Baffling Comment

Someone named JW ignored the stated purpose of the X-Calvinist Corner page and wrote the following:

Congratulations to all ex-Calvinists. Now you have the right to go to hell. It’s a precious right so guard it with all of your hearts.

I am not sure what to make of it.  Is this person suggesting that leaving Calvinism sends someone to hell?  Does the comment suggest that only Calvinists are saved?  If so, this is another disturbing example of the pride and intolerance of certain Calvinists towards any theology that wasn’t invented by John Calvin.  It really turns sola fide into sola Calvinism.  I wish I could say this is the minority view among Calvinists today, but I am really starting to wonder.  It seems to typify where the Neo-Reformed movement has been heading for quite some time.  Perhaps I have misunderstood.  If so, I invite the author of this comment to explain.

Advertisements

42 Responses

  1. I would think whoever is wrote was disparaging the Arminian freedom to resist God rather than automatically consigning Arminians to hell.

  2. That is exactly what the writer is doing. i have been subjected to sustained attacks from my Calvinist friends since I have abandoned the Calvinist theology.

    I’ve never seen anything like it. They all think I am going to hell, am stupid, a fake, fickle, and names that can’t be mentioned. It’s been eight months now and I have former “friends” that will not even speak to me, let alone debate me.

    If someone wants to debate the flawed system of Calvinist, bring them on. It is a system that cannot be defended if one uses the bible.

    The abuse has been unrelenting. It tells you a lot about the mentality of some of these people that are in total bondage to their theological system.

  3. slw,

    That could be, but the writer says nothing about freedom and specifically says they have the right to go to hell. Does that mean that if they had remained Calvinists they would not have the right to go to hell? And if they are still saved as Arminians, why speak at all about going to hell? If the writer meant what you suggest, it was a strange way to go about expressing it. That is why I still find it baffling.

  4. slw,

    You’re faaaaar more optimistic than I am here. I think that this Calvinist is saying that rejecting Calvinism is tantamount to revealing that one was never saved to begin with (because the biblical doctrine of the apostasy of regenerate believers is not an option for them). So I guess all those pre-Augustinian church fathers who unilaterally rejected the components of what would come be known collectively as “Calvinism” never knew Christ to begin with too! Oh, and the majority of the Church between Augustine and Calvin would have to be thrown into the mix as well. Wow. I know there have been a number of pseudo-believers in Church history, but the numbers of those divinely ordained before the foundation of the world for pseudo-salvation would sky-rocket here.

    And Ben, your suspicion about Calvinists’ beliefs in the reprobate state of Arminians is dead-on, in my opinion. While attending a seminary that was very much in bed with the neo-Calvinist resurgence, I came to see that many neo-Calvinists only tolerate non-Calvinists (be they tacit or full-blooded Arminians) until such time as they have to power and influence to jettison non-Calvinists from the evangelical churches/denominations, seminaries, and big-tent organizations. While this is in no way true of all neo-Calvinists, it is true of many of the most influential among them. And such disdain towards non-Calvinists is more powerful the younger the Calvinists are.

    LexCro

  5. Kangaroodort & JML,
    You could be right, I just found it hard to believe anyone could be that obtuse and was trying give the benefit of a doubt.

  6. Is this person suggesting that leaving Calvinism sends someone to hell? Does the comment suggest that only Calvinists are saved?

    Would you be shocked? I’ve received a couple of e-mails to this effect before. To think: God has deceived me so viciously, allowing me to think I’ve trusted in and love Christ with all my heart, yet He denied me of the Calvinism to which He once allowed me to hold, solely to damn me.

    That view of “God” is a mere idol, not the God of Scripture. I pity such deceived persons — I actually do pity them.

  7. It’s an example of baiting (quite likely), poor love, belief that heretics don’t deserve love, or of someone who has not thought through to the logical conclusions of their beliefs. Any response should be directed to those who might read that post, not to the poster him/herself.

  8. “Congratulations to all ex-Calvinists. Now you have the right to go to hell. It’s a precious right so guard it with all of your hearts.”
    I think the writer of this comment is expressing (with rancor) the view that ex-Calvinists want to think of salvation as a right instead of a gift. According to many self-professed Calvinists, the problem with thinking “saving faith” causes God to regenerate (as apposed to the orthodox view that “saving faith” is evidence of regeneration) is God is no longer in control and the “gift” is more of a right given to anyone who meets the “faith” requirement. By the way, orthodox Arminians before the 20th century also believed that “saving faith” was evidence of regeneration and not the cause of it. The anachronistic view of “saving faith” causing regeneration promoted by Locke and Restorationists Campbell and Stone has now become mainstream evangelical theology, but it’s not an Arminian versus Calvinist issue – it’s an orthodox versus non-orthodox issue.

  9. I did a double-take at that one. Wow. That person probably doesn’t care becasue it will “glorify” God through his sick worldview, though. God must really love barbeques! (Well he DID create Australians, like me!)

  10. What ;makes the least sense to me is that in saying “Now you have the right to go to hell” that somehow they didn’t have the right before. But if their destiny in going to heaven or hell was decided before the foundation of the world, how does that make sense? It’s a rather convulted statement made in unjustified anger, rather than a rational thought.

  11. Hello! I am a Brazilian Christianity student.

    Straight to the point? “Only Calvinism Saves”: this is a very pitful comment – and even a detraction of the “Mere Christianity” (quoting C.S. Lewis). This type of extremism is very dangerous inside the Chuch of Christ.

  12. Patrick,

    I have to disagree with you on the ordo salutis point regarding early Arminians. I don’t think it is that cut and dry. It seems that the Remonstrants had a different idea of what regeneration constituted, seeing it as phased, beginning with the renewal of the mind to make faith possible and continuing to spiritual life consequent to the faith that joins one to the source of life- Christ, and continuing further in sanctification. Arminius makes this point rather clearly in the following quote:

    “Besides, even true and living faith in Christ precedes regeneration strictly taken, and consisting of the mortification or death of the old man, and the vivification of the new man…For Christ becomes ours by faith, and we are engrafted into Christ, are made members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones, and, being thus planted with him, we coalesce or are united together, that we may draw from him the vivifying power of the Holy Spirit, by which power the old man is mortified and we rise again into a new life.” [Works Vol.2 pg. 233, Wesleyan Heritage Collection].

    Clearly, Arminius saw the beginning of spiritual life as consequent to faith.

    Even still, if there was confusion on the part of the first remonstrant’s with regards to the ordo salutis, it likely stemmed from their still being steeped in Reformed theology and coming out of that theological movement, which was itself still a novelty in Christian history and theology as a whole (as mentioned above, the main features of what came to be known as Calvinism were rejected by the ante-Nicene fathers and condemned as unique features of the Gnostic sects at the time). Only after Augustine changed his initial views on free will and election did parts of the church begin to embrace what had previously been considered heretical. And the idea that the regenerate can never fall away was unheard of prior to Calvin (that is some 1500+ years of Christian history against a view that many Calvinists today consider a test of orthodoxy).

    And your last comment is simply false. It is certainly not unorthodox to see faith as causing regeneration (or more properly, the God ordained condition for receiving new life and becoming a child of God since it is still God who “causes” the new birth in response to faith). Honestly, I don’t see how one can read the Bible and not see that faith precedes regeneration. It is all over Scripture.

    Also, it in no way follows that if God obligates Himself to grant a benefit in response to a condition that He lays down, that the receiving of the benefit becomes our “right”. God can certainly obligate Himself to grant an undeserved blessing on those who meet the condition He decides on, without that blessing becoming a “right” as a result. Likewise, God obligates Himself to answer the prayers of His people, and to sanctify them. However, such things are still considered to be undeserved acts of grace, and rightly so. God obligated Himself not to destroy the world again by flood in His promise to Noah. Does that then mean that sinful humanity has a “right” to not be destroyed in such a way? Of course not. It is an act of mercy and grace on the part of God. Calvinist logic on these points is likewise “baffling” in my opinion.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  13. I’ve spoken to – and know – many, many Calvinists. Very few espouse the view mentioned in the post above. Most who do are young in the faith (and in theology) and tend to be the sorts who troll around blogs making everybody think Calvinists are a bunch of raving everybody-but-us-goes-to-hell calvinazis. The truth is, there are many who have left Calvinism and have wonderful testimones; and there are many who leave Arminianism and have wonderful testimonies. It just depends on who you’re listening to.

    As for me, a Calvinist, I don’t think all non-Calvinists are going to hell. There is a caveat, however. I’ve heard statements to the effect of: “If the Bible really taught what Calvinists believe, I still wouldn’t believe it, and I certainly would never worship such a God!” Words like that bother me. Is it not more humble to say something like this: “I don’t believe Calvinism, but if it turned out to be true, then I suppose God has his reasons and is worthy of my worship”? I’ve heard both from non-Calvinists. It grieves me to say this, but if Calvinism is true, then the former statement is made by someone who probably does not know the Lord.

  14. Jason,
    Hypotheticals that are impossible shouldn’t bother anyone.

  15. Hello Kangaroodort-
    Thank you for this civil discussion. The sovereignty of God affects events in the Bible like gravity affects objects on earth …everything is subject to its influence. You can say you dropped the pencil, but it was gravity that caused the pencil to drop. ”that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body … And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption” (1 Cor 15:37-50) is a Biblical perspective of the sovereignty of God in salvation. Paul didn’t know the exact way the Blessed Hope would happen, but he knew God would have His way. The heathen farmer says “I planted, I weeded, I fertilized, I harvested my wheat.” The Christian farmer says “God gave me a good crop of wheat”. If 99 times the Bible says a person is saved by faith and only once says a person is saved by grace, we believe the Bible is saying that faith is by grace those 99 times because we believe in the sovereignty of God over the Bible. We believe grace causes faith and not the other way around because we believe in the sovereignty of God. Now, to the order of salvation. This is a modern problem caused by an a priori view of “saving faith”. We reconcile the 99 times the Bible says a person is saved by faith with the one time it says a person is saved by grace by saying that our faith is by the grace of God just as the labor of the Christian farmer who brought forth wheat from the ground did so by the grace of God. When does regeneration happen? If a person has “saving faith”, it has already happened. Why? Because the modern view of “saving faith” either means “the faith that saves” or “the faith that is evidence of salvation”. In either case the person is regenerated. Why? If a person has “saving faith” one moment and dies the next, he goes to heaven. Unless the person is regenerated by God, he will go to hell. If “saving faith” does not mean the person is regenerated, in what way can you say his faith is “saving”? By the way, I am taking a de facto view of regeneration only because modern man thinks in de facto terms. This isn’t the way the people in the Bible thought. Regarding Arminian views of regeneration as it relates to “saving faith”, the orthodox Arminian view of “saving faith” is it is the direct result of “saving grace”. If a person experiences “saving grace” one moment and dies the next, he must be regenerated or he would go to hell. . If “saving grace” does not mean the person is regenerated, in what way can you say his grace is “saving”? I apologize for such simplistic arguments, but obviously we are dealing with non-Biblical ways of thinking because almost everyone today does not have a Biblical understanding of the sovereignty of God. If I were speaking Biblically, I would discuss how God uses natural or common grace and natural or common faith in a process of “law work” leading people to the point of regeneration. But the reduction of theology has made such discussions too difficult because it would take hours to establish a common terminology. Nonetheless, I will dip my toe in the water and say I think when Arminius refers to “vital” faith preceding regeneration ( I do not know the Latin word he used), he is speaking of faith caused by prevenient grace, not the modern idea of “saving faith” caused by “saving grace”. As you know, Arminius believed God gives all persons the grace to be saved, but that grace is only called prevenient in those who accept it by faith and ultimately are saved. The faith to receive prevenient grace is not “saving faith”, because if it were, it would by definition imply the person is regenerated. The grace which enables the faith to receive prevenient grace is not “saving grace”, because if it were, it would by definition imply the person is regenerated. If a person travels by train from New York to Chicago, he wouldn’t say that stepping on the train in New York is how they got to Chicago, but Christians regularly say when they made a decision for Christ they were saved. Biblically speaking, we will be saved at the Blessed Hope, which is why the apostles always said things like “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou SHALT be saved” (Acts 16:31). But modern evangelism has reduced grace and faith to “saving grace” and “saving faith”, so we are forced to deal with that reality. God bless you.

  16. “Hypotheticals that are impossible shouldn’t bother anyone.” Slw

    This would be true if my hypothetical statement was impossible, but it’s not. I suppose what you mean is “Calvinism is an impossible idea, therefore no one should be bothered when condemning the God of Calvinism.” Perhaps you really believe this, but I’m not sure why. It is one thing to strongly believe something to be false, quite another to label it “impossible.” My earlier point is similar to what I see in discussions of tongues. Some view Pentecostal tongue-speech as a work of the devil. While I don’t view glossalalia as true biblical tongues, I don’t think it’s impossible that it could be, and I certainly would not label it as of the devil. I’ve always been bothered by those who do, because to bring such language into the discussion is foolish. Not only does it ignore the warnings of Jesus concerning blaspheming the Spirit, it brings the person into the realm of those Jude spoke about (Jude 8-10). In like manner, those who pronounce the God of Calvinism as unworthy of worship should more carefully consider their words.

    There’s also another interesting aspect of this. If one condemns the God of Calvinism as unfit to be worshiped, then it stands to reason that this God is false. And if false, Calvinists who worship this false deity are unsaved. That’s a clear implication of such a statement. Perhaps as many Arminians think Calvinists are unsaved, as Calvinists think the same of Arminians….

  17. Jason,
    The whole premise is ridiculous. It’s like asking somebody what they would do if the mice in their house were actually as large as elephants.

    Any thoughtful Arminian sees that Limited Atonement is impossible according to God’s word, that Irresistible Grace is a twisted take on God’s word, and that Unconditional Election is an unconditionally bad interpretation of God’s word. The whole system is impossible biblically and reflects God as he has revealed himself to be in the Word about as much as my filthy car reflects my image when I approach it (it doesn’t, not at all).

    How could any of us take a premise such as you’ve suggested seriously? Answers such as you’ve cited reflect nothing of our lack of love for God, but only our disdain for a ridiculous premise. It would be like me saying concerning those elephantine rodentia mentioned above that I’d hate them with implacable hatred for the mess they’d cause. God, as depicted in Calvinism is not an accurate depiction of God. To turn the tables on you, could an insult against the Samaritan Yahweh by an orthodox Jew be considered an insult against the Yahweh of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?

  18. slw,

    Several things need to be said.

    First, there’s very little substantive difference in what you just stated and the “Baffling Comment” made by JW. They are essentially the same, his was just more blunt. Furthermore, if a Calvinist had stated what you have, but with a Calvinistic bent, he would be condemned as just another typical, arrogant Calvinist. Are there double standards on this site, or is everyone just blind to this?

    Second, I’ve not presented a “ridiculous premise” because concepts such as irresistible grace and unconditional election (while obviously not to your liking) are not biblically impossible. No scholar thinks this, and certainly no historian who has considered the volumes written on the subject by both sides. If it were as obvious as you say, others would be saying it. In fact, it wouldn’t even be an issue of discussion. You’re not doing yourself, or Arminianism, any favors by so blatantly overstating your case.

    Third, if you really want an answer to this, an orthodox Jew (not sure what you mean by this, but assuming a Jew who takes the Torah seriously) would never insult the name of Yahweh. I don’t really see your point here.

    Fourth, let me state again in a different way. We have to be very cautious in the words we say, especially regarding God and his ways. If I ever heard a fellow Calvinist say he would never worship the God of Arminianism, I would rebuke him. Interestingly, I’ve never heard a Calvinist say this, even the staunch ones (and I’ve run into more than a few!). But I have heard such words from plenty of non-Calvinists, just as I’ve heard similar statements from people who don’t believe in hell, or who think it’s too narrow for just one way. We are condemned by our words, and it behooves us as Christians to be temperate in our speech.

  19. Jason,

    You wrote,

    I’ve spoken to – and know – many, many Calvinists. Very few espouse the view mentioned in the post above. Most who do are young in the faith (and in theology) and tend to be the sorts who troll around blogs making everybody think Calvinists are a bunch of raving everybody-but-us-goes-to-hell calvinazis.

    If only it were just those young Calvinists, as you say:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2011/11/05/j-i-packer-calls-arminianism-an-intellectual-sin-of-infirmity/

    http://wesleyanarminian.blogspot.com/2009/07/fun-calvinist-quotes-on-arminian.html

    There is a caveat, however. I’ve heard statements to the effect of: “If the Bible really taught what Calvinists believe, I still wouldn’t believe it, and I certainly would never worship such a God!” Words like that bother me. Is it not more humble to say something like this: “I don’t believe Calvinism, but if it turned out to be true, then I suppose God has his reasons and is worthy of my worship”? I’ve heard both from non-Calvinists. It grieves me to say this, but if Calvinism is true, then the former statement is made by someone who probably does not know the Lord.

    If Calvinism is true, then the former statement is made by those that God irresistibly decreed they should make such statements and think the way they do, with no more power to think or speak otherwise than to create a universe. And then, according to you, God consigns such people to hell for “not knowing the Lord” when knowing the Lord was as impossible for them as it was to make God cease to exist, all for His glory, of course. That’s exactly why some Arminians say they would not worship such a God. Still, I think Roger Olson answers this objection rather well when he writes,

    How strange. I DO love God as he genuinely is and not as White and others think he is. Let me ask you this–what if God revealed to you in a way you could not deny that he is actually Satan–that he and the devil are one and the same being in every respect. Would you worship him then? If you say yes, then all I can say is we are living on different planets (spiritually and intellectually). see comments section here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2011/11/j-i-packer-and-arminianism/

    And I suspect that since so many Calvinists see the Arminian conception of God as weak and puny and unable to save and subject to the will of man, and on and on and on, and see Arminianism as rank heresy, that many of them would likewise say that if that were truly how God were (though that in no way is how Arminianism perceives God) they would not worship such a God. But as has been mentioned, such hypotheticals are hardly worth debating. If you agree that it is wrong for Calvinists to assume that Arminians are unsaved simply because they are Arminians (which again, remember, in Calvinism is the result of an irresistible decree as well), then we need not quibble over such hypotheticals. I think we would also agree that whether one is Arminian or Calvinist in theology, one can still be lost despite such commitments to various theological systems. Maybe we should just leave it at that.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  20. Patrick,

    I hope to get to your follow-up comments soon but I am out of time for now. Let me just say that you seem to be reading a tremendous amount into Scriptures that do not even really relate to the subject and assuming your understanding of what salvation by grace means throughout (i.e., question begging). Some of what you write I am having trouble even understanding. Still, I hope to interact more and get some clarification when I get the chance. I think your comments on faith, grace, and the ordo salutis are demonstrably wrong from numerous Scriptures that actually directly relate to the subject. Hopefully, I will have some time to get into this in more detail with you. Until then, you might want to take a look at other posts I have written on the subject. You can go to “categories” on the left side bar and find numerous posts under “ordo salutis”, “irresistible grace”, “regeneration”, and “dead in sin”.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  21. Hello Ben-
    Thanks for taking the time – no hurry. I will read all the things you mentioned. I appreciate your input, whatever it may be. God bless you.

  22. Ben,

    Thanks for the response. First, let me point out that I didn’t say only young Calvinists are to blame for uttering either misrepresentations or absurdities. But they are the most likely to do so. Of course one can quote mine Calvinist scholars and authors and find objectionable material, just as I’ve read the same from Arminian scholars and authors.

    What I find most interesting in your response is that you lament when Calvinists misrepresent Arminianism (“that in no way is how Arminianism perceives God”) while doing the very same to Calvinism (“the former statement is made by those that God irresistibly decreed they should make such statements …”). Since Calvinists are compatibilists, they find your caricature incorrect, and rather uncharitable, to say the least. Calvinistic Compatibilism teaches that every person is fully responsible for every action, despite God’s foreordaining of the same. Of course you don’t think compatibilism is true, but that’s beside the point. You must engage Calvinism based on what it says, not on its perceived implications (the implication in this case being that if God ordains “A”, then the person performing “A” isn’t responsible. This has to be the implication; otherwise, your caricature loses all bite).

    Concerning Roger Olson’s statement in answer to James White, much could be said. His argument is fundamentally flawed, but instead of getting lengthy I want to show how it backfires.

    Suppose someone who doesn’t believe in hell (but is a Bible-believing Christian) states: “I don’t believe God will send anyone to eternal torment. But if it turns out to be true I wouldn’t worship such a God.” Both Arminians and Calvinists believe in hell and should be equally troubled by such a statement. Is this person really saying that if he finds out hell is real he will refuse to worship God? Shouldn’t he be more careful with his words? “Nonsense,” he says. “What if God revealed to you that he was actually the devil. Would you worship him then? Of course not! Besides, I was just being hypothetical, so no worries.” Whether uttered by Dr. Olson or Mr. Hell-denier, it’s a bad argument. And stating that God is not worthy of worship if he does unpalatable things (from our limited perspective) shows a failure to realize that God might have reasons beyond our understanding. Yes, ALL Christians should weigh their words very, very carefully before uttering words they might later regret.

  23. Jason, I agree with you that neither A’s nor C’s should say that they would not worship God if the other point of view turns out to be right, though I understand the sentiment. However, I think you are clearly wrong is charging that Ben has mischaracterized Calvinism. Compatibilists do indeed believe that God irresistibly decreed all that happens. So if and whenever someone makes the statement that they would not worship God if Calvinism were true, compatibilism does indeed hold that God irresistibly decreed that they make that statement. Ben said nothing of Calvinism holding that such people would not be responsible. That is the A view, and what Ben would think from his own perspective, but he does not attribute it to Calvinism. What is ironic is that the Arminian viewpoint in that is so obviously true and biblical that you, a Calvinist, appear to find the logic of it so compelling that you take it as the obvious import of the statement. Now Ben’s statement does work on 2 levels. It attributes to Calvinism exactly what it believes, but by doing so it indicts the Calvinistic view because it is so obvious that it is incompatible with human free will and accountability. But Ben never attributed that conclusion to Calvinism. So your criticism of him is way off there.

    (Unless you are taking issue with Ben’s use of the word “should” in his statement, you assuming it means “ought”. But “should” can mean “would” or even to indicate necessity, and I would not take Ben to mean that Calvinists think God decrees that people ought to make such statements, but that he decrees that they will necessarily make statements, that he decreed that they would make such statements.)

  24. Arminian1

    I appreciate the response. I understand what you’re saying, but I do still think that Ben mis-characterized Calvinism. Describing Calvinistic determinism without mentioning compatibilism leads to a definition that only an Arminian could love. Since Calvinists have a rather robust understanding of human responsibility, and Ben’s characterization of it does not, it is inadequate and misrepresents Calvinism. He said that in the Calvinist view Arminians have “no more power to think or speak otherwise…”, leading to the tired accusation that determinism means that we’re basically robots. Furthermore, you both used the term “irresistibly decreed” to describe human decisions. A better term would be “infallibly” in place of “irresistibly” since the latter implies (again, to the Arminian’s liking) that human decisions are somehow forced, or “not resistible” – as if people want to do otherwise but can’t, because God won’t decree it. Compatibilism fits with the term “infallibly” but not “irresistibly.”

    You are correct in that Ben did not specifically say that Calvinists hold that people are not responsible. But one need not do that to mischaracterize a viewpoint. For example, if I said, “basically, in the Arminian system you have people whose choice is greater than God’s choice, and God really isn’t powerful enough to save all people, because, again, their choice is more powerful than his. So the Arminian God isn’t truly sovereign at all.” Would an Arminian agree with my assessment? Would you agree that it’s a mischaracterization of Arminian beliefs? I didn’t have to say Arminians teach these things for it to be a caricature of their beliefs. Therefore, if I say something like the above, it is best stated with a preface like “Arminians may not say this, but I believe their system leads to these things – it’s implied.” And this says nothing of the fact that I left out prevenient grace, and Arminians hate it when that teaching is misrepresented, let alone left out (like how compatibilism is misunderstood and left out).

    Maybe these are just a minor things, more peccadillos than weightier matters. But it’s good to know at least some Arminians understand the need for care in the words we say, especially when it involves God.

  25. Jason said: “I appreciate the response. I understand what you’re saying, but I do still think that Ben mis-characterized Calvinism. Describing Calvinistic determinism without mentioning compatibilism leads to a definition that only an Arminian could love. Since Calvinists have a rather robust understanding of human responsibility, and Ben’s characterization of it does not, it is inadequate and misrepresents Calvinism.”

    ***** Not so if he described the view accurately, which he did. if he describes the end point of the view without mentioning the various unsuccessful ways Calvinists try to rescue responsibility in their system, that does not amount to mischaracterization. Either Calvinists think people have the power to other than they do or not. Saying that they think people don’t have the power to do otherwise is the Calvinist view. it is practically a text book definition of the Calvinist view. it is not incumbent upon ben to then go and try to defend the indefensible Calvinist view. It is perfectly acceptable to describe its basic stance on the specific question of free will accurately apart from the question of responsibility (it should not be incumbent upon Ben to address every aspect of the question; it should be perfectly allowable to zero in ion the question of free will) and let others draw their own conclusions about responsibility. Of course, ben intends for people to see that Calvinism does not logically allow for responsibility despite its claims. But the beauty of it is that simply describing the Calvinist view accurately accomplishes that.

    Jason said: “He said that in the Calvinist view Arminians have “no more power to think or speak otherwise…”, leading to the tired accusation that determinism means that we’re basically robots.”

    **** But that is an accurate description (as I said above, practically textbook) of the Calvinist view. It is not Ben’s problem that it logically leads to the conclusion that determinism entails that we are like robots. if the accusation is tired, it is because it is so obvious and right on target that stating the Calvinist view accurately leads practically to the charge automatically. The interesting thing is that ben didn’t even make that charge. Again, you think its as if he made it because he accurately described the Calvinist view, which I think betrays how accurate the charge is as a charge of what Calvinism logically demands, though not of what Calvinists actually believe, making them and Calvinism logically inconsistent.

    Jason said: “Furthermore, you both used the term “irresistibly decreed” to describe human decisions. A better term would be “infallibly” in place of “irresistibly” since the latter implies (again, to the Arminian’s liking) that human decisions are somehow forced, or “not resistible” – as if people want to do otherwise but can’t, because God won’t decree it. Compatibilism fits with the term “infallibly” but not “irresistibly.”

    ***** First, the language of irresistible does not imply that human decisions are forced. That is not what I mean when using that language, and I doubt that is what Ben means. Do you deny that God’s decree is irresistible? I have talked to tons of Calvinists and never had any of them deny that. They regularly confirm that as an accurate description of Calvinist theology. Indeed, irresistible grace is a term routinely used by Calvinists of their own theology. It may not have been their own invention, but they have come to own it with a vengeance. If God’s decree will certainly take place and necessitates what is decreed, then that decree cannot be successfully resisted. So I think you are way off here. but I am happy to use the term infallibly. it amounts to the same thing, someone cannot do other than God decrees he will do. He does exactly what God decrees and nothing else, no more, no less; he can do nothing other than that very thing because of God’s decree. That is Calvinist theology. Now IMO that would make us like robots and allow for no responsibility. But I fully acknowledge (and I believe Ben does too) that that conclusion is not the Calvinist view; it is a criticism of the Calvinist view and IMO the logical consequence of the Calvinist view. But ben didn’t even make that charge; he allowed Calvinism’s own view to make that impression by accurately stating its view.

    Jason said: “You are correct in that Ben did not specifically say that Calvinists hold that people are not responsible. But one need not do that to mischaracterize a viewpoint. For example, if I said, “basically, in the Arminian system you have people whose choice is greater than God’s choice, and God really isn’t powerful enough to save all people, because, again, their choice is more powerful than his. So the Arminian God isn’t truly sovereign at all.” Would an Arminian agree with my assessment?”

    ***** No, but this is nothing like what Ben did. Calvinists regularly agree with ben’s description of the Calvinist view whereas you have described the Arminian view in a way that no Arminian would. Your disagreement with Ben’s description is abnormal and idiosyncratic. So it seems unfair to judge Ben’s description by your fringe view of the issue.

  26. Playing the hell card. It’s so yesterday!

  27. arminian 1,

    Thanks so much for chiming in. I have such little time at the computer anymore it is hard for me to respond in a timely manner. You have done a fine job of demonstrating to Jason what I meant and why it was not a mischaracterization. Not sure if I could have put it better myself.

    Jason,

    You may not like the language of “irresistibly decreed”, but that does not mean it does not accurately reflect Calvinism. Did God decree all that we would think or do from eternity or not? If He did, can we resist that decree; go against it in anyway? Can we choose something contrary to that decree? If God decreed that we commit a certain sin, can we choose instead not to sin? If any of this is true, then it is certainly accurate to say that God’s decree is irresistible and we act in perfect accord with that irresistible decree, and then God punishes us for doing exactly as He caused us to do. Now I do think that just stating that makes people immediately see the problem this causes for human accountability. However, I was not saying that Calvinists do not believe we are accountable for our actions to God. I know that Calvinists do think we are accountable for the things we think and will, even though we have absolutely no control over what we think and will, and think and will all things as the “infallible” result of God’s irresistible decree. As an Arminian, I don’t think that makes sense, but just stating the fact that in Calvinism God controls our thoughts and actions and then holds us accountable for thoughts and actions we had no control over (i.e. punishes us, etc.), does not misrepresent Calvinism in the least. However, it does illustrate why some Arminians stutter to say they would find such a conception of God worthy of worship, which was my point.

    Still, your question does pose problems and if you think what I wrote hides things that might lead to misrepresentation, surely what you said does as well. That is why I pointed out the issue of the decree, since you ignored that important factor. Calvinists may have their supposed answers for such difficulties, but we need to speak clearly, as you have said. So, if you are going to say that if Calvinism is true, an Arminian who says that the Calvinist view of God is so repugnant that he or she would not find such a God worthy of worship, or could not worship such a God, does not know the Lord or may not be saved, we need to fully bring the Calvinist system to the forefront (since we are dealing with a hypothetical that assumes Calvinism is true) and mention the irresistible decree that stands behind it. That is all I did. You may not like it, but I am not sure why it should bother you since divine determinism is fundamental to Calvinist thought.

    For me, the Arminian is being silly in even saying that if Calvinism were true he wouldn’t worship the Calvinist God. The Arminian has to be a little inconsistent to say that, not fully embracing the Calvinist perspective. For if Calvinism is true, the Arminian cannot know for sure that they would not worship such a God. It is not up to them, but up to the irresistible decree of God. And though God may even decree for them to say such things now, He may have also decreed that they will eventually come to love the Calvinist conception of God, with no ability to resist that decree. If God wants them to love Him, they will love Him; and if God wants them to hate Him (and be punished for it), they will hate Him and be punished for it. That is plain and simple Calvinism, is it not? So the issue is silly to me from both angles. But what they mean is that they do not find the God portrayed in Calvinism to be worthy of worship. That is not so shocking is it? Even Calvinists will often admit that they had a great struggle with coming to accept Calvinism for many of those same reasons.

    Anyway, we see where such hyptheticals get us. They detract from the main issue of the post and do not really help anyone since such hypotheticals do not fit well when we cross from one view to the other. Suffice it to say that from my perspective, your hypothetical makes little sense, as described above.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  28. Jason wrote:

    “Describing Calvinistic determinism without mentioning compatibilism leads to a definition that only an Arminian could love. Since Calvinists have a rather robust understanding of human responsibility, and Ben’s characterization of it does not, it is inadequate and misrepresents Calvinism. He said that in the Calvinist view Arminians have “no more power to think or speak otherwise…”, leading to the tired accusation that determinism means that we’re basically robots.”

    Jason obviously you know that non-Calvinists quickly, often and virtually automatically upon hearing Calvinistic determinism/theological compatibilism described then start talking about how if THAT is true then humans become “robots”, “puppets”, “preprogrammed computers”, “sock puppets”, “finger puppets”, etc.

    Why do so many people start talking this way Jason?

    Arminian commenting on your words wrote:

    “It is not Ben’s problem that it logically leads to the conclusion that determinism entails that we are like robots. if the accusation is tired, it is because it is so obvious and right on target that stating the Calvinist view accurately leads practically to the charge automatically.”

    Note Arminian says that if the accusation is common or “tired”: “it is because it is so obvious and right on target”.

    He is correct, non-Calvinists almost automatically start speaking of puppets and robots when exposed to Calvinism.

    Jason brought this up, most likely because he has seen this happen so many times.

    But again the question is why?

    Why does it happen so many times?

    Why do so many people when exposed to hearing about Calvinism respond with these analogies?

    Arminian went onto say:

    “The interesting thing is that Ben didn’t even make that charge. Again, you think its as if he made it because he accurately described the Calvinist view, which I think betrays how accurate the charge is as a charge of what Calvinism logically demands, though not of what Calvinists actually believe, making them and Calvinism logically inconsistent.”

    This is an important distinction: what the Calvinistic compatibilism “logically demands” versus what “Calvinists actually believe” about themselves. Calvinists do not believe they or others are robots or puppets. But non-Calvinists upon hearing Calvinism being presented almost always and automatically start talking about robots and puppets.

    And that is a real problem for “compatibilism”.

    For if everything is decreed by God and if no one can do otherwise than what God decrees.

    Then we only and always do what God ordains/decreed for us to do.

    But if that is true then we do not have free will, we never have a choice and the proper description of history is fatalism .

    John Martin Fischer one of the most prominent contemporary philosophers in the discussions of free will, compatibilism, libertarian free will (who himself posits “semi-compatibilism”) defined fatalism as: “Fatalism is the doctrine that it is a logical or conceptual truth that no person is ever free to do otherwise.” (p. 12, John Martin Fischer, GOD, FOREKNOWLEDGE, AND FREEDOM).

    If God decreed every event, every detail of history as it takes place, then can we ever do otherwise than what God decreed?

    No.

    And if that is true, then by Fischer’s definition: CALVINISM IS FATALISM.

    And this explains why upon hearing Calvinism described and presented, so many myriads of people automatically start talking about robots and puppets. If all is decreed and we can therefore never do otherwise, this is fatalism, and in fatalism people become functionally just like robots and puppets.

    Now the Calvinist does not believe this to be true, but people talking about robots and puppets are not talking about how Calvinists view themselves, but what theological compatibilism **logically entails**.

    It entails fatalism, thus myriads of people automatically start talking about puppet and robots.

    Robert

  29. Patrick,

    I haven’t forgotten about you. I hope to get to your commenst sometime this week. Thanks for being patient.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  30. Jason,

    You wrote,

    Thanks for the response. First, let me point out that I didn’t say only young Calvinists are to blame for uttering either misrepresentations or absurdities. But they are the most likely to do so. Of course one can quote mine Calvinist scholars and authors and find objectionable material, just as I’ve read the same from Arminian scholars and authors.

    That may be the case, but it seemed that you were suggesting that very few older (maybe more “mature”) Calvinists would suggest such things. However, that is not the case as those many quotes demonstrate from Calvinists who are not only older and more “mature”, but are the mainstream teachers of Calvinsm in the past and in contemporary times; and that is just a sampling. I think you are underestimating and minimizing the extent of the problem among Calvinists, both old and young.

    Also, it is not just “objectionable” material I was referencing. That is rather subjective. I was speaking more to the tendency to consider Arminians as less than full or mature Christians (“barely saved” as Mac Arthur put it), or to suggest that they are not saved at all. You may find that rhetoric from Arminians as well, but I don’t think you can make the case that it is even close to being same the sort of problem as we see in Calvinism, both today and in the past.

    Indeed, both sides need to do better; but I think if we are honest we need to be able admit that it is a far bigger problem coming from the Calvinist side than from the Arminian side, both now and then.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  31. Hello Ben-
    Sorry if this is a repeat – I posted this comment on an old thread and I wasn’t sure if the old threads are still active.
    There is no need for you to respond to my previous comments as they were addressing the problem of de facto regeneration in modern theology and your comments were addressing the problem of irresistible grace in Calvinism – two different conversations. In your ordo salutis section, you wrote, “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 … But it is not at all unbiblical to believe that the decision of faith results in regeneration and salvation.” Could you tell me how long after “saving faith” regeneration typically takes place? Do you attribute the 80% of American Christians that “fall away” from Christian commitment while attending college to a lack of discipleship (modern idea) or a lack of disciples (Biblical idea)? What percentage of this 80% (if they do not repent) do you think will make it to heaven? Do you think this 80% would be considered “saved” 100 years ago by the typical Calvinist and Arminian minister? Do you think this 80% would be considered “saved” by any of the Apostles? I am researching modern ideas of salvation and covet your perspective. God bless you.

  32. Could you tell me how long after “saving faith” regeneration typically takes place?

    Immediately. There is probably no time lapse whatsoever. While faith comes first in logical order, they happen simultaneously in time.

    Do you attribute the 80% of American Christians that “fall away” from Christian commitment while attending college to a lack of discipleship (modern idea) or a lack of disciples (Biblical idea)?

    I am not really interested in speculating on any of this. I really do not know.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  33. Patrick,

    You wrote,

    Thank you for this civil discussion. The sovereignty of God affects events in the Bible like gravity affects objects on earth …everything is subject to its influence. You can say you dropped the pencil, but it was gravity that caused the pencil to drop. ”that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body … And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption” (1 Cor 15:37-50) is a Biblical perspective of the sovereignty of God in salvation. Paul didn’t know the exact way the Blessed Hope would happen, but he knew God would have His way.

    Sovereignty and exhaustive determinism are two different things. No Arminian will deny that God will accomplish all He sets out to accomplish. Arminians simply deny that God has to exhaustively determine all things in order for that to happen. God is not threatened by free will creatures. God can still accomplish His plans either through or in spite of the choices of free will creatures. He is that big and He is that wise. He doesn’t have to control our every thought, choice, and action in order to accomplish His ultimate plans.

    The heathen farmer says “I planted, I weeded, I fertilized, I harvested my wheat.” The Christian farmer says “God gave me a good crop of wheat”.

    Actually the Christian likewise can say that “I planted, I weeded…”, etc. Paul says so himself in 1 Cor. 3:5-9. All that Paul denies is that He caused the actual growth (increase), though his labor with God was necessary to effect that growth. That is why Paul says we are co-laborers with God (3:9). He even says we will be rewarded for our efforts (3:8). So it is both true that we plant and water and that God gives the increase. But we need to be careful in using such verses or concepts to give an absolute teaching on God’s sovereignty. That is not what they were intended to teach. Nor is Paul speaking here about receiving salvation by faith, but working for the gospel to build Christ’s church.

    If 99 times the Bible says a person is saved by faith and only once says a person is saved by grace, we believe the Bible is saying that faith is by grace those 99 times because we believe in the sovereignty of God over the Bible.

    But this assumes that faith excludes grace. It doesn’t. It establishes it. It is because faith receives a free and undeserved gift (salvation) that salvation can be said to be of grace and not of works (see Rom. 4, esp. verse 1-5). That is why Paul writes, “For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,…” (NASB) Likewise, we gain access to God’s saving grace through faith (5:2). Paul contrasts faith with works, not faith with grace. Rather, Paul says we are saved by grace because of faith.

    We believe grace causes faith and not the other way around because we believe in the sovereignty of God.

    If God is sovereign then He can make salvation conditioned on faith. God being sovereign doesn’t mean He must cause faith in us irresistibly. That doesn’t follow at all.

    Now, to the order of salvation. This is a modern problem caused by an a priori view of “saving faith”. We reconcile the 99 times the Bible says a person is saved by faith with the one time it says a person is saved by grace by saying that our faith is by the grace of God just as the labor of the Christian farmer who brought forth wheat from the ground did so by the grace of God.

    We are saved by grace through faith because faith receives an undeserved gift from God rather than earning or meriting it. That is all there is to it. It is that simple. Nowhere does the Bible say that salvation can be considered a gift only if it is irresistibly given. That is not what makes a gift a gift. But Arminians freely admit that we cannot believe apart from God’s gracious enabling. We only deny that God’s work to enable faith in us is irresistible. We cannot believe without this enabling work, but we can still reject Him despite God’s enabling.

    When does regeneration happen? If a person has “saving faith”, it has already happened.

    That is true so long as it is understood that regeneration results from faith and not the other way around.

    Why? Because the modern view of “saving faith” either means “the faith that saves” or “the faith that is evidence of salvation”. In either case the person is regenerated. Why? If a person has “saving faith” one moment and dies the next, he goes to heaven. Unless the person is regenerated by God, he will go to hell. If “saving faith” does not mean the person is regenerated, in what way can you say his faith is “saving”?

    I have no problem with any of this. If one has saving faith then he or she is regenerated and saved (obviously). That is not the issue. The issue is what comes logically first? Faith comes logically (not temporally) prior to regeneration/salvation.

    By the way, I am taking a de facto view of regeneration only because modern man thinks in de facto terms. This isn’t the way the people in the Bible thought. Regarding Arminian views of regeneration as it relates to “saving faith”, the orthodox Arminian view of “saving faith” is it is the direct result of “saving grace”. If a person experiences “saving grace” one moment and dies the next, he must be regenerated or he would go to hell. . If “saving grace” does not mean the person is regenerated, in what way can you say his grace is “saving”?

    See above. So long as one believes, he or she is regenerated and saved. But no matter how you look at it, either faith or regeneration must come logically first. The Bible is very clear that we are regenerated by faith.

    I apologize for such simplistic arguments, but obviously we are dealing with non-Biblical ways of thinking because almost everyone today does not have a Biblical understanding of the sovereignty of God.

    Right, Calvinists do not have a Biblical understanding of the sovereignty of God.

    If I were speaking Biblically, I would discuss how God uses natural or common grace and natural or common faith in a process of “law work” leading people to the point of regeneration. But the reduction of theology has made such discussions too difficult because it would take hours to establish a common terminology.

    You lost me.

    Nonetheless, I will dip my toe in the water and say I think when Arminius refers to “vital” faith preceding regeneration ( I do not know the Latin word he used), he is speaking of faith caused by prevenient grace, not the modern idea of “saving faith” caused by “saving grace”. As you know, Arminius believed God gives all persons the grace to be saved, but that grace is only called prevenient in those who accept it by faith and ultimately are saved.

    No, it is prevenient only because it precedes and makes faith and thereby salvation possible. Prevenient grace can work to bring someone to faith and be finally resisted. So preveneint grace is not prevenient only in those who are ultimately saved. Arminius never said such a thing.

    The faith to receive prevenient grace is not “saving faith”, because if it were, it would by definition imply the person is regenerated.

    Prevenient grace enables faith, it is not received by faith. Still, we can say that faith is a gift from God in the sense of God enabling faith. To receive the gift of faith through God’s enabling grace is simply to believe in response to that enabling grace.

    If a person travels by train from New York to Chicago, he wouldn’t say that stepping on the train in New York is how they got to Chicago, but Christians regularly say when they made a decision for Christ they were saved. Biblically speaking, we will be saved at the Blessed Hope, which is why the apostles always said things like “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou SHALT be saved” (Acts 16:31). But modern evangelism has reduced grace and faith to “saving grace” and “saving faith”, so we are forced to deal with that reality.

    You are correct in that we do not receive final salvation the moment we believe. However, we do experience a salvation that will not cease (i.e. will become final) as long as we continue to believe (“endure to the end”).

    God Bless,
    Ben

  34. Hello Ben-
    Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and the civil tone. God bless you.

  35. So Calvinism is an essential teaching now huh? Sound like Cultic thinking to me.

    “The term ‘cult of Christianity’ is used of a group, church or organization whose central teachings and/or practices are claimed to be biblical or representative of biblical Christianity, but which are in fact unbiblical and un-Christian.

    The term can also be applied to groups, organizations or churches whose statement of faith may sound orthodox, [b]but who add aberrant, heterodox, sub-orthodox and/or heretical teachings to such an extend that the essential doctrines of the Christian faith are negatively affected.[/b]”

    http://www.apologeticsindex.org/c45.html

  36. I have heard arminians make the same comments about calvinist, so it goes on on both sides.

  37. Dell,

    The post never claims that Arminians cannot or never make such unfortunate claims or comments. However, I do think this sort of thing is far more prevalent among Calvinists according to my own experience dealing with both Calvinists and Arminians for many years now (even to the point of many prominent Calvinists writing posts and articles trying to address the problem among Calvinists).

    God Bless,
    Ben

  38. Hello kangaroodort,
    It is true Calvinist say these things and I have read many posts with the Calvinist bashing Arminians. Many Calvinist don’t believe Arminians are Christians and even some Arminians don’t believe Calvinist are Christians. I’m just saying the lunacy is on both sides. I would consider myself Arminian for the most part, but just because I disagree with the teachings of Calvinism, I would not go as far as to say they are not saved, many are, many are not. We can hold a false teaching and still be saved. As long as we believe the fundamentals of the faith.
    I am a Southern Baptist member, and most SB are at least a 2 or 3 point Calvinist. I don’t believe in any of them, so that puts me at odds with the teachings thereof. I say that to say this, Even though I don’t accept any of the Calvinist teachings, I still believe many of the people I go to church with are saved.
    Most Christians come to Christ wayyy before they even hear anything about calvinism or arminianism.

    In Christ,
    Dell

  39. I mean no offence to anyone who has posted on this site – My comment is merely a random response to a particular thought. This last post illustrates the problem today is not Arminian or Calvinist -it’s orthodox versus heresy. Notice how “As long as we believe the fundamentals of the faith” is the minimum requirement for salvation instead of “ye must be born again”, the Evangelical distinctive up until the twentieth century. When Billy Sunday eliminated the Inquiry Room in the beginning of the twentieth century and started calling Inquirers “Converts” by virtue of their act of “saving faith”, de facto regeneration was tied to intellectual assent to certain truths. The first four or Luther’s ninety-five thesis repudiates such thinking – this is how far Protestants have moved away from orthodoxy. Instead of talking about the necessity of regeneration and the Biblical evidence of this experience, we argue over what version of intellectual truth we agree with. It reminds me of the Sadducee versus Pharisee dispute over whether Paul saw a spirit (Acts 23:9) while ignoring the Good News that God changes people supernaturally by grace. I mean no offence. God bless you.

  40. Non taken.
    The fundamentals would start with being born again. If one is not born again then they are going to hell. I think both Calvinist and Arminian would agree with that, unless one is so liberal being born again is just for the early Church and does not apply today, but then I would say that person is not born again and on their way to hell unless they do become born again.
    I went to your site and read over it. I have heard of Billy Sunday, but to be quit honest, I really don’t know much at all about him. From what little I read of him on your site he sounds like he would fall into the camp of easy believism. I do believe being born again is easy, but many have believed in vain. They had a head knowledge of salvation, but were never actually born again.
    Many have fallen into the trap that as long as one walks the isle and repeats after someone “the sinners prayer” thats it. I think some of them are saved and some may make several false confessions of faith before actually understanding they were truly lost, but in all likely hood most are lost and will continue to be, The fruits or the lack thereof will bear that out.
    What I see wrong with the Church today is, They are not preaching about sin and there is no conviction. One has to know they are lost because of their own sinfulness before they will know why they deserve eternal damnation. Once they understand they are deserving hell they are more likely to come to a true salvation.
    Paul laid this out very clearly in Romans. Romans 1:18-3:20 shows us why we deserve hell. Romans 3:21-ch4 gives us the answer to our problem, Faith.

  41. Hello Dell-

    Great comments – balanced and cogent.

    I agree with everything you said. God bless you. Patrick

  42. Thanks Patrick,

    I’ll have to make a note of that. I don’t know if I have ever heard anyone say they agreed with what I have to say. Generally I get beat about the head neck and shoulders with somebodies 400lb Bible.

    Blessings to you and yours’
    Dell

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: