Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Those Pesky Calvinists Again

posted by Scot McKnight

Calvin*.jpgTwo years ago I posted this letter about some pesky Calvinists but for some reason it has drawn a new series of responses on the blog so I’m reposting it. The question this letter raises is pastoral: How are pastors dealing with pesky Calvinists?

Dear Scot,
We met a few years ago when I was youth pastor. Now I am at a church plant in Minnesota. I know that you are up to speed with the post modern church. That’s really good.
The main reason I am writing is to see if you know anything a person can do in response to hyper-calvinism.

Around these parts, we are getting killed by very vocal, self-righteous hyper-calvinists, especially those who are connected with Piper’s church. He has a very strong following around here. They always use the same language and have the same condescending attitude toward everyone else. This stripe also seems to revere Bob Dewaay, Kirk Cameron, and Lighthouse trails research. They turn up their nose at Rick Warren and Bill Hybels.

The problem is that they just are relentless. Absolutely no discussion or compromise. I have had the life kicked out of me at my church this past year by some of these people. For them, it just isn’t good enough to be a solid evangelical who really loves Jesus and wants to serve him. It has to be all about reformed theology.

With regards to these dear folks at my church — the proud Calvinists — my approach has always been exactly what you were suggesting. I went out of my way time and again to be friends with them — the number of hours spent over coffee and lunch (funny thing, it was always on my dime!) was incalculable. The tool that I had leaned on for so many years in youth ministry, namely loving relationships, failed me. They were just too stuck in their theology to see anything else. We couldn’t ever just agree to disagree and leave it at that.

Which is why it is such a stretch for these people to find a home in our church. We deliberately say that we will not divide over theological issues like this. We are centered on the cross, on walking with Jesus. They just seemed like they were always picking a fight.

So, any thoughts, ideas, or suggestions?

In Christ,



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Blake

posted August 3, 2009 at 2:31 am


Not to derail this before it’s begun, but I’d be interested in hearing your opinion on an issue, Scot, that maybe you could address in another post if you wished. Why does the idea of a Reformed Anabaptist seem like an oxymoron? What is it about TULIP that necessarily precludes any possible sympathies with an Anabaptist peace witness and radical engagement with the world? Why couldn’t I like Driscoll, Piper, Mahaney et al and think that the Anabaptists had it right when it comes to engagement with the world? I’ve never met a reformed anabaptist and am wondering if I’m the only one or if there really is some logical inconsistency between the blend of these two traditions that I’m not picking up on.



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Ted M. Gossard

posted August 3, 2009 at 2:42 am


I experienced them when I first started blogging some five years ago, and if I wouldn’t have found your blog, Scot, I don’t think I would have continued to blog.
They see grace at stake; they consider us semi-Pelagians (if they can understand and exprpess that), or are the followers of those who do. They think God’s glory is at stake, that because we don’t have the proper view of grace, we take away from God and God’s glory.
They are convinced their system of theology is essentially the one that reflects Reformation theology and therefore reflects Scripture. And that the rest of us somehow water Scripture down, maybe with “Romanist” tendencies (i.e., Roman Catholic) or in the name of Post-Modernism.
And for many of them, they are young and driven by this idealism, and see followers of Jesus like me, and other evangelicals as therefore compromisers with that which is less than God’s will and God’s word, Christians who are worldly, and who are ready to compromise with the world on burning issues of our day.
I’m glad I’ve found Calvinists who are better than that, but by and large what I still find are Calvinists who continue to condescend, and instead of majoring on what unites us in Christ, major on what divides us.
In a church situation if any were at a church like I am a part of, I’d be patient with them for a time, but then I’d advise them to find a church more in line with their convictions. Because such a spirit in an assembly can do more damage than it is worth (and after all, I do live in old Calvinist country here in West Michigan).



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Ted M. Gossard

posted August 3, 2009 at 2:55 am


And to be fair and give this a more rounded picture, I do tend to challenge those who start speaking Calvinist doctrine into a conversation or blog, when I think it doesn’t really reflect, or is not really grounded- in Scripture, but owes its existence more to a system of theology.



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Daniel

posted August 3, 2009 at 3:26 am


I know some of have their disagreements with Piper and I hate to be the obligatory Piper apologist and I am sure that the questioner was not reflecting the trouble makers back onto Piper, but I would suggest, that if they are actually heavily influenced by him that you lead them to some of the videos Desiring God has recently posted on YouTube concerning these types of things. While he still loves and holds Reformed theology deeply, in a number of the videos it is clear that he would never want those things to come before loving and believing in Jesus. If these guys really do respect Piper, hopefully they can follow suit and continue in their Reformed understanding (I know I will) but always place loving, believing and worshiping Jesus first.



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James Petticrew

posted August 3, 2009 at 5:22 am


I am sorry to say I am deeply pessimistic about the situation that this pastor finds himself in. I do have some gracious and humble friends who hold a 5 point Calvinistic theology so they do exist, but these are not the kind of people he is having problems with.
I find that the mainly young men who embrace Reformed theology become like a dog with a bone when it comes to putting other people right, they just won’t let go. No matter what you say or do, they will keep on agitating and stirring things up that unless you and the church you lead subscribed to the “doctrines of grace” you are theologically in error and its their mission to show you that error. There is definitely something in 5 point Calvinism that is contentious and schismatic. Just look at the history of the Church of Scotland in my homeland which almost since the Reformation has continually split into smaller and smaller Reformed churches over minutiae of theology. If they can’t agree with one another there is little likelihood they are going to settle down and be content in a church that focuses on the cross and Jesus because in their view your understanding of the cross and therefore Christ is just plain wrong.
I think as graciously as you can you need to meet with them and say that in order to be true to the theology and values of your church and in order to allow them to be true to their theological perspective they should find another church home. You will probably lose other people if you do this but I am pretty certain if you allow these people to stay you will lose people anyway and the church may well split. This way you get to decide the issues round the split.
I wish I could be more optimistic but dealings with Calvinists like this for nearly 20 years has taught me that they just don’t want to compromise and can’t accept my position so ultimately they can’t belong in a local congregation with me. At any membership class I spell out that we are a Wesleyan congregation and how that might differ from more Reformed understandings of Christianity so I can be totally up front with people from the start.



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Waylon

posted August 3, 2009 at 6:00 am


It seems to me that the problem with Reformed theology is that it sets up God’s glory as His leading and highest attribute. The impression I get from this system is that everything God does is solely for His glory.
If this assessment of Reformed theology is on track, then I really see no reason to think of this as a theology that is consistent with the Bible. It seems to make more sense to me that God’s leading attribute is love and everything He does follows from that rather than this seemingly arbitrary need to glorify Himself.
I think that God’s glory comes from God’s love, not the other way around. If God is perfect in His love, then every time He acts in this love He will necessarily be glorified. My understanding of Reformed theology is that the only reason God loves is as a means to the end of bringing Himself more glory. This seems both arbitrary (if God is so glorious, why is so insecure as to need to keep being affirmed?) as well as contrary to the selfless nature of agape love portrayed in the New Testament.
I would suggest for anyone being beaten down by the hyper-Calvinists that you spend some time drinking from the Orthodox Church’s water fountain at ancientfaith.com. There are a lot of podcasts there that have really helped me to gain a greater understanding of God from a different perspective. Some of my personal favorites are “Our Life in Christ” “Faith and Philosophy” and “The Illumined Heart”



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Joel Frederick

posted August 3, 2009 at 7:44 am


It’s hard to deal with people who seem to worship their doctrine more than they worship the God the doctrine is about.



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Stephen Lee

posted August 3, 2009 at 7:50 am


First of all I love all of you guys and girls, It is good to discuss these topics and to seek.
I have noticed a great deal of the anti calvinists have chipped in and if you dont mind my saying so you all appear to be just as doggly and stoicly attached to your point of view. Well very good for you, I support you in your feeling strongly. I support those whom you find as “Picking fights” as well. But of course if there is any Picking of fights amoung us then this would due to human fraility and error and it has been pretty well delt with by Paul in his letters, so nothing all too new and somthing that is to be forgiven.
As to the Glory of G-d well I was amused with the comment on our Fathers supposed “Insecurity”. It sort of boils down to Who saved who doesnt it. In Psalms and Ezekiel we find some good examples.
David’s confidence in God’s grace
3 He restoreth my soul: He guideth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Isa 48:9
He saves them for His own sake
9 For my name’s sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain for thee, that I cut thee not off.
ASV
Eze 20:44
He promises to gather them by the gospel
44 And ye shall know that I am Jehovah, when I have dealt with you for my name’s sake, not according to your evil ways, nor according to your corrupt doings, O ye house of Israel, saith the Lord Jehovah.
Mt 10:22
He fortifies them against persecutions
22 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.
ASV
So in in final tally who did the work and who should rightly get the glory? The Father and our Lord Jesus or me? I was baptised, I repented, I did the good works, I called upon the Name of the Lord, I made the decision to ask JESUS into my heart so shouldnt I be given some of the glory? And back again to the post about Love Vs Glory. Isn’t it the hightest order of glory this profound love expressed to us His children to send His Son to pay the price for us. Well with all these little divisions we cant all be 100% right. Isnt it a wonderfull thing that only our Father is 100% right and all will be revealed. So to all of you working your way into heaven, the really good news is that even though you will fail on your own many will succeed because of our Fathers Glory and Love. I may be wrong but I believe he may even cound these failed trials and attempts as perfect if we also remember to trust and keep that palistinian mustard seeds eworth of faith. So in closing those pesky Calvinists are part of the family too. Didnt the master say somrthing like what good is it to love those who love you (Or in fact are easy to love) even the pagens do as much. Isnt is funny how the people who need our love the most often deserve it the least. At least for me I have found it true and even though the least deserving…well, The Father, my Lord and master and even you all have loved me into the Kingdow. Thanks for that.



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RJS

posted August 3, 2009 at 7:52 am


Joel,
For some, most even, I don’t think that it is that they worship their doctrine more than God. Rather I think that there is a deep conviction that the only way to appropriately worship God is to understand Him – so far as we are able. To have an errant theology or doctrine is to misunderstand God.



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Joel Frederick

posted August 3, 2009 at 8:27 am


RE: RJS (#9)
While you are probably correct, the picture of the Pharisees flashed into my mind when I read the letter. I realize that not all Pharisees were bad, in fact quite a few were followers of Jesus as well. The ones we read about most, however, are the ones who upheld their religious traditions and beliefs without regard to the truth (giving them a little credit, they were trying to protect the status quo).
As far as theology or doctrine goes, I don’t think any one of us has the complete picture because we read about God through our cultural and religious filters and draw our conclusions from there. That is one reason I appreciated “The Blue Parakeet” so much.



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David Brush

posted August 3, 2009 at 8:30 am


@Stephen Lee 8
I think your comment may be providing an example of the kind of interaction that the writer of this letter is weary of. That is to say it is strident, it lacks any sense of desire to engage the other in the edification of faith, it has a spirit of condescension. Of course your answer may will be, ‘well obviously if you have problem with my statement then you have a problem with scripture and therefore you have a lower view of Scripture because all I am doing is providing you with plain and unfiltered truth’.
While it is always appropriate to confront a brother in error or ignorance of the complete context of a biblical passage; I believe the out of context scripture quotations are liable to do more damage than good in your ability to enter into a loving and faith centered relationship with your fellow Christian. We must not use scripture like so many tiny razor blades.
Your comment also seems to provide an example of something I commonly see amongst reformed commenters on the internet; namely they miss the point and intent of the post/comment and instead hone in on theological angle from which to eviscerate the other persons position. So rather than deal directly with and discuss the pre-eminance of God’s love in relation to His glory, your comment veers off track to mire the the flow of dialogue in something that was not intended and off-topic. I am not sure why this seems to be the case; but it often is.
So please understand this is note a comment on your faith, your salvation, even you as a person; but it is a critique of your comment in light of the topic presented and your comment provide an excellent example of what makes so many people weary of Calvinists.



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Derek Leman

posted August 3, 2009 at 8:38 am


From the description of these people in your post, it seems they resemble any number of loveless zealots I have met in the broadly labeled Messianic Jewish sphere. It is incidental that Calvinism happens to be the object of their loveless zeal. It could be any doctrinal issue (or non-theological issues as I will mention below).
The Calvinism of Piper and Cameron and others works for these zealots because it is a closed system with an answer to everything. That is what appeals to them.
I regard people like this as fighters, not lovers, enemies and not friends. I think you have been too welcoming already and hope that having been burned, you will be less apt to give the benefit of the doubt in the future.
The fact that people are zealots about something that touches on the faith does not indicate much about their status with God. It might just as well be political obsession or conspiracy theories or whatever. I have personally witnessed these kinds of zealots leave the faith (in our case they leave for Orthodox Judaism).
How can we help them? I don’t know that we can. Sorry to be so gloomy.
Derek



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mike

posted August 3, 2009 at 8:42 am


Forgive my presbyterian push-back but it seems like we’re selling Calvin short. Calvin had a lot more to say than TULIP.
One of my friend’s parents joined a new church. She is a student at Princeton Seminary and loves her Calvin as much as anyone. She asked her parents to ask the pastor about his ecclesiastical theology, and they did via e-mail. The pastor got up in front of the whole church and said, “Sarah and Joe’s daughter asked me about my ecumenical theology. I don’t even know what that means, but I love Jesus.” He got an applause from the congregation. She was left unsatisfied.



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joanne

posted August 3, 2009 at 9:15 am


i have experienced what the letter writer has experienced. I am sure some Calvinists are emotionally more healthy but the one who are doggedly ideological and toxic emotionally are the ones who are dangereous to the body of Christ. I don’t think it is Calvinism or hyper Calvinism per se but the emotional health of the person who holds those views.
I think some persons become toxic in their knowledge of being elect and use it to set everyone else right in very toxic ways.
I would treat an emotionally unhealthy Calvinist like any other emotionally unhealthy person. Don’t put them in leadership. Don’t give them power. If they are unteachable (in terms of being emotionally healthy) and toxic, i would ask them to find a church home that fits their views.
i lived in MN and know what the writer is talking about. But unless such hyper Calvinists grow a bit more spiritually in their emotional health, they are dangereous and really do not reflect the glory of God. Because it is not about doctrine alone but reflecting God’s character too. It’s about maturity.



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tscott

posted August 3, 2009 at 9:19 am


my father’s house is big, big house with lots and lots of rooms.



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Jjoe

posted August 3, 2009 at 9:45 am


Any God who would create people to live in this vale of tears for a lifetime and then burn in Hell for an eternity, just to glorify himself, is not a Holy God.
I cannot think of anything more evil, frankly. Can you? I would ask anyone to show me how anything Satan can do would be worse.
How can you compromise with anyone who stands on this view of God? Jesus is unnecessary, to the point that Calvinism would be stronger without Him. We must beware of false prophets.



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Jjoe

posted August 3, 2009 at 9:47 am


test



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Todd Erickson

posted August 3, 2009 at 10:28 am


If
A. All that happens is the predestined will of God…i.e., who will be saved, who will be rich, who will be well, etc.
Then
B. the only thing left to fight over is false teachers who want to steal God’s glory for themselves by misrepresenting God through false theology,
And
C. by defeating false teachers, we will have a share in God’s glory.
This appears to be the logic process. I’m probably over generalizing.
But when a zealot comes into your home, accuses you of being a false teacher, and tries to break your church over their doctrine…
Well, this is precisely why Paul spent so much of the NT writing about this sort of thing between Jews and Gentiles. This is what happens when we take our eyes off of Jesus and focus instead on our ability to fight things.



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ChrisB

posted August 3, 2009 at 10:30 am


We shouldn’t pretend that Calvinists are the only ones who get like this, but I’m sure we all know some Calvinists who can be really irritating.
But whether the issue is TULIP, pacifism, or baptism, if someone is being divisive, and if they’ve resisted scriptural efforts to address their divisive behavior, then they should be invited to attend a church they will find more theologically acceptable.



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Andrew Hall

posted August 3, 2009 at 10:34 am


See my link above on this issue. I think those who are saying that “pesky Calvinists” see God’s freedom, sovereignty, glory, and grace at stake are right; that is that main issue at which Calvinists take umbrage. It’s true that many prefer heated arguments over love. I endeavor to do the latter. (Thank you, Ted Gossard.)
For the record, (1) Piper is not a “hyper-Calvinist.” Hyper-Calvinism is really anti-Calvinism, in that people think God is so sovereign that no ones needs to share the gospel because the elect will be saved anyway. That’s so totally bogus and contradictory to Scripture! It even contradicts traditional Reformed ecclesiology, which teaches that the means of grace–not only the Word and sacraments, but also family life and relationships–are the way faith is engendered and nurtured. We must preach the gospel (Rom. 10:14-17).
(2) TULIP is not the meat of Reformed theology. Calvin hardly wrote about predestination or election in his Institutes (though he did teach it). The meat of Reformed theology, I would say, is that God is the covenantal Lord over his creation, and all his dealings with mankind are on the basis of covenants. Though there is some dispute, the biblical covenants can all be fit into two overarching types: covenant of works (law) and covenant of grace (gospel). Go out and get Mike Horton’s book God of Promise.



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Stephen Lee

posted August 3, 2009 at 10:37 am


You ended your post that I should not take offence on any level and the discussion was limited to the post. First of all none taken and thank you. At the risk of sounding condesending once again I really felt the love of the lord Jesus shine through your writing. Now to the post.
You say it was strident and lacked the desire to engage the other in the edification of faith, it has the spirit of condensation. Well that would be my lackluster ability to express my self well. I meant nothing to condensend. Also I meant not to challange the original writer of the letter. I applaude his attempts to meet them part way. He wrote ” I went out of my way time and again to be friends with them — the number of hours spent over coffee and lunch (funny thing, it was always on my dime!) was incalculable. The tool that I had leaned on for so many years in youth ministry, namely loving relationships, failed me. They were just too stuck in their theology to see anything else. We couldn’t ever just agree to disagree and leave it at that.” It was to this statement that I made the post and the comments about those needing love the most often deserve it the least. They follow a closed ideology and so they wont convert. OK. Neither side is pushing for the traditions of men or of making the law of no effect as the Lord spoke against are they? Neither side is denying the Lord or denouncing our Father. The advices of Paul I refferred to was about the keeping of sabbath laws, of days, of foods meat or no meat ect. I’ll bet you that amoung those he spoke to directly there were some that would not even agree to disagree either. Yet His advice was (I thought) basically not to let these things divide us so much to fight. Paul was so very much better at making the case for peace within the family and he did so without sounding condensending. I can only apoligise for my poor attempts.
As to the scripture quotes a actually thought they were in context. Only to show that there are some places where the Lord G-d has said that He saves us for His own names sake. I did not intend to go off topic. Nor did I intend to use them as razor blades. I actually see the point you are making and agree – Im sorry to have come off that way. I also do not mean to sugueest that this in any way dilutes or substitutes for the Pre-eminance of G-d’s Love. I see great value in both sides. I have come from the lower end of the spectrum, I had to work my way up to a bottom. In the end the Love that the Lord has shown me drives me to my knees, but I would never recommend a series of self-center self destructive years ending in severial near death experiences to achieve what I have been given. Most folks are not as stupid as I have been. This undoubtibly has added to my lack of tack and proper anaylisis when writing these posts. It also has granted me a special gift. It is often easier for me to have love for the unlovely. Maybe the original writer of the letter is right, and the implyed notion that that have behaved in such a fashion as not to deserve any more love or tolerance. I spent many decades in a simular condition only not even attempting to give anything exept to my own selfish needs and wants. I was worse than any Calvinist, or unitarian, or (Add the divisive title here) within the body and Jesus loved me into the Kingdom. My responce to the original letter writer was meant to be hang in there, keep trying to connect, keep loving, even if they never change their mind you will be doing what our Lord askes and what most likely got you into ministry in the first place. Who knows maybe there is a small point or two you will be able to agree on but if not you would have loved your neighbor as yourself. 70 time seven when they repent does not mean to turn our backs if they do not. Does it?. Anyway thank you David I will try and use your comments to imnprove my communications in the future, and ps if I sounded confrontational here, please believe me I did not mean it so.



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MatthewS

posted August 3, 2009 at 11:00 am


I believe that the world view of many conservative Christians is first and foremost one of warfare. In a firefight it pays to know who will be shooting at you and who will be on your side. It seems to me that many of the Calvinists described here have this mindset and in a conversation will test you with marker doctrines to see whether you are in or out. If you are out, they may be nice but they won’t open their heart or mind to you. You are the enemy and they need to defend themselves and the church from you.
OT passages that feed this mindset are Korah and Moses: pick your side. One side lives, the other dies. Joshua and the prophets of Baal: choose this day whether you are on our side or against us. You can either fight with us or we will be obligated to fight against you. And so on.
In fact, there is a kernel of truth here. There is a cosmic war and God and the Devil haven’t had any beer summits recently that I’m aware of ;-)
However, the NT introduces other metaphors to live by. Walk, farmer, family, body, building, bride, ambassadors, etc. The Jerusalem Council didn’t operate under the warfare mentality. Somehow there needs to be freedom to work out ideas without being rejected right off the bat as being an enemy because you are unwilling to parrot the party line on this or that marker doctrine.



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BPRJam

posted August 3, 2009 at 11:01 am


The more I read from Piper, the more I understand where this type of behavior comes from. Not that I believe Piper actively encourages it, but more that it is the result of 1.) lack of nuance on the part of those enamored with Reformed Theology, and 2.) lack of a robust understanding of the various traditions/theologies within Christian history.
In any case, when Piper alludes to the fact that churches and church leaders should be excommunicated for their Armenianism, and that Armenianism is a false gospel (see http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/ConferenceMessages/ByDate/2008/2637_How), I start to understand much more clearly the doggedness of Piper’s disciples.



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Bret

posted August 3, 2009 at 11:23 am


I find it interesting how often it is assumed that if you are not Calvinist then you are Armenian…if you have issues with something said by Augustine then you must be Pelagian.
What if we weren’t shaped by a two-party political system? I wonder if people would be allowed to have issues with Calvinism without being assumed to want to work their way into heaven? (As if that’s even the most important issue at stake…)



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Your Name

posted August 3, 2009 at 11:24 am


The people that come to mind for me thinking of the word ‘hyper calvinist’ are people who really at the bottom line are angry people and if it wasn’t calvinism it would be something else.



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Aaron

posted August 3, 2009 at 11:38 am


They honestly just scare me – and I mean that literally. I get anxious when I am around these confrontational calvinists. I just have a very soft heart & the times I have had conversations with these people I end up feeling crushed. But I have to be honest they have caused me to really study more theology and have become a more theologically accurate arminian because of that – So it seems that God has used these guys to sharpen me – as painful as it may be.



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Stephen

posted August 3, 2009 at 11:43 am


I guess I would be considered one of those “pesky Calvinists” because I firmly believe the entire bible is important to know and to understand, not just the easy parts. Paul never tells us to guard only CERTAIN doctrinal truths, while holding loosely to others. On the contrary, he makes no distinction in charging us to guard doctrine and accurately handle truth with authority (1 Ti 6:20-21, 2 Ti 1:13-14 , 2 Ti 2:15 , 2 Ti 4:2-4, Tit 1:9, Tit 2:1,7,15).
As for men like Piper, the last thing he can be called is unloving or arrogant. Here is a relevant section from his Church’s statement of faith (sec 15):
15.2 Our aim is not to discover how little can be believed, but rather to embrace and teach ?the whole counsel of God.? Our aim is to encourage a hearty adherence to the Bible, the fullness of its truth, and the glory of its Author. We believe Biblical doctrine stabilizes saints in the winds of confusion and strengthens the church in her mission to meet the great systems of false religion and secularism. We believe that the supreme virtue of love is nourished by the strong meat of God-centered doctrine. And we believe that a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ is sustained in an atmosphere of deep and joyful knowledge of God and His wonderful works.
15.3 We believe that the cause of unity in the church is best served, not by finding the lowest common denominator of doctrine, around which all can gather, but by elevating the value of truth, stating the doctrinal parameters of church or school or mission or ministry, seeking the unity that comes from the truth, and then demonstrating to the world how Christians can love each other across boundaries rather than by removing boundaries. In this way, the importance of truth is served by the existence of doctrinal borders, and unity is served by the way we love others across those borders.



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Wonders for Oyarsa

posted August 3, 2009 at 11:50 am


It is difficult to speak in these generalities, because there really does seem to be a lot of diversity in Calvinism. However, I don’t think this is an issue of people caring more about theology than God – I really do think certain people are becoming like the god they worship. Consider the justifications in the face of appeals to be irenic: “Jesus wasn’t irenic to the Pharasees”, etc.
The heart of my trouble with Calvinism, even in its less abrasive forms, is the centrality of the sovereignty of God. This is not a safe lens for us to use in filtering all of scripture and theology, for the very simple reason that the kingdom of God is not like the kingdoms of this world. We can only understand what it means to be sovereign by looking at Jesus, and he says not as the lords of the gentiles, not for one’s own glory, but to serve. This isn’t economy – it is the heart of the kingdom of God. The cross is the victory of God – his self-sacrificing love IS his sovereignty. Much of Calvinism seems to me to do the reverse – to filter the cross and the love of God through the lens of “sovereignty” – a dominance of will and utter micromanaging control modeled after those same lords of the gentiles we are to be distinct from.
If this is the primary image of God – the ultimate will and power subduing and controlling all things – then it should surprise no one that his worshipers seek to imitate him. To the extent that Calvinism seeks to relativise the love and fatherhood of God to an image of sovereignty not centered on the cross, this Calvinism is nothing less than a destructive heresy that makes devils out of its adherents. To the extent that a Calvinist really can see God primarily as love, and have this be the center, there is less danger.



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Larry

posted August 3, 2009 at 12:10 pm


I guess I would be considered one of those “pesky Calvinists” because I firmly believe the entire bible is important to know and to understand, not just the easy parts.
Of course it is common knowledge that Arminians don’t believe or know the whole bible. Do you realize how arrogant you seem when you say things like this? You automatically assume that because someone disagrees with you that they are less knowledgeable of scripture, take it less seriously, or only look at “the easy parts”. Perhaps if the hyper-Calvinists would start without the presupposition of their own infallibility they would be easier to get along with.



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Andy W.

posted August 3, 2009 at 12:17 pm


Stephen,
Has it dawned on you that Calvin and the reformed doctrine where not around until the 16th century? What Doctrinal truths are you referring to? Only those after the reformation? I’m sure you’re aware that both the EOC and RCC have some different views “doctrinally” and I’m pretty sure they care an awful lot about understanding the entire Bible. You’re assumption here comes off as really arrogant and part of the problem…not part of the solution.



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Scott Morizot

posted August 3, 2009 at 12:28 pm


People can be obnoxious and offensive in any faith system. Let’s stipulate that from the beginning. And I’ve known far too many who either personally held to some degree of Calvinistic belief or were members of Calvinistic denominations who were kind, loving, and gentle people who were probably better Christians than me to lump “Calvinists” as individuals under any sort of negative label.
Calvinism as a theology — that is as a way to speak about and understand God — is an entirely different matter. I was fairly appalled when I first encountered and understood this theology as I explored Christianity. The God of Christianity is not an idea or a collection of ideas. The God of Christianity is not abstract. The God of Christianity is personal, as in three Persons who share one essence in perfect communion. Some of evangelicalism speak of Christianity as a “relationship”. While not precisely untrue, I think I find that a bit shallow. Our goal is not merely to “relate” to this personal God, but to become one with him and with each other in the same way that Jesus and the Father are one. And Calvin describes a God I would never even worship, much less with whom I would ever desire to become one.
A personal God who is the source of both good and evil, who creates any human being predestined for damnation, is an evil God. Period. In discussing just one element of Calvinism, total depravity (an element that Arminius agreed with — the Christian world really doesn’t break down into Calvinist and Arminian categories), C.S. Lewis writes: “The doctrine of Total Depravity — when the consequence is drawn that, since we are totally depraved, our idea of good is worth simply nothing — may thus turn Christianity into a form of devil-worship.” Absolutely.
Just a little bit ago, the Internet Monk tweeted a good, brief article on some of the ancient heresies that are specifically revived in Calvinism and other problems.
http://www.nicenetruth.com/home/2009/07/problems-in-calvinsim-and-reformation-theology-why-i-left-redux-a-new-debate.html
It seems to me that at some point, if these people are as relentless as you describe in your letter, you have to start thinking about how to protect, defend, and nurture the others who are under your care as their pastor. None of us, after all, can make anyone else change. If their behavior is spilling over into the community and harming other people, you have to at least try to protect those who are being harmed. Lord knows the thought of being responsible for the spiritual care of other people scares me to death. I’m glad I’m not in that place. If it’s just focused on you and isn’t spilling out and harming other people at this time, then I don’t really have any idea what to suggest. Grace and peace. It sounds like you’re in a tough place.



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ephecks

posted August 3, 2009 at 12:29 pm


@BPRJam
yeah, those dang Armenians. Arminians on the other hand…



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Adam Omelianchuk

posted August 3, 2009 at 12:34 pm


The best advice I could give is to beat them at their own game. Learn their arguments and dismantle them. Find good resources (they are out there) that critiques and refutes Calvinism in a measured and rigorous way. Don’t ever let them control the terms of the debate. Don’t be afraid to put them on the hot seat.
For resources check out Jack Cottrell, Walls & Dongle, Roger Olson, Thomas Oden, William Hasker, William Lane Crag, I. Howard Marshall, Klyn Snodgrass, Scott McKnight (especially the paper on the warning passages), and John Sanders. The two open theists I’ve mentioned are fabulous for taking on the issues of determinism and God’s response to us. Don’t let the Calvinist decide who is a heretic.
If anyone needs help, please email me.



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Wes

posted August 3, 2009 at 1:23 pm


Scot,
Interesting (and painful) discussion. I hear your concern, and I think it’s helpful and important for us to discuss as a community how we discuss – and even debate – what we believe. I’ve made this comment before, but I think it is critical that we discuss “how to discuss” at least as much as we discuss where we may disagree.
It seems to me, though, that many of your commenters leave this (primarily interpersonal) concern behind and attack the viewpoint itself, rather than its imperfect representatives. Is it really fair, James #5, to say that “there is definitely something in 5 point Calvinism that is contentious and schismatic”? Or, Jjoe #16, to suggest that a historically orthodox point of view is so bad that you “cannon think of anything more evil, frankly”? A reasonable reader might conclude that these, and other reactions contained in the responses, are as harsh and uncharitable as those anticipated from “pesky Calvinists”.
Certainly some Calvinists go too far in their discussions (as do others evidenced here, for example), but is it really fair to vilify that school of theology? Do “two wrongs make a right”?
Is it possible that part of the problem is a disagreement over what is important in the first place? As a Calvinist, I certainly agree with Ted #2 when he accuses us of thinking of these issues with an understanding that “God’s glory is at stake” – can’t we discuss that without either side vilifying the other?
I’d suggest that theology – especially theology proper – is way too important, and all who claim the name of Jesus ought put these tactics aside. Emotions may run high when what is at stake is so dear to us, so I’d ask that maybe both sides dial down and discuss this with an eye towards submission to God’s revealed Word. It’s worth it. After all, remember the words of A.W. Tozer (Arminian)from his book The Knowledge of the Holy, saying that “what comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”



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Pomo

posted August 3, 2009 at 1:35 pm


Doctrine and theology over love and relationship. That’s the problem right there. The instant you choose propositions over friendships you’re toast (and a pharisee).



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John W Frye

posted August 3, 2009 at 1:47 pm


Words like “sovereign” and “irresistible” and “perseverance” in minds not controlled by humility become divisive weapons. Having been a pesky Calvinist in the past, I know the heady feeling it gives a person to be “teacher’s pet” so to speak (i.e., to be one of the elect) while other mere mortals are either predestined to hell or passed over in the election process.
I agree with Joanne (#14) that Calvinism attracts some emotionally troubled people who find (or *must* find) solace from the chaos of life. Aaaaah, the sovereignty of God; it serves as Linus’ blanket. I also agree with Adam (#34)–Don’t let TULIP zealots shape and define the conversation. Too much good biblical and theological information is now available to demonstrate that TULIP zealots are extremely misguided in thinking they are defending the Bible or God or good doctrine. They are merely defending a mechanized, Enlightenment world-view applied to the Bible. I think it best to say Jesus was not nor ever would be a Calvinist.



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BPRJam

posted August 3, 2009 at 1:59 pm


@ ephecks
Ooops, you’re right. That’s what I get for typing while reviewing a technical document at work. My apologies to the Armenians. :-)



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Scot McKnight

posted August 3, 2009 at 2:00 pm


Here’s a new rule for this post: ban the word “arrogant” from your comment. Please. It’s not helping and it messes up the problem we really want to focus on, which is…
Let’s focus on what to do in local settings with “pesky” Calvinists. (Not all Calvinists … and let’s avoid calling them names … and let’s hear what we can “do” to help these situations.)
Wes, thanks for your reminder.



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Jay Dyer

posted August 3, 2009 at 2:10 pm


Interesting discussion. I noticed one you guys linked me, and as a former Calvinist seminarian I can say that the problems with that system are numerous. Here is a debate I’m having with a Calvinist thinker on the first point (sola scriptura) as mentioned in the link above:
http://www.nicenetruth.com/home/2009/08/debate-point-1-craig-frenchs-response-my-rebuttal-1.html
-Jay



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James

posted August 3, 2009 at 2:11 pm


I really wonder what shape this discussion would have taken had the specifics been pulled…. if the question was, “how do I interract with these young kids that are zealously holding onto this or that doctrinal stance in a way that is divisive and appears to leave no room for understanding or discussion with those who hold a different view?”
I’m pretty sure “pesky Calvinists” and “hyper-Calvinists” aren’t the only paskies and hypers out there being obnoxious.
As for out Youth Pastor, test everything against scripture, and hold to that which is good. Be prepared to defend the hope that is within you, but do so with gentleness and respect. Keep your eye on the prize, and the One who ran before you.



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Mary

posted August 3, 2009 at 2:12 pm


I really resonated with Bret’s comment (#24). I took on a hyper-Calvinism in college (and will confess to espousing Piper’s theology for a couple of years) in part because I wasn’t really presented with many options. Some of my theological teachers really presented the options as either holding to a hyper-Calvinist position or being at least a semi-Pelagian. Discovering Thomas Aquinas during my graduate work was incredibly refreshing because his vision of the relationship between the sovereignty of God and the acting person gave a genuine alternative to both Calvinism and Arminianism (and a middle ground between the two).



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Stephen

posted August 3, 2009 at 2:58 pm


Larry, in response to my saying, “I guess I would be considered one of those “pesky Calvinists” because I firmly believe the entire bible is important to know and to understand, not just the easy parts,” you wrote:
“Of course it is common knowledge that Arminians don’t believe or know the whole bible. Do you realize how arrogant you seem when you say things like this? You automatically assume that because someone disagrees with you that they are less knowledgeable of scripture, take it less seriously, or only look at “the easy parts”. Perhaps if the hyper-Calvinists would start without the presupposition of their own infallibility they would be easier to get along with.”
You completely miss my point, Larry. For one to fully believe and embrace ALL of scripture, one cannot deny either God’s sovereignty in election OR man’s responsibility for his sin. This has nothing to do with being “less knowledgeable.” There are many, many people far more knowledgeable than me, that are just plain wrong on a number of issues, theological or otherwise. What I reject is anyone (Arminian, Reformed or otherwise) who simply rejects clear doctrinal truths, and re-defines clear terms, simply because it doesn’t square with one’s idea of fairness, logic, etc. You know the drill… “predestine” doesn’t really mean predestine, “dead in sin” doesn’t really mean dead in sin, God “elects” based on OUR choice (huh?), and so on.
But of course, like so many others who claim “tolerance” and “Christian love,” you call me “arrogant” simply because I accept scripture for what it says, take seriously our duty as Christians to defend it, and do not shrink from taking a strong stance. Wes made some good points above regarding discussing how we discuss these things, but one thing I will never do is accept as “okay” doctrine that I believe is just plain wrong. After all, I wouldn’t believe this way if I didn’t think I was right! If the fact that I am convinced makes you view me as arrogant, that’s fine. I’d rather be viewed as arrogant than viewed as willing to bend on what scripture clearly teaches.
James (post 5) wrote,
“I wish I could be more optimistic but dealings with Calvinists like this for nearly 20 years has taught me that they just don’t want to compromise and can’t accept my position…”
So I am to “accept” Arminianism, and by doing so, compromise what I believe? This would be a GOOD thing? The funny thing about all this is that, while so many who posted criticize “pesky Calvinists” for their inflexibility, they are just as inflexible. They also say things about us like:
“I regard people like this as fighters, not lovers, enemies and not friends” (post 12), or “I cannot think of anything more evil, frankly” (post 16), or “…people who really at the bottom line are angry people and if it wasn’t Calvinism it would be something else (post 25), or “They honestly just scare me – and I mean that literally (post 26), or “Learn their arguments and dismantle them” (post 34).
And oh, I love this one from John in post 37:
“Having been a pesky Calvinist in the past, I know the heady feeling it gives a person to be “teacher’s pet” so to speak (i.e., to be one of the elect)….”
Wow. The doctrine of election could not be MORE misrepresented than in that statement. But, as you can clearly see from all these posts, I guess it’s just us pesky Calvinists who are the ONLY arrogant ones.



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Eleanor

posted August 3, 2009 at 3:12 pm


Our non-denominational church’s approach when dealing with dogmatic folks is similar to what has been suggested already. We let everyone know about our theology up front in our “new to the church” sessions. We stress unity in the essentials of the faith (a very small handful of things) and tolerance in non-essentials.
In each session we also specifically point out that we do not hold to a strict Calvinistic view. The reason we do this is because we have had problems in the past with people from this viewpoint pointing out the errors (non-Calvinistic parts) in our pastor’s theology. It is important to note that we do not feel the need to make this point about RCC or other Protestant backgrounds. We only make a specific note about Reformed theology.
Most Reformed folks leave us when they learn this, but there are several each year (almost always young or middle-aged men) who believe it is their duty to challenge the church. Our pastor is willing to meet with these kinds of folks for a few sessions, but almost always reaches a point where he has to tell them they not going to convince him to embrace full-fledged Reformed theology. At this point he tells them they will be better off in a church that holds to their specific Calvinistic theology, and soon after they leave… believing we are teaching error.



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Wonders for Oyarsa

posted August 3, 2009 at 3:29 pm


Stephen, the point is that you come to the table in essence saying “I’m just defending the plain meaning of the Bible” when asserting Calvinism, among people who, with no less commitment to the Bible than yourself, do not believe that it teaches Calvinism. To be frank, “saying it’s so don’t make it so”.



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Larry

posted August 3, 2009 at 3:46 pm


So I am to “accept” Arminianism, and by doing so, compromise what I believe?
No, but you should “accept” Arminians(and Wesleyans and Thomists, and so on and so forth) as brothers in Christ, realizing that they might be seeing parts of the divine mystery that you are missing and so be grateful to them for showing you aspects of God that you did not apprehend before meeting them.



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Stephen

posted August 3, 2009 at 3:53 pm


Wonders for Oyarsa, please understand that, regardless of the label you want to give it, the reason I came to believe what I believe is BECAUSE of what the bible teaches. I do not attempt to make the bible somehow fit “reformed theology.” These labels are just that…labels that allow us to easily categorize things. But the text of scripture is clear, and as much as you all don’t like it, election, predestination, etc. are CLEARLY taught. So I agree that “saying it’s so doesn’t make it so”…UNLESS the bible “says it so.” And the ONLY way to deny these truths is to to redefine a PLETHORA of clear texts and terms.
And just for the record, I was Arminian most of my life before I finally gave up my pride-filled resistance to what scripture clearly teaches. And also for the record, ANY biblical text or passage that any Arminian uses to “defend” their theology in NO WAY contradicts Reformed theology. If you think otherwise, then you simply do not understand Reformed theology. However, whenever I point an Arminian to clear texts like Eph 1, John 1:13, John 6:65, Acts 13:48, or Mark 13:20 (among MANY others), they cannot say the same thing (because their theology so clearly contradicts the text). So then I am either accused of “proof-texting,” or my “tone” is attacked, or I hear ridiculous arguments that simply redefine what the text plainly says.



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Bob

posted August 3, 2009 at 4:00 pm


Every time Stephen opens his mouth, he proves the points made in the initial section above! The tragedy is that he apparently doesn’t realize this. Life is too short to waste your time on hyper-Calvinists.



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Bob

posted August 3, 2009 at 4:05 pm


He seems oblivious to the fact that the Calvinistic interpretations of the texts he cites are tendentious and have been refuted by Arminians and others. His use of adverbs (plainly, clearly, simply) throughout the last paragraph in his last post above illustrates his … approach to complicated issues.



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Stephen

posted August 3, 2009 at 4:09 pm


Larry, who ever said that I don’t “accept” (or love) Arminians? Does tolerance of what I see as a clearly incorrect theology equal a lack of love or acceptance of them as PEOPLE or brothers and sisters in Christ who may simply be misguided?
There certainly are plenty of people who claim to be Reformed who are lost, just as there are many who claim Arminianism who are lost. But I will say that, while I CANNOT ever know the state of someone else’s soul with certainty, I get very uncomfortable with those who claim to be MATURE Christians who, when presented with plain, biblical teaching, say things like “I refuse to believe in a God like that.” What God, then, are they submitting to? The God of the bible, or the god of their own imagination? Still, I can love them and accept them, even if I fervently disagree with them, or even if they truly ARE lost.



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Wonders for Oyarsa

posted August 3, 2009 at 4:17 pm


Well shoot, as long as it is “clearly taught” and “on the record”, what am I to do but take your word for it? But then, an interesting thing happens when I read the Bible, Stephen. I don’t actually see these things being “clearly taught”, nor do I see such a record. So here we have a dilemma – you see one thing, I see another. And I hear you blustering loudly that Calvinism is the obvious truth of scripture, and I have scripture on the other hand teaching something else. Surely you don’t expect me to renounce the scripture’s teaching on your authority, right? So the question is, how do people like you and me have a conversation?



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Stephen

posted August 3, 2009 at 4:18 pm


Okay, Bob…I guess I’ll just start saying things like, “the bible is just one fuzzy, unclear, unfocused pile of texts that lack any plainness or clarity, and the words don’t really mean what they say.” I never knew that adverbs could be so offensive!
Bob, while some passages in scripture surely are complex and hard to understand, one must use scripture to interpret scripture, and defer to the clearest of texts to define the unclear. All Arminians point to “alternate interpretations” of texts that simply need NO “interpreting.” They simply need to be read and accepted. I’ve grown so weary of that “defense,” and it saddens me to no end.



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James

posted August 3, 2009 at 4:23 pm


Awww, Stephen’s not a waste of time! He’s made in the very image of God, fearfully and wonderfully.
Here’s a question for you, both: Do you feel that the beliefs held by the other side will prevent someone from salvation? Do you feel that it will prevent someone from an enduring, growing, and deep relationship with God? Do you feel like it will prevent someone from fulfilling the great comission? If so, how?
I just ask, because for the life of me, I’ve never really been able to discern a difference that plays out practically or devotionally in actual people I’ve actually sat down and talked with. …and if I missed something, I’m sure your answers will be instructive.



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Larry

posted August 3, 2009 at 4:33 pm


Larry, who ever said that I don’t “accept” (or love) Arminians? Does tolerance of what I see as a clearly incorrect theology equal a lack of love or acceptance of them as PEOPLE or brothers and sisters in Christ who may simply be misguided?
You may “accept” them, but, at best, as little children needing correction, not as mature, adult, fellow believers with the same epistemic standing and spiritual resources that you yourself have.
Scot, as far as “what should we do”, I think the exchange here has demonstrated that there are some, and they are not all Calvinists by any means, who simply cannot tolerate any disagreement without disparaging those who disagree, even if they think they are being “loving” in doing so. In this case a pastor, or other leader, can a) ask the person involved to develop a little epistemic humility, or, if that fails b) ask them to find a group more compatible with their thinking. I think those two options, in the order presented, pretty much exhausts the solution space.



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Andrew Hall

posted August 3, 2009 at 5:00 pm


As a Calvinist (though one who sees value and charity in many Christian traditions), I think Calvin’s own commentary on Titus 3:8-9 is of note here (see link above). What drew me to Reformed theology in the first place was, believe it or not, the overwhelming love, hospitality, and generosity I experienced from strangers in an RCA congregation. These people became like family to me and modeled the “wisdom from above” (James 3) that is marked by humility and reasonableness. These people knew their Calvinism, too, and were shaped by the doctrines of grace: “In doctrine, therefore, we should always have regard to usefulness, so that everything that does not contribute to godliness shall be held in no estimation. And yet those sophists, in babbling about things of no value, undoubtedly boasted of them as highly worthy and useful to be known; but Paul does not acknowledge them to possess any usefulness, unless they tend to the increase of faith and to a holy life” (Calvin on Titus 3:9).
As for the argument that Calvinism relies on a system while Arminianism doesn’t, I don’t see how that argument can hold up. Everyone has presuppositions and systems through which they interpret Scripture. It’s impossible not to. My lens says (a) one God breathed out the Scriptures, so they are a unity from the mind of one Author (systematic theology); (b) the revelation of God in Scripture is nonetheless done by humans in history, writing in their own historical contexts (biblical theology); and (c) because our own knowledge is under God’s covenantal lordship as his creatures, we cannot know things exactly the way he knows them (Deut. 29:29). Therefore what seems like contradiction to us is only apparent, not real, and so we must allow for unresolved tensions and mysteries in the faith.



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Stephen

posted August 3, 2009 at 5:07 pm


Larry, let me ask you a question. I’m not trying to be “cute” here, I just really want to hear your answer. I hear this all the time, that we must “hold our views humbly” (you said that a leader can ask the person involved to develop a little epistemic humility). So my question is, what does that look like?
E-mail obviously doesn’t convey “tone” properly, but when I discuss these issues face-to face with people, I am not some over-bearing jerk, calling the other side names while laughing at their theology. I try to engage them in an honest discussion from scripture. But the same thing always happens. Somewhere along the line I am accused of arrogance, because I firmly believe what I believe (and I show them why from the bible). So it seems that having firm, strong convictions always equals “arrogance.” Why is this?
So it seems to me that the only way for me to be “humble” in a discussion is to compromise what I believe is taught in scripture, and allow for the other side to possibly be correct in their view. The problem is, not only do I ABSOLUTELY NOT BELIEVE WHAT THEY BELIEVE, but I know that only one side can be correct! The only thing I know how to do is point out their error from scripture. When I do this, they inevitable get backed into a corner, and then the issue under debate is set aside, and the discussion becomes about me and my “tone” or “arrogance.” Seriously, this ALWAYS happens. The theological issue never ultimately gets honestly addressed, and it ends up getting personal.
I guess this is not surprising giving the post-modern, relativistic thinking that is so pervasive in evangelicalism today. Still, it truly saddens me.



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Larry

posted August 3, 2009 at 5:33 pm


Somewhere along the line I am accused of arrogance, because I firmly believe what I believe (and I show them why from the bible). So it seems that having firm, strong convictions always equals “arrogance.” Why is this?
Because you assume that the way you read the Bible is the only possible correct way. See some of your comments above. The Bible is _not_ an easy book to read, it was written by, and for, a people far different from us, separated by large distances in time and culture. Even by the first century, native Koine Greek speakers were disagreeing on how to interpret the apostles’ writing; given that, what chance do we have? In fact, what you think is “plainly written” in the text is really a combination of the text and the presuppositions that you bring to the text; and scripture doesn’t interpret scripture, only readers interpret scripture, no text is self-interpreting.
Nobody is asking that you become an Arminian, only that you allow the Arminian the grace of having legitimate beliefs, and recognizing that the Arminian (or Wesleyan, Thomist, etc.) has likely struggled with scripture and God and obedience as much as you have. It is not a question of compromising your beliefs, but in granting those who disagree with you equal standing. All of us are finite, we cannot any of us even begin to comprehend God or his dealings with us, we are all idolaters, we all distort scripture, but, at our best, we can reveal God to each other. I know that this sounds mystic, and it is, but it is part of being limited human beings. We need each other, Christianity is a team “sport”.
And don’t be so quick to run down post-modern thought, if you haven’t already read it, may I recommend “Whose Afraid of Post-modernism?” by James K.A. Smith, who is, incidentally, a Calvinist. That you conflate post-modernism with relativism shows me that you probably have most of your knowledge of it second-hand.



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Ann

posted August 3, 2009 at 5:52 pm


@Andrew #20: This seems an overly “binary” statement (to use John Stackhouse’s term):
“Though there is some dispute, the biblical covenants can all be fit into two overarching types: covenant of works (law) and covenant of grace (gospel).”
I don’t hear that division made between covenants in Jesus’ words, “If you love me, obey my commands.” Or, in Paul’s understanding of his mission: “the gospel concerning…Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name…” (Rom. 1)
What I *hear* when I listen to the more orthodox Calvinists is a static position, not a journey of faith yielding increasing conformity to Christ in holiness and obedience.
I agree more with Stackhouse in seeing that the binary positions aren’t biblical, but reflective of our modernism, either/or legalism.
http://www.christianvisionproject.com/2007/06/a_biggerand_smallerview_of_mis.html



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Stephen

posted August 3, 2009 at 5:59 pm


James, to answer your first question, I do NOT believe that holding to Arminianism prevents one from being saved. One can certainly come to faith without completely understanding how that happened. Learning the “how” is just one part of growth and sanctification, but I get very concerned when Christians, as they mature and read scripture, reject difficult doctrines like election that are clearly taught.
A far as your second question (“Do you feel that it will prevent someone from an enduring, growing, and deep relationship with God?”), I absolutely DO feel this way. The reason I say that is because the Christian life consists primarily of getting to know God through His revealed word in scripture. If we do not get our doctrinal beliefs correct over time, we end up worshiping (and “getting to know”) a god of our own making, instead of the God of the bible.
A perfect example is the fact that Arminians believe that God’s primary attribute is His love, while Calvinists believe it is His holiness. While God, of course, is both loving AND holy, what you believe here drastically affects one’s theological world view. This is why Calvinist are totally comfortable with God passing over some and electing others (which is taught throughout scripture), because if God’s primary attribute is His holiness, then He is glorified both in justly punishing some eternally who sin against a Holy God, while showing mercy to others. For the Arminian, this cannot be, because if God’s primary attribute is love, how could he pass over anyone? But this wrong thinking leads to all kinds of difficulties, because then why would God send ANYONE to hell eternally? Wouldn’t He after, maybe, 10,000 years say “Enough is enough,” and end their suffering? But if Holiness is His primary attribute (see Isa 6), and men sin against an infinitely holy God, then He is totally just in sending ALL of us to eternal hell. Yet in His mercy, for His own sovereign purposes, he saves some.
Your your last question, (“Do you feel like it will prevent someone from fulfilling the great commission?”), yes, I do think so. While God could simply save men without the gospel message going forth if He wanted to, God has ordained that men are called and saved through the foolishness of preaching. However, when we think that it’s our responsibility to “convince” someone to “accept Christ,” we end up trusting our own means and methods, rather than the power of the gospel message. This certainly is not a good thing.
I am so thankful that I believe the way I believe, because if seeing others being saved depended upon MY performance, I would only feel despair. But when I obey the command to share the gospel, knowing full well that God WILL accomplish His will in saving others, regardless of my human weaknesses, sharing Christ becomes so freeing, and I am able to do so with total confidence in His sovereign work and power.



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David Brush

posted August 3, 2009 at 6:13 pm


@ Stephen Lee -21
In going back and re-reading your comment I think I was harsh and reacting to a stereotype for which I apologize.



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Theo

posted August 3, 2009 at 6:27 pm


I myself am a Calvinist, was baptized Presbyterian and am a member of a local Presbyterian church. I believe strongly in the sovereignty of God over the whole of life and in his grace accomplishing our salvation through Jesus Christ. I can’t think of a single member of my church who is “pesky.” However, my own experience is that when Baptists claim to become Calvinists, they acquire something of a hard edge. I wish I knew why.



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MatthewS

posted August 3, 2009 at 7:20 pm


I remembered a version of this joke, so I googled it and found this (http://kimriddlebarger.squarespace.com/the-latest-post/2006/6/15/this-one-cracked-me-up.html). Perhaps it might add some levity.
I was walking across a bridge one day and saw a man standing on the edge about ready to jump. Immediately, I ran over to him and plead, “Don’t do it!” “Stop!”
“Why shouldn’t I jump?” He said.
I said, “well, there is so much to live for . . .”
“Like what?” the man asked.
“Well,” I said, “are you religious at all, or an atheist?”
“Religious.”
“I am too! Are you a Christian?”
“I am a Christian.”
“Fantastic. Me too. Are you a Catholic or a Protestant?”
“Protestant.”
“Me too.” What denomination?
“Baptist.”
“Wow. Me too. Are you Baptist Church of the Lord or Baptist Church of God?”
“Baptist Church of God.”
“Wow, that’s amazing, so am I.” “Are you Original Baptist Church of God, or Reformed Baptist Church of God?”
“Reformed Baptist Church of God.”
“I can’t believe this! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God Reformation of 1879, or Reformed Church of Baptist Church of God Reformation 1915?”
“Reformed Church of Baptist Church of God Reformation 1915.”
To which I said, “die heretic scum!” and pushed him off.



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Scott Morizot

posted August 3, 2009 at 7:55 pm


I went back and looked up one of the references I had in mind. The other article to which I linked discussed the problem with Nestorianism in Calvinism. C.S. Lewis certainly saw the problem with the doctrine of total depravity.
I’m just an ignorant man come late to Christianity. But if I were in a place in which I did have to deal with the contentious sorts of people the author of the letter describes, I would probably start with St. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, in the following chapter and several following of Book IV of his famous work, “Against Heresies”.
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.ix.vi.xxxix.html
And specifically, I would tell them that I had no further desire to discuss the topic until they could explain to me why I should accept the interpretations and opinions of a 16th century man who established his perspective through the power of the state, including giving his consent to executions and torture over the interpretation and defense of the faith by a 2nd century bishop who died a martyr or witness confessing Christ to the end.



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Adam Omelianchuk

posted August 3, 2009 at 8:39 pm


@ Steve #58 “if God’s primary attribute is His holiness, then He is glorified both in justly punishing some eternally who sin against a Holy God, while showing mercy to others.”
I am sure this would follow if it wasn’t his primary attribute either.
However, it depends on how you understand this. Surely we can agree that God doesn’t owe anyone mercy, and his holiness would be served his wrath fell upon all for sins we committed by our own volition. But it will not do to say God is just in causing the fall and so causing every single one of our sins (as Calvinism teaches via its divine determinism) and then responding in wrath “to display justice.” God isn’t being just, he is simply being sovereign. Calvinism wants to say God unconditionally elects souls unto salvation and damnation to display his glory and justice. The problem for those who reject Calvinism is that this does neither. It doesn’t display anything remotely close to justice nor does it display anything glorious.



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paul

posted August 3, 2009 at 9:10 pm


Stephen, you wrote:
“Somewhere along the line I am accused of arrogance, because I firmly believe what I believe (and I show them why from the bible). So it seems that having firm, strong convictions always equals “arrogance.” Why is this?”
I think it’s great to hold firmly to your beliefs, and I think you should hold firmly to your beliefs. To not not believe firmly is a mistake I believe.
But, my understanding is that some of the tenants of Calvinism have not been held by all Christians throughout history. What do we say about these Christians throughout history who disagreed with parts of Calvinism? (And I’m not talking about small movements of people, i’m talking about big time movements of God led by people who are clearly filled with the spirit and are mature Christians fulfilling the Great Commission)
Well, I think it’s possible that we may not have all the answers on every issue. When the vast majority of Christians throughout history have a similar interpretation of scriptures then you can take this belief as a Core Belief that we should all hold as Christians (Jesus’ as savior would clearly be a core belief).
Yet, when we see Christians disagreeing on certain issues throughout history, then maybe we could allow for a variety of opinions on that issue. This is not to say that all choices are right (for two exclusive ideas cannot both be true). It is also not to say that any opinion is valid or even that the opinions are equal. But I do notice that on certain issues, Christians who have sought God’s help in interpreting the scripture have not been able to come to a consensus. What do I do with this?
Well, I personally hold very strongly to my own beliefs, because I have a proper confidence as to their truth. But because of the history of Christianity being uncertain on some issues, I leave room for myself to not be fully correct. This allows the Spirit to work in my heart (and in my churches/denominations etc) in the future. It also gives me a certain humility (i hope!) when it comes to these issues.
I’m not sure i’m being very clear…but what do you think?



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Ben Wheaton

posted August 3, 2009 at 9:29 pm


How strange that this letter should be re-posted right after I have spent some time re-reading that old post and the comments after it.
I don’t have anything to add to the back-and-forth between the Calvinists and the non-Calvinists, but perhaps to address the letter itself I could bring up a topic that might be useful: Church discipline.
“Warn a divisive person once, and then have nothing to do with him,” Paul states; this seems to prescribe excommunication in the cases when a person is causing unnecessary divisions within the Church. Rather than merely “asking them (the pesky Calvinists) to find a church more in tune with their doctrines,” mightn’t this call for actual excommunication?
And isn’t one of the frustrating things about Church discipline is that the people under the discipline can just leave and go to another church, and thereby undoing any penalty that they were supposed to be undergoing? If I were a pastor who was considering a new person for membership to the church over which I presided, I would want to get a reference from this person’s former church.
If they were asked to leave a church because they were being divisive, then I’m not sure that any pastor would want to undermine the discipline of another church that they considered to be faithful.



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pam

posted August 4, 2009 at 12:33 am


matthew s #61 – Gold!! I’m using that!



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Kyle Strobel

posted August 4, 2009 at 3:47 am


Hello all and thanks for your thoughts here (you too Scot). I’ve been marked by Lighthouse Research as well, being particularly dangerous because of my “high profile.” I’ve wrestled back and forth with whether it is valuable to reply. You see, I’m a conservative reformed baptist (not wholly unlike Piper in many ways – but also vastly different I should add). I am finishing my doctoral dissertation on Jonathan Edwards (if that tells you anything). My struggle with these groups is not their zeal, but their ignorance and arrogance. For instance, their critique lacks anything like charity. If there is a possible reading which can be construed negatively they pounce on it (if I quote a Catholic it means I am fully on-board with everything Catholic and am, by necessity, a mystic). On their view, it seems clear that no one was actually a Christian until sometime around the late modern period (Hodge presumably). They certainly would not accept Edwards.
It is the fundamentalism that bothers me I suppose (not wholly different from the Islamic or Liberal (read Jesus Seminar) versions). It starts with the idolatrous assumption that disagreement with the views of certain key figures is akin to heresy. It reads the biblical text through a certain theological reading, which is fine, but then condemns anyone who fails to follow.
I have devoted a lot of prayer, time and energy to working to develop an evangelical understanding of Christian Spirituality, and all I really ask is that is respected as a brother in Christ rather than a “wolf” to use their word. I am doing no more (and oftentimes doing less) than the Puritans were trying to do, particularly Edwards – develop a biblical, theological and ecclesially robust analysis of life with God. I’m not so sure that is as scary as they think.



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Stephen Lee

posted August 4, 2009 at 4:49 am


Wow. What an event. It is exciting to witness and be a part of this discussion. So many interesting ideas and such faith! (Ill keep it short -I promise Scott!) You asked in the letter what to do. Keep loving them. Convince them, dont convince them, right wrong I dont know. From the ire these fellows must be very rude sometimes but even zelots and rude people need the love of the Lord. All I know is I was dead and now Im alive. I walked and talked and all but was deader than a bag of hammers. I bet I was pretty rude to many too. People would tell me that Jesus loved me and I should go to Him. One day so broken I could bear no more I did. He did. Eventually everything went to good after that. I dont know how much I accomplished, How much the Lord or if it was predestined or free will. Only the most wonderfull event ever, I was dead and now Im alive. All these people might disagree but they are trying to know our Father and the Lord – So I love them. Maybe I go to Hell but if the Father wants that -it is the right thing, I trust Him completly.



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joanne

posted August 4, 2009 at 7:02 am


re election: Jesus is the elect one in Ephesians one. we participate in his election through faith. in ourselves, and apart from Jesus, we are not elect.
It’s all about Jesus. And so not about us.



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sean

posted August 4, 2009 at 10:21 am


Scot, I wish that instead of spending so much time and space on the neo-puritans (and I am completely with you on your critiques of this group), you would present alternatives within the reformed community that would be better dialogue partners. Piper, the PCA aren’t even part of the World Communion of Reformed churches, the third largest ecumenical grouping (80 million members) after the RCC and EOC (slightly larger, but looser, than the Anglican Communion). The RCA has adopted and the CRC is on their way to adopting a fourth confession for the first time since the 17th c.: the Belhar Confession, which officially makes the preferential option for the poor part of reformed theology: “God, in a world full of injustice and enmity, is in a special way the God of the destitute, the poor and the wronged” and “the church as the possession of God must stand where the Lord stands, namely against injustice and with the wronged; that in following Christ the church must witness against all the powerful and privileged who selfishly seek their own interests and thus control and harm others.” This is a more legitimate and vastly different extension of calvin’s own legacy than neo-puritanism. By taking so seriously the neo-puritans, a majority here but a small minority in the world (most of the WCRC churches are in the global south, and they don’t get any attention as “reformed” on your blog), you tacitly endorse them as if they speak for the whole reformed community. Besides the Belhar, you should pay attention to Todd Billings, a theologian in the RCA who recently wrote an excellent book on calvin. He has a website: http://www.jtoddbillings.com/. See also his article on the promise of catholic calvinism: http://www.rca.org/Page.aspx?pid=2996&srcid=3466



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sean

posted August 4, 2009 at 10:22 am


Perhaps the problem is the mixing of evangelicalism and reformed theology. People like Piper, Mahaney, etc. are baptists/free church whose first commitment is to a type of conversionist evangelicalism. Unlike the anabaptists (many of whom have a high sacramental theology), the reformed baptists subscribe to a believer’s church understanding that has its roots more in American revivalism (for example, think of Piper’s influence by his evangelist father) than in a commitment to catholic orthodoxy with the understanding that nonviolence is a mark of the church.
It seems to me that infant baptism is an essential part of reformed theology. As with Augustine, the Roman teaching, and Luther, the reformed understand of baptism to be the rite of entrance into the church. Through baptism, even those who cannot make decisions on their own (the severely mentally handicapped, infants, etc) are brought into a community and are made heirs of all that belongs to that community (namely, the church’s specific knowledge, faith, the church’s characteristic expectation, hope, and the church’s sharing of life or friendship with God, charity). It is the community’s responsibility to train those who have been baptized (or reborn) into the community to continue to appropriate what is already theirs: the church’s faith, hope, and love. Those who choose to leave the community and reject the gifts remain part of the community, just as those who abandon their family do not cease to be part of the family. This understanding of salvation as continual conversion into receiving one’s baptismal promises is at odds with the central emphasis on the doctrines of grace that the neo-puritans seem to promote.
In my understanding, Calvin is what you get when Augustinianism goes into exile, when it is forced to reckon with political oppression, when the community is forced to live its life “under the cross.” What we have in the US is a mostly privileged, white group who adopts the rhetoric of the oppressed and does all sorts of damage in their (unintentional) dishonesty. They need a good neo-Nietzschien analysis and critique of their use of power.



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Wearied

posted August 4, 2009 at 10:30 am


Sheesh, Scot. Enough with Calvinist-bashing already. Now you’re recycling posts from two years ago? I, for one, would appreciate it if you’d simply accept that young Calvinists are growing and are in disagreement with you on many things–and then just move on.



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Robyn

posted August 4, 2009 at 10:38 am


I am skeptical of ANYONE who claims to have the completely understood, neatly packaged, here-it-is-in-a-box Truth of who God is and what he MEANT to say. Of course, it is very difficult to deal with such people, which is why I generally choose not to. But I am not a “pastor,” so I don’t have to.



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Chris

posted August 4, 2009 at 12:08 pm


@Wearied-
You are demonstrating the problem-a seeming unwillingness to dialogue with those who have different viewpoints from yourself. This is the problem that many of us find when we try to have conversation with neo-Calvinists (young, old, or whatever). Instead of “moving on” why can’t we have some civil conversation. Would that not benefit all of us? I believe that’s what Scot’s working at here, and he’s certainly not “bashing” anyone.



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James

posted August 4, 2009 at 12:08 pm


Stephen, Great response. I think it brings to light your real concerns in a way that people can see and appreciate.
As a future preacher, I even agree with your “preaching foolishness” statement. It IS the work of the Holy Spirit that is all important in the process of conversion. I have it on good authority that John Stott, who I’ve heard is a pretty decent preacher, approaches the pulpit repeating, “I believe in the Holy Spirit. I believe in the Holy Spirit.”
…but it’s also the work of the Holy Spirit to teach us about God, and His character, and to help us understand His revelation, right? So when you worry that people are placing emphasis on what you think is the wrong characteristic of God on which to place emphasis, isn’t that somehow denying your conclusion? Some consistency is in order here.



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Steve A

posted August 4, 2009 at 1:27 pm


I was recently listening to Eugene Peterson speak (a couple of years ago)on Ephesians (I think we was working on a book–but don’t think it is out yet). That Presbyterian pastor was making the point–repeatedly–that the church is God’s plan, and we need to get used to all the unlikeable people in our churches, and trust God enough that he is using that whole messy stew to grow each of us up in Christ and to be his Kingdom in the world. I suggest that each of us back down from our stereotypes and past bad experiences and try to work at loving each other–especially the jerks. It may or may not “help” them, but it will help us.



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Stephen

posted August 4, 2009 at 2:02 pm


Joanne, I’ve heard that explanation of Ephesians 1 many times, but it just doesn’t square with the wider text in chapter 1, or other passages in scripture that address the same issue. Arminians want to say Eph 1:4 means that God “chooses” Christ, and all men that choose to be “in Christ” via their own self-determining will are then also “chosen.” Not only is this illogical (why would those who would already choose Christ via free will then need to be “chosen” by God?), but what does one do with the very next verse, which says, “He predestined US to adoption as sons…according to the kind intention of HIS will.” Notice that in this verse, WE are the ones who are predestined, according to HIS will, not ours. Verse 11 repeats the same thing.
Also, what do you do with Mark 13:20 (“…but for the sake of the elect, whom HE chose…), John 1:13-13 (“…the Son also gives life to whom HE wishes”), John 6:65 (“NO ONE can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father)? , or Acts 13:48 (“…and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.)? Note this last verse does NOT say that those who believed were then appointed to eternal life, but the other way around!
There are so many, many others passages I could go to, but then this post would be 7 pages long! But this is what I mean when I say that Arminians MUST redefine terms to “interpret” scripture passages that need no interpretation. Passages like Acts 13:48 simply need to be accepted as true. However, passages that talk about man’s responsibility ALSO must be accepted as true! The bible teaches that man is responsible for his sin, yet it also teaches that we have no ability to see Christ for who He is without a sovereign work of the Spirit, according to the will of the Father in election. Does this sound “unfair” to me? Absolutely! But it’s not my job to reconcile these two truths, but to accept them and believe them. We’ll never understand this fully (Isa 55:9, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts).
The Arminian reaction is exactly like the reaction Paul anticipates in Rom 9:19, “You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?'” Paul answers in vs. 20, “On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God?” Translation: “Shut your mouth! Don’t be so arrogant as to question God’s will and purposes that seems unfair to your small mind!”
But of course, I’ll probably get all kinds of “explanations” for all this, because our pride-filled hearts simply do NOT want to accept a God that doesn’t act like WE want Him to act. This is why this issue is so very important to be accepted AS THE BIBLE STATES IN THE TEXT, not as we bend ,twist, and read into the text to fit our own preferences. But still, I’ll be called arrogant, intolerant, etc. (It’s funny how those who preach “tolerance” are so intolerant of people who try not to read their own preferences into the text of scripture!).



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Scot McKnight

posted August 4, 2009 at 2:27 pm


Stephen, I appreciate both your candor and your courage. What I’m asking you to consider is to think some more about what Arminians believe and don’t believe, for what you are claiming they believe — say, about election — is simply not fair to the good Arminian theologians, and it is heavy-handed then to put Paul’s words back in their face for they would affirm precisely what Paul is affirming.
I urge you to read, for instance, Roger Olson’s Arminian Theology before you go on repeating these false characterizations of what they think. Arminians believe in election by grace, and solely by grace.



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Shaun Groves

posted August 4, 2009 at 4:19 pm


I did a series of posts a couple years ago in which I took each letter of TULIP theology and said, basically, “Here’s what I think Calvinists believe about T, am I right? And if that’s what they believe, I have the following questions for Calvinists.” I was kind and ready to learn and decide, finally, where I stood on the whole matter.
At the time I was getting about 50K unique visitors a month to my blog. That number rose as people began to post on Calvinist forums and blogs that I was “attacking” Calvinism. I reiterated that I truly wanted to understand their theology, get some questions of mine answered and then decide where I stood.
Not one Calvinist had the balls – no, the respect and love for me – to have the conversation. I was treated like an idiot heretic.
And that’s my primary reservation about Calvinism. For some reason – and I truly don’t know why – in my experience it seems to attract or breed arrogance and cold intellectualism. I’ve never been loved by a Calvinist. Never.
What is it about Calvinism that attracts or breeds such people? I don’t see the link.



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Josh

posted August 4, 2009 at 4:50 pm


Getting back to the original question…
For the record, I’m probably more Calvinistic in my theological leanings, although I hope that?s not the main vibe people get from me (this would be a strong indicator to me that I’ve formed, or am formulating an idol around my theology).
That being said, I think the key starting point is identifying the core elements of what HC’s are fighting for, and from my experience with the majority of people it isn’t the authority of Scripture in and of itself, its the idea they have gained this “new Truth from God”, are excited about it and upset/frustrated that no one told it to them before. Typically this takes the form of spewing off sound bites (typically from Piper; and for the record I love the guy and he has helped me immensely in my journey with the Lord) or texts as though that justifies their new found belief and theological position. Then the focus of that frustration of being “fooled or not told all these years? goes upon individuals who hold contrary views.
In the case of the Pastor in the initial post, it becomes a “scape goat” in these individuals mind (i.e. “if only He taught the doctrines of grace, I would follow Him, or God would bless this ministry etc). Both of these ideas run totally contrary to Scripture. However, typically HC’s (again from my experience) think that the system of Calvinism is somehow of greater importance than submitting and supporting the church leadership.
As to the Piper comments, again I think we need to diagnosis the main individuals associated with the so called “Young Calvinism” movement. It?s largely (and in my opinion a huge majority) made up for young males, and as the current statistics are regarding the family, I would argue the vast majority of them come from broken homes where the father isn’t present. Piper is a very powerful preacher and no one can say that He doesn’t preach from His soul. That resonates with young guys (it did with me) and gives the sense that “this guy knows what he’s talking about”. This is a form of hero worship and Piper, Driscoll, and Chandler have spoken out against it, but because of the state of the family in the West and the lack (again in my opinion) of strong male influences in the church, these guys connect with young men in a way that others don’t.
That being said, what is my advice to this Pastor?
1) Pray for your own heart when you are around them; “help me to show them you Jesus”
2) Pray for this individual; not that they would change interpretations or systems of theology, but that they would know Christ more and that you would not be a stumbling block to them and vise versa.
3) Model for them what humble “orthodoxy” looks like in the life of a Christian. I.e. “I can still love you even if we disagree.” Yelling, screaming, proof texting, producing caricatures of the other sides view does nothing but hinder the conversation. This doesn?t mean you don?t present your position if it comes up; it simply means you aren?t approaching the conversation in a way that you ?need to win? (after all it?s not a salvation issue).
4) Get to know the individual and some of their deeper struggles, for many (including myself) Calvinism was a way to “push back” (so to speak) the problem of evil and thus explain / “justify” (to some extent some past or present pain.
5) Show them your love for the Scriptures and God Himself. As has been evident in these blog posts, one of the main charges HC accuse people with different systems of is the idea that they simply don’t want to believe what God has said in His Word. If someone is mentoring and explaining the joy that had in reading the Word and how God gave them a new insight into a text, etc people notice that. It transforms people and (from my experience) enables the Holy Spirit to work on them, especially when there is a lack of love and excitement for a brother or sister in Christ at the hearing of Gods working in their life.
6) Give them to God. Both parties believe in the sovereignty of God (despite what some may think…lol). God is going to have to be the one to change their mind / heart, all your commanded is to give them the Word and interpret it with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, act according to your conscious and love them. After all we could both be wrong and God (which I know He does) has quite a bit better way of explaining how this whole free will and is His sovereignty thing works out (In case anyone?s forgotten Calvinistic or not, it?s still a mystery of God!)
In conclusion then, keep loving on them and dig into their lives. Become that person to disciple them, because discipleship through guys on the Internet is not biblical discipleship; it requires human connections on a consistent basis.
Something happens when you see Christ in the life of someone you “think” has false views; it causes you to question why those fruits are not present in your life and why your focus has become on a system of theology instead of the Gospel itself (I know it did for me).
Hope this is helpful.
Your brother in Christ,
-Josh



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Stephen

posted August 4, 2009 at 4:51 pm


Scot, if Arminians believe in election solely by grace (that is, election that is defined by the word itself, as well as the biblical definition; to elect some out of the larger group of humanity, solely on the basis of God’s good pleasure, NOT on the basis of self-determined free will to choose grace offered to all men), then that’s news to me. I have not read Roger Olson, so I cannot speak to that book. But I have read many others, such as Geisler, Craig, etc. And it always comes back to the same thing; a redefinition of biblical terms in an attempt to resolve the tension found in scripture between God’s sovereignty in election and mans’ responsibility.
I’ve heard Dr. Craig state that God could never elect some and pass over others solely on the basis of His good pleasure, because that would make God ?arbitrary,? and he cannot believe in an arbitrary God. But that’s not what the bible says. That’s just a human, philosophical answer to a issue the bible already addresses; that God DOES elect on the basis of His good pleasure alone, for His own purposes. It doesn’t matter that it may look ?arbitrary? from our standpoint, because we?re not God! HE knows why He does what He does, WE do not always know (Duet 29:29, Isa 55:8-9, Ps 115:3). We are NOT to look to philosophy for answers (see Col 2:8), as Dr. Craig tends to do, but we are to look solely to the scriptures.
By the way, Scot, I do appreciate your comment about false characterizations. But this, of course, goes both ways. Because in my experience, Arminians excel at mis-characterizing Reformed Theology. But don’t take my word for it…just pull up any thorough on-line review of Norm Geisler’s book “Chosen but Free,” or just look back in this blog trail (e.g. post # 36).



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Wearied

posted August 4, 2009 at 4:53 pm


@Chris
I may be misreading this post, but it doesn’t seem intended to initiate the kind of dialogue you’re talking about. Scot’s inviting us to discuss how to deal with pesky Calvinists, and the letter he reproduced casts Calvinists in about as negative a light as possible. If he’d sought instead to open a respectful dialgue with Calvinists, I think I would’ve appreciated this post much more.
Plus, my comment doesn’t have to do with this post alone. Scot’s made no secret of his dislike for the young, restless Reformed crowd. He’s blogged about it here, blurbed about it on a book cover, and spoken about it at conferences and public venues. What I’m sensing, perhaps wrongly, is that he no longer seems interested in having a civil discussion on his various points of disagreement with the YRR.
I could be misunderstanding him completely, of course. I’ve been wrong many times before. ;) But I’d like to see more constructive posts than what I felt like this one was.



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Wonders for Oyarsa

posted August 4, 2009 at 8:52 pm


Stephen,
By what law do you assert that God’s good pleasure in election, while not based on works or might or strength, might indeed choose to elect the hearts that are open toward him? Do you have any idea just how many scriptures you are marginalizing by rejecting such a notion? Are we not given actual reasons (involving the heart) why God elects Jacob rather than Esau, and David rather than Saul, etc.?



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Ann

posted August 4, 2009 at 9:20 pm


It’s interesting that a couple of the men commenting here on behalf of Calvinism have noted that the young Calvinists appeal to young men. Having had some ministerial experience w/ the PCUSA, I don’t think it’s coincidental that Calvinism isn’t such a draw for women, unless the legal aspects of Calvin and Scripture itself are virtually eviscerated (as seems to be ongoing within the PCUSA, in a number of presbyteries). There is a particular way of reading scripture through the lenses of natural law we embody and, in particular, through the male gendered perspective. ISTM many young men read Jesus and Paul as being “just like them” rather than turning the world on its head, the power structures upside down, and finding the fulfillment of the law in the love and service of others.



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Beth

posted August 5, 2009 at 4:29 am


If our brother Stephen only knew all the things Bill Craig has quietly done for others in Jesus’ name, he would be ashamed of his harsh words above.
Bill Craig has not only shared in the mind of Christ, but has been doing His works. If that’s what philosophy does to a person, then give me more of it! However, from what I’ve seen of what Reformed theology does to a person, give me less of it, thank you.



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Wes

posted August 5, 2009 at 3:10 pm


Wow. Having followed the discussion over the past couple of days, I’m shaking my head.
What does God command us to do? How about Jesus’ answer about the Law: “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-34) – Seems to me this addresses the issue directly, including the priority of focus and passion, the command to engage our minds in loving God, and the posture we ought to have towards each other.
If this discussion demonstrates anything, it could be used to show that mean-spiritedness isn’t limited to a particular doctrinal point of view.
What ought to be true of us? “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness..” (1 John 2:9) or the even more pointed “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” (1 John 3:10) I have little hope for a productive discussion about the critically important topic of the nature and character of God when there is so much personalizing and vilifying done in the process… and I don’t think it’s fair to pin that one solely on the “pesky Calvinists”.
Galatians 4:16.
An imperative and an indicative. Both seem sadly missing from many of these types of discussion – and many of the posts here.



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Wes

posted August 5, 2009 at 3:13 pm


Just to be clear, my thoughts above are in reaction to many of the comments here, not Scot’s post…



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Robyn

posted August 5, 2009 at 4:23 pm


Ann, I’ve come across a couple of “young men” who are fired up over Driscoll. My experience is that they revel in their own (supposed) superiority and their (supposed) God-given authority to dominate (particularly to dominate women). Granted, I have only met a few of them (thank goodness), but they are insufferable. Here is someone who says to them, “Women are weak. Women are meant to be subordinated under your authority. It’s your job to show them how inferior they are.” Not having much experience of Driscoll, but having read some of his blogs and sermons, it is easy to see how they have gotten this message, though I am sure it is not his only message. I suppose there is a certain subset of men to whom this would hold infinite appeal. Piper’s message is the similar, if somewhat less harshly stated. Is there some kind of connection with this power-grabbing mindset to Calvinism?
I’m not the scholar that many of you are, so forgive me if I display any ignorance.



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sean

posted August 6, 2009 at 10:05 am


robyn, you are right to notice a fair degree of traditional (or maybe not-so-traditional) hierarchies at stake for many of the neo-puritans. and they are insufferable, at least from my perspective. their understanding of gender is intolerable. there is nothing about calvinism that needs to go down that road. it can, just as many systems of thought can, but it needn’t. look for example at the recently written (at least relatively speaking) belhar confession, which lays out the political expression of reformed doctrine. it says that God is in a special way the good of the poor and the wronged (including women, when they have such a history of being wronged, as they often do), and that “the church as the possession of God must stand where the Lord stands, namely against injustice and with the wronged; that in following Christ the church must witness against all the powerful and privileged who selfishly seek their own interests and thus control and harm others.” It seems to me that the calvinism of piper, driscoll, and the pca seems far more influenced by late 18th century ideologies of gender and modern notions of race (see J. Kameron Carter’s recent book) than it would like to admit. there is no “pure” calvinism. given that, it’s important to notice what extra commitments get tacked on to someone’s thought.
for more on the belhar, see http://www.crcna.org/belhar



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Nathan Tyler

posted August 8, 2009 at 3:16 pm


>>>We deliberately say that we will not divide over theological issues like this. We are centered on the cross, on walking with Jesus.



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Scot mcKnight

posted August 8, 2009 at 3:21 pm


Nathan, it is very possible not to be a Calvinist and not be an overt Arminian, and the Covenant church is very much like that. Arminians see Calvinism and Calvinists see Arminians. But many are from a different stance and neither of those shapings of theology materially matters to them.



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Stephen

posted August 8, 2009 at 4:41 pm


Wonders for Oyarsa, the biblical doctrine of election has NOTHING to do with anything in us or in our hearts. Please read the relevant passages. What law gives me the right to say this? The BIBLE does. Again you, like so many others, are redefining biblical language to suit your preferences. This is really, really sad. And Calvinsism doesn’t marginalize ANY passages of scripture. To assert this is to prove your complete misunderstanding of Reformed Theology.



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Stephen

posted August 8, 2009 at 4:45 pm


Beth, please calm down. I never impuned Dr. Craigs actions or his heart. I was responding to his erreant theology. There IS a difference. That doesn’t mean he’s a bad person, or a non-Christian. That’s not the point. It’s very easy to sidestep the important teological issues, and start criticizing my motives. Please be more careful about that. I have nothng be “ashamed” of in defending biblical truth.



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Joseph Louthan

posted August 8, 2009 at 8:19 pm


As a unapologetic Calvinist, I nominate myself and my crew to roll up there and beat the snot out of these punk “Calvinists”.
Seriously.
We, Calvinists, claim to be the most Biblical which means are to be the most broken, most humble, most giving yet the boldest when proclaiming the gospel of God by word and deed.
They guys think they’re Calvinist yet their attitude or fruit of hearts would indicate otherwise.
From the Reformed community, I apologize from the bottom of my heart. If those guys were in DFW, we would have gone all Matthew 18:15-20 on their punk butts.



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Mike Morrell

posted August 10, 2009 at 10:30 am


Derek Webb is probably the closest thing out there to a Reformed Anabaptist. Or perhaps Jon Zens, of http://searchingtogether.org
They’re possible, but rare.
What I’m more interested in is a Quaker-Anabaptist with Anglo-Catholic liturgy and house church flat leadership structures. Even more hopeless… : )



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J.C. Thibodaux

posted August 10, 2009 at 4:13 pm


“…if Arminians believe in election solely by grace…”
Election is according to grace in that no one merits or deserves it; the scriptures make it clear however that God chooses according to His foreknowledge (1 Peter 1:2, Romans 8:29), not in some arbitrary manner.



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Dan S.

posted August 12, 2009 at 6:37 pm


.
Ah yes, the good old Calvinist vs. Arminian controversy strikes again.
For what it’s worth, I consider myself a 5-point TULIP Calvinist, but more in the tradition of Abraham Kuyper and Richard Mouw rather than Jonathan Edwards and John Piper. As I see it, every square inch of the cosmos belongs to Christ, which means cultural retreat focused chiefly on individual piety is not an option.
Despite my Reformed understanding of God’s sovereignty, I’m far too liberal for the Young, Restless, Driscoll-following crowd since I’m an egalitarian, ecumenical, charismatic gift-affirming, political progressive who would rather see more interfaith dialogue than soteriological wedges driven between evangelical brothers and sisters. I also have way too many books by Dallas Willard, NT Wright, Stanley Hauerwas and Henri Nouwen on my shelf to conform with the New Calvinists, but that doesn’t cancel out my appreciation for Calvinist writers like J.I. Packer, Tim Keller, Mouw, Piper and yes, even (gasp) Kevin DeYoung.
I will admit that there’s something about Piper’s unique brand of neo-Puritan pietism that tends to hinder efforts to respectfully dialogue certain pockets of his followers.



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Stephen

posted August 13, 2009 at 1:50 pm


J.C. Thibodaux, with all due respect, the old tired defense that God “elects” based on His foreknowledge simply does not hold up scripturally, logically, or exegetically. Aside from the linguistic calisthenics Arminians must go through when they go down this road (God knows WE will choose, so then HE choose US? Why so, if we are the one choosing? This eviscerates the meaning of the words “choose,” “elect” or “predestine!”), it also doesn’t square with the original language’s meaning of knowledge and foreknowledge used in the bible (which is an intimate knowing & loving relationship, as in Hosea 13:5 where the Kings James uses the term for “knowing,” but the NASB uses “cared for you,” because knowing and caring/loving are synonymous. This is just one of many, many passages like this). But even when thinking of foreknowledge as “knowing an event will happen ahead of time,” God’s foreknowing an event does NOT preclude His having predetermined it, which the bible CLEARLY teaches that He does. Of COURSE God knows everything in advance!
This “foreknowledge” defense is yet another example of the pride-filled human heart that refuses to accept the true God of the bible. I’m not singling you out, J.C., just talking in general, since this is such a popular “defense” of the Arminian position; although it can hardly really be called any kind of meaningful defense, when one looks at all the clear passages in scripture regarding election, predestination, and God’s total sovereignty to do as HE please with HIS creation.
If you REALLY want to understand this well, read the book by James White titled “The Potter’s Freedom.” There are so many other good books I could point to (both recent and very old), but this is one of the best, written by a contemporary writer, that synthesizes all this from scripture without “reading into” the text. I hope you read the book, but it’s been my experience, generally, that most people hold onto their Arminian defenses tenaciously, and simply refuse look at these things with an open mind and heart. I trust you aren’t one of those.



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Stephen

posted August 13, 2009 at 2:05 pm


Dan S., you said, “Despite my Reformed understanding of God’s sovereignty, I’m far too liberal for the Young, Restless, Driscoll-following crowd since I’m an egalitarian, ecumenical, charismatic gift-affirming, political progressive who would rather see more interfaith dialogue than soteriological wedges driven between evangelical brothers and sisters.”
So what do you do with Paul in Galatians 1:8-9 when he says TWICE, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!”???
The original word for “accursed” is “anathema,” which means “damned to hell.” Sorry, but I don’t think Paul was into “interfaith dialogue,” but was committed to preaching true doctrine that would change men’s lives at ALL cost, even his OWN life (even if it DID “drive a wedge” between him and those who disagreed with him).
Dan, you certainly are welcome to your “ecumenical” views, but please don’t identify yourself with the totally God-centered, biblically faithful, scripture-defending tradition of the true reformers by calling yourself a Calvinist.



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J.C. Thibodaux

posted August 14, 2009 at 12:51 am


Stephen,
“…the old tired defense that God “elects” based on His foreknowledge simply does not hold up scripturally, logically, or exegetically.”
Let’s see,
“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied.” (1 Peter 1:1-2)
Seems it holds up quite well scripturally despite your insistence to the contrary, nor are there any apparent logical or exegetical problems.
“(God knows WE will choose, so then HE choose US? Why so, if we are the one choosing? This eviscerates the meaning of the words “choose,” “elect” or “predestine!”)”
God chooses on the basis of who will hear and receive His Son. This concept is quite congruent with the scriptural record, as well as the meanings of the terms ‘elect’ and ‘predestine,’ since arranging events and choice are not mutually exclusive concepts with prior knowledge.
“it also doesn’t square with the original language’s meaning of knowledge and foreknowledge used in the bible (which is an intimate knowing & loving relationship…”
Incorrect. Though the Hebrew ‘yada’ does have some variety in meaning, the same cannot be said concerning the usage of the Greek word for ‘foreknowledge.’ Such attempts at Calvinistic redefinition are nothing more than subversion of the meaning of scriptural terms through equivocation, since there is no solid linguistic basis for redefining ‘prognosis’ in 1 Peter 1:2 as some sort of relational knowledge; it is plainly speaking of knowledge concerning the future. I touch on the subject more in depth here: http://www.indeathorlife.org/soteriology/election/forelove/word-usage.php
God’s foreknowing an event does NOT preclude His having predetermined it, which the bible CLEARLY teaches that He does.
Incorrect, nowhere does scripture teach exhaustive determinism. Rather, such necessitarian nonsense negates the scriptural promise of sufficient grace to endure temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13), since by that model, all sin that believers fall into would have been exhaustively and immutably predetermined with no way of escape.
If you REALLY want to understand this well, read the book by James White titled “The Potter’s Freedom.”
Please…. I haven’t been able to take White seriously since the whole “Arminianism leads to Open Theism or Universalism” canard (a slippery-slope fallacy to be precise); such ignorant remarks demonstrate that he lacks the studiousness and objectivity of an effective theological mind. Thanks, but I’ll stick with a book called ‘the Bible;’ it’s a much more powerful and accurate work than anything by Mr. White.



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Dan S.

posted August 14, 2009 at 3:57 am


.
Stephen,
When I say I’m a Calvinist, I’m describing my TULIP-affirming soteriology, not all of the other Young, Restless, ‘Truly’ Reformed baggage on gender roles and other issues that seems to nearly always accompany it.
When I say I’m an ecumenical evangelical, I’m saying that Pentecostals, Arminians, Anabaptists, Anglicans etc. are my fellow believers in Christ even if they disagree with me on soteriology. If one is committed to Biblical inerrancy and affirms the core doctrines of Christianity (Jesus’ deity, physical resurrection, salvation by grace alone through faith in Christ alone etc), I will respectfully disagree with them on secondary matters like gender roles, church polity, spirit baptism etc, but I still recognize them as part of the body of Christ.
As far as interfaith dialogue is concerned, this is completely different from preaching false doctrine. Paul did not prohibit Christians from discussing theological differences with people from other religions. Civil conversations with non-believers are a great opportunity for them to learn about the uniqueness of Christ. Richard Mouw is a well-respected 5-point Calvinist who engages in interfaith dialogue with Mormons; do you think he’s disobeying Scripture for doing so?
Driving a wedge between Christianity and Universalism is not the same as driving a wedge between Baptists and Presbyterians.



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Stephen

posted August 14, 2009 at 2:25 pm


Dan S, thank you for your clarification. I agree with you that discussing theological differences within the family of believers can be helpful, and is not the same as compromising with those outside of the faith. I’m sorry I misunderstood you. However, I will say that the the debate on God’s sovereignty in election is a far more serious issue than most will ever admit or acknowledge, because it gets at the very heart of the gospel itself, what Christ’s atonement ACTUALLY accomplished, and, after all is said and done, who REALLY gets the glory for the salvation of lost sinners dead in sin. It also gets at human pride, which is the root of so much sin, and takes so much glory due our great, merciful, JUST & HOLY God away from Him. I know most will disagree, but if you have not already done so, try reading what some of the greatest of our church fathers had to say about the Arminian/Pelagian belief system.



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Stephen

posted August 14, 2009 at 3:10 pm


Mr. Thibodaux, aside from the fact that 1 Pe 1:1-2 does NOT define ?foreknowledge? definitively either your way or my way in isolation, and since you believe you have solved the foreknowledge issue based on this passage, what do you do with Acts 2:23, ??this Man (Christ), delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.?
Surely you don?t believe that Christ?s death was some kind of accident based on man?s free choices, and that God predetermined the crucifixion BECAUSE OF His knowing about this event ahead of time, do you? I certainly hope not! Acts 2:23 simply links God?s PRE-determing the death of Christ WITH His foreknowledge. His foreknowledge does not EXCLUDE His free, sovereign decree, just as ?foreknowledge? in 1 Pe 1:1-2 does not exclude His free, sovereign election. There is NO REASON to believe that God?s ?predetermining? and ?foreknowing? Christ?s crucifixion in the Acts passage are related any differently than His ?electing? and foreknowing are related in the 1st Peter passage.
Furthermore, in the context of 1 Peter chapter one itself, we see the VERY SAME TERM being used in vs. 20; ?For He (Jesus) was FOREKNOWN before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you.? Does this mean, by your own definition, that God based the existence of Christ on His ?foreknowing? that He would exist? No, God did not “look down the tunnel of time” and see that Christ would choose to die for us, and then say, “Okay I’ll make HIM the Savior.” But this is the same logic that Arminians use regarding “foreknowledge” used anywhere else.
Sorry my brother, but this argument, and all the others my Arminian friends use, just do not hold up against all the CLEAR texts regarding election, God?s free choice, and predestination, such as:
Ps 65:2, Mk 13:20, Jn 3:8, Jn 6:65 Acts 13:48, Acts 16:14, Eph 1:5, Eph 1:11, Phl 1:29, 2 Th 2:13, 2 Ti 2:25, Jas 1:18, 2 Pe 1:10, Rom 11:5, 7-8 (Oh I know, Mr. Thibodaux ?they hardened their OWN hearts in this last passage, and God is NOT the one in our present time who shuts the eyes and ears of some, while keeping some according to HIS choice. Yes, THAT?S what the text says)…
I could go on and on, and I haven?t even mentioned Romans 9, which guys like Norm Geisler completely eviscerate. Sometimes he insists it?s talking about nations, not individual salvation, then sometimes uses individual salvation as the central point of his argument, never commenting on how the context changed from nations to individuals and back to nations again! He CAN?T explain it, because so much of Romans 9 is ONLY talking about individuals (e.g. verses 3, 15, 16, 18, 19, 20).
Funny how there?s no mention of ?foreknowledge? in all of these passages, yet Arminians keep going back to 1 Pe 1:1-2 and say, ?Yep, ?foreknowledge? MUST equal predestination, so our salvation HAS to be according to OUR choices!? No matter that the text does NOT say that, and so many other passages clearly give God ABSOLUTE FREEDOM in election according to HIS will and purposes.
Regarding James White, if you really want to be intellectually honest, Mr. Thibodaux, please read the book, and do a point-by-point comparison of his exegesis with that of Geisler?s. Then let?s talk. I couldn?t agree more when you say, ?Thanks, but I’ll stick with a book called ‘the Bible.’? That exactly the point.
I?m sure anyone reading this will consider my words ?harsh? or ?unloving.? If that?s the case, so be it. But the truth is that Election is a pride-crushing doctrine that gives the God of the universe the freedom to do what HE PLEASES, so it?s no wondering why so many so strongly resist it by ignoring text after text after text, while redefining entire passages and the contextual intent of inspired scripture passages. It would be comical if it wasn?t so sad, and the sadness I feel is THE reason why I so strongly refute false doctrine (Tit 1:9, ?holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict?).
We need to worship the true God of the bible; not some God of our own making that pleases our corrupt desires.



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J.C. Thibodaux

posted August 14, 2009 at 4:00 pm


Stephen,
“Mr. Thibodaux, aside from the fact that 1 Pe 1:1-2 does NOT define ?foreknowledge? definitively either your way or my way in isolation…”
The definition of foreknowledge is ‘prior knowledge,’ baseless equivocation isn’t evidence for your case.
“…what do you do with Acts 2:23, ??this Man (Christ), delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.?”
God (by His power and arrangement of what is in creation) put Christ in a circumstance in which He knew He would be crucified with people who would commit the act. That would hardly be an accident.
“Acts 2:23 simply links God?s PRE-determing the death of Christ WITH His foreknowledge.”
No, foreknowledge isn’t causative. It states determinate counsel AND foreknowledge (two separate concepts), the two can work together, as I’ve stated before.
“His foreknowledge does not EXCLUDE His free, sovereign decree, just as ?foreknowledge? in 1 Pe 1:1-2 does not exclude His free, sovereign election.”
Of course one does not exclude the other, and hence there is no logical difficulty with election being based upon foreknowledge as 1 Peter 1:2 plainly states.
“Furthermore, in the context of 1 Peter chapter one itself, we see the VERY SAME TERM being used in vs. 20;”
Incorrect. Verse 20 uses ‘proginosko,’ a verb, not the noun as verse 2 does.
“?For He (Jesus) was FOREKNOWN before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you.? Does this mean, by your own definition, that God based the existence of Christ on His ?foreknowing? that He would exist?”
Where and how are you drawing Christ’s existence into this? This passage refers to the fact that Christ (and I would think, His work in bringing life to the world) has been known from the foundation of the world by God, but revealed/manifested to men in these last times.
“Sorry my brother, but this argument, and all the others my Arminian friends use, just do not hold up against all the CLEAR texts regarding election, God?s free choice, and predestination, such as….”
Sorry, cheap reference-flooding without explanation won’t help your case.
“Rom 11:5, 7-8 (Oh I know, Mr. Thibodaux ?they hardened their OWN hearts in this last passage, and God is NOT the one in our present time who shuts the eyes and ears of some, while keeping some according to HIS choice.”
But I don’t believe that. As with most Reformed apologists, your arguments fail fundamental logic, and you instead rely upon constructing caricatures to tar-brush your opposition.
“Funny how there?s no mention of ?foreknowledge? in all of these passages…”
Please note that appealing to lack of evidence is the fallacy of ‘appeal to ignorance.’ Some passages of scripture not mentioning the foreknowledge aspect of election/predestination won’t make it go away.
“No matter that the text does NOT say that, and so many other passages clearly give God ABSOLUTE FREEDOM in election according to HIS will and purposes.”
Which is only begging the question in assuming that God’s purposes don’t involve men’s freedom to believe.
Regarding James White, if you really want to be intellectually honest, Mr. Thibodaux, please read the book, and do a point-by-point comparison of his exegesis with that of Geisler?s.
I’m not a Geisler fan either. How exactly would my not reading White constitute intellectual dishonesty?
“I?m sure anyone reading this will consider my words ?harsh? or ?unloving.?”
No, just misguided and fallacious.
“…Election is a pride-crushing doctrine that gives the God of the universe the freedom to do what HE PLEASES”
I already believe God can do what He pleases, I just don’t think that what pleases Him is what you want me to think pleases Him.
“It also gets at human pride, which is the root of so much sin, and takes so much glory due our great, merciful, JUST & HOLY God away from Him.”
Standard-issue empty rhetoric. It’s a leap of logic to conclude that salvation that is conditional on our part is meritorious or praiseworthy on our part.
“…try reading what some of the greatest of our church fathers had to say about the Arminian/Pelagian belief system.”
Yet another example of the cheap smear tactics so commonly employed in pop Calvinist polemics, in this case, trying to demonize Arminian theology by falsely equating it with Pelagianism. Such a falsehood will not stand up to doctrinal or historical examination.
As for your repeated assertion that non-Calvinists are “redefining entire passages and the contextual intent of inspired scripture passages,” I would point out that a great many Calvinists make the word of God of no effect by heavily reinterpreting or explaining away the warning passages to the saints.
http://www.indeathorlife.org/soteriology/calvinism/reformedchallenge.php
You also haven’t shown how your determinism can square with 1 Corinthians 10:13.



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Stephen

posted August 14, 2009 at 11:19 pm


Mr. Thibodaux:
“Sorry, cheap reference-flooding without explanation won’t help your case.”
Most convenient for you, since the scriptures I sited cannot be refuted without redefining so many terms. And for what it’s worth, I tried twice to post the actual texts, with my comments, but our blog moderator deleted them (his e-mail cited excessive length of the post). Still, whenever one of my Arminian friends gets backed into a corner with these crystal-clear texts, the cries of “proof-texting” start to fly.
Your insistence that election is based on foreknowledge simply makes no sense, for why would the Holy Spirit use the words “elect, “choose,” “predestine” etc., if salvation of the saints were dependent on OUR choice? The terms simply loose their meaning. Yours is just a philosophical argument (is it Dr. Craig that loves philosophy so much, in spite of the warning in Col 2:8?).
“According to the foreknowledge of God the Father” in 1 Peter does NOT prove that God’s determinative choice came as a RESULT of His foreknowledge. Of COURSE “according to” means that His foreknowledge accords with His choice. YOU are making the leap that this somehow MUST mean God could only make that choice BECAUSE of His foreknowledge. Again, why choose us, if He knows we will choose Him without His ordaining it? Words simply fail me when you say that “MY arguments fail fundamental logic!”
“I already believe God can do what He pleases, I just don’t think that what pleases Him is what you want me to think pleases Him.”
I’m glad to hear you believe God can do what He wills, but frankly, it doesn’t matter a bit what YOU think pleases Him.
“…trying to demonize Arminian theology by falsely equating it with Pelagianism. Such a falsehood will not stand up to doctrinal or historical examination.”
This statement is nothing short of amazing. It ignores volumes of writings on the subject, and is more evidence of the way your false system of belief has blinded so many. Oh, but you’ll probably again just cry “cheap smear tactics,” or claim that I am constructing caricatures to “tar-brush” my opposition. Your personal insults and your assaulting of my motives are making this discussion quite wearisome. I may be very direct (or even sarcastic) with those who disagree with me on this, but I do not resort to that.
I need to cut this short, or I’ll get deleted by our moderator again. Have a pleasant evening, Mr. Thibodaux…



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J.C. Thibodaux

posted August 15, 2009 at 12:08 am


Stephen,
“…since the scriptures I sited cannot be refuted without redefining so many terms.”
I have no interest in refuting them -I agree with them. But if you wish to go more in-depth, by all means. My site has an email contact form at the bottom of the page.
“The terms simply loose their meaning.”
Incorrect, since choices and pre-arrangement of events based upon foreknown contingencies are logically feasible.
?Of COURSE “according to” means that His foreknowledge accords with His choice.?
It’s ?elect according foreknowledge,? not ?foreknowledge according to election.?
?Again, why choose us, if He knows we will choose Him without His ordaining it??
We choose apart from strict necessitation, but not apart from the drawing of the Father.
?…It ignores volumes of writings on the subject…?
Only the ones that make ludicrous claims. Pelagianism is the belief that men seek God apart from His grace, Classical Arminians and other orthodox Synergists believe no such thing.
http://evangelicalarminians.org/comparative-examination-of-semi-pelagianism-with-jacob-arminius
?Your personal insults and your assaulting of my motives…?
I didn’t insult you or question your motives. I don’t believe you’re trying to be untruthful, but regardless of your intent, the ‘Pelagian’ claim is still a falsehood and erroneous smear.



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#John1453

posted August 19, 2009 at 4:14 pm


“which the bible CLEARLY teaches that He does.”
Wow, I found the use of all capitals so convincing that I’m on the verge of becoming a Calvinist, except that Stephen raised the issue of anathema and I wouldn’t want to join him in being condemned to hell.
Whether something is “clear” depends in large part on one’s starting assumptions, and which side is condemned to hell depends on which side of the fence you stand. Yelling it doesn’t actually provide conclusive proof of anything.
I do, however, find it helpful when you use reasoning and hope you stick to that in the future (rather than supporting the impression I’ve gained over the years of Calvinists as YELLERS), as Thibodaux does. Of course, your use of ALL CAPS was predestined from all eternity to occur, so it was inevitable–but I hold you at fault nonetheless, just as God does.
Now, with respect to the aptly described “reference flooding” by Stephen it is not true that they can only be dispensed with by redefining the terms. Whether the terms are redefined by one side or the other (i.e., by Stephen or Thibodaux)depends on which side one takes as the status quo. Stephen assumes that his definitions of the terms are the status quo, and that it is Thibodaux that is doing the redefining. Who grabs the high ground of the status quo depends on which tradition one holds to.
Indeed, it is really Thibodaux who should be given the high ground of the status quo since it was three hundred years before anyone in Church history interpreted the New Testament to teach that God individually predestines certain people to go to heaven, and leaves (a.k.a. ?predestines?) all other sinners to burn in hell for an eternity of trillions beyond trillions of years (when they’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining in the flames, they’ve no less days to suffer in pain, than when they’d just begun). [Of course, some people are annihilationists, but that's another debate]
Let’s look, for example, at Ephesians 1:5, cited by Stephen, which refers to believers as predestined before the foundation of the world.
“He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will.” (Eph. 1:4?5)
It is a valid interpretation of this passage to read Paul as speaking of a corporate election in this passage, which is in keeping with the Jewish practice of his day. It is a well accepted understanding among current scholarship that when Jews thought of election or predestination, they thought primarily of the nation of Israel. Individually, not every person born into Israel was part of God?s chosen people, but only those who kept covenant with God. One should also note that Paul doesn?t say that God chose us to be in Christ. Rather, he says God chose us in Christ to be holy and blameless.
regards,
#John



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Stephen

posted August 26, 2009 at 5:28 pm


Well, hello, #John1453. It’s been a week since I’ve checked in (I thought this blog was dead). Thank you for your response (I mean that sincerely). Sorry if my capitalization offended you…didn’t mean to YELL (although I WAS tempted to use ALL CAPS in this post, if that is, as you said, drawing you over to Calvinism!).
In all seriousness, I do respect your opinion, but I must disagree when you say, “Whether something is ‘clear’ depends in large part on one’s starting assumptions.”
This is not always true with scripture. While it’s certainly true that one’s prior bias can color one’s interpretation of tricky passages, when it comes to other passages where no “interpretation” is necessary, if one’s assumptions conflict with that passage, redefinition (or denial) of terms is the only option. Said another way, many turn what is clear into something unclear because of their starting assumptions. I’ll give you two simple example passages, and then tell you how one of my good friends, who happens to be Arminian, reconciles them with his theology:
John 6:65, ?And He was saying, ?for this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.?? And Acts 13:48, ?When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.?
I?ve asked my friend how this could possibly be reconciled with the Arminain view of free will, which directly contradicts the condition being met of the Father granting the ability to come to Him before one can do so in the John passage, as well as the condition being met of having been appointed to eternal life before one can believe in the Acts passage. My friend?s only response is that ?God is outside of time, therefore we cannot take the words to mean what they appear to mean in terms of order.? If this is not denying the meaning of terms, I don?t know what is. What do the words ?unless it has been granted? or ?as many as had been appointed? mean? I guess they just don?t mean ?unless it has been granted? or ?as many as had been appointed!?
Both passages state plainly that one thing must happen before the other. The John passage says that NO ONE can come UNLESS it HAS BEEN granted by the Father (oops, don’t mean to yell again. Sorry, not real good with the HTML stuff to do bold text and all). The Acts passage states that those who HAD BEEN appointed to eternal life then believed. No ?interpretation? necessary. The only interpretation skill one must have with these two passages is the ability to read. Shall I even bother to go through the plethora of pother passages that are equally as clear? I couldn’t if I wanted to, because our moderator would delete the post for excessive length. There are just too many to deal with here.
Note also that neither of these passages (or the many others I could go to) contradicts other passages that say things like ?whosoever believes will have eternal life.? Of course one must believe, but the question has always been, ?Why do some believe while others do not??
As far as your reading of the Ephesians passage goes, if I were accept your view as plausible, how is corporate election any less sovereign? God set His favor on the Jews while annihilating other people groups, solely on the basis of His good pleasure, and not based on any merit in the Jewish people themselves (Duet 7:6-8, 10:15, Ps 105:43, 135:4). How is this any less sovereign (or ?fair?) than the reformed doctrine of individual election unto salvation?



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Wonders for Oyarsa

posted August 27, 2009 at 12:53 am


Wonders for Oyarsa, the biblical doctrine of election has NOTHING to do with anything in us or in our hearts. Please read the relevant passages. What law gives me the right to say this? The BIBLE does. Again you, like so many others, are redefining biblical language to suit your preferences. This is really, really sad. And Calvinsism doesn’t marginalize ANY passages of scripture. To assert this is to prove your complete misunderstanding of Reformed Theology.
Whatever, Stephen. Calling your theology biblical don’t make it so, nor does invoking a nebulous Biblical authority for your own interpretations actually give you that authority. Saying that Calvinism doesn’t marginalize passages of scripture doesn’t mean it actually doesn’t. You speak on your own authority sir, and anathematize as if you were a walking ecumenical council, but I simply don’t accept your authority to do this.
David’s election had everything to do with his heart. The BIBLE says that.



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Stephen

posted August 27, 2009 at 8:08 am


Wonders for Oyarsa, of course David’s election had everything to do with his heart. Once again you prove your misunderstanding of Reformed theology, and turn all Calvinists into a caricature. Please study the writings of Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Spurgeon, etc. before you tell me what you think I believe. These are men who devoted their entire lives to studying and exegeting scripture for hours and hours on end, week after week after week (NOT like the paltry few hours per week most preachers of our day spend preparing their sermons, while spending most of their time in “therapy sessions” with their members).
Funny how you say that “my interpretations” and my calling my theology biblical “doesn’t make it so,” while you assert that your theology is correct. We could debate all day long, but there is only ONE correct reading of scripture. That is the challenge of biblical exegesis. You are perfectly free to believe that yours is correct, but please know that your comments reveal the true level of your study on the topic.



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Wonders for Oyarsa

posted August 27, 2009 at 3:02 pm


Stephen, once again, I reject your authority, plain and simple. I am not accountable to you to prove my level of study on a topic. I acknowledge the authority of the Bible, but that authority is not mediated through you. So get off your high horse.
I have studied the writings of those authors, though there is only so many hours in the day, and I am also impressed by the writings of Athanasius, Chrysostom, Isaac of Syria, Thomas Aquinas, C. S. Lewis, and N. T. Wright. Many of these men also devoted their lives to the study and practice of the scriptures.
Of course we believe our respective views to be correct. Compared to all of these men, I am indeed an ignorant man. I may even be an ignorant man compared to yourself. But it is utterly assine to assert that they are correct on our own authority. Your blustering does nothing to heal my ignorance.



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Stephen

posted August 27, 2009 at 4:15 pm


Your response stating that you “reject my authority” once again proves that you miss the point. I am just a sinner saved by grace, who has no authority at all, Wonders. I have no “high horse” on which to stand. At least we agree about that. But the bible DOES have all authority. What is “asinine” is the belief that we cannot know what the scriptures teach, and that “both our opinions” are just fine and dandy. Our opinions mean nothing. You mention a list of impressive scholars, as did I. However, some of those men are just plain wrong. You are clearly allowed to choose for yourself what to accept and what to reject. But biblical truth is biblical truth, regardless of your choices.
One of the great challenges of the Christian life, and one that most beleivers are simply unwilling to do, is to find out what that truth is, rather than living with every possible interpretation for the sake of “unity.” That relativistic attitude is killing the church. It is NOT our right to read into scripture anything we please, but it is our DUTY to get to the truth of God’s word. God can only be worshiped in spirit and in truth. To do otherwise is to worship a God of our own creation. I sincerely pray that you worship the God of the Bible, Wonders.



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Wonders for Oyarsa

posted August 27, 2009 at 4:54 pm


Stephen, schismatics are every bit as lethal to the Church as heretics – it is every bit as disobedient to Christ to fail to tolerate adiaphora as it is to tolerate heresy.
My issue with you is that you claim to speak for the Bible, in a context where we all adhere to the Bible’s authority. You denounce those who disagree with you as “unbiblical” – as if you are the Bible or something. You aren’t – you, like us, are a READER of the Bible. You may attempt to SHOW us, from the scriptures, why you are right. But your Calvinism is not the Bible, your words are not the Bible, your pious anathemas are not the Bible. They aren’t even the pronouncements of the undivided Church. They are the opinion of one man among many ABOUT the Bible. And, unless they are offered in a spirit of humility and charity, pointing to the scriptures for the edification of others, and just as eager to learn from those same scriptures as it expects others to be, I have no qualms rubbishing them with the rest of the trash that is spewed on the internet.



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Stephen

posted August 27, 2009 at 8:18 pm


Okay, Wonders…you win. I’ll just throw up my hands and declare that no one can ever know the truth of scripture. I will cease to ever take a stand for anything ever again in my life. It’s just oh, so arrogant to have firm convictions. The bible clearly tells us to be wishy-washy in our theology. The apostle Paul never tells us to diligently defend doctrine, or to contend earnestly for the faith.
Yet again, you completely miss my point. I don’t know how many ways I can say what I said.



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Wonders for Oyarsa

posted August 28, 2009 at 8:58 am


Stephen, take all the stands you like. Get on all the soapboxes you want. Rant and rail about how your views are the only way a sensible person could ever read the Bible. Just don’t expect anyone to listen to you. Because, you see, it is the Bible, not you, that has the authority for Christian faith and practice.



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Stephen

posted August 30, 2009 at 9:39 am


Because, you see, it is the Bible, not you, that has the authority for Christian faith and practice.
Thank you for make my point again FOR me, Wonders! You may actually be getting it!
It is the Bible, not me, that tells us that all men are dead in sin, with NO ability to see Christ, hear Christ, or come to Christ (Duet 29:2-4, Je 13:23, Eph 2:1, Jn 6:65, Jn 8:43, Rom 3:11, Rom 8:7, 1 Cor 2:14, 2 Cor 4:3-4, Eph 2:1-5, Col 2:13).
It is the Bible, not me, that tells us God elects individuals to salvation based on His good pleasure and mercy, not my will (Ex 33:19, Duet 10:15, Ps 65:4, Ez 11:19, Ez 36:27, Mt 22:14, Lk 10:21-22, Jn 1:12-13, Jn 3:8, Jn 5:21, Jn 6:44, Jn 6:65, Jn 10:26, Jn 15:16, Jn 15:19, Acts 13:48, Rom 9:18, Rom 11:4-7, 1 Cor 1:22-24, Eph 1:4-5, Eph 1:11, Eph 1:18, Eph 2:5-8, Phl 1:29, 2 Th 2:13, 2 Ti 1:9, 2 Ti 2:25, Tit 1:1, 2 Pe 1:10?just to name a few!).
But what saddens me the most is the Arminian belief that turns the wonderful, all-powerful, forgiving work of Christ on the cross (when He cried, ?it is finished?) into a weak, impotent potential, that did not actually accomplish anything outside of something that I must do to ?activate it,? …taking glory and honor away from Christ?s atoning work, and placing it squarely in my ?good sense? to believe!
If Christ actually died for everyone?s sin (not just for those whom He chose in eternity past, per the scriptures), then what in the world are those in hell being punished for? It is the Bible, not me, that speaks of Christ?s actual work on the cross! (Isa 53:10-11, Mt 1:21, Jn 10:11, Jn 19:30, Eph 1:14, Heb 9:28, 1 Pe 2:24).



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J.C. Thibodaux

posted August 31, 2009 at 12:52 pm


“If Christ actually died for everyone?s sin (not just for those whom He chose in eternity past, per the scriptures), then what in the world are those in hell being punished for?”
Their sins of course. The benefits of Christ’s atonement, including justification and forgiveness of sins, are provisioned upon faith, and therefore obtained when and if one believes.
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ….” (Romans 5:1)



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Stephen

posted August 31, 2009 at 3:13 pm


Hey, J.C…Good to have you back! Hope you are doing well!
Those in hell couldn’t be suffering for their sins, because according you your view, Christ already died for one’s sins. But wait, you say… Christ’s forgiveness is “provisioned upon faith.” So then, you believe that Christ died for all the sins of every person, except for the sin unbelief! So the atonement covered almost every sin?
Isa 53:12 says “…He Himself bore the sin of many.” 1 Pe 2:24 says that “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross.” Christ actually bore men’s sins. These are the same men who believe (the elect) through the gift of faith. That is justification by faith (per Rom 5:1 that you sited); faith given by God (Eph 2:8-9).
To say that Christ actually died for all of our sins (“all” certainly would include the sin of unbelief), yet some are in hell for this sin of unbelief is “double jeopardy.”
You said, “justification and forgiveness of sins are provisioned upon faith, and therefore obtained when and if one believes.”
Agreed. All those who are given the gift of faith will believe, and therefore were covered under the atonement. But your view that Christ died for literally all men, but God must wait for us to “activate” forgiveness, is to say that Christ really meant “It is almost finished.”



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J.C. Thibodaux

posted August 31, 2009 at 4:23 pm


“…Christ really meant “It is almost finished.”
Such an errant sentiment hinges upon importing Calvinistic presuppositions into Christ’s words. His redemptive work for mankind was finished on the cross, but our obtaining mercy through faith in His work is another issue altogether.
“So then, you believe that Christ died for all the sins of every person, except for the sin unbelief! So the atonement covered almost every sin?”
Better check that argument again: If one believes, then any past sin of unbelief is forgiven, Christ’s death does cover such transgression; but forgiveness for that unbelief is still provisioned upon faith just as it is for every other sin. In other words, your arguing against the atonement’s provisional nature by assuming non-provisional forgiveness for unbelief is incoherent question-begging.



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Stephen

posted August 31, 2009 at 7:06 pm


You truly have the logical mind of a attorney, J.C., but I notice you did not speak to the scripture passages (e.g. 1 Pe 2:24). Christ actually died for the actual sins of many. He actually paid the penalty for those sins. If He did this for ALL men everywhere, then no one goes to hell. The penalty cannot be paid twice.
He died only for those who are given the gift of faith (the elect), per your siting of Rom 5:1.
You, of course, are quite welcome to hold your view. After reading your article called “The Challenge to Reformed Theology by Scriptural Fact,” your stating that “The argument is over” would indicate that you’ve convinced yourself that your logic is invincible (regardless of the great minds down through church history who see things otherwise). As an aside, I’ve got to say that your introduction (which includes “Fact 1″ and “Fact 2″) is one of the best writings against Arminianism I’ve ever read, since it describes perfectly the errors of Arminian exegesis that I’ve encountered!
But I will also say that after reading your article, it’s clear to me that you truly care about getting doctrine correct, for which I sincerely applaud you and for which I am equally grateful. That’s far more than I can say for many whom I dialogue with these days. It’s just quite disappointing that a mind like yours is on the wrong side of the issue! (That’s a friendly Jab, J.C., as well as a compliment!)
In all seriousness, I was an Arminian for 45 of my 51 years of life. Putting all of the theological and scriptural debate over all those years aside, what finally changed my mind and heart is that question to which you most-likely will roll your eyes, considering it simple or trite. That’s the question, “Why did I believe when I heard the Gospel, and many others did not?” When I honestly answered that question, I realized that that answer could only lead to one position. That’s what finally sealed it for me. That’s when all those seemingly “contradictory” scripture passages finally harmonized perfectly.
Keep up the thoughtful and honest work, J.C. Your obvious desire for sound doctrine makes me believe you might someday come around!



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J.C. Thibodaux

posted September 1, 2009 at 1:20 pm


Stephen,
“That’s a friendly Jab, J.C., as well as a compliment!”
*OOF!* Thanks. :)
” He actually paid the penalty for those sins.”
The fact that Christ died for actual sins doesn’t change the fact that payment isn?t appropriated for our sins individually until we believe, hence we say the atonement is provisioned upon faith, so one who does not believe will not receive its benefit and perish. As far as who falls under that general provision, the scriptures are clear:
“And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” (1 John 2:2)
That, and the fact that there isn’t a single passage of scripture that indicates Christ died only for the elect to the exclusion of everyone else.
“Why did I believe when I heard the Gospel, and many others did not?”
Not a dumb question, but if you want it all answered, appealing to unconditional election only pushes it back a step to, “Why would God unconditionally choose me, yet unconditionally hate many others?”
“…your stating that “The argument is over” would indicate that you’ve convinced yourself that your logic is invincible…”
That?s due to the clarity of scripture. I’m not the only one who’s noted problems with Calvinist theology versus scripture?s admonitions. This blog’s owner has also written an excellent piece on the warning passages (which Mr. Omelianchuk alluded to).
…it describes perfectly the errors of Arminian exegesis that I’ve encountered!”
Care to highlight any?



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Stephen

posted September 1, 2009 at 3:47 pm


Not a dumb question, but if you want it all answered, appealing to unconditional election only pushes it back a step to, “Why would God unconditionally choose me, yet unconditionally hate many others?”
Oh, come now, J.C. A man of your obvious mental clarity and understanding of the arguments would never paint a caricature such as that. Must I really go into it? That all men are deserving of hell, and if God passed over all, he would be justified and perfectly good in doing so? That, in mercy, He elects some for His own sovereign purpose? (Ps 115:3, Pr 16:4, Da 4:35, Rom 9:15, 22-23). That His ways are Higher than our ways, and we have no right to question Him? (Isa 55:8-9, Rom 11:34). Do you seriously believe that questioning God’s purposes regarding something that doesn’t make sense to you, or fit with your idea of “logic” or “fairness,” is a proof argument?
I know you have more sense than this, J.C.! (see above compliment…)



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J.C. Thibodaux

posted September 2, 2009 at 10:29 am


Stephen,
That wasn’t meant to be a caricature. I’m not speaking about whether God would be just in doing something, I’m talking about the criteria He employs in choosing.
“Do you seriously believe that questioning God’s purposes regarding something that doesn’t make sense to you, or fit with your idea of “logic” or “fairness,” is a proof argument?”
I wasn’t submitting an argument for my beliefs nor touching the issue of ‘fairness.’ I’m saying given that in a exhaustively determinist view, God could just as easily have used another for His sovereign purpose rather than you; so under what criteria did He choose you specifically instead of he/she? Did He just like you better as a person? Was His choice random or arbitrary? What I’m saying is if the ‘whys’ bother you, all Calvinism does is replace one difficult ‘why’ with another. The reasons I accept conditional election are twofold: first that divine foreknowledge factors into election, and secondly the exhortation,
“Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble….” (2 Peter 1:10)



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Stephen

posted September 2, 2009 at 7:48 pm


Thanks, that clarifies your last post a bit. But please understand that the ?whys? do not bother me in the least. They are not “difficult” for me, but only cause me to worship Him. I can accept the fact that something God does appears arbitrary from my perspective, whether it be individual election, the Jews as a people group, etc. It would seem that Arminian theology is what cannot accept this.
My ?why? question only underpins unconditional election (the answer is that it was God?s good pleasure for His own purpose, because there was nothing in me, including my good sense, that God used as a criteria for election). Your ?why? is simply questioning what we read in scripture, namely that God?s ways are above ours, per my last post?s scripture references (e.g. Duet 7:7-8, which essentially says of the Jews that God ?loved them because He loved them?).
When you place those passages along side others that teach that individual salvation is of His will, not ours (e.g. Jn 1:12-13 regarding being born, not of the will of man, but of God, or Jn 3:8 regarding those born of the Spirit being likened to the wind blowing where it wishes?there are many more, but I?m sure you know them all), I don?t know why you would even ask the question.
You can create categories that attempt to support your desire for logical consistency, such as ?exhaustive determinism? (is it Dr. Craig who is one of the experts on this?), but that doesn’t matter. Scripture is scripture, and it makes no difference that we do not know why God chooses one over another.
That?s exactly the question Paul answers in Rom 9:19-20, ?You will say to me then, ?Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will??? His answer does not appeal to logic, fairness, or a discussion of ?exhaustive determinism.? He simply answers, ?On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God??
I know we won?t convince each other here, J.C., but in light of your desire for logic, there is one last question I would like you to answer (I think I asked this earlier, but I?ll do so again). The idea that God elects individuals because of His foreknowledge makes absolutely no sense to me. I am certainly
not questioning God?s foreknowledge…that is a given. But if He knows ahead of time that one will choose the gift of saving faith, why then does the bible speak of election or predestination at all? If God presents the gift of faith to all men, and if man is the one who must decide to take the gift, what is then left for God to do? There is simply no need for Him to do any electing or choosing.
That?s like saying Obama campaigns for his presidency (offers the ?gift?), but also absolutely knows ahead of time who would vote for Him, no more and no less (those who would accept the gift). But then he goes out across America to ?choose? those who will vote for Him, even though the end result was already cast in stone. A bit illogical, wouldn?t you say? It?s an imperfect analogy, but you get the point.
I hope you can shed some light on this, so I better understand how you could think that way. If nothing else, this will help in my discussions with others on the subject.



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J.C. Thibodaux

posted September 3, 2009 at 2:47 pm


Stephen,
“…salvation is of His will, not ours….”
I agree. I don’t think that precludes Him requiring free compliance on the part of those He saves though. As analogy, it was undoubtedly the work of God that brought down the walls of Jericho, yet God required (not as in ‘needed,’ but rather ‘insisted upon’) Israel’s cooperation. The walls came down at the shouts of faith, but it’s beyond argument that their salvation and victory was of the Lord.
“I don?t know why you would even ask the question.”
I wasn’t posing it seriously, it was a rhetorical to your question of, “Why did I believe when I heard the Gospel, and many others did not?”
“… what is then left for God to do?”
To my understanding, God foreknows all contingencies of all men’s choices/actions, including whether they will receive the gospel if drawn and taught by Him. He has graciously chosen those who will and given them a ‘divine appointment’ (predestinated them) to hear the words of life and so be saved. Without such gracious action on God?s part, no one can be saved. That’s not to say that He doesn’t offer such opportunity to others, even though He already knows that they reject His saving purpose for them (Luke 7:30) and judge themselves unworthy of eternal life (Acts 13:46).
“? God does appears arbitrary from my perspective…”
Well actually, unconditional election logically amounts to stating that it must be arbitrary with regards to which people are chosen specifically.



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Stephen

posted September 5, 2009 at 9:51 am


Sorry to belabor this, J.C, but a just couple things:
You said, “He has graciously chosen those who will (receive the Gospel) and given them a ‘divine appointment’ (predestinated them) to hear the words of life and so be saved.”
This still doesn’t answer my question as to why this must happen to the elect. If He gives only the elect this “divine appointment” (based, as you say, on His foreknowledge of their response), while also making the same offer to all others (the non-elect), then what’s the purpose of the ‘divine appointment’? If he knows the elect will respond in faith, while all others will not, there is nothing for Him to do outside of making the offer to all men.
Election is not the same thing as a ‘divine appointment.’ An appointment is a “fixed, mutual agreement.” To elect is to “to determine in favor of.” You are defining election using a term that means something different. Every translation I’m aware of uses the term “elect” in all the relevant passages. I’m no Greek scholar, but if the original language was intended to communicate a divine appointment, I would think that it would have been translated as such.
You also said, ??unconditional election logically amounts to stating that it must be arbitrary with regards to which people are chosen specifically.?
Unconditional election only appears arbitrary from our perspective. It?s unconditional in the sense that there is nothing in us that earns this right, but that?s not the same thing as being arbitrary according to God?s purposes (it does not preclude that God may have His own reasons for doing something, outside of anything that is in us).
Why did God choose Abraham? That was certainly unconditional. It even appears arbitrary. Yet it was God?s perfect right to so. We are His creation, after all. Are you not willing to admit that something that seems arbitrary to us just may not be so from God?s standpoint?
Thanks for your thoughtful responses, J.C.



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J.C. Thibodaux

posted September 10, 2009 at 4:51 pm


Stephen,
“This still doesn’t answer my question as to why this must happen to the elect.”
Quite simple: one cannot believe apart from hearing. God allows more than just the elect to hear the gospel however.
“…what’s the purpose of the ‘divine appointment’?”
So that the elect specifically hear.
“If he knows the elect will respond in faith, while all others will not, there is nothing for Him to do outside of making the offer to all men.”
There are accompanying works of God as well in the hearts of sinners, which is what prevenient grace constitutes.
“Election is not the same thing as a ‘divine appointment.'”
I was referring to predestination (proorizo – to determine or appoint beforehand) actually; election (ekloge) is ‘the act of picking out [or] choosing.’
“Unconditional election only appears arbitrary from our perspective.”
The concept of unconditional election is logically equivalent to saying that election is arbitrary with regards to which people God chooses specifically. If God employs absolutely no conditions in His choices, then there are no criteria for His choosing between people, which would by definition make His choices arbitrary.



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