Tag Archive: Calvinism


Calvinism would say being spiritually dead means we are completely unable, like a dead body, to respond, even to the Gospel of God (Colossians 2:13), but is this conclusion actually found in the Bible?

Unfortunately, this line of reasoning is often used on biblically novice, non-Calvinists as a stepping stone into “reformed” theology. They will typically point to Jesus raising Lazarus as the prime example. (John 11:43) The argument goes something like this- Lazarus couldn’t hear Jesus because He was dead, rotting in a tomb, just like we are dead in our sins, therefore we cannot even hear God calling. And if we cannot hear God at any level, because of our deadness, then the conclusion is that God must need to first raise us from the dead for us to respond to His voice. This is the T for Total Depravity in the Calvinist acronym T.U.L.I.P. This then opens the door to the U-Unconditional Election, the L-Limited Atonement, and the I-Irresistible Grace.

At that point, many believers simply throw in the towel and begin to at least remain open, soft, and silent to Calvinism. Sadly, many have even been won over through the deadness of sin argument. But, in truth, the Lazarus argument is one developed through walking by sight, not by faith.(2 Corinthians 5:7) Deadness does not mean complete deafness.

By sight, it may appear correct to say Lazarus was dead and unable to hear the Lord, however Lazarus wasn’t dead, he was simply separated from his body. Lazarus wasn’t rotting in that tomb. His visible, physical body was. It wasn’t Lazarus who couldn’t hear and respond to Jesus, it was his body that was unable to receive soundwaves. 

Biblically speaking, death is not simply an animated, physical creature becoming permanently inanimate. Death is separation. Adam and Eve died the day they ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, yet they lived for many centuries beyond that day. But the day they sinned they surely died. That is to say, they were separated from God in the spiritual sense. (Genesis 2:16-17)

When Lazarus died, he was separated from his body. When Jesus called to him, it wasn’t his physical, visible rotting corpse He was calling to. It was the Lazarus who was separated from his body four days prior and was arguably in “Abraham’s Bosom” with the other Old Testament saints.  Lazarus had bodily listened to Jesus speak many times before and most likely, like Mary and Martha, had already believed Jesus was the salvation of sinners. So the attempt to use Lazarus being called from the tomb as a biblical reason to believe in the Calvinist misinterpretation of deadness is frankly out of place.

Equating spiritual death with inability to respond to the Lord’s Gospel is specious at best and deceptively destructive at worst. Apart from the Spirit we most certainly cannot know the deep things of God (1 Corinthians 2:10-14), however, there are no Scriptures that teach man’s inability to at least hear and respond to the glorious Gospel.

After all, the Gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). God does not save us so that we can then hear and respond to the Gospel. We all must first hear and respond (believe by faith) to the true Gospel of Jesus Christ in order to be saved. 

“If you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. 

For with the heart man believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, Whosoever believes on Him shall not be ashamed. 

For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him. 

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? 

And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? 

As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” Romans 10:9-15

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bible-verses-about-loveEvery born again believer who has been saved for any length of time is most likely familiar with Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” The question, especially for a person influenced by Calvinism, is why is Romans 3:23 where it is in the Bible? It might seem pretty obvious why a verse explaining that everyone has fallen short of God’s glory is both in the Bible and in Romans 3, however, as we know, every Scripture must be read and understood in context of the verses before and after it.

Let’s first consider verses 21-22. “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference…” All Christians, regardless of their Calvinistic predilections, would agree that the “all” in verse 23 means all. But as verses 21 and 22 explain, the whole reason verse 23 is where it is in the Bible is to support verse 22. Verse 23 deals with all having sinned which is the foundation for verse 22’s claim that all have the opportunity to at least believe the Gospel for there is NO DIFFERENCE for ALL have sinned. Again, the “all” in verse 23 means all to support the all in verse 22 meaning all. It might be just as well said, “If all had not sinned, then the righteousness of God would not be available to all who believe.”

When the reader allows Scripture, not man’s teachings, to define Scripture, then he is left with only one conclusion here. The righteousness of God is not attainable through the works of the law, but is only accessible by placing his faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. The person who desires to be righteous must believe in Jesus Christ. Who qualifies for such an invitation? Sinners. How many sinners qualify? All sinners. Why? Because there is no difference for ALL HAVE SINNED.  At least that is what these verses say.

But then one might argue, “If men can actually believe, then they can boast in their work of belief.” Again, what does Romans 3 conclude?  Verses 27-28 say, “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.”

Side Note: These last verses speak of the law of faith, not grace. Why? Because this portion of Scripture is focused on mankind’s need to believe. We are not justified here by so-called “irresistible grace”, rather by Jesus, in Whom all sinners can at least direct their belief/faith, hence the law of faith. Interestingly, Calvinism’s T.U.L.I.P. has no room for the this crucial law.

God-Write-the-Bible“Turn to your Bible and read for yourself in the only two chapters in which this word predestinate or predestinated is found. The first is Romans 8:29-30, the other chapter is Ephesians 1:5 and 11. You will note that there is no reference in these four verses to either heaven or hell but to Christ-likeness eventually. Nowhere are we told in scripture that God predestinated one man to be saved and another to be lost. Men are to be saved or lost eternally because of their attitude towards the Lord Jesus Christ. Predestination means that someday all the redeemed shall become just like the Lord Jesus”

“D.L. Moody used to put it very simply the elect are the ‘whosoever wills’ the non-elect ‘whosoever wont’s’. This is exactly what scripture teaches, the invitation is to all, those who accept it are the elect. Remember, we are never told that Christ died for the elect”.

“Whosoever means, whosoever.” Only a biased theologian, with an axe to grind, could ever think that it meant only the elect.”    ~H.A. Ironside

Interestingly, men are able to respond to a variety of invitations:  birthday parties, weddings, funerals, and even Facebook.  So why is it that so many believe that men are completely incapable of at least responding to God’s invitation of full and free forgiveness through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection?

Too often people have believed that men are so dead in their sins that they are literally unable to even receive the Gospel.  They will say that the Bible teaches that men cannot submit to God’s law. Yet submitting to God’s law is not the same as accepting the Gospel/good news that Jesus died for their sins.

An Excuse: To say that mankind is unable to do anything but sin sounds a bit like an excuse for sinning.  Yes we are bound in our sins and trespasses, and it is true that some sins have such a hold over us that we, at times, are owned by our sinful lusts and passions, but to simply say we are unable to choose anything else takes our own decisions and accountability out of the picture.

A Few Questions:

  1. If we had no other choice than to say yes to sin, then why don’t all men sin in the same ways?  If we are really nothing more than “yes men” to sin’s desires, then why do some choose not to murder, steal, etc.?
  2. Also, if men are really so dead they can choose to do nothing but sin, aren’t we forgetting that dead men don’t choose anything?  Yes, dead men are unable to choose to do good, but they would also be unable to do wrong either.
  3. If we are totally unable to receive the invitation of God’s pardon from our sins, then why did Jesus bother to spend so much time calling, inviting, declaring, and appealing to men while He was here?

To say men are unable to receive the Gospel is simply and biblically unfounded, but to say we are unwilling to hear and follow the Lord God is a another story altogether.  Many who believe in the “deadness” of man, equating it to “inability”, attempt to use Romans 8 as a chapter to validate their doctrine.

Romans 8: Two Laws

The contrast in Romans 8 is the two laws – the law of the Spirit of God and the law of sin and death (verse 2). The law of God is death to the carnal minded man, but brought to life by the Spirit of God for those who receive God’s forgiveness in Christ alone. Once men are born again, they receive the power to become submissive to the law of God. The carnal man who is under the law of sin is clearly not willing to be “subject” to the law of God since he has not been born again.

Romans 8:7, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” isn’t dealing with salvation, rather it’s laying the foundation for the spiritual reality of the old, carnal man which then sets a precedent for the necessity of the new birth in Christ Jesus.

Interestingly, one of the only insights in Romans 8 as to “how” a man is born again is found in verse 15, “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” (Emphasis mine)

Just because the carnal mind is at enmity with God doesn’t mean he is incapable of at least receiving the Gospel of God.  If we are capable of rebelling, we are also capable of asking God for forgiveness. This is plainly revealed throughout the entire Word of God.

(This is part of a larger overview of some of the major Calvinistic teachings being presented today.  For a more in depth look at Calvinism and its unbiblical teachings, go to:  “Calvinism in Light of God’s Word: A Variety of Resources” 

There are many young pastors and congregations that continue to be influenced by the doctrines of Calvinism from many of today’s most popular pulpit teachers. It is crucial that we guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus! One way of doing this is to understand some of the major lies attempting to be fed to the flock of God.  See below for more in depth resources examining Calvinism in light of God’s Word.

 

Jesus said to them, “If any man wills [desires] do [God’s] will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” John 7:17

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God’s Love is the Key

“Right here in the first chapters of the Bible we are confronted with key issues that have been debated among philosophers and theologians for thousands of years. Why would God create creatures whom He knew would rebel against Him and who would thereby be doomed by His holiness to eternal punishment? There was no other way because the rebels would be parents, children, aunts, uncles, etc., of the billions of redeemed who would blissfully dwell in God’s loving presence forever. The latter could not exist without the former and all would be given equal opportunity to believe the gospel.

But being all-powerful, why couldn’t God have kept Adam and Eve and all of their descendants from sinning? Atheists argue, “If God is too weak to stop evil and suffering, then he isn’t God. And if he is powerful enough to stop it and doesn’t do so, then he is a monster. Thus evil and suffering disprove the existence of God.”

That argument becomes nonsense in view of the obvious fact demonstrated by everyday experience: man’s Creator has given him the intelligence to come to his own conclusions and the prerogative to make his own choices. Without those abilities, humans could neither love God nor one another. For God to stop all evil, He would have to override the will He gave mankind; but that would turn man into a robot programmed to live a meaningless life. Such “well-behaved” puppets would not be to God’s glory. Only creatures with a will could truly glorify God with voluntary worship, obedience and love coming from the heart.

“Power” could not abolish sin and the suffering it produces without destroying the sinner, because the heart cannot be changed by force. Neither the will nor love can be coerced. If God caused man to do either good or evil, then the “choice” to do so would not be man’s but God’s. It is axiomatic that, in spite of His infinite power, God could not cause man to cease from evil, but must seek to persuade him in love and mercy.

Yet there is an entire school of Christianity which declares that God could stop all evil and suffering but it pleases Him not to do so. How do they justify attributing to God this grave lack of love and compassion toward those He could rescue but instead predestines to damnation? They argue that 1) He is sovereign and can thus do as He pleases; 2) He is not obligated to save anyone; and 3) we cannot judge Him by our standards.

None of these defenses speaks to the issue. A sovereign can “do as he pleases” in some respects, but not morally. In fact, the more absolute a sovereign’s power, the greater his moral responsibility to show compassion to those whose destiny he controls. Sovereignty cannot excuse a lack of love—nor could or would God who is love hide behind His sovereignty for such an end. We are commanded by Christ, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you,…That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven…” (Mat 5:44,45). One neither loves, blesses nor does good by leaving to suffer those whom one could rescue, much less predestines them to eternal torment. Such behavior by a man would be condemned, so it surely cannot be attributed to our “Father which is in heaven,” whom we are to emulate.

Nor is mercy motivated by obligation but by compassion; and it is “according to his mercy he saved us…” (Titus 3:5). God told Moses, “I will…be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy” (Ex 33:19). Far from limiting His mercy, which “is over all his works” (Ps 145:9), God is simply saying that no one can demand His mercy. It flows without constraint from His love.

As for judging Him by “our standards,” the very standards of love and kindness to which we hold one another are written in every human conscience by God who is more loving, not less, than we could ever be. First Corinthians 13, the “love chapter,” presents a love so far beyond man’s ability that it could only be God’s love. And it is a denigration of that perfect and infinite love to suggest that God would act toward anyone with less kindness, compassion and love than He expects of us, His creatures.

If a doctor had a sure cure for a plague that was wiping out the human race, yet supplied it only to a select few, leaving multitudes to die needlessly, he would be justly condemned. Jesus said, “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful” (Lk 6:36). Surely God is no less merciful than we are commanded to be. Therefore, any theological system is false which presents God as less loving, kind and compassionate than man’s God-given conscience and biblical commands tell him he ought to be.

We have already noted (TBC, Feb ’01 ) much which a sovereign God cannot do—and not in spite of who He is but because of who He is. He cannot lie, go back on His Word, or deny Himself; He cannot sin, be wrong, ungracious, unmerciful or unloving. Nor can He be unjust. Therefore, He cannot forgive sinners without the full penalty demanded by His justice having been paid. And that is where redemption and atonement enter.”  -Dave Hunt, The Berean Call, “Biblical Redemption/Atonement Part II”, Sept. 1, 2002, http://www.thebereancall.org/node/5201

Four Soils Dilemma

In Luke 8 Jesus is teaching the parable of the sower to a multitude of people.  There are four soils in this parable, and the seed is the Word of God. Luke 8:11.  After He finishes the parable, the disciples ask Him the meaning.  He then explains that the four soils are four hearts- the first, a hard heart, the second one is a heart that receives the Word with joy, but withers when trials and persecutions come.  The third heart is choked by the thorny worries and cares of the riches of this world, never producing any fruit.  And the fourth heart is a good heart, the heart that wants to understand (Matthew 13:13) the Word, producing much fruit. 

There is some discussion over this parable, especially the two middle hearts.  Perhaps I am just not seeing correctly, but there seems to be a dilemma I have not read or heard about before.  The dilemma I see is between the theology of Calvinism and the teaching of this parable. There seems to be a glaring issue when trying to align this parable with the Calvinistic teaching on God’s sovereignty and man’s total inability to choose Him. For those who believe man cannot choose anything but evil, and that man is so dead that he is actually unable to turn to the Lord, there should be some recognition of a dilemma in Jesus’ parable. Let me explain further. 

The first heart is clearly a representation of lost mankind. To many who call themselves Calvinists this first heart would represent dead men ‘at the bottom of the ocean’ unable to even reach out to Christ at any level.  The fourth heart is the heart that produces good fruit.  And to the man who holds to Calvinist teachings, this heart would be the man who has been regenerated by the Spirit of God.  This is the heart which Jesus swam to the bottom of the ocean for, reviving and bringing him from death to life.  Not that I believe that God must revive us before we can believe, but I can understand how someone could use these two soils to further their reformed, Calvinistic theology.  But here is the dilemma. 

If the reformed, Calvinistic perspective is true, then why even bother adding the second or third soil to the parable?  If men are so dead that they cannot do anything other than choose evil, and if all men truly cannot understand anything regarding the Gospel of God, then what place do soils two and three have? 

Soil 2: For some to receive the Word with gladness (Mark 4:16), then turn away when trials and tribulations come seems to imply that they are not truly saved. Even though lost and dead in their sins, they are able to receive the Word, albeit with wrong intentions, i.e. to make their lives more comfortable.  Or would you say that they were saved, but then simply turned away?  If so, the Calvinist would have to admit that God has sovereignly allowed some to actually receive the Word only to force/cause them to turn away during persecutions and trials.  Would this not be a strange action by the God which the Bible declares is love? 

Soil 3: Then there is the third soil which is filled with the worries and  cares of this world.  This man again receives the Word, but doesn’t seem to turn  away from the old nature.  Much like Lot, he moves back into Sodom instead of fleeing it.  Again the question is this- Has God sovereignly predestined and regenerated this man to receive the Word of God, then causing them to keep the worries so much as to choke the fruit of the Word from ever being produced?  And if these are true, born-again believers which God has sovereignly regenerated, then why not sovereignly sanctify them to keep from having any thorns at all? 

Soil 1: Lastly, there is the dilemma of the first heart, the heart that is so hard that the seed never enters and Satan comes to snatch away the Word.  In Matthew 13:19, Jesus reveals that this heart is hard because it does not understand.  Now to many Calvinists, this would be that all men cannot understand without God regenerated them.  Most Calvinists would say that men not only do not want to understand, but that they cannot understand.  Although the Bible does say men, in general, don’t want to understand, no where does it teach that they are not able to at least understand that God is the Creator and that they are in need of the Savior.  See Romans 2:14-15.  Are the first three hearts representations of sinful men? If so, then what is the point of drawing a distinction between soil 1,2, and 3?   And if soil 1 is the only unregenerate man in this parable, then are soils 2 and 3 sovereignly regenerated hearts that have been caused to later reject or choke the Word?  Would not both of these be strange conclusions?

Frankly, if our theology doesn’t fit the Word of God, we need to throw out our theology!  It will only benefit us and those we seek to teach.  Why couldn’t it be as simple as this- When Jesus began to teach this parable there was a multitude of people who gathered, including His disciples.  I’m sure the Lord knew that the multitude consisted of a variety of hearts.  Some had soil 1.  Others had soil 2. Still others had soil 3, and a few had soil 4.  Jesus told His disciples, “For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” Matthew 13:15.  Two notes: First, Jesus says the people closed their eyes themselves.  God did not make them do it.  Secondly, He says every one of them has the option at anytime of seeing, hearing, and understanding so as to be converted and healed.  It truly reads as though all have the option of receiving the Word, however after hearing, some will refuse, others will hear wrongly, and others will never yield to the Word, even though they have heard. 

This parable seems to make much more sense when taken in light of man’s ability to at least be able to hear the truth of God’s Word and respond.  When the reader starts with man’s ability to respond to God’s invitation, the parable of the sower seems to serve as a warning both for the hearer to be careful he receives the true Gospel and after receiving, to take care in correctly teaching it to others.

When dilemmas arise within our understanding of the Scriptures, it might mean we need to pray for deeper and clearer understanding.  Or it might simply mean we are attempting to mingle the ideas of men with the Word of God.  May we always desire the Truth of God’s Word over any of man’s teachings! 

“I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto Him: for He is thy life, and the length of thy days…”                   Deuteronomy 30:19-20a

“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve…” Joshua 24:15

“And ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, says the LORD.” Jeremiah 29:13 and 14a

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