Tim Challies Has Bloggers In His Crosshairs

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” Princess Bride

Tim Challies once again appears irritated by social media. He seems to believe that he is the role model for *Christian* behavior on social media. he isn’t any different than many of us. (Whoops- was that slanderous?)

Challies wrote about *discernment* bloggers in 2013

In 2013, he wrote In The Crosshairs of the Discernment Bloggers. We believe this post was aimed at us.  We had been discussing publishing companies that were being started by those with associations with The Gospel Coalition. These March 2013 posts included:

The Gospel Coalition, Tim Challies, and Cruciform Press – Backscratching at its Finest!

Tim Challies / Cruciform Press in our ‘Cross’ Hairs

In these posts we were exploring how Tim Challies, an ardent supporter of CJ Mahaney, formed a company that relied, in our opinion, on his close relationships with CJ Mahaney, John Piper, and John MacArthur. Shortly after forming this company,  there was a marketing campaign that commenced to sell their books.

Folks, hear me. The information on our blog is not only a critique of abuse in the church. It also exists to document the relationships and affiliations of certain groups that we have identified as worthy of watching. There is serious money involved in these enterprises and we intended to keep an eye on it. Deb commented on Cruciiform Press in this manner.

There is so much self-promotion with this publishing company that from now on I plan to refer to it as CRU$IFORM PRE$$

Both of us hold MBAs. We have no problems with people making money. But we think it is important for folks who tithe money to churches and to affiliated groups to see where the money is going and who benefits from their donations.

I wish I still had the tweet but we became aware that Challies or one of his supporters decided that the title to our post “Tim Challies / Cruciform Press in our ‘Cross’ Hairs” could be interpreted as the Deebs promoting violence against Challies. However, the intelligent readers of our blog were well aware that our title was simply a play on the name of Challies company Cruciform Press. *Cruci* meaning *Cross.*

He went on a tirade about *discernment bloggers* in  The Crosshairs of the Discernment Bloggers. For those of you new to the term *discernment,* you need to know that being discerning appears to be the most despicable trait on the planet, second only to criticizing John Piper or CJ Mahaney.

He claimed that we were unhinged from reality.

Then they wrote about me. They wrote about my financial situation. They wrote “shocking” exposes and went rummaging through the digital trash to dig up the smoking guns. They did not just report (supposed) facts but also interpreted them. And then other blogs picked up the stories and carried them as well. And this clarified the situation for me. I wish my teacher here had been something nobler than personal attack, but sadly, and perhaps ironically, it was when I was in their crosshairs that they themselves came into sharper focus.

Because here’s the reality: So much of what they wrote about me had so little basis in reality. These bloggers misinterpreted even what is obvious, stretched what is true, assumed what is dubious, and fabricated the rest. They shared all of this with their readers as if it was based on verifiable facts, as if they were privy to details, as if it was anything more than conjecture.

He asserted that we were factually wrong. Carefully read what he wrote. He never once offered any proof that our posts were wrong. Throughout the years, when we have received information that something we wrote in our posts is wrong, we correct it and state we have done so by posting the word UPDATE in the title. He accused us of gossip, defamation and tabloid journalism. Again, he offers no proof of what he says. We are just to take it on his word. It’s too bad that he doesn’t do what we do-prove it.

It needs to stop. I need to stop. I support them and their foul “ministry” with every click of my mouse, with every reading of one of their pages, with every fact I choose to digest. They thrive on attention and survive only because we give it to them. When I visit these sites I am keeping company with fools and give up all right to be surprised when I become like them (Proverbs 13:20). If I visit these sites I am compromising my own integrity and my love for other Christians.

,,,I am not going to allow people with so little integrity, with so little concern for truth and love, to violate my conscience, pollute my mind, and disrupt my love for others. And I’d encourage you to join me.

Curiously, he appears to be doing precisely what he claims we are doing. He offers no love and no truth. It appears that few people listened to Challies as our readership continued to grow. Unlike Challies, we do not accept ANY money for this blog and, unlike Challies, we do not accept any kickbacks for recommending books. We are a *pro bono* blog. He is in it for the money since his blog is one of his many sources of income. Guess who has more to lose in this game?

Tim Challies appears to be still fuming after all these years.

Recently he wrote two posts about social media.

  1. The Duties Required by the Ninth Commandment in a Social Media World
  2. The Sins Forbidden by the Ninth Commandment in a Social Media World

The 9th commandment says we should never bear false witness against our neighbor. That means one should not lie about anyone.

Do you love to receive a good report about another believer, even one with whom you have substantial disagreements? Do you refuse to receive an evil report on another believer, especially when that information is unsubstantiated or no business of yours? Do you shut down gossip when someone attempts to communicate it to you?

The danger of something being declared *no business of yours.*

What does Challies means when he says that some information is *no business of yours.” Challies refused to learn anything about CJ Mahaney because he felt it was not *good time management.* He obviously had no great concern for the victims who he failed to mention.

For this reason I have deliberately avoided learning too much. I have had to question my motives, especially since I have repeatedly been on the receiving end of scathing criticism for not using my platform to speak out against Mahaney. I have chosen to read the news stories, to understand the basic facts, but conscience compels me to stop there. To do more may not be spiritually beneficial, it may not reflect good time management, and it may not be loving toward those who are involved.

Challies appears to be saying that it was not worth it to him to learn about and care for the victims of sexual abuse in Sovereign Grace Ministries under the watch of CJ Mahaney. Frankly, it appears to me that he is twisting the words of the Bible to make it more comfortable for himself. Imagine- learning about the abuse of children is *not good time management.* I’m sure Jesus is impressed with his timely and perfect schedule.

He claims one is to avoid flatterers, slanderers and tale bearers.

Let me get this out of the way. Has he ever been around CJ Mahaney when he is gushing over Piper, Dever and Mohler. Good night! That stuff is weird.

  • Do you refuse to hear or to read the words of people who tell tales, who spread gossip, or who slander others. Or do you find yourself curious to know what tale they are telling now, what gossip they are spreading, what slander they are leaking? Do you proactively avoid such people? Do you avoid reading bad news about people and situations that have no bearing on your life, your church, or your ministry?

What does he mean by the word “slander.”

Slander is a favorite word of the Calvinista tribe. However, to quote the “Princess Bride,”

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. (See video at the end of the post.”

Slander means purposely telling a lie that one knows is a lie. Unfortunately, many use the word to mean “telling something about my friends or me that isn’t very nice and causes me to feel sad or mad.” (quote by Dee). I studied the Bible and learned that slander means the same thing in the Scriptures: Slander or an Inconvenient Truth.

In other words, for a follower of the Lord, learning the truth may means the follower must get off his duff and get to work to protect those who have been harmed by that inconvenient truth. It may mean confronting a friend who helps my business. It may mean confronting a friend who is protected by others in my tribe.

Challies lets us know the sins we must avoid while participating on social media but he forgets a big one.

Let’s look at some of the sins he  listed.

  • Do you routinely seek out and read information that causes you to look at other people with suspicion?
  • Do you treat godly people wickedly by assuming all you have read about them is true?
  • Do you conceal truth about them in order to allow their reputation to be more consistently impugned?
  • Do you weaponize truth, perhaps sharing information that, though true, primarily seeks to damage another person’s reputation?
  • Do you spend time in the online company of people who slander others, who backbite them, who detract from their reputations, who scoff at them, or who revile them?
  • Do you read sites that cause you to grow in suspicion toward others?
  • Do you read sites that spread rumors and do you yourself spread them in the absence of clear and undeniable facts?

What did Challies forget?

I sometimes wonder why Calvinists seem to overlook their own theology. Recently, Joe Carter wrote a post at The Gospel Coalition on how to prevent your kid from becoming an atheist. I was confused. Calvinists believe that God has already decided whether your kid is elect or not elect. There isn’t a blasted thing that Carter can do to change God’s mind and prevent his kid from becoming an atheist. (Remember- this is his theology-not mine.)

Calvinists also believe that man is totally depraved. As a Christian, I believe that all men and women are sinners. That means that I may be making a mistake if I only believe the best about my Christian brothers and sisters. In my former church, the church leaders chose to overlook several reports of the inappropriate behavior of a SEBTS seminary student. Why? Well, he was a Christian brother and, as Challies states, we should have believed the best about him. We should not have *received* the gossip. We should have dismissed the claims because there was no incontrovertible evidence. The only problem was that this decision allowed this monster to continue to molest boys at my church for another year. HIs name is Doug Goodrich and he is serving 13 years in prison.

On numerous occasions, we have stated that Christians will dismiss claims of abuse when it involves clergy. Challies believes his friend CJ Mahaney because he will not receive bad reports about his Calvinist, Christian friend. Could it be that Challies is deliberately overlooking the possibility that, by refusing to receive a report of poor behavior of a Christian friend, that he is throwing victims to the wind?

We have been blogging for 9 1/2 years. We are careful to explain why we believe what we believe. We have never deliberately lied and would never do so to maliciously harm another person. We blog to expose abuse in the church. This abuse can be sexual in nature. It can also be emotional or spiritual in nature. This abuse is found in Calvinist and non-Calvinist churches. This should not be a surprise to Challies given his belief in Reformed theology. Yet he continues to insist that we must not listen to such stories because they might actually be slander.

I believe that Challies contributes to the problem that victims have when they come forward to tell their stories about abuse in the church. The boys circle the wagons, quote Bible verses about gossip and then go on to the next conference. Let’s read this statement again.

  • Do you refuse to hear or to read the words of people who tell tales, who spread gossip, or who slander others. Or do you find yourself curious to know what tale they are telling now, what gossip they are spreading, what slander they are leaking? Do you proactively avoid such people? Do you avoid reading bad news about people and situations that have no bearing on your life, your church, or your ministry?

With men like Challies lecturing the rest of us on how to behave on social media, I contend that victims in the church have a long road ahead of them and that makes me sad.  #churchtoo #whatdoesthatwordmean


Comments

Tim Challies Has Bloggers In His Crosshairs — 479 Comments

  1. Tim Challies would then have to criticize Jesus (aka God Himself) and Paul (writer of 2/3 of the NT), in order to avoid their continual negative exposures of problem people. Challies is just in some boring religion that defends abusers.

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  2. “19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” John 3:19-21, NIV

    These are the verses that came to mind looking at Challies post. I wonder if he problem is less with so-called “slander” and more with exposure to the light.

    In fact, we are actually commanded to expose evil deeds (see Ephesians 5:11). This is godly work–i.e. exposing dark deeds to God’s light. It is concerning to me that his advice actually encourages the covering of dark deeds, IMO, by chastising those sharing about them (and those of us who listen). That is troubling.

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  3. When Challies says “others” or “Goldly people” as those we must not slander, he means paid religious professionals– especially those of his own camp.

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  4. “…Do you avoid reading bad news about people and situations that have no bearing on your life, your church, or your ministry?“–Tim Challies
    ++++++++++++++++++++

    no bearing??

    pronouncements and careless remarks tumble easily out from christian celebrities, and land like bombs at ground zero in church culture.

    i was shackled, owned, operated and controlled as a result of the influence of these people.

    yes, i want to know what shenanigans they’re up to. so i can protect myself and my family from them.

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  5. In 1989, 96 Liverpool supporters were crushed to death at the Hillsborough football ground in Sheffield before an FA Cup semi-final when police wrongly opened an external gate allowing too many supporters into the same enclosed space.

    To cut a very long and tragic story very short, this error was compounded by many others. But immediately after the disaster, South Yorkshire Police (as it has now been shown beyond reasonable doubt) began feeding false stories to the media claiming that the supporters were to blame, accusing them (falsely) of hooliganism and drunkenness. (As a result, bereaved parents were quizzed on how much their dead children had been drinking.) Hillsborough remains the worst disaster, and perhaps the most shameful event, in British sporting history.

    To cut an even longer story very short, the families of the dead fought a long and exhausting battle over 3 decades to clear the names of their loved ones. And at one point, early on, a senior policeman sent an internal memo describing one of the mothers involved as “vindictive”.

    People in comfortable, protected positions in power can be like that. Had it been his teenage sons who had been crushed to death, then smeared and slandered in the tabloid press, he might not have been so keen to just lie back meekly and passively to focus on what he might have done better to protect his children. But it wasn’t; it was just somebody else’s children. People in power want their mistakes to go away and for people just to shut up and let them have a quiet life in which to enjoy the privileges that come with their lofty position.

    AWWBA, there’s a Hebrew proverb (recorded in the eponymous book in the OT) that states: He who is slack in his work is brother to him who destroys. It may be that not many of the celebrity authors and motivational speakers of christendom are actually, themselves, sexual predators. But they have set about diligently constructing a safe, protected space in which predators themselves can operate.

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  6. There is a line between reporting the truth and really examining charges of abuse AND refusing to look at inconvenient and uncomfortable allegations and supporting people because they are in your tribe.

    You guys do a good job.

    Keep on doing what you are doing!

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  7. From the OP, quote from Challies:

    “Do you weaponize truth, perhaps sharing information that, though true, primarily seeks to damage another person’s reputation?”

    The truth SHOULD be weaponized against believers that do evil. I WANT the truth to damage the reputations of leaders and teachers that do evil.

    I agree with DM above. We are commanded to expose the evil that infects His Church.

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  8. I have just had a good dose of reality, and how it may or may not be applicable to this particular topic I do not know, but it is certainly about e-communications which we are doing.

    Recently I broke out in the rash of shingles on my back. Of course I cannot see my back. I asked the people I live with to take a photo of the rash so I could see if that was indeed shingles. It was. The photos were taken on electronic devices hooked to my wi-fi but not taken on my phone. Now a few weeks later one of the photos has begun to pop up on my phone with an ad for ‘the rash of lupus’ website. My back looks nothing like lupus, this is not some mis-call on my part that, in fact it is a picture of my shingles being appropriated for an ad directed at me. My back and this picture are/were identical.

    Now that would sound like I had developed some sort of psychotic delusions, except that one does read that such technology is available. Here is my concern. If this technology is available and being used might one not assume that the technology is also available to falsify some let us say conversations or such and plant them on somebody’s phone or other device for nefarious purposes.

    Some of you technology folks might have something to say about this. In the meantime IMO it is thin ice to say or photo anything. I am wondering if perhaps a good idea might be for the individual to intentionally put out false information to confuse the data base.

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  9. “The boys circle the wagons, quote Bible verses about gossip and then go on to the next conference.” (Dee)

    Challies must be concerned that he has made Satan’s Hit List:

    “I’m really concerned about how much time people spend on the Internet. I’m extremely concerned about it. Extremely concerned about it; here’s one thing, just even the blogs that mention Christian leaders, and I’m one of ‘em. Praise the Lord, I’ve made Satan’s hit list now you know” (Robert Morris, Pastor, Gateway Church)

    Those who look critically at misbehaving in the American church and speak to inform and warn the Body of Christ should be applauded not shamed into silence. Chastising “discernment bloggers” may score brownie points with the New Calvinist tribe, but it is a misdirected passion.

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  10. Ah, the times we live in. Challies defending his business practice of reviewing books he writes, and receiving money or traffic or notoriety from an organization he covers as a *press* person exemplifies the hypocrisy of the times. The American Evangelical Church invented itself and its really lousy theology (think it’s really historical “Calvinism”? Name one preacher who has ever read, let alone studied, “Institutes”).

    The fact that Douglas Wilson is a lead signer on John MacArthur’s latest hate screed denying the existence of institutional racism and sexism is an indicator of back scratching. I challenge anyone to read for themselves Wilson’s own blog to grasp his overt gleeful and unapologetic contempt of women, blacks, young girls, and the entire LGBTQ population. Wilson created his own empire and fan base by founding Canon Press, which self-publishes volumes and volumes authored by the entire Wilson family and marketed to the Evangelical base as required reading by Evangelical pastors. It’s a proven formula for success that relies on unscrupulous *leaders* and a willingly ignorant base of true believers. i can understand why Tim Challies wants to distance himself from this model. But he is the model.

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  11. Challies: “rummaging through the digital trash”

    Does this mean, reading stuff I freely wrote on the internet?? Because I think that’s probably what it means.

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  12. “Has he ever been around CJ Mahaney when he is gushing over Piper, Dever and Mohler. Good night! That stuff is weird.” (Dee)

    “I’ve seen his stack of books. If you have a stack of books, I’m saying there’s quite a difference, pretty obvious difference, between your stack and his stack of books. So if you are comforting yourself, ‘I have a stack,’ well you might have a stack, but if we consider the nature and content of your stack as opposed to his stack, well, your stack looks pretty sorry and pathetic.” (C.J. Mahaney gushing over Al Mohler’s stack of books)

    Weird for sure! Al Mohler’s wife calls Al’s buds (Mahaney et al.) “Al’s little play group”. How creepy is that?! I guess they get together and flatter each other.

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  13. But if Russell Moore or Tim Keller want to write in a newspaper that most Christians are racists, Challies is fine with that. That isn’t slander and doesn’t conflict with his love for other Christians at all. The church = professional clergy, not us.

    *ducks for cover*

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  14. Lea: Challies: “rummaging through the digital trash”

    Does this mean, reading stuff I freely wrote on the internet?? Because I think that’s probably what it means.

    I suspect “digital trash” in Challies’ mind involves a subjective sorting of social media information into a digital trash can. He tosses out anything that he views as non-factual after filtering it through his personal feelings, opinions, and pet theology (in this case, New Calvinism). An indoctrinated mind is not an objective mind.

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  15. Dave. A A:
    When Challies says “others” or “Goldly people” as those we must not slander, he means paid religious professionals– especially those of his own camp.

    “TOUCH NOT MINE ANOINTED!”
    — Benny Hinn’s go-to clobber verse when he comes under scrutiny

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  16. Max: I suspect “digital trash” in Challies’ mind involves a subjective sorting of social media information into a digital trash can.He tosses out anything that he views as non-factual after filtering it through his personal feelings, opinions, and pet theology (in this case, New Calvinism).An indoctrinated mind is not an objective mind.

    doublelouscrimethink.
    (as opposed to his own doubleplusgoodthink)

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  17. Dee,

    This is a gross misrepresentation of Calvinism.

    Calvinists believe that God has already decided whether your kid is elect or not elect.

    Calvinists believe that God in eternity passed decided to set his salvific love that always accomplishes salvation upon some. This isn’t about God sitting down and making one box called elect and one box called non-elect and then filling each one.

    But in any case, non-Calvinists also believe God has decided whether your kid is elect or non-elect. All Christians have to have a doctrine of election because the Bible talks about elect people. The difference for most is whether that election is based on God’s free choice or if it is based on his foreknowledge of faith. Either way, God has “already decided” and there’s “nothing” you can do to change that decision.

    There isn’t a blasted thing that Carter can do to change God’s mind and prevent his kid from becoming an atheist. (Remember- this is his theology-not mine.)

    Assuming that this construal is correct, unless you believe God doesn’t know the future, the same is true for the non-Calvinist.

    But it’s not a correct construal. It is correct that all Christian traditions have believed that you cannot change God’s mind in the sense that we change our minds—that’s classic theism. But Calvinists believe our actions matter, that there are some things that God will not do if we do not act. “You do not have because you do not ask.” We don’t know ahead of time what God has ordained, but we do know that God works through our efforts and that we are responsible to what he has revealed. He hasn’t revealed all of his decrees, but he has revealed enough to make us responsible.

    So yes, at least from a human perspective, there are things you can do to help prevent your kid from being an atheist. Whether God will use them or not is up to him.

    But this is hardly different from a non-Calvinist position. If God already knows how the kid is going to respond and he has determined that he will not overcome the kid’s rejection, then there is nothing you as a parent can do to prevent your kid from being an atheist either.

    The “Calvinistas” aren’t going to listen to you if you can’t get their basic theology correct. And aren’t those the people you most need to convince?

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  18. okrapod,

    I have read that technology does exist to fabricate recorded conversations, using synthetic reproduction of the “target’s” voice that can be produced using information extracted from a relatively small voice sample.

    Here’s an early report

    https://www.theverge.com/2017/4/24/15406882/ai-voice-synthesis-copy-human-speech-lyrebird

    but I heard about the problem more recently, and software can in principle be improved rapidly.

    I would imagine that forensic analysis of a faked recording might be able to detect subtle flaws in the synthetic voice reproduction, depending on the amount of data used in the voice sample.

    Get rid of your voice activated devices; they may be spying on you and who knows what your voice samples might be used for?

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  19. Max: I suspect “digital trash” in Challies’ mind involves a subjective sorting of social media information into a digital trash can.He tosses out anything that he views as non-factual after filtering it through his personal feelings, opinions, and pet theology (in this case, New Calvinism).An indoctrinated mind is not an objective mind.

    I’m with Dee on this. Rummaging through physical trash to discover interesting information in paper form that was carelessly discarded by the owner of the information is a known, if diagreeable, technique in journalism.

    I’ve read that you should never write anything in an email that you would be unwilling to see in a newspaper headline; email has no presumption of privacy. That is even more so for “digital trash.” The internet is public.

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  20. Robert,

    Here’s some fascinating reading for you that answers those objections. (Thanks to the reader who first posted this link on a TWW page recently.)

    https://blog.savetheperishing.com/114-contradictions-from-calvinists/

    “120 Contradictions From Calvinists”

    From the article:

    “Calvinist contradiction #6

    Calvinist: “God is sovereign in all things. If you don’t believe God gave you the faith to believe, you are going against Gods sovereignty!”

    Me: “But if I can go against Gods sovereignty than God isn’t sovereign in all things.”

    Think about that for a second.”

    “Calvinist contradiction #16

    Calvinist: “Do not add or take away from God’s Word.”

    Me: “The bible says Christ died for the world, for whosoever, for any, for all of mankind.”

    Calvinist: “No it doesn’t! ‘World’ doesn’t mean all and ‘all’ doesn’t mean ‘all.’”

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  21. elastigirl: “…Do you avoid reading bad news about people and situations that have no bearing on your life, your church, or your ministry?“–Tim Challies
    ++++++++++++++++++++
    no bearing??

    How do you know what has no bearing on your life unless you read? It could be your neighbor or kids soccer coach or personal Christian guru like Challies wants to be.

    Also, can we talk about protecting your neighbor and who is your neighbor and all that? One that that bugs me about these guys is they act like WARNING OTHERS is not a useful thing to do.

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  22. Robert:
    Dee,

    This is a gross misrepresentation of Calvinism.

    I would say, rather. that it is an exceedingly compact adumbration of what the theology means, practically, in the lives of many of its adherents.

    Neocals aren’t much into evangelism — that’s odd from your perspective, isn’t it? And in my experience of traditional Reformed church (a narrow slice, admittedly, and perhaps this was an unusually dysfunctional congregation), this has also been true of them.

    But I think that your argument that God will save if WE do not act is flawed;

    Robert:

    We don’t know ahead of time what God has ordained, but we do know that God works through our efforts and that we are responsible to what he has revealed.

    But we DO know, per the system, that

    a) IF God has set his electing love on a person

    and

    b) we do not act to serve as the instrument by which that electing love accomplishes its redemptive intention

    then

    c) someone or something else will serve as God’s instrument

    so that

    d) IF the person in question is indeed elect, they will be saved regardless of what we do.

    A parent’s failure to act will not change the elect status of an elect child, nor the non-elect status of a reprobate child. And it won’t change the ultimate outcome for that child.

    I don’t think that Dee’s statement was a “gross misrepresentation” so much as a very brief summary of the implications in practice.

    I write this as a monergist. I don’t see how one evades the implications.

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  23. Samuel Conner,

    Seriously it has been said that the newer microwaves and refrigerators and autos are ‘listening’. I am assuming that it means the voice activated ones, so why would a system that might want to control people not put that technology hidden away in otherwise more simple and innocuous appearing devices? Information is a good commodity to have. Note what China is now doing in spying on its own people and both rewarding and ‘punishing’ those who get a low social score. IMO China will market that technology and guess who will buy it. Everybody who can, that is who.

    Some of the old prophesies and some of the more radical ideas about some old prophesies are beginning to look more and more reasonable/likely to me.

    So, is Challis correct that there may be such a thing as digital trash? More than likely. None the less do his actions make him look like a man with stuff to hide? Big time.

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  24. okrapod,

    Yes, “Internet of Things” is scary stuff and, as you say, we don’t know what is “along for the ride” in the devices we purchase that are not explicitly IoT.

    Regarding ancient prophecies, my perspective is “Preterist,” but that doesn’t mean that human lust for control over others will not find horrifying expressions as technology enables those.

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  25. okrapod: Now a few weeks later one of the photos has begun to pop up on my phone with an ad for ‘the rash of lupus’ website. My back looks nothing like lupus, this is not some mis-call on my part that, in fact it is a picture of my shingles being appropriated for an ad directed at me. My back and this picture are/were identical.

    This is really creepy and also terrible – freaking people out about lupus when it’s never lupus, as Dr. House taught me.

    Technology can be creepy – if that’s what Challies was saying I might be on board. Facebook keeps recommending I become friends with people I have never interacted with online, but who were in same room with me – people I met at breakfast or a restaurant or at work. It’s weird. But they also know to never recommend I friend my exboyfriend too.

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  26. Lea:
    Too bad Paul didn’t follow Tim’s advice, or we would never have heard about that shady Alexander the coppersmith.

    I speculate that it is OK to for believers to trash-talk unbelievers, particularly if the trash-talk is true. The point is to be inside the tent, p*ssing out.

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  27. Top Ten Signs You are a Calvinist

    10. The guys at reformerware.com give you a bulk pricing discount.

    9. Your home group leader locks you in a closet during the Bible study.

    8. You spend the entire fall semester on a verse by verse exposition of Romans 9 in your Sunday School class… Your kindergarten Sunday school class.

    7. You spend lots of time on ebay searching for a signed 1st Edition of Calvin’s Institutes.

    6. Your spouse wakes you at night from a bad dream, and says you were mumbling, over and over, “Infra or supra?! … Infra or supra?!”

    5. You react angrily when someone mispronounces “Lorraine Boettner.”

    4. Your eyesight failing, you go to the doctor and he diagnoses “presbyopia.” You assume this is Latin for “reading too much Reformed theology.”

    3. On the weekend of your wedding anniversary, you book a romantic trip for two to Akron, Ohio for a Ligonier Ministries Conference.

    2. Your time on the throne is now spent reading The Heidelberg Catechism.

    1. When a family member buys you an iPad for your birthday, you storm out of the room in a rage when you learn that it is NOT pre-loaded with the Geneva Bible Translation App.

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  28. Samuel Conner: Regarding ancient prophecies

    I am not either/or about a lot of stuff. In the ‘real’ world the fact that a think happened before raises the predictability that it will happen again.

    The patient tells the doc that he has trouble with is ear, his liver, his right knee and his eyesight. The doctor says ‘have you had this before” ‘Yes.’ Well, looks like you have it again.

    I just discontinued a med based on an application of this very principle.

    I don’t see that a prior prophesy, like the idea that the Messiah will come, does not mean that once he has come he will not do it again, for example. In fact, I see the prior event as evidence that God thought along those lines before and may still be thinking along those lines.

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  29. Benn,

    I’m not “infernalist”, so what you and I understand by “salvation” may differ.

    I view “good works” to be a manifestation of the new life that God creates when He regenerates a person. Similarly, I view conscious faith in Christ to be a fruit of regeneration.

    I don’t take a harsh view of synergism, and in fact don’t worry too much about what synergists believe — and I’m sure there’s a diversity. I believe that synergists (protestant and catholic) typically deny the idea of salvific works, embracing biblical statements such as “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, not of works, that no man may boast”. They may understand the significant of “good works” differently from monergists, and they are entitled to.

    Let every man be convinced in his own mind. There might even be some value in the chaos of competing views, sort of a long-term “genetic experiment” to determine “what works best.” The jury is still out, IMO, it seems that not much works very well in our time.

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  30. okrapod: I am not either/or about a lot of stuff.In the ‘real’ world the fact that a think happened before raises the predictability that it will happen again.

    The patient tells the doc that he has trouble with is ear, his liver, his right knee and his eyesight.The doctor says ‘have you had this before”‘Yes.’Well, looks like you have it again.

    I just discontinued a med based on an application of this very principle.

    I don’t see that a prior prophesy, like the idea that the Messiah will come, does not mean that once he has come he will not do it again, for example.In fact, I see the prior event as evidence that God thought along those lines before and may still be thinking along those lines.

    For years I have had the sense that the present situation has the “feel” of Old Israel in the intertestamental period.

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  31. And what of the people making the accusations of abuse? Are they not also Christian brothers and sisters? Or are they just not as important to Challies as the Mahaneys and other so-called full time ministers?

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  32. Robert M:
    And what of the people making the accusations of abuse?Are they not also Christian brothers and sisters?Or are they just not as important to Challies as the Mahaneys and other so-called full time ministers?

    They are Lowborn.
    Challies, Mahaney, and other MenaGAWD are Highborn.

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  33. okrapod: So, is Challis correct that there may be such a thing as digital trash? More than likely.

    But there’s also trash behind the pulpit.

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  34. Robert M:
    And what of the people making the accusations of abuse?Are they not also Christian brothers and sisters?Or are they just not as important to Challies as the Mahaneys and other so-called full time ministers?

    I wonder whether it might be that a deeply unfortunate fruit of John Piper’s (echoing, perhaps imperfectly, Jonathan Edwards’ ideas about “the nature of true virtue”) vision of God’s goodness as being fundamentally God’s commitment to His own glory is that it incentivizes the concealment of anything that would bring discredit on the Church (and, by extension, on the Church’s ministry, and on Scripture, and ultimately on God Himself).

    To “protect God’s glory” (which I am willing to concede might be how it consciously appears “on the sport”), one might be motivated to conceal things that ought instead to be “brought into the light” (which, it has been noted in comments here, is a biblical idea).

    The heart being as deceptive as it is, and its purposes being the deep waters that they are, it may be very difficult in practice to distinguish an unarticulated desire to “protect oneself and one’s ministry (and one’s income)” from a conscious agenda of “protecting God’s glory.”

    So the people who cover up abuse may believe that they are doing the “least bad” thing in the situation. I don’t agree, but it is possible to see how it might look to them.

    These thoughts do not inspire confidence in church leadership. My intuition is that smaller groups are better, for in them it is more nearly possible to know one another well enough to be able to safely trust.

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  35. drstevej: 2. Your time on the throne is now spent reading The Heidelberg Catechism.

    Not to mention the good use its pages can be put to prior to rising from the throne.

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  36. Samuel Conner: I wonder whether it might be that a deeply unfortunate fruit of John Piper’s (echoing, perhaps imperfectly, Jonathan Edwards’ ideas about “the nature of true virtue”) vision of God’s goodness as being fundamentally God’s commitment to His own glory is that it incentivizes the concealment of anything that would bring discredit on the Church (and, by extension, on the Church’s ministry, and on Scripture, and ultimately on God Himself).

    I love higher mathematics, and it seems to me like a lot of Calvinism is trying to define axioms about God and then developing theorems based on what the axioms apply. The problem is that kind of approach doesn’t always work in mathematics.

    There’s a classic example in set theory. A set may contain other sets, and may even contain itself. Suppose I define S as the set of all sets that do not contain themselves. Does S contain itself? If it does then it shouldn’t. If it does not then it should. It’s a paradox that arises from some pretty simple ideas.

    Some theologians look for implications of God’s sovereignty or God’s holiness, and the problem I have with that is what makes us think we can comprehend God’s holiness, much less Its implications? Maybe that’s why we need the Holy Spirit to guide us. Maybe that’s why Jesus told Nicodemus he couldn’t understand earthly things so how could he understand heavenly things. I imagine Jesus might tell us today that we don’t understand the wave-particle duality of the elementary components of matter and energy, so how can we understand the holiness and mercy of a loving and just God?

    I have become much less of a literalist as I’ve gotten older, but I do see protecting the weak and exposing evil deeds to be a theme of Jesus’ ministry and the ministry of the apostles.

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  37. Robert M: Some theologians look for implications of God’s sovereignty or God’s holiness, and the problem I have with that is what makes us think we can comprehend God’s holiness, much less Its implications? Maybe that’s why we need the Holy Spirit to guide us. Maybe that’s why Jesus told Nicodemus he couldn’t understand earthly things so how could he understand heavenly things. I imagine Jesus might tell us today that we don’t understand the wave-particle duality of the elementary components of matter and energy, so how can we understand the holiness and mercy of a loving and just God?

    Agreed. I’ll add that we also have assurances that Jesus is the visible explanation of the invisible God.

    Having many layers of theology between the text and practice is not a good idea. OTOH, it is unwise to try to simply live the text, uninterpreted. That would lead to, for example, self-mutilation and more broadly to the normalization of ancient cultural practices that are not appropriate in our context.

    The difficulty of finding the right place (if there is a right place) between “uninterpreted text” and “overly theologized applications of the teaching of the text” may have a lot to do with the vast diversity that has evolved in the churches.

    I agree in principle about “the Spirit”. But I worry a little — the belief that “the Spirit is leading me” (and this is biblical language — “all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God”), with the associated implication that “I must not question God’s leading”, can lead one into all sorts of trouble, if one is actually misinterpreting or missing what the Spirit is leading in or to. The heart is deceptive, and it is easy to imagine that one could be motivated to believe that “the Spirit is leading” toward something that one already wanted for other reasons.

    My private sense is that we need to be well grounded in the biblical text (properly interpreted [which of course opens a vast range of questions]) in order to place some “speed bumps” on the road to possible bad outcomes that may arise in instances in which one’s belief that one is following the Spirit is in fact a false belief.

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  38. drstevej:
    Top Ten Signs You are a Calvinist

    10. The guys at reformerware.com give you a bulk pricing discount.

    9. Your home group leader locks you in a closet during the Bible study.

    8. You spend the entire fall semester on a verse by verse exposition of Romans 9 in your Sunday School class… Your kindergarten Sunday school class.

    7. You spend lots of time on ebay searching for a signed 1st Edition of Calvin’s Institutes.

    6. Your spouse wakes you at night from a bad dream, and says you were mumbling, over and over, “Infra or supra?! … Infra or supra?!”

    5. You react angrily when someone mispronounces “Lorraine Boettner.”

    4. Your eyesight failing, you go to the doctor and he diagnoses “presbyopia.” You assume this is Latin for “reading too much Reformed theology.”

    3. On the weekend of your wedding anniversary, you book a romantic trip for two to Akron, Ohio for a Ligonier Ministries Conference.

    2. Your time on the throne is now spent reading The Heidelberg Catechism.

    1. When a family member buys you an iPad for your birthday, you storm out of the room in a rage when you learn that it is NOT pre-loaded with the Geneva Bible Translation App.

    Sincere question. Is the Book of Romans real important to Calvinists?

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  39. ___

    “You got the wrong religion baby, Perhaps?

    hmmm…

    Intro:
    1991 Diet Pepsi Commercial “You Got the Right One, Baby!”Beta MAX7.9K views3 years ago

    A prelude to serious religious nonsense :
    “Examining the gospel according to Calvinism” :
    https://youtu.be/TYkkTpcmyAw

    KRunch!

    Tim Challies : calvinism —Promoting a marketing campaign that sells a five hundred year old false gospel…

    huh?

    *

    Challies : “Calvinism is “in” today; this is a cause for joy for those who, like me, believe that Reformed theology is a pure and accurate expression of New Testament theology, but with Calvinism’s trendiness come certain dangers and challenges.”
    Killing Calvinism – Tim Challies

    Calvinism Defined?

    Challies : “Calvinism is the theology that was a product of the Protestant Reformation and was largely defined by John Calvin (1509-1564). The doctrine emphasizes God’s omnipotence, man’s depravity and the salvation of God’s elect by grace alone.”
    An Introduction To Calvinism & Arminianism – Tim Challies

    *

    “Reflections on Tim Challies & the “New Calvinism” : Recently Tim Challies produced a chart
    https://s3.amazonaws.com/Challies_VisualTheology/new-calvinism-timeline.html
    —detailing the resurgence in reformed theology, or “New Calvinism,” within Evangelicalism. Challies’ chart is a taxonomy, detailing the tributaries—individuals, resources, and entities—influencing the New Calvinism.”
    https://jasonkallen.com/2014/03/reformation-worth-perpetuating-re

    What!?!

    It is evident that God is continually denigrated by this movement.

    (Run for your lives)

    (See the Bible for details)

    Exchanging the gospel presented by Jesus for for a faux religious theological system created by a individual that had Jesus’ people brutally abused & murdered?
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Ye7FKc1JQe4

    I don’t think so.

    Leave the proverbial bozo’s behind and live a religious life you’ll well remember… 🙂
    https://m.youtube.com/watch? v=UtF6Jej8yb4

    ATB

    Sòpy

    ;~)

    – –

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  40. Robert: This is a gross misrepresentation of Calvinism.

    This is the standard line used to defend Calvinism. I’ve seen it used so many times that I no longer believe there is anything that can rightly be called true or authentic Calvinism. Even Calvin’s Institutes is a “gross misrepresentation of Calvinism” by now because it states things that modern Calvinists oppose. The problem is not how antogonists portray Calvinism. The problem is the inherent inconsitenties in the various Calvinism that make it (them) so difficult to defend.

    But my opinion could be the result of me being one of those who have been passed over from all eternity – I was not given that special knowledge (gnosis).

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  41. Stan,

    I really get what you are saying here. My wife and I have both spent significant time teaching in very poor white communities in Appalachia. Communities rife with social pathologies, drug use, single motherhood, and economic hardship. Communities where lifespan is decreasing.

    Now I teach music education at a large state school. I love the public university system, so I’m not just taking pot-shots. However, it is perfectly socially acceptable to be bigoted against people from this type of community. Colleagues and friends who would NEVER say anything against a minority group and go out of their way to welcome immigrants and refugees into their community, will make fun of the way people talk, make jokes about how few teeth they have, and call them all racist simply for existing or having different politics than them.

    Stan, like you, I’m bugged when rich, powerful Christian leaders quickly and easily call their whole congregations racist. Is there still racism? ABSOLUTELY. However, it is so EASY to just call people with lower status than you racist. If Moore and Keller were serious, they would resign their positions, pass them to people from racial minorities, donate their pensions to charity, and go serve in hurting communities. Then I would take their pronouncements about other people’s racism seriously. Until they do that, it just looks like empty virtue signaling. A story about specks and planks comes to mind.

    I guess Challies can’t see the naked tribalism in his pronouncement. He simply wants people to stop saying bad (but) true things against his buddies. He can dress it up, but that is all that there is.

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  42. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    I agree with this. Whenever I take TULIP literally and come to some uncomfortable conclusions, Calvinists always give me some very complicated explanation of why it doesn’t *actually* mean that.

    I heard Brad Jersak say he is often accused of making a straw man of PSA. Calvinists will tell him that his objections are only to a caricature of PSA and not what Calvinists *actually* believe. If that is true, then it would be great if Calvinists would focus inward on a clear articulation of what they believe rather than attacking people who object.

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  43. Samuel Conner: To “protect God’s glory” (which I am willing to concede might be how it consciously appears “on the sport”), one might be motivated to conceal things that ought instead to be “brought into the light” (which, it has been noted in comments here, is a biblical idea).

    I simply don’t recall God asking man to protect God’s glory . . .

    I’m thinking God can handle his own glory.

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  44. Quote from my daughter last night, while she was SnapChatting a friend:

    She didn’t reply IMMEDIATELY!!








    She must be dead.

    I love parenting teenagers!

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  45. Samuel Conner: The heart being as deceptive as it is, and its purposes being the deep waters that they are, it may be very difficult in practice to distinguish an unarticulated desire to “protect oneself and one’s ministry (and one’s income)” from a conscious agenda of “protecting God’s glory.”

    Bah. There’s nothing wrong with MY heart. What’s good for me is good for God – fact. And God agrees with me on that.

    You’re all rubbish.

    Up Yours,
    Roger Bombast

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  46. Ken F (aka Tweed): Even Calvin’s Institutes is a “gross misrepresentation of Calvinism” by now because it states things that modern Calvinists oppose.

    Modern ‘calvinists’ don’t agree with every single thing some flawed dude in the 1600’s thought, so the problem is with modern Calvinists? I mean. You have also said that Calvinists don’t read theology critically. This is why it’s irritating to even discuss this topic.

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  47. Bridget: I simply don’t recall God asking man to protect God’s glory . . .

    I’m thinking God can handle his own glory.

    Yes. The experiences of Moses and David give ample Biblical warrant to affirm that.

    And in the long run, cover-ups in the churches increase the opportunities for outsiders to “blaspheme YHWH” (Nathan’s words to David in some translations, though the alternative rendering also seems applicable). It isn’t hard to believe that whatever the publicly articulated (and perhaps sincerely believed) justifications, in the end it is usually down to self-protection.

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  48. Tweed (aka Ken F),
    Ricco,

    Really interesting thoughts (though that’s what I’d expect from both of you, if I may say so). It occurs to me that maybe there’s no true or authentic representation of ANY viewpoint, other than total agreement. Because obviously I would never believe anything irrational, self-contradictory or otherwise questionable, it follows that anybody who disagrees with me MUST have misunderstood my real, fully-enlightened, beliefs.

    UNLESS, perhaps, I hold my “fully-enlightened” beliefs with a bit of humility. There being things about Life, The Universe and Everything that I can’t explain together at the same time, there will be things my beliefs don’t explain very well. My current beliefs are just an OK attempt, that – for whatever reason – sits well with me.

    There’s a fundamental flaw in Calvinism-ism-ism-ism which is to use one, favoured, subset of bible fragments to derive formulae to explain away another, inconvenient, subset of bible fragments. Whilst, of course, claiming that they are ALL the Inerrant_Word_Of_God. I hypothesise that this is a fundamental flaw of all attempts to write the final, 67th book of the bible – you know, the one that finally explains the Correct_Interpretation of all the others.

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  49. Janet: Ah, the times we live in. Challies defending his business practice of reviewing books he writes, and receiving money or traffic or notoriety from an organization he covers as a *press* person exemplifies the hypocrisy of the times. The American Evangelical Church invented itself and its really lousy theology (think it’s really historical “Calvinism”? Name one preacher who has ever read, let alone studied, “Institutes”).

    Not a preacher but I CRAZILY read Calvin’s Institutes for light reading when I was in law school.

    Now, on to the point I wanted to make. Why yes, Tim Challies has heavily monetized his BLOG. Last week, his blog was sponsored by Crossways. And if you buy a book from any of the links on his BLOG, he gets a cut from Amazon. Who knows if he’s paid to review books provided to him by his friends, or whatever promotional deals he’s got going on? All on his BLOG, of course.

    He’s part of the Evangelical Industrial Complex and he makes bank in addition to the authority he has on his BLOG.

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  50. Nick Bulbeck,

    Good stuff. I’m really trying to be more moderate in my criticism of Calvinism. The problems of bias and self-righteousness are so common to humanity that none of us can avoid them. Jonathan Haidt outlines this incredibly well in his book The Righteous Mind. It’s a must read, as far as I’m concerned.

    You are right, I think humility is the key. That’s why I try (and fail) to not bash Calvinism because who am I to know what the truth is. I’m finite and limited and have had a tiny sliver of the total human experience. I really liked Pete Enns’ book The Sin of Certainty. I don’t want to hold the rightness of my beliefs so tightly that I can’t consider new evidence or that I put my principles over good relationships with the people that I love.

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  51. Here I go again….
    Whenever there is a Calvinist/Armenian debate, and especially when it goes BEYOND a “theological” exchange of both sides showing verses, I just shake my head and see elements of human arrogance rearing its head…
    IF one holds to the orthodox characteristics/attributes of G&D, one immediately hits the limit of the human mind, and all of these debates, and worse, just hit me as people posturing to show how “smart they are” on a topic which is beyond human understanding.

    I am currently working on a paper which is based on the fact that hemoglobin is magnetic when red blood cells are deoxygentated. This was first observed by Linus Pauling, and led to his Nobel Prize on “The Chemical Bond”. At the most fundamental level, magnetism is too complex for us humans to really understand, and various “models” which partially explain this magnetism are at their core, contradictory to each other and common sense. But we use these models to explain/manipulate reality.. So, are these different models “wrong” or do they just point to the limits of human understanding???? To me, this is just as profound as any theological debate…

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  52. “Do you routinely seek out and read information that causes you to look at other people with suspicion?”

    “Do you read sites that cause you to grow in suspicion toward others?”

    This brings to mind Acts 20:29-31 — “Keep watch over yourselves and the entire flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure, grievous wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number, men will rise up and distort the truth to draw away disciples after them. Therefore be alert and remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.”

    The reality of grievous wolves who will not spare the flock/church of God is made clear. The reality is that some will come from amongst their own number.

    What is declared as an imperative given the above-stated reality? I notice something about keeping watch and being alert (not forgetting Christ’s contrasting the good servant with the bad one in Matthew 24 who lost focus and perspective and acted in an ungodly manner). Could that be cast as looking with/growing in suspicion towards others? Apparently. Then again, so could car locks and deadbolts on your front door, when in fact one is exercising common sense and ordinary care.

    In the instance of the church, as grievous wolves are a given — as is the likelihood that they will come from within the church, keeping watch and being alert in a proper manner (in one’s personal fellowship as well as Christian trends in the greater body) is not an evil but a necessity.

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  53. Tim Challies lectures others for not obeying the Ninth Commandment while he disobeys it himself. Here is one example from 2011 when he falsely described The Documents I sent to SGM pastors as a “personal matter” between C.J. Mahaney and me that should have resolved in private. In response, Matt B. Redmond wrote this article on his blog. Of course, Challies never got back to me for bearing false witness.

    Tim Challies Calls It a Personal Matter Between Mahaney and Detwiler…Detwiler Calls Him On the Carpet (Updated)
    Posted by Matt B. Redmond
    Wednesday, August 17, 2011
    https://mattbredmond.com/2011/08/17/tim-challies-calls-it-a-personal-matter-between-mahaney-and-detwiler-detwiler-calls-him-on-the-carpet-updated

    Earlier today Tim Challies wrote about what is going on in Sovereign Grace Ministries. I was at first glad to see this but then absolutely astounded. He believes this is a “personal” matter between C.J. Mahaney and Brent Detwiler, which the later has elevated to tabloid journalism and he should have just left it to the Lord to handle.

    Incredible.

    Detwiler has already responded briefly and states he will do so more thoroughly later but I wanted to weigh in with a few thoughts.

    1. I cannot for the life of me understand how Challies could call this a personal matter after reading the documents. Indeed, I have trouble believing he did read them. The concerns which Detwiler and others (making it by definition not personal) have been going to Mahaney about for years involve many other people and the way Mahaney has lead them and the denomination. Add to this, much of Detwiler’s concerns are in regards to the SGM board – how can this be called merely personal? Sure it’s personal but not only merely personal.

    2. Challies, with a wave of the hand, dismissed the blogs and refused to discuss the concerns. That’s rich. I can only assume he would not want to discuss the handling of sexual abuse cases and the hundreds if not thousands of lives represented on the blogs. By ignoring the blogs Challies is able to give the impression that this is only a personal disagreement between Mahaney and Detwiler.

    3. For Challies (on his own blog by the way) to decry the public nature of it all is ridiculous. Detwiler sent his documents to other pastors in SGM, no one outside SGM. Someone else leaked them. Why would someone do this? Because Mahaney and SGM have worldwide influence and their books, songs and sermons swim into the ears of thousands upon thousands. Again, how could such problems be called merely personal.

    I am incredulous. There is no way to read these documents and think this is merely a personal matter.

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  54. Tim Challies lectures others for not obeying the Ninth Commandment while he disobeys it himself. Here is one example from 2011 when he falsely described The Documents I sent to SGM pastors as a “personal matter” between C.J. Mahaney and me that should have resolved in private. In response, Matt B. Redmond wrote this article on his blog. Of course, Challies never got back to me for bearing false witness.

    Tim Challies Calls It a Personal Matter Between Mahaney and Detwiler…Detwiler Calls Him On the Carpet (Updated)
    Posted by Matt B. Redmond
    Wednesday, August 17, 2011
    https://mattbredmond.com/2011/08/17/tim-challies-calls-it-a-personal-matter-between-mahaney-and-detwiler-detwiler-calls-him-on-the-carpet-updated

    Earlier today Tim Challies wrote about what is going on in Sovereign Grace Ministries. I was at first glad to see this but then absolutely astounded. He believes this is a “personal” matter between C.J. Mahaney and Brent Detwiler, which the later has elevated to tabloid journalism and he should have just left it to the Lord to handle.

    Incredible.

    Detwiler has already responded briefly and states he will do so more thoroughly later but I wanted to weigh in with a few thoughts.

    1. I cannot for the life of me understand how Challies could call this a personal matter after reading the documents. Indeed, I have trouble believing he did read them. The concerns which Detwiler and others (making it by definition not personal) have been going to Mahaney about for years involve many other people and the way Mahaney has lead them and the denomination. Add to this, much of Detwiler’s concerns are in regards to the SGM board – how can this be called merely personal? Sure it’s personal but not only merely personal.

    2. Challies, with a wave of the hand, dismissed the blogs and refused to discuss the concerns. That’s rich. I can only assume he would not want to discuss the handling of sexual abuse cases and the hundreds if not thousands of lives represented on the blogs. By ignoring the blogs Challies is able to give the impression that this is only a personal disagreement between Mahaney and Detwiler.

    3. For Challies (on his own blog by the way) to decry the public nature of it all is ridiculous. Detwiler sent his documents to other pastors in SGM, no one outside SGM. Someone else leaked them. Why would someone do this? Because Mahaney and SGM have worldwide influence and their books, songs and sermons swim into the ears of thousands upon thousands. Again, how could such problems be called merely personal.

    I am incredulous. There is no way to read these documents and think this is merely a personal matter.

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  55. Robert,

    Calvinists have down the centuries made their views known explicitly, yet when critiqued many complain about being “misrepresented”. I quote from the WestMinster Confession of Faith Chapter 3, and then from A.W. Pink’s volume The Sovereignty of God:

    By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels[6] are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death.

    These angels and men, thus predestinated, and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished.[8]

    Every choice evidently and necessarily implies a refusal, for where there is no leaving out there can be no choice. If there be some whom God has elected unto salvation (2 Thess. 2:13), there must be others who are not elected unto salvation. If there are some that the Father gave to Christ (John 6:37), there must be others whom He did not give unto Christ. If there be some whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev. 21:27), there must be others whose names are not written there. (A.W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God, chapter on Reprobation).

    Based on the above, I will let the reader make their own mind up about this.

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  56. yeah, all Tim Challies’ talk of the sin of “suspicion”, “being suspicious”.

    (almost as silly as me being accused of the grave, grave sin of “being independent”) 😐

    let’s speak plainly (or maybe “plain-spoken” is a sin, too).

    what he deems suspicious is simply being objective. removing the christian varnish & distorted lenses and seeing something for what it is.

    but that’s enough to make many christian leaders quite nervous. there’s only ONE thing to do: scare tactics with sin invention and a deeply concerned facial expression.

    …which doesn’t pass objective scrutiny, anyway. see right through it.

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  57. Ken F (aka Tweed): This is the standard line used to defend Calvinism

    I agree Ken. I have heard this so many times. I quoted from A.W. Pink above and although I disagree strongly with him, I prefer his honesty over the likes of Piper and MacArthur. Pink stated what he believed clearly and concisely. Piper and MacArthur believe the same thing but they are not as honest or clear about it. Instead they spend page after page trying to rationalise their views like politicians talking their way out of their own contradictions.

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  58. elastigirl,

    As in the case of good old CJ, this Tim Challis “leaders” thinks it is better to ignor the victims of abuse than hold leaders accountable…. lets see, how many leaders have tried yo do that and have been called out on just TWW? If these leaders were “innocent”, would not they still be “leaders”?? Are there ANY that have been “falsely” accused on TWW??

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  59. Ken F (aka Tweed): Even Calvin’s Institutes is a “gross misrepresentation of Calvinism” by now because it states things that modern Calvinists oppose.

    His commentary on John 3:16 completely goes against “limited atonement”:

    “It is a remarkable commendation of faith, that it frees us from everlasting destruction. For he intended expressly to state that, though we appear to have been born to death, undoubted deliverance is offered to us by the faith of Christ; and, therefore, that we ought not to fear death, which otherwise hangs over us. And he has employed the universal term whosoever, both to invite all indiscriminately to partake of life, and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers. Such is also the import of the term World, which he formerly used; for though nothing will be found in the world that is worthy of the favor of God, yet he shows himself to be reconciled to the whole world, when he invites all men without exception to the faith of Christ, which is nothing else than an entrance into life.”

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  60. GreekEpigraph,

    That would not be correct. In this verse he clearly taught unlimited atonement. He said “he invites all men without exception to the faith of Christ, which is nothing else than an entrance into life.” This does not mean that all men will accept the invitation or walk through the entrance. It means that the invitation is to all and the door is open.

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  61. More on the same “Undoubted deliverance is offered to us by the faith of Christ” Being offered does not mean being accepted, much less does it mean being forced upon someone. And “both to invite all indiscriminately to partake of life” does not mean that the invite will be received.

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  62. ZechZav,

    Given Calvin’s Irresistible Grace though, would not this layout of the atonement being “for all”, accompanied by such verses as “It is not God’s will that any should perish but that all should come . .” require universalism? Otherwise God’s will is not being done – which is impossible. (Not Calvinist BTW.)

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  63. Challies said ““For this reason I have deliberately avoided learning too much. I have had to question my motives, especially since I have repeatedly been on the receiving end of scathing criticism for not using my platform to speak out against Mahaney. I have chosen to read the news stories, to understand the basic facts, but conscience compels me to stop there. To do more may not be spiritually beneficial, it may not reflect good time management, and it may not be loving toward those who are involved.”

    Translation: “I have deliberately avoided learning too much” = I am wilfully blind because if I discover the truth, it may be an inconvenience!

    Translation: “It may not reflect good time management”: I have my own agenda which involves organising my church ball games, conferences and elders meetings. I don’t want to have to deal with this.

    Translation: “May not be spiritually beneficial”. I want to “fellowship” with this group and knowing the truth may prevent me from doing that.

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  64. GreekEpigraph:
    ZechZav,

    Given Calvin’s Irresistible Grace though, would not this layout of the atonement being “for all”, accompanied by such verses as “It is not God’s will that any should perish but that all should come . .” require universalism?Otherwise God’s will is not being done – which is impossible.(Not Calvinist BTW.)

    I see what you mean. Yes if it is combined with “irrestible grace” then logically universalism would follow. However I don’t think Calvin did actually mean or teach that. He was not following logic here, just being inconsistent and not thinking it all through.

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  65. Nick Bulbeck: It occurs to me that maybe there’s no true or authentic representation of ANY viewpoint, other than total agreement. Because obviously I would never believe anything irrational, self-contradictory or otherwise questionable, it follows that anybody who disagrees with me MUST have misunderstood my real, fully-enlightened, beliefs.

    This is a very good point. If I can use “skepticism” for the belief in the lack of certainty, then even skepticism can only go so far before it starts refuting itself (can a skeptic be absolutely certain that he can be certain about nothing?). I long for dialogue where there is room for hard questions and respectful exchange of ideas, even when there is no agreement. TWW is one of the best approximations of that I have found so far. It certainly seems elusive in the Southern Bible Belt culture I find myself in (I am not a native Southerner).

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  66. Lea: You have also said that Calvinists don’t read theology critically.

    No, I did not say they don’t read theology critically, I said they don’t seem to read Calvin’s Institutes critically. The New-Calvinists are extremely critical of any theology that disagrees with how they interpret Calvinism – they spend great effort reading and refuting other theologies. If they were willing to take a more critical look at Calvinism, with the same level of rigor that they critique other theologies, I think they would be more tolerant of people who see it differently.

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  67. Lea: Modern ‘calvinists’ don’t agree with every single thing some flawed dude in the 1600’s thought, so the problem is with modern Calvinists?

    I have not personally met Calvinists who will say anything critical of Calvin’s Institutes. You might know Calvinist who do, but I have not found them either in person or online. But that does not mean they do not exist. Instead, this is the typical type of praise I hear from Calvinist: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/how-to-read-calvins-institutes-and-why-you-should-seriously-consider-it/. The fact that JI Packer (isn’t he an old Calvinist) calls it one of the wonders of the world says something about how Calvinists tend to view it. If you can point me to some Calvinist resources that are critical of Calvin’s Institutes I will be glad to read them.

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  68. I would think that if Challies was confident and secure that all of his actions were of a pure motive, that he would just ignore this blog. He seems to be letting it get to him. He should just keep his head down and do his thing.

    As far as this blog goes, I like it. The sad thing is that I think it offers a good snapshot of the state of American evangelicalism. These guys are not going to come clean and for the most part, I think the writers have a good track record of being right. When the SGM Survivors blog was more active, a friend of mine told me that he heard more about SGM on that site than he got from his own SGM church. The SGM leadership were just too inept to “get out in front of it”.

    I am a Calvinist myself, and I take my share of shots from the commenters here…. but it is not a big deal. I like what Robert M said above…. theology can be like “higher mathematics” if you are not under the guidance of the Spirit. I am wired that way and it has led me down a reformed path. I like math so I think I approach the Word the same way. It does not mean I am right all the time, but I enjoy studying the scriptures and I am what I am.

    He way people like Challies respond to any questioning of anyone in their camp reminds me of a great quote from the second “Wall Street” movie…. “if you stop lying about me I will stop telling the truth about you”. I do not see where the writers of this blog are lying or slandering. It just comes across like news to me.

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  69. Daisy:
    Paige Patterson to Teach Ethics Course at Southern Evangelical Seminary After SWBTS Firing

    https://www.christianpost.com/news/paige-patterson-to-teach-ethics-course-at-southern-evangelical-seminary-after-swbts-firing-227701/

    Ethics? Tone-deafness springs to mind. So do previous thoughts from me and others on his apology, which didn’t strike a favorable chord with many at the time:

    http://thewartburgwatch.com/2018/05/11/paige-patterson-apologizes-and-an-update-on-the-patterson-petition/comment-page-1/#comment-369914

    One looking in might see someone apologizing vaguely for something in a way left open to interpretation, and then getting back to business when th heat dies down on something that likely needed stronger consequences.

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  70. Robert: This is a gross misrepresentation of Calvinism.

    Calvinists believe that God has already decided whether your kid is elect or not elect.

    Calvinists believe that God in eternity passed decided to set his salvific love that always accomplishes salvation upon some. This isn’t about God sitting down and making one box called elect and one box called non-elect and then filling each one.

    Or as my former Calvinist pastor used to say, “We wouldn’t put it like that.”

    But purposely convoluted sentences and flowery euphemisms are the proverbial lipstick on a pig – they might look purtier, but they don’t change the heart of the matter.

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  71. Ken F (aka Tweed): TWW is one of the best approximations of that I have found so far. It certainly seems elusive in the Southern Bible Belt culture I find myself in (I am not a native Southerner).

    Amen to that. I’ve always said that TWW is like Al Andalus of old, before the inquisition took over. Jews, Muslims, and Christians all lived at peace with one another. Lively discussion and disagreement was welcomed, not squelched.

    I live in the Bible belt West, Southeast of LA and Eastward into Arizona.
    Tolerance in those circles is at a premium here too.

    Challies, Mohler, MacArthur, and the whole lot them would more than happy to curtail human freedom if they could. There isn’t anything those types hate and despise more than human freedom.

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  72. Ricco,

    Hey thanks! As I tiptoe around the third rail…

    How about Peter Drucker and Bob Burford with Leadership Network? When Bob passed this year, I absolutely believe what Ed Stetzer wrote about him: “You may not have known Bob, but he probably influenced you and your church.” So there’s this massively influential group and what they do is get attracting the disposable income class and teaching them to be “generous” quite literally down to a science. And regrettably, the disposable income class in America is of course mostly and disproportionately white.

    So, could their activity be what keeps our churches segregated, or part of it? If we’re really exploring this problem, I think it’s worth asking! But this is something that no church lay member has anything to do with, most do not know what Leadership Network is as Ed Stetzer said. It’s the way the Gospel Bunch has picked one theory where the blame exclusively lies with the same targets they’ve always had: inferior churches that are wrong and church members who aren’t good enough.

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  73. Daisy,

    In other (fake) news:

    Mark Driscoll teaches a class on modest speech

    Piper teaches a class on speaking clearly

    Al Mohler teaches a class on honesty

    Dever teaches a class on servant leadership

    Doug Wilson teaches a class on the evils of racism

    I could go on, but that’s enough for now

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  74. “‘I have known Paige Patterson for half a century. I know of no one who is a more sterling example of Christian character,’ Land, a former head of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.”

    Well, I’ve met both of them, and some of their families, and I certainly have questions about their character and ethics!

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  75. Pingback: Wednesday Connect | Thinking Out Loud

  76. Ken F (aka Tweed): If I can use “skepticism” for the belief in the lack of certainty, then even skepticism can only go so far before it starts refuting itself (can a skeptic be absolutely certain that he can be certain about nothing?).

    Very true. I’ve often thought that the recent “new atheism” of Richard Dawkins is every inch a religion itself.

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  77. ZechZav,

    He says a lot before that passage and a lot after that passage that would contradict your conclusion. For example, a few paragraphs later we read
    -“Let us remember, on the other hand, that while life is promised   universally to all who believe in Christ, still faith is not common to   all. For Christ is made known and held out to the view of all, but the   elect alone are they whose eyes God opens, that they may seek him by   faith. Here, too, is displayed a wonderful effect of faith; for by it   we receive Christ such as he is given to us by the Father –that is,   as having freed us from the condemnation of eternal death, and made us   heirs of eternal life, because, by the sacrifice of his death, he has   atoned for our sins, that nothing may prevent God from acknowledging us   as his sons. Since, therefore, faith embraces Christ, with the efficacy   of his death and the fruit of his resurrection, we need not wonder if   by it we obtain likewise the life of Christ.”

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  78. ishy,

    And “church leaders” wonder/pontificate on why people are leaving the church? At some point people stop listening to the “party line” and think for themselves. Maybe if Tim Challies et al would stop worrying about blogs trying to expose abuse, and start speaking brutal truth themselves about hypocracy within religous leaders, like Christ did, the general public would begin to respect the church again. As it is now, both Roman Catholic and Protestant churches have lost their “moral authority” and complaints by Tim Challis er al. about us “bloggers” further etode their own postion…

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  79. ZechZav,

    Lowlandseer,

    Uh huh. I will add those quotes to my list of things which just make no sense at all to ‘the common man’. That list includes but is not limited to printed instructions from the IRS, electronic medical records, assembly instructions for toilet tank systems replacement translated from the Japanese, teenage female ‘drama’ performances, and behavioral veterinary studies which purport to show ‘how your dog is trying to communicate with you’.

    Just saying.

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  80. okrapod,

    Bit of snark there I think but I’ll respond with a quote from Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 2, page 394. “The difference between Augustine and Pelagius, Calvin or Castellio, Gomarud and Arminius is not that the latter were that much more gentle, loving, and tender hearted than the former. On the contrary, it arises from the fact that the former accepted Scripture in its entirety, also ncluding this doctrine (reprobation); that they were and always wanted to be theistic and recognise the will and hand of the Lord also in these disturbing facts of life; they were not afraid to look reality in the eye even when it was appalling. Pelagianism scatters flowers over graves, turns death into an angel, regards sin as mere weakness, lectures on the uses of adversity, and considers this the best possible world. Calvinism has no use for such drivel. It refuses to be hoodwinked. It tolerates no such delusion, takes full account of the seriousness of life, champions the rights of the Lord of lords, and humbly bows in adoration before the inexplicable sovereign will of God Almighty.”

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  81. Jeffrey J Chalmers:
    Maybe if Tim Challies et al would stop worrying about blogs trying to expose abuse, and start speaking brutal truth themselves about hypocracy within religous leaders,like Christ did, the general public would begin to respect the church again.

    I think many of them are wolves. Most of them don’t even bother with the sheep’s clothing anymore. They think if they just talk louder, maybe people will be swayed. It has worked for them some, as they do have rather devout followers, but they’re never going to shut up the critics. But the same tactics get used in politics on both sides and it just seems like the arguments get louder, but the numbers stay the same.

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  82. Stan: How about Peter Drucker and Bob Buford with Leadership Network?

    I keep waiting for an investigative blogger to reveal the underbelly of The Leadership Network and its influence on the American church … for better or worse? Driscoll and Hybels were just two of the church leaders they had a hand in developing … think about it.

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  83. Muff Potter: Challies, Mohler, MacArthur, and the whole lot them would more than happy to curtail human freedom if they could.

    That’s why reformed theology is so appealing to them … total depravity really means total inability and lack of free will. With no will of your own, you are more easily controlled by the keepers of “truth” (them, of course).

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  84. Daisy: Paige Patterson to Teach Ethics Course at Southern Evangelical Seminary After SWBTS Firing

    Well, that line has caused ole Max to become speechless. I know many of you have been wondering what it would take. Some things just don’t merit any comment.

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  85. Max: That’s why reformed theology is so appealing to them … total depravity really means total inability and lack of free will. With no will of your own, you are more easily controlled by the keepers of “truth”

    Yes and exactly. All one has to do is google the research and the take-away in one direction or the other from the research in the field of neuropsych to get an extremely interesting look at the free will vs determinism ideas. That would be including how the various ideas affect one’s life.

    IMO, the neuropsych ideas to this point would be consistent, if said in religious terms, to the concepts of the free and generous gift from God of (prevenient) grace and the opportunity (though limited) of human response or not to that gift. But of course there is more research to be done. In the meantime we have the wolves who feed on the pack with whatever puts them in control; my opinion.

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  86. Lowlandseer:
    okrapod,

    Bit of snark there I think but I’ll respond with a quote from Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 2, page 394. “The difference between Augustine and Pelagius, Calvin or Castellio, Gomarud and Arminius is not that the latter were that much more gentle, loving, and tender hearted than the former. On the contrary, it arises from the fact that the former accepted Scripture in its entirety, also ncluding this doctrine (reprobation); that they were and always wanted to be theistic and recognise the will and hand of the Lord also in these disturbing facts of life; they were not afraid to look reality in the eye even when it was appalling. Pelagianism scatters flowers over graves, turns death into an angel, regards sin as mere weakness, lectures on the uses of adversity, and considers this the best possible world. Calvinism has no use for such drivel. It refuses to be hoodwinked.It tolerates no such delusion, takes full account of the seriousness of life, champions the rights of the Lord of lords, and humbly bows in adoration before the inexplicable sovereign will of God Almighty.”

    But is there any middle ground for a traditionalist, that doesn’t subscribe to reformed theology, without the first shot across the bow by a CAL calling them a pelagian or semi pelagian

    They would say ( some anyway) that grace is just a gift, and the one offered the gift can accept or reject it. ( and no one gets drowned or burnt at the stake).

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  87. okrapod,

    Okrapod,
    Your analysis is exactly what needs to be done by “christian leadership”… continuing to study modern scientific advancements, and traditional christian orthodoxy, and thoughtfully look for similarities…. and differences.. in contrast, we typically get knee jerk, ignorant pontifications by “christian leadership” that does not have a clue about science, of the scientific method.. the lack of scientific training of most “christian leadership” is quite shocking to me… yet so many are so quick to embrace the latest technology, or medical treatment..

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  88. benn: They would say ( some anyway) that grace is just a gift, and the one offered the gift can accept or reject it. ( and no one gets drowned or burnt at the stake).

    A rather telling clue to ponder: what sort of persons would murder decent, innocent people for simply having a different viewpoint? I suspect it helps to believe in a God who deliberately, determinitively creates people for eternal misery and/or destruction.

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  89. benn: But is there any middle ground for a traditionalist, that doesn’t subscribe to reformed theology, without the first shot across the bow by a CAL calling them a pelagian or semi pelagian

    No there is not to the extent that this has become about power since there is no middle ground when it comes to power. But one may say how so since it almost looks like God compromised. I do not think He compromised but rather it may appear that way because God does not have to fear the loss of power while adherents to this or that do theology have to fear the loss of power.

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  90. benn: is there any middle ground for a traditionalist, that doesn’t subscribe to reformed theology … They would say ( some anyway) that grace is just a gift, and the one offered the gift can accept or reject it.

    Well, 90+% of Christendom has chosen to stand on that ground for the last 500 years, rejecting the tenets of reformed theology.

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  91. Max: Well, 90+% of Christendom has chosen to stand on that ground for the last 500 years, rejecting the tenets of reformed theology.

    I cannot document the 90% allegation, but certainly the large majority have rejected reformed theology. I tried looking at the number of denoms but I can’t place them neatly in either the reformed or not reformed or reform-influenced or whatever group. For example: the anglicans have both kinds, and so do the Baptists. If you have some reference for the 90% I would appreciate it if you would share the reference; it would be very encouraging.

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  92. Avid Reader,

    The actual quotes from that article you post show an appalling lack of understanding about basic Reformed concepts and linguistics. The second quote is a clear example of an exegetical fallacy.

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  93. Samuel Conner,

    I would say, rather. that it is an exceedingly compact adumbration of what the theology means, practically, in the lives of many of its adherents.

    Then that’s what she should have said.

    Neocals aren’t much into evangelism — that’s odd from your perspective, isn’t it? And in my experience of traditional Reformed church (a narrow slice, admittedly, and perhaps this was an unusually dysfunctional congregation), this has also been true of them.

    D. James Kennedy invented Evangelism Explosion. The most ardent evangelists I have known are Reformed.

    a) IF God has set his electing love on a person
    and
    b) we do not act to serve as the instrument by which that electing love accomplishes its redemptive intention
    then
    c) someone or something else will serve as God’s instrument
    so that
    d) IF the person in question is indeed elect, they will be saved regardless of what we do.
    A parent’s failure to act will not change the elect status of an elect child, nor the non-elect status of a reprobate child. And it won’t change the ultimate outcome for that child.

    Perhaps so. But this is not different from a non-Reformed system in a classical Christian understanding of divine knowledge. If God knows that the child will come to faith in an Arminian system, the ultimate outcome for that child won’t change if the parent does nothing.

    I don’t think that Dee’s statement was a “gross misrepresentation” so much as a very brief summary of the implications in practice.
    I write this as a monergist. I don’t see how one evades the implications.

    You “evade” the implications by noting that if one is going to criticize Reformed thought, one should at least be aware of the distinctions between primary and secondary causation and don’t issue criticisms that apply equally to a non-Reformed system.

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  94. okrapod,

    John Gerstner in his church history series on the Ligonier site estimates that only 2% are classical Calvinists when it comes to predestination and election. https://www.ligonier.org/

    A 2011 report of the Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life estimated that members of Reformed churches make up 7% of the estimated 801 million Protestants globally, or approximately 56 million people. http://www.pewforum.org/2011/12/19/global-christianity-exec/

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  95. ZechZav,

    If you want the reader to actually understand Calvinism and decide the implications, perhaps you should quote all the pertinent parts of the discussion.

    WCF 3.1

    “1. God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.

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  96. Robert,

    Starting with Genesis 6: 5-7 and following forward the scripture is a veritable lab study of how people argued with God or struggled with God or made deals with God or bargained with God or made promises to God and how God went back and modified some prior intention (or threat if one thinks God threatens what he does not intend in the first place) -if and only if of course one is a literalist.

    Personally I rather value the pragmatism of Jesus’ admonition to continually keep asking God for whatever, as illustrated by the woman and the unjust judge.

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  97. Robert:
    Benn,

    From a human perspective, one can say that. Scripture also says that God does not change his mind. “God is not a man that he should repent.”

    What about from an inerrant scripture, be it the origin Hebrew, or the Greek o.t. Septuagint perspective?
    I’ve never heard CALS give a coherent explanation of time in the Bible.

    Now I know that you will obey me. If you obey the law that I give. Choose this day who you will

    Is this that pesky tension thing again?

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  98. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    I’ve seen it used so many times that I no longer believe there is anything that can rightly be called true or authentic Calvinism.

    Look to the Reformed Confessions. You might not agree with them, and that is fine. But for people to post things such as “the Reformed deny free will” or don’t believe their actions matter, or such things is just blatantly false.

    For that matter, as a Calvinist I would say that for someone to say an Arminian does not believe in God’s sovereignty is making a blatantly false statement.

    The problem is the inherent inconsitenties in the various Calvinism that make it (them) so difficult to defend.

    The problem is that similar inconsistencies also exist in Arminian and other non-Calvinistic systems. If God knows for certain that my son will never believe the gospel on account of His exhaustive foreknowledge, then virtually the same criticisms that Arminians make about Calvinist conceptions of free will and whether my actions can do anything also apply to the Arminian or non-Calvinist system.

    Every Christian has a doctrine of election, the only difference between Reformed systems and non-Reformed systems is the basis for it. But whether the basis is God’s own free choice or God’s exhaustive foreknowledge, there isn’t anything anyone can do to change who is elect and who isn’t.

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  99. Benn,

    What about from an inerrant scripture, be it the origin Hebrew, or the Greek o.t. Septuagint perspective?
    I’ve never heard CALS give a coherent explanation of time in the Bible.
    Now I know that you will obey me. If you obey the law that I give. Choose this day who you will
    Is this that pesky tension thing again?

    I don’t understand these questions.

    God’s relation to time is an important biblical and philosophical discussion. Traditional Christian theism of all stripes, including the Reformed and all non-Reformed systems have held that God exists outside of time and knows exhaustively what will happen in time.

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  100. ZechZav,

    It’s a bit anachronistic to apply categories of limited and unlimited atonement to Calvin since those defined concepts come after him. But I don’t see how extending an offer of the gospel and atonement to all is inconsistent with the Calvinistic system. At least it is no more inconsistent than extending the gospel to all when you know that some certainly won’t believe anyway.

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  101. Robert: in the same way that you or I do.

    Moving the goal posts there a bit aren’t you. God does not do anything in the same way that humans do. But that is not the issue from your prior statement.

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  102. Robert,

    The time in the inerrant scripture that offers conditional choice

    Was God not offering people a choice, a free will choice, to choose who they would serve, or was that just a word game ? I set before life and death, blessing or curse, choose today ? On and on

    Choose this day who you will serve, but as for me and my house we will serve the lord.
    Many examples of free will offered to the chosen nation of Israel

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  103. Robert: Traditional Christian theism of all stripes, including the Reformed and all non-Reformed systems have held that God exists outside of time and knows exhaustively what will happen in time.

    And there is also the idea that God exists in both time and non-time. That would be that God existed prior to when he created time, and God became incarnate in time, and the issue then is can God in the future go back to before He existed in time and make it as if it had never been when time in fact may or does come to an end. The theory goes not if the incarnation was the incarnation of the pre-existant son; only if the two natures of Christ did not constitute the one person of the son of God.

    Or something enticing like that.

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  104. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    I have not personally met Calvinists who will say anything critical of Calvin’s Institutes. You might know Calvinist who do, but I have not found them either in person or online. But that does not mean they do not exist. Instead, this is the typical type of praise I hear from Calvinist: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/how-to-read-calvins-institutes-and-why-you-should-seriously-consider-it/. The fact that JI Packer (isn’t he an old Calvinist) calls it one of the wonders of the world says something about how Calvinists tend to view it. If you can point me to some Calvinist resources that are critical of Calvin’s Institutes I will be glad to read them.

    I find fault with Calvin’s writings in many places and I also believe that the Institutes rank as one of the most faithful summaries of Scriptures ever produced.

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  105. If this discussion (re: Clavinism / free will, etc…) were an average MLB game, we would be about in the 13,140,000 inning with no end in sight. I’ve run out of popcorn and am headed to bed. I’ll see who won in the morning. Or not.

    ION, I am having trouble telling who is who when I watch Premier League. Trying to get more into it, and am enjoying what I am seeing, but still. They don’t exactly make it easy. For those in the know, any help?

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  106. Nick Bulbeck: Very true. I’ve often thought that the recent “new atheism” of Richard Dawkins is every inch a religion itself.

    I’m in agreement Nick.
    And they (Dawkinsian new atheists) proselytize (in their own way) just as much as an ardent fundagelical.

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  107. okrapod,

    Exactly, and this my eariler point that the debate between predestination and free will gets “Trumped” ( I cringe as I write this word) bu these aspects of the “nature of G$d”. It is not really possible for a human to think/comprehend the concept of not being bound by time. The actual process of my writing this, and you reading this, is the concept that one word come before another….. if one remove any contraint of “time” hiw does one “think”??

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  108. Robert: But I don’t see how extending an offer of the gospel and atonement to all is inconsistent with the Calvinistic system. At least it is no more inconsistent than extending the gospel to all when you know that some certainly won’t believe anyway.

    One is false advertising; offering what one does not have to offer ‘to all’ while letting it appear to be ‘for all’. False hope. Deceit. And worse, doing it all the while believing it to be deceptive, believing God to be a deceiver.

    Go back to the first thing I argued with you about. The partial scripture you quoted was half of one of those Jewish ways of talking which began with “God is not a man that he should lie, or the son of man that he should repent. Has He said and will He not do? Or has he spoken and will He not make it good.” Your statement that ‘scripture also says…’ was commentary. Nothing about the scripture you quoted had to do with whether or not God would be persuaded is some situation, only that Balaam could not change the oracle.

    So based on that scripture is God a man that he should lie, and asking whether offering grace where there is no intention of extending grace, in fact, lying? Assuming of course that the statement that God does not lie can be broadly applied beyond that specific incident.

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  109. Muff Potter: Nick Bulbeck: Very true. I’ve often thought that the recent “new atheism” of Richard Dawkins is every inch a religion itself.

    I’m in agreement Nick.
    And they (Dawkinsian new atheists) proselytize (in their own way) just as much as an ardent fundagelical.

    Cults don’t need to be based on a religion per se, and Fundamentalism is a state of mind that can transfer to any object of worship.

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  110. okrapod: And there is also the idea that God exists in both time and non-time.

    For Trekkies, kinda like “linear time” vs “non-linear time” from DS9.

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  111. TS00: A rather telling clue to ponder: what sort of persons would murder decent, innocent people for simply having a different viewpoint?

    True Believers secure in their Righteousness.

    Absolute Power plus Utter Righteousness is a real bad combination, from 1789 Paris to 1970s Phnom Penh to the current Global Caliphate of ISIS.

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  112. Lowlandseer: It tolerates no such delusion, takes full account of the seriousness of life, champions the rights of the Lord of lords

    Does God REALLY need a mortal physical Champion?
    All too easy to self-ordain as that Champion and go into “Whatever would God do without MEEEEE?” mode.

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  113. Jeffrey J Chalmers: Maybe if Tim Challies et al would stop worrying about blogs trying to expose abuse

    “Throw a rock into a pack of junkyard dogs, and the one that yelps is the one who got hit.”

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  114. Robert:
    Benn,

    What about from an inerrant scripture, be it the origin Hebrew, or the Greek o.t. Septuagint perspective?
    I’ve never heard CALS give a coherent explanation of time in the Bible.
    Now I know that you will obey me. If you obey the law that I give. Choose this day who you will
    Is this that pesky tension thing again?

    I don’t understand these questions.

    God’s relation to time is an important biblical and philosophical discussion. Traditional Christian theism of all stripes, including the Reformed and all non-Reformed systems have held that God exists outside of time and knows exhaustively what will happen in time.

    Robert also, 1 Samuel 8:7 The Lord told Samuel, listen to everything the people are saying to you. They haven’t rejected you; they’ve rejected me.

    The people wanted a king like all the other nations, instead of what can I say, God’s sovereign decree for Judges to rule over Israel.
    I believe God is sovereign, Psalm 135:6 Whatever the LORD pleases, he does…..

    I just think in many situations it pleases GOD to see who will choose to obey him, he will choose to follow his word, and it doesn’t demenish him, or his glory or his sovereignty one bit to allow it….

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  115. Max,

    Dee tweeted about them a few months ago and I took an interest. There’s a lot out there, but much of it is weak, biased, or starts calling them the Antichrist and saying their real problem is using non-KJV translations. This one is good and well supported, and even connects Drucker’s methods to the spiritual abuse at Mars Hill. Just smile and nod at the lines on “global governance”…

    http://herescope.blogspot.com/2014/09/we-are-not-abandoned.html

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  116. Robert: and I also believe that the Institutes rank as one of the most faithful summaries of Scriptures ever produced.

    I only refered to Institutes in this thread, not to any of Calvin’s other writings. Do you find anything faulty in his Institutes, and if so, what are the top two or three faults?

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  117. benn: But is there any middle ground for a traditionalist, that doesn’t subscribe to reformed theology, without the first shot across the bow by a CAL calling them a pelagian or semi pelagian

    I have been very impressed with the historical-interpretive method of NT Wright. His results look a great deal like the traditional view, but with some surprising (and IMO delightful) adjustments.

    IMO his approach (which is surely not the last word on the subject) makes better sense than the current favored views of the narrative arc of Scripture from Genesis through Revelation.

    Andrew Perriman is also doing interesting work, IMO. I did not know of him before encountering him in the blogroll at InternetMonk. His views are a bit scarier than Wright’s from the perspective of traditionalists.

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  118. Robert: But whether the basis is God’s own free choice or God’s exhaustive foreknowledge, there isn’t anything anyone can do to change who is elect and who isn’t.

    These are not the only viable alternatives. But if you constrain god’s sovereignty then they might be the only alternatives that make sense to you.

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  119. Cat and Dog Theology

    A DOG says, ‘You pet me, you feed me, you shelter me, you love me, you must be God.’

    A CAT says, ‘You pet me, you feed me, you shelter me, you love me, I must be God.’

    =====
    CAT THEOLOGY: Me-ology
    Cats worship God primarily for what He has done for them.
    Cats want to God to obey them.
    Cats read the Bible thinking it is about them.
    Cat’s think God exists to bless them.

    DOG THEOLOGY: Thee-ology
    Dogs worship God primarily for who He is.
    Dogs want to obey God.
    Dogs read the Bible thinking it is about God.
    Dogs think they exist to glorify God.

    Adapted from: Cat and Dog Theology, by Bob Sjogren

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  120. Robert:
    Benn,

    What about from an inerrant scripture, be it the origin Hebrew, or the Greek o.t. Septuagint perspective?
    I’ve never heard CALS give a coherent explanation of time in the Bible.
    Now I know that you will obey me. If you obey the law that I give. Choose this day who you will
    Is this that pesky tension thing again?

    I don’t understand these questions.

    God’s relation to time is an important biblical and philosophical discussion. Traditional Christian theism of all stripes, including the Reformed and all non-Reformed systems have held that God exists outside of time and knows exhaustively what will happen in time.

    I think it is important to also add, in order to not obscure or elide an important distinction, that (at least among the Reformed), the reason that God “knows exhaustively what will happen in time” is not that He observes time-bound events from His timeless vantage point.

    To affirm that is to make God’s knowledge of the world dependent on the world itself, and that is a lower view of God than the Scriptures seem to have and that the Reformed affirm.

    But if God’s knowledge of the world does not come from observation of the world, then what is its source? My understanding (correct me, you who are better informed) is that it comes from “God Himself”, specifically His knowledge of what He has decreed shall take place in time. God knows what happens in time because He knows what He decrees to happen in time.

    I confess that I don’t see how this establishes the liberty and contingency of secondary causes, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be so.

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  121. There seems to me a certain amount of incongruity of the New Calvinist theology and how their leaders speak about their perceived authority. It is inconsistent at best and at worst, they are flat out liars.

    They seem to assign themselves God-like powers to decide things for others and claim authority to do so, while talking about how sinful and like a worm everyone is. Sometimes they do say they themselves are, but then why would anybody trust anybody else to make all the decisions if everybody is really still that evil?

    They don’t talk about the Holy Spirit hardly at all, so I assume they don’t think the Holy Spirit is effective for guidance. Maybe they secretly believe only leaders have that guidance, I don’t know. I would think that belief would make you quite humble, and we certainly know that doesn’t define many New Cals that we know.

    I don’t see that same arrogance in most classical Calvinists I’ve met, of whom many do still have that belief that we are sinful worms to some extent, but they apply it evenly to everyone. God, the Bible and the creeds hold the authority, not people currently on earth.

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  122. ishy: They don’t talk about the Holy Spirit hardly at all

    Heck, the New Calvinists hardly mention Jesus!! Reformed icons (Piper et al.) get more sermon time than the precious name of Christ. Perhaps it’s just the crop of SBC-YRR church planters I listen to (sermon podcasts) in my area who don’t raise the Name above all names … hope it’s better where you live.

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  123. Max: YRR church planters I listen to (sermon podcasts) in my area who don’t raise the Name above all names … hope it’s better where you live.

    Not much, from what I understand. I was just talking this week with people who have started going to our church from the SBC church who is in takeover mode, and that was one of their main critiques and reasons for leaving.

    I took a spiritual gifts inventory a couple weeks ago, and came up still pretty strongly gifted in mission-oriented gifts like evangelism, but the past few years, it feels like I’ve done more evangelism about Jesus to former friends still in SBC churches than unreached people.

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  124. Lowlandseer:
    ZechZav,

    He says a lot before that passage and a lot after that passage that would contradict your conclusion. For example, a few paragraphs later we read
    -“Let us remember, on the other hand, that while life is promised universally to all who believe in Christ, still faith is not common to all. For Christ is made known and held out to the view of all, but the elect alone are they whose eyes God opens, that they may seek him by faith. Here, too, is displayed a wonderful effect of faith; for by it we receive Christ such as he is given to us by the Father –that is, as having freed us from the condemnation of eternal death, and made us heirs of eternal life, because, by the sacrifice of his death, he has atoned for our sins, that nothing may prevent God from acknowledging us as his sons. Since, therefore, faith embraces Christ, with the efficacy of his death and the fruit of his resurrection, we need not wonder if by it we obtain likewise the life of Christ.”

    It doesn’t actually contradict. These statements are consistent with 4 point Calvinism which rejects limited atonement but accepts the rest of the system.

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  125. ishy: I’ve done more evangelism about Jesus to former friends still in SBC churches than unreached people

    One of the greatest mission fields on the planet will be among SBC-YRRs when the New Calvinist bubble breaks. They will be left confused and disillusioned by “church.” It will take one-on-one evangelism to lead them to the Cross of Christ and engage them in the Great Commission in or out of institutional church in future years.

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  126. ishy: I’ve done more evangelism about Jesus to former friends still in SBC churches than unreached people

    “Evangelism” to a New Calvinist is just not the same thing you grew up with, ishy. In one of the SBC-YRR podcasts I listen to, a new reformer gave a report on his mission trip to West Africa. In one of the villages he visited, a young man walked up to him with a Bible in hand, given to him by missionaries. He said he had been reading John 3 and essentially asked the young pastor “What must I do to be saved?” The “pastor” responded “You don’t have to ‘do’ anything. God’s grace has been extended to you.” What?!! No mention of Jesus, no mention of the Cross, no prayer, no repentance, no discussion about the young man’s understanding of the Gospel?! This is evangelism? What love is this?

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  127. Robert:
    ZechZav,

    If you want the reader to actually understand Calvinism and decide the implications, perhaps you should quote all the pertinent parts of the discussion.

    WCF 3.1

    “1. God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.

    That makes no difference whatsoever. It is just self-contradictory dogma. It is like saying “I wrote a book and everything in it. However I am not the author of the mistakes nor can I be held responsible for it! I do not contradict myself but, instead my assertions are confirmed” That is ridiculous. Talking about secondary causes changes nothing in the end result. Merely asserting in one sentence one thing and then contradicting yourself in the next does not convince me of anything. I don’t buy this theology and with every attempted explanation, I am even more reluctant to do so.

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  128. Robert,

    Typical Calvinist response when criticized: “You don’t understand Calvinism.” Did you guys hold a meeting and decide that was going to be your response when anyone disagreed with your theology? As a former Calvinist who does understand Calvinism, I know that Dee is absolutely correct. You can try to explain away the Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election but it’s true that Calvinists believe that God has already chosen who will be saved and nobody else is going to be saved. That heretical doctrine eviscerates evangelism.

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  129. Robert: “1. God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.”

    Can you please translate that into English?

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  130. Robert: But in any case, non-Calvinists also believe God has decided whether your kid is elect or non-elect. All Christians have to have a doctrine of election because the Bible talks about elect people. The difference for most is whether that election is based on God’s free choice or if it is based on his foreknowledge of faith. Either way, God has “already decided” and there’s “nothing” you can do to change that decision

    Having worked for a large hierarchical firm for almost 25 years there is a concept that has bearing on this subject: delegation of authority. The higher you are in the organization the more authority you have. At lower level you have some, less than the level immediately above you. In a planned absence of a manager he may choose to delegate some authority to an underling for a specified time. One I thing I learned about this process is don’t overstep your delegated authority.

    Genesis 1:27 indicates we are made in God’s image. I suggest this means with have agency, we can make decisions. They are not made before hand for us for all time. Obviously we do not have all of God’s power individually or collectively.

    I accept that Gen 1:27 shows that God has given us, delegated, some limited authority in spite of knowing how it is likely to work out. God has chosen to surrender some of his power to us. I don’t believe there is anything that suggests our decisions, individually or collectively, concerning God have been predestined. However, He has also indicated that we will eventually be judged for our use and misuse of these delegated powers but that there will be some forgiveness.

    If genuine choice cannot be made then there is nothing we can do either positive or negative. We cannot be held accountable for what we cannot choose to do.

    I am not comfortable with even a simple wading into shallow theological waters but some very basic things need to be said.

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  131. Stan: This one is good and well-documented, and connects Drucker to the abusive ministry at Mars Hill Church. Just smile and nod at the “global governance” lines…

    http://herescope.blogspot.com/2014/09/we-are-not-abandoned.html

    Hmmmm … confirms what I have been wondering about for years … that The Leadership Network had their hand in the development of both the emergent and resurgent movements. Kind of creepy to look behind the curtain- overtones of deep state and globalization … and in the case of Driscoll, artificial intelligence. Keep digging, you may find a George Soros connection.

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  132. It is possible to be a calvinist, surely, and express one’s views something like this:

     I believe it is necessary for God to be sovereign
     He either is, or he isn’t, and if he is, he must be sovereign over everything
     Longish story short, I therefore believe TULIP
     AND that God is in sovereign control of EVERYTHING
     BUT… I realise that “everything” would include sin
     This is a weakness in my theology
     That weakness doesn’t make my theology nonsensical, but it does make it incomplete…
     … like all the other theologies I’ve come across
     Calvinism may not be biblically COMPLETE, but it is biblically BASED
     Other theologies are too, but Calvinism makes the most sense to me
     And in any case, I signed up to follow Jesus, not Calvin, so “a calvinist” doesn’t define me

    Or some variation on that theme. Now, I’d disagree with that person in detail, but I’d agree with them in outline: they DO have a reasonable, tenable, christian theology with which they can love their neighbour as themselves.

    The stuff I have a problem with is this kind of thing:
     Of course, there are people who disagree with me, but my theology is based on scripture
     God is the author of everything including sin, but that doesn’t include sin, and if you think it does it’s because you’re too stupid to understand that simply applying the weakly supervenient paradigm of multi-level causality transcends the everyday existential operator and removes the superficially difficulties inherent within your shallow reading of the parafissile extension of “everything” being unable to mean both “everything” and “not everything” simultaneously
     Nobody’s carnal enough to claim calvinism is perfect, but if you think calvinism isn’t perfect you obviously haven’t understood it
     An’ a’ tha’

    But I’m not convinced it’s calvinism as such that forces people to communicate like that.

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  133. oldJohnJ,

    I accept that Gen 1:27 shows that God has given us, delegated, some limited authority in spite of knowing how it is likely to work out.

    Does God know for sure how it will turn out or not?

    I don’t believe there is anything that suggests our decisions, individually or collectively, concerning God have been predestined.

    But the word “predestine” specifically occurs several times in Scripture. Every Christian has to have some doctrine of predestination. There are non-Calvinist doctrines of predestination.

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  134. Muff Potter,

    1. God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass:

    God’s decree establishes all that ever happens.

    yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin,

    That does not mean God is morally blameworthy for sin.

    nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures;

    That does not mean God forces people to do things they do not want to do.

    nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.”

    That does not mean are actions are not freely chosen and it does not mean that are actions are not purposeful and real.

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  135. Leslie Puryear:
    As a former Calvinist who does understand Calvinism

    Maybe you can answer a question that I’ve always wondered when I hear that “You don’t understand Calvinism” answer, but does anybody really understand it?

    I know a lot of New Calvinists who just quote other people for most pat answers, and it seems like whenever they don’t have someone to quote, they answer that way. And usually the quotes don’t directly answer the honest questions people have about it.

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  136. Leslie Puryear,

    it’s true that Calvinists believe that God has already chosen who will be saved and nobody else is going to be saved.

    Unless you believe God does not know the future completely, the same exact thing is true of non-Reformed systems. Most common view is probably prescient foreknowledge as the basis. God knows who will believe and then he chooses that that person will be saved. Nobody else is going to be saved because God does not choose to save those whom He knows will not respond in faith.

    The difference between Calvinists and non-Calvinists is not that God chooses some people for salvation, the difference is in the basis for the choice. Is it foreseen faith or God’s will.

    That heretical doctrine eviscerates evangelism.

    The theology and practice of people such as William Carey, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, D. James Kennedy and many, many others proves otherwise.

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  137. ZechZav,

    That makes no difference whatsoever. It is just self-contradictory dogma. It is like saying “I wrote a book and everything in it. However I am not the author of the mistakes nor can I be held responsible for it! I do not contradict myself but, instead my assertions are confirmed” That is ridiculous. Talking about secondary causes changes nothing in the end result. Merely asserting in one sentence one thing and then contradicting yourself in the next does not convince me of anything. I don’t buy this theology and with every attempted explanation, I am even more reluctant to do so.

    You need a better illustration. If Calvinists are right about Scriptures teaching, then God would never say that what he has established is a mistake.

    I’m not going to pretend that Calvinism is a system with no problems. The difficulty is that a non-Calvinist system really cannot offer any better of an answer regarding the free-will of people and God’s sovereignty and how both can be true without God being morally responsible for sin and without our free-will being far less free than we want it to be. It’s fine to not like Calvinism. Now give me a relationship between divine sovereignty and free will in which what I do matters more than it does in Calvinism.

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  138. Samuel Conner,

    I think it is important to also add, in order to not obscure or elide an important distinction, that (at least among the Reformed), the reason that God “knows exhaustively what will happen in time” is not that He observes time-bound events from His timeless vantage point.
    To affirm that is to make God’s knowledge of the world dependent on the world itself, and that is a lower view of God than the Scriptures seem to have and that the Reformed affirm.
    But if God’s knowledge of the world does not come from observation of the world, then what is its source? My understanding (correct me, you who are better informed) is that it comes from “God Himself”, specifically His knowledge of what He has decreed shall take place in time. God knows what happens in time because He knows what He decrees to happen in time.

    This is correct as far as my understanding of the tradition goes.

    I confess that I don’t see how this establishes the liberty and contingency of secondary causes, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be so.

    Exactly. I don’t know how it does either, but it doesn’t mean that it can’t be so. I also don’t fully understand how God can be both one and three or how Christ can be God and man, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be so.

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  139. It bothers me that someone on this thread appears to be declaring that anyone who is not Calvinist (that would include me) really is a Calvinist after all because he (Robert) has sovereignly declared that the rest of us don’t have the free will to choose not to be Calvinist and that we really believe what we say we don’t believe because that what he has decided is the case. While I don’t want to engage in the obviously pointless exercise of arguing with a closed mind… I do still want to emphatically state that no one can take away my free will to choose my own beliefs. 🙂

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  140. Leslie Puryear: doctrine of unconditional election … eviscerates evangelism

    Indeed! No matter how the New Calvinists spin “evangelism,” it is simply not the evangelism the Christian church is called to take to a lost world. The tenets of reformed theology do not deliver the Great Commission.

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  141. ___

    “Is It Not The Truth That Convinces?”

    hmmm…

    Calvinism as presented in John Calvins’s ‘Institutes Of The Christian Religion’ is a dangerously false theological religious system based upon the corrupting influences of the Gnostic writings of Augustine. It is imperative that the reader understand that this system, at its core, attempts to purposefully impair divinely imparted human moral agency.

    To negate the effects of this artificial in nature, critically nefarious religious system, one must truly thoroughly understand through study of the word of God; the revealed workings of God Almighty with Man, with His own people Israel, and with the ministry of the Apostles after the resurrection.

    A simple case in point would lead us to examine the Babel historical event. Noah was given the direct instruction to multiply and fill the earth. As you may recall, the Babel tower incident was the result —opposite of instruction —a pronounced moral agency disobedience resulting in strong judicial treatment. We learn from this that judgment could not have occurred without the existance of divinely imparted human moral agency as a pre-existing condition.

    *

    John Calvin neither properly understood God Almighty, nor Man; yet now he is presented as an authoritative buck-stops-here individual. Unfortunately his present day followers buy this stuff hook, line, and sinker; to their detriment and to all those who ‘receive’ their words.

    ;~)

    – –

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  142. It is possible for a theoretical construct to offer an adequate (or even an excellent) account of the available evidence and still be profoundly inadequate as a guide to understanding “what is really going on.” Examples from the history of physics abound and even today what we have is not final understanding but rather excellent formalisms that do an impressive job of describing and predicting the behavior of observable phenomena, but that do not tell us much about the nature of reality. And we believe that our excellent formalisms are still incomplete (and therefore, strictly speaking, “wrong”) because of deep incompatibilities between different aspects of physics (quantum theory with gravitation theory, for example).

    I think this problem is even more acute in theology. I don’t think that any of the systems on offer are either fully internally consistent (that is, do not contain what look from the standpoint of human logic to be contradictions) or externally consistent (that is, offering a persuasive account, devoid of special pleading, of all the data present in Scripture).

    Pick your flawed system, and cling to if you must, but do so humbly.

    FWIW, I used to be more or less fully within the Calvinist way of thinking, though I found it quite a distressing experience. I eventually noticed reasons to question whether “infernalism” is an adequate account of the Biblical evidence regarding the fate of the unrighteous, and retreated from a more full-orbed Calvinism to a merely monergist posture, but agnostic about the personal eschatology of the unrighteous.

    I suspect that we (myself included) are missing important things. Maybe they are incomprehensible, and that is why we miss them, or maybe they are in plain sight, but somehow are minds don’t perceive them.

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  143. Robert,

    Nope. They show that the sovereignty of God has caused us not to believe in Calvinism.

    Jesus really did die for the WHOLE world, not just a lucky few like Calvinism insists.

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  144. Robert: Now give me a relationship between divine sovereignty and free will in which what I do matters more than it does in Calvinism.

    How much reading have you done from ancient Christians other than Augustine? Historical Christianity affirms free will (synergism), and even asserts that human free will is necessary to repidiate monotheletism (6th ecumenical council in 680-681 BC).

    A useful shortcut I have found for getting an ancient perspective is looking at the Eastern Orthodox articles and books because their theology is very old. They often look at things in a very different way from either Roman Catholicism or Protestantism – sometimes shockingly different. This does not mean they are necessarily correct, but their different perspectives can be very helpful. Please read through this one example of an EO perspective on free will: http://saintandrewgoc.org/home/2014/7/7/the-free-will-of-man-according-to-the-holy-orthodox-christia.html.

    Another factor is only a very thin minority of Christians throughout history have believed in predestination in the way you describe it. This does not mean it is wrong, but we should be highly suspect of doctrines that have not been widely believed.

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  145. Ken F (aka Tweed): human free will is necessary to repidiate monotheletism (6th ecumenical council in 680-681 BC)

    For the theology geeks out there, this article describes why human free will is an important fallout from the monotheletism debate concerning the nature of Christ.

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  146. Samuel Conner: And we believe that our excellent formalisms are still incomplete (and therefore, strictly speaking, “wrong”) because of deep incompatibilities between different aspects of physics (quantum theory with gravitation theory, for example).

    This is a good example. Quantum mechanics and general relativity are both good as far as they go, but cannot both be true together… and yet both are used to produce consistently working technology.

    Specifically, applying quantumness and relativity together at the same time creates an infinity. Which we take to imply a contradiction because we can’t meaningfully deal with infinities. So, scientific scientists are compelled to suck that up. They can’t just choose a side and say the other one is wrong; nor can they invent some dodge to say there’s no incompatibility, or pretend that quantumness/relativity doesn’t really imply infinity and it’s you that’s misunderstood what Einstein taught.

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  147. Ken F (aka Tweed): “God is responsible for everything without being responsible for anything.”

    When I was part of a cult back in the 90’s, the CEO thereof was like that. Everything was to his credit, but nothing was his fault.

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  148. Nick Bulbeck: When I was part of a cult back in the 90’s, the CEO thereof was like that. Everything was to his credit, but nothing was his fault.

    Was it creating a god in his own image, or becoming like the god he worshipped?

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  149. Muff Potter: Robert: “1. God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.”

    Can you please translate that into English?

    Easy, you just have to be comfortable with doublespeak. God is in absolute authority over all things, having scripted whatsoever is to come long, long ago. The part about not being the source of evil is simply (wink, wink) to not scare off the weanies who can’t stomach a God who ordains rape, murder and child abuse; but don’t take it too seriously. They just sorta move in and out of using ‘ordain’ and ‘permit’ to make people more comfortable. The guys in the know understand that when God ordains evil it is not really evil. He gets men to ‘desire’ evil and then ensures that they pursue that desire to meet his preordained plan. Because if you use the ‘secondary means’ of a stick to hit the dog, you can blame the stick for hitting the dog and burn it for being evil. And you can rightly claim, ‘I never laid a hand on that dog.’ You just have to know how the game is played.

    But seriously. The old-timers used to be more open about what Calvinism actually asserts. But, as Max likes to point out, that caused most people to reject it, so they went to plan B. That requires keeping what R.C. Sproul used to call ‘the scary stuff’ in the closet as much as possible. With the invention of Compatibilism, they attempted to prevent deep reflection by claiming that one could hold both meticulous determinism and free will to be true. Despite being complete opposites. Trust us, we’re the authorities. And we’ve got Calvin, the Westminster Divines and the Mormon Tabernacle choir behind us. Okay, maybe not the choir.

    I bought into that myth for years, pushing aside niggling doubts, before finally facing the fact that it just did not hold up to basic logic. It the people and the community that held me more than the theology, which I never could fully embrace. This is the same story that so many of my friends tell. And, after over a decade in Calvinist circles, I believe that the vast majority of the self-claimed ‘Reformed’ folk I know have limited understanding of the theology. And most of their pastors try to keep it that way. This includes my own spouse, and some of my adult children. (Much like the sneaky Neo-Cals discussed here, the Calvinists in-the-know prefer to disclose as little of the ‘scary stuff’ as possible to the pew. Sounds strange, in a Reformed church, but people simply ‘trust’ the pastor, and don’t ask hard questions. The ones that do are helped to the door.)

    New people always asked for a full-scale study on ‘Calvinism’, which seems a legitimate request for people considering Calvinism for the first time. But the pastor always managed to put it off, and after twelve years, it still hadn’t happened.

    But eventually, most would figure it out on their own and leave. Every three to five years, the membership of our church would turn over almost completely, with the exception of the pastor’s family. We were, by far, the longest term members. (We were also there before it was a church or had a pastor, so you might say we were a bit loyal to the cause.)

    Some of my family, unlike me, are not into deep reflection, and it is not something I press upon them. I am happy to know that they do not really believe, or live as if they believe, the things Calvinism asserts about God. If they want to call themselves ‘Reformed’, so be it. Most, one by one, are moving on, and it is my hope and prayer that they will all come to better understand the goodness, justice and limitless love of God for all people.

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  150. Robert,

    Robert, can I be honest here?
    Calvinism, Arminianism, or whateverism, I’m far less concerned with what you (generic you) believe than I am with what kind of human being you are.
    The Jews would say that if you’re a Mensch you’re okay.
    I believe that too.

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  151. Robert: But the word “predestine” specifically occurs several times in Scripture. Every Christian has to have some doctrine of predestination. There are non-Calvinist doctrines of predestination.

    The greatest problems within Calvinism arise not so much from abiblical words (although they have those too) but from faulty definitions of biblical words.

    Scripture states: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Rom 8:29-30) But Calvinism does not simply stick with what scripture tells us, which is that God has predestinated that those who believe will be conformed to the image of his Son, called, justified and glorified.

    It is an enormous leap to go from what is actually said – which provides fodder enough for varying interpretations – to Calvinism’s predestination of ‘whatsoever comes to pass’, which is nowhere stated.

    Firmly convinced that their theology, which has been pieced together from verses and bits of verses here and there, is not only plausible but the only possible way to view scripture, Calvinists appear to have little understanding of hermeneutics, translation, interpretation, bias and all that leads to many different possible understandings of the very same words. There would not be so many non-Calvinists if they didn’t have something at least plausible to pin their trust on.

    My Calvinist pastor mocked all other viewpoints as godless, liberal, worldly, etc. Didn’t leave much grace for people to disagree; or grow; or have relationships with people outside of their little bubble.

    I could go on and on, but it truly is not my desire to make people who call themselves ‘Reformed’ defensive or uncomfortable. What breaks my heart is knowing that my children were raised under a theology that suggests that God does not love all people, does not truly offer redemption to all and misunderstands not only what predestinate means, but what sin, salvation, love and life are all about.

    My concern is not merely academic. I have seen precious lives deeply messed up by this stuff. Some have turned from God, spouses and family in their indignation against an unjust and unloving God and despair that ‘church’ has nothing of value to offer anyone.

    I am jealous for the reputation and character of a gracious, kind, merciful, just and loving God who gave so much to reveal how he longs for restored fellowship with his creatures; including me; and you; and all others. How he so wants to make right what our selfishness and pride, fueled by Satan’s deceptions, have made so wrong.

    I am deeply saddened that ‘salvation’ has been turned into some sort of forensic, legal procedure, proffered to a select, lucky few, when in reality, God passionately desires to save all from needless evil, suffering and death. All day long he has held out his arms, compassionately, longingly, desiring us to lay down our heavy burden of sin and misery and come to Him for a do-over. I want everyone to know this message that God spared nothing to send us.

    The ‘problem’ with Calvinism is that it voids for so many the offer of forgiveness, and the hope for new, abundant and eternal life that Jesus did so much to bring to them. It puts salvation in a tiny little box, with room for only a small, preselected few, and, literally, to h*ll with the rest. But the good news, the angels declared, was to be delivered unto all people. Whereas Jesus says to us “. . . let him who is thirsty come, let him who desires, take the water of life without price”, Calvinism says, ‘Not so fast. God never meant to provide salvation for ‘all’. Sorry, he didn’t choose you, or you or you. Just us.’ And with such condemnation, and utter hopelessness, they have no qualms. Sorry, if their God was mine, we would be having some serious words. And I wouldn’t fear his condemnation, because who would want to spend eternity with a God like that anyway?

    I gave Calvinism a real try, even after investigating and rejecting it in prior years. I took the bait. Maybe I just didn’t understand it properly. What if it was true? But, once again, I found it greatly wanting and with no sound basis for its assertions. I say to you, with great joy, the gospel they preach is false; the good news of which the angels sang was truly for all people – whosoever will receive it. For any Reformed person who has ever had the tiniest twinge of sadness that God’s love is so limited, the good news is that there are many, better explanations for every single Calvinist interpretation of scripture. I urge you to investigate for yourself.

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  152. ___

    “Check-List-Salvation ™ , Perhaps?”

    hmmm…

    Jesus in John 3:16 said: “…that who so ever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life…”

    However, the Calvinist says you have to be among the elect before the foundations of the world, be called of God, be given the gift of faith also by God, it is then and only then that you are given the where-with-all to believe, repent, and receive eternal life.

    Whew!

    Isn’t that something…

    ;~)

    – –

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  153. :headdesk:

    Can we all stop with the false dichotomies already?

    1. The vast majority of the Christians in this world (and in the entire history of xtianity) are neither Calvinists nor Arminians. The church came into existence at least 1500 years prior to the Reformation – and the Reformation just =/= the Reformed churches. (Think about it, and keep in mind that there are vast numbers of xtians throughout the world who have never heard of Calvinism, even.)

    2. Same deal with faith vs. works. Personally, i think Luther greatly misunderstood what is meant by the words usually translated as “works.” Yes, i get his argument, but i think he ended up making it into a Universal Theory if Everything, and ended up missing the point entirely (which is why he had so much difficulty with the Epistle of James). I can get away with saying the above about Luther partly b/c I’m Lutheran, but also b/c there’s such a strong tendency toward an attitude of absolutism in his writing. It often plays out in a very ugly way, cf.his extreme antisemitism.

    / back to radio silence due to current events

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  154. Sandy:
    Robert,

    Both Calvinists and Arminians seem to assume individual election.If election is corporate, that changes everything.

    There is good Biblical basis for corporate election. One of the best defences of it is The Faith of God’s Elect by John F. Parkinson. It’s a Brethren book which holds to other Brethren traditions I don’t agree with, but his central point is correct.

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  155. Ken F (aka Tweed): Was it creating a god in his own image, or becoming like the god he worshipped?

    Interesting question!

    I think it was both together. I didn’t know him as a young man beyond his own stories of things he’d believed as a new christian and of things other men had taught him at that stage. (And he could not be assumed to be a reliable narrator there.) But an early sense of calling and specialness probably coloured the lens through which he viewed the “god” who had set him apart from ordinary men, which in turn almost certainly undergirded his insistent teaching on how authority was fundamental to everything “god” does.

    So, which came first here; the chicken or the egg? I honestly don’t know. Maybe he has never actually believed in god, but has learned, Elmer-Gantry-style, to play a role very successfully, and has even adopted a certain amount of “method acting” – that is, he’s actually convinced himself to believe in the god who’s called him out as special and privileged. Maybe he started out as a zealous young man, like one Saul of Tarsus, and his ambition was fanned into flame by UK Restoration Movement teaching around which I do know he grew up. In that regard, he’d be like many young, rebellious and “reformed” men in American christendom of late.

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  156. ZechZav: There is good Biblical basis for corporate election.One of the best defences of it is The Faith of God’s Elect by John F. Parkinson.It’s a Brethren book which holds to other Brethren traditions I don’t agree with, but his central point is correct.

    Most New Calvinists I’ve met believe in corporate election, particularly of their families. I don’t know if that belief is true of most of their leaders, but I did have one New Cal professor declare that the only worthy Christians could be from “good Christian families” because that would ensure their election.

    A riot kinda ensued in class after he said that. New Calvinism was still not popular among Baptists at that time…

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  157. ishy: Most New Calvinists I’ve met believe in corporate election … I did have one New Cal professor declare that the only worthy Christians could be from “good Christian families” because that would ensure their election.

    New Calvinists have stretched “you and your household will be saved” beyond its Biblical bounds. Many children raised under this aberrant faith will step into hell if they don’t individually make a decision for Christ … by their own free will. No one’s election is ensured, but anyone can be elected.

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  158. TS00,

    Easy, you just have to be comfortable with doublespeak. God is in absolute authority over all things, having scripted whatsoever is to come long, long ago. The part about not being the source of evil is simply (wink, wink) to not scare off the weanies who can’t stomach a God who ordains rape, murder and child abuse; but don’t take it too seriously. They just sorta move in and out of using ‘ordain’ and ‘permit’ to make people more comfortable. The guys in the know understand that when God ordains evil it is not really evil. He gets men to ‘desire’ evil and then ensures that they pursue that desire to meet his preordained plan. Because if you use the ‘secondary means’ of a stick to hit the dog, you can blame the stick for hitting the dog and burn it for being evil. And you can rightly claim, ‘I never laid a hand on that dog.’ You just have to know how the game is played.

    But you can stomach a God who sees rape, molestation, etc. happening and doesn’t stop it? You can stomach a God who sees it coming but doesn’t intervene?

    How do you stomach that, given that you don’t stomach Mahaney et al who were presumably in a position to do something and they didn’t?

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  159. Benn,

    Benn,

    I just think in many situations it pleases GOD to see who will choose to obey him, he will choose to follow his word, and it doesn’t demenish him, or his glory or his sovereignty one bit to allow it….

    That’s certainly possible. But if God knows for certain how you will respond, how is your freedom meaningful?

    I can’t answer all of the questions about God’s relation to time, the compatibility of sovereignty and free will, etc. Personally, I would never say that a non-Calvinist denies the sovereignty of God. I would say their view of sovereignty does not adequately account for all of the biblical data.

    But the point is that all of these criticisms of Calvinism for denying free will, making God the author of evil, etc. can be equally leveled against any form of classic Christian theism. And the answer that everyone has to give at the end of the day is that we simply do not know how God can ordain or allow evil and yet not be guilty of that evil Himself and we simply do not know how our choices can be meaningful when they were set in stone in eternity past either by God’s decree or His exhaustive foreknowledge.

    If one is going to be a classic Christian theist—that is, affirm God’s omniscience of all things including the future, His omnipotence, and His omnibenevolence—one is going to be faced with questions that are not ultimately answerable to all of our satisfaction, at least in this life. The only way to get an answer that is fully logically satisfying is to deny one of those attributes. But if God doesn’t know the future, isn’t strong enough to accomplish his purposes, or isn’t wholly good, then I have no reason to trust Him over anyone else.

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  160. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    How much reading have you done from ancient Christians other than Augustine? Historical Christianity affirms free will (synergism), and even asserts that human free will is necessary to repidiate monotheletism (6th ecumenical council in 680-681 BC).

    I’ve actually read more ancient Christians who were not Augustine than I have read Augustine, and probably more Eastern Orthodox Theology than I have read Augustine.

    Historical Christianity is all over the place when it comes to defining free will. Synergism isn’t merely the belief in free will; it is the belief in a particular kind of free will. I don’t deny the existence of free will. I deny the existence of an autonomous will.

    Another factor is only a very thin minority of Christians throughout history have believed in predestination in the way you describe it. This does not mean it is wrong, but we should be highly suspect of doctrines that have not been widely believed.

    It’s hard to know what the actual people in the pews have believed since we don’t have surveys of them until recently. Be that as it may, I would generally agree with both points here, while also noting that most Christians throughout history have also believed that unbaptized babies go to hell, that there is no salvation outside of the Roman Catholic Church (Western Christians outnumber the East, at least since the time of Muhammad), and a host of other things that most Christians today would probably deny.

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  161. Sandy,

    Both Calvinists and Arminians seem to assume individual election. If election is corporate, that changes everything.

    Sure thing. The problem is that corporate election does not generate the questions about God’s justice that Paul responds to in Romans 9. If God just says “I’m going to save group x and anyone who wants to join x can join x,” there’s nothing apparently unjust about that.

    If God choose some but not all, there is at least an apparent question about God’s justice.

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  162. ishy: I did have one New Cal professor declare that the only worthy Christians could be from “good Christian families” because that would ensure their election

    It is true that being raised in a Christian home can create an atmosphere for faith to develop … but it is never ensured. Prisons are populated with criminals who came from “good Christian families.”

    My son-in-law is a Baptist pastor, my daughter is an accomplished Christian musician. They have been teaching my 4-year old grandson Bible stories, emphasizing Jesus. Just yesterday, my daughter sent me a video of him naming all 66 books of the Bible … in order … a 4-year old! But, none of us are naive enough to believe that he is saved, that he was ‘elected’ because he was born into a Christian home. We know that he must choose or reject Christ by his own free will.

    Scripture speaks much about the sovereignty of God. Scripture speaks much about the free will of man. It all works together in a way that is beyond human comprehension. To put the mind of God into a neat systematic theological box is to stand in arrogance before our Creator.

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  163. ishy: I did have one New Cal professor declare that the only worthy Christians could be from “good Christian families” because that would ensure their election

    And another thing … while we are on the subject … how many New Calvinists have you met that you considered real-deal Christians?! The blogosphere is replete with reports of their arrogance, unloving spirit, militiancy, aggressiveness. These are not fruit of the Holy Spirit.

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  164. Max: Scripture speaks much about the sovereignty of God. Scripture speaks much about the free will of man.

    It also speaks much about God’s love, God’s justice, God’s holiness, God’s faithfulness, God’s mercy, God’s compassion and God’s wrath. God’s sovereignty works in harmony with these. For example God cannot lie and he can commit injustice. When I raised these points to my former pastor who was a Calvinist he said “Yes but God is sovereign!” As if his sovereignty cancels everything else and that, in my view, led him into deep error.

    Although I am not a Calvinist, humans never make absolutely free choices. We often have to make limited choices in a given situation outside of our control, however the fact is that we make those choices.

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  165. ZechZav: It also speaks much about God’s love, God’s justice, God’s holiness, God’s faithfulness, God’s mercy, God’s compassion and God’s wrath.

    Amen! And Scripture speaks much about God’s plan of salvation. Redemption in Jesus – available to every man – is woven as a scarlet thread throughout the whole of Scripture, if you have ears to hear.

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  166. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    even asserts that human free will is necessary to repidiate monotheletism (6th ecumenical council in 680-681 BC).

    Actually, the council said that in Christ there are two wills and two energies, which some have taken to be an endorsement of salvific synergism. It’s not a good argument, since monergism assumes a fallen will enslaved to sin, which Christ did not possess. Further, Calvinism doesn’t deny that human beings have free will, they just affirm that we are slaves to sin apart from God’s initiative. And all Christians affirm that God must take the initiative to save us, otherwise you’re a Pelagian. The difference is over whether God’s initiative is good enough to accomplish salvation or not.

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  167. Robert: Sure thing. The problem is that corporate election does not generate the questions about God’s justice that Paul responds to in Romans 9. If God just says “I’m going to save group x and anyone who wants to join x can join x,” there’s nothing apparently unjust about that.

    The point of Romans 9 is that Paul is using a Jewish/Rabbinic midrash exegesis to show that God saves on his own terms. He starts with the question as to why Israel is not saved and ends with the conclusion that they did not seek God’s righteousness by faith. It is actually too deep a study to get into here but when you consider the context in which Paul wrote Romans, it becomes clear that he is actually defending salvation by grace through faith, as opposed to works based righteousness. Paul uses midrash in Galatians 4 in referring to Hagar and Sarah (whilst affirming it as a historical event). He does the same in Romans 9 and Esau represents the one who comes to God claiming it as a birthright, and Ishmael represents man’s effort to bring about God’s purposes. The point is not that God randomly chooses to save one person and damn another, but that he blesses the one who comes by faith and rejects those who come by works of the law. That sits well in the context of Romans.

    I realise some people will object to using Midrash but we should remember that Paul was a Jewish Rabbi and the New Testament was written in the context of 1st century Judaism. For any interested more in this study, do a Google search on John Goodwin and Romans 9. He did an excellent commentary on this with the historical background and context.

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  168. Max,

    Redemption in Jesus – available to every man – is woven as a scarlet thread throughout the whole of Scripture, if you have ears to hear.

    Calvinism doesn’t deny that salvation is available to anyone who will believe.

    But in any case, it does seem from Scripture that there are some people whom God does not want to save, at least he doesn’t want to save them in every sense of the word. 1 Sam. 2:24 says the sons of Eli would not listen to him because it was the will of the Lord to put them to death.

    There are various ways to reconcile this. One is to say that although God wants to save everyone, he wants His glory displayed more than He wants that and therefore He condemns some because that will show his glory in a way that saving everyone would not. (A Calvinistic way)

    A more non-Calvinistic way would be to say that God wants to save everyone but he values our free choices (libertarian) so much and wants our love to be such a free choice in that sense that He will allow some to freely reject Him. Better to have a free rejection than to “force” someone to love Him.

    In both cases, God wants something more than he wants the salvation of all people.

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  169. Robert: 1 Sam. 2:24 says the sons of Eli would not listen to him because it was the will of the Lord to put them to death.

    That has nothing to do with eternal salvation. It was a punishment of physical death because the Sons of Eli were ungodly. They had not listened to their father and it is highly likely they had received teaching about God which they rejected. God has to be just and punish wickedness and in his mercy he delays to do this. However there comes a point when enough is enough.

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  170. Robert: Sure thing. The problem is that corporate election does not generate the questions about God’s justice that Paul responds to in Romans 9. If God just says “I’m going to save group x and anyone who wants to join x can join x,” there’s nothing apparently unjust about that.

    I’ve got a comment on Romans 9 currently in customs so please look above later. However I will quote from John Wesley’s commentary here. The point is that God accepts only those who come to him by faith, not by works or by claiming their physical ancestry is the ground of blessing:

    <<>>

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  171. The last portion from John Wesley did not appear so I will post it here:

    [14] What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.

    Is there injustice with God — Is it unjust in God to give Jacob the blessing rather than Esau? or to accept believers, and them only.

    God forbid — In no wise. This is well consistent with justice; for he has a right to fix the terms on which he will show mercy, according to his declaration to Moses, petitioning for all the people, after they had committed idolatry with the golden calf.

    I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy — According to the terms I myself have fixed.

    And I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion — Namely, on those only who submit to my terms, who accept of it in the way that I have appointed.

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  172. Robert,

    I cannot believe in a god who acts as you describe. That god is neither compassionate nor merciful, let alone forgiving.

    Your argument is largely based on proof texts, or so ISTM.

    I have nothing against you personally, either. But if God is like the one you describe, then what Jesus said and did was in vain.

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  173. Robert,

    Are you sure that these are the only viable alternatives? Another possibility is that he actually saves everyone in the sense of raising all to eternal life, but each person’s experience of that eternal life is dependent on their reception of it. If they hate godliness it will be hell for them. If they love godliness it will be heaven for them.

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  174. Robert: It’s not a good argument, since monergism assumes a fallen will enslaved to sin, which Christ did not possess.

    This looks like circular reasoning. You appear to assume monergism is true as a way to prove that synergism is false, which then proves that monergism is true. This is one of my big beefs with Calvinism – it relies on circular reasoning and unproven assumptions.

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  175. Robert: and a host of other things that most Christians today would probably deny.

    Who do you include in the category or “most Christians today”? Roman Catholics? Eastern Orthodox, Arminians? Radical Reformers? Pentecostals? Charasmatics?

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  176. “Your argument is largely based on proof texts, or so ISTM.”

    So true. Proof texting can easily result in false teaching and even heresy. If you take the Bible as a whole, you admit that God interacts with humans, he strives with them to believe Him (until He sees that any other striving is futile). In the OT and NT, He invites those who are thirsty to come to the waters and drink. He expects that people CAN RESPOND, and He is disappointed when they do not. Many times theological grids block us from seeing what the Bible is clearly saying.

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  177. TS00: But Calvinism does not simply stick with what scripture tells us, which is that God has predestinated that those who believe will be conformed to the image of his Son, called, justified and glorified.

    Good point. I’ve heard a banquet analogy where everyone is invited but the menu is set. In this sense everyone is free to accept or reject the invitation, but once they accept they participate in the predestined menu. In other words, predestination is about the what (adoption), not the who.

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  178. Robert: It’s a bit anachronistic to apply categories of limited and unlimited atonement to Calvin since those defined concepts come after him.

    The concepts were defined and labelled after Calvin but the concept existed before being given a label.

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  179. Ken F (aka Tweed): predestination is about the what (adoption), not the who

    “Predestined” to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29)
    “Chosen” to be holy and blameless before Him in love (Eph. 1:4)
    “Called” to follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:21)

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  180. numo: Robert,

    I cannot believe in a god who acts as you describe … if God is like the one you describe, then what Jesus said and did was in vain

    Preaching the Calvinist God has repelled more people than attracted them to Christianity over the past 500 years. That’s why less than 10% of Christendom today would call themselves Calvinist. Too much law, not much life … too much bondage, no freedom in Christ. Doctrines of men supersede a personal Christian experience, an encounter with the living Christ. Dead religion.

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  181. Robert: Calvinism doesn’t deny that salvation is available to anyone who will believe.

    As someone else commented, I have no particular bone to pick with Robert, but I have interacted with the doctrines and arguments he puts forth for several years. My intention is to present rebuttals for the sake of those who have not had that, er, privilege, to what, at first glance often appears a reasonable, logical and well-meaning statement. The problem usually lies in what is not said, or in definitions that are not explained to be very different from those of the non-Calvinist.

    It was y Calvinist pastor himself who dug the pit into which I eventually found him, for it is he who taught so emphatically that there is much more to the Ten commandments than is commonly held by evangelicals. For instance, he spent several weeks explaining why what is staed as ‘Thou shalt not lie’ is about so much more than not telling fibs. Ultimately, anything that contributes to the deliberate distortion or repression from full understanding as best we know it is condemned as not right.

    So, when Robert baldly states that ‘Calvinism doesn’t deny that salvation is available to anyone who will believe’, since he is well aware that this will not be properly understood without additional information, he is accountable for providing that information. No Calvinist can make that statement in a setting in which ‘outsiders’ are present without clearly adding that Calvinists also believe that no one is capable of that ‘believing unto salvation’ unless and until God does an unsought, unilateral, mystical work upon them to ‘regenerate’ that individual and make their dead eyes and ears open to understanding.

    This is not being nitpicky – this is one of the foundational doctrines of Calvinism that differs completely from most non-Calvinists. The definitions of the terms and concepts such as ‘believe’, ‘faith’, ‘regeneration’, and ‘salvation’ are quite different, and any Calvinist worth his salt knows it. It was the fact that my pastor did not explain this to me, or the rest of the congregation, for over a dozen years, when he knew full well that we brought entirely different definitions to the table, that compelled me to a reluctant belief that he was, in fact, a deliberate deceiver. Quite frankly, a great many Calvinists fall into this category, and I was devastated to realize that bait and switch tactics had been pulled on me by someone I trusted and loved.

    For those who don’t know better, nearly every statement a Calvinist makes, to be completely honest, would require a great big asterisk, explaining how their definition of biblical words are quite different than those commonly held, and how unrevealed presuppositions affect each and every verse of scripture. Not that we don’t all come to scripture with presuppositions, but the honest individual must admit this to both himself and to others, and be humbly willing to admit that he can be neither fully objective nor fully certain about his beliefs. Perhaps there are Calvinists who consistently do this, but I have not yet met one.

    Thus, to be perfectly honest, Robert would have to say that, in fact, salvation is not ‘available’ to anyone, because no one can believe. What God is demanding is impossible, as he full well knows, as he made it impossible. The only way any man, woman or child can ever ‘believe’ – according to Calvinism – is if they are one of the select few who have been predetermined to be ‘saved’. Those thus chosen will, at some point in time, without fail, be unilaterally regenerated, GIVEN the ‘gift’ of faith and thereby be enabled to ‘believe’ and be saved.

    Calvinism asserts that no one, apart from a supernatural, unsought intervention by God, can do as God urges and commands, and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and the gospel he came to reveal. Due to this intrinsic inability, (a concept Calvinism refers to as Total Depravity, but, again, one must be aware that they have a unique definition for that concept) Calvinism most definitely does not believe that salvation is available to ‘whosoever will’ believe, as they know others affirm, but only those who God has arbitrarily chosen and enabled to do so. All others, who are frequently said to be condemned for their ‘unbelief’, have absolutely no possibility of ever acquiring this belief.

    Any good Calvinist can jump in and parse words, and seek to sow confusion by pointing to various justifications for such assertions, but my statements are accurate. Calvinists might not ‘put it like that’, but it is a fair representation of what their theology asserts. It is this fair and honest representation of their true beliefs that is so often lacking in the statements of Calvinists.

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  182. Max: Too much law, not much life … too much bondage, no freedom in Christ. Doctrines of men supersede a personal Christian experience, an encounter with the living Christ. Dead religion.

    Accurately describes my personal experience with Calvinism.

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  183. TS00: The only way any man, woman or child can ever ‘believe’ – according to Calvinism – is if they are one of the select few who have been predetermined to be ‘saved’. Those thus chosen will, at some point in time, without fail, be unilaterally regenerated, GIVEN the ‘gift’ of faith and thereby be enabled to ‘believe’ and be saved.

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  184. TS00: The only way any man, woman or child can ever ‘believe’ – according to Calvinism – is if they are one of the select few who have been predetermined to be ‘saved’. Those thus chosen will, at some point in time, without fail, be unilaterally regenerated, GIVEN the ‘gift’ of faith and thereby be enabled to ‘believe’ and be saved.

    You reckon that even the most hard-core Calvinist at some point in his journey – after reading his Bible – would see how utterly unBiblical that plan of salvation is?

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  185. TS00: No Calvinist can make that statement in a setting in which ‘outsiders’ are present without clearly adding that Calvinists also believe that no one is capable of that ‘believing unto salvation’ unless and until God does an unsought, unilateral, mystical work upon them to ‘regenerate’ that individual and make their dead eyes and ears open to understanding.

    Maybe Calvinism should be called Neo-Gnosticism because in that system salvation is only granted to a select few based on special knowledge (belief in right doctrine).

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  186. ___

    “Autonomous Will vs. God’s Sovereignty?”

    hmmm…

    Q. Has God given humankind the ability, inclination, and freedom to act independent of His will?

    ;~)

    – –

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  187. Robert,

    “And all Christians affirm that God must take the initiative to save us, otherwise you’re a Pelagian. The difference is over whether God’s initiative is good enough to accomplish salvation or not.”

    This declaration always broke my heart the most. Why? Because God in the Flesh has already taken the “initiative” by the cross and resurrection.

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  188. numo: I cannot believe in a god who acts as you describe. That god is neither compassionate nor merciful, let alone forgiving.

    Nor can I numes.

    I still cannot fathom why otherwise rational and morally endowed humans would want to worship such a cruel and petulant god.

    The only thing that comes to mind right off the bat is FEAR.

    Fear of what said god will do to you post mortem if you (generic you) don’t toe the line and hoe the row the way they (hard line neo-cals) tell you to.

    BTW, it’s good seein’ ya’ here again!

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  189. Robert,

    “…most Christians throughout history have also believed that unbaptized babies go to hell, that there is no salvation outside of the Roman Catholic Church (Western Christians outnumber the East, at least since the time of Muhammad), and a host of other things that most Christians today would probably deny”
    +++++++++++++++++

    so, what makes you think that you’ve got all correctly figured out, then?

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  190. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    Most xtians in the world, period. Btw, there are a plethora of Orthodox churches.

    A whole lot of Protestants are not even remotely Calvinist. Like Lutherans, y’know. Despite what Calvin’s apologists say, Luther was most emphatically NOT one of them. His goal was to reform the Roman Catholic church, and even though they excommunicated him, his thinking and beliefs were *very* late medieval Western Catholic to the end of his life.

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  191. elastigirl,

    To address the comment elastigirl referenced –

    That bit about Western xtians outnumbering Eastern xtians since the time of Mohammed is.not.true. Greek, Russian, Armenian Orthodox, the Copts, the Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox churches, the various flavors of both Catholicism and Orthodoxy in south India, the Catholics in Vietnsm and the Philippines (officially a Roman Catholic nation), Byzantine Catholics everywhere from the Middle East to Ukraine (I’m broad-brushing as there are a lot of differences that are big to them but pretty much a blur to American Protestants), all.the.xtians. (besides the ones I’ve already cited) on the entire African continent…. i guess I’ll quit there.

    Most of the world’s xtians are *not* living in Europe and N. America
    And…. empires that were largely xtian have risen and fallen (not due to any “sin”; migrations and economic problems and disease were big factors) that are simply not taught in American schools, even universities – unless you happen to be a grad student specializing in the history of the ancient Middle East, Persia, and Central Asia.

    I’m not making up any of this. About 10 years ago i started watching videos made by Ethiopian Orthodox folks and various Syrian Orthodox groups in India – hymns, religious songs that are not called hymns, liturgical music. These churches have been in continuous existence since, oh… the 3d or 4th century. They are very different to churches under discussion here, not least because nobody in them is white. I knew about these churches, but seeing people was, for me, a bombshell, not least because their beliefs have absolutely nothing to do with the “Western” world. I have no doubt that they’ll still be around when Western ambitions of empire have turned to ashes and been blown away in the wind.

    I’ll see your “Western xtians” and raise you *all* of the above and then some.

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  192. Muff Potter,

    Hey there! I’m taking a very short break from current events, but am off back to the newspapers and such… i can only handle so much uncertainty, chaos and fear at a time, you know? Reading about abusive churches is a bridge too far, these days. (I don’t want to be direct, due to site policies, but am sure you get what I’m saying.)

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  193. Robert:
    Benn,

    Benn,

    I just think in many situations it pleases GOD to see who will choose to obey him, he will choose to follow his word, and it doesn’t demenish him, or his glory or his sovereignty one bit to allow it….

    That’s certainly possible. But if God knows for certain how you will respond, how is your freedom meaningful?

    I can’t answer all of the questions about God’s relation to time, the compatibility of sovereignty and free will, etc. Personally, I would never say that a non-Calvinist denies the sovereignty of God. I would say their view of sovereignty does not adequately account for all of the biblical data.

    But the point is that all of these criticisms of Calvinism for denying free will, making God the author of evil, etc. can be equally leveled against any form of classic Christian theism. And the answer that everyone has to give at the end of the day is that we simply do not know how God can ordain or allow evil and yet not be guilty of that evil Himself and we simply do not know how our choices can be meaningful when they were set in stone in eternity past either by God’s decree or His exhaustive foreknowledge.

    If one is going to be a classic Christian theist—that is, affirm God’s omniscience of all things including the future, His omnipotence, and His omnibenevolence—one is going to be faced with questions that are not ultimately answerable to all of our satisfaction, at least in this life. The only way to get an answer that is fully logically satisfying is to deny one of those attributes. But if God doesn’t know the future, isn’t strong enough to accomplish his purposes, or isn’t wholly good, then I have no reason to trust Him over anyone else.

    How does this all work?
    No one has all the answers to how God is sovereign and man has a free will.
    It is a lot to ponder, but I know this, when I take my to eldest granddaughters for ice cream, I always tell them to get whatever they want, anything their free will choice, and the oldest one always ask for chocolate, and the younger one always ask for vanilla.

    They were free to choose, but I knew a head of time what they would and will pick.

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  194. numo: A whole lot of Protestants are not even remotely Calvinist.

    90+% of Protestants worldwide are non-Calvinist. Christendom has largely rejected the tenets of reformed theology for the past 500 years. New Calvinism is the most recent attempt to enlarge the reformed footprint … it’s a flash-in-the-pan movement to primarily benefit a small group of elite leaders (ego building, book sales, speaker fees). This, too, will pass after their followers become confused and disillusioned, but the damage will be done in Generations X, Y and Z … they may never try church again.

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  195. Benn,

    No one has all the answers to how God is sovereign and man has a free will.

    I agree.

    They were free to choose, but I knew a head of time what they would and will pick.

    You know what they will most likely pick, but they could always surprise you. This isn’t true of God. If God knew yesterday that I would wear a blue shirt today, then when today rolled around, I was not free to pick the red shirt unless God’s knowledge can be falsified.

    God, of course, is outside of time. But the point is that if I had the kind of free will most non-Calvinists want to have, then somehow I had that freewill before I even existed because that is the point at which God knew what my choice would be. And once God knew what my choice would be, that takes away the full reality of that kind of free will in the present.

    It’s also a bit odd to me that non-Calvinists are happy to lose their non-Calvinist free will once they are in heaven, because nobody believes you’re going to fall out of heaven once you get there. That calls into question just how important non-Calvinist definitions of free will really are to God if He is willing to take it away.

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  196. TS00,

    So, when Robert baldly states that ‘Calvinism doesn’t deny that salvation is available to anyone who will believe’, since he is well aware that this will not be properly understood without additional information, he is accountable for providing that information. No Calvinist can make that statement in a setting in which ‘outsiders’ are present without clearly adding that Calvinists also believe that no one is capable of that ‘believing unto salvation’ unless and until God does an unsought, unilateral, mystical work upon them to ‘regenerate’ that individual and make their dead eyes and ears open to understanding.

    Depends on what kind of ability you are talking about. Calvinists do deny that you have the spiritual ability or moral ability to believe based on what Paul says about souls being dead and so forth.

    Actually, all Christians have to believe this in some form. Wesleyans believe as much but then they say there is a kind of prevenient grace that is given to everyone who frees them just enough to make it possible for them to believe but doesn’t guarantee it. Roman Catholics have a similar view at least with respect to unbaptized persons.

    This is not being nitpicky – this is one of the foundational doctrines of Calvinism that differs completely from most non-Calvinists. The definitions of the terms and concepts such as ‘believe’, ‘faith’, ‘regeneration’, and ‘salvation’ are quite different, and any Calvinist worth his salt knows it. It was the fact that my pastor did not explain this to me, or the rest of the congregation, for over a dozen years, when he knew full well that we brought entirely different definitions to the table, that compelled me to a reluctant belief that he was, in fact, a deliberate deceiver. Quite frankly, a great many Calvinists fall into this category, and I was devastated to realize that bait and switch tactics had been pulled on me by someone I trusted and loved.

    For 12 years your pastor never defined the words belief, faith, regeneration, etc. I find that very hard to believe. Either that or he was a horrible Bible teacher.

    For those who don’t know better, nearly every statement a Calvinist makes, to be completely honest, would require a great big asterisk, explaining how their definition of biblical words are quite different than those commonly held, and how unrevealed presuppositions affect each and every verse of scripture. Not that we don’t all come to scripture with presuppositions, but the honest individual must admit this to both himself and to others, and be humbly willing to admit that he can be neither fully objective nor fully certain about his beliefs. Perhaps there are Calvinists who consistently do this, but I have not yet met one.

    Actually, the non-Calvinist would have to do the same. As a non-Calvinist, you cannot assume that your understanding of faith is the same as, for example, the Roman Catholic definition of faith, or the Muslim definition of faith, or the Calvinist definition fo faith, etc. Because, in fact, your non-Calvinist Protestant definition of faith and free will, the impact of sin, etc. is quite different than all of those.

    What God is demanding is impossible, as he full well knows, as he made it impossible.

    No. Adam made it impossible, and we were in him when he did it.

    The only way any man, woman or child can ever ‘believe’ – according to Calvinism – is if they are one of the select few who have been predetermined to be ‘saved’. Those thus chosen will, at some point in time, without fail, be unilaterally regenerated, GIVEN the ‘gift’ of faith and thereby be enabled to ‘believe’ and be saved.

    There is some truth to this, but its incomplete.

    Calvinism asserts that no one, apart from a supernatural, unsought intervention by God, can do as God urges and commands, and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and the gospel he came to reveal. Due to this intrinsic inability, (a concept Calvinism refers to as Total Depravity, but, again, one must be aware that they have a unique definition for that concept)

    Roman Catholics have a unique definition for the impact of sin on the human person.
    Non-Calvinist Protestants have a unique definition for the impact of sin on the human person.

    Calvinism most definitely does not believe that salvation is available to ‘whosoever will’ believe, as they know others affirm, but only those who God has arbitrarily chosen and enabled to do so. All others, who are frequently said to be condemned for their ‘unbelief’, have absolutely no possibility of ever acquiring this belief.

    This is wrong. The difference between us isn’t the availability of the gospel to whoever will believe. The difference is why someone or someone can’t believe. I fully affirm that salvation is granted to anyone who will believe the gospel.

    Any good Calvinist can jump in and parse words, and seek to sow confusion by pointing to various justifications for such assertions, but my statements are accurate. Calvinists might not ‘put it like that’, but it is a fair representation of what their theology asserts. It is this fair and honest representation of their true beliefs that is so often lacking in the statements of Calvinists.

    You haven’t fairly represented what Calvinists believe. You have presented what you believe are the consequences of what Calvinists believe. I mean you no ill will, but you’ve just committed the same error that many Calvinists make when they say that non-Calvinists like yourself believe God is not sovereign.

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  197. numo,

    That bit about Western xtians outnumbering Eastern xtians since the time of Mohammed is.not.true. Greek, Russian, Armenian Orthodox, the Copts, the Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox churches, the various flavors of both Catholicism and Orthodoxy in south India, the Catholics in Vietnsm and the Philippines (officially a Roman Catholic nation), Byzantine Catholics everywhere from the Middle East to Ukraine (I’m broad-brushing as there are a lot of differences that are big to them but pretty much a blur to American Protestants), all.the.xtians. (besides the ones I’ve already cited) on the entire African continent…. i guess I’ll quit there.

    There are only about 18 million Eastern Rite Roman Catholics out of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.

    There are roughly 250 million members of the various Eastern Orthodox Churches.

    There are approximately 900 million Protestants, which is a largely Western movement.

    It is quite correct that Western Christians outnumber Eastern Christians based on those figures (roughly 1.5 billion to 2 billion out of the 2.4 billion professing Christians worldwide belong to a Western or Western-originated form of Christianity).

    That doesn’t make Western Christianity correct necessarily, but the point is that most Christians in history have believed things that non-Calvinists deny based on the sheer numbers of Roman Catholics, etc. in history.

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  198. elastigirl,

    so, what makes you think that you’ve got all correctly figured out, then?

    I don’t think I’ve got it all correctly figured out. Some of my beliefs I’m more certain of than others.

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  199. Sòpwith: Q. Has God given humankind the ability, inclination, and freedom to act independent of His will?

    God has given us the freedom to act independent of HIs revealed will, but He has not granted us the freedom to act independent of His will of decree.

    A non-Calvinist would say something similar. They might phrase it this way: God has granted us the freedom to act independent of His perfect will, but He has not granted us the freedom to act independent of His permissive will.

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  200. ZechZav,

    Wesley is twisting himself in knots here. It’s not apparently unjust to give salvation to everyone who believes. It is apparently or at first glance unjust to choose some for salvation and not others.

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  201. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    My point was that you can’t point to the 6th ecumenical council to prove synergism for us since there is a difference between human nature after sin—which is what we have—and human nature without sin—which is what Christ has.

    However you construe the effect of sin on the human will, it has effected us in a way that it did not effect Christ.

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  202. ZechZav,

    Except the NT tells us that those who remain ungodly will not inherit eternal life.

    The story indicates that at the very least, there comes a point where God doesn’t want somebody to live any longer. So much for him desiring the life and salvation of all people equally at all times.

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  203. Lydia,

    But unless you are a Calvinist, how does that initiative actually guarantees the salvation of anyone in particular. At best it guarantees the salvation of an amorphous group and its up to the individual to make the final, determinative choice as to whether he will be saved or not.

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  204. numo,

    I cannot believe in a god who acts as you describe. That god is neither compassionate nor merciful, let alone forgiving.

    I once thought the same thing. But the issue is this: I am a creature. I don’t have the right to tell God what He must be like for Him to be worthy of my belief.

    My main issue with many non-Calvinists is this: So many end up saying, “If God is like that, I could never worship Him.” That seems to be precisely the opposite of the way things should be and is contrary to how the saints in the Bible encounter Him. When God appears in all His holiness, people fall down in worship. They don’t say, “God I will worship you only when I see that you are forgiving, compassionate, and merciful in the way I want you to be.”

    Shouldn’t our goal as creatures to be to figure out who the Creator is and then to worship Him and conform our understanding to His? That doesn’t necessarily mean you will end up a Calvinist, but shouldn’t that be our goal?

    Once we are comfortable saying “I could never worship God if he is like that,” how are we not on the path to idolatry?

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  205. Robert,

    How are we not on the psth yo ifolstry?

    Oh Robert. God gave ud *brains* and a conscience. If God is as vindictive as you claim, then i cannot follow him. Because that cannot be the character of God, if in fact Christ’s life and ministry are any indication of who he is.

    I feel like you might be straining out gnats, but swallowing camels, so to speak.

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  206. Robert: No. Adam made it impossible, and we were in him when he did it.

    This is another misleading ruse used by Calvinism to get their determinist God off the hook for all the evil he decreed – ‘It’s all Adam’s fault!’

    You can posit ‘the reason’ for man’s so-called Total Depravity as Adam’s sin (Did the God who decrees all things not decree that?) or that God was just in a bad mood; but no one but God has the authority and power to re-form the nature of human beings, place a curse on all mankind, eliminate their former ability to choose freely (one supposes at least Adam must have had?) and make them, irresistibly, slaves to evil.

    This is not only the most unthinkable, immoral suggestion to accuse God of (removing man’s ability to do well, commanding them to do well, then punishing them when they (surprise!) fail to do what he made them unable to do), it also just so happens to contradict the forewarned and stated consequence of Adam’s transgression, which is that man would henceforth know good from evil. What God ‘promised’ is the very opposite of what Calvinism’s Total Depravity curse produces. Why were Adam and Eve banished from the garden? Because now that their eyes were opened – not ‘closed’ or ‘deadened’ as Calvinism asserts – they just might eat from the tree of life and muck up the plan of redemption.

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  207. Muff Potter: I still cannot fathom why otherwise rational and morally endowed humans would want to worship such a cruel and petulant god.

    The only thing that comes to mind right off the bat is FEAR.

    Fear of what said god will do to you post mortem if you (generic you) don’t toe the line and hoe the row the way they (hard line neo-cals) tell you to.

    Because God Holds The Biggest Whip, nothing more.

    If The End goes down a la Left Behind, they’ll flip and Take the Mark to survive.
    Only to cut it off their forehead and right hand after Armageddon, again to survive.
    Because the only thing that’s changed is Who’s Holding The Biggest Whip at the moment.
    The goal of surviving the Regime remains the same.

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  208. Lydia: Robert,
    “And all Christians affirm that God must take the initiative to save us, otherwise you’re a Pelagian. The difference is over whether God’s initiative is good enough to accomplish salvation or not.”

    Is “Pelagian” anything like “Trotskyite”?

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  209. Robert,

    My previous reply got stuck in customs so you did not see all of it. I would seriously recommend you read John Goodwin’s volume on Romans 9. He brings out the historical and contextual background to Romans 9 very well. The Apostle Paul, as a Jewish Rabbi, is using Midrash to show that God saves by grace through faith as opposed to works of the law – which is the mistake Israel was making. So Wesley commented correctly. The point in Romans 9 is not that God randomly chooses to save one person and reject another for “mysterious reasons”. The point is that God blesses the one who comes by faith and rejects the one who comes by other means. That sits well in the context of Romans.

    You are simply proof texting. This approach is complementarians take 1 Timothy 2 to argue women preachers and others will use 1 Corinthians to argue that women should wear hats in church. It is taking a verse or passage and ignoring the surrounding or historical context.

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  210. TS00: This is another misleading ruse used by Calvinism to get their determinist God off the hook for all the evil he decreed – ‘It’s all Adam’s fault!’

    Is “Calvinbotism” a word?

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  211. Robert: Shouldn’t our goal as creatures to be to figure out who the Creator is and then to worship Him and conform our understanding to His?

    This, by the way, was the only reason I entertained Calvinism for a decade. After I had initially examined and rejected it as unthinkable. I never stopped hating the implications, but my goal was precisely ‘to figure out who the Creator is and then to worship Him and conform our understanding to His’. I was willing to say, if this is who God is, whether I understand or like it, it must be right.

    I’m not claiming to be an ‘expert’ but I can assert that I gave Calvinism as much of a ‘chance’ to be proven true as I had given adult years to non-Calvinism. I embraced ‘the good stuff’ and let ‘the scary stuff’ remain hidden in the closet. Until God led me to open the door, take it out and look it full in the face. No more hiding. No more half-truths and ignoring the full implications of what is being claimed.

    If you want to embrace the hideous God of Calvinism, at least be honest about what you are embracing,in your conscious thought and in all of your interactions. Your God created countless people without ever intending to even offer them forgiveness and salvation. Don’t pretend Don’t go saying you mourn over the millions headed for hell – because you have embraced this as the glorious doing of God’s own determining choice.

    And yet, I realize you must continue to play your word games, on yourself and with others. There is no other way to reconcile the repeated examples within scripture of God presenting men with real choices, warning them of the consequences of making ‘bad’ choices and urging them to do well. I actually pity the Calvinist, as he is forced to mentally rewrite and try to ignore the overall message of love that Jesus manifests, and that countless interactions between God and man exemplify. Most of all, I pity whatever impulse compels him to try to whitewash God’s love with a hideous, cruel and merciless scheme that makes God the sole cause of any person not being forgiven, justified and glorified.

    Any honest, able to reason person can see the radical difference between God offering grace to all while giving them a choice to refuse it, and irresistibly predetermining grace to a select few, and destroying all those who never, ever had a chance to escape ‘the curse’ of Adam.

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  212. Robert:
    ZechZav,

    Except the NT tells us that those who remain ungodly will not inherit eternal life.

    The story indicates that at the very least, there comes a point where God doesn’t want somebody to live any longer. So much for him desiring the life and salvation of all people equally at all times.

    “So much for him”…I was saddened to hear you speak with that kind of attitude.

    I believe God is sovereign but I also believe is love, he is holy, he is just and he is faithful and true to his word. The Calvinistic view undermines all those Biblical truths to defend a distorted view of “sovereignty”.

    The Apostle Paul said that his hearts desire and prayer to God is for their salvation and that he would be cut off from Christ if that would achieve it (Romans 9-10). That was not because Paul was more righteous than God but it was a reflection of God’s own love and concern for them. Peter said that “God is not willing that any should perish” (2 Peter 3:9) and Paul said that “God desire all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Jesus came to save sinners and that the whole world should be saved through him (John 3:17). I could go on…

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  213. Robert: Where does Scripture refer to people in hell as possessing eternal life? They exist, but I don’t know that the Bible ever says they are experiencing life.

    Many passages in the Bible indicate hell is a real place and its inhabitants will suffer real bodily torment (e.g. Matt 10:28). Unless you are a conditionalist, that body must be imperishable, like the resurrection body Paul describes in 1 Cor 15, otherwise that body would perish, which would mean hell would not be eternal. And if you say that it is not literal then you have to explain away why Jesus described it as literal and bodily. Or does sola scriptura not apply here?

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  214. numo: Oh Robert. God gave ud *brains* and a conscience. If God is as vindictive as you claim, then i cannot follow him. Because that cannot be the character of God, if in fact Christ’s life and ministry are any indication of who he is.

    I feel like you might be straining out gnats, but swallowing camels, so to speak.

    Amen. Our sense of justice and compassion is given to us by God. I once challenged a Calvinistic pastor with this question: “If we preach the gospel to someone whom God has already decreed to damn, is that not an offer in bad faith?” He replied “We should not judge God by our standards!” I replied “I am not! I am judging YOUR THEOLOGY but GOD’S standards! God is faithful and true to his word!”

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  215. Robert: However you construe the effect of sin on the human will, it has effected us in a way that it did not effect Christ.

    Please proof-text this assertion.

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  216. My comment has made it through customs: please see this one if you are interested in Romans 9:

    ZechZav on Thu Oct 04, 2018 at 11:36 AM said

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  217. Ken F (aka Tweed): Good point. I’ve heard a banquet analogy where everyone is invited but the menu is set. In this sense everyone is free to accept or reject the invitation, but once they accept they participate in the predestined menu. In other words, predestination is about the what (adoption), not the who.

    That is my view of corporate election. We are elect and predestined IN CHRIST, not TO BE in Christ. Christ himself is God’s elect but that he was obviously not “elected to salvation”. In Ephesians 1 it says that we have redemption and forgiveness IN CHRIST. We were not redeemed and forgiven IN OURSELVES in order to be placed in him. We should take the words election and predestination in the same sense.

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  218. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    Romans 1:18–3:20: No one desires God because of sin (sin affects the will)
    Jesus is sinless (too many passages to mention), start with 1 Peter 2

    Ergo, Jesus’ human will is not affected by sin in the way ours is.

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  219. ZechZav,

    TS00,

    How is it better for God to create millions of people that he knows will certainly never choose Him. Sure He gives them a “chance,” but He knows what they are going to do and makes them anyway knowing that they will burn in hell. But he could just as well have chosen not to create them. Doesn’t sound very loving to me if I define love according to the way “most people” define love.

    It’s not better or more loving according to the way “most people” define love, and that is my point. If you embrace classic Christian theism, and as far as I can tell you do, you have virtually the same problems and not a better solution.

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  220. ZechZav,

    God has to be just and punish wickedness. Nobody is disputing that.

    I understand that. The difficulty is that non-Calvinists want to say both that God wants everybody to be saved in every sense of the Word and has no special electing love for His children and that God willingly punishes in hell people whom he loves just the same as he loves those who belong to His son. If you want to talk about illogical, let’s talk about that.

    God loves His children more than he loves others. It’s not a defect. It’s what good fathers do.

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  221. TS00,

    Most of all, I pity whatever impulse compels him to try to whitewash God’s love with a hideous, cruel and merciless scheme that makes God the sole cause of any person not being forgiven, justified and glorified.

    Calvinism isn’t voluntarism.

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  222. Robert: Shouldn’t our goal as creatures to be to figure out who the Creator is and then to worship Him and conform our understanding to His? That doesn’t necessarily mean you will end up a Calvinist, but shouldn’t that be our goal?

    The best place to start would be in the Gospels… and the God revealed to us by Jesus is the perfect balance of righteousness and love, mercy, and COMPASSION (unlike the Calvinist pastors I know): Joh 14:9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

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  223. ZechZav,

    My previous reply got stuck in customs so you did not see all of it. I would seriously recommend you read John Goodwin’s volume on Romans 9. He brings out the historical and contextual background to Romans 9 very well. The Apostle Paul, as a Jewish Rabbi, is using Midrash to show that God saves by grace through faith as opposed to works of the law – which is the mistake Israel was making. So Wesley commented correctly. The point in Romans 9 is not that God randomly chooses to save one person and reject another for “mysterious reasons”. The point is that God blesses the one who comes by faith and rejects the one who comes by other means. That sits well in the context of Romans.

    It doesn’t sit well in the context of Romans because the Jews did not deny that you had to come to God by faith. No Jew ever said faith was unnecessary. Many of them said faith was not enough.

    No Jew would ever say it is not just for God to determine how people come to Him. The Jews believed God was just and had that right. Certain Jews in the first century just disagreed with Paul as to what path was given.

    The passage is about individual election through and through. It starts out by saying that not everyone in the elect people—Abraham’s children—is actually an Israelite. Not everyone in the chosen family—a group—is chosen. Individual election through and through.

    You are simply proof texting. This approach is complementarians take 1 Timothy 2 to argue women preachers and others will use 1 Corinthians to argue that women should wear hats in church. It is taking a verse or passage and ignoring the surrounding or historical context.

    God’s meticulous control is woven throughout Scripture. I’m just pulling out passages that indicate that God doesn’t want everyone to be saved equally. You don’t even have to be a Calvinist to believe that. If you deny the possibility of post-mortem salvation, you are ultimately saying that God does not want everyone to be saved. If God really wanted the people in hell to be saved as much as he wants the people in heaven, there could be no point of no return.

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  224. Robert: It doesn’t sit well in the context of Romans because the Jews did not deny that you had to come to God by faith.

    On the contrary (note particularly verse 32)

    “30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is [t]by faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 just as it is written,

    “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense,
    And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.””

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  225. Mary27,

    The best place to start would be in the Gospels… and the God revealed to us by Jesus is the perfect balance of righteousness and love, mercy, and COMPASSION (unlike the Calvinist pastors I know): Joh 14:9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

    I agree on starting with the Gospels. John is an excellent place:

    John 6:37–40

    “37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

    God has to give you to the Father to come to the Father, and everyone who is given is risen up on the last day to eternal life. Not some of them, all of them. Unless universalism is true, that means that not everyone is given to the Father.

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  226. Robert,

    “It’s also a bit odd to me that non-Calvinists are happy to lose their non-Calvinist free will once they are in heaven, because nobody believes you’re going to fall out of heaven once you get there. That calls into question just how important non-Calvinist definitions of free will really are to God if He is willing to take it away.”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++

    swooping down on “fall out of heaven”:

    nobody believes they’re going to fall up from earth either. can’t see that it’s a matter of free will to be subject to the forces of nature.

    i conclude the afterlife has its own forces, and nothing falls out of heaven. similarly, hard to see that as a matter of free will.

    perhaps, it’s a matter of how far & to what degree one analyzes the concept of free will.

    it’s hard to see that level of analysis having any experiential meaning. no one in their right mind has a philosophical problem being subject to the law of gravity without their permission — indeed, it would be impossible to maintain a ‘right mind’ with that kind of thinking.

    in short, there’s only so far one can go in analyzing something philosophically (such as the concept of free will) before it loses meaning.

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  227. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    Many passages in the Bible indicate hell is a real place and its inhabitants will suffer real bodily torment (e.g. Matt 10:28). Unless you are a conditionalist, that body must be imperishable, like the resurrection body Paul describes in 1 Cor 15, otherwise that body would perish, which would mean hell would not be eternal. And if you say that it is not literal then you have to explain away why Jesus described it as literal and bodily. Or does sola scriptura not apply here?

    I’m not saying its not literal. I’m saying that the mere position of a body and mere existence does not mean that one is alive. Paul says apart from Christ we are dead in sin. But bodily we are very much alive. The lake of fire is eternal death, not eternal life.

    My only point is that this option you suggested:

    Are you sure that these are the only viable alternatives? Another possibility is that he actually saves everyone in the sense of raising all to eternal life, but each person’s experience of that eternal life is dependent on their reception of it. If they hate godliness it will be hell for them. If they love godliness it will be heaven for them.

    is impossible biblically speaking. Calvinism could be wrong, but surely eternal life in Scripture means eternal blessing with God.

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  228. elastigirl,

    i conclude the afterlife has its own forces, and nothing falls out of heaven. similarly, hard to see that as a matter of free will.

    If no one can leave heaven, at that point you don’t have the same kind of free will that you had before you got there.

    If the non-Calvinist view of free will is correct, then it must be possible to lose heaven even once you are there.

    Or are you saying that there might be forces in heaven that keep people in heaven who don’t want to be there?

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  229. Robert: It starts out by saying that not everyone in the elect people—Abraham’s children—is actually an Israelite.

    I agree with this statement but not with your outworking. The point is the same expressed throughout Romans:

    2:28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.

    4:2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,

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  230. Robert,

    “Shouldn’t our goal as creatures to be to figure out who the Creator is and then to worship Him and conform our understanding to His?”
    ++++++++++++

    do we do this by theological algebra & solving for biblical? (theolgebra? alright, getting too cute, here)

    i don’t think so.

    Abraham didn’t have the benefit of such formulas, and he and God appear to have known each other very well.

    if God is, God is just as available now, without all the endless group-scribbling on chalkboards.

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  231. Robert: If no one can leave heaven, at that point you don’t have the same kind of free will that you had before you got there.

    If the non-Calvinist view of free will is correct, then it must be possible to lose heaven even once you are there.

    Or are you saying that there might be forces in heaven that keep people in heaven who don’t want to be there?

    Seems like things are getting silly now. If all old things pass away and become new, then the new earth (as most tend to perceive what is called ‘heaven’) is all there is. As Mohler put it, ‘Where will they go?’

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  232. Robert: No one has all the answers to how God is sovereign and man has a free will.

    I agree.

    They were free to choose, but I knew a head of time what they would and will pick.

    I’m not going to dare to pretend to be the ‘nobody’ that can resolve God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. Actually, countless godly men have done fairly well with that for centuries, Calvin or no.

    That does not mean we can fully grasp just how God can foreknow without determining the future, but we can accept scripture’s suggestion that this is, indeed, a characteristic of the omnipotent, uncreated God.

    In a very loose analogy, my son, who is an ardent sports fan, will often DVR sports games that start before he gets off work, or during church. One recent year, when his team was in the Super Bowl, some church commitment caused him to miss the start of the game. Rather than jump in, he chose to DVR the game, and watch it from the beginning. He was very careful to not look at his social media, or respond to texts or phone calls from his out of town father, as he did not want to see any spoilers.

    To his annoyance, he could actually hear loud noises erupt from nearby houses whenever the team scored, and he knew, of course, which team they would be celebrating. And his father continued to text and call me. Try as he might, he could not fully watch the game without the foreknowledge of others presenting evidence of what was to come.

    God has, in a sense, DVR’ed history. He can foreknow, without fail, what is on that tape without having scripted and compelled it into existence. He certainly employed his control of many variables to bring certain things to pass, as there are many aspects of God’s creation which he controls without nullifying man’s freedom of action, such as who exists, where, when, in what form, with whom and with what other variables God has determined.

    However, since he chose to create man with the power of reason and choice, he never abridges this right that he bestowed. And just as I sought to speak carefully to my son during the game, as if I did not know the score, when I actually did, God must, in order as to not nullify our power of choice, ignore his full knowledge of that which is, to us, not yet in existence. He must deal with us by blindfolding himself, so to speak, speaking and dealing with us as if our not-yet made choices were not fully known to him. Note that this is not in order to deceive, for God has told us of his omniscience. It is an ‘as-if’ done out of respect for our lesser abilities, and in order to allow for our decision process to take place. The fact that God knows what, within the limits of time is not yet, and ‘may’ never be, does not in any way lessen man’s genuine opportunity to determine what will be, within any boundaries God establishes.

    What if one of those boundaries, one of the rules God has established, is that whenever we pray, granting him ‘permission’ to do his will by surrendering our own, he may then supernaturally intercede in this world, without transgressing our freedom of choice? In other words, what if there is genuine power in prayer? What if prayer is, in effect, opening the door to a waiting ‘superpower’ which can bring healing, strength, wisdom, etc. where there otherwise would be none?

    Switching analogies, let us compare this world to a global battlefield, in which every individual must decide which ‘side’ he is on. For sake of brevity (stop laughing, I’m trying!), I will skip the explanation for how such a setting arose. Most God-followers accept, in some form, that there is an ongoing battle between good and evil in this world, and that good will someday triumph.

    The Calvinist sees this through a sovereign, determinist God-who-controls-both-sides lens, in which the sole causative force in the universe is enacting a sort of ‘theater’ which he alone has created, scripted, produced, directed and will see that it is performed exactly as he long ago planned. He controls the ‘bad guys’ just as meticulously as he controls the ‘good guys’, ensuring that all perform their roles according to his perfect script. God being the sole originator of all, requires that he be the author of evil as well as good, as evil is a subset of the ‘all’ that exists in this world. Good will triumph over evil, because God says so, and he has written the script, owns the theater and controls its actors down to the tiniest detail.

    Non-Calvinists have various alternatives to this explanation, but in common they view God as not deterministically overseeing whatsoever comes to pass, but as having performed the ultimate miracle of creating thinking, reasoning creatures who can themselves create, produce and choose their own actions.

    Under this scenario, God did not deliberately ordain evil to exist, but did allow for the possibility by creating truly free creatures. In other words, genuine freedom of choice necessitates the possibility of creatures choosing that which is not according to God’s good and perfect desires, i.e., evil. Thus, whereas following God’s revealed good and perfect will would have led to goodness, justice and life, rejecting God’s will has produced evil, suffering and destruction.

    I frequently find myself pondering if much of the historical Christian explanation of how the world works is accurate. What if the historical, orthodox, particularly Calvinistic viewpoint of a big, powerful tyrant in the sky is utterly wrong? What if God looks nothing like Calvin but more like Jesus? Which seems more likely?

    What if the battle taking place will inevitably be won, not simply because God is bigger, stronger and more powerful, and doesn’t let anyone push him around; but because goodness, justice and love are ultimately more powerful and productive than evil? If that were the case, God would not need to exert meticulous control over every molecule of his creation, as he is confident in the power of good to overcome evil; always, no matter what happens.

    Such a scenario, coupled with a proper understanding of atonement for sin, would enable God to allow man to make whatever choices he might desire, however terrible, and remain confident that, in the end, mercy, love and justice lead to life. Evil will always lead to self destruction, as it hurts, destroys and consumes. We still must grapple with how God, outside of time and created matter, sees all, past, present and future – according to our perspective – on the same continuum. It is impossible for finite creatures to fully grasp how something that is not, and has not yet been determined, can yet be fully known by God as if it was already done. It is my assertion that something like this is true, however weakly man can imagine or express it.

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  233. Robert: Where does Scripture refer to people in hell as possessing eternal life?

    I assume you are asking if unbelievers will experience an eternal life of punishment in hell. If so:

    “Then these [unbelieving people] will go away into eternal (unending) punishment, but those who are righteous and in right standing with God [will go, by His remarkable grace] into eternal (unending) life.” (Matthew 25:46 AMP)

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  234. ZechZav,

    I really don’t know where you got this idea from. Evidence please.

    For your assertion to be true, you would have to find a first-century Jew who believed that faith was not necessary to be a part of the covenant.

    If the New Perspective has taught us anything, it is that first-century Jews believed that grace and faith were necessary for salvation. It’s just that many, if not most Jews, also thought law-keeping was how you stayed in the covenant. Essentially, they added works to their definition of faith.

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  235. ZechZav,

    I am going off what Paul said in the entire letter and following his flow Robert.

    Except you miss the beginning part of chapter 9, where the question is whether the word of God has failed to corporate Israel because so many have denied Christ. And Paul’s answer is that within corporate Israel, salvation has always and only been for the individuals who are the children of the promise.

    Has God’s plan for the Jews failed? No, because God’s plan was never for everyone who is a Jew merely outwardly but only for the child of the promise. Who are the children of the promise? Those whom God chooses. Isaac over Ishmael, Jacob over Esau, etc. All chosen not because of anything they did.

    Paul moves seamlessly from the assumption that all Jews are elect to the election of only some Jews.

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  236. elasgirl,

    Abraham didn’t have the benefit of such formulas, and he and God appear to have known each other very well.

    if God is, God is just as available now, without all the endless group-scribbling on chalkboards.

    Is God speaking to you audibly like he spoke to Abraham?

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  237. TS00,

    Seems like things are getting silly now. If all old things pass away and become new, then the new earth (as most tend to perceive what is called ‘heaven’) is all there is. As Mohler put it, ‘Where will they go?’

    There’s still a hell. Or if you are an annhiliationist, there’s the possibility of annihilation.

    If libertarian free will is so important, why do we lose it in the age to come? How is it just for God to force us to stick with a decision we made? Why is that any better than choosing in eternity past? Just because you like the outcome?

    If free will is so darn important, seems to me we should be free at any point throughout all eternity to reject God, no matter the consequences. But since we don’t have that freedom, there seems to be something God desires more than libertarian freedom.

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  238. Robert: Except you miss the beginning part of chapter 9, where the question is whether the word of God has failed to corporate Israel because so many have denied Christ. And Paul’s answer is that within corporate Israel, salvation has always and only been for the individuals who are the children of the promise.

    No. I take Romans 9 in the context of the entire book whereas you break it off and isolate it. The children of the promise are those who come by faith and not by those who come by works of the law.

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  239. Robert: For your assertion to be true, you would have to find a first-century Jew who believed that faith was not necessary to be a part of the covenant.

    No Robert, I am simply taking Paul at his word when he says that Israel did not seek it by faith. I don’t need to defend that because I take Paul at face value. You are ignoring the evidence I put right in front of you. I will not respond any more Robert because you are just relentless in pushing your view. We are not going to agree so I will leave it there.

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  240. Robert,

    “But unless you are a Calvinist, how does that initiative actually guarantees the salvation of anyone in particular.”

    It doesn’t. You claimed God has to take the initiative. I responded He already has and will add– in a very significant way.

    I am not a Calvinist so I don’t have the same problems you do. I think it’s a made up religion.

    ” At best it guarantees the salvation of an amorphous group and its up to the individual to make the final, determinative choice as to whether he will be saved or not.”

    Ok. Humans are a wonderful creation. Brains that can think and reason for good or evil. Choice. I am all about choice and responsibility. I look forward to meeting the amorphous group one day.

    As one of my favorite Brits used to say on some blogs debating this topic:

    Calvinists keep trying to give me doctrinal problems I don’t have. 🙂

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  241. Robert: Where does Scripture refer to people in hell as possessing eternal life? They exist, but I don’t know that the Bible ever says they are experiencing life.

    Maybe I should have described it as eternal conscious existence. You made it sound like there were only two ways of looking at hell, and I responded that those are not the only alternatives. The Eastern Orthodox perspective is very old and very different from how Western Christians see it. Rather than me trying to paraphrase, it would be better for you to read this: http://holytrinitydanbury.org/2016/07/29/the-all-consuming-love-of-god/. This is not an attempt to get you to agree with this particular viewpoint, but just to show you that there are more than just a couple of viable alternatives.

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  242. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    Just re-read it and it could indeed be taken in several different ways..!

    I was referring to the literal 21:35 Scotrail service from Edinburgh Waverley to Perth. But I suppose (among other things) it could be a figurative reference to this thread…

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  243. Robert:
    ZechZav,

    God has to be just and punish wickedness. Nobody is disputing that.

    I understand that. The difficulty is that non-Calvinists want to say both that God wants everybody to be saved in every sense of the Word and has no special electing love for His children and that God willingly punishes in hell people whom he loves just the same as he loves those who belong to His son. If you want to talk about illogical, let’s talk about that.

    God loves His children more than he loves others. It’s not a defect. It’s what good fathers do.

    So if you have more than one child you decide which one you are going to love more? Is that a good father? Or, do you love them both but respond/interact to them differently based upon their choices or behaviors?

    Their behavior/choices are part of their responsibility, too, as they mature. Or do you believe children are pure evil because they are totally depraved?

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  244. Robert: I’m saying that the mere position of a body and mere existence does not mean that one is alive.

    How do you define being alive? If a person is not somehow “alive” in hell then how is it meaningful punishment?

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  245. Robert: God loves His children more than he loves others. It’s not a defect. It’s what good fathers do.

    You are saying that not all humans are God’s children because of some arbitrary eternal decree. This sounds like something a Serpent Seed proponent would say, except that they have a more logical reason for the distinction. Maybe the two theological systems are related.

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  246. Robert,

    I find this reasoning suspect. It’s worth discussing, though. But it sure leaves out context. You seem to be a certain that if there’s no libertarian Free Will in heaven/redemned earth then why do we have it here?

    I am not convinced we won’t have a form of free will on the redeemed Earth. The forces of evil will have been totally defeated. Our new birth status will be on a redeemed Earth in a redeemed body.

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  247. Robet: God has to give you to the Father to come to the Father, and everyone who is given is risen up on the last day to eternal life. Not some of them, all of them. Unless universalism is true, that means that not everyone is given to the Father.

    Here goes… I believe God gives Jesus those who choose to believe… because… in the context there are many verses saying it is actually those who choose to believe. We see free will in the following verses: vs.35 He who comes and he who believes will be saved. vs.40 EVERYONE who looks and believes shall have eternal life. vs.47 He who believes has life. vs.51 If ANYONE eats this bread… vs.54 WHOEVER eats my flesh…, etc.

    But you ignored the point that Jesus defined the Father for us by how he lived a life of compassion… and I see no compassion in Calvinists.

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  248. Robert: If libertarian free will is so important, why do we lose it in the age to come? How is it just for God to force us to stick with a decision we made? Why is that any better than choosing in eternity past? Just because you like the outcome?

    If free will is so darn important, seems to me we should be free at any point throughout all eternity to reject God, no matter the consequences. But since we don’t have that freedom, there seems to be something God desires more than libertarian freedom.

    Who says we ever lose it? Maybe, after seeing what sin and selfishness produces, no one will ever be foolish enough again to want anything but God’s good and perfect will – which is pretty much what ‘being conformed to the image of His Son’ looks like.

    And if free will is ‘important’ it is only because it is the only explanation that does not make God the author of evil. Yeah, I guess that is pretty important.

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  249. Nick Bulbeck: That’s all well and good, but what about people who are allergic to the menu? Maybe their invitation was an evanescent one.

    I suppose if the meal does not sit well with them it will turn into some kind of effervescent situation…

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  250. Robert: Romans 1:18–3:20: No one desires God because of sin (sin affects the will)
    Jesus is sinless (too many passages to mention), start with 1 Peter 2

    Ergo, Jesus’ human will is not affected by sin in the way ours is.

    You are confusing desire and will. Our desires are always subservient to our wills, and we can in fact will to overcome our desires (as any successful dieter knows). Do you know of Gregory of Nazianzus? He was no theological lightweight, and this is what he had to say about this topic:

    “If anyone has put his trust in Him as a Man without a human mind, he is really bereft of mind, and quite unworthy of salvation. For that which He has not assumed He has not healed; but that which is united to His Godhead is also saved. If only half Adam fell, then that which Christ assumes and saves may be half also; but if the whole of his nature fell, it must be united to the whole nature of Him that was begotten, and so be saved as a whole.” (see https://earlychurchtexts.com/public/gregoryofnaz_critique_of_apolliniarianism.htm)

    You are gravely mistaken if you believe that Jesus did not fully assume all of human nature – had had to in order to redeem it. Isn’t this what Heb 4:15 is all about?

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  251. Robert,

    no time to double check — did God speak to Abraham audibly?

    i sense the still small voice throughout the day, and am ever learning to tune in to God fm.

    Seems to me that’s the process of knowing God — instead of knowing debatable “facts about God”.

    We agree that God is a person, correct? A know-able person.

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  252. elastigirl: knowing God — instead of knowing debatable “facts about God”

    My debates with Calvinists usually end when I share my personal experience in Christ. They just don’t know how to counter that. There seems to be a mistrust of personal Christian experience within their ranks. I have grave concerns about church folks who know a lot of facts about God, but who have little evidence in their lives of actually knowing Him.

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  253. Max,

    The big problem with these debates is we are approaching them from totally different lenses. From how scripture is interpreted in totality to our view of God. (I view God as much more man centered than any Cal would ever allow). I also believe God is sovereign over His own Sovereignty which, in the end, Cals reject by default of their definition.

    Calvinism as a great “growing” movement is dead. And I think a part of that is the intense analysis of it on the blogosphere, That’s why the SBC is ditching it in favor of the still determinist Puritanesque (agree or you are bad!) SJW focus which not long ago they would have described as “works”. The irony is thick. It’s marketing!

    Robert has been a good sport and I thank him for that. In the past it usually became ad hominem but he has approached it with decorum despite the pile on!

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  254. Lydia: Robert has been a good sport and I thank him for that. In the past it usually became ad hominem but he has approached it with decorum despite the pile on!

    Robert makes a great case that explains suffering very well. And if I’m understanding his assertions correctly, you start to understand the allure of that argument. God is who he is. If he didn’t want things to happen, then they wouldn’t. But they do so therefore there is a reason and that is all is done for God’s glory.

    Not everyone is going to heaven. The Bible’s pretty clear on that and if God is perfect and knows all, then he probably knows who’s in and who’s out, because the victory is already a done deal. We can either get on the bus or be run over by the bus. Those under the bus are there so that God’s glory can be revealed. It’s a Christmas gift for the saved or elect that’s already unwrapped for them and really it doesn’t matter the size of your church, a thousand or a hundred, you can rest assured that they are elect, just like you. Stay in line and you’ll be fine.

    The Bible is what it is. The inspired, inerrant word of God. All of it. That includes the old Testament, that includes the plagues, the “put to death” edicts, the slaughter and enslavement of your enemies (praise be).

    Now Christians of all stripes make their peace with this in various ways. Most take it in the context of the time in which the bible was written. Most focus on the compassion of Jesus’ ministry, the phrases like he has come so that none shall perish and all shall have eternal life or variations thereof.

    But I’ve seen in previous comments where the “reasonable argument” can lead down some very dark roads, see the previous discussion on slavery’s apparent compatibility with Christianity.

    I saw a glimpse of that up thread with this quote

    “I’m saying that the mere position of a body and mere existence does not mean that one is alive. ” A statement like this really gives a glimpse of how others are dehumanized.

    Can’t speak for Robert but my experience with some who hold these views (even when I was Christian) made it clear that with my less strict views, I was most definately not their co-religionist.

    But maybe they could sense something in me that I was not a chosen since Christianity and I have parted ways.

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  255. elastigirl,

    We agree that God is a person, correct? A know-able person.

    Sure. But how do you know when God is speaking to you? Lots of people believe God is telling them to do some very crazy things. I’m sure you’re not doing crazy things, but how do you discern the difference between God and your own brain coming up with some idea.

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  256. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    You are gravely mistaken if you believe that Jesus did not fully assume all of human nature – had had to in order to redeem it. Isn’t this what Heb 4:15 is all about?

    Of course I believe Jesus assumed all of human nature. What I am denying is that Jesus assumed a fallen human nature. Jesus had no inclination to sin. His will, desires, affections, were not tainted by the fall.

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  257. TS00,

    Who says we ever lose it? Maybe, after seeing what sin and selfishness produces, no one will ever be foolish enough again to want anything but God’s good and perfect will – which is pretty much what ‘being conformed to the image of His Son’ looks like.

    Perhaps. But if free will is so important, the possibility of rejecting God still remains. And of course, Satan knew God’s good and perfect will and he was foolish enough to fall. How do you know the same can’t happen to us?

    And if free will is ‘important’ it is only because it is the only explanation that does not make God the author of evil. Yeah, I guess that is pretty important.

    1) That’s not true.
    2) God predetermined the crucifixion, the greatest evil in history.
    3) God standing by and refusing to intervene to stop all horrendous evil and God still creating people he knows will go to hell means that your answer isn’t better. Normally, we hold to be guilty anyone who can stop evil and doesn’t. This whole blog routinely goes after people who are in that position—and might I add, it is right for the blog to do it.

    So, either God ordains evil without being morally responsible for it and ultimately that’s a mystery OR God stands by and does nothing when grossly evil acts occur and he is not morally responsible for preventing evil and that’s a mystery. There is a certain amount of logical dissatisfaction that you have to sit with in either case. It is not clear that one is better than the other. So we look to Scripture to see which one is more congruent with it.

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  258. Lydia,

    I find this reasoning suspect. It’s worth discussing, though. But it sure leaves out context. You seem to be a certain that if there’s no libertarian Free Will in heaven/redemned earth then why do we have it here?

    I am not convinced we won’t have a form of free will on the redeemed Earth. The forces of evil will have been totally defeated. Our new birth status will be on a redeemed Earth in a redeemed body.

    That might be true. But if we have that form of free will, then there’s no guarantee we won’t fall again. Satan fell and there was no evil to tempt him.

    Seems to me that if one wants to believe that we are eternally secure in heaven, there must be no free will there (in the non-deterministic sense).

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  259. Lydia,

    So if you have more than one child you decide which one you are going to love more? Is that a good father? Or, do you love them both but respond/interact to them differently based upon their choices or behaviors?

    No. I’m saying that not every human being is a child of God. Some are children of the devil. The gospel of John tells us that.

    Their behavior/choices are part of their responsibility, too, as they mature. Or do you believe children are pure evil because they are totally depraved?

    Pure evil, no. (I’m not sure such a thing as pure evil exists. Every creature, human or angel, could be worse than he or she is.) I believe apart from the grace of God, all children are born in sin and have a fallen nature. They are sinners, but they do not yet have the capability to be as evil as they could be. As we grow, we grow in our ability to sin.

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  260. Robert: What I am denying is that Jesus assumed a fallen human nature. Jesus had no inclination to sin. His will, desires, affections, were not tainted by the fall.

    But that is not what Heb 4:15 says. Read it again: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (ESV)

    The bible does not say that Jesus did not have normal human desires and temptations. Rather, he was actually tempted as we are but did not sin. And in fact it was necessary for him to be fully human in order to fully redeem us. If he left anything unassumed it means it was un-healed/redeemed. Early Christianity held this as a foundational truth. If you believe that Jesus did not fully enter into the human condition it puts you on a path to a form or gnostic dualism. I suppose it’s ok if someone wants to believe this, but it is not what the Bible teaches.

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  261. Mary27,

    Here goes… I believe God gives Jesus those who choose to believe…

    Except that John 6 never says that. Maybe that’s true, but you’d have to find it elsewhere.

    But you ignored the point that Jesus defined the Father for us by how he lived a life of compassion… and I see no compassion in Calvinists.

    Jesus wasn’t very compassionate to the Pharisees and a host of other people. That aside, what do you mean you “see no compassion in Calvinists?” You’ve never known a Calvinist who feeds the hungry, helps people in need, etc? There are entire Calvinist denominations that have agencies that do such things. PCA, OPC, the Calvinist SBCers give to the same mission boards that the Arminians do, etc. I can’t tell you how many single mothers and people in desperate need my Calvinist church has helped.

    If you mean that Calvinists can sometimes be arrogant, then sure they can. But I’ll tell you that when the topic of predestination and freewill comes up, it’s been my experience that nonCalvinists can be just as arrogant and mean toward Calvinists as any professing Calvinist can be toward a nonCalvinist.

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  262. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    The bible does not say that Jesus did not have normal human desires and temptations.

    Agreed.

    Rather, he was actually tempted as we are but did not sin. And in fact it was necessary for him to be fully human in order to fully redeem us. If he left anything unassumed it means it was un-healed/redeemed.

    Agreed. But the temptations Jesus experienced were external to him, not internal. In other word, sometimes I am tempted to sin because I have inner desires that well up apart from any external thing. Sometimes I go looking for sin. Jesus didn’t have that because the desire for sin is sin itself. Jesus had no internal temptations arising out of a fallen nature.

    Early Christianity held this as a foundational truth. If you believe that Jesus did not fully enter into the human condition it puts you on a path to a form or gnostic dualism. I suppose it’s ok if someone wants to believe this, but it is not what the Bible teaches.

    Many early Christian theologians, if I am not mistaken, said that Jesus was “altogether deified” from the moment of conception. Ultimately, it was not possible for him to sin. And however you put it, most Christian theologians east and west have said that while Jesus’ temptations were real, he could not have sinned because He is the person of the Son of God and God cannot sin.

    However you say it, while Jesus assumed a true human nature, it was not subject to the ravages of sin in the same way that ours is before we are glorified/deified.

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  263. Robert,

    “That might be true. But if we have that form of free will, then there’s no guarantee we won’t fall again. Satan fell and there was no evil to tempt him.”

    I think we are “able” to “practice” doing right here and now. A far cry from what Calvinist and other Protestant groups teach. We are to be perfect like our heavenly Father. A bad translation but, “striving for maturity”.

    I don’t believe that born again saints perpetually sin ‘because they can’t help it’. but then again I don’t think our very existence is sin, either, and Define sin differently as actual actions such as lying, deception, harm, perversion, etc. Anything else is thought policing by humans reserved for the Holy Spirit.

    Protestants tend to postion themselves as ‘saved sinning, sinners’ who cannot really know themselves. Dualism. I don’t buy into Luther’s “faith alone”, either, for many reasons. He couldn’t seem to scare up much Mercy for Jews, peasants or women. Is faith alone did not help him in the action Department. 🙂

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  264. Lydia: The big problem with these debates is we are approaching them from totally different lenses.

    Agreed. The biggest problem for me with the theological debate raging within SBC is that debating is not preaching the Gospel. Southern Baptists have been distracted from the Great Commission and largely forfeited their denominational gifting of evangelism while an elite few vie for power and control over the message the next generation of SBC preachers will deliver.

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  265. Robert,

    Robert, question for you, I am curious, from your Calvinist view, how does one of the elect come to Christ?

    Do you hold that though grace is irresistible, the election unconditional, do the elect still have to hear the gospel first, then they are regenerated, then they receive the faith to believe?

    Is this how you would describe it?

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  266. Robert,

    “But how do you know when God is speaking to you? Lots of people believe God is telling them to do some very crazy things. I’m sure you’re not doing crazy things, but how do you discern the difference between God and your own brain coming up with some idea.”
    ++++++++++++++++++

    well, there’s mixture. even in inspired speech (dare i say prophetic), there is mixture. Strains of what is Holy Spirit in the midst of what is not.

    i think it would be a highly rare thing for God/Jesus/Holy Spirit to truly take control of speech and the words be 100% Holy Spirit.

    mixture… but that’s ok. no need to be all or nothing about this.

    it’s like learning to dance with a partner. it’s clumsy, sort of embarrassing… it’s awkward and faulty attempting to move together — can’t quite call it dancing.

    but the more the 2 people work at it, the more it becomes dancing, the more coordinated. they get better at anticipating each other.

    they get better at picking up on tiny little imperceptible cues. they start feeling more of the rhythm at the same time, together, knowing how to move in response.

    or, we could be all or nothing about it and stay clear of the dance floor, stay in the safety of our seats where things are predictable and controlled.

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  267. Lydia: Protestants tend to postion themselves as ‘saved sinning, sinners’ who cannot really know themselves. Dualism. I don’t buy into Luther’s “faith alone”, either, for many reasons. He couldn’t seem to scare up much Mercy for Jews, peasants or women. Is faith alone did not help him in the action Department.

    Lutheran theology is redolent with, and based on Platonic dualism.

    In Jewish thought, there is no such thing as “faith alone”, your (generic your) deeds define you; not what you say is you.

    And yeah, you’re right, “faith alone” didn’t stop the cattle cars headed East for the gas chambers and the crematoriums.

    Lydia: I don’t believe that born again saints perpetually sin ‘because they can’t help it’. but then again I don’t think our very existence is sin, either, and Define sin differently as actual actions such as lying, deception, harm, perversion, etc. Anything else is thought policing by humans reserved for the Holy Spirit.

    I no longer believe this brand of theology either. It’s based on a model of unachievable perfection in which its adherents find themselves on an endless hamster wheel of fear, guilt, and the frustration of not being able to measure up, because even their best is never “good enough”. I got off the boat (in a metaphorical sense) as one of Emma Lazarus’ huddled masses yearning to breathe free and haven’t looked back.

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  268. Benn,

    Robert, question for you, I am curious, from your Calvinist view, how does one of the elect come to Christ?

    Do you hold that though grace is irresistible, the election unconditional, do the elect still have to hear the gospel first, then they are regenerated, then they receive the faith to believe?

    Is this how you would describe it?

    I would say that grace is finally irresistible and that even the elect may resist God for a time, but that God never fails to save anyone whom He wants to save in every sense of the word “want.”

    As far as salvation, the elect have to hear and believe the gospel. But no one can believe the gospel without first being regenerated. But regeneration makes saving faith inevitable. Sometimes regeneration happens as the gospel is being preached, but I don’t see any reason why regeneration can’t happen some time before the gospel is heard. But there’s no such thing as a regenerate person who does not believe the gospel before he or she dies (with the possible exception of infants or the mentally infirm.)

    Essentially, regeneration and saving faith are part of the same gift for most believers, as in they come at the same time. An exception might be infants who may be regenerate for some time before exercising faith if in fact infants can’t exercise faith. But that’s a different issue.

    Does that help?

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  269. elastigirl:
    Robert,

    “But how do you know when God is speaking to you? Lots of people believe God is telling them to do some very crazy things. I’m sure you’re not doing crazy things, but how do you discern the difference between God and your own brain coming up with some idea.”
    ++++++++++++++++++

    well, there’s mixture.even in inspired speech (dare i say prophetic), there is mixture.Strains of what is Holy Spirit in the midst of what is not.

    i think it would be a highly rare thing for God/Jesus/Holy Spirit to truly take control of speech and the words be 100% Holy Spirit.

    mixture…but that’s ok.no need to be all or nothing about this.

    it’s like learning to dance with a partner.it’s clumsy, sort of embarrassing…it’s awkward and faulty attempting to move together — can’t quite call it dancing.

    but the more the 2 people work at it, the more it becomes dancing, the more coordinated.they get better at anticipating each other.

    they get better at picking up on tiny little imperceptible cues.they start feeling more of the rhythm at the same time, together, knowing how to move in response.

    or, we could be all or nothing about it and stay clear of the dance floor, stay in the safety of our seats where things are predictable and controlled.

    But even in a dance, you have a pattern that you follow so that you know when you are doing the waltz and not the cha-cha.

    So how do you know when God is speaking to you? I mean, many Muslims believe God is telling them to blow themselves up and lots of children to. I assume you would say He isn’t telling them that. How do you know?

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  270. Lydia:
    Robert,

    “That might be true. But if we have that form of free will, then there’s no guarantee we won’t fall again. Satan fell and there was no evil to tempt him.”

    I think we are “able” to “practice” doing right here and now. A far cry from what Calvinist and other Protestant groups teach. We are to be perfect like our heavenly Father. A bad translation but,“striving for maturity”.

    I don’t believe that born again saints perpetually sin ‘because they can’t help it’. but then again I don’t think our very existence is sin, either, and Define sin differently as actual actionssuch as lying, deception, harm, perversion, etc. Anything else is thought policing by humans reserved for the Holy Spirit.

    Protestants tend to postion themselves as ‘saved sinning, sinners’ who cannot really know themselves. Dualism. I don’t buy into Luther’s “faith alone”, either, for many reasons. He couldn’t seem to scare up much Mercy for Jews,peasants or women. Is faith alone did not help him in the action Department.

    And lots of atrocities have been committed by people who denied faith alone. See the medieval Roman Catholic Church and many modern Catholic Priests. So I’m not sure how that’s relevant.

    God isn’t striving to become mature. He’s already perfect.

    But in any case, you didn’t really answer my question. Once Jesus wraps everything up and we’re in the eternal state, will it be possible for us to leave it? Seems to me that if the non-Calvinist view of free will is true, we must be able to leave heaven/salvation/eternal life once Jesus finishes it all.

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  271. Max: Is “Robert” really Tim Challies?

    No, I’m not.

    I’m actually not all that interested in converting people here to Calvinism, believe it or not. I commented at first on this thread only because Dee was taking pot shots at Reformed theology and wanted to point out that if you want Reformed people to care about what is posted here, maybe the best way would be to avoid taking such shots. Somehow she can criticize Paige Patterson and Bill Hybels without taking pot shots at their Arminianism.

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  272. Robert:
    Benn,

    Robert, question for you, I am curious, from your Calvinist view, how does one of the elect come to Christ?


    Do you hold that though grace is irresistible, the election unconditional, do the elect still have to hear the gospel first, then they are regenerated, then they receive the faith to believe?

    Is this how you would describe it?

    I would say that grace is finally irresistible and that even the elect may resist God for a time, but that God never fails to save anyone whom He wants to save in every sense of the word “want.”

    As far as salvation, the elect have to hear and believe the gospel. But no one can believe the gospel without first being regenerated. But regeneration makes saving faith inevitable. Sometimes regeneration happens as the gospel is being preached, but I don’t see any reason why regeneration can’t happen some time before the gospel is heard. But there’s no such thing as a regenerate person who does not believe the gospel before he or she dies (with the possible exception of infants or the mentally infirm.)

    Essentially, regeneration and saving faith are part of the same gift for most believers, as in they come at the same time. An exception might be infants who may be regenerate for some time before exercising faith if in fact infants can’t exercise faith. But that’s a different issue.

    Does that help?

    Ok, this seems to what most Calvinist describe as to the events that lead to salvation.
    Has do you view pastors sharing the gospel, is that their free will choice to share?

    I know the spirit has burdened me to share with someone, but I didn’t do it,
    I’ll assume you will say that it was ordained for pastors to share the gospel, so they have no free will choice to share, correct?

    As to hear and believe the gospel, doesn’t Calvinism say that there is no way for us to have faith to believe, don’t you guys believe that a soul is regenerated, so that then the faith comes, so technically wouldn’t it just be that a person just has to hear the gospel, and faith is not initially needed to be regenerated, it ( faith comes after irresistible regeneration .

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  273. Robert: But the temptations Jesus experienced were external to him, not internal. In other word, sometimes I am tempted to sin because I have inner desires that well up apart from any external thing. Sometimes I go looking for sin. Jesus didn’t have that because the desire for sin is sin itself. Jesus had no internal temptations arising out of a fallen nature.

    All mere assertion, pulled out of your hat. I would assert that what is commonly referred to as ‘sin’ or ‘flesh’ in scripture more arises inappropriate feeding of natural God-given desires – hence the word ‘perversion – that are necessary for the flesh to survive.

    We have been given the fleshly desire to eat, drink and ‘know’ the opposite sex in order to sustain our life, and to produce ongoing life. Sin enters in when we abuse these desires, giving them an inordinate importance, as philosophers term it. Eating is not a sin, eating to excess is. Drinking wine is not a sin (sorry Baptists!) but drinking to drunkenness is, and so on. It would be incorrect to say that Jesus could not have abused the normal desires of his flesh and indulged in sin. The desires arise from our flesh; it is the encouragement of the deceiver that persuades us to go beyond normal, healthy usage of the things that God intended for good. Jesus was not except from any of the desires of the flesh – he simply resisted the temptation to indulge them inappropriately.

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  274. The more that I read what you all are saying, and the more that I look up various Catholic takes on those and similar questions, the more catholic and the less protestant I become.

    Seriously, arguments between different kinds of protestants can be really wop-sided if the views of Catholicism, and Orthodoxy and for that matter Judaism are not built into the conversation, because the real questions are wrapped around all those variables. It would be rather like children arguing over which brand of crayon it takes to ‘really’ color within the lines while all the while some other kids are using colored pencils, and felt tips, and acrylics and even (god forbid) water colors.

    But I have learned from some of your discussions where to focus when it comes to the reformation resurgence that seems to be happening in some areas.

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  275. Robert: I would say that grace is finally irresistible and that even the elect may resist God for a time, but that God never fails to save anyone whom He wants to save in every sense of the word “want.”

    As far as salvation, the elect have to hear and believe the gospel. But no one can believe the gospel without first being regenerated. But regeneration makes saving faith inevitable. Sometimes regeneration happens as the gospel is being preached, but I don’t see any reason why regeneration can’t happen some time before the gospel is heard. But there’s no such thing as a regenerate person who does not believe the gospel before he or she dies (with the possible exception of infants or the mentally infirm.)

    Essentially, regeneration and saving faith are part of the same gift for most believers, as in they come at the same time. An exception might be infants who may be regenerate for some time before exercising faith if in fact infants can’t exercise faith. But that’s a different issue.

    This is the best explanation I’ve ever heard regarding Calvinist thought. Robert makes sense to me and I am in no way being facetious.

    But unless I am one of these resisters that gets a save at the last minute, it’s also the best explanation of how completely futile this brand of the Christian faith is.

    I literally have to do nothing to be saved, God already decided. I don’t make choices to do good works, God makes them for me, it’s already predestined.

    Dee and Deb aren’t really writing this blog because it was already predestined that they would write this blog, in fact this whole exercise is completely useless since we can’t help victims because what will happen to them is already predestined.

    And Calvinist groups who help feed the poor aren’t helping at all because the poor were already destined to be poor and those Calvinists were predestined to uselessly help them which they couldn’t do anyway because they have no free will.

    So God is as trapped by his own “perfection” as we are trapped in his tape machine. He can’t help you, Jesus sacrifice was useless as it was predestined.

    The AC/DC song “Who Made Who” comes to mind.

    What a theological nightmare, people coming out of such nihilism are going to need massive deprogramming.

    How could being an atheist be worse than this?

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  276. Robert: I commented at first on this thread only because Dee was taking pot shots at Reformed theology

    Robert

    Let me warn you about statements like this. I am very, very serious about my concerns about Calvinist theology. When I speak or write, it is NOT taking pot shots. I have legitimate concerns and my conners are born up by others far more well educated than myself. You may say you disagree with me but you will not diminish what I say to “pot shots.” Stay your case. Don’t play games.

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  277. Robert: But even in a dance, you have a pattern that you follow so that you know when you are doing the waltz and not the cha-cha.

    Robert, this is a tired Calvinist saw that gets brought out a lot by those who read it in a book or heard it at a conference on *How to defend Calvinism.* We have dealt with the dance scenario in several posts. My favorite one, in which we dubbed Thabiti Anyabwile “Twinkle Toes,” is” Salsa Dancing Our Way to Complementarianism” http://thewartburgwatch.com/2011/09/01/salsa-dancing-our-way-to-complementarianism/

    As I said to you in my last comment, I take Calvinist theology and complementarianism very seriously when I choose to disagree. I think it diminishes it’s doctrine and theology when it is compared to the “cha cha.” Good night! We are discussing a theology which contends that God has chosen just some people for salvation from the beginning of time and there is nothing to be done about it. And, if you pull out the old saw, “Well, we should be glad He chose some since He didn’t have to,” we will have to go back to elementary logic and more links to previous posts.

    No, the condemnation of the majority of mankind to the pits of hell and women being told by John Piper to “endure abuse for an evening” should never, ever use the “cha cha” as an example of how it all works.

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  278. Jack: This is the best explanation I’ve ever heard regarding Calvinist thought. Robert makes sense to me and I am in no way being facetious.

    I completely agree with your assessment. The more deeply Calvinism is explained by Calvinists the more sure I am in my decision to reject it. And it’s not just because of the way I “feel” about it. It’s because of their unproven assumptions, circular reasoning, taking the bible out of context, and disregarding church history. If they were more humble about it, or expressed room for doubt I would probably think differently.

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  279. Robert: But in any case, you didn’t really answer my question. Once Jesus wraps everything up and we’re in the eternal state, will it be possible for us to leave it? Seems to me that if the non-Calvinist view of free will is true, we must be able to leave heaven/salvation/eternal life once Jesus finishes it all.

    I think the reason you struggle with this is because you can only see it from the perspective of only two possibilities. As I wrote above, there are other possibilities that don’t lead to the contradictions you describe. The leading candidate for me is the Eastern Orthodox perspective I mentioned above. In their view, after the resurrection everyone will be in the presence of God because there is no where else to go. We have the luxury now of being able to somewhat hide from his presence, but that will no longer be the case after the final judgement/resurrection. Those who pursue righteousness now will welcome that presence and will experience it as heaven. Those who pursue sin now will hate that presence and will experience it as hell. I’ve heard it compared to running into or with the wind – one direction feels like punishment and the other direction feels like aid. The difference is not with the wind but with us. This also opens to the door to the possibility that people could change their mind – the choice will always be there even if the chooser doesn’t want to change. Again, there is no compulsion for anyone to have to believe this view, but it is a view that does away with the contradictions you described. And it’s also a view that has historical precedence.

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  280. Robert: I’m actually not all that interested in converting people here to Calvinism, believe it or not.

    The very arguments you make for Calvinism are the reason why 90+% of Christians for the past 500 years have chosen not to be converted to Calvinistic belief and practice. Robert, I truly feel sorry for you … your walk is full of chasing jots and tittles, straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel. There is freedom in Christ … choose life.

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  281. Robert: I’m actually not all that interested in converting people here to Calvinism, believe it or not

    This comment was helpful I have observed that many Calvinists view their initial reliance on Calvinist doctrine as a conversion,. The ONLY conversion worth anything is coming to Jesus

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  282. Robert,

    “But even in a dance, you have a pattern that you follow so that you know when you are doing the waltz and not the cha-cha.

    So how do you know when God is speaking to you? I mean, many Muslims believe God is telling them to blow themselves up and lots of children to. I assume you would say He isn’t telling them that. How do you know?”
    +++++++++++

    i’ll launch out into what i’m sure will not do justice to your question, but it’s a start.

    a few things immediately come to mind:

    –common sense right & wrong: average human beings know what is right and wrong. i mean, i can’t see how the human race & its societies could have survived this long without. any amount of world travelling makes this quite clear — you will experience the kindness and generosity (philadelphia) of total strangers on every continent.

    –religion untethered from common sense makes people weird and dangerous. the concept of God seems to lead to all kinds of rules, conquests, exploits, and obsessions where the ends justify the means.

    you mention a pattern — well, boiling it all down, the brass tack at the bottom of the pot is love and kindness that go all the way through patience to self-sacrifice for the welfare of others, as demonstrated by God.

    in light of “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments”,

    …i’d say that’s pattern enough.

    how much pattern do we need, anyway?

    pattern in the hands of people who need & desire control, and/or power and money (and use the concept of God to get them) leads to all kinds of abuses, paranoias, neuroses. little mini totalitarian societies in church communities.

    God is not a fussy, pedantic control freak. he no more requires absolute adherence to strict pattern (methodology) than i do with my own kids.

    so, the way i see it:

    –love as demonstrated by God + common sense + “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek for Me with all your heart” is conducive to hearing/sensing God’s voice.

    well, i think the first thing is a belief that God/Jesus/Holy Spirit is/are active — in communicating, influencing, impressing, on the level of many senses (spiritual, intellectual, mental, emotional, physical…).

    We aren’t brains on legs, and God is not a book. We’re both multi-dimensional beings.

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  283. Robert: Jesus had no internal temptations arising out of a fallen nature.

    That’s fine, except the Bible does not say this. It is a conclusion that has no direct support from the Bible. The very early Christian belief is that Jesus inherited a fallen nature from Mary, and in fact he had to inherit a fallen nature in order to be our true savior. However, he did not sin even though he was like us in every respect. That’s the whole point of the incarnation – by his incarnation he fully united God and humanity forever by redeeming humanity.

    Many early Christian theologians, if I am not mistaken, said that Jesus was “altogether deified” from the moment of conception. Ultimately, it was not possible for him to sin. And however you put it, most Christian theologians east and west have said that while Jesus’ temptations were real, he could not have sinned because He is the person of the Son of God and God cannot sin.

    Do you have any examples of this? Where does the Bible say it was impossible for Jesus to sin? Heb 4:15 directly refutes this. If it was not possible for Jesus to sin then it means the incarnation was pointless and Jesus did not redeem us.

    However you say it, while Jesus assumed a true human nature, it was not subject to the ravages of sin in the same way that ours is before we are glorified/deified.

    The Bible does not state this anywhere. It is an unproven assumption that is used to bolster a theology that has very weak biblical roots.

    Considering how much Calvinists claim to adhere to “sola scriptura,” their arguments always end up relying on assumptions not found in the Bible. If the Bible is going to be your source then you have to actually use it as a direct source rather than coming up with great ideas that are not actually in the Bible.

    I am very grateful for your respectful dialogue here. I could go on with this forever, but I suppose at one point we should agree to disagree out of respect for the other commenters.

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  284. Muff Potter,

    From what I can tell, Jesus based salvation on a mix of belief and metanoia. The latter badly short changed throughout much of the history of Christianity, badly translated and badly taught, IMO.

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  285. Robert,

    “And lots of atrocities have been committed by people who denied faith alone. See the medieval Roman Catholic Church and many modern Catholic Priests. So I’m not sure how that’s relevant.”

    Atrocities were probably ok because they had sacraments and priestly absolution in such early assertions from such as Augustine that they should wipe out the Donatists, as one example. There is always some doctrinal rationale when Christians want to commit evil against innocents.

    “God isn’t striving to become mature. He’s already perfect.”

    I don’t really understand this answer. The comment was based on Matthew 5 where Jesus is addressing the Jews.
    It’s what Jesus (God in the Flesh) is telling them to “do”.

    “But in any case, you didn’t really answer my question. Once Jesus wraps everything up and we’re in the eternal state, will it be possible for us to leave it? Seems to me that if the non-Calvinist view of free will is true, we must be able to leave heaven/salvation/eternal life once Jesus finishes it all.”

    I think maybe you’re trying to get me to answer what someone else has asserted? I can’t be sure because I haven’t read every single comment intently. Frankly your question doesn’t make any sense to me. I read this question as someone who is trying to move the goalposts with provocative cornering questions. I did state that I do believe we will have some form of free will on the redeemed earth. I don’t view our eternity on the redeemed earth as robotic.

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  286. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    I think the biggest problem with Calvinism —that touches every doctrinal position within it —is that they take humans completely out of the salvic equation. ((Gasp)). They refer to such as thinking we can save ourselves. As I said earlier, I believe God in the flesh took the initiative on the cross and with the resurrection. Surely our response to what that means is considered.

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  287. Lydia: I think the biggest problem with Calvinism —that touches every doctrinal position within it —is that they take humans completely out of the salvic equation. ((Gasp)).

    Yes. If they would actually stick with “sola scriptura” they would be in a much better position. But one cannot really cling both to Calvinism and sola scriptura because Calvinism is not anchored in scriptura. So many of their arguments have no solid biblical support. But they don’t seem to be able to see it. It messes up both their theology and their anthropology. It’s as they never figured out that the whole purpose of the incarnation was for Jesus to become eternally human.

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  288. Ken F (aka Tweed): If they would actually stick with “sola scriptura” they would be in a much better position.

    Yep. I have advised New Calvinists in my area to turn off their “influencers” (Piper et al.) and get alone with their Bible for a season, praying for the Holy Spirit to teach them. They hang out too long in the epistles of Paul, relying on Calvinism’s interpretation, rather than reading the Gospels under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. I tell them “If you read Paul first, you might read Jesus wrong. But if you read Jesus first, the writings of Paul come into perspective.”

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  289. Lydia: From what I can tell, Jesus based salvation on a mix of belief and metanoia.

    Agreed for the most part.

    Lydia: The latter badly short changed throughout much of the history of Christianity, badly translated and badly taught, IMO.

    Indeed.

    I can see that from up-thread in the brief mention of “heaven” and what that entails.
    The Christian “heaven” is always someplace “other” with little or no connection to this world. It is invariably portrayed as perfect and unsullied by what is perceived (in the Christian view) as the dirtiness and imperfections of this present world, complete with pearly gates and streets of gold. Again, Greek dualism and its struggle for perfection.

    I’m convinced that the Jews have a much more “down to earth” (pun intended) view of the after life and the world to come in their lore of Olam Ha-Ba.

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  290. Ken F (aka Tweed): TS00

    Ken F (aka Tweed): It’s as they never figured out that the whole purpose of the incarnation was for Jesus to become eternally human.

    They also do not recognize that the entire point of Jesus’ coming was to reveal God’s love and offer of forgiveness – not to be God’s whipping boy. Calvinism’s god is a cruel, authoritarian, self-absorbed tyrant with nothing better to do than manipulate disposable people for his jollies and to puff up his ego. It seems to me that this is EXACTLY the image these abusive so-called religious leaders reflect.

    Yes, you can go to a Reformed Church (for over a decade) and sit through countless messages and think they mean one thing, and it is only when (or if) your eyes are opened to what they really meant that you will be staggered. Same words, same scripture, with entirely different definitions and interpretations. Which is conveniently left unsaid.

    I agree with Dee; challenging Calvinism is not like arguing about how many angels can fit on the head of a pin – it is literally a question of ‘Is God a gracious, merciful, loving father who truly desires to save all people from sin and death, or a cruel, murderous bully on an ego trip who has no qualms about deliberately creating countless people for destruction?’They really are two very different gospels.

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  291. __

    Religious DayBreak: “Foundation(s) For Contempt And Revelatory Contentions, Perhaps?”

    hmmm…

    Calvinism: A proverbial God-dishonoring scheme?

    huh?

    “…Such is Calvinism, the most unreasonable, incongruous, self-contradictory, man-belittling and God-dishonoring scheme of theology that ever appeared in Christian thought. No one can accept its contradictory, mutually exclusive propositions without intellectual self-debasement…. It holds up a self-centered selfish, heartless, remorseless tyrant for God, and bids us worship Him.” -A. M. Hills

    What?

    Could b.

    Ascent and acceptance of the body of theology entitled Calvinism has been known to be dangerous to your spiritual health.

    bump.

    It is also known to sneak it into American 501c3 pulpits and be call’d religious/spiritual health consciousness.

    SKREEEEEEEEEETCH!

    (Might want to mark it questionable, and pass it by, huh?)

    *

    Jesus, as we all know is the light of the world.

    Why would anyone require a substitute?

    (grin)

    Turn the 501c3 reformed systematic theology clock to zero, —it’s a brand new day!

    *

    God became one of us so we could live with Hm for always…

    Sēē the Bible for details!

    ATB

    Sòpy

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=yCwc-5YTBb0
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=8CudiO72aAo

    Bonus:
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=pu9R4egeg_I
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=IWBkVucVMCY

    ;~)

    – –

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  292. TS00: it is literally a question of ‘Is God a gracious, merciful, loving father who truly desires to save all people from sin and death, or a cruel, murderous bully on an ego trip who has no qualms about deliberately creating countless people for destruction?’They really are two very different gospels.

    This is the same thing I discovered once I started to seriously look into Calvinism. I think the only reason it thrives is because the followers don’t take the time to investigate it in detail. I can see reasons why the leaders would like it, but I am left wondering at the followers. Maybe it’s related to the fear of being wrong. If Heb 2:15 is true about slavery to sin being the result of the fear of death, perhaps there is a similar dynamic in play here. Perhaps there is some kind of fear enslaving people to this system.

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  293. Ken F (aka Tweed): Perhaps there is some kind of fear enslaving people to this system.

    “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control].” (2 Timothy 1:7 AMP)

    New Calvinism has proven to be a movement that is populated with leaders and followers who don’t have sound judgement, personal discipline, well-balanced minds, nor self-control. We read about them every day. If fear enslaves followers to this system, it is not of God. New Calvinism is largely a youth movement occupied by young reformers who have surrendered themselves to the distorted teachings of reformed icons rather than reading the Word themselves under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

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  294. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    This is probably due to my proximity to SBTS but my impression with the young men there over the last 20 years (and others attracted to the movement around here) is they approached Calvinism as a deep intellectual exercise. ‘It was complicated so it must be true’ sort of thing. The ones who sought to make a living from it, mostly stayed true believers. Many others faded away. Some became rabid atheists because they had been recruited to Calvinism as Christianity. That has been untenable past a 20 year focus due to the public analysis that has taken place on the blogosphere so now the leaders are ditching that “true Gospel” marketing recruitment strategy for another deterministic social justice recruitment strategy which ironically fits the ‘works’ paradigm they used to claim was heresy. I can’t keep up nor want to. They are hucksters. Cons for Jesus. No different than the seekers they trashed in order to build the YRR brand. Now they are emulating them!

    Calvinism, IMO, is pure cognitive dissonance. And that works for a while. I learned a lot digging into it and ESS for about 15 years. But not what they intended for me to learn. I felt it was “off” pretty quick. I have to thank those old saints in the SBC growing up who drilled priesthood of believer and soul liberty/ competency into our little heads. We are able and responsible for what we believe and do. I go back to that sneaky deceptive Al Mohler who in 2000 insisted an “s” be added the priesthood of believer in the BFM2000. He knew what he was doing. And there is so much more deception, strategizing to recount along the way if people are following patterns and paying attention. I would not trust those guys with my lunch money. Glad to be out.

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  295. Lydia: This is probably due to my proximity to SBTS but my impression with the young men there over the last 20 years (and others attracted to the movement around here) is they approached Calvinism as a deep intellectual exercise. ‘It was complicated so it must be true’ sort of thing.

    The problem with that is that most 20-something seminarians are not smart enough to be intellectual! They fell for Mohler Mania when they hit the campus. Yearning to be a Mohlerite or a Piperite, they were swept up in the excitement of the reformed movement without thinking it through. And now they are SBC pastors! Scary!

    Lydia, you have given an accurate assessment of things, IMO. Hope you and yours are doing well. I’m also glad to be out – it took me a few more agonizing years than you to leave the SBC behind after nearly 70 years.

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  296. Lydia: Atrocities were probably ok because they had sacraments and priestly absolution in such early assertions from such as Augustine that they should wipe out the Donatists, as one example. There is always some doctrinal rationale when Christians want to commit evil against innocents.

    There was also the belief that eternal souls were at stake (no pun intended). They really believed they were on a holy mission where the ends justified the means. Punishment now meant salvation in the afterlife, they believed by making the heretic confess, they saved him or her from damnation. Not saying such actions didn’t benefit those complicit in atrocities, often they were the beneficiaries of the wealth of the “heretics” in addition to some really twisted sadists getting their thrills, but being on a mission from God, they figured he was cool with it. He wasn’t telling them anything different.

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  297. Max: The problem with that is that most 20-something seminarians are not smart enough to be intellectual!

    Based on the interactions on this thread, there’s nothing intellectual about the Calvinism as discussed. It’s a really simple explanation for why suffering occurs that (in their mind) reconciles what they see in the “real world” with what the bible tells them.

    A connects B connects C nicely.

    But it reduces the whole of existence to a pointless exercise. Using this belief system, Robert just wasted time and pixels. He defending the Reformed church but to what end? There’s nothing to defend as it’s predetermined.

    May as well go out in the back yard, lie in a hole and wait for inevitable.

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  298. Jack: They really believed they were on a holy mission where the ends justified the means.

    As do the New Calvinists … that’s why some of the young reformers have no problem with lying their way into non-Calvinist churches in their takeover mission. The impassioned among them sincerely believe they have come into the world for such a time as this to restore the gospel to the church which lost it along the way (to them, Calvinism = Gospel). Sadly, it is a misplaced passion.

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  299. TS00: Calvinism’s god is a cruel, authoritarian, self-absorbed tyrant with nothing better to do than manipulate disposable people for his jollies and to puff up his ego.

    You’ll find the same mindset in the Calvary Chapel cult even though they claim they are not “Calvinistic” by label. In their theology and praxis, your sole existence is based on how you can be “used” by god so that he can accrue more glory for himself.

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  300. Muff Potter: You’ll find the same mindset in the Calvary Chapel cult even though they claim they are not “Calvinistic” by label.

    Greg Laurie only brought the Calvary Chapel empire into Southern Baptist membership ‘after’ the New Calvinists gained control of the denomination. I have to think that his religious brand aligns more Calvinistic than not.

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  301. Muff Potter: In their theology and praxis, your sole existence is based on how you can be “used” by god so that he can accrue more glory for himself.

    This is a way of thinking only works if god is finite. If his glory is infinite there is no way to add to or subtract from it. Infinity plus or minus anything remains infinity.

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  302. ___

    “Understanding Calvinism, Perhaps?”

    hmmm…

    “The Calvinist believes that God alone makes it possible for a person to place faith in Christ and be saved. Calvinism holds that a person cannot and will not place faith in Christ and receive salvation unless God specifically elects/chooses that person and gives him or her the gift of faith. God’s choosing of certain people and not others is, according to Calvinism, part of His mysterious will; that is, God does not choose people based on anything the elect did. Nobody can merit or earn being chosen by God. The elect also cannot resist placing faith in Christ and cannot ever turn away from their faith once they accept Jesus. Those people whom God elects have been predestined for salvation from all eternity. Calvinism holds that anyone who is not among God’s elect cannot choose to place faith in Christ and be saved, and Jesus did not die for them. They were predestined to be separated from God for all eternity and have no ability to choose to be saved.” -A short Calvinism summary by Zach Breitenbach

    *

    The TULIP acrostic is often used to list Calvinism’s five main tenets:
    https://www.fivesolas.com/tulipscriptures.htm

    *

    The Canons of Dort:
    (delineating a biblically Reformed perspective)
    https://www.crcna.org/welcome/beliefs/confessions/canons-dort

    https://prts.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Canons-of-Dort-with-Intro.pdf

    *

    *One of the best short summary of Calvinism IMHO is :

    “The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented”
    by David N. Steele & Curtis C. Thomas

    *

    “Study to show yourself approved unto God, as a workman that needs not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” -Apostle Paul

    Wise words.

    Q. Are you providing a proper biblical understanding to your peers, and a successfully positive role model of biblical diligence to those who’s lives you touch?

    bump.

    Sēē your bible for details…

    “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

    ATB

    Sòpy

    ;~)

    – –

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  303. Max: Greg Laurie only brought the Calvary Chapel empire into Southern Baptist membership ‘after’ the New Calvinists gained control of the denomination. I have to think that his religious brand aligns more Calvinistic than not.

    Lately, I’ve wondered in passing if Mr. Laurie is flirting with the neo-cal big guns.

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  304. Muff Potter: Mr. Laurie is flirting with the neo-cal big guns

    Certainly appears that way. If so, he will promote his books to that market segment and start showing up as a speaker at New Calvinist venues (T4G, TGC, etc.).

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  305. TS00:
    They also do not recognize that the entire point of Jesus’ coming was to reveal God’s love and offer of forgiveness – not to be God’s whipping boy. Calvinism’s god is a cruel, authoritarian, self-absorbed tyrant with nothing better to do than manipulate disposable people for his jollies and to puff up his ego. It seems to me that this is EXACTLY the image these abusive so-called religious leaders reflect.

    Yes, you can go to a Reformed Church (for over a decade) and sit through countless messages and think they mean one thing, and it is only when (or if) your eyes are opened to what they really meant that you will be staggered. Same words, same scripture, with entirely different definitions and interpretations. Which is conveniently left unsaid.

    I agree with Dee; challenging Calvinism is not like arguing about how many angels can fit on the head of a pin – it is literally a question of ‘Is God a gracious, merciful, loving father who truly desires to save all people from sin and death, or a cruel, murderous bully on an ego trip who has no qualms about deliberately creating countless people for destruction?’They really are two very different gospels.

    A thing that troubled me about Reformed Theology Proper from pretty early in my acquaintance with it (and I embraced it for multiple decades, though with increasing cognitive dissonance) is that if one were to make similar predications (i.e., free assignment of creatures to unending suffering for the sake of the manifestation of the glory of the terror of one’s wrath) of any finite being, one would recoil from that being in horror, and regard it to have the moral status of a fallen angel, or worse.

    But if the being in question is infinite, and the creator of all, then this description is of one who one must affirm to be most holy, wise and good.

    It’s the problem David B Hart points to in his “God, Creation, and Evil: the Moral Meaning of creatio Ex nihilo,” that this theological tradition is unstable because it introduces equivocation into one’s language about God and created beings — “good” can mean one thing when predicated of God and the opposite when predicated of creatures.

    It has been argued that the problems that beset Reformed theology have analogies in other theological traditions, and I think this is true. Hart’s article points out that the “free will” defense does not relieve those traditions of a similar problem. Hart solves the problem through unabashed universalism. I don’t go that far, but I find his critique of this aspect of the various strands of Latin tradition theology to be quite challenging.

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  306. Ken F (aka Tweed): Perhaps there is some kind of fear enslaving people to this system.

    It is fear of fear. Early in my struggle I contacted a Reformed Theologian whose writings I had found reasonable, and who had been, IMO, ill-used and illegitimately defrocked by his denomination. I deeply appreciated his surprising suggestion that ‘If Calvinism is hurting your faith, simply discard it; it is not as if it is essential’.

    But the another comment which stuck in my mind, was, ‘But as for me, I retain it, as I find it very comforting.’

    I have heard similar comments from other ‘reluctant’ Calvinists, and I can only surmise that they are referring to the ‘fire insurance’ of OSAS that Calvinism offers them. Whereas they would view this as an evidence of their faith, I see it as a lack thereof.

    Have they so little faith in God that they think he is going to ‘lose’ them, or let them slip carelessly through his fingers? Do they not believe that he, who offered up his only Son, will not give them whatsoever else they need to overcome evil and be victorious? Can they only have confidence in the endurance of their love relationship with God if he promises he will not let them go, even should they someday desire to go?

    Even though I reject the concept of OSAS, I have no fear, because I believe in the goodness, trustworthiness and power of God. And I love him. The only thing that could tear me from his hands is my own hands, and I have no intention of giving up the only thing I have ever had complete, unstinting faith in. Without God, what hope have I?

    I do realize that Calvinism has exploited this concept, suggesting that we should never trust our own hearts or abilities, but I believe that this is a serious distortion. I do not put faith in my abilities, but in God seeing my heart and providing all that I need. And in forgiving me when I fall short. I do not fear that my imperfections or sins will disqualify me, for Jesus has taken upon himself the sin of the world – including mine – providing a sacrifice and a way for me to have forgiveness and assurance of God’s acceptance. As long as that is what I desire.

    I realize that many of these concepts have very subtle distinctions, but I believe them to be important ones. Very slight distortions can lead one far off course. I believe people accept determinism, despite its most hideous implications, because it promises them eternal ‘security’ in exchange. This is akin to the willingness of people to surrender all personal liberty in exchange for the promised ‘security’ of the state against terrifying enemies. Is Totalitarianism really better than living with a certain level of insecurity? And does it ever deliver what it promises? I believe, in both cases, the enemies have been exaggerated, if not completely manufactured.

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  307. TS00: But the another comment which stuck in my mind, was, ‘But as for me, I retain it, as I find it very comforting.’

    I have heard similar comments from other ‘reluctant’ Calvinists, and I can only surmise that they are referring to the ‘fire insurance’ of OSAS that Calvinism offers them. Whereas they would view this as an evidence of their faith, I see it as a lack thereof.

    I think that it might be that one of the things that Calvinists (and Reformed, more generally) find deeply comforting in their system is “IAOC”, the “Imputation of the Active Obedience of Christ.”

    A point that may not be widely appreciated outside of the citadel is that “salvation is by works of the Law” in Reformed thinking — it’s just that it’s not by OUR works of the Law; it’s by Jesus’.

    As I understand it (and I welcome correction and clarification), in Reformed thinking, Christ’s atonement pays the penalty of sin (which is understood to be post-mortem ECT), but does not merit “entry to heaven.” Basically, it returns a person to the status of Adam in the Garden, faced with a Law challenge of his own — would he obey God’s righteous command?

    To “get into heaven”, one needs not only to be “passively not-guilty of sin”, one needs to be “actively righteous through perfect obedience to God’s Law”. Christ was perfectly obedient, and the imputation of Christ’s perfect obedience to the believer is what qualifies the believer to “get into heaven.”

    Faced with the reality of remanent sin in one’s life (with sins of omission probably more pervasive than sins of commission), the promise of the imputation of Christ’s perfect active obedience would be deeply comforting.

    This may be what your correspondent was referring to.

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  308. Jack: But it reduces the whole of existence to a pointless exercise.

    That’s where it led me! When I came to a crisis that really mattered, when the spiritual and physical well-being of my own child was at stake, it hit me starkly in the face that Calvinistic determinism required me to simply shrug my shoulders in sad acceptance. It was God’s will, who am I to question it?

    That’s when my good ol’ ‘Arminian’ (I’m not really Arminian, but that’s what I thought at the time) faith came roaring to the rescue. Ya think I’m going to just lay down and watch my child self-destruct, and say ‘All glory to God!’? No way! I prayed without ceasing; I encouraged my child to wrestle with his addictions, believing, and encouraging him to believe, that they were not ordained by God, but simply the result of his own bad choices. Which meant that they could be ‘unchosen’ or overcome. And, with God’s help, they were.

    Consistent Calvinism would have led me to lay down in despair. I believe I would either have taken my own life, become an atheist, or both, if I had not believed that God was good, that he desires our good, and that he was ready and willing to help us get there. Always. Not just if we were one of the lucky ones.

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  309. Samuel Conner: As I understand it (and I welcome correction and clarification), in Reformed thinking, Christ’s atonement pays the penalty of sin (which is understood to be post-mortem ECT)

    That does seem to be the Reformed understanding. But they don’t talk much about why Jesus changed his mind after three days…

    Well, they do say that am infinite being can pay an eternal penalty in a finite amount of time. Other than the fact that this makes no sense mathematically, it is nowhere in the Bible. Yet another sola scripture fail…

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  310. Samuel Conner,

    “It has been argued that the problems that beset Reformed theology have analogies in other theological traditions, and I think this is true. Hart’s article points out that the “free will” defense does not relieve those traditions of a similar problem. Hart solves the problem through unabashed universalism. I don’t go that far, but I find his critique of this aspect of the various strands of Latin tradition theology to be quite challenging.”

    I have always found Universalism on the opposite side of the determinist God coin. Both are “determinist God” positions with humans totally left out of the salvic equation. It’s sounds nicer, though. I understand why people are attracted to it.

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  311. Ken F (aka Tweed): That does seem to be the Reformed understanding. But they don’t talk much about why Jesus changed his mind after three days…

    Well, they do say that am infinite being can pay an eternal penalty in a finite amount of time. Other than the fact that this makes no sense mathematically, it is nowhere in the Bible. Yet another sola scripture fail…

    I think that the problem may be “worse” (if that’s the right word) than that.

    I agree that the Biblical text simply affirms that Jesus “died.” And indeed, throughout Scripture, the wages of sin is almost invariably pretty plainly simply “death.” That began to hold my attention in the last decade and led to my present hypothesis that Latin tradition Christianity may seriously misunderstand what the Bible is speaking of when it speaks of “the wrath of God.”

    As I understand it, the argument for the necessity of an infinite penalty to be imposed on finite creatures for their finite sins is that “God is infinite, and experiences infinite offense at finite creaturely transgressions. Therefore, an infinite penalty is required to be imposed on the finite creature to satisfy God’s infinite experience of offense.”

    But this statement, it seems to me, contains its own refutation. It affirms (indeed, depends on the idea) that finite causes in the created world can produce infinite effects in the uncreated Creator, since He is infinite.

    But that means that a finite penalty — the death of the transgressor — could (and would) produce an infinite effect in the infinite God; presumably an infinite sense of the justice of the penalty and satisfaction of wrath at the prior transgression.

    So you don’t need an infinite penalty to “pay” for a finite transgression, and Jesus didn’t have to experience ECT while He was in the intermediate state in order to pay the penalty of the sins of the human race (or of the elect, if your conception of the atonement is “particular”).

    It seems to me that the penalty isn’t infinite, at least not in the traditional Latin sense of ECT. Of course, to die and be left forever in the grave, if that is what the Scriptures mean by “death the wages of sin”, is infinite in its own way, in the sense of duration.

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  312. Samuel Conner,

    I’m sure you’ve come across the old canard: If God is omnipotent, can he create a stone that even he can’t lift?. Either he cannot create the stone, or he cannot lift it; ergo, he cannot be omnipotent. Actually, of course, this is a semantic bait-and-switch: it uses an ordinary-looking question to insert a nonsensical meaning into the word “omnipotent”. (Or, arguably, two contradictory meanings at the same time.)

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  313. Samuel Conner: Faced with the reality of remanent sin in one’s life (with sins of omission probably more pervasive than sins of commission), the promise of the imputation of Christ’s perfect active obedience would be deeply comforting.

    This may be what your correspondent was referring to.

    I grant that as a possibility. I view this as an even more dangerous false teaching, as it leads to one believing that their choices make little real difference.

    God no longer sees our sin, as the ‘robe of righteousness’ provided by Christ has been placed over them. Which means we can continue in sin fearlessly, however much Calvin and Luther claimed surprise that their teachings often led to antinomianism and moral laxity.

    There is a vast distinction between Jesus providing atonement for sin and Jesus providing ‘cover’ for our sins. 1 John 2:1-2 tell us: ‘My little children, I am writing this to you so that you may not sin; but if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.’ Such ‘grace’ without the remaining chapters of 1 John, which repeatedly state that we cannot continue to sin and say that we love God, leads to the ‘cheap grace’ that abounds within the YRR crowd.

    I can now see how my own embracing of the “IAOC” of Calvinism subtly, over time, turned freedom from guilt into freedom from conscience. It’s not like I became some raging sinner; I was a sincere believer, homeschooling five children, trying to grow in wisdom and sanctification. But this doctrine leads, I would say almost inevitably, to carelessness. If God doesn’t care about my sin, or ‘can’t see it’, then why should I be overly concerned about it? It simply is too much of a temptation to indulge in a few of your preferred, ‘harmless’ sins, maybe wasting time or being less patient than you might be. I got off the train before things got too out of hand, but I believe this thinking could easily derail a believer’s growth in sanctification.

    There is a difference between the blessed assurance that God provides forgiveness of sin for the truly penitent and that God grants the sinner a cart blanche to live as he pleases.

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  314. TS00,

    I tend to think the answer lies in viewing our relationship with God as just that – a relationship, rather than a forensic transaction for which we need to discover the correct formula.

    I grew up with holiness perfectionism, and I have experienced antinomianism. I truly think God is far less concerned about ‘perfect behavior’ than with sincere hearts. I desire to know and love him better, and to understand and love others better; frankly, something that parsing words and doctrine tends not to nurture.

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  315. TS00,

    I would go a bit further, though I’m suspect this is consistent with what I understand you to be affirming. 1 John seems to locate “assurance” in one’s attitude toward one’s fellows. IOW, one knows that one loves God because one can see that one concretely loves one’s brothers and sisters.

    This might be part of why the “one another” emphasis is so pervasive in Paul.

    For the Reformed, it appears (and this might be a grievous mischaracterization; I don’t doubt that my limited observation is not adequate) that assurance has to do with making sure that one is resting in Christ and not in one’s own works righteousness. As I have previously mentioned, the teachers in the little conservative Reformed congregation I was last affiliated with seemed so fearful that people would rely on their own works as their admission to heaven that they scarcely encouraged to love and good works at all. IAOC would be a great comfort in such a circumstance, I guess.

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  316. Samuel Conner: As I understand it, the argument for the necessity of an infinite penalty to be imposed on finite creatures for their finite sins is that “God is infinite, and experiences infinite offense at finite creaturely transgressions. Therefore, an infinite penalty is required to be imposed on the finite creature to satisfy God’s infinite experience of offense.”

    It appears that Anslem came up with this idea in the 11th century, which means Christianity did just fine without it for 1000 years. Some people say that Anselm invented penal substitution, but I don’t agree because he did not emphasize the penalty aspect – he emphasized the infinite payment. The penalty idea was brought in by John Calvin. Rather than focusing on the infinite offense to God’s honor, he focused the infinite guilt that required infinite punishment. Even though Roman Catholics accept Anselm’s argument they reject Calvin’s. Neither of these theories is in the Bible, which makes it yet another sola scriptura fail for Protestants who believe it

    But this statement, it seems to me, contains its own refutation. It affirms (indeed, depends on the idea) that finite causes in the created world can produce infinite effects in the uncreated Creator, since He is infinite.

    Logic says that finite things cannot create infinite effects, so it is surprising that this ever got traction. And it’s another sola scriptura fail since it is not taught in the Bible. But that does not stop most proponents of penal substitution from going down that path. John Piper is one of the worst offenders for using the infinite offense argument.

    But that means that a finite penalty — the death of the transgressor — could (and would) produce an infinite effect in the infinite God; presumably an infinite sense of the justice of the penalty and satisfaction of wrath at the prior transgression.

    I had never thought of this point before. Yes, it makes sense that if a finite person could create an infinite effect then it ought to work both ways.

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  317. Nick Bulbeck:
    Ken F (aka Tweed),

    I’ve often wondered how much theology evolved, or rose to dominance, because of the need to persuade people to come forward and become statistics at tent meetings.

    If I live long enough I hope to read Ilaria Ramelli’s 3rd volume in her lifework on “apokatastasis.” The plan, as I understand it, is to explore why this idea came to be repudiated in the West (and, as I understand it, deprecated if not anathematized in East). My suspicion is that the story might be quite simple. Fear of post-mortem punishments is a highly effective motivator. That might be part of the problem faced by present-day Evangelicalism; fewer and fewer unbelievers embrace a priori the Evangelical understanding of personal eschatology. The solution we are offering is to a problem that fewer and fewer people believe in.

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  318. TS00: God no longer sees our sin, as the ‘robe of righteousness’ provided by Christ has been placed over them. Which means we can continue in sin fearlessly, however much Calvin and Luther claimed surprise that their teachings often led to antinomianism and moral laxity.

    This is another interesting theory that seems to generate more questions than answers. If our sins are merely covered instead of removed, does that mean god pretends that our sins are forgiven? It would seem so since covering the sins implies they are not removed. How would an all-knowing god not be able to see the sins that are covered? And if god only loves the outer mask that covers our sins, how can we know whether he actually loves us as we are? How would that not be the same as me only loving my wife if she wears a mask to make her look like someone else whom I like better? Where is the honesty in that?

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  319. Ken F (aka Tweed): If his glory is infinite there is no way to add to or subtract from it. Infinity plus or minus anything remains infinity.

    You might like hearing NJ Wildberger’s take on infinity.
    Wildberger runs a Lyceum of sorts on You Tube and some of his ideas are considered to be outright heresy in pure math circles.
    I think his lectures are fascinating.

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  320. Samuel Conner: If I live long enough I hope to read Ilaria Ramelli’s 3rd volume in her lifework on “apokatastasis.” The plan, as I understand it, is to explore why this idea came to be repudiated in the West (and, as I understand it, deprecated if not anathematized in East). My suspicion is that the story might be quite simple. Fear of post-mortem punishments is a highly effective motivator.

    Interesting timing – I stumbled across this conversation this morning: http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php?topic=3912.0. The dialogue starts getting good at Reply #18 on: August 23, 2004, 06:36:35 AM. It looks like the East still believes in a form of potential universal reconciliation, but not a form where everyone will be saved whether they want it or not. Interestingly, for them it all boils down to free will. The dialogue is worth reading a bit of if you have time.

    I think you are correct that fear of postmortem punishment is used as a motivator.

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  321. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    Paul Tripp offered a helpful view on this in his counseling method class at WTS back in the ’90s and early ’00s. God “adopts us as we are, but does not allow us to remain as we are.”

    I think an answer to this objection might lie in the idea that God does complete what He starts, so that those who are at present “covered” ultimately will be transformed into the likeness of Jesus. Remanent sin will be removed at the last.

    The idea of covering can be used as an excuse for passive or active sin, but that needn’t be the inevitable outcome.

    TS00,

    Do our actions matter? One could argue that Calvinism implies that they don’t; of course insiders disagree.

    Here’s a disturbing thought — if our actions DO matter, then my disobedience might result in someone else missing heaven (that was a fear motivation I encountered in campus ministry in the ’80s as a recruitment tool for missions). How fair is that to the unfortunate person in question? Perhaps this is what your correspondent found comforting — no-one’s damnation could be attributed to his sins of omission or commission.

    And how risky was it for God to entrust the priceless message of the Gospel to such frail creatures as us?

    I think that one risks madness to dwell on this.

    But DB Hart’s “answer” looks more and more appealing. Of course, I have no idea whether it’s right.

    But it might be an illustration of the inner tensions that are present in all the systems.

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  322. Muff Potter: You might like hearing NJ Wildberger’s take on infinity.

    Thanks. This is also very good: https://www.amazon.com/Mathematics-Loss-Certainty-Galaxy-Books/dp/0195030850/. He explores the development of Calculus in light of the argument over whether actual infinities exist. My undergrad degree was in pure math, so I enjoy geeking on this stuff when I have opportunity. My kids think I am sick in the head.

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  323. Samuel Conner,

    I honestly do not think in this manner about God anymore. I do not imagine for a second that my actions or inaction will determine whether or not a person finds God. I believe that God is reaching out to each and every individual, by means of nature, experience, people and events. By one means or another, God will make himself known to men, and it is our decision what we do with this knowledge.

    Should I refuse to do what is right, my evil choice will not send God into a tailspin, or my brother into ‘hell’. God will seek out another, who is more faithful and willing, or work through other events and even the sinful desires of men. Although I do not believe God meticulously controls our thoughts, words and actions that by no means suggests that I think he is not actively involved in his creation, urging those who love him to do what he desires, and even using the evil intentions of the wicked to bring about his good purposes.

    I deny that we must choose between a deterministic God and one who is a helpless onlooker. He who can use the disobedience of one nation to bring salvation to the entire world is not going to be undone by my recalcitrance. 🙂

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  324. TS00: I deny that we must choose between a deterministic God and one who is a helpless onlooker.

    This is one of indefinitely many false antitheses that frustrated me no end in christian circles. False antitheses are not limited to christian circles, of course. It’s a frustrating fact that polar opposing views are a stable (if toxic) endpoint, just like water running downhill, the rich forever getting richer, or denser areas of stellar nebulae coalescing gravitationally into stars.

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  325. Getting back to the topic of Challies, here is an article he re-posted this morning: https://www.challies.com/articles/can-we-enjoy-heaven-knowing-loved-ones-are-in-hell/ where he quotes from RC Sproul:

    Until we are glorified, our sympathies will rest more easily with human beings than with God—his glory and perfect justice. But as Sproul explains in his talk, “once sin is removed from my life… and I love the Lord my God with all of my heart and all of my soul in undiluted perfection, my compassion, my love, my concern will be much more for the vindication of God’s holiness than for a corrupt fallen kinsmen of mine.”

    The quote above is very consistent with Jonathan Edwards:

    Positively: the sufferings of the damned will be no occasion of grief to the heavenly inhabitants, as they will have no love nor pity to the damned as such. It will be no argument of want of a spirit of love in them, that they do not love the damned; for the heavenly inhabitants will know that it is not fit that they should love them, because they will know then that God has no love to them, nor pity for them; but that they are the objects of God’s eternal hatred. And they will then be perfectly conformed to God in their wills and affections. They will love what God loves, and that only. However the saints in heaven may have loved the damned while here, especially those of them who were near and dear to them in this world, they will have no love to them hereafter.

    Basically, the Reformed position appears to be saying any idea we have about love on this side of eternity is irrelevant. Yuck.

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  326. TS00,

    God no longer sees our sin, as the ‘robe of righteousness’ provided by Christ has been placed over them. Which means we can continue in sin fearlessly, however much Calvin and Luther claimed surprise that their teachings often led to antinomianism and moral laxity.

    Why are you offering the same objection that Paul deals with in Romans 6? Forget the robe of righteousness for a minute. Paul says justification is by faith not by works—by belief and not by our obedience. And he knew that people would say, “Wait, this leads to moral laxity.” Do you really want to put yourself on the same side as those who rejected the gospel of the Apostle Paul?

    There is a vast distinction between Jesus providing atonement for sin and Jesus providing ‘cover’ for our sins. 1 John 2:1-2 tell us: ‘My little children, I am writing this to you so that you may not sin; but if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.’ Such ‘grace’ without the remaining chapters of 1 John, which repeatedly state that we cannot continue to sin and say that we love God, leads to the ‘cheap grace’ that abounds within the YRR crowd.

    See, it’s stuff like this that indicates you really don’t understand Calvinism. There are many metaphors for the crucifixion and what it accomplished. To think that atonement and covering are opposed is just a vast misunderstanding of what Protestantism has taught historically.

    And I don’t know what you are talking about regarding the cheap grace of the YRR. Tullian Tchividjian? Except members of the YRR spoke against him. And this blog routinely criticizes TGC for being nitpicky about various things. That’s hardly antinomianism.

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  327. TS00: I honestly do not think in this manner about God anymore. I do not imagine for a second that my actions or inaction will determine whether or not a person finds God. I believe that God is reaching out to each and every individual, by means of nature, experience, people and events. By one means or another, God will make himself known to men, and it is our decision what we do with this knowledge.

    Should I refuse to do what is right, my evil choice will not send God into a tailspin, or my brother into ‘hell’. God will seek out another, who is more faithful and willing, or work through other events and even the sinful desires of men. Although I do not believe God meticulously controls our thoughts, words and actions that by no means suggests that I think he is not actively involved in his creation, urging those who love him to do what he desires, and even using the evil intentions of the wicked to bring about his good purposes.

    I deny that we must choose between a deterministic God and one who is a helpless onlooker. He who can use the disobedience of one nation to bring salvation to the entire world is not going to be undone by my recalcitrance.

    Well good on the last sentence, but without a determinism, it seems to me that you have to at least admit the logical possibility that no one would ever agree to follow the Lord.

    How is that salvation does just turn out to be a happy accident?

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