09
Apr
14

Comments on Dohse’s Delusions

I never cease to be amazed by the abysmal ignorance of many who fancy themselves fountains of all wisdom and knowledge. Paul Dohse Sr. recently posted an article that he titled “the Foul Points of Calvinism.” It brings to light once again the startling fact that those who, in their arrogance, argue against these doctrines are, in reality, mind numbingly ignorant. Mr. Dohse’s article reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from C.H. Spurgeon. In a sermon titled, “How to Meet the Doctrine of Election,” he said,

The doctrine of election has been made into a great bugbear by its unscrupulous opponents and its injudicious friends. I have read some very wonderful sermons against this doctrine in which the first thing that was evident was that the person speaking was totally ignorant of his subject. The usual way of composing a sermon against the doctrine of grace is this: first exaggerate and belie the doctrine, and then argue against it. If you state the sublime truth as it is found in the Bible, why, you cannot say much against it. But if you collect a number of silly expressions from hot-headed partisans and denounce these, then your task will be easier. Nobody ever believed the doctrine of election as I have heard it stated by Arminian controversialists. I venture to say that nobody out of Bedlam ever did believe that which has been imputed to us. Is it surprising that we are as eager to denounce the dogmas imputed to us as ever our opponents can be? Why do they earnestly set themselves to confute what no one defends? Our friends abhor the doctrine as it is stated by themselves, and we are much of their mind, though the doctrine itself, as we would state it, is dear to us as life itself.

I would like to reproduce the text of Mr. Dohse’s remarks and intersperse comments of my own about what he has written. My comments will appear in bold font.

Mr. Dohse wrote:

1. Total Depravity

As written about often here at PPT, the Calvinist view of total depravity also pertains to the saints. However, total depravity isn’t even true in regard to the unregenerate. All born into the world have the works of the law written on their hearts with a conscience that either accuses or excuses their behavior. Romans 6:20 states that unbelievers are free in regard to righteousness. Total depravity posits the idea that mankind cannot do any work that falls short of condemnation. Works for justification are not the issue entirely; if man can do any good work, one of those good works could be choosing God which Calvinism rejects. Hence, the doctrine of total depravity is essential for them.

In my view, Pastor Tchividijan should simply have used the term “remaining sin.” I have written about this matter on my blog. I believe he is correct in stating that every facet of the human personality continues to be affected by sin. If that is all a person means by the term “total depravity,” I would have to agree that believers continue to be totally depraved. If defined as I have done in the following definition, then it is inaccurate to refer to believers as “totally depraved.”

Perhaps I can best define what I mean by total depravity by first stating the negative.
By “total depravity” I do not mean:

1. Sinners act as badly as they are capable of acting.
2. Sinners are incapable of deeds that are good in the sight of other people.
3. Sinners are incapable of rational thought.
4. Sinners are incapable of recognizing the logical relationship between cause and effect and design and designer.
5. Sinners have no consciousness of the existence of God and their guilt before him.
6. Sinners have no ability to understand the facts of the gospel and give mental assent to it.
7. Sin has totally destroyed God’s image in the unregenerate.
8. Sinners are incapable of acting morally. Not every unregenerate sinner is perverted and degenerate.
9. Sinners have no ability to make choices.
10. Sinners do not have a knowledge of right and wrong, based on God’s law written on their hearts.
11. Sinners are not completely free to choose anything they wish. If they wish to choose to leave their sins and follow Christ, they are completely free to do so.

By “total depravity” I mean:

1. The nature of every person, in Adam, has been radically affected by the fall so that every person is, at heart, equal to every other person in estrangement from God. If one sinner acts better than another it is due to God’s common, restraining grace alone.

2. Sinful nature has radically affected every facet of the sinner’s personality. The result is that he does not think rightly about God and the gospel; he does not feel right emotions toward God and the gospel; and he does not make right choices with reference to God and the gospel. Every facet of the sinner’s personality is controlled by sinful nature.

3. Though sinners are capable of understanding the facts of the gospel, they regard it as foolish and weak. They may know truth but do not welcome it (1 Cor. 2:14). They do not receive the love of the truth that they might be saved (2 Thess. 2:10).

4. Sinners are hostile toward God and the gospel. Whenever they are confronted with God’s self-revelation their response will always be to suppress it and turn from it. Sinners love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil and everyone who does evil hates the light and does not come to the light lest their deeds should be exposed (John 3: 19-20). A person will never choose that for which he has no desire and to which he is totally averse.

To the best of my knowledge, this is the way Calvinists have consistently defined “total depravity.” Accordingly, most Calvinists would not refer to believers as “totally depraved.” What I would agree with is the idea that believers in a regenerate state have no ability to progress in sanctification independently. If God’s Spirit does not continue to prompt our desire to obey God and enable us to do so, we can do nothing.

You will notice that nothing in my statement denies that sinners have God’s law written on their hearts. Nothing in it denies that unbelievers are free in regard to righteousness. Commenting on Romans 6:20, Douglas Moo made the following helpful comment,

. . .They are free from the power and influence of conduct that pleases God; they are deaf to God’s righteous demands and incapable of responding to them even if they were to hear and respect them. For Paul makes clear that those outside Christ, to varying degrees, can recognize right and wrong (Cf. Rom. 1:18-32; 2:14-15); but the power to do the right and turn from the wrong is not present (Moo, Romans, p. 422).

The real issue in regard to the “goodness” of the sinner’s works is not whether it is possible for unregenerate people to live in a moral and upright manner or whether they may perform deeds that are good and profitable in the sight of other people. No one disagrees that the unregenerate may be involved in eleemosynary projects that bring great acclaim to themselves and great benefit to mankind. Additionally, it is not an issue of whether it is better for sinners to live in a moral manner rather than in an immoral manner.

The issue is whether the unregenerate have any desire to please to God by submitting themselves to his method of justifying sinners. Additionally, the question of the “goodness” of the sinner’s works may not be determined in the court of public opinion but must be determined by the divine tribunal. God’s verdict is “there is none who does good, not even one.”

2. Unconditional Election

This is not exactly right either, though less egregious than the other four points. God does choose according to some conditions and for His purposes. One example is God’s choosing of the poor and un-noble so that he will get the credit for the power He displays through them (1Cor 1:26-29). His specific purpose for this is to shame the “wise” and the “strong.” He elected Israel because they are the smallest of nations (Due 7:7). The condition is smallness.

Most Calvinists do not believe God’s choice of certain sinners was made without reason. Still, the fact that God has chosen the poor and ignoble of the world does not mean poverty and meanness of life circumstances were the bases or conditions of God’s choice. If that were the case, there would be no rich or high-born believers. God did not choose Israel for its smallness but in spite of it.

When we talk about “unconditional” election, we mean that God’s choice of certain sinners was not conditioned on his foresight of our faith or final perseverance.

3. Limited Atonement

Christ clearly died for all people. The word used in John 3:16 is “kosmos.” “God so loved the world….” I believe this word was used deliberately to circumvent the idea that Christ died for “all kinds of men” and not ALL men

The real issue in respect to so-called “limited atonement” is not so much for whom Christ died as it is the effectual nature of Christ’s redemptive work. Here is the issue– If Jesus died for every single individual since the beginning of time, what did he accomplish for them? The issue was never sufficiency. Calvinists believe Christ’s death was of sufficient value to redeem everyone if they should believe the gospel. The issue is that Christ accomplished [actually secured] eternal redemption for all his chosen people.

To cite John 3:16 as a proof-text is just silly. Biblical writers seldom used the word “kosmos” to refer to every single individual on the face of the earth. In Romans 11, Paul used the word of the Gentiles in contrast to the people of Israel. In this particular case (John 3:16), it more than likely referred to believers from among the Gentiles as well as the Jews. The point is that Jesus did not come to redeem Israel and condemn the world, i.e., Gentiles. God loved the world–Jews and Gentiles alike. It is also likely John had in mind the evil and rebellious character of the objects of Gods love. In using the word “kosmos,” he meant to emphasize God’s inestimable condescension in setting his love on his enemies and demonstrating that love by sending his uniquely begotten to die for sinners.

Additionally, in this verse, the stated purpose for God’s sending his Son is that everyone who believes will have everlasting life. The text says absolutely nothing about God’s desire to save everyone without exception. God sent his Son to save believers. Robert Haldane wrote, “It is the good news that Jesus died for the most guilty sinner who will believe, not that he died for every sinner whether he will believe or not.”

My point is that it would require much more than the citation of a few proof-texts to demonstrate Mr. Dohse’s contention. One must answer the question, “What did Jesus accomplish for those for whom he died?”

4. Irresistible Grace

Man can resist the Holy Spirit. The Bible is clear on this: Acts 7:51, John 16:8, John 12:32.

No one questions whether the Holy Spirit can be resisted. The issue is that the Holy Spirit is ALWAYS resisted (See Acts 7:51) until God the Father calls sinners effectually and the Spirit grants them new life.

5. Perseverance of the Saints

Calvin taught a three-fold election: non-elect, temporary elect (those who lose their election, the “called”), and the final elect, or those who persevere to the end (chosen). In an effort to proof text this error, “perseverance” is always associated with salvation, and rewards are not considered. At any rate, it is clear that believers do not always persevere (1Cor 5:4,5).

The issue is not what Calvin taught or did not teach. There are several areas in which those who believe the doctrines of grace have departed from Calvin’s teachings and writings. The issue is what the Bible teaches. I can find no evidence of Mr. Dohse’s claim that Calvin taught “a three-fold election.” What Calvinists consistently teach is that those who fail to persevere in faith give evidence they were never true believers. One of Mr. Dohse’s errors seems to stem from his failure to understand the nature of saving faith.

For a fuller treatment of the topic of perseverance, I would refer you to my post, “The Calvinists’ Doctrine of Perseverance.”

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4 Responses to “Comments on Dohse’s Delusions”


  1. April 9, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    Rock on, my brother! Surprisingly, in this particular case, Mr. Dohse sounds very similar to other Arminians and Pelagians with whom I’ve discussed this issue. John 3:16 is a favorite verse for people who do not care what the Word of God means 🙂 ‘Tis a pity so many English Bibles have such a poor translation of that verse.

    • April 9, 2014 at 2:22 pm

      You are quite right my Brother. They all seem to keep repeating the same ridiculous arguments. Apparently, it was the same in Spurgeon’s day. Still, Dohse seems to take banality to a whole new level.

      • April 10, 2014 at 1:44 am

        I would not describe Christians as depraved – that, to me, means no Spirit of God in the sinner. Sin is our flesh, but the Holy Spirit is in our soul.

      • April 10, 2014 at 1:30 pm

        I agree with you. In my view, it was a huge error to posit that believers are totally depraved. To say there is sin remaining in every part of the believer’s personality is one thing; to say believer’s continue to be totally depraved is another matter altoghther.


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