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The Arminian Affirmation of the Atonement

The Bible is clear that Jesus died for sinners.  No one denies this.  Both Arminians and Calvinists acknowledge that Jesus shed His blood for the souls of lost sinners.  Matthew 1:21 is clear that Jesus came to save His people from their sins.  The key question in this debate over the atonement is whether the atonement is for all sinners period.  Many Calvinists insist that the atonement is indeed for all people on some level.  For example, Dr. John MacArthur believes that the atonement provides benefits for all people while only having the power to save the elect.  MacArthur goes on to state, “Jesus Christ made a sufficient sacrifice to cover every sin of every one who believes (John 3:16-18; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; 4:10; 1 John 2:2.”

I do not disagree.  MacArthur states the following on 1 John 2:2 and the “whole world”:

This is a generic term, referring not to every single individual, but to mankind in general.  Christ actually paid the penalty only for those who would repent and believe.  A number of Scriptures indicate that Christ died for the world (John 1:29; 3:16; 6:51; 1 Timothy 2:6; Hebrews 2:9).  Most of the world will be eternally condemned to hell to pay for their own sins, so they could not have been paid for by Christ.  The passages that speak of Christ’s dying for the whole world must be understood to refer to mankind in general (as in Titus 2:11).  “World” indicates the sphere, the beings toward whom God seeks reconciliation and has provided propitiation.  God has mitigated his wrath on sinners temporarily, by letting them live and enjoy earthly life (1 Timothy 4:10).  In that sense, Christ has provided a brief, temporary propitiation for the whole world.  But he actually satisfied fully the wrath of God eternally only for the elect who believe.  Christ’s death in itself had unlimited and infinite value because he is Holy God.  Thus his sacrifice was sufficient to pay the penalty for all the sins of all whom God brings to faith.  But the actual satisfaction and atonement was made only for those who believe (John 10:11, 15; 17:9, 20; Acts 20:28; Romans 8:32, 37; Ephesians 5:25).  The pardon for sin is offered to the whole world, but received only by those who believe (1 John 4:9, 14; John 5:24).  There is no other way to be reconciled to God.

A few thoughts here about this.  First, I appreciate Dr. MacArthur much.  He preaches salvation to all.  He never fails to call all to repent and believe the gospel.  In this sense, he follows in the steps of men such as George Whitefield and Charles Spurgeon in calling all sinners to repentance.  He is no hyper-Calvinist in this regard.  There has probably never been a man who has done more for expository preaching than John MacArthur.  Having personally met him, I found him to be gracious and kind.  So by no means do I present my case against him as an enemy.  I come as a brother.

Now the Arminian can read the above words from MacArthur and agree with most of what he wrote.  I agree that Christ died for the elect.  I agree that Christ died for His sheep.  I agree that Christ died for His Church.  I agree that Christ died for Paul the Apostle (Galatians 2:20).  I agree that Christ died for us (Galatians 1:4).  But I also go one step further and believe that Christ died for all.  I agree that no one is saved apart from being reconciled to God through Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  I agree that one has to believe to be saved (John 5:24; Acts 16:30-31).  I agree that repentance is necessary for eternal life (Acts 2:38).  But I also believe that all can be saved and there is no limit on this number.

I agree that the world is opposed to God (1 John 2:15-17).  Ironically, MacArthur never limits “world” in 1 John but here in 1 John 2:2.  The world is indeed sinful, God-hating, rejecting the truth of the gospel.  I agree.  But what we find in the gospel is God calling out to the whole world to repent and be saved.  God, who is the one that the world hates, is calling to His enemies to come and be reconciled through faith (Isaiah 1:18).  This is the message of the gospel (Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:47).

You’ll notice in MacArthur’s statement above also that he wants to make sure that we understand that he believes the atonement is powerful enough to cover the sins of the world if God wanted it to.  He doesn’t use those words but it seems implied by this reader.  He wants us to see how powerful and vast the work of Christ is.  I would agree.  In the cross, we do find God the Son dying for the world and shedding His precious blood for the lost.  If God wanted to, He could indeed reconciled the world through the powerful blood of Jesus.  I have no doubt.  Instead, God calls to lost sinners through His love that He demonstrated on the cross (John 3:16; Romans 5:8-9).  This is not a forced love.  This is not a forced relationship.  This is a loving relationship where the repenting sinner comes to God through His Son to be saved (Romans 2:4).  This is a genuine relationship that God initiated and not man (Ephesians 2:4-6; 1 John 4:10).  But this message, this good news is for the whole world (Luke 2:10-11; 1 John 4:14).

It is true that the atonement is only effective for those who believe.  Christ died for His enemies and He even prayed for His enemies at the cross (Luke 23:34).  MacArthur even acknowledges that Christ is praying for His enemies at this passage and adds:

Some of the fruit of this prayer can be in the salvation of thousands of people in Jerusalem at Pentecost (Acts 2:41).

Notice he adds in his note that “some of the fruit” and not all.  If it is true that Christ is dying only for the elect, why pray for the world?  Why pray for the sinners who are killing Him?  Many Calvinists point to John 17:9 as proof that Jesus does not pray for the world but only for the elect.  Yet MacArthur acknowledges that Luke 23:34 is for the lost.  He also is clear that God heard His prayer and saved some of those who perhaps killed Jesus at Pentecost in Acts 2:41.

Let us be clear here though.  None were saved by Jesus praying for them in Luke 23:34.  They had to appropriate the work of Christ just as we all do through faith.  That Jesus shed His blood saves no one.  Even Calvinists agree with this while insisting that the sins of the elect were placed on the Son.  All agree that we are saved by faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9).  And even if we allow for Calvinists to believe that faith is a gift given by God to His elect, we must still acknowledge that the wrath of God is against us till we believe.

This would mean two things.  First, those who are in cast into hell are cast into hell because they rejected the sacrifice of the Son of God for their sins.  Do we have passages of Scripture that speak of Christ dying for their sins while they rejected His sacrifice?  Yes e do.  Romans 14:15; 1 Corinthians 8:11; 2 Peter 2:1.  In context all these Scriptures speak of those whom Christ died who may not share in eternal life.  Even MacArthur does acknowledge that 2 Peter 2:1 is referring to false teachers who claimed Christ and so Peter mocks them by saying that they refuse to submit to the Lordship of Christ whom they claimed bought them.

What is clear is that people who go to hell go to hell because of their rejection of God and His truth.  The person is to blame and not God who gave His Son for their reconciliation.  Calvinism would place the blame on God.  God chose to reject sinners even before time began and even if you allow for the sinner’s punishability for their sins, they are sinning because God has predetermined that they be sinners in the first place by His own sovereign will (Romans 9:22-23).  If I were a Calvinist, at this point I would preach hard annihilation since the sinner is in hell tormented day and night forever because God willed that they never be saved in the first place.  Annihilation is at least charitable toward sinners who are being tormented for God’s glory in the first place in the Calvinist view.

Secondly, the application of the atonement is through faith.  Even MacArthur doesn’t preach the doctrine of eternal justification.  Consistent Calvinists such as John Gill see the truth that the elect are born sinless.  How else can it be?  If God placed the sins of the elect on Christ and He ensures that the elect will believe by His own sovereign choice from eternity past, who can one argue that God ever sees the sins of the elect?  If Christ died for my sins at the cross and God placed my sins on Him at the cross, when was the wrath of God against my sins appeased?  Gill would answer the cross.  MacArthur would answer the cross but add that I must receive it by faith.  And I would answer: Yes and this is biblical Arminianism!

Romans 3:21-26 in the ESV is beautiful (with my emphasis):

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Faith is the design of God to come into a saving relationship with Himself.  This is the sovereign will of God.  This is the sovereign decree of God.  All who repent and believe will be saved.  There is no limit to the sacrifice of the Son of God.  I have heard many Calvinists preaching like Arminians to the lost by preaching that Christ shed His blood so that they might be saved.  They call out to lost sinners to repent and believe the gospel (as if sinners could actually do this by their command).  They call to sinners to turn from their sins and be saved through faith in Christ.  And I agree!  In fact, I believe that every person whom the Calvinist evangelist is preaching to can be saved and there is no limit to the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16-17).  If God can have mercy on me, He can have mercy on my lost neighbors and co-workers who despise Him at this time (1 Timothy 1:15; 4:10).

As Paul the Apostle wrote above in Romans 3:24, this salvation is a gift to be received by faith.  The sinner does not earn this salvation.  There is nothing we could add to the work of Christ to be saved.  In fact, what a wicked thing to do to add to the cross of Christ by saying that we must also do our part to be saved.  We are justified though faith alone in Christ alone by His grace alone (Romans 5:1; Galatians 2:15-16; 3:13-14).  This is true of us as children of God as well as the lost sinners we are preaching to.  Salvation is the gracious work of God (John 1:12-13; Titus 2:11-14; 3:5-7).  We are saved by the work of Christ alone.

Thankfully both Calvinists and Arminians preach that truth.  Some Calvinists try to assert that we Arminians preach that we can save ourselves or we preach a works-righteousness system but this is not the truth.  Arminius wrote:

“I believe that sinners are accounted righteous solely by the obedience of Christ; and that the righteousness of Christ is the only meritorious cause on account of which God pardons the sins of believers and reckons them as righteous as if they had perfectly fulfilled the law. But since God imputes the righteousness of Christ to none except believers, I conclude that, in this sense, it may be well and properly said, to a man who believes, faith is imputed for righteousness through grace, because God hath set forth his Son, Jesus Christ, to be a propitiation, a throne of grace, [or mercy seat] through faith in his blood.”

Adam Clarke wrote:

The doctrine of justification by faith is one of the grandest displays of the mercy of God to mankind. It is so very plain that all may comprehend it; and so free that all may attain it. What more simple than this-Thou art a sinner, in consequence condemned to perdition, and utterly unable to save thy own soul. All are in the same state with thyself, and no man can give a ransom for the soul of his neighbor. God, in his mercy, has provided a Saviour for thee. As thy life was forfeited to death because of thy transgressions, Jesus Christ has redeemed thy life by giving up his own; he died in thy stead, and has made atonement to God for thy transgression; and offers thee the pardon he has thus purchased, on the simple condition that thou believe that his death is a sufficient sacrifice, ransom, and oblation for thy sin; and that thou bring it, as such, by confident faith to the throne of God, and plead it in thy own behalf there. When thou dost so, thy faith in that sacrifice shall be imputed to thee for righteousness; that is, it shall be the means of receiving that salvation which Christ has bought by his blood.

And I end with John Wesley:

But there is an undeniable difference between the Calvinists and Arminians, with regard to the three other questions. Here they divide; the former believe absolute, the latter only conditional, predestination. The Calvinists hold, (1.) God has absolutely decreed, from all eternity, to save such and such persons, and no others; and that Christ died for these, and none else. The Arminians hold, God has decreed, from all eternity, touching all that have the written word, “He that believeth shall be saved: He that believeth not, shall be condemned:” And in order to this, “Christ died for all, all that were dead in trespasses and sins;” that is, for every child of Adam, since “in Adam all died.”

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Determinism and Evangelism

In Greg Dutcher’s book, Killing Calvinism, Dutcher writes that Calvinists often hear that Calvinism destroys evangelism.  Yet Dutcher writes that while he disagrees with such a view, the best way to show that Calvinism does not destroy evangelism is to actually do evangelism.  I appreciated that.  Dutcher writes that Calvinists like to point to men such as George Whitefield as proof that true Calvinists can be great soul winners but fail to show through their own lives that they actually do share the gospel with the lost.  Agreed with all that he wrote.  Great words for us all whether we are Arminians or Calvinists.

In another book, John MacArthur writes,

The wonder of the gospel is that it is God’s doing.  W sow the seed by sharing the gospel, then we go to sleep, and the Spirit works through the gospel to give life.  We do not control who is saved, because the Spirit goes wherever He wills (John 3:8).  We do not even know how it happens, any more than a farmer knows how a seed in the ground becomes food.  Our job is not to impart life, only to implant the seed.  Once we have done that, we can rest in the sovereign power of God. (Evangelism, pp.12-13).

I agree here with MacArthur as well.  Our job is not to “save” anyone since we cannot.  Only God can save a sinner who believes (1 Corinthians 1:21).  When a sinner believes the gospel, they are brought from death to life (John 5:24) and from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of the Son (Colossians 1:13-14).  The sinner who believes the gospel does so by the grace of God, through the conviction of the Spirit (John 16:8-11) and after believing, they are sealed with the Spirit of God (Ephesians 1:13-14) which testifies to their adoption (Romans 8:15).

Yet I would point out that to be a consistent Calvinist, one must hold that all of salvation is unconditional.  God alone is the first and ultimate cause.  God foreordained all things even before time began (1 Peter 1:1-2).  God predestined His elect by His own sovereign choice (Romans 8:29-30).  God elects based on His own choice and not on anything in the person (Romans 9:11-13).  Consistent Calvinism then would hold that God not only elects the person before time began but He also sent His Son to redeem the elect (John 10:14-15).  God then calls and saves the elect not because of anything in man nor by the means of man but by His own sovereign, irresistible power (John 1:13; Acts 13:48).  While some Calvinists argue that God saves the elect by the means of the Word of God, this would not be consistent with the sovereignty of God nor with the unconditional nature of election.  To truly be unconditional, the choice, call, and saving is all done by God for God’s glory.  If we add that a person must hear the gospel, we are adding a condition.  If we add that a disciple must preach the gospel to the elect for them to hear and be saved, we are adding a condition.  This is not consistent.

I was recently reading Charles Spurgeon who was by no means consistent on this issue.  Spurgeon is hailed for his great preaching but also for his evangelism as well.  I appreciate Spurgeon much.  Yet Spurgeon was preaching on John 6:44 and he was being very Calvinistic in this text as I would expect.  Spurgeon even stated,

Now, if the preaching of Christ himself did not avail to the enabling these men to come to Christ, it cannot be possible that all that was intended by the drawing of the Father was simply preaching. No, brethren, you must note again, he does not say no man can come except the minister draw him, but except the Father draw him. Now there is such a thing as being drawn by the gospel, and drawn by the minister, without being drawn by God. Clearly, it is a divine drawing that is meant, a drawing by the Most High God—the First Person of the most glorious Trinity sending out the Third Person, the Holy Spirit, to induce men to come to Christ.

Spurgeon even took a shot at Arminians in this sermon for holding that sinners are converted by hearing the gospel and believing the truth.  Spurgeon here was consistent with his Calvinism.  Truly, if God has elected the elect before the world began and has saved them in His Son, the elect will be saved and further, are saved even from eternity past (eternal justification in the words of John Gill).  The means is not a condition to salvation.  Evangelism, preaching, discipleship, etc. are not means to salvation.  They cannot be.  That would add a condition and would not be consistent with the sovereignty of God as taught within Calvinism.  The fact is that Spurgeon was correct if Calvinism is true: the sinner is drawn not by the preaching of the gospel or any external means but the internal call of God by which the Spirit of God regenerates the sinner so that they can hear God’s voice and live.  The classic example given by Calvinists is Lazarus in John 11.

Calvinists will insist that external call goes out to all (Revelation 22:17) but the internal call goes out only to the elect.  The internal call is the call of God and is irresistible.  The internal call of God is based on His sovereign choice.  The internal call of God is unconditional.  The external call is the preaching of the gospel but the internal call of God is only to His elect (1 Corinthians 1:23-25).  The Calvinist evangelist then will preach the gospel to all and call all to repent and believe the gospel but he knows that only the elect will do so (1 Peter 1:3).  J.I. Packer writes that this is great comfort for the Reformed evangelist since they know that the work of God is done not by them but by God’s power and grace.  The evangelist merely preaches the gospel and the Lord does the work of saving sinners for His glory.  The duty of the evangelist is not to save anyone (he can’t) but to preach the gospel and God takes the gospel and brings forth fruitfulness in His timing (Matthew 13:3-9).

Yet is all this consistent with divine determinism?  If in fact God has chosen His elect before the foundation of the world and if in fact this election is based on God’s sovereign choice and if in fact this election and salvation are purely monergistic, what role does the evangelist play?  In reality, none.  If one argues that the preaching of the gospel is necessary to the saving of the elect, is this a condition?  How can one argue that election is unconditional while placing certain conditions upon election such as faith, repentance, or hearing the gospel preached by an evangelist?

I agree with much of what I wrote above about the external call.  I reject the internal call because this violates the power of choice in a given relationship and God, in Scripture, treats us as people.  God deals with people as people who can choose because they have been created in His image (Genesis 1:26-27).  The preaching of the cross is to be preached to all and all can be saved (John 16:8).  The prevenient grace of God is the preaching of the gospel and the work of the Spirit as He works through the preaching of the gospel to bring forth salvation among lost sinners (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8).  I agree entirely that God alone saves because He alone can save (Isaiah 45:22).  The “work” of mankind is to humble themselves and believe the gospel (John 6:29; Romans 4:5).  When a sinner humbles themselves before the cross, they will find that the Lord is merciful toward humble sinners and He will save them by His grace (Luke 18:14).  This is the hope of the Bible (1 Timothy 2:4).

Consistent Calvinists (known as hyper-Calvinists) hold that God saves only the elect and He does so in His own timing and power.  He does not need man nor does He even use man.  God alone saves His elect.  Everything that happens happens because God wills it so including the damnation of the non-elect or reprobate.  Calvin acknowledged this calling it the “horrible decree.”  I’m not sure why Calvin would label it as such since everything happens to the glory of God including the damnation of the reprobate.  In the consistent Calvinist church, how does one become a Christian?  By God’s sovereign decree and timing.  In fact, some consistent Calvinists believe that assurance of salvation is impossible in this life.  One cannot know they are elected until the final judgment.  Some have even taught that many will think they were elect but will find at the final judgment that they were not.  This reminds me of the Islamic view of eternal life in which Allah sometimes even casts faithful Muslims into hell simply because Allah wills it so.  While the consistent Calvinist would view Yahweh as loving and good, they would agree that Yahweh may or man not allow some into heaven even if they thought they were elect simply because He did not will it so.

Yet the Calvinist must admit that the consistent Calvinist is correct.  If God is sovereign as Calvinism teaches then everything that happens happens because of the will of God.  As R.C. Sproul is famous for saying, “If there is one rebellious molecule in the universe, God is not sovereign!”  In Calvinism, sovereignty means “complete control, divine determinism of all things.”  How can one say the uphold such a view of God yet say that He allows sinners to willfully reject (with free choice) the salvation offered to them?  Remember, compatibilism holds that free choice is not allowed.  Let me repeat the definition of compatibilism:

Compatibilism (also known as soft determinism), is the belief that God’s predetermination and meticulous providence is “compatible” with voluntary choice. In light of Scripture, human choices are believed to be exercised voluntarily but the desires and circumstances that bring about these choices about occur through divine determinism (see Acts 2:23 & 4:27-28). It should be noted that this position is no less deterministic than hard determinism – be clear that neither soft nor hard determinism believes man has a free will. Our choices are only our choices because they are voluntary, not coerced. We do not make choices contrary to our desires or natures. Compatibilism is directly contrary to libertarian free will. Therefore voluntary choice is not the freedom to choose otherwise, that is, without any influence, prior prejudice, inclination, or disposition. Voluntary does mean, however, the ability to choose what we want or desire most. The former view is known as contrary choice, the latter free agency. (Note: compatibilism denies that the will is free to choose otherwise, that is, free from the bondage of the corruption nature,for the unregenerate, and denies that the will is free from God’s eternal decree.)

So a sinner hears the gospel and notice that according to compatibilism, that person cannot choose freely to receive or reject the gospel.  Notice carefully that a person is not free to choose otherwise.  In other words, the Reformed evangelist comes along preaching the gospel to a crowd.  The Reformed evangelist preaches, “Repent and believe the gospel” but he knows that only those who have the internal call of God will respond while the others are dead in their sins and cannot even hear him spiritually speaking (1 Corinthians 2:14).  Yet even before the evangelist ever came and even before time began, God had already chosen His elect.  The evangelist comes and the people have no choice in this matter.  They will believe because God wills it so.  It has nothing to do with the evangelist or the sinner.  Go back and read Spurgeon at the top.  God draws the sinner not by external means but by His grace alone (John 6:44).  God needs no minister in the words of Spurgeon.  This, my friends, is consistent Calvinism.  It is not practiced much but it is consistent.

Conclusion

Some Calvinists will read this post and say that I got it all wrong.  I may have.  I am not a Calvinist and have never been so.  However, I read Spurgeon and most of the above came from a book I have on John Calvin written by a Calvinist.  I rejoice that consistent Calvinism is not rampant.  I believe that as more and more Calvinists read into Calvin and think deeply on the implications of Calvinism, they will reject the system.  Calvinism is not practical.  Calvinism is not congruent.  Especially for those who love sinners and want to see them saved.  Most Reformed evangelists I know preach like Arminians.  They call sinners to repent and they reason with sinners to come to faith.  Yet they are not consistent with their evangelism and their theology that they believe backs up their preaching.  From Jeremiah’s Cry to many other Reformed evangelism groups, they are not consistent in their application of Calvinism toward preaching to the lost.

My prayer is that we would soon see a turning of the tide away from Calvinism.  I love my Calvinist brothers and sisters.  I love to listen to many of them preach and teach the Word of God.  I have been blessed to have even evangelized with many Calvinists brothers and sisters in the open air.  I do not view Calvinists as enemies of the gospel.  Let me repeat that: I do not believe Calvinists are enemies of the gospel.  I disagree with Calvinism but love Calvinists.  I listen to many Calvinist podcasts and enjoy their labors for the Lord.  I rejoice that nearly every Calvinist I know is not consistent.

In the end, I will freely admit that I am not a brilliant man and could be wrong.  I pray that God would show me where I am wrong.  I would humble myself before His throne and admit my failures in my own theology as He reveals it to me.  I also confess that theology always has some mystery to it.  I cannot understand fully how God is able to take free choices of men and women and still has His own outcome.  I don’t understand the nature of petitionary prayer to the sovereignty of God.  Yet I am okay with mystery.  The gospel is not a mystery (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  The gospel is clear (Acts 13:38-39).  Yet other aspects of theology are a mystery and I suppose we may never fully grasp them even in eternity in God’s holy presence.

In my next post I won’t to jump into John 6:37.  Does John 6:37 affirm divine determinism or is there another way to read John 6:37 in the context of both John and Scripture that affirms the universal call of the gospel?  We shall see.

May God be glorified in His Church!

The Cycle of Calvinism From A Biased Arminian

I enjoy Church history.  I enjoy reading the story of how the gospel flowed from the book of Acts to the nations.  I love reading how people have taken great steps of faith to take the gospel to the nations.  It blesses me to see Psalm 110:1 being taken to the nations.

That said, I will confess that this post is very biased.  I am not writing from a position of having studied many hours over Church history books.  I did listen to a podcast by Dr. Curt Daniel on hyper-Calvinism.  If his views hold, we will see cycles of Calvinism in the church.  This seems to be the view of Dr. Daniel and my own as well though I have not lived through them.

Dr. Daniel views the cycles of Calvinism as follows.  These points are my own:

1.  Initial Revival of Calvinism

2.  Cage Staged Calvinism

3.  Apologetical Calvinism

4.  Hyper-Calvinism

The first is the embracing of Calvinism followed by the cage stage where the young Calvinist is zealous for all things Calvinistic.  I have noticed that in this stage the Calvinist often will not necessarily read the works of Calvin or Spurgeon or Edwards or MacArthur or Sproul but will write and talk as if they have.  In this stage, Calvinism is the gospel and the point of agreement.  If a person is not a Calvinist, they are viewed as wrong, perhaps heretical, and even unsaved.  I have been declared as all three!

From the cage stage the Calvinist turns to apologetics to defend Calvinism.  This often leads to men such as James White or R.C. Sproul.  I have found the younger Calvinists to prefer to download White than to read Sproul.  The apologetics stage is where the young Calvinist goes on a witch-hunt for anything and anyone that is against Calvinism.

The final stage is hyper-Calvinism.  I praise God that not many have found their way here yet.  Even R.C. Sproul, despite agreeing that Romans 9:22-23 does teach double predestination, admits he cannot go on to being a hyper-Calvinist.  Most stop at point #3 and many turn back either to being biblical Arminians or some reject the faith altogether.

If Church history can teach us anything then according to Dr. Daniel, we will see a rise in hyper-Calvinism over the years to come after we have watched Calvinism explode onto the scene the past 15 years.  I pray that godly Calvinists will fight against hyper-Calvinism as hyper-Calvinism always leads to loss in missions, loss in unity even among disagreeing brethren, and leads to dead faith.

This is just the views of a very biased Arminian.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/10/2014 at 11:05 AM

I Agree….

I agree with John Gill in this picture, hyper-Calvinism would make me sad too. John Gill

Written by The Seeking Disciple

06/14/2013 at 6:25 AM

One Point About My Post on Hyper-Calvinism

I want to make one point about my previous post on hyper-Calvinism and how I see it as consistent Calvinism.  I want to make it clear that I don’t agree with the underlying thesis of the hyper-Calvinist and I believe that the hyper-Calvinist exalts the decree of God above all things.  It makes the decree of God supreme when in fact, as an Arminian, I believe the love of God is supreme as seen in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:15-20; 2:9).

Now that said, I want to make one more point about this post and that is that I do not hold that Calvinists are all hyper-Calvinists.  Not at all.  In fact, the vast majority of them would preach against hyper-Calvinism and would view it as unbiblical.  I want to make that clear.  I have seen various non-Calvinists say that Calvinism is hyper-Calvinism.  For instance, Dr. Norman Geisler, in his book Chosen But Free, writes that Reformed Christians are hyper-Calvinists whereas he sees himself as a moderate Calvinist.  Another author, John Rice, wrote a book on Calvinism in which he called Calvinism, “hyper-Calvinism.”  I disagree with this term being applied to all Calvinists.  All the Calvinists I know personally would preach against hyper-Calvinism and would gladly go and preach the gospel along with me to all people.  They rightfully agree with us Arminians that the gospel is to be preached to all and we should leave the results to God alone.

So again, I want to make it clear that most Calvinists would deplore the teachings of hyper-Calvinists.  For that, I am thankful.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

04/24/2013 at 12:42 PM

If I Became A Calvinist…

From time to time I read on a Calvinist blog or a site that the logical end of Arminianism is universalism.  Therefore, so the writers imply, that if they embraced Arminianism then they would likewise embrace universalism since this is the Arminians logical end.

For me, if I were to embrace Calvinism, I would embrace hyper-Calvinism.  Hyper-Calvinism is the logical end.  If you follow TULIP correctly, the logical end has to be hyperism.  I recently even heard a Reformed Bible teacher lecturing on hyper-Calvinism and he lamented that despite the success of the “young, restless, and reformed” movement, he believed that history showed that with the rise of Calvinism also followed hyper-Calvinism as young, zealous Calvinists go beyond the bounds and take Calvinism to places that Calvin never intended the theology to go to (though I think that Calvin was not always consistent).  This Reformed teacher warned that the next movement he saw on the horizon would be a rise in hyper-Calvinism.

Now for those who don’t know what hyper-Calvinism is (as some Arminians tend to think that all Calvinists are hyper-Calvinists), hyperism is the following:

The prefix “hyper” may be used generically to refer to anything that is considered “extreme” or which goes beyond the accepted norm. There is therefore a sense in which one may refer to Calvinistic views regarded as going beyond normal Calvinism as “hyper.” This non-technical use, usually as a pejorative term, has been applied to a variety of theological positions which fall outside mainstream Calvinism:

  • that God is the source of sin and of evil
  • that men have no will of their own, and secondary causes are of no effect
  • that it is wrong to evangelize
  • that God does not command everyone to repent
  • that there is no common grace, i.e. God only cares for his elect and has nothing but hatred for the non-elect.
  • that no government is to be obeyed which does not acknowledge that Jesus is the Lord over it, or that Biblical Law is its source of authority
  • that only Calvinists are Christians

I believe that the following is actually consistent if you logically follow TULIP.  Think about it.  If you hold to total depravity as taught by Calvinism than this means that mankind is dead in their sins like a corpse and even with the grace of God, they cannot respond to His call, they cannot hear His voice.  God must regenerate them first to give them spiritual life so that He can give them the gift of faith.  Now if this is true then it follows that God must do the complete work of regeneration and this means that God is the one who has chosen whom He will save and whom He will damn.  Before you run away from that by saying that God merely passes over the non-elect, even if He does do this, He still has not chosen them and condemns them in theirs sins.  It is not their sins then that condemn them to eternal hell but the sovereign will of God (Romans 9:22).

If God then is the One who elects whom He will save and whom He will condemn, it logically follows that He sent Jesus Christ to bear the sins of the elect.  This limits the atonement to only the elect and none more.  Further, whom Jesus died for on the cross will come to Him by His irresistible grace (John 6:44) and will be saved forever (John 10:27-29).

Now I had a Bible college professor who was a Calvinist and he always said he was a TULIPER.  He added E and R for evangelism and responsibility to avoid hyper-Calvinism.

Yet hyper-Calvinism is very logical.  Very coherent.  Consider evangelism.  Consider just a bit from a hyper-Calvinist blog I follow on Acts 17:30 (a passage that both Arminians and Calvinists use to teach that God commands all to repent):

Acts 17:30 is an exhortation to idolators to turn from their idolatry in light of the holiness and coming judgement of God. “Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry… Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious… Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.” (vs. 16, 22, 29) The context of Paul’s sermon to the men of Athens does not expound on the glad tidings of the gospel, nor is there a directive command to believe on Christ in the hope of eternal life.

Gospel invitations are particular and not general because Jesus came to call the sick who have need of the Physician. This gospel call excludes the self-righteous. “When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Mark 2:17) Jesus only came to preach glad tidings to the meek, the brokenhearted, the captives, them that are bound, and all that mourn… that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.” (See Isaiah 61:1-3)

Now what hyper-Calvinists often vent against the most is the idea of “duty-faith.”  This is the teaching that it is the duty of unbelievers to place their faith in Christ for salvation.  They see this as a false teaching and against the gospel of Christ.  For example, this hyper-Calvinist blog post that compares the words of Charles Spurgeon (who preached against hyper-Calvinism) and his predecessor, John Gill found here.  You’ll notice that the writer pits Gill against Spurgeon time and time again.  Gill was against duty-faith.  Gill followed through on his Calvinism and he believed that whom God had elected, they will be saved.  We need not call people to repent.  God will save His elect in His time by His means.

John Gill stated this against preaching a universal gospel call:

To which I answer, that salvation is not offered at all by God, upon any condition whatsoever, to any of the sons of men, no, not to the elect: they are chosen to it, Christ has procured it for them, the gospel publishes and reveals it, and the Spirit of God applies it to them; much less to the non-elect, or to all mankind; and consequently this doctrine, or God according to it, is not chargeable with delusion and insult. When this author goes about to prove any such offers, I shall attend to them; and if he can prove them, I own, I must be obliged to think again.

He followed through.  Gill was consistent.

I applaud those Calvinists who are not consistent.  I do.  I am friends with several brothers like that.  In fact, in many ways they are Arminians in their gospel approach.  They preach as I do, that Christ shed His blood so that men can come and be saved.  They do as I do and preach the gospel to all men (Mark 16:15).  They have no thoughts about whether or not this person is elect or not.  They, like I, leave that to God.  They preach God’s salvation to the lost and allow the Spirit to do His work (John 16:8-11).  Yet they are not consistent.

Now let me state that if Arminianism leads naturally toward universalism, my question is this: which God would you rather serve? The God who loves all and desires all to be saved (or has saved if universalism were correct and the natural end of Arminianism) or the God who condemns people in their sins before time began and offers them no hope at all apart from His sovereign election?

In closing, I believe both hyper-Calvinism and universalism are wrong.  I believe they are extreme views.  If universalism is the logical end of Arminianism then I am happy to be an inconsistent Arminian as I am sure that many of my Calvinist brethren are happy to be inconsistent Calvinists.  Dr. Robertson McQuilkin always exhorted his students to “find the center of biblical tension and stay there.”  I say “amen” to that.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

04/24/2013 at 10:00 AM

Spurgeon on Prevenient Grace

I found the following quotes interesting from Charles Spurgeon on prevenient grace.  His statements are akin to what we Arminians believe about the prevenient grace of God that enables sinful humanity to be saved despite our total inability to save ourselves.  He states in his sermon (#656) on this subject:

Now let me show you how God’s grace does come to work on the human heart so as to make it good soil before the living seed is cast into it, so that before quickening grace really visits it the heart may be called a good heart, because it is prepared to receive that grace.

I think this takes place thus: first of all, before quickening grace comes, God often gives an attentive ear, and makes a man willing to listen to the Word. Not only does he like to listen to it, but he wants to know the meaning of it; there is a little excitement in his mind to know what the gospel tidings really are. He is not saved as yet, but it is always a hopeful sign when a man is willing to listen to the truth, and is anxious to understand it. This is one thing which prevenient grace does in making the soul good.

In Ezekiel’s vision, as you will recollect, before the breath came from the four winds the bones began to stir, and they came together bone to his bone. So, before the Spirit of God comes to a man in effectual calling, God’s grace often comes to make a stir in the man’s mind, so that he is no longer indifferent to the truth, but is anxious to understand what it means.

With the exception of effectual calling here, the Arminian finds comfort in Spurgeon’s words about the prevenient grace of God.  Spurgeon, in his sermon on the warrant of faith, states:

“If I am to preach faith in Christ to a man who is regenerated, then the man, being regenerated, is saved already, and it is an unnecessary and ridiculous thing for me to preach Christ to him, and bid him to believe in order to be saved when he is saved already, being regenerate.”

There is no doubt that Spurgeon was a Calvinist.  He stated so himself.  I have read enough of Spurgeon to know that he was a Calvinist but he was not consistent with his Calvinism.  For instance, Spurgeon disagreed with the Calvinists of his day over the free offer of the gospel and he used “Arminian” texts to teach that it is the duty of the Church to preach the gospel to all and to call all to repentance.  Spurgeon battled the hyper-Calvinists of his day (and rightfully so) with a passion to preach the gospel to all and to call all to salvation.  Spurgeon was firm in his view regarding unconditional election but I believed he erred in his approach to evangelism by seeking to argue that God made a bona fide call to salvation to all.  This is simply untrue if God has elected a few to salvation while reprobating the majority.

Yet Spurgeon was correct to argue for a universal call to salvation and he was correct in his views regarding regeneration, that faith leads to salvation and not to the false teaching that God must first regenerate a person in order for them to exercise the gift of faith.  This view is based on Calvinistic assumptions rather than Scripture and Spurgeon was quick to point that out it seems.

For more information, I recommend the article by Bob Ross on regeneration in which he shows Spurgeon’s views regarding this issue.  You can find it here.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

04/18/2013 at 10:04 AM

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