Ed’s. note: Doug Sayers is a layman and former Calvinist who has posted two essays at this blog:
1) “SBC and Calvinism: All In? or All out?”, wherein Doug related how God used the near-fatal accident of his toddler son to bring Doug to a biblical understanding of the implications of original sin.
2) “Led Zeppelin, Calvinism and Words with Multiple Meanings.”
Becoming a Calvinist shortly after his 1975 conversion to Christ, Doug ultimately wrestled with Calvin’s tenets and eventually left the system. Doug wrote a book of almost 500 pages about Calvinism titled: “Chosen or Not?: A Layman’s Study of Biblical Election and Assurance.”
Doug is an active member of the Gideons International.
What must a sinner do to be saved, (that is, to be forgiven of his/her sin)? I’m sure most readers of this blog know the biblical answer to that question. But this question begs a second one, which is not so easy: How can salvation be “all of grace” and yet require a condition, which must be met by the sinner alone?
This is a very important, if not crucial question in understanding the biblical doctrines of salvation. It helps us to identify the differences between the biblical teaching of salvation by grace and the Calvinistic teaching of salvation by irresistible grace. The presence of any voluntary or independent human condition would suggest that salvation might be somehow “merited.” The problem, as most know, is that the word grace means “unmerited favor.” How you answer this second question will help determine whether you are a Calvinist.
I have always felt some sympathy for kids who are told that they can’t do anything to be saved, but they are also told that they must repent of their sin and believe in Jesus, if they want to be saved. This could also confuse an adult.
Calvinists, and those influenced by them, often struggle with this question. Some Calvinistic teachers will scoff at the very notion that we each must meet a human condition in order to be forgiven. This would be, in their minds, salvation by works. It would be the same as paying money or sacrificing animals to be saved. Their system is really simple and easy to illustrate. It goes like this:
Adam’s house is on fire and all of his descendants are to blame for starting the fire. They are all overcome by the fire; in fact, they have already died in the fire. God simply chooses some of Adam’s deceased family to be rescued and brought back to life. Jesus drags them from the inferno and leaves the rest to burn. End of story.
In this brand of Calvinism, it is not about having an opportunity to be saved. It is only about God’s choice of whom to save. This understanding is sometimes called “Hyper (or Extreme) Calvinism.” The chosen sinners played no essential role in their own salvation.
Now, most Calvinistic pastors and teachers are a little more nuanced than that. (Note: The term “nuanced” can sometimes be code word for inconsistent or illogical; as one person’s “mystery” is another’s “contradiction.”) Most Calvinists will also scoff at the notion of a conditional salvation in one sermon, but then in another sermon, they teach that salvation has a necessary human condition. Thus, they implore sinners to repent and trust Christ, but they really don’t like the idea of an independent condition, which must be met by the chosen sinner. Nevertheless, the nuanced Calvinist tends to agree that the “chosen” sinners still must repent and believe the truth or they will not be saved. This would be their story:
Every person is trapped by the fire in Adam’s house, which they helped to start. These Calvinists also assume that everyone has already died in the fire. Jesus rushes in and commands everyone to cry out to Him if they want to be rescued. He promises that if they do, then He will take them to safety. However, no one answers because dead people can’t hear and answer the call. So God resuscitates the chosen souls in such a way that they can now cry out for help. They are no longer capable of silence. Thus, they cry out for help, and Jesus drags them to safety. In this scenario, it appears that the rescued sinners were “voluntarily” asking to be rescued–but not really. That is all they could do once they were resuscitated. God benevolently and irresistibly enabled them to cry out for help and then He “answered” their irresistible prayer. They did not meet the condition independently. They were “graciously enabled” to meet the condition. They could not do otherwise. If you buy into this story as biblical, then you will make a good Calvinist. However, I hope you can see that there isn’t much meaningful difference between this scenario and the first one.
(Personal confession: When I was a Calvinist, I had more trouble fending off hyper-Calvinism than non-Calvinism. I really didn’t want to be a hyper-Calvinist, but I came to see that there wasn’t any real and substantive difference.)
A Calvinistic pastor teaches that those who are not chosen (the reprobate) will not receive the ability to have faith; therefore, they cannot meet the “condition” which is attached to salvation and they will be consumed by the fire in Adam’s house. They weren’t chosen for rescue. They won’t enjoy God forever. God never really wanted them to enjoy Him forever. They were created as “vessels of wrath” to be eternally destroyed. They would never have a genuine opportunity to be saved. If God had wanted them to trust Him, then He would have given them the ability to trust Him.
A non-Calvinist pastor, on the other hand, insists that God’s offer of mercy is genuine for every sinner, since it is backed up by the death of Christ for everyone in the whole world. He teaches that God has given everyone the capacity to repent. In his system, everyone is trapped by the guilt of their own actual sin in Adam’s burning house. They didn’t start the fire, but they have thrown gasoline on it and cannot escape on their own. They cannot put the fire out, but they can actually cry out for help. If they do, then Jesus will drag them to safety. This pastor teaches that God has sovereignly decreed that the individual sinner will play a vital, meaningful, and co-operative role in his/her eternal destiny.
Again, the Calvinistic position is simple:
If God chose you for salvation, then you can’t resist choosing life. If He did not choose you for salvation, then you cannot resist choosing death.
In the Reformed system, it is not about having an “opportunity” to be saved. Either you will be saved by God or you will not. An opportunity suggests there would be a meaningful condition for salvation.
The beauty and brilliance of the biblical gospel is that sinners must meet a condition – one that is impossible to be proud of. The nature of the law of faith assures that “boasting is excluded” (Rom 3:27).
by Dr. W. A. Criswell
Text: Acts 17.22-23
You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas Texas. And this is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled Just Passing By. In our preaching through the Word, we are in the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Acts. And this is one of several sermons that I have brought from Paul’s message to cultural, enlightened, university, ancient, glorious Athens:
by John Frye
Young, Restless, and no longer Reformed: Black Holes, Love, and a Journey in and out of Calvinism caught my attention and I read it through in one sitting. I will do a two part review beginning with some observations and commentary. In Part 2 we will look closer at the book’s provocative content.
Monday, March 17, 2014 and many University of Michigan Wolverines’ fans are down in the dumps because the Michigan State Spartans won the Big Ten crown with the score 69 to 55 on March 16. Now imagine that a Young, Restless and Reformed neo-Calvinist is a rabid Wolverine fan and Austin Fischer, author of Young, Restless, and no longer Reformed, is a rabid Spartan fan. Believing as all evangelicals do that theology should inform and transform life, we would expect to see the YRR neo-Calvinist sitting motionless and silent as the Big Ten tournament game unfolds. His theology requires such a response. Meanwhile, Austin is beside himself with joy as the Spartans play and he gets very concerned when the Wolverines start a scoring streak. The YRR guy knows that before God created anything, in deep eternity past God willed an exhaustive, eternal decree so meticulous that all nanoparticles do only what God’s decree contains. One nanoparticle out of sync with God’s decree totally destroys, so he is taught, God’s sovereignty. The YRR cannot cheer the Wolverines nor can he scream at the Spartans. Why? The final score (the end) and all the plays that lead to it (the means) are just as they are because God decreed them so. Did I write “God”? The only proper response of the YRR guy is to say, no matter how the game turns out, “Glory to God.”
To read the rest of this review, click HERE.
by Walker Moore
founder, president of AweStar Ministries
Walker Moore has for decades trained and led thousands of teens on international missions trips, thus changing their lives as disciples and changing the eternities for others who became disciples as a result.
Walker is gifted by God in preaching and leadership. Having spoken at state Baptist conventions, local associations, major churches and missions conferences across the SBC, he remains an influential voice for missions among pastors, church staff and members, and teens.
To book Walker as a speaker in your church or conference, click HERE.
As I write this article, I’m sitting in a McDonald’s on Interstate 35 in Ardmore. I don’t ever remember writing an article from a fast food restaurant before. To be honest, I’m not sure it is all that fast or even if it is really food. But I owe it to the Golden Arches to eat here every so often. They’ve fed thousands of my students as our youth groups traveled across the country. In the beginning, they lured me in by offering free meals for youth pastors. Now, they lure me in by offering free Wi-Fi. I wonder what they’ll offer when I move into the next phase of my life: a free EKG?
As a youth pastor, I was always attracted to the concept of free. At least when I turned in the receipts to the chairman of the finance committee, I didn’t have to explain why I supersized my order. For some reason, the people who controlled the money kept sending me books about fasting. But I’m not with a church group today, so I had to pay for my meal.
I’ve also been working on the leadership training manual for our ministry. Awe Star’s effectiveness depends on the principles and skills we instill in our leaders, who are preparing to take teams to Ethiopia, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Venezuela. Their training includes medical emergencies; safety; evacuating a team from a country; and dealing with spiritual, mental and emotional problems. We pour hours and hours into these young men and women. And guess what happens after they finish leading a team? They must go back through the entire training process the next year. We can’t rely on last year’s training. We must remind them of what they already know and keep pouring into them new principles and skills as God directs.
Jesus spent lots of time pouring His life into those who became the first leaders of the church, too. After all my years of training leaders, I’ve boiled the process down into three areas: people, time and money. If you, like Jesus, can master these, you’ll be an effective leader. And these are the same three areas in which you need to train your children.
You see, Awe Star not only trains students to be leaders but equips students for life. I can’t begin to tell you how many people I know who have had to leave the ministry because they didn’t know how to manage one of these three things. I know pastors who are great preachers but don’t know how to get along with people, and they move from church to church. Others are weak in the area of financial stewardship and get into budget problems. Still others don’t know how to manage their time, and their ineffectiveness turns their ministry into a joke.
Your leadership will only rise to your lowest standard in any of these areas. If you don’t master them, they’ll master you. So if you want to become more proficient, study how Jesus functioned within these realms.
1. People: Wise leaders are good stewards of human resources, understanding how to cast vision and use individuals’ giftedness to accomplish a bigger purpose. Jesus could walk up to two fishermen and say, “Follow Me,” and immediately they dropped their nets and followed Him (Matt. 4:19-20). He could give a woman at a well His undivided attention, and the next moment, overturn the money tables in protest of those who were making a mockery of God’s House. Jesus was a master of people.
2. Time: I hear students say things like, “when I get out of college, I’ll have more time.” No, they won’t. They’ll still have a 24-hour day and a seven-day week. No one was busier than Jesus: “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25). But He knew how to prioritize His time and understood the importance of spending time with His Father. Jesus was a master of time.
3. Money: Jesus taught us the proper place of wealth in a believer’s life. He taught us in what order we are to use our money and often spoke about financial responsibility. He showed us, above all, that our attitude about money is more important than how much or little we have. Jesus was a master of money.
As I watch the people coming into McDonald’s this morning, I see the pain in their lives. I hear them yelling at each other and watch them spending money that should go toward other things. What they really need is not a Value Meal but a life of value. And that only comes from knowing Him.
What Were the Early SBC Leaders’ View of Salvation?
by Emir Caner, Ph.D.
President, Truett-McConnell College
A closer look into Baptist history demonstrates that Baptists perpetually struggled with theological complexities, especially that of Calvinism. But by the beginning of the Southern Baptist Convention, the stage was set for diversity among the people who would be called Southern Baptists. In terms of Reformed doctrine of salvation, it was acceptable to question all of the classical points of Calvinism with one exception – eternal security. And while Baptists agreed with our Reformed brethren on the basic definition, the intricacies of even this doctrine were debated. Thus, Southern Baptists did not move away from Calvinism due to the experiential viewpoint of Southern Seminary president E. Y. Mullins at the beginning of the twentieth century. As Baptists matured in their faith, they had questioned, rejected, or redefined much of Calvinistic doctrine since the pinnacle of Calvinism in the mid-eighteenth century. They sought and demanded a simple faith, one based in their hope for revival.