A Former Missionary Grapples With Eternal Condemnation-A Personal Testimony

The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God. – C. S. Lewis




TWW asked a former missionary to write about her concerns on the issue of hell, salvation, and the mission field. She points to some very real difficulties confronting those who seek to fulfill the Great Commission. Although TWW knows her name, we have agreed to post her thoughts in an anonymous fashion. We believe that anonymity encourages people to share difficult stories. We think our readers will be touched by her vulnerability. We call your attention to a secondary issue that gets raised in this story. The narrative alludes to the abuse that has occurred at missionary boarding schools. We hope to look at the issue in the weeks to come.




As a former missionary to remote, tribal people who have no access to the gospel due to language barriers and geography, the question of hell and how a person ends up there is not just a theological one for me. The negative ramifications of believing in eternal damnation – not only for those who reject Christ’s atonement for them, but for those who never even had the opportunity to hear of Christ’s atonement – have touched me personally as well as many, many other missionary couples and their children.

As I have wrestled through these questions and the implications of the possible answers, I have arrived at what is for me a positive and hopeful perspective. This perspective is not one that I have ever heard preached or written about and I am not claiming any kind of authoritative impartation of knowledge. I am just sharing my personal journey and conclusion. But this perspective does allow me to hold onto my Christian faith without ignoring these troubling questions and without denying what God has chosen to reveal to us through the Bible.

The Bible talks about two possibilities after our physical death, either with God (heaven) or separated from him (hell), so I am sticking with that. But perhaps there is more to the story of how people are assigned to one “place” or the other.

Like many evangelical/fundamental/conservative Christians I had a pretty dogmatic attitude about the Bible, as if it contained everything there is to know about everything important. PERIOD. That’s where my journey begins…

“When people choose not to believe in Christ, that’s their business. When people have no choice, that’s OUR business.” I used this phrase to garner support from churches for our missionary work. On a superficial level that may sound very noble and caring. It is certainly motivating to those who truly believe there is a hell and that the only way for people to have another post-death option is by hearing (understanding) the gospel.

But ultimately, for me as a Christian missionary, the idea of people’s eternal destiny resting on my shoulders was an intolerable burden. This weight of personal responsibility has also had disastrous consequences for many families in my former mission. These parents felt compelled to board their children at MK schools so that they would be unhindered in their efforts to learn the tribal language and get the gospel to the people before anyone else in the tribe died and went to “a Christless eternity”.

The MKs (missionary kids) were told by the school staff not to tell their parents that they were unhappy at boarding school because if they told it would “hinder their parents’ work and result in Africans going to hell”. This spiritual abuse (the “don’t talk” rule) set the foundation for other abuses, including sexual abuse, to go undiscovered or covered up for decades. Now these adult MKs deal with PTSD, broken marriages, addictions, etc. If our urgency to reach those who have ‘no choice’ with the gospel brings results like this, I wonder why any thinking person would want to ‘choose’ Christianity anyway. Something is wrong here!

Another dilemma is how to reconcile the idea of God’s love for all people with the Calvinist/Reformed idea that God chooses who will get to be the benefactors of his ‘love’. Whether you believe God irresistibly chooses some and not others or whether you believe in free will – if you believe that the only possibility for salvation comes through hearing the gospel then essentially you also believe that there is a massive, unchosen, damned portion of humanity, based solely on the fact that they were born in a time period and location without access to the gospel.

This is a relatively comfortable theoretical discussion here on the internet. It’s another thing when a 20 year old tribal guy who was instrumental in helping you move into his remote village and is anxious to hear your special “message” in his own language, wastes away and dies of TB before your eyes, refusing to take the medicine you offer because he does not understand the true cause of illness and the effectiveness of medicine.

How do you reconcile God’s love for you and your compassion for that tribal guy (which compelled you to leave your life in the States and move your family half way around the world to live without modern conveniences) with God’s apparent indifference for the guy, given the fact that you prayed for God to keep him alive long enough for you to learn the language and explain the gospel to him, and God didn’t do it?

I have reconciled it this way. Maybe there is more ‘truth’ out there than what has been revealed in the Bible. Maybe there is more to the ‘story’ of heaven and hell, sin and salvation that what we know. Just as the New Testament gives a whole new perspective for interpreting the Old Testament, isn’t it quite plausible that there is yet more truth to be revealed someday, maybe not until eternity, which will shed new light on the New Testament? That is what I’m choosing to believe. I have to believe this if I am going to hold on to Christianity at all. I have to believe that somehow, someway, someday, somewhere, all people are given an equal opportunity to believe or reject Christ’s atonement for them.

If I don’t believe this, then ‘God’s love’ has a hollow ring to it. If God’s love for me really amounts to dumb luck – having been born in the right place at the right time – then it is not love at all. I can’t handle the thought of a world without a personally involved God of love. Life is pointless without a belief in Someone good and right out there, Someone that can make sense out of all the craziness and pain. So I just keep holding on to the belief that there must be more to the story, that “questions tell us more than answers ever do” (Michael Card), that in the end I will understand and it will all be good.

“Now we see things imperfectly as in a poor mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me now.” I Cor 13:12
I am NOT advocating an indifferent attitude toward missions or sharing the gospel with non-believers in our home countries. The gospel of grace is awesome good news, not just for “someday by and by” but for life in the here and now.


Christianity is the only religion where God makes a unilateral move to do something loving and totally undeserved for humanity. All other religions involve rule keeping effort on the part of humanity to make themselves acceptable to God or improve their situation in the next life. Unfortunately, all too often Christianity is turned into a rule keeping effort as well, and “witnessing” is one of the “rules”. Then sharing the gospel becomes motivated by obligation and guilt, or a desire to earn points with God.


We all too easily forget that we are already accepted by God, we are free from the bondage and penalty of our sin both in the present and in the future, and we are free to live like it. We are not prisoners anymore! That is good news for life here and now, not just for some hard-to-imagine distant future. That is news I WANT to spread!


And for those who never got the opportunity in this life to know that they have been freed too, I am believing that someday when we hear “the rest of the story” it will reflect the heart of a God who is mercy. But in the meantime I’m not keeping this good news to myself. How about you?


Lydia's Corner: Judges 21:1-Ruth 1:22 John 4:4-42 Psalm 105:1-15 Proverbs 14:25


A Former Missionary Grapples With Eternal Condemnation-A Personal Testimony — 35 Comments

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    Thanks for sharing your personal perspective – I resonate with this statement: “If I don’t believe this, then ‘God’s love’ has a hollow ring to it. If God’s love for me really amounts to dumb luck – having been born in the right place at the right time – then it is not love at all. I can’t handle the thought of a world without a personally involved God of love. Life is pointless without a belief in Someone good and right out there, Someone that can make sense out of all the craziness and pain.”

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    Off topic…

    So proud of our local hero, Scotty McCreery, this year’s American Idol. Praying that this young Christian man will stay grounded in his faith as he pursues a musical career.

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    Yes, exclusivism is a terrible doctrine, with terrible consequences, which is why I’ve addressed it several times on my blog. However, I would point-out that Reformed theology does not require exclusivism. There are a number of prominent Reformed theologians, in the conservative evangelical community, who hold to a moderate form of inclusivism (a speculative inclusivism): Michael Horton (Westminster California) and Douglas Kelly (Reformed Theological Seminary), for example. At the ground level, I know some very strong, faithful Presbyterians who also reject exclusivism; they’re not theologians, but they represent the assumptions and concerns of a typical conservative Presbyterian. In my experience, the worst offenders are Baptists of a decidedly non-Calvinist persuasion: those Baptists (and similar nondenominational “Bible” sorts) are the ones who put the blame for lost souls on the “soul-winner,” you and me. Since God is not ultimately in control of who and how a person is saved, then the contingencies of our own willing and doing are decisive. If I’m too lazy or merely too incompetent to adequately share the Gospel, then people will go to hell. Regardless of what you think about Reformed theology, at least they don’t put that burden and guilt on us.

    By the way, those Calvinists who are most adamant about strict exclusivism — John Piper and Al Mohler, for example — are also usually Baptists. Reformed theology is best done in its native home: Presbyterian and Reformed churches, not Baptist or independent.

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    These are hard topics. As the child of a missionary kid and the niece, grandchild, and great-grandchild of career missionaries I know from families that the field can be harder than most American Christians could possibly imagine, although my mother and her siblings did not suffer long-term ill effects from boarding school (which they went to more for the educational value than to free up their parents, I believe). My grandparents and great-grandparents cling to/clung to their faith as the author does.

    Even Jonathan Edwards, the often-vilified preacher of Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, was extremely uncomfortable in many ways with eternal condemnation. He ended up postulating that Christianity would spread rapidly throughout the time until Christ’s return and that in the balance of history God would be shown to have saved the vast majority of humanity. Scripture doesn’t tell us if Edwards is correct or not, but it is not hard to understand why he wanted to speculate that way.

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    Great article! It’s pure arogance to think we’ve got this whole thing figured out. That’s a lesson our Calvinista (credit to Dee and Deb), Young Earth, inerrant scripture and fundamentalist whatever else crowd could stand to learn. I’ve learned one very important thing over the past few years. God’s ways are not my ways. Given that fact how on earth could a speck like me ever pretend to think that I understand God and guess what, I don’t have to understand him to believe. Thousands of people every day get on an airplane and trust that it won’t fall out of the sky without having the first clue of what makes it stay up there.

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    The former missionary’s tale is truly gut wrenching. I wonder how she survived it all and still managed to hang onto some form of human sanity.

    I got involved with the Calvary Chapel movement toward the close of the Vietnam war. I believed it all without question, I became as Frank Schaeffer wrote in his book, “Crazy for God”. I slowly began to lose my humanity in the service of an ideal that demands unquestioned obedience.

    Looking back on it now, it’s easy to say that I’m glad to be free of all that horseshit, but at the time, it wasn’t funny one bit, the fear of being cast into the lake of fire along with the beast and the false prophet was very real; it was a religion of fear.

    For me there is a gulf wide difference between the god in the bible and the God of the Bible. One is locked up in an Aristotelian box even he can’t get out of, and the other is bigger than big and not exhaustively constrained by Augustine, Calvin, & Luther.

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    I unfortunately see a lot of Calvinist bashing in this and other blogs. It is the topic of the year. As someone said, Jonathan Edwards had a problem with the Bible’s teaching of eternity in hell, but he did believe it. His desire and probably every Christians desire. At least it should be. The doctrine of hell is real. God is love, but he is also a Holy God and has provided a way through Jesus Christ who is the only way to heaven. Many have a problem with that also and believe it to be narrow but it is what the Bible teaches.

    I am Calvinist and believe strongly by reading this and other blogs on the subject there is a vast misunderstanding of the Calvinist doctrine although I believe it has been explained over and over again.

    The main thing is this, I disagree with non-Calvinists but can easily work with them and believe that they are born again Christians, I hope someday the same can be said for non-Calvinists. We are both passionate about the Gospel, both preach and teach that Jesus is the only way. Both further doctrine in the Calvinist and non-Calvinist level is taught in the discipling phase of Christianity. There is more to Calvinism than predestination or depravity or any of the other five points, but the five points are something I believe the Bible teaches. I teach it when I do teach. But….I am fortunate to have gone to a church where both doctrines are taught. Even side by side. We have both Calvinist and non-Calvinist in our church. Both get along and love each other, no arguments, but both doctrines are taught. Both treated with respect. No splits in our church the whole time I have been going there which is twenty years this September. It can be done. But an understanding of both doctrines is a must. Someday this silly bickering has got to stop. Now is a good time.

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    I have absolutely no trouble with Calvinism. That is why I invented the term “Calvinista.” In fact, one of my dearest friends, who comments on this blog, is a Five Point Calvinist.

    The mistake that some Calvinists have made (the Calvinista variety) is the same mistake that the Young Earth crowd has made. There is only one way to view the Bible and it is their way. The Calvinista crowd has been instrumental in causing further division by insisting on a strong authoritarianism and highly restrictive roles for women. Some of them, like Al Mohler, have stated that they are going to war on the creationism issue and for him, this means, young earth.

    Debbie, I am neither Arminianist or Calvinist, finding both terms restrictive. I think the truth may be far, far more complex and refuse to box myself in. I have read both sides extensively, including a bunch of stuff by Calvin. I’m just not there.

    Also, I am not sure what you mean be Calvinism “bashing.” Could you please point out how this exhibits itself in the comments or post? I guess I am confused.

    BTW, if you mean that I do not like the goings on over at Sovereign Grace Ministries or some of Piper or Dever’s comments on certain issues, you are right. I am concerned about the number of complaints about abuse within SGM, I don’t like what Piper had to say about women enduring abuse for a season and I don’t like that Dever would not allow his friends, like Ligon Duncan, who practice pedobaptistism, to take communion. That is not bashing, merely a profound disagreement.

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    Thank you for your comment. It helps to differentiate some differences. To be truthful, I had not observed the differences between reformed Baptists and conservative Presbyterianism. I have more reading to do.

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    One other point, the reason that Calvinism is the topic of the year is because the Calvinists are making headlines in both secular and religious magazines and websites. Some are merely responding to the news.

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    Happy Memorial Day Weekend to all..enjoy the nice weather!

    (Dee, did you like the Voltaire Star Trek Songs?)

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    TWW is and always has been a forum of tolerance & a free marketplace of ideas. There is even an atheist (Karlton) and a Jeffersonian heretic (Muff Potter) amongst its denizens. We all get along and everyone is welcome to comment so long as it’s civil, in good taste, and does not violate the bounds of genteel propriety (even though Muff is known to let fly with a colorful euphemism now and again).

    There’s no bashing here, only free inquiry, and if said inquiry calls into question less than ethical behavior on the part of powerful clergymen, so be it, it’s not the same as bashing.

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    Debbie & Dee,
    There’s plenty of snarkiness going around from people of all theological stripes towards those of others. From Kevin’s remarks, apparently the only folks who are really any good at being Calvinists are Presbyterians, and Baptist Cavinists are just Reformed wanna-bes. Good grief!

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    Anyone who calls themselves Baptist Calvinists is an oxymoron (and probably a non-oxy moron as well). Baptists who become Calvinists are really Presbyterians who only baptize believers! The Baptist variety are extreme Calvinists, however, far beyond 90 percent of the Presbys. I have heard of several who remarked that a pastor is predestined to be in a church and the church should never do anything but do what the pastor says. That is definitely NOT Baptist. Pastorial dictatorship is not Baptist and not biblical.

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    Hi Junkster
    I did not interpret Kevin’s remarks in that manner.I thought he was merely explaining that those folks that he has encountered who subscribe to both Calvinism and strict exclusivism tend to be Reformed Baptists. It seems like an interesting observation and one, that, the more I consider it, may be accurate.

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    I loved your answer. Jeffersonian heretic? Now don’t that beat all.

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    “Baptists who become Calvinists are really Presbyterians who only baptize believers!” Fun and insightful observation.

    “a pastor is predestined to be in a church and the church should never do anything but do what the pastor says”. Good night! Things are getting really weird in Calvinista land.

    Actually, I think your comment, when combined with Kevin’s provides a very interesting perspective which I have never considered. However, the more i contemplate this, the more I remember my own experience with some Baptist Calvinists in my former church. They definitely fit a more extreme position.

    However, I do believe that Wade Burleson is a Reformed Baptist and I believe he is far more open than my former pastors and some of the ones that we have discussed on this blog. But to contrast him is Al Mohler who is leading the SBC down the path of extreme Calvinism. And the Mohler types seem to have the momentum at this time.

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    A pretty good example of the Calvinist bashing Debbie was talking about is Arce’s reference to Calvinist Baptists as “probably … morons”.

    I don’t care if anyone is or isn’t a Calvinist at all, as I’ve found that the particulars of a person’s soteriolgy reflects very little on their level of devotion to Christ. But I find your disdain for Calvinism and Calvinists distasteful. You’ve demonstated the same attiture before, even going so far as to call Calvinism “heresy”. It does me no personal harm that you have such a negative (and incorrect and uninformed) opinion, and you’re free to express yourself as you wish (as long as the blog hosts allow). But it is, to me, off-putting.

    By the way, I’m sure that folks like Bunyon, Carey, Fuller, Gill, Spurgeon, Broadus, Boyce, Pink, and many others would take great exception to the assertion that “Baptist Calvinists” is an oxymoron, or that they are Presbyterians who baptize believers.

    Kevin can best elucidate his intent, but it seemed to me he went beyond merely stating that Reformed Baptists can be exclusionary (a point I don’t dispute), when he deemed it best that Reformed theology be left to the Presbyterians. That sounded to me like he was saying Presbyterians are better at it than Baptists, as well as that Calvinism is native only to Presbyterians (thus implying that it is foreign to Baptists). As one who believes that so-called Calvinism is simply, as Spurgeon put it, a nickname for Christianity, I do not believe the Presbyterians invented or perfected it; I believe it’s just basic biblical doctrine — and biblical doctrine should be considered fully at home in Baptist churches.

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    Dee, Muff is only considered heretic in some circles, not all. The comment was again, nothing more than hyperbolic humor.

    I do think it’s important however, that we all remember to treat the belief systems of others with the same respect we would want our own treated. When we stop doing this, we start to lose our humanity and can be coaxed into just about anything; from burning women herbalists as witches to passing laws which enforce church attendance on the Sabbath.

    Don’t get me wrong, I do believe TWW has upheld this standard of tolerance. Where else could guys like myself and Karlton go without being censored or held up for ridicule and caricature?

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    I thought a lot about your comments today. I think I have a way to best express my thoughts. Do you remember Arce saying that John Piper’s insistence on certain Calvinist tenets almost caused his daughter to lose her faith. This is the problem with certain Calvinists whom I deem Calvinistas. There is a thinly veiled suspicion that those of us who do not adhere strictly to their interpretation might not really understand.

    This is the problem of Young Earthers who insist that anyone who does not follow their interpretations as being “in danger of denying the doctrine of the atonement.”

    Exclusionists believe that everybody in the world ho has never even had the opportunity to hear the Gospel will be tortured for eternity in the most painful manner possible. Some of them even believe this happens to babies and the mentally impaired. And, those of us who have trouble with this are somehow “bad” Christians.

    Junkster, there have been so many people hurt by those who consider themselves “theologically pure.” And that pain translates into anger at their rejection. I, too, have experienced hubris by those who were adamantly sure that their view of early marriage was correct and that I was a lesser Christian for not seeing their “high view” of Scriptural marriage.

    So, I get Arce’s frustration. And, if I am being perfectly honest, I, too, feel that way at times. I want so much for Christians to stop hurting each other over nonessential issues but it just doesn’t happen. This is the weekend i always remember a group of boys who were horribly molested by a pedophile in a church and then were sidelined by some Christian leaders who thought more about protecting themselves than loving the boys.

    I truly don’t care if someone is a Calvinist or not. I actually find the differences interesting and challenging. But, I hat it when these differences are put in place as some sort of spiritual snobbery that somehow one group know a spiritual secret that makes them just a little smarter, little more Biblical or a little more serious than the next guy.

    There are nice guys like Wade Burleson. But his influence was sidelined by the SBC elitists. Then it is men like Al Mohler, who is defining the new Reformed Inquisition and he, not Wade, is considered one of the most influential evangelicals. And that makes me very, very uneasy.

    I am still trying to get my mind around these issues and these are only a few thoughts that I am still wrestling with.

    BTW, read an interesting book-Gideon’s Dawn. Good Christian fantasy.

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    I read a good book a couple of years ago called Broken Angel. It was written by a Christian. It described an area that was set aside for Christians to live. The rest of the world was run by a secular government. However, the tory was about a person trying to escape the extreme legalism of the “Christian” sector. In spite of the problems of the secular world, it was a far better place to live for both Christians and non-Christians.

    As for a world the enforces church attendance, it would be the particular church that those in the majority would deem “correct.” So it could be Lutheran, for example and it would be off with the heads of those who want to be Anglican, etc. One only need to study the “oh so in vogue” Puritans to see just how it was done. I think if I hear one more “leader” who claims to be “reading the Puritans” I think I will scream. One must study their writings and also study how their writings were applied to see the inherent problems. Everything looks good on paper but practice is where the real rubber meets the road and there were serious problems in that society as well.

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    The God of the New Testament, and generally the OT as well, is a God of love, more than anything else. Strong Calvinists believe that God is sovereign over everything, except his own sovereignty. That is the heresy. They make God much like Midas, so that what God would like to happen must happen and God becomes trapped by his own sovereignty. But like any good parent, God can withhold his sovereignty over us to allow us to choose, which is the way of love. I cannot worship the God of the Calvinistas; I do not believe that that god exists except in their imaginations and theology. God is sovereign; he is also love, justice, forgiving, creating, redeeming, etc. toward all humanity, for we are all his creation and his children.

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    Like you, I intensely dislike theological elitism. Perhaps your only or primary exposure to it has been from Calvinistas, Young Earthers, and fundamentalists. If that’s your experience, you are more likely to consider those folks more of a problem than others. But I’ve been around people of a very broad range of perspectives, and I assure you I have seen just as much invective and hubris from Arminians, Old Earthers, and moderates/progressives (both theological and political) as from their counterparts on the other end of the spectrum.

    My first exposure to spiritual elitism was in my early Christian days in college, from charismatic/pentecostal types (who thought all Christians who hadn’t had their experiences were less “spiritual”) and from churches of Christ (who thought all groups but their own were not true Christians). I disliked the attitude then, and I’ve grown to dislike it even more over the years, all the while seeing it evidenced in all sorts of groups/denominations/theological systems.

    So I have no quarrel with the assertion that some folks are spiritual snobs and/or authoritarian bullies whose attitudes, words, and actions are hurtful to their brothers and sisters in Christ. I don’t care if the elitism is coming from Calvinists or Arminians or Pretribs or Amils or Feet Washers or Head Anointers, it’s all the same to me — it just isn’t the way I think Christians ought to behave.

    I, too, enjoy a good discussion or debate on doctrinal differences, if conducted respectfully. But if it’s wrong for Piper or Molher to treat others as if only those to hold to their Calvinist views are truly spiritual or truly smart, it’s also wrong to call someone a moron or a heretic because they are a Calvinist.

    I can sympathize with the emotion and negative personal experience that leads people to think and feel and say certain things. But that doesn’t make it right, and I don’t mind saying so, for the benefit of all. If, in my zeal for a particular doctrine I believe or in my emotional response to a doctrine I don’t believe, I should speak (write) or act in a way that another finds insulting or distasteful, I would prefer to know how they feel, so I can examine myself to see if I have crossed any lines and adjust my attitudes or behaviors if needed. God knows I need the correction of other believers, as I am prone to think too highly of my own opinions and how I communicate them. I might not always agree with another’s conclusion about what I’ve said or how I’ve said it, but I’d still prefer to know how they feel, so I can at least be mindful of their feelings and attempt in the future to take extra care to convey respect for them as a person even if I disagree with their position.

    I appreciate this blog and the opportunity for all to express their views, even when expressed in ways I don’t care for. I also appreciate the opportunity to express my own thoughts and say when something bothers me.

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    I disagree with your characterization of Calvinistic doctrine. I don’t see you as particularly open to my soteriological views, and I have no desire to convert anyone to my opinions, so I don’t intend to refute anything you’ve said, just state my disagreement.

    But my real beef is not your disagreement with the doctrine, it is that I consider it an extremist (and offensive) position to call Calvinism heresry, and even more offensive (and contrary to the spirit of Christ) to question the intellegence of thsoe who hold to that view.

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    There are many who call themselves Calvinists who are not of the extreme view that Mohler and others have. That extreme view is so strongly predestinarian that God’s plan is a detailed script that we all live out, with some being saved at the exact moment in time that God’s plan sets forth, and others predestined to hell for the sins they commit according to God’s plan. Earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, the Holocaust, all become part of God’s plan for humanity. To me that makes God a clockmaker, and it is heresy.

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    The idea that “God is sovereign over everything, except his own sovereignty”, actually is in line with the answer usually given to old chestnut of “If God is all powerful, can He create a rick so big that even He cannot move it?”.

    The traditional answer is that God cannot do anything which would violate His own nature. In other words, even though Omnipotent, He is still bound by what He is, by his nature, therefore He cannot make a rock so big that He cannot move it, and this does NOT violate his omnipotence.

    To allow Him to exercise sovereignty over His own sovereignty, is, in effect, to allow Him to violate his own nature…wouldn’t you agree?

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    I liked your comment on God being sovereign over His sovereignty. I actually brought it up with some folks for discussion at lunch today. In fact, I agree with you. There is absolutely no reason why God could give men the means to choose for Him or against Him. He could program men with this ability which means that it is His sovereign desire that men freely make the choice and are given the faculties to do so. Sovereignty means “being in control” and being in control could mean that one allows men a choice.

    One of my friends also believe that there is paradox in many aspects of the faith. In the paradox one might see truth that is complex. So predestination and free choice may, when we understand clearly, may actually align into a bigger truth.

    It is the YE folks, the Calvinistas, the charismatics who have insisted that there is only one way to be a real Christian and that is their. way. I say that there is great flexibility in the faith with certain nonnegotiables such as the Resurrection. When we allow this to divide us over communion, we are wrong. Really wrong and show that we do not truly understand the concept of unity.

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    Orthodox Christian views with which you disagree are not “heresy”.

    It is not only (or even primarily) YEers, Calvinistas, and charismatics who insist that they are the real or better Christians.

    In both cases, I believe the errors are a result of personal experience combined with personal preference. I have plenty of errors or my own, and I likely don’t see them as clearly as others who are not encumbered by my experiences and emotions do.

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    Good article. This is one of reasons I left the Southern Baptist church. They “made” me feel that it was my fault if people in my community went to hell because I did not talk to them about Jesus. Not only that, but they would say things like imagine being in heaven and you look down and see people in hell that you did not share the gospel with. Well, that does not sound like heaven to me, if I’m going to have an eternal guilt trip, that sounds like they are turning heaven into a kind of purgatory! It just made me depressed, and then I read my Bible and prayed less and less, until I rarely went to church. I think that’s why I was later attracted to Calvinism. If someone in my community ends up in hell, I don’t have to suffer an extremely burdensome guilt-trip. It also helped when I heard an evangelical on the radio say that God does not send people to hell for not hearing about the Gospel, but for rejecting it. I like to think that if a missionary fails to make it to a tribe in a foreign country, God still knows which people of the tribe would have accepted the Gospel and judges accordingly.

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    Off Topic…but for Memorial Day (add yourself to the list!)

    Karlton G. Kemerait USN 1975-1979, 1982-1988, HM/CTI (Best Assignment – U.S.S. Enterprise CVN-65)

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    My hope in writing this article was to highlight that there are problems with BOTH camps. In the “God soveringly chooses” camp we have to grapple with the insecurity of knowing that we could have just as easily been one of the non-chosen. What does that do to your sense of God’s love for you? In the “it is up to man to spread the gospel” camp we have to grapple with the eternal destiny of those who have not heard the gospel resting on our shoulders. What does THAT do to your sense of God’s love for you?

    I don’t have the answers.

    Is it possible to hold onto a sense of God’s love for us without having all the theological/sin/salvation answers? Is it possible to have love and compassion for those who think they have the answers? (I remember that I used to be one of them!)

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    You are so right — there are problems with any theological system, as all our attempts to understand and communicate divine truth are hampered by our human limitations and frailties. When the finite attempts to grasp and explain the infinite, there will always be a gap between the reality and our attempts to apprehend it.

    Thanks for the reminder that we have our limits, and what we know (or think we know) isn’t all there is to be known. I only wish for civility and humility from folks toward those with whom they disagree, and recognition that there are folks with bad and prideful attitudes within all the “camps”.

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    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I don’t blame you for leaving the SBC. Your perspective on Calvinism is insightful. I met a Calvinist once who told me she never worries about the salvation issue. She truly believed that people were predetermined prior to birth whether or not they would be saved.She seemed rather relaxed about the whole issue. Then I mentioned this to another Calvinist i met and he was incensed saying that no Calvinist would be blase about such a thing. I have decided that there are Calvinists and then there are Calvinists and there is a great deal of variation within the subset. Are you still a Calvinist?

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    Some days I’m a Calvinist, some days I’m not so sure. I’m not a member of a church yet. I attend Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Anglican churches occasionally, and listen to evangelicals on the radio. I guess I’m more of a moderate Calvinist. I pray for the salvation of others, but view it as God’s responsibility to open their eyes, not mine. I’ve seen too many evangelicals that were too pushy and insensitive that they seem to create a lot of bad feelings and resistance to the Gospel that other Christians some day have to deal with. Even I, the few times I tried to witness, I was nervous and came off as a jerk; I wonder if I created barriers to people accepting the Gospel. When I wasn’t going to church much, I knew a guy at work who was trying to witness to me and others, but he was always cussing like sailor when things went wrong on the job, it made him look like a hypocrite to the other employees and probably delayed me going back to church by a few months. I’ve seen a lot of witnessing backfire, then the guilt-trips double and triple in intensity. So a bit of Calvinism is a way to cope with the depression that SBC theological ideas caused in my life. I know it’s not the most objective rational answer, but it keeps me sane.

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    Arce, Karlton’s point about God not being able to violate his own nature is a pretty important one. Would you agree that it’s true? The question I’ve usually heard along those lines is “Could God make a square circle?” By definition a circle cannot be square and still be a circle, it would violate the laws of nature to violate it’s definition and Christians say that God is nature’s God and its rules come from him…so what do you say?

    As for baptists being Calvinist, I know a lot of Presbyterians like to reserve Calvinist and Reformed for paedo-baptists, both historically and today. Baptists who hold to a Calvinist soteriology were historically called “particular Baptists.” Personally I think if the terms have changed in meaning to only refer to your views on salvation than we might as well apply them to credo-baptists (like me!), but I’m somewhat sympathetic to the language stickler’s points of view.

    Karlton, thanks for serving.