Wondering With Calvinists

I often wonder at how Calvinists seem to shelve their deterministic doctrines and essentially adopt the contrary doctrines (of Arminianism) while trying to argue against Arminianism.  I see this all the time in modern print and on the internet, but it was no less a problem long ago.  The following is a quote from a Calvinist against the writings of Wesley which this Calvinist (Dr. Fairchild) imagined to be a serious misrepresentation of Calvinism: 

Dr. Fairchild speaks thus of a passage by Mr. Wesley: ” In the doctrinal Tracts, p. 172, is an address to Satan, which we have no hesitation in saying is fraught with the most concentrated blasphemy ever proceeding from the tongue or pen of mortal, whether Jew, Pagan, or Infidel, and all imputed to the Calvinists. One cannot help wondering how such transcendent impieties ever found their way into the mind of man ; I am not willing to transfer the language to these pages; but the work is doubtless accessible to most readers, having been sown broadcast over the land.” [Chreat Supper, p. 150.) He also indorses the charge of forgery which Toplady made against Mr. Wesley. (See p. 111.)  Emphasis mine.  Taken from The Calvinist Doctrine of Predestination Examined and Refuted, pg. 22

Really?  How can a Calvinist truly wonder “how such transcendent impieties ever found their way into the mind of man…?”  They found their way by irresistible eternal divine decree and the direct control over the will and the mind that the Sovereign God exercises over all of His creatures.  How else?  How did they find their way into Wesley’s mind?  By God and no one else, of course.  Surely Dr. Fairchild did not believe that Wesley exercised his mind independent of God’s irresistible eternal decree and exhaustive sovereign control, did he?  If such things did not originate in God long before Wesley was created, then where did they originate from?  Surely God foreknew such thoughts.  But the Calvinist will insist that God’s foreknowledge is based on His eternal decree, His plan that He will causally and infallibly bring about in time, down to the minutest detail.  So God planned and decreed such thoughts for Wesley from eternity and controlled his will to write exactly as he wrote.  Wesley had no more power to resist those eternally decreed thoughts and actions as he did to create a universe; and yet Fairchild “wonders”. I wonder too.  I wonder why it is so hard for Calvinists to be consistent with their theology in the way that they live and express themselves.  I wonder that the answer to that question isn’t rather obvious.

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40 Responses

  1. This post gave me cause to read Toplady’s furious letter to Wesley again. While I don’t believe a word of the scoundrel’s charge against Mr. Wesley, I would think that if Mr. Toplady were ever a consistent theologian he would have mounted his steed and made a charge against his impetuous God. To be consistent with his dastardly Calvinism, he should have railed against the Almighty with his fists in the air for decreeing such slander and libel against himself. Of course, none of this occurred and God is no way impetuous. A Calvinist is either consistent and true to Calvinism or inconsistent and allied with Christianity.

  2. A.M.M.,

    Exactly. Likewise, Fairchild should have directed his frustration to the God who determined that Wesley should think and write such things. His squabble was not ultimately with Wesley, but with God’s decree. His indignation against Wesley was really just indignation towards God. In the end he was just a pot talking back to the Potter for creating Wesley the way that He did and for decreeing that Wesley think and write the things he did. What a mess. It must be so hard to be a Calvinist and keep your sanity.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  3. He’s not asking what *caused* these thoughts in Wesley’s mind. He’s asking what reason a person could possibly have for believing the things Wesley attributes to Calvinists.

  4. I would guess the typical Calvinist answer would be to do what John Piper does and just quote Deuteronomy 29:29. I believe that passage is his favorite verse.

  5. These sorts of things are still going on today.

    In the introduction to his book Willing to Believe: The Controversy over Free Will, R. C. Sproul, Sr., when asked if he thinks Arminians are Christians, answers, “‘Yes, barely.’ They are Christians by what we call a felicitous inconsistency” (p. 25). Sproul then agrees with J. I. Packer, who states that Arminianism is “un-Christian” and/or “anti-Chrisitan” (p. 24).

    And then there are inconsistent and hypocritical Calvinist liars like Steven Nemes, who writes: “The implication [from this Arminian Perspectives post] is that consistent Calvinists are opposed to Christianity. Billy Birch isn’t the only one who thinks Calvinists aren’t Christians.” http://snemes.wordpress.com/2010/08/26/what-do-arminians-think-of-calvinists/

    Yet, I have never said that Calvinists aren’t Christians. Hence Nemes is a liar.

    If Calvinists want to be consistent with their deterministic views, then they should stop complaining about all of the heresies which they detect on a daily basis (including our Arminian blogs), and praise their God for confusing us for the sake of His glory.

  6. He’s not asking what *caused* these thoughts in Wesley’s mind. He’s asking what reason a person could possibly have for believing the things Wesley attributes to Calvinists.

    You are grasping badly. The language does not suggest that at all. Look at what he wrote:

    One cannot help wondering how such transcendent impieties ever found their way into the mind of man

    He is asking how these thoughts got there, not what reasons someone might have for saying such things. Even if he was speaking as to what the reasoning would be, he would still be inconsistent in his indignation since even such reasoning was decreed by God and outside of the control of the “reasoner”. Wesley could no more help to reason as he did in accordance with God’s decree as he could help thinking the thoughts he thought or writing the words he wrote in accordance with God’s decree. Why did any of it happen? Because God scripted it from eternity. Nothing to wonder about there.

  7. If Calvinists want to be consistent with their deterministic views, then they should stop complaining about all of the heresies which they detect on a daily basis (including our Arminian blogs), and praise their God for confusing us for the sake of His glory.

    Well said. But of course if determinism is true, then they cannot help but complain about heresies. God decreed that for them and they are powerless to resist. Apparently, God just loves to give Himself a hard time through us.

  8. But of course if determinism is true, then they cannot help but complain about heresies.

    Oh, right. I forgot. I’ve got to keep these things together.

  9. “Apparently, God just loves to give himself a hard time through us.”

    Ben,

    I’ve been laughing for eight minutes straight, with no end in sight! Brilliant!

  10. WWB: Except I’ve quoted you in support of my claims. You can deny that you think Calvinists aren’t Christians, but then your previous statements–which I quoted–become hard to interpret.

    In any case, you throw around the term “liar” too loosely–which suggests a sort of hostility in your demeanor. Even if what I said wasn’t true, that doesn’t entail I’m a liar–it could be I was genuinely mistaken about what you meant when, for instance, you called Calvinists gangrene on the limbs of the body of Christ.

    Kangaroodort said: He is asking how these thoughts got there, not what reasons someone might have for saying such things. Even if he was speaking as to what the reasoning would be, he would still be inconsistent in his indignation since even such reasoning was decreed by God and outside of the control of the “reasoner”. Wesley could no more help to reason as he did in accordance with God’s decree as he could help thinking the thoughts he thought or writing the words he wrote in accordance with God’s decree. Why did any of it happen? Because God scripted it from eternity. Nothing to wonder about there.

    Your reasoning is clouded. It makes perfect sense, when someone asks “How did these ideas come in your head?”, to respond, “My reasoning was x, y, z…” It is a perfectly sensible understanding of the question that it be an inquiry into reasons, not causes. An answer to the question of “How these thoughts got there” can be “I inferred X from Y, which I inferred from…, etc.”

    I also don’t understand the general point you are making, or more specifically, I don’t see why it should be true. Your argument seems to be that because the Calvinist believes various unfortunate events (like Birch’s dunder-headed inference that if what I said was false, I am therefore a liar) were ordained to occur by God, therefore the Calvinist can’t justifiedly feel resentment, take offense at such things, etc. I don’t get why this is so. You never provide argument, though that’s the usual for the Arminians like you on the internet–you just assert a Calvinist can’t justifiedly be upset, etc., as such things. Do you care to provide argumentation?

  11. Steven,

    Where are these infamous quotes of mine? Are you admitting that you lied? I have never, not once, ever stated that Calvinists are not Christians. Ergo, you have lied!

    BTW, gangrene on the body of Christ is still on the body of Christ, eh? Liar is as liar does.

  12. Steven and Billy,

    Let’s take it down a notch. It is a serious accusation coming from Steven that Billy has said that Calvinists are not Christians and he needs to provide documentation here before he will be allowed to comment further. If he has lied then Billy has a right to be angry and frustrated by being misrepresented in such a serious way. Still, this back and forth is getting a little ugly with name calling, etc. So lets calm down a little. The ball is now in Steven’s court to produce some solid documentation to back his claims. If he cannot do that then he is no longer welcomed here and we will all move on.

    Thanks,
    Ben

  13. Your reasoning is clouded. It makes perfect sense, when someone asks “How did these ideas come in your head?”, to respond, “My reasoning was x, y, z…”

    Fairchild asked how impieties came into the mind of man. However you want to spin it, the answer is still, “God”. I already explained how your “reasoning” dodge does nothing to help your case (whatever your case may be).

    I also don’t understand the general point you are making, or more specifically, I don’t see why it should be true. Your argument seems to be that because the Calvinist believes various unfortunate events (like Birch’s dunder-headed inference that if what I said was false, I am therefore a liar) were ordained to occur by God, therefore the Calvinist can’t justifiedly feel resentment, take offense at such things, etc.

    They can, of course. But they shouldn’t if they are to be consistent. Why should you get upset at what someone does knowing that God decreed for them to do it, gave them the idea and desire to do it, etc.? Are you upset with the decree of God? Are you upset with someone who is just acting in perfect accordance with God’s decree? I think that you are the one who needs to explain how that makes sense. Let’s see some argumentation from your side.

    You never provide argument, though that’s the usual for the Arminians like you on the internet–you just assert a Calvinist can’t justifiedly be upset, etc., as such things. Do you care to provide argumentation?

    Such inconsistencies are so painfully obvious that they really stand alone without the need for any detailed “argumentation” (though I explained the inconsistency in the post and in my follow-up comments). Perhaps they are not obvious to you. If so, please explain how such things are perfectly consistent, as you seem to claim. I get the feeling that if you were not so committed to Calvinist dogma you would have no problem seeing the difficulty. Perhaps your commitment to Calvinist philosophy has “clouded” your reasoning.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  14. Ben,

    I’m sorry for being so frustrated, but I hate being called a liar, when I know that I have never said that Calvinists are not Christians.

    Steven,

    The gangrene comment was regarding Calvinism, not Calvinists. Here is the quote: “Thank the Lord Himself that Calvinism’s understanding of God is not true. One can only pray that the spread of Calvinism will be cut off quickly, like a limb infected with gangrene which needs amputation (cf. 2 Tim. 2:17).” http://classicalarminianism.blogspot.com/2010/08/mystery-and-antinomy-in-calvinism.html

    You need to read more carefully in the future before spreading lies about others on the Internet.

  15. I fail to see how how the distinction between Calvinism and Calvinist is to be taken. Does the distinction really matter when one says that Calvinism is a perversion that needs to be cut off and how one either is a consistent Calvinist or allied with Christianity?

    If you truly believe that Calvinism is that egregious and that twisted and evil, then the people who believe it, preach it and support it must all be lying… correct? How are they different from any other non-believer and their twisted view of the god they worship?

    Whether you say that they are inconsistent or plainly call them liars the fact of the matter is that is how I would interpret what you say. For the life of me I do not understand how one can rail against a belief system so vehemently and use such strong emotive language and then think that saying “I only mean that about Calvinism, not Calvinists”. If Calvinism is so repugnant to you then so should the ones championing the system be. That is not to say that you have to love them less then other non-believers but to say such things about the system and claim that it does not apply to the person seems disingenuous to me.

    Boiling it down, if Calvinism is a lie that has been hatched from the depths of hell and you have people defending and proclaiming it then how are they not liars?

  16. Mitch,

    Then what shall we make of those Calvinists who say the same about Arminianism? John Piper has stated that Arminianism is on the precipice of damnable heresy. Don’t pretend like Calvinists have not said that and worse regarding Arminianism. And let us not forget Charles Spurgeons’ famous quote: Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. Boiling it down, if Arminianism is a lie that has been hatched from the depths of hell and you have people defending and proclaiming it then how are they not liars? It works both ways.

    Calvinists are not lying or liars, they have bought into a system which is not entirely accurate, and in some places is philosophical rather than explicitly biblical, IMO. To call them liars is to admit that they know the truth, that Calvinism is not right, and still promote its teachings. In the strictest sense, Mitch, they Calvinists would be deceived, not liars.

    If Calvinism (or Arminianism) was abandoned by all tomorrow, would those former Calvinists still be Christian? Of course they would still be Christian, because Calvinism (or Arminianism) is not tantamount with being Christian, i.e., there are Christians who are not Calvinists (or Arminian). To be Calvinist (or Arminian) is not to be Christian. While all Calvinists are Christians (qualified that they have been born again), not all Christians are Calvinists, because being Calvinist (holding to Calvinism) is not tantamount to being Christian.

  17. Mitch,

    I would say the issue lies in the intent of the person speaking. Genuine Calvinists certainly exist, and even if they are “inconsistent” by the opinions of Arminians, then that doesn’t necessarily mean they are intentional liars.

    Often, I think the context of the term “liar” implies intentional deception. But I don’t think it is gracious for anyone to assume that another person who claims Christ as Savior and Lord is intentionally lying about theology. And, for the record, I don’t believe the heart and intention of Ben, Billy, or J.C. is to bring condemnation upon Calvinists. They perceive theological truth to be different than the reformed crowd, but they appear to me to have the intention of defending Arminianism.

    There is nothing wrong with passionately defending truth. Thus, to answer your question, “How are they [Calvinists] not liars?”, I believe the three gentlemen listed above would affirm Calvinists as Christian brothers who have inconsistent theology, but do not intentionally lie with the intent to deceive.

    Billy, Ben, and J.C., please forgive me if I have spoken for you in an inaccurate manner. And, if my position is invalid in any way, I welcome your thoughts.

  18. William,

    I never meant to imply that the shoe does not fit on the other side. I have no problem saying that one is deceived (I would say that about all Arminians).

    I also agree that there is nothing wrong with passionately defending truth. Yet when Calvinism is described as evil, cancerous, etc. then how does it not also pertain to the person? I doubt the Apostle would rail against such vile teachings and then turn around and say “But I’m not talking or addressing the person, just their belief system”.

    It seems that the “Well they do it too” defense is being deployed by you and I will readily agree to that, but in the end that response goes nowhere.

  19. Mitch,

    I take it, then, that you would not subscribe to the “hate the sin but love the sinner” model? If we strictly follow your rule, then we should hate the sin and the sinner. Yet the sinner has been deceived by his or her sin nature, and the Evil one. I can hate the sin while loving and having pity on the deceived sinner. Thus I can also distinguish between the errors of Calvinism while considering Calvinists to be both Christian and not liars (though I think I just affirmed a negative).

    Understand that I do make distinctions between a person and his or her systematic beliefs. I consider Calvinists to be Christians, and I never stated that they were not, though Steven Nemes erroneously claims that I have.

  20. Never really found “hate the sin but love the sinner” very good. My point is simple, if you are correct and Calvinism is as vile and evil as you believe it to be, then it makes no sense to embrace some of its most ardent advocates. As I stated already, nothing wrong with still loving them, but if the Calvinist view is that distorted and that evil then I find it hard to believe that they would still be classified as brothers.

    You say that the system is not entirely accurate, but even those things which seem to be held in common is just an illusion. So while one can claim that there are some things in common the fact of the matter seems to be that those rare things that get passed off have completely different meanings to the differing sides.

    I acknowledge that you make a distinction between the person and their beliefs (not saying that Steven is wrong for I do not know what you have said elsewhere and what proof he might have), but to me that is just empty rhetoric. If I told you that your belief comes from hell and makes God the devil and is so vile that it sucks the love right out of you, but I have no problem with you and we can still be brothers then I would look at you kind of funny and think that you’re not all there.

  21. Mitch,

    I am really surprised at some of the things you are saying here:

    Never really found “hate the sin but love the sinner” very good.

    So what does that mean? We should hate sinners?

    My point is simple, if you are correct and Calvinism is as vile and evil as you believe it to be, then it makes no sense to embrace some of its most ardent advocates.

    You have made it very clear to both me and JC that you find Arminianism vile (though you may have never used that exact word). So do you not embrace us as bothers? Do you not embrace Billy as a brother in Christ? That isn’t consistent with other things you have said to me in several discussions. I think you may be getting a little too caught up defending a fellow Calvinist here to the point of taking things too far. Do you equate evangelism with convincing someone to be a Calvinist?

    I acknowledge that you make a distinction between the person and their beliefs (not saying that Steven is wrong for I do not know what you have said elsewhere and what proof he might have), but to me that is just empty rhetoric.

    No different than the empty rhetoric you have apparently employed yourslef in discussions with JC and me.

    If I told you that your belief comes from hell and makes God the devil and is so vile that it sucks the love right out of you, but I have no problem with you and we can still be brothers then I would look at you kind of funny and think that you’re not all there.

    And who said that exactly? Arminians may indeed point to where they believe such doctrines logically lead, and they may lead to some terrible things like making God seem worse than the devil (in that God irresistibly controls people to sin, whereas the devil can only tempt people to sin, etc.), but that is different than saying that all Calvinists are willing to go there (thankfully, most do not).

    I think it is fair to say that Alcoholism is a plague on our society. We could even call it a cancer. It leads to all kinds of terrible things. Alcoholics (or heavy drinkers) often abuse and/or neglect family members, drive drunk (and kill people in the process), squander their money unwisely, and get into all kinds of mischief as a result of being intoxicated. Since overindulging in alcohol can lead to such things (as well as serious health problems) we can properly term it as a danger, a plague, or a cancer. However, not all who overindulge, even on a regular basis, do such things. But the fact that it can so easily lead there should be troubling to people and motivate them to oppose drinking in excess.

    The same is basically true of Calvinism. I truly believe that Calvinism, when lived out consistently, can have serious negative affects on one’s spiritual life, relationship with God, and view of God’s character. For those reasons I see it as unhealthy for the church as a whole, especially since I see it as false. But that doesn’t mean that all Calvinists live consistently with what they believe (as this post demonstrates). It also doesn’t mean that Calvinists are simply not Christian.

    I have good friends who are Calvinists. My pastor believes in unconditional election and I have had many conversations with him about it. I have pointed out to him what I believe to be the dangerous implications of what he believes. Thankfully, he does not live consistently with what he believes. We get along fine and do ministry together. He loves God very much but has different ideas about how God saves and controls His world. I think such ideas can potentially harm his spiritual growth, but that does not mean he is not a Christian. It is a shame you cannot seem to grasp such important distinctions.

    I would feel the same way about someone who holds to prosperity doctrine. I see the doctrine as false and dangerous in many ways, some that could potentially harm someone’s faith (and something that has damaged the church at large). But I have no doubt that many prosperity proponents are solid Christians who truly love God, and I would certainly never hate them because they embrace such doctrines.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  22. Steven,

    You wrote,

    Your argument seems to be that because the Calvinist believes various unfortunate events (like Birch’s dunder-headed inference that if what I said was false, I am therefore a liar)…

    You are going to need to explain this to me. If you said that Billy doesn’t believe that Calvinists are Christian, and Billy never said that, nor does he believe that, then how exactly is it a “dunder-headed” inference to see that as lying on your part?

  23. Ben,

    I believe I wrote in two comments that you can still love the person, I am not a fan of hate the sin love the sinner slogan that is all. The last time I checked the sinner is what will get judged and God does not love the wicked.

    Thankfully I do not recall, nor do you, where I have said that Arminianism is vile and makes God the devil and all such stuff. I do believe it to be a serious and egregious error right up there with the prosperity doctrine, Open Theism and the like. What I find surprising is this assertion by you that a Calvinist must be inconsistent with Calvinism in order to be aligned with Christianity. So how is it not proper to infer from what you’ve said that a consistent Calvinist is not aligned with Christianity?

    Surely you would grant the huge gulf between saying that the prosperity doctrine is false and dangerous and saying that a doctrine is from hell.

  24. Hello Marvin,

    I really appreciated your post and want to commend the things that you said.

    And Mitch you really need to pay attention to what Marvin said: he nailed things very well.

    Marvin wrote:

    “I would say the issue lies in the intent of the person speaking. Genuine Calvinists certainly exist, and even if they are “inconsistent” by the opinions of Arminians, then that doesn’t necessarily mean they are intentional liars.”

    A person may believe certain beliefs without being a liar. We lie when we say something when we know what we are saying is in fact false. Committed calvinists believe their beliefs to be true, so they are not lying when presenting their beliefs.

    “Often, I think the context of the term “liar” implies intentional deception. But I don’t think it is gracious for anyone to assume that another person who claims Christ as Savior and Lord is intentionally lying about theology. And, for the record, I don’t believe the heart and intention of Ben, Billy, or J.C. is to bring condemnation upon Calvinists. They perceive theological truth to be different than the reformed crowd, but they appear to me to have the intention of defending Arminianism.”

    Exactly right.

    “There is nothing wrong with passionately defending truth. Thus, to answer your question, “How are they [Calvinists] not liars?”, I believe the three gentlemen listed above would affirm Calvinists as Christian brothers who have inconsistent theology, but do not intentionally lie with the intent to deceive.”

    Marvin understands things here very well.

    If someone knew that Calvinism were false and then went around presenting it as the truth, knowing it was false, THAT would be lying and deceitful.

    Presenting ideas that are in fact mistaken, which you believe to be true, is not lying.

    Take the example of Millennial views (there are Amills, Premills, Postmills, and Nomills people who know nothing about the Millennium! :-)). Say that Premill is correct, that would mean that Amills and Postmills are mistaken about the millennium. And say these Amills and Postmills affirm the trinity, the deity of Christ, that anyone who trusts Jesus alone for salvation is saved through faith alone not works, that the bible is the Word of God, that there is a final judgment and people end up either in Heaven or Hell, etc. etc. And say these Amills and Postmills espouse their mistaken views: would it be correct to describe them as liars? No, it would be more accurate to say they are MISTAKEN in their beliefs about the Millennium. Saying they are mistaken is also not saying they are not believers as they affirm essential Christian doctrines.

    Now if we can understand this with millennial views, then why can’t we understand that the same principles apply to Calvinists? If the Calvinist affirms things like the trinity, the deity of Christ, etc. but affirms the Calvinistic system: I don’t say he is not a Christian, rather, I say he is a Christian who holds to mistaken beliefs (just like I say the same thing about an Amill or Premill: they are Christians who hold to mistaken beliefs about the millennium). And of course they would say the same thing about Premills like me, and that is perfectly OK! 🙂

    “Billy, Ben, and J.C., please forgive me if I have spoken for you in an inaccurate manner. And, if my position is invalid in any way, I welcome your thoughts.”

    Marvin I think that everything that you said was true.

    Now to add a couple of things. I do a lot of evangelism in places where there are lots and lots of false system of theology and ideas. I hate some of these systems (e.g. Islam) but I don’t automatically hate all Muslims. I hate Mormon ideas, but I don’t hate Mormons and have in fact found them to be some of the nicest folks you will ever meet. There are ideas in Catholicism that I don’t like at all, yet I don’t automatically hate all Catholics.

    The fact is if you automatically hate individuals just because they are part of a group that is just pure prejudice and hatred, and there is no justification for it.

    It is much wiser and realistic to look at people on a case by case basis. I know Catholics who appear to be as hell bound as a person can seem: I know Catholics who love the Lord and really live out the Christian life. I can say the same about Calvinists or any other group you care to mention.

    The inability to respect or love people despite their false ideas and systems is in my opinion immaturity and lack of obedience to Christ’s commands.

    Now are there calvinists who act like total jerks? Yes. But there are also people from other groups that act like total jerks as well. Ya gotta take people on a case by case basis. Everybody in a particular group is not all the same, and everybody in a particular group usually does not have identical beliefs.

    Just look at Christianity, do all Christians have identical beliefs? No. Is every professing Christian the same? No. Are we liars if we hold some mistaken beliefs that we believe to be true? No Can a Christian hold some mistaken beliefs and still be saved? Yes.

    And if you want to be effective in leading others to Christ you will need to learn to distinguish a person from their belief system or group. And if your heart is really into seeing souls saved rather than building theological fortresses where you defend only your own beliefs and attack everybody else, then you will even be able to work with Christians who have other beliefs than you do.

    Robert

  25. Robert,

    Thank you for that response and I will definitely re-read Marvin comment above.

    Now when you use the millennial view as a guide I think that it does not apply. Granted that is how it should apply, but when one uses such emotive language and makes claims and assertions like the Calvinist god is worse than the devil, that the whole doctrine is repugnant and springs forth from the depths of hell and on and on, it is safe to say that is not how one discusses the different millennial views.

    Also, why am I getting bamboozled into a view that I’ve never stated, that I hate people automatically because they are part of a group. Where on earth did I say anything remotely close to that? Just because I’m not a fan of the slogan “hate the sin, but love the sinner”?

    Again the issue is not just about mistaken beliefs, but if one truly feels that a consistent Calvinist is not aligned with Christianity then in what way are they brothers? If some Satan worshiper asked me to go to the temple with him I would decline and preach the gospel to him. I wouldn’t say “Sure I’ll go even though I believe your view is dangerous and false, but I love you.” I would love him enough to tell him that he will be judged and that unless he repents and believes he will be damned for eternity.

  26. Robert,

    I appreciate your affirmation and find your ideas very well-thought and reasonable. It is refreshing to find someone with such an objective perspective. I welcome future interaction with you.

    MM

  27. Mitch wrote:

    “Thank you for that response and I will definitely re-read Marvin comment above.”

    Don’t just reread it, take it to heart!

    “Now when you use the millennial view as a guide I think that it does not apply. Granted that is how it should apply, but when one uses such emotive language and makes claims and assertions like the Calvinist god is worse than the devil, that the whole doctrine is repugnant and springs forth from the depths of hell and on and on, it is safe to say that is not how one discusses the different millennial views.”

    Not really the same principles apply. You say it does not apply to millennial views but I have seen arguments about the millennium where over-zealot persons declared those who held the other millennial view to not to be saved or not to be interpreting the bible literally, or a whole host of other false accusations and misrepresentations!

    And note your statement that: “Granted that is how it should apply”. Well that is exactly what I was talking about the principles that should apply. Just because some fundamentalists do not follow these principles does not mean they are wrong.

    “Again the issue is not just about mistaken beliefs, but if one truly feels that a consistent Calvinist is not aligned with Christianity then in what way are they brothers?”

    You may not have realized it but your question here brings up the key problems.

    I was talking about mistaken beliefs and made the point that Christians can be mistaken about some things and still be saved.
    But note your key phrase here: “but if one truly feels that a consistent Calvinist is not aligned with Christianity”.

    It is not that a consistent Calvinist is not saved, it is that a consistent Calvinist holds beliefs that contradict some of the bible and some of Christianity.

    It is that a consistent Calvinist holds SOME beliefs that are inconsistent with SOME Christian beliefs.

    Here is a way to put it. I know this may be difficult for you, but assume for the moment that Calvinism is false. Now assume “Joe” Calvinist holds to the following beliefs (the trinity, the deity of Christ, the inspiration and infallibility of scripture, justification by faith alone through faith alone, a final judgment, heaven and hell being eternal destinies, Jesus being God and coming in the flesh, the physical resurrection of Jesus from the dead, that all believers have their sins forgiven and are placed in the body of Christ, all believers receive the Holy Spirit, all believers are to live lives of obedience to God’s commands, all believers are to bear fruit as they abide in Christ, all believers will be raised at the end or have their bodies changed if they are alive when Jesus returns, there will be an eternal state where only believers will be present and there will be no more sin or suffering there, God created the entire universe out of nothing, etc. etc.) AND is in a personal and saving relationship with Jesus Christ: is “Joe” a genuine believer? I would say without hesitation, Yes.

    Now let’s flip it, instead of “Joe” the consistent Calvinist, consider “John” the perfectly consistent Arminian. And assume that Arminian beliefs are false, I know that will be easy for you Mitch! :-). Same question if “John” believes all of the things just mentioned AND is in a personal and saving relationship with Jesus Christ: is “John” a genuine believer? Again, I would say without hesitation, Yes.

    My point is that a true believer could be either a Calvinist or Arminian, hold all of these essential beliefs that genuine believers hold to , be mistaken about Calvinism or Arminianism and be a brother or sister in Christ.

    And we can do this little exercise with Catholics and Eastern Orthodox as well.

    “If some Satan worshiper asked me to go to the temple with him I would decline and preach the gospel to him. I wouldn’t say “Sure I’ll go even though I believe your view is dangerous and false, but I love you.” I would love him enough to tell him that he will be judged and that unless he repents and believes he will be damned for eternity.”

    Not a good analogy, for three good reasons.

    First, Calvinists do not worship the devil, they are not Satan worshippers. Some Calvinist beliefs if true lead to mistaken ideas about God, his character and his actions (ideas that contradict what God has revealed about Himself in scripture). But being mistaken in some of your ideas does not mean that you are not worshipping the one true God.

    Trust me I **know** real Satanists and they are not Calvinists nor Christians.

    Now could a Satanist pose as a Calvinist in order to infiltrate a church? Yes, but that is a different story.

    Secondly, if the Calvinist is mistaken, that does not make him **Like** a Satan worshipper. The Calvinist may be mistaken about Calvinism, but he/she still is trying to live the Christian life (the Satanist is not), still trying to be obedient to God and his commands (the Satanist is not and even goes so far to intentionally disobey God’s commands), still trying to lead others to Christ (the Satan worshipper is trying to get people to worship Satan not Christ).

    Third you said it yourself Mitch: “I would love him enough to tell him that he will be judged and that unless he repents and believes he will be damned for eternity.” In other words you would want him to become a Christian not remain a Satanist, right?

    Do you think Satanists want others to become genuine Christians?

    Robert

  28. Robert,

    Thanks for the time, but I get this eerie feeling that we are closer than it might appear. If the claim is as you say

    It is that a consistent Calvinist holds SOME beliefs that are inconsistent with SOME Christian beliefs.

    than I would not have an issue, well I would, but that’s neither here nor there. Yet the way I read the claim it comes across as

    A Calvinist can either be consistent with his Calvinism or be aligned with Christianity.

    notice the difference?

    Now for the life of me I cannot figure out how it is being assumed that I do not believe Arminians/Catholics/Eastern Orthodox are not saved. Now I agree that Calvinists are not Satan worshipers, but some of the rhetoric coming from your side sometimes makes it hard to distinguish and that is what I’m addressing. No doubt that believers can have differing views on a host of issues, but when the accusations are so wild and outrageous it makes it hard to believe the “well its not you I hate just everything that you believe and stand for.”

    Does that make sense?

  29. Mitch,

    You wrote:

    I believe I wrote in two comments that you can still love the person, I am not a fan of hate the sin love the sinner slogan that is all.

    But you did suggest that we should not consider those with such differing doctrines as A vs. C as brothers in Christ. You have not addressed that. Is that what you think?

    What I find surprising is this assertion by you that a Calvinist must be inconsistent with Calvinism in order to be aligned with Christianity. So how is it not proper to infer from what you’ve said that a consistent Calvinist is not aligned with Christianity?

    I never said such a thing, though I think A.M. Mallet at least seemed to imply it. You would need to ask him what he meant by that. I said I was glad that many Calvinists do not live consistently with what they believe because consistent Calvinism can lead to problems with spiritual growth, a proper conception of God’s character, etc. (just as prosperity doctrine leads to an improper conception of God’s character in picturing Him as a divine Santa Claus whose main concern is to make earthly life for Christians as pleasant and prosperous as possible, if they have the proper amount of faith and get rid of all negative thinking, of course). I did not say that if Calvinists live consistently with their doctrines they would not be able to still be a Christian. However, I will say that for me consistent Calvinism is what most people term hyper-Calvinism, and even many Calvinists question the salvation of hyper-Calvinists, depending on how far and in what ways they press their views.

    Surely you would grant the huge gulf between saying that the prosperity doctrine is false and dangerous and saying that a doctrine is from hell.

    Who are we referring to here in these frequent allusions to saying Calvinism or a certain doctrine is from hell? I know I never said that. However, any falsehood could be seen as possibly inspired by Satan for the purpose of eventually leading someone away from sound doctrine and making it more likely for someone to embrace more errors which might lead one further away from God and vital truths (without those initial falsehoods necessarily constituting such a falling away). At the least we would say that Satan never disapproves of any false teaching and would happily endorse it. But I do not think that is the same as saying Calvinism as a whole sale doctrine is hell born, or anything like that. It could, like so many errors, be born of the mistaken reasoning resulting from our corrupt nature or a general unwillingness to accept certain Biblical truths for a wide variety of reasons. Or it could stem from a desire to cling to a type of ironclad conditional security that the Bible does not really offer, etc. It could stem from a desire to feel special and unique in being one that God hand picked from all eternity among so many that were rejected and “passed over”. One can only speculate on the many reasons people have for coming up with and embracing various falsehoods, but there is no need to attribute such things to Satan or hell.

    But as Billy pointed out, numerous Calvinist have indeed stated that Arminianism is born of hell and much worse [see this link for many such unfortunate quotes: http://wesleyanarminian.blogspot.com/2009/07/fun-calvinist-quotes-on-arminian.html%5D. Thankfully, you do not endorse such things.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  30. Unfortunately, my week of consistent Internet access has basically come to an end. I may be able to get involved again later tonight, but if not I will not be able to respond to anything for several days (if not, weeks). I appreciate the feedback and the dialogue and I am happy to count Calvinists like Mitch brothers in Christ, providing they are truly trusting in Christ for salvation, as I believe Mitch is. I hope he likewise considers me a brother in Christ, despite my unfortunate and apparently God decreed commitment to Arminianism 🙂

    God Bless,
    Ben

  31. Ben,

    No idea why or how I would suggest that Arminians and Calvinists cannot be brothers in Christ. In fact I think that I have affirmed it several times in my comments. The question that I had/have is if one truly believes some of this stuff that is being said how could one still view them as brothers?

    Now in all of my comments thus far I’ve had the quote that I referenced above in mind. Granted I also spoke in generalities of hell and the like, but any google search will confirm that those things and more have been said of Calvinism. Please remember that I also acknowledged that both sides do it, but that does not make it right.

    So if I understand the quote correctly then how could one consider that person a brother in Christ? If someone is being consistent in their belief system and that does not align with Christianity then how and/or why would they be considered brothers?

    To be perfectly clear I consider Arminians to be brothers in Christ and would gladly fellowship with them, no matter my distaste for the doctrine itself.

  32. Now see, that’s essentially the point I’d like to make… If, as some Clvinists do believe, Arminainsm is true Christianity (I believe it is fully biblibally but nonetheless), then obviously God had a purpose for its existence within His Church, according to their own theology. If so, then why does the Calvinist have a problem with its existence??? Why does the Calvinist ARGUE against it? Isn’t the Calvinist simply arguing against what God had decreed to exist with (As James White would put it) “utlimate purpose”? Is not the pot speaking back to the Potter?? Is not thr Calvinit espunging althis energy for absolutely nothing?

    A terriblly illogical, absurd, existentially troubling, unendingly circular theology!

  33. Kangaroodort said: You are going to need to explain this to me. If you said that Billy doesn’t believe that Calvinists are Christian, and Billy never said that, nor does he believe that, then how exactly is it a “dunder-headed” inference to see that as lying on your part?

    If you actually were genuinely interested in an answer to this question, I might answer it, but it is clear you aren’t reading my posts in any detail. I said in my second comment (or whichever one it was you quoted from) that I could have been genuinely mistaken about Birch. Saying something false isn’t automatically lying, and it’s silly and naive to think so.

    And I’m not “particularly committed to Calvinist dogma”. I just don’t see the problem with feeling resentful at someone even if you believe God ultimately decreed it to be so. After all, being responsible for your actions is consistent with divine decree–and all that is required for being justifiedly resentful at another person is that they do something they shouldn’t have and they were morally responsible for their action.

    Birch:

    If you want evidence go on my blog. It’s obvious you read it–you shouldn’t have any trouble finding my post on it.

  34. There is a person who believes in Christ’s deity, viginal conception, bodily resurrection, and substitutionary sacrifice; in salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone; in the second coming and the judgment of the living and the dead … but he’s also a modalist, not a trinitarian. Do all of you agree that such a person **could** be a true Christian in spite of his error regarding the nature of the Deity? Do any of you think otherwise?

  35. Hello Vance,

    “There is a person who believes in Christ’s deity, viginal conception, bodily resurrection, and substitutionary sacrifice; in salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone; in the second coming and the judgment of the living and the dead …”

    So this person affirms some Christian essential doctrines.

    “ but he’s also a modalist, not a trinitarian.”

    So he denies the trinity, which is also essential Christian doctrine.

    What is the nature of their denial: is it due to lack of teaching and understanding of scripture or is it conscious rebellion and rejection of the truth?

    And in denying the trinity you understand that means he denies the Christian conception of God?

    “Do all of you agree that such a person **could** be a true Christian in spite of his error regarding the nature of the Deity? Do any of you think otherwise?”

    Depends on the person’s heart. If they are mistaken (say they are a new believer, not yet having experienced much Christian teaching) it is possible that they could be a believer and solid on some things and confused and mistaken on the trinity.

    But if they knowingly are rejecting the trinity, they know what the church teaches and what the scripture teaches, and yet consciously and purposely oppose what both the church and scripture say, then it is possible that they may think they are a believer but in reality are not.

    God knows the heart and we are saved if we are in a saving and personal relationship with the Lord (we are not saved by merely the affirmation of Christian doctrines). Having said that however, if a person was truly saved they would have the Spirit indwelling them and their opposition to the trinity would be opposition against the Spirit as well. Tell us more about this person, especially the precise nature of their rejection of the trinity.

    Robert

  36. Steven,

    You wrote:

    If you actually were genuinely interested in an answer to this question, I might answer it, but it is clear you aren’t reading my posts in any detail.

    I think you really need to be careful in jumping to conclusions, especially since your issue with Billy seems to be based on just that. Your “dunder headed” remark seemed to be your polite way of saying that Billy should not jump to unwarranted conclusions. I find that rather ironic since Billy’s frustration was clearly due to you jumping to unwarranted conclusions concerning what he had written on Calvinism. You jumped to the conclusion (wrongly), based on what Billy said about Calvinism being “gangrene” and such, that Billy therefore did not believe that Calvinists are Christians. I suppose we could say you were just mistaken, or we could say that you had made a “dunder headed” inference. Which would you prefer?

    And here you likewise “infer” that I am not reading your posts in detail. I am and did so your inference is incorrect. Were you just mistaken on that, or was this a “dunder headed” inference as well? I did not find your “I could have been genuinely mistaken” point very convincing since your initial post made a very straight forward and unjustified remark that Billy simply did not believe Calvinists were Christians. Nothing about “unless I have read him wrong” or ” it would seem based on some of the things he has said in the past (link)”, etc.; just a straightforward statement of fact on your part.

    Now if Billy was truly dunder headed in thinking you a liar for attributing beliefs to him which he has nowhere confirmed in his writings and has plainly denied (regardless of what you may have “inferred” from those writings), because you were simply mistaken, then I would think an amendment to your post is in order to clear up confusion. But it seems that so far you have no intentions of modifying your claim. Therefore, your “I might have just been mistaken” argument rings rather hollow and “seems” (if I may be forgiven for the inference) more like a dismissive and unnecessary snide remark than a genuine admission that you might very well have erred in saying such things of Billy.

    Perhaps Billy should respond:

    “In any case, you throw around [the the accusation that those who see Calvinism as very bad thing as necessarily implying that they likewise see Calvinists as unsaved] much to loosely–which suggests a sort of hostility in your demeanor.”

    Or perhaps he should say:

    “You can deny [that you lied about my believing that Calvinists aren’t Christians], but then your… statements–which [you wrote in your post]–become hard to interpret.

    That seems fair to me.

    You wrote:

    And I’m not “particularly committed to Calvinist dogma”.

    Well, chalk that up to a dunder headed inference on my part based on the many things you have written on your blog defending Calvinism and ridiculing Arminianism. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t change your mind or are not open to correction, but it certainly seems that you are rather “committed” at present, and that could certainly be “clouding” your reasoning (if I may so infer).

    I just don’t see the problem with feeling resentful at someone even if you believe God ultimately decreed it to be so.

    Well, I do. Do you resent God’s decree? The results of His decree? The particular way He has sovereignly chosen to control that “someone’s” will, emotions, and reasoning processes?

    After all, being responsible for your actions is consistent with divine decree–and all that is required for being justifiedly resentful at another person is that they do something they shouldn’t have and they were morally responsible for their action.

    So you assert, but to me it seems plain that you are just defending one irrational inconsistency with another of a similar nature (and I guess I could make a big deal of the absence of any detailed argument here just as you claimed was “typical” of internet Arminians in your first comment). Propping up one irrationality with another doesn’t amount to much of a defense as far as I am concerned.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  37. No idea why or how I would suggest that Arminians and Calvinists cannot be brothers in Christ. In fact I think that I have affirmed it several times in my comments. The question that I had/have is if one truly believes some of this stuff that is being said how could one still view them as brothers?

    I know that you made such affirmations, but it seemed inconsistent with some of the other things your were saying. I went back and re-read all of your comments and I now see how I could have misinterpreted those comments, so I apologize for the confusion on my part (see Steven, not so hard).

    To be perfectly clear I consider Arminians to be brothers in Christ and would gladly fellowship with them, no matter my distaste for the doctrine itself,

    That is very good to hear. We are on the same page there.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  38. Thanks for your reply, Robert. The “person” is actually representative of several persons I know of who seem very committed and orthodox in every way except for their view of God. It came to mind because the discussion above led me to think of how some people try to determine who is and who is not a truly converted Christian (“born again,” if you will). Some apologists seem to think that if you’re not trinitarian, you’re not Christian.[1] It seems to me that hyper-Calvinism’s view of the nature of God is at least as distorted (though in a different way) as modalism, Arianism, Socinianism, and all the Christological heresies the great councils of historic Christianity dealt with. If all non-trinitarians are not Christian, then I would have to think that hyper-Calvinists are not, either. I don’t see how their view of a God, who, for the sake of His own glory, decreed horrendous suffering for the millions not fortunate enough to be among those unconditionally elected unto eternal bliss, is any less heretical than these other views. I don’t think I’m being nasty when I say they have turned God into a monstrosity. How can one continue holding such a distorted view of God’s nature without eventually coming to the place where he either renounces it or hardens himself through resisting the Holy Spirit? Surely a born-again Christian who is a hyper-Calvinist cannot remain in that system without eventually having to resist the nudges of the Spirit.

    [1] Here’s an example: “If a person denies the Trinity they are in fact non-Christian by this very belief” (http://www.forgottenword.org/jakes.html).

  39. Maybe some here are still feeling less than perfectly represented or comprehended, even misrepresented.

    But perhaps having said a fair bit now, if we can just live with that without further reference, then I’d like to suggest new comments be attentive to the original post.

    The central point (which goes beyond the particulars of the Wesley incident) might be summed up in the philosophical question, “What is the appropriate response to determinism?”

    IF absolute determinism be true, by nature of divine and holy decree;
    then wherefore is there any form of repugnant reaction to events or circumstance where that reaction does not ultimately repel against the deterministic holy decree.

    Or extended to the particulars of the personal C/A discussion:

    IF a Calvinist consents that they subscribe to ultimate determinism (for not all shall, but Arminians think they must to be consistent),
    then where is there room to wonder over the ultimate origin of anything, particularly how how such transcendent impieties ever found their way into the mind of man”. Assumedly, at least the ultimate cause would be known of little wonder in such a deterministic system?

    I credit the insights many have brought so far and encourage more. And I credit B. P. Burnett for pointing more to the original topic before me and others.

  40. To repeat a sentence from my post above:
    “What is the appropriate response to determinism?”

    I believe that recognising the irony here in part answers the question – it would be considered moot to ask what is ‘appropriate’ if all things are really deterministically decreed, including all responses.

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