John Calvin: In His Own Words
Article II: Reprobation

August 7, 2012

Ron F. Hale

He has served as Pastor, Church Planter, Strategist (NAMB), Director of Missions, and Associate Executive Director of Evangelism and Church Planting for a State Convention, and now in the 4th quarter of ministry as Minister of Missions.

 

 


People take pleasure in rooting for the underdog.  I’ll never forget the boys of the U.S. Olympic Hockey Team beating the brash Soviet Team for a gold medal in 1980.  It was a David vs. Goliath magic moment as America surprisingly celebrated the thrill of victory instead of the agony of defeat.

To me, the reprobate is the underdog in the theological world.  How would you like to be doomed for destruction?   The contrasting proposition of Calvin’s view of divine election is reprobation.

Before we look at what Calvin had to say, I want to introduce a definition from a book that has chapters from prominent SBC Calvinists and non-Calvinists, it says:

Reprobation – From the Latin verb reprobare, to reprove.  This is the belief that God has eternally condemned all non-elect persons to eternal condemnation for their sins.  Calvin insisted “that this is not just a matter of God’s ‘passing over’ the non-elect, but an actual hardening so that they are actually strengthened to resist the gospel,” although he also taught that humans are unable to understand the full counsel of God on this issue and must humbly trust His goodness and justice in this.” [i]

With that context, please note what John Calvin had to say in his own words:

“We say, then, that Scripture clearly proves this much, that God by his eternal and immutable counsel determined once for all those whom it was his pleasure one day to admit to salvation, and those whom, on the other hand, it was his pleasure to doom to destruction.  We maintain that this counsel, as regards the elect, is founded on his free mercy, without respect to human worth, while those whom he dooms to destruction are excluded from access to life by just and blameless but at the same time, incomprehensible, judgment.”  (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3:21:7)

In the case of the reprobate, we find several disquieting constructs according to Calvin’s particular position:

  1. According to Calvin, God by his eternal and immutable counsel determined those chosen or elected to salvation.
  2. The reprobate (non-elect for salvation) is doomed for destruction.
  3. The eternal and immutable counsel of God determines this destruction.
  4. God passes by the non-elect, excluding them from his saving will or decree of salvation.  Reformed theology calls this “preterition.”  It is defined as God’s sovereign passing by of the non-elect, thus excluding them from his decree of salvation.[ii]
  5. This determination was made by the pleasure of God.
  6. The determined destruction of the reprobate is without respect to human worth.
  7. God is just (in those he gives life) and blameless (in those to whom he dooms to destruction).
  8. God’s judgment is beyond our understanding.

 

Some Southern Baptists may find Calvin’s teaching historic and principled, while others find it shocking.  Those finding it shocking may even initially sense a cognitive or spiritual dissonance as the conflicting ideas of God’s mercy and grace struggle with his justice and judgment.

Calvin seems to reduce this dissonance or confliction of ideas by stripping man of his free will and personal responsibility by placing the burden of eternal condemnation on the sovereign shoulders of God in pre-creation.

Calvin prophesied my reaction when he wrote, “The human mind, when it hears this doctrine, cannot restrain its petulance, but boils and rages as if aroused by the sound of a trumpet.”  He goes on to say, “This they do ignorantly and childishly since there could be no election without its opposite reprobation.”

Calvin also says in this section, “Those, therefore, whom God passes by he reprobates, and that for no other cause but because he is pleased to exclude them from the inheritance which he predestines to his children.” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3:23:1)

Only “consistent” Calvinists have the right to throw stones at my petulant heart.  A consistent Calvinist believes that all infants are born condemned with the imputed sin and guilt of Adam and some are born doomed for destruction and others are the elect ones.

A serious question always arises concerning the death of infants.  How do consistent Calvinists stay true to Calvin’s proposition of imputed guilt and reprobation?  An extremely helpful book on this subject has been written by Dr. Adam Harwood, Assistant Professor of Christian Studies at Truett-McConnell College as he studies the views of sixteen theologians (past to present), and ten related and relevant biblical texts. He argues that infants inherit from Adam a sinful nature but not guilt. The sinful nature that infants inherit will eventually result in their becoming guilty by knowingly committing acts of sin and at this point we immediately fall under God’s judgment and condemnation.[iii] He shows the inconsistency in the Augustine-Calvin tradition in dealing with this subject through the centuries.

We see a softening of the teachings of reprobation by Augustine and Calvin as the Reformed tradition moved closer to the 20th century.   Along the way, infant baptism, covenant theology, confessions being updated, and the view that children of the covenant are safe by having believing and baptized parents has helped Reformed Theologians win the battle over church member mutiny.

However, cringe moments do happen in our day.  Seminary Presidents Al Mohler and Danny Akin collaborated on several timely theological papers addressing what one noted reformed professor said after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. The terrorism of Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people, including 19 children under the age of six. Although they do not mention Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr. by name, Drs. Akin and Mohler said, “Yet, a popular evangelical theologian chided Billy Graham when at the Oklahoma City memorial service he said, “Someday there will be a glorious reunion with those who have died and gone to heaven before us, and that includes all those innocent children that are lost.  They’re not lost from God because any child that young is automatically in heaven and in God’s arms.’ The theologian scolded Dr. Graham for offering what he called ‘… a new gospel: justification by youth alone.’”[iv]

Professor David J. Engelsma’s reformed view is that children of believers are automatically saved under their parents’ covenant and thus have no need for personal conversion.  However, children of unbelievers who die in infancy are reprobate and go to hell.[v]

From a historical perspective, Dr. Steve W. Lemke says, “Baptists have always believed that since infants are not yet capable of actual sin until the age of accountability and since their sinful nature is saved through the atonement, they go to heaven. Humans are not held accountable for their sins until they are morally accountable, and at that point their destiny is decided by their response to God’s initiative of grace, not the spiritual heritage of their parents.”[vi] The Baptist Faith and Message 1963 and 2000 concur, “… as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation (Section III, Man).”

Jesus teaches Nicodemus in John 3 that the lost sinner remains in his condemnation for one single, solitary reason, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  The cause of a person being sent to hell or damnation will be their sinful unbelief of rejecting Jesus. There are no under dogs, just over lords of their own rebellious ways.

Sadly, lost people go to a devil’s hell for all eternity when they die without Jesus.  However, God did not pass them over; they passed over Jesus and rejected his love, mercy, grace, and total forgiveness.


[i] Shawn D. Wright, “Glossary of Some Important Theological Terms,” in the book, Calvinism: A Southern Baptist Dialogue, Nashville: B & H, 2008, 284.

[ii] Ibid, 284.

[iii] Adam Harwood, The Spiritual Condition of Infants: A Biblical-Historical Survey and Systematic Proposal (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2011), 153.

[iv] www.danielakin.com/wp-content/uploads/2004/08/why-we-believe-children-who-die-go-to-heaven

[v] Steve W. Lemke, “A Biblical and Theological Critique of Irresistible Grace, in, Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism, ed. David L. Allen and Steve W. Lemke (Nashville, B&H Academic, 2010), 132.

[vi] Ibid, 133.

 

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Tim Rogers

Ron,

A good and timely word. Great historical analysis. One thing in the John Calvin quote. How is his quote not double-predestination? Is it that he uses the term “elect” only for the saved? Or is it that he doesn’t specifically identify the a “choosing” of those to destruction? It seems that he is implying that a choice on God’s part has been made with the term “pleasure”.

    Ron Hale

    Good morning Tim,
    I think Calvin’s double presdestination showed up more clearly in my first little article, as he said:

    “By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestined to life or death.” (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3:21:5)

    And in this article, he says, “… while those whom he dooms to destruction are excluded from access to life by just and blameless but at the same time, incomprehensible, judgment.”

    Thanks for addressing the article! Blessings.

Rick Patrick

Ron,

Once again, I commend you for going straight to the source and using Calvin’s own words to define Calvinism. Clarity, like rain water, is refreshing.

How hollow it would sound if Calvinists resorted to their most familiar refrain, “But Ron, you don’t understand us, we do not believe that way at all, and you have not fairly represented our position!”

I truly long for the day when one of them is bold enough and honest enough and consistent enough with their argument to make the astonishing claim that John Calvin didn’t really understand Calvinism!

Until then, I’ll just have to say that when Calvin wrote of God’s treatment of the reprobate, speaking of those “it was His pleasure to doom to destruction,” then I want nothing to do with a conception of a God whose love and pleasure are like that.

Thanks for your valuable contribution.

    Donald

    “I truly long for the day when one of them is bold enough and honest enough and consistent enough with their argument to make the astonishing claim that John Calvin didn’t really understand Calvinism!”

    LOL

    Lydia

    “I truly long for the day when one of them is bold enough and honest enough and consistent enough with their argument to make the astonishing claim that John Calvin didn’t really understand Calvinism!”

    How ironic. This is almost exactly what my brother said about Calvin when his daughter came home from working with the Piper folk for 2 years and regaled us with her new found “truths”.

Ron Hale

Thank you Rick for your kind words and seeing the importance of understanding what John Calvin actually taught about soteriology. Reading his ecclesiology is even more eye opening to Southern Baptists.

Blessings!

Michael Vaughan

This is really pretty simple: if you want more churches that don’t believe this stuff, then get out there and make converts and spend your lives for the sake of the nations. We’ll do the same on our end. We’ll race you to the end and all have a good laugh about it when Christ comes in his glory and we learn how it all works.

    Ron Hale

    Michael,
    A good challenge and admonition for both sides. Thanks!

    Luther

    Got to agree with Michael. Good advice for both Traditionalists and Calvinists.

    Bob Hadley

    One slight modification to Michael’s challenge…

    Probably need to define what you mean about “getting out there and making converts… ” seems like calvinists are interested in going after folk that are already saved and enlightening them to the reformed way, especially where Southern Baptists are concerned. I hear over and over again… well I was saved as an arminian or I know where you are because I once believed what you believe…

    Just a thought from a non-believer in calvinism.

    ><>”

      Michael Vaughan

      And I would agree with your modification whole-heartedly, Bob. Swapping members from one church to another isn’t my kind of kingdom building at all. We need to get out there and evangelize and disciple, particularly among the unreached. Places like Nepal and India and Afghanistan and Pakistan.

      People will naturally move back and forth between the two camps, and while I do get excited when someone starts to lean toward Calvinism (I believe it’s the right framework to understanding scripture, or else I wouldn’t believe it, naturally), I can’t equate that with evangelism or missions.

Dean

Bro Ron, as I drive to the hospitals this morning you blessed my heart. Great job. I have asked for years if every human is chosen by God as elect or not how can a Calvinist believe infants aren’t condemned. Blessings , Dean

    volfan007

    Dean,

    Please tell us that you were not READING this while you were DRIVING!!!

    David :)

      Dean

      David, I can lie but I won’t. I was but I was careful. Thank you for your concern or maybe you were concerned for others. :))))

        volfan007

        I was expressing concern for everyone!!! lol

        David

        Bob Hadley

        Surely you did not men everyone… because we all know that everyone does not mean everyone… so PLEASE be more specific next time will ya!

        ><>”

Dr. Bruce McLaughlin

Nearly all contributors to these blogs claim to want a united SBC with Traditional Baptists and Reformed Baptists working side by side to do God’s work. And yet, the Traditional Baptist seems to view the logical implications of Calvinism as blasphemous. Here is a short summary of this logic.

By the 1646 Westminster Confession (God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass) and the 1689 London Baptist Confession (God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass), God is the first-cause of all evil. All tragedy, suffering, disease, decay, iniquity, corruption, immorality, wickedness and depravity covering the manifold of sin in heaven and earth were willed by God before anything existed except the Trinity.

Matthew 12:31, 32 and Mark 3:29, 30 present the “unpardonable sin” of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Attributing, to Satan, Christ’s authenticating miracles, done in the power of the Holy Spirit, is one path to blasphemy. What about attributing Satan’s evil to the Holy Spirit? Is that less heinous than attributing the Holy Spirit’s goodness to Satan? Might that be another path to blasphemy? Is Calvinism blasphemy at its core?

This conclusion is certainly not original with me (http://evangelicalarminians.org/Predestination-John-Wesley-Charges-that-Calvinism-Makes-God-Out-to-Be-Worse-than-the-Devil ).

I have a simple question. Do Traditional Baptists believe the logical implications of Calvinism are blasphemous? If so, why does it make sense to work side by side with Reformed Baptists to fulfill the Great Commandment and Great Commission?

    volfan007

    Bruce,

    I do not believe that Calvinism is blasphemous. I do not believe that Calvinism is heresy. I beleive they preach the true Gospel, just like we do. The difference in our beliefs about salvation are over the finer points of theology. Our differences are over things that should not divide us.

    Calvinists are our Brothers and Sisters in Christ.

    David

      Luther

      I just gained a great deal of respect for you David. These are some of the most encouraging words I’ve read at this blog. Thank you. Moreover, as a Calvinist, I fully agree with you: I also believe that Tradionalists preach the true Gospel, that our doctrines should not divide us because we are brothers and sisters in Christ.
      Sincere thanks for your words above, David. A blessing.

      -Luther

    Ron Hale

    Dr. McLaughlin,
    To answer your closing question: No, I do not see the logical implicatios of Calvinism as blasphemous. While I do not agree with John Calvin’s view of election and predestination, or that of most five-point Calvinists … I do not consider it blasphemous. I have worked and will continue to work with Calvinists of all stripes to take the Gospel to the lost, the least, and the left-outs. Blessings!

JC

Ron,
Thanks so much for your article.

I do have a question about your closing statement. You wrote, “Sadly, lost people go to a devil’s hell for all eternity when they die without Jesus. However, God did not pass them over; they passed over Jesus and rejected his love, mercy, grace, and total forgiveness.”

With that statement in mind, we know that millions of people live and die without hearing of Jesus. They will not have the opportunity to “pass over” Jesus or “rejected his love, mercy, grace, and total forgiveness.” In fact, they will know nothing about it and they will “go to a devil’s hell for all eternity when they die.”

Assuming we believe God is the Author of all life and that He creates all people determining both when and where they will be born. We recognize that He creates some people in parts of the world where they will never hear of Jesus and never hear the offer of salvation in Him. Furthermore, without explicit faith in Jesus they will “go to a devil’s hell for all eternity.” Again, out of genuine curiosity, how is God not (at least in some way) responsible for determining their destruction before they were born?

Hope this question makes sense and I look forward to learning.
JC

    volfan007

    JC,

    People who never hear the Gospel still have light. They have the light of nature, and the light of conscience. Nature shouts to man that there is a Creator God. Our conscience tells us that we will answer to this God of creation….that there are rights and wrongs. Thus, we have tribes in the deepest parts of the S. American jungle worshipping the Sun, or the Moon; and the American Indians worshipping the Great Spirit; and Hindus worshipping their “god.” And, we see thieves having a code of ethics…even thugs and gangs have “rights and wrongs.”

    So, if man would respond to that light….even if they dont have the most glorious light of the Gospel….God would make sure that a missionary would get to them to lead them to salvation. But alas, instead, these people just settle for a god of thier own making. BUT, they still have light.

    David

    Norm Miller

    JC: Though you addressed your question to Ron, I’d like to interject something I heard in class at Criswell Collge when I was under the tutelage of Dr. Daniel Akin – now president, SEBTS. Dr. Akin said in response to a question regarding those who may never hear the Gospel, that, if such a person responded to the non-salvific witness of Creation, then God would somehow send special revelation to that person. While I’m not sure if Dr. Akin still holds this position — and I pass no judgment on his position — this was his stated answer to that question lo those many years ago. — Norm

      JC

      Norm,
      Thanks for answering and for referencing Dr. Akin. While I would not presume to speak for him, one might adopt that statement and go one step further to say that (on the basis of Romans 3:10-12) there is certainty that no one will respond “to the non-salvific witness of Creation.” They will argue that this point seems to be Paul’s driving argument in Romans 1:18-3:20.

      But these matters are only somewhat related to Ron’s point, which was that people go to hell because the “reject Jesus.” My question is about the millions who don’t know about Jesus and thus do not “reject Him.” What they reject is the truth about God that is plain to them in creation (to which David referred above). I understand Romans 1 and the culpability of man, but what I am asking is: if people go to hell because they reject Jesus, then how is the God who choose to create the people who will never hear His glorious Name not also responsible?

      Thanks again.

    Ron Hale

    JC,

    You’ve asked a timely question for me because I just back from a mission trip to Peru. While we visited a village in the mountains and saw people come to faith in Christ, there are jungles in South America that few missionaries have visited.

    Norm and David have already given some sage advice on the matter and I’m thankful.

    Acts 17:26-27 says, “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.” And in the book of Revelation we see where people from every tongue and tribe will be worshiping around the throne of God; they were saved. Jesus the light of world (John 8:12) somehow and some way shined forth his light into darkness and some like Abram of old (in a pagan land) … believed God and it was credited unto them as righteousness (Genesis 15:6).

    I believe that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life … and that has driven me to actively share the Gospel, plant churches, go on mission trips, and teach people to share their faith.

    Blessings!

      JC

      Hey Ron,
      Thanks again for responding. Perhaps I’m not asking the question well because the answers don’t seem to be addressing it. I apologize and I’ll try again.

      Your quote from Acts 17 affirms Romans 1:20, which I understand full well. God has given general revelation to all and all are responsible to respond to it. Correspondingly, your reference to John 8 and quote from Genesis 15 affirm (along with Romans 3:10-12) the necessity of special revelation. No one is saved without the Light and Abram didn’t wake up one day and decide to leave Haran; God called him out. The answers to my question from you and others (like Lydia below) all appeal to various and often miraculous ways in which God brings special revelation to people. I am equally encouraged by those examples and praise God for them. Appealing to special revelation, however, doesn’t answer the question because the question is directed at those instances in which it is not given.

      So again, my question concerns the people in Afghanistan who don’t have the “Isa” dream, don’t hear about Jesus being the Light, and don’t ever have the blessing of special revelation. If people go to hell because they reject Jesus (as you stated in the post), then how is the God who choose to create the people who will never hear His glorious Name not also responsible?

      Thanks again and I look forward to reading your response.

        Martin L

        JC,

        You are asking a question that cannot be answered within the framework espoused by the editors of this blog. There is no need to keep rephrasing the question, they cannot answer it.

          Lydia

          I think it is a mistake to discount the inventions of increasingly faster travel and the advent of global communications when discussing this issue. Where would the Reformation be without the printing press? For Calvinists, the Reformation defines their beliefs and it would have not gone far without the printing press which really made it possible.

          The answer is that scripture tells us we have a responsibility to proclaim the Good News. Has anyone read the debate over finding that lost tribe found in Paqua New Guinea back in the early 70’s? There was a debate about leaving them alone or trying to civilize them. The Christians wanted to tell them about Christ.

          Are you all trying to say that because there are people who may not have been “told” about Christ from another person it proves that God decreed for them to spend eternity in hell? Perhaps I am not understanding you correctly.

            Martin L

            Here is the question:

            If people go to hell because they reject Jesus (as was stated in the post), then how is the God who chooses to create the people who will never hear His glorious Name not also (in some sense) responsible?

        Ron Hale

        JC,
        Do you believe Romans 1:19-20? Do you believe people are without excuse before God?

          JC

          Ron,
          Yes. Above I wrote, “Your quote from Acts 17 affirms Romans 1:20, which I understand full well. God has given general revelation to all and all are responsible to respond to it.”

          To clarify, I would add that on the basis of Romans 1:18-23 “people go to hell because they reject God as God.” Again, this statement is somewhat different than your contention that “people go to hell because they reject Jesus.” For some, the rejection of God certainly includes rejection of Jesus, but for others who do not hear of Him it cannot (at least not in an explicit way).

          So my question is, how do you reconcile the statement “people go to hell because they reject Jesus” with Romans 1:19-20?

          Thanks again.
          JC

    Lydia

    “We recognize that He creates some people in parts of the world where they will never hear of Jesus and never hear the offer of salvation in Him. Furthermore, without explicit faith in Jesus they will “go to a devil’s hell for all eternity.” Again, out of genuine curiosity, how is God not (at least in some way) responsible for determining their destruction before they were born?”

    JC, Just my 2 cents. I have worked with Muslim refugees and have family and friends and who have ministered in Muslim countries for years and still do.

    One of the most astonishing things I have learned from these experiences is that quite a few Muslims we have encountered have dreamed of “Isa” and quietly and carefully started to seek more information about Him. Some of them were women which made it doubly dangerous. Some of the stories would chill you to the bone and cause us all to fall down on our faces praising God. Especially the ones my family member came across out of Afghanistan after the Taliban fell. Can you imagine having dreams of this “Isa” while living under such oppression and finally meeting someone who tells you the truth about Him that affirmed the dreams you had for years?

      Stephen

      Lydia – that is a powerful testimony! Our church has also ministered to Muslim refugees and witnessed God at work in their lives.

      Ron Hale

      Lydia,
      Thanks for sharing — I too have heard stories of the dramatic dreams Muslims have experienced. I can relate a little because I had a full color dream of Jesus at the age of six. I had never been in church; my family were unchurched. I thought of this dream many, many times until the Lord Jesus saved me at the age of 23. In my darkest days and in times of drunkenness and the depth of sin and shame … God always brought to my mind the dream of my childhood. God is so good!

        Lydia

        Ron, that is awesome! What a great God we serve.

      Luther

      Lydia: So why are there so few Christians in Afghanistan and so many in the United States? Is it fair of God to give us so many opportunities to know Him and them so few? Calvinism fits better in the actual world in which we live.

        Stephen

        Luther said “Calvinism fits better in the actual world in which we live.”
        I don’t think so!

        Lydia

        “Lydia: So why are there so few Christians in Afghanistan and so many in the United States?”

        Luther we have no idea how many belivers are in Afghanistan now. They don’t do Sunday School roll. They don’t have buildings to meet in. Some do not even tell their families for fear of reprisals. I know of one man it took 3 years to tell his wife after much agonizing and praying! And even then he feared she might tell his family and he would be killed by them. (He worked as a guide for one of the humanitarian aid groups and we support some of them who are also medical missionaries. He came to the US a few years back and stayed with us. BTW: His wife told him she had found his hidden bible long ago and wondered why he did not tell her, too)

        “Is it fair of God to give us so many opportunities to know Him and them so few? Calvinism fits better in the actual world in which we live.”

        Luther, I have no idea what this means. I am not so sure we “know Him” in the same desperate way as someone who lives under constant oppression and fear of death for even believing Jesus is/was God in the flesh. We are fat and comfy enough to argue Calvinism. They do not have such opportunities.

    Dell Russell

    JC,
    I think you are wondering the same things as many others do when it comes to people that have never, nor will ever, hear the gospel or hear of Jesus. First I will say, I do not agree with any of the Calvinist views. I do not believe people are lost because they reject Christ, but rather, because they have sinned against God. And I certainly do not believe we are born lost. Paul said in Romans 7:9, when he was giving an account of his days before he was saved, “For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” Paul was not lost before this point, he died once he understood and failed to do what he understood to be right and good. Infants and children do not understand anything about any kind of a commandment.

    Romans 1:18-3:20 gives us, in detail, why people are lost. When they knew God, they glorified Him not, neither gave Him thanks. That is where it all starts. Once a person knows they are responsible to their Creator and then turns from that, there is no other place to go but further into sin. It’s not that man rejects the gospel message and Christ crucified and that being the reason why they go to hell, but they have rejected God, That is why they go to hell. But again, once they have heard the gospel and then rejects that, then they are double worthy of hell. Christ is the cure for man’s disobedience to the truth that they hold in unrighteousness. It is only by the grace of God that He offers salvation at all. And it is up to us to get that message of hope to those that are lost and undone.

      JC

      Dell,
      Thanks for the message. I appreciate your comments regarding our rejection of God and not Christ. You’ve identified what seemed inconsistent to me in the original article. Per your comments directly, in light of how you are interpreting Romans 7:9, how do you understand Romans 5:14? Paul seems clear that death reigned without the law. If the law was necessary to make Paul lost, then why did all the people between Adam and Moses die? Also, how do you understand Romans 5:18-19? Again, it seems that Adam’s sin leads to our condemnation.

      And to your second paragraph, I agree with what you have written. Please note that your paragraph is much different than what the article above is stating. Thus I’ll rephrase my question to you, if only the gospel will save us from our rejection of God and God creates people who will not ever hear it, then isn’t He also responsible on some level for their lost-ness?

      Thanks,
      JC

        Dell Russell

        Hello JC,
        First I’ll say I am a SBC member and do attend every Sunday And my views are not readily shared with the Church I attend. Not that I talk about it unless asked. I say that so you know my views will more than likely not be what you would normally hear from the pulpit.

        In interpreting this death in Romans 5:14 we must look back at what brought about this death. God told Adam, the day you eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall surely die. Most think this is some kind of spiritual death here, but a quick look back we see that is not the case. Even after eating of the fruit God had to put Adam out of the garden so he would not eat of the tree of life and live forever. Being cut off from the tree of life Adam could not live for ever. And because all men originated from the loins of Adam, we were all separated from the tree of life as well when we were all born outside of the garden. That being the case, death reigned over all men. Or you could say death hangs over everyone and will take everyone to the grave at some point.

        Paul was explaining why all people die even though they had not sinned like Adam sinned, and why people (from Adam to Moses) die even though they did not have The Law of Moses condemning them to death.
        That may not be enough to explain it, but if not we’ll go at it again.

        Romans 5:18 and 19. Here again I differ with most on this and you may disagree as well. Which is fine, I don’t get wrapped around the axle just because someone doesn’t agree with me.
        First I do not see this, nor 5:12, as people being born sinners, although all do sin. The subject is death and condemnation and how it passes from Adam to us.
        The word “made” here is not saying we are born sinners, but rather, we are placed in the position of. I’ll try to explain a little.

        The idea of Original sin carries with it the understanding that when Adam sinned we all sinned. And here in these verses it has been described in that sense as well. If that were the case then when Adam sinned we sinned at the same time in our own right. If that is true, which I do not believe it is, then when we are placed in Christ and made righteous, it really wasn’t Christ’s righteousness that saves us, but our own, and I don’t know of anyone that would go along with that, Not even me. But the logical conclusion would have to be, When Adam sinned we sinned and it would be our sinning in Adam that condemns us, And when Christ did righteous, we did righteousness as well and it wasn’t Christ’s righteousness that saved us, it was ours’.

        When Adam sinned we did not sin as the teachings of Original sin teaches. Rather, we are placed in that position. With that understanding, we do not do righteousness, but are placed in the position of righteousness (or made righteous) in Christ.

        Adam’s sin did lead to us being condemned, but only because we are all born separated from God and His fellowship. Being born outside of that fellowship and not being born with the Holy Spirit already within us, we are left to our own spirits to overcome the flesh, world and Satan. Because we were created to be in complete fellowship with God and God being in the driver seat, but because we are not born in that fellowship our spirits are out of proportion to the flesh, world and Satan.
        Jesus said in the garden when the disciples kept falling asleep, The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. And Paul said in Romans 8:3, the law is weak through the flesh. Man’s spirit is not the problem, it’s our flesh. Always has been.

        When we see Paul’s death come about in Romans 7:9, that is his inability to keep the law due to his weak flesh. To, we must understand this is not the death that reigns over all men from the time of conception to old age, but this is his own personal condemnation that will take him to hell, as it does all people that lives long enough to experience this failing to do what they know to be right.

        I wouldn’t say God is responsible for man’s lostness. God has been trying to get man to come around ever since day one. I think it would be right to say, because God has given us the gospel and we are the body of Christ, it is up to us to deliver it to the world.
        In other words, we have the cure for death, Christ crucified, buried and raised, now it’s up to us to get it to who needs it. So if anyone is responsible for man’s lostness it would have to be man. First, each individual, because when they knew God they turned from Him and lived in unrighteousness and then second, we as Christians having the cure and failing to take it to the lost.

Luther

The problem is that this foundation of an “age of accountablity” is skaky ground at best. Your doctrine is equally unthinkable as a doctrine of reprobation of infants since your doctrine leads to infants going to Heaven based on their own sinlessness, rather than by the sacrifice of Christ. Such unbiblical notions cause petulance in my heart as well. It is an insult to Jesus Christ.

I can understand R.C.’s annoyance with Billy Graham’s statement because children are not “innocent” and to say so contradicts Scripture. Billy is wrong.

Reprobation is a difficult subject, but at least in the case of Judas we know the cause of his reprobation: Judas was the son of perdition, doomed to destruction SO THAT the Scriptures would be fulfilled.

    volfan007

    Innocent is not a good word to use; I agree. Of course, they’re not innocent. But, not guilty of Adam’s sin, and not held accountable for thier sins, would be a better way to say it.

    David

    Don Johnson

    According to Psalm 106:38 they had innocent blood.

      Luther

      But for Billy to refer to six-year-olds as innocent is surely surprising. My four-year-old has been sinning for quite some time now!

        Darryl Hill

        Yes, I have 5 children Bro. Luther and they were sinning before they were walking. Indeed, as the Psalmist has said, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.”

        Trying to find age of accountability in Scripture is impossible because it is not there. I think the best answer we can give is, “I don’t know.”

        There is an indication from Paul’s letter that the children of believers are safe… “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. ” But we have no other indication regarding this. So we are left with philosophical answers. It’s hard.

        In regard to reprobation, I do not see in Scripture that God actively works reprobation in the lives of those who will never believe. It is clear that He has done this at times, though. Paul gives the example of Pharoah in Romans 9. Moses writes that Pharoah hardened his heart and at other times God hardened Pharoah’s heart. The example of Judas was given above- he was doomed for destruction. But I don’t believe, as a general rule, we can make the statement that God actively works for the reprobation of men even as He works for the sanctification of His elect.

        Honestly, I’ve never read all of the Institutes and I didn’t come to believe in sovereign grace due to the writings of John Calvin. I came to this conclusion based on what I read in Scripture and believing what Scripture says rather than what I prefer. Charles Spurgeon was a greater influence upon me than Calvin because I already had such a high view of his preaching and teaching before coming to a reformed view.

        I think we all have trouble with various aspects of this, whether from a reformed view or a traditionalist view. No matter how much trads may wish to disparage Calvin or other brothers who believe that God sovereignly elects those whom He will, millions have died without a Gospel witness and God could have sent them one. There is not a good answer from the traditionalist perspective. If God is indeed not willing, in the sense that you demand He must not be willing, for ANY to perish, then why has He not sent a witness of the Gospel to EVERY individual for them to accept or reject. And yes, I agree that every man is responsible based purely upon God’s revelation of Himself through nature, but we all know more is needed- the Gospel is needed. Why is not the Gospel sent to every individual?

          Wes Kenney

          Simple: the rebellious nature of our hearts. The person who never heard the gospel looked at a tree, or a beach at sunset, and said, “Wow, some greater power must be responsible for that. I think I’ll go on serving my own wants and desires.” That person dies without ever knowing about Christ and His saving work. Had that person responded differently, God would have seen to it that God heard about His promise of redemption if he lived before Christ, or about Christ Himself if he lived afterwards. This is not really that complicated.

            Wes Kenney

            Subsitute “he” for “God” in my last use of the word “God,” and my comment will make sense, linguistically if not soteriologically.

David R. Brumbelow

Ron,
Good article. Thanks for the quotes, they are helpful. Apparently, as previously pointed out, John Calvin did not understand Calvinism. Or maybe he set up a straw man.

I remember a Calvinist SBC pastor back in the 1960s saying of his daughter, “If God has predestined her for Hell, there’s nothing I can do about it.”

On the other hand, I love Adrian Roger’s simple yet profound quote,
“If you want to be saved, to be one of the elect, then just come to Jesus.”
David R. Brumbelow

    Luther

    I remember an SBC pastor, who was teetering toward Calvinism. The concern he mentioned to me, however, was that “If all this is true, nothing I do will cause my daughter to accept Christ.” He was concerned about the implications of Calvinism. I turned it around on him and said: “Would you rather your daughters’ salvation depend on her wicked heart making the right choice or on your Father in Heaven who is good, always does what is right and who loves you as much as He loves His own Son?” This caused this pastor to seek God’s face in prayer to save His daughter. It caused Him to put his faith in God to save his daughter–where his faith belonged (rather than putting his faith in himself to say the right things to convince his daugther and rather than put his faith in his daughter to make the right decision).

      Norm Miller

      Interesting point, Luther. If the daughter was elect, however, should the father have prayed at all? — Norm

        Luther

        Norm: I was trying to find something Piper wrote about this which I found really helpful, but I can’t locate it. This was the best I could do:

        “These truths [about Calvinism] make me hopeful that God has the will, the right, and the power to answer prayer that people be changed.

        The warrant for prayer is that God may break in and change things – including the human heart. He can turn the will around. “Hallowed be thy name” means: cause people to hallow your name. “May your word run and be glorified” means: cause hearts to be opened to the gospel.

        We should take the New Covenant promises and plead with God to bring them to pass in our children and in our neighbors and among all the mission fields of the world.

        “God, take out of their flesh the heart of stone and give him a new heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19).

        “Lord, circumcise their hearts so that they love you” (Deuteronomy 30:6).

        “Father, put your spirit within them and cause them to walk in Your statutes” (Ezekiel 36:27).

        “Lord, grant them repentance and the knowledge of the truth that they may escape from the snare of the devil” (2 Timothy 2:25-26).

        “Father, open their hearts so that they believe the gospel” (Acts 16:14). “

        Luther

        Norm: This is the Piper article I was looking for on prayer that I found helpful:
        http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/articles/the-sovereignty-of-god-and-prayer

        A quote from the above article:
        “Why pray for anyone’s conversion if God has chosen before the foundation of the world who will be his sons?” ….Now I would like to turn the question back to my questioner: If you insist that this man must have the power of ultimate self-determination, what is the point of praying for him? What do you want God to do for him? You can’t ask that God overcome the man’s rebellion, for rebellion is precisely what the man is now choosing, so that would mean God overcame his choice and took away his power of self-determination. But how can God save this man unless he act so as to change the man’s heart from hard hostility to tender trust?

        Will you pray that God enlighten his mind so that he truly see the beauty of Christ and believe? If you pray this, you are in effect asking God no longer to leave the determination of the man’s will in his own power. You are asking God to do something within the man’s mind (or heart) so that he will surely see and believe. That is, you are conceding that the ultimate determination of the man’s decision to trust Christ is God’s, not merely his.”

          volfan007

          Luther,

          When you said, “The warrant for prayer is that God may break in and change things – including the human heart. He can turn the will around.” Can this really be a true statment from someone, who believes in Calvinism? I mean, if that person is not the elect, then what good it is it to pray for someone to be saved? For God to work on thier heart?

          David

            Luther

            David,

            Perhaps God ordained us to pray for the salvation of a particular person, and ordained to answer our prayer in bringing that person to faith. If the Calvinist feels stirred to pray for the salvation of a person, why wouldn’t they be obedient to pray for that person and see them come to faith? We believe God will be glorified through answering our prayers. The means God may use in bringing a person to faith who He elected to salvation from the foundation of the world may be our answered prayer and our evangelism. I don’t see the problem you suggest.

            volfan007

            Luther,

            Wow….this response sounds so….well, philosophical and hard to keep track of… it looks like you’re running all the way around the yard, instead of just running thru it.

            Honestly, Luther, while I understand what you just said, I just dont see that working. But, if this is what it takes to make you sleep good at night, believe it.

            I just dont see the need to pray for God to change anyone’s heart…and to save that lost person….if their eternal destination is already set in stone.

            David

            Luther

            Kind of like how Traditionalists run around Romans chapter 9, hey David?
            :-)

            Darryl Hill

            David, that is EXACTLY the way I think as well. I pray for people believing that my prayer will be answered. I believe God inspires prayers. I also believe He inspires actions. I believe He ordains both the means (my prayer, my sharing the Gospel) and the ends (answering my prayer, saving someone). We are Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us.

            What we do matters David, no matter whether you see the whole thing as a bunch of fatalistic nonsense, God has so worked in my heart that I believe BOTH that God has elected who will be saved from all eternity AND that every single action I take matters toward that end.

      Robert

      I want to clarify something important, that needs to be said here about Luther’s anecdote here.

      Luther presents two options here. Note Luther’s two options. In one view (call it option 1) Luther presents it as “your daughter’s salvation depend on her wicked heart making the right choice.” Note according to option 1 her salvation depends upon or is based upon HER CHOICE. Put simply her choice is what saves her according to option 1. In the other view (call it option 2) it is stated that it is God that saves her (“or on your Father in Heaven who is good, always does what is right and who loves you”). Put simply God saves her, she does not save herself according to option 2.

      Now the problem with all this (especially coming from a theological determinist who is trying to argue his view is superior to the non-determinist view/non-calvinist view) is that Luther seems to imply a false dilemma here. He seems to be implying that the two options are (A) that we believe our decision to trust the Lord for salvation is what actually saves us (and he thinks Traditionalists and non-calvinists hold this). Or (B) that we believe that God saves us (and Luther thinks this is ***only true** of Calvinism (that the Traditionalists or non-calvinists can only hold to option 1). So Luther’s false dilemma is that non-calvinists/Traditionalists hold to option 1 and only calvinists hold to option 2.

      But what Luther leaves out is that that the non-calvinist, the Traiditionalist also holds that God saves us, not our decision to trust the Lord for salvation. In other words you can hold that God alone saves us, that our decision to trust the Lord is not what actually saves us, and be a **non-calvinist**. Luther seems to think that if someone holds to option 2, then they must be a calvinist, they must be a theological determinist (because Luther assumes that ONLY calvinists believe that God alone saves a person, that Traditoinalists believe that our decision to trust the Lord is what saves us). What this means is the pastor in Luther’s story could believe that God alone saves his daughter (if she is saved) AND NOT BECOME A CALVINIST!!!!

      Here is an illustration to make this point more clear. Imagine a person who has a serious and life threatening condition. Say that some tests revealed that he had this condition and that in consultation with the doctor who explained to him what was happening. The doctor then suggested that he have a major operation in order for him to survive and not die. Say that this patient now informed by the doctor of his true condition (either have this major surgery or die) agrees to the surgery by signing a consent form. It is this patient’s decision, up to him, whether or not he will have this surgery, and he chooses ot have the surgery. So the next day he is put under by the anestheologist so that he is unconscious (and so not feeling any pain and also not contributing whatsoever to the doing of the operation). The surgery is performed by a highly trained and skilled surgical team (its members being people who can do this operation, something the patient absolutely cannot do, i.e. the patient cannot do the surgery upon himself, that is impossible). The surgery is a success and the man is saved. Now here is the question: was it the man’s choice to sign the consent form and agree to the surgery, or was it solely the work of the surgical team that saved him? The answer is that it was not his choice to have the surgery it was the work of the surgical team that saved him. Now if we were going to praise anyone for this successful surgery, who gets the credit? Well the surgical team does, since he was unconsious and they did all of the work that saved his life. So what actually saved him, what actually did the “saving” in this case? Was it the man and his decision to consent to the surgery or the surgical team? Now it is true that the man’s decision was part of the process in which his life was saved. But we are framing the situation incorrectly if we frame it as if it was his decision to sign the consent form that saved him rather than the work of other persons who saved him. And if you ever meet people who have these kind of experiences with doctors, they don’t pat themselves on the back for saving themselves, or boast about themselves at all. No, they are quite thankful for the knowledge, skill, and work of the surgical team. They praise the doctors/surgeon/nurses for what they did, not themselves for their decision to give consent.

      The same is true of the sinner who is saved by God. The Holy Spirit informs them of their spiritual condition (i.e. reveals to them their sinful and lost and hopeless condition, reveals Christ as the way of salvation, etc. etc.). The sinner’s decision to trust the Lord to save them, is just that. They know they cannot save themselves (they cannot do the spiritual surgery required for their condition that is part of what the Spirit reveals to you, that you cannot save yourself and that only God can save you). So their decision is to trust God does not save them. They believe that God alone is the one who could save them by doing the work that only He can do. A noncalvinist can thus believe that God alone saves us that while our decision to trust the Lord is part of the process, the decision in itself is not what saves us. Not what does the work.

      The decision to trust the Lord alone for salvation just puts you into the hands of the Great Physician who can do the required surgery.

      So the pastor presented in Luther’s story need not become a calvinist in order to believe that God alone saves sinners.

      The traditionalist/non-calvinist does not believe that we do the spiritual surgery ourselves that saves us. All we can do is freely choose to place ourselves in the hands of the only one who can save us.

      Notice that Luther ends his anecdote with “It caused Him to put his faith in God to save his daughter–where his faith belonged (rather than putting his faith in himself to say the right things to convince his daugther and rather than put his faith in his daughter to make the right decision).”

      I am a non-calvinist strongly convinced that calvinism/determinism is a false theology with some major errors: and yet my confidence is in the Lord alone for salvation. God alone saves and I place my confidence in Him alone to save people. Note what Luther says about the father’s confidence in the story (“rather than putting his faith in himself to say the right things to convince his daughter and rather than put his faith in his daughter to make the right decision”).

      The problem here is that this leaves out the possibility that one can have confidence in the Lord alone to save and simultaneously believe that what we say to nonbelievers is important and does make a difference. It is not an either/or, just have confidence in the Lord to save and don’t witness to the nonbeliever or say a thing. No, the bible itself is full of instances of where people witnessed about the Lord and at the same time used words and even arguments to persuade people about the Lord. Must I even say it, there is a place for both witnessing and apologetics in the Christian life. Yes our witnessing and apologetics is not what actually saves people (God alone saves people). But God uses our witnessing and apologetics to get people to that place where they can choose to trust Him alone for salvation.

      Robert

        Lydia

        “So Luther’s false dilemma is that non-calvinists/Traditionalists hold to option 1 and only calvinists hold to option 2.”

        Thank you for catching that and articulating it, Robert.

        This whole debate has been “either/or” for Calvinists and more “both/and” for Trads. Calvinists are not allowing for the “both/and”.

          Robert

          Hello Lydia,

          “Thank you for catching that and articulating it, Robert.”

          Glad you appreciated it. I want that framing trick out in the open! :-)

          “This whole debate has been “either/or” for Calvinists and more “both/and” for Trads. Calvinists are not allowing for the “both/and”.”

          This is a very good observation concerning the rhetorical methods employed by Calvinists. If you look at their defenses of their position as well as their attacks on the non-Calvinist position. You will constantly see this technique of presenting things via some carefully contrived false dilemma that attempts to make their view seem correct while the non-calvinist view is obviously as presented by these set ups, false.

          Ronnie Rodgers makes this same observation throughout his new book. Rodgers formerly being a determinist/calvinist knows how he used to argue for the position. And he openly acknowledges that he engaged in this kind of either/or approach. Once Rodgers’ himself got beyond the false dilemmas, and saw there were other options (such as that the preconversion work of the Holy Spirit enables but does not necessitate faith) he began to doubt calvinism and began to reject it.

          The thing you gotta remember with calvinists is that they are anxious to convert as many Christians to their way of thinking as possible. Part of this effort to convert other believers is that they have to frame things in certain ways to persuade other believers to convert to their position. That is why with calvinists you really need to watch for false dilemmas as well as the way they frame things. Often the way something is framed is a caricature and misrepresentation of what non-calvinists believe.

          A classic, classic example of this is when they frame things suggesting that the noncalvinist believes that a human person’s decision is what saves them rather than God alone. Luther provided a perfect example of this way of framing things in his anecdote.

          If given the choice between we save ourselves by our decisions versus God alone saving us? Who is not going to take the latter and reject the former. And if the determinist can persuade you that only the calvinist believes the ladder, then you will think calvinism is the only way to go. Beware of the either/or’s that calvinists present, they always just happen to make calvinism appear to be good while non-calvinism appears to be bad. :-)

          Robert

            Luther

            Robert wrote: “they always just happen to make calvinism appear to be good while non-calvinism appears to be bad.”

            Usually, non-calvinism doesn’t need any help appearing bad. It does fine appearing that way all on its own. :-) But sometimes we Calvinists do give it a helping hand. That’s true.

            Lydia

            Robert, Excellent explanation!

            This is why I think discussing verses or passages of scripture is a waste ot time in this debate. They come to the debate with an “either/or” overall hermeneutic…an overall determinist Augustinian/Calvin filter for their view of God.

            When one starts with that either/or filter concerning God then, for example, Romans/Psalms is read in a literal and wooden fashion and all cannot mean all. And those who have another view of the interpretation automatically do not believe the scripture is Inspired or inerrant which is disconcerting to say the least!. At least that has been my experience in the exchanges with Calvinists. I am just hoping they don’t interpret the imprecatory prayers in Pslams the same way! :o)

            This is why I think the scriptural debate is a waste of time. The bible just becomes a club to beat others with on both sides.

            For me, it all boils down to ALL the attributes of God and His Character as described all throughout scripture as long suffering, merciful, patient, and “Hesed” which is my favorite attribute as it encompasses so much. And His Wrath which cannot be ignored. And the fact that God Himself is Sovereign over His own Sovereignty and not the boxed up manipulator/determinist God of Augustine which he inserted from Platonic philosphy in describing man’s relationship to God and of course, from Calvin who systemized the whole shebang.

            An interesting read are the early Christians from AD 1-3 before the major doctrinal wars who just thought they could repent, believe AND obey Jesus Christ. Very simple faith.

        Luther

        Good point, Robert. I do not deny that Traditionalists put their confidence in God alone to save them.

        Bob Hadley

        Robert,

        Your analogy of option 1) being man’s decision to be saved and 2) God’s decision to save is the basis for the semi-pelagian argument for these guys who cannot see the forest for the trees. Very good illustration.

        I will use it going forward. Thanks!

        ><>”

          Robert

          Hello Bob,

          I believe that you got the gist of my illustration and yet perhaps you may not quite be understanding it fully as evidenced by your words. You wrote:

          “Your analogy of option 1) being man’s decision to be saved and 2) God’s decision to save is the basis for the semi-pelagian argument for these guys who cannot see the forest for the trees.”

          The two options in the illustration are ***not*** meant to illustrate “1) being man’s decision to be saved” and 2) “God’s decision to save.”

          I believe that in God’s plan of salvation he actually does leave the decision to us as to whether or not we want to be saved (in contrast to consistent calvinism where the decision is not left to us, it is made by God in eternity and concerns both who is saved and who is damned).

          My illustration is aimed at those who would attempt to contrast two options which as presented, form a false dilemma which attacks the non-calvinist position.

          Many calvinists try to contrast the non-calvinist, the Traditionalist side versus their determinist side.

          So **they** present things as involving only two options: 1) according to non-determinists/Traditionalists, it is man’s decision that saves him, in contrast to 2) according to calvinists/determinists, it is God alone that saves them. So the contrast is supposedly between the non-determinist who believes a human decision is what ultimately saves them, versus the determinist who believes that God alone saves them. Of course framed THIS way the non-determinist position looks false while the determinist position looks true. But this way of framing things is misleading and a false dilemma.

          What it intentionally leaves out is the possibility that a non-determinist can believe BOTH (A) that God leaves the decision of whether or not a person wants to be saved to the human person AND SIMULTANEOUSLY (B) that God alone saves people.

          How could God leave the decision of whether or not a person wants to be saved to the human person, and yet if they do decide they want to be saved, then God alone does the saving of that person?

          Note in the illustration, the patient (which represents the human person who decides whether or not they want to be operated on/saved) is not in the place of even considering the operation until first informed by a doctor about their condition (similarly sinners are sometimes blissfully unaware of their true spiritual condition, they are spiritually dead/separated from God due to their sin, and face an awful spiritual death/the second death/ hell, unless they are saved). This first doctor who reveals the condition of the patient to the patient represents the Holy Spirit who informs the sinner of their dire and true condition. This doctor also informs the patient of the available surgery which could save him (like the Spirit revealing Christ as the only way of salvation).
          Now note where the sinner now finds himself due to the work of the Spirit (i.e. he is informed about his condition, shown the only way of salvation through Christ, etc. etc. In other words he is enabled to make a faith response to the gospel. He can now choose to trust God to save Him. But the work of the Spirit does not necessitate that he become a believer (he is enabled to trust but not necessitated to trust).

          The patient then chooses to sign the consent form and have the surgery. That represents the place of faith. We want to be saved because of the work of the Spirit, we then choose to trust God alone to save us. In the illustration the signing of the consent form does not actually save the man (just as faith in and of itself does not save us, God alone saves those who choose to trust Him for salvation) it does not save the man or do the work of saving the man.

          So what does in fact save the man in the illustration? It is not the “power” of his signing the consent form that does the saving. It is the surgical team which does the whole procedure while he is unconscious. I throw that unconsciousness part in to emphasize that while the patient made the choice to trust the surgical team to save him, he does not save himself. He did not save himself as he did nothing and contributed nothing to the actual work of saving him which was done by the surgical team alone.

          So what this illustration aims to do is to provide an analogy for how the non-calvinist views salvation.

          We cannot come to the Lord without the preconversion work of the Spirit, the drawing of the Spirit (that is the Doctor who informs the patient about his condition, need for surgery and the available surgery that would save him), cf. John 6:44). We believe that we are saved through faith, though faith is not itself a religious work in which we will boast (like the patient will not boast about his signing of the consent form but will be thankful and grateful for the work of the surgical team in performing a surgery he could not do, and could not do to himself). We believe that the preconversion work of the Spirit enables but does not necessitate faith (likewise the patient is informed about his condition and need for the surgery, but he does not have to have the surgery done, he chooses to have it done, he can also choose not to have it done). We believe that God’s actions alone, not our decision to trust Him to save us, is what actually saves us (likewise the surgical team alone does the actions that save the person, he does not save himself).

          Lastly Bob you said “the basis for the semi-pelagian argument for these guys who cannot see the forest for the trees.”

          One of the things that my illustration also does, is to show how the non-calvinist view is not Pelagian (Pelagians believe that we don’t need God’s grace to be saved, we are basically good, we really don’t need the surgery!). Nor is it Semi-Pelagian (they believe that we initiate the salvation process and that without grace we are already able to respond to the gospel, No we cannot, until the Spirit works in us revealing our condition and need for Christ, we may be about to die spiritually forever and be completely unaware of our true condition!).

          In my illustration it is the doctors’ actions from first to last that actually saves the person. Without the information from the doctor they don’t know their need for the surgery. Once they admit the need and choose to trust the surgical team, the team’s work is what actually saves them not their own actions.

          So my illustration really aims to provide a good analogy for how non-determinists, non-calvinists view the process of salvation.

          Many determinists ignore what we say and try to set us up (I have seen this a lot with the way calvinists try to do this with Traditionalists) with all of these contrived arguments (e.g. the what makes you to differ argument) and scenarious where they paint the picture so that it represents non-calvinists as believing that **our decision** to trust the Lord **is what saves us** (note this is what Luther did in his anecdote).

          I have observed that people in real life who go through these kinds of surgeries never boast about their giving consent to the surgery that saved their life. They don’t praise themselves or give any hint that they believe they saved themselves! It is always about the efforts of the Doctors. The doctors telling them about their true condition. The doctors and nurses doing the surgery. Likewise the genuinely saved person realizes how God saved them, first revealing their condition, urging them to trust in the Lord not themselves, etc. And so genuinely saved persons revel not in their decision to trust the Lord for saving them, but instead praise the Lord who alone does the actions that save them.

          Robert

            Bob Hadley

            Robert,

            Apparently you read a lot into my brief statement that I never intended. I was not confused in the least at the implications of your illustration but your explanation was certainly welcome… I am sure somebody needed it… maybe your response was predestined for someone’s benefit!

            ><>”

      Daniel Wilcox

      Luther,

      You say,
      “I turned it around on him and said: “Would you rather your daughters’ salvation depend on her wicked heart making the right choice or on your Father in Heaven who is good, always does what is right and who loves you as much as He loves His own Son?”

      But this view of God isn’t what TULIP states at all. TULIP states (as Calvin states in Hale’s article!) that it is for God’s pleasure and glory that he foreordains millions of humans to eternal damnation.

      Doesn’t sound like a loving Father to non-Calvinists.

      Thanks for the dialog,
      Daniel

        Bob Hadley

        Daniel,

        Even if I were remotely considering calvinism… the statement that you quoted that I have heard more times than I care too… “that it is for God’s pleasure and glory that he foreordains millions of humans to eternal damnation.” would keep me from becoming a calvinist.

        I believe such a statement impugns the character of God and I cannot believe anyone would have the audacity to make such a charge against God’s character.

        Simply amazing to me.

        ><>”

          Daniel Wilcox

          Hi Bob,

          Yes, it amazes and deeply troubles me. I must admit TULIP is morally incomprehensible to me even though I have dialogged with theological determinists for many years.

          So many Evangelicals of all stripes are turning to Calvinism. This drastic change seems to have begun around the time I was a Baptist youth pastor. Because I remember discussing the troubling theology constantly with my newly wed wife.

          Recently I read (again!) another famous Calvinist writer claim that God even planned the Jewish Holocaust “for his pleasure and glory.”

          I got very upset, because I lived and worked for a while in Israel. And, as a literature teacher I taught the horrors of the Holocaust for many years to high school students.

          My conclusion after 50 years of discussing Calvinism with Calvinists is that for many of them it’s a case of “In versus Out.” They’re IN,
          so who cares about the billions of people they don’t know who are forever OUT. It’s all about security for many Calvinists.

          I’ve not personally met a Calvinist who was convinced he himself was of the “foreordained to damnation”! Though at university I did read about a famous Calvinist of the 17th century who said he was willing to be of the damned.

          And I have known Calvinists who were willing for their own children to be of the “foreordained to damnation.” :-(

          By their willingness for their children to be foreordained to Hell somehow they sensed that they then were yielding more to God’s “sovereignty.”

          Also for some Calvinists, TULIP, gives them uncommon energy. The best example I can think of was Stonewall Jackson. His hard determinism gave him boundless energy and
          outstanding bravery for he was convinced that everything in his life was planned and he was convinced he was on the winning side.

          But then why are there some Calvinists who become passionate about evangelism since they think God unconditionally foreordained and limited those who could be given the Good News?

          For many Calvinists it seems to be a case of compartmentalization in their consciousness. One part of their mind holds to TULIP, but the other part so wants people to be saved, that they act like non-determinists.

          In fact, I’ve never met a Calvinist who in his daily life practiced theological determinism.

          Thanks for the dialog,
          Daniel

            Luther

            Daniel wrote: “So many Evangelicals of all stripes are turning to Calvinism.”

            Praise the Lord! Evangelicals of all stripes are beginning to understand God’s grace more fully. This is good news! Good days are coming, perhaps another Great Awakening!

            Lydia

            “Recently I read (again!) another famous Calvinist writer claim that God even planned the Jewish Holocaust “for his pleasure and glory.”

            Daniel, I remember the first time I read the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer, many years ago. He has a short chapter on how the Nazi’s used Martin Luther’s writing on Jews to convince the Lutheran leaders to align the church with the party. I was so stunned I did some of my own research and found a lot that broke my heart. The Reformed authors I read said that those things were only written by Luther when he was old and perhaps senile? As I believe in a true synergistic sanctification, I have a hard time believing that one. Scripture teaches that what is in the heart comes out.

            For this and many other reasons, we should never elevate man’s teachings to the level we do Martin Luther and Calvin and should go to the Holy Spirit to illuminate truths as He is the Best Teacher.

            Luther

            Lydia, and yet God chose to use Martin Luther to bring the Gospel back to the Church. He is one of the greatest heroes of Christianity, despite his flaws.

            Lydia

            “Lydia, and yet God chose to use Martin Luther to bring the Gospel back to the Church. He is one of the greatest heroes of Christianity, despite his flaws.”

            Too bad he was political. See, I think the Reformation was really more political than we admit because of monarchy/church/state. And I believe he “overcorrected” as is normal but not helpful. I think he went from a works salvation to lawlessness. And the man hated “reason”. Thought it was evil. And I am not one that thinks “sin boldy” is so clever.

            I am not so sure he is the icon you guys make him out to be. That might be like saying God chose George Washington. Does not mean I subscribe to his theology. I think Luther is really more of a political character since he really did not eschew church/state. I am assuming he had the same Inspired scriptures the Anabaptists he hated did. Now, the Anabaptists? They put it on the line for truth. Luther had princes willing to hide and shield him from the Pope.

Nathan Clardy

Could you clarify what you see the Reformed stance being on what happens to infants who die? I believe you are saying the historic stance has been that the elect parents’ children go to heaven and the non-elects’ children do not and I’m not sure that is correct. Spurgeon said he spoke for Calvinists as a whole when he said, “We hold that all infants [who die] are elect of God and are therefore saved.” John MacArthur wrote a book on the issue called Safe in the Arms of God where he makes a strong biblical case for the fact that all children who die go to heaven. I thought this was the majority view of reformed theologians. Thanks.

In Christ, Nathan

    Luther

    Nathan: I’m not sure who you are asking this question. I’m honestly not sure of the Reformed stance. I doubt there is only one. Some probably believe the children of non-elect people go to Hell. Others probably believe that all babies go to Heaven. The real problem is that the Bible is silent on the matter, and maybe we should be silent too and leave this in the area of “unrevealed”. The Bible makes faith a prerequisite of salvation. Neither Traditionalists or Calvinists usually argue that infants have faith. So both Traditionalists and Calvinists have shaky ground to make any dogmatic statements on this subject based on Scripture.

      Nathan Clardy

      The question was for Ron because he seemed to make the point that being a Calvinist means you believe there are non-elect children. Just wanted clarification.

    Ron Hale

    Nathan,

    I am certainly no expert on the subject but it seems the reformed stance differs. That is why I stated in the article:
    “We see a softening of the teachings of reprobation by Augustine and Calvin as the Reformed tradition moved closer to the 20th century. Along the way, infant baptism, covenant theology, confessions being updated, and the view that children of the covenant are safe by having believing and baptized parents has helped Reformed Theologians win the battle over church member mutiny.”

    Among moderate to strict Calvinists today … I believe the answer to your question will differ.

    Dr. Harwood’s book that mentioned is a great resource in this matter.

    Blessings!

Griffin

In the text of Calvin in particular, were there Scripture references? Was it a commentary? All this talk of underdog, all this anecdote and yet little Scripture. I am lost as to why we are arguing this out on blogs in baby steps instead of consulting Biblical theology books, modern scholars like Schreiner and others, and truly debating this issue. Here’s the problem in this blog: you have Calvin quoted with no background and little Scripture. Neither side is convincing on this blog alone. Calvinists, I find, are most often convinced by the whole body of Scripture, not proof texts. The same for strong non-Calvinists I know. Let’s stop wasting our time here in the little leagues, return to the Bible, and then if a blog comes out on this, it’s going to need to be about 5 times longer, soaked and frosted with Scripture.

    Griffin

    For example, ignoring the Calvinist argument in John 3 on regeneration from the Holy Spirit. How we argue says a lot about how we view the Bible. Textual ping pong says we think it contradicts. Answer refutations, not just yourself.

    Ron Hale

    Griffin,
    Some of your questions can be answered by reading Calvin in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, book three.

    I would like to encourage you to research and write … if you feel articles like this come up short. Maybe you already have, if so, please point us to the material. I’m always open to learn more about these important issues.

    Blessings!

wingedfooted1

Nathan,

The below is taken from the Canons of Dort, article 17 “The Salvation of the Infants of Believers”

“Since we must make judgments about God’s will from his Word, which testifies that the children of believers are holy, not by nature but by virtue of the gracious covenant in which they together with their parents are included, godly parents ought not to doubt the election and salvation of their children whom God calls out of this life in infancy.”

From his book “The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination”, Loraine Boettner writes…

“Most Calvinistic theologians have held that those who die in infancy are saved. The Scriptures seem to teach plainly enough that the children of believers are saved.”

Now how comforting this must be to the calvinist to know for certain that their children will be among God’s unconditional elect. It would certainly be unnerving to embrace a theology that might condemn one of their very own children to the lake of fire for all eternity simply due to His good pleasure.

However, here’s the problem. If the children of godly parents are among the elect, then what do we do with the children of Noah? If calvinism is true, then Noah would have be one of the elect. And if the children of elect parents are themselves elect, then wouldn’t that lead to universalism since all of mankind can trace their roots to Noah?

The same goes with Adam and Eve. If they were elect, then wouldn’t both Cain and Abel be elect as well?

Yet Boettner writes….. “The Scriptures seem to teach plainly enough that the children of believers are saved.”

Plainly? Sorry, Boettner, nice try, but I think the scriptures plainly show otherwise.

God bless.

    Norm Miller

    If the children of the elect are eternally safe, but they don’t die in infancy — then how do we explain the lostness of those children who mature into adults and never come to saving faith in Christ? It would seem that there is also an age of responsibility, in calvinistic thinking, for such children, who, if they had died at a very young age would have gone to heaven, but later, in rejecting Christ, would go to hell. — Norm

      Luther

      Interesting observation, Norm. I had not thought of that before.

      wingedfooted1

      Norm,

      Good question. I guess this would be one of those cases when the calvinist would fall back on “mystery”.

      Notice something else. Boettner wrote…

      “Most Calvinistic theologians have held that those who die in infancy are saved.”

      Yet in his article “The Salvation of Babies Who Die” MacArthur wrote…

      “I was on a panel at a conference, a large conference, with three other pastors and it was a question and answer panel and I was sitting up there with these other very fine pastors whom I love and respect. And one of the questions came from the audience was, ‘What happens to babies that die?’ They went down the first three and the answer in each case was ‘I don’t know,’ which isn’t very comforting. It puts me in a terrible spot because when they came to me, I said, ‘They go to heaven. They go to heaven.’ And I tried to give a brief explanation of why I believe that’s true.”

      I find it odd that the vast majority of calvinists have believed that all babies who die in infancy are saved, and yet 75% of the panelists didn’t know the eternal destiny of babies who die in infancy.

      Still, I found it even more odd that crib death, birth defects, and abortion are only reserved for God’s elect.

      God bless.

      Bob Hadley

      Norm,

      Actually what happens as I read them is that those children who DID DIE in infancy were elect… so it is not a question of the children of the elect growing older and THEN accountable… and therefore not sure who is and is not the elect… I suppose the same could be true of children of non-elect parents…

      The fact that the children lived removes the issue of them being elect in the first place… that is MY understanding.

      ><>”

      Luther

      But I would imagine that the Calvinist who believes this “saved-children-of-the-elect” thing would argue that God would not let a non-elect person die in infancy.

        Luther

        No theology is perfect…this is one example of imprefection in Calvinism. Though I still find Calvinism to be the best thing that theologians have come up with for dealing with all of Scripture.

        Bob Hadley

        Luther,

        Not really… because if an individual is the non-elect it does not matter WHEN he dies… his eternal destiny in the same whether he is 10 months or 110 years old.

        Since God saves the elect I guess it does not really matter WHEN that person dies… elect or not; they spend eternity wherever God has determined that they will.

        I really hate to split hairs with you but this is really one of the least of the imperfections of calvinism in MY BOOK.

        ><>”

earl simmons

OK! Now I am not a pastor nor Bible theologian but I do have a question for anyone who wants to answer. I thought Calvinism said before the world began and we were born that God decided who was elect or not, So at what age does a non-elect child suddenly become responsible for himself and become reprobate?

Now to Luther above I must say I have been studying what all the arguments are for and against calvinism and it makes no sense at all to me..Do agree with a lot Bob Hadley says.

    Luther

    Earl: I’m a Calvinist, but I don’t believe it is just the babies of the elect that go to Heaven, so I deny the age of accountability doctrine, whether the Traditionalist one or the Calvinist version. Both have scant biblical support.

    Bob Hadley

    Well… I think this is a first… an actual fan! What a brave brave thing to say Earl!

    Actually, I am honored and blessed. Thanks for the comment.

    ><>”

    Robert

    Hello Earl,

    “OK! Now I am not a pastor nor Bible theologian”

    And you do not need to be, all that you really need to be is a person who is in a saving and personal relationship with Jesus who seeks to study the scriptures for himself. Do that and you will be ahead of most pastors and theologians! :-)

    “but I do have a question for anyone who wants to answer. I thought Calvinism said before the world began and we were born that God decided who was elect or not, So at what age does a non-elect child suddenly become responsible for himself and become reprobate?”

    You are correct about God’s choosing who will be saved and who will be damned. Consistent Calvinism is actually simple to understand. For the consistent Calvinist God decided in eternity who would be saved and who would be damned: he also prescripted everything. So everything that happens is part of a prescripted total plan conceived in eternity by God and then he makes sure it happens exactly as prescripted in the events that we call history. Just think of a plan that God decides upon beforehand. This plan includes every detail of what is to occur (which includes who is saved and who is damned). What the consistent Calvinist then does is to interpret everything so that it fits with these ideas. If you understand these ideas you understand why they interpret particular bible passages the way they do.

    Now you asked “at what age does a non-elect child suddenly become responsible for himself and become a reprobate?” A couple things on this.

    First, according to the consistent calvinist people don’t become reprobate at some later time, they are reprobates from eternity. God chose them to be unbelievers in eternity and then uses history to make sure they act and live like reprobates. Remember everything is prescripted according to consistent Calvinism. That means that those chosen for damnation have to be damned, there is no possibility they could be saved in this world history (they could only be saved if God had prescripted another world history in which they were chosen to be saved). If a person is chosen for damnation, then God desires for them to be damned, plans for them to be damned and then uses history to make sure that everything goes according to plan.

    Second, the issue of when they become responsible is an interesting. I have had calvinists tell me that (if they hold the view that all infants are saved) that the reprobates are those that God predestined to grow up past infancy and live lives of unbelief so that God could later punish their sins to demonstrate his wrath. God couldn’t demonstrate his wrath against infants who had seemingly not done anything deserving wrath, so he had to make sure that these reprobates had done things that were worthy of wrath and condemnation (i.e. God had to predestine they live long enough to commit sins that God had predestined for them to commit).

    When you hear this kind of stuff you realize if they are right, God is pretty sadistic and cruel to these reprobate persons.

    As I have said repeatedly (and even some consistent calvinist admit this to be true): reprobation is the worst and most hateful thing that could be done to a human person.

    He could have predestined for them to die as infants and so be saved. But instead he wanted them to commit sins he predestined they would commit so that he could have wrath on them. It is similar to the take that some of these consistent calvinists take regarding those who never hear the gospel (they claim that if God had wanted to save them then he would have made sure they heard the gospel, but he did not want them saved so instead he made sure they never heard the gospel and so were condemned for the sins he predestined for them to commit).

    People tend to forget that according to consistent Calvinism EVERYTHING is prescripted, predestined, and already decided by God.

    So that means whatever you see happening in history is exactl what God wanted to happen.

    See people who never hear the gospel, God did not want them to hear the gospel. See unbelievers who reject God and live lives of sin, he wanted them to be unbelievers and commit every sin they commit and commit them exactly the way God predestined/wanted them to occur. See people commit crimes and be convicted and in prison, he wanted them to be criminals and comit each of these crimes. See false teaching or division in the church, again, God wanted it to happen exactly as it happened. See spousal abuse, child abuse, divorce, disfunctional marriages and families, God wanted it to happen exactly as it happened. See satanic deception, false ideas and cults and even demonic possesion, God wanted it to happen exactly as it happened. It is like a broken record, just goes on and on and on.

    If you understand the two simple ideas that God decides who is saved and who is damned as part of the totally prescripted plan for all of history, you will understand calvinism just fine.

    It is sad that bible believing Christians actually affirm and promote and defend these ideas. And the false teaching, the errors, the twisting and mangling of scripture that results, as well as the division and confusion is really sad. I think it is unnecessary as it is choices that people freely make. But for the consistent calvinist it is all part of the prescripted plan.

    Robert

JoeJ

If God’s judgement is beyond our understanding, I wonder why Calvin was so confident in his pronouncements.

    Luther

    His incredible knowledge of Scripture maybe? The man can hardly be said to have ever contradicted himself though he wrote numerous tomes. Whether you like him or hate him, is there any other theologian past or present of equal intellect with Calvin?

      Steve Martin

      Luther.

        Luther

        Steve: Martin Luther was a genius, no doubt. I like him more than Calvin. But I do think Luther contradicts himself theologically from time to time. But I love that man. We would all probably be biblically illiterate Monks in the Catholic Church, with a faulty Gospel message, and a grace that means “God’s assistance” rather than “unmerited favor”, if it were not for Luther. I’m amazed by some here who bad mouth the same man who God used to restore the Gospel back to the Church.

      Jim G.

      Oh, let’s see…

      How about Aquinas, Scotus, Cyril of Alexandria, Origen, Irenaeus, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Karl Barth for starters? All of these men were far more sophisticated in their doctrine of God than was Calvin. Calvin’s inability to reconcile biblical propositions in a way that sufficiently preserves all the Bible has to say on the subject of God’s goodness and greatness makes him below these others as a theologian in my opinion.

      The better question is, have any notable theologians, past or present, matched Calvin’s arrogance and ruthlessness? Don’t take my word for it. Take the words of Bruce Gordon, one of his top biographers.

      Jim G.

        Jim G.

        Next thing we’ll hear is that Calvin invented them internets before Al Gorski.

        Jim G.

      Lydia

      “His incredible knowledge of Scripture maybe? The man can hardly be said to have ever contradicted himself though he wrote numerous tomes. Whether you like him or hate him, is there any other theologian past or present of equal intellect with Calvin”

      Intellectual Thelogian?

      Yet he practiced:

      Church state, infant baptistsm, sacraments as means of grace, degrees of serious punishment for those who dared dissent from church state interpretations and practices. Mandatory church attandance and other micro management of Genevans lives

      Right. No contradictions and brilliant theologian? I think not.

      And we wonder why…..

Robert

Luther wrote:

“His incredible knowledge of Scripture maybe? The man can hardly be said to have ever contradicted himself though he wrote numerous tomes. Whether you like him or hate him, is there any other theologian past or present of equal intellect with Calvin?”

Yes, there is one theologian who knows the scripture inside out and backwards and forwards. He is a greater intellect than Calvin and every other theologian you can name.

His name is Satan.

And yet he hates God and rebels against God like no other.

So frankly this talk of who is the most intelligent theologian is misguided.
According to scripture it is your relationship with God that is critical and your character is the most important thing about you. In the world they are impressed by intellect apart from character (consider Einstein as the perfect example, absolutely brilliant, one of the greatest intellects science or any field for that matter has ever known, but look at his life and you find a very immoral man, a serial adulterer).

Jim G. wrote:

“The better question is, have any notable theologians, past or present, matched Calvin’s arrogance and ruthlessness? Don’t take my word for it. Take the words of Bruce Gordon, one of his top biographers.”

Jim is correct, if you compare Calvin with other theologians nobody was more arrogant or ruthless in his dealings with both enemies and friends.

Jim makes reference to Bruce Gordon’s biography of Calvin. I have mentioned this biography before and here is words from the preface, which even according to Calvinists is seen to be the **definitive** biography of Calvin:

“John Calvin was the greatest Protestant reformer of the sixteenth century, brilliant, visionary, and iconic. The superior force of his mind was evident in all that he did. He was also ruthless, and an outstanding hater. Among those things he hated were the Roman church, Anabaptists and those people who, he believed, only faint-heartedly embraced the Gospel and tainted themselves with idolatry. He saw himself as an instrument of God, and as a prophet of the Church he brooked no rivals. He never felt he had encountered an intellectual equal, and he was probably correct. To achieve what he believed to be right, he would do virtually anything. Although not physically imposing, he dominated others and knew how to manipulate relationships. He intimidated, bullied and humiliated, saving some of his worst conduct for his friends.”(from the preface)

Does that sound like a man of godly Christian character? I would say No.

I do know however that by the marks of a Christian (including love of the brethren, love of the lost, the character traits required of elders) he does not fit these things at all. I believe later Calvinists overlook and minimize his lack of character, his hatefulness towards others, his sinful actions towards others and focus on the **content** of his beliefs and theology and writings. But I was taught that a godly person is seen in their character first, not the content of what they teach or promote.

There is no way looking at this person who was “an outstanding hater” that you could conclude that he was an example in character of what a Christian leader ought to be.

I don’t accept the veneration of Calvin by modern calvinists as we should honor people worthy of honor (which biblically speaking is godly persons who exhibit godly character). In the world they may esteem someone’s intellect or intellectual accomplishments (Einstein being a perfect example of this) while at the same time overlooking or minimizing their character or immorality. But I do not think that ought to be the Christian way. We esteem people who exhibit godly character, who trust the Lord in difficult circumstances even if they are hated by the world.

Robert

    JoeJ

    The main thing Calvin did was redefine God from a loving father into an indifferent or sadistic ruler who elects/rejects humans as if they were worthless pawns. Further, this connection with Augustine is an effort to add antiquity to the teaching that does not really exist.

      Michael John

      JoeJ,

      The main thing?

      And you got this from Calvin’s writings?

      There must have been a chapter somewhere in the Institutes that I missed.

      Not even Rush Limbaugh could spin something so hard.

Jacob Hall

Just for clarification,

For you to claim Calvin in his own words, shouldn’t you at least cite one of Calvin’s own works? You have easy access to Primary sources and yet don’t quote them. Its hard to take any part of your argument as good sound research when you won’t even quote the man from his own works.

    Jim G.

    Jacob,

    Go back and reread Ron’s post. You’ll find the Institutes in there twice.

    Jim G.

    Ron Hale

    Jacob,
    There are a number of great online sites for the Institutes, I used CRTA or Center for Reformed Theology and Apolgetics, translated by Henry Beveridge.
    Blessings!

jdbarker

“Calvin seems to reduce this dissonance or confliction of ideas by stripping man of his free will and personal responsibility by placing the burden of eternal condemnation on the sovereign shoulders of God in pre-creation.”

-3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

-14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! 15 For He says to Moses, “ I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “ For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. 19 You will say to me then, “ Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” 20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? 21 Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?

Robert

Hello Earl,

You had stated earlier:

“but I do have a question for anyone who wants to answer. I thought Calvinism said before the world began and we were born that God decided who was elect or not,”

I tried to explain this for you in my earlier post and I was reading Ronnie Rodgers new book REFLECTIONS OF A DISENCHANTED CALVINIST recently and he quotes R. C. Sproul from Sproul’s book CHOSEN BY GOD (a determinist/calvinist classic on the very issue that you state here).

I had forgotten this quote, but consider this quote by Sproul (from p. 51 of CHOSEN BY GOD, and quoted by Rodgers on p. 110) to be very fitting for your comment that “Calvinism said before the world began and we were born that God decided who was elect or not”. Sproul wrote:

“Predestination seems to cast a shadow on the very heart of human freedom. If God has decided our destinies from all eternity, that strongly suggests that our free choices are but charades, empty exercises in predetermined playacting. It is as though God wrote the script for us in concrete and we are merely carrying out his scenario.” (R. C. Sproul, CHOSEN BY GOD, 1986, p. 51))

This kind of honesty and forthrightness is rare coming from calvinists concerning what their beliefs really imply.

Note that Sproul first says that “If God decided our destinies from all eternity”.
Well that is no “if” for the consistent calvinist, that is in fact exactly what they believe.
Next Sproul openly and explicitly admits “that strongly suggests that our free choices are but charades.” That is correct again, because if all is predestined by God, including our choices, then they are not really choices with us as the source, they are choices with God as the source and us being merely the conduits of God’s already made choices. In such a completely predetermined world, free will as ordinarily understood is impossible and eliminated.

Sproul also admits that this means our lives amount to “empty exercises in predetermined playacting.” This is a common analogy used by non-determinsts, non-calvinists for what would be true if the exhaustive determinism of calvinism were true. We then become like actors all with a preassigned role to play according to a predecided and prewritten script. In this situaiton you can only hope that you are lucky to get a “juicy role”, like the role of being a converted sinner to Christianity. If you don’t get so lucky you may instead end up playing the role of a reprobate. That is a really bad villian because you have to do evil, have no hope of being saved and then get punished eternally for living out the preassigned role that God himself chose for you to play.

As Sproul admits as much in his final line as well: “It is as though God wrote the script for us in concrete and we are merely carrying out his scenario.”

So Earl if you want to grasp consistent calvinism, think along the very lines that Sproul a determinist/calvinist himself explicitly speaks about in his quote. The world’s a stage and we are all merely living out our completely prescripted lives.

Robert

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