Posted in calvinism, theology

Let’s not be spiritually merciless or censure harshly

By Elizabeth Prata

John Owen’s book ‘Indwelling Sin’ is a guide to knowing our enemy, sin. Spiritual pride comes from that place of sin, and Owen’s book talks at length about how to deal with this mortal enemy.

In one section, Owen talks about the hypocrites & the importance of knowing sin’s penchant to puff us up in pride, blinding us to sin’s potency. Owen says that we must always be searching our hearts so as to beat the sin nature down and to walk the path of grace, “that our souls may be humbled”. He offers two methods of soul humbling, 1) In walking with God, and here as he describes:

“2). In walking with others. Being humbled helps to prevent the great evils of judging, spiritual mercilessness, harsh censures, which many have thought themselves entitled to use, even though they have been guilty of greater or worse crimes than those which they have raved against in others. It will produce meekness, compassion, readiness to forgive, willingness to overlook offences; when we consider what is our state, as the apostle plainly declares, Gal. 6:1.”

Our teaching pastor delivered a powerful sermon this past Sunday from John 6 (and other texts) that teach predestination, or the Doctrine of Election. This doctrine usually gets people debating, sometimes the parties even becoming angry and upset.

In small group afterward, I commented that a few days prior to this sermon, I’d listened to Phil Johnson deliver a sermon on election from Acts 27, “The Shipwreck.” Phil is an excellent preacher, and I always enjoy his sermons. He is also an expert on Spurgeon, and he has been given a clear gift of discernment and he spots fads encroaching into evangelicalism well before they arrive. He preaches against fads, and in so doing, continues to draw the clear line between the world and the church. I recommend his sermon The Shipwreck.

Last year he did a guest post at Effectual Grace blog called Is Arminianism Damnable Heresy? Arminianism is described by John Gerstner as

Arminian evangelism rests on profound error: that fallen man is not dead spiritually but only dying. He is therefore supposed to be able to bring about his own new birth by his self-generated faith.

When you hear people say “I have free will to choose Jesus,” or “I decided for Jesus,” you’re hearing Arminian language.

In his Damnable Heresy article, Phil Johnson outlined his stance when debating Arminianism v. Calvinism v. Hyper-Calvinism. His attitude brings us back to the opening words of this essay by John Owen and the ‘great evils of judging, spiritual mercilessness, harsh censures’, especially in debate. Phil Johnson wrote:

Furthermore, I’m not one of those who wears Calvinism like a big chip on his shoulder, daring people to fight with me about it. It’s true that I can get feisty about certain points of doctrine—especially when someone attacks a principle that goes to the heart of the gospel, like substitutionary atonement, or original sin, or justification by faith and the principle of imputed righteousness. When one of those principles is challenged, I’m ready to fight. (And I also don’t mind beating up on whatever happens to be the latest evangelical fad.)

But Calvinism isn’t one of those issues I get worked up and angry about. I’ll discuss it with you, but if you are spoiling for a fight about it, you are likely to find me hard to provoke. I spent too many years as an Arminian myself to pretend that the truth on these issues is easy and obvious.

Now, don’t get the wrong idea. I do think the truth of God’s sovereignty is clear and ultimately inescapable in Scripture. But it is a difficult truth to come to grips with, so I am sympathetic with those who struggle with it.

That’s a wonderful way to approach it. I’ve seen Phil bear this out, especially on Twitter. He is measured, clear, and patient. I learn a lot by watching mature men of the faith engage in this manner with Christians and non-Christians alike.

After conversion, I read the Bible and saw throughout the Bible God’s sovereignty in electing His own. I knew from my own experience and testimony that I did not choose Jesus. I resisted Him almost unto death. I went kicking and screaming to the cross. I never would have chosen Him unless His irresistible grace converted my heart and nature.

I am an adherent to the doctrines of Grace. The Lord opened my eyes to His sovereign election of His people and I wholeheartedly embraced it by the grace of His Spirit. As sermons like my pastor delivered this past Sunday show, people tend to get heated about the doctrine. I hope that any discussions about this doctrine online or in real life will cause understanding, wonder, and be drenched with grace. I think Iain Murray stated it best and I leave you with it:

The final conclusion has to be that when Calvinism ceases to be evangelistic, when it becomes more concerned with theory than with the salvation of men and women, when acceptance of doctrines seems to become more important than acceptance of Christ, then it is a system going to seed and it will invariably lose its attractive power.

god is sovereign

Posted in arminianism, calvinism, doctrine, unity

Unity, disunity, and breaking fellowship- a real life tale

 I received an email the other day. It was from a long-time reader/sometime commenter.

Hi there. Would you please be so kind and remove the comments (and my name) that I have made on your blog? I’d do it myself, but I don’t have the same email address anymore in order to do it. I also could not find your email address, hence this message in comment form.

Thanking you,
Commenter

And then he included the links to 30 comments from two years ago. BTW, my email address is in the “About this Blog” tab at the top of the page. I asked in reply, May I ask why?

I do not share in your theology at all and don’t want to be associated with it (the theology) in any way whatsoever. My comments were mostly non-theological, but I want them removed nonetheless.
Greetings,
Commenter

If I am wrong, I want to know. If I need correction, I want to submit to it. I replied, “Thank you for your response. What is it about my theology that troubles you so greatly that you would go to these lengths to disassociate? Is there something unbiblical? Extrabiblical? Aberrant?” He responded:

I am 100% anti-Calvinist and don’t want to be associated with it. Please remove my comments at your earliest convenience.
Regards,
Commenter

Ah. So that’s it.

I replied that there was no need to go to lengths to disassociate from a theology that the Bible presents, even if one holds vehemently to Arminianism. The Bible is also clear about unity. I shared the verse from 1 Corinthians 1:10, noting it’s one verse among many urging unity among the brethren. I said that it seemed an unreasonable request that would cause difficulties in the threaded comment stream, take an undue amount of my time, and that since we all make our own decisions when choosing to comment publicly in online forums, I sadly would not be able to fulfill the request. I said I was truly sorry he decided to leave on that note and urged that he was welcome to read or comment any time. His response was less than hopeful…and less than brotherly.

Elizabeth, really, I want nothing to do with Calvinism, and I am not interested in your defense of the philosophy of Calvinism, or whatever you like to term it. And I’m not interested in debating or arguing; I simply want my comments removed. You don’t have to do it all at once, of course, but my request stands: remove my comments. Take your time with it; there’s no rush.

The correspondence ends here.
Regards,
Commenter

Of course, bullies always change the argument to a straw man. I had not defended Calvinism but had made a biblical appeal to unity as described above.

There are all sorts of false teachers running around proclaiming the need for unity. But theirs is a false unity. Partnering with any other religion that’s clearly false is not a unity. Pasting over deep doctrinal differences in order to promote a shallow harmony is not unity.

However, there’s a unity that IS called for. The Bible is clear that among Christians there will be differences among us over minor or secondary doctrines, but that we are to be humble and love one another. Secondary doctrines are not salvation doctrines. Some call them “non-essential” doctrines, but I don’t like that term because I don’t like to think of any doctrine as being non-essential, though the meaning refers to the belief in the doctrine not being essential to one’s salvation.

Essential doctrines are the ones we split over. Non-essentials are doctrines we do not split over. The website at Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry gives the following advice about essential and secondary doctrines. The list from CARM.org includes an explanation, then gives examples of primary non-essentials and secondary non-essentials:

Primary Non-Essentials- (1 John 2:4). Denying these can bring one’s salvation into question since the regenerate seek to live according to God’s Word. Violating them does not automatically mean the person is not saved since Christians fall into various sins. However, abiding in sins with unrepentance would be evidence that the person is not regenerated. Examples: Moral integrity (Exodus 20:1-17). Fidelity in marriage in heterosexual relationships. The condemnation of homosexuality. Inerrancy of the Bible. Baptism is not necessary for salvation (Acts 10:44-48).

I might put inerrancy of the Bible as an essential salvation issue, but then again I’m not a theologian.

Secondary Non-Essentials- Any of them can be denied or affirmed, and regeneration is not in questioned. These are often Denominational Differences: 14) Predestination, election, limited atonement, and free will. 15) Communion every week, monthly, or quarterly, etc. 16) Saturday or Sunday Worship. 17) Pre-, mid-, post-trib rapture. 18) Premillennialism, Amill., Postmill., partial-preterism. 19) Continuation or cessation of the charismatic gifts. 20) Baptism for adults or infants. 21) Musical Instruments in church.

Breaking fellowship over a non-essential doctrine is a shame. Though I’m Reformed, pretribulation, literal Millennial Kingdom, soft dispensationalist, I would not break fellowship over the secondary non-essentials. I would hope that people would not break fellowship with me over those, either.

Good examples to me over the years have been John MacArthur and RC Sproul Sr.’s friendship and warm fellowship despite Sproul’s no-rapture, preterism, paedo-baptism issues and MacArthur holding the opposite view. It’s helpful to me to see them on a panel together, gently chiding and teasing in brotherly love but united over the essential doctrines.

As the visible church has become bloated and is falling away like a black banana peel from the fruit, those who are sound and remain in the faith by standing on the essential doctrines need to demonstrate our love to each other in the cause of Jesus more than ever. We DO need unity. We need to unite around the essentials and monitor the non-essentials and remain faithful to loving each other until or unless the non-essentials in a person or organization become too wayward to overlook.

John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” (Luke 9:49)

There were false teachers in the NT and there were many false prophets in the OT. In both Testaments, these false ones claim to speak in Jesus’ name but do not truly represent Him. Now of this particular man in the Luke 9:49 verse, if he had not truly been one of His faithful, God would not have given the man the ability to cast out demons, and Jesus would not have answered by saying the 12 must accept him. Don’t misunderstand Luke to be a verse that urges acceptance of false teachers. We still use discernment to determine false from true representatives of Jesus. The man in Luke 9:49 was true and Jesus said that he was part of the brethren because he was not against Jesus.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures says of this verse

suggested that the Twelve were not to see themselves as God’s exclusive representatives. Rather they should have rejoiced that the power of God was being manifested on earth by others as well. If they manifested that attitude, it would show that they were truly trying to be of service to the Messiah.

And this from pastor-teacher John MacArthur,

even though we might not agree with methods, we might not agree with style, if they’re for Christ, we’re for them, but with the proviso that they’re really for Christ because they’re committed to the truth. ~John MacArthur

Be committed to the truth first, and then be committed to all those who embrace the truth. Even us poor, deluded Reformed folk.

EPrata photo

————————————

How can the church achieve a true, biblical unity?

Posted in arminianism, calvinism, charles spurgeon, doctrines of grace, encouragement, reformed

"Calvinism is not new to Baptists", and other Calvinistic thoughts

With the Southern Baptist Convention going on and its recent history of fighting against the doctrines of grace, AND fighting against the people who bring them, it might be good to get a little perspective. Here are two. Thomas Kidd at Desiring God, writes about the doctrines of grace in church history. And S. Lewis Johnson preaches on the inconsistent stance of four-point Calvinists.

For those unfamiliar with the terms, here are some quick definitions first. Calvinism is a position where those who adhere to it have

a very high view of Scripture and seeks to derive its theological formulations based solely on God’s Word. It focuses on God’s sovereignty–stating that God is able and willing by virtue of His omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence to do whatever He desires with His creation. It also maintains that within the Bible are the following teachings: That God, by His sovereign grace, predestines people into salvation and that Jesus died only for those predestined and that God regenerates the individual to where he is then able to and wants to choose God and that it is impossible for those who are redeemed to lose their salvation.

The Arminian’s flower is the Daisy.
“He loves me, He loves me not…” JK!

Arminianism, on the other hand, maintains that God predestined but not in an absolute sense. Rather, He looked into the future to see who would pick him, and then He chose them. Jesus died for all peoples’ sins who have ever lived and ever will live–not just the Christians. Each person is the one who decides if he wants to be saved or not. And finally, it is possible to lose your salvation (some Arminians believe you cannot lose your salvation).

Miracle Max was an Arminian.

GotQuestions has a good overview. Here is an excerpt-

The five points of Calvinism can be summarized by the acronym TULIP. T stands for total depravity, U for unconditional election, L for limited atonement, I for irresistible grace, and P for perseverance of the saints.

Other terms for Calvinism are Reformed Theology or Doctrines of Grace.

SBC logo

Irrespective of any activity at the Southern Baptist Convention, Thomas Kidd asks, Did you know Calvinism is not new to Baptists?

Calvinists once dominated Baptist church life in America. In a 1793 survey, early Baptist historian John Asplund estimated that there were 1,032 Baptist churches in America. Out of those, 956 were Calvinist congregations. These were “Particular Baptists,” for they believed in a definite atonement (or “particular redemption”), that Christ had died to save the elect decisively.

This was maintained until well into the nineteenth century. Then Kidd asks,

How did Calvinism lose its dominant position among Baptists? The American Revolution, with its focus on liberty, gave new life to “free will” theology in traditionally Calvinist denominations. But Calvinism remained ascendant among Baptists well into the nineteenth century. As Baptist churches spread into America’s frontier, they took Calvinist commitments with them. The newly-formed Elkhorn Baptist Association of Kentucky, for example, decided in 1785 to require assent to the Philadelphia Baptist confession of faith, which closely followed the 1689 London Baptist confession. Among other points, the Elkhorn Association affirmed that “by the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are pre-destinated, or fore-ordinated to eternal life, through Jesus Christ, to the praise of his glorious grace; others being left to act in their sin to their just condemnation, to the praise of his glorious justice.”

By the 1830s, the stage was set for the slow weakening of Calvinism among mainstream Baptists. But Arminian theology would never become as dominant among Baptists as Calvinism once was. When groups such as Desiring God and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary began to reinvigorate Calvinist theology for Baptists and other evangelicals in the late twentieth century, some Arminian Baptists insisted that free will and general atonement were the “traditional” Baptist positions on those issues. A deeper historical look, however, reveals the overwhelmingly Calvinist convictions of early America’s Baptists

Tulip. Source- Graphics Fairy

It is a really good essay, thorough without being too long. It’s not that I always adhered to the doctrines of grace. It took a bit of time to study and for the Spirit to cement these things in my mind and heart. One video that went a long way to opening my eyes was a Paul Washer segment. I’ll post that below. I understand that the doctrine is difficult for people to accept, and many don’t or won’t believe it.

Therefore, if anyone has any questions concerning these doctrines of grace please don’t hesitate to ask. If anyone has a problem with what is being said or written please don’t be afraid to speak up. I believe what Paul Washer is saying is biblically true. Understanding the doctrines of grace/election/Calvinism is vital in understanding God’s work in regards to salvation. It’s like this-

Picture Jesus as the Living Water. There are urns of fresh, holy, heavenly, pure water. There are two methods. One drinks the water as it is given out. Or one can put one’s hand in the water to test its temperature, leaving behind oil from one’s hand, and dirt from one’s fingernails, before choosing to scoop some into one’s hand and drink. But now the water is no longer pure. Man added something to it. The second scenario is man’s participation in his salvation, by “deciding” to drink the Living Water and “accepting Christ”. But it’s polluted, even one drop from man pollutes it and it is no longer pure (grace).

In studying Galatians 1 and the importance of pure grace (unmixed with Legalism or any other man-made invention), John MacArthur says in his Commentary on Galatians,

Paul would not tolerate one drop of legalism being mixed with God’s pure grace. To turn away from any part of the grace of Christ is to turn away from God to that of human effort. … A single drop of poison in a large container can make all the water lethal. And a single false idea that in any way undercuts God’s grace poisons the whole system of belief.

So…no, we don’t “decide for Christ”. We don’t “accept Christ”. We have no part in our salvation. Why? We’re dead. God makes salvation possible by sending the spirit of understanding, the spirit of repentance … He initiates it all. (Ephesians 1:4, Philippians 1:6, Hebrews 12:2). As Paul explained the extent of our participation in salvation, in 1 Corinthians 3:6,

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

Or as Miracle Max explains,

There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all-dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all-dead, well, with all-dead there’s usually only one thing you can do.
Inigo Montoya: What’s that?
Miracle Max: Go through his clothes and look for loose change.

A Calvinist believes we are all-dead.

Here is that Paul Washer video I promised. A young seminarian approached Washer at the 2009 Deeper Conference and asked about election. He asked also about God choosing some people to salvation and others He says ‘you, you, you, send to hell’. This is a common question. Washer answers brilliantly.

There are helpful captions so you can read along with what Washer is saying. It’s worth listening to. I love the part when he takes off his glasses and looks like he is settling in for a good discussion, lol.

Just as grace is unmixed with any man’s “decision” or any man’s “works” in his own salvific rebirth, any less than the total TULIP and you have a deformed flower. Yet some say they believe the biblical verses relating to T-U-I-P but not L, limited atonement, This is where they say that God died for all people, not just a few chosen, or elect. 4-Pointers believe that His blood was not limited to those whose names were written down in the Lamb’s Book of Life since before the foundation of the world.

Here is S. Lewis Johnson in preaching Galatians 1:4, The Great Emancipation, side-tracking a bit to the inconsistent stance of 4-point Calvinists.

There are individuals who say, “I am a Calvinist, but I am a four-point Calvinist.” Now, I respect an individual who says this. I think, however, that it is a very inconsistent position. Richard Watson, probably the greatest of the Arminian theologians said, “It is perhaps the most inconsistent theory to which the varied attempts to modify Calvinism have given rise. Here are individuals who claim to believe in total depravity, unconditional election, invincible grace, and the perseverance of the saints. But they do not believe that Jesus Christ came to die for his own, but rather for every one.”

Now, let me ask you to look at this text. If we say that Jesus Christ intended to die for all men, then his intention was frustrated, because both of us will grant that not all people are saved. I think, of course, what happened is the best judge of what God intended. In other words, the result will tell us what he intended to do. But if Christ intended to die for all men, if we say that he gave himself for everyone, then his intention was frustrated. The frustration of his intention is offensive, in my eyes; I say it in love, to the perfections of the Son of God. To think that the intention of his is frustrated, to me, limits our understanding of the Son of God.

Furthermore, if we say that died in order to save all, we cannot speak then of a substitution that was effectual. The substitution was ineffectual. It was not really a substitution at all. For, even though he has done what he has done, it is possible for heaven to have further claims against individuals who are not saved. So the substitution was not really a substitution, the work was not really done. The purchase did not secure salvation for all for whom he made it. Heaven’s claims are not really met. It is not then a finished work, logically.

Now, what is this? This is dishonoring to the work of our adorable substitute. So the idea that Jesus Christ could die for all men and yet not be effective in his intention is dishonoring to the Son of God, dishonoring to his perfections, dishonoring to his work as substitute. And furthermore, if you reflect about it for a moment, it should shatter your confidence and assurance, because if it is possible for God to be frustrated in one of his great works, the work of the atonement, how do you know that he cannot be frustrated in the other promises the has given us? Is it really true then that he does all of his pleasure, as the word of God tells us? You can see that this then would be most damaging to my assurance and hope that he will really save me, who has believed in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, I say that in love, I say that because I would like to recover some for an understanding of the gospel of the grace of God that will most honor and glorify our great God. If you shall happen to be of the contrary option, I hope that you will not be upset by that. There are probably other things that we disagree about. And it is possible, of course, that I am wrong in two or three other things. Though I think I am right in this one thing, you understand. You still may be right in more things than I, but I hope we remain friends. But we understand each other I hope.

He was such a humble man! Though this three-segment essay that included definitions, a history of Calvinism in Baptist church history, and 4-point Calvinism’s illogic has been long, I hope that it brought some kind of truth and honorable reason to the concept. One last comment, this one on free will. I read the following comment from a man named Chancellor (Buddy) Roberts about free will,

Free will (which Arminians insist God gave us) necessitates not merely the capacity to choose but also having the right to choose. If man has free will, then he must necessarily have the right to choose whatever he wants and, therefore, God has no right to punish him for how he exercises that free will. Having the right to choose removes any culpability for choices made because it is presumed that God has given man the right to make those choices.

We only have free will in the capacity in which we are limited by our nature. Can a fox choose to write Shakespeare? Can a lion choose to be a vegetarian? No, they can only do things according to their nature. Likewise we as totally depraved humans cannot choose Good. We hate God and He is dead to us. Since we are totally sinful through and through, (“all-dead”) the only free will we have is to choose to sin. Therefore we cannot “choose God” or “decide for Jesus.” Jesus has to do it for us, and blessedly, He has.

“I would rather believe a limited atonement that is efficacious for all men for whom it was intended, than a universal atonement that is not efficacious for anybody, except the will of men be added to it.” (Spurgeon Sermons, Vol. 4, p. 70).

———————————

Further reading

Essay- Phil Johnson: The Hall of Church History: The Arminians

Sermon by Jeff Noblit from Ephesians, (the one Paul Washer recommends in the above video clip):
Election Pure and Simple 

Essay- John MacArthur, What is the Doctrine of Election?

10-minute video- John MacArthur on the Doctrine of Election

9-minute video- John Piper on the Doctrine of Election

Posted in arminianism, calvinism, doctrines of grace, easter, resurrection

Understanding the Doctrines of grace in the face of the death, burial, & resurrection of Christ

This Holy weekend we focus on the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  I offer these thoughts and this sermon by Phil Johnson which is actually a brief overview of church history with a focus on the doctrines of grace, which most people know as ‘Calvinism’. Initially one may wonder how these two streams of thought are intertwined, but as you will see, they are intertwined so tightly that a clearer understanding of Jesus and the faith he secured for us through His death, burial, and resurrection will be made manifest.

Perceiving that Christ is in total control of each and every salvation, through understanding these biblical doctrines, will hopefully do several things in the reader’s and listener’s heart. One, is that the dear reader will never, ever again use the terrible phrase, “decisions for Christ.” We do not decide to become a Christian. The author and finisher of our faith is Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 12:2).

Secondly, on this most precious of weekends, understanding the biblical doctrines of grace will offer a clearer view of Jesus and His love for humanity. Here is a very good teaching by Phil Johnson. He gives an overview of church history which illustrates when the eruption between the two camps originated. It was 410AD. The two camps are: we decide for Jesus vs. God’s sovereignty in salvation AKA Pelagianism vs. Calvinism. Hopefully, you will understand that the opposite camp, Pelagianism, minimizes the seriousness of sin and nullifies the need for Divine grace. This weekend is about grace!

Pelagianism was declared heresy in 430 AD. Yet its ideas remained, modified somewhat, and then was called Semi-Pelaginaism. This also was declared heresy in 529 at the Council of Orange. Still not firmly stamped out, strains of Semi-Pelagianism ideas advanced and nowadays modern Arminianism is the result of those debates from earlier centuries. If you hear the phrases walk the aisle, pray a prayer and decide for Christ, it’s from Arminianism.

The synopsis of Johnson’s teaching is below. I’m sorry, I was not able to find a transcript. It is audio only with powerpoint slides.

I want to emphasize, WE DO NOT DECIDE FOR CHRIST. On this most important of weekends, understand who Jesus is and what His death, burial and resurrection means, by understanding the full expression of His work in authoring and finishing our faith. Phil Johnson biblically lays this out.

Calvinism is not some quirky anomaly in the history of Christianity. It is not a recent departure from  the mainstream that is headed off in some bizarre direction. The truth is these ideas have always belonged to the mainstream of sound theology throughout church history. It is one of the distinctive doctrines of Christianity itself. It is the anchor of sound doctrine that our faith is the result and not the cause of God’s work in our hearts. ~Phil Johnson

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Synopsis of the teaching-sermon: The Christian doctrine of ‘Election’ has caused more difficulties to believers than any other. It is indeed one of the most frequently misunderstood of all Biblical teachings. Many have been distressed by what they think this teaching means. But rather than causing Christians concern, this doctrine is actually one that should fill believers with comfort and a much better grasp of the great and sovereign God that they serve. … a very helpful overview of Calvinism and its history, which actually sets the doctrine of election in the context of the Biblical teaching with which it is most commonly associated. Once correctly understood, election is seen to be actually a demonstration of the Lord’s love for his people. These two recordings will be a great help to those who are struggling to understand this most difficult, yet wonderful, doctrine.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Guest introduction by R. Craig Fulford:

Given it is Easter weekend you might expect me to post a tremendously dynamic sermon on the resurrection. But I’m not!

Instead I have chosen to share with all of you a sermon delivered by Phil Johnson entitled “The Story of Calvinism”. Now before you run screaming for the exits, allow me to explain.

For the most part, in today’s Church environment, any mention of the term Calvinism is met with an almost automatic response of “thrown up hands” and criticism. And that has been the result of many years in Biblical doctrine being compromised in favor of the belief that somehow man is in control and can make his own decision about whether or not he will accept God’s grace and His gift of salvation. The belief that a lost and spiritually dead man somehow has the “free will” to control his own salvation is now epidemic.

Phil does a tremendously effective job of diffusing the animus which exists between those who adopt the Arminian (Synergistic) view and those who are committed to the Monergistic (Reformed) view. Or at least he makes a strong attempt in trying to accomplish that goal without sacrificing Biblical truth.

Monergism says that the Holy Ghost acts independently of the human “will” in the work of regeneration. Monergism is the position in Christian theology that God, through the Holy Spirit, works to bring about the salvation of individuals through spiritual regeneration without any cooperation (interference) from the individual.

Synergism is the position of those who hold that salvation involves some form of cooperation between divine grace and human “free will”. Synergism is upheld by the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches and by the Methodist, Episcopal, Charismatic and Pentecostal traditions of Protestantism. It is an integral part of Arminian theology and is simply the belief that the human can and might choose to cooperate (influence) with the Holy Ghost in His “work” of regeneration.

It’s important to note that “free will” is never once mentioned in Scripture nor is the concept. I know, neither is the “Trinity” but the truth of that concept is unmistakably taught.

So, you must be asking yourself, are there born again believers in churches that have adopted the Arminian doctrine? And if God has already pre-destined those who will be born again, why should Christians ever bother to witness? I mean, “What difference does it really make”?

Listen to Phil’s message and see the slides to have these kind of very serious questions answered! It only seems appropriate, while our minds are on His resurrection this weekend, to examine what it means to us as sinners in need of a Savior. It is too important that we understand what His sacrifice and victory over death represents to get it wrong!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Particular atonement: Christ’s death had a particular purpose, and a special reference for the elect, so that God’s design was first of all to save them, and Christ’s death secured the guarantee of their salvation. Christ’s death accomplished everything God designed it to accomplish. ~Phil Johnson

—————————————————————
Further Reading:

Altar Calls: Why You Should Refuse to Walk the Aisle part 1, and 2, and 3.

What is ‘decisional regeneration?’

A holy Saturday

Posted in arminianism, calvinism, doctrines of grace, limited atonement, tulip

Doctrines of Grace: Explaining Limited Atonement

I was listening to RC Sproul on RefNet this weekend. He was preaching John 17, the High Priestly prayer where Jesus asks to be glorified.

I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. (John 17:6)

Pastor Sproul went backwards for a moment to relate another verse in John, No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:44)

free photos

Sproul briefly explained that their church (St. Andrews Chapel) was Reformed, noting the citation on the back of their church bulletin. He said that for those who were visiting or who had not gone to the new members class yet, he outlined the Reformation in a few sentences and quickly stated the five doctrines of grace that the Reformers (beginning with Martin Luther) had stood upon. It is widely known as an acrostic that spells the name of a familiar flower T – U – L – I – P.

T — total depravity. This doesn’t mean people are as bad as they can be. It means that sin is in every part of one’s being, including the mind and will, so that a man cannot save himself.

U — unconditional election. God chooses to save people unconditionally; that is, they are not chosen on the basis of their own merit.

L — limited atonement. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross was for the purpose of saving the elect.

I — irresistible grace. When God has chosen to save someone, He will.

P — perseverance of the saints. Those people God chooses cannot lose their salvation; they will continue to believe. If they fall away, it will be only for a time. (source)

A fuller explanation of unconditional election from the same source is as follows:

The second point inescapably follows from the first: since one is born totally depraved and enslaved to sin, one’s ELECTION cannot be dependent or CONTINGENT on any spiritually worthy actions one commits. According to this point, God predestines or chooses to soften the hard, sin-enslaved hearts of certain fallen individuals and liberate them from their death not because of any merit they have but despite their demerits–i.e., He ELECTS to change their hearts (and thereby join them to Christ and His saving work) DESPITE the fact that they hate God and oppose Him and have hard hearts, not soft hearts, and have sin-enslaved wills, not free wills. Thus, believers have no reason to boast about themselves or their own actions: the only thing that differentiates them from Judas, Esau, or others who never respond in faith is that God gave them grace that He withheld from such reprobates (Calvinists cite, e.g., Ezek. 11:19-20; 36:26-27; Rom. 9:11-18; 1 Cor. 4:7; Eph. 2:8-10; cf. Jn. 1:13; 15:16; Acts 13:48; 16:14; 18:27; Phil. 2:13).

In a Q&A on RefNet after the sermon, Pastor Sproul was asked if it was “fair” that God chooses to elect some to salvation and not all.

What is “fair” is that we all deserve hell for our sins against God. Fair (justice) would be that all sinners would go to hell.

Alternately, taking the “fairness” issue to the extreme other end of the spectrum, what if God chose to elect all human beings to heaven, and none to hell? Is it fair that all humans who sinned receive a pardon? Where is the display of His justice? His wrath? His hatred of sin?

The middle road is that He elects some to heaven and some He leaves in their state of sin. Sproul posed the following question back, and I’ll paraphrase:

If God decided to save all people, pardoning all sins for all people for all time, and leaving the person himself to decide whether to ‘accept Jesus’ or not, would that include the sin of unbelief? Yes, it would. So if the sin of unbelief has been paid for by Jesus, and a person dies without having believed, is it fair to punish them in hell for their sin that Jesus paid for?

Robin Schumacher wrote an essay titled, “Unlimited or Limited Atonement?” Schumacher said, “John Owen wrote what is perhaps the most definitive work on Christ’s atonement in “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ”,

“God imposed his wrath due unto, and Christ underwent the pains of hell for, either all the sins of all men, or all the sins of some men, or some sins of all men. If the last, some sins of all men, then have all men some sins to answer for, and so shall no man be saved.

… If the second, that is it which we affirm, that Christ in their stead and room suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the world. If the first, why then are not all freed from the punishment of all their sins? You will say, ‘Because of their unbelief; they will not believe.’ But this unbelief, is it a sin, or not? If not, why should they be punished for it?

If it be, then Christ underwent the punishment due to it, or not. If so, then why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which he died from partaking of the fruit of his death? If he did not, then did he not die for all their sins. Let them choose which part they will.” (page 61).

So once again, if God leaves salvation up to the individual’s choice, and they do not choose Jesus, then Jesus paid for their sins for naught, and they are paid for twice. Yet…nothing God does is imprecise. Not a drop of blood that Jesus spilled is wasted. Not a moment of punishment in hell for the unbeliever is unwarranted. God is precise, fair, and just.

Not only is God fair, because God does it, it is fair. He is the very definition of fairness, the epitome of justice.

Schumacher concludes his essay this way,

>Dr. James White speaks to the simplicity and beauty of limited atonement when he says, “In its simplest terms the Reformed belief is this: Christ’s death saves sinners. It does not make the salvation of sinners a mere possibility. It does not provide a theoretical atonement…Christ’s death saves every single person that it was intended to save.”

Calvin’s doctrines of grace are in fact an answer to Jacobus Arminius, for whom the opposing viewpoint is named, Arminianism. In Arminianism, one can lose their salvation it is not secure.

Some Arminians, however, believe that mankind has so much influence in their own salvation that their actions can cause God to revoke it. They believe we must continually reject sin and live a godly life in order to maintain our position with God. (source)

Hence RC Sproul’s wit regarding the daisy. He said,

“If you went to the new member class, you’ll know the Reformed view. But if you don’t, the acrostic flower stands for, Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible Grace, Perseverance of the saints”. This flower differs from the Arminian flower, the DAISY. Which is, ‘He loves me, He loves me not…”

free photos

Dear friends, if you are saved, it was not your choice, but Father God through Jesus. He saved you through no merit of your own, but to glorify Jesus. No one can snatch you from His hand, and your salvation is securely sealed within you, the Spirit being the deposit of this guarantee, until the Day. Our sovereign and merciful God is the author and finisher of our faith, and He keeps us in it until the time when all men are glorified in heaven. Then as Jesus prayed in His high priestly prayer,

Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:24)

O, Jesus, we long to be with You, our High Priest, too!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Further reading:

FMI: Calvinist Corner

Why I am a Calvinist, Part 1 (of 5)

What is Calvinism? Is Calvinism biblical?

Posted in adam, calvinism, conrad mbewe, super bowl

Stuff from other writers you may enjoy

Here are some uplifting or interesting essays from some elders in the faith that you might enjoy. This first one is by Thabiti Anyabwile, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman in the Grand Cayman Islands and a Council member with The Gospel Coalition.

And Such Were Some of You: “If we’re Christians, we’re not now what we once were. A great change has been wrought in our souls and our future.” Uplifting short story of a Muslim’s conversion. Salvation gets me crying every time.

Clint Archer writes about the biblical position of “Dad” and uses a sports analogy even this book nerd enjoyed.

Let’s not forget the moms. The Christian Pundit opines about The Stay-At-Home-Martyr? Not so, it’s about how blessed moms are.

If you have longer to spend, Pastor John Downey posted two video sermons by David Platt on biblical manhood and biblical womanhood.

Theologian Caleb Schumacher expertly addresses the Top Five Misconceptions of Calvinism. Read this if you’re confused about why all the hubbub, or just want to know more.

Conrad Mbewe writes from the land of Victoria Falls about The African Phenomenon of The Rented Crowd. Important to note when looking at photos and reports of filled-to-bursting congregations in Africa.

I thought this essay from the Reformation21 blog on “Losing Adam” was extremely interesting in light of the discernment essay I’d written yesterday about the recent attack on the accepted interpretation of Adam and Eve by Rabbi Manis Friedman. Jeremy Walker opened his essay by saying, “Losing Adam means losing so much more besides. That is because losing Adam is likely to prove the beginning of losing our Bibles.” “In the beginning” is in the beginning for a reason.

In The Daily Bible John MacArthur reminds us of God’s special provision for widows and orphans:
“Exodus 22:22 widow or fatherless child. God reserved His special attention for widows and orphans who often had no one to care for them. He also reserved a special reaction, His wrath, for those abusing and exploiting them. This wrath would work out in military invasions as the sword reduced the abusers’ families to the same status of being without spouse or parents.”

God is such a wonderful God- “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9a)

Whether you’re in America or Africa, east to west, here or there, whether you’re a young man struggling with the sins of the Super Bowl half-time spectacle, a widow or orphan, a dad or mom keeping the family together, or just a sinner (we all fall under that category!) then just remember His eyes scan the earth, miss nothing, and see you there, little one, valiantly going forth day after mundane day, serving Him the best you can for His glory