Author Archive for Randy Seiver

21
Nov
14

Calvinistic Evangelism–Chapter Two:Rubbish Removal

“In Judah it was said, “The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall” (Nehemiah 4:10).

The Priority of Rubbish Removal

It is impossible to build or rebuild on a foundation that is faulty and covered with rubble. When Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem for the purpose of rebuilding the wall, his first order of business was to inspect the foundation of the wall (see Nehemiah 2:11-16). Once he had learned what needed to be done, he encouraged the people to rebuild the wall by reminding them the good hand of God would be with them and give them success (see Nehemiah 2:20).

After the work had begun and was progressing well, God’s people encountered opposition and began to become discouraged. One of the reasons for their discouragement was the large quantity of rubble that needed to be carted away.

I would invite you to consider Jeremiah’s call and commission as a prophet of Jehovah. The LORD said to him, “Behold I have put my words in your mouth. See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” (Jeremiah 1:10). Notice that before God instructed him to build and to plant, he told him to tear down and pluck up.

It has become quite difficult to engage in biblical evangelism because the landscape of evangelical Christianity has become cluttered with so much non-biblical rubbish. I am not only or even primarily referring to the non-biblical and often anti-biblical practices and message that are in vogue. Instead, I am referring to the mindset that has characterized the evangelical church for decades. That mindset has resulted from a set of theological [or in many cases anti-theological or a-theological] presuppositions that have prevailed in the evangelical church for more than a century.

Doctrinal Rubbish

One such assumption is that faith is a decision that locks a sinner into an eternally secure salvation even if he should later deny the faith and return to a life of unbridled sin and wicked unbelief. According to this understanding of faith, if ever we can get a person to come to a point of decision at which he acknowledges the facts of the gospel, he will be saved for eternity. Some have traded biblical teaching that true believers will persevere in faith to the end for the doctrine of “once saved, always saved.” Please do not misunderstand me. I believe that once God has truly declared a person to be righteous in his sight he will never alter that verdict, but that is different from the teaching that all who profess faith in Christ are saved for eternity no matter what occurs subsequently. This presupposition of “once saved, always saved” grows out of the free will doctrine. The belief is that once the scale of the sinner’s libertarian free will is tipped toward Christ so that he “decides for Christ” [as if Jesus is running for office] he gets his ticket punched for the gospel train that takes him to heaven. Nothing that occurs after that can cause him to be kicked off the train.

I know that for anyone who has carefully read and studied the Scriptures the idea that anyone could believe such a doctrine sounds too bizarre to be true, but I will not ask you to merely take my word for it. You can read it for yourself at such web-sites as http://www.expreacherman.com. The following represent a small sample of the statements that confirm their doctrine.

“It is possible for a believer to lose confidence in eternal security, or any other part of the gospel message. In such cases, he still has eternal life. (Luke 8:13).”

“One does not have to love God to receive the free gift of salvation. He needs to believe on Jesus as his Savior.”

“Demas is an eternally secure believer who turned his back on God. He is in heaven.”

From these brief quotations it is easy to see that in their view, faith need not involve anything more than an intellectual nod to certain propositions. It clearly has nothing to do with guilty rebels being reconciled to God and need not be ongoing. It appear that according to this view, once a sinner gets his ticket punched by making the right choice, he is home-free for eternity whether he continues to believe the gospel or not. Admittedly, this appears to be an extreme view even among those who practice free will evangelism, but it is in line with the widely held view called the “carnal Christian doctrine.” The idea is that once a person has made an open profession of faith, he is eternally secure no matter what occurs subsequently.

Several false doctrines as well as many non-biblical practices have grown out of this presupposition. I intend to discuss the faulty theological foundation of modern evangelism in detail in a subsequent chapter. For now, I want to focus more on the evangelistic rubbish that has cluttered the landscape of the Christian church.

The “Invitation” and the Sinner´s Prayer

In the first half of the nineteenth century, Charles Finney introduced a number of innovations into the practice of evangelism. One such innovation was what he called “the anxious seat.” At the end of an evangelistic meeting he would invite those who “were willing to be on the side of Christ” to come forward and sit on the anxious seat. In his view, if a person had been able to overcome his pride and natural timidity and had come to the anxious seat, he had given evidence of saving faith. In his Lectures on Revival he made it clear that the anxious seat was intended to be a replacement for baptism. He wrote,

The church has always felt it necessary to have something of this kind to answer this very purpose. In the days of the apostles, baptism answered this purpose. The gospel was preached to the people, and then all those who were willing to be on the side of Christ were called to be baptized. It held the place that the anxious seat does now as a public manifestation of their determination to be Christians.

Since he had assumed that all who came to the anxious seat were truly converted, he later found himself in a quandary when they gave no evidence of genuine faith. For that reason, he introduced the idea of a second work of grace that would accomplish what he had expected from the first work of grace.

The “anxious seat” was the precursor of the modern “invitation system” or the “altar call.” Many modern pastors and evangelists make the same assumption that Finney had made. They assume that if a person walks the aisle of a church building or coliseum and makes a public profession of faith, he or she has been saved for eternity. If such people give no evidence of love for Christ or a desire to obey him, they are referred to as “carnal Christians.” They are encouraged to make another decision and become a “spiritual Christian.”

The question is, “How can we know these people are truly Christians”? The stock answer is that we know they are saved because we saw them “get saved.” By that they mean they saw them walk the aisle to make a profession, and they assume that means they became genuine believers. Now if they are right, they are completely justified in using every psychological technique and emotional tactic possible to induce people to make that all important decision. Additionally, we are remiss if we do not use every scheme possible to get such decisions out of people.

What we need to discuss is not whether such practices as the “invitation” and the “sinner’s prayer” are justified, but whether the underlying presuppositions on which they are based can be supported biblically. There is nothing inherently wrong with a person walking to the front of a church building or coliseum to confess that he or she has trusted in Christ for salvation. The assumptions we need to question are those that have been taken for granted by modern evangelists and those who follow them. If you do not believe these folks actually assume these ideas, simply listen to them talk. The following are a few of their assumptions:

1. The use of such methods is necessary for the sinner’s salvation. I have often been asked, “If you don’t give an invitation, how can anyone “get saved?” This clearly implies that a walk to the front of a building or repeating a prayer is necessary for salvation. It seems that, according to their view, if we do not use their methods there will be people who will be lost who would otherwise have been saved.

2. A proper response to an invitation to come forward is an evidence of saving faith. I have often heard people make statements like “There were five people saved in the meeting last night.” By this they mean five people walked the aisle and made a profession of faith. At times they will say something like, “I know she is a Christian because I saw her “get saved.” Or “I saw him ‘get saved,’ and now he has backslidden. It must be possible for a person to lose his salvation.” Again, the inference is that if a person walks the aisle, he must be a true believer.

3. There is a limited time in which a person can be converted. One often hears them say, “If no one comes while we sing this verse, we are going to close the invitation.” Who do these people think they are? Are they going to open the gates of heaven to sinners and then close them because they didn’t respond at the proper time? God’s invitation to sinners is open as long as they live.

4. It would be wrong to conclude that a person’s profession may not have been genuine if he shows no evidence of love for Christ or a desire to obey him. These people must be Christians because they responded properly to a gospel invitation. They simply need to take a second step of faith and become “spiritual Christians.”

5. If a person doesn’t give “an invitation” at the end of a gospel message, he must not care about souls.

The Proper Venue for Evangelism

Another area in which the evangelical church needs to experience a radical paradigm shift is in its thinking about the proper venue for evangelism. For decades, evangelicals have been conditioned to think that the purpose of the church meeting is to provide a venue for the propagation of the gospel. This mentality has manifested itself most blatantly in the “seeker sensitive/friendly movement” and in the “emergent church movement.” The idea that seems to underlie the methodology of these movements is that the church should be a place where sinners will feel comfortable to “hang out.” As a result, everything that might be offensive to an unconverted person has been eliminated from the program. The entire idea of a hymnology in which God’s people were instructed in the great truths of the faith and inspired to worship him intelligently has vanished. The great hymns of the faith have been replaced with vapid ditties and theologically vacuous mood music designed to prepare the sinner to hear the message.

The message itself has been carefully crafted to produce the desired response from the unconverted. Everything that might be distasteful or offensive to the unconverted person has been omitted. We should remember here that a portion of the truth when presented as the whole truth becomes a whole lie. God forbid that any preacher should actually proclaim sound biblical doctrine in such a gathering. Preachers are often urged to “put the cookies on the bottom shelf so that everyone can reach them.” The result of following this advice has been an epidemic of spiritual malnutrition that is plaguing the church.

Just yesterday I listened to a portion of a “sermon” in which a Southern Baptist pastor was excoriating people in the so-called church he claims to pastor. He referred to these people who wanted to be taught more doctrine as “big fat spiritual babies,” and suggested that they are the excrement of the body of Christ. He said to these people, “I don’t have time to feed you; I’ve got work to do.” This man has been set over one of the larger churches [and I use the term “churches” very loosely] in the Southern Baptist Convention. He described the church as having a “big front door” through which unchurched, unbelieving people enter and “choose Christ.” To me, this speaks volumes about this man’s doctrine of the church. He clearly believes his work is not to feed the flock over which God has made him overseer, but preach to these people who are entering “the big front door” so that they will be converted, or to use his non-biblical phrase, “choose Christ.” The church is advertised as “A safe place for non-believers.” Is it any wonder that God’s people are malnourished when charlatans like this guy are allowed to stand in the pulpit and spew their putrescent garbage?
Please do not misunderstand me. I am not opposed to having unconverted people attend the gathering of God’s people to observe how we worship our God and hear what the Bible teaches. I am delighted when such a person is so overwhelmed by God’s truth that he or she becomes a true believer, but the evangelization of the unbeliever is not the purpose of the gathered church. Additionally, unbelievers should never feel “safe” from the possibility that they might hear something that will make them feel guilty before God.
There is not a single verse in the Bible in which believers are instructed to invite their unbelieving friends and loved ones to church. Christ’s command is not “bring people to church,” but “Go and make disciples.” The purpose of the assembly and of the teaching pastor is to equip believers to do the work of ministry. There is only one passage in the New Testament Scriptures that mentions an unconverted person coming into the assembly and in that passage (1 Cor. 14:23-24) it is stated as a possibility—“What if an unconverted person should happen to come into the assembly?” The apostle does not instruct them to bring such a person in for the purpose of evangelizing them.

It is time for shepherds to return to the task for which God has equipped them. If they are unable to nourish the flock with healthful teaching, it is time for them to find a new profession. Perhaps selling vacuum cleaners would suit them better.

In a later chapter, I want to offer suggestions about the proper venue for evangelism based on the biblical pattern. For now, suffice it to say that it is not the purpose of the gathered church to provide this venue.

The Use of Unbiblical Jargon

There are certain phrases one will never find in biblical proclamations of the gospel, yet many would think it impossible to evangelize without using them. I invite you to read the New Testament gospel presentations and see if you can find any of the following phrases that have become so commonplace in modern evangelism:

Let Jesus come into your heart.

Give Jesus your heart.

Open your heart, and let Jesus come in.

You need to “pray to receive Jesus.”

You need to “decide for Jesus.”

Jesus died for you.

God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.

Smile, God loves you.

God hates the sin, but loves the sinner.

God can’t save you unless you let him.

Perhaps you are thinking that though these exact phrases do not occur in the New Testament Scriptures, we can certainly find verses that express the truth that lies behind them. After all, doesn’t the New Testament tell us that God loved the world in such a way that he gave his only Son (John 3:16) and that he demonstrated his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8-9)?

Regarding the first of these verses, I would invite you to read “Arminian Presupposition #2 Refuted” at http://www.truthunchanging.wordpress.com. The reality is that the word “world” was almost never used to designate every person on the globe without exception. John used it to indicate the condescension of God’s love. The holy one loved fallen rebels who were hostile toward him. John’s emphasis was not on the number of the people loved but on the nature of the people loved. Additionally, he used the word to indicate the true universality of God’s love. He did not merely love people from the nation of Israel but from every nation on earth. This is probably the predominant sense of the word translated “world” the New Testament Scriptures.

But what about verses like Romans5:8 that state that God loved “us” and Jesus died for “us?” Any reasonable person would simply need to read these verses in context to understand that “us” does not refer to every human being on earth. First of all, we should consider to whom Paul addressed the letter. He wrote, “To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints” (Rom. 1:7). Additionally, the immediate context makes it clear that “us” refers to Paul and to the believers in Rome. Consider his description of those to whom he addressed this epistle. He refers to them and to himself as follows:

We have been justified through faith (v.1).

We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (v. 1).

By faith we have obtained access into this grace in which we stand (v. 2).

We rejoice in hope of the glory of God (v. 2).

We rejoice in sufferings also (v. 3).

God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (v. 5).

We have now been justified by his blood (v. 9).

We shall be saved by him from the wrath of God (v. 9).

Certainly, no one would be so theologically inept as to suggest that “we,” “our,” and “us” in these verses refers to every sinner without exception. Yet, incredibly, there are those who contend that “us” in Romans 5:8 refers to every sinner without exception.

It is time for evangelicals to bring our phraseology into conformity with the biblical pattern. I urge you to read the sermons on record in the New Testament Scriptures and to begin to incorporate more biblical language in your gospel presentations. In the following chapter, I intend to examine those sermons and suggest a more biblical expression of the gospel of our great God.

If ever we are to be effective in making disciples, we must dispose of the rubbish that has so greatly damaged the cause of God and truth. I implore you to examine your message and methods in the light of Scripture. “Put all things to the test; hold fast what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21).

21
Nov
14

Calvinistic Evangelism–Chapter One: The Necessary Prerequisite to Evangelism

“And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach” (Mark 3:14).

It should be impossible for a person to read this verse without noticing two reasons for which Jesus appointed the twelve apostles. Additionally, it should be obvious that one of his reasons for appointing them has priority over the other. He did not merely choose them so that he might send them out to proclaim a message. He first appointed them that they might be with him and only after they had spent time with him did he send them out to preach.

We should consider this a pattern that we must follow. How often neophytes are thrust into the arena of evangelism before they have had opportunity to be with him, but it is being with him that produces meaningful evangelism and bold evangelists. It is difficult to recall an example of a divine call or commission to perform some God-given task that was not preceded by a resplendent revelation of God’s glory. Jesus’ disciples were so powerful in their proclamation of the gospel because they were prompted by the Spirit to recall what they had learned from Jesus while they were with him. John expressed it this way, “. . .we gazed on his glory, the glory as of the uniquely begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” Then he wrote, “and from his fullness we have all received and grace upon grace. . . .”(John 1:14, 16). It was out of this fullness that the Apostles proclaimed the good news that Jesus had risen and had been exalted to the throne. It was clear to those who saw their boldness in proclaiming this message that they had been with Jesus.

Consider the account recorded in Acts four regarding the lame man whom the Apostles had healed and their defense before the council.

On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead-by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:5-20).

This passage makes it clear that Peter and John were not performing their evangelistic activity in a perfunctory manner. They were not engaged in evangelism merely because it was a matter of duty or responsibility. They had not organized an evangelistic planning committee to figure out how they could fulfill their evangelistic task. John had not said to Peter, “OK buddy, I know you are really timid about this matter of evangelism, and I know how easy it is for you to wimp out. I remember the rooster incident, but you have to try to be bold and strong. After all, we have a responsibility to try to fulfill this commission Jesus left us.” They didn’t have to try to be bold; they could not help being bold.

When their hearers witnessed the clarity of their message and the boldness with which they spoke, no one suggested they must have had great evangelistic training. No one inquired about the name of the evangelistic system they had memorized. No one asked about their seminary training. What, then, was the source of their boldness? The text tells us “When they saw the boldness of Peter and John. . .they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” If we are to be bold evangelists, it is essential that we first get a clear vision of Jesus’ glory.

When the members of the council forbade them to preach any longer in Jesus’ name, they replied, “”Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” People do not become effective evangelists because they have finished a course on evangelism and have mustered up the courage to try to put it into practice. People become effective evangelists when they are so filled with the knowledge of God’s glory and of his truth that they simply cannot be quiet.

This accords with Jeremiah’s experience when he had become so discouraged that he resolved never to preach in Jehovah’s name again. He wrote,

I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me. For whenever I speak , I cry out, I shout, ‘Violence and destruction!’ For the word of the LORD has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot. (Jeremiah 20:7-9).

An effective and bold evangelist is one who has been so filled with God and his truth that he simply cannot keep quiet. He must proclaim the good news.

In regard to the priority of being with Jesus over simply doing something out of duty, one thinks of Mary and her sister Martha who got into a bit of a squabble because Martha was doing all the work while Mary was spending time with Jesus (Luke 10:38-42). Consider the account,

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Martha was a veritable bundle of energy and activity. It is interesting that when she appears in John’s gospel, the text reads, “Martha served” (John 12:2). Mary, on the other hand, spent her time with Jesus. Martha was overwrought by the thought that the work was not going to be finished. She must have thought Mary was a Hyper-Calvinist who had left all the work to her. Jesus said she was “anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.” Notice how he sets the “one thing” that is necessary over against being anxious and troubled about many things. The one thing that is necessary is spending time at Jesus’ feet.

Like Martha, the “free will” evangelists are a bundle of activity, but bustle in itself proves nothing. The cults are always zealous in their proclamation of their message, but their activity is damning. Jesus said the Pharisees would travel across land and sea to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, they make him twice as much a child of hell as themselves (see Matt. 23:15). I am not citing these examples to suggest that “free will” evangelists are cultic or that they are hypocrites like the Scribes and Pharisees. I am not questioning their motives. Only God knows their hearts. What I am questioning is the idea that feverish activity is laudable or that it is rightly identified as righteous evangelistic zeal.

Additionally, I am not suggesting that lethargic inactivity is to be praised. Those who have good news are under obligation to others who could profit from that news. Paul wrote, “I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel. . . .” (Rom. 1:14-15).

You may remember the account of the four lepers who were sitting outside the gate of Samaria. There was a famine in the city because Ben-hadad of Syria had besieged it. The famine was so severe that mothers were eating their children. These lepers said to one another,

Why are we sitting here until we die? . . .let us go now over to the camp of the Syrians. If they spare our lives we shall live, and if they kill us, we shall but die” (2 Kings 7:3-4). When they arrived at the Syrian camp there was no one else there. The LORD had driven the Syrians out of the camp. These lepers had free rein as thy plundered the Syrians’ tents. They ate and drank and carried away gold, silver, and clothing. Then, they went back and took more and hid it. Suddenly, they came to their senses and said to one another, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, and we are silent. . . . (v. 9).

The application should be clear. If we understand the good news of the Christian message and do not share it, we are not doing right.
Still, it must be more than a sense of obligation that impels us in the execution of this task. The question I am asking is not whether we should evangelize. Clearly, we have a duty to do so. My question is whether duty alone should be our first consideration.

It is likely there has never been a more indefatigable evangelist than the great Apostle to the gentiles. If we should inquire about the source of his great evangelistic zeal, his answer would be unequivocal. He wrote, “Christ’s love controls me. . . .” (2 Cor. 5:14). The word translated “controls” means to surround, to hem in, to be held prisoner, and to be controlled. The great Apostle never got over the life altering truth that Jesus had loved him and had given his life for him. A good friend of mine who is now with the Lord used to say, “When Jesus arrested Paul on the road to Damascus, the vision of the risen, and glorified Christ was so burned on the retina of his eyeballs that he was never able to see anything else.” Jesus had filled his vision.

It should not escape our notice that most biblical calls and commissions were preceded by some revelation of God’s glory. Think of Moses at the burning bush, Peter’s call to be a fisher of men , Paul’s conversion on the road to Damacus, John’s commission to write the Apoclypse , etc. All these commissions were preceded by a resplendent manifestion of God’s glory. Perhaps there is no clearer example of this than that of Isaiah’s call and commission (Isaiah 6). If you take the time to read to the end of that chapter, you will learn that the ministry to which God called him was not an easy one. He was not promised a multitude of conversions, a great following, or “a successful ministry” according to the usual modern standard of success. His minisry was to be one of hardening and condemnation, and he was to continue until his ministry resulted in devastation for his hearers. How does one continue under such circumstances? There can be only one answer. One will only successfully finish the course if he has begun the course gazing on God’s glory.

Before you engage in the ministry of evangelism, I urge you to spend time gazing on the glory of God as it is revealed in the face of Christ. Spend time with him. Be overwhelmed by his majesty so that you overflow to those around you. True evangelism always results from the overflow.

21
Nov
14

Calvinistic Evangelism–Introduction

I am in the process of writing a short book on Calvinistic evangelism. I intend to consider such topics as the following:

The necessary prerequisite to evangelism
The need to remove non-biblical rubbish,
An examination of apostolic evangelism,
The theological foundation for evangelism,
Lessons from Jesus’ evangelistic ministry,
The standard of evangelistic success,
The issue and goal in evangelism,
A history of Calvinistic evangelism.

It is my intention to post these chapters here as I write them. As usual, your questions and comments are welcome, but please read and conform to the rules for commenting. If you do not abide by the rules, your comments will be summarily deleted.


CALVINISTIC EVANGELISM

Introduction

This title might seem like a contradiction in terms to some people since the common notion is that Calvinists do not believe in evangelism. The perception is that even if they believe in evangelism it is clear they are not too concerned about it. Some have alleged that a Calvinist would sooner fly across the country to debate with an Arminian than to walk across the street to witness the gospel to an unbeliever. They believe Calvinists simply do not think evangelism is necessary or important. One of my purposes in writing this short book is to show that this has not been the case historically and is not true in the present day.

Definitions

Calvinist

Contrary to popular opinion, a Calvinist is not a follower of John Calvin. The term “Calvinist” is merely a theological nickname for those who believe the salvation of sinners is all of God and all of grace. The Calvinist is a person who believes that sinners do not cooperate with God in their salvation in the sense that God does his part, the sinner does his part, and the two working together produce salvation. This does not mean the Calvinist denies the sinner’s responsibility to believe the gospel and turn to God and away from his idols. He simply denies that either the preacher or the sinner is able to produce these responses to the gospel.

Evangelism

It seems the impression that Calvinists are not concerned about evangelism has come from differences of opinion about what constitutes evangelism. If a person does not use the accepted vocabulary and follow the evangelistic procedures and methods that have been established by the advocates of free will decisionism, he is perceived as non-evangelistic. For example, someone has defined evangelism as “getting sinners across the line for Christ.” If this is what evangelism means, it is true that Calvinists do not believe in evangelism.

What do we mean by the term “evangelism?” The term itself is derived from the word euangelizo which simply means to tell or proclaim good news, but that good news must have a context. Before the good news can have significance, sinners must understand the bad news. For this reason evangelism must include a clear communication of the biblical teaching concerning the great chasm that exists between God and the sinner. The sinner needs to know what the Bible teaches about God’s character, his purpose in the world, and his own rebellious condition and guilty standing before God.

Evangelism should also include an urgent call for sinners to obey the commands of the gospel and bow before God’s sovereign throne in humble adoration. As we shall see, the issues of the gospel concern far more than whether the sinner is destined for heaven or hell. It is an issue of whom or what he will worship.

Finally, evangelism should include a communication of the good news that God has promised to save guilty sinners who will call on him to forgive them based on Christ’s redemptive work.
We can define evangelism as the proclamation of the good news that God has universally published his terms of peace. It is the announcement that he has promised to pardon every guilty rebel who will discard the weapons of his insurrection and bow in humble submission and grateful worship before his sovereign throne. Finally, it is the declaration that this proffered pardon is not based in any sense on the sinner’s willingness to return to God or on his believing acceptance of the terms of peace. Pardon is based solely on Jesus’ redemptive accomplishments on the sinner’s behalf.
I plan to return to this definition later since it is critical that we understand its component parts if our evangelism is to comport with the biblical pattern.

Zeal without Truth

It is true that many Calvinists would fly across the country or even around the world to debate issues that concern God’s salvation. This is not true because Calvinists enjoy debate so much but because we are interested in the accuracy and purity of the message we Christians proclaim. It does not matter how zealous a person may about the matter of evangelism if his message and methods are faulty.

Perhaps you will recall the events surrounding Absalom’s death recorded in 2 Samuel 18. There was a messenger named Ahimaaz who asked Joab to allow him to carry the news of Absalom’s death to the king but Joab denied his request and sent a man referred to as “the Cushite” instead. Ahimaaz asked that he might also run after the Cushite and Joab allowed him to do so. Being a zealous and rapid runner, he was able to outrun the Cushite, but when he arrived he had to confess–“When Joab sent the king’s servant, your servant, I saw a great commotion, but I do not know what it was” (2 Samuel 18:29). Whether we should be zealous about the task of evangelism is not at issue here. The king’s business requires haste. The question is what message will be on our lips when we begin to tell the good news. Will it be God’s truth or will it be a garbled approximation of the biblical gospel?

A Radical Restructuring

What I am going to propose in this book will require a radical restructuring of the Church’s evangelistic message and methods. For many, this will require a complete paradigm shift in their thinking about doctrine and practice. Such a proposal will be terrifying to many who read these pages. It is far easier to continue in the well-worn paths to which we have become accustomed than to sincerely follow the truth.

Let me try to put your minds at ease by making you a promise. I will not ask you to reject any evangelistic practice or any evangelistic terminology for which you can find precedent in the New Testament Scriptures. What I will ask you to do is reject the concepts, the jargon, and the methodology that is absent from or contrary to the biblical pattern.

This is not intended as another “how to” manual on evangelism. In reality, such a manual would be impossible to write from a biblical standpoint. There is no “one size fits all” method. There are certain factors in the evangelistic process that do not change, but every individual has specific needs that should be met as we engage them in conversation. If we study Jesus’ evangelistic ministry it becomes very clear that he never dealt with two individuals in the same way. In some cases we must spend a significant amount of time instructing people about the character and attributes of God. In other cases, we will need to focus on the worthlessness of their own righteous acts as the basis of their acceptance with God. In still other cases we may need to focus on God’s willingness to accept them and forgive them, their vileness and wickedness notwithstanding. Although every sinner has the same basic needs, those needs do not always manifest themselves in the same way. Someone has said that the preacher’s task is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. In reality, the best way to prepare for biblical evangelism is to be well armed with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures so that one will be prepared for whatever issues may arise when we urge sinners to be reconciled to God.

Instead, my purpose is to contrast modern evangelism’s message and methods with the biblical pattern and suggest a more biblical approach to this important aspect of the Christian life. What I am asking you to do is to obey the LORD’s admonition in Jeremiah 6:16, “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.”

20
Oct
14

Arminianism, Calvinism, and Hyper-Calvinism

What do Arminians and Hyper-Calvinists Have in Common?

Arminians and Hyper-Calvinists have a great deal in common, in that they both make the same blunders contrary to the plain teaching of the Scriptures. I am thinking of at least two links between them:

  1. Both believe responsibility and ability are inseparably linked, and
  1. Both emphasize one set of Scriptures to the total exclusion of another set of Scriptures and then base their philosophical [not theological or biblical] conclusions on that set of verses.

Consider the first set of beliefs Arminians and Hyper-Calvinists share; the belief that responsibility and ability are inseparably linked. They, of course, arrive at different conclusions because of their application of this belief and their exclusive focus on different biblical texts.

The Arminian focuses on those texts in which sinners are called on to choose one course of action or another and in which they are being held responsible for their choices. Based on his presupposition that responsibility implies ability, he concludes that sinners must have the ability to choose correctly. If there is responsibility, there must be ability.

The Hyper-Calvinist focuses on those texts that talk about the sinner’s inability to respond properly to the call of the gospel that results from his sinful rebellion against God and concludes that God could not hold sinners responsible for their unbelief. If there is no ability, there is no responsibility.

They arrive at different conclusions based on the same faulty presupposition but focused on a completely different group of texts.

The same is true with respect to those texts that express alternately God’s immutable decree to save his elect people and his genuine compassion for sinners as sinners and his expressed desire that they come to repentance. The Arminian focuses almost exclusively on those texts that speak of God’s desire to save sinners. The Hyper-Calvinist focuses exclusively on those texts that speak of God’s unshakeable decree.

 God’s “Will” Understood in Two Different Senses

It should be a matter that is beyond dispute that God has not decreed everything he has desired or declared should happen. There is no need for me to try to reinvent the wheel. Others have written on this subject much more artfully than I ever could. I would direct your attention to an excellent article by John Piper. It is titled “Are there two wills in God.” You can find it at www.desiringgod.org.

Charnock  also wrote concerning these two wills,

God doth not will [sin] directly, and by an efficacious will. He doth not directly will it, because he hath prohibited it by his law, which is a discovery of his will; so that if he should directly will sin, and directly prohibit it, he would will good and evil in the same manner, and there would be contradictions in God’s will: to will sin absolutely, is to work it (Psalm 115:3): “God hath done whatsoever he pleased.” God cannot absolutely will it, because he cannot work it. God wills good by a positive decree, because he hath decreed to effect it. He wills evil by a private decree, because he hath decreed not to give that grace which would certainly prevent it. God doth not will sin simply, for that were to approve it, but he wills it, in order to that good his wisdom will bring forth from it. He wills not sin for itself, but for the event.

The following is a rather lengthy quotation from Piper’s article:

This seems right to me, and it can be illustrated again by reflecting directly on 1 Timothy 2:4 where Paul says that God wills all persons to be saved. What are we to say of the fact that God wills something that in fact does not happen. There are two possibilities as far as I can see. One is that there is a power in the universe greater than God’s which is frustrating him by overruling what he wills. Neither Calvinist nor Arminian affirms this.

The other possibility is that God wills not to save all, even though he is willing to save all, because there is something else that he wills more, which would be lost if he exerted his sovereign power to save all. This is the solution that I as a Calvinist affirm along with Arminians. In other words both Calvinists and Arminians affirm two wills in God when they ponder deeply over 1 Timothy 2:4. Both can say that God wills for all to be saved. But then when queried why all are not saved both Calvinist and Arminian answer that God is committed to something even more valuable than saving all.

The difference between Calvinists and Arminians lies not in whether there are two wills in God, but in what they say this higher commitment is. What does God will more than saving all? The answer given by Arminians is that human self-determination and the possible resulting love relationship with God are more valuable than saving all people by sovereign, efficacious grace. The answer given by Calvinists is that the greater value is the manifestation of the full range of God’s glory in wrath and mercy (Romans 9:22-23) and the humbling of man so that he enjoys giving all credit to God for his salvation (1 Corinthians 1:29).

This is utterly crucial to see, for what it implies is that 1 Timothy 2:4 does not settle the momentous issue of God’s higher commitment which restrains him from saving all. There is no mention here of free will. Nor is there mention of sovereign, prevenient, efficacious grace. If all we had was this text we could only guess what restrains God from saving all. When free will is found in this verse it is a philosophical, metaphysical assumption not an exegetical conclusion. The assumption is that if God wills in one sense for all to be saved, then he cannot in another sense will that only some be saved. That assumption is not in the text, nor is it demanded by logic, nor is it taught in the rest of Scripture. Therefore 1 Timothy 2:4 does not settle the issue; it creates it. Both Arminians and Calvinists must look elsewhere to answer whether the gift of human self-determination or the glory of divine sovereignty is the reality that restrains God’s will to save all people (Emphasis mine).

The same can be said for all those texts that speak of God’s desire for the salvation of sinners. Those texts argue neither for the autonomy of the human will nor the sovereignty of divine grace since neither is the concern of those texts. We must look elsewhere for the answers to those issues.

Prevenient Grace-Bible Truth or Philosophical Assumption?

If one rejects those texts that teach God’s sovereign control over his universe according to his decreed will and is left only with those texts that speak of God’s sincere compassion and desire for the salvation of sinners, he is left with only two choices. One of these, as Piper has stated, neither the Calvinist nor the Arminian affirms, “that there is a power in the universe greater than God’s which is frustrating him by overruling what he wills.” The other choice for him must be that God has determined to leave the sinner to the inviolability of the human will. Since he finds in Scripture ample evidence that sinners are born in a state of total depravity, he must posit that God has granted to every sinner the ability to choose one way or another.  He must argue that God has given all sinners prevenient grace enabling them to “choose Christ.” When pressed for biblical texts that actually teach this concept, they will retreat to those verses that state what the Calvinist believes as strongly as they do.

Alternately, they will bring up examples of people like Cornelius, the Eunuch of Ethiopia and Lydia who seemed to have some affinity for God and the gospel prior to actually coming to faith. They might also appeal to the rich young ruler who expressed a desire for eternal life, but who went away sorrowful because he loved his riches too much.

The assumption is that these people who believed the gospel, were baptized by the Spirit, and received the Word that was taught were recipients of prevenient grace and exercised their free wills to become believers.  Another assumption is that these people were as yet unregenerate unbelievers prior to the events recorded for us in the book of Acts. Who can say all of them were not proselyte Jews who had come to faith prior to the establishment of the new covenant?  Does prevenient grace grant access to unbelievers into God’s presence apart from the work of Christ and faith in him? One gets the impression that God accepted Cornelius’ prayers and alms.  Are we to believe that God accepts and approves the prayers of unbelievers apart from Christ? I believe the Scriptures clearly teach that he will not do so.  If that assumption is correct, Cornelius must have had more than an ineffectual “prevenient grace” that enabled him to exercise his free will and make a proper choice.

The issue in Acts 10 was not the personal conversion of Cornelius to Christ.  The issue was God’s acceptance of Gentiles into the gospel chruch  as Gentiles and not as proselyte Jews.

In addition to all of this, all the people in these examples either were believers at the time or became believers.  I suspect no Calvinist would deny that God grants pre-conversion grace to his elect. The question is where is an example of a person who has received pre-conversion grace so that he is clearly as inclined to receive Christ as he is to reject him and who finally rejects him?

Some have appealed to the example of the rich young ruler to show that a person can be given prevenient grace and yet perish in sin. Here was a young man who actually enquired about obtaining eternal life but having learned about God’s terms, went away sorrowful and unbelieving.  Certainly this proves a person can have a desire to know and love God and yet perish in his sins. In reality, it proves nothing relative to prevenient grace and free will. There are several reasons I would reject this example as any kind of evidence of prevenient grace that fell short of true conversion:

  1. We do not know if he became a believer later or not. All we know is that Jesus dealt faithfully with him so that he went away having come to understand the issues.
  2. Nothing in the text tells us he desired salvation on God’s terms. The text tells us he wanted to know how to obtain eternal life, but who doesn’t want eternal life if he can have it on his own terms?
  3. The text gives us no indication that he was as inclined to receive salvation on God’s terms as he was to reject it.

There are too many unknown factors in these examples for anyone to use them as the basis of any system of doctrine.  Still, one fact is certain. These texts teach nothing about “free will” or “prevenient grace.” As in the case of those verses that speak of God’s sincere desire to receive repenting sinners, these examples tell us nothing about whether faith was the result of free will or free grace. We must look elsewhere for the answers to those issues.

Faulty Philosophical Assumptions with No Biblical Foundation

Assumption one: The Power of Autonomous Self Determination

I have found it is usually futile to try to have an intelligent and meaningful discussion with an Arminian. The reason it is so frustrating is they tend to assume their unfounded presuppositions are actually stated in the Scriptures. Yet, their assumptions are philosophical and not drawn from biblical texts at all. For example, they insist that God, in his sovereignty, has determined that he will not violate the sinner’s free will, but where is such an idea stated in the Bible? If all they meant by “free will” is that people choose what they wish apart from external constraint, I would certainly agree that people have free will.

Calvin wrote,

In this way, then, man is said to have free will, not because he has a free choice of good and evil, but because he acts voluntarily, and not by compulsion. This is perfectly true: but why should so small a matter have been dignified with so proud a title? An admirable freedom! that man is not forced to be the servant of sin, while he is, however, (a voluntary slave); his will being bound by the fetters of sin.

But, their idea of free will goes beyond a person’s ability to choose freely and intelligently what he or she wishes. It means sinners are equally as able to choose righteousness as they are to choose sin. They are equally as able to choose to believe in Christ as they are to reject him.  Not only do the Scriptures not teach such an idea, they teach precisely the opposite.

Assumption Two: A Divinely Caused Choice is Not A Valid Choice

In their view, if God enabled or caused a person to believe [They like the term “to choose.”] such a faith would not be genuine. When asked if obedience would be genuine if God caused it, they simply decline to answer. In Ezekiel 36:27, God plainly promises that he will “cause people to walk in his statutes and obey his laws.” That certainly implies they would not do so otherwise and that God’s work it the enabling cause of their work. If these people were left to their own wills, unchanged by divine intervention, their choices would continue to be determined by their hearts of stone. There is not slightest hint that obedience resulting from the divine activity described in verses 25-26 of this chapter would be anything less than genuine, heart-felt obedience.

Now, if the obedience God causes people to render to his laws is true obedience, why would anyone assume that if God caused obedience to the gospel it would be anything other than genuine faith?

Assumption Three: Grace Must be Resistible to be True Grace

For some reason, these people seem to be hung up on the term “irresistible grace.” It seems they imagine that Calvinists believe God takes sinners by the hair and drags them forcibly into the kingdom against their loud protestations. This, of course, is not the Calvinistic doctrine at all.  J.I. Packer was on target when he wrote, “Grace proves irresistible just because it destroys the disposition to resist.”

The apostle Paul describes the sinner in an unregenerate state as being without the light of the good news of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (see-2 Cor. 4:4). In doing so, he would have his readers to understand that salvation is to be understood as seeing Christ’s glory. It is in gazing on his glory that we are transformed gradually into his likeness. Just as it was in God’s original act of creation, so it is in his act of regeneration. When God commanded the light to shine out of darkness (“and God said, ‘let there be light.’”), there was light. The apostle would have us to understand God’s act of regeneration as an act of creation. God speaks and there is light.  It should not escape our notice that he does not describe faith as a “decision” or a “choice.” I am not suggesting that in faith and repentance the sinner does not make a conscious decision to leave his idols and serve the living God. Clearly, such a response is the result of regeneration. My point is that Paul’s focus is not on the sinner’s decision or choice but on God’s regenerating activity. He does not say God has commanded the light to shine into our hearts so that we are enabled to decide whether we want to see or not. The issue is that God has commanded light to shine into our hearts and has thus thwarted Satan’s design to conceal Christ’s glory from us. The obvious question one should ask is “Who that has received the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ would wish to resist him?”

Jesus described eternal life in terms of the knowledge of God.  He prayed, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent (John 17:3). The question is how such knowledge is received. Does God give this knowledge to all by prevenient grace and leave them to them to the power of “free will”? If that were the case, why are there any that are described as not knowing God? (1 Thess. 4:5; 2 Thess. 1:8). It is not that they know him and simply have to decide if they are going to become believers or not. In reality, such knowledge is a matter of God making himself known to us. Jesus said, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matt. 11:27).

Assumption Four: The Effects of Depravity Have Been Cancelled

I recently had an online conversation with an Arminian who contended that in prevenient grace God has removed the effects of total depravity [I am not suggesting that all Arminians would be so bold as to make such an assertion]. I am still waiting for him to answer what, in his view, those effects are and why the Scriptures continue to describe unbelievers as hostile rebels against God. If the effects of total depravity have been universally removed, why do those effects remain?  Paul described unbelieving Gentiles as follows:

“They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity” (Eph. 4: 18-19).  Notice Paul does not attribute “the ignorance that is in them” to the failure of Christians to bring them the message. Instead, he tells us their ignorance is due to the “hardness of their hearts.” Surely, this hardness of heart must be one of the effects of total depravity. Additionally, if the God removes all the effects of total depravity by granting prevenient grace, why is regeneration necessary?  All of the above are philosophical assumptions that have no biblical foundation. These assumptions are necessary to the system of those who deny God’s will of decree and either deny or ignore the biblical texts that that teach that God governs according to that decree.

Our duty is to believe the Bible in its entirety even though we find ourselves at a loss to understand the intricacies of the divine mind. A while ago I heard about a leader among the Southern Baptists who was questioned as to why the pastors under his leadership did not preach about God’s sovereign grace in the salvation of sinners. His answer was telling and disturbing.  He did not say, “They do not teach it because they do not find it in the Scriptures.” Instead he answered, “They do not preach it because our people don’t like it very much.” Such are false shepherds and blind guides who have no business standing in a pulpit. Biblical statements regarding God’s sovereign control over all things are abundant and unequivocal. Failure to acknowledge these texts can only result from biblical ignorance, ministerial malpractice or both. I am reminded of the text in Jeremiah’s prophecy that reads,“An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule on their own authority; and  My people love to have it so” (Jeremiah 5:30-31). On the other side of the coin, if we feel we cannot freely offer Christ to any sinner, not as an elect sinner or a sinner for whom Jesus died in particular but as a guilty sinner who is in need of God’s forgiveness, we have slipped into Hyper-Calvinism. True Calvinists affirm both God’s sovereign decree to secure the salvation of his chosen people and his published desire that sinners turn from the evil of their ways and live.  What we do not believe is that his desire to save sinners is an ineffectual wish that sinners by their libertarian free will, will somehow make the right decision. One of my favorite hymns is an invitation to sinners to come to Christ. It begins,

 “Come ye sinners poor and wretched,

Weak and wounded sick and sore.

Jesus ready stands to save you,

Full of pity, joined with power.

He is able, he is willing, doubt no more.

I have often though it expressed the proper biblical balance between Arminianism on the one hand and Calvinism on the other. The Arminian proclaims a Savior who is full of pity but one who, if he has the power to save, would never exert that power lest he violate the sinner’s autonomy.  The Hyper-Calvinist proclaims a Savior who has copious power to save but precious little compassion and pity for sinners. The Calvinists proclaims a Savior who is “full of pity” that is  “joined with power.”  He is both able and willing to save. Hallelujah! What a Savior!

14
Oct
14

Unanswered post

I have posted this response here because, for some reason I do not yet understand, I could not respond to the comments themselves in the comment section.  It illustrates the violation of the rule that one should only raise one issue at at time. Everyone who visits this blog needs to understand that commenting here is not your right; it is a privilege.  Generally, I will not post the comments of those who fail to follow the rules.  The gentleman who posted these comments was at least courteous and for that reason I have overlooked his failure to follow the rules.

It is usually a good idea to study issues before commenting.  I don’t suffer fools gladly.  I don’t have time to correct all the misconceptions people might have about Calvinistic doctrine. I have taken the time to do so here because the person commenting seems to have articulated many of the misconceptions so common among those who have not taken the time actually to understand our doctrine.

I have posted his comments and interspersed my comments in italics.

He commented:

I thought I had posted a comment here a few days ago but perhaps I did not or it may not have gone through for some reason. If you have read my post and thought it irrelevant to place on your blog, I apologize for taking your time. However, if my comments have some value, however small, I would like to comment in the hopes that I have not done so already.

I am not a scholar, so please be patient as I engage some of your statements.

I answered your comments in an email when you posted them.  Perhaps the email was lost somewhere.  I am answering you again in spite of the fact that you have ignored the rules for commenting.  Before you post again, please read and follow the rules.

The first thing I’ve noticed, and please correct me if I have misunderstood you here, is that you begin your blog with what seems to be an implied insult that those who did not hold to Calvinistic theology (as you or others) do not have “their heads screwed on properly.” I see this many time reading James White’s articles online and, while I do respect him as an apologist, these implied insults, unnecessary to the argument, chips away on some of that respect.

This is not an implied insult.  It is a clear statement of my belief that most Southern Baptists have been so busy trying to count decisions so it would look good on the associational report they haven’t taken time to study the issues.  Simply stated, I believe they are in grave error. That is not intended as an insult. It is simply a statement of fact.  This is a deficiency they can remove by diligent study.

I would first like to ask, if you would know the answer, why do Calvinist seem to resort to character bashing, to one degree or another, in one way or another, their opponents first and then comment apologetically afterwards?

If what you have mentioned above is what you consider “character bashing” I would see no need to apologize for it. To say a person is wrong is not character bashing. It is a statement about his ignorance.

My issue with these people is not that they disagree with me. It is that they seem to be blissfully ignorant. They simply don’t seem to care that they can’t produce any biblical evidence for their views. We must simply believe it because they say it is true.

You say that, “There are a number of mysteries that surround this teaching [of prevenient grace] that no one seems to wish to address.”

The most glaring mystery is why anyone would believe a doctrine that is nowhere mentioned in the Bible.

It seems to me that Calvinists base the validity of their whole theology on “mystery”. Ask a Calvinist why God choose this or that one for salvation and this or that person he left alone for damnation and they will answer (repeatedly, I may add), “Who are you, O man, who answers back to God?” Afterwards, they will demand that such divine choices are divine mystery.

We base our theology on the clear statements of the Bible.  We don’t pick and choose which verses we want to believe and ignore the rest because we don’t think it will feel good to people to hear the truth. Perhaps I need to remind you that it was the Apostle Paul, writing under divine inspiration, who wrote, “Who are you O man, who answers back to God?” There are indeed certain aspects of God’s salvation about which we have no revelation. Those are the secret things that belong to him for which we have no responsibility.  I don’t need to know why God decided what he decided. That is his business. My responsibility is to believe and obey what God has revealed.

If you are demanding the Arminian to give answer to their “mystery”, it seems only legitimate to demand you provide a sound answer to this mystery of divine election and reprobation or predestination.

What I am demanding of the Arminian are clear biblical texts that give some vague hint that anything he believes is true. The divine mystery for Calvinists is not whether God chose and predestined but what motivated him to choose and predestine some to be conformed to the image of his Son and not others. Perhaps the greater mystery is why he would have chosen any of us. We remain silent about that mystery because the Scriptures are silent about it.  If the Arminian doctrine of “prevenient grace” is a mystery, they should keep quiet about it.

I can explain to you the biblical teaching concerning  election, effectual calling, regeneration, justification, etc. because these doctrines are revealed.  If the doctrine of “Prevenient grace” is revealed in Scripture, why can’t they find biblical material to support it? That is the mystery.

It also seems as if you are attempting to suggest that the burden of proof lies on the Arminian side rather than the Calvinist side. I don’t think that is the case. The Scriptures are clear in many areas, which Calvinists contradict by imposing definitions and word meanings alien to the texts and the context inherent in the verses they seek to exegete for purposes of harmonizing them with their particular brand of doctrines. Just one example is John 3:16, where it reads that God loved the world. Calvinists complain that the word “kosmos” does not mean or refer to all men but only to “the elect” (see for example:http://atdcross.blogspot.com/2012/10/swordfight-kosmos-in-john-316.html andhttp://atdcross.blogspot.com/2012/07/swordfight-1-timothy-24.html). The burden of proof lies with the Calvinists to soundly explain how the “world” can mean or refer to “the elect”; it does not lie with the Arminian to prove otherwise.

Perhaps you are right that some Calvinist understand the word “kosmos” to mean “the elect.” Well informed Calvinist do not. I cannot be held responsible for what ignorant Calvinists may say. If you are going to make accusations, it would be best if you got your facts straight before doing so. I won’t take the time to explain what we believe here since I have done so in detail on this blog. The short answer concerning the word “kosmos” is that the word very rarely if ever is used to refer to every individual on the face of the planet. The burden of the Arminian is to show that the word is used consistently in the NT Scriptures to refer to all people without exception. 

You have stated, “The Scriptures are clear in many areas, which Calvinists contradict by imposing definitions and word meanings alien to the texts and the context inherent in the verses they seek to exegete for purposes of harmonizing them with their particular brand of doctrines.”

You have accused Calvinists of insulting Arminians and engaging in “character bashing,” and yet you have the temerity to make a statement like that. Do you not understand that you have accused Calvinists of being dishonest people who willingly twist and distort biblical texts simply to support their doctrine? If that isn’t character bashing, I am not sure what it is. Physician heal thyself! I would be quite interested in seeing your evidence for such a charge. Show me a place where I have “imposed definitions and word meanings [I am not sure about the fine nuance of difference between definitions and word meanings] alien to the texts and the context. . .for the purpose of harmonizing them with my particular brand of doctrines.” I find your accusation particularly offensive since you are posing as the character bashing police.

In other words, the Calvinists are on the defensive here, not the Arminian. It is the Arminian who demands the answer. It is the Calvinist whose burden it is to respond with a sound answer, which they fail to do.

Read my blog.
You ask, “How do TSB’s define ‘free will’? Do they merely mean that sinners act freely in making their choices, or to they mean a person is able to choose that for which he has absolutely no desire and to which he is thoroughly averse? Do they mean a person’s nature has no bearing on his choices? If a will is to be truly free, it cannot be affected by anything, even nature.”

It seems your questions here (irrespective of too whom they are directed) have reference to, not the fact of free will but, the how – regarding the metaphysical nature – of free will, that is, the mechanics of how it works. Unless I have missed something, the Bible does not explain the metaphysical mechanics of how free will works, especially alongside God’s sovereignty; but only demonstrates as fact that men have free will, if not explicitly then by clear implications.

I am not asking anyone to explain mysterious working of the Spirit.  I am not asking anyone to explain how a clearly revealed work of God functions. I am asking for someone to provide a shred of biblical evidence that a preceding grace that removes the effects of total depravity even exists for those who will ultimately perish in their unbelief. There is simply no passage that teaches this doctrine.  I can show you clear biblical texts that talk about calling, drawing, regeneration and their effects in the life of God’s elect.  All I am asking for are references to a “grace” that removes the effects of total depravity but leaves men to perish in their sins because they don’t use their “free will”  as wisely as others.

There is no “FACT” of free will.  Neither the term nor the concept can be found in the Scriptures apart from a “free will offering” which was voluntary and not constrained by commandment.  Again, it would be a good idea for you to read and understand before you comment. That people choose freely does not mean they have a free will. People simply will not choose what they don’t want. I have spoken to many who coughed every two seconds between their puffs on their cigarette who told me they could quit smoking anytime they wanted to. I could not agree more with that statement. The problem is that the don’t want to.  An unregenerate can come to Jesus anytime he wants to. The problem is that if he really understands the issues of the gospel, he does not want to come.  In so called irresistible grace, God simply removes his resistance.

For example, see Joshua 24:15 and John 7:17. In both Joshua there is the command given that clearly calls men to freely exercise choice (“choose for yourselves”, NASB), and Jesus’ teaching in John clearly assumes the possession of freedom to choose (“if any man is willing”, NASB). In both cases such freedom is attributed to nothing or no one else but the selfsame persons doing the choosing. There is nothing to indicate even by a hint that God – and I agree Calvinist do not teach that God forces someone to choose – is somehow effectively orchestrating the mind or powers of choice upon the person to the point where he will inevitably and irresisistibly choose God or that God will impose no grace, thus “allowing” one to necessarily choose to reject God.

You are confusing free choice with free will. No one argues that sinners are forced into choosing something they don’t want. Packer was right when he stated that grace proves irresistible because it removes the disposition to resist. In Ezekiel 36:25-27 God promised to do precisely what you are claiming he does not do. He says “I will put an new spirit (disposition) within you, and I will put my Spirit within you AND CAUSE YOU to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my laws.”  There is no question that these people who have been the recipients of a heart transplant will FREELY CHOOSE to obey God. The issue is why they will do so.  The answer is because HE WILL CAUSE THEM TO. You have argued that if God causes a person to choose Christ [as if he is running for public office I suppose] his choice could not be a real choice because God caused him to choose rightly. Would you also argue that the obedience spoken of in these verses cannot be real obedience because God caused it?

No one questions whether called sinners freely choose Christ.  Clearly we do. The question is why we choose him. The answer is not that we have improved on the prevenient grace we have received and made a wise choice by our imagined “free will.” It is because God has granted us a new disposition.  He has “called us according to his purpose.”

Again, you continue asking, “If ‘prevenient [preceding, preventing] grace’ cancels the effects of inherited depravity, does it essentially place the sinner in a state of neutrality? If so, are the recipient’s desire’s equally balanced between an affinity toward sin and hostility toward God and an affinity toward righteousness and love toward God? If so, what tips the balance? How can one ever make a decisive choice if his desires are absolutely contradictory but equally balanced?”

Again, your question regards the metaphysical mechanics of prevenient grace and not whether or not it is a fact that the Bible teaches what Arminians view as prevenient grace. The same question can be demanded of the Calvinist to give an answer regarding irresistible grace or the notion of regeneration preceding faith (both ideas not Biblically affirmed).

Of course they are biblically affirmed. Read my blog and grapple with the issues. There is abundant evidence that regeneration precedes faith and that calling is effectual.  If you don’t know that, you should spend time studying and not commenting.

  For example, once can ask, regarding irresistible grace, “How much is the elect’s turning to God to be attributed to God and how much to man?

None of it is to be attributed to man.

If all is God’s work and not man’s at all, does God encompass the will so as to do the willing for the one elected for salvation?

Study what we believe. Of course God does not do the willing for the elect. The will along with the other aspects of the human personality is controlled by the person’s nature. In the case of the depraved sinner, that nature is represented as a “heart of stone.” The work of changing that nature is called “regeneration” in Scripture.  It is represented metaphorically by such terms as birth, circumcision, baptism, creation, deliverance from the prison house, and restored sight. These are not acts a person performs for himself, but the one who performs them does not also perform the subsequent actions such as walking, seeing, and breathing.

Is the elect’s will and personality subsumed by God’s will and personality? How can the choice be the elect’s if God, by his sovereign free choice, makes him willing? Is he creating a new will for those chosen to salvation”

No one believes God creates a new will any more than he creates a new intellect. If a person is a dullard before regeneration, he is likely to be a dullard after regeneration. He creates a new nature and that alters the desires and choices a person makes. That God makes him willing doesn’t mean God decides for him. It is a new nature God gives, not a new personality.

Regarding regeneration preceding faith, one may ask, “Is the person to whom God decrees to save, ‘born again’ – in essence, saved – before he believes? By divine regeneration before the act of believing, does that mean the elect are essentially spirit-filled with the fullness of God’s Spirit before he actually believes?”

If by “saved before he believes” you mean justified before he believes, “no”.  If you mean regenerated before he believes the answer is “yes”. Whether a person is Spirit filled prior faith  would depend on what you mean by being “Spirit filled.” As I understand Paul’s use of those words they refer to the believer’s responsibility to be continually being controlled by the Spirit.  It really has little, if anything, to do with the issue at hand.

There are possibly more metaphysical questions that can equally be demanded of the Calvinist to validate his position if one demands metaphysical answers in order to validate the Arminian position.

I have not responded directly to your challenge to answer the questions nor have I discussed all of them because they seem to require more of a metaphysical or philosophical explanation of how God works – which may tend more to speculation – rather than to the fact that God works in certain ways declared in the Bible. However, the Bible says nothing regarding the metaphysical mechanics of grace, prevenient or otherwise, in the same way it does not tell us the mechanics of regeneration. The Bible just lays down as fact that “You must be born-again and that it is accomplished by the Spirit on condition of faith. That is, all the Bible does is declare, “By grace are you saved through faith…” And, again, “of his grace we have all received” and, further, that we “have access into this grace by faith.”

That is not all the Bible declares. If you believe it is, you need a great deal more study. These are not metaphysical questions.  What I am asking for is some indication that there is a shred of proof for the imagined doctrine of a prevenient grace that removes the effects of total depravity but potentially allows all sinners to perish because they refused to cooperate with it.  What I am asking is proof that sinners are enabled to act autonomously. I don’t need to know how PG works. All I am asking for are texts that indicate that a person can receive grace that removes the effects of total depravity but leaves him to perish in his sins. Explain to me why such sinners need regeneration at all if the effects of total depravity have been removed. That is the work of regeneration. Am I to believe that sinners have all had the effects of total depravity removed and are yet described as being hostile toward God, dead in trespasses and sins, children of wrath just like the rest, callous toward God, etc? Am I to believe that PG has removed the effects of total depravity so that I can believe and then once I believe God regenerates me again to remove the effects of total depravity?  That would be redundant.

Perhaps I have misunderstood you in your reference to “of his grace [the text says fullness] we have all received”, and “we have access into this grace by faith.” If you are citing such texts with the idea that they teach that God’s grace has been given universally, you seriously need a few lessons in biblical interpretation.

I have been patient with you this time, but don’t ever post on my blog again unless you have read the rules first and closely adhere to them.

 

 

24
Sep
14

Test Your Knowledge of Calvinistic Doctrine.

True or False
1. That Calvinists believe in limited atonement means they believe there are people in the world whom God would not justify based on the death of Christ even if they accounted God faithful to fulfil his promise to save all who call on him. That is, even if they believed the gospel, God would not save them.
2. Since Calvinists believe in limited atonement, it is disingenuous for them to tell sinners God will save them if they believe.
3. The Apostles and other gospel preachers whose messages are recorded in the New Testament Scriptures all told their audiences, “Jesus died for you,” when they preached the gospel.
4. If Calvinists are right, there is no need to proclaim the gospel since all God’s elect will be saved whether they hear the gospel or not.
5. That Calvinists believe in irresistible grace means that sinners have no choice in the matter of salvation. God simply forces some people to believe whether they want to or not.
6. That Calvinists believe in total depravity means all sinners act as sinfully as they are capable of acting.
7. That Calvinists believe in total depravity means they don’t believe sinners have any awareness of God or any conscience concerning right or wrong.
8. That Calvinists believe in total depravity means they don’t believe sinners in a state of sinful nature are able to perform acts that most everyone would consider good and helpful to their fellow man.
9. That Calvinists believe in election means they believe there are some people who truly want to be saved but God won’t let them because he hasn’t chosen them.
10. That Calvinists believe in the perseverance of the saints means they believe once a person makes a profession of faith, he is saved for eternity even if he should later stop believing.
11. That Calvinists believe in the perseverance of the saints means a person can’t know if he/she is saved until the judgment.
12. The Calvinist’s doctrine of election does not mean a believer has been chosen to eternal life. It simply means he has been chosen to run the race. His eternal status depends completely on his faithfulness in running the race. They think if a believer is unfaithful in running the race he will be lost.
13. Calvinist doctrine so closely parallels the doctrine of the Gnostics that Calvinists could rightly be called Gnostics.
14. Calvinists deny the doctrine of the Trinity since they teach that Jesus Christ is the full expression of the good, true, and beautiful while representing the other members of the Trinity as lesser forms.
15. Calvinists believe that justification is progressive.
16. Since Calvinists believe all justifying righteousness is outside a believer, it is clear they don’t think God produces any righteousness in believers in the works of regeneration and sanctification.
17. Calvinists confuse and conflate God’s works of justification and sanctification.
18. Calvinists believe sinners are like stocks and stones that have no will and cannot make choices freely.
19. The real issue in whether Jesus’ redeeming work was limited or not concerns its sufficiency to save all sinners.
20. A real Calvinist is a person who believes everything Calvin ever wrote. They actually place Calvin’s writings above the Scriptures.

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There is not a single statement that is true. The answer to every one should be FALSE. It is interesting that I copied and pasted many of the statements from blogs dedicated to the overthrow of Calvinism. If the above statements were true, I would join them in the fight to rid the world of these teachings. I would be delighted to discuss in detail any of the above statements you might think are true and show you why, according to Calvinistic doctrine, they are not.

Please read the rules for commenting before you opine.

Remember, to those who lack the will to know the truth, nothing is as mysterious as the obvious.

21
Sep
14

Trials

In times of trial God’s trusting child may say,

First, He brought me here, it is by His will I am in this strait place: in that fact I will rest.

Next, He will keep me here in His love, and give me grace to behave as His child.

Then, He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me the lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He means to bestow.

Last, in His good time He can bring me out again – how and when He knows.

Let me say I am here,

(1) By God’s appointment,
(2) In His keeping,
(3) Under His training,
(4) For His time.

Andrew Murray




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