A Primer Against TULIP
A Review of “Considering Calvinism: Faith or Fatalism”
by Gil VanOrder, Jr.

September 11, 2012

By Dr. Rick Patrick
Senior Pastor
Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church
Hueytown, Alabama


Author Gil VanOrder, Jr., in “Considering Calvinism: Faith or Fatalism,” presents a clear and logical case against Five Point Calvinism. While his book is accessible for any layperson, it is written in such a way that theologians and pastors will also benefit from the discussion, since his writing is especially transferrable for use in preaching and teaching, and also includes excellent (if leading) discussion questions at the end of each chapter.

VanOrder cannot possibly be accused of failing to draw his doctrines from Scripture itself, for Chapter One alone contains thirty-six Scripture references! He also makes ample use of parables (which I have titled in the list that follows) illustrating key doctrinal issues in Calvinism: The Selective Healer (page 13), The Compassionate Healer (page 14), The Drowning Man (page 21), The Lost Wanderer and the Rescue Party (page 68), The Rescuer of Shipwreck Island (page 69), The Man Atop the Mountain (page 74-75), The Assistant Chemist (page 76), The House Builder’s Offer (page 125), and The Drunkard’s Helpful Brother (page 157).

In addition to biblical exegesis and the ample use of illustrative metaphors, VanOrder also quotes theologians and Bible scholars, occasionally makes use of biblical word studies, and even traces the historical perspective of the early church fathers. In other words, while the book does not read like an article one might find in a theological journal, neither does it avoid tackling serious issues or gathering the relevant resources needed for a robust and substantial defense of his positions.

The book is organized into seven chapters, the first five of which address the Calvinist TULIP acronym in order. In my view, these chapters represent the strength of the book. Chapter Six describes VanOrder’s personal testimony and a bit of philosophy, including the two kinds of conscience and the three sources of motivation, not to mention VanOrder’s personal theological formulation of the LILY. Chapter Seven presents the gospel clearly and offers an evangelistic invitation.

While I agreed with nearly all of the author’s conclusions through Chapter Four, my highlighter remained tightly capped throughout Chapter Five’s discussion against eternal security, although his subsequent distinction between falling away due to lost faith rather than the committing of sins was nonetheless helpful. Although I remain committed to the perseverance of the saints, I must admit that VanOrder’s treatment in this chapter was equally thorough and biblically based as his previous four chapters. Unfortunately for him, in Chapter Five the author stopped reinforcing my own personal convictions, thus becoming strangely less persuasive.

Several of VanOrder’s concepts will help frame my discussion of Calvinism in the future. First, the notion that “One cannot read the Bible alone and understand what it means to be a Calvinist” (page 10) is profoundly significant. Certainly, the plain truth of the Bible should not require the purchase of Calvin’s Institutes or the latest book by Piper in order to be understood. The fact that our Calvinist friends must have the Bible PLUS something else is ground zero in making the case for syncretism. Second, the tracing of Calvinist thought from the Greek philosopher Aristotle in the fourth century BC to the Roman theologian Augustine in the fourth century AD to the Geneva Reformer himself in the sixteenth century AD is necessary to establish the root from which Calvinism’s tree has blossomed. As a Southern Baptist, when I wonder why Calvinist ideas seem so foreign to me, it helps to trace their origin among a pagan philosopher, a Catholic theologian and a Presbyterian reformer. Third, the “shocking lack of love” (page 110) on the part of both Luther and Calvin which is detailed in Chapter Three is reason enough seriously to question their theologies related to God’s love for us and our love for others.

Finally, VanOrder is extremely conversant with the common arguments of Calvinists, and uses those very arguments skillfully against them. For example, he writes, “Calvinist writers relentlessly claim that their theology is misunderstood. One can only assume such misunderstanding is due to their theology being too complex for the average Christian to understand. This fact alone makes it seem less likely to be God’s truth, since God has no desire to confuse His followers with a complicated theology of the simple message of the Gospel. Calvinists further suggest that it is the misunderstanding of their doctrine that causes Christians to reject the truth of Calvinism. I don’t believe that is true. Rather than a misunderstanding, it is the UNDERSTANDING of Calvinist doctrine that causes most to reject it.”

In conclusion, VanOrder’s book is a worthy contribution to the discussion of Calvinism, a resurgent topic in contemporary Christianity. If you seek an accessible, logical, biblical and historical treatment of this topic from a perspective clearly opposing TULIP, then this is certainly a book you must read.

Leave a Comment:

All fields with “*” are required

 characters available

Ron Hale

Thanks Rick for your review it was very helpful for I had not heard of the book or the author.

I like this statement:

“First, the notion that “One cannot read the Bible alone and understand what it means to be a Calvinist” (page 10) is profoundly significant. Certainly, the plain truth of the Bible should not require the purchase of Calvin’s Institutes or the latest book by Piper in order to be understood. The fact that our Calvinist friends must have the Bible PLUS something else is ground zero in making the case for syncretism.”

Over the last 35 years, I’ve given away a lot of Bibles in jails, prisons, and rehab units to new Believers. As they have had great amounts of time to read and study the Bible — not one man has ever come to me with the personal discovery of anything remotely looking like five point Calvinism. However, they do see things like evangelism, baptism, loving God and others, etc.

Blessings!

    Max

    “As they have had great amounts of time to read and study the Bible — not one man has ever come to me with the personal discovery of anything remotely looking like five point Calvinism. However, they do see things like evangelism, baptism, loving God and others, etc. ”

    Ron, isn’t it amazing that “the plain truth of the Bible” is enough!

    My unchurched wife came to faith in Christ during an intense study the New Testament after the sudden death of her mother. She was desperately searching for answers and turned to “The Greatest is Love” (a NT that her mother had given her years before). As Truth and the Spirit of Truth connected, Brenda had an encounter with the living Christ. She had one of those individual, personal Christian experiences that some in SBC ranks mistrust, preferring instead to frame faith in a belief system based on teachings and traditions of men … which Jesus warned us not to do!

      Ron Hale

      Max,
      I can identify with your wife’s testimony. At the age of 23, I started reading the Bible and the Bible starting reading me — and showing me my sinful heart and a loving Savior. Praise God for the Word of God that shatters the many walls of excuses that we erect!

    Mary

    It seems to me that if you look at American History, you see that as settlers moved away from Acadamia and away from those who would teach them Calvinism – those people who lived out where all they had was the Bible and the Holy Spirit you see people move away from Calvinism. It’s been said that Calvinism has to be taught. I think there’s some truth to this when you see how many Calvinist proclaim “I used to be nonC and then I was “challenged” or given this book or someone explained this scripture that way or this. Most Calvinists if they’re being honest didn’t just have an epiphany one day in bible reading without first having those seeds planted in their mind by other sources.

      max

      Mary, I had a conversation recently with a young reformed SBC pastor in our town. He repeatedly referred to “influencers” in his life (Piper, Keller, Driscoll, Chandler, others) as instrumental in shaping his faith … “seeds planted in their mind by other sources” as you note. Now, it would be argued by reformed folks that the source of the sources is the Bible. So, perhaps at the heart of the current SBC debate is which tree you eat from to shape your faith … the tree of knowledge or the tree of life or a proper balance of the two.

        Norm Miller

        So, Max, from which tree would you say that LifeWay’s Gospel Project curriculum has chosen to eat, and thereby serve to its SBC constituents as influencers? — Norm

          Lydia

          From what tree comes “Congregationalism is from Satan”? A piece written by one of The Gospel Project’s advisors.

          Max

          Norm – Rhetorical questions are in themselves sometimes their own best answers. As far as trees go, we can know them by their fruit.

            Norm Miller

            By rhetorical question, you mean the one I posed about LifeWay? And if the question is its own answer, then are you saying that LifeWay’s motivations to appoint a Calvinistic advisory board and use Calvinists (almost exclusively) as lesson writers is an obvious indication of agenda? — Norm

            Max

            There you go again, Norm!

      Ben Simpson

      Some might argue that the prevalent NonC to C transition is due to NonC being natural religion or being a theology of observation while C is a theology of revelation. In other words, some might argue that people are naturally inclined to NonC, but Scripture moves us away from our natural inclination to C.

      I’m just telling you what some folks might argue. Don’t shoot the messenger here! ;o)

Ben Simpson

Rick, I’ve not read the book. It sounds like a really interesting read and very creative! However, VanOrder’s comment, “One cannot read the Bible alone and understand what it means to be a Calvinist,” and your statement, “The fact that our Calvinist friends must have the Bible PLUS something else is ground zero in making the case for syncretism,” are nothing more than polemical attempts aimed to poke your brethren in the eye. Don’t forget that the doctrines of grace resurged during the Reformation under the cry of sola scriptura. I know it seems impossible that people are convinced by the Bible of these doctrines, but that is the case. Calvinists would gladly jettison the label and replace it with “Biblicists,” but there a more than a few differing opinions that would lay claim to that label as well.

Also, I think the book according to your review highlights one of the weaknesses of the “Traditionalist” soteriology. Trads love God acting monergistically after salvation to keep a person but balk at the idea of God acting monergistically before salvation to bring a person to salvation. Trads are convinced that faith is completely of man’s power to exercise in leading to salvation but then posit that after salvation, the same person cannot exercise their own power of faith to stop believing and walk away from God. If it’s unloving for God to monergistically bring us to salvation, be wouldn’t be unloving for God to monergistically keep us saved? If faith is man’s, then shouldn’t he have determining power over it until the day he dies? Our Calvinist brethren are often accused of theological inconsistency (eg, it is charged against Calvinists that they are inconsistent to offer the gospel to someone for whom Christ did not die and to whom the Father did not elect), but inconsistency is present in our Traditional brethren as well.

    Rick Patrick

    Ben,

    Thanks for your comment. I must say that I have no trouble at all conceiving of a Loving Father who gives His children the freedom at the beginning of their relationship either to run into His arms or to reject Him completely, while also reserving for Himself the privilege, once that child has indeed rushed into His Loving Arms, never to let him go.

    It is equally easy for me to conceive that a truly saved man, having given his heart and life to Christ and experienced God’s love fully for himself, would never choose to leave the Loving Father’s embrace, although a man whose commitment to the Lord was premature or false might indeed appear to fall away, when in fact he had never really experienced the relationship at all.

    In other words, we are talking about two completely different things when we discuss on the one hand man’s freedom to respond to God’s love and be saved in the first place, and on the other hand man’s freedom to reject that saving relationship and sever the bonds of salvation once they have been formed.

    The logic of the second situation is not at all bound by the logic of the first.

    Blessings,
    Rick

      holdon

      “The logic of the second situation is not at all bound by the logic of the first.”

      It’s like the egg: you can cook an egg, but you cannot “uncook” the egg. Once cooked, always cooked. Once a child, always a child. You cannot be “unborn”.

      Shane Dodson

      “I must say that I have no trouble at all conceiving of a Loving Father who gives His children the freedom at the beginning of their relationship either to run into His arms or to reject Him completely, while also reserving for Himself the privilege, once that child has indeed rushed into His Loving Arms, never to let him go.”

      But what if the person WANTS to be let go? Freedom ONLY “at the beginning of the relationship” is not creaturely freedom at all. If free will isn’t extended fully, then how exactly is it “free will?” The sinner has “free will” to either embrace or reject Christ–according to your soteriology–but then once he has embrace, his free will is completely and utterly overridden?

      If you can cause yourself to be regenerated, how is it that you cannot cause yourself to NOT be regenerated?

      Call this inconsistency whatever you like, friend, but please don’t call it “logical.”

    Robert

    Hello Ben,

    You bring up what you view as an inconsistency in the thinking of “Trads” (I am becoming more and more convinced that I must be a “Trad” based of what I have been reading here).

    “Also, I think the book according to your review highlights one of the weaknesses of the “Traditionalist” soteriology. Trads love God acting monergistically after salvation to keep a person but balk at the idea of God acting monergistically before salvation to bring a person to salvation. Trads are convinced that faith is completely of man’s power to exercise in leading to salvation but then posit that after salvation, the same person cannot exercise their own power of faith to stop believing and walk away from God. If it’s unloving for God to monergistically bring us to salvation, be wouldn’t be unloving for God to monergistically keep us saved? If faith is man’s, then shouldn’t he have determining power over it until the day he dies?”

    You say here that the Trad loves believing that “God acting monergistically after salvation to keep a person” but then balks “at the idea of God acting monergistically before salvation to bring a person to salvation” and this is supposed to be some sort of inconsistency. I don’t see it.

    I believe that God does not save us monergistically before salvation. The Spirit reveals things to the sinner and the combination of this revelation and the person making choices culminates in that person becoming a Christian. It is what you determinists like to label as “synergistic”.

    But I also believe that the process of sanctification is **also** synergistic as well.

    Once we become Christians our lives result from the combination of the Spirit now leading us and us obeying or disobeying the Lord. So again it is synergistic not monergistic. God alone is not acting in our sanctification, it is a combination of us responding to the grace of God.

    And regarding us being kept and not lost I have always loved the illustration of the little boy and his father. Say a loving father has a little boy that he truly loves and wants intimate and quality relationship with it. And say the little boy has been playing outside in the mud and he wants to now sit in his father’s lap. The father loves his boy and yet in his muddy condition will not allow him to sit in his lap until he gets cleaned up.

    But when the boy is muddy does God now hate him because of the mud? No.

    Does the father now disinherit him because of the mud? No. Saying you got muddy so you ain’t my kid anymore!

    This is why 1 John talks about believers needing to deal with their own sin, we do not deal with sin in order “to get saved” or “stay saved”, we deal with sin in order to have an intimate relationship with our heavenly Father.

    Some mistakenly believe that when the believer sins, gets muddy, that if he commits certain sins, the Father will then let him go, he/she will lose his salvation. But our salvation is not dependent upon being sinless, of our sanctification consisting of a perfect and sinless life, No, our salvation is grounded in the atonement of Christ.

    He died for all of our sins INCLUDING THOSE WE COMMIT AS CHRISTIANS.

    If that is so, then no matter what sin we commit as Christians it is covered by the atonement of Christ. It seems to me that the real basis of our not losing our salvation is the atonement of Christ. If that has been applied to us, then all of our sins are covered. God will not bring up some sin we commit and then declare: that’s it, now you’ve done it, now you’ve lost your salvation! That would be like the father in the muddy boy story turning around and saying that: well son you now have a kind of mud that makes me no longer your father I am done with you! That is not our heavenly father.

    Ben you asked: “If it’s unloving for God to monergistically bring us to salvation, be wouldn’t be unloving for God to monergistically keep us saved?”

    If God forced us to be saved, if it was monergistic and necessitated then that would not be loving on the part of God. On the other hand, God keeping us saved is based upon the finished work of Christ on our behalf. If that atonement was for all of our sins (including those we commit as believers) then we cannot be lost or lose our salvation.

    What would be the basis for our losing our salvation if Christ’s atonement covers our every sin???

    From my reading and interaction with those who believe that we can lose our salvation, they usually will bring up some sin and claim that once you have committed it, then God is done with you. But that mentality leads believers to being like hamsters, you better stay on that wheel, cause if you don’t, if you step away from the wheel then you will be lost. If our salvation depends upon us never sinning or never committing certain sins (specified of course by those who claim we can lose our salvation) then it becomes salvation by our own works (we did it cause we made sure not to commit that special sin that loses it!).

    No I ain’t no hamster and I rest secure in the finished work of Christ for all of my sin.

    Does that mean that since all of my sins are covered that I will now live like the devil?

    No, cause I want to sit in my Father’s lap, so that means I have to seriously deal with sin. And God is serious about sin (because like a good Father he will discipline his child) and he takes it so seriously even to the point that if some profess to be believers are unrepentant of their sin and fool around with it, so he may even take them out of this life early (e.g. the instances of believers in the NT being killed for not repenting of their sins).

    Salvation is synergistic at the beginning (the Spirit enables but does not necessitate a faith response to the gospel) and once we become Christians it is also synergistic (the Spirit leads us and we follow by obeying and when we sin we need to repent so we can get back in his lap). But we are not kept because we never ever sin again, we are kept because the atonement covers our every sin.

    Robert

    Ben Simpson

    Robert,

    If this is the same Robert I dialogued with last week on the image of God article, I am glad to discuss things in a much more pleasant tone this week.

    You said, “From my reading and interaction with those who believe that we can lose our salvation, they usually will bring up some sin and claim that once you have committed it, then God is done with you.”

    In the original piece, Rick seems to say that VanOrder held that people fall away due to lost faith rather than the committing of sins. So, my question to you is: what if the muddy boy ran away from his father, never took a bath, and never came back home?

    If both becoming a Christian and staying a Christian are synergistic, what happens if a man stops doing his part? In becoming a Christian, you would undoubtedly say that that man would still be lost, but what about if he stops after salvation? Again, what if the muddy boy ran away from his father, never took a bath, and never came back home?

      Robert

      “If this is the same Robert I dialogued with last week on the image of God article, I am glad to discuss things in a much more pleasant tone this week.”

      Yes it is me, I have not changed my tone at all, it is just that last week you did not like what I was saying. I also believe that regarding the security of the believer we have more in common.

      “You said, “From my reading and interaction with those who believe that we can lose our salvation, they usually will bring up some sin and claim that once you have committed it, then God is done with you.”

      In the original piece, Rick seems to say that VanOrder held that people fall away due to lost faith rather than the committing of sins. So, my question to you is: what if the muddy boy ran away from his father, never took a bath, and never came back home?”
      I believe there are three basic categories of people.

      Those who are genuinely saved persons (who will both never lose their salvation and will produce some fruit in their lives indicative of their being saved).

      Those who are not saved and make no profession of being saved.

      And those who think they are saved but in fact they are not (they profess to be saved but never were saved, e.g. the Lord, Lord people of Matt. 7).

      I would say of genuinely saved persons that they can still sin, they can even backslide for a time. Various scriptures also speak of how those who truly know and love the Lord will obey what he says. So there will be obedience in their lifestyle (no obedience at all probably means they are not saved persons). 1 John is especially clear and strong on this as it gives “tests” of whether or not a person is saved. If they are truly saved John says they affirm the incarnation, they have faith, hate the world, love righteousness and not sin, love the brethren, etc. You could also say these things are the family likeness. So if you are a child of God you will reflect your Heavenly Father in your actions thus showing the family “likeness.”

      Ben your hypothetical involves someone who ran away from his father ***never*** took a bath, and ***never*** came back. I don’t know people’s hearts but this would indicate a person who never was saved in the first place.

      There are just too many scriptures that say the true believer will be obedient, will love God (which results in obedience to God, no obedience = no love, will deal with sin and repent of it, etc.). Jesus in the parable of the talents spoke of how the different persons produced different amounts or results (but they did produce something, if they produce nothing at all, they are not saved persons).

      A completely disobedient believer is an oxymoron and does not exist.

      Every believer is obedient to varying degrees which is also why different believers are at different levels of maturity.

      “If both becoming a Christian and staying a Christian are synergistic, what happens if a man stops doing his part?”

      That is just it, I don’t believe a true believer will ever completely stop “doing his part”. If a person starts out seemingly “doing his part” but then leaves, he is like the people that Jesus talks about in the sower parable (recall that three of the four soils were not believers, the good soil, the believer is the one in fact in which there was in fact fruit, no fruit at all = no believer at all).

      “In becoming a Christian, you would undoubtedly say that that man would still be lost, but what about if he stops after salvation?”

      But you just stated it in your question when you say **after salvation**. If a person is truly saved they can never lose their salvation. If a person is truly saved there will be fruit. No fruit = no salvation. Some people may not like that or feel threatened but that is what the bible teaches.

      “Again, what if the muddy boy ran away from his father, never took a bath, and never came back home?”

      I already answered that, this boy does not appear to be someone who was ever saved in the first place.

      Now you can pose all these hypotheticals that you want, but we have to go by what the bible says.

      It teaches the true believer will never be lost. It teaches the true believer will bear fruit. It teaches the true believer will live a life of obedience and will follow Jesus as Lord. It teaches that some profess to be saved but were never saved in the first place. It teaches that true believers who continue to sin without repentance may be taken out of this life early. It teaches that he disciplines his own (and if that muddy boy ran away and the Father did not even attempt to discipline him, perhaps that was not one of his boys!). The bible teaches that sanctification is synergistic. The bible teaches there are different levels of maturity. The bible teaches that different people will receive different rewards. We need to stay with the bible and not overemphasize hyptheticals that we can think up.

      Robert

      Ben Simpson

      Robert,

      I really appreciate the tone! It’s good to discuss like this without feeling personally attacked or belittled. I think we can sharpen one another.

      I certainly want to stick with what Scripture says and surely agree with you that all who are genuinely saved will never be lost. God preserves them unto perseverance. I also agree with you that sanctification is synergistic but have just never heard Southern Baptists argue that preservation is synergistic like you have.

      I suppose that your framework is not inconsistent in that you have synergism bringing us to Christ and keeping us in Christ. I would not be inconsistent either in that I have monergism bringing us to Christ and keeping us in Christ. However, it just seems most “Traditionalists” would claim synergism bringing us to Christ and monergism keeping us in Christ. For instance, the Traditionalist Statement on soteriology says in article 9, “We affirm that when a person responds in faith to the Gospel, God promises to complete the process of salvation in the believer into eternity.” That sounds like monergism to me. When I read the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, which says in article 5, “they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation,” that sounds like monergism to me. So, I think the typical Traditionalist has synergism in the beginning but monergism at the end. In my opinion, that’s inconsistent.

      I know that it’s better to be biblical than consistent. VanOrder is consistent but I don’t believe he’s biblical. I believe that my position is biblical AND affords consistency.

        Robert

        “I really appreciate the tone! It’s good to discuss like this without feeling personally attacked or belittled. I think we can sharpen one another.”

        I am not the one who enjoys referring to other believers with different beliefs as “heretics.” I prefer to say that if the other person affirms the essentials and is in a saving and personal relationship with Jesus that they are a believer who is **mistaken** on some things: but ***not*** a heretic. That being said I think you are mistaken on some things and you believe vice versa.

        “I certainly want to stick with what Scripture says and surely agree with you that all who are genuinely saved will never be lost.”

        Of course we agree on that, we are baptists aren’t we?
        :-)

        “God preserves them unto perseverance. I also agree with you that sanctification is synergistic but have just never heard Southern Baptists argue that preservation is synergistic like you have.”

        I don’t think that I am unique on this at all (I know too many other baptists who think the same way), it is the standard baptist position that santification is synergistic while simultaneoulsy maintaining that a true believer can never be lost. The corollary to this of course is that there are many professing believers who are not in fact saved persons (that is why in Matt. 7 when Jesus speaks of these type people he does not say that they are the exception he says there are ***many*** of them).

        “I suppose that your framework is not inconsistent in that you have synergism bringing us to Christ and keeping us in Christ.”

        Right, what you call synergism in both instances. But this is crucial, while there are aspects of the salvation process that are synergistic and involve cooperation between us and God, at the same time, God **alone** saves us. Take initial justification as an example. The Holy Spirit enables us to have a faith response to the gospel. So when we choose to trust the Lord to save us, WE are making that choice, WE are the ones having faith. But that faith was not possible unless the Spirit had worked in us enabling us to believe. Once we make that choice to trust/faith, we are justified. And it is God not us who declares a person righteous. That is justification through faith. We have the faith, but it is God who justifies a person. So when it comes to us being saved, Yes we had faith but it is God alone who justifies. And our faith is not what justified, rather God justifies and he chooses to justify those who trust Him.

        Sanctification is another good example. Once justified we are given the Spirit who then seeks to lead us. When we follow his leading we do good and we attribute this good to Him. If we disobey the Spirit or grieve the Spirit, God did not lead us to disobey or cause us to disobey, we freely chose to do so and so we are fully responsible for our own sin.

        “I would not be inconsistent either in that I have monergism bringing us to Christ and keeping us in Christ.”

        But it is not just a quesiton of consistency; a person can be consistent and yet be mistaken. And calvinists are a **perfect** example of this. A calvinist may affirm the elements of TULIP and be logically consistent and yet he/she would be wrong as some of the elements are mistaken (e.g. unconditional election).

        I used to do a lot of work with non-Christian cults and one of the first things you learn is that they can be and often are extremely consistent within their own systems, within their own set of beliefs. But while they are consistent, they are nevertheless wrong as their beliefs are contradiced by scripture properly interpreted. A goood logican can be very consistent if you grant him his premises, but what if his premises, assumptions, presuppositions are wrong? Then he will be logically consistent but wrong.

        “However, it just seems most “Traditionalists” would claim synergism bringing us to Christ and monergism keeping us in Christ.”

        Personally I do not even like the terms monergism and synergism, though I will use them for the sake of a discussion. You find neither term in scripture and you do not even find the concepts there. If God acts unilaterally in doing something, then say that God acts unilaterally in doing that. Don’t say it is monergistic. Take calvinists for example on this. They will say salvation at the beginning is monergistic. But ask them the right questions and they will admit that the sinner must choose to have a faith response to the gospel (God does not believe in their place, the faith of their parents will not save them, God does not take them over and possess them so that they then have faith, no they freely choose to have faith). But it seems to me that if the sinner is the one having the faith then it is not accurate to describe this as monergistic/as God alone acting in the process. I also have problems with the terms because they come out of a framework of determinism.

        “For instance, the Traditionalist Statement on soteriology says in article 9, “We affirm that when a person responds in faith to the Gospel, God promises to complete the process of salvation in the believer into eternity.” That sounds like monergism to me. When I read the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, which says in article 5, “they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation,” that sounds like monergism to me. So, I think the typical Traditionalist has synergism in the beginning but monergism at the end. In my opinion, that’s inconsistent.”

        I think I can explain this “conundrum” easily as well. Let’s talk theology 101 here. Salvation consists of an initial phase (that is the person coming to faith in Christ, being justified, forgiven their sins, adopted into the family of God, given the Holy Spirit, put into the body of Christ). An on-going phase (that is sanctification). And finally a phase of completion (that is glorification).

        Ben you state:

        “So, I think the typical Traditionalist has synergism in the beginning but monergism at the end. In my opinion, that’s inconsistent.”

        But the initial phase **is** synergistic, and if the final phase involves our glorification, that phase **is** monergism.

        Assuming the Lord does not return first and I die, my spirit will go to be with the Lord (absent from the body present with the Lord). But I will be in heaven experiencing the intermediate state **not** final glorification. According to Paul in 1 cor. 15 that final glorification will occur when those dead in Christ will be raised and those alive will be changed. And what is that change? It is being glorified and being perfected. At that time we will receive that spiritual body that Paul is vague about but nevertheless discusses in 1 Cor. 15. Until we are glorified/changed our salvation is not completed.

        And who is going to raise the dead and change the saints? God alone.

        So that final phase of our salvation will be a unilateral act of God. We cannot raise ourselves nor change ourselves, God alone can and will do it. And that completes salvation for us. If you want to call THAT monergistic, then fine, salvation ends with monergism.

        But our initial coming to faith and our sanctificaton involve synergism.

        Tale the phrase:

        ““We affirm that when a person responds in faith to the Gospel, God promises to complete the process of salvation in the believer into eternity.”

        That seems to refer to two of the three phases (“when a person responds in faith to the Gospel” = the initial phase; “God promises to complete the process of salvation in the believer into eternity” = the glorification phase). While not directly stated, if you experience the initial phase and the final phase (glorification), then you will have experienced the in-between phase as well (sanctification). How is that monergism? Because for the Traditionalist, that initial phase would have involved synergism (i.e. the Spirit convicting us of our sin, revealing Christ to us, revealing the way of salvation to us, etc. and then us choosing to trust the Lord alone to save us). And if we believe in glorification then we believe that if he starts a work in us (the initial phase) then he will complete it when we are glorified.

        “I know that it’s better to be biblical than consistent. VanOrder is consistent but I don’t believe he’s biblical. I believe that my position is biblical AND affords consistency.”

        And I believe your position while consistent with its own premises is nevertheless wrong.

        In contrast I suggest my position is both biblical and consistent. The bible and our own experience clearly show that our initial coming to faith and our on going Christian life involve both our own and God’s actions. When we became believers we were not just zapped out of the blue and changed from rebellious sinners into Jesus loving disciples. No, the Spirit worked with us first in very personal ways enabling us to have a faith response to the gospel. The Spirit used the word to develop our faith (cf. faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God). In all of this we were neither robots nor puppets, but very conscious human persons responding to God. Likewise once we are believers we are neither robots or puppets, but very conscious human persons responding to God.

        Robert

RobertSC

I am not totally sure what to make of this comment
“The fact that our Calvinist friends must have the Bible PLUS something else is ground zero in making the case for syncretism.”
At least in the circles I am surrounded by, the reformed are screaming Sola Scriptura the loudest. And if the Bible is enough, why press in with so much energy in an attempt to chop the legs out from under Calvinism? Why does this post and others take so much energy to debunk one system developed from the scriptures? If the Bible is enough, it will speak for itself, reveal God’s character and the way He operates insofar as He would like to reaveal himself and his ways.

I am also troubled by the continued comments through this blog against Presbyterians and other denominations. Are we so bold to believe that we as Southern Baptists are the only ones enlightened to the ways of God? We have 2000 years of brothers to learn from and a strong orthodoxy to build on. We also have much to learn from the many other cultures who interact with God far different than we do in our southern culture.

Lastly, I believe you are mixing categories with your claim that Calvinism is an overly complicated theology. Honestly, all theologicial systems should have depth to dig through. Calvinism, Arminianism, Molinism, and others rightly have libraries written on their system. This is why schools offer PhD’s in theology, because there is depth to be found and questions to be tested by any system. This doesn’t however mean that the simple Gospel that Jesus died to reconcile me is lost. The Gospel remains available for a young child to understand.

Grace and Peace

    Rick Patrick

    Robert,

    Thanks for your comment. I think the concern is the impression, held by the author, the reviewer and many others as well, that Calvinists cry ” Sola Scriptura” with a copy of the Institutes or the latest book by Piper in their hands. I agree with the author’s claim that the Scriptures alone do not yield this interpretation.

    Concerning other denominations, especially Presbyterianism, I have no problem with their existence at all. However, I have no intention of allowing their theology to penetrate the doctrinal boundaries of our denomination.

    Concerning your claim that the gospel is simple enough for a child, let me simply say that the Calvinist understanding of salvation is, in my view, a far more complex system, with concepts and vocabulary that strain the meaning of the word “simple.”

    Blessings,
    Rick

      Shane Dodson

      “the Calvinist understanding of salvation is, in my view, a far more complex system, with concepts and vocabulary that strain the meaning of the word “simple.””

      God saves sinners.

      Sounds pretty simple to me.

    Lydia

    “We have 2000 years of brothers to learn from and a strong orthodoxy to build on.”

    I am afraid that history is the achilles heel of Calvinism and it’s precursors, Augustinian/neo-Platonic philosophy.

    We must look to Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit Who is the “Best Teacher”. State church history is a bloody horrible mess of man centered rule. I often wonder why so much man centered authoritiarianism and lording it over others, persecution of those who believed differently and cruelty came from what many describe as”orthodoxy”.

Dean

RobertSC, A system developed from Scripture? I am so sorry and do not want to offend anyone but Calvinism is a system based on logic and reason NOT Scripture. To prove me wrong please introduce one verse of Scripture that says anything remotely close to Jesus died only for the elect. Scripture teaches over and over that Jesus died for the WORLD, THE ENTIRE WORLD. Reason and logic say that not everyone is saved and not everyone is going to heaven so Jesus must have died for only the elect. That is not taken from Scripture.

    Jon Johnson

    “Reason and logic say that not everyone is saved and not everyone is going to heaven so Jesus must have died for only the elect.” Dean so you are a universalist? I am pretty sure that the Scriptures clearly prohibit this type of theology. You must realize that throughout church history the Church for the most part ascribes to fides quarens intellectum (faith seeking understanding) this is not to say that reason is abandoned, but it is trumped by faith i.e. the resurrection. It may not logically make sense, but it it true because the Scriptures affirm it. Moreover, this is not to say that Christianity is irrational because we appeal to faith. The faith is reasonable, the great theologians of the sbc would affirm this. SBCers do not ascribe to some sort of Kierkegaardian extentialist blind leap of faith where reason is totally abandoned. Our faith is a reasoned faith whereby reason is affected by sin, but remains to be employed as a tool for God’s work. In fact any time you move from the Scriptures to theology you employee reason. You further employee reason and logic to make your argument; nonetheless you do utilize them both. Everyone is a theologian; the question is are we good ones or not?

      Dean

      John when our reason and logic contradicts many plain passage that Jesus died for the entire world then such reasoning is wrong. Our reasoning cannot contradict the Scripture. If our logic says Jesus cannot be raises from the dead but the Word does then our logic is wrong. Once again use the Word to substantiate LA.

        Jon Johnson

        Dean,
        You make my point. This is still not a sufficient warrant to abandon reason or logic. It is simply that these categories must be rightly order. Further, as I pointed out according to you the Christian faith is a universalist faith, you come to that conclusion by reason, mind you. My point is that the Scriptures provide both a universal offer of Salvation (John 3) and a limited application of Salvation (Rom. 8; Eph. 1). Thus the interpreter is charged with task to make sense of these options. What we do know is that this universal offer and limited application must in some way harmonize, because they both exist in the Scriptures. Otherwise we are no different than Unitarian Universalist church or the hyper-Calvinist. The Scriptures hold this tension and by the grace of God we are to navigate this tension and draw out a biblical theology that rightly reflects God’s character and mission. The way in which we do this is to rightly employee reason and logic in proper submission to the Scriptures. Only by this right ordering can we appropriately interpret the Scriptures.

RobertSC

BTW..I am not a 5 point Calvinist, but to make a comment as you have above is unhelpful to any discussion. Both sides have many verses that support their conclusions. This is why doing biblical theology is so important. Your comment was unfounded and unhelpful and the caps make you appear angry at other brothers in Christ rather than just passionate. May I reccomend that you read A Little Exercise for Young Theologians by Helmut Thielicke to insert some humility into developing your theology.

Below are just a few of the verses against your claim.

Matthew 26:28
28 for athis is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.

11 “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.
John 17:9

Acts 20:28
28 “Be on guard for yourselves and for all athe flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.

Isaiah 53:12
12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
And He will divide the booty with the strong;
Because He poured out Himself to death,
And was numbered with the transgressors;
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors. …

John 10:11
11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Romans 8:30
Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

Ephesians 5:25
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

Matt 1:21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

1 Timothy 4:10: “For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.”

so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. Heb 9:28

15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. John 10:15

    Dean

    Robert no five pointer would argue there are verses that state Jesus died only for the elect. No one passage you have stated says that Jesus died “only” for the elect. L A is not a matter of Scripture but reason. Jesus died for the sins of the whole world is a matter of Scripture.

    Ben Simpson

    Dean,

    You said, “no five pointer would argue there are verses that state Jesus died only for the elect.” I think what that your “would” should be changed to “could,” at least no five pointer could in your opinion. As for whether or not a five pointer would, they do all the time.

      Dean

      Ben please give me chapter and verse that Christ died only for the elect. If you can-would you? I will give you many that says he died for the entire world. All bullets have been fired in this debate so I’m not interested anymore. However that chapter and verse for “only” the elect would get my juices flowing again.

      Ben Simpson

      Dean,

      I’m not here to debate LA with you. I’m simply saying that to say, “no five pointer would argue there are verses that state Jesus died only for the elect,” is not true. Our Calvinist brethren do it all the time.

      If it takes a verse that literally says “Jesus died only for the elect,” to convince you of LA, then you’ll never be convinced because there is not one, but of course, you’d never be convinced of the Trinity either because a verse that says “God exists as three persons in one being called Trinity,” doesn’t exist either. I assume you are Trinitarian nonetheless. Why? Because the idea is there, even though the exact verbiage isn’t.

      The same is true in the eyes of those who hold to LA. While the exact verbiage isn’t there, they see the idea in Scripture. RobertSC gave you a pretty good chapter and verse list. To that list, one might add Revelation 5:9, “And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.'” Calvinists would argue all day that these verses hold the idea that Jesus died only for the elect.

        Dean

        Thank you for you answer. You have finally stated what I have always said, LA is a matter of reason. By reason they say the world that Jesus died for is the world if the elect. By reason the sins of the whole world must be the whole world of the elect. It is through their logic and reason that LA is placed on every verse in the Bible but cannot be found stated in any verse of the Bible. God bless you all. I’m done.

        Ben Simpson

        Dean,

        So, do you reject Trinitarian doctrine as well?

          Dean

          I said I was done but I will answer your question dear brother I believe in the Trinity. I believe in the rapture. I do not believe Jesus died only for the elect because Scripture does not say He did AND it does expressly say He died for the whole world. No such passages forbidding beliefs of Trinity and rapture exist. Once more to say I John 2:2 is speaking of anything other than whole world is to impose that on the verse. Jesus died for the world -Scripture. Jesus died for the elect – logic.

            ED

            Dean,
            In theology there is innocent heretics and blatant heretics, brother you are the former. You need to stop writing from this moment. Submit your self to a good local church with high accountability, that will help you understand and make sound biblical arguments. Brother I am begging you to shut up for the sake of the Gospel work in your life and the pride that is bleeding through your post. The men above are seeking for you to see and learn and from a non Calvinist perspective you are making a fool of yourself. Note that this is not persecution, instead myself and the brothers above are seeking you to see the arrogance and heretical ethos of your post. Seek Christ Brother and Stop it please for the sake of Gospel work in your life.
            ED
            John 3:30

            abclay

            don’t believe in LA because it isn’t supported by the scripture…..but believes in the rapture……

            uh….okay.

Jon Johnson

Dear Brother’s I want exhort you that “we are not professionals.” Rather we should be desiring God and the future grace that comes from the supremacy of Christ in a post-modern world. Please don’t waste your life for the future of Justification is sure, because God is the Gospel. Please know that the God entranced vision of all things and suffering and the sovereignty of God is what Jesus demands of this world. Moreover let the nations be glad for this sweet and bitter providence makes us finally alive. We are battling unbelief in a world that does not understand this momentary marriage between the passion of Jesus Christ and future grace. We think about spectacular sin and when I don’t desire God. But brothers we must be filling up the afflictions of Christ in order to understand the fifty reasons why Jesus came to die. We must have a holy ambition to taste and see the pleasures of God. For God has a passion for his glory. The pastor as scholar and the scholar as pastor must think.

    Lydia

    Jon, I am confused. Are you quoting Piper? It sounds quite a bit like him.

    Adam Harwood

    I see what you did, Jon. Clever. ;-)

Lydia

Hey Rick,

A few years ago, I read “The Other Side of Calvinism” by Laurence Vance and found it most interesting and detailed in 700 pages! Vance has an interesting CV and describes himself more as a layman. If you have not read it, I would give it a look.

    Mary

    Let me second that recommendation for “The Other Side of Calvinism” Vance does what Calvinists hate – he takes quotes directly from Calvinists about what they believe.

      Daniel Wilcox

      Yes, and there are other good books as well.

      A very short book which quotes Calvinists and shows how all 5 points are wrong is
      The Five Points of Calvinism: Weighed and Found Wanting
      by George Bryson
      He isn’t a Baptist, but he does write with clarity.

      One famous Calvinist even wrote a positive comment about Bryson’s anti-Calvinist book: Bryon’s “descriptions are fair and accurate. He clearly knows his subject. The first portion of the book…is very good.”

      Amazing! Almost always Calvinists claim we are distorting their views even when we quote them exactly.

      Daniel

        Lydia

        Hey Daniel, As a fellow history buff travellor, I just downloaded this to my kindle:

        “Jesus Wars: How Four Patriarchs, Three Queens, and Two Emperors Decided What Christians Would Believe for the Next 1,500 Years” by John Phillip Jenkins.

          Daniel Wilcox

          Hi Lydia,

          Yes, it’s a very powerful, tragic story of when humans use their brilliant abilities to twist the Good News of God’s love in Jesus into destruction.

          Instead of the fruit of God’s Spirit, the sharing of Jesus as our Savior and Lord, Jesus becomes a doctrinal abstraction for which to persecute and slaughter other Christians, Jews, and Pagans.

          Before reading this book, I hadn’t realized how terribly Christians treated Jewish people way back, 1800 years ago.

          In a lot of ways, like the Reformers’ period, Christianity is all about power and persecution, rather than the
          Good News of God’s love in Jesus Christ.

          Powerful book, but depressing.

          Let me know what you think; I just finished the book two months ago.

          Daniel

Steve Martin

One can claim “sola scripture” all they want, but if they deny Holy Scripture and replace it or modify it with their ‘reason’, then they might as well make it all up. Calvinism sends people back into themselves for any assurance and proclaims a ‘different gospel’.

(I’m not saying that they aren’t Christians – just that they are less free)

The unbiblical doctrine of “free-will”, in matters of choosing God, does the same thing.

There is a more excellent and a much more biblical way, which leads to freedom in Christ and a moving away from ‘the self’ to the sureness of the cross…alone.

    holdon

    “The unbiblical doctrine of “free-will”, in matters of choosing God, does the same thing.”

    So, do you mean to say that we were forced to choose God? (that’s not much of a choice).
    Also, that means that for those that weren’t forced, God made the choice for them to go to everlasting perdition. Do you think that?

Steve Martin

holdon,

I’m just heading out the door to go to work, so I’ll be brief.

Our choice is this, ‘to reject God’. We are born into that rejection. That is why St. Paul says that “no one seeks for God”.

But God, through the hearing of the gospel (and not all who hear it, REALLY hear it) gives us the “gift of faith”. Faith is a gift (that is biblical). It is not something that we size up and make a decision for.

When we come to faith, it is God’s doing. When we don’t, it is our fault.

I won’t be home for about 6 hours. So that’s all I can say about it for a while.

Thanks.

    holdon

    “When we come to faith, it is God’s doing. When we don’t, it is our fault.”

    The objections you raise don’t matter at all.
    Regardless: In your thinking God is doing something for some people, and is not doing something for other people. So, God is ultimately responsible for “not doing”.
    Hope you can chew on that for a day.

    Have a wonderful day. (6hrs sounds enviable)

      Steve Martin

      I don’t think so.

      God died for all, and forgives all. Faith comes by truly hearing the gospel. Who is the gospel meant for? Those who hear it.

      WHY do some hear it, and others do not?

      That is the mystery we are stuck with.

      But we cannot say that we hear it because of anything that we do. That puts the lie, then, to the conversation that Jesus had with Nicodemus.

        holdon

        “That is the mystery we are stuck with.

        But we cannot say that we hear it because of anything that we do. That puts the lie, then, to the conversation that Jesus had with Nicodemus.”

        You speak in mysteries…. What do you mean?

        Clearly Jesus to Nicodemus said: “and YOU hear its voice” (this about the wind (Spirit) blowing).

    Daniel Wilcox

    Steve,

    If you and holdon don’t mind, I would also like to make a comment here…

    Steve says
    “Our choice is this, ‘to reject God’. We are born into that rejection….But God, through the hearing of the gospel (and not all who hear it, REALLY hear it) gives us the “gift of faith”.

    My question then is, how come so many, who believe this Lutheran view salvation (where we don’t have free will) go on to commit acts of evil in the name of Jesus, while many who believe in libertarian free will, those you claim “are born into that rejection” and don’t receive the “gift of faith” often go on in their lives to live
    in good, compassionate ways?

    I’m a student of history.
    (I considered giving you a long list of horrific historical examples, and mildly bad ones, up to the present day, which cast doubt on the Lutheran view of salvation, but you are probably familiar with most of them, so I will spare length.)

    Steve and Holdon,
    Thanks for the dialog,

    Daniel

      Steve Martin

      Daniel Wilcox,

      1st of all, we don’t know who the believers are. Secondly, all believers continue to sin. And lastly, just out of curiosity, what acts of evil are you referring to perpetrated by Lutherans?

        Daniel Wilcox

        Hi Steve,

        You say, “Secondly, all believers continue to sin.”

        But why do we sin if we are born again by God, if God “rides” us like a donkey, making us go here and there, etc.?

        Why would God, who is All Goodness do as Luther claims God “work evil in us”?

        Then Steve says, “And lastly, just out of curiosity, what acts of evil are you referring to perpetrated by Lutherans?”

        Almost a countless number: Here’s a few: #1 Luther’s personal attacks, ad hominem against other individual Christians. His worst was against Erasmus. Well his worst were against Roman Catholic leaders making vulgar comments about them personally.

        And then worse–a call to war by Luther: “Why do we not rather assault them with arms and wash our hands in their blood?”
        GROSS!

        How many humans did Jesus kill and then wash his hands in their dying corpses? Truly morally reprehensible, but this former “against-God” human who was “saved” is the one commanding this savergy.

        #2 Luther calls for the burning of Jewish snyogogues! their houses be “razed and destroyed.” And the confiscation of Jewish Bibles. Etc. How could he forget Jesus’ rebuke against Andrew and James for wanting to call fire down on those different from them?

        #3 Luther’s call for the princes to attack the peasants:”Therefore let everyone who can, smite, slay, and stab, secretly or openly, remembering that nothing can be more poisonous, hurtful, or devilish than a rebel. It is just as when one must kill a mad dog; if you do not strike him, he will strike you, and a whole land with you.”

        #4 Lutheran persecution of Anabaptists, including banishment and execution

        #5 the Reformation Wars including the horrific 30 Years War, where according to scholars, probably a third of all Germans died.

        #6 Baptized Lutherans (those to whom allegedly God changed and gave “faith” to– continuing such attacks, persecutions and killings up through history.
        ETC.

        By the way I’m not totally against Lutheranism. There’s the good side too. Such as the book The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

        Thanks for the dialog,
        Daniel

JT

Let me preface my comment by saying that I am not a Southern Baptist so I have no vested interest in this debate. As someone who is new to seriously seeking to learn biblical theology, I am currently in search of my position on this greatly debated issue. It also means that I am seeking to find a theological home in denominational life as well.

As an outsider I find it disheartening to see the words and attitudes of people when discussing Calvinism vs. Traditionalism. I understand a passion for biblical theology. I also understand that we all have strong convictions based on this theology. But I must say that as an outsider, when I read the material that finds its way on here, it is difficult to see theological discussion in the midst of bickering amongst what is supposed to be a unified body of Christ. I can only imagine what an unbeliever would think if he or she were to stumble upon some of the blog discussions that come out of this issue. I’m sure that some would argue that this debate is a product of a passion for truth, but does all this arguing and rhetoric ultimately reflect the love of Christ for the nations? Is this internal SBC battle important enough that it should divide the body against itself and hinder the progress that could happen if this effort were redirected elsewhere?

From the outside looking in I would say no. Furthermore, I would also say that as someone searching for an answer in this subject, it discourages people from wanting to find a home within the SBC. Perhaps I am alone in this, but if I did not know godly men and women from the SBC, I would have a hard time finding a compelling reason to ascribe to the theological framework in the midst of all this chaos.

I have no value to add to this discussion for either side. But I would just like to simply say our ultimate focus is Christ crucified and taking that Gospel to the nations. The rest is secondary. God bless you all.

holdon

“My question then is, how come so many, who believe this Lutheran view salvation (where we don’t have free will) go on to commit acts of evil in the name of Jesus, while many who believe in libertarian free will, those you claim “are born into that rejection” and don’t receive the “gift of faith” often go on in their lives to live in good, compassionate ways?”

I don’t know what specifically the Lutheran view of salvation has to do with “committing acts of evil in the name of Jesus”. At least no more than “other views”. But that is not the subject here, so let’s not go there.

Re. unbelievers living “good, compassionate ways”. Yes that is possible. However, that won’t save them.
If you think people will live “good and compassionately” because of “libertarian free will” (whatever that is), I think you’re mistaken as others with the same LFW don’t live such lives. So, whatever LFW is; it is not a guarantee for better people.

I for myself think that “free will” is a stupid term and contradictory. You cannot have a will and be free. If you have a will you have made up your mind. If you’re free, you don’t have a will yet. (this contradiction is the root cause of endless debates in philosophy and theology). And adding the adjective “libertarian” is nonsense plus 1.

I agree with Steve that Man’s choice was to reject God (for an apple nonetheless!). The very fact that we have a choice now, means that we’re lost and condemned. So, it’s far from “libertarian”; we are in a needy position.

What I disagree with him on is that God unilaterally has to perform something in us before we can believe. To me the (re)generation of new life always takes 2 parties. Yes, we give all the thanks to God. Without Him we would not be born again: that is His will in John 1:13. We could not generate new life (being born again), on our own. But it also takes us to receive Him (John 1:12): without that we would not be born again either. There is no unilateral generation of new life. It simply doesn’t exist.

    Daniel Wilcox

    Holdon,

    I’m sorry I wasn’t clear enough. And I wasn’t trying to take the discussion in a different way.

    You say, “I don’t know what specifically the Lutheran view of salvation…”
    My question was:
    Why does “deterministic” theology so often lead to humans committing horrific acts? Just read almost any book on the Reformation. I can send you a list.

    Both the Lutheran view of salvation and the Reformed view of salvation deny human choice in the biblical sense (like in Ezekiel 18 and much of the OT and the vast majority of the NT).

    Their theologies both come out of the Augustinian denial of God’s will that all be saved. Luther was often even more given to extreme determinism than even Calvin!

    They claim that all humans are born incapable of responding to God (see Steve’s previous comments for the last several weeks).

    Yet history shows that Luther and Calvin and many of those who responded to their deterministic messages went on to commit horrific actions in the name of Jesus.

    Why is this so? Would not people who have been changed by God, at least most of them, go onto become more Christ-like?

    Then holdon says, “I for myself think that “free will” is a stupid term and contradictory. You cannot have a will and be free. If you have a will you have made up your mind. If you’re free, you don’t have a will yet. (this contradiction is the root cause of endless debates in philosophy and theology). And adding the adjective “libertarian” is nonsense plus 1.”

    My response is that I completely disagree. Without human free choice, love is impossible.

    How about a simple quote from a Southern Baptist Billy Graham sermon: “It is your part to believe. It is your part to receive. It is for you to make a definite, positive commitment and surrender to the love of God. Nobody else can do it for you…”

    Amen and Amen.

    And many other such statements from Billy Graham’s sermons over the years.
    And from other Baptists as well.

    Just recently, Decision Magazine, reprinted another of his statements of how each person must make a decision. I wish I had the quotes to post.
    Graham’s Magazine, remember, is called Decision. :-)

    Take away “free choice” from every human, and you are left with the hopeless despair of theological determinism, where according to the Reformers God works evil in humans, “instigates” evil, or to quote Luther, ““Thus the human will is placed between the two like a beast of burden. If God rides it, it wills and goes where God wills…”

    This is a terrible analogy. Humans are created in the image of God. And though we are sinners, God has given us the ability to choose, to decide, to make a decision.

    What has happened to Baptists that so many of you deny the Good News
    that everyone can ask Jesus to be their Savior?

    In contrast here is my Baptist background, obviously much different from you current Baptists:
    God convicted me (like he does everyone!) by his Spirit. In a car on a lonely road in Nebraska, I accepted Christ as my Savior and Lord on the way home from Baptist prayer meeting long ago. I fell in love, though a sinner, because God assured me that he dearly loved me, loved everyone.
    And I’ve shared this Good News for almost 58 years

    I experienced the love of the God of John 3:16, etc.. Billy Graham speaks of in this quote from the July 2012 issue of Decision Magazine:
    “He sent His only Son to the cross to suffer and die so that your soul may be saved. And if you were the only person in the whole universe, Christ would have died for you.”
    Decision Magazine July 1, 2012

    Now that is Good News that God of Jesus wills to save and love every single human who has ever lived or will ever live.

    That is the Gospel.

    Daniel

      holdon

      “My response is that I completely disagree. Without human free choice, love is impossible.”

      I agree with this last sentence. But “free choice” is not “free will”. I think you need to do some more thinking on that.

        Daniel Wilcox

        holdon,

        Without “free will,” there is no free choice.

        I’ve thought about this for almost 50 years. The longer I think of it, the more I am convinced of it. So many determinists even claim we have “freedom, free agency,” but what they mean is not
        what nearly every average person means. Instead, they speak of how we are like arrows or rocks thrown. If nothing is in our way, then we are free, but free only to sin.

        That isn’t what a human being is, nor is that freedom.
        No regular person means that when he talks of freedom.

        Freedom means that God created us in his image, and though we are sinners, God loves us and gives us a choice.

        I think it is very important to defend the truth of “free will” even though I know the term is problematic. I would rather speak of libertarian free choice.

        When I was 17 year old Baptist who had been raised with the understanding of free will, and young and naive,
        I first encountered Calvinists, and later Luther’s determinism.
        They tried to convince me of their deterministic theology, but
        thank God I’m believe in the Good News.

        Now there is, of course, the philosophical issues. And I’ve read my share of those tomes:-(

        But when all is said and done if Eziekiel 18, John 3:16, and countless other NT passages aren’t true,
        what we have to offer
        isn’t Good News, but despair.

        Notice that none of the Baptists or others arguing against “free will” consider themselves non-elect. Rather intriguing they only assign despair and damnation to billions of others.

        Here’s another Billy Graham quote to get everyone thinking: “Right now, at this moment, you can make your decision for Christ and start on the road that leads to Heaven! Jesus said there are two roads. One is a broad road that leads to destruction. The other is a narrow road that leads to Heaven.”

        “You can receive Christ in a moment, renounce your sin, turn by faith to Him, and you can know with certainty and assurance that if you died this moment, you would go straight to Heaven.”
        Decision March 2012

        “Many people come to Christ without first counting the cost. The cost includes repentance, the forsaking of sin, and a continual, daily, open acknowledgment of Christ in your life.
        These are the minimum requirements of discipleship.”
        Decision 2012

        Thanks for the dialog,
        Daniel

          holdon

          “That isn’t what a human being is, nor is that freedom.
          No regular person means that when he talks of freedom.

          Freedom means that God created us in his image, and though we are sinners, God loves us and gives us a choice.

          I think it is very important to defend the truth of “free will” even though I know the term is problematic. I would rather speak of libertarian free choice.”

          My issue with “free will” has nothing to do with determinism. That’s another ball game.

          Yes God created in His image and likeness. And Man still has his faculties including thought, will, speech, belief, etc. that he was created with. But the unbeliever uses them without God. What the unbeliever thinks is freedom is not. Scripture is clear on that. (Eph. 2:3; Titus 3:3, etc.)

          God tries to persuade us to return back to Him. In the parables of the wedding feast, you find in Luke 14 a single slave (the Holy Spirit) doing all the work. In Matthew 22 there are many slaves (the believers). The invitees do not want to come. God says: “Come”, and they don’t want to. They have a choice, but refuse. However, the Spirit brings others and compels them to. Now, clearly, the first ones were “invited”, (called), but could refuse. That means the Spirit could be resisted. If the Spirit can thus be resisted, the Decision is up to man. Was the Spirit no powerful enough for the first ones? Then He has no power to change anybody’s will.

          The truth is that those willing, would come. It is like the man with the withered hand: unless he obeyed he would have no power to stretch it out. It was not that he got unilaterally first given power to stretch it, so that then he could obey. Coming to faith is “synergistic”; but the ball is in the camp of the sinner.

abclay

If you “Trads” only believed in a God who would graciously, monergistically come down and remove the blinders from the eyes of these pesky Calvinists so they could see the truth of your argument then you could silently pray for us instead of having to argue ad nauseum here on SBCToday.

With each new “hit” piece on Calvinism, a little piece of dignity is lost by those doing the attacking. Can’t you see it?

    Mary

    “Dignity” from the person who does nothing but attack those who disagree with him? That’s funny!

      abclay

      Mary,
      Ad Hominem much? Oh….there you go again, LOL.

    Rick Patrick

    abclay,

    I’m not “attacking” anyone and this is certainly not a “hit” piece. For crying out loud, it’s called a book review. We have different ideas. That’s fair, completely permissible and even encouraged in this country and on this blog.

    No one is losing any dignity in the act of defending the Southern Baptist Convention from a wave of Reformed theologians with a clear agenda for changing the convention. There is no less dignity in me defending my position than there is in you defending yours.

      abclay

      Rick,

      There has been almost nothing but a continuous stream of “attack” pieces against Calvinsim on this site for weeks. Perhaps my use of militaristic terms is a bit over the top but it makes my point.

      Isn’t there anything more pressing to discuss?

        Rick Patrick

        Well, if you are willing to dip into the four pointers, I have heard it suggested that Rainer at Lifeway, Ezell at NAMB, Akin at Southeastern, Mohler of course at Southern, the nominee for Midwestern Allen and at least one of the key candidates for ERLC are ALL Calvinists in a convention that MIGHT be 15-20%% Calvinist.

        So let me clarify something, abclay. It’s not merely the doctrinal position itself that motivates such concern among the SBC Today crowd. It is the growing possibility, unfolding before our very eyes, that the Southern Baptist Convention, at the institutional level, is becoming a Calvinist led denomination, without asking anyone for formal permission to do so.

        There may be more pressing things to discuss, but on a Southern Baptist Convention blog, that right there is a pretty big story, and one that I think should fairly dominate the discussion on at least one major Southern Baptist blog.

Dean

ABClay, we can’t highjack Rick’s topic (great job Rick) but oh how I would love to dialogue so much on the end times. Maybe you could write a post on the unBiblical view of the rapture and we could discuss it. God bless you!

    Dean

    I meant to say blog and not post, please forgive. We cannot highjack the topic.

Dean

ABClay, by the way, I love how you were able to insinuate that I’m stupid because I don’t believe in limited atonement but do the rapture. That does not answer any post that I made. Why don’t you educate this simpleton with your genius and give me that chapter and verse that says that Jesus died only for the elect. Uh – okay. Exactly!!!

    RobertSC

    Brother,

    Please relax and realize that these things are not 100% cut and dry as you would like to believe. A pre-tribulational rapture view is a minority position in the scope of Church history. It doesn’t mean that you are abnormal to believe it.

    Similarly with Calvinism, this argument isn’t fixed by yelling loudly, but through meaningful reflection on the text of scripture. If you are honest in learning and forming theological beliefs, they will evolve over time without compromising on the inerrancy of scripture.

    Much of what you are struggling with can be helped with meaningful accountability and fellowship with men of God. A small group or sunday school class can help. Read books that you don’t agree with and push yourself. If you only listen read and listen to one position, you won’t be challenged as you should.

    Blessings

    I would exhort you to

    abclay

    Dean,

    I tried to respond but all I can do is laugh. Sorry.

    Don’t mean to hijack the post Rick.

Steve Martin

“We love because He first loved us.”

We don’t have anything to do with our own salvation. That elevates man to God status.

It’s unbiblical and wrong. “Dead in our sins and trespasses” means exactly that. Dead people do not make choices for God…they just lie there dead, or are raised from the dead and made alive (born again) by God.

Robert

Hello Dean,

I want to comment on the discussion on limited atonement which you made some posts about. I understand your frustration. The bible explicitly teaches that Jesus died for the whole world, we have explicit and clear verses that present this fact (e.g. 1 Jn. 2:2). As Dr. Allen brought out and is also clear there are no bible verses that speak of Jesus dying ******only***** for the elect. And this is precisely what is required for the advocate of limited atonement to make their case. He asserts must prove. To assert that Jesus died only for the elect you have to provide evidence that Jesus died only for, exclusively for the elect. There is no such evidence. For example if Jesus says he died for the church, that proves he died for the church. But that is insufficient to establish that he died only for the church.

I believe it was Ben who admitted that there are no bible verses that explcitly present that Jesus died only for the elect. That is a major admission showing that the calvinists do not have any verses that speak of the atonement with the required exclusivity, that he died only for the elect.

Ben then tried to mitigate this problem, this lack of actual evidence by trying to draw and analogy with the doctrine of the trinity. But limited atonement and the trinity are not analogous. There are explicit bible verses that present that the Father is God, that Jesus is God and that the Spirit is God, and that there is only one God. Thus these facts necessitate the logical conlusion that God exists in three persons (so there is one God and yet three separate persons who are all God). This is so clear and the evidence so compelling that the trinity is held across the board by all Christian groups (the Catholics affirm it, the Eastern Orthodox affirm it, Protestants affirm it, Independents affirm it). In contrast, limited atonement is rejected by the vast majority of Christians because the evidence for a universal atonement is explicit and clear. Only five point calvinists affirm limited atonement. Even four point calvinists such as Bruce Ware argue for universal atonement because the exegetical evidence is so clear and compelliing. Dean you look at this evidence and conclude that the bible clealry teaches universal atonement. And you are correct, the bible properly interpreted presents universal atonement, not limited atonement. The verses in support of the trinity are clear and numerous and yet there is not a single verse that says that Jesus only died for the elect. And the conclusion of the trinity is not just an idea found in scripture it is an exegetically necessary conclusion.. The limited atonement doctrine is not an exegetically necessary conclusion.

Lastly someone in writing to Dean accused him of being a heretic. This person tried to make a false distinction between different types of hertics: innocent versus blatant heretics. But there is no such valid distinction. There is no such thing as innocent hertics. This person claimed that Dean is just a innocent heretic. Tthis is a totally false and unjustified use of the term heretic. Heretics deny essential Christianity such as the trinity and deity of Christ and resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Dean in affirming universal atonement is not affirming any kind of heresy whatsoever. He is in fact affirming what the vast majority of Christians have always affirmed (and Catholics, Eastern orthodox,, most Protestants including Lutherans affirm universal atonement).

Robert

    Dean

    Robert, thank you so much for your encouraging words. I did not take delight in reading what was said yesterday but I got my big boy britches on. I was on the road and using a phone and did not want to try to answer such claims in a brief statement. I am now at my study and my mood is much better thanks to you Robert.

    I want to defend my thoughts but could never do it as eloquently as Robert. We all come to any passage with foundational beliefs. Foundational beliefs such as God is love, the Bible is the Word of God etc… we all have as evangelicals. We must make sure that our foundational beliefs are grounded in the Word of God. God is a loving God so when I hear Him declare Holy War on a group of people it is not because He is hateful or spiteful. Achan’s family was destroyed because God said so but I understand that God is still a loving God. That foundational belief is found in dozens of passages.

    Now in my opinion, the single most important aspect in interpreting Scripture is to who gets to determine the meaning of a passage. Does the author or the reader get to determine the meaning of a passage? I believe the author should get to determine his meaning. I understand that not everyone feels this way and some believe the readers are the ones who get to determine the meaning. So my challenge is to determine what the author meant through all the tools that have been afforded me.

    Here is one of my issue with reform theology. Limited atonement is a foundational belief that is not derived from Scripture. Right before being labeled a heratic I asked for some passages that teach LA. RobertSC listed some. I will use just one for space sake he pulled, Acts 20:28.
    28 “Be on guard for yourselves and for all athe flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.
    Now when you do the immediate historical background of this passage and the background of the rest of the book of Act followed by any language study you want to do the conclusion is that Paul in no way meant to say that Christ died only for the elect. Luke did not get to determine what was meant but RobertSC. Thus my frustration, LA is a foundational belief that is derived from reason and logic and not passages. It then becomes a filter that is placed on all Bible verses so to the Reform all Bible verses speak of LA.
    Finally, to my wonderful brothers who told me to quit pastoring, teaching and writing but to submit to a Sunday school class, especially you Ed, I hope you have a great and wonderful ministry. You are a blessing to the saints.

    Jon Johnson

    Robert and Dean,

    While I often don’t like the language of heretic or heresy and think these labels are all to often lobbed unfairly toward those who are not heretics, I would like to mention one thing. I do believe that when a universal atonement results in universalism this is a problem and a heresy. I think Dean’s lack of clarity in his argument causes his theology to be called into question. If he (Dean) means universal atonement with some sort of limited application (which is orthodox, whether Arminian or Calvinist or anything in between) then I am comfortable with Dean’s claims. Dean’s lack of precision in argument leaves this point to be interpreted by his reader. I do appreciate your rebuke and exhortation, however I think we (the church) must be clear and careful when theologizing, in particular when it comes to soteriology. If Dean wants to continue his dialogue their must be precision in language and clarity offered; especially if the SBC is going to reconcile on these types of issues. I fear that many in this discussion are not willing to have dialogue and disagree reasonably, with intelligent and meaningful conversation. Instead we (me included) care more about arguing our point than pursuing truth. I am not concerned with defending my position, i am more concerned with preserving the Gospel of truth, that is once for all delivered to the saints. Sometimes that entails pointing out theological error or imprecision. I hope that we (the SBC) share in this end goal, if not we all might as well be quiet and go our on way.

    John

Gil VanOrder, Jr.

I am the author of Considering Calvinism: Faith or Fatalism. I would like to take this opportunity to offer Ben Simpson a free copy of my book. I would really welcome his thoughts on it. Ben you can let me know if you are interested in a copy by writing me at P. O. Box 2222, Suwanee, Georgia 30024.

Leave a Comment:

All fields with “*” are required

 characters available