The Five Points That Led Me Out of Calvinism | Part Three

January 6, 2015
**This article was previously posted by Leighton Flowers on his website www.soteriology101.com and is used by permission.
Leighton is: teaching pastor in his local church, an adjunct Professor of Theology at Dallas Baptist University, and the Youth Evangelism Director for Texas Baptists.
Learn more about Leighton, HERE.
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The Five Points That Led Me Out of Calvinism | Part Three
(Click HERE for Part One and HERE for Part Two)

Point #4: I accepted the fact that a gift doesn’t have to be irresistibly applied in order for the giver to get full credit for giving it.

According to Calvinism, God does not merely enable people to believe (as the scriptures say), but He has to actually change their very nature so as to certainly make them believe. As a Calvinist I remember shaming other Christians for “stealing God’s glory” by suggesting they played any role in their salvation. I insisted they would be “boasting” to believe that they chose to come to Christ unless they first admitted that God irresistibly changed their nature to make them want to come. I recall a wise elder from my home church challenging me on this point by asking, “Why do you believe God’s choice of you for no apparent reason is less boast worthy than his choice of me for being a weak beggar?” I honestly did not know what he meant at the time, but I do now.

At the time of that encounter I had not reached the pigsty of my life. I was young and arrogant. I had never really been broken by my sin and brought face to face with my depravity. I thought I understood forgiveness and grace but truthfully it was not until much later in my life that I would be brought to the end of my self. I used to think the idea that God chose to save me before I was born and done anything good or bad was humbling, but it is not near as humbling as the reality that God would chose to save me in the middle of my worse sin, my brokenness, my humiliation and my shame. Like the prodigal who returned home from the pigsty of his life, broken and humiliated, seeking to beg for handouts, deserving nothing but punishment, receives instead the gracious love of a father, I too felt the choice of a Father to forgive me right then and there in the middle of my filth. It was not some theological concept of God picking me for no apparent reason out of the mass of humanity at some distant inexplicable time before time was. It was my Daddy choosing to love me in the middle of my deepest sin and pride crushing shame. No one…no Arminian, no Calvinist or any one in between…I mean NO ONE boasts about being forgiven like that. If they do, or they think others would, I cannot imagine they have ever been there.

“But let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” (Jer. 9:24)

Why can’t we give God all the glory for enabling mankind to respond to His gracious truth?  Why must he irresistibly cause our acceptance of that truth in order for Him to get full glory for giving it?

It in no way robs God of glory by suggesting He does not irresistibly determine men’s choice to accept or reject the gospel appeal. In fact, it seems to lesson His glory by making Him appear disingenuous in that appeal sent to all people.  Should not God get the glory even for the provision of those who reject Him?

“A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.” – C.S. Lewis

Point #5: I came to understand that sovereignty is not an eternal attribute of God that would be compromised by the existence of free moral creatures.

“God sovereignly decreed that man should be free to exercise moral choice, and man from the beginning has fulfilled that decree by making his choice between good and evil. When he chooses to do evil, he does not thereby countervail the sovereign will of God but fulfills it, inasmuch as the eternal decree decided not which choice the man should make but that he should be free to make it. If in His absolute freedom God has willed to give man limited freedom, who is there to stay His hand or say, ‘What doest thou?’ Man’s will is free because God is sovereign. A God less than sovereign could not bestow moral freedom upon His creatures. He would be afraid to do so.” – A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God

Some seem to believe that for God to be considered “sovereign” then men cannot have a free or autonomous will.  Should sovereignty be interpreted and understood as the necessity of God to “play both sides of the chess board” in order to ensure His victory?  Or should it be understood as God’s infinite and mysterious ways of accomplishing His purposes and ensuring His victory in, through, and despite the free choices of creation?

I’m not pretending that we can really understand His infinite ways or the means by which He accomplishes all things in conjunction with man’s will.  We cannot even understand our own ways, much less His.  But, I’m saying that the revelation of God’s holiness, His unwillingness to even tempt men to sin (James 1:13), His absolute perfect nature and separateness from sin (Is. 48:17), certainly appears to suggest that our finite, linear, logical constructs should not be used to contain Him (Is. 55:9).

One point that really helped me to understand the apparent contradiction of this debate was realizing the divine attribute of sovereignty is not an eternal attribute of God. Calvinists always argue that God cannot deny Himself or His eternal nature, which is true. God cannot stop being God. Based on this Calvinists conclude that because God is eternally sovereign that He cannot deny that sovereignty, an attribute of His very nature, by allowing for others to have any measure of control or authority.

What the Calvinist fails to see is that sovereignty means “complete rule or dominion over creation.” For God to be in control over creation there has to be something created in which to control.  He cannot display His power over creatures unless the creatures exist.  Therefore, before creation the concept of sovereignty was not an attribute that could be used to describe God. An eternal attribute is something God possesses that is not contingent upon something else.

The eternal attribute of God is His omnipotence, which refers to His eternally limitless power. Sovereignty is a temporal characteristic, not an eternal one, thus we can say God is all powerful, not because He is sovereign, but He is sovereign because He is all powerful, or at least He is as sovereign as He so chooses to be in relation to this temporal world.

If our all-powerful God chose to refrain from meticulously ruling over every aspect of that which He creates, that in no way denies His eternal attribute of omnipotence, but indeed affirms it. It is the Calvinist who denies the eternal attribute of omnipotence by presuming the all-powerful God cannot refrain from meticulous deterministic rule over His creation (i.e. sovereignty). In short, the Calvinist denies God’s eternal attribute of omnipotence in his effort to protect the temporal attribute of sovereignty.  Additionally, an argument could be made that the eternal attributes of God’s love and His holiness are likewise compromised by the well meaning efforts of our Calvinistic brethren to protect their theory of deterministic sovereignty over the temporal world.

Please understand, sovereignty is most certainly an attribute of God, but it is a temporal attribute. The Omnipotent God has not yet taken full sovereign control over everything on earth as it is in heaven. Is not that His prerogative? Passages throughout the bible teach that there are “authorities” and “powers” which are yet to be destroyed, and that have been given dominion over God’s creation.

Isaiah 24:21
A time is coming when the Lord will punish the powers above and the rulers of the earth.

Ephesians 6:12 
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Colossians 2:20
You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the evil powers of this world.

1 Corinthians 15:24
Then the end will come; Christ will overcome all spiritual rulers, authorities, and powers, and will hand over the Kingdom to God the Father.

Don’t misunderstand my point. I affirm that God is greater than these powers and authorities. He created them after all.

Colossians 1:16
For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.

And one day God will strip them of that authority:

Colossians 2:15 
God stripped the spiritual rulers and powers of their authority. With the cross, he won the victory and showed the world that they were powerless.

Much more could be said, but in short we must refrain from bringing unbiblical conclusions based upon our finite perceptions of God’s nature.  We must accept the revelation of scripture. He is Holy (Is. 6:3).  He does not take pleasure in sin (Ps. 5:4). Some moral evil does not even enter His Holy mind (Jer. 7:31). He genuinely desires every individual to come to Him and be saved (2 Pet. 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:4). No man will stand before the Father and be able to give the excuse, “I was born unloved by my Creator.  I was born unchosen and without the hope of salvation.  I was born unable to see, hear or understand God’s revelation of Himself.”  No! They will stand without excuse (Rm. 1:20). God loves all people (Jn. 3:16), calls them to salvation (2 Cor. 5:20), reveals Himself to them (Titus 2:11) and provides the means by which their sins would be forgiven (1 Jn. 2:2).

Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.

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Les Prouty

Good morning Leighton. I have a very full day and may be able to pop in here and there. Prepping for my next Haiti trip leaving in a few weeks and attending the full military honors funeral for the dad of a good friend.

Anyway, you start with this, “According to Calvinism, God does not merely enable people to believe (as the scriptures say), but He has to actually change their very nature so as to certainly make them believe.”

I just would tweak that sentence to read:

According to Calvinism, God does not certainly MAKE sinners believe, nor does he believe for them, but rather he changes their very nature thereby enabling them to freely believe. The WCF puts it this way:

“When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, he freeth him from his natural bondage under sin; and, by his grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good.”

That’s all I have time for right now. God bless brother.

    Robert

    Ronnie Rodgers in the past posted here about how Calvinists are misleading in their use of language. Put simply, with the case of free will and freely made choices they talk as if they believe in free will as ordinarily understood by most people but in reality their presentation of “free will” is actually cloaking their determinism. Remember in Star Trek where some ships had the “cloaking device” which allowed them to hide their ships? Calvinists do the same when they speak of “free will” when in fact they are exhaustive determinists (at least the consistent ones are determinists because if God predestines every event that occurs, then everything is both predestined and determined). And if everything is predestined there is no such thing as free will as ordinarily understood and no such thing as people freely choosing to do anything (whether it is sin or righteous acts, if all are decided beforehand by God and then He controls everything so it all goes according to a preplanned history). They hide their exhaustive determinism by talking about people freely choosing to do things when this is absolutely impossible in their system (if all is decreed by God).

    Les provides yet another perfect example of this misleading and deceptive use of language by Calvinists when he “corrects” Leighton:

    [[“Anyway, you start with this, “According to Calvinism, God does not merely enable people to believe (as the scriptures say), but He has to actually change their very nature so as to certainly make them believe.”
    I just would tweak that sentence to read:
    According to Calvinism, God does not certainly MAKE sinners believe, nor does he believe for them, but rather he changes their very nature thereby enabling them to freely believe. The WCF puts it this way:
    “When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, he freeth him from his natural bondage under sin; and, by his grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good.”]]

    Actually Leighton gets it right, if all is decreed as the consistent Calvinist believes, then God determines that people believe, they have to believe, they have no choice not to believe if their every thought and action is decreed by God.

    What many Calvinists leave out of their presentation is that you cannot simultaneously claim that God decrees everything and at the same time then come back and talk about people acting “freely”.

    The Westminster confession states it well “God decrees whatsoever comes to pass.” And that is with no exceptions.

    If God actually decrees everything, then that includes our every thought, belief, action, everything. We may believe that we are acting freely, but not if all of our actions have been decreed as the Westminster Confession claims.

    Les corrects Leighton and claims “God does not certainly MAKE sinners believe”.

    That statement is false: if all is decreed. Calvinists believe that all is decreed and that God directly controls everything. So if a person believes, he only does so if that is decreed for him to do and if God controls him to ensure that he believes. And that is theological determinism. Likewise, if someone does not believe that is only true because that is decreed for him to do and God controlled him to do that as well. And this applies to every thought or action that any of us have. It is all predetermined by God if Calvinism is true. The reality if exhaustive determinism is true is that God makes us do everything that we do. He decrees our every action and controls everything to make sure that all that is decreed occurs exactly as planned. That ***is*** making us do everything that we do.

    Les also claims “but rather he changes their very nature thereby enabling them to freely believe.”

    If all is decreed then no one “freely believes”, they believe only and if they were decreed to believe. It is humorous that Les cites the Westminster confession to back up his point.

    Because it is this very confession that says everything is decreed with no exceptions.

    The misleading use of language by Calvinists when speaking of free will gets old sometimes. Why can’t they stop using the cloaking device and just be honest: God decreed everything, so we all, only and always, do what God decreed for us to do or not do. We have no choice in the matter, we never act freely. To claim that all is decreed and that we do act freely is a misuse of language, misleading, deceptive if done intentionally, and not speaking the truth at all. As Christians we are supposed to speak the truth, and yet Calvinists do not speak the truth, they talk about free will as if we act freely when their system involves exhaustive determinism.

    I can tell you why they do this, it is for PR purposes, they want to convert others to their beliefs. Others will not convert if they see the exhaustive determinism that is hidden behind the curtain as they speak of people ‘freely choosing to do things.

    Robert

      Les Prouty

      Good day Robert. Just leaving a fallen Marine’s commitment service so not much time.

      It’s always refreshing to see you write so sweetly as you call me and others deceivers and liars. Such a blessing you are in these conversations. More later brother.

        Doug Sayers

        Les, I’m afraid you’ve earned the criticism on this one. If you continue to hide behind the Reformed definition of the terms “free” and “freely” then you will continue to get called on it. I guess some of us aren’t “nuanced” enough to see how an irresistible faith can be a voluntary faith.

        When you get a minute, here are two questions for you (and/or any Calvinist sympathizers) that will help cut through the muck.

        1. Do you agree or disagree with the following: Calvinism teaches that irresistible regeneration precedes irresistible faith for the elect?

        2. Do you believe that any of your kids, or the babies in your church, could have been born reprobate, already guilty of sin, with no hope of salvation?

        Give us an honest answer.

          Les Prouty

          Doug call me on it all you like. People have tried quite unsuccessfully for many years to bring down the Reformed faith. And they’re still at it.

          “I guess some of us aren’t “nuanced” enough to see how an irresistible faith can be a voluntary faith.”

          You don’t have to be nuanced to believe that God is able to do as the WCF teaches (see my response to Robert a few minutes ago). He is that big and able.

          “1. Do you agree or disagree with the following: Calvinism teaches that irresistible regeneration precedes irresistible faith for the elect?”

          No. I disagree. Calvinism teaches that irresistible regeneration precedes the sinner being enabled to “freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good.”

          BTW, without that “irresistible regeneration,” the sinner remains dead.

          “2. Do you believe that any of your kids, or the babies in your church, could have been born reprobate, already guilty of sin, with no hope of salvation?”

          Any of my kids were already sinners and guilty from the womb and had/have no hope of salvation except in the grace of Jesus Christ. And any could have been non elect. I am not privy to whom God has chosen.

          Blessings Doug.

            Doug Sayers

            Les, I appreciate the straight answer to the 2nd question. If more, who profess Calvinism, among the SBC (and Acts 29) would be so clear with the doctrine of irresistible damnation (as you have just been) the Calvinistic Resurgence will soon slide into irrelevance. This, along with your propensity to quote from the WCF over Scripture are two major reasons that the Reformed views of salvation have always been (and always will be) the minority view among Bible believing people. The universal call is a trustworthy promise from a trustworthy God to every single soul ever born. Jesus came so that the world through Him might be saved.

            You’re still hedging on the first question, though. Do you mean to suggest that someone who has been irresistibly regenerated has the power of contrary choice regarding saving faith in the Truth? Are you saying that a regenerated soul has the ability to resist believing in Jesus?

            You should lighten up on your kids. Like Esau, they had not done anything evil before they were born. That would be impossible.

            Les Prouty

            Doug,

            On quoting from the confession, I know you’re learned enough to know that confessions are statements of what those who agree with said confession believe the scriptures teach.

            “You’re still hedging on the first question, though. Do you mean to suggest that someone who has been irresistibly regenerated has the power of contrary choice regarding saving faith in the Truth? Are you saying that a regenerated soul has the ability to resist believing in Jesus?”

            I am not saying that a regenerated soul has inherent power to resist believing in Jesus, even if he anted to…which he wouldn’t since post regeneration his blinded eyes are open and he can see the beauty of Jesus and will joyfully repent and believe. He is new!

            “You should lighten up on your kids. Like Esau, they had not done anything evil before they were born. That would be impossible.”

            :)

        Robert

        Les writes:

        “‘It’s always refreshing to see you write so sweetly as you call me and others deceivers and liars. Such a blessing you are in these conversations.”

        A while back I interacted with you and as I recall you got very nasty and were warned and then possibly even banned by the previous moderator. Thankfully, I had not seen you post here in a long time until just recently when coincidentally the blog has a new moderator.

        You are an ex-Baptist minister who has rejected Baptist beliefs and instead now hold Presbyterian beliefs.

        That means that you ***reject Baptist beliefs*** including believer baptism and church government, etc. etc.

        You also now hold to the false beliefs of infant baptism and the Presbyterian form of church government, etc. etc. You probably also hold to the false system of theology known as covenant theology.

        So why is an ex-Baptist minister who rejects our Baptist beliefs in favor of false Presbyterian beliefs, posting here at an openly Baptist blog???

        You could not be here to fellowship with fellow Baptists as you reject our beliefs in favor of Presbyterian beliefs. We should also not be surprised to hear you quoting the Westminster Confession as that is now your standard of belief rather than what Baptists believe.

        Since you posted here in the past in support of Calvinism, and reappear again defending this false belief, it appears that you are here again to defend this false belief. You were not successful in converting others to Calvinism in the past and I don’t think you will get very far attempting to convert us to your false Calvinistic beliefs this time either.

        Robert

          Lea Prouty

          Robert,

          In fact brother I’m an ordained Southern Baptist minister. But that’s really beside the point. Come to think of it have you ever objected similarly to an Anglican/Episcopal brother who comments sometimes? No because he believes similarly to yu.

          But anyway. I could have as easily quoted the London Baptist Confession. It’s almost word for word the same. I’ll quite that from now on.

          And I’m not trying to convert anyone here to become a Preby.

          Blessings brother.

            Robert

            I brought up your background because as long as I have seen you post you have been defending not Presbyterianism but Calvinism. You were nasty before and frankly I was glad to see you disappear for a long time. Now with a new moderator suddenly you are back. The fact you turned your back on the truths that Baptists hold makes you highly suspect as a purveyor of truth. The fact you are not Baptist and yet post here on a Baptist blog makes it suspicious as to what you are doing here. The reasonable explanation is that you are here to defend Calvinism just as you did so in the past. If I had rejected say Presbyterianism and become a Baptist, there really would be no good reasons for me to go posting at Presybyterian sites. Unless I was willing to be divisive to defend and establish some beliefs that I wanted others to hold. Calvinism has always divided God’s people and always will, which is one of the reasons that I think it was introduced into the church through Augustine in order to confuse and divide the church and take it away from the simple truths presented in scripture (e.g. God loves the whole world, God desires for all to be saved, God does not decide people’s destinies apart from their choices, etc. etc. etc.). I know someone who is quite pleased by the unnecessary division and confusion caused by Calvinism every time it rears its ugly head. I also know someone who must be grieved by this division and it certainly is not his will for this division between professing Christians. So if he does not want it and someone else does, then who is the source of this division ultimately?

            Robert

            Les Prouty

            Robert,

            Thank you for your reply. “you were nasty before and frankly I was glad to see you disappear for a long time. Now with a new moderator suddenly you are back.”

            Brother, I admit that in the past I have not always been as gracious as I should have been. But you being concerned with someone else being “nasty?” Really? Now enough of that please.I’m here as a guest as long as they will let me post. I try to be gracious, am not trying to convert anyone away from being a Baptist and really just want to engage the topics with other brothers and sisters. I hope we can learn from each other.

            “he reasonable explanation is that you are here to defend Calvinism just as you did so in the past.” Well I am Reformed. Why would I not “defend” what I believe? Don’t you?

            “Unless I was willing to be divisive to defend and establish some beliefs that I wanted others to hold.”

            Robert I am not being divisive. Brother you really seem to be making this personal. I am not threat to you.

            I hope you have a blessed evening.

      Les Prouty

      Robert,

      I’ve seen Ronnie post that before and it’s still not true. You said,

      “…they talk as if they believe in free will as ordinarily understood by most people but in reality their presentation of “free will” is actually cloaking their determinism..”

      I can’t speak for all Reformed folks, but for most we don’t try to cloak our determinism. I heartily endorse the WCF. I hold to compatible determinism, a form of determinism. I heartily endorse this from the WCF: “God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.”

      Read it carefully Robert. I very well and very precisely explains what the Reformed faith teaches. Now you may and surely do disagree with it, but there is no cloaking or deception or lying (as you have accused all three) in that statement.

      “If all is decreed then no one “freely believes”, they believe only and if they were decreed to believe. It is humorous that Les cites the Westminster confession to back up his point.”

      You’re just wrong Robert, as far as what the Reformed faith teaches. You may and do disagree with the position. But thankfully neither you alone nor I alone gets to make the once and for all declaration of truth. And I’m happy I humored you.

      As far as “free will as ordinarily understood by most people,” well popular opinion is rather moot.

      We Reformed folk have no problem believing that God is capable of “ordain[ing] whatsoever comes to pass” and doing so without “violence offered to the will of the creatures.”

      He is that able. He is, after all, God.

      And by the way, you are free (wink) to address me directly.

      Blessings brother.

        Robert

        Les wrote:

        “I can’t speak for all Reformed folks, but for most we don’t try to cloak our determinism.”

        Actually you do cloak your determinism, very few Calvinists will openly admit they adhere to exhaustive determinism. They will hem and haw and squawk when the issue of determinism comes up: hence my claim they are not forthright, not honest, and even misleading about this.

        “I heartily endorse the WCF.”

        You should as a card-carrying Presbyterian, so what, that has little weight for me a Baptist.

        “ I hold to compatible determinism, a form of determinism. I heartily endorse this from the WCF: “God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.”
        Read it carefully Robert. I very well and very precisely explains what the Reformed faith teaches. “

        The contradiction is between exhaustive determinism and the claim that people sometimes act freely.

        If all is determined then people never act freely, if people sometimes act freely then all is not determined.

        Since the confession takes the position that all is determined it cannot simultaneously affirm that we sometimes act freely: that is affirming a contradiction.

        “You’re just wrong Robert, as far as what the Reformed faith teaches.”

        I understand what the Reformed faith teaches, I reject it, you affirm it, again so what.

        “ You may and do disagree with the position. But thankfully neither you alone nor I alone gets to make the once and for all declaration of truth.”

        The Bible is the once and for all declaration of the truth and it affirms that sometimes people have real choices where they really could do this or that. That kind of choice cannot exist if exhaustive determinism is true. The Bible affirms that kind of freedom while the Reformed including in their creeds denies this kind of freedom. So I take the Bible to be true and the Reformed and their creeds to be false.

        “As far as “free will as ordinarily understood by most people,” well popular opinion is rather moot.”

        It is not moot when it comes to presenting your determinism: as the majority view is and has always been that exhaustive determinism is false (Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and most Protestants deny exhaustive determinism, only the minority, the Reformed hold to it). This is precisely where you Reformed folks are deceptive and misleading. You are not honest enough to say that the ordinary view of free will( as actually sometimes have real choices where either option can be chosen) as held by the majority of people and as expressed when most people talk about “free will” is false according to your theology. Instead you **use the language of people who hold the ordinary view of free will** (e.g. acting freely, choosing freely) and yet you have a different meaning by the very same words. Put bluntly a person who holds to exhaustive determinism cannot actually believe that people act freely, choose freely as ordinarily understood: yet you continue to use the language anyway. That is deceptive and misleading especially if you know you are doing so. It is no different then when a non-Christian cult uses our language but they know they mean something very different by the words.

        [[“We Reformed folk have no problem believing that God is capable of “ordain[ing] whatsoever comes to pass” and doing so without “violence offered to the will of the creatures.”
        He is that able. He is, after all, God.”]]

        I have no problem with the claim that God could ordain everything and simultaneously do so “without violence offered to the will of the creatures, for a very simple reason.

        If God controls everyone like a puppet master controls his puppets, then of course he does no violence to their wills when he controls them to do what he wants them to do.

        If I control your will and turn it whichever way I want, I don’t have to overcome your will or use violence on your will WHEN I ALREADY CONTROL IT.

        That is the problem, you want to claim that he controls our wills and directs them to do whatever he decreed for them to do, and at the same time claim we are acting freely , that is again a contradiction that non-Calvinists have seen for a long, long time.
        And it is not an issue of God’s power, if he controls everybody’s will directly and always exercises this kind of control, then he **never** has to **overcome or violate** our wills as he already directs them however he wants them to go. You guys want the control of the puppet master over the puppet while at the same time claiming the puppet is acting freely and you can’t have both at the same time. If he controls us like a puppet master then we are not acting freely, if we are acting freely then he does not control us like a puppet master.

        Robert

      Andrew Barker

      Robert: You know when somebody’s in trouble ….. when they start quoting the WCF instead of the Bible :)

        Les Prouty

        You made me chuckle Andrew.

        Allen M Rea

        Amen. “Sola scriptura” is a misnomer to them it seems.

          Lea Prouty

          Allen you can thank Reformed folks for the solas. We are well aware of sola scripture and stand firmly on it

          SDG

            David R. Brumbelow

            History tells us when the Baptists, Anabaptists, and other dissenters spoke for, and sincerely practiced, Sola Scriptura (only Scripture, only the Bible) they were brutally persecuted by the Reformers.
            David R. Brumbelow

              Les Prouty

              David. Any time people are mistreated in the name of Christianity it is wrong, whether by Reformers or non Reformers. And, that the ones you mentioned, based on their interpretation of scripture, did so while believing THEY were the true practitioners of sola scripture does not lessen the fact that the Reformers practiced and still seek to practice solA SCRIPTURE.

              Blessings.

              Robert

              David makes a very good observation here:

              “History tells us when the Baptists, Anabaptists, and other dissenters spoke for, and sincerely practiced, Sola Scriptura (only Scripture, only the Bible) they were brutally persecuted by the Reformers.”

              That is very true, it was precisely because they held to sola scriptura and were trying to act upon it that they questioned some of the beliefs of Reformers such as infant baptism and lack of church/state separation. And they paid for this stance on sola scriptura.

              I remember back in seminary when we studied the Reformation period in the Church History class, the Reformers had some major problems and some of their beliefs were just flat wrong and unbiblical. Luther’s anti-Semitism and Calvin’s evil personality and lust for power were really sad things to see. Some like to point out to Calvin’s mistreatment of Servetus to show the evil of his character, and as bad as that was, what the Reformers did to the Anabaptists was much, much worse. Modern fans of the Reformers like to praise the Reformers for the “solas”, but it is interesting how they completely leave out the darker realities that were occurring during the Reformation period in connection with the Reformers. Fact is the Anabaptists paid for their belief in sola scriptura with severe persecution and death and their clergy being banished and imprisoned: all at the hands of the Reformers.

              Exactly how did their belief in sola scripture lead the Reformers to do what they did to the Anabaptists?

              It was absolutely inexcusable and hypocritical, and the moral of the story is that talk of holding to sola scriptura is cheap, unless you are actually practicing what scripture teaches. And if you are doing that: then you never ever would have done to the Anabaptists what the Reformers did to them.

              Robert

                Lydia

                “Exactly how did their belief in sola scripture lead the Reformers to do what they did to the Anabaptists?”

                Redefining concepts and words. Power and control over interpretations. It was so bad you would be fined for falling asleep during one of Calvin’s sermons. Punished for making fun of him. The guy was a tyrant.

                Calvin simply made heinous egotistical sin into piousness. Disagree with his doctrine you would face banishment, possibly torture and imprisonment. Mark up his writing and try to engage in a long distance debate with him and he planned your premeditated murder under the guise of piousness making it a civil crime. Long before Servetus came to Geneva, Calvin wrote a friend that if he ever came, he would not leave alive. His protégé, Castillo,ran for his life after disagreeing with Calvin.

                Read Martyrs Mirror and see how many were treated by the Reformers. I am astonished to this day that the Reformation has made such a popular comeback. Why on earth anyone would think Calvin a hero of the faith is beyond me. Doctrine over people, perhaps?

                Even in America where we are to value freedom of speech. Do they not connect dots? I think we should teach true history at church and see how many buy into Calvinism knowing how it played out.

                The Agnostic Thomas Paine wrote that “Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man”.

                  Debbie Kaufman

                  Amen Les.

                  Lydia: Cite your sources and I might more tend to believe what you are saying. With no sources we have no way if knowing if your information is true or not. And the source of the information is also important. I read a lot of Calvin and about Calvin and have never read what you are asscerting.

                    Les Prouty

                    Debbie, have you read about Munster? Here is one excerpt about these Anabaptists:

                    “Any who would not be rebaptised into the New Zion would be executed for defiance of the new divine order. As a result, many of the Lutherans and Catholics fled. Having established control, Matthys set about enforcing a compulsory communism in the town. However, the expelled Catholics and Lutherans called on a joint force of troops to lay siege to the town. After about 3 months, Matthys was killed in a skirmish with the bishop’s troops. Most ignored this providential warning, and leadership of the “New Jerusalem” now came under one of Matthys’ leading converts, John of Leydon (b.1508). Leydon rapidly reformed the government of Munster, declaring it the “Kingdom of Zion” and himself as the “King of Righteousness”, requiring all to bow before him. Justifying this by analogy to the Old Testament theocracy, he continued the analogy by declaring compulsory polygamy (taking Matthys’ widow to be Queen). Many opposed this move, but all those foolish enough to voice dissent were quickly executed. Increasingly the actions of the Anabaptists became more debauched, fanatical and cruel.”

                    Seems that some other than Calvin sinned in those days.

                    Lydia

                    Les, Munster was a horror, I agree. The problem is coming from a Reformed viewpoint, you think in terms of authorities and followers. The church state mentality.

                    AnaBaptists were not monolithic and there were many variations. In fact, the Reformers named anyone who dissented from the state church view of infant Baptism as an Ana Baptist. It was meant to be an insult.

                    You might want to give some credit to some of the radical Reformers (aka, AnaBaptists) who wrote and spoke out against Munster as they were on the run and it was not always easy to do such a thing . The Munster group simply did not have the backing of the state church when the state church drowned mothers. It was ok if you did such things in the name of the church state. That was considered their worst sin according to the powers at the time. Usurping power. Otherwise the Reformers would not have been torturing, drowning and imprisoning people for dissenting.

                    Lydia

                    “Lydia: Cite your sources and I might more tend to believe what you are saying. With no sources we have no way if knowing if your information is true or not. And the source of the information is also important. I read a lot of Calvin and about Calvin and have never read what you are asscerting.”

                    Debbie, I am sorry you have misunderstood our interactions. The last thing I would attempt to do is prove something to you. And you are always free to do research yourself if you are truly interested.

                    the highest goal, IMO, is to get the most balanced picture of history we can which is not easy because the victors record the “official” history. Reading around a subject helps but can be tedious. Letters, trial documents, laws, etc, often give us a bigger picture or at least more insight.. The interesting thing about church history is that for the largest part that also includes political history. Which includes, economics, government, sociology, culture, etc

                  Jim G.

                  Hi Lydia,

                  Lest I be called a liar again, the source is his letter to William Farel dated Feb 13, 1546, as found on page 33 of vol 2 of John Calvin’s letters, translated and edited by Dr. Jules Bonnett and published by The Presbyterian Board of Publication in Philadelphia in 1858. The full text of the entire volume can be found online at the following web address: https://archive.org/stream/lettersofjohncal02calv#page/32/mode/2up.

                  Jim G.

                    Lydia

                    Thanks Jim, Unlike you I am no academic scholar and do not tend to keep detailed source notes. And unlike some, if I did not trust the person I would do my own digging to validate the information.

                    There is an interesting aspect to the source problem. I remember reading long ago that some of the state church archives in Europe did not open up to outside scholars until after the first two world wars. I am not sure of the extent but it seems to have been significant in some areas and embarrassing..

                    Debbie Kaufman

                    Jim G: I am reading it, but not reading what you seem to be reading into it.

                    Lydia: Anyone who is credible sites their sources. I do follow sources that are given and check them out for validity, but I’m not doing the commenter’s work for them. I also don’t take their word for it without sources cited. That’s integrity 101. Not doing your work for you.

                    Lydia

                    Here is another link. It takes a bit of digging and includes another later letter of Calvin lamenting the fallout over Sevetus written in 1553The threat letter to Farel link is under 1546 CLIV. One can click on page number 31 to the right.

                    I read through quite a bit of this years ago and was convinced Calvin was a political tyrant intent on consolidating power his 2nd time around in Geneva. By his own words. Much of the theme being: who is opposing me.. Sounds familiar.

                  Les Prouty

                  Lydia,

                  Yes it seems as if what some of have been saying all along is, well, true. No one group, Reformed and non Reformed, have a lily white history. There are many Reformed leaders, as well as non Reformed leaders, in history who never harmed anyone.

                    Lydia

                    Les, that sounds eerily similar to the rationalizations my teens try to pull every now and then. How delightful to find other rogues so our rogue does not look so bad.

                    Are you forgetting your doctrine is called “Calvinism” no matter how hard some have tried other monikers? Your argument might work if I were a Munsterite. I am not even a Mennonite. Let’s give it up.

                  Les Prouty

                  Lydia, I do know of what you speak wittiness. We have 5 children, our last having about 6 weeks left as a teen. I’ve seen that sort of justification many times. Our children are sinners right?

                  But that’s not what I was doing. No, just pointing out the obvious…we and our forefathers are all sinners. Some of us have done more serious sins than others. And when ol’ Calvin is trotted out as so bad, well remember that non Cals (as this website likes to embrace the Anabaptists, right?) have their rogues as well. It really serves no purpose to try this guilt by association as it cuts back on you as well.

                  As for my doctrine being called “Calvinism,” well that’s not exactly right. I more often use “Reformed” and follow no man.

                  So yes, now that we both understand that we are level as sinners at the cross, let’s give it up.

                  Have a blessed day on the Lord’s day.

                  Les Prouty

                  “Lydia, I do know of what you speak wittiness.”

                  I don’t even know for sure what I was supposed to be typing in that sentence. Maybe,

                  Lydia, I do know of what you speak with KIDS? Maybe?

          Andrew Barker

          Allen: Sola scriptura and pass the WCF :)

          Les Prouty

          Andrew,

          “Sola scriptura and pass the WCF :)”

          Baptist Faith & Message anyone?

          SDG!

            Debbie Kaufman

            “Baptist Faith and Message anyone?”

            Yep, Yep and yep.

            Les Prouty

            Debbie,

            And I almost forgot but you reminded me. To paraphrase Andrew:

            “Sola scriptura and pass the Traditional Statement and/or the BF&M.” :)

            Debbie Kaufman

            Debbie, I am sorry you have misunderstood our interactions. The last thing I would attempt to do is prove something to you. And you are always free to do research yourself if you are truly interested.

            Then stop making accusations you cannot prove. It would be much more honest in making accusation to provide proof. Otherwise maybe you should comment wildly. Also Les’ comment should stop you from making accusations you cannot prove, the Anabaptists were not Lily white either as you would have some believe. I notice no comment from you however, yet you go from thread to thread making crazy accusations with no proof. That’s simply irresponsible Lydia.

              Lydia

              Debbie, I admit I often do not understand your thought processes. are you speaking of what you think are false accusations toward Calvin concerning Servetus?

              Also, you come off as one who is attempting to censor speech on this blog if you do not think a comment proves something to you, specifically. Surely that is not how you approach the matter?

              Why would an evil faction of a quite varied radical reformation mean that I excuse that sort of horrible behavior? Were you and Les expecting me to defend or excuse evil behavior? I don’t get that sort of thinking. It makes no sense to me.

                Debbie Kaufman

                Lydia: No that is not what I am speaking of, although I could debate you on that point as well. As for your last sentence, this is exactly what I am speaking about. Wild accusations, now against Les and myself. That is irresponsible and something I don’t understand. Lying is just something I don’t get at all. Especially from those who label themselves Christians. That is evil.

                Debbie Kaufman

                Is this how you approach a topic? Making up things as you go along and pass them off as fact? Crying censorship and condoning of evil when I challenge your sources or lack of them? Surely this is not how you approach a matter?

                  Lydia

                  Oh dear Debbie, I did not realize I was making things up. But I am certainly starting to understand where Jim G was coming from in his one and only comment! To disagree with Debbie is to be a liar. I tried to explain that I would no more excuse evil from any Ana
                  Baptist faction than I would from the Reformers. Oh well.

                  Our interaction is causing me to have flashbacks to Jr. High and the ever present gaslighting tactics of that age group, so will bow out.

Allen M Rea

Thank you brother for this excellent series. The exodus out of Geneva is a journey I am glad that I have not taken alone. “Let to word of Christ dwell in you richly…” (Col. 3:16). We need more of “the Bible says!” You have done this and we are indebted to you.

Jeff P

Very thoughtful and respectful piece. Agree fully and appreciative of the non-combative tone

Leighton Flowers

Thank you all for your encouraging comments and rebuttals. Thanks to SBCToday for publishing (& Jonathan for editing) my story. I pray it is fruitful to help others in their own journey of faith.

Now that the holiday season is past my ministry schedule has picked up and I do not have to time to invest in answering all the comments right away. Please feel free to read the blog or listen into the podcast to engage in more soteriological discussions (www.soteriology101.com). Meanwhile, let’s go preach the gospel to the lost world!

Blessings!

Frank Eckenroad

“I used to think the idea that God chose to save me before I was born and done anything good or bad was humbling, but it is not near as humbling as the reality that God would chose to save me in the middle of my worse sin, my brokenness, my humiliation and my shame.” It’s good to be humbled by both. God does not chose us in eternity past because we are good or bad and he chooses us even though we are dead in trespasses and sin. The writer is using a false dilemna, speaking of cloaking the truth.

Lydia

From the letter to Farel in 1546

” Servetus lately wrote to me, and coupled with his letter a long volume of his delirious fancies, with the Thrasonic boast, that I should see something astonishing and unheard of. He takes it upon him to come hither, if it be agreeable to me. But I am unwilling to pledge my word for his safety, for if he shall come, I shall never permit him to depart alive, provided my authority be of any avail.[25]”

Would we consider that premeditation? Servetus was an eccentric who fancied himself many things including a physician, theologian, etc. He was certainly not a man for his time in such an oppressive culture. He did do some early theorizing on the circulatory system which turned out to be correct. Servetus had previously insulted Calvin by sending him his own writings including Servetus’ margin notes disagreeing with Calvin. Perhaps he had no idea that Calvin was not to be disagreed with much like his Catholic oppressors in Spain and France.

I have not found evidence that Calvin wrote him and told him he would not leave Geneva alive if he came. He was only passing through Geneva on his way to flee the Catholics.

Another interesting book written by Stefan Zwieg in 1936 is “Right to Heresy” concerning Calvins treatment of his former protege Castillio. http://books.google.com/books/about/The_right_to_heresy.html?id=-c0aAAAAMAAJ

Zweig was an agnostic Jew who also wrote the excellent bio on Mary Queen of Scots.

The Right to Heresy can be found in full for free here:

http://www.gospeltruth.net/heresy/heresy_toc.htm
(Not endorsing website just free book)

    Andrew Barker

    Lydia: Having provided the links as requested, I expect those calling for them will be rather silent until they can choose some other topic to move on to. But then I guess you already knew that :) The bit on Servetus is interesting. He was obviously a bright chap and a good physician. His big fault was to discuss theology in an open way and that’s what got him into trouble. His ideas on the Trinity were not quite as off beat as some would like to suggest, at least that’s my take on it and whatever they were, they were certainly not worthy of the death sentence that was imposed!

Debbie Kaufman

Andrew: If there is silence from me it is because 1. I am actually reading the links provided from beginning to end because that is what I do and why I ask for cites to the source. 2. I do work and have a family, I am not always on the internet. 3. Because I don’t care to listen to garbage any longer. :) So if I am silent you can bank on those being the reasons.

I love reasonable arguments with merit. For example, if I see in scripture my view to be wrong, then that is convincing. I won’t argue with scripture, I do however argue with interpretations of scripture unless I see them to be accurate. That is why I believe in Sola Christo, Sola Scriptura. Those are my final authorities on doctrine.

    Andrew Barker

    Debbie: If only all your comments were as lucid! eg here’s a recent reply to Max (albeit from a different topic) “There is no pure human doctrine, not even yours and God does bless mixture. He is blessing mixture. You just can’t see it. Sadly.”

    Well, count me in with those who “can’t see it”. As for Sola Scriptura, of what significance or benefit is it to keep saying this? I would hazard a guess that most if not all of the contributors to this site would accept that scripture is the final authority on matters of doctrine. No surprises there. But does this mean that we all agree on every matter of doctrine? Certainly not. I get the impression that certain members use the phrase as a ‘tag’ in order to give their comments an air of ‘authority’. It does not!

      Robert

      Hello Andrew,

      I think you are wasting your time trying to persuade Debbie of anything. She is blindly committed to Calvinism and facts mean nothing to her at this point.

      Bruce Gordon has written what is considered by many (including Calvinists themselves) the best biography of Calvin. Here is Gordon’s description of Calvin from the preface:

      ““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.”

      Debbie says she has never read bad things about Calvin from a reputable source (cf. “And the source of the information is also important. I read a lot of Calvin and about Calvin and have never read what you are asserting.”).

      Gordon is a reputable source.

      Now carefully consider what is said about Calvin here.

      He was ruthless and an “outstanding hater”.

      Would we want our local church pastor to be an “outstanding hater”?

      And “outstanding hater” does not characterize Christianity it characterizes the worldly person, the unsaved person.

      He saw himself as a prophet an instrument of God. If so, how did this instrument of God end up persecuting Servetus and others as he did? Last time I checked there is absolutely no basis in the New Testament for persecuting others as the Reformers including Calvin persecuted others.

      He would do whatever it took to achieve his objectives (i.e. he was Machiavellian). Again is this acceptable Christian leadership? Again this characterizes the world not followers of Christ.

      He dominated others and manipulated others. Is this acceptable for a supposed Christian leader? Again Calvin’s conduct is totally opposite what the NT urges for us.

      And note that last line, he intimidated, bullied and humiliated others, and some of this conduct was for his friends. So not only did Calvin mistreat his enemies and those with whom he disagreed this extended even to his friends.

      If any professing Christian leader today fit this description provided by Gordon we would question whether they were even saved, and we would not want such a person in any sort of leadership in the church. That some make such a person of such evil character a hero of faith, a role model, proves beyond any shadow of doubt that all that matters to these folks is the Calvinistic doctrine not godly character.
      If more people actually studied Reformation period history, they might take off their rose-tinted glasses and replace them with a real and non-distorted view of these Reformers and their actions, most notably their persecution of others that cannot be rationalized away or excused. On the other hand, for some no matter what the facts are they will continue to blindly follow such evil persons. And you are wasting time trying to convince them otherwise.

      Robert

        Andrew Barker

        Thanks Robert, I’m well aware of the futility of trying to argue Debbie out of Calvinism. It’s something she’ll have to do for herself. I think the interest surrounding Leighton’s blog is due in no small part that he is somebody who really has been liberated from the clutches of this manipulative system. Not that he is alone in this as there appears to be a steady stream of people who are seeing ‘the truth’ in a different light.

        For my own part, having survived 18 months in a Reformed evangelical fellowship, now thankfully disbanded, I’m keen not to see past mistakes repeated in any other fellowship. I find blogs quite a useful way of seeing how people think and how minds tick and if I can use that information to help people avoid going down the wrong path, so much the better. Thanks for your comments though, or if I’m feeling really pious, Soli Deo gloria !

      Les Prouty

      Andrew, Robert and David B.,

      Do any of you believe that Reformed theology is the root cause of the sins you cite for Calvin and other Reformers? Common, don’t be shy.

        Lydia

        “Do any of you believe that Reformed theology is the root cause of the sins you cite for Calvin and other Reformers? Common, don’t be shy.”

        Does what we believe drive our behavior? “Should” what we believe drive our behavior? Did what Calvin believe about God drive his behavior? He was a heretic hunter and he got to define heresy within his New Jerusalem in Geneva. Not baptizing your infant was considered heresy and was punished severely. Making fun of Calvin was punishable. Serving too many courses at a meal was punishable. Not attending church was punishable (How did he know who was elect?)

        To Calvin, all this was pleasing to God.

        Les Prouty

        Lydia,

        You seem to be inferring that Reformed theology leads to bad behavior, but you don’t state that outright. Non answer, but thanks anyway.

          Lydia

          “You seem to be inferring that Reformed theology leads to bad behavior, …”

          How Calvin (And even the Puritans) practiced that belief system is illegal now so we cannot be sure. :o). Thank Goodness for those Founders!

          Les Prouty

          “…illegal now so we cannot be sure.”

          But if the behavior leads to bad behavior, what little ol’ law would stop it?

          I get it Lydia. You can’t put into print that your repeated theory that Reformed theology leads to despotism, etc. just won’t work. Millions prove your theory wrong. But that won’t stop you from repeating it. :)

          Les Prouty

          “But if the behavior leads to bad behavior, what little ol’ law would stop it?”

          Should have been, “But if Reformed theology leads to bad behavior, what little ol’ law would stop it?

David R. Brumbelow

Concerning the Anabaptists at Munster:

There are those who claim to be Baptists today who are downright heretical. That could probably be said of any other denominational group.
There are always a few of which we are embarrassed and those we would repudiate. Anyone want to defend Westboro Baptist?

The point is this.
The Anabaptists at Munster were an aberration and they went off the deep end.
Anabaptists of that day repudiated and rejected them, their doctrine and practices.
Baptists of today totally repudiate the Anabaptists of Munster while recognizing that, unlike them, the other Anabaptists were serious about believing in and practicing Sola Scriptura (only Scripture for our faith and practice).
No one today is praising the Munster Anabaptists.

On the other hand, the Reformers who brutally persecuted the regular Anabaptists (not the extreme ones at Munster) for sincerely practicing Sola Scriptura, are the same Reformers people of today highly praise for “giving us Sola Scriptura.”
Kind of ironic.

If present day Baptists were sent back in time and were ruled by those Reformers, we would be banished, persecuted, imprisoned or executed.
Again, kind of strange how we praise them.
David R. Brumbelow

Jim G.

I do not believe Reformed theology is the root cause of Calvin’s character. Neither is Calvin’s character the root cause of Reformed theology. Anyone who has studied the Reformation knows that Calvin is not the origin of Reformed ideas – they all precede him – although in many cases he is often their clearest and most famous expositor.

That being said, there is a direct correlation between what a man thinks and what he does. Jesus made it abundantly clear that the human heart is the wellspring of both thought and action, and that the heart could be judged by both. Calvin’s actions, whether stated in the words of his well-respected biographer or in his own words and deeds concerning Servetus, should call his theology into question. I am not saying that a person should reject the Reformed faith because Calvin’s character was less than Christlike, but it should make us pause to wonder whether or not Calvin had the right view of God when he treated certain people (who are all made in the image of God) so poorly. After all, if we can’t love our neighbor (or our enemy!), how can we say we know and love God? And lest anyone think I am singling out Calvin, the same argument could be made for someone with whom we all agree and who is probably more important theologically in the big picture than Calvin, Cyril of Alexandria. His theology was great but his life was less-than-stellar too.

In the end, I would say that Calvin’s view of God and his treatment of people was a symbiotic, rather than causational relationship. They worked together, each playing off of the other.

Jim G.

    Les Prouty

    Jim G.,

    Thanks for replying. In the end you state that there is not a “causational relationship.” I agree. If Reformed theology “caused” bad behavior, one would run up against the enormous number of Reformed theologians, pastors and church members through the centuries, up to and including today, who have not exhibited “bad behavior” any more than the posters on this blog and then, well, causal relationship (which some seem to imply but don’t state outright) becomes a myth.

    Thanks Jim.

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