Contend Earnestly: Calvinism Affirmed - Part I

Monday, July 23, 2007

Calvinism Affirmed - Part I


First, I would like to thank Nate, once again, for wanting to discuss what I believe is a very important topic. We are going to discuss many things through the posts and also through the comments, which have already started, and where I believe most of the learning will happen. I have tried to read each comment thoroughly so that I can have those comments in mind as I give my brief overview of salvation. Again, this is brief, as Nate did, and I will exegete and explain more as we get into the actual five points.


As for Adam's comment that it is the Calvinist who likes to debate and not focus on other things, remember this was Nate's idea and I think we all need to think on these things for we are told to. Evangelizing is what we should all do, but it is not the only thing we are called to do.

As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,
Ephesians 4:14-15


The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
2 Timothy 2:2


holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.
Titus 1:9


Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15




Second, I am a Calvinist, there I said it...almost like an alcoholic. I also adhere to the Five Solas of the Reformation (click here for my posts on this subject) meaning that I totally deny the Roman Catholic faith and their understanding of justification and sanctification. Of course that is not all I deny based on the Five Solas but that is the start. I grew up in a Southern Baptist household (most of my mom's side of the family are SBC pastors, and so was my father) so for most of my life I was a hybrid of Arminian and Calvinist doctrine, more on the Arminian side, but nevertheless I was not totally in either camp.

For me, the turning point came in reading Jonathan Edwards' "Freedom of the Will" where I started to question my upbringing in the knowledge of Scripture. I started down the road of continually asking myself, "prove it." And when I said that, I meant to "prove it" only by Scripture and trying to throw out everything I had learned both emotionally and exegetically. This will probably happen for the rest of my life, but I thank God that He has answered my prayers in bringing me closer to Him through the study and walking in the Word of God.

Before I start, I do want to address some things that Adam has asked about to clear the air, so to speak. For one, I love preaching the Gospel to the lost. I don't want to "toot my horn" here but I just get tired of this characterization of Calvinists. So, if you would like hit the label "Evangelism" and take a look where we have been. I am not a "beacon" for the Calvinist faith in this area, but to say that Calvinist doctrine drives the person to not evangelize is a misnomer that usually comes from the opposition that has very little knowledge of the history or theology of Calvinism. I can say this because I have seen it from those who know little about Calvinism, but I have also seen that those who know much of Calvinist doctrine, yet oppose it, will NOT deny that true Calvinist are also great evangelists. Look to Roger Olson's book, "Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities." Dr. Olson is an Arminian, and of course denies Calvinism, but doesn't deny the impact that Calvinist have had in saving souls. If one would like to read more on this subject just read biographies of Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Bunyan, George Whitefield, Asahel Nettleton, Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, John Gresham Machen, A.W. Pink, John MacArthur and many, many more. They were all men who were/are Calvinist with a focus on world missions and evangelism, not because they were "supposed to" but because they loved the Lord their God with all their heart and desired to see people saved.

Okay, enough of the "rant." Here is my overall view of salvation.

I believe that all one must do is repent and believe and they will be saved. I believe that true repentance is the first fruit of salvation and then much more fruit will follow. (John 15) I believe as James teaches us that faith without works is a dead faith, so the true faith, given by God (Phil 1:27) is a working faith. Again, Piper said it best:

I do not believe in salvation by faith plus works, but salvation by faith THAT works.

I do agree with the Word of God that "whosoever will" call upon the Lord will be saved, all that thirst may come, all who seek the Lord will find Him, but this leaves out an important facet of the equation which Jesus Christ Himself shows us in John 6:44 and that is, "How does one seek, thirst, or will to come to God?" Jesus answers this question, which we will get more in detail when we come to irresistable grace, but Jesus says:

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.

Unlike Nate, I believe that Romans 3 is a perfect example of us before we are with Christ, before we are regenerated, and that is that "no one is good, no one seeks for God, that we have become useless" and that Romans 8:8 tells us that "no one in the flesh can please God." These apply to us. Nate tried to go back to Psalm 14 to say that this is talking about the fool, but before we are in Christ, are we not all fools? We are called children of the devil (John 8:44), children of wrath (Eph 2:3); haters of God, slaves to sin (John 8:34); and Ephesians 4:17-19 describes those without Christ as futile of the mind, darkened, excluded, and hardness of heart. Does not 1 Corinthians 2:26,27 tell us that we were fools? The point is that before you are in Christ you are a fool! After Christ, you are only a fool to the world, but in reality you are the wisest because God has given you the wisdom from above. (James 3)

I would also like to address quickly the usage of Nate's analogy with the term "gift." I will make this a simple decree: be careful in using analogies and applications that are not in the Bible. If you start doing this than can't we also say that since God is a Father, that all the traits of a father then apply to God? No, because God is eternal, He is not a man, He does not lie, He cannot change. Even though all these WOULD apply to earthly fathers. Just as these don't apply to God, then neither can we make an analogy of how WE see gifts given out, and how God gives the gift of salvation, unless stated specifically in the word of God.

So, salvation is attained through the election of God, predestination, gospel call, inward call, regeneration, conversion (faith and repentance), justification, sanctification and glorification. Of course, as we see it in our eyes, we repent and believe and that belief results in works. But, how it actually works, "behind the scenes" is a completely more complex amount of events.

Couple more things and I will end with this "overview." I believe that we are completely dead in our sins before Christ and that this happened in the garden with Adam's sin. If one does not believe that this was a spiritual death then one has to interpret Genesis 2:16,17 in a very interesting way, for it states:

The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”

Genesis 2:16-17

Notice that the text specifically states, "in the day that you eat...you will surely die." Adam did not die physically the DAY he ate, but he did die spiritually the DAY he ate. Also, this is reiterated in Romans 5, which the entire chapter speaks of only a spiritual death and spiritual restoration.

12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—
18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.

Romans 5:12,18

If Adam's sin did not pass on the spiritual death, this passage makes no sense, because this passage specifically speaks of "condemnation" in verse 18 and throughout the text. So because of our death in sin (Eph 2:1, Colossians 2:13) we must be regenerated to be brought from life to death. We must be called by Christ, just as He did Lazarus, to "come forth" before we can come from our grave to the knowledge of our Christ. This is how we cross over from fool to heir, death to life, natural man to spiritual man, flesh to spiritual, all so that we can now please God through His Spirit.

Again, I really appreciate Nate and his coming to have this discussion. I hope that this is a good discussion between men who love God and desire to uphold the word of God and preach the Gospel to a dying world.




16 comments:

Adam said...

My point on Evangelism.

My simple point is not that you do not evangelize. But my point is that the only application a Calvinist and Hyper-Calvinist could pull from the philosophy is that Evangelism is a moot point. In my experience with Calvinists (and being in GR I"ve had a lot) I have not seen much evangelism. For example, the only people who have ever knocked on my door have been Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and non-Calvinist non-Armenian Baptists.

I think it's great that you evangelize. I will save the rest of my points for the debate.

Josh said...

Seth, do you mean dying or dead world ? ;-)

Seth McBee said...

Adam.
You say that "only application a Calvinist and Hyper-Calvinist could pull from the philosophy is that evangelism is a moot point"

That is like me saying that since you don't believe that God is completely sovereign in salvation (meaning He gives man complete choice in the matter) then you are an Open Theist, who believes that God cannot know the full future because it is left up to man's choice. This would not be a fair conclusion, as yours is also not a fair conclusion of Calvinism.

Also, don't go buy "only people you have met" to grade Calvinists or the doctrine, this is how biggotry happened. Not saying this is you, so please don't take it that way, but this is why biggotry happens/ed: I have only seen black people steal and rape, therefore this is what the whole race does. That would be wrong, same in characterizing an entire "philosophy" based on those you know.

Again. Please read about those who have gone before us. Look at John Calvin. When he started, going off the top of my head now so be nice, there were like 3 underground churches. Within 3 years there were thousands, becuase of the spread of the Gospel under the preaching and teaching of John Calvin himself. Not because of Calvin, but because of God's use of Calvin and the Gospel message.

Again, if you call us fatalists, we can then simply say that you are an open theist, which gets us no where and both would be very unfair.

I hope this helps, and I hope that you are not offended but you keep coming to converse...God bless

Josh said...

Adam,

I know plenty of Non Calvinist Baptist that do not evangelise, and plenty of United Methodists and Nazarenes as well.

Because we do or do not evangalize is not the issue anyway.

Adam said...

Right.
I have not said that no Calvinists evangelize, and I agree that it is not the main issue. My point was, again, that I do not see, nor have I heard any other application from Calvinism than that. That was my point. Believe me, I know plenty of my belief who do not evangelize. I'm not trying to generalize, and to do so would be a mistake. As you can see, I make a big point on application. Anyway, I hope that throughout this debate, applications can be made.

:)

I agree. This is going to be a long debate.

Nate said...

Just a few comments. I agree with Adam about the evangelism part of Calvinism. I have talked about this with many a Calvinist, most of whom believe in evangelism. The point is, Calvinism contradicts itself, in my humble opinion. They want to have their cake and eat it too. If God's elect WILL be saved, then everyone could forsake evangelism and people will still be saved. Its logical based on the Calvinist beleifs. As Christians, we have the ability to not obey God and many choose to disobey. What if we all did? Or even most? I just think its a contradiction.

Seth, thanks for the reply and now we can move on to Total Depravity, to which I think defines this debate. I also dont see how the Bible in any way validates the Total Depravity argument but I will elaborate more very soon. I think its more misconception than anything else. Let me also say that since it was brought up that I do believe in spiritual death, absolutely. Was the curse in the garden merely physical? Not exactly. Without getting into it too much, let me say that I agree that in that passage came spiritual death. Not that spiritual death was imparted on Adam that day or that everyone since has been born spiritually dead (these are HUGE misconceptions on which I will elaborate in T.D. debate) but rather that spiritual death became a certain, impending doom because of the sin. This is absolutely laid forth clearly in the Bible (in my opinion) and I hope after my elaboration you guys will know what I mean. This is the crux of the argument. I just urge you all to keep an open mind and let the word of God speak. Lets not try to make the Bible fit the five points and I promise I wont try to mold the Bible so that it says what I want. Let's just take a look, ok.

I will try to comment on Total Depravity tomorrow, assuming I have the chance and the time.

Later ya'll

Nate said...

And I promise...(Seth try to agree with me!!) that this debate should not rage on forever. Let's make our points, clearly and fully and leave it at that. The same exact arguments need not be reiterated over and over. My goal is to keep this thing at a decent pace.

Seth McBee said...

Nate.
I totally agree, we could go on forever with this discussion, but I don't think any of us have that kind of time...after all, that actually would keep both a Calvinist and a non-Calvinist from evangelizing...then what would our answers be?

Kidding...

anyway...

Because of this discussion, I am going to go ahead and post a biblical defense of why a Calvinist can lovingly and sincerely preach the Gospel, without just "going through the motions"

Bnonn said...

Hi Nate, you said—

The point is, Calvinism contradicts itself, in my humble opinion. They want to have their cake and eat it too. If God's elect WILL be saved, then everyone could forsake evangelism and people will still be saved. Its logical based on the Calvinist beleifs.

Calvinism does not contradict itself here; you have simply misunderstood the process of causation. God will save his elect; and evangelism is the means by which he will do this. To therefore say that evangelism is unnecessary to election in a Calvinistic framework is a contradiction in terms. The two are causally related by God's decree. No doubt God could save people apart from evangelism, but he does not. Your objection makes no more sense to the Calvinist than if you had proposed that we need not eat, since God will sustain our bodies. Of course, God does indeed sustain our bodies; but he uses food as the means to do this.

Yours is a bizarrely common objection; if you would like a more complete refutation of it, please see the article I wrote called 'The Salvation Strawman'.

Regards,
Dominic Bnonn Tennant

Nate said...

Hey Bnonn, I think you all are missing the point both Adam and I have made regarding evangelism. I am not at all suggesting that Calvinists don't really, truly at their core see the need for evangelism. But it is a contradiction. As for God WILL save his elect, and evangelism is his means...thats basically saying man has no choice. We are commanded by God to evangelize. Some of us do it because we CHOOSE to be obedient. You may see my reaction as "bizzarely common" quite possibly because it is so easy to see. Calvinism is not some great and difficult thing to understand. I get what you guys are saying and where you are coming from. Perhaps you have seen this as so common because, like I said, to those of us not so wrapped up in the defense of TULIP it seems so easy to see. I like your point about God using food to sustain our bodies. I think it sums up exactly what I have been saying in many of my posts. God's means of saving is through evangelism (using the word of God and the Holy Spirit's power accompanying it). As to your point with food, you say that God will sustain our bodies and he will do so by using food. Well, what if I choose not to eat? And I have that choice. I could choose to starve to death if I wanted to. I dont have to follow God's means of sustinance. Could he still keep me alive? Yeah, he could but prolly wouldnt.

I feel Calvinists are mislead on God's will. It seems as though they think God's perfect will WILL be done. All the elect WILL be saved. The problem is, God's will is not always done. I believe God has an appointed time for us to die. Yet, I could blow my head off with a shotgun if I wanted to. People do it all the time. I doubt that is God's appointed time. If it is, God requires them to sin in order to meet it which is impossible for God to do. People do things contrary to God's will all the time. I heard a Calvinist say one time "God in order to be sovereign must have his way in salvation. If Jesus dies for everyone and only a few get saved, then his death is a failure. However, if Jesus dies for the elect and they all get saved, then the cross is a glorious success." I dont know if the represents the thinking of every Calvinist but I'm sure many feel like this. But God doesnt have to have his way in everything in order to be sovereign. Does he have to have his way in sin?? Is it by God's "perfect will" that children are molested, women raped, and people murdered (sometimes by Christians too, not just the unsaved). OF course not, it is by the willful defying of God's will that these things happen. God certainly allows these things to happen but he does not ordain them. He can be perfectly sovereign without dictating EVERYTHING. He did it with Job. He allowed Satan to do alot of awful things to him, yet God remained in control the entire time. See God says the he can use ALL things for good to them that love God. Even the bad things.

Anyways, I'm going on way too much. All to say, your comment I believe is off base when you say God will save his elect and evangelism is the means by which he will do this. The comparison to food and our bodies does nothing but support exactly what I was saying. I could absolutely choose not to eat (many do it, and die from the results). It seems as though the Calvinist would say that God sustains our bodies by food and we must eat because its God's plan. Man will always choose food to avoid death. Not so.

Seth McBee said...

Nate.

What would you say if the Bible shows you different times where God does not allow people to sin, even though they normally would or inclined to, and just the opposite, where God sends people to sin and then punishes them for doing what He sent them to do?

Genesis 13 shows that God kept King Abimelech from sinning. Exodus 34:24 states that God kept other nations from coveting their land when all the men went to worship God.

Habakkuk 1 speaks of God using Babylon to punish Judah but then they will be punished for their sin.

Hab 1:6 says "I am raising up the Chaldeans." Hab 1:11 then says, "But they will be held guilty"

Jeremiah 25 says the same exact thing.

Nate...trust what the Word says. It says that our days are appointed...no more, no less. (Psalm 139)

Ecclesiastes 3:1 states that there is an appointed time for everything and it's length is appointed.

You must rely on what God's word says and not what our experience tells us.

God does create calamity by the way as well:

The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these.

Isaiah 45:7

Nate, you CANNOT thwart God's plans. If your days are appointed you cannot thwart that.

I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted
Job 42:2

Bnonn said...

Hi Nate.

Your argument is predicated upon the assumption that our freedom of choice is a freedom from God. This is simply not supported by Scripture. On the contrary, since we live and move and have our being in him, and since he upholds the entire universe by the word of his power, it must be the case that whatever power we seem to have is, in truth, something actively caused by him. We cannot exist apart from God in any sense; he not only creates us, but actively continues to cause us to exist. And it is simply insensible to speak of God causing us to exist, but then attempting to say that some part of us, such as our will, is free from this sovereign causation.

While it is very long, I feel you would benefit from reading my annotation of the Catholic Encyclopedia's article on free will. I don't imagine you are, yourself, a Catholic; but the Catholic and Protestant formulations of libertarian free will appear to be identical, and so what I have to say there will be equally applicable to you. This article comprehensively refutes libertarian free will, showing why it is a logically incoherent and Scripturally untenable doctrine, while simultaneously explicating the actual Scriptural position, and interacting with the various objections to it.

To summarize, your belief that my food analogy supports your position is predicated upon a belief that human choices are not caused by God in a metaphysical sense; that is, in a belief that man is active in relationship to God. In order to coherently affirm this, however, you must reject God's aseity, which is absurd and would lead you into open theism. You must also deny the biblical metaphysic upon which the biblical epistemology is founded; and, if you read some of my other works, you will quickly see that this leaves us in an intellectually and morally bankrupt position where we ultimately are forced to deny the necessary truth of the entire Bible. Although it is a lot to ask, I would suggest that if you need me to explain further, you should read my book, The Wisdom Of God.

Regards in Christ,
Bnonn

Josh said...

Bnon said: Your argument is predicated upon the assumption that our freedom of choice is a freedom from God. This is simply not supported by Scripture. On the contrary, since we live and move and have our being in him, and since he upholds the entire universe by the word of his power, it must be the case that whatever power we seem to have is, in truth, something actively caused by him. We cannot exist apart from God in any sense; he not only creates us, but actively continues to cause us to exist. And it is simply insensible to speak of God causing us to exist, but then attempting to say that some part of us, such as our will, is free from this sovereign causation."

Josh:
I use the house analogy. Human will is like being on house arrest. You can do anything within the house (your nature) brush your teeth when you want, eat or don't eat. Wear what clothes you want.
But, the nature of house arrest is that you are not free to do anything outside the house. Unfortunately, Adam placed us all on house arrest. We are not at liberty to free ourselves, until the jailer frees us we remain constrained by the walls of our nature.

David Ponter said...

Bnonn said: Your argument is predicated upon the assumption that our freedom of choice is a freedom from God. This is simply not supported by Scripture. On the contrary, since we live and move and have our being in him, and since he upholds the entire universe by the word of his power, it must be the case that whatever power we seem to have is, in truth, something actively caused by him. We cannot exist apart from God in any sense; he not only creates us, but actively continues to cause us to exist. And it is simply insensible to speak of God causing us to exist, but then attempting to say that some part of us, such as our will, is free from this sovereign causation.

David says: Perhaps a good case could be argued that the Reformed Doctrine of Concurrence could be a counter-factual here. With regard to concurrence, God only permits sin, concurrenly. He never causes it, efficiently, directly, immediately etc. And yet God is still sovereign over all actions. On Concurrence, grab your Turretin, a' Brakel or Beza.

Why could not, therefore, the Arminian reply that something like that dynamic be happening here?

David

David Ponter said...

Hey Nate,

I want to tackle some of this. Firstly, we all have to watch a subtle confusion. There are two separate things in any polemic, assertion and argument. They are not the same. Another way of looking at this is description and entailment. That is, by way of a description (of my opponent's position) can assert something. But I must also demonstrate logical entailment by way of argument.

I am speaking up here because a lot of what I see in your initial comments are more assertion and description. For example, when you one side says "Well Calvinists don't do this or that...." I can say, "Well I am a Calvinist and I do do that." Or "I am not that sort of Calvinist..." This stuff helps insofar as the issues become focused as one can leave the realm of sweeping assertions.

With that...

Nate says:
[....]Calvinists don't really, truly at their core see the need for evangelism. But it is a contradiction. As for God WILL save his elect, and evangelism is his means...thats basically saying man has no choice.

David: When push comes to shove, accusations of contradiction can be muted by reference to any debate between an Arian and a Trinitarian. The willing you speak of, is in different senses. I notice you use a term "perfect" will and then attack that. The problem is, that is not a term of choice in standard Calvinist literature. And how one determines volitional perfection is debatable. A man may will to permit another to fall into self-affliction. The afflicted man may think he is in a less than perfect state. Yet the man supervening the affliction may know the wise outcomes the affliction may bring about. So we can judge volition as perfect, or not, by many ways.


Nate: We are commanded by God to evangelize. Some of us do it because we CHOOSE to be obedient.

David: Ditto.

Nate: Well, what if I choose not to eat? And I have that choice. I could choose to starve to death if I wanted to. I dont have to follow God's means of sustinance. Could he still keep me alive? Yeah, he could but prolly wouldnt.

David: Jonathan Edwards would have loved talking to you two. He would agree with all that you have said. A person, by definition, human and divine, can happily exist even though within him lie a set of conflicting desires. E.g. I want to eat, but eating will ruin my operation. I really don't want my operation today to be ruined, so I don't eat. We can have a hierarchy of desires. Thus, God as a person, can desire that Mary be healed, and yet for other "higher" reasons desire that Doctor John not heal her. Everyone agrees with this in principle. Arminius took up the old antecedent and consequent will to this same end. There is complexity in the divine volition.


Nate: I feel Calvinists are mislead on God's will. It seems as though they think God's perfect will WILL be done. All the elect WILL be saved. The problem is, God's will is not always done. I believe God has an appointed time for us to die. Yet, I could blow my head off with a shotgun if I wanted to.

David: You agree with us then.

Nate: People do it all the time. I doubt that is God's appointed time.

David: Hang on, you doubt what you said you believed? I am confused.

Nate: If it is, God requires them to sin in order to meet it which is impossible for God to do. People do things contrary to God's will all the time. I heard a Calvinist say one time "God in order to be sovereign must have his way in salvation. If Jesus dies for everyone and only a few get saved, then his death is a failure.

David: Yes, the failure argument is a bad argument that misunderstands the nature of penal atonement.


Nate: However, if Jesus dies for the elect and they all get saved, then the cross is a glorious success."

David: Agreed, bad argument based on superficial dichotomy.


Nate: I dont know if the represents the thinking of every Calvinist but I'm sure many feel like this. But God doesnt have to have his way in everything in order to be sovereign.

David: God sometimes chooses not to get his way, so to speak, Ps 81:13, for example. Hos 6:6 for another. But when it comes to his absolutely determination, he always effects his ends, Ps 115:3.

Nate: Does he have to have his way in sin?? Is it by God's "perfect will" that children are molested, women raped, and people murdered (sometimes by Christians too, not just the unsaved). OF course not, it is by the willful defying of God's will that these things happen.

David: Perfect will is not our term. God can "will" what men should do, and God can will what he himself shall do. Different senses of willing here.

Nate: God certainly allows these things to happen but he does not ordain them.

David: Does he will to allow them to happen? And how can what he wills to allow to happen not be ordained?

Nate: He can be perfectly sovereign without dictating EVERYTHING.

David: Well dictating aside (caricature/misunderstanding?) we would say no, he can't be sovereign if some things are outside of his control: as if God is bound by an external party.

Nate: He did it with Job. He allowed Satan to do alot of awful things to him, yet God remained in control the entire time. See God says the he can use ALL things for good to them that love God. Even the bad things.

David: Did God dictate to Satan what he can and cannot do? Did God bound and set limits upon Satan?

Nate: [...]All to say, your comment I believe is off base when you say God will save his elect and evangelism is the means by which he will do this.

David: That's assertion, not entailment. Assertions fine, its necessary at first, but to move forward, one must move to entailment arguments, not merely descriptions and assertions. This holds for all parties.


Take care,
David

Bob Hayton said...

On the evangelism question, and the assumption that Calvinism only would lead you toward a faulty view on evangelism, consider this article by John Piper: 10 Effects of Believing Calvinism. I believe that will help show why this debate is important and some of the many conclusions one can draw from this teaching besides the erroneous conclusion that evangelism is optional.

(leaving this comment here too in case some of the older comments get overlooked).

Blessings from Jesus,

Bob

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