The following is a guest post by Thomas McCall, assistant professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. (I interviewed Dr. McCall on Calvinisim vs. Arminianism here.) The following is a significantly abridged version of remarks he delivered at the invitation of the Aldersgate Society at TEDS.

The rise of what is popularly termed “Calvinism” or “Reformed theology” among younger evangelicals is well known. Here are a few observations from a sympathetic (albeit quite unconvinced) observer.

I. Two Cheers
The first cheer: These “New Calvinists” care about theology. They really care. A lot. They understand that doctrine matters for the life of the soul – and for the life of the church. They read voraciously, they discuss passionately, and they write prolifically. They understand that there are important existential and pastoral implications, and they want to see a “pattern of sound doctrine” become deeply ingrained in their personal, familial, and ecclesial lives.

They have a strong commitment to the authority of Scripture, and they want to know God as he reveals himself – and not as we might like him to be. They take seriously, and defend energetically, such doctrines as substitutionary atonement and the classic Protestant account of justification. Moreover, (to understate things drastically) they care about the doctrine of divine sovereignty. Ours is a context in which these doctrines are considered unimportant – ours is also a context in which these doctrines sometimes are charged with being sub-biblical and even non-Christian. What’s not to like about seeing so many people care so much about theology? And what’s not to appreciate about seeing so many people completely committed to worshiping God as he graciously reveals himself to us?

These New Calvinists care about theology. A lot. More importantly, though, they care about God. They exhibit passion for God – they want to know his greatness and revel in his grace. Theology for them is anything but a parlor game; nor is it only a means to some supposedly greater end (as in: “well, people in our churches are dissatisfied with their level of understanding, so let’s market more depth”). Theology is important because it is all about God: knowing, worshiping, glorifying, and enjoying him.

This brings me to my second cheer: these New Calvinists care about holiness. To know God is to know that God is holy. The New Calvinists get that, and they want their lives to be in step with him. They are anything but content with a soteriology that reduces redemption to a cosmic I-pass or “get out of hell free” card. No, they know that God is holy, and they know that to walk with the Holy One is to be transformed. Thus they know that the doctrine of sanctification matters, and they pursue holiness vigorously. Some of them offer testimonies in which they describe their “discovery of divine sovereignty” in language similar to the way some Christians in the Wesleyan tradition refer to a “second definite work of grace” or “second crisis experience.” And all of this for good reason: they read the Puritans and (especially) Edwards. They know that holiness matters. They get it. And I, for one, appreciate it.

II. Only Two Cheers? Some Cautionary Notes and Advice for which No One Really Asked

I thank God for what is so good about this New Calvinism, but I also have some concerns. Trying really hard to leave the substantive theological disagreements aside for now, I mention a few observations about some rather worrisome features of this movement.

One is this: they would do well to know their own tradition better. Consider as a case study the doctrine of divine sovereignty. I take it to be universally accepted (or at least nearly so) among the New Calvinists that divine sovereignty entails determinism. But Richard Muller (a top-tier Reformation scholar and the leading historian of 17th century Reformed theology) insists that within post-Reformation scholasticism there is “not even a tendency toward metaphysical determinism” (PRRD, I, p. 128). Muller says this as he is applying the finishing touches to the coffin for the old “central dogma” myth. But it seems quite obvious to me that there indeed is a central dogma to the New Calvinism: belief that God determines everything, and that he does so for his own glory, is taken to be necessary and sufficient. If you are a Christian who believes this, then you can safely claim to be “Reformed.” But by more traditional accounts, it is less than obvious that this is either necessary or sufficient.

Furthermore, it would be good if they would set themselves to the task of coming to a better understanding of the broader Christian tradition. I know that we all need this advice (well, at least I do), but it seems to me that the New Calvinists are far more interested in reading Edwards or Owen (worthy reads to be sure) than they are in mining the riches of patristic theology or grappling with the subtleties of medieval scholasticism. This is, I fear, to the detriment of the movement, and more development in this area might go some distance toward loosening the unhealthy reliance of some of these New Calvinists on what might be called the “Neo-Reformed Magisterium” (the small group of theologians and conference speakers who are sometimes quoted as the final word on any theological topic at issue… if you doubt what I say, consult Collin Hansen’s sobering observations about “Piper fiends” and those who “worship” John Piper, Young, Restless, Reformed, pp. 14, 46).

No theological tradition has cornered the market on arrogance. I have been accused of it (sometimes, I fear, with very good reason). Yet there seems to be – though I’m sure that what I say here is highly fallible – an amazing quantity of it among the New Calvinists. I’ve been told that my resistance to “the doctrines of grace” (no hubris in that label?) is a sign of my probable reprobation. I’ve had the senior pastor of a fine evangelical church tell me that although we were welcome to attend, I could not expect to be involved in any way because I was not “Reformed” – even though this particular church was not confessionally Reformed at all (their official statement of faith was generically evangelical). A friend (who teaches theology in a seminary in the Methodist tradition) told me of helping an incoming student (at a seminary in the Reformed tradition) move into a neighboring house. When the incoming student – who, if memory serves, was about to begin an MDiv – discovered that my friend was a Wesleyan, he quickly said “you guys don’t think much about things, do you?” Another friend expressed doubts about aspects of Calvinism and then was rejected by a missions agency for perceived confusion about the gospel. Alas, such stories are not rare. They are legion. Again, I am well aware that New Calvinism does not have a monopoly on theological arrogance, and I’m also very happy to say that many Calvinists do not exhibit this at all. And perhaps it is simply easier to spot it in someone else. Still, though, I mention it as an abiding concern.

I thank God for these New Calvinists, and sometimes I’m convicted to pray for the blessing of their ministries. I appreciate so much their evident concern for biblical and theological fidelity, their passion for God and his glory, and their heartbeat that Christ be exalted and sinners redeemed. And I pray that we will know that we belong to one another in the communion of the Triune God, that we will understand that we are called to live and love together, and that we will see more clearly the greatness of the sheer, unalterable goodness of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

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Comments:


152 thoughts on “Two Cheers for the Resurgence of Calvinism in Evangelicalism: A Wesleyan-Arminian Perspective”

  1. Thomas Clay says:

    Great post. A welcome exhortation to those (including myself) who are striving to hold humbly to reformed theology. If the doctrines of grace produce a pharisee mindset where we’re looking for an Armenian under every rock, then something is wrong.

    We must speak to those who don’t hold to reformed theology as our brothers and not as the enemy. If these same brothers choose to attack or demean, should that change the way in which we deal with them? Not according to scripture.

  2. T L says:

    Not worth posting. Re: George Whitefield 2 volume biography by Arnold Dallimore for my final word on the “controversy”. There is no unity without purity my friends.

  3. mike rucker says:

    i took the time yesterday to read a post – and the nearly 250 comments that went with it – about calvinists over on the jesus creed blog.

    certainly one-sided (until the ed/brad/scott wrestling match near the end), but since it was my-sided i enjoyed reading it. :)

    SBC membership and baptisms are declining.

    Calvinism in the SBC is seeing a resurgence.

    you do the math.

    and, no, this isn’t another opp’y to pull further into book-lined rooms and say, “well, Jesus said the world would hate us – i guess this just proves Him right.”

    it’s time to read again that “it is God’s desire that none should perish” and realize this is much more in line with the God all of us see working in our own lives, and not “it is God’s desire to make some for kindling just to keep the campfire going…”

    yeah, i know all of the verses you’re going to throw at me. bandwidth is cheap; use it as you will – or maybe as God wills :) – but my skin is thick just like my head.

    oh – and my middle, too.

    everything but my wallet, it seems, these days…

    mike rucker
    fairburn, georgia, usa
    mikerucker.wordpress.com

  4. Kevin says:

    Thanks for posting these comments! I too am not from/in the reformed tradition and I also see much of the greatness that Thomas McCall sees. I am a voracious reader of many in the Reformed tradition and I loath the new liberalism of the Emergent crowd. Unfortunately I have experienced what Thomas described at the end of his article, the ridicule of being an “Armenian” (which I am not) and the inability to join a mission sending organisation because I “misunderstood” the gospel (which I don’t think I have). I also have much doubt that the Reformed guys have determinism sewed up but I think that their perspective sheds new light for us going forward.

  5. Jake says:

    A great post. Those of us who are part of the “Calvinist resurgence” should be humbly thankful that one thing people notice about us is our love of Scriptural theology and the holiness of God. We should also be ashamed that another thing they notice is our pride. There’s only so many times we can throw out “a proud Calvinist is an oxymoron” rather than admitting this is a sinful tendency of ours.

    Mike, your comment “SBC membership and baptisms are declining. Calvinism in the SBC is seeing a resurgence. you do the math” contains a logical fallacy. The two facts being true doesn’t mean one caused the other. In fact, membership and baptisms are rising among SBC churches that tend toward Calvinism. That seems to argue against your implication that Calvinism is the problem.

  6. Queue says:

    I am strongly reformed and I agree with the cautions of Thomas McCall. I have seen it in my own life and in the lives of my friends. Thankfully, we are getting beyond proving everyone else wrong theologically and taking these wonderful doctrines and asking, “how does this truth affect my walk with the LORD?” That’s not to say that pride has been eradicated, but that should go without saying since I had the same pride problem when I was an Arminian.

    Thank you for the post Justin and thank you for the caution and encouragement Thomas.

  7. Vitamin Z says:

    JT –

    Thanks for posting this. I like his comment about the Neo-Reformed Magisterium.

    z

  8. David says:

    Mike Rucker,

    Mind a little Post hoc ergo propter hoc?

  9. Casey says:

    Very good post. I “ride the fence” in between the Arminian and Calvinist ways of thinking, and typically believe that both are true… no matter how mutually exclusive they would SEEM to be to human understanding.
    I appreciate your thoughtful post, and I think you looked honestly at both sides of the issue.

  10. TBE says:

    So Mike, if Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church began seeing a marked increase in both membership and baptisms, should we therefore assume that his theology is correct?

    Or, to put it another way, Lakewood’s membership in the 2-3 years I lived in Houston either (A) held fairly constant, or (B) grew rapidly during certain seasons. (I can’t comment on baptisms there.) Does the fact that people AREN’T leaving Lakewood mean that Osteen’s prosperity gospel is somehow more correct than, say, the fully Arminian church that I attend (whose membership has declined as a direct result of some leadership struggles that have been ongoing there)?

    You’re asserting a causal relationship between numbers and theology that, frankly, is skeptical at best.

    I’m thankful for McCall’s post–particularly for the humility with which it was offered. McCall recognizes (even if Mike Rucker doesn’t) that while the “New Calvinists” have more than their fair share of pride/arrogance issues (and I count myself in that number and am daily praying for God’s Grace to transform me), they don’t have the market cornered on this.

    I’m also thankful for his challenge to the New Calvinists to become even more vigorous in their research, both into their own traditions and into others. I hope that many among the New Calvinists will take this challenge seriously–I know that I plan to! I also hope, however, that Arminians would take this more seriously as well. One needs only to look as far as Roger Olson (Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities) to see that Calvinism doesn’t corner the market here, either.

  11. Vitamin Z says:

    JT –

    Thanks for posting this. I like his comment about the Neo-Reformed Magisterium.

    On a different note… The slightest understanding of unconditional election should produce the most humble people on the planet. Sadly this is often not the case. Seems like a pretty harsh disconnect.

    z

  12. Ron says:

    As an Arminian (Armenia is a country, not a theological stance) who went to a predominately Calvinist school, I was told multiple times that I was not saved, that I held to a different gospel, and that I was a false teacher.

    Those who called me friends and had table fellowship with me often said that I held a different gospel, but that did not mean I was unsaved, I was just barely saved.

    I appreciate the new theology and the stress on doctrine and on Biblical Theology as a discipline. I regret that this can be accompanied by the idea that this doctrine is inerrant rather than the Bible being inerrant.

    Why are other Christians seen as the enemy in need of conversion rather than going into the world and converting those who are lost?

  13. Matthew Robbins says:

    As someone who’s probably a “New Calvinist” myself, I must say McCall is extremely perceptive. His praise for the Godly aspects are dead-on, as are his criticisms.

    The Neo-Reformed Magisterium comment is very convicting. At the Resurgence Conference in Seattle, there was a Q&A with Mark Driscoll moderating to Matt Chandler (probably part of this movement) and John Piper. Someone asked a question about how you keep from following a theologian and follow Christ. Matt Chandler said, “Well, I have a picture of John Piper on my refridgerator, so…”

    It was funny, but also convicting. I don’t follow Piper, Driscoll, Mahaney, MacArthur, etc… I follow Christ and the Bible. Can be difficult to keep that straight if your not constantly examining yourself.

  14. Robert Ivy says:

    Good post. As part of this New Calvinist movement (I’m 22 and a fan of Piper) I guess I demonstrate at least one of his points in that I did not realize that divine sovereignty does not imply determinism. (Of course it also depends on how one defines determinism – I certainly do not think it implies determinism as it is spoken of in philosophy.)

    It’s an interesting point though that I’d be interested in reading more about. But off the top of my head I really can’t figure out how God ordering all things for his glory and our good would be compatible with anything other than determinism.

    Still, he clearly knows more about theology than I do so I’ll submit to his judgment for now.

    Good post though and the other points seem largely accurate in my experience.

  15. Andy Chance says:

    Some of you remarked on being turned down by missions agencies.

    While I don’t deny that Arminians are Christians, I would prefer to support missions agencies that require a Reformed understanding of theology of their missionaries. Arminians have a different understanding of election and usually have a different understanding of the atonement (often holding to a moral governmental theory of the atonement).

    These are important (even if not essential) doctrines. Would you have a problem with excluding people from a missions agency because of these differences? Why or why not?

  16. Frank Turk says:

    That’s a great post, warts and all. I hope many, many people receive it.

  17. Daryl says:

    Count me in. Great post. Great reminder.

    I’d fit under “New Calvinist” and I need this post.

    Thanks.

  18. mike rucker says:

    mike’s wife:
    mike, did you go over to challies or BTW and post something again?

    mike:
    (long pause) maaaaaybe… why?

    mike’s wife:
    BECAUSE OUR INBOX IS FILLING UP WITH THEIR EMAILS!!!!

    mike:
    (sheepishly) uhhhh … sorry. you can move them into my folder – they all say the same thing anyway…

    mike’s wife:
    (exasperated sigh) i thought we agreed you were going to stop doing that – or at least you promised to practice safe blogging.

    mike:
    i know … but it’s like an addiction … maybe i need to get some help.

    mike’s wife:
    imagine that…

    one of the reasons that choirs sound so nice is that there are many voices singing many notes. when everybody sings in unison, the colors and the beauty and the harmony are lost.

    (here – i’ll help you out with some responses:
    (a) yes, mike, but they must all be singing from the same sheet of music; or,
    (b) yes, mike, but they must sing the notes as they were written; or,
    (c) yes, but they need to give authority to the Conductor and not go off on their own;

    or, perhaps, more fitting,

    (d) yes, mike, but in this choir, only the Conductor decides who can join and who can’t – He doesn’t even give auditions!)

    :)

    mike rucker
    fairburn, georgia, usa
    mikerucker.wordpress.com

  19. A. C. Diehl says:

    It was a very profitable article….though i maintain what Spurgeon said…”Calvinism is the Gospel” and i believe that arrogant Calvinism is an oxymoran. The accusations that the SBC memberships and baptisms are declining and Calvinism is resurging are totally unfounded. Perhaps the numbers are decreasing because the young generation of Calvinists are sick of a cheap gospel and are telling people to count the cost of discipleship. This is a passion on my heart because I grew up in Ultrafundamentalism and the salvation i knew for 18 years was a cheap gospel that was good for one free pass out of hell and into heaven. We calvinists must be humble but we must also be unmovable…Arminianism is not the gospel. It is a partial truth masquerading as a whole truth and is a complete untruth. Soli Deo Gloria

  20. Daryl says:

    So…what are you saying Mike? Contradicting understandings of plain Scripture are beautiful?

  21. Luke says:

    Andy,

    I do not follow your logic at all on this issue. In fact, the vast majority of missionaries I know are more Arminian than Calvinistic. It is only natural for people who are trying to reach their respective countries for Christ to believe in more of a universal love and sacrifice that Christ has and did for us rather than a specific one for a select group of people. In fact, being a hardcore Calvinist on the mission field could me more grounds for being more passive and not pursuing people at all costs. Why you would prefer mission agencies be more reformed is beyond me. I personally do not care if they are reformed or not, and as long as they have a heart for people and the Gospel I feel comfortable giving them my support.

    Why even the Arminian view of election would factor into your decision is also confusing. On the one hand you have people who believe God elected people from before time began to come to know him, and on the other you have people who believe that we are elected for a purpose…for the purpose of proclaiming the Gospel to others, much like Israel’s election in the Old Testament (to be a light and blessing to the nations). I, personally, feel much more comfortable in regards to mission having a more Arminian view of election, because they every soul becomes one worthy of the Gospel rather than a select group.

    In regards to the atonement, it is a common fallacy to believe that penal substitution IS the Gospel and all other views are wrong. This is a shame, as all views have something to contribute and not one of them captures the essence of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

    Again, if there is an agency, regardless of where they side on this issue, willing to send people into the world for the purpose of telling others the good news of Jesus Christ and what he has done, then why should we withhold our support from them based on where they stand on this issue? I find it very troubling and sad that many of my reformed brothers and sisters believe my theological leanings are dangerous since they are different than theirs. Calvinism is not the Gospel, and neither is Arminianism. To be willing to distance ourselves from those on either end of the spectrum when both sides can be supported scripturally is immature, dogmatic, and simply divisive. I am glad a reputable scholar commented on this issue with such an irenic and peaceful tone…and that my Calvinist brothers on here agree with him! We would all do well to question and be critical of those inside of our own camp…even John Piper

  22. Luke says:

    A.C.,

    you can’t be serious. This is the attitude the article speaks about, and comments like those are what tend to drive people like myself away from Calvinism

  23. Westwind says:

    For the sake of humility and biblical meekness countering the spirit of theological and sometimes personal arrogance in young and growing theologians, Helmut Thielicke’s A Little Exercise for Young Theologians should be required reading. Too often theological knowledge is reckoned a suitable substitute for Christian discipline and maturity by those who believe themselves to be full of knowledge.

  24. Daryl says:

    “In fact, being a hardcore Calvinist on the mission field could me more grounds for being more passive and not pursuing people at all costs.”

    Can we agree not to be misinformed Calvinist AND not be misinformed Arminians?

    That statement is so clearly not true as to be embarrassing.

  25. Fusion! says:

    In defense of the Reformed position, I go to a Pentecostal Bible College in Southern California. We Reformed people are misunderstood, maligned and ridiculed there. I have had to stay under the radar. More so, in all of evangelicalism we are difficient in knowledge of church history or other traditions. We have seen people in the emergent church engaging traditions, and we seen the results! I think there should be an intelligent engagement with other traditions and with church history. And as for the charges of arrogance: guilty as charged, but aren’t we all guilty of that? As for the fatalism charge, it’s way more nuanced than that. The real question is what are the options? Few of them have God at the center of the universe.

  26. Luke says:

    Daryl,

    In no way did I attribute this to Calvinists nor am I misinformed about their theology. I was making a point that the basic beliefs of Calvinism could tend to make one lean that way far greater than an Arminian understanding could. It doesn’t often do this, thank God, nor do I view Calvinists this way, but the basic beliefs of Calvinism could be looked at (immaturely) as anti-missional and grounds for passivity.

  27. Daryl says:

    Luke…

    No problem. Thanks for the clarification.

  28. Liza says:

    AC Diel
    It is a partial truth masquerading as a whole truth and is a complete untruth

    Well….make up your mind. Is it partial truth or complete untruth? Or maybe it’s partial untruth and complete truth.

    What? Something can’t be partial and complete at the same time? To say it is doesn’t make any sense?

    what gobbledy-gook thinking!

  29. Bart says:

    Luke and Andy,

    McCall seems to hold to penal substitution, which the Wesleys also cherished. Penal substitution is not the sole possession of Calvinists.

    Luke, you wrote:
    In regards to the atonement, it is a common fallacy to believe that penal substitution IS the Gospel and all other views are wrong. This is a shame, as all views have something to contribute and not one of them captures the essence of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

    J.I. Packer in his essay “What Did the Cross Achieve?” (reprinted in In My Place Condemned He Stood) argues that Christ Our Substitute is the heart of the gospel, but does not exclude Christ Our Example or Christ the Conqueror of Evil. These truths are not competing but complementary.

  30. Bart says:

    If George Whitefield was running Together for the Gospel, he’d probably invite Wesley to speak (not in the same year as Toplady, of course). Fellow Calvinists: which contemporary Arminians could you be “together for the gospel” with?

  31. Rick says:

    When the YRR article first came out I commented in a class that at best most of those represented in it were ‘Calvinistic’, in that they held to one particular view of soteriology. One might even say that this is a return to the Particular Baptist tradition. Being ‘Reformed’ is much different; its deeper than than the “doctrines of Grace” and divine sovereignty.
    In addition to reading the ECFs, many included in this resurgence would do well to read, among others, Bavinck.

  32. jomato says:

    i am grateful for the two cheers and the cautionary tales.

    but in all fairness, not all non-Calvinists are as kind and generous towards neo-Calvinists as our brother Thomas McCall.

    i lean towards a neo-Calvinist theology, but i come from and serve among an Arminian tradition. in my experience Arminians also tend to be critical, proud, and defensive towards anyone who questions or opposes their particular theological convictions.

    personally, i think some of my Arminian brethren are too human-centered. dare to question human liberty, human ability, or human responsibility and see what happens.

    yikes!

  33. Matthew S. Jacobs says:

    Interesting. There’s 31 comments for this post debating Calvinism vs. Arminianism, and only 1 for JT’s post regarding the blessedness of God.

    As a Calvinist myself, I catch myself being more passionate about defending these theological issues than I do about reveling in the blessedness of God.

    With a 31 to 1 post ratio, perhaps some of you are in the same boat?

    Humbly,
    MSJ

  34. Mike Riccardi says:

    Fellow Calvinists: which contemporary Arminians could you be “together for the gospel” with?

    Though I don’t know him or his stuff very well, I know that Jerry Vines has been at Shepherds’ Conferences in years past.

    For me, I’d be T4G with fellow reader Johnny Dialectic.

  35. A. C. Diehl says:

    liza….no offense but your logic skills are a bit rusty. I said…Arminianism is a partial truth masquerading as the whole truth which is a complete untruth (that statement was made by JT the author of this blog…so i guess he has gobblidy gook thinking too…also…in English this is called a simile its where u draw a comparison using like or as) Now back to what I said….Arminianism takes part of the truth, tells everyone it is the whole truth which makes it untrue….see this is what Satan does…he can not create evil in of himself…he can only take what God has done or said and He twists it…so thats what i meant…hope that helps you.

  36. A. C. Diehl says:

    i think sometimes because people are adamant about the gospel and grace they are considered proud. Arrogant Calvinism is an oxymoran, but seriously…Arminians are just as proud by continually displaying false humility and trashing reformed pride. I want to see some blog defending Arminianism…or good books…or conferences…oh wait John 3:16 conference isnt gonna be streamed….hmmmmm….i think our Arminian friends should stop attacking the pride and attack what they disagree with

  37. carissa anne says:

    i don’t even want to read the comments, because i’m sure i’ll be disappointed. (i was with some of the first few.)

    so let me just say, thanks for this post! i met Tom McCall when visiting Trinity and he is a thoughtful, humble man. as a “New Calvinist” at a not-particularly-Calvinist college, i’ve come to appreciate other traditions (even though i think i’m right) and not see them as probable reprobates but brothers and sisters, and it’s because of people like Dr. McCall that i was able to come around. i hope people take this to heart.

  38. carissa anne says:

    oh, and i agree – i don’t know why we call them “the doctrines of grace,” as though we Calvinists cornered the market on grace. there’s a lot more to grace than the five points no matter what framework you hold to.

  39. A. C. Diehl says:

    for those who think I hate Arminians….NO WAY…my whole family is…i must say…if every Arminian and Calvinist could confront like Dr. McCall there would be much more harmony…Thanks Dr. McCall

  40. Christopher Lake says:

    As one who believes that the Reformed views of God’s sovereignty and soteriology (His plan of salvation) are indeed the views which most reflect the Bible’s teaching, I want to thank Dr. McCall for this post. I fear that he is right about too many of us. Have we really, truly understood the implications of Reformed (consistently Biblical) doctrine?

    Reformed theology, rightly understood and lived out, leaves *no* room for arrogance. If we truly believe that God chooses to save a certain unknowable (to us) number of sinners PURELY because He is gracious, and NOT because one sinner is somehow “better” or “smarter” than another, than there simply *is* no room for arrogance on our part.

    Fellow Reformed Christians, I ask, did we come to hold what we believe to be the most Biblical views of God’s sovereignty and soteriology because we are smarter or morally “better” than other people? No, a thousand times no! We did so because God graciously opened our eyes to those truths in the Scriptures. Arminians who have not been brought to those understandings are still very much our brothers and sisters in Christ. How many of us took a good while to come to our current Reformed convictions? I know I did. How, then, can we be arrogant and unloving with other Christians who have not reached those conclusions? Yes, they are *Christians*– because salvation is by grace alone through faith alone, not through our understanding of the extent of God’s sovereignty. Let us not become Hyper-Calvinists, for that twisted view is a denial of the both the Gospel and the common bond that all believers have in Christ!

    Yes, I am Reformed, but A.W. Tozer (who was not) has taught me so much about God’s greatness and beauty! How could I possibly not consider him a brother in Christ? The same goes for Charles Wesley, who was not Reformed, and yet whose soundly Biblical hymns are sung in many Reformed churches! We Reformed Christians must *not* go off the deep end by denying the faith of those who differ with us on the extent of God’s sovereignty! If I am impassioned about this, it because I care about God’s glory– and His glory is *not* shown in our shunning, or otherwise mistreating, faithful brothers and sisters in Christ who do not believe exactly as we do about God’s sovereignty and soteriology. Reformed convictions and humility *about* our convictions should go together, for us, as naturally as living and breathing. So should our our own personal joy in God’s grace to us go together with our joy in His saving those with whom we don’t always agree, but yet share the same Saviour and the same faith in Him.

  41. johnMark says:

    JT,

    Thanks for this post. I really appreciate this perspective.

    It reminds me of Arminian, Roger Olson explaining that often in today’s pews and pulpits we find semi-pelagianism.

    Calvinists aren’t that crazy after all! ;)

    Mark

    p.s. Reading some of the comments helped inspire a little song.

  42. Christopher Lake says:

    Man, there were more than a couple of typos in my post… I’m just saying, especially to my Reformed brothers and sisters, that we have to remember that salvation is by grace through faith, *not* by exact theological understanding regarding issues about which true Christians have differed for centuries. Do I believe that Reformed convictions are more faithful to what the Bible teaches than Arminian convictions? YES, I firmly do. However, Arminians *are* still my brothers and sisters in Christ, and many of them have a great deal to teach me about loving God and living for Him. To my zealous Reformed brothers and sisters who are doubtful about the faith of Ariminans, please read A. W. Tozer’s book, The Pursuit of God. Read and learn– and possibly, be humbled, to God’s glory.

  43. Jon says:

    I would never have seen this post if you had not posted it. Thank you! Once again, the criticism of the young and Calvinist is not doctrinal but practical. We all need a reminder to let our theology of a great God work into a life of great dependence on Him.

  44. Dorian says:

    I really don’t know what to make of the part about Muller. Is there some complex definition of “determinism” over against “sovereignty” and/or “predestination”? I’m really confused. I know that “predestination” does not imply “fatalism,” but that doesn’t quite seem to be what he is talking about. I’m totally confused. JT, can you point us to some resources or give us some wisdom on this?

  45. Luke says:

    A.C.,

    Your comments leave me appalled. You said,

    “Arminianism takes part of the truth, tells everyone it is the whole truth which makes it untrue….see this is what Satan does…he can not create evil in of himself…he can only take what God has done or said and He twists it.”

    This comment just seems extremely arrogant to me. Do you think Calvinism is the whole truth? I don’t think either one is the whole truth, and I personally don’t care what JT says about it. Then, to top it off you compare what Satan did to what Arminians do!! Get another example next time bro, because Arminians are not Satan. Calvinists I encounter are just as inconsistent and eisegetical as any Arminian I’ve ever encountered, so to think one side is “biblical” and the other “emotional” is just completely ridiculous. There are absolutely legit scholars on both ends of the spectrum, and this alone should humble us into thinking that both sides probably have some truth to them.

    Christopher, you said:

    “did we come to hold what we believe to be the most Biblical views of God’s sovereignty and soteriology because we are smarter or morally “better” than other people? No, a thousand times no! We did so because God graciously opened our eyes to those truths in the Scriptures. Arminians who have not been brought to those understandings are still very much our brothers and sisters in Christ.”

    I know and understand the plea you were making to your Calvinist brothers with this. However, behind your words is a very arrogant stance, “God has opened our eyes to see the truth, he just hasn’t opened theirs yet.” Maybe I feel that God has opened my eyes to see the truth of Arminianism and shown me the fallacies of Calvinism. How would you respond if I were to claim this?

    I believe it is stances like these that the article is trying to warn against. Calling yourselves the more “biblical” side (whatever that means) and claiming God has opened your eyes to it. Claiming your side has the whole truth and the other side is partial truth which claims to be the whole truth which in turn makes it untrue. Claiming to be “God-centered” and the other side “man-centered”, claiming to have a higher view of “grace” while the other side more of “works”.

    It is comments like this that drives McCall to write what he does, and the very statement you seem to be vehemently affirming and praising is completely ineffective in the words you type. Am I the only one who finds this arrogant and offensive? Demeaning and degrading?

  46. mike rucker says:

    luke, luke, luke…

    don’t get pulled too deeply into the fray here. you’re not going to convince a single one of these guys or gals to change their minds; and vice versa.

    now, some of them will move in the direction that anyone who ain’t planting TULIPs is on the quick road to hell; fine – it’s only a matter of time before they move on to more important subjects, like arguing about who gets to sit closest to Jesus in heaven. a previous comment even said, “it’s because of people like Dr. McCall that i was able to come around,” like she was running a high fever and covered with sores when she was so deluded as to believe something other than ‘the gospel.’ see what you’re up against?

    you just have to chuckle, shake your head, and remember this: when we all get to heaven, we’ll get to laugh at them for ALL ETERNITY!!! BWAAH HA HA HA!!!

    :)

    mike rucker
    fairburn, georgia, usa
    mikerucker.wordpress.com

  47. Christopher Lake says:

    Luke, I can see how you might interpret my words as arrogant. As a Reformed Christian, however, I believe that *all* theological understanding ultimately comes as a gracious gift from God (not based on the believer’s merit) — and therefore, I thank God for whatever understanding He has given me. That’s not arrogance– it’s gratitude that is aware that I don’t deserve *anything* from God except Hell.

    Luke, I have lived on both sides of this question. I fought against Reformed thought for longer than I care to remember. It is God who helped me to see, and brought me to accept, that these ideas are indeed expressed in the Bible. Why do other Christians not see or accept that these ideas are in the Bible? I can’t say, because I don’t know their hearts, and even more importantly, I can’t truly see how God is working in their lives (especially when I don’t know them personally). Ultimately, perhaps people simply come to see certain things in the time that God chooses to reveal those things to them. What I do know is that I am not “better” than any other Christian for having seen and accepted that so-called “Reformed” truths are in the Bible. I’m not morally better, more deserving, smarter, or any of those things. Is it wrong of me, though, to say that Reformed doctrine is more Biblical than Arminianism, if I have studied both sides (and once held to the other myself!) and reached the conclusion that one *is* more faithful to the Bible’s teaching? Surely, Dr. McCall believes that his Arminian convictions are more Biblical than Reformed ones– and he would probably say as much. Why should I not do the same, after being an Arminian Christian for years, and then coming to what I believe to be more Biblical conclusions?

  48. William says:

    Mike

    What in the world is wrong my friend? Your posting behavior is quite strange and your comments are lacking in the love of Christ.

    blessings

  49. Luke says:

    Christopher,

    We can agree to disagree. Just know though, that I was on the other side of the spectrum for years. I was certainly a Calvinist and believed the Bible was so explicit about it that to not be one was foolish! Then, I was “enlightened” and God showed me the truth and that which was more biblical.

    So my point to you is that this is very subjective from person to person. I believe Arminianism is more biblical and God showed me that truth, and you believe Calvinism is more biblical and God showed you that truth. I just ask that you don’t come across as dogmatic and arrogant to those of a different theological persuasion than yourself…and always know that there is a possibility that you might be wrong…I know I do. Like I said before, there are legitimate scholars on both sides of the spectrum (Calvinist = Schreiner, Piper, Ware, Moo, Carson; Arminian (or non-Calvinist) = McKnight, I. Howard Marshall, James Dunn, Roger Olson, Grant Osbourne, Ben Witherington), so the fact that these brilliant minds come to completely opposite conclusions should humble us and make us not hold on too tightly or die for either system.

    I appreciate your remark, and can sense your tone behind it is irenic and humble. Just try to be a little more careful with how you phrase things sometimes. I look at you as a dear brother in Christ, and I hope you can look at me the same way.

  50. Brian McLain says:

    Mike, Luke, etc…

    You think its bad on the blog comments? Try going to seminary with these knuckleheads! It’s brutal. I was in the lunchroom one time, saw a guy with a Cincinnati Reds hat on and thought, “hey, here’s someone I can talk sports with!” “Red’s fan?” “No, not really… the C stands for Calvinism.” Now when I see someone at seminary with a Phillies hat, I just assume their a Piper fan.
    Actually, as a former “New Calvinist” it was sitting around and listening to all these guys argue and debate that “brought me around” to a more moderate position.

    Peace

  51. A. C. Diehl says:

    Yes Luke….I should perhaps choose another illustration because I do believe arminians can be brothers… YES unless you are emerging and live in a world of doubt….I can be certain that Calvinism is the gospel….Arminian mangles the gospel…take that how you will…the gospel is supposed to offend…I can love you in the Lord…I can disagree on the millennial positions, tongues, trichotomy/dichotomy….but i will not disagree on the gospel!!!

  52. Luke says:

    A.C.,

    You can’t be serious!!! You are equating Calvinism with the Gospel! This is something I don’t even think Piper, Grudem, Carson, or JT would do! Brother, seriously, you need to re-evaluate what the Gospel is and change your thoughts in this regard. Listen to these comments and tell me if you don’t get offended and angered:

    “Calvinism strangles the truth and the Gospel. Calvinism is a false Gospel and leads to fatalism. Arminianism is the true Gospel and anybody who doesn’t believe that is unbiblical and a borderline heretic! I have no doubt that Arminianism is the Gospel and Calvinism distorts this. You don’t like what I say? I don’t give a crap! The Gospel is supposed to offend people, so you being offended means I’m telling you the truth and the Gospel so get over yourself and study the Bible. If you studied your Bible objectively like me, you would realize how utterly false and hopeless Calvinism is and how right Arminianism is. Calvinism just causes people to live passive lives and not care about other people. Calvinists think we’re robots and puppets, and that God only chose a select group of people to spend eternity with him. The Gospel is that Christ died for all!! Calvinism is a false Gospel and if you don’t see that then you’re blind! You mad about that? I don’t care b/c I’m telling you the truth and the truth hurts! The Gospel offends, so take it or leave it!”

    Brother, you make your side embarrassed when you make comments like that, and they do absolutely no good whatsoever. I never see Jesus teaching about Calvinism, and you’re essentially claiming the Gospel to be a set of beliefs that was formulated in the 17th century. My dear Calvinist brothers, please rebuke this man before I lose heart!

  53. A. C. Diehl says:

    luke….i dont take offense to that because your statments are ridiculous ….so i guess you would be upset at Spurgeon who said…”Calvinism is the Gospel” and Martin Luther who said, “anyone who attributes any part of salvation to the free will of man knows nothing of grace and has not learned Jesus Christ aright.”…..anywho…im sorry to offend you….but i have to side with my fellow brothers in the faith….as Spurgeon also said….”Men are born arminians but Grace makes them Calvinists”

  54. Luke says:

    No, A.C., YOUR statements are completely ridiculous and you confuse the Gospel with a system. Simply backing up your point with a pastor from 200 years ago does not add any weight to the argument. I could frankly care less what Spurgeon and Luther both say, I only care what the text says. Did you even read the article that JT posted? YOU ARE THE TYPE OF CALVINIST MCCALL IS TALKING ABOUT! Get over yourself and realize what’s important. You give your system a bad name, and I wish others would chime in.

  55. A. C. Diehl says:

    Luke…I think you think I hate arminians….i dont….i just think they are very wrong…you wont persuade me and i doubt i will persuade you but i will not be moved. I maintain that Calvinism best denotes the gospel (Yes Jesus Christ is my saviour not John Calvin) I know the system and if you dont like the name you can join the ranks who call us biblicists or whatever…but what is attributed to calvinism is just what is made plain in the scripture…I dont hate arminians but it just bothers me when arminians pretend to be humble and attack calvinist pride…stop attacking our pride…i mean we are proud…so are arminians…so maybe we can help each other…but if you dont like calvinism then debate the issue…dont attack the character of those who hold it..

  56. A. C. Diehl says:

    well luke….im glad a friend just emailed me and helped me out…im sorry if the earlier posts came across arrogant i didnt mean for them to….but i will be honest the last several have been in the flesh…so im done now…sorry to display the flesh….especially over the gospel…

  57. Christopher Lake says:

    Luke, thank you for the thoughts and the heart behind them, brother. You’re obviously right– we can both believe that God brought us to our conclusions, and that each conclusion is the Biblical one, respectively, and that this issue should not cause us to question each other’s faith. That was exactly my point with my original post– that Reformed Christians should not dare to question the faith of Arminian Christians, simply because Arminians have reached those conclusions. As I wrote above, I have learned much from A.W. Tozer, and I dearly love the hymns of Charles Wesley, and neither of them was Reformed. Both were faithful servants of Christ, from whom I still have very much to learn!

    Perhaps part of the problem that you had with my phrasing simply comes from our different theological convictions? I can’t know that for certain; I’m just proposing that as a possibility. Being Reformed, I believe that God is sovereignly in control of *all* things. As such, I also believe that it is *God* who ultimately brings understanding of the Bible and its teachings. For me, giving all credit to God for my theological understanding is simply part of affirming God’s sovereignty. I see it as humility, actually, because I know that my understanding did not originate with myself– nor was it a gift that God gave me because I “deserved” it. To you though, my description of God opening my eyes to certain truths came across as arrogant. To me, it was/is just an objective description of how God works in the believer’s life, revealing truth in His time for His own purposes.

    The “more Biblical” claims that I made about Reformed doctrine were not meant to offend anyone. To my mind, Arminian and Reformed Christians should *each* claim that their respective conclusion is the consistently Biblical one. Otherwise, why hold to it?

  58. A. C. Diehl says:

    okay all…divine appointment…i am sitting in the coffee shop at my school studying and in walk my one of my best friends. He is one of these guys that after you talk with him..you just wanna go pray or something. Anyway the Lord just ripped me apart for my pride. I am firm about what I believe but God doesnt use pride. And the ironic thing is….my friend that walked in is an arminian. anyway….my apologies to all who read my rants for exibiting the T in TULIP. anywho i hope you can all forgive me. Let us all just keep the cross central!

  59. John B. Higgins says:

    I think those cheers are a bit much coming from an Arminian. If you are an Arminian (I am not), the God of Calvinism looks more like the despotic devil of hell than the God of Christianity. Boyd said it himself that it is hard to tell the difference between Calvinist’s God and the devil. And this is true if you believe that wills are completely off limits to God. If you believe in the libertarian freedom of creatures and then hear Calvinists talking about how God ordained the fall, that’s blasphemy.

  60. kirkseyboy says:

    Which mission sending agency would refuse someone because they are not reformed?

  61. Ron says:

    A.C. Diehl,

    Thank you for your humility in correcting yourself. Posting in the flesh is certainly not reserved for Calvinists, so don’t beat yourself up. Remember that confession leads to forgiveness (1 John 1:9).

    Christopher Lake,

    I thought your first post was clear myself, and I am an Arminian, so please do not feel as if you were coming across as arrogant, for I did not take you that way. I agree that we should all think that “my system is more Biblical than your system” or else we should not be holding to our system, hehe.

    May God bless and build on the fruitful dialogue of this post and conversation.

    http://www.roncfay.com/wordpress

  62. Luke says:

    A.C.,

    Thank you, brother, for the humble attitude you have exhibited regarding this issue. It’s always wonderful to see a brother admit and confess something he regrets and not try to defend his actions. I’m sorry if any of my words to you were harsh or offensive as well and hope we can have meaningful dialog in the future.

    Christopher,

    I also appreciate the humble spirit you have exhibited in your post. I can tell that both you and A.C. have taken this post by McCall to heart and it is wonderful to see. I must confess that my beliefs cause me to have this attitude sometimes as well because I’m so convinced of it! It’s great that in the end we can all realize that we are still brothers in Christ on the same side. I’m glad to hear you say that you have learned from those who are of a different theological persuasion than you. I go to a pretty reformed seminary and love and relish many of my reformed teachers even though I disagree with them often. This is also why I think being in circles where you will be challenged in your beliefs is so healthy and challenging. I’m glad that I do not go to a full-blown Arminian seminary like Asbury or something b/c then I’d just be hearing stuff all day that I agree with. Though there are a few Arminian-leaning teachers at my school, they are certainly the minority. Thank you for also explaining the thought behind your prior statements as it made things much more clear (just understand that everyone reading may not understand that). You’re right about the “more biblical” claims! That’s why, frankly, I wish Christians would be much more reluctant to use that word in their vocabulary. There are lots of things that are biblical (slavery, murder, genocide, etc). The Gnostics thought they were “biblical”, so did the Arians. So to me, it’s just a loaded term that really doesn’t mean much. I personally wish we would adopt the term “Christian” to replace “biblical”. For instance, someone saying they have a “biblical worldview” is just nonsense to me, but for one to claim they have a “Christian” worldview means a great deal more. For one to claim their belief is “biblical” is just loaded, but for one to claim their belief is “Christian” makes it a bit more meaningful and authoritative. Just my conviction. thanks for the word!

  63. Clint says:

    I was very convicted by this post. I abhorred Calvinism when I first became a Christian. After studying Scripture I became passionately Reformed you could say. It was immediately beautiful and freeing but then I started becoming arrogant towards others who were “ignorant to sound doctrine.” I know plenty of wonderful brothers and sisters in the Arminian camp who love Jesus more than I do.

    My heart hasn’t been right. With the wonderful knowledge of God’s sovereignty, I should be leading the way in humility.

    May my doctrine be seen before heard.

  64. wnpaul says:

    Christopher Lake said,

    Being Reformed, I believe that God is sovereignly in control of *all* things. As such, I also believe that it is *God* who ultimately brings understanding of the Bible and its teachings. For me, giving all credit to God for my theological understanding is simply part of affirming God’s sovereignty. I see it as humility, actually, because I know that my understanding did not originate with myself– nor was it a gift that God gave me because I “deserved” it. To you though, my description of God opening my eyes to certain truths came across as arrogant. To me, it was/is just an objective description of how God works in the believer’s life, revealing truth in His time for His own purposes.

    Can I propose some things to think about?

    I understand what you are saying, but if I take it at face value, then I also have to accept that Luke’s theological understanding, which is rather different from yours, was also given by God because God is sovereignly in control of *all* things, and for the same reason I have to believe that the pope’s theological understanding was given by God, etc.

    In that case there is absolutely no point discussion/debating theological matters.

  65. TBE says:

    Mike,

    A humble suggestion: If you want Calvinists to take Arminian theology more seriously, then try in the future to actually attempt an answer for those who disagree with you.

    It’s hard to take your position seriously when you refuse to actually engage what your opponents are saying.

  66. TBE says:

    wnpaul,

    I think you’re off base here. God’s sovereignty over human choice does not diminish human responsibility for those choices–so while, yes, God is sovereign even over the pope’s incorrect theology, the pope is still RESPONSIBLE for his incorrect theology.

    See Jonathan Edwards’ “Treatise on the Freedom of the Will” for more on this distinction, but in short, suffice it to say that Scripture affirms BOTH (A) that God sovereignly decrees what lies in the human heart (see Proverbs 21:1); AND (B) that human beings will be held responsible for what lies in their hearts (see Proverbs 21:2–the very next verse).

  67. Timothy says:

    This has not only been a great post the comments have also been most revealing and helpful.
    One small piece of terminology: the Calvinists in view have been termed the New Calvinists but in one comment they were referred to as neo-Calvinisists. This latter term is usually reserved for the Kuyperian stream of Dutch Calvinism, one which is far less caught up in debates about predestination and limited atonement and the like than seems to be the case with the New Calvinists.
    It has been commented that many New Calvinists interact very little outside their own fairly narrowly defined tradition. Perhaps the neo-Calvinist tradition would be a good place for them to start.

  68. Timothy says:

    Calvinism strives to assert the sovereignty of God. In doing so they are also striving to assert the centrality of God; the Calvinist system might be said to be theocentric. The danger that Calvinism encounters and which is visible in some of the comments is when Calvinism ceases to be theocentric and becomes theologico-centric, when theology and not God becomes central and conformity to a certain theology becomes paramount.
    This is visible in sermons that purport to be expounding the Bible but in fact spend most of the time expounding the theological system. It is not something that Calvin himself was particularly guilty of. The Hebrew lecturer at the Bible college I attended was no Calvinist but greatly enjoyed Calvin’s commentaries. A test that Calvinists and Arminians preachers could apply to themselves is “Can people enjoy and benefit from my expositions of scripture even though they belong to the ‘wrong’ camp?” If they cannot, it probably means that you are more concerned about a system than the Bible.

  69. Timothy says:

    The gospel should not be equated with either Calvinism or Arminianism, despite Spurgeon. The gospel should not be equated with Penal Substitutionary Atonement or any other atonement theory. The gospel is the good news about Christ and the call to follow Him. Explanations as to how the gospel ‘works’ are valuable but they should not be confused with the gospel itself. The gospel saves and none of the explanations are either sufficient or necessary for salvation.

  70. mike rucker says:

    tbe,

    who said i was arminian?

    who, if they were actually capable of reading, couldn’t see the often-heated exchange going on yesterday and realize that NEITHER side is 100% correct?

    i stepped in occasionally and tried to lighten things up a bit.

    if you really, really, really think your position is the only one that’s completely correct, then, please, walk across the water to every nation and say, “I’m back!”.

    which is better: to use a little sarcasm to remind everyone that their poop smells, or to yell back and forth for two hours and then kiss and make up in apologies where they we STILL trying to prove that they were more Christian (“no – i was wrong” – “no, it was me – you were fine” – “no, c’mon I was the worst” :) ).

    here’s a clue: when philip (i think it was philip) asked, “can anything good come out of nazareth,” i don’t think Jesus went running to Mary and said, “He made a mean joke about me. WAAAAAAA!”

    mike rucker
    fairburn, georgia, usa
    mikerucker.wordpress.com

  71. TBE says:

    Mike,

    “who said i was arminian?”

    Um, actually YOU did. At least, that’s the implication from your first post, in linking to the Jesus [S]Creed thread and saying that it was

    “certainly one-sided (until the ed/brad/scott wrestling match near the end), but since it was my-sided i enjoyed reading it.”

    Since the thread in question was a Calvinist-bashing festival almost the whole way through, I took your suggestion and “did the math.”

    “who, if they were actually capable of reading, couldn’t see the often-heated exchange going on yesterday and realize that NEITHER side is 100% correct?”

    Well, since your post linking to McKnight’s thread was your first one on this subject, and since the two posts before yours weren’t in any way “heated,” I think you’re taking credit for attempting to give levity where none was needed.

    My most recent post to you was specifically regarding your refusal to actually engage in the criticism of your assumption of a causal relationship between a resurgence in calvinism in th SBC and a decline in membership. Such a claim is utterly immaterial to a discussion of whether or not either side is 100% correct on the matter.

    But thanks for dodging the issue.

    “if you really, really, really think your position is the only one that’s completely correct, then, please, walk across the water to every nation and say, “I’m back!”.”

    Could you please show me where I actually made such an assertion in this thread (or anywhere else, for that matter)? Furthermore, could you please explain why it’s acceptable for non-Calvinists to be so confident in their assertions (again, the tacit assumption behind your identification with the thread on McKnight’s board), but not for Calvinists?

    “which is better: to use a little sarcasm to remind everyone that their poop smells, or to yell back and forth for two hours and then kiss and make up in apologies where they we STILL trying to prove that they were more Christian [?]”

    Gosh–I never thought of it that way. You’ve successfully identified a genuine excluded middle; I mean, it must not even be POSSIBLE to meaningfully contribute to the discussion WITHOUT (A) falling into unhelpful sarcasm or (B) devolving into troglodytic invective. Thanks for teaching us all that our only available options for discourse in the blogosphere are irreverence or diatribe.

    “here’s a clue: when philip (i think it was philip) asked, “can anything good come out of nazareth,” i don’t think Jesus went running to Mary and said, “He made a mean joke about me. WAAAAAAA!””

    Cute. Now do you have anything meaningful to contribute here?

  72. Chase says:

    Mike,

    You have had to deal with quite a bit here… let me throw another thought at you. Your original argument is flawed regardless of one’s stance on Calvinism. Jesus fed around 22000 people (conservative estimate) miraculously. He did many miracles. He taught as one having authority, not like the scribes and pharisees. He rocked it out, as He is the Son of the living God. At the end of this 3 year ministry the number of his followers was a puny 500. Following your line of thinking, God would not have been blessing His Son’s ministry. I know you beleive that the Blessed One is blessed.
    I understand you have been hurt by Calvinist, made angry by the teaching, who knows where your bitterness and woundedness, so evident in our writing comes from, we each have our own. Let me encourage you as a brother, a far better follower than me I am sure, though this would not be saying much, write in response to God. Write what you write in faith, as I have sought to do this morning. Argue the point, but as to brothers not enemies. For indeed you are my brother in Christ.

  73. Stephen Garrett says:

    Those who write and talk most about “grace” ought to, above all, emanate “grace” in their lives and in their dealings with others, with weaker brothers.

    Egotism and arrogance will kill any Christian, Arminian or Calvinist.

    God bless

    Stephen

  74. Gummby says:

    JT: this post stirred up some interesting dust.

    I did find it interesting that your guest mentioned “mining the riches of patristic theology or grappling with the subtleties of medieval scholasticism.” That is a weakness amongst a lot of Protestants, myself included.

    But it also seems like many or most of the high profile conversions to Roman Catholicism of late were prompted by this kind of exploration.

    I wonder where the balance is. Maybe we all just need to read our Bibles more (or first) before we read anyone else.

  75. mike rucker says:

    I wonder where the balance is.

    i think that’s an excellent question, Gummby. and we’re all hindered here by having grown up in our western, high tech-society. most of us probably have some kind of knowledge of computers, where we can’t imagine ANYTHING not ultimately reducing to 0 or 1. my brain has served me quite well as a software engineer, but it played hell with the faith i grew up with, simply because everything doesn’t reduce to one answer over another. we need a little more yin/yang in our Biblical understanding…

    knowledge moves us from unknowing to certainty; wisdom then takes us back to humble uncertainty. and, sometimes that humble uncertainty unfortunately comes across with the same colors as arrogant certainty. one of the promises i made to myself (and God) when i gave up certainity was that i would not try to bring people along with me. like in AA: i would practice a program of attraction rather than promotion.

    if people had found peace in their faith, I wanted to be the last one to upset that peace.

    yesterday, i apparently broke that promise – please forgive me.

    besides, Jesus went from a puny bunch of 12 – then suffered an 8% decline – but eventaully brought it back to 500 in three years; that’s about 4200% growth. Not too shabby, even for the Son of God – who, btw, didn’t have a single Elmer Towns workbook, nor a copy of “The Purpose Driven Life”.

    feeding five thousand? HA! that was child’s play compared to that

    (pssst – TBE: that was just a joke…)

    :)

    mike rucker
    fairburn, georgia, usa
    mikerucker.wordpress.com

  76. Daryl says:

    “if people had found peace in their faith, I wanted to be the last one to upset that peace.”

    I’m sorry, but you really can’t imagine that to be a Christian statement, can you? It’s not about peace at all, except for the peace with God the Jesus sacrifice bought us. It’s about truth in love.

    Please, lets not reduce this to “can’t we all just get along?” Let’s make it “can’t we correct each other in love?”

  77. A. C. Diehl says:

    Mike I am an arrogant young calvinist that seriously needs to learn humility….I know that…especially because i have friends that help me out….but am concerned for you brother…I mean this with all humility…It is not proud to claim certainty…It is biblical! I know that Christianity is the truth because Jesus Says, ” I am THE way THE TRUTH and THE life.” this is definite. I will concede there is a difference between certainty and exhaustive knowledge, but though none of us have exhaustive knowledge we can have certainty in Jesus Christ… I really do care for your soul

  78. mike rucker says:

    I’m sorry, but you really can’t imagine that to be a Christian statement, can you?

    i most certainly can, and do. my statement said, “and found peace in their faith.” i’m not arguing for unbelief, nor discounting Jesus.

    It’s about truth in love.

    so where is “grace”?

    (that was just a rhetorical jab; i know you believe in grace.)

    the difference between you and me is that you err on the side of “truth”, and i err on the side of “grace”.

    so what’s the big deal? it takes all of us to make the motley crew that Christianity has always been. and will forever be. and that goes back to my choir illustration.

    there was One person who had truth and grace appropriately balanced.

    and see where it got Him? :)

    Please, lets not reduce this to “can’t we all just get along?”

    i think this is exactly what we need to do.

    you know, if us Christians could stop our internal bickering, the outside world might just begin to take us seriously…

    sure wouldn’t want that, would we?

    mike rucker
    fairburn, georgia, usa
    mikerucker.wordpress.com

  79. A. C. Diehl says:

    Mike…..Col 2:8-15…. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is exclusive…Jesus is the only way….He is sovereign or He is not God. You must worship Him in Spirit and in Truth! or you dont worship… the meaning of speaking the truth in love is that we loving speak the truth…it is not loving to disregard truth or bring it to existential relativism…it is damning!

  80. mike rucker says:

    Mike… Col 2:8-15…

    a.c. – you crack me up.

    did someone tear vv. 16-23 of that chapter out of your Bible?

    the rest of the chapter is EXACTLY what we’re talking about here. and don’t tell me “he’s not talking about believers” – he most certainly is, because they were once connected to the “Head”!

    now – and this, i’m sure, will shock you – i have my own opinions about Paul, :) namely that his zeal as a Christian was simply the obvious extension of his zeal as a pharisee, and occasionally we see it play out in the NT where he gives directive after directive. but in the end, he would certainly be one to err on the side of grace if anyone did.

    and you’ll throw acts 15 at me, i’m sure, as an example of arguing for proper doctrine, but if you look at the central issue there, it was about AVOIDING the legalism creeping into the early church, not setting up more of it.

    as an aside – do you have any relatives in arizona? i used to work with a russell diehl there.

    mike rucker
    fairburn, georgia, usa
    mikerucker.wordpress.com

  81. Tandy Vaughn says:

    (sorry about the above)

    This post conjures up some old feelings from the past when church members would come to me to express “concerns” which was code for “criticisms.” Normally they would start by telling me all the things I was doing well and then they would say, “but . . . “ It always struck me as less than honest.

    By the way, I have spent most of my life in Arminian circles (B.A. and M.Div. from an Arminian university/seminary) and there is as much arrogance and theologian worship there as in the new reformed movement – rocks in a glass house and all.

  82. A. C. Diehl says:

    mike this is not about legalism…this is about absolute truth….this has nothing to do with calvinism….i want to know do you belief that the Bible contains absolute truth that we can know, and is the Bible exclusive to other religions….or inclusive….and please dont get cute or play word games….just answer…brother (i hope i can really say that) these things are foundational to being a Christ follower

  83. Brian McLain says:

    A few observations:

    1) I am amused by the “biblical certainty” that is on display here – especially by calvinists. I’m amused mostly because I know exactly what you are feeling. I grew up an arminian – like the majority of you – before calvinism changed my life. As I sit here selling all my Sproul, McArthur, Piper, White and other calvinism books on Amazon, it amazes me how much money I spent in the name of “reformed theology.” Granted, some of these were text books, but the majority was for myself because I could not get enough of it. I could lay down some great arguments too…. and did. I was certain that calvinism was the biblical doctrine…. until a few years ago. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not an arminian – both doctrines have serious flaws – but my point is that I have been through both “certainties” and come out the other side a little wiser, a little embarrassed, and a lot thankful, and it amuses me to see (and sympathize with) some of these ridiculous comments. Which leads me to

    2)I cannot believe that some of you are questioning Mike’s salvation – or at least appear to be “worried for his soul.” That would be exhibit A of ridiculous comments. Mike is right on about his “can’t we all just get along?” post. Of course, there is nothing wrong with a little friendly debate, but that usually doesn’t entail questioning a fellow brother’s salvation and/or orthodoxy.

    3) I’m a little tired of the word “Reformed” being used in conjunction with calvinism. 98% of the calvinists on here – and out there – are not reformed… although a little reformation might just be what the doctor ordered for some of you :)

  84. A. C. Diehl says:

    “I cannot believe that some of you are questioning Mike’s salvation – or at least appear to be “worried for his soul.” That would be exhibit A of ridiculous comments. Mike is right on about his “can’t we all just get along?” post. Of course, there is nothing wrong with a little friendly debate, but that usually doesn’t entail questioning a fellow brother’s salvation and/or orthodoxy.”

    Brian Mclaren…I mean Mclain… Better are the wounds of a friend than the kisses of an enemy… ur pretty good with the word games too…all i saw was you talk about how u r so wise…so where is this wiser side…let me guess….uncertainty??

  85. Brian McLain says:

    Clint,

    1)It’s a lot more detailed than I have the time to describe here (maybe later?), but it mostly has to do with actually reading Calvin and Luther. I would reckon that most Calvinists (not accusing you, just an unfair generality, probably :) ) have never read much of the original reformers, except for what Piper quotes in his books, or their professors quote in class. Also, developing a greater appreciation for other traditions outside of the one I was raised/educated in.

    2) I agree with you, my point is that Mike never gave them a reason to question Christ Alone – especially in light of the totality of his posts on this thread.

    3) Being reformed has a lot more to do with the sovereignty of God – at least in the sense of a formulated system of doctrine… that’s all I’m saying.

  86. Brian McLain says:

    A.C.

    There’s a big difference between humble certainty and arrogant know-it-all… you’ll learn that as you mature in your faith.
    Am I certain of my beliefs? Yes, to the extent that I can give a biblical answer for why I believe what I believe, but not so much that I won’t be biblically persuaded of another position later in life. Like I said, I’ve been where you are and I now see how silly some of the implications of calvinism (and other traditions I’ve held)are… with certainty.
    BTW, I disagree with a lot of what McLaren says, but I’m sure you arrogantly believe that McLaren is a reprobate in need of salvation… yet another display of you’re immaturity.

  87. A. C. Diehl says:

    mclain….your judgement of my maturity is displaying your lack of love….you should read everything Mclaren writes…and yes He most likely is a rebrobate in need of salvation…so let me guess….this is the third Jesus you have known

  88. A. C. Diehl says:

    dude….mclain have you ever read II Cor 6…..and you can even take it face value…its own narrative if you will

  89. mike rucker says:

    now, guys, let’s not let our nice little discussion turn into a bunch of name-calling…

    brian – thanks for stepping in to defend me. of course, the very idea that someone would actually try to defend me means i now i have to go back to Talk Wisdom and admit to Christine that she’s right – these really ARE the end times…

    somehow, we seem to have wound up at the very point that the original post partially attempted to point out: that either side can get a little too certain in its beliefs, and it’s the presence of differing views that to some extent makes Christianity as strong worldwide as its ever been. i mean, just look at Islam – the guy at the top dictates what it means, and if you disagree, they convene a new episode of “you bet your life” with the same ending as all the previous shows… for that matter, look at Christianity through the years – all the martyrs and heretics and the Galileos put under house arrest, etc. all motivated by 100 forms of fear.

    in the end, my life has shown me this: trying to stand firm in one place only insures that my feet are on the exact spot where God is going to start pulling out the rug…

    until tomorrow.

    mike rucker
    fairburn, georgia, usa
    mikerucker.wordpress.com

  90. orthodox says:

    “they would do well to know their own tradition better”

    Sounds like they are already caught up in a particular tradition. Is knowing another tradition the problem?

  91. A. C. Diehl says:

    brian – thanks for stepping in to defend me. of course, the very idea that someone would actually try to defend me means i now i have to go back to Talk Wisdom and admit to Christine that she’s right – these really ARE the end times…

    sir…u r the person described that in the last days will heap to themselves teachers having itching ears…you are those who say they are of Christ and are not…I will grant Calvinism as a system (though the best) but the Gospel is certain…and if you deny that, you are not a Christian… i dont mean that as pride….i mean that as a Christian who is confronting false teachers

  92. Christopher Lake says:

    A.C., I’m your Reformed brother (and I am also the brother of Arminian Christians here), but I must ask, exactly how has Brian McLain denied the Gospel? How has he demonstrated that he has the “itching ears,” described in Scripture, that only hear what they want to hear? From what I can see, the uncertainty that Brian has spoken of in his comments here does not refer to the basic Gospel message. It refers to larger theological systems that *include* the basic Gospel message, such as Calvinism or Arminianism.

  93. A. C. Diehl says:

    chris…if you noticed my comments….i said this is not about calvinism or arminianism….i want to know what he believes about absolute truth

  94. Liza says:

    …you are those who say they are of Christ and are not…I will grant Calvinism as a system (though the best) but the Gospel is certain…and if you deny that, you are not a Christian

    That is just sooooo ridiculous!

    If I recall, denying Jesus Christ is what makes someone not a Christian….not denying a specific definition of what the word “gospel” means. Otherwise we’d be called gospelians, not christians.

    Grow up!

  95. Christopher Lake says:

    A.C, in all humility, I ask you to go back and look at your words directed toward Brian in your last comments to him. You clearly stated that while he says he is of Christ, he is not. This is tantamount to saying that he has denied the Gospel. He has not denied the Gospel. You have slandered a brother in Christ. That is just wrong. I ask you, from one brother to another, to repent.

  96. A. C. Diehl says:

    liza…..do you read? I am just wondering because this is the second time your comment has been completely arbitray…with no relation to what was actually said. seriously…if your going to comment please read…I said I will grant to you that Calvinism is just a system….and we can differ and be christians….but we can not disagree on the core of the gospel

  97. A. C. Diehl says:

    chris…i can not repent…i did not slander him…i do seriously question his spiritual condition..but we are in personal correspondance…so thanx but if we can’t at least agree on the core issue of the gospel or absolute truth…he is no brother and i pray God saves him

  98. Brian McLain says:

    My biggest problem on this thread is not the calvinist vs. arminian debate. I’m amused by it, but not angered by it. What angers me is one Christian questioning anothers salvation… at best that’s immature, at worst its heresy. Unfortunately, those who have a lot to say in this debate usually end up falling into this error. That’s what makes this debate so pathetic… especially when neither side has it totally right.

    A.C., I’m not going to respond to your comments/questions because, frankly, they don’t make a whole lot of sense to me. I mean, I kind of get where your going, but I’m confused as to the basis for it. If you want to explain further, I’ll be happy to answer any questions. I mean, I’m not even sure what you’re getting at with 2 Corinthians 6! BTW, as soon as I read your comments I pegged you as a young Bible school student. Am I off? My responses may be harsh, but they’re not unloving. As I said, I’ve been where you are and I hate to see a brother saying the things you’re saying. Be careful!

  99. A. C. Diehl says:

    honestly guys it disgusts me that people who claim the name of Christ want to argue of the core of the gospel and absolute truth…this is sick…i am done here…..and i really am going to pray for you all that you go back to the Bible and leave your post-modern mindset and base your presuppositions in God’s perfect word

  100. Liza says:

    Ac
    They’re not arbitrary.

    You can’t say someone isn;t a Christian just because they disagree with you and your very specific definitions about what “the gospel” is.

    Well…you can say it…but it doesn’t reflect well on you, or the condescending attitude expressed through your words.

    It the worst kind of attack or insult. Is there anything worse that you could accuse a fellow Christian of?

  101. A. C. Diehl says:

    Brian….i dont question his salvation because I want to win a thoelogical argument….i could care less right now about calvinism or arminianism…if he doubts the veracity of the core truths of the gospel or denies absolute truth then is not a christian…. if your going to accuse me please get it right…i am not questioning i am stating that if he doesnt believe God’s word is absolute truth then He is not saved and I really will pray for his soul…i want to be in heaven with all of you….but there is only one way…Through Jesus Christ…the way, the truth, the life…and by “pegged as a young Bible student” did you”peg” me by going to my blog?…I am just passionate about Jesus…not Calvin….Jesus…. and when you mess with Him and His truth…you get me fired up…and when you do it in the name of Christ…it is repulsive…i urge you all to repent and believe

  102. A. C. Diehl says:

    Check this out…this is the gospel
    http://www.matthiasmedia.com.au/2wtl/

    if you dont assent to this…you are not my brother….i really want you to be

  103. Christopher Lake says:

    How far has this thread moved from the spirit of Dr. McCall’s post? A man writes of losing his former certainty regarding Calvinism (which was what he was saying, as far as I can tell), and he is accused of being a heretic… love each other, brothers and sisters in Christ! Debate but don’t forget to love! :-)

  104. A. C. Diehl says:

    ok i want move this over to my blog ( http://addeigloria.blogspot.com/ )… I want this to be a profitable discussion. I want to know how you think the Bible delineates the gospel..all systems aside…i promise ;) I do love you all and I want you all in heaven with me…and then we can sing in that choir mike mentioned

  105. Brian McLain says:

    Why not just continue here and answer the question we all seem to want to know: Who denied the gospel, and what did he say? I’m still trying to figure that one out.
    We can discuss absolute truth and the gospel at your blog, but everyone seems to think that your accusations are unsubstantiated and you’ve yet to clarify them. I think that needs to be cleared up here.

  106. A. C. Diehl says:

    what is the gospel brian??? i would love to know

  107. Brian McLain says:

    You would love to know? Well, everyone else would love to know the questions I asked in the previous post… what’s the problem? I have nothing to answer for…. you do.

  108. A. C. Diehl says:

    thats weak mclain…i have said a million times now…this is not about calvinism areminianism….i want to know how u feel about absolute truth….if you deny that and that the Bible is sufficient absolute truth and that Jesus is the only way then you are not a christian….so take that how you will….i have nothin to answer for..i just want to hear what you think the gospel…. come on… dont play around… what is it mclain… do you know?

  109. A. C. Diehl says:

    . my brain has served me quite well as a software engineer, but it played hell with the faith i grew up with, simply because everything doesn’t reduce to one answer over another. we need a little more yin/yang in our Biblical understanding…

    that is from Mike…..now you tell me if that sounds like Biblical thinking…we can’t reduce one answer over another….um how about Jesus is Lord and that supercedes everything…..here you go Mclaren

  110. Daryl says:

    a.c.,

    As a fellow Calvinist believer…back off. You’re taking this whole thing where it was never meant to go and you’re saying things inadvisedly and, in all honesty, fairly cruelly.

    Disagree with Mike if you will (I do too) but drop the “are you relaly saved” rhetoric. You may not intend it, but you’re coming off in exactly the way Thomas McCall takes issue with.

  111. A. C. Diehl says:

    for the sake of daryl… im glad your reformed….but this is NOT ABOUT THAT… i just want to hear the gospel from these guys… i want to know they are worshipping the same God… im not supposed to do that??? OHHH its more loving to assume they love Jesus….. dude I WANT THEM IN HEAVEN…you should too

  112. A. C. Diehl says:

    alright….nuff time wasted over here…i love you guys…hope you love Jesus…HE is truth…know it, love it, defend it, declare…oh to see Him coming in the clouds…something I am certain about

    pax

  113. Daryl says:

    a.c.,

    Thanks for proving my point…As I said, you have no solid reason for doubting their salvation and, heaven knows, being a jerk about it and trying to force a confession which, for all anyone here knows, you yourself have never made, is hardly showing concern for their souls.

    Give it a rest. You’re claiming to be a Calvinist and acting like a Jesuit missionary.
    If you believe the gospel, then tell it and trust God to do his thing. Otherwise…you’re the offence, not the gospel.

  114. mike rucker says:

    a.c., i don’t take offense to anything you’ve said, but give it a day or two and come back and read all your comments. this thread just turned down a rabbit trail where it really didn’t need to go.

    and, next time: sanka…

    besides, i’m meeting esau (romans 9:13) for lunch today, and we’re going to hit an Unelecteds Anonymous meeting; you’re welcome to come along if you want to…

    mike rucker
    fairburn, georgia, usa
    mikerucker.wordpress.com

  115. A. C. Diehl says:

    for all anyone here knows, you yourself have never made, is hardly showing concern for their souls….hey daryl so….tell me your rantings arent in the flesh…i think my last statement proved my point well…and you sound like a hypercalvinist…and me wanting a confession would not be about salvation because just believing means nothing…dont get me started on lordship…seems to me you cant discern between a sheep and a wolf in sheeps clothing

  116. A. C. Diehl says:

    see…now mike is cool cause he can still makes jokes about stuff…that is funny…unelected anonymous..hahaha…daryl…im am unmovable when it comes to the gospel…but i dont hate anyone…get it through your head…i want to defend my Lord but i want my fellow brother…including you in heaven with me…stopp taking it so hard….settle down tiger

  117. Pseudo says:

    A.C. Diehl = old kinda calvinist

  118. Daryl says:

    I’d say McCall’s article has being proven timely…yet again.

  119. A. C. Diehl says:

    daryl, daryl….still confused…this isnt about Calvinism….r u not reading at all….forget this thread is about calvinism… im asking what is truth and what is the gospel…could you answer please….i think you refuse to answer because you dont know

  120. Daryl says:

    a.c.,

    That’s fine, you can think that, I don’t mind.

    See a.c., when you do a drive by like this and haven’t read anything else someone has written, well then you reach all sorts of silly conclusions about people. Including the idea that they somehow have to answer to you in order to be legit.

    There’s enough people around that know what I believe. It’s OK if you can’t figure it out.

  121. A. C. Diehl says:

    i figured your answer would be something like that… again pretending to be humble…not working for ya bro… well your right and i never said they had to answer to me…or you for that matter… but my questions based on mikes statement are very legit…so ill just have to pray you know the gospel and that people around you aren’t leading you astray… Read John and Romans….they contain the gospel… and lest you twist my words…so does the rest of the Bible…im just scared that reprobates like Mclaren and Rob Bell and Doug Pagitt are leading people like Mike away… and to think they do it in the name of Christ…sick…well bro…ill pray that anyone on this thread whose eyes have not been opened…that the Spirit will quicken them…to the gospel…NOT calvinism…search your heart Daryl…I pray you love truth

  122. Daryl says:

    a.c.,

    You misread me, I wasn’t pretending to be humble, I really don’t care what you think.
    And you’ve given me no reason that I should.

    Do us all a favour. Go back…re-read the original post…and see yourself in it.

  123. A. C. Diehl says:

    You misread me, I wasn’t pretending to be humble, I really don’t care what you think.
    And you’ve given me no reason that I should.

    so Daryl…now our morality is based on what others do…I see…well im done with you because you suppress truth… love ya bro…i pray your pride weighs heavy on you and you repent… pax

  124. JT says:

    Guys,

    I think it’s probably time to call it a rest and for y’all to continue the discussion by email or something. Not sure this is edifying or productive.

    JT

  125. A. C. Diehl says:

    and by the way…you do care what I think….thats why you keep responding

  126. Daryl says:

    huh?

  127. Daryl says:

    JT,

    Sorry. You’re right.

  128. Luke says:

    A.C.,

    Please, please, please, please stop… For your sake…and the sake of the rest of us…I also suggest…you wait a day or two…and read your posts again…and see how you feel…Please…okay?

  129. A. C. Diehl says:

    yeah ur right JT

  130. A. C. Diehl says:

    Im out guys… ill pray for your conversions ;) jk

  131. pilgrimtraveller says:

    It might be useful to remind ourselves of Paul’s words to the Corinthians (first letter, eighth chapter):

    Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 2The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. 3But the man who loves God is known by God.

  132. Daryl says:

    You all might want to know that a.c. and I have corresponded further on this.
    I’ll just that we are both suitably rebuked and thankfully so.

  133. Christopher Lake says:

    I propose that we move these comments back to the spirit of Dr. McCall’s post. Calvinists and Arminians are together in Christ. (Hyper-Calvinism and hyper-Arminianism are serious heresies, but that’s another matter). Neither Calvinists nor Arminians have the corner on theological arrogance, as Dr. McCall rightly reminds us. Therefore, may we each hold our theological convictions, but do so lovingly, with love for other Christians who may disagree.

    Now, one question about which I have wondering, concerning Dr. McCall’s post– how does a belief in God’s sovereignty not entail at least *some* form of determinism? I am reading Calvin and have read other Reformational authors, and I don’t see them denying at least some form of determinism (while still holding to the Biblical concept of human responsibility for choices made).

  134. Brian McLain says:

    Just some quick input before we do some family worship and bedtime, but here’s my 2 cents:

    For the most part Calvinism rightly represents God’s perspective on salvation and Arminianism rightly represents man’s response to salvation. The problem lies in how both sides try to force their doctrine onto both perspectives. For me, though, it’s not about if it can be done – as a former New Calvinist I could make a pretty good arguement for man’s perspective – it’s about how God teaches us to respond to Him and to the church. There is a clear difference in language when God’s perspective is discussed and the church’s perspective is discussed. For instance, it is clear that God elects some to salvation, and this obviously doesn’t include everyone who calls themself a Christian. On the other hand, the word elect is used in conjunction with all who are baptized. Paul never questions the salvation of those he chastizes, but he does warn them to change their ways BECAUSE THEY ARE BAPTIZED. The perspective we are taught to have in regards to each other is assumption – if you are baptized then you are a Christian… even if this is not true of God’s eternal decree.

    Is election biblical? YES! But do we have a choice? YES! Do these two truths have to mesh? NO! We just have to adopt the proper language for the proper context. Calvin and Luther spoke this language beautifully… we would do well to follow suit.

  135. Christopher Lake says:

    Brian, I’m not sure that I follow you, regarding historic Reformed theological teaching on election and choice. From what I understand, historic Reformed theology holds that the Bible teaches election (unconditionally, not based on any “foreseen faith” in us), *and* that we also have a choice. Our choice, however, flows from the condition of our hearts. If we are dead in sin, then in and of ourselves, we will not want to choose loving submission to God. It is only after we have been regenerated by God that we want to choose Him. God sets us free to make the *right* choice, so to speak. Apart from His work in our hearts, we will still make choices, and we will be *responsible* for them, but apart from God’s work, our choices will never be driven by a loving submission to God. Isn’t this Luther’s point in The Bondage of the Will and Calvin’s point throughout the Institutes? Could you please explain further your understanding of historic Reformed theology’s teachings on these issues, so that I can better understand? Thank you, brother. :-)

  136. SBC says:

    I’ve never met anybody who questions whether or not man exercises his will in conversion.
    We all agree that man’s will is normally free in regards to both coercion and desire.
    The question is whether or not man’s will is free in regards to God’s decree; and, if not, whether God normally acts directly or indirectly on man’s will.

    A helpful place to start is Reymond’s, “Why God Is Not the Author or Chargeable Cause of Sin,” in his systematic.

    I don’t feel any need to say that, while Calvinism represents God’s perspective, Arminianism represents man’s, because when Calvinism is properly understood (in a fuller sense than just the five points), it does accurately represent man’s role.

    Mclain, I love the way that you said,

    We just have to adopt the proper language for the proper context.

    That’s a very helpful way of looking at it.
    However, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that God’s sovereignty and our responsibility “don’t have to mesh.” They do mesh: again, I direct you to the above section in Reymond’s systematic.

    Finally, “assuming” that someone is elect on the basis of baptism…red flags are going up. Could you please clarify what you mean by this?

  137. Daryl says:

    “Finally, “assuming” that someone is elect on the basis of baptism…red flags are going up. Could you please clarify what you mean by this?”

    Good point. Red flag indeed.

    I think that Paul actually reverses the roles. That is, he assumes that if you are elect, you will have been baptized.

    I think rather, that we assume that someone is elect based upon their confession and their life. To point someone to their baptism would lead to trouble I think.

  138. Brian McLain says:

    Hey guys, good questions. I try to explain my position better.

    To begin with, Chris, what I am arguing for is the historic Reformed doctrine of “calvinisim.” My problem is that it rarely looks like that nowadays. The tendency, I think, is to take truths about God’s sovereignty and force them into neat little boxes that was never meant to be. You can trace this back to the puritans and even some of the nuances of the later reformers… Zwingli for example. One practical example I gave is in
    regards to how we (the church) are to regard each other and the world. Election – as far as God’s decree – is not the church’s identity marker. Many Calvinist’s, though, have made the mistake of making election the “proof” of one’s covenant membership. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that baptism saves you. What I’m saying is that baptism is the God ordained covenant membership identification – FOR THE CHURCH. Again, don’t misunderstand me. Baptism is not a guarantee of election, but it is the outward, objective requirement for belonging to the church. Daryl, I disagree with you about Paul. I think Paul assumes election based on baptism. In fact, often the whole church is lumped together as the elect – just like Old Covenant Israel – even though we know that not all will be saved. Obviously it is important that we continue to confess Christ and live a life of faith, but both of these things can be subjective – just look at some of the comments on this thread 

    Why is this important? Well, one major implication takes us back to a previous argument on this thread and the accusation that someone is not a brother because of supposed differences. Maybe this time the supposed differences were obvious, sometimes their not. Much confusion and sinful accusation is avoided if we recognize others who have been baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as brothers – even if we don’t agree. This was part of the point in a couple of Paul’s letters.

    SBC, I wasn’t saying necessarily that Arminianism and Calvinism don’t mesh, and I’m not even saying that it’s wrong to try to make them mesh… my point was that it isn’t necessary. God preordained my salvation – I truly believe that – but that is not where my assurance lies. My assurance lies in the work of Christ.

    I guess my biggest beef was that we get caught up in systems and names (calvinist, arminian) when it doesn’t even matter, and is, in many ways, unprofitable. Besides, going back to the original reformers, this salvation business is a lot simpler than we make it out to be. Luther and Calvin never lost sight of that. Yeah, sometimes its messy, but its a beautiful mess.

  139. SBC says:

    Mclain,

    You likened the NC Church to OC Israel, saying (if I understand you correctly) that even unregenerate individuals become members by means of the Sign of the Covenant.

    You are failing to recognize just how different the Old and New Covenants are:

    The Old Covenant was external, legal, and socio-political.
    To be sure, it had spiritual significance: the Law exposed man’s spiritual inability and drove him to grace; and the ceremonies foreshadowed Christ, the source of that grace.
    Nevertheless, these spiritual ends were accomplished through a covenant that was external, legal, and socio-political.
    Unregenerate people can be covenant members when the covenant is external.

    But what happens when the covenant is internal? Take another look at Jer. 31 and Heb. 8ff.
    The New Covenant cannot be separated from regeneration. In fact, regeneration is the primary benefit promised in the NC! NC members have the law written on their hearts, and have no need to tell each other to obey, since they all obey. The NC is inherently spiritual and internal.
    So my question for you is this: in what sense could an unregenerate person be a member in a spiritual, internal, regeneration-producing covenant?

    I can understand why you like the objectivity of baptism: there is no second-guessing your boundaries of fellowship.
    But Scripture calls us to something more:
    According the Matt. 18, we are to treat offending, unrepentant people as “tax-collectors,” after due-process.
    According to 1 Cor. 5, we are to disassociate ourselves from so-called brothers who are unrepentantly involved in any of a whole list of sins.
    According the 2 Thess. 3, obedient Thessalonians were to withdraw themselves from lazy individuals.

    Baptism may be objective, but we should not assume election on that basis. If you do, your flock of sheep will soon become a flock of goats.

    People live out of the overflow of their hearts. For an indication of someone’s spiritual state, you must look at consistent patterns of behavior in their lives (including repentance, or the lack of it).

    Someone may enter himself in a race (make a profession of faith), and thereby receive a number to put on his back (baptism); but if I see that guy standing around while others run the race, that number on his back means nothing to me.

  140. pointnine says:

    Wow, what a great discussion (for the most part)! I’ve been impressed by the clear Christian spirit of most of the comments here, both Calvinist and Arminian, and have noted some new blogs to check out, both Calvinist and Arminian (or non-Calvinist, whatever you prefer).

    I hope you will all indulge a few reactions intended in the same spirit.

    Ron — on inerrancy of the system (either one!) vs. inerrancy of Scripture — a thousand amens. Personally I believe that Reformed (or Classical or Orthodox, if you prefer) Arminianism best captures biblical teaching (including perseverance, which, like Arminius as best I can tell, I affirm while noting some Scripture seems to cast doubt on it). But I do not/not place the same confidence in this system of theology that I do in the plain literal words of Scripture. I place my faith in Christ alone, not in Arminius’s or anyone else’s (including my own) attempt to place the things of God into a human system of logic. To conflate the gospel with ANY man-made theological system is, in my opinion, quite arrogant. I for one cannot wait to get to heaven, where God will, I hope, show us all where we have been incorrect in our understanding of Him and His purposes. Praise God that we are not saved by the perfect-ness of our understanding of theology! I’m afraid heaven would be a very lonely (read: empty sans the triune God) place.

  141. pointnine says:

    Pt. 2

    Andy and others on missions agencies — I can perfectly understand that a missions agency may want to require doctrinal agreement on some issues for practical purposes, and I wouldn’t have a problem with a Calvinist missions agency saying they didn’t think I would be a good fit with them. I would have a problem if they followed that up with “because we have concerns that you may not be saved” or “because we don’t think you have a sufficient view of the sovereignty of God” or “because you’re still resisting the ‘doctrines of grace’.” But “because we really want to avoid conflict over doctrinal differences in the mission field,” sure, I can understand that. You can read the comments above (and millions like it elsewhere) and see that conflict can easily arise — what unbeliever would read some of the mean-spirited contentions comments and simultaneously feel the drawing of God? Disagreement doesn’t have to be like that…but we all know it can be.

    Robert Ivy and others on sovereignty and determinism — I recently discovered something I’d had no idea about before which might be helpful to others (unless you already knew this). In talking with my best friend (a Calvinist), I discovered that we actually define “sovereignty” differently (not determinism, as Robert suggests, though there are different forms of that as well). Who’da thunk?! For me, and I think implicitly for all Reformed Arminians, God’s sovereignty means that he has the power to do all things, that all things are under his control and direction. But that does not entail (as it does for Calvinists) that he chooses to actively control and direct all things. For Arm’s God’s allowing us to make decisions — whether the shirt we wear that day or accepting the offer of salvation — in no way limits or negates his sovereignty. He could make those decisions (take active control over them) if He chose too; Arm’s believe he chooses not to, he makes them man’s responsibility. I was stunned to discover that for my friend, God’s not actively directing our decision regarding salvation (though she’s not convinced about the shirt) negates his sovereignty. For me it’s an issue of the exercise of his sovereignty, not the fact of his sovereignty. Soon after, I read Roger Olson’s book on Arminianism and read basically the same thing. This is the root of “does sovereignty entail determinism” — for Arm’s no, for Cal’s, yes.

    This, then, is an issue where many Arm’s *perceive* arrogance on the part of Calvinists. When Christopher Lake writes that Arm’s don’t believe in the same “extent” of God’s sovereignty (which is I think the common understanding of Cal’s about Arm’s), Arm’s read “Arm’s don’t think God is as powerful as Cal’s do” and are offended, because we believe God is all-powerful — though let me hasten to add I am 100% confident that Christopher had no intention of offending. We don’t differ on the extent of God’s sovereignty (as Arm’s understand it) — we do differ on whether the definition of “God’s sovereignty” must entail Unconditional Election.

    Sorry for the long post, I think unfortunately it’s the only kind I know how to write. ; )

  142. Josh says:

    People, can we please make sure we are careful with distinguishing between Armenian and Arminian. Armenian is a term used to describe a people (The Armenian people), the inhabitants of a country (Armenia) and an Eastern Christian tradition (Armenian Christians).
    Arminian is used to describe a particular theological position within Western Christian Protestant theology.

    One does not wish to appear ignorant and insensitive.

  143. Brian McLain says:

    SBC,

    Thanks for your reply… good responses.

    First let me say that I pretty much agree with your assessment of the NC vs. OC with one major exception: This only applies to God’s eternal decree – His covenant faithfulness, not with the way we are to respond to God and each other as members of the covenant.

    Here’s a good example: You said, “According to 1 Cor. 5, we are to disassociate ourselves from so-called brothers who are unrepentantly involved in any of a whole list of sins.” I point this one out among the three “discipline passages” because you make a statement that I think is the root of the problem: so-called brothers. Paul never says this. Rather, Paul assumes their covenant membership and the point of discipline is to guilt the unrepentant Christian to repent. Notice the difference in the way Paul refers and acts toward believers and unbelievers.

    You asked me “in what sense could an unregenerate person be a member in a spiritual, internal, regeneration-producing covenant?” My answer is this: through baptism. This is because we – as the church – are not to judge the inner-workings of the heart (this is God’s department), but rather, the outward actions. We are never to judge someone who is baptized as unregenerate. We are called to admonish/discpline the unrepentent, but not to “take away their membership card.” Sure, membership has its privelages (I’ve heard that somewhere before), such as communion, fellowship, etc. but renouncing ones “brotherhood” is dangerous stuff (heresy possibly) and even undermines the point of church discipline. It also makes the warning passages (Hebrews 6, John 15) mean something (which many calvinists – and 4 point arminians :) – try to explain away.

    You said, “Baptism may be objective, but we should not assume election on that basis. If you do, your flock of sheep will soon become a flock of goats.” I understand where you’re coming from – I used to be there – but I find no biblical basis for this position… only tradition. Besides, I think what you’re saying is probably a logical fallacy… one does not necessarily lead to the other, although if practiced wrongly, I agree that it could.

  144. SBC says:

    Should I tell someone, on the basis of his behavior, that I am certain that he’s not in the faith?
    No.

    Are there ever instances in which I should tell someone, on the basis of his behavior, that I have no reason to believe that he’s in the faith?
    Yes.

    In fact, I would say that one of the purposes of the final stage of “church discipline” is to discourage a person’s assurance concerning his spiritual state.

    In Matt. 18, Jesus taught that a person should be treated as a tax-collector if he remained unrepentant after due-process.
    Was Jesus saying that we should be certain that someone is unsaved on the basis of their incorrigibility? No, but I think that He was saying that we should treat them as unsaved, since we have been left with no reason to assume that they are saved.

    In 1 Cor. 5, Paul said “not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of…
    Btw, the phrase, “bears the name brother” is sometimes translated “so-called brother,” which is why I used that expression.
    Notice that Paul did not say, “not to associate with any brother if he is guilty of…”
    Why? Why would Paul say, “one who bears the name brother” instead of just saying, “brother”?
    Because someone who is habitually, unrepentantly involved in these sins, who claims to be a brother…might not be.
    In fact, Paul assumes that this person is NOT saved, which is obvious from his prescription:
    turn this one over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit might be saved…
    In hoping that this person would be saved, Paul was presupposing that this person was NOT yet saved.

    You said,

    “We are called to admonish/discpline the unrepentent, but not to ‘take away their membership card.'”

    Taking away their membership card is exactly what we’re called to do.
    Paul says in 1 Cor. 5, “not even to eat with such a one.” And again in 2 Thess. 3, that the church was to “withdraw” from the lazy individuals.

    I said refusing to discipline any baptized person would result in your flock of sheep becoming a flock of goats.
    In response, you said,

    “I think what you’re saying is probably a logical fallacy… one does not necessarily lead to the other”

    You’re correct–one does not necessitate the other. In an ideal world, we could baptize all our babies into the church, and never practice discipline, and still never have an unregenerate church member.
    But I don’t live in that world. And I’m not sucking this prediction out of my thumb–history bears this out.

    So, brother, I’m afraid that I have to strongly disagree with you on these issues.

  145. Brian McLain says:

    SBC,

    You said, “You’re correct–one does not necessitate the other. In an ideal world, we could baptize all our babies into the church, and never practice discipline, and still never have an unregenerate church member.
    But I don’t live in that world. And I’m not sucking this prediction out of my thumb–history bears this out.”

    You’re right. Life is messy and things don’t work out ideally… we can agree on that and probably agree on the reason for it. In fact, I think the reason many come to the same conclusions as you do is because of this – history is filled with men who have corrupted the church and done evil things in the name of Christ. I certainly can sympathize. So, in order to bring this back full circle – we were talking about Calvinism and Arminianism, weren’t we :) – I’ll say this: God is sovereign and He will purify His bride.

    If you want to continue our discussion about the other stuff somewhere else, I’m game. I’m just not sure we should continue it on this thread.

    Peace

  146. mike rucker says:

    just here for a moment – don’t get too excited.

    and any of you like ‘psuedo,’ too incompetent, stupid and afraid to dare let your name be posted (his comment: “mike rucker is the clown ‘commentor’ on this site” – perhaps i’m the clown, but you’re clearly the joke…) – read what i say and then go look it up and try to understand it.

    here’s something to read: when you’re falling awake.

    the bottom line: you all accused me of making an invalid connection between calvinism and the slow death of the SBC. here’s someone else making the same connection. as always, a prophet is without honor in his own country.

    so as you continue bad-mouthing me and painting me in cariacatures, let them tickle your fancy as you will, but realize they have no basis in facts.

    perhaps one day we can meet as equals – of course, you’ll have to climb up the ladder of intellect quite a few rungs to ever let that happen. go back to filling in the blanks on your kindergarten quizzes – reciting the answers and verses you never have taken the initiative to think about. you all are not much different than the bird coming out of my clock every hour or so – programmed by someone else to say something specific without any thought attached.

    what a perfect analogy.

    mike rucker
    fairburn, georgia, usa
    mikerucker.wordpress.com

  147. SBC says:

    The SBC is declining quantitatively as it grows qualitatively. That is exactly what I would expect to observe.

    Due to my set of values, I like what I see; due to yours, you don’t.

    And I really must say: proud, sarcastic, condescending Open Theists are no more attractive that proud, sarcastic, condescending Calvinists.

  148. mike rucker says:

    proud?
    sarcastic?
    condescending?

    moi?

    perhaps, but only because i gave up talking with grace to you all, since it was never returned to me. tit for tat, perhaps; but it is what it is.

    and to say that you’re weeding out the chaff from the SBC is perhaps one of the most self-deluded comments i’ve ever heard. have you give everyone a test to see how doctrinally correct they are before you weed them out? and is weeding out those that don’t fit ‘qualitatively’ really the SBC’s goal?

    better go iron your purple pharisee robes before the service this weekend…

    i mean, after all, let’s make sure we go to heaven not with people who have been saved but with the people who were able to high-jump the doctrinal bar we’d set up.

    God should be pleased… ya think?

    you guys would crack me up if you weren’t so sad…

    mike rucker
    fairburn, georgia, usa
    mikerucker.wordpress.com

  149. SBC says:

    Mike, correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think that I have ever interacted with you in a way that obviously lacked grace.

    And what if I had? Your unrepentant admission of “tit for tat” (revenge) does not make it any godlier.

    You asked if the SBC gives a doctrinal test before “weeding out.”
    First of all, the SBC rarely “weeds out” at all. Most Liberals who have left, have left of their own volition, because they do not want to be part of an increasingly orthodox convention.
    Secondly, yes, when the SBC does “weed out,” the doctrinal test is the Baptist Faith & Message.
    IMO, the SBC should be “weeding out” more than it is (after due-process, etc.).

    You asked if “weeding out” those who do not fit “qualitatively” is really the SBC’s goal.
    Discipline should never be anybodies goal, but in a fallen world, it will be a sad necessity in the path of our God-given goals.

    “Purple Pharisee robes”… please substantiate the alleged parallel.

    You said,
    i mean, after all, let’s make sure we go to heaven not with people who have been saved but with the people who were able to high-jump the doctrinal bar we’d set up.

    The SBC does not believe that its circle of fellowship determines who goes to heaven. You know that Mike.
    Hopefully, our circles of fellowship demonstrate a love for God (who tells us to discipline certain people), a love for Liberals (who may be saved through discipline), a love for offending brothers (who may be corrected through discipline), and a love for the church (which we must protect).

    Love you Mike!

  150. mike rucker says:

    my comments were generally based on your comment that the decline in SBC membership was ‘good’ because ‘the SBC is declining quantitatively as it grows qualitatively.’

    in other words, these people who are leaving and affecting our membership shouldn’t have been here in the first place.

    perhaps, among them, was mary magdelene.

    not to worry – our ‘quality’ is going up…

    my Christian attitude is generally worn on my sleeve.

    except here.

    and challies.

    and pyros.

    kind of like Jesus clearing the temple… or calling folks ‘a brood of vipers’… or ‘whitewashed tombs’… somehow, since Jesus said these things, one must conclude they must be Christ-like.

    mike rucker
    fairburn, georgia, usa
    mikerucker.wordpress.com

  151. SBC says:

    Mike, at the end of the day, I can support my separatism exegetically, and you can’t support your lack of it.

    Mike Rucker’s personal opinion doesn’t determine either faith or practice. The Bible does.

    You’re welcome to continue throwing out emotional appeals and manipulative rhetorical devices, but let me know when you’re ready to start interacting with the applicable Biblical texts…because I know what they say.

    And by the way, which is the tighter parallel to Jesus’ behavior in the temple: you giving me attitude, or the SBC giving Liberals the boot?

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