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Posts Tagged ‘Questioning Calvinism

What I Would Like To Hear from Calvinists in Evangelism

I recently watched a video of what evangelism would be like for Mormons if in fact they told their hearers just what Mormons believe about Jesus Christ, the plurality of gods, exaltation to godhood, etc.

Yet this got me thinking about my Calvinist friends who go out evangelizing.  Granted, we both share a passion for the lost.  I rejoice in that.  I praise God for my Calvinist brethren who are out on the streets preaching the gospel to the lost.  I rejoice in Calvinist ministries that are devoted to world missions or to church planting or to preaching to the lost.  That blesses me.

However, what if Calvinist were honest about their theology in their preaching.  I am not saying that Calvinists lie when they share the gospel.  They don’t.  They preach what I preach and other Arminians before me.  They preach the truth that Jesus shed His blood that we might be saved by grace through faith.  Yet they will avoid certain sayings such as “Jesus shed His blood for you” because they just don’t know that.  They won’t tell a person that God loves them because its possible God does not love them and in fact it is possible (and highly likely) that God created them for the very purpose of destroying them in hell for His glory (Romans 9:22-23 according to Calvin).  I have never heard a Calvinist evangelist preach to sinners passing by that they cannot hear him unless they are the elect (John 10:27-29).  I have never heard a Calvinist evangelist preach limited atonement publicly before (the teaching that Christ died only for the elect).  I have never heard a Calvinist exhorting sinners that they are totally unable to come to Christ and repent of their sins apart from God regenerating them first.  I have yet to hear a Calvinist evangelist preaching “have faith now that you have been born again” yet Calvinism teaches that regeneration precedes faith.

In fact, Calvinists preach like Arminians.  They call sinners to repent (though Calvinism teaches that one can never be free from sin).  They call sinners to faith in Christ (a gift from God given only to His elect though they don’t tell sinners that).  They call sinners to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ while leaving out that it is likely Jesus did not die for them.  They preach that sinners will go to hell for their own sins though they fail to tell them that God predestined them before time began even before they had a chance to even do anything evil and it was God’s own sovereign choice to condemn them to hell.  They fail to preach that God ordains whatsoever comes to pass including all sins so that sinners are doing what God wills for them to do by their sinning.

Don’t get me wrong, I have labored with Calvinists for souls before.  Again, I rejoice that Calvinists are often wonderfully inconsistent in their evangelism.  They will even use Arminian phrases.  For example, I heard one Calvinist street preaching and telling the crowd that Jesus loved them by shedding His blood for them.  That is not Calvinism!  That is Arminianism!  If I preach that Jesus shed His blood for sinners, I am preaching my own theology (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)!  When I exhort sinners to repent of their sins, I am preaching my theology because I believe the Holy Spirit works through the gospel to draw sinners to the Savior but He allows the sinner to respond out of their freed will (Acts 2:37-38, 41; 17:30-31; 2 Corinthians 5:18-6:2).  When I preach that Christ is sufficient for sinners to be saved, I am preaching the unlimited atonement of Christ that Scripture clearly teaches (1 Timothy 2:3-6; 4:10; Titus 2:11-12; 1 John 2:1-2).  When I preach the universal love of God for the world by the cross (John 3:16-18; Romans 5:8-9; 1 John 4:9-10, 14), I am preaching my own theology.  When I tell sinners that God will judge them for their own sins, I am preaching the truths of my own theology (Ezekiel 18:4, 31; Romans 2:6; 6:23; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10; Hebrews 9:27-28; Revelation 20:15; 21:7-8).

I don’t want to discourage Calvinists from preaching the gospel.  I do want them to preach their theology to the lost.  I want to hear the doctrine of unconditional election preached to the lost.  I want to hear divine determinism preached to the lost.  I want to hear limited atonement preached to the lost.  One Calvinist blogger wrote that Jesus did preach Calvinism in John 6 to the lost.  I have yet to hear a Calvinist evangelist end his preaching to the lost by saying, “Only those who repent are truly the elect of God” (a point I would agree with).  They simply end by pleading with the lost to come to faith in Christ and be saved when in fact they should be preaching, “Those of you who are regenerated, come to faith in Christ as proof of your divine election.”

Thank God that Arminianism preaches well.

Does A Literal Reading of John 3:16 Destroy Arminianism?

I was listening to an apologetic call-in program that happens to be hosted by a Calvinist.  I actually enjoy the podcast and appreciate his defense of the faith however he does often get sidetracked by Calvinism.  For example, in a recent broadcast he spent his time defending unconditional election and he spent his time seeking to prove that John 3:16 does not teach unlimited atonement.  I want to focus on the issue of John 3:16 for a moment here.

Young’s Literal Translation has John 3:16 like this:

for God did so love the world, that His Son — the only begotten — He gave, that every one who is believing in him may not perish, but may have life age-during.

This Calvinist took John 3:16 and he sought to prove that Jesus did in fact die only for the elect based on the literal reading.  His focus was on “every one who is believing in Him” and sought to show that those who believe are only the elect.

Let me point out several things about this.  First, the literal reading does not affect Arminianism in the least bit.  In fact, John 3:16 is still a powerful verse for Arminianism’s doctrine of unlimited limited atonement.  After all, Arminianism rejects universalism and we believe and teach that only those who place their saving faith in Jesus are truly saved (as do Calvinists).  In that case, John 3:16 in its literal reading does not add one thing nor take away one thing from the Arminian-Calvinist debate.

Secondly, we agree that every one who is believing in Him may not perish.  We believe that salvation is based completely on Christ Jesus and that only those who justified by faith and those who remain in faith in Christ Jesus are truly the elect of God.  Believing must continue from start to finish (1 Corinthians 15:3; Colossians 1:21-23).  Our salvation is secure if we are in Christ Jesus by faith (Jude 24-25).  The promise of God is to keep us as we abide in Christ (John 15:1-11; 2 Corinthians 1:24).  Thus believing is necessary for initial salvation and for continued salvation (Hebrews 3:6-19; 6:4-20; 10:19-39).  The blood of Jesus washes away our sins when we initially come to God in faith and repentance (Acts 2:37-38; 3:19; 16:30-34; 17:30-31; 22:16; Ephesians 1:7) but we must walk in the light as He is in the light (1 John 1:7).  This is continuing to trust Jesus by faith that He alone saves us by His grace.

Thirdly, if John 3:16 were the only passage we had for unlimited limited atonement, Arminianism would be in trouble.  Thankfully it is not.  We have a host of passages of Scripture that emphasize the love of God for all.  Consider just a few such as 1 Timothy 2:3-6; 1 John 2:1-2; 4:14.  The call of Acts 2:38-39 goes out to all.  While Calvinists acknowledge the general call to repentance, they deny that God will grant repentance to all who come to Him but only to His elect (John 6:37 – a passage I will deal with in another post).  Arminians point to 1 Timothy 4:10 which is clear that only the elect are those who come to Christ for salvation but this does not deny that He is the Savior of all people in the sense that He gave His life for all so that whosoever may come and be saved (John 3:14-18; Romans 10:13).

And finally, I found it interesting that in this dialogue, the Calvinist brother pointed to Colossians 2:14 as proof that Jesus died only for the elect.  He said that the elect’s sin were nailed to the cross.  I was wondering if the Calvinist believes that he was born sinless.  If Colossians 2:14 means that Jesus shed His blood to take away the sin’s of the elect then surely at the cross, at the moment Jesus died, He died to secure the elect’s salvation.  This is a point most Calvinists will accept.  Yet if this premise is true then why do Calvinists deny either A) eternal justification since God chose His elect before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4) or B) that the elect are born sinless since Christ died for the elect’s sin already.  In other words, if Bill is part of the elect and he was born in 1977 then logically Christ died nearly 2000 years ago for Bill based on the Calvinist reading of Colossians 2:14.  Bill then was born sinless since, according to Calvinism, Bill cannot be punished for his sins twice (this would be double jeopardy).  The typical Calvinist response is that Bill’s sins were not forgiven until he was effectually drawn to Christ by the sovereign grace of God.  Yet what about Colossians 2:14?  If Christ died for Bill, Bill, in the mind of God, was chosen in Christ before time began (Eph. 1:4 again) and Bill was eternally justified before God because God, in His absolute sovereignty, knew that Bill would believe the gospel and be saved.  Bill never had any sins because God knew that Bill was elect even before time began and God gave His Son to die for Bill so that Bill could be legally justified before God.

I know that much of this is philosophical in nature but I hope you see my point.  The Arminian reply to all this is simple: Bill was saved when the Spirit of God opened his eyes through the preaching of the gospel (John 6:44) and by faith Bill was justified before God (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7).  The entire work of salvation belongs to God alone (John 1:12-13) but God does not believe for Bill.  Bill must believe to be saved and this only happens because of the grace of God (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 notice the calling through the gospel and not by anything else in this text).  Bill’s salvation is based completely on Christ Jesus alone and he becomes the elect of God when he repents and believes the gospel.

The blood of Jesus is sufficient for all to be saved but only is appropriated to those who repent and believe the gospel (John 3:36).  A point I think we all agree on.  May we preach the blood of Jesus to all!

Arminius on Romans 7: Introduction

The following is the introduction by Arminius to his exegesis of Romans 7.  Part of Arminius’ disagreements with Calvinists of his day was over the person in Romans 7.  John Calvin and Beza after him both held that the man of Romans 7 was a regenerated man.  Arminius disagreed.  He felt that Paul was speaking of his self before his conversion to Christ.  Arminius ran into trouble with the Calvinists of his day because it was held that no one was to question Calvinist interpretations of Scripture which Arminius clearly was doing.  Arminius had first come under fire when he was preaching verse by verse through Romans and came to Romans 7 and took a different viewpoint than the common one held in his day.  It sparked a continental debate between Arminius and various Calvinist theologians that led ultimately to the Synod of Dort after his death.  Many feel that Arminius died prematurely from the stress of debates he had with Calvinist theologians during his life.


1. A description of the terms contained in the Thesis. 2. The reason why the description of the apostle is here omitted. 3. What is meant by “being under the law. 4. What it is to be “under grace.” 5. What is meant by “a regenerate man?” 6. Who is “an unregenerate?”

THE apostle, in this passage, is treating neither about himself, such as he then was, nor about a man living under grace; but he has transferred to himself the person of a man placed under the law.

Or as some other persons express it :

The apostle, in this passage, is not treating about a man who is already regenerate through the Spirit of Christ, but has assumed the person of a man who is not yet regenerate.

1. To the proof of the thesis, must be premised and prefixed definitions or descriptions of the subjects which it comprises. The subjects are — the apostle himself, a man placed under grace, a man placed under the law, a man regenerate by the Spirit of Christ, and a man not yet regenerate.

2. I have set the apostle apart from those who are regenerate and placed under grace, not because I would take him away from the number of regenerate persons, among whom he holds a conspicuous station, but because some people have thought proper to deduce, from the description of the apostolical perfection, arguments by which they prove, that the apostle could not, in this passage, be speaking concerning himself, as he then was; because those things which he here ascribes to himself are at variance with some things that, in other passages, he writes about himself, and because they are a disgrace to his eminent state of grace, and to his progress in faith and newness of life. But since it is certain, that the apostle has not, in this chapter, treated of himself personally, as distinguished from all other men of whatsoever condition or order they may be, but that he, under his own person, described a certain kind and order of men, whether they be those who are under the law and not yet regenerate, or those who are regenerate and placed under grace, omitting the description of the apostle, we will first see what is meant by being under grace and under the law, and what by being regenerate, and not yet regenerate or unregenerate; yet we will do this in such a man — that, in the subsequent establishment of our own opinion, we may produce arguments drawn from the description given by the apostle.

3. The expression, therefore, to be under the law, does not signify merely that the man is liable to perform it, or that he is bound to obey the commands of the law; in which sense all men generally, both those who are said in the ninth verse of this chapter to be “without law,” are reckoned to be under the law by right of creation, and those also who are under grace, are considered to be under the law by the further fight of redemption and sanctification, and yet in such a manner as not to be under its rigor, because they are under the law to Christ, who makes his people free from the rigor of the law. But because the office of the law concerning sinners is two-fold — the one, to conclude sinners under the guilt of that punishment which is denounced by the law against transgressors, and to condemn them by its sentence — the other, first to instruct sinners and to give them assurance about its equity, justice and holiness, and afterwards to accuse them of sin, to urge them to obedience, to convince them of their own weakness, to terrify them by a dread of punishment, to compel them to seek deliverance, and, generally, to lead, govern and actuate sinners according to its efficacy. Therefore, with regard to the first office of the law, all sinners universally are said to be under it, even those who are without law and have sinned without it; “for they shall also perish without law (Rom. ii, 12) yet they are not to be condemned without a just sentence of the law. In relation to the second office of the law, they are said to be under its dominion, government, lordship and (pedagogy) tutelage, who are ruled and actuated by the efficacy and guidance of the law, in whom it exerts its power, and exercises these its operations, whether some of them or all, whether more or less, in which respect there may be, and really are, different degrees and orders of those persons who are said, in this second view, to be under the law. But in this passage, we define a man under the law to be “one who is under its entire efficacy and all its operations;” the design of the apostle requiring this, as we shall afterwards perceive.

4. This phrase “to be under grace,” answers in opposition to the other of being “under the law,” since the effect of this grace is two-fold. The first is, to absolve a sinful man from the guilt of sin and from condemnation; the second is, to endow man with the Spirit of adoption and of regeneration, and by that Spirit to vivify or quicken, to lead, actuate and govern him. Hence, not only are they said to be “under grace” who are free from guilt and condemnation, but likewise they who are governed and actuated by the guidance of grace and of the Holy Spirit. But since we are in this place discussing, not properly the condemnation of sin, but the tyranny and dominion which it violently exercises over those who are its subjects, by compelling them with its own force to yield it complete obedience, and to which are opposed in vain the efficacy and power of the law; and since we are now treating, not about the remission of sins, but about that grace which inhibits or restrains the force of this tyrant and lord, and which leads men to yield it due obedience; therefore we must restrict the expressions, “to be under the law,” and “to be under grace,” to the latter signification — that he is “under the law” who is governed and actuated by the guidance of the law, and that he is “under grace” who is governed and actuated by the guidance of grace. This will be rendered evident from the fourteenth verse of the sixth chapter, when accurately compared with the preceding and following verses of the same chapter, and from the 17th and 18th verses of the fifth chapter of the epistle to the Galatians, when they are properly applied to this matter. Yet if any one be desirous of extending these passages to the two-fold signification of each of the expressions, he has my free permission for such extension; for it cannot prove the least hindrance in the inquiry and discovery of the truth of the matter which is the subject of our present discussion.

5. LET us now see about the regenerate and the unregenerate man. That we may define him with strictness, as it is proper to do in oppositions and distinctions, we say that a regenerate man is one who is so-called, not from the commenced act or operation of the Holy Spirit, though this is regeneration, but from the same act or operation when it is perfected with respect to its essential parts, though not with respect to its quantity and degree; he is not one “who was once enlightened, and has tasted of the heavenly gift, and was made partaker of the Holy Ghost, and who has tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come;” (Heb. vi, 4,5) because the explanation given by most of our divines to this passage, applies only to unregenerate persons. Neither is he one who “has escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and saviour Jesus Christ, and who has known the way of righteousness;” (2 Pet. ii, 20,21) or they explain this passage also as applicable solely to the unregenerate. Nor is it a man who “heareth the law, and has the work of the law written in his heart, whose thoughts mutually accuse or else excuse themselves, who rests in the law, makes his boast of God, knows his will, and approves the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law.” (Rom. ii, 13-18.) Neither is he one who “has prophesied in the name of the Lord, and in his name cast out devils;” (Matt. vii, 22) and who “has all faith, so that he could remove mountains.” (1 Cor. xiii, 2) Nor is he one who acknowledges himself to be a sinner, mourns on account of sin, and is affected with godly sorrow, and who is fatigued and “heavy laden” under the burden of his sins; (Matt. xi, 28) for such persons as these Christ came to call, and this call precedes justification and sanctification, that is, regeneration. (Rom. viii, 30.) Neither is it he who “knows himself to be wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked;” for this is the man whom Christ “counsels to buy” of him the things necessary for himself. (Rev. iii, 17,18.) This interpretation is not invalidated by the fact that the church of Laodicea is said not to know herself; for the “counsel” or advice bestowed will never persuade her to buy those things of Christ, unless she have previously known herself to be such a one as is there described. Nor is he one who knows that a man cannot be justified by the works of the law, and who, from this very circumstance, is compelled to flee to Christ, that in him he may obtain justification. (Gal. ii, 16) Nor is he a man, who, acknowledging himself as being unworthy even to lift up his eyes to heaven, and who, smiting on his breast, has exclaimed, God be merciful to me a sinner!

This has been well observed by Beza in his Refutation of the calumnies of Tilman Heshusius, where he makes a beautiful distinction between “the things which precede regeneration” and “regeneration itself” and thus expresses himself: “It is one thing to inquire by what methods God prepares for repentance or newness of life, and it is another to treat on repentance itself. Let, therefore, the acknowledgment of sin and godly sorrow be the beginning of repentance, but so far as God begins in this way to prepare us for newness of life, in which respect it was the practice of Calvin deservedly to call this fear initial. Besides, in the description of penitence we are not so accustomed as some people are, to call these dreadful qualms of conscience the mortification of the flesh or of the old man; though we know that the word of God is compared to a sword, which, in some manner, slays us, that we may offer ourselves for a sacrifice to God; and St. Paul somewhere calls afflictions the death of Christ which we carry about with us in the body. For it is very evident that, by the mortification or death of the flesh and of the old man, or of our members, St. Paul means something far different: He means not that efficacy of the Spirit of Christ which may terrify us, but that which may sanctify us, by destroying in us that corrupt nature which brought forth fruit unto death. Besides, we also differ from some persons on this point, not with respect to the thing itself, but in the method or form of teaching it, that they wish faith to be the second part of penitence, but we say that metanoia [a change of mind for the better,] by which term we understand, according to Scripture usage, renovation of life or newness of living, is the effect of faith,” &c. (Opuscula, tom. I, fol. 328.) Such are the sentiments of Beza; but how exactly they agree with those things which I have advanced, will be rendered very apparent to any man who will compare the one with the other.

Consonant with these is that which John Calvin says about initial fear, in the following words: “They have probably been deceived by this — that some persons are tamed by the qualms or terrors of conscience, or are prepared by them for obedience, before they have been imbued with the knowledge of grace, nay, before they have tasted it. And this is that initial fear which some persons reckon among the virtues, because they discern that it approaches nearly to a true and just obedience. But this is not the place for discussing the various ways by which Christ draws us to himself, or prepares us for the pursuit of piety,” etc.

But a regenerate man is one who comprises within himself all the particulars which I shall here enumerate: “has put off the old man with his deeds, and has put on the new man, who is renewed in knowledge, which agrees with the image of him who created him.” (Col. iii, 9,10.) has received from God “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation through the knowledge of Him, the eyes of his understanding being illuminated” or opened. (Ephes. i, 18.) He has put off, “concerning the former conversation, the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and he is renewed in the spirit of his mind, and has put on the new man, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Ephes. iv, 22- 24) He, “with open face, beholding, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, is changed into the same image from glory to glory, even us by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Cor. iii, 18) He is “dead to sin; his old man is crucified with Christ, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth he should not serve sin; he is freed from sin, and is alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord?” (Rom. vi, 2,6, 7,11) “he is crucified with Christ; nevertheless he lives, yet not he; but Christ liveth in him; and the life which he now lives in the flesh, he lives by the faith of the Son of God.” (Gal. ii, 20.) Being one of Christ’s followers, “he has crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts, and now lives in the Spirit.” (v. 24,25) “By our Lord Jesus Christ, the world is crucified unto him, and he unto the world.” (vi, 14) “In Christ Jesus the Lord, he is also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ.” (Col. ii, 11.) “In him, God worketh both to will and to do.” (Phil. ii, 13.) “He is not in the flesh, but in the Spirit; the Spirit of Christ dwelleth in him; through the Spirit, he mortifies the deeds of the body; he is led by the Spirit of God, and does not walk after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Rom. viii, 4,9,13,14)

Uniting in a brief manner, all the parts and fruits of generation into one summary — A regenerate man is he who has a mind freed from the darkness and vanity of the world, and illuminated with the true and saving knowledge of Christ, and with faith, who has affections that are mortified, and delivered from the dominion and slavery of sin, that are inflamed with such new desires as agree with the divine nature, and as are prepared and fitted for newness of living, who has a will reduced to order, and conformed to the will of God, who has powers and faculties able, through the assistance of the Holy Spirit, to contend against sin, the world and Satan, and to gain the victory over them, and to bring forth fruit unto God, such as is met for repentance — who also actually fights against sin, and, having obtained the victory over it, no longer does those things which are pleasing to the flesh and to unlawful desires, but does those which are grateful to God; that is, he actually desists from evil and does good — not indeed perfectly, but according to the measure of faith and of the gift of Christ, according to the small degree of regeneration, which, begun in the present life, must be gradually improved or increased, till at length it is perfected after this short life is ended — not with respect to essential parts, but with respect to quantity, as we have already declared — not always without interruption, (for he sometimes stumbles, falls, wanders astray, commits sin, grieves the Holy Spirit, ac.,) but generally, and for the most part, he does good.

6. But an unregenerate man is, not only he who is entirely blind, ignorant of the will of God, knowingly and willingly contaminating himself by sins without any remorse of conscience, affected with no sense of the wrath of God, terrified with no compunctions visits of conscience, not oppressed with the burden of sin, and inflamed with no desire of deliverance — but it is also he who knows the will of God but does it not, who is acquainted with the way of righteousness, but departs from it — who has the law of God written in his heart, and has thoughts mutually accusing and excusing each other — who receives the word of the gospel with gladness, and for a season rejoices in its light — who comes to baptism, but either does not receive the word itself in a good heart, or, at least, does not bring forth fruit — who is affected with a painful sense of sin, is oppressed with its burden, and who sorrows after a godly sort — who knows that righteousness cannot be acquired by the law, and who is, therefore, compelled to flee to Christ.

For all these particulars, in what manner soever they be taken, do not belong to the essence and the essential parts of regeneration, penitence, or repentance, which are mortification and vivification and quickening; but they are only things preceding, and may have some place among the beginnings, and, if such be the pleasure of any one, they may be reckoned the causes of penitence and regeneration, as Calvin has learnedly and nervously explained them in his Christian Institutes. (Lib. 3, cap. 3.) Besides, even true and living faith in Christ precedes regeneration strictly taken, and consisting of the mortification or death of the old man, and the vivification of the new man, as Calvin has, in the same passage of his Institutes, openly declared, and in a manner which agrees with the Scriptures and the nature of faith. For Christ becomes ours by faith, and we are engrafted into Christ, are made members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones, and, being thus planted with him, we coalesce or are united together, that we may draw from him the vivifying power of the Holy Spirit, by which power the old man is mortified and we rise again into a new life. All these things cohere together with each other in a certain order, and must thus also be considered, if any one be desirous of knowing them not confusedly but distinctly, and of explaining them well to others. But we are not, in this place, treating about all the unregenerate in general, but only about those in whom the law has exerted all its efficacy, and who are, on this account, reciprocally said to be under the law.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/04/2011 at 10:22 AM

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