Is there a ‘secret will” of God?

September 28, 2012

A Selective Review and Critique of Whomever He Wills – Part 3H

Dr. Tom Ascol’s chapter “Calvinism Foundational For Evangelism and Missions” byDavid L. Allen


Dr. Ascol concludes his chapter “Calvinism Foundational for Evangelism and Missions” by stating:

Both the biblical and historical records demonstrate that those doctrines that are commonly known as Calvinism, far from hindering missions and evangelism, actually fuel such work. Rightly held, these truths have fostered the most unrelenting, persevering, and confident gospel advance in the history of Christianity. Only by ignoring evidence can the charge that Calvinism kills evangelism be given any consideration (288).

One of the key points I attempted to make in my chapter in Whosoever (96-100) is if there are lingering doubts that God loves all people and desires to save all people, that will eventually produce doubts in those who preach the gospel and thus diminish evangelistic zeal. Respected Calvinist Curt Daniel writes of “Reformed apathy and lethargy,” and says, “This is seen, for example, in the reluctance to evangelize because, ‘After all, God has His elect out there and He will call them to Himself in due time.’ It is also seen in the over-emphasis on the Secret Will to the detriment of the Revealed Will of God” (Curt Daniel, The History and Theology of Calvinism [Dallas, TX: Scholarly Reprints, 1993], 468). This statement coupled with Daniel’s strong statement on page 463 should be heavily underlined: “. . . some Calvinists need to be rebuffed for an over-obsession with the Secret Will of God to the detriment of the Revealed Will in evangelism.”

Much of Dr. Ascol’s chapter appears to be an effort to use the “secret will” of God (election) to buttress evangelistic zeal and endeavor. Note that in his section on Paul, virtually the entire argument revolves around election. Curt Daniel’s warnings are especially relevant here since nowhere did I find Ascol expressing his affirmation of God’s desire for the salvation of all people in the “revealed will” of God. The only place he mentions the phrase “God’s revealed will” is on page 276 with reference to Acts 17:30, but even here Ascol uses this verse to buttress his point about the authority for Christians to evangelize all people in reference to God’s command for all to repent, not as an expression of God’s universal saving love and will. Where in this section is the appeal to God’s universal saving love and universal saving desire as motives for evangelism? The only reference in this entire section to any Scripture affirming God’s universal saving love and/or His universal saving desire is a tacit reference to the location of John 3:16 as being spoken “immediately after one of the clearest teachings on mankind’s spiritual inability.” I presume Ascol affirms God’s universal saving love and universal saving will, but he nowhere states as much in his chapter. When it comes to missions and evangelism, even from a Calvinist framework one should be operating out of statements in the “revealed will” of God concerning His love for all people and His desire that all people be saved (John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21; 1 Timothy 2:3-6; 2 Peter 3:9) rather than dabbling in the “secret will.” Why focus on election as motivation for missions and evangelism when the New Testament focuses on God’s love for all (John 3:16), God’s desire for the salvation of all (John 17:21, 23; 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9), and the death of Christ for the sins of all (John 3:16; 1 Timothy 2:6) as primary motivations for evangelism and missions (1 Timothy 2:7)?

At the center of my concerns with Founders Ministries is the distortion of the historical record of Baptists with respect to Calvinism and, more importantly, the failure to strongly promote the biblical concepts of God’s universal saving will, God’s universal saving love, and the failure to affirm and promote the fact that Christ died for the sins of all people. With respect to the former, consider the following facts.

In the early 19th century, before the creation of the SBC in 1845, some of the so called “five points” of Calvinism began to be opposed openly in Baptist life, especially limited atonement. With respect to limited atonement, the names of Andrew Fuller, William T. Brantly, J. M. Pendleton, Andrew Broaddus, and Jesse Mercer in his later years, come to mind. The 1801 Terms of Union between the Elkhorn and South Kentucky Associations eliminated limited atonement as a hindrance to fellowship. The 1833 New Hampshire Confession is less Calvinistic than the 2nd London Confession and does not affirm limited atonement. Even James P. Boyce, one of the founders of Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, appears to lean away from limited atonement (Abstract, 317-20).

In 1840 the first Baptist Association in Texas was founded: Union Baptist Association. The articles of faith reflect a modified Calvinism, especially with respect to limited atonement. For example, Article Six stated: “We believe that Christ died for sinners, and that the sacrifice which He made has so honored the divine law that the way of salvation is consistently opened up to every sinner to whom the gospel is sent, and that nothing but their own voluntary rejection of the gospel prevents their salvation.” In 1843, representatives from four Baptist Associations in Tennessee met and adopted articles affirming universal atonement and stated that none of these adopted articles were to be “construed in their meaning as to hold with the doctrine of particular, eternal and unconditional election and reprobation” (J. J. Burnett, Sketches of Tennessee’s Pioneer Baptist Preachers, Being, Incidentally, a History of Baptist Beginnings in the Several Associations in the State Containing, Particularly, Character and Life Sketches of the Standard-Bearers and Leaders of Our People [Nashville, 1913], 380). These facts alone illustrate that high Calvinism was not the be-all and end-all for Baptists at the founding of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Dr. Z. T. Cody was trained under J. P. Boyce, receiving his degree from Southern Seminary in 1887. His editorial, “Are Baptists Calvinists,” appeared February 16, 1911, in the Baptist Courier, the state paper of South Carolina Baptists for which he served as editor. He states that if Calvinism is equated with the so called “five points,” then it is “very certain that Baptists are not Calvinists.”  Cody continues: “It is also true that there are now many of our churches which hold some of the doctrines of this system.  All Baptist churches, so far as we know, hold to the perseverance of the saints. But it can be very confidently affirmed that there is now no Baptist church that holds or defends the five points of Calvinism. Some of the doctrines are repugnant to our people. Could there be found a minister in our communion who believes in the theory of a limited atonement?”

This historical data makes it clear that the historiography of Founders Ministries is problematic. The historiography of some of the chapters in WHW follows suit.

With respect to the biblical concepts of God’s universal saving will, universal saving love, and Christ’s death for all people, Dr. Ascol’s opposition to preachers indiscriminately telling everyone that “Christ died for you” seems the same as being against telling them that God is both willing and prepared to save them all. How the use of the code phrase “Christ died for sinners” (which for the high Calvinist means “Christ died for elect sinners”) as opposed to the use of the phrase “Christ died for you” can avoid leaving the impression with all sinners that Christ died for them is beyond me. It is at the very least confusing and at worst disingenuous. In fact, to oppose conveying to any and all sinners that God is both willing and prepared to save them is, in my judgment, implicit Hyper-Calvinism at the practical level. Please note my use of the words implicit and at the practical level. As I see it, saying “Christ died for you” is equivalent to saying that God is willing, able, and prepared to save all and will do so if they come to Christ through repentance and faith because all the sins of all people have been imputed to Christ. Refusal to tell any sinner “Christ died for your sins” implicitly questions God’s saving will and saving love for that individual. I believe such a posture entails problems for evangelism, missions, and preaching (see my chapter in Whosoever, 94-199).

Therefore, in light of the biblical and historical picture, it does not appear Dr. Ascol’s conclusion that Calvinism has been a catalyst for missions and evangelism can be sustained without qualifications and/or modifications. One might just as easily say that the non-Calvinist doctrines which the Moravians held in the 18th century had been a catalyst for missions and evangelism; or the doctrines the Wesleyan Methodists held in the 18th and 19th centuries were a catalyst for missions and evangelism; or the doctrines which the Wycliffe Bible Translators held and hold (many of whom were and are non-Calvinists) in the 20th century was a catalyst for missions and evangelism; or that the essentially non-Calvinistic doctrines which most Southern Baptists held in the 20th century and continue to hold today and which produced one of the greatest missionary  forces on the planet were a catalyst for missions and evangelism.

Passion and commitment to missions and evangelism has less to do with whether one is a Calvinist or an Arminian or a Traditionalist and everything to do with love for God, obedience to God and His inerrant Word, love for lost people, and a willingness to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth no matter the cost. This is what magnifies Jesus most and brings God maximal glory.

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Dr. Allen,

Excellent article, Bro. It was all the Scriptures about the desire of God to save all people, which kept me from becoming a Calvinist, back in my younger days, when I had some zealous Calvinists trying to convert me.


    Ron Hale


    Doesn’t it makes tremendous sense to simply believe that Christ died on the cross for everyone but that His death is effective and effectual only in those persons who believe the gospel.

    I would rather lean on Scriptures like: I Timothy 2:6, 2 Peter 3:9, I John 2:2 and yes … John 3:16 than continually use the logic that goes like this: if Jesus died for everyone and not everyone will be saved, then God has been defeated, His will is thwarted, along with His sovereign purpose.


dr. james willingham

Jesus seem to think it was alright to use limited atonement for evangelism. He said in the presence of the woman of Canaan, “I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the hosue of Israel.” Her response was to treat that paradox as an invitation to worship. Then He went even further and declared, “It is not meet to take the children’s bread and to cast it to dogs.” The woman agreed, saying, “Truth, Lord.” Then she argued, but even the dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”(Mt.15:21-28). For her response she received the commendation we should all desire, “Great is your faith.” Clearly, the calvinism that Z.T. Cody rejected was that of his systematic theology teacher, Dr. Boyce. How sad! There is a book, Carroll Quigley’s Tragedy and Hope in which we learn that the folks who run things reject what they call Determinism. Could it be that their predecessors infiltrated Baptists with the purpose of diverting us from the theology that produced the First and Second Great Awakenings and launched the Great Century of Missions. After all, the first missionary of the SBC to China came from a church where the Articles of Faith declared Jesus died for the Church…not a word of His dying for everyone without exception. Human merit and desert is Satan’s little deception that has undone our nation, but a Third Great Awakening is coming and the theology to produce and sustain it is also coming in response to prayers for the Awakening (after all, you have to have the theology that produces such effect). The Third Awakening will win the whole earth and every soul on it, beginning, hopefully, in this generation and continuing for a 1000 generations and reaching millions of planets, if man is allowed to continue his journey to the stars. All to produce the reality of Rev.7:9 of the number of the redeemed being a number no one can number, a cheery word of joy for an embattled people.


    “Jesus seem to think it was alright to use limited atonement for evangelism.”

    You keep repeating this error based on Mt 15. But if you were correct that Jesus being sent to the lost sheep of Israel only, is about “limited atonement” then I think there’s a good chance you are not saved either. (unless you are one of the lost sheep of Israel).

    But why would God “give faith” (as you Calvinists say), to this Greek woman, if Jesus was not sent to her? I think this is clear proof that God does NOT give faith, but that faith is entirely that of the person: YOUR faith is great, said He.

      dr. james willingham

      The first missionaries, William Carey, John Thomas, and others were believers in limited atonement, particular redemption, and they expected to win souls with the doctrine. Don’t you believe Jesus knows what He is about? And have you never heard of paradoxical interventions, therapeutic paradoxes. When you don’t have a depraved, disabled, diabolic, dead, lost person, you don’t need much of a Gospel. Just appeal to their decision making power, but if they are so lost they can’t (as Jesus said in Jn.6:44,65) respond then perhaps you are the lost person who needs to face the reality of spiritual inability (and remember you brought up this matter of my not being saved. Perhaps you have never face the fact of how lost your really were {and are, if you were not truly converted}. This is the original theology of Southern Baptists). I speak from years of research and can cite chapter and verse from the Bible and the documents of Baptists, if needed.


        Despite your reply, I see nothing that redresses your mistaken application of Mt 15 to the limited atonement theory.

        It’s not history or “documents of Baptists” that you need, but Scripture.
        You say we can’t do anything and plead Total Inability. But listen to the Greatest Evangelist of all times (if you care about history!) Who said this about Ability:

        “Strive with earnestness to enter in through the narrow door, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter in and will not be able.”
        “For narrow the gate and straitened the way that leads to life, and they are few who find it.”
        “You must be born again”

        And the Holy Spirit says:
        “Blessed are they that wash their robes (see Rev 7:14), that they may have right to the tree of life, and that they should go in by the gates into the city.”
        “And let him that is athirst come; he that will, let him take the water of life freely.”

        It is for us to do the striving to enter the narrow gate; to do the washing; the coming; the willing; the taking freely. All because “all things are ready” prepared by Him on the Cross.

          Calvin S.

          Holdon, it sounds like we have a lot to boast about: as you say, “It is for us to do the striving to enter the narrow gate; to do the washing; the coming; the willing; the taking freely.”

          “I thank you God that I am not like other men.” comes to mind. Thank you God that I did the striving, the entering, the washing, the coming, the taking willingly, the taking freely like so many other men did not do.

          How is this not boasting, Holdon? How is this giving God all the glory of our salvation? Maybe saying such things sits okay with Traditionalists, I don’t know. But it doesn’t sit well with me, but maybe that’s why I’m a Calvinist.


            “as you say”

            See that’s where you are fundamentally wrong. It’s not me who said that, but Jesus. So what do you do with those words of Jesus?

            Calvinists say “you can’t do anything”. Jesus says basically the opposite: do whatever you can.
            If you have a beef with that, you have an issue with Jesus’ message.

            And boasting is excluded. This is faith. It is not works.
            I thank that the Lord gave:
            – a narrow gate to enter
            – blood to wash my clothes in
            – the urgent invitation to respond to
            – the free water of life

            Many Calvinists will not enter themselves, because they say “I can’t” and thereby will block the entrance to others. What a shame! Yes, it is possible to “shut up the kingdom” for others. Mt 23:13

          dr. james willingham

          Evidently you do not believe what your read. Jesus was the one who said, “I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” The woman heard that remark and came and worshipped him. Have you ever heard of therapeutic paradoxes. And then perhaps you should read Jonathan Edwards’ sermon on Striving to Enter in. Jesus calls on people for the impossible as He did the rich young ruler in Mark 10. He also clearly states that man’s problem is his spiritual inability to come to Him (Jn.6:44,65). Have you ever face the fact of your spiritual inability, your deadness, your diabolic relationship to Satan (Jn.8:44), your enslavement to sin, your darkness? God says to you as He speaks through Ephs.5:14, “Awake you who are sleeping and Arise from the dead, and Christ shall shine upon you.” I was an atheist converted as a result of seeing Jesus standing before me with a hand raised like He was knocking at a door. My response to that Rev.3:20 was the same as suggested by Him in Rev.3:17, embarrassment and shame made me flee, wanting no part of Christ, helplessness and misery disabled me from opening the door, and yet before I arrived home, something or, rather, someone opened my heart (like it says in Acts 16:14) so that I decided to tell my mother and that evening of Dec. 7,1957, I asked the Lord to forgive me of my sins and felt a burden lifted off that I didn’t I had and then I cried tears of joy for the first time in my life.. Since that day nearly 55 years ago, I have followed the Lord Jesus Christ as hard as I could, doing whatever He moved me to do. Being born again surely bears some comparisons to the conception, gestation, and birth of a child as Jn.3:3-8 and Jas. 3:18 suggest. And if the Lord is in that process, and He is, then it follows there will be a relationship with the Lord Jesus. I have had one with Him for these years. Amazing Grace, John Newton’s pean of praise to God for saving such a sinner as himself suits me to a “T”. Where is your testimony and what follows?


            “He also clearly states that man’s problem is his spiritual inability to come to Him (Jn.6:44,65).
            God says to you as He speaks through Ephs.5:14, “Awake you who are sleeping and Arise from the dead, and Christ shall shine upon you.”

            So, you contradict yourself because if the dead of Eph 5:14 is really spiritually dead, he can’t hear a thing. Nevertheless Paul tell them to wake up…..

            Calvinism makes a farce of the Word of God.

            Re. Jn 6:44 or v 65 do NOT say anything about “spiritual inability”. That is clearly a Calvinistic adding to the text which has no foundation. When will the Calvinists become honest and treat the Scriptures (the Word of God) correctly? Because the “no man can” is conditioned upon “except the Father draw”.

            Now, what is this “drawing”? See the next verse (45): the Father teaches ALL and we are invited to learn that lesson. The Father presents His Son as object.
            Who does the Father draw? Short answer: ALL. See also Jn 12:32. Of course that does not mean all come, because the pull may be resisted.
            Here is what that Father did to pull:
            “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom He has sent.”
            He sent His Son.
            ” but my Father gives you the true bread out of heaven”
            He gives the true bread of life
            “For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son, and believes on him, should have life eternal;”
            He presents His Son to mankind
            “And they shall be ALL taught of God.”
            So, He teaches ALL.
            “Every one that has heard from the Father himself, and has learned of him, comes to me;”
            But everyone needs to learn that lesson.

            The drawing of the Father takes two: the One who draws, and the one who lets himself be drawn; the Teacher and the pupil. But the lesson is a hard one: Jn 6:60. It involves the eating of His flesh and the drinking of His blood. Those are activities WE have to DO. So, with striving to enter; washing your clothes in His blood; waking up; repenting; accepting His Word; believing; etc.. Those are all activities that we need to DO. The Calvinist will say: you can’t do anything. God’s Word is against them. Your own story contradicts it too: “I asked the Lord”….

            Calvin S.

            Hold on writes: “Jn 6:44 or v 65 do NOT say anything about “spiritual inability”. That is clearly a Calvinistic adding to the text which has no foundation.”

            You may have to eat your own words, holdon. Have you ever done a word study of the word “draw”?? What does the word mean? How is it used in Scripture? When Jesus says that no one is capable of coming to Him unless the Father first “draw” him, does that indicate spiritual inability??? See the following:

            “‘Draw’ in 6:44 translates the Greek helkuo. Outside of John it appears in the New Testament only in Acts 16:19: ‘they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace….’ John’s Gospel uses the word to speak of being drawn to Christ (12:32), a sword being drawn (18:10), and a net full of fish being hauled or dragged to shore (21:6, 11). The related form helko appears in Acts 21:30 (‘they dragged him from the temple’) and James 2:6 (‘Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?’). It seems hard to avoid the impression that John 6:44 refers to a ‘forceful attraction’ in bringing sinners to the Son.”
            -Robert Yarbrough

            Adam Harwood

            In reply to Calvin, the future tense of the verb is also used in John 12:32. Jesus promised to draw all people to Himself. This is not a simple exegetical matter.

            Blessings, brother.

            In Him,


            “It seems hard to avoid the impression that John 6:44 refers to a ‘forceful attraction’ in bringing sinners to the Son.”

            There is no doubt that there is a powerful attraction with which the Father draws. But not all do come, or do they? So, the “forceful attraction” is resistible.

            If anyone would argue that the “draw” is irresistible, then ALL will come (because ALL are drawn, Jn 12:32) or if on the other hand it be argued that NOT all are irresistibly drawn, then the Father is SOLELY to be blamed for the ones ending up in hell, by making no effort whatsoever to save them. (this is the Calvinist position)
            We cannot accept the first nor the second.

            Both Joseph and Jeremy were “drawn” from the pit. But they had to seize the cords that were thrown to them.
            The Father does not draw anyone as an enemy. He draws with cords of love:
            Jer 31:3; Hos 11:4;
            Draw me, we will run after thee! S. of Solomon 1:4

            Calvin S.

            Holdon, but you make it sound as if man has the ability within himself to choose to come. Jesus said “no one can come”, which means none are capable of coming unless God do something powerful within us first. In fact, none of us are nearly as bad as we could be. God prevents us from going much worse:

            Romans 1:
            v. 24 “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness”
            v. 26 “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions.”
            v. 28 “God gave them over to a debased mind”

            Not only are we incapable of coming to Christ unless God does a powerful work in us first; we would become even more evil if He did not restrain us.

            The value placed by some on the freewill of man is absurd. We can do nothing but sin unless God work His grace powerfully within us.

            “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen. 6:5)

            Nothing has changed. This is still who we are. If God does not retrain us and keep us from turning more evil AND if God does not powerful attract us to His Son, there is no hope for any of us. And I suppose that is why it sickens me when some talk about what man can do.


Mr. Allen wrote – – “At the center of my concerns with Founders Ministries is the distortion of the historical record of Baptists with respect to Calvinism and, more importantly, the failure to strongly promote the biblical concepts of God’s universal saving will, God’s universal saving love, and the failure to affirm and promote the fact that Christ died for the sins of all people.”

I suggest Mr. Allen read Dr. Tom Nettles By His Grace And For His Glory for an accurate and substantive history of the SBC. That history began in 1845 just down the road from my study, not in 1925 as some choose to render based on their selection of personages and quoted material. The Founders clearly expressed a theological posture that is known in church history as Calvinism (consult Cathcart’s The Baptist Encyclopedia). Further, he may consider some exegetical labors with the text of the NT rather than using selective portions of the writing of others on this topic. The primary source is the text of the NT rendered by sound exegesis.

Better still, I posit a series of Forums in which selected representatives of the various theological persuasions present themselves to deal with the text in diagrammatic format (Exegesis not Polemics). There is one and only one correct interpretation of each and every portion of God’s Special Revelation. The Law of Non-Contradiction makes it impossible for two divergent interpretations to stand as correct. With much prayer, abundant kindness and gracious irenic diligence we may actually make progress in dealing with these issues. The current ‘smoke & mirrors’ routine produces little other than further division and fractionalism which is counter-productive to our goal of making disciples of every tribe, tongue and people group fully formed in the Image of Christ.

The conclusions reached in this format stand as our posture on the text as we labor together.

Michael Vaughan

This isn’t really a response to these articles, but rather to the blog in general.

Is the purpose of SBC Today going to be to attack Calvinism for the rest of its existence, or is it going to start posting articles about other things? I think you’ve about beaten this horse to death. Aside from the presidential addresses and the occasional sermon starter, I’ve seen nothing but the Calvinist discussion here since before the annual meeting.

    Norm Miller

    Thx for your comment, Michael. What sort of other articles would you like to be reading here? — Norm

      Michael Vaughan

      Hi Mr. Miller,

      To be honest, I’m not entirely sure. There’s a lot to choose from (and mind you, I don’t have a bag in many of these fights–I’m just thinking aloud): spotlight individuals in baptist life or on the work taking place amongst unreached people groups today. Or you could begin discussions on polity, or the proper roles of deacons and elders, or church-state separation and the way that Christianity has been sort of grafted on to one party (which means we’ve largely lost our voice and our votes are taken for granted), or the role of women in the leadership of parachurch ministries (I have an acquaintance that is agitating for a resolution to kick women out of campus ministry positions since they end up teaching mixed groups), or a strategy for reaching the last of the unreached and what that means for our existing ministries. There’s a lot to choose from. I’m sure any of that or something entirely different could provide some interesting fruits.

      It’s not that the calvinism-traditionalism debate wasn’t interesting, but it’s been going almost constantly since before the annual meeting. Aside from the presidential addresses and the sermon starter series, I can’t recall anything else that’s been posted on this website. It’s starting to sound like a broken record, and while Lydia says it’s been fascinating (below), I’ve noticed that the comments have fallen to a mere 20-ish responses on each article from a few die-hard readers of this page.

      Now I’ll admit, another reason that I’ve tired so of the calvinism thing is that the stated purpose of SBC Today is to be “A forum for Baptists to dialogue.” While I’ll admit there’s been a lot of dialogue going on in the *comment* sections of this blog, it’s been a fairly one-sided monologue when it comes to the actual articles. Non-calvinists frame the discussion, and correct me if I’m wrong, but it appears that you guys haven’t invited a single pro-calvinist to pen an article. So much for dialogue. That’s not central to my point, (which is that SBC Today has basically become a website where people write articles against calvinism and calvinists disagree in the comment section), but it’s a contributing factor for me personally.

      I poke my head in here once a week or so, hoping to see something different, but I’ve been disappointed so far.


    “Is the purpose of SBC Today going to be to attack Calvinism for the rest of its existence, or is it going to start posting articles about other things? I think you’ve about beaten this horse to death”

    I think it is just getting started. The last post thread was fascinating!~ It included Calvinists debating each other. I am learning a ton here and am thankful this debate is happening in public on blogs where we can all interact. Why do so many YRR think that blogging about what a Calvinist has written and giving an opposing view is “attacking”. Is this thinking a product of a bad education system? Is this not what liberals do when we try to debate policy in the public square? Call it “attacking” because they really do not want to talk about policy in context? I am more worried about the bubble Calvinism produces than just about anything else.

      Michael Vaughan

      Lydia, you’ll note that I didn’t say you were attacking any individuals, but rather the doctrines of Calvinism in general. And I wasn’t referring to this particular article, but was rather making a sweeping generalization about the content of this web page since the initial Trad document was released.

      My focus was not on the “attack,” but rather the monotony of it. I don’t mind debate; I just like a little variety.

      (Longer response immediately above)

Rick Mang

Dr. Ascol (in fact everyone) has to appeal to God’s secret will because nowhere does God inform us of who the elect are. Therefore the gospel has to be preached to everyone indiscriminately. Spurgeon chided the hyper calvinists of his day by saying that we weren’t supposed to go around lifting up coattails to see if there was a stripe painted on them to identify them as the elect! The argument of lack of motivation to evangelize is rightly directed toward the hypers. The hypers would only evangelize the socalled “sensible sinners”.


Norm Miller

Dr. Allen: If God has a secret will, how is it that anyone would know it? I don’t mean that some would know God’s will and others would not, but how would anyone know that God had any sort of secret will as an attribute of God? If anyone knows he has a secret will, then it’s not a secret any more, right? — Norm



    That’s a secret!


      Rick Mang

      Do you know when Christ will return? No. That’s the Father’s secret.


        Ron Hale

        Good point, but … a lot of the Father’s Will is revealed in Scriptures concerning the return. We know where Jesus will return. We know certain events (I Thess. 4).

          Rick Mang


          Thank you, and I agree! I believe it speaks well to the point of God’s secret will. Just because we know things about it, doesn’t mean that His purposes are not His own.


        Norm Miller

        Don’t miss my point Rick. For sure, there is an inestimable amount of info about God and his will that remains secret, (using that word in its adjectival form). However, if, as an attribute, God has a secret will (noun), I would posit that no one could know that. For if anyone knows it, then it is no longer secret. — Norm

          Rick Mang


          I believe that I’m getting your point. There are two ways that I would answer. 1.) That He has a secret will that could be determined by the effects of it that are revealed in His Word; or 2.) That His will has 3 aspects to it. Secret (hidden), revealed (prescriptive), and dispositional (that which is pleases Him).
          I think that either way of looking at this issue is valid.

            Norm Miller

            Thx, Rick. I guess my problem is that the so-called secret will as described by Sproul, et al, contradicts the known will of God as expressed in the Bible. Sproul even goes so far as to say Deu. 29.29 is evidence of God’s secret will. Such a hermeneutical leap I find incredulous by a man of letters. If one is willing to twist the Scriptures to suit one’s theology, then whatever is wrung out ought not be a surprise. Any interp becomes viable if proof-texting is the rule of the day. — Norm

    Calvin S.

    Infant salvation may fall into this category. The Bible says little to nothing about it. However, the Bible does say that people are only saved by faith. So, our belief (whether Traditionalist or Calvinist) that babies goes to Heaven is based more on our home in God’s secret will than it is on Scripture. Age of accountablity can hardly be maintained in Scripture. Your hope that a baby who dies will go to Heaven must be based on God’s secret will, in your hope that He will take such ones, since the baby as far as we know does not have faith in Jesus and faith is the requirement for anyone to be saved.

      John Wylie

      The famous Calvinist Charles Spurgeon called people who believed in any infants being damned as “miscreants and criminals”.

        Calvin S.

        I am not arguing that babies are damned. But you have to admit that the Bible is quite clear that no one will go to Heaven unless they have personal faith in Jesus. And so, our belief that babies go to Heaven goes against the Bible’s teaching that all must have faith in order to be saved. It rather is based on hope in God’s goodness, His secret will to save even those guilty infants who have no faith.


      “So, our belief (whether Traditionalist or Calvinist) that babies goes to Heaven is based more on our home in God’s secret will than it is on Scripture. ”

      No, we have the Lord’s own words for that in Scripture:
      See that ye do not despise one of these little ones; for I say unto you that their angels in the heavens continually behold the face of my Father who is in the heavens. For the Son of man has come to save that which was lost.

dr. james willingham

Why not have a Southern Baptist who believes in Sovereign Grace write some blogs for SBC Today? When I was a child in Arkansas in the 40s and early 50s, my pastor preached Sovereign Grace. My ordaining pastor in St. Louis was a preacher of Sovereign Grace, and he had been Associate Pastor to Dr. R.G. Lee. Dr. Lee thought so much of Dr. Ernest R. Campbell that he named him in his will to preach his funeral, the only preacher at Dr. Lee’s funeral so named in the will. My roots in Southern Baptists go back to the 1700s. One of my ancestors was noted in Holcomb’s History of Alabama Baptists in 1840. He was also, it seems, one of the two men appointed by the court to execute the will of Daniel Marshall in 1781, My family on the otherside was connected to the Craigs, and a personal friend was a descendant of Elijah Craig who made the agreement with the colonial legislators that in exchange for our religiou freedom the Baptists would encourage the young men in their communities to enlist in the patriot’s cauise. Now these folks were believers in Sovereign Grace, people who experienced the First and Second Great Awakenings and helped launch the Great Century of Missions. I have done 6 years of research in Baptist Church History, wrote a Master’s thesis in American Social and Intellectual History on the subject, “The Baptists & Ministerial Qualifications: 1750-1850,” served as chairman of the Historical Committee of the Sandy Creek Baptist Assn., 1977-81 and of the Historical Committee of the Baptist State Convention of NC (1985). Is there no room for one who descends from those who helped to get this great enterprise going, because he holds to the original theology that produced those Great Awakenings and the Great Century of Missions? Even the very people who opened things up for folks who preached that Christ tasted death for every man to have freedom? Now is the proposal being made of no freedom for the believers in the original, founding theology?


    Anyone remember way back when Fox News started and the liberals where whining about how conservative is was and how it was not fair? They kept on about this for a long time (still do in some cases) when it was so obvious to many that the liberals had owned the “news” airwaves for decades and Fox was barely the “balance”.
    That is what this lamenting about SBCToday and not having Calvinist post authors sounds to me as the Reformed movement were early adapters of the internet and blogs. Anyone lameting/demanding that Founders blogs have more Trad type authors posting?

      Michael Vaughan


      Founders does not claim to be a place for “dialogue.” SBC Today does. That’s the key difference. If SBC Today wants to change its tag line to: “a place for Trads to discuss the things we believe,” then fine. You guys deserve a place of your own. I wouldn’t have a single problem with that.

      But a place that claims “dialogue” should at least attempt to have authors from both sides contribute to a discussion in places of equal prominence.

dr. james willingham

To Dr. Allen: Are you willing to toss out the folks who are not only the successors but the actually descendants of the Sovereign Grace believers who created the churches and associations from which was launched the SBC and its earliest institutions? If Jesus died for everyone, why didn’t He say so when He said He gave “His life a ransom for many?” Many does not mean every one without exception; it has the connotation of a large number. And what about Jesus winning the woman of Canaan with<"I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel?" Her response was one of worship, what would yours be? Do you think man merits or deserves to have Jesus die for him? What about Jesus using terms which indicate that the woman was depraved, unclean, reprobate, as the term "dogs" certainly suggests? She agreed that He was right, saying, "Truth, Lord." Then argued from that that the dogs eat the crumbs and no one minds or insists that they have taken the children's bread. O yes, and what about the fellow who pleaded his inability to believe, "Help my unbelief?" Strange is it not that he should plead what is denies by our traditionalists today, even the total depravity and disability or inability that that fellow pleaded as reason for Jesus to help him?


    “If Jesus died for everyone, why didn’t He say so when He said He gave “His life a ransom for many?”

    You must be truly ignorant of this verse:

    Christ Jesus who gave himself a ransom for all

      dr. james willingham

      All of a particular kind, all of a certain order. All does not mean every one without exception, Holdon. Clearly you have never studied the usage of Greek terms, but I was not addressing you in the comment immediately above. I was addressing Dr. Allen whom seems curiously without response.

        Calvin S.


        “All” does not always mean “all”.

        Luke 18:31 is instructive: “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished.”

        Notice what happens if we apply Holdon’s interpretation of “all” to Jesus’ statement. We are forced to conclude that the second coming occurred when Jesus walked to Jerusalem with the disciples, since “all things” prophesied about the Son of Man would be accomplished at that time.

        “All the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph because the famine was severe everywhere.” (Gen. 41:57)

        If we follow Holdon’s strict interpretation of all, we are forced to say that the American indians got in their canoes, crosses the ocean, walked to Egypt, and bought grain. But no one believes such a ridiculous thing.

        “and all the people came early in the morning to hear him at the temple.” (Luke 21:38)

        So, every dispersed Jew, in every place on earth, went that morning and listened to Jesus speak?? Inconceivable! But that is what “all” means in Holdon’s interpratation of the word.


          “Notice what happens if we apply Holdon’s interpretation of “all” to Jesus’ statement. We are forced to conclude that the second coming occurred when Jesus walked to Jerusalem with the disciples, since “all things” prophesied about the Son of Man would be accomplished at that time.”

          See how the Calvinist must discredit (otherwise their theology is destroyed) what I say and see how wrong they are:

          Calvin adds to the text: “at that time”. But there is not a word of that in Luke 18:31. It simply says “accomplished”. ALL things would be accomplished, not necessarily there and then.

          Now, please tell which things, spoken of the Son of Man, will never be accomplished? Please? Because if Calvin is right that “ALL is not all” then he surely must be able to tell which things will never be accomplished…..

          The second passage of Luke here above gets the same ridicule treatment:
          “So, every dispersed Jew, in every place on earth, went that morning and listened to Jesus speak?? Inconceivable!”

          But again Calvin can’t read or understand or both.
          Because the text says no such thing. It simply says that all the people that came listening to Jesus in the temple, came early. There is nothing strange to that. See also Jn 8:2 and the disciples took example from their Master and did the same: Acts 5:21. In those days, you had to come early in order to hear Jesus.

          Regarding the Indians in canoes, how does Calvin know which people did not come to Egypt to Joseph? But the text could as well be “all the land” because “haaretz” can mean “earth” as well as “land”, like it is so translated many times elsewhere in the same chapter.

          It is clear that Calvin’s only goal to make me look ridiculous. He gives no counter arguments to Paul’s use of the word ALL = all.


        “There are times, when they equate all with out exception, as in the case of the judment. However, there are verses that are clearly indicative of limitations on the usage. ”

        Oh, and I must be impressed by your “years of studying” of all? And you can’t even tell us why there is “clearly indicative of limitation” in 1 Tim 2:6? I guess we simply need to take your word for it?

          dr. james willingham

          I gave an indication of the limitations, prayers “For kings and for all in authority” and I also pointed out that “God can have a general wish for the salvation of all.” However, how would you feel about the sacrifice of your son for nothing, for folly? Every one preaches a limited atonement. The General Baptist believed Christ died for all, but His death for all could not produce converts. Big Sovereign I and Will of man could prevent it. However, since the power is in the blood, it is the atonement had overcomes the will of man. In fact, a convert of a friend of mine said the message of salvation “was so wonderful, I could not resist it.” He said when she said that, what I had said about salvation being irresistible popped into his mind. So he thought of it for about 4o years and came to the conclusion that that was the case. Consider how draw in Jn.6:44 is used to describe Paul and Silas being “dragged” through the streets of Philippi (Acts 16:19) and in Jn.18:10 of Peter drawing his sword with which he cut off a man’s ear. In the two cases cited, the drawing involves the idea of effectiveness. The power of the people drawing Paul and Silas, the New King James Version renders it “dragged,” suggests that effective resistance on the part of the preachers was impossible. The sword that Peter drew was an inanimate object. Man prevails over an inanimate object. Likewise, God’s drawing power is irrresistible, especially when one considers the person being drawn as spiritually dead, a slave in bondage, as being disable, helpless, etc. Consider the resurrection of Lazarus. Jesus cried, Lazarus, come forth. His voice made the dead man hear, gave that dead man the power to hear and respond. In Jn.5:25 Jesus said, “The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live.” Only a voice of sovereign and irresistible power can make a physically dead person live, and the same voice of sovereign and irresistible power is required to make a spiritual dead person come alive. A spiritual dead person is like the inanimate sword that Peer drew, and such a person is as helpless as Paul and Silas were in the hands of the officials of Philippi. I was, likewise, helpless, when I fled the vision of Christ standing at my door, knocking (I saw Him before me, looking at me, with his hand raised like He was knocking at a door in a Youth For Christ Meeting in St. Louis, Dec. 7, 1957). He evidently followed and opened my heart as He did Lydia’s heart (Acts 16:14) so that I called upon the Lord to forgive me of my sins and felt a burden lifted off and cried for the firs time in my life, “tears of joy.” Those two verses, Rev. 3:20 and Acts 16:14, I want inscribed on my tombstone. My life since 1957 has been a footnote to those verses.


            “I gave an indication of the limitations, prayers “For kings and for all in authority”.

            What? No you didn’t. But what is the limitation of the “all in authority”. Who are we NOT supposed to be praying for?

            The Father doesn’t draw like enemies are drawn against their will. He draws with cords of love.

            Is it your contention that the people that will populate the Lake of Fire, are there solely because the Father failed to draw them? Pay attention to these words: the Father FAILED. Because that is the logical conclusion if we cannot do anything about our salvation. Calvinism makes God fail in His intentions and in His operations.

            I don’t see why you will admit that “God can have a general wish for the salvation of all.” (referring to 1 Tim 2:4) where apparently you mean ALL without exception, and restrict the meaning of ALL just 2 verses later in the verse: “Christ Jesus who gave Himself a ransom for all”. (1 Tim 2:6).

            You cite Rev 3:20. Let me ask you: did you respond to His knocking on the door of did He break in, leaving you no choice?

              Calvin S.

              Holdon writes: But what is the limitation of the “all in authority”. Who are we NOT supposed to be praying for?

              Well, lets see what limitations we can place on “all in authority” and what limits we can place on who in authority we should be praying for. How about Satan and his demons? Should we pray for them? They have authority, right? Ephesians speaks of them as “principalities”, and “powers” and “rulers” of the darkness of this age. Satan has a “kingdom” according to Jesus (Lk. 11:18). There is “authorities” in the spiritual realm. So clearly we are not to pray for “all” in authority unless you are praying for the salvation of fallen angels!! Is that what you do, holdon?

              All does not always mean all. And if you believe that, then you should also believe that “no one” should also always mean no one as in “no one seeks after God”.

              dr. james willingham

              No, I fled the scene, and Jesus followed and opened the door about two blocks from my home and I decided to tell my mother which led to my conversion. the two texts that I want inscribed on my tombstone are Rev.3:20 and Acts 16:14. And if you had read Rev.3:20 in context, you would find that the person behind the door suffers from inability to answer as well as a lack of desire. Cf. Rev.3:17. I was an Atheist at the time Jesus knocked. I had thought, “I would like to go forward.” Then I thought, “Why would I want to do so. I don’t believe any of it is true.” At that moment with my eyes wide open, looking at the pews in front of me, I saw the person I took to be Jesus of Nazareth, the Jesus of the Bible, looking at me, facing me, with an arm raised just like He was knocking at a door. Then I wanted no part of going forward. I wanted out of that place. I went home as soon as the service was over, determined to tell no one what had happened as it was too embarrassing. After all, if you say there is no God, and He shows up, it is really hard on your atheism. In any case, two blocks from the house something or someone changed my mind (it had to be the Lord…no one else was speaking to me), and I determined to tell me mother. That led to my conversion. It took awhile to figure out that the Lord opened my heart just like He did Lydia’s in Acts 16:14.

Robert Vaughn

Re the Union Baptist Association, Robert A. Baker believed that Alexander-Campbell-influenced minister T. W. Cox was instrumental in the views of the articles of faith and “Bill of Inalienable Rights”. Baker says that “Cox’s influence may also be glimpsed in the sixth article of faith, which was Arminian in its wording.” (Tell the Generations Following, p. 32)

Z. N. Morrell wrote, “At the fifth session of the body, after dissatisfactions had been expressed at all the previous meetings after the first with the articles of faith, a committee was appointed to revise and report to the sixth session…The articles of faith as they now stand, and the constitution, with some slight changes since, were at the sixth session adopted…” (Flowers and Fruits from the Wilderness, pp. 143-144)

I doubt the changes in the 6th session support a strict limited atonement, so I’m not contradicting Bro. Allen’s point. I have not had time to locate these to discover what was actually changed in the articles. But without looking at and considering these changes, I would refrain from setting forward the articles of the 1840 Union Association and representative of the main body of Baptists in Texas, considering they were not satisfied with them from the beginning and changed them within six years.

Bob Williford

What I have found to be true in everything that I have read about this discussion and others is that Calvinism confuses the directive of the Great Commission and indeed, the entire context of God’s Word from Genesis to Revelation. God’s Word is truly not difficult to understand until those with motives other than the simple truth of His Truth intervene.

    dr. james willingham

    Funny how the calvinists go it wrong on the Great Commission, and yet they are the folks who launched the Great Century of Missions. Bob Williford ought to read Luther Rice’s Memoirs, the father of missions for Southern Baptists. I served for 11 years in a church in the Sandy Creek Baptist Assn. where he led in the launching of that great effort. William Carey in England went to prayer meetings inspired by five point calvinist Jonathan Edwards’ Humble Attempt, a tract devoted to getting Christians to pray for the spread of the Gospel among the nations. Then in 1792 Carey went to India where 7 years later he will baptize a convert, Krisna Pal who had been won to Christ by Dr. John Thomas, a Missionary who had been in India 7 years longer than Carey. Both Carey and Thomas were five point calvinists, and the latter was considered by some to be a hyper calvinist. Get this: He had been trying to win Indians of India to Christ for 14 years. When he realized Pal would go all the way with Christ and be baptized (which would put their lives in jeopardy, Dr. Thomas went insane with elation. Yes, even the hyper-calvinists get things write as do regular so-called five point calvinists, four points, three points, two, and one point calvinists. My ordaining pastor was a supralapsarian hyper-calvinist. Dr. Ernest R. Campbell wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on the subject, “Messianic Expectations Among The Nations.” He founded the American Race Track Chaplaincy (cf. Who’s Who in Religion. 2nd edn.Chicago: Marquis Pubs., Inc., 1977 where you will also find me listed). Dr. Campbell once pleaded with a relative of mine until tears ran down my relative’s face. B.H. Carroll was a believer in Unconditional Election and Predestination along with James Petigru Boyce and C.H. Spurgeon and a host of others who were gung-ho as the Marines put it for missions and the carrying out of the Great Commission.


CS wrote:

“I am not arguing that babies are damned. But you have to admit that the Bible is quite clear that no one will go to Heaven unless they have personal faith in Jesus. And so, our belief that babies go to Heaven goes against the Bible’s teaching that all must have faith in order to be saved. It rather is based on hope in God’s goodness, His secret will to save even those guilty infants who have no faith.”

I have seen consistent calvinists such as yourself in fact argue that anyone who does not have personal faith in Jesus must go to hell. By that logic, all babies, as well as all disabled folks lacking the mental capacity to have faith in Jesus, and all those who have never heard of Jesus all ***automatically go to hell***. I don’t believe that personally, but that is where the claim that one must believe in Jesus to go to heaven gets you. Thankfully, even calvinists have backed off from this strict claim and make accomodations for babies and the disabled (though not usually for those who never hear the name Jesus). The normal and reasonable in my opinion way to handle it is to say that with regard to able minded persons who hear the gospel, they **must** believe in order to be saved (and so with those who never hear, whether due to lack of capacity/babies and the mentally disabled, or those who never hear about Jesus due to lack of opportunity, they are saved via the cross by God having mercy on them and choosing to save them through the cross of Christ, in other words they are saved stricly by the mercy of God alone not by their having a faith response to the gospel).

CS also challenges the age of accountability:

“Age of accountablity can hardly be maintained in Scripture.”

I disagree with CS here as it is a standard Baptist belief that there is an age of accountabilty it especially becomes an issue relating to when a person can faithfully make a profession of Christ in order to be baptized (and there is evidence of this age of accountability in scripture though I will not get into it here).

My only question is this:

since CS denies the age of accountability, is CS (“Calvin S”) **not** a Baptist?


    Michael Vaughan

    You appear to be holding to an untenable position, sir.

    I’m not the first to use this argument, but if people will go I heaven if they never hear the name of Jesus, then it is a terrible thing to send missionaries to the unreached. In fact, it is the worst thing we could do to them, because some will not believe and therefore go to hell.

    Those who do not hear are damned, and we are guilty of not warning them.

    If you want a point-by-point argument, listen to the David Platt sermon titled something like, “What about those who never hear?” from several years ago.

    Also, I do not think those who do not hold to an “age of accountability” can be labeled as “not baptists” merely on the one point.


      Michael you wrote that I appear to hold to an untenable position. Hmm, how can you say this when I **never** gave my position regarding those who never hear the gospel.????

      I alluded to these people but never actually sshared my view regarding them. That being true, so how can you then say my position is untenable???????????

      Just how do you know a position is untenable when yu don’t even know what that position is??????

      This is the height of arrogance and presumption on your part.

      Secondly, where did I say that sending cross cultural missionaries is a terrible thing to do? For that matter where did I even mention or allude to cross cultural missionaries??

      Thirdly you claim that people are damned for not hearing.

      Where does the bible teach that??????

      The bible does say that those who hear the gospel and choose to reject it, if they continue in their rejection, will end up damned. But it never says those who do not hear are automaticallly damned. Some infants and the mentally disabled are not capable of hearing with any kind of understanding the gospel message, do they all automatically go to helll??

      Fourth, you seem to be convinced that David Platt has THE answer regarding those who have never heard. Why don’t you provide a summary of his view so that I can evaluatge it. It shouldn’t be too hard to do so since you think it is such a worthy perspective. So instead of passing the buck, briefly present his view of the fate of those who never hear the gospel.

      Fiflth, regarind the age of accountability, it is a standard baptist belief as many baptists believe in it. Are there baptists who do not hold to an age of accountability? Yes. At the same time, baptists are known for holding to this doctrine.


        Michael Vaughan

        Forgive me for being unclear.

        You seemed to be saying that those who do not hear are not damned automatically (and you continue to appear to hold to this view based on your reply). That was the only thing I assumed you believed.

        I was not accusing you of saying that sending missionaries was terrible. I am, however, saying that if people who never hear the gospel are automatically saved, then THEREFORE it is a terrible harm to send missionaries, because it means that those who were already going to be saved by ignorance become damned.

        Platt is a fantastic expositor of the bible, and I won’t attempt to summarize every point he made because it would be a better use of both of our time if you just listened to his sermon. One main point I will attempt to hit in a sentence or two: if there is a way to salvation apart from repenting and saving faith, and it is found outside trust in the death of Jesus, then Jesus’ death was worthless. To say that some can be saved apart from his death is a downplaying of his glory and sacrifice.

        Seriously, though, I’m nowhere near as good as he is at explaining it logically, point by point. That’s just the tip of the ice berg.



          Michael you wrote:

          “Forgive me for being unclear.”

          My problem was not your lack of clarity but that you attacked and condemned my view WITHOUT EVEN KNOWING WHAT MY VIEW ACTUALLY IS. That was wrong and presumptous on your part.

          “You seemed to be saying that those who do not hear are not damned automatically (and you continue to appear to hold to this view based on your reply). That was the only thing I assumed you believed.”

          I never said they were saved “automatically”.

          In my thinking there are two polar opposite errors regarding those who never hear about Jesus. One error is to assume that they will all be saved because they are “innocent” (this is error because those who never hear are sinners and a sinner cannot be saved unless they have a covering/atonement for their sin). The other error is to assume that they are all automatically hell bound (they never heard the name Jesus, you have to hear the name Jesus to be saved, therefore they are all hell bound). My own view is more nuanced then either of these extremes.

          “I was not accusing you of saying that sending missionaries was terrible. I am, however, saying that if people who never hear the gospel are automatically saved, then THEREFORE it is a terrible harm to send missionaries, because it means that those who were already going to be saved by ignorance become damned.”

          But this claim that “people who never hear the gospel are automatically saved” is false. And I reject that view, so to then follow up with the argument that it is terrible to send missionaries, does not effect my view at all because I don’t believe that they automatically get saved.

          “Platt is a fantastic expositor of the bible, and I won’t attempt to summarize every point he made because it would be a better use of both of our time if you just listened to his sermon.”

          I did a check of Platt on **You tube** and found a video where he gives his view (it was a message at a seminary chapel, about 9 ½ minutes long). The major problem with Platt’s presentation is that it leaves a lot of relevant things out, things that need to be considered on this subject. I will elaborate on this later in this post.

          “One main point I will attempt to hit in a sentence or two: if there is a way to salvation apart from repenting and saving faith, and it is found outside trust in the death of Jesus, then Jesus’ death was worthless. To say that some can be saved apart from his death is a downplaying of his glory and sacrifice.”

          There are some problems with your claims here. For those who in fact hear the gospel and are able minded (that excludes babies and the mentally disabled) there is no salvation “apart from repenting and saving faith”. And that saving faith **is** found in trusting in the death of Jesus. We know that regarding those who hear the gospel, either they believe and are saved or they reject it and are damned. That is without controversy, that is the clear and explicit teaching of scripture.

          What is not as clear is the nature of “saving faith” in different eras of time and geographical areas. In the bible both in the Old and New Testaments, an able minded person is saved through faith not the doing of religious works.

          But God’s revelation is also progressive, which means God has revealed things over time, not all at once, and not all in one place, and so not everyone received or can receive the same amount of revelation. We have more revelation today than believers in the Old Testament era did. The pattern in scripture seems to be that God holds people responsible for the light they have received (to whom much is given much is required, teachers incur a stricter judgment, etc.).

          Another pattern in scripture is that God chooses those who trust Him to be His people (i.e. saving faith means people trust in what they have received from God in their particular situation, in their era, New Testament saints have received a lot more revelation than OT saints ever did). Some believers were saved after Moses received the Law and they knew of the OT law (so for them they demonstrate their trust by trying to keep the Law and being obedient to what God commanded them to do, but many of these folks would never have heard of Jesus nor would they have known about the resurrection of Jesus, the incarnation, Jesus’ death on the cross for their sins, they would not have known the gospel that we present today).

          Some believers were saved prior to the giving of the Law. The paradigm example of this is Abraham. Abraham was saved through faith not his own works and he was not under the Law nor did he hear the gospel concerning Jesus.

          Abraham trusted God, and was faithful to the word that he received. Abraham was told that he would have many descendants (and these descendants that are saved persons have faith as he did, they trust God and are faithful to the light they receive).

          I believe that the atonement of Jesus was provided for the whole world (as scripture explicitly states).

          I believe that one of the reasons that Jesus was given for the world was so that God might be “just and justifier”(i.e. that means that God saves people in such a way through the cross of Christ so that God maintains his character, primarily His Holiness, and in doing it this way He gives Himself the right to justify whomever He chooses to justify, which means that all are saved through the cross, that God can apply the atonement to whomever he wants, whether they be able minded persons who trust Him, whether they be babies and the mentally disabled who are incapable of a faith response, whether they be those who have never heard of Jesus but who were faithful to the light they received).

          Put simply, God has the right, by means of the atonement of Christ, to save whomever he wants.

          Now we know that he chooses to save those able minded persons who trust Him. We also know that if bablies, the mentally disabled or those who have never heard are going to be saved, they have to be saved through the cross and apart from actually hearing the gospel the involves Jesus.

          Put another way, they cannot be saved through a faith response in the gospel and yet they can be saved. This is an important point to consider when it comes to “those who have never heard”. Because (as is also the case with babies and the mentally disabled) if they are going to be saved it is not through a faith response to the gospel involving Christ (and yet they, like everybody else will be saved through the atonement of Christ).

          You stated: “To say that some can be saved apart from his death”

          And that is just it, no one can be saved ***apart from his death***. Even in the case of a baby or mentally disabled person (persons incapable of a faith response due to lack of capacity): they are not saved merely because they are “innocent” (they are saved through the cross just like everybody else who is saved).

          “Seriously, though, I’m nowhere near as good as he is at explaining it logically, point by point. That’s just the tip of the ice berg.”

          I listened to Platt and found him to be making some good points but also leaving a lot of relevant things out. He basically took Romans 1 and argued from that text alone that “those who have never heard” are all going to hell. But he failed to make his case sufficiently.

          A major problem with his message is that Romans 1 refers to those who had things revealed to them and **chose to reject them**. It is true that those who have truth revealed to them and then reject it, are not going to be saved. But you cannot infer from the people described in Romans 1 who did reject the truth, to the conclusion that all who never hear the gospel are hell bound. That does not logically follow at all.

          Take Abraham as an example. He was an idolator before God revealed things to him. If he had continued in that condition then he would have been one of those people Paul describes in Romans 1 (a Gentile idolator, nonbeliever who rejects the light given to him/her and worships gods other than the one true God). But Abraham did not continue in that condition as a Gentile idolator: instead, he chose to trust God, to trust in the light that he received. Abraham did not have a faith response to the gospel of Christ (Jesus had not come in the flesh yet, had not died on the cross yet, had not rose from the dead yet). And yet Abraham **did** trust in God. He trusted in the light that God gave him. While Abraham did not have a faith response to the gospel about Jesus, nevertheless, since Jesus atonement was provided for the whole world (God could apply that atonement to Abraham, the atonement of Christ allows God to be “just and justifier” of those whomever He wants to save). Not all Gentiles reject God and the light given to them, some like Abraham trust in God and the light given to them.

          Romans 1 describes not Gentiles such as Abraham but Gentiles who reject God and the light they receive. You cannot infer from the fact that some Gentiles are idolators who reject the light given to them: to the conclusion that all of them are idolators, or the conclusion that all who never hear about the gospel of Jesus will reject the light given to them by God.

          And regarding those who have never hear the gospel of Christ. They fall into two different groups. Those who reject the light they receive (whom Paul describes in Romans 1). And those who trust in the light they receive from God (such as Abraham).

          Now I need to make myself absolutely clear here to avoid misunderstanding. In my thinking when it comes to those who have never heard what we need to do is take biblical principles that we know to be true and combine them, resulting in our conclusions. This is why I say that Platt left out quite a bit when it comes to this topic. He restricted himself to Romans 1 which is a description of Gentiles who rejected the light they received. But if we are talking about those who never hear the gospel, we are not talking about ONLY those who reject the light they receive, but also those, like Abraham who trusted God and the light they received from God.

          We have to consider principles such as the following: (1) that Jesus is the atonement given for the whole world; (2) that by means of the atonement of Christ, God is “just and justifier” and so can apply the atonement and save whomever he wants (whether they have heard of Jesus or not, whether they have the mental capacity to believe or not); (3) that God alone saves and that God saves whomever he wants to save; (4) that God saves everyone who is saved through the cross of Christ; (5) that God can apply the atonement of Christ to people who live during the time of Christ after the time of Christ and even before the time of Christ; (6) that God desires to save all people; (7) that not all people are saved; (8) that according to Jesus most people will not be saved (most are on the wide road . . .) (9) there are instances (Richardson presented examples in his book ETERNITY IN THEIR HEARTS, in which those who never heard responded favorably to the light given to them and God then sent missionaries to them) of those who have not heard being faithful to the light they received and then having missionaries sent to them; (10) According to Acts 17 God sets things up so that people all over the world will seek Him; (11) according to God Himself if you seek me you will find me; (12) God knows people’s hearts and intentions; (13) some scripture speaks of how God redeemed people from every tribe and tongue (and yet we know some of those people groups never had missionaries presenting the gospel of Christ to them); (14) God can give people dreams and visions (there have been instances of this of late in Muslim countries); (15) that God commands the church to take the gospel to the whole world, etc.

          My point is that if you are going to talk about this particular issue (the fate of those who never hear the gospel) you have to consider all of these things simultaneously. To base your conclusion on Romans 1 alone (which describes only those Gentiles who did not have faith as Abraham did), is to base your conclusions on insufficient evidence and to not take sufficiently into account what scripture says.

          Platt in his message presented what he called “4 truths”:

          Truth 1 = all people know God the Father (based on Rom. 1)
          Truth 2 = all people reject true knowledge of God
          Truth 3 = there are no innocent people in the world
          Truth 4 = all people are condemned for rejecting God

          Truth 1 is ambiguous: knowing God the Father, in exactly what way do all people know Him? The fact that God gives light to people and reveals things to them, does not mean they know God the Father.

          Truth 2 cannot be taken too absolutely (as if all people reject true knowledge of God at all times and continously in every circumstance).
          If that statement is true in the absolute sense THEN NO ONE ever would be saved. And in fact some people are saved.
          So the claim that all people reject true knowledge of God has to be qualified and better nuanced. Every believer at one time rejected God. Abraham started out as an idolator, he rejected true knowledge of God at first.

          Truth 3 is true of those who are able minded (I don’t believe that it applies to babies or the mentally disabled: though it does apply to those who have never heard the gospel message about Jesus, they are not innocent they are sinners like everyone else). It is because all have sinned that God provided the atonement of Christ for the whole world. In order to maintain his character and standards (“just”) and in order to give Himself the right to justify/save whomever He wants (“and justifier”) God provided Jesus for the whole world. In this way God can save anyone that he wants to save by applying the atonement to them. He can have mercy on whomever He wants to have mercy on.

          Truth 4 is true, people are condemned for rejecting God, for rejecting the light given them. But if they trust God, respond properly to the light they are given (like Abraham did, before the law was given, before Christ died on the cross, before there was a gospel of Christ to share with people concerning His incarnation death, burial and resurrection) God can choose to save them through the cross of Christ.

          Platts’ points do not establish (not even close) that **all** who never hear the gospel automatically go to hell.

          If we take into consideration all of the things I have mentioned here, then the reasonable conclusion is that we cannot say that **all** who never hear the gospel are saved, nor can we say that **all** of them are going to hell. Instead, it seems that some are going to hell and some may be saved. God knows the hearts of all men, he knows what light they have received and how they have responded to it. He can save anyone that he wants to save (through the atonement of Christ which he can apply to whomever He wants) but we know in the case of able minded persons that he chooses to save only those, like Abraham who choose to trust Him and the light He has given them.

          I am also extremely leery of the “us four and no more” attitude (i.e. some are quite content that they are believers but really do not want more people to be saved, they would like to restrict the grace of God to themselves, they become GRACE-RESTRICTERS, like the Pharisees who happily believed they were the saved, the chosen of God, and really didn’t want “those people” to be saved: this same attitude can be found in professing Christians, a famous example being John Ryland who told Carey “Sit down, young man! If God wants to save the heathen. He’ll do so without your help or mine.”). Instead of being a GRACE-RESTRICTER, God Himself happily lavishes his grace on all people. God is not stingy about people being saved: He says he wants all people to be saved. We are the ones who erect unnecessary barriers and attempt to restrict the grace of God to those whom **we allow to be saved**.

          Finally, when this question is asked: what is the fate of those who never hear the gospel of Christ? In my experience usually this comes from two very different kinds of people. So we treat these two types accordingly. There are sincere people who really wonder about this (that would include Christians who think about it). For them we should always take the time to present an answer. There are others who want to use it as some sort of argument against God (i.e. “what about those who never hear, they are all going to hell right, God is so unfair and unloving to do that to them . . .”). For these we may share some things, but then we should always turn it on them directly: “Ok so we have talked about what may happen to those who never hear the gospel, what about YOU, what have YOU done with Jesus? What have YOU done with the gospel?”


            Michael Vaughan

            Wow, that’s a super long answer, and I thank you for taking the time to write it all out. I’ll try to read it in depth at some point and respond.

            (P.S. the platt message I’m referring to was about an hour in length. I’ll try to hunt up a link, but it was a sermon available on the Church at Brook Hills iTunes podcast).

            I can see that this discussion is going to hinge in part on the salvation of those not “able-minded.” While I’m willing to concede that God can do whatever he wants and I don’t understand it all, I think that we can only say for sure things explicitly laid out in the Bible, and an “age of accountability” and the salvation of those who don’t hear (babies, disabled) cannot be assumed, because there is no biblical text that says they are. The preponderance of the text seems to indicate that babies are under sin.

            As to the idea that “all know the father,” platt’s point is that they will be condemned based on their rejection of the natural law laid out in Romans 1. They know his will enough to break it.

            Michael Vaughan

            And let me back up a moment: I’m not trying to throw my hat in the ring about babies–I just don’t know and won’t commit to one or the other. But I will commit to the condemnation of men and women in the present age who never hear about Jesus and reject God’s natural laws. I’d like to keep the discussion focused to that.


Hello Holdon,

Regarding the word “all”, it does not **always** mean all without exception. There are a few instances of this in the New Testament (that calvinists are quick to point out). However, while that is true, it is not true that in the key passages that speak of Jesus dying for all, etc. that all does not mean all. As with all bible passages, the context is key in determining whether or not, the word all means all without exception or is being used in a more hyperbolic manner (e.g. “all the world is following him”). What calvinists do which is both misleading and not surprising (considering their total commitment to their false system of theology, resulting in having to mould scripture to always fit the system rather than vice versa): is to argue that since all sometimes does not mean all in other bible verses, therefore it does not mean all in the key passages. But they are not arguing from context but according to the logic of their system.

You should be aware of this common tactic on the part of calvinists. If you unequivocally state that all must always mean all you will find them quick to bring up instances where all does not mean all without exception.


    Tim B

    If we were consistent in the hermeneutic that strict Calvinists use to maintain limted atonment the scriptures would be gutted of all meaning. Bring our reasoning to the text and then redefine terms until it says what I want it to say. No wonder that historically Calvinistic denominations have eventually rejected the deity of Christ and have embraced universalism.


    “You should be aware of this common tactic on the part of calvinists.”

    Thanks for the heads up. I am very well aware of the schemes of Calvinism. Unfortunately.

    Re. the use of “all” it simply always means all. Of course there can be modifiers and qualifiers, hyperbole etc.. But even in those uses: ALL = all.

    By the way, I think you may refer to Jn 12:19 : “the world is gone after Him”. But the word “all” is not in that text. This was a saying by His enemies, the Pharisees. So, why would we take them so literal? I think not. They just witnessed two throngs joining around Jesus (and some Greeks among them too). So, it looked very impressive to them.

      Calvin S.

      Holdon: Does “whole world” mean “whole world”?

      “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.” (Rom. 1:8)

      Holdon, AGAIN: Does “all” mean “all”?

      “the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world” (Col. 1:5-6)

      Holdon: Does “every” mean “every”

      “the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven” (Col. 1:23)

      Holdon, your position is untenable.

dr. james willingham

Why don’t everyone read C.H. Spurgeon’s sermon on Infant Salvation in vol. 7 ,1861, p.505. in his MTP (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit).


    Not everyone has access to Spurgeon’s material, so most have probably not read what you make reference to here. Could you perhaps share a link by which people could access this Spurgeon material?

    For better material than that of Spurgeon on the issue of infants I suggest the book by Adam Harwood titled: “The Spiritual Condition of Infants: A Biblical-Historical Survey and Systematic Proposal”. Harwoods is the best material to date on this issue.


dr. james willingham

A lot of the problems over Sovereign Grace begin with the problem of a failure to discern the truth and effect of the Fall of Man in the Garden. God said, “in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Did man die that very day? Did he die spiritually? The Bible certainly presses home the truth of being dead spiritually, dead in trespasses and sins, followed by physically death. In man’s spiritually dead state, He is physically alive, mentally alive (after a fashion), alive to this world, but his condition is like that of the fellow in the cemetery out of whom our Lord cast a legion of demons. Man’s being is that of madness. A sermon by a Puritan, Thomas Adam in the 1600s described man as mystical bedlam, using as a text, Eccl.9:3. Salvation is a spiritual resurrection, a resurrection from spiritual death, the giving of a new life, a transformation of the old man, regeneration and conversion, and the Lord can use any scripture to reach the lost sinner in the conversion process, as He used Rev.3:20 to get my attention and Acts 16:14 to spark a response that was successful. He drew me, and I came. He turned me, and I was turned. David Platt got into a tiff, because he desired to get people not to fall into a set pattern, one approach applies to all, the sinner’s prayer, but God once used the genealogy of His Son to convict a sinner who saw it as the indication of some royal personage and it led to his conversion. God can use unusual texts to reach unusual souls.

dr. james willingham

Holdon, all in I Tim 2:6 means what the context established, all men, for kings and all who are in authority, from 50 years ago or more I remember reading that it means “all sorts of men,” since the all is so used. However, I do not consider it a problem for God to desire the salvation of all men. After all, He treats even Esau, whom He clearly said He hated, with love, and even hate is an invitation to trust in God. In I Jn.2:2 Jesus is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, but in I Jn.5:19 we find that the whole world lies under or in the power of the wicked one, but clearly John was exempted himself and his fellow believers:”We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.”(NKJV). There is a love-hate relationship involved in the process as God hates sin, and He even says He hates all workers of iniquity. Then He tells us that He loves sinners. Clearly, it is His choice as there is nothing to love in man, no reason for his being saved in man himself. Thre reason must lie in the clear and sovereign love of God in Christ.


    “Holdon, all in I Tim 2:6 means what the context established, all men, for kings and all who are in authority, from 50 years ago or more I remember reading that it means “all sorts of men,” since the all is so used.”

    1 Tim 2:6 is: “Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all”. There is no reason to believe that “all” in this verse “all sorts of men” rather than simply “all men”. Nor is there any reason to do that in v. 1 and 2. As I have demonstrated there is no one excluded from the “all in authority”. When Paul wrote the empire had one of the worst leaders. But he says explicitly: “all in authority” without exception.

    Why must one (who told you this 50 years ago) then change the text into “all sorts of men”? What is the motive? To make it jive with a theology that cannot have Jesus’ sacrifice be of benefit to all, as that theology must also change the meaning of 1 Jn 2:2 and several other verses? Because I certainly see no evidence from these texts that the object needs to be restricted to the believers only.
    When certain theologies need to alter the texts of Scripture for what they clearly and plainly state, is that not a problem? Where would it end?

    Re. the difference between Mt 20:28 and 1 Tim 2:6 it is as follows. Mt’s verse says Christ gave himself a ransom for many; 1st Tim has: Christ gave himself a ransom for all. But when you take a closer look, in Mt. the word “for” is “anti” meaning instead of. There it is Christ who gave himself a ransom as replacement of substitute for the many. The believers (the many) know that the price was paid in their stead.
    The verse in 1 Tim is different: there the word “for” has the meaning of “extent”. The word “anti” is also found but now attached to the word ransom (“anti”ransom if you will, which reflects the thought of Mt). Thus the meaning is different. Now it is Christ gave himself an “anti”-ransom, but not as a factual substitute for all (then all would be saved), but available to all.
    So, the Holy Spirit made both aspects very clear: the substitution price is for the believer but it is also available for whoever (all) who want to avail themselves of it.
    We have a similar thought in Romans 3:22 where we read that the righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ is “towards all”. That’s the scope and all inclusive extent. But then the verse continues with “and upon all who believe”. See, it becomes theirs only for those who believe.
    1 Jn 2:2 is again similar: Christ Jesus is a propitiation for our sins (we who are believers). But He is also a propitiation for the entire world. It is there for the taking for whoever wants to come and take it freely. Yes the entire world is still under the wicked one, but God wants none to perish and He has done everything: all is ready. The invitation can go out to all. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself not imputing their trespasses.

    There are many more examples that express this same thought of the two sides of Christ’s atonement. (and that’s why it is nonsense to speak of “limited atonement; because it is limited on the one hand and unlimited on the other).

    For instance you have purchase: He purchased the whole world see Mt 13:44 (see v.38 that the field = the world) and the evil doers of 2 Pet 2:1; and on the other hand texts of redemption which is for believers only.
    In Romans 14 and 1 Cor 8 you find that someone may perish for “whom Christ died”.
    Therefore Christ died for all.

dr. james willingham

Holdon: If Jesus died for all without exception as their substitute, and the power is in the blood, why are not all saved? Or does someone have to add some meritorious action, called faith by some, to the blood to make the whole thing work? Universalism is heresy. Here is a history lesson for you. In 1755 two ministers of the Philadelphia Baptist Assn., Peter Peterson Van Horn and Benjamin Miller came to North Carolina where they met with some General Baptists. Now everyone knows the General Baptists believe in a general atonement, that Christ died for everyone. The General Baptists of that day in North Carolina were not very evangelistic or missionary minded. Van Horn and Miller persuaded the group (I think it was several small churches) to accept the Particular Views of the Atonement of the Regular Baptists. For the next 46 years those churches went alone, baptizing perhaps 25-30 per year. Then came 1801 and the Second Great Awakening and the baptized 872, Why did God pour out His blessings on the Limited Atonement, evangelistic, missionary minded Regular and Separate Baptists and not on the General Baptists who hold your doctrine of Christ dying for everyone? O yes, and they also hold you can lose your salvation. I have friends in the General Baptists,,,and have even preached in General and Free Will Baptist Churches.


    “Holdon: If Jesus died for all without exception as their substitute, and the power is in the blood, why are not all saved?”

    I think you don’t read very well. I wrote: “Now it is Christ gave himself an “anti”-ransom, but not as a factual substitute for all (then all would be saved), but available to all.”

    You do not interact with any of the Scriptures that I adduced.

    And why all are not saved, is not because God did not want to save all (as Calvinism teaches and contra Scripture), but because the ones that do not want to believe are not saved. It is up to the person to be saved.

    “what must I do to be saved”

    asked the Jailor and the answer was then as always:

    “Believe on the Lord Jesus and thou shalt be saved”.

    The rest of your post has nothing to do with anything I wrote. Maybe you’re spending to much time on history and anecdotes. Scripture is a much better study object.

    But I will say this: the bulk of the gospel preached today is that Christ died for everyone and more come to Christ than ever before. I do not know many “successes” of pure Calvinistic gospel preaching. I do know of souls being in severe anguish to the end of their lives, not knowing whether they belong to “the elect”. That is a fact that I know, which is a direct effect of the wretched theology that Calvinism is, because it keeps people wretched till the end of their lives. I believe they are saved, but they have no assurance and joy of it. Their response is always: “ah, but one cannot say that”. Some cry every evening in their prayer for “the sign” and never get it.

dr. james willingham

Sarcasm and satire are hardly the best means for Christian’s to use, and your replies Calvin S. above made you look poorly …and not what he said.

dr. james willingham

A noted Southern Baptist Evangelist of a generation ago, Ev. E.J. Daniels, once preached a sermon on Jonah 2:9, “Salvation is of the Lord.” He pointed out that Salvation is of the Lord in its 1. Conception. 2. Application. 3. Continuation. 4. and Conclusion.

dr. james willingham

Holdon: Jer. 7:16;14:11; and 15:1 tells of a group for whom the prophet was not to pray. In I Jn.5:16 John says, I do not say to pray for it. Evidently, there are limits to the all as found in the word of God.

Steve Lemke

Dr. Allen,
I just wanted to thank the authors of Whomsoever He Wills for helping bring about a significant increase in the sales of our book recently after their book came out. Perhaps imitation (imagination?) is the sincerest form of flattery? (:-) Seriously, thanks for your thoughtful, well-reasoned, and well-documented responses.

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