Friday, May 01, 2009

Five questions for a 5-point Calvinist

Calvinism is a term for the teaching of John Calvin that God is sovereign and salvation is all of God, not earned by man. However, the five points of Calvinism were developed after his lifetime, and some people have taken Calvinism where Calvin himself never went, adopting a view of double-edged predestination that teaches some people are predestined to damnation before the foundation of the earth, and there is nothing that can be done to persaude them nor can they ever come to faith in Christ.

This extreme view is sometimes called hyper-Calvinism. I have five questions for the five-point Calvinist:

1. Why would Paul desire salvation for his people if their destiny was already cast?

Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. -- Romans 10:1 (NIV)

2. If people are predestined to hell, why send preachers and missionaries?

"Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" -- Romans 10:13-15 (NIV)

3. If election means we have no free will, why call on brothers to confirm their election?

Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. -- 2 Peter 1:10 (NIV)

4. Why would God give the wicked up to their will if God’s will takes away man’s free will?

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. --Romans 1:24 (NIV)

5. Why would Paul endure all things for the elect to obtain salvation if nothing can be done to reach the lost?

Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. -- 2 Tim 2:10 (NIV)


ABClay said...

Brother Bob,

I would expect that you, a preacher of God's word, would know the Calvinist's answer to each one of these questions; especially since you just preached a sermon on predestination two days after you posted this blog entry.

That is assuming, however, that you were actually researching the subject that you were "preaching" about so that you wouldn't misrepresent the Calvinist's positions.

I would encourage any of your readers who are interested in seeing what Calvinists actually believe instead of what some people want them to believe about Calvinists to visit these links where these questions are more than adequately answered.

John MacArthur on Calvinismand
John Piper on TULIPThis discussion would honor Christ all the more if the Anti-Calvinists weren't always misrepresenting the position of the Calvinist.

Simply put, Calvinism is the belief that God saves sinners. That's all.

Oh Yeah, Anyone who wants to be saved can be saved...

Soli Deo Gloria..

Brother Bob said...

Yes, I certainly have researched the subject that I preached on. In fact, I read two books on the subject recently.
I think I said that at the top of my post, that Calvinism is the teaching that God is sovereign and that salvation cannot be earned. I consider myself a Calvinist, but not a five-point Calvinist. The five points were developed after the lifetime of John Calvin.
Calvin himself made statements that go against the doctrine of limited atonement, for example.

Anonymous said...

Brother Bob,

Before I decide to answer these
questions I have one myself.

What do you believe about God's grace and natural man's will?

Side note: Questions 3, 4 and 5 might need to be re-worded. They are Non sequiturs.

Q3-election doesn't mean we have no free will.

Q4-God's will doesn't take away man's free will. (Unless you're speaking decretively then you might ask why anything at all happens in God's providence.)

Q5-Calvinists don't teach that nothing can be done to reach the lost.

I'm a little confused about why "hyper-Calvinism" is thrown into this post.

If you want to further understand Calvin on the atonement I suggest Paul Helm who's studied Calvin extensively. You can cross reference quotes from Calvin's writings from Helm here and Roger Nicole here.

That Calvinism borrowed Calvin's name does not mean Calvin is followed 100%. Just as Arminian's aren't going to be inline with Arminius 100%.


P.S. I'm not sure one can be less than a 5 point Calvinist. Wouldn't that be like saying that you're an American citizen, but not 100% only your legs? As you mentioned in your sermon you would hold to 2 points, right? You can then be said to be a 2 or 3 point Arminian. ;)

Chris Roberts said...

Your definition of Calvinism is a bit over simplistic. Most Protestants - including both Calvinists and Arminians - would state that God is sovereign and salvation is all of God, not earned by man. What exactly they mean by that is where difference sets in.

Calvin himself was more specific. Calvin also taught double predestination. For instance, in his rather large work The Institutes of the Christian Religion one of his chapter titles is "Eternal Election, By Which God Has Predestined Some To Salvation, Others To Destruction" (Institutes, book 3, chapter 21). That's about as plain a statement of double predestination as can be had.

Calvin was clear that the choice of who would be saved is in God's hands, not in the hands of individuals. We do not choose God, God chooses us. Those God chooses to save will be saved. Those God does not choose to save will be damned. That is God's sovereignty in salvation.

It puzzles me when people claim to be Calvinists who are not Calvinists. Calvin did not believe we make free will choices to follow God. God chooses us, regenerates us, unites us with Christ, and gives us faith. This is what Calvin would mean by saying salvation is all of God. It is true the five points came later, it is also true that there is some question as to how Calvin would respond to the fifth point, but Calvinism today is on the whole quite close to what Calvin himself taught. The reason for this is simple. We do not teach Calvin or the five points, we teach the Bible. It is the Bible that tells us about God's choosing a people for himself. Calvin was right about this, the synod of Dort was right about this. I don't agree with either on everything that has been said but on the whole they are correct and on the whole they are in agreement with each other.

I'll briefly answer your five questions.

First, we do these things because God has commanded it. He calls on his people to be his witnesses. We obey him and trust his will. That is all that really needs to be said. God commands, we obey.

Second, we do these things because God often uses humans to bring about his will. God chooses who he will save. God then uses humans as the agents to bring the gospel to those he has chosen. Paul says how can they hear if no one goes to them. God intends that people be saved through the proclamation of the gospel. The only ones saved are those he has chosen to save, but he has chosen to save them through the proclamation of his good news. We do not know who it is that God will save so we proclaim the gospel to all people.

Third, we do these things because God is glorified by them. He is glorified when his name is lifted up. He is glorified when people love him more than their own comfort. When Paul suffers for the gospel it shows that Paul finds God more precious than his own comfort. Proclamation, suffering, faithfulness, these all show the value of God and they glorify him in the earth.

Hope that helps.

Brother Bob said...

Saying I'm a 3-point Arminian would be stating it in the negative, but since I'd rather state it in the positive, I would say I'm a 2 or 3-point Calvinist, since I agree with total depravity and perseverance of the believer, and since I believe in predestination of the believer to salvation, but I don't believe in unconditional predestination, if by that you mean that a person is predestined to go to hell (double-edged predestination).

Chris Roberts said...

One thing I meant to mention.

A better definition of a hyper Calvinist is one who believes we should not evangelize. Hyper Calvinists are those who say because God is sovereign in election and because it is his will not our effort that leads people to faith, we should not spread the gospel. Hyper Calvinism is not defined by one's belief in double predestination.

Hyper Calvinists are strangely similar to those on the opposite end of the spectrum, the universalists. Both agree that evangelism is unnecessary because salvation is finally in God's hands and not ours. Both ignore the command of God to proclaim the gospel. Both are in error in their practice and in their theology. There is no justification for ignoring God's command to be his witnesses wherever we may go.

Brother Bob said...

Thanks, you make some excellent points.
However, most of the hyper-Calvinists I have met do believe in double-edged predestination. It is that belief that many are already destined to hell and evangelism cannot have an effect on their destiny that causes them to lack a fervor for evangelism.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why being a 3 point Arminian is stating your position in the negative. Especially, if you are more inline with the Arminian side.

T - Calvinists, Arminians believe.
U - Calvinist.
L - Calvinist.
I - Calvinist.
P - Calvinist, Arminians undecided.

Therefore, if you do not hold to all five points you are denying Calvinism at its most minimal core i.e. you aren't one.

Arminian = total depravity, conditional election, universal atonement, resistible grace and perseverance is open.

Therefore, you would be a 5 point, or 4 point if you exclude perserverance, Arminian.

This includes you holding to "predestination of the believer to salvation". That is what the Arminian says which means that predestination comes after belief rather than prior to.

Food for thought...


Anonymous said...

There sure are some silly statements here:

"Your definition of Calvinism is a bit over simplistic. Most Protestants - including both Calvinists and Arminians - would state that God is sovereign and salvation is all of God, not earned by man. What exactly they mean by that is where difference sets in."

Exactly, what Calvinists mean is that God is sovereign and salvation is all of God. What Arminians mean I am not quite sure, but it certainly falls short of sovereign and salvation being all of God. If God is sovereign then we can't force his hand (Merriam-Websters says "Sovereignty = freedom from external control"), but if man makes the decision to choose God, God's hand is being forced. To say anything less is just an exhibition in linguistic gymnastics, a la how Paige Patterson tries to get around it.

"Saying I'm a 3-point Arminian would be stating it in the negative, but since I'd rather state it in the positive, I would say I'm a 2 or 3-point Calvinist . . . ."

No, saying you are a 3-point Arminian is stating your majority composition. This is only "in the negative" because one construes being an Arminian as something bad. Therefore, even though that is the side you most identify with, you shirk this affiliation because you view it as negative (which is theologically good sense, but intellectually dishonest since it is where you really do stand).

Silly Arminian-Baptists. Never happy with the holes you dig for yourselves.


Redbeard said...

Q1: Because we are not in charge of who is and who is not elect. We are unaware of those who God has chosen for himself, and we yearn for the salvation of our loved ones because we want them to know the joy and peace found in Christ. You yearning for the same does not make them a Christian, no matter how much you want to think it does.

A response question for you, do you not yearn for Salvation for your lost friends neighbors and relatives even if they have made it clear that they want nothing to do with Jesus? Why is it ok for you to do that, but not a Calvinist. (which you sir are not, without accepting all 5 points, you cannot in good conscience and with sincerity claim any point at all.)

Q2: Because we are commanded by God to do so. If you evangelize because you believe you are the agent of conversion you are making yourself God and that sir is blasphemy. Furthermore, God uses man in his works, that is why we preach to the unconverted because the Lord uses us.

I hope that you were asking that to get people thinking and that it wasn't because you actually did not know.

Q3:Because of False Conversion. Hebrews 6 calls them the first fruits, but that people who are not actually converted are wrecking the church. Its also a call to holiness for believers.

I also echo Marks comments on the two not really being related.

Q4: You are working under the impression that you started out with Free will and God took it from you like a holy bully who got upset and took his ball home. The actual truth is that when you sin you destroy your free will and are not enslaved to sin. To say that God removed your free will completely and totally makes you innocent of your own actions and man centered.

Q5: Who said nothing can be done to reach the Lost? Thats a total false representation of what Calvinism is and teaches.

Its cowardly of you to intermix Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism in the way you have to discredit Calvinism. You should be ashamed of yourself for your poor scholarly work and attempt to pass it off as decent study.

Your tag should also read "I don't know what Calvinism Is" instead of "Predestination, Calvinism"

jsin said...

Brother Bob,

You stated that you "believe in predestination of the believer to salvation." I believe this too and I would state it by saying God chooses whom he wills to eternal life from before the foundations of the earth.

If God predestines some to eternal life, yet does not intervene in the lives of others, what statement will you make about those not elected?

I would recommend Beeke's excellent book Living for God's GloryBlessings,

Brother Bob said...

I have a theory that more Calvinists spend time on the Internet than non-Calvinists. I have no documentation to back that up; it just seems to be what I have noticed. The comments I am getting on this blog seem to confirm my suspicion. :-)
Some of them are a bit sensitive, too, I've noticed. Getting a little testy there, with some of the comments, even. Oh, well...
Anyway, a short answer to your question, Jason, is that I believe in God's foreknowledge. God predestines according to His foreknowledge, scripture teaches (Romans 8:29, 1 Peter 1:1-2). I understand that to mean that just as we know past events and can say with certainty that they will happen without violating the free will of those who participate, in the same way God knows future events and can say they will happen without violating the free will of the participants.
That's the short answer.
I'm taking lunch break and now I'm returning to my sermon study on another subject, so there's no time for longer answers today.
Thanks for joining the discussion, guys. It's very interesting!

Brother Bob said...

BTW Mark, I do not believe the Arminian view that predestination comes after belief. I believe God has foreknowledge of the belief, so that would schedule predestination before belief.

jsin said...

If I follow your line of thought, you have God creating people while having foreknowledge of their eternal destiny. Why did God create those whom He knew would go to hell?

God's foreknowledge forces foreordination. God knew all the details of creation and it's end result before creation began. Knowing every detail from the beginning rules out this Arminian concept of foreknowledge. If God desired a different result, He would have created differently. The Arminian picture of God has Him with His hands over his eyes and fingers in His ears during creation, he knew what would happy but refused to see it until it was too late.

Lockheed said...

Brother Bob,

I believe God has foreknowledge of the belief, so that would schedule predestination before belief.So "predestination" doesn't mean predestination, but rather "precognition"? So when the Bible states that "God chose you for salvation", what does it really mean?

Also, if you and another person heard the same Gospel, grew up in the same circumstances, etc... and you believed but the other does not... what was it about you that caused you to believe?

Anonymous said...

Brother Bob,
I would be willing to bet that Mark means what you said. Technically that is predestination after belief that you described, but you are trying to split hairs over it. The question is did God know we would choose him before choosing us? An Arminian says that God chooses us because he foresees us choosing him (your position). A Calvinist says we cannot choose God unless he moves within us to choose him, and his decision to move within us is what is decreed by election, therefore his choosing us causes us to choose him.

Did you really just preach on this? Maybe that's mean, but I would question the fairness of your teaching if you had trouble identifying this distinction.


Chris Roberts said...

The foreknowledge view of predestination is an Arminian position. The foreknowledge view of predestination is not in any way compatible with Calvinism. A person cannot claim to be any sort of a Calvinist if predestination is believed to be based on God's foreknowing who would receive Jesus Christ.

So few people seem to really have any actual notion of what Calvinism or Arminianism are. Both sides take advantage of this by not bothering to clear up misrepresentation. The amount of misinformation out there is one of the things that makes the discussion between the Calvinist and the non-Calvinist so annoying.

The first article of the Arminian Remonstrances basically says that God has chosen to save all those who believe in Jesus Christ and to damn all those who will not believe. This is double predestination based on a misunderstanding of God's foreknowledge.

Calvinists believe God has chosen to save some based on his own good pleasure, not based on anything within a person. God's foreknowledge is his setting apart people, a relational knowledge of who he would make his own. He chooses to save some and damn the rest. Those damned to judgment are justly condemned because of their sins. Those brought to salvation are justly saved because of the grace of God and the work of Jesus on the cross to make satisfaction for their sins.

There are similarities in the Calvinist and Arminian positions but they are not strictly compatible.

Most people today are truly semi-Pelagian. But Arminians are not Pelagian or semi-Pelagian. The classical Arminian is much closer to Scripture than most today who reject both Arminianism and Calvinism.

I'll stop rambling. :)

Brother Bob said...

One could just as easily ask the same question about the exitence of evil and suffering. Why did God create people He knew would suffer?
Foreknowledge does not force foreordination, any more than the fact that I saw my friend eat a hamburger at McDonald's yesterday forces him to eat the burger. But because I saw it happen, I know it to be true. Likewise, God sees the future, and knows it to be true, and so it can be spoken of as predestined, without meaning freedom of choice is taken away.

Brother Bob said...

I am saying that predestination IS precognition. See 1 Peter 1:1-2, which says we are "chosen according to foreknowledge."
So "God chose you" means "God already knew you would accept Him."
In answer to your question about two people hearing the gospel in the same circumstances, where one believes and one does not, you ask what caused them to believe? The difference is their own response of faith.

jsin said...

God created people he knew would suffer for His glory. He knew they would suffer before creation, He could have created in a way that would have avoided suffering, but didn't - for His glory.

The difference in your analogy is that you had no hand in the creation of your friend or his environment and did not know what he was eating until it happened. God knew what he would eat for lunch from before creation. If God wanted your friend to have something different for lunch, he would have created differently.

Brother Bob said...

You stated the differences pretty well, but I had no trouble making those distinctions. I said some very similar things in my sermon.

jsin said...

Also, this 2 or 3 point Calvinism does not hold water. Total Depravity means that a person is so deprived that they can only have faith if God blesses them with it. The term that describes your view much better is "Once saved always saved Arminian"

Brother Bob said...

I would agree that God created people who would suffer for His glory. So I gather from your response, that you do NOT see a contradiction between God creating people when He knows they would suffer. So why do you see a contradiction in God creating people He knows will not accept Christ?

jsin said...

I do not see a contradiction. God knew that nobody would accept Christ when he created all things, but chose to bless some with the gift of faith. Nobody seeks God, but some get a great gift.

Chris Roberts said...

'I am saying that predestination IS precognition. See 1 Peter 1:1-2, which says we are "chosen according to foreknowledge."So "God chose you" means "God already knew you would accept Him."'

There is a lot of room between saying "God foreknew you" and "God saw that you were going to choose him so he decided to choose you first". The first is clearly biblical, the second is not. At least it is not biblical in so far as it is never spelled out. It is speculative, an interpretation based on a single word, and it runs counter to the normal usage of the root of that word. In the Bible to know a person does not mean knowing facts about them, it carries a meaning of relational knowing and knowing the person thoroughly.

Brother Bob said...

You are twisting my words to reinterpret my statement, "God already knew you would accept Him" to mean "God saw that you were going to choose him so he decided to choose you first." Those are clearly two different statements, and I did not make the second statement.

Pastor Tom said...

Brother Bob:
God introduced Himself to Moses on two occasions in the Old Testament, on one occasion He said, "I am, I am" and on another occasion He said, "I have mercy on whom I will have mercy". Therefore God intoduced himself as the Self-existing one and the Self-determinig one. God by nature of His definition of himself is nobody created him, he has always existed and He consults no one - he determines what he determines. Foreknowledge as you describe it would be God consulting men throughout history before he self-determines who is saved - far from being self-determining. This would then mean that "Open Theism" is plausible because God waits to see what man does and then reacts. I'm not arguing for or against Calvin... I am arguing the very nature of who God is regardless of the five points anyone holds. I want to get God's nature right not the five points right!!

Brother Bob said...

Pastor Tom,
My view of foreknowledge does not at all mean that God has to consult man for anything. I never said that God has to consult man, and I do not believe in Open Theism.
I believe God is sovereign, but God knowing what is going to happen does not take away man's free will.

Pastor Tom said...

Answers to the questions for a five point calvinist:
1. The same way Jesus desires all to be saved and that none should perish but he does not save them all.
2. To not go is sin and God saved the elect for obedience, for the praise of His Glory. Why do free will guys go to the mission field when not all will be saved? Calvinist go because they think some are the elect, free will guys go because they believe some will be saved. Free will people believe they loose free will because they believe they can choose salvation but NOT choose to leave their salvation if they hold to the security of salvation. They can choose but they can't not choose. Calvinist believe we are Sovereignly chosen and therefore Sovereignly secured, a little more consistent in their beliefs. God also makes all things possible and without God nothing would be possible. Therefore it is better to ask, if you hold to Total Depravity and not to God's Sovereign grace then why go to missions because dead men can't choose? The Calvinist should be most excited about missions because God made it possible and we participate in His Sovereign will and electing work. If you are calvinist and do not do missions or evangelism then I would say with Paul "be a little more eager to make your calling and election sure".
3. The only people who can make their election sure are the elect. The unregenerate can do nothing - which is why we need to be eager to make it sure. The command only makes sense from the Calvinist perspective. It's like going to the grave yard and saying "stand up and make your life secure". It's foolish to tell a dead person to stand up. It is just as foolish to tell the non-elect to make their calling sure. This command is for the elect not for the nonelect.
4.Again, God takes away free will if you believe in free will and security of the believer. God doesn't take away free will from the Calvinist perspective because we never had it to begin with. Free will says we can choose salvation but can not NOT choose to not be saved once we've been saved. Inconsistent.
5. The Word of God is the power of God to call people to the obedience of the faith (Romans 1), something can be done for the lost elect. In fact because God makes all thing possible it makes it possible only because God made it so. The Calvinist is the only ones who have a legitimate claim to go on missions. Free will guys are like doctors going into the grave yard to perform surgery - a total waste of time. Thank God for the Sovereignty of God in salvation who has made preaching, evangelism and missions possible for without him none of it would be possible.