Does John 6:44 Teach Irresistible Grace?

As I stated in my last post, there is no more important question with regards to the controversy between Arminianism and Calvinism than the question of priority with regards to faith and regeneration. R.C. Sproul writes,

A cardinal point of Reformed theology [Calvinism] is the maxim: “Regeneration precedes faith.” Our nature is so corrupt, the power of sin is so great, that unless God does a supernatural work in our souls we will never choose Christ. We do not believe in order to be born again; we are born again in order to believe. (Chosen By God, pg. 72)

While many Calvinists will cringe at the charge, they are essentially saying that one does not believe until they are saved [born again]. This is the bare and necessary conclusion when the theological smoke screen of Reformed theology finally clears. I believe that I have already effectively demonstrated why such a doctrine is incompatible with God’s word in my last post. We will now take some time to consider some of the “proof texts” that Calvinists have offered to support their doctrine of irresistible regeneration. We will begin where R.C. Sproul began in Chosen By God, with John 6:44,

“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.” [NASB]

Sproul says of this passage, “The key word here is draw.” After briefly, and somewhat inaccurately, describing the Arminian view that the drawing of John 6:44 is not irresistible, he concludes,

I am persuaded that the above explanation [that this drawing is a resistible "wooing"], which is so widespread, is incorrect. It does violence to the text of Scripture, particularly to the biblical meaning of the word draw. The Greek word used here is elko. Kittle’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament defines it to mean to compel by irresistible superiority. Linguistically and lexicographically, the word means “to compel. (ibid. pg. 69)

He then cites James 2:6, and Acts 16:19, where the same Greek word is used of forceful dragging.

Steve Witzki, a contributor for The Arminian magazine looked into Sproul’s lexicographical claims and came up with some surprising results. He writes,

After investigating “Big” Kittel’s definition for myself, I was surprised to find that it did not agree with Sproul’s definition of draw. Albrecht Oepke comments that in John’s usage of helkuo “force or magic may be discounted, but not the supernatural element” [TDNT, 2:503]. Yet for Sproul’s definition to hold up, John’s usage must mean to compel or force. When I turned to find out what “Little” Kittel (the one-volume abridged edition of Kittel’s massive ten volume work) had to say on “draw,” I was shocked at what it had to say in comparison to Sproul’s dogmatic assertions. Here is the entire comment as translated and abridged by Geoffrey Bromiley:

The basic meaning is “to draw,” “tug,” or, in the case of persons, “compel.” It may be used for “to draw” to a place by magic, for demons being “drawn” to animal life, or for the inner influencing of the will (Plato). The Semitic world has the concept of an irresistible drawing to God (cf. 1 Sam. 10:5; 19:19ff.; Jer. 29:26; Hos. 9:7). In the OT helkein denotes a powerful impulse, as in Cant. 1:4, which is obscure but expresses the force of love. This is the point in the two important passages in Jn. 6:44; 12:32. There is no thought here of force or magic. The term figuratively expresses the supernatural power of the love of God or Christ which goes out to all (12:32) but without which no one can come (6:44). The apparent contradiction shows that both the election and the universality of grace must be taken seriously; the compulsion is not automatic [p. 227].

What? The compulsion is not automatic? But this is exactly what Sproul and other Calvinists argue that helkuo means in John 6:44 — God literally and irresistibly compels, drags, or forces the elect to come to Christ. Yes, helkuo can literally mean drag, compel, or force in certain contexts (John 18:10; 21:6,11; Acts 16:19; 21:30; and James 2:6), but it is not the lexical meaning for the context of John 6:44, nor for that manner, John 12:32. Sproul confidently states that “linguistically and lexicographically, the word means to compel,” but where is the citation of all the lexical evidence to support this statement?” [Steve Witzki, Free Grace or Forced Grace?, The Arminian, Vol. 19, issue 1] You can read the rest of Steve’s article here.

I would add the description of helkuo given in Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words,

HELKUO, to draw, differs from suro as drawing does from violent dragging…This less violent significance, usually present in helko, but always absent from suro, is seen in the metaphorical use of helko, to signify drawing by inward power, by Divine impulse, John 6:44; 12:32. (328)

Here, the very connection that Calvinists often like to make (that helkuo in Jn. 6:44 has reference to violent dragging) is plainly discounted.

I agree with Forlines’ assessment in responding to a similar argument put forth by Calvinist Robert W. Yarbrough,

I think the evidence Yarbrough presents does suggest that the drawing of John 6:44 is strong. I have no problem with the idea that the drawing spoken of in John 6:44 is a “strong drawing”. But I do have a problem with speaking of it as a “forceful attraction”. A word used literally may have a causal force when dealing with physical relationships. However, we cannot require that that word have the same causal force when it is used metaphorically with reference to an influence and response relationship. John 6:44 speaks of a personal influence and response relationship. (F. Leroy Forlines, The Quest for Truth, pg. 386- emphasis his)

It is quite clear from Sproul’s comments and those of other Reformed theologians, that they see the drawing in Jn. 6:44 to refer to irresistible regeneration. In other words, “draw” is synonymous with “give life”. Therefore an accurate paraphrase of Jn 6:44 from a Calvinist view point would be,

“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me first gives him life.”

So, according to Reformed doctrine, no one can “come” unless they are first regenerated [i.e. given life]. Only those who have first been given spiritual life can “come” to Christ. While this interpretation may line up with the teachings of Calvinism, it renders nonsensical two related passages in the gospel of John. Consider John 5:40,

“And you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life” (NASB-emphasis mine)

Jesus tells these Jews that having life is the result of coming to Him. Calvinism teaches that coming to Jesus is the result of already having life! If the Calvinist interpretation of Jn. 6:44 is accurate then Jesus should have said,

“And you are unwilling to come to Me because you have not been given life.”

When dealing with John 6, Calvinists are quick to point out that “come” is a synonym for faith. They come to this conclusion by comparing the parallelism in John 6:35. They then read this conclusion into John 6:37, 44, 45, and 65. They would likely agree that when Jesus speaks of “eating” His flesh and “drinking” his blood, He is also speaking about faith, for nobody can have such a relationship with God except by faith. John 6:51-58 would seem to confirm this.

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world…I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day…Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your fathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever. (NIV)

It is clear from these passages that one must first eat and drink [by faith] the flesh and blood of Christ before they can experience life. The life resides in Christ and flows into those who partake of him by faith. If the Calvinist concept of regeneration preceding faith were accurate, then we would again expect to see Jesus saying something more like,

If anyone eats this bread [by faith] it is proof that he was already living. This bread is my flesh which I will give only to those who I have unconditionally elected and irresistibly regenerated in the world…I tell you the truth, unless you have been made alive you cannot eat the flesh of the Son of Man or drink his blood. Whoever has been given eternal life will eat my flesh and drink my blood, and I will raise him up at the last day…so the one who is living will feed on me…Your fathers ate manna and died, but he who already lives forever will feed on this bread.

The record is plain. Eternal life resides in Christ (Jn 1:4; 5:26; 6:35; 11:25; 14:6; 1Jn. 1:2; 5:11; Col. 3:4), and only those who come to Christ in faith will experience this life. The Reformed doctrine that one must first experience life, before he or she can come, is out of harmony with the testimony of God’s word.

The context of John 6 and the theological emphasis of the gospel of John forbids the Calvinist interpretation of John 6:44. The Arminian understanding of prevenient grace, however, does justice to the context of Jn. 6 and the overall tenor of John’s gospel. Steve Witzki said it well when he concluded,

Let us review the last few comments on the word draw from “little” Kittel:

There is no thought here of force or magic. The term figuratively expresses the supernatural power of the love of God or Christ which goes out to all (12:32) but without which no one can come (6:44). The apparent contradiction shows that both the election and the universality of grace must be taken seriously; the compulsion is not automatic.

What is rather ironic in all of this discussion is that the above definition coincides beautifully with the Wesleyan-Arminian doctrine of prevenient grace — a doctrine that R.C. Sproul denies that the Bible teaches [pp. 123-125]. Wesleyan-Arminians believe that divine grace works in the hearts and wills of every person to elicit a faith response or as Thomas Oden states so well, “God’s love enables precisely that response in the sinner which God’s holiness demands: trust in God’s own self-giving” [The Transforming Power of Grace, p. 45].

God’s prevenient or assisting grace is morally drawing all people to Himself (John 12:32). This gracious working of God does not compel or force anyone to believe but enables all to respond to God’s commands to turn away from sin in repentance, and towards the Savior Jesus Christ in faith. Thus, with all the strength of Calvinism, salvation can be ascribed completely to God, but without denying genuine human responsibility that Calvinism does. (Witzki, Free Grace or Forced Grace?)

We conclude with the plain declaration of John 20:31,

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.

Does Regeneration Precede Faith?

Which comes first, faith or regeneration? That is indeed the question. I cannot think of a more important theological issue with respect to the controversy between Calvinism and Arminianism. It is the defining feature concerning the question of whether or not God’s saving grace is irresistible. Calvinist James White would seem to agree,

The question is: Does [God raise sinners to life] because men fulfill certain conditions, or does He do so freely, at His own time, and in the lives of those He chooses to bring into relationship with Himself through Jesus Christ? The question is normally framed in the context of the relationship of faith and regeneration. Do we believe to become born again [regeneration], or must we first be born again before we can exercise true, saving faith?  (Debating Calvinism, pg 198)

Many Arminians choose to focus on the proof texts offered by Calvinists in order to deal with their claim that God’s grace is irresistible. While this is a noble approach (and one we will deal with in a future post) it is far more effective to examine the Biblical evidence which directly addresses the question of priority. Does the Bible tell us anything about this subject, or must we rely on the prior claims of a theological system as James White implies,

Objections to irresistible grace are, by and large, actually objections to the previously established truths of the doctrines of grace [i.e. Calvinism]. Obviously, if God is sovereign and freely and unconditionally elects a people unto salvation, and if man is dead in sin and enslaved to its power, God must be able to free those elected people in time and bring them to faith in Jesus Christ, and that by a grace that does not falter or depend upon human cooperation. (ibid. 198)

James White seems to freely admit that the claim that regeneration precedes faith is not primarily derived from Scripture, but upon a prior commitment to the Calvinist understanding of unconditional election and the deadness of man in sin. He seems to be saying that the case for irresistible grace is Biblically weak unless one first adopts the Calvinist theological system that necessarily leads to it. If that is what James White is implying [and he would likely object] then I completely agree.

There are several problems with the belief that regeneration precedes faith:

1) It does not theologically comprehend the nature of justification.
2) It does not theologically comprehend the correlation between regeneration and sanctification.
3) It is not sufficiently “cross-centered” or “Christocentric”.
4) It actually downplays the seriousness and nature of man’s deadness in sin.
5) It does not seriously consider the necessity and implications of union with Jesus Christ with regards to all spiritual blessings.

The Bible is clear that we are justified by faith in Jesus Christ. Not even Calvinists will argue with that. One only needs to read Rom. 3:21-5:21 and Gal. 3 to plainly establish that God justifies on the basis of faith. What is comprehended in justification? Justification is the act of God by which he forgives us of our sins and declares us righteous. This forgiveness and righteousness rests solely on the merits of Christ’s blood, and is enjoyed only by those who come to be in union with Him. Consider the following passages,

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” (Rom. 5:1,2 NIV)

“Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Rom. 5:9, 10 NIV)

“This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in his blood.” (Rom. 3:22-25 NIV- emphasis mine)

Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession- to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:13, 14 NIV- emphasis mine)

“..so that Christ might dwell in your hearts through faith.” (Eph. 3:17 NIV- emphasis mine)

These passages teach us much regarding the nature of justification. Prior to being justified God’s wrath abides on us (5:9). We can only be at “peace” with God after we have been justified (5:1). We can only be justified by coming to be in union with Jesus Christ through faith, and it is only through this union that the soul cleansing blood of Christ is applied (Eph. 1:13; 3:17; Rom. 5:2, 9, 25).

To claim that regeneration precedes faith, is to claim that God can bestow life apart from the blood of His Son. It is to claim that God gives life prior to the removal of sin. Since it is sin that causes spiritual death, our sin must first be removed through Christ’s blood before God can give us life. As long as sin remains, death remains. If God can bestow life (regenerate) apart from the the application of Christ’s blood, then the atonement becomes less than the necessary means by which a holy God reconciles sinners to himself (Rom. 5:10; Col. 1:21-23). For this reason, the Calvinistic doctrine of irresistible grace is not sufficiently Christocentric, does not theologically comprehend the nature and necessity of justification, ignores the necessity of union with Christ for salvation, and downplays the seriousness of sins deadly effects.

The Bible is clear that the new life belongs only to those who have been justified through saving union with Christ. Look again at Rom. 5:10,

“For if when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” [ NIV- emphasis mine]

It is only through union with Christ, wrought by the reconciliation of His blood, that we can experience regeneration. Only when we come to be “in Christ” can we experience the life that flows from Him, and this union results from faith (Eph. 1:13; Rom. 5:1). Consider Col. 2:12,

“…having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God who raised Him from the dead.” [NASB- emphasis mine]

While Paul mentions baptism, our baptism is nothing more than a public display of what God has already done in the heart. According to this passage, we are raised to life “through faith” in the “working [or power] of God”. The context also makes it clear that this spiritual resurrection is the result of being “in Christ” (verses 6-13).

Paul tells us in Galatians that the life of Christ that dwells within him is “by faith in the Son of God” (2:20). He also proclaims in Ephesians that all spiritual blessings, including being made “alive together with Christ” (2:5) and being “raised up with Him” (2:6) are “by grace…through faith” (2:8- emphasis mine).

A further problem that the Calvinist insistence that regeneration precedes faith fails to address is the theological correlation between regeneration and sanctification. F. Leroy Forlines observes,

…justification must be prior to regeneration [because] regeneration is the beginning of sanctification. (The Quest for Truth, pg. 260- emphasis his)

He goes on to quote Calvinist Louis Berkhof who says, “regeneration is the beginning of sanctification.” (ibid. 260)

…and concludes by stating,

If indeed it is true that regeneration is ‘the beginning of sanctification’ (Berkhof, a major Calvinist theologian), and if indeed it is true that God cannot enter with His sanctifying grace until the guilt problem is solved by justification (Haldane, one whose Calvinistic credentials are not in question), Calvinism is in trouble with its view of having regeneration prior to justification. (ibid. 261)

It is absurd to believe that God can begin to make us holy [i.e. sanctify us] while we are still under God’s wrath and dead in sins. God must first reconcile us through Christ’s blood [justification] before he can give us life and make us holy.

We could state the Arminian case as follows:

1) One cannot experience justification or regeneration apart from union with Christ.
2) We come to be in union with Christ by faith.
3) Therefore, faith precedes justification and regeneration.

or…

1) We cannot experience life (regeneration) while still in our sins.
2) We remain in our sins until we are justified on the merits of Christ’s blood.
3) We are justified by faith.
4) Therefore, faith precedes regeneration.

I believe that the reverse of what James White said above equally holds true. Since it can be Biblically demonstrated that faith must, and in fact does, precede regeneration, then we have every reason to reject the Calvinistic system that necessitates such an unscriptural conclusion as the doctrine of regeneration preceding faith.

The Nature of Saving Faith

The subject of this post is to define faith from an Arminian perspective and demonstrate that the Calvinist charge that faith within the Arminian system would promote boasting, is inaccurate.

Saving faith, when Biblically understood, is the means by which we receive God’s gracious gift of salvation (Eph. 2:8, 9; Rom. 4:16; 5:1, 2). It is the way in which we come to be in union with Christ (Eph. 1:13; 2:17). It is a complete trust and reliance upon the merits of Christ’s blood (Rom. 3:25). It is a looking away from self [and self effort] to the person and sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Jn. 3:14, 15; 6:40).

Calvinists want us to believe that faith can only be gracious and non-meritorious if it is irresistibly caused by God. When we understand faith, as defined above, we see that there is no grounds for boasting because of the very nature of saving faith itself. Since faith is a turning away from self effort and a complete trust and submission to God, “boasting”, as the Apostle says, “is excluded”.

“Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” Rom. 3:27, 28. See also 4:1-16.

Faith is the antithesis of works, not because God makes us believe, but because saving faith is itself, “…giving up on one’s works and submitting to the working of God. (Robert Picirilli, Grace, Faith, Free Will, pg. 162).

Robert Shank, in his book Elect in The Son, quotes Berkouwer’s objection to synergistic faith, that “it results in a certain amount of human self conceit”, and “self-esteem” Shank’s response is right on the money,

Conceit and self-esteem for what, Professor Berkouwer? For totally renouncing all claim to self righteousness? For completely repudiating all dependence on good works? For renouncing all claim to personal merit? For abjectly humbling oneself before God as a broken sinner, deserving of death, helpless, unable to save himself? For casting oneself on the mercies of God and hoping only on the merits and grace of Jesus Christ? These are the elements that are of the essence of saving faith, and where true faith exists, there can be no pride or self-esteem. Pride and faith are mutually exclusive. (pg. 144 emphasis mine)

There is no better Biblical illustration of this truth than Christ’s parable of the Pharisee and the publican (Luke 18:9-14). Unfortunately, this parable has been increasingly abused by Calvinists seeking to establish some Biblical support for their insistence that unless God causes saving faith in us, then we can boast in our own salvation. It has been said that if faith is not entirely monergistic, then we can “boast with the Pharisee, and thank God that we are not like other men (who did not exercise saving faith)”. The problem with this argument is that it does not rightly understand what Christ was teaching in Luke 18. The Pharisee was not boasting in his faith. He was boasting in his good works, and believing that God had to favor him based on the merit of those works, “I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.”

If the Pharisee truly had faith, he would not be able to boast, and would like the publican say, “God be merciful to me, the sinner”. Jesus concludes his parable with these words, “I tell you, this man [the publican] went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (18:14). Since we are justified by faith, we can safely conclude that the Pharisee had no faith in which to boast. If he did then Jesus could not have said that only the publican went away justified. Jesus correlates humility with saving faith in this parable. For this reason, to say that faith gives cause for boasting is oxymoronic. Boasting is excluded not because faith is monergistic, but because of the very nature of saving faith itself.

Calvinists claim that Arminians obscure God’s grace by denying that saving faith is an irresistible work of God upon passive creatures.

Quite to the contrary, Paul did not assume that faith as a condition ‘limits and obscures’ grace or takes anything away from the initiative of God’s grace: ‘[justification] depends on faith in order that it may rest on grace’ (Rom. 4:16). Faith as condition is the way of grace and in no sense an antithesis.” (Shank, Elect in The Son, pg. 130)

While salvation conditioned on faith leaves no room for boasting, such would not necessarily be the case if our faith rested on an unconditional decree. Shank again astutely observes,

In the case of the assumption of unconditional election, it is quite otherwise. It was precisely the fact of election and the assumption of its irrevocability that fostered such smugness, self-conceit, and reprehensible pride in Israel and encouraged presumptious indifference toward God. And where could one find a more flagrant example of obvious pride than Calvin himself, with his assumption that he was ‘endowed with an incomparable benefit’ so that he was not at all ‘on equal terms with him who has received hardly a hundredth part’ as much grace? No countenance can be given to any equation of synergism with pride, which is simply another theological humbug with which Calvinists for generations have shamelessly begged the question. (ibid. 145)

In my next post we will begin to examine the Calvinists doctrine of irresistible grace to see if there is any support for the doctrine in the pages of Scripture.

Is Arminian Theology Synergistic?

For some, the debate between Arminianism and Calvinism boils down to whether salvation is monergistic or synergistic. I believe the term “synergism” is not always accurately applied to the Arminian position. The word comes from the Greek synergos, which essentially means “working together”. While monergism (to work alone) may be an acceptable label for what Calvinists believe (God does all the work in salvation), synergism does not always rightly portray what Arminians have historically believed.

The word itself, when taken in a grammatically strict sense, is not a very good description of what Arminians believe regarding salvation. Arminians do not believe that both God and man “work” together in salvation. We believe that we are saved “by faith from first to last” (Rom. 1:17). Since faith is antithetical to works (Rom. 3:20-28; 4:2-5; 9:32; 10:5, 6; Gal. 2:16; 3:2, 5; Eph. 2:8, 9; Phil. 3:9), it is a misnomer to label Arminian soteriology as synergistic in the strictest sense of the word.

Arminian theology, when rightly understood, teaches that salvation is monergistic. God alone does the saving. God alone regenerates the soul that is dead in sin. God alone forgives and justifies on the merits of Christ’s blood. God alone makes us holy and righteous. In all of these ways salvation is entirely monergistic. The difference between Calvinism and Arminianism is whether or not God’s saving work is conditional or unconditional. Arminians believe that God will not save until we meet the God ordained condition of faith. Faith may be understood as synergistic only in the sense that God graciously enables us to believe, but we are the ones who must decide whether or not we will believe.

F. Leroy Forlines put it well when he said,

I believe that saving faith is a gift of God in the sense that the Holy Spirit gives divine enablement without which faith would be impossible (John 6:44). The difference between the Calvinistic concept of faith and my concept of faith cannot be that theirs is monergistic and mine is synergistic. In both cases it is synergistic. Active participation in faith by the believer means it must be synergistic. Human response cannot be ruled out of faith. Justification and regeneration are monergistic. Each is an act of God, not man. Faith is a human act by divine enablement and therefore cannot be monergistic. (The Quest For Truth, pg 160, emphasis his)

If faith were monergistic then it would not be the person believing, but God believing for the person. Faith is the genuine human response to God’s call, and the means by which we access His saving grace (Rom. 5:1, 2). It is still God’s grace that saves, but that grace must be received by faith, and the nature of faith is such that it can never be properly called a “work”.

Does this mean that man is the determiner of salvation and not God? Absolutely not. God has determined that those who believe in His Son shall be saved, and that determination is absolute and unchangeable (Jn. 3:16-18, 36). We simply determine whether or not we will meet the God ordained condition of faith.

Calvinists tend to object that faith, when understood in the context of Arminian theology, is really just a “work”. My next post will answer this charge and define the nature of saving faith in Arminian theology.

My Theological Journey

A few things about me and how this blog came into being.

I grew up in a denomination whose theology was Arminian. I did not really understand the distinction until I went to college. While at Bible college I became friends with some Calvinist believers. Every now and then we would discuss Calvinism, but it was never very serious and had no real affect on our relationships. I graduated from college and began working in the childcare industry for many years. Through this experience I got involved in WyldLife (the Junior High version of YoungLife). Because of my Biblical training and experience working with youth, the ministry really clicked for me.

One of the leaders asked me to begin a teaching course for those kids who wanted to get more serious about their faith. It was called “Campaigners”. I was thrilled. I went to his home to discuss this new aspect of the ministry. He had a three ring binder with some teaching material in it. He said it was just some ideas, but he thought it was especially important that I teach the kids about eternal security. I told him I was not comfortable teaching about eternal security as I did not believe it was Biblical. I told him that I would be willing to discuss the doctrine, but would present the alternative view that salvation was conditional, and let the kids decide based on their own Biblical study. I also suggested that he could teach eternal security and I would just focus on other subjects. My co-leader was visibly shocked that I did not believe in eternal security. I left with the binder full of teaching material, believing that he would be satisfied with the alternatives I offered.

At a meeting a few days later all of the leaders got together over breakfast to discuss the new aspect of our ministry. Without saying a word to me, the leader I had met with gave another binder to one of the other co-leaders and told the rest of us that she would be heading up Campaigners. I didn’t say anything about it, but I was stunned by the way the situation was handled. I later discovered that this leader’s parents were instrumental in starting WyldLife in my area, and were members of the committee. They had already “trained” the other co-leaders with the eternal security teaching course that they now wanted us to use to train our Campaigners.

I tried not to think about what happened, but my conscience began to bother me. Over the next few days I struggled in prayer over what to do with the situation. I knew that if I continued in the ministry I would be contributing to indoctrinating these kids with this doctrine even if I was not the one teaching it. I eventually called the director for some direction. He told me that he would handle the situation. What followed was about a year of chaos, tension, and frustration. The leader who initially wanted me to teach Campaigners immediately quit the ministry until the issue was resolved. He cut off all contact with me and ignored my e-mails. His parents sent letters to the President of Young Life, and eventually resigned because he would not support their insistence that eternal security be taught to these young kids. The President did not take a stand on where he stood theologically, but made it clear that there were people from both Arminian and Calvinist perspectives in the ministry. He issued a letter which condemned the manner in which the situation was handled, re-iterated the narrow mission of WyldLife- to lead young people into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, and explained that teaching Junior High kids such difficult theological subjects was beyond their capacity to honestly and Biblically evaluate. My co-leader and his parents resigned because for them eternal security was synonymous with the gospel itself.

As a result of this experience I have spent several years studying Calvinist doctrines. I have approached the subject with an open mind and asked God to lead me into his truth. I wanted to know the truth, even if it meant that what I believed was in error. Through this time of study I have become even stronger in my conviction that Arminianism best harmonizes with the overall teaching of Scripture. I respect anyone who seeks God’s truth with an open and honest heart, even if they come to different conclusions regarding important doctrines.

We live in a time where it is becoming increasingly popular to believe that Calvinism is just a nickname for the gospel. Charles Spurgeon once said, “It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else.” I beg to differ, and the purpose of this blog site is to evaluate Calvinism in the light of Biblical revelation in order to see where it conforms to the gospel and where it does not.

I reject all five points of Calvinism as Calvinists understand them. I reject that total depravity necessitates that one must be regenerated before they can believe. I reject unconditional individual election and reprobation. I reject an atonement made only for those whom God has unconditionally elected to save. I reject the doctrine of inevitable perseverance. You are welcome to disagree, and I look forward to your interaction.

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