Lack of Historical Precedent For Calvinistic Perseverance

Read Steve Witzki’s excellent article here.  The article will also link you to an article by Calvinist John Jefferson Davis who also traces the doctrine back no further than John Calvin.  While the truthfulness of such doctrines must ultimately be decided through careful exegesis of Scripture, the novelty of Calvinist doctrines like inevitable perseverance should not be discounted (and personally I would find such things very troubling if I were a Calvinist).  Nor should Calvinists continue to make wild claims that their doctrines represent historical Christian orthodoxy.  Such claims are simply false.

Related posts:

The Early Church and Calvinism

Tim Warner, “Perseverance of the Saints”

Tim Warner, “Eternal Security?”

Church History and Calvinism

14 thoughts on “Lack of Historical Precedent For Calvinistic Perseverance

  1. Ben,

    You might like this as well: (it’s an audio by someone mentioned in the article that has to do with the topic at hand. I use to follow his ministry many many years ago)

    I like the older version from the 1990’s better, but I gave it away, and so this one will have to do.


  2. Ben,

    Thanks once again for your enlightening posts. May I ask for a post on “decisional regeneration” in contemporary Christianity? A post on this subject (which would best fall under the category of “soteriology”) could enable me to see your views on the work of the Holy Spirit and man’s responsibility in salvation.

  3. Hey Marvin,

    I know I’m not Ben,

    But might I recommend perusing through the categories on the left or using the search bar for the many articles on this blog. – As I’m sure Ben might be happy to help if he has the time but you’ll see he has already written a wide variety of articles dealing with regeneration, the role of the Holy Spirit and man’s responsibility in salvation, etc. I doubt anyone would come away from reading through them without quite an extensive understanding of his personal views and some of Arminian theology in general.

    Hey Ben

  4. Marvin,

    I haven’t written specifically on “decisional regeneration”. That is quite the loaded phrase, isn’t it? Can you tell me specifically what you are wondering about and what definition you are working with?

  5. Ben,

    It is a loaded phrase, and I worded it this way because the average Christian perceives their salvation in this way. “If I accept Christ, then I’ll go to Heaven” is the normal perception, and while I adhere to synergistic soteriology, I do sense a danger with this theological concept. Please note that I’m not trying to trick you or back you into some “corner,” I’m rather offering an invitation to a theologian I’ve grown to admire and trust to write an article on a subject about which I could use clarification and insight. Does that make sense?

    Happy Thanksgiving, Brother Ben.


  6. Marvin,

    I wasn’t thinking that you were trying to trap me. It was just a matter of gaining clarity. I think “decisional regeneration” is a hard phrase to pin down and is just thrown around as a slander by Calvinists towards those who do not believe that regeneration precedes faith or that regeneration is irresistibly and unconditionally given to the “elect” alone. But there can be much more to it and so I wanted to be clear as to what your specific concern was.

    One side would seem to be challenging the idea that one can be regenerated based on a decision. Well, I think that is false. It is certainly a decision to put faith in Christ and faith in Christ will certainly result in regeneration. So in that way, I do not have a problem with “decisional regeneration” since it is Biblical (though the phrase is not, and, again, seemingly intentionally phrased in such a way as to try to paint as negative the view that faith precedes regeneration, or that salvation can be conditioned on faith in Christ).

    I also do not really have a problem with people being challenged to “accept Christ”. Again, the phrase may not be perfectly Biblical, but I do not see much of a difference between accepting Christ and receiving Him by faith (John 1:12, 13, which BTW is an excellent text showing that faith precedes regeneration). Truly, the Jews that Peter preached to in Acts 2 and 3 were being challenged to “accept” Jesus as their long awaited Messiah and repent on the basis that He was who Peter claimed Him to be, though Peter never used the phrase “accept Christ”. The Bible plainly condemns those who reject Christ and the truth of His gospel, so why would we have a problem with challenging people to accept Christ and His gospel?

    The broader concern is with churches who simply ask for decisions and ask people to sign decision cards and assume that such people are necessarily saved or will remain saved based on a one time “decision”. I do think it needs to be emphasized that our initial act of faith in Christ is just the beginning and this should be followed up by strong discipleship. Christ told us to make disciples and not just get “decisions”. So I agree that the form of evangelism in many churches and among many Christians is woefully inadequate and as a result largely ineffective. I think the church needs to make changes in this area and the cost of following Christ should be emphasized and discipleship must be strongly practiced. But it is not at all unbiblical to believe that the decision of faith results in regeneration and salvation, nor is it unbiblical to entreat unbelievers to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior, etc.

    What is strange is that Calvinists make such a big deal out of this. Can a faulty presentation of the gospel prevent the elect from becoming regenerated unto faith? Why should we be concerned with “false conversions” if Calvinism is true? If such people are reprobates, no amount of perfect gospel presentations can bring them to salvation and if they are elect then no amount of false teaching or less than perfect gospel presentations can prevent them from coming to salvation. Calvinists often boast that, unlike the Arminian, they do not need to be concerned with the “presentation” or worry themselves that they might not be convincing, since God will work regeneration in His elect despite such imperfections or short comings on the part of the one sharing the gospel. But then they turn around and criticize those whose gospel presentation they believe to be less than perfect as if damage can be done to the church as a result. But God’s church is made up of the unconditionally elect in Calvinism and that number of elect can never change. So what damage can possibly be done to the church in such a view? Everything is proceeding according to plan and God cannot fail to save all of His elect (as if the “elect” were ever in any real danger of anything anyway since they were chosen for salvation unconditionally before the creation of the world; i.e. what are they “saved” from really?).

    Every faulty gospel presentation has been decreed by God to be presented just as it is and could not have possibly proceeded in any other way. Our every thought and action is predetermined so why should we be upset about what God irresistibly causes people to do in perfect accordance with His irresistible and unchangeable eternal decree? But then again the Calvinists getting upset and sounding the “alarm” is equally decreed and they do such things in accordance with God’s irresistible and unchangeable eternal decree as well. So God is always fighting with Himself and arguing with Himself and giving Himself a hard time through us. Such are the absurdities of Calvinist theology.

    Anyway, that is my basic take on it. Does that help?

    God Bless,

  7. Ben,

    I enjoyed the theological insight, philosophical rationale, and logical presentation of your arguments. I, too, am in total agreement that we present the gospel with the purpose of seeing people “accept” Christ. The arguments presented by those of the reformed persuasion seem to center on semantics and not necessarily on theological inconsistencies of Arminians (and this, BTW, is just a generalization of what I’ve witnessed). One question to begin with: have you noticed inconsistencies in Calvinistic explanations of their theology? Now, I know that many also exist among Arminians, semi-Pelagians, and those in between (1-, 2-, 3-, and 4-pointers), but often the lines are blurred by inexact terms or imprecise epistemology. “Soft Calvinists” or even those termed “moderate” would qualify as historical Arminians from what I’ve read. I was blown away when Puritan Lad welcomed me to Geneva on my personal blog! Historical Calvinists and modern day proponents of historical Calvinism would NOT agree with my assessment of universal availability (Sproul, Piper, Mahaney, Dever, etc.). See the cause of much of my confusion and frustration? That’s why you have been such a breath of fresh air to me and for me.

    I have struggled with the idea of Calvinism for a long time and I narrowed my complaints to about five areas that troubled me most:

    1. That God does not provide equal opportunity for grace to all of humanity – which appears to boil down to a dispute about God’s character. Does he truly predestinate some unlucky souls to hell for no reason? My only biblical question about this involves those in history who were born in places that prevented them from hearing the Gospel. Does not God sovereignly decree these things?

    2. That I have no ability to even recognize my need for God because sin has so totally corrupted my nature. I am all for the belief of total depravity, and I believe humanity is corrupted by sin, but how do you explain a secular drug user kicking the habit on his/her own without a regenerating effect on his/her spirit?

    3. If election is unconditional, and salvation is monergistic, why are there so many imperatives in the Bible that direct humanity to believe and repent? It would seem that if our cooperation was unneeded and unwarranted for salvation/election, then we wouldn’t need to be directed in that capacity – the Holy Spirit would sovereignly yield that effect.

    4. The fact that Calvinists try to qualify grace as irresistable is a bit hard to swallow. I mean, I believe that God is sovereign, so He can choose to save people in whatever way possible. I believe in the POSSIBILITY of monergism, since sovereignty implies the possibility of such (as it does not violate the character/nature/essence of God). However, I believe that biblical imperatives imply our necessary cooperation to effect salvation.

    5. How can God command ALL MEN EVERYWHERE to repent if He has not interstitially given men this ability (cf. Acts 17:30)?

    Any thoughts you’d like to add, Ben, would be greatly appreciated and immensely helpful. Thanks again!


  8. Ben,

    One more thing: have you noticed any holes in James White’s theological positions? He tries so hard to be the “champion” Calvinist apologist, but you seem to put my mind and heart to rest with your assessment of Scriptural truth.

    Any thoughts on White’s assessments?

  9. Marvin,

    To what exactly are you referring? Obviously, I think his theological position on Calvinism is total hogwash. I have interacted with some of his writings a few times in past posts, and I think I will again shortly. Here are a few for you to check out:

    Who is Sanctified in Hebrews 10:29?

    Those in Glass Ivory Towers Shouldn’t Throw Stones

    An Exegetical Vindication of Matthew 23:37

    Examining a Rather Strange Proof Text For Irresistible Grace

    God Bless,

  10. Ben,

    Thanks for the links to your specific posts…I’ve examined a few posts, but not nearly as many I’d like to peruse (you have been blessed to post extensively on important theological matters!). I will continue to sift through and study your posts with an excited heart and an appreciative spirit…you are an answer to my prayers!


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