The Lamb’s Book of Life:
Who’s In and Who’s Out?
By Ronnie Rogers – Part 3 of 4
Why the double-talk? As mentioned on several occasions throughout the book, within Calvinism there is a problem of what I call double-talk. By the use of this term, I am not implying immoral or clandestine trickery. Nor am I suggesting conspiratorial deceit. I must admit that upon reflection on my time of being a Calvinist, I did the same thing. I did not do so out of ill motive, intent to deceive, or because of a lack of desire to be faithful to the Scripture—nor do I so impugn my Calvinist brothers and sisters.
As a matter of fact, upon reflection, I did it because I believed in Calvinism and the Scripture. This brought about conflicts that required unconscious or at least unthoughtful responses to the conflicts, which I now see as double-talk. This double-talk obscured the harsh realities of Calvinism and the inconsistencies between Scripture and Calvinism; what I have now come to describe as disquieting realities of Calvinism. Either there was an unconsciousness of the serious gap between Calvinism and the simple reading of Scripture, or I was simply unwilling to face these disparities directly. At times, a lack of thoughtfulness may have been easier than embarking on the quite disconcerting and uncertain journey that I have been on for the past thirteen years. Also, I did not have the knowledge and ability to see them as clearly then as I do now. By double-talk, I am referring to the inconsistencies between the irreducible tenets and logic of Calvinism, and the speech, writings, prayers, etc., of some Calvinists. This is particularly pronounced in areas like missions, prayers, preaching, and written and spoken comments that seem to ameliorate or soften the harsh realities of Calvinism. Actually, it is this double-talk, which I found myself tolerating, that I read and heard Calvinists reciting, all of whom I esteem as godly men and women, that stimulated my disenchantment.
The double-talk is either an unconscious effort to personally avoid the harsh realities of Calvinism or an unwillingness to unguardedly express the true irreducible tenets, logic, corollaries, and austere truths of Calvinism to those who are less enthralled with the explanatory powers of Calvinism. It may also be just simply a lack of understanding of the true teachings of Calvinism, the Scripture, or both. In my opinion, as long as Calvinists continue to infrequently declare or avoid stating these inflexible and biblically unpalatable truths, they will continue to give the same hollow responses to the dilemmas created by Calvinism, e.g. “it is a mystery” or double-talk. There are some Calvinists who seek unabashedly to celebrate these harsh realities of Calvinism, and I applaud them for their forthrightness if not for their correctness.
For many years I viewed Calvinists’, and my own, simple handling of passages without invoking the harsh realities of Calvinism, proclamations about missions or the lost that seemed to accord with the spirit and letter of Scripture, prayers absent of Calvinism’s logical corollaries, and passion directed toward pursuing and persuading the lost to repent, as a gentler and kinder Calvinism. I now see those expressions as inconsistent with Calvinism—double-talk. I no longer admire such sentiments, but desire the exposure of such incongruities as what they are, double-talk. My prayer is that some will see the beclouding double-talk as well and fall in love with the simple, straightforward message of Scripture and thereby become disenchanted Calvinists. Following are a few examples of double-talk, which, if read without understanding the aforementioned Calvinistic beliefs, one would see no inconsistency between Scripture and Calvinism.
On the one hand, Piper says the book contains the names that are “secure in God’s sovereign, electing love.”[i] This is followed by his statement that “the book of life is synonymous with the list of those who are elect and predestined for eternal life.”[ii] This unconditional election to salvation is brought to pass with monergistic, efficacious grace. According to Piper and Calvinists, the elect will be irresistibly drawn to God, irresistibly regenerated, and equally as irresistibly, although freely, exercise faith from their new regenerated nature and desires.
Piper says of irresistible grace, “When a person hears a preacher call for repentance he can resist that call. But if God gives him repentance he cannot resist because the gift is the removal of the resistance. Not being willing to repent is the same as resisting the Holy Spirit. So if God gives repentance it is the same as taking away the resistance. This is why we call this work of God ‘irresistible grace.’”[iii] Conversely, he says of the non-elect, “Except for the continual exertion of saving grace, we will always use our freedom to resist God.”[iv] Again he states, “The native hardness of our hearts makes us unwilling and unable to turn from sin and trust the Savior. Therefore conversion involves a miracle of new birth. This new birth precedes and enables faith and repentance.”[v] Therefore, according to Piper, the non-elect cannot believe, cannot be saved, cannot exercise faith, cannot respond to the call to repent, and cannot receive the offer of salvation because God has chosen not to elect them to regeneration. Had He chosen to elect them, they could have and would have been saved.
Then, in another article on his website he says, “I believe Christ died as a substitute for sinners to provide a bona fide offer of salvation to all people, and that he had an invincible design in his death to obtain his chosen bride, namely, the assembly of all believers, whose names were eternally written in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain (John 3:16; 10:15; Ephesians 5:25; Revelation 13:8).”[vi] So Christ’s death procured a “bona fide offer of salvation to all people” which includes all of the non-elect, who not only will not believe unto salvation, but cannot believe unto salvation. This raises the question, in what way can anyone consider the offer to be “bona fide” if there is an eternally predetermined, unalterable, and invincible decision by the sovereign God of time and eternity that they could not receive the offer? This is double-talk and a disquieting reality.
Final excerpt to be posted Saturday…
“… it is common for Calvinists to accuse anyone who believes God conditioned the reception of salvation upon faith as adding works. This caricature by Calvinists is actually a straw man and unbiblical. The Scripture is clear that the offer of salvation is unconditional, but the condition for receiving it is grace-enabled faith (John 3:16, 8:24).”
[iii] John Piper, “Irresistible Grace” in What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism, (copyright Desiring God.org, revised March 1998, http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/articles/what-we-believe-about-the-five-points-of-calvinism/print).
[iv] Piper, “Irresistible Grace” in What We Believe.
[v] Piper, Desiring God, 62.