Category Archives for Calvinism

Does God Show Favoritism?

March 22, 2018

By Leighton Flowers
Apologist for Texas Baptists

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared at soteriology101 and is used by permission.

Suppose a High School Principal selected 12 of his Seniors to spread a message to the student body about a special treat being given out in the cafeteria. Would the Principal’s choice of these 12 messengers demonstrate that he has favorites or has unfairly shown partiality to some individuals over others?

No. He has chosen these messengers to bring a blessing to the entire student body and his selection of one messenger over another is not in anyway to the detriment or neglect of another student.

We believe this is what God has done with the gospel. He has selected from Israel (like the Senior class) messengers to bless all the world (the entire student body).

Here are a few biblical passages which indicate this:

…but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. -Acts 10:40-42

For this is what the Lord has commanded us: “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.” -Acts 13:47

He said to them (Jewish apostles), “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” -Mark 16:15

[Speaking to his chosen apostles] You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last… -John 15:16

 And this is all a fulfillment of God’s original covenant with Abraham:

And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you *all the families of the earth* will be blessed.” -Gen 12:2-3


But suppose the High School in our analogy above was bilingual and most of the students only spoke and understood Spanish. And what if this Principal only selected English speaking messengers to take the message to the entire student body, knowing full well that only the English speaking students would hear and understand the news about the blessing he made available in the cafeteria.

Suppose that the Principal only bought enough treats for his English speaking students and so his intention was for only them to hear and understand the message. He didn’t want to appear bias so he told the messengers to invite the entire student body but secretly he knew only the English speaking students would understand the message and respond.

Does that indicate an unfair bias or partiality? Of course it does. Now, did the Principal owe any of the students these treats? No. No one is saying he did. But for him to outwardly pretend as if he wished for the entire student body to be blessed while secretly only purchasing treats for some and sending a message that was intended only for some to understand is clearly showing favoritism and an unjust bias.

God doesn’t show favoritism as the scriptures clearly teach:

Acts 10:34-35: Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.

Matthew 22:16: And they sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any.

Mark 12:14: When they came they said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are truthful and do not court anyone’s favor, because you show no partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth

Luke 20:21: Thus they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach correctly, and show no partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth

Romans 2:8-11: But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism.

Galatians 2:6: But from those who were of high reputation (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—well, those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me.

Ephesians 6:9: Masters, treat your slaves the same way, giving up the use of threats, because you know that both you and they have the same master in heaven, and there is no favoritism with Him.

1 Peter 1:17: And if you address as Father the one who impartially judges according to each one’s work, live out the time of your temporary residence here in reverence.

James? ?2:9: But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law. ?

If your soteriological systematic paints God as partial then it’s not a biblical soteriology.

*[The guys at the Bible Brodown have complied much more on this topic]

Unlimited: God’s Love, Atonement, and Mission New Book: By Dr. Ken Hemphill

March 12, 2018

By Kyle B. Gulledge, Editor

Dr. Ken Hemphill, current candidate for the Presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention, has a new book entitled Unlimited: God’s Love, Atonement, and Mission.  Dr. Hemphill has pastored churches throughout the Southeast and has served as a denominational leader within the Southern Baptist Convention for twenty years as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and National Strategist for Empowering Kingdom Growth. He is presently the special assistant to the president for denominational relations at North Greenville University.

This new book covers the following issues:

The unlimited character of God is seen in His unlimited holy love, which is expressed in His unlimited atonement, Mandating an unlimited mission for His church that is empowered by His unlimited resources and assured by His unlimited presence!

Is a person’s eternal destiny sealed before he or she is ever born? Did God create some persons to spend eternity in heaven and others in hell with no choice, or can anyone respond to the gospel?

Everything contained in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, bears testimony to the unlimited God, an idea that may be overwhelming to contemplate. In Unlimited, Ken Hemphill explores God’s character His unlimited love, atonement, mission, resources, and presence and addresses the crucial issue of who is allowed to respond to gospel. This 6-chapter study will encourage you to confidently join the Unlimited God in His limitless mission.

One reviewer, Paul from San Diego, CA said: “This book is clearly written and deeply biblical. Hemphill addresses God’s sovereignty from a Traditionalist (non-Calvinist) perspective. While many use theological jargon when talking on this issue he writes in the clear, easily accessible style.The books chapters are Unlimited God, Unlimited Love, Unlimited Atonement, Unlimited Mission, Unlimited Resources, and Unlimited Presence.

He embeds theological issues in the biblical story line covering the biblical history from Genesis to Revelation (though not in chronological order.) He covers multiple biblical stories and common proof texts. He teaches on God’s wisdom and love in a loving and wise way; he is a happy warrior. This book was refreshing and a joy to read.”

I only wish this book were available in 30 packs like “More Than a Carpenter” so I could give a lot of them away. If you like this book you might also like “For God So Loved” by J. Sidlow Baxter. If you want more theological books on this topic try Leighton Flowers’ and David L. Allen’s books too.

As there seems to be a growing question about whether God chooses certain people for salvation or whether salvation is offered freely to all the world and anyone can be saved, this book is a great tool and resource for any believer who wants to deepen their understanding of the various positions and beliefs, regardless of whether you are a Traditionalist, Calvinist, or somewhere in between.

Unlimited may be purchased here.

Is Man Totally Passive Prior to Monergistic Regeneration?

March 7, 2018

By Ronnie Rogers, Pastor
Trinity Baptist Church Norman, OK

It is common to hear a knowledgeable and consistent Calvinist contend the lost are totally passive in salvation until they are monergistically (God alone) born again.[1]

For example, James Montgomery Boyce says, “In this sad and pervasively sinful state we have no inclination to seek God, and therefore cannot seek him or even respond to the gospel when it is presented to us. In our unregenerate state, we do not have free will so far as ‘believing on’ or ‘receiving’ Jesus Christ as Savior is concerned. In fact, such is our slavery to sin that we cannot understand our need of Christ until God first gives us spiritual understanding. Even faith must come as a gift, because prior to the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit our depravity renders us impotent to cooperate with God’s saving grace.”[2] (italics added)

The Westminster Confession states, “This effectual call [to salvation] is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man, who is altogether passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed by it.”[3] (italics added)

Therefore, according to Calvinism, God’s grace leaves man absolutely incapable of responding to the gospel or even perceiving anything about the gospel, his need, or being influenced toward the gospel by anything; anything includes what anyone does prior to God causing him to be born again—quickened. Since man is totally passive and salvation is monergistic until after regeneration (one is born again) is accomplished, we must see every gospel offer, acceptance or rejection, pleading, persuasion, shed tear, sense of urgency to receive the gospel, or biblical condemnation for rejecting the gospel in light of this tenet of Calvinism. This is because none of these have a meaningful relationship to a person’s salvation prior to regeneration.

Any suggestion of or inclination toward believing some activity such as faith, prayers, witnessing, evangelism, love, or devoted parenting has any effect upon a person’s salvation is an illusion. This is because a person cannot be active and passive at the same time in salvation. Monergism prior to regeneration absolutely excludes man’s active participation in any way because that would be a synergistic relationship. Any speech by Calvinists that obscures this harsh reality is misguided and problematic.

As an Extensivist,[4] I believe God’s sovereignly predetermined salvation plan provides sufficient grace for man’s organic participation so that such things as faith, prayers, witnessing, the gospel, and choice precede and are inextricably and substantively related to election and being born again.[5] God organically uses preconversional workings and man’s grace-enabled choice to have an actual chance to accept or reject the gospel, the conviction of Holy Spirit, and the power of the gospel in bringing a person to accept the gospel. God’s eternal salvation plan accomplishes the salvation of individuals by comprehending these activities so they are constitutionally related to election, faith, regeneration, and the entire grace work and process of salvation.[6]

The problem with Calvinism’s belief that man is totally passive is that when one reads the Scripture, without such secret knowledge, it clearly appears that other realities such as testimonies, persuasion, miracles, particular sins, and the freedom to believe or not believe do actually exist and do substantively matter. To wit, they are related organically to whether or not someone exercises faith in God or withholds such trust at that time.

Calvinists often emphasize that these things matter in Calvinism by noting that God ordained the process. While it may be true that he may have ordained the process, they still do not seem to matter in a substantive way since Calvinism also argues that salvation, to the point of regeneration, is monergistic—God alone does something—and man is totally passive. It seems that a person cannot coherently argue man is active in a substantive way while simultaneously and adamantly arguing God alone is active and man is totally passive prior to regeneration. This is also evident in unconditional election unless unconditional does not mean unconditional, which would mean regeneration is conditional. The emphasis upon God using the process does not solve this dilemma if nothing means nothing. Aristotle reminded us of how nothing, nothing really is. He described nothing as what a box of rocks thinks about. If this is not what Calvinists mean by nothing, then they do in fact include something and are therefore not monergistic Calvinists.

Therefore, in order to respect the due emphasis of Calvinism’s rejection of faith as a condition for regeneration because they deem such to be a work or virtue, love to extol monergism (God alone), man’s passivity, and initial belief in the gospel not happening until God via regeneration produces the will to believe in the elect, we must be equally careful to disallow any suggestion by Calvinists that anything influences man toward the gospel. Because that reality does not exist until God bestows the will to believe, and the lack of God’s bestowal of the will to believe is the only deciding reason why others do not believe.

For that reason, according to Calvinism, people only seemingly reject the gospel because of the elevation of the traditions of man above Scripture (Matt 15:3 & 6), love of preeminence (Matt 23:6), respect of men (Luke 11:43), lack of miracles (Matt 11:21), love of riches (Matt 19:22–23), Satan’s blinding (1 Cor 4:4), false philosophy (Col 2:8), or vain religion (Jas 1:26). In like manner, no one is even minutely inclined toward accepting the gospel because of such things as hearing the gospel, witnessing the lives of godly parents, people praying for them, or any influence of Christian family or friends. If Calvinists do allow for such in any meaningfully influential way, then salvation is not monergistic and man is not totally passive until God causes him to be born again; one simply cannot have it both ways.

If Calvinism is true, one could throw bananas at the lost or sing the national anthem of Bangladesh in Swahili, and it would have the same effect upon the lost as praying, witnessing, or hearing the gospel. I recognize that such would be against God’s commands for the Calvinist to preach the gospel, witness, or pray, and that the Calvinist would therefore be disobedient to such commands; however, that still does not help to extricate the Calvinist from the predicament, which is that in Scripture, the aforementioned things do seem to meaningfully relate to one’s salvation.

Admittedly, these biblical realities in Extensivism do make God’s work of salvation far more complex than the deterministic plan suggested by Calvinism, but I for one believe God is up to the challenge. Now, I do not mind so much that my Calvinist brethren disagree with me, but I do find it quite telling when they are unable even to entertain how a sovereign God could create man with otherwise choice and concomitantly comprehend that in His salvific plan without resorting to a works salvation. Additionally unsettling is that they unequivocally contend for monergism, and yet, they simultaneously and frequently speak, pray, and write in very synergistic terms. To say this differently, they quite doggedly contend for compatibilism and vociferously castigate libertarianism, but often and quite confusingly speak libertarianly.

Further, Calvinists can rightly affirm their belief in “whoever will may come.” But they should be equally clear that their understanding of total depravity (requiring a new nature given to the elect in regeneration) and man’s passivity prior to such time when God gives him the “will to believe” and the “belief” (faith), that man will only disbelieve because that is all he can do. To wit, no amount of prayers, persuasion, compelling testimonies, a Christian living a life dedicated to Christ before a lost person, or rearing children in a godly home has even a micro whit of salvific benefit; that is, if man is passive, monergism is true, and unconditional election have any meaning at all.

Thus, in Calvinism, “whoever will may come” is only trivially true. In other words, yes whoever will may come if they had a different nature, which of course the non-elect do not and will not ever have, and that by God’s good pleasure and design; even the elect cannot will to come prior to monergistic regeneration. Consequently, when a Calvinist attributes a person’s rejection or acceptance of the gospel to anything other than God’s deterministic salvific will, it is only trivially so (makes not one whit of actual difference in who believes and who rejects). This reality is inextricably related to their adamant unflinching insistence upon monergism and the passivity of man. Euphemisms or double talk will not assuage this truth except for the unsuspecting.

In contrast, I believe the Scripture clearly teaches encounters with the gospel are reliable (they are what they seem to be) and involve accessible benefits which can be rejected or accepted by the hearer. They should be accepted according to God’s grace through a spiritual paupers’ trust (Eph 2:8–9) in order to escape our just dessert of incalculable eternal peril.

For example, in John 4:39–42, the Scripture explicitly states that Jesus’ words did influence the Samaritan woman to believe in Him; at least that is her testimony (vs. 39). Equally clear is that her testimony and words influenced the people of Samaria to believe in Him, at least that is their testimony as recorded in Scripture (vss. 39,41–42), but not if Calvinism is true. If Calvinism is true, these explicit assertions are only incidentally true rather than essentially related to these individual’s faith as indicated because faith cannot be considered to be even minutely related to anything other than, or even existing prior to, monergistic regeneration. Accordingly, if Calvinism is true, they were all under a grand delusion, which Jesus did nothing to dispel; I fear we must all realize we too are equally deluded. This is not reading into Calvinism, but rather a serious attempt to respect their dogmatic tenets for which they brand we who reject Calvinism of being guilty of adding works to salvation, making salvation a work of man, undermining God’s sovereignty, or giving God’s glory to man (all of which, if true, are blasphemous).

Two other examples: first, John 7:17. Jesus actually made knowing the truthfulness and understanding of His words dependent upon a “desire to do His will,” thereby placing man’s will to desire prior to knowing; I desire and exercise faith in order to understand. Gerhard Maier says, “In an irreversible way it deduces understanding from obedience.”[7] We see in the passage that some chose not to desire (vs. 30) and some chose to desire and believe (vs. 31). Second, in Mark 10:17–22, Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler gives every indication of Jesus offering a real opportunity to follow Him. The declination of such is explicitly attributed to the young man’s unwillingness to follow because of his concern for his wealth (vs 22–23, 25, 28–30); an unwillingness which the passage indicates could have been otherwise. It is important to note that vs. 21 says Christ “loved him.” It seems unimaginably dreadful to believe that Christ truly loved him, and yet withheld the very enablement he needed to obey His commands (Rom 2:8; 2 Thess 1:8). Jesus’ offer of “treasures in heaven” (vs. 21) in place of his treasures on earth seem to be made with the most sublime sincerity.  One thing is certain, this pericope does not intimate in any sense that Christ actually developed the plan that inviolably prohibited man from obeying the call to follow him and thereby inherit eternal life.

© Ronnie W. Rogers 2018

[1] Some Calvinists use quickened or renovated. Some Calvinists do not believe the new birth precedes faith. Millard Erickson is an example of this perspective, Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013), 330. However, they all, including Erickson, believe God determinatively and monergistically works to bring the unconditionally elect to exercise a free act of faith, compatible style.
[2] James Montgomery Boyce, Phillip Graham Ryken, The Doctrines of Grace, Rediscovering the Evangelical Gospel (Wheaton, IL, Crossway Books, Original edition copyright © 2002 by Linda McNamara Boyce and Philip Graham Ryken, First printing, trade paper, 2009), 30 accessed 7/26/14.
[3] The Westminster Confession of Faith (1646), Chapter X, Section II, found online at The Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics,, accessed 7/24/14. I am specifically dealing with Calvinists who accord with Boyce and this confession in that salvation is monergistic until the quickening is accomplished.
[4] I use the term Extensivist generally to include all who would fall under the category of “non-Calvinists”. More specifically I would define an Extensivist as someone who believes that man was created in the image of God with otherwise choice and that God’s salvation plan is comprehensive, involving an all-inclusive unconditional offer of salvation and eternal security of the believer; reception of which is conditioned upon grace-enabled faith rather than a narrow plan involving a limited actual offer of salvation restricted to the unconditionally elected, or any plan that, in any way, conditions salvation upon merely a humanly generated faith from fallen man.
[5] Organic participation or relationship speaks to the complex relationship of libertarian freedom and God’s preconversional grace enablements working according to his grace plan so that salvation for each person is available and undetermined. These are organic in that they all do really matter as a part of his grace plan. Some components are substantively related, which means if one or more of them is not present the outcome may, and probably would, be different. The outcome of this organic relationship is that man is saved by non-determined, and non-meritorious faith. For example, we may say the prayers of a grandmother were instrumental in a person’s salvation; by this we mean if the grandmother had not prayed, the person may not have been saved at that time.
[6]Being constitutionally related means to be essential and sequentially incorporated into the structure of God’s salvation plan. This means since God’s work of salvation is a grace work, every aspect of the plan exists and functions according to his grace; therefore, such things as prayer, witnessing, listening and faith are not human works or virtues, but rather, they are grace components.
[7] Gerhard Maier, The End of the Historical-Critical Method, trans. Edwin W. Leverenz and Rudolph F. Norden (St. Louis: Concordia, 1974), 54.

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