Can You Explain Calvinism?

jordantmoody —  March 17, 2012 — 8 Comments

Reading chapter 10 From Slaves to Sons (Part 1) from John MacArthur’s book Slave. This chapter used George Muller’s life and testimony as an illustration for the biblical theme of adoption. George Muller is prominently known for his work with orphans and fighting as prayer warrior to provide for them. However, George Muller is not commonly known as a theologian, who wrestled with understanding doctrine.
George Muller recounted of himself,

Before this period I had been much opposed to the doctrines of election, particular redemption, and final persevering grace; so much so that… I called election a devilish doctrine

Muller continued to read and study the Word to reconcile his intellect, reason, and faith. He eventually said this of his study through the “devilish doctrines.”

I went to the Word, reading the NT from the beginning, with a particular reference to these truths. To my great astonishment I found that the passages which speak decidedly for election and persevering grace, were about four times as many as those which speak apparently against these truths; and even those few, shortly after, when I had examined and understood them, served to confirm me in the above doctrines.

In this way George Muller came to believe “that the Father chose us before the foundation of the world…

Having thoroughly investigated God’s Word, He now wholeheartedly embraced the doctrines of total depravity, sovereign election, irresistible grace, particular redemption, and the perseverance of the saints

I have studied a decent amount when it comes to reconciling these doctrines. But I wanted to know what all of you guys think? These are not items of the faith that one can ignore for long and must be addressed because if you do not someone else will for you.

1.So are you a Calvinist?
2.Are you a Arminianist?
3. Are you in-between?
4. How would you explain to yourself these points:

  • total depravity
  • sovereign election
  • irresistible grace
  • particular redemption
  • perseverance of the saints
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jordantmoody

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I'm a Pastor/Teaching Elder at Hope Fellowship Church in New Ipswich, NH.

8 responses to Can You Explain Calvinism?

  1. 

    I think you are definitely right, these are issues you can’t ignore for long. They appear in Scripture more frequently than some people think and have a trickle down affect on other points of theology.
    So here are some of my thoughts on these matters. I have thought a good deal on them and listened to various sermons and lessons in an attempt to understand them.

    1. Total Depravity
    I understand this as my total inability to relate to God apart from his intervening grace. If he had not reached out to me in salvation, I would never have reached out to him nor would I have wanted to. I think Romans 3:11 is pretty clear on this: “no one seeks for God.” This truth is also reinforced by personal experience as the more I live life the more I realize even the good things I think I do are corrupted by wrong motives.

    2. Sovereign Election
    I understand this as God sovereignly electing (choosing) his children before the foundation of the world. No matter how you fall on the theological spectrum on this issue you simply cannot escape from this terminology. It is everywhere in Scripture particularly in Paul’s epistles. Ephesians 1 and Romans 9 speak to this issue and also deal with the inevitable objections to this doctrine. If God elects how can he still find fault with us for not accepting salvation (paraphrasing Romans 9)? The answer is never given. Yet, who are we to question God? The very fact that Paul anticipates these objections in Romans 9 points to the fact that we are on the right track in believing in a God who elects.

    3. Irresistible Grace
    This one I haven’t thought as much about, but it is a logical outflow of God’s sovereign election. If God is all-powerful (and I think we are all agreed on that), then it stands to reason that those he elects and extends grace to will in fact respond.

    4. Particular Redemption
    This is the one that is tough for me. I’m not sure if I quite hold to this. I do understand the case for the point though and think it is very strong. I by no means scoff at those who adhere to it. Indeed, I have close friends who do. Here are some things to think about. If Christ died in an attempt to save the whole world, it would appear that man’s unbelief has kept this mission from being accomplished. Do we really want to say that?

    Also, the Scripture says that Christ’s death satisfied the wrath of God. If he died for the whole world and satisfied God’s wrath for the whole world, then it would seem that everyone should be able to get to heaven. Of course this isn’t the case. It would seem that the only possible outcome then would be that Christ’s death only satisfied God’s wrath for a few- all those whom God intended- the elect.

    I heard one respected theologian explain it this way. Everyone agrees that not everyone gets to heaven. In this sense, the atonement is limited. Christ’s death does not save all. The question we must ask ourselves then is this: who limits the atonement. Do we by our unbelief? Or does God in his election? The problem with saying that our belief is the catalyst for the atonement is that it places salvation in our hands and possibly gives us something to boast about.

    So I really lean towards this doctrine, but there are just so many tensions in Scripture in regards to this issue that I’m not sure we can even bring our human logic to bear on them.

    5. Perseverance of the Saints
    Again, this point is closely connected to the previous ones. Those whom God elects cannot be taken from him. A true believer will persevere but he only does so because God empowers him.

    What I really like about the Calvinistic take on salvation is that it makes grace really be grace. It makes much of God in salvation and brings glory to him. So in summary, I guess I am pretty reformed in my soteriology. However, I don’t call myself a Calvinist. I don’t like the label and the baggage it carries with it. This is similar to why I don’t call myself a fundamentalist even though I adhere to its historic tenets (but that’s a discussion for another day). That being said, I understand these are difficult issues and people come down in different ways on them. They have the potential for breeding arguments and dissensions but I don’t think they have to. Hope this discussion is instructive and edifying.

  2. 
    christianclarityreview March 18, 2012 at 10:00 pm

    Calvinism as simple Christianity has to be understood in the light of knowing the difference between the Word of God, Jesus Christ and non-creating speech/human speech. Human beings have no expectation whatsoever that when they speak, their words will bring about instant creation. That is a characteristic of human speech. But human beings do not at all like to be reminded that God confounded their speech at Babel–not them –but their speech. The various tongues of men are one language that was broken up at Babel. You find the same characteristics of that speech through out human speech experience. So when an Arminian goes to pull out a passage of Scripture, even in French, or Russian, etc..he is implying that God, Satan and men share a common speech ( and that there is no Word of God as distinct from human speech ) and that in that supposed common non-creating speech, understanding is reliant on a false idealization of an environment in which no new creation ever takes place. Effectively, the Arminian tries to force a definition of sight which says if you are reading any text, the fact you are seeing something, by the definition of a supposed monolithic language in all of reality that can’t create anything, nothing happens to the one reading it and therefore the Arminian gets to ‘interpret’ Scripture however he pleases. The “becuase you saw something that means nothing spiritual can have taken place.” argument. By that device, they strip out any notion of the power of the Word of God and distinction between the one who did the confounding at Babel and the one that got confounded. Idolizing a perfect lack of new creation is the key to the arminian mind. You can’t read Scripture honestly in Christ and still say the Word of God is non-creating and has that quality in common with human speech. Without a non-creating Word of God, the lie of free will is openly exposed and the arminian is exposed as a witch, not a well intended fellow Christian who just can’t understand certain fine points of theology.

    When an arminian reads “by the word of truth begat he us’, or “being born again, by the abiding and living word of God…” or “I have begotten you through the gospel”, they have to find some other explanation of what just happened than “God spoke –you were re-created as a new creature in Jesus Christ” in order to for them to keep saying free will exists at all. When you have a speech that IS God ( John 1: 1 ) that creates what He says, controls that creation in any way He wishes, and speaks whenever He wants, which is all the time except for one 1/2 period in heaven at the end of days, there is no free will.

    To be born again is to be forcibly taken from human speech and placed in Christ Jesus, the Word of God. How exactly is a human being going to exit human speech on their own? They don’t even think there is any other speech than the one that has identical characteristics with human speech.
    So of course, the five points of Calvinism don’t make sense to them because the five points clearly point out the difference between the power of the Word of God and the speech men are contained within.

    When you are in non-creating speech ( the speech God broke up at Babel ) you cannot even know that you need to escape human speech as part of being non-metaphorically born again as a real, literal new creature in Jesus Christ. Right there, that’s total depravity and unconditional election. You can’t physically control getting out of your own mind and becoming a new spiritual creature with a completely different speech than the one you had before. The fact you were inside the speech that is not-God, with all its consequences is one explanation of total depravity. You are supposed to be in Christ..what are you doing in that other speech? Why do you have the common sense of the speech God broke up at Babel? God openly showed HIs hostility to it. The other speech is going to answer back through the arminian: “what other speech?” in the pretense there is no Word of God/Logos. The arminian needs for God to re-create him or her and to do so as getting them out of human speech and can do nothing to help God out. That’s the ( unconditional ) election part. But that also means the arminian was never a Christian before that actually happens.

    Limited atonement cannot be understood by those in human speech because it goes against the sense of fair play the lie of free will engenders. God re-creates whom He wills –He demonstrates absolute control of His Own Self as Word. In one speaking event some hear and are born again, but others hear the same words but are not –Paul in Athens. The free willer must at all times speak to be consistent with a theory of total reality that excludes new creation in order to seem to be logical so he must pretend that in one speaking event, everyone has the same ears, the same ‘chance to understand’ an idealized, but never mentioned, non-creating speech that the hearer has to empower as demonstrating an idealized free will. So the explanation of Paul in Athens they account as some ‘deciding for themselves’, as the same creature they already were, in the same speech they had since physical birth, and others not doing so. ( their famous “the smart people go to heaven and the dumb people go to hell” argument ).

    Free willers pretend they can learn ‘any truth that is out there’, but in fact they must at all times learn only what seems to prove that not only is human speech the only speech in total reality, but the powers of human speech are the ultimate powers of total reality and what is not possible in human speech is not possible at all. That’s the whole basis of their ‘interpretation’ of Scripture.
    I have read somewhere that an arminian said “Saying we are born again simply by hearing the Word of God reduces the gospel to a magic act.” That makes sense to them becuase they do not and have never understood the difference between their speech and God as Word.

    So of course, Perservance of the Saints, as simply having eternal life in the Word of God as opposed to human speech/sin is easily understood by the one who has actually experinced new creation of their own selves while it is impossible to understand for one who relies on something they call ‘motivation’ to keep doing an ideal model of behavior in order to ‘keep saving themselves’.

    Once you know –really know–the difference between the Word of God and the speech God broke up at Babel, the five points of Calvinism make perfect sense and arminianism is demonstrated to be the lie it always has been.

    2 = 5 : the reality of that two speaks exist in total reality and the difference betwen them mandate the five points of Calvinism. The arminain has bet his soul on doing the unforgiveable sin as default religious behavior and calling that doing the gospel: equating the Word of God with the speech of Satan and men; implying that only one speech exists in total reality that God, Satan and men must share.

    The arminians make a speciality of not-understanding the Five points as a beliigerence to protect their lies about reality. It isn’t that the five points are hard to actually understand in Christ.

    Note the reference to speechlessness before the Word of God in expected conversation with God:

    Matthew 22:11-14 And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen.

    The man had no garment that only God provides and did not have the Word of God in Him to speak to God.

    timothy

    In the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen

    • 

      “The [A]rminians make a speciality of not-understanding the [f]ive points as a beliigerence to protect their lies about reality.”

      So, one is not allowed to challenge or otherwise disagree with any Calvinist doctrine for fear of being labeled belligerent? Could it be that the rift between Calvinists and Arminians (or any other Christian entity for that matter) are due to honest disagreements about the nature and character of God based upon interpretational differences of the various passages of Scripture used in the justification of one’s faith?

      If one proclaims Christ as Savior – whether Calvinist or Arminian – is that person saved?

      The five points of TULIP and the scriptures from which the doctrines are derived: I can understand and follow them – even if I’m inclined to disagree. However, from where did the concept of created speech originate?

      • 

        Bob,

        Is it really you? The lying arminian possessed by anti-Christ who just can’t understand that when God said “Let there be light” and there was light, etc. that was instant creation by the voice/Word of God? as in: Psalm 33:8 Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. Psa 33:9 For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.

        and

        Psalm 33:6 By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.

        and

        John 1:1-3 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

        That is Creating Speech/Jesus Christ Bob. Not just from the Scriptures but as the Scriptures.

        Are you that Bob? Are you the Bob that tries to make out human emotional etiquette trumps the Word of God and that you would like me and ‘give Calvinism a chance’ ( with your idealized free will, of course) if only God were a slave to the same emotional rules you think rule total reality?

        God IS Creating Speech Bob. He is the Word by which all things were made. I’m sure it was not a typo that you asked about ‘creat-ed’ speech. But then you already knew that.

        No Bob. Just for the record. You are not allowed to question the truth of Jesus Christ. Reality is what it is. The only way you could is if you were inside another speech than Jesus Christ, like Satan is inside another speech than Jesus Christ. For the record, the arminains have not allowed such a debate and have taken all means as they were forced to by God to cast out the Calvinists among you as you said such things as “they went out from us because they were not of us.” When real Christians say that, that means the liars got kicked out of Church, as is appropriate. When Satan says it through you, that means true Christians have been persecuted for their faith.

        But keep it up Bob. Re-post that you are a seeker type of dude who just wants to understand and needs a different set of terms, a different tone of posts, a different Scripture reference, a different ..everything to help you on your religionistic path to ..somewhere other than Jesus Christ as the Word of God. That way, everyone will know that when I say you are a witch, over time those who read these posts will stop thinking that I have made an over-the-top ad hominem attack on a “fellow Christian”, but know that in fact, you are actually a witch. It will be an educational thing for actual Christians to see how witches work.

        No Bob. Some one who declares Christ as their savior with the speech God broke up at Babel is not saved. You can play those semantic games all you want, but what you really mean is “someone who told God they gave him permission to save them” when you say “someone who says Christ is their savior.”

        See how that works? That lying spirit in your flesh is already trying to pretend there is one universal speech in which God can be had as savior just for the saying of it AND that in the speech, men have free will and arminians are real Christians AND any other understanding of God as Word than yours is strange and new.

        Psalm 12:2-4 They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak. The LORD shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things: Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us?

        timothy

        In the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen

  3. 

    Lying Arminian? A witch? Trying to trump the Word of God with emotional etiquette? Are you next going to claim that I’m a retired Presbyterian minister?

    For the benefit of the Hip Fellows, and in spite of your assertions to the contrary, Tim, I’m not questioning the truth of Jesus as the Son of God or God’s ability to create the heavens and earth with only his voice. I take God at his [created speech] word when he says that whoever believes in me shall not perish but have eternal life. Somewhere in the Bible it says something about being “born again” – right? Perhaps you’ll want to sit down, Tim, when I tell you that I have accepted Christ as my Savior and Lord. I am a forgiven child of God. I am saved. I may be confused as to TULIP concepts and readily admit to not agreeing with the doctrines of Reformed theology – specifically unconditional election. On that point, if I am saved, then I am elect. However, I suspect our definitions for election is, well, different.

    And, you didn’t answer my question, Tim. So, let me try again – from where within Christian literature can I find (if I may) the doctrine of created speech?

    So, what say the Hip Fellows? Are Tim’s statements and beliefs the epitome of Calvinistic grace and doctrine? Is there no room in the inn for anyone who may question the doctrines of grace? Would John Piper use the terms and language or otherwise speak to a non-Calvinist as Tim does? Well, I can tell you from personal experience – he doesn’t.

  4. 

    “So, what say the Hip Fellows?”

    We say that its hard to answer any of your questions or have a healthy discussion when your insulting and slanderous speech over-shadows any of you points. You make a case for a belief system which is supposedly built on the Bible’s authority but in reality you have erected your reason on a foundation of worthless negativism.

    —-

    “Proverbs 10:18 …whoever utters slander is a fool.”

    “Pride is the insidious root of all sin.”

    “The proud have no more ability to probe the mysteries of God than a donkey to learn a musical tune.” –Jacob T. Hoogstra

    “He who is truly humble presumes nothing in himself before God, does not despise his fellow man with disdain, does not claim to be more worthy than others; but is content to be one of the members of the body of Christ, asking only that the Savior be praised… Only humility elevates us and make us noble.” (Calvin, Com., Matt. 18:4)

  5. 
    grace4patrickj March 19, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    Hip Fellows, I’m glad to discuss topics with you. In fact,, I’m glad for anyone to comment. I confess I don’t know who is commenting with Bob, but whoever you are, you seem to be behaving divisively. Discussion is great. We all need to work through our Bibles and through theology, but let’s have some charity. We are warned, in Titus I believe, to avoid/withdraw from divisive people. Bob, if someone goes down a road of divisiveness, then don’t even walk down it with him. Rebuke one, but then ignore him.

    Anyway, Thanks for taking the time to comment Bob. I feel the same as you. I LOVE election, so some might automatically call me a Calvinist. I was just listening, however, to a lecture on particular redemption/limited atonement, and I’m just not there. I wouldn’t bother to call myself a 4 point Calvinist, bcz every good Calvinist believes Calvinists are 5-pointers. I guess you could say I hold to the mystery view (call me a cop-out if you wish)

    This is the best of my understanding, which sadly is just that “my understand.” You should know its still needs lots of maturity still: God chose His elect before the foundation of the world (Eph 1). Man, however, is responsible to repent and believe (Mk. 1:15). Man is in big problem because he is spiritually dead (Eph.2). God, therefore, graces or gifts repentance and faith. I believe He grants these two gifts right after He regenerates (Jn. 3). After this, the regenerate man could be called “not guilty” (i.e. “justified”) (Rom 5:1;8;1)

    I respected the ones who hold to Limited Atonement because they wish to fight against “universalism” (the belief that God saves everyone and everyone goes to Heaven). Universalism is wrong, but I do not believe that ought to compel us to believe in Limited Atonement. Its just tough to believe John 3:16 ought to be interrupted with a Limited Atonement perspective.

  6. 

    “Bob, if someone goes down a road of divisiveness, then don’t even walk down it with him.”

    Dear Hip Fellows,

    My apologies for participating in the dirtying-up of the comments on this post. As I’m sure is obvious, Tim & I have some history and correspondence between us on our respective blogs goes back perhaps three or four years. I had a pretty good sense as to what would transpire when I saw his initial comment. I could have chosen not to respond. I should have exercised wisdom, moved on, and not gone down a road of divisiveness. I didn’t. I apologize.

    Still, if as they say, sunlight is the best disinfectant, then I’d like to think that the application of light to the “Tim Elders” within Reformed Christian circles is perhaps a good thing. I was (and still am to a lesser degree now) struggling with my Christian faith faith in general and assurance of salvation in particular after my son-in-law, a graduate of a Reformed seminary introduced me to TULIP. Suffice it to say that my relatively young (and simple) Christian faith was rocked because I couldn’t comprehend a God who would intentionally limit election of his creation. John 3:16 didn’t relate to me? How do I know I’m elect and not making a decision based upon my own figured-out logic? In any event, shortly thereafter I encountered Tim and his “created speech” doctrine and (to me, overly) harsh Calvinistic perspective which only added further confusion. With this background and then reading through Dave Hunt’s book, “What Love is This?” – well, I’m still struggling. Calvinism seems harsh and cold. Sorry – but that’s where I’m at. On the other hand, I acknowledge that many of the arguments and scriptural justifications posed by the likes of John Piper aren’t so easily (if at all) dismissed.

    And, so it is that I occasionally post something on my blog or comment somewhere in an attempt to process through that which I don’t fully understand and admittedly don’t embrace. Perhaps Tim is right – I am a seeker type of dude. I do want the truth because I know the truth shall set me free. But I’m just not there to fully accept Calvinism. And for that matter, I’m not fully convinced of Arminian doctrine either even if I do find Arminian doctrine more palatable.

    Final thought – from Tim’s own blog regarding “created speech”:

    “As for the term non-creating speech, that is indeed my own in that God gave it to me to give to the brethren and does so through me. The doctrine of the Logos (the Word of God) is in fact the bedrock doctrine of the Church and has been attacked by overt and subtle means. The term non-creating speech is to highlight the non-creating character of human speech and Lucifer’ speech and to show the distinction between non-creating speech and the Logos as a characteristic of God as Word/Creating Speech.

    “The whole arminian lie is based off an assumption there is no difference between the Word of God and Lucifer’s speech – as if God and Lucifer shared a common speech and shared it with men. To say that they do is the unforgivable sin. God uses that term through me, non-creating speech/anti-Christ to stop His people from trespassing in an area they are being egged on to do as their default piety: “interpreting the Scriptures”.”

    http://christianclarityreview.wordpress.com/2010/08/19/arminians-are-not-christians/

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