Child Evangelism and Calvinism

December 3, 2014

Editor’s Note: We generally do not publish anonymous works. However, the desire of this author to remain unidentified while describing personal situations prompted an exception in this case.

I’m a former Calvinist who could really use some help. When evangelizing Jews, atheists, Jehovah’s Witnesses or any other type of person, there are a lot of resources to guide me. But I haven’t found any help on how to witness to a confused child—young or adult—of a Calvinist. I experienced the new Reformed movement without the influence of the non-Calvinist majority. I have seen it for the past fifteen years—long enough to observe its affects on the second generation. As I share examples from my former church, friends and relatives, I must keep these details vague in order to protect both their identities and mine. For this reason, I am writing anonymously.

The Problem with “Calvinism IS the Gospel”
Some children are taught and truly believe that Calvinism is the Gospel.

  • A tween who had renounced her former profession of faith was being evangelized. In an attempt to get through to her, she was asked, “How would you explain the Gospel to someone?” Her response was, “Well, first you have to be chosen by God…”
  • An older teen told his father, “Dad, you say either Christ died for me or he didn’t, and there’s nothing I can do about it—that either I’m elect or not, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m just going to get on with my life.”

The Horrible Concept of Calvinism’s Decree
Some children balk at the concept of damnation without ever facing a genuine choice.

  • A happy-go-lucky teen says some nearly blasphemous things about God in a Calvinist discussion of Romans 9 and rejects Christ. In other words, since the ultimate outcome has been pre-determined, this teen feels no sense of personal responsibility.
  • A very tender hearted tween (different from the one above) had lost interest in the Gospel. While being evangelized, she burst into tears and said, “Please, let’s not talk about it.” Later when a more indirect approach referencing the Lord of the Rings trilogy was tried, she said, “I always feel sorry for the orcs. They never had a choice about being that way.”

Reformed Children Often Reject Calvinism’s Determinism
Theology is not the only factor involved in evangelism. Interpersonal issues are often involved. All churches struggle with young people who reject Christ. But I have repeatedly seen the children of the Reformed rejecting the Gospel. They are children of church leaders. They attend regularly. They are catechized and trained in apologetics and theology. They are raised to believe that the destiny of their soul has been fixed before the foundation of the world—and they have no real choice.

The Lens of Calvinism Can Blind Gospel Truth
These confused children may be interpreting gospel presentations through the lens of Calvinism. For example, a Calvinist says, “You’re a sinner and Christ died for sinners. All those who believe in Christ will be saved.” The regular person hears: “I’m a sinner, Christ died for me, and if I choose to believe in Christ, I’ll be saved.” But someone who knows Calvinese hears: “I’m a sinner, maybe Christ died for me, and if God chooses unconditionally to give me faith, I’ll believe and be saved.”

Are children of Calvinists able to hear a non-theologically biased presentation of the Gospel? Or whenever the gospel is presented to them, are they re-interpreting it through a Calvinistic lens?

  • A Calvinist mother is evangelizing. She sees the Gospel as milk and Calvinism as solid food and doesn’t bring up the latter until they have accepted the former. The problem is her teenage daughter is struggling with predestination. They attend a church where catechisms are used. A recent sermon spent a significant amount of time discussing unconditional election. So did her daughter ever really have the opportunity to hear the milk?

Limited Exposure to Non-Calvinistic Gospel Presentations
In Reformed circles, non-Calvinists are often looked down upon and may even be considered heretics and idolaters—especially when non-Calvinists are being evangelistic. For example:

  • When I was a Calvinist, I heard a debate between a non-Calvinist and an atheist. The non-Calvinist used the debate to present the Gospel and give a Gospel call. I’d never heard this done in any of the debates involving a Calvinist apologist. When I mentioned to a Calvinist who had heard the debate how impressed I was that the Christian used the debate to present the gospel, he gave me a dismissive look, saying, “Yeah, I saw how he tacked that on.”
  • While I was still a Calvinist, I listened to the audio book of Reasonable Faith by William Lane Craig. I mentioned to an elder at my church how impressed I was that Dr. Craig used all of his skilled arguments as an opportunity to present the Gospel through the Four Spiritual Laws. He gave a slight sneer and said, “It was only the Four Spiritual Laws.” Given the social nature of the discussion, I refused the temptation to say, “That’s more than I’ve seen from every Calvinist book and audio that I’ve come across put together!”

In witnessing to confused children of Calvinists, it seems to me that all the dismissive arguments and attitudes of Calvinists toward non-Calvinists are affecting them. I wonder if these children are using these “weapons” not to defend and promulgate Calvinism, but (consciously or unconsciously) to dismiss my presentations of the Gospel in favor of their own unbelief? After all, if the brilliant, elitist Calvinist scholar could not convince them, what hope does a “non-theologically minded, non-Calvinist” have? Calvinist kids pick up on more than just theology. They also pick up on attitude. How many Calvinist children are learning to be dismissive of non-Calvinistic gospel presentations that might otherwise be used by God to reach them if they would only open their hearts and minds to the simpler and clearer gospel presentations generally offered in non-Calvinistic preaching?

Compatibilist Free Will Essentially a Denial of a Genuinely Free Will
The concept of compatibilist free will defines free will as the ability to act from your greatest desire, which is a desire you neither choose nor can control. This can have a significant affect.

  • When I renounced Calvinism, I noticed a significant increase in my emotional self-control.
  • I was talking with a Christian who is a former Calvinist, and she said her belief that she had free will (libertarian free will) had affected her self-discipline “hugely—huge, huge!”

If Christians, who are children of God, in Christ, with the Spirit of God dwelling in them are thusly affected, how might unbelievers be affected by believing in compatibilist free will? If they’ve grown up in such a system, might they not see freedom itself as “now I can do whatever I desire the most and not what other people or society might expect from me?”

Questions About Sharing the Gospel with Calvinist Children
How can we best reach the children of Calvinists whose philosophical presuppositions have undercut any genuine sense of man’s personal responsibility or genuine free will? Have you come across this problem? How often have you seen it? What are some examples? Are you currently personally struggling with this problem? What are you doing about it? What has worked? What hasn’t? What advice would you give me? What resources would you recommend? What resources would you recommend for the confused children of Calvinists? Can you help me reach these precious lost souls with the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ?

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Max

Sad. The author has painted a disturbing illustration of indoctrination. This is indeed troubling as it relates to the most sensitive among us … our children. The questions posed in the last paragraph are tough to address as this issue invades the arena of parent/child trust. However, it’s difficult to sing “Jesus Loves Me” when you don’t know for sure where you stand with a Determinist God. I pray that children experiencing this will come to realize the difference between law vs. life, religion vs. relationship, as they grow and are touched by the love of Christ through life situations and faithful witnesses they encounter along the way. May they come to know Him truly.

An associated problem I am observing is a growing unrest among young adults attracted to the New Calvinist movement. Many are now questioning reformed tenets of Gospel presentation. Southern Baptists have darn near lost a generation of 20s-40s to reformed theology. When the New Calvinism dust settles (and it will), one of the greatest mission fields in America will be among the disillusioned masses of young folks exiting such works … if we can get them back to church at all.

Andy

Here’s what I would say for those seeking to evangelize children who have grown up in Calvinism:

1. If the children are actual children (minors), proceed with love and caution, so that you are not causing children to dishonor their parents, even if they come to agree with you and disagree with their parents…teach them to disagree respectfully. Send out a newly “enlightened” army of young people back into their churches to “set people straight” is only a repeat of the mistakes of some of the YRR movement.

2. Be a “Bible Man”, not a “anti-calvinism” man. Take them directly to scriptures. Don’t even do the philosophical discussions. Admit that their are things you don’t understand, but point the to the obvious biblical call for, and need for, a personal reception of the Gospel through personal faith.

3. Realize that if such a person comes to embrace a love for, & faith in Jesus…but still does not reject reformed soteriology…then you have still gained a brother. Make sure you know what your top priority is. If they come to also reject determinism…that’s fine too.

4. Related to #3 – Show them that exact doctrinal agreement with you is not your aim…but that you actually care about THEM as a person. This MIGHT be different than what they have experienced in SOME Calvinistic churches…if they were valued in-so-much as they agreed with all reformed doctrine, and rejected if they did not. Communicate that you really want them to know their loving heavenly Father though Jesus, and to know that he is good, because now they may not think He is.

5. Finally, Pray for God to overcome their stubborn, sinful will by his irresistible grace, give them the gift of faith, and bring them to repentance…. ;-)

    Post writer

    Hi, Allen,

    Thanks for your advice. I completely agree with points 1, 3, and 4 and have followed them.

    I have some questions about point 2, especially if they are adults. How to address if they really believe Calvinism is the Gospel? What if they no longer accept the Scriptures? Or have philosophic questions? I agree with your general principle, though, to make my goal evangelizing them, not contradicting something I disagree with.

    A case comes to mind when I was talking with a college student whose father was a Calvinist pastor. The young man had rejected Christianity and wished he could go to churches and “preach” the truth from the new atheists and Bart Ehrman. Though he had also attended Mark Driscoll’s church and one of his campuses, he told me that I was the first Christian he’d met who was able to discuss these issues with. He had a lot of questions and problems. One member of my church said, “Just give him the Gospel.” So in one of our discussions, I made a specific point of fitting the Gospel presentation in, and his response was, “I’ve heard that, but that wasn’t my question.” He had a lot of emotional and intellectual baggage. Of course, I agree in giving the Gospel and often do so, and that’s the whole point, but even the apostles “reasoned and persuaded”.

    I think one problem is the following pattern I’ve noticed:

    In my experience successful movement-Calvinists generally fit a profile. If intellectual, they tend to be big-picture and abstract, and/or by nature very orderly. If people-persons, they tend to be the idealist type. And physically, they tend to be tough.

    But in my experience, people who reject Calvinism (or are the first to reject it) tend toward the opposite. If intellectual, they tend to be analytic, more flexible in life, and if people-persons more interpersonal and empathetic. They also tend to include those who aren’t so physically robust.

    So I’m feeling there are people out there who aren’t having their questions answered and are in a movement that is built for a different personality type and have doctrines that even those in the movement say are difficult to handle. This can produce quite a pressure cooker and a complex situation, especially when you throw in free will being acting out of your greatest desire which you can’t control.

    What are your thoughts? I’m asking because your advice on points 1, 3, and 4 was so good.

      Andy

      I suppose I didn’t really mean avoid all philosophical discussions. By all means, attempt to address their questions. But there are some philisophical arguments between C & A that in my opinion never go anywhere. I suppose my point was, when addressing any question, attempt to bring it back to Jesus and scriptures, simply making the point that, “I believe Jesus died and rose again…because of that I believe his word…and this is what his word says about this issue…and I can’t escape that…I don’t know if I can answer you question or not, but I’ll try…but this is what my answers are based on.” Something like that, perhaps…That’s probably not helpful…you can just go with 1, 3, & 4. :-)

      I notice you didn’t say anything about point #5…I mean, you can’t just throw out one of the 5 points… :-)

        volfan007

        Andy,

        C & A? What does that mean?

        David

          Rick Patrick

          David,
          I think that’s Andy’s shorthand for “Calvinism and Arminianism.” Both C’s and A’s continue to frame the issue this way. (Bless their hearts, they just can’t help it!) They often view Traditionalism as a subset of Arminianism—even though we disaffirm Inability and we are not willing to entertain the loss of salvation as an option. Our mantra of “Not Calvinist nor Arminian but Traditionalist” (or, in denominational terms, “Not Presbyterian nor Methodist but Baptist” has been largely ignored. In any event, that’s what I think he means by “C & A.”

            volfan007

            Rick,

            That’s what I thought he was saying. And, it’s really disrespectful and wrong to keep calling us something that we are not, and that we don’t wish to be called, and that we have asked for people to not call us. I bet if I called all Calvinists “Hyper Calvinists,” there would be a LOT of protests and cries of foul.

            Andy, we are not Arminians…in no way are we Arminians. We are just plain ole Christians, who are Baptists. We reject the whole Calvinism/Arminianism, philosophical grid. Please respect that.

            David

              Andy

              David & Rick,

              I was not calling you, or Mr. Anonymous, or any other specific person or group Arminians. I was careful not to do so. I was simply saying that many of the arguments between those who are Calvinists and those who are Arminians seem to lead nowhere…because to a person who grew up in calvinism, they have heard the debates framed in a “C vs. A” manner their whole lives. I hope you can appreciate that, and the fact that SOME of the positions and arguements agianst calvinism used by traditionalist baptists are also used by Arminians. Some, but not all, of the arguments are the same.

              I also hope, that as you allow yourself to describe your theological positions in the way you choose, you also allow those of us who disagree with some of the tenants of calvinism, while agreeing with others, and being unsure of others, to refrain from calling ourselves calvinists, even if we remain more convinced of unconditional election than we do of foreseen faith election, or of corporate-only election.

            Les Prouty

            Rick and Vol,

            I’ve appreciated the demeanor of both of you and respect you both.

            Below it was stated by Norm, “If there is anything “dangerous” in this matter, it is Calvinists teaching a different “gospel,” (cf. Gal. 1.8)”

            Is that an acceptable way to describe Calvinists in your opinion?

              Rick Patrick

              I think both characterizations are honest points of view held by Tom and Norm. We can all agree to disagree—on a wide variety of matters.
              I considered Tom’s use of the term “dangerous” to describe this blogpost to be terribly inappropriate. I viewed Norm’s rebuttal as indicating that it was actually more “dangerous” to the spiritual health of a minor to teach them hard determinism at a young age.

              Your specific question is: “Is that an acceptable way to describe Calvinists in my opinion?” But I don’t think that is what either one was doing. I don’t think Tom was calling Traditionalists dangerous—he called the blogpost dangerous. And I don’t think Norm was calling Calvinists dangerous—I think he was calling the teaching of hard determinism at a very impressionable young age dangerous. Norm was essentially agreeing with the author of the post, in my opinion, and the evangelizing mother in the example cited—we should give these children milk.

              If we give them the so-called Calvinistic meat before they are mature enough to handle it, it can be spiritually dangerous in specific ways that Traditionalism will not be dangerous—simply because we do not have a hard determinism in our theological system that can become a burden to small children.

              Les Prouty

              Rick,

              Thanks brother for your reply. I’ll really not get into whether teaching Calvinism is harmful to children here. My children, and hundreds of others, have grown up in a Calvinist church and I suspect our ratio of children/young adults rejecting the faith is similar to your Traditional churches.

              But my question wasn’t really about what Norm and Tom may have meant. Norm’s statement just sits there and I can appreciate that you are trying to take some of the sting off of it by trying to determine what he meant by it. My question was,

              Given this: “If there is anything “dangerous” in this matter, it is Calvinists teaching a different “gospel,” (cf. Gal. 1.8)”

              Is that an acceptable way to describe Calvinists in your opinion?

              Since Norm brought it up, I am wondering if you Rick (and Vol) agree that Calvinists teach a different gospel (cf. Gal. 1:8). Do you? Is that the position of Connect 3:16?

              Thanks brother and I am really enjoying agreeing with you more and more on other matters here and at that other site.

              Les

          Andy Williams

          Yes, Rick has correctly deciphered my code for “C & A”. They’re just such long words, I hate to waste time typing them.

            volfan007

            Andy,

            We are NOT Arminians. Why do you insist on calling us that?

            David

              Andy

              David, see my reply above…

    Post writer

    Sorry! I meant Andy, not Allen. I don’t know what I wasn’t’ thinking!

Tom

Let me say this is a dangerous blog. If such a blog was written about how to evangelize to confused “Traditionalists” or “Arminians” it would not be received well and for good reason. Every denomination and theological viewpoint on Reformed doctrine on predestination and election have children who reject their parent’s faith. Would a child raised in a Reformed leaning family have different objections to Christianity than a less Reformed leaning family? From the above illustration, we can say “yes.” The answer to how to share your faith with an unbeliever is to build a trust relationship with them, learn their honest objections, answer them to the best of your understanding while pointing them to repent and believe in Jesus, and then allow the Holy Spirit to do His work. If the issue is predestination, share your beliefs with them regarding it. Remember the reason why someone rejects Jesus after hearing the gospel is the darkness in their hearts, not a theological position. People who believe in Jesus have freedom to debate freedom of the will and arrive at different positions, the unbeliever needs to hear a loving presentation of the gospel from a Christian who has loved them first in deed and then in word. To me, at the end of the day, a person who rejects their parent’s Christian’s faith has bigger issues than Reformed/non-reformed and if that child was completely honest with you or themselves it would come with submitting their life to God. Of course, it saddens me to hear of a child’s rejection of Christianity whether their church holds to a reformed view of soteriology or not. Let’s pray for our children and maybe if I come across yours God will use me to bring them to Christ and if you come across mine He will use you to bring them to Christ. Trust me I wouldn’t care what position they hold on free will, as long as they love Jesus.

    Norm

    Clearly, Tom, you have missed the point. The blog post cited real instances of where a theological position (Calvinism) turned some away from the gospel. True, a sinful and darkened heart is not inclined toward God; but the tenets of Calvinism in the cases cited above have made sure the heart remains dark by cutting the power supply, if you will. If there is anything “dangerous” in this matter, it is Calvinists teaching a different “gospel,” (cf. Gal. 1.8).
    Again, true, recalcitrant hearts can find all sorts of reasons to reject the Lord. Sad to say that in the instances above, the reasons for rejection came from those who believe in and taught Calvinism. Tragic — especially in the case of children. Anyone for a millstone necktie?

      Tom

      The problem is not in misunderstanding your point, but in the fact that you equate a historically orthodox Christian position as a “different gospel.” People on both sides of this issue damage the cause of Christ when they label each other’s position as a “different gospel.” I know there are people who submit articles on this site who disagree your characterization of Reformed soteriology being a “different gospel”. I’m not even a full Calvinist and find your characterization insulting and offensive to Christians who believe in the same Jesus. The point of my post was to say children of non-Reformed Christians who reject Jesus will have different theological problems with God. Maybe they come in the problem of evil or the seemingly unfairness of believing in a God who gives everyone freewill to believe in Jesus but gives billions of people no opportunity to believe in Jesus. Can God truly be considered impartial if He doesn’t give every single person the exact same exposure to the light of Jesus and give them the exact same circumstances to draw them to a point where they have a free choice before them. Oh, I know the position of God looking down the horizon of human history to see all those who would freely choose Jesus, but unbelieving children can come up with enough objections to that simplistic answer to God’s election in Scripture. What is tragic is not that Calvinist parents have children who do not believe, but that any Christians have children who do not believe. Stop making the assault be on Calvinism. When you elevate it to a first tier hill to die on you have elevated the issue way beyond Scripture and Calvin himself in His institutes. This type of labeling of other brothers in Christ as having a “different gospel” is what this site once vehemently objected to from statements from Calvinists. Now, this site is allowing articles that promote the same things they despise when said about their position. This does not promote unity, does not advance God’s kingdom, and does not honor the Christ whose name we bear.

        Ken P.

        “Scripture and Calvin himself in His institutes.”

        I hope capitalizing “his” is a typo and not a Freudian slip!

      Joe

      So Calvinists are damned then? In reference to your citing Galatians 1?

      If you’d like to clarify, please do. Because Paul plainly says in Galatians 1 that those who preach ANOTHER gospel are damned and accursed. I am a Calvinist, and I’d really like to know if I’m going to Hell or not.

Post writer

Hi, Tom, Norm, and Joe,

First, my concern and purpose for this post was not to critique Calvinism but to get help in evangelizing my nieces and nephews and the children of Calvinists (young or adult) who have rejected Christ often while struggling with aspects of Reformed theology. Problems like believing Calvinism is the Gospel, which even if Calvinism were true, it’s not the Gospel. Also struggling with what even Calvin called “the horrible decree” — and even personalizing it with “if I’m not chosen, I can’t believe.”

So if anyone reading this has run into this or can offer me tactics on how to reach them, I’d really appreciate it.

Tom: Thanks for your thoughts on general strategy on presenting the Gospel. I read them over several times and found them very helpful.

What I’m struggling with is I can get tons of help in witnessing to atheists and Jews and Mormons and Buddhists and Muslims, but I’m flying blind when I’m trying to witness to my own relatives raised in Christian (Calvinist) families.

I’ve come across, from Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike, many critiques of the misuses of the sinners’ prayer and invitations and the easy believism that can follow. There’s even a ministry, The Way of the Master, that specializes in this type of problem. But when it comes to children who struggle from the Calvinist perspective, the non-Calvinists seem not to be aware of the problem, and the standard Reformed response is to ignore it. Suddenly all the Reformed interest in the purity of the Gospel, the importance of theology, how our presuppositions/worldview dictate our behaviour, that ideas have consequences, and the battling attitude is turned off.

Again, I’m in the odd place of being more skilled at witnessing to a stranger than to unbelieving children raised in Christian Calvinist homes.

Joe: If Norm’s addressing the same issue I am, the problem is when people for whatever reason end up believing that Calvinism is the Gospel, like the young girl catechized, church going, homeschooled, when asked how she would explain the Gospel to someone, said, “Well, first you have to be chosen by God…” This is a real person with a real eternal soul with a real problem.

When the Reformed movement engages in and accepts the following behaviour — explicitly saying Calvinism is the Gospel, implying Calvinism is the Gospel, using “Gospel” as a code word for “Reformed”, calling non-Calvinists idolaters or heretics — guess what? Some people are going to end up thinking that Calvinism is the Gospel. And, unfortunately, it will be those most steeped in it — their children.

For example, one concerned grandmother told me how she was upset when her Reformed church had a sermon explicitly called a Gospel sermon and the central theme was unconditional election.

At what point does calling something the Gospel that is not the Gospel (even if that other thing is true) fall under Galatians 1:8 is another topic; I don’t know where that line is, though I do know there are numerous Calvinists who are real Christians, and I’ve profited from some of their writings. But one way or another some of these children are ending up with a false Gospel, and that’s the concern of this post.

So, can anyone reading this post give me tactics to reach these children of believers?

    Joe

    Post writer:

    I appreciate your concern for these children, and admire your willingness to seek out help in reaching them with the Gospel. However, your problem does not necessary lie in Calvinism per se. As you said yourself “I don’t know where that line is, though I do know there are numerous Calvinists who are real Christians, and I’ve profited from some of their writings.” If a theological system of belief described as “Traditional (Baptist)” or “Calvinist” or “Arminian lead men to abide more in Christ, and He more in them, than more power to them. These kids have not been turned off to the Gospel by Calvinism, but perhaps, and I emphasize “perhaps”, by some bad Calvinists. But more than likely, it is an excuse. Lost sinners aren’t often honest about the reasons for their unbelief.

    These situations sound similar to several childhood friends of mine who claimed they renounced Christ because of bad experiences with teachings/teachers in their childhood Pentacostal backgrounds. My friends for years blamed their unbelief (and in one case outright atheism) on the Pentacostal/Charismatic doctrine they’d been taught growing up. However as I grew up with these guys and we all went to college, the real reasons for their spiritual defections became more obvious, and eventually became openly confessed. They never believed to begin with. They heard the Gospel. When pressed, they even were able to accurately articulate the Gospel message to me. They simply didn’t believe it. The earlier “blaming” of Pentacostal doctrine for their unbelief was merely an excuse. They didn’t want to tell their parents/family/friends/church members that they rejected Christ because they did not want Christ. So they blamed something else. But when really pressed into giving an honest answer, those former excuses did not hold up. They rejected Christ because they were in love with the present age.

    As for our brother Norm, I’m still waiting for his clarification as to whether I’m going to Hell for being a Calvinist. Or the sweet old chairman of the board of deacons at my childhood church, who I found out years later was also a Calvinist. I’m legitimately wondering whether that brother, who trusted & served Christ his whole life, and went on countless mission trips to Honduras and donated land for our church’s cemetery, is burning in Hell for holding to “another Gospel” as a Calvinist.

    Still waiting for that clarification. Still waiting.

Tom

Joe,
Let Norm’s comment about Calvinism being another gospel go. For me, I would think the moderators of this site would insert a statement saying such labeling of a historical orthodox Christian position as “another gospel” is unacceptable and such posts will not be posted on this sight in the future. I would add any declaring people to be “lazy”, “unspiritual”, or less godly for holding to an different position than is regularly advocated and supported on this site will not be tolerated. Free speech is free as long as it does no harm to others, and in my opinion attacks on the man and the demonizing of other people based on difference in their theology harms Christianity in its witness to the world and to the edification of the body (It also harms the SBC in our efforts to unite together for the purposes of missions and evangelism).

As to the original question on how to reach unbelieving children of Calvinists, one shouldn’t be surprised to not have literature on it similar as one would have on cults and false religions. Holding to a reformed view in soteriology is a grid by which certain Christians understand the Christian faith and the gospel. While an important issue, in my opinion it is a third tier issue where God-fearing Baptists can lovingly agree to disagree without it disrupting their fellowship or their mission to advance God’s kingdom on earth. If the person has a real problem with predestination, directing them to the idea that other God-fearing Christians hold to another view could be helpful but to a heart calloused by a conscious rejection of the gospel, evidentialism will not convince them to trust Christ. Only a deep conviction of the Holy Spirit usually brought on by life’s circumstances can bring a person who has so often resisted the Spirit’s call on their life to trust in Christ. One’s hope is that you have gained their trust so they come to you when the Spirit works on their hearts. You cannot make them feel convicted or even want to pursue answers to the stated objections to the faith. Pray for them. Turn them over to God and love them as you would if your own child has wandered from Christianity. He will give you opportunities, but I would advise to proceed with wisdom and dependence on the Spirit for how far to push it. Some in their zeal have turned off honest inquirers because they tried to cover too much at one time and/or tried to force a turn or burn decision. Consider Nicodemus as presented in John’s gospel. Jesus engages in a spiritual conversation with Nicodemus and leaves the discussion unresolved. Nicodemus doesn’t fully express his public faith until he joins Joseph in requesting for Jesus’ body from Pilate. For those who have rejected their childhood faith, pressing for an immediate decision as if I can adequately answer every question in a way that removes all their doubt is above my pay grade.

    Rick Patrick

    Tom,

    I am sorry you were offended by the notion that our *gospels* are different. To be more precise, I think, it is actually better to speak of our *offers* being different. I have written an essay about this subtle distinction here: http://sbctoday.wpengine.com/same-gospel-different-offer/.

    Most of the leaders and contributors at SBC Today believe that our unity in Christ can best be fostered with an honest and open exchange of ideas. We are, of course, likewise insulted that organizations like Together for the Gospel and The Gospel Coalition, not to mention Acts 29 and Founders, have so defined their theological statements as to exclude Traditionalists entirely. We cannot in good conscience attend those events supposedly centered in “the gospel” because our views are so incompatible. They wrote doctrinal statements to keep us out, and then turned around and called theirs by the name “the gospel.” Where is that supposed to leave us?

    I am truly sorry for your insult and offense. Welcome to our world. Traditionalists are clearly not “Together for the [Calvinist] Gospel” with all of the reformed groups. They are the ones, in some cases thirty years running, who have insulted and offended us by defining the gospel so narrowly as to exclude us from their gatherings, organizations and church planting. I believe it is this sense of the word “gospel” to which Norm is referring. Since Traditionalists are together for the gospel too—but excluded from T4G—it must be fair to say that, in a sense, these are different gospels.

      Tom

      Rick,

      With all due respect, if someone else is being foolish it doesn’t give me the right to be foolish. Someone has to take the higher road. Saying I’m going to use attack on the man and demonizing because other people do it to me does not move anyone past the name calling. People on the opposite side take offense and never get to the points of disagreement. Saying in effect welcome to our world to justify behavior is not a sound biblical or rational argument. You are 100% correct in calling out Calvinists when they use such tactics. Just remember to hold the mirror up for yourselves. There is a reason people are turned off by the young, restless, reformed crowd and it’s not their view of sovereignty. I can disagree with points of their theology and maintain a sweet fellowship, but I cannot agree with their tactics or characterizations of other brothers in Christ with whom they disagree. Can I suggest something radical? Don’t fight to be included in a group full of prideful, divisive people. You may eventually get in but only by becoming prideful and divisive. The cost is simply too great for me. Let the Together for the Gospel crowd be. Define this movement with action, not reaction. With love and the benefit of the doubt, not suspicion and mistrust. If the goal of this site and movement is to allow for the free exchange of ideas, then it should be done with grace. Again, that’s the way this site started under Dr. Lemke’s guidance. Now, it’s digressed to that’s the way they treat us.

        Rick Patrick

        Tom,

        I did not read Norm’s statements as an attack in the least. We do have different conceptions of the gospel offer than do the Calvinists. That’s what I think Norm meant. The “love and benefit of the doubt” you ask us to extend to others should, I believe, be extended to Norm as well, with regard to his benign comments. SBC Today is still operating with the same desire to extend grace that was quite prominent under Dr. Lemke’s supervision. Have a blessed day as we each serve God despite our differing theologies related to the gospel message and God’s Plan of Salvation. Let us be friends. That is certainly the desire of my heart, and, I am quite sure, of Norm’s. Let us live in unity, peace and the grace of our Lord.

          Tom

          I hope his comments were benign. Just beware that when anyone declares another orthodox believing Christian as maintaining “another gospel” they use poor word selection that begs for misunderstanding and potential walls being erected. Rick, you may be surprised by how close our “differing theologies” are. What we would most likely disagree upon, is the tone this site has taken with articles related to responding to Calvinism in the SBC since Dr. Lemke passed on the moderating responsibilities. The articles on evangelism, church history, and historical sermons from preaching giants in the SBC avoid the unproductive labeling. Even the expositions, once they get into the passage, use civility in discussing differences. The issue arises when people post comments using name calling and attack on the man. I just believe the moderators ought to examine the guidelines set for establishing the tone of the discussion. No author of an article or someone posting a comment should have to spend time and energy responding to negative attacks on persons with whom they disagree. Please don’t respond by saying all of the comments are being misread by me and my thin skin. That people argue this way doesn’t hurt my feelings, but I do believe it’s a major hang-up in having any real discussions with persons of differing opinions.

            Kyle Gulledge

            Good evening Tom,

            I appreciate your comments that you have offered here at SBC Today. I have noticed in your recent comments that you keep saying things like: “Now, it’s digressed to that’s the way they treat us” and ” I just believe the moderators ought to examine the guidelines set for establishing the tone of the discussion.” Let me say that I appreciate your input–but I whole-heartedly disagree. SBC Today has an excellent tone in the direction that it is going. It truly doesn’t matter what “tone” this site takes, there will always be someone who thinks it is the wrong “tone.” You have mentioned a couple of times about the moderator and his need to “examine the guidelines.” Well, I am the moderator/editor of SBC Today–and I know the guidelines. I find it very interesting that you claim foul on the “tone” of comments and commentors but yet you yourself began this comment stream with “Let me say this is a dangerous blog.” Now, is that the right “tone” for a commentor? The truth is if I had scrutinized the guidelines and tried to verify “tone,” your comments would have been held in moderation and this comment stream would never have taken place. As the moderator I allow comments from “both” sides of the theological aisle to raise their points and concerns. I will not allow blatant attacks–and none have happened thus far in this thread. Again, I truly appreciate your input on this article, and other articles, and hope that you continue to do so–but please leave the “I have a problem with the tone and moderation of comments” argument at home. Have a blessed evening, brother.

            Jon

    Post writer

    Tom, thanks for your response.

    First, I re-read several times and prayed about what you said from “If a person has a real problem with predestination…”. This has been a struggle for me, since I’ve been dealing with this for the last 10 years including several as a Calvinist. I literally cringe at the idea of hearing how a Calvinist friend’s children are doing, since it’s common for at least one of them to be struggling with the Gospel involving Reformed beliefs. You make some good points I’ll need to consider.

    Second, I appreciate your focus on the Gospel and holding that Reformed theology is a third tier issue. From this and your comments below I assume you disagree with Al Mohler’s Reformed only hiring policy. I believe if we would all focus on the Gospel as the apostles proclaimed and make our priority evangelism, many of our disagreements, bad feelings, and differences would disappear.

    Finally, brother, though, there’s one place we seem to disagree is here, you said:

    As to the original question on how to reach unbelieving children of Calvinists, one shouldn’t be surprised to not have literature on it similar as one would have on cults and false religions. Holding to a reformed view in soteriology is a grid by which certain Christians understand the Christian faith and the gospel.

    Think about it. Other Christian theologies or “grids” are commonly and widely critiqued and discussed concerning evangelism.

    For example, all the discussions about sinner’s prayers, altar calls, and easy believism. Think of book titles like “Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart” or “The Gospel According to Jesus”. Josh and Sean McDowell have addressed the shallowness of Christian belief among Christian youth and it’s affects on them in books like “The Evidence for the Resurrection” and “The Unshakable Truth”. Or Ken Ham’s book “Already Gone”. Or Ray Comfort’s criticism of evangelistic methods involving invitations and sinners’ prayer in a shallow way. Good Southern Baptist examples of this would be the discussion at the Building Bridges conference or the audio of David Platt’s comments about the sinner’s prayer.

    But when it comes to those who are raised in the Reformed environment who believe a Gospel presentation should start with “Well, first you have to be chosen by God…” or a preacher’s saying, “Only God can give you faith, so you need to keep praying to Him that He will,” (I’m not making this up — for an example of this see the discussion of Shedd on Peter Lumpkins post on his blog called “Does teaching regeneration precedes faith imply salvation by works? “), the response from the Reformed community seems to be dead silence.

    Or look at all the concerns among Evangelicals about having answers for and defenses of Christian beliefs, like the works of Craig, Strobel, Geisler, and many others. They don’t only address questions about the Gospel (God’s existence, the diety of Christ, and His death and resurrection), but also more difficult doctrines whether intellectually like the Trinity, Incarnation, God’s foreknowledge and man’s freewill, and also ones that are emotionally difficult like the problem of evil, the problem of pain, and what about those who haven’t heard the Gospel.

    William Lane Craig has said that parents who don’t train their children with reasons to believe are sending them out into battle with stryrofoam weapons.

    But when Reformed youth struggle with God’s goodness, unconditional election, damnation without a choice, and the problem of evil, ultimately they’re told they shouldn’t ask these questions and their objections are psychoanalyzed away.

    As I said in an above comment:

    …the standard Reformed response is to ignore it. Suddenly all the Reformed interest in the purity of the Gospel, the importance of theology, how our presuppositions/worldview dictate our behaviour, that ideas have consequences, and the battling attitude is turned off.

    For example, I heard one church member mention concerns on this topic to a leader in her Reformed church, and his only response was that good doctrines can be misused.

    It’s as if addressing these children’s problems would affect the Reformed family’s good name or something.

    So you can see why I mentioned in the first paragraph the frustration I’m feeling on this issue, though that doesn’t dismiss my need to deal with this in a godly way.

Joe

Tom and Rick Patrick,

Thank you both for trying to inject civility & intellectual honesty into the conversation. It gives me hope that whereever the SBC is headed in years to come, there will always be levelheaded men to serve it. However, I politely refuse and I will not let Norm’s comment go.

Norm’s comment did not mention another Gospel offer. He never mentioned how Calvinists may believe same Gospel as more “Traditional”-minded Baptists, but present a different offer. He did not mention T4G. He did not mention the Gospel Coalition. He didn’t mention any kinda of theologicial exclusion on the part of Calvinists, towards Traditionalists. He cited Galatians 1:8 in reference to Calvinists teaeching/precahing a Reformed view of salvation. That citation damns Calvinists to Hell for preaching “another Gospel” known as Calvinism. Those Galatian Judaizers who held to a faith+works salvation were damned/accursed/anathema because they were preaching another Gospel. That’s what Paul said, and if Norm is citing that passage in reference to Calvinists, then Norm is saying Calvinists are damned for holding to the Reformed doctrines of grace.

Unless Norm would like to clarify his statement, his words stand for themslves.

And I quote: “If there is anything “dangerous” in this matter, it is Calvinists teaching a different “gospel,” (cf. Gal. 1.8).”

Still waiting for that clarification, brother.

Lydia

” I have seen it for the past fifteen years—long enough to observe its affects on the second generation. ”

This is why it has ebbed and flowed throughout its history. The descendants of the Puritans, for the most part, became Unitarians. Historically, the mainline Calvinists go social gospel or liberal. In Europe they mostly became atheists. The mainlines downplayed the determinism. I maintain this is one reason why the SBC pulled away from it gradually after the Civil War. It is hard to apply it to real world scenarios without losing your mind. This latest resurgence was one of strict determinism. And we have not even begun to see the fall out. I am convinced of it.

    Post writer

    Hi, Lydia,

    Your comments are an answer to pray! I’ve appreciated your insightful reasoning on this and other blogs, and you had alluded to having experience on this problem, so I was hoping I could get your input.

    How does your experience fit with mine?

    Have you come across different types of problems?

    Most importantly, how have you worked with this?

    Max

    “I maintain this is one reason why the SBC pulled away from it gradually after the Civil War.”

    Lydia, this tidbit of history seems to have been lost in the SBC archives. Author Bruce Gourley says in “Diverging Loyalties: Baptists in Middle Georgia During the Civil War” that the Calvinism that caused many Baptists to view the war as God’s providential hand guiding the Southern cause waned as early victories turned to defeat and all but disappeared from public discourse by the turn of the 20th century. Sad to see SBC’s 100+ year trend away from Calvinism be reversed by an army of young, restless and reformed. This old and non-reformed guy is starting to get restless with it all. The miseries of Calvinist children detailed by Post Writer only add to my agony. I just want to tell them all that “God loves YOU … Jesus died for YOU.” A related concern I have pertains to the wives of young Calvinists. I’ve visited area reformed church plants and observed the countenance of these women – you can see the oppression in their faces if you look closely. Young reformed pastors (of the Mark Driscoll sort) preach to men; women and children are just along for the ride. This may prove to be the Achilles heel of New Calvinism when wives and girl friends wake up and put their foot down with their lousy men!

    Post Writer, I wish I could offer you a method and message to reach the confused children of Calvinists. I know the hope and peace I found in Christ as a child and pray that God’s love will find its way to the hearts of each and every child on planet earth. Calvinism, of the sort you have described, is a misrepresentation of the character of God.

      Post writer

      Hi, Max,

      I appreciate your prayers and your desire for the good news to be brought to these children.

      I’ve followed your comments for some time on your experiences in Reformed/Driscol-type church plants and share your concerns. I have one thought building off what you said here as it pertains to evangelism.

      Following the principles of “fathers provoke not your children to wrath lest they be discouraged” and “not causing little ones to stumble” — If children are raised in an oppresive, bad family environment, then it would seem they would be more likely to project that negative view of authority onto God. Also, they would seem to have less emotional resilience to deal with things like “the horrible decree”. Finally, their ears would be more attuned to a top-down/no-choice perception of reality, and so they might be more likely to pick up on and believe statements like “Calvinism is the Gospel”.

      This would make all the more important the points that Tom brought up about loving them first in deed and word and not pressuring them.

        Max

        “… loving them first in deed and word and not pressuring them.”

        Agreed! Children are smarter than we give them credit for some time. When they see the love of Jesus being manifested in the lives of Christians, they are generally able to distinguish the genuine from the counterfeit. No pressure needed! Loving our neighbors as ourselves is an outgrowth of first loving God. Children, longing to know God, can spot that kind of love a mile away! Millstones are in ample supply for those causing little ones to stumble … while doing so under the name of “Christian”. Provoking a child to wrath and discouraging them from willfully seeking God prepares the millstone for the neck.

Lydia

“Only God can give you faith, so you need to keep praying to Him that He will,” (I’m not making this up — for an example of this see the discussion of Shedd on Peter Lumpkins post on his blog called “Does teaching regeneration precedes faith imply salvation by works? “), the response from the Reformed community seems to be dead silence.”

Or this from a teen who said this at camp: “God has to change me. I cannot change myself”.

(She is suicidal and raised Reformed) She sees herself as having NO input into her life. She has to wait around on God to force hope into her life.

    Post writer

    This story is heart breaking. I prayed for her and just wish there was more that I could do.

    Something that helped me when I was still a Calvinist in a very Reformed church was the book “Telling Yourself the Truth” by William Backus and Marie Chapian (I’m fairly certain the authors aren’t Reformed). This taught me to think as if I had free will before I believed I did, and their “Truth Therapy” was very helpful to me. It’s cognitive behavioral therapy (which is basically common sense!) and the Bible. But my problems weren’t as bad as hers. I pray she could get counseling from someone who is wise and have the freedom of living out the freewill (LFW) that she already has.

Lydia

“How does your experience fit with mine?”

Pretty close except it has just started being an issue in the last few years as the kids hit teen age and are hanging around other teens in Christian school, church, camps, etc. It is everywhere now, not just Reformed churches. Most of my past experience is discussing this with adults and am finding the teen angle much more challenging. And scary.

I remember reading a paper on brain development and then it scared me even more. There is a reason we sent 18 year olds into battle. They are more apt to follow the leader and not ask questions first.

Speaking in generalities….This movement really targeted youth groups, college campus cru groups, etc. Most of the 30-35 year olds I know today first heard of Piper in college. (And remember, Piper grew up more Bob Jones than SBC) Now they hear about him all the time in youth group as most youth pastors are coming from that movement. If you want a mass movement you don’t target 40 year olds. They don’t follow as easily.

And now I am watching “Christian” School text books and am appalled at the Reformed/Cals they quote. Even Rushdooney! Seriously?

“Have you come across different types of problems?”

I am especially concerned about youth from abusive homes who are in these youth groups. If God is Sovereign in a way taught by the Cal movement (not a synergistic relationship) that I have been around then their abuse was foreordained. And they deserve it because they are sinners, too. Everyone deserves hell whether they are a vile murderer or Mother Theresa types. So what difference does it matter what you “do” here and now? God is controlling every molecule 24/7.

(I had some experience with this a few months back with another teen suicide situation. The basic message from her youth group was you are a worm and can only be close to God if you suffer. So, naturally, her parental abuse was from God. And basically my teen was the one talking with her with me coaching in the background. We kept it very basic. Look to Jesus Christ for what God is like. Read the Gospels, over and over. Please come and stay with us. And most of all NO Nouthetic counseling. )

The irony of this movement is it does not fit well with being self governing. (This one causes me to lose sleep). Is there a right and wrong? Does it matter? Does what we DO while here on earth as adults make any difference at all? Do we have a choice in what we do or don’t do? If we have no free will or something very strange that a teen cannot understand, then what is the point of being self governing? Did God create us to grow in wisdom and be self controlled. (self governing) I don’t think Calvinists have thought it through well. Calvinism works best in what folks were told was a God ordained state church with ruling elders/magistrates chosen by God.

Here is some irony: So far, our system of government is more JUST foundationally than Calvin’s god!. That scares me the most about it. Not only are they not being taught self government in public school but now not even at church since they have no free will and sanctification and justification seem to be the same thing to them.

I see a definite slide toward collectivism in our country and I think the Cal movement fits right into that slide. There are smart people (ruling elders, etc) who know best for us and need to tell us what to think and how to live. They hold the keys to the kingdom for us. Our government is doing the same thing.

Individual accountability, responsibility, soul competency and the Priesthood seem to be things of the past. They don’t fit with Calvin’s god.

And we are losing a generation or two of youth to this thinking.

In my view, the words: God is Love include truth and justice.

What on earth is “just” about randomly selecting (or passing over) future people for salvation even before Adam sinned? Calvinists present a insecure god who is only concerned for his glory.

What is a teen supposed to do with that? How does believing that affect every area of their life? It is a culture of death and despair. I have found there are variations of that thinking from bullying to despairing types.

My recent experience is that those teens who tend to analyze things and think deeply or those from abusive homes tend to have major problems with this once the excitement of the “movement” aspect wears off. Teens from stable loving homes seem to have less problem with it.

“Most importantly, how have you worked with this”

Help! I just focus on Jesus Christ as the full representation of God. But I am not teaching them. I am just the dumb middle aged mom and not the cool youth guy. My big thing now is reflecting Christ back out. You and I both know the cool youth guy is real nice and fun. And group think a real problem.

    Post writer

    Hi, Lydia,

    Thanks for your long response. I’ve read it several times and am still gleaning from “the words of the wise and their riddles”.

    I have a few thoughts.

    “(I had some experience with this a few months back with another teen suicide situation. The basic message from her youth group was you are a worm and can only be close to God if you suffer. So, naturally, her parental abuse was from God. And basically my teen was the one talking with her with me coaching in the background. We kept it very basic. Look to Jesus Christ for what God is like. Read the Gospels, over and over. Please come and stay with us. And most of all NO Nouthetic counseling. )”

    I found this not only to contain good advice but to be very encouraging that there are people who care enough to try to help those who are harmed in this way. And from my experience, I would second your comment on Nouthetic counseling.

    “The irony of this movement is it does not fit well with being self governing. (This one causes me to lose sleep). Is there a right and wrong? Does it matter? Does what we DO while here on earth as adults make any difference at all? Do we have a choice in what we do or don’t do? If we have no free will or something very strange that a teen cannot understand, then what is the point of being self governing? Did God create us to grow in wisdom and be self controlled. (self governing) I don’t think Calvinists have thought it through well. Calvinism works best in what folks were told was a God ordained state church with ruling elders/magistrates chosen by God.”

    As I mentioned above, I see this as a serious, practical problem. I’ve read a number of books by and about those who are expert in working in their (many different) fields. A common pattern is their belief that in order to succeed one must have and exercise the ability to choose against immediate pressing desires. In other words, explicitly or implicitly, they say free will (LFW) is essential to succeed under high stress or at an elite level. The one exception that comes to mind is Albert Einstein, but then he was in a very cloistered, reflective field, and his biographer was astute enough to point out his belief in determinism gave him an excuse for his continual cheating on his wife.

    “My recent experience is that those teens who tend to analyze things and think deeply or those from abusive homes tend to have major problems with this once the excitement of the “movement” aspect wears off. Teens from stable loving homes seem to have less problem with it.”

    This seems to confirm my profiling those most likely to struggle with Calvinism and my building off of the observation of Max in my reply to him. But I’m not sure that the presence of a stable, loving home would work so well for a child raised in a Reformed home. To the best of my knowledge, all the sons of the leadership in my previous Reformed church who were raised in the church have rejected Christ. And to the best of my knowledge there was no abuse at all going on.

    It sounds like you’re suffering from the same battle fatigue that I’ve been through on this issue. Some of the things that have helped me have been to:

    Get a better grasp of what’s actually going on. The book “The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists” was very helpful. Also, I’m sad to say, reading books by ex-cult members on understanding how cults work, helped clarify things. I’m not saying that Calvinism is a cult, but I can’t deny that the books helped me better understand certain dynamics like the dual-self and the importance and value of contradictory beliefs for some movements. Also, the point that “it’s a myth that cults prey on the weak; they prey on the strong, for they can exploit the strength of the strong, and the weak are just a burden for them” helped some things fall into place for me. It also helped me appreciate better the regular SBC I’ve been a member of for the last few years. The pastor cares for people, the youth pastor is evangelistic, the members are great people who by no means oppressed (this last point was made very clear to me when some of them had a disagreement with the youth pastor!), and there are people with physical, developmental, and mental disabilities who are fully part of the church.

    More importantly, start reading autobiographies of good Christians who really lived the Christian life. Names like Gladys Aylward, Don Richardson, Josh McDowell, Ravi Zacharias, Amy Carmichael, and Bruce Olson come to mind. Findgood Christians to hang out with, and pray for and support ministries that really minister, like Voice of the Martyrs, Gospel for Asia, Jews for Jesus, Josh McDowell Ministries, the ADF and ACLJ. These ministries do serious work and have serious leaders who lead from the front.

    Finally, a few quick thoughts I find encouraging.

    First, God loves and cares for people who are hurting more than I do or can. He died for them and wants them all to be saved.

    Second, the Lord and His apostles predicted there would be bad people who would connect themselves to the church. Think of all the New Testament writings warning the sheep about this and encouraging them to beware and do something about it. The churches the apostles planted and nurtured had to deal with these types of problems, too.

    Third, God’s kingdom is something that still has to come. That’s why Jesus told us to pray for it to come. And when He comes, He won’t only raise us, but if we believe what the prophets say, we know that He will also save not only Israel from its oppression but bring peace and justice and the Greatest Awakening in the Messianic Kingdom, and finally He will right all wrongs.

    Finally, never underestimate what a good and kind act can do even if not noticed by the powers that be. Ronald Reagan is rightly considered the man most responsible for bringing down the Soviet Union. But he was set on that track by reading “Witness” by Whittaker Chambers. And Chambers was set on his track by seeing his daughter’s perfectly designed ears. And he had that daughter because when he wanted his wife to get an abortion, she gently but strongly said, “Dear heart, we couldn’t do an awful thing like that to a little baby.” Her act of courage and love sent shock waves through history that culminated in the destruction of the Evil Empire, the freeing of nations and millions upon millions of human beings made in the image of God.

      Lydia

      “Finally, never underestimate what a good and kind act can do even if not noticed by the powers that be. Ronald Reagan is rightly considered the man most responsible for bringing down the Soviet Union. But he was set on that track by reading “Witness” by Whittaker Chambers. And Chambers was set on his track by seeing his daughter’s perfectly designed ears. And he had that daughter because when he wanted his wife to get an abortion, she gently but strongly said, “Dear heart, we couldn’t do an awful thing like that to a little baby.” Her act of courage and love sent shock waves through history that culminated in the destruction of the Evil Empire, the freeing of nations and millions upon millions of human beings made in the image of God.”

      Best written book of the 20th Century! I cannot recommend it highly enough to people. I read it every few years or so. Ironically, it starts as a letter to his children which is instructive considering the topic of your blog post. Chambers, as flawed as he was, is one of my hero’s.

      “The one exception that comes to mind is Albert Einstein, but then he was in a very cloistered, reflective field, and his biographer was astute enough to point out his belief in determinism gave him an excuse for his continual cheating on his wife”

      Bingo. Here is another example of the damage this inflicts on the thinking of kids/teens: A Christian school teacher told a class that people have no power to change themselves. God has to change them. This was in the context of drug addicts, alcoholics, etc. But we know that people can do this in AA and other venues. Am I saying God is not involved in the process? Far from it but the idea we have to wait around on God to change us because we have no input or responsibility is the problem. If this is true, our justice system is a fraud because we should not hold people accountable if they are totally unable to refrain from committing crimes. Our justice system assumes most people are capable of NOT committing crimes/sin against others. Determinism assumes the opposite in varying degrees.

      Another one I have heard taught from Reformed teachers: God decides who is rich and those who are not rich He often bestows other qualities such as compassion, wisdom, etc. So God made George Soros rich so he could wreck havoc with currency’s,some of which were struggling countries. I think not. But if one believes He is controlling every molecule 24/7 then Soros is being directed by God however indirectly that works. (Free will to sin but no free will when elect?)

      The practical application of determinism is the problem. It is a culture of death and despair with some philosopher kings who know best for us and have to explain how it all works to us. So, It makes sense the state church had to use force for outward conformity.

      Here is something else I propose when dealing with teens in this movement: As believers we should be encouraging our teens to find cures for cancer, develop new services and products which make life better, feed the hungry, help the poor, visit the elderly, etc, These are areas of hope and faith which are a great witness BECAUSE we believe truth. Christians should be in the forefront of striving to make this world a better place but often they are not. That is not “works salvation”, it is being the kingdom now as much as we can in a corrupted world. . Christians “do” because they “love”.

      I am one of those people who actually believe technological advances could have come much sooner except for the stifling from the state church that wanted to control people. Castillo comes to mind as does Galileo. And all the other historical “heretics” who did not follow the determinist church party line whether Catholic or Protestant Reformers. Ben Franklin’s lightening rod was seen as evil divination by the Puritans who are hailed in certain circles today for us to emulate. Who is more reprobate? Franklin who was a rogue but not in the Name of Jesus or the Puritan leaders who were burning Quakers, women and banishing people who dared to disagree? Doing evil to others in the Name of God, gives me chills. It reminds me of Islam. The Puritan leaders spent their time basically sin sniffing and demanding conformity. Our Founding Fathers were not emulating Calvin or the Puritans. They disdained that paradigm. And Christians had never been freer to operate because of them disdaining that paradigm. Then advances came at a lightening pace compared to the rest of history.

      On another note, teaching teens imputed guilt means our very existence is sin. So instead of teaching teens they are to be Image Bearers seeking wisdom and guidance from the Holy Spirit-they are taught they are born worms. They are born sinning. Incapable of doing anything pleasing to God. They cannot escape their vileness even if they are chosen. That normalizes and institutionalizes sin. The idea that our very existence is sin is Platonic–Greek Pagan stuff. Instead, humans are valuable and “choose” to devalue themselves or not. yes, we have a sin nature. However, I think humans are so valuable in the eyes of God, He chose to become one of us to show us what being human really means and looks like and then offered us rescue. We are actually less human when we are sinning against others and even ourselves by not valuing that we are all made in His Image.

      As we all have witnessed in our time here, most teens raised in church “backslide” (for want of a better term) as they gain freedom for the first time. I did too. Many come back to the fold because they did not have an anger against a determinist god. That is what I am NOT seeing happen with teens immersed in determinism unless they make ministry their career choice. I am seeing an “anger” toward God emerge that I did not see before. And that is harder to deal with long term. They tend to give up because He has become “unknowable” or an arbitrary entity they would rather not know.

      I know it sounds corny but God is love. His Righteousness includes truth,justice and long suffering patience. That is what we have to communicate in word and deed.

David R. Brumbelow

For someone struggling with salvation, Calvinism, free-will, I’d recommend a brief book or two such as
“Predestined for Hell? Absolutely Not!” by Adrian Rogers;
“An Examination of TULIP” by R. L. Sumner (Adrian Rogers ordered hundreds of these for his church); or
“What is Calvinism?” by Peter Lumpkins.
Let them know Christians disagree on some of these issues.

http://gulfcoastpastor.blogspot.com/2011/09/books-on-calvinism-predestination.html

To sum it up, Adrian Rogers said it well:
“If you want to be saved, to be one of the elect, then just come to Jesus.”

David R. Brumbelow

    Post writer

    David, thanks for the recommendations and the link.

    I’ve ordered the 3 little books. I think this will give me a new way of reaching people who are confused on this issue. Thanks again.

David R. Brumbelow

Post writer,
You’re welcome, glad it can help.

I’ve seen these brief books (by Adrian Rogers, Peter Lumpkins, R. L. Sumner) really make a difference in the understanding of someone confused over Calvinism.
I think we should use them much more often.

Some get a number of these books for all members of a Pulpit Committee / Search Committee, deacons, Sunday School teachers, church staff and leaders.

Calvinists are diligent in giving out their literature;
Traditionalists (aka non-Calvinists, Moderate Calvinists) should do the same.

Another consideration. Many struggling with these issues do not want a 700 page book. They just need a brief explanation of the issues. These books do a good job of that. They are cheaper too.
They can always get the larger more extensive books later.
David R. Brumbelow

    Max

    Agreed. These three booklets would make great stocking-stuffers for church leaders … or better yet, as bulletin inserts for all members at SBC’s 45,000+ churches!

Mary

This is a wonderful post. Thank you Post writer for your concern and insights. Thanks you Lydia for your comments. They are a breath of fresh air and put me in mind of when Hercules diverted the River whatsit to clean out the whatyamacall it stables.(heh heh . Its been a while since college.) Truth is freeing!
Though a “no comment” kind of person I felt compelled to add my voice in support of this post. I am a survivor of a reformed upbringing. I know that is somewhat inflammatory language but I chose the term survivor because one of the things that got me through was reading bios of concentration camp survivors. I’d read their stories and, though physically well cared for, I related very strongly to their mental state. They are part of the reason I didn’t kill myself in my teens. When people say ” Your just a Christian because that’s what you were raised” I truthfully reply ” In spite, not because.”
Ya’ll may find it helpful to read Viktor Frankl. Also writings on PTSD recovery may be helpful. This is because a deterministic mind set is helpful in a sustained fight or flight situation but is detrimental to living daily life. Thus PTSD recovery often works with getting out of said mind set and thus could give you some tools for helping guide others back ( or to for the first time) to making conscious choices.
Again, Lydia, LOVED your comments on God being just and truthful as those are aspects of love!

Lydia

Mary,

Thank you so much for reminding me of Frankl and “Man’s Search for Meaning”. Incredible book! I am going to get one for my daughter’s friend. There are times when the ingrained thinking turns them away from anything “Jesus” or “church” and we have to find other ways to implant a glimmer of hope and help bring them home to Jesus Christ.

Frankl’s book is an excellent idea for that!. What was so interesting in the book to me was that it was not necessarily the strong and healthy who survived the camps. Often the weaker survived because they focused their minds on the future. They had something they wanted to accomplish– to live for– and they engaged their brains on that something. There is something to be said for that. Most of us have seen variations of this play out. Such as the death of a spouse then the other spouse dies soon after, and so on. Or the sick person living through Christmas to see family, etc. (The book also brought something else home to me. Meaningful work and subsequent accomplishment (even if a failure…it is the process) is a gift from God in many ways. )

There was also a mental aspect to survival that Frankl documented as a Jewish psychiatrist in the camp. (He almost fell victim to hopelessness, too, didn’t he) I used to recommend his book quite a bit back in my training days and had forgotten about it!

So often people dismiss what they think are worldly or “non Christian” tools/resources which I believe can be a huge mistake. We are to be “wise as serpents and gentle as doves”. A lesser known but great tool is also EMDR therapy. It has worked for returning soldiers and for those who have suffered serious abuse, even brain injuries. It is working wonders on PSTD. It is just not that widely used in consumer therapies. Some therapists don’t like it because people get well too fast and it is still hard to find EMDR qualified therapists. I was especially interested in for trauma victims because it takes the therapist out of the healing equation. They act solely as a facilitator.

Some Christians don’t realize the brain is an organ, too, and there are physical aspects to traumatic events or sustained trauma that affect the brain in a literal physical sense.

Yes, I am big on a truth/ justice inclusion in the definition of love. I can become a bore on the subject real fast. :o)

Mary, I pray His blessings on the rest of your journey until we see Him face to face and are eternally blessed.

Ary Geelhoed

I live in the Netherlands, in a city where a large part of the population is a member of orthodox Calvinist churches. The vast majority, 98 percent, of the members of these churches have no assurance of salvation. In evangelization among these people it is inevitable that you enter into a conversation based on the Bible.
What you must do is defend and proclaim that Jesus died for all people. Do that with the Bible! This is the point of Calvinism that is easiest from Scripture to refute. Read the texts. There is power in the word of God. Explain them. God can take away their blindness. If this the truth of this point is acceptend then the whole Calvinist building collapses. It corrects the unbiblical image of God of Calvinism. The Bible teaches that God loves all men and desires to save each person, that’s why he gave his Son. He longes for you and invites you to come to Him. Such a God Calvinism does not know.
The second thing that must be stressed is that God means what He says. If he says “Come”, he means that. This ignores the doctrine of the special and irresistible call, but must be done anyway. It is important to repeat this over and over.

God bless you all

Ary

    Meg

    Ary,

    I read your reply with great interest. Very good advice!

    Please give me some of the verses besides John 3:16 that you use in defending the position that Jesus died for all people. That would be very helpful to me.

    I’m what you might call a semi-Calvinist! I believe God chooses, but I feel that is God’s business, not ours, and I don’t try to understand it completely. Our business is to believe (or, as you said, to come), because that is what we’re told to do. And we are responsible for our decisions.

    I think if Calvinists minded their own human business and didn’t try to mind (or reconcile our responsibility with) the Lord’s business, things would be a lot better! There wouldn’t be the problems such as the post writer is trying to get answers to. We don’t expect our small children to understand everything we do, so why should we humans think we should be able to understand everything our heavenly Father does? But He is good and just, whether we understand all He does or not.

    Meg

      Ary Geelhoed

      Hello Meg,

      Thanks for your reply, you wrote “give me some of the verses that you use in defending the position that Jesus died for all people”.
      I don’t want to give you only the texts, but also the interpretation and a refutation of the calvinistic interpretation. That’s why I translated the first part of the chapter “For whom Christ died” from my refutation of Calvinism, using a machine translation. The English is not perfect, but I trust that it is understandable. In this piece of the chapter the main bible texts are cited and discussed. Remember that the Bible texts themselves have also been translated from Dutch into English. I pasted the translation in this mail, see below.
      God bless you,
      Ary
      5. For whom did Christ die?

      Calvinism says that Jesus died only for the elect. But that is not what the Bible says. In the Bible we read that Jesus died for all people.
      Jesus died for all men, but only the people who put their trust in Him, will be saved.

      5.1. The biblical evidence that Jesus died for all people

      5.1.1. There are Scriptures that declare that Jesus died for the world

      It is simply there.

      + 1 John 2: 2
      “And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only but for the whole world.” (1 John 2: 2)

      Can it be more clearly stated? Propitiation for the sins of the whole world.

      + John 1:29
      “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”

      + John 3: 16,17
      “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son , that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
      For God did not send his Son into the world, that He might condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved. ”

      Out of love for the “world” God gave his Son. So God has made it possible for everyone who believes to receive eternal life.

      + John 6:33
      “because that is the bread of God, is he which cometh down from heaven and gives life to the world”

      Jesus is the bread of life that came down from heaven and gives life to the world. “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever. And the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” (Jn. 6:51)

      + 2 Cor. 5: 18,19
      “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; namely, that God in Christ was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses to them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. ”

      It says here that God in Christ has reconciled the world to Himself.

      What is meant in these texts with ‘the world’?
      With world are “all men” meant. God loved the world means that He loved all people. He gave His Son for all people in the world. Out of love He gave His Son for all people so that everyone who believes is saved in Jesus. Therefore, God invites all people to salvation. God desires to save every human being. He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that that person repents (Ezekiel 33:11), and He does not want any man to perish (2 Peter 3: 9). That is why he has made it possible for everyone to be saved. Just as it is said in the scriptures that are cited above.

      Calvinism can not take these texts literally, because after all Calvinists do not believe that Jesus died for all people. The calvinist must reconcile these bibleverses with their doctrine. They do this by stating that not all people are referred to in these texts with the word world.

      Most Calvinists argue that the word world refers only to the elect. You should you read word as “the world of the elect.” They read John 3:16 as follows “God loved ‘the world of the elect’ so much that he gave his only begotten Son.” This interpretation is contrary to the normal linguistic sense of the word world.
      The bottom line is that they claim that God meant with that text exactly the opposite than what is intended. Not the world, not ‘all’, but a small group, ‘some’.

      There is from the texts themselves and from the immediate context no compelling reason, and even no indication why the word world should not be taken literally here.

      Another attempt to bring these texts in accordance with the Calvinist doctrine is done by stating that with world a representation from all nations is meant. Or that is meant by worlod that people from both the Jews and the Gentiles will be saved. In that case you have to read John 3:16 as follow. “God so loves a selection of people of the world that he gave his only begotten Son, so that the people I have selected are saved because I will give them saving faith”

      If God had wanted to say that He loved the elect why didn’t He say so. ? Why speaks He in the above cited Bible passages about “the world” and even “the whole world”? Why does He say exactly the opposite of what He is believed to mean, according to the supporters of limited atonement?

      In the interpretation of a passage, we must, in addition to paying attention to the context, apply the principle of comparing Scripture with Scripture. We must explain a bible text always in line with the other scriptures which say something about the same subject. If we do that, then we discover that there are more texts that say that Jesus died for all people. These texts are discussed below. These Bible text confirm that with “world” is meant all men. By contrast, as will be discussed below, there are no scripture verses that say that Jesus died only for the elect. If we compare Scripture with Scripture, it is clear that with world all people are meant.

      5.1.2. There is a Bible verse that says that Jesus died for everyone

      “Jesus, who … for everyone should taste death” (Heb. 2: 9)

      “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, that he by the grace of God for each one should taste death, crowned with glory and honor” (Heb. 2: 9)

      God wants many sons and daughters. In order to accomplish that Jesus became man and he tasted death for every man. so that every one who believes can become a son of God.

      5.1.3. There are scriptures that say He died for all

      + Jesus gave himself as a ransom for all
      “This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all. “(1 Timothy 2: 3-6)

      God wants all men to be saved. That is what He desires. And that is why the Lord Jesus has given his life as a ransom for all.

      The “all” in verse 6 refers to “all men” in verse 4.

      Christians who teach a limited atonement claim that we should read instead ‘some in stead of’ ‘all’. C. H. Spurgeon has the following to say about this verse
      “What now? Should we try to have a different meaning to stop the text than the meaning that it has at a fair reading? There I pass for. You will, at least most of you are familiar with the way in which our older Calvinistic friends deal with this text “All men,” as they say, – “that is to say some people.”; as if the Holy Spirit did not say “some people”, as he had intended “All men,” say so. she, “that is, some of all kinds of people”, as if the Lord did not say “all kinds of people” as he had intended.
      The Holy Spirit has written by the apostle “all people” and no doubt he referred to all people. I just read the explanation of a highly skilled doctor of theology which interprets the text so that it is explained away. He applies grammatical gunpowder on the text, and blows the text as he explains to him …. My love for his consistently towards my own doctrinal views is not large enough to allow me to change even a single text of Scripture. I have a great respect for orthodoxy, but my love for the inspiration of the Bible is greater. I would rather a hundred times inconsistent seem to be inconsistent with myself than with the word of God. ”

      Spurgeon was a five-point Calvinist, but he refused to explain away the plain meaning of 1 Timothy 2: 6, even if this text didn’t fit in his theological system. He blames some of his Calvinist fellow believers for changing the Scriptures by their contrived explanation of this text. See the footnote to the original English quote the source.

      + One died for all
      “We have come to understand that one died for all” (2 Cor. 5:14)

      The purpose of the sacrifice of Christ is that people no longer live for themselves but for God. That is God’s desire for all people. “That he does not want that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3: 9)

      + all people condemned, all people justified
      “Therefore as by the offense of one for all men to condemnation has come, even so through one act of righteousness for all men unto justification of life eternal.” (Rom. 5:18)

      Here the fall in sin of Adam and the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus are contrasted. They both have their effect on all people. Note the twice repeated “all men.” Both the Fall and the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus are worldwide in their effect.
      From other Bible texts we know that he Fall automatically effects all people. But that is not the case with the effect of the death of Christ. That effects you only when you believe it. But the intent of the death of Christ is as wide as the effect of the Fall.

      + A Savior for all people
      “because we have set our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers” (1 Tim. 4:10)

      “A savior ..of all people.” The Lord Jesus came for all people, He has given for them his life on the cross, He offers forgiveness to them on condition that they believe in Him. In that sense he is a savior for all people. But only those who truly believe are actually saved. In that sense he is especially the Savior of the believers.

      + Jesus brought salvation to all people
      “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men” (Titus 2:11)

      For all people and not only for the elect.

      summary

      We have seen that the Scripture says that Jesus died for the world, for the whole world, for all, for every person and for all people. Can it be more clearly stated?

      5.1.4. Further confirmation from the Bible that Jesus died for all people

      Above we have discussed the direct statements of Scripture which say that Jesus died for all people. There are other texts that indirectly confirm that Jesus really died for all men.

      + Jesus even died for false teachers
      “as also false teachers among you shall come, who will do creep in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, denying, and bring upon themselves swift destruction” (2 Peter 2: 1)

      This verse is about false teachers. The Lord who bought them is Jesus. Through their learning and behavior they deny Jesus. It’s about false teachers who are professed Christians.

      Nobody will claim that false teachers are among the elect. It is said of them that they bring upon themselves “swift destruction”. The bible verse says that they deny Jesus (the Lord who bought them). You can not simultaneously deny Jesus and be saved.

      The fact that even about these false teachers it is said that the Lord has bought them, confirms that Jesus indeed died for all men.

      It is impossible to reconcile this bible verse with the doctrine that Jesus died only for the elect. That is why within Calvinism this text is usually ignored. But some Calvinists try to explain this vers in a way that fits into Calvinist doctrine. They say that with “the Lord who bought them” is not Jesus meant, but God.

      This is totally implausible. Peter speaks in 2 Peter 2: 1 to a group of Christians. He speaks about a number of false teachers, who operate in their midst, that they deny the Lord who bought them.
      All the people in the churches became part of a local church by confessing Jesus as Lord. They were redeemed by the blood of Christ. The false teachers where Peter speaks about had confessed Jesus as Lord when they were baptized and joined the church. But now they belied by their behavior and their teachings the Lord who had bought them. Because if a member of a local church changes the grace of the Lord in debauchery they deny Jesus, even if they have confessed Him in baptism.

      Who could that ruler, who bought them and who they denied, be, other than Jesus? The Lord, which is the ruler of the church who had redeemed them with His blood?
      How could the Christians, to whom Peter adressed his letter, have undestood it diffently.

      And yet some Calvinists, such as Wayne Grudum, claim that not Jesus but God is meant by the Lord. They point out that in Deuteronomy is written that God has bought Israel free from Egypt. However, they forget that this also happened with the blood of redemption of a Lamb. The paschal lamb that was referring to the true paschal lamb that was coming. It is also – as explained above – highly unlikely that the recipients of the Letter of Peter thought that Peter meant God instead of Jesus, when Peter spoke to them about “the only Lord who had bought them.”

      It is sad when you see how Christians try to explain away (avoid) in various ways the obvious interpretation of a biblical text. This is not honest. Where is the love for the truth? I refer in this connection to the quote of CH Spurgeon. I quote a part of it below for the full citation and acknowledgment, see above in section 5.1.3.
      “What now? Should we try to stop a different meaning in the text than the meaning that it has at a fair reading? There I pass for. …… …. I just read the explanation of a highly skilled doctor of theology text as explaining that he explained away is. he applies grammatical gunpowder to the text, and blow the text as he explains to him …. my love for his consistently towards my own doctrinal views is not large enough to allow me to change even a single text of Scripture. I have a great respect for orthodoxy, but my love for the inspiration of the Bible is bigger. I would prefer a hundred times inconsistent seem to be inconsistent with myself than with the word of God . ”

      This is not the only way Calvinists try to explain away this text. Some argue that Peter says that Jesus has bought these false teachers with his blood, but, as they add to it, Peter meant that not really. He said it only by way of speaking, in order to make a point. They claim that Peter said something that was in fact not true, in order to make a point. But what point then? What wil happen when you accept this way to handle the bible. If you do not like something, then you say that Paul did not really mean it.

      + Scriptures that say that God desires the salvation of all men
      There are scriptures that show that God desires the salvation of every human being. This supports that Jesus died for all people. For if God really desisres to save all people it is logical and to be expected that He has provided for their salvation.

      These are two of the clearest texts:
      “but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should be saved” (2 Peter 3: 9)
      “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live” (Ezekiel 33:11)

      God has no pleasure in one sinner who is lost. He is excited over one sinner who repents. There he takes delight in.

      Another text which clearly says that God desires the salvation of all men is 1 Timothy 2: 4-6. “God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved” (1 Tim. 2: 4). Because He desires to save all the people, He made possible the salvation of all people. Verse 4 says that God wants all men to be saved and then immediately afther that He says in verse 6 that He has made that possible because Jesus died for “all” (for all people).

      Some Calvinists try to avaid the plain meaning of these bible verses. Tot accomplish that they use an unbiblical and scholastic argument. They make a distinction inside God. A distinction between God’s will of commandment and Gods will of God decision. 1 Timothy 2: 4, speaks, it is argued, about Gods will of command. You should read the text as “God our Savior who “commands” all men to be saved. This is just a vain play with words. It inserts their own interpretation into the text, instead of explaning the text. The natural explanation is that God desires the salvation of all men. This natural explanation is supported by other Bible passages including the above quoted Ezekiel 33:11. And by the direct link between 1 Timothy 2: 4 and 2:6.

      Behind their reasoning is an image of God that is more consistent with earlier Greek thought than it is with the Bible. The Greeks found the idea that God has emotions too earthy, too low for the highest God. In accordance with this Greek thinking, this calvinistic scholastic reasoning ignores that God has emotions. The calvinististic distinction speaks of a God who orders and and a God who ordains. But it ignores completely that God wants some things because He desires them.

      The Bible makes clear that God desires to save every sinner. Think of the moving pleading of God with the people of Israel, thing of His struggle to win the heart of Israel. We see Him threatening, pleading, luring, warning, inviting. All to win the heart of Israel.

      “How can I give thee up, Ephraim, you over Israel … My heart is turned within me, my compassion is fully resurrected” (Hosea 11: 8).

      “All day long I have stretched out my hands to a disobedient and gainsaying people” (Romans 10:21).
      God extends his hands to us, not a moment, but the whole day.

      Consider also the lament in the heart of the Lord Jesus when he wept over Jerusalem: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem … how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matt . 23:37). Note the word ‘often’. “How often – how often – I have gathered your children together”
      There is pain in the heart of God for every man who refuses to repent of every man who ignores his outstretched hand.

      Because God desires to save every man, He made possible the salvation of all men. That is written in 1 Timothy 2: 1-6.
      + God orders us to pray for all men: “I beseech you … supplications, prayers, intercessions be made for all men …” (1).
      + God wants all men to be saved, “God … who desires all men to be saved” (: 4).
      + Jesus was given as a ransom for all, “who was given as a ransom for all” (: 6)

      God desires the salvation of all men desire. That is why it is logical that God has made possible their salvation by giving his Son as a ransom for all.

      The message to the people is: “Everything is ready, the sacrifice has been made, it is meant for you. Come, buy and eat without money, be yee reconciled to God…..”

      Jesus died for you, but you it is of no use if you do not repent.

      + Scriptures offer the gospel to every human being
      The gospel is offered to everyone. That offer would not be fair if there had not been paid for all people.

      “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come And who hears say, Come And Who is thirsty come, and who wants to take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17)

      “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish” (John 3:16)

      ‘Him all the prophets witness, that whoever believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. “(Acts 10:43)

      5.1.5. Objections to the doctrine that Jesus died for all people

      In the fight against the doctrine that Jesus died for all people, Calvinism uses some logical arguments. These arguments are discussed below.

      Then God would punish sin twice
      The reasoning goes like this: If it is true that Jesus died for all people, how can God punish those who do not believe? Because when Jesus died for them, he has paid for their sins. If God punishes the people who don’t believe in Jesus He would be punishing the same sin twice. That is unjust. We know that God is not unjust. That is why Jesus can not have died for people who do not believe.

      Calvinism depends much on reasoning. Reasoning in the form of “if this then that, then that again.” The danger is that with this kind of logical reasoning simple and clear statements of Scripture are contradicted. This is also the case with the reasoning about punishing twice. We have seen above that the Bible clearly, directly and in different ways declares that Jesus died for all people. And yet Calvinism tries with logical reasoning to rob these clear texts of their strength. It’s dangerous to go too far in logical reasoning from the Bible. If you’re going to do that, for example, with the Trinity then you get stuck too. We must build our convictions firts of all on the clear and direct declarations of the Bible. Even if we cannot make all things logical.

      But now the argument itself. In the reasoning about ‘twice punishment’ is overlooked that there is a difference between (1) God’s provision for forgiveness, and (2) the application of the provision. God has provided through the sacrifice of Jesus for forgiveness for all people, but every man appropriated this provison in a personal way, by his or her trust in Jesus.
      God says, “Jesus died for your sins, but if you do not punt your trust on that, you must still pay for your own sins.” That is what we read in the Bible. We have to hold on to way the bible clearly says.
      For every man there is a passport to heaven ready. It has been paid for with the blood of Jesus. But you have nothing, if you do not personally pick it up and sign it. Because only then the passport is valid.

      Then Jesus would fail
      The reasoning is as follows. If it is true that Jesus died for all people and there are still people lost then Jesus failed. We know that Jesus can not fail, so it can not be true that He died for all men.

      The flaw in the argument is the assertion that Jesus would fail as people for whom he died are lost. Because that is not the case. Jesus died to make it possible for everyone to be saved. God gave His Son for the world. In that way He gives everyone a chance to be saved. That goal has been reached. Why speaking about failure?
      “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believe should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
      Why did Jesus die? “that whosoever believeth should not perish but have eternal life.” And that whosoever will may come “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come And who hears say, Come And who is thirsty, let him come, and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” (Revelation 22:17)

      Jesus’ blood would be wasted
      This is the same argument as what has just been discussed above.

      It would dishonor Jesus
      Reasoning: If Jesus died for the people who don’t believe, He has failed. Therefore the doctrine that Jesus died for all people of the Lord dishonors Jesus.

      This reasoning is also initially incomprehensible for a christian who is not a calvinist. Because Jesus did not fail, if people choose not to believe. It was God’s intention to give everyone a chance to choose for or against Him of their own free will. That opportunity has been given every man through Jesus death on the cross. That goal has been reached by God.

      Even if a person does not trust the sacrifice that was intended for him, it still glorifies God. For in it makes any excuse impossible at the last judgment, no apology. They have voluntarily rejected the salvation that was intended for them. They coul be saved (2 Thessalonians 2:10). Jesus’ blood was shed for them, but they did not want to repent. “How often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and ye would not.” (Luke 13:34).

      It inevitably leads to universalism
      Universalism is the doctrine that eventually all people will be saved, whether they personally believe in Jesus or not.
      The reasoning is as follows. If Jesus really died for all people it is only a small step to universal salvation. And it is inevitable that sooner or later people who believe that Jesus died for all people take this step. Therefore, the doctrine that Jesus died for all men isdangerous. If you look at the inevitable fruit of the doctrine that Jesus died for all people, then this confirms that the doctrine can not be Biblical.

      This reasoning is wrong. First of all, the proposition that from the doctrine that Jesus died for all people it is only a small step to universal salvation, is not correct. It is not a small step, but a huge step. Because the Bible says repeatedly that a man is only saved if he personally believes in Jesus.
      “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16)
      “Who is not condemned believeth in him; he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (Jn 3:18).
      “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (Jn. 3:36).
      These are just some of the many texts that say the same.
      There are few things so often and so clearly declared in the Bible. Whoever rejects it, rejects the Bible. This cuts off the road to universal salvation. As long as you hold on to the authority of the Bible, it is impossible to get into the error of universalism.

      Furthermore, church history proves the proposition that the acceptance of the doctrine that Jesus died for all people automatically leads to universalism is not correct. Thake for exthe Lutheran churche, nearly five hundred years, their officially positions is that Christ died for all people. And yet they have not sunk into universalism. That only happens when churches become liberal. The same applies to the great Wesleyan-Methodist churches in the English-speaking world. In the nineteenth century, the Methodist Church in America was for a time the largest Bible believing church. For more than two hundred years the methodist churches believed that Christ died for all men and they are degenerated into universal salvation. Again, with the exception of churches turning liberal. The many Pentecostal and charismatic churches believe that Jesus died for all people. And in the more than one hundred years of their existence they have not fallen into universalism.
      It is incomprehensible that there are fellow Christians who, despite of these facts, continue to argue that the doctrine that Jesus died for all people, sooner or later inevitably leads to universal salvation.

      We must stick to what we see clearly and directly in Scripture. If we read the Bible we see these two truths:
      (1) Without personal faith and repentance, a man can not be saved
      (2) Christ died for all men, so that whosoever will can be saved.
      If we combine these two distinct Biblical lines then follows that Jesus died for all people, but that every man over will only be saved if he places his personal trust on Jesus and His sacrife.
      This is the first part of the chapter “For whom died Jesus?”. In the second part is discussed that ther is no text in the Bible that clearly says that Jesus died only for the elect. There are many text that say that Jesus died for the church, for the elect. But there are no texts that say that Jesus died only, exclusively, for the elect.

    Post writer

    Ary,

    Thanks for your advice. I like how your approach focuses on the Gospel but in a way that deals with their problems. Also, starting with the most clearly weak point, limited atonement, might be a way of getting through to them.

    I like how you put it:

    The second thing that must be stressed is that God means what He says. If he says “Come”, he means that.

    Sharing your experiences in a purely Reformed environment may help people see what the New Reformed Movement in the USA might end up looking like without the balance and influence of a non-Calvinist majority. Your experiences in a larger way match what Lydia and I have come across, and that’s the purpose of this post — dealing with these negative effects.

      Ary Geelhoed

      Hello brother,

      You wrote: “Sharing your experiences in a purely reformed environment may help people see what the New Reformed Movement in the USA might end up looking like without the balance and without influence of a non-Calvinist majority” I recognise what is happening in the New Calvinist movement . Indeed, they are heading to the inevitable consequences of accepting the full five points of Calvinism.
      Everything that happens in America appears a little later in the Netherlands. There were no five-point calvinists in the Dutch Evangelical Movement, only in the Reformed churches. Now there are and the movement is growing, mainly through the influence of John Piper, Paul Washer and John MacArthur. That is why I made the site http://www.hetcalvinismendebijbel. The site has a systematic and thorough refutation of the first four points of Calvinism.
      I understand that your burden is helping young people who are stuck in the Calvinistic doctrinal system. As I wrote before, the most effective way is the refutation of limited atonement and proclaiming with great emphasis that God means what he says if He says “come to me”. That corrects the calvinistic image of God, a God who arbitrarily chooses one person and rejects the other and a God who says to people who cannot repent “repent” and then keeps them still responsible for not repenting.

      My wife grew up in a strict Calvinist church. Of the three thousand members of her village church only fifty people participated in the holy sacrament. Only these few people had, albeit with difficulty and struggle, boldness to participate. Throughout her childhood she has sought God and salvation, but according to the teaching of her church you cannot believe yourself, faith must be given to you and you can not help it. You are elect, or you’re not. And you cannot just take God at his word, if you do that then you cheat yourself. Because that is not the true faith, there must happen something inwardly and then you may hope that you’ve been one of the elect. .
      She found the Lord through the prayers, love and the witness of evangelical colleagues at the hospital, where she worked as a nurse. After two years of fellowship with these colleagues it dawned on her that her evangelical colleagues were right. But even after my wife had come to trust het Lord Jesus and even after many years working with much fruit as evangelist under children and even after many clear and sometimes for me stunning answers to her prayers and even after having received personal leading from the Lord in many circumstances, there was still the gnawing doubt: “Maybe the Calvinists are right and is my faith not real.”
      To help her, I have written my refutation of Calvinism. My experience is that people who have been really deep in Calvinism, are often still troubled with doubts. That happens if not all the key texts are discussed. From her childhood my wife heard these texts explained in a Calvinistic way. That explanation is not suddenly disappeared out of somebody’s thinking, after conversion. Therefore, the key texts must be discussed. How they should be interpreted and also with a refutation of the Calvinistic interpretation. Thirty years after the conversion of my wife, I wrote my refutation. I had previously never had the time, because of many other urgent tasks. And even I underestimated the effect on my wife of her strict calvinistic upbringing. My wife has read my refutation, and she told me that while she was reading she cried many time because of relief and joy.
      People who have been in deep in Calvinism need complete and thorough detoxification their thinking. Only then they will lose the calvinistic glasses through which they read the scriptures.

      It is much better to work preventively. Ensure that the evangelical Christians get their hands on a good refutation of Calvinism. That is why I put my refutation on a site. In the hope that I can prevent that more fellow evangelical believers embrace calvinism and in the hope that I can can point the way out, to people who are stuck in Calvinism.

      The situation in America is grim because the New Calvinists have opened in 2013 a frontal attack on universal atonement. A book of some of the leaders of the new Calvinist movement and a book by John Piper. Here lies the main point of conflict. Pray for David Allen, that he will be able to finish as soon as possible his defense of the general atonement and to publish it.

      God bless you
      Ary Geelhoed
      p.s. I pasted a piece of my refutation in my reply to Meg.

        Post writer

        Hi, Ary,

        Thanks for posting the excerpt from your book. Would you be able to email me a complete copy of it translated into English? My email address I made for this post is billanony@gmail.com.

        Also, what translation program do you use? It works very well. Have you considered putting up an English copy of your book on your website? (The link to your website in the body of your comment doesn’t work, but I clicked on your name and got your website. Unfortunately, though, I don’t know Dutch!)

        Thanks for sharing the story about your wife’s experiences and your point about prevention. The issue looks bigger than I thought. There seem to be 4 catagories.

        1) Preventing the accepting of the doctrines that cause the confusion

        2) Helping the Reformed before they have a problem (especially since the confusion we discussed doesn’t seem to be a concern for the Reformed movement)

        3) Helping ex-Reformed who have rejected Christ

        4) Helping ex-Reformed who are Christians

        Thanks again for your thoughts.

Post writer

David,

Thanks again for your book recommendations. I’ve already gotten and lent Lumpkins’ book to a deacon at my church, lent Rogers’ booklet to one person who read it and thought highly of it, and then gave Rogers’ booklet to an ex-Calvinist believer who loved the title. I’ve ordered 5 more copies of it in that I have someone interested in getting copies to 3 young people who are struggling or have struggled with this problem.

I think you’re right about the value of these short works. Personally, I’ve read quite a number of books on this topic, but having something small to hand out may end up being the most fruitful advice I got from posting.

I thought you might find this interesting. The first copy of Rogers’ booklet I got from an independent seller on Amazon. He included a hand written note on my invoice that said, “This seems to be an important topic. I sell more of these than any other. Thanks!” When I went to reorder, he was out of them, so I ordered directly from Adrian Rogers’ website.

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