shall show mercy.

The second reason this argument is rejected is because Calvinists believe humans are to be held responsible for their actions. In Calvinism, the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility is reconciled by appealing to a form of “compatibilism”—the belief that our freedom is compatible (or not rendered void) by causal determinism: God is absolutely sovereign over the outcome of human decisions in such a way that we are still responsible for them. In this view God cooperates with human beings in every action, directing their distinctive characters and natures to cause them to act as they do. Thus every event is said to be 100% caused by God and 100% caused by the creature (See Grudem: Bible Doctrine, 145). By this understanding of divine providence Grudem states, “God has made us responsible for our actions.” He says “If we do right and obey God, he will reward us” and if we do not do right we will be punished (Bible Doctrine, 152). However, this seems to create a problem for the argument from grace in that God is no longer “solely” responsible for our salvation. Since the decision of faith was caused 100% by God and 100% by the creature, we must conclude that we are responsible for our salvation in the same way we are responsible for our sin.

I think the writer is definitely trying to oversimplify certain ideas by attempting to use logic, albeit flawed logic. Certain parameters are missing from the writers argument. He is misreading Grudem for starters. When Calvinists seek to explain how God works in all things, we do so with certain biblical presuppositions. When scripture teaches that all of creation finds it’s ultimate existence and moment by moment “being” in the very hands of God Col 1:17, Heb 1:3 we do so to be consistent with scripture. We do not say that every decision is 100% God and man at all. That is a misunderstanding of Grudem and reformed thought. And the whole argument is missing the distinctions painfully made by Calvinists, such as what I have previously stated here and in which the writer has tried to acknowledge, but not actually interacted with in any way shape or form.

End of part 1 of 3.