Preach Reprobation and Preach it Hard!

As I noted in my previous post, according to Jesus, far more will be lost than saved (Matt. 7:13, 14).  In Calvinism this can only mean that God has reprobated from eternity far more than He has elected to save.  According to Calvinism, God’s reprobation of most of humanity is “for His glory”.  From this it seems safe to conclude that God’s action in reprobation brings Him far more glory than His action in electing to salvation.  The fact that far more will end up in hell than in heaven in accordance with God’s irresistible eternal decree brings God ultimate glory [1].  If that is the case, it seems to me that Calvinists should focus much more on reprobation and God’s act of reprobating the majority of mankind, consigning them to an eternity of unimaginable suffering for the sins and unbelief that God irresistibly decreed for them from eternity, than on God’s electing the few to salvation [2].

But when Arminians focus on the “horrible decree”, Calvinists typically want to quickly divert our attention to the few who get saved instead of dwelling on the many who have been reprobated to eternal suffering by way of God’s irresistible eternal decree.  Why not glory in the reprobation of many, especially since it seems that reprobation must bring God far more glory than election unto salvation?

For all their talk about Arminians supposedly robbing God of His glory, it seems that Arminians are the ones who are trying to give God more glory by focusing on God’s irresistible decree of reprobation in discussing Calvinism.


[1] This note is an update after receiving feedback on the post from a fellow Arminian.  He pointed out that this post could be seen as misrepresenting the Calvinist position since in Calvinism reprobation can be seen to give God more glory “in conjunction” with election so that “the misery of the reprobate serves to highlight and exalt the blessedness of the elect”.  I agree that this is the Calvinist view, but I would argue that my post doesn’t misrepresent this position (though I could have made my point clearer), since in Calvinism this really doesn’t explain why God needs to reprobate the vast majority of humanity.  If the argument is that the more that are reprobated, the more election looks good, then God would have ultimately glorified Himself by reprobating all but one person, or something like that.  So the question remains: Why would God need to reprobate so many?  If it is to enhance His glory in election then reprobation of more than are elected gives God more glory, and Calvinists should at least focus on reprobation more, especially on the fact that God gets more glory in election by reprobating far more than he elects.  That is something that Calvinists typically want to downplay, even denying the obvious (as some, like James White, seem to almost deny the charge, immediately focusing on the Revelation text of a multitude in heaven to draw attention away from the fact that there are far, far more that are reprobated) in order to take attention away from the disproportion between election and reprobation.  If the disproportion brings God greater glory, then it should be a focus of Calvinist preaching, rather than largely ignored, downplayed, or swept under the rug altogether.

[2] As I mentioned in my last post, I agree with Wesley that whether we view reprobation as passive or active, it amounts to the same thing (see his two sermons, Predestination Calmly Considered and On Predestination).  It is also unclear how reprobation can be considered passive in any way that would relieve the difficulty that Calvinists seem to hope to relieve when considered against the backdrop of God’s exhaustive deterministic control (what Calvinists wrongly term “Sovereignty”).

Does Erwin Lutzer Offer False Hope to Calvinist Parents?

I hope to do a few posts on Erwin Lutzer’s[1] book, The Doctrines That Divide: A Fresh Look at the Historic Doctrines That Separate Christians.  One might expect that such a book would look to lessen division and ease tension between Christians, but it seems that Lutzer’s purpose is more to present certain divisive doctrines and explain why his views of the doctrines are correct.  Many of the issues center on the major doctrinal disagreements between Catholics and non-Catholics and as a non-Catholic I agree with Lutzer’s general assessment against Catholic dogma.

However, Lutzer’s book is not limited to the divisions between Catholics and non-Catholics.  Lutzer also examines doctrinal controversies within protestant Christianity and one of these main controversies centers on the debate concerning Calvinism and Arminianism.

Unfortunately, Lutzer does not set himself apart from the many Calvinist authors who misrepresent Arminianism and the history of the controversy in an apparent attempt to paint Calvinism as orthodoxy and Arminianism as a sort of unfortunate heresy left over from the protestant break with Catholicism.  I hope to take a closer look at many of Lutzer’s claims and arguments in a series of posts.  This post, however, will simply examine an important difficulty with Calvinism that Lutzer rightly identifies along with his proposed solution.

In dealing with the Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election Lutzer ponders the problem of evangelism in Calvinism.  He concludes that Arminians are really no better off than Calvinists with regards to the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of evangelism in their theological system (more on that in a future post), as well as why one can supposedly have confidence in his or her elect status in Calvinism even though the decree of election is secret (for serious problems regarding salvation assurance in Calvinism see this post).  He then shifts to an interesting question and takes only a paragraph to dispatch the concern with what he seems to think is a sufficient solution.  He writes,

God’s choice of those who will be saved appears to be neither random nor arbitrary.  He planned the context in which they would be converted.  That is why I have never wondered whether my children are among the elect.  Since they were born into a Christian home, we can believe that the means of their salvation will be the faithful teaching of God’s Word.  God’s decision to save us involved planning where we would be born and the circumstances that would lead us to Christ.  Election is part of a total picture. (The Doctrines that Divide, pg. 217, italics his)

The person I borrowed Lutzer’s book from wrote “very comforting” in the margin next to this paragraph.  But does Lutzer’s solution really offer enough certainty to provide a Calvinist with any real comfort concerning the eternal destiny of their children?  I don’t see that it possibly can given fundamental Calvinist assumptions and the way that they have traditionally handled certain passages of Scripture to support unconditional election.

Lutzer seems to be suggesting that if one is born in a Christian home, that person will grow up to hear the gospel and be converted.  Is that really what he thinks?  Surely he is aware of cases where children have grown up in Christian homes under godly Biblical teaching and yet rejected God and lived and died as unbelievers.  It seems to me that there have been many Atheists who grew up as children of ministers[2].  Indeed, in Calvinism the “means” or “context” is never enough.  The reprobate can hear the gospel a thousand times and will never believe it.  In fact, God has made it impossible for him or her to believe.

While the proper means and context may be a necessary ingredient in Calvinism, without an irresistible regenerating act of God no amount of means or context can ever avail.  How can Lutzer assume that because his children are being placed in a context where they can receive the means of conversion that conversion will necessarily follow?  He can’t if Calvinism is true.  Sadly, if one of his children is among the reprobate no amount of context or means can help that child.  Context and means cannot change a decree that was made by God from eternity.  Context and means cannot help a reprobate who will forever be denied the regenerating grace of God in accordance with an unchangeable eternal decree.

To be perfectly frank, what right does Lutzer have to even hope that his children are elect when reprobation supposedly magnifies God’s glory?  What if God wants to magnify His glory by reprobating one of Lutzer’s children?  In such a case Lutzer’s hopes would be in stark contrast to God’s desire to magnify Himself and His glory through the reprobation of one of Lutzer’s children.

Perhaps God wants to display His “mercy” and “love” in one child by contrasting His electing love of the one child with His reprobating hatred of the other child.  Perhaps this reprobation will help the elect child to better recognize and revel in God’s mercy and grace and thus magnify God’s grace and mercy in that elect child in such a way that would not have been possible had the other child been elected as well (or perhaps this reprobation will serve to help Lutzer better appreciate His own election as well).  Such thoughts are hard to even write, yet these are the unavoidable implications of what Calvinists regularly teach concerning God’s grace and supposed reasons for reprobating most of humanity.[3]  But even beyond that we have a traditional Calvinist proof text that flatly contradicts Lutzer’s claims,

Not only that, but Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac.  Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad- in order that God’s purpose in election would stand: not by works but by him who calls- she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”  Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” (Romans 9:10-13)

This is the primary Calvinist proof text for unconditional election and this passage completely undermines Lutzer’s claims.  Esau and Jacob were born to quite possibly the godliest family on the planet at that time.  They grew up under godly teaching and instruction.  Yet, despite all of that, according to Calvinism, Esau was hated by God from the womb and this hatred is supposedly to be equated with the eternal decree of reprobation.

If the first born son of Isaac can be a hopeless reprobate (despite his father’s love for him over his supposedly unconditionally “elect” son), then why can’t one of Erwin Lutzer’s children likewise be a hopeless reprobate despite the context and means of being brought up in a godly environment?  In fact, if we can learn anything from this, God might very well reprobate the favorite child of the parent for His good pleasure and for the sake of somehow magnifying His grace and mercy in the elect.  Again, such things are hard to even contemplate, yet these are the fundamental underlying assumptions of Calvinism’s doctrine of unconditional election.

Another example would be the sons of Eli the priest.  Not only had these children been brought up by a godly father (probably one of the most godly men in Israel at the time), but they had also been brought up in the ministry.  Despite this, both of Eli’s sons became so wicked that God put them to death[4].  What better context and means could they hope for than to be the children of a father who was devoted to serving God daily?  One might argue that the fault lied with Eli’s failures as a father, but who among Christian fathers has not fallen short?  If the “means” and “context” includes perfect parenting skills, we are all in trouble, including Erwin Lutzer.

The simple fact is that Calvinism can provide no such comfort to Lutzer or any other Christian parent.  Nor can Lutzer really explain how God’s choice of one over the other is not ultimately “arbitrary” or “random”.  Simply talking about means and context doesn’t explain how God’s choice to elect and save some from the mass of equally depraved humanity is not arbitrary.

Calvinists typically claim that God’s choice is not arbitrary even though there is nothing to differentiate the one who is chosen and the one who is reprobated.  After all, both were depraved God haters prior to God’s choice (according to traditional infralapsarian Calvinism).  That is why the choice is considered unconditional.  Nothing in the person or about the person (like faith) conditions God’s choice.

Calvinists might try to solve this problem by claiming that the reason is hidden in God and we cannot know it.  It seems random and arbitrary to us but we can supposedly be sure that God has a good reason for choosing one and reprobating the other, even if there is absolutely nothing in or about either person to condition the choice[5].  Perhaps this provides the key to the only possible comfort Calvinist parents can have.  While Calvinist parents cannot have comfort that all (or any) of their children will be elect, those parents can at least take comfort in the fact that if God did reprobate any (or all) of their children, He had a very good secret reason for doing so.[6]

[1] Erwin Lutzer is the senior pastor of the historic Moody Church in Chicago

[2] One need only check out a few atheist websites to find several who came from Christian homes.

[3] It has become increasingly popular for Calvinists to claim that God can only be ultimately glorified and His attributes fully displayed by reprobating the greater part of humanity in order to help the elect fully appreciate and understand God’s mercy and grace towards them.  In such a scheme the eternal torment of the reprobate is to a large degree for the sake of the elect that they might somehow see God in a greater light and love Him more.  This concept was popularized by Calvinists like Jonathan Edwards and has been reintroduced with great support by contemporary Calvinists like John Piper.  Such a scheme also seems to make sin and reprobation necessary for Gods’ attributes to be fully displayed, threatening His holiness and quite possibly His aseity as well.

[4] 1 Samuel 2:12-34

[5] Likewise, Peterson and Williams assert that unconditional election should not be considered arbitrary while failing to explain why this should be so, preferring instead to punt to mystery: “But why must God’s sovereign decision to love some be considered arbitrary?  All deserve wrath; none deserve his grace [which is precisely why it seems arbitrary].  He freely chooses to bestow saving grace on billions of undeserving sinners.  That is not arbitrary; the Bible itself teaches that election is the result of God’s love and will [but this only begs the question that God’s love and will is not arbitrary in election, the very issue in dispute].  His gracious choosing ultimately transcends our reason, but it is not arbitrary.” (Why I am Not an Arminian, pp. 65, 66- bold emphasis and brackets mine)

[6] The typical Calvinist retort to such things is to claim that the Arminian system creates the same difficulties.  Even if this were the case it wouldn’t change the fact that Calvinists like Erwin Lutzer are offering hope and certainty that the fundamental tenets of Calvinism cannot provide (and flatly contradict).  Still, Arminianism does fare better as parents can be assured that God indeed loves all of their children and truly desires their salvation, hearing prayers and continually revealing Himself in accordance with those prayers and His desire for them to be saved.  While Arminians do not believe that God does such things in a way that guarantees results (i.e., God works resistibly and not irresistibly), Arminians are in a far better position to reveal God’s love to their children since there is no doubt that God truly desires their salvation and Christ certainly died as a provision of atonement for them.  In contrast, consistent Calvinists cannot even truthfully tell their children that Jesus loves them in any meaningful way or that Christ showed His great love by dying for them.  Indeed, God may hate them just as He hated Esau and have no desire to save them.  Likewise, Christ may not have died for them at all.

Paul Washer’s – “Doctrine” of Election: An Arminian Critique

I have been frequently referred to Paul Washer’s video discussion, “Doctrine” of Election.  I found the video transcript and decided it would be beneficial to interact with this apparently influential accounting of Calvinist election.  The sections of the transcript are marked by block quotes with my comments in between.  A copy of the transcript can be found at:

Student:  I got a question, I don’t understand.  I’ve been raised Southern Baptist my whole life and I’m searching for the Truth really hard in my life right now.  I’m in seminary and I want to understand the doctrine of election and things like that.  And my roommate’s a Calvinist and he’s been kind of trying to teach me a little bit but I just want to know the Truth and they tell me that you’re the guy, you know.  Is there any way that you can, you know…anything that you can…[say to help me understand this more clearly?]

Paul Washer:  If you will go to my pastor’s website, Anchored in Truth, he has a series of sermons called “Election: Plain and Simple.”  Some of the best you’ll ever hear.

Student:  Anchored in

Paul Washer:  Anchored in

Student:  .org?

Paul Washer:  “Election: Plain and Simple.”  What it all comes down to is this.  You only have to answer one question:  Is man radically depraved? That’s the only question you have to ask.  Because if he is, if he’s truly dead in his sin, if he truly hates God, if all men are equally evil (and they are), then the question is, how are you standing here right now believing God while some of your friends who are more moral than you still hate Him?  What happened?  If you say you opened up your heart, I’ll say no you didn’t because the Bible says God [unintelligible] opened any man’s heart.  If you say you repent, well repentance is an evangelical grace [unintelligible] confession, it means it comes from God as a gift.  You say, well I believe (pause) Ephesians 2 – that also is a gift.

So rather than look to what the Bible actually says about election, Paul Washer wants to take the student on a philosophical journey of the Calvinist conception of inability in order to “teach” this student why he should hold to the Calvinist unconditional election view.

Student:  I know that the Bible says that no man come to God unless [unintelligible].  I know that, but my question is, is the grace, the offer of salvation for all men or did God say back in eternity, say it’s for you, you, you, you, and you, you, you,

The student asks a great question here.  The student is not questioning election, but whether or not that election needs to be unconditional.  The student is not even questioning whether or not inability is a reality; rather, the student wants to know if God only overcomes the inability of some rather than all.  The student seems to rightly recognize that inability alone cannot really decide the matter in favor of unconditional election since God could draw all to Himself (John 12:32), enabling all to believe and become the elect if that were how God sovereignly chose to do things (John 16:7-11; Titus 2:11; 1 Timothy 2:1-6;).  The student has actually just cut the legs out from under the framework on which Calvinist Paul Washer wants to build unconditional election.  This is evident in Washer’s laborious attempt to draw a logical connection between inability and the necessity of unconditional election as if God could not enable all who hear the gospel to respond favorably to it (in faith).

Paul Washer:  See, first of all your problem is this.  Let’s say there’s no election.  None at all.  Alright?  Let’s just start fresh.  No election.  Alright.  Now.  Let’s say that men really are radically depraved and no man can come to God unless God draws him.  So God comes down to every man and says, “Anyone who will bow their knee to me, anyone who will accept My Son as their Saviour will be saved.”  Since every man is radically depraved, they all hate God, they all blaspheme Him, turn around and walk away and go to hell. The whole world goes to hell.  Is that God’s fault?

It is if Calvinism is true.  If Calvinism is true then God irresistibly caused these people to hate Him.  Now, Calvinists may not want to own such blunt language, but the above statement is in perfect harmony with traditional Calvinist thought [1].  In Calvinism, everything is controlled by God.  This includes the thoughts, emotions, desires, wills and actions of His creatures.  Furthermore, God’s foreknowledge is entirely based on His decree.  God can only foreknow what He decrees.  God has prior knowledge of an event only because God will make that event happen in time in accordance with His unchangeable and irresistible decree.  God’s foreknowledge is therefore based on the fact that all that will ever happen will happen only because God will cause it to happen in accordance with His eternal decree.  This again includes every thought, desire, and action of every person who will ever live.  This included the first sin (and every subsequent sin).  How did God foreknow that Adam would sin?  He foreknew it because He decreed it and irresistibly brought it about in accordance with that decree.  Adam could no more resist the eternal decree to rebel against God than he could create a universe. [2]

So God caused Adam to sin and then punished Adam for perfectly fulfilling the decree of God in such a way that Adam had absolutely no power to resist.  God controlled Adam’s desires and will to sin (it is useless to retort that Adam sinned “willingly” since his will was controlled by God in accordance with His unchangeable eternal decree).  With this backdrop in mind we can see how Washer’s comments do not fit with the theology he is trying to defend.  When the exhaustive decretal determinism of Calvinism is in view, questions like, “Is that God’s fault?” should be answered with “Yes”.  How can it not be God’s fault when He controlled and orchestrated the fall and the hatred and rebellion of every one of His “depraved” creatures?  Washer actually has to temporarily forget or ignore his fundamental theological assumptions in order to make such appeals. He basically has to temporarily work from Arminian assumptions in order to argue for Calvinism, since only on Arminian assumptions is it reasonable to say that God is not at fault.

Notice also how Washer doesn’t even deal with the main issue the student rightly pointed to, whether or not inability can be overcome in such a way as to enable all to respond.  Rather, he just assumes throughout his discourse that God cannot enable all depraved God haters to turn to Christ without needing to do so in an irresistible manner.  Therefore, his whole argument is an exercise in question begging.

OK.  Let’s say that really is the reality.  Let’s say that the Bible’s true and that men hate God that much. So who’s going to get saved?  Absolutely no one.  And if God saves no one because everyone is evil and rejects Him, is God wrong in doing that?  No.

Again, if fundamental Calvinist assumptions are in view (i.e. exhaustive determinism), the answer has to be “Yes.”

So that’s what you’ve got without election—you’ve got the whole world hating God and going to hell.  That’s it.  And the other option is this:  among these evil men, for His own glory and to demonstrate His own kindness before the foundation of the world, He chooses a group of men out of there to demonstrate His glory in them.  Is that wrong?

It would certainly seem to be wrong if Calvinist assumptions are granted.  It would certainly seem to be wrong according to the concepts of justice described in Scripture for God to irresistibly cause all of His creatures to hate Him and rebel against Him just so He could select some to save from the sin and rebellion that He caused in them while eternally punishing the rest for sinning and rebelling in perfect conformity with God’s irresistible eternal decree.  It is also unclear how God making some that He caused to hate Him suddenly love Him would demonstrate His glory.  What kind of glory would that be exactly?  Those who hate God do so only because God caused them to, and those who love God do so only because God caused them to.  God punishes those He causes to hate Him with unimaginable eternal punishment while blessing those He causes to love Him with unimaginable eternal joy.  In what way can we possibly say this is “glorious” or praiseworthy?  Nor could we call such an election gracious if God caused them all to be hateful sinners in the first place.

But still, there is yet a third “option” that Washer refuses to consider, the option that the student brought up concerning the possibility that God could enable all God haters who hear the gospel to respond positively to it.  That option would simply say that God makes it possible, by His Spirit and His word, for every depraved God hater to respond positively to the gospel message, yet without irresistibly causing a positive faith response.

That “option” would also make sense of the fact that God holds sinners who reject the grace God offers rightly accountable for their sin and rejection, rather than just punishing them for doing exactly what God irresistibly decreed for them to do.  That “option” would also ruin Washer’s desperate attempt to make unconditional election a necessary result of inability, and is therefore ignored.

Did He rip the other men off? What did He do?  You’ve got two choices.  God saves a group of people by His own sovereignty or everybody goes to hell—everybody.  Because men are that evil.  See your problem – see what you need to realize is this, if God right now would throw open the door of hell and say, “Everyone who wants out of hell, the only thing you have to do is bow your knee to me and recognize my Lordship,” they’ll slam the door and stay in hell.

This may be true, but given fundamental Calvinist assumptions such a hopeless despising of God is the unavoidable result of an irresistible eternal decree.  And again, the student never denied inability or depravity.  The student only questioned the logic that God’s enabling grace needs to be irresistible or restricted to only some.

See what you don’t realize, because of the humanistic Christianity inAmerica, you don’t realize men are really evil—they really are evil.  I’ll give you an example.  Any of you seen the Lord of the Rings?  Saurus…Sauron makes these Orcs, they come out of the ground—evil.  Evil.  Alright.  Aragorn, all the heroes in the movie, slaughter them like they were – you know—insects.  Slaughter them.  And every time an Orc gets killed, what do you do?  Yeah (cheering movement).  Why? Cause those Orcs really are evil.  They are evil.  There’s your problem.  You don’t think men are.  Men really are evil.  Men really deserve hell.  They really do. [3]

Student:  And I believe that.  I know that.

The student tries again to help Washer see that the issue is not whether or not men are evil or whether or not men need God to overcome their depravity to make faith possible.  The student doesn’t deny that man is evil.  The student doesn’t deny that depravity must be overcome.  The student only questions the Calvinist claim that God’s gracious enabling need be irresistible or given only to some.  Unfortunately, Washer is too worried about telling the student what his  “problem is” and what the student supposedly “doesn’t realize” to actually listen to the student and grapple with the actual question.  Instead, the student only gets the usual cookie cutter Calvinist brain washing techniques (no pun intended).

Paul Washer:  Alright.  So… it says – you know we talk about the doctrine of inability – that men cannot come to God – Jesus said that.  Alright?  Men cannot come to God.  Now.  If you say men can’t come to God, how can God judge them?  That’s like judging a blind man because he can’t read.  If men can’t come to God, then man’s not a culprit, he’s a victim.  Here’s what you have to understand, men cannot come to God because they will not come to God and they will not come to God because they hate Him and, therefore, they’re responsible.

Again, Paul Washer can’t help talking like an Arminian in order to defend his Calvinism.  He seems to quickly forget that at the heart of Calvinism is the fundamental assumption that God sovereignly controls everything, creating serious problems for his claims of personal accountability for hating God.

This includes His creature’s desires, wills, and therefore “hatred” of God.  When we keep this in mind we immediately see that the “…therefore, they’re responsible” doesn’t follow as Paul Washer seemingly wants us to believe.  Washer’s statement, “That’s like judging a blind man because he can’t read.  If men can’t come to God, then man’s not a culprit, he’s a victim”, is completely accurate in light of Washer’s theology and Washer seems to plainly recognize the problem this would create for his position.  However, he can offer no real solution because in Calvinism those who “willingly” hate God do so because God irresistibly controls their wills to hate Him.

Men are evil.  God is good.  So, men hate God, they hate His law, they hate everything about Him.  OK?

OK, but how did they get evil?  According to Calvinism they got evil because God irresistibly decreed for them to get evil.  If the Calvinist wants to say they chose to be evil, this solves nothing since God decreed for them to “choose” to be evil as well.  And again, Washer can’t stop long enough to realize that the student never denied that man was evil in the first place.

It says of Joseph’s brothers, they could not speak to him peaceably.

And why not?  Because God decreed this for them (according to Calvinism).

Now they spoke [unintelligible].  Why couldn’t they speak to him?  They could not speak to him peaceably because they hated him.  Alright?

Again, why did they hate him?  Because God decreed this for them from all eternity.

That’s why no man will ever come to God.  If God comes down and says, “Alright everybody make their choice.” No one’s coming to God.  Why?  They hate Him.  And that’s why they’re judged for their inability because their inability’s moral.  They really hate God.

But notice how Washer keeps skirting the issue and keeps talking like an Arminian.  He wants to establish moral accountability but can’t do this without ignoring fundamental Calvinist assumptions. “Choice” doesn’t even make sense in Calvinism.  Aren’t our desires, thoughts, wills, and actions all under the meticulous sovereign control of God?  If God decreed from all eternity that they would reject and hate Him, then in what sense can we possibly say they had a “choice” in the matter? [4]  Again, Paul Washer has to temporarily shelve his fundamental Calvinist assumptions and adopt Arminian assumptions in order to morally defend his Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election.

So you’ve got a whole human race – everyone of them’s fallen, everyone of them hates God, God comes down and says, “Who wants to be saved?” Everybody blasphemes the name of God and walks into hell and slams the door.

…in perfect conformity to the irresistible and unchangeable eternal decree of God of which they have no more power to resist than to create a universe.  Washer just keeps saying the same thing over and over.  Man is evil.  Men hate God.  Men are depraved.  None of which the student has denied and all of which the student gladly agreed with.  So why is Washer working so hard to convince the student of something the student already accepts?

That’s what you’ve got – because men really are evil.

Just as God irresistibly decreed for them to be, with no power to be anything other than “really evil”.

And out of that, God says, “But for My own glory, I am going to redeem a people and give them to My Son.  By My own choice, by My own sovereign election.”  He’s done wrong to no one.

See comments above about how this could hardly be considered gracious or glorious given Calvinist assumptions.  It is also hard to imagine how it could be said that God has “done wrong to no one” in electing some of those He caused to hate Him for redemption while holding the rest He caused to hate Him accountable for the hate God decreed for them to have from all eternity.  One would really need to redefine “right” and “wrong” to make such a claim given such Calvinist assumptions.

And now, how does He save a man?  Here’s a question?  Are you spiritually dead prior to conversion?  Well then how do you come to Christ?  If you’re spiritually blind, how do you see?

Student:  He draws men unto Him.

Again, the student nails it.  God must draw us, but there is no reason to assume that this drawing cannot be resistible, rather than irresistible.  There is likewise no reason to assume it cannot enable all who hear to believe.  But Washer must make a logical connection between inability and unconditional election.  He now resorts to the usual Calvinist tactic, the misunderstanding and misapplication of the Biblical concept of being “dead in sin”

Paul Washer:  But you’re a dead man.  If some of it has to do with you, you’re a dead man.  If God calls your name, you hate Him.  You’re not going to come.

Unless God enables you to come.

You’re going to run farther away from Him.  That is why in all of the – listen very carefully – in all of the Christian confessions, the old Christian confessions, in the Reformation, early Baptist confessions – you have been raised on this, if you believe in Jesus, you can be born again.  All the early Baptist confessions say you must be born again in order to believe in Jesus. That’s the difference!

That’s the unbiblical difference.  And is Washer truly saying that “all of the Christian confessions” put regeneration before faith?  That is certainly inaccurate.  It is true that many “Reformed” confessions do this, as well as many “Reformed” Baptist confessions, but that is a far cry from saying that all Baptist confessions and every Christian confession puts regeneration before faith (unless Washer is actually claiming that only “Reformed” Baptists are true Baptists and only “Reformed” Christians are true Christians, which is also grossly inaccurate).

Because if I tell a dead man, “Look, you’re dead. There’s a hospital over here.  We can put some electrodes on you so get up and follow me on over to the hospital.”  It’s not sensible.  He’s dead.  If he can get up, he doesn’t need to go to the hospital.

And there it is, the unbiblical attempt to make “dead in sin” mean “the inability of a physical corpse.”  The Bible nowhere defines “dead in sin” in such a way.  Rather, “dead in sin” is a description of the spiritual separation of the sinner from the spiritual life found only in Christ.  Below is an excerpt from a post I wrote on the subject long ago:

Calvinists are fond of comparing spiritual death to physical death.  This gives them the framework with which to press their theological conviction that regeneration precedes faith.  If being dead in sin means that we are as helpless as physical corpses then we are told that we certainly can no more ”hear” the gospel or “see” our need for Christ than a physical corpse can hear or see.  But is there any justification for such a strict parallel between the spiritual and the physical?

Nowhere in Scripture is such a strict parallel drawn.  To be dead in sins means that we are cut off from the relationship with God that is necessary for spiritual life.  Our sin separates us from a holy God and causes spiritual death.  This is both actual and potential.  The sinner is presently “dead” because, in the absence of faith,  he is not enjoying life giving union with Christ.   The sinner is potentially dead because if he continues in this state he will be forever cut off from the presence of the Lord in Hell (2 Thess. 1:9).

Calvinists will often mock Arminians by saying that it is as useless to expect the dead in sin to respond to the gospel as it is to expect a bunch of corpses in the morgue to respond to the gospel.  The only way that corpses could hear such preaching is for them to first be given life.  In like manner, we are told, the only way that someone who is “dead” in sin could respond to the gospel would be if they are first raised to spiritual life.  This supposedly proves the need for regeneration before faith.

But this leads to absurdities and demonstrates that pressing this parallel between those who are spiritually dead and physically dead is unwise and without Scriptural support.  If the analogy is accurate then spiritually dead people should not be able to do anything more than corpses can do, which is plainly absurd.  A single example will suffice.

The Bible plainly teaches that those who are dead in sin resist the Holy Spirit.  Now have you ever seen a corpse resist something?  Of course not.  So if we adopt the implications of the Calvinistic definition of “dead in sin” then we must deny that anyone who is dead in sin can resist the Holy Spirit or reject the gospel (Acts 7:51; 2 Thess. 2:10; 1 John 4:10; Rom. 10:21).  Corpses can’t resist or reject anything any more than they can see or hear anything.  This, of course, should tell us something about the Cavinistic understanding of dead in sin.  It is not Biblical. (from What Can The Dead In Sin Do?)

Much more could be said, but for now I would only add that the very passages that speak of being “dead in sin” make it clear that the solution is to be joined to Christ, the source of spiritual life (John 5:26, Cf., Col. 2:11-13; Eph. 2:4-9).  This confirms that the phrase makes reference not to the inability of a physical corpse (to see, hear, believe, etc.), but to the absence of spiritual life that naturally results from being separated from God.  The solution is to be joined to Christ and one is joined to Christ by faith (Eph. 1:13; Gal. 3:26-29).  If one can only cease to be dead in sin by coming to be joined to Christ, and one can only be joined to Christ by faith, then it is Biblically inaccurate to suggest that “dead in sin” means the inability to believe without regeneration.

[Washer continues] When Jesus looked at Lazarus and said, “Lazarus come forth,” Lazarus is dead.  How does he hear the command?  The command not only must be given but the moment the command is given, Lazarus must be resurrected to be able to even hear the command to respond.

Again, there is no Biblical reason to connect “dead in sin” to the inability of a physical corpse to do anything without first being brought back to life.  The story of Lazarus is not a spiritual object lesson on how unbelievers come to faith.  In the same gospel Jesus said “An hour is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.” (John 5:25, emphasis mine)  This is the “hearing” of faith (verse 24, cf. Gal. 3:2, 5, the same passages, along with verse 14, which make it clear that the Holy Spirit is also received by faith).  So Jesus says that the spiritually dead will “hear” (with the hearing of faith) unto spiritual “life”.  Paul Washer says that one must be spiritually alive in order to hear, the exact opposite of what Christ said!

The apostle Paul says that the new covenant “promise” that “imparts life” is given “through faith in Jesus Christ” (Gal. 3:21, 22).  Paul Washer says that God must first impart life for us to be able to have faith in Christ, the exact opposite of what the apostle Paul says!  John says that one must receive Christ by faith in order to “become” a child of God (John 1:12, 13) and the apostle Paul says that we become sons of God “through faith” (Gal. 3:36).  Paul Washer says that one must become a child of God (be born again) before one can put faith in Christ, the exact opposite of what John and the apostle Paul taught!

The apostle Paul says that it is through “faith in the power of God” that we move from spiritual death to spiritual life by being joined to Christ and subsequently “raised” to spiritual life “in Him” (Col. 2:11-13).  Paul Washer says we need to be raised to spiritual life in order to have “faith in the power of God”, the exact opposite of what the apostle Paul said!  Examples like these could be easily multiplied.

Washer has put the weight of his entire argument for unconditional election on the teaching that one must be regenerated in order to believe.  Since the Bible contradicts him and says that regeneration results from faith rather than causes it, his main philosophical basis for unconditional election collapses.  In the end, the student was correct to question the Calvinist commitment to unconditional election based on the doctrine of inability.  There is simply no logical or Biblical reason to believe that God cannot graciously overcome man’s depravity in such a way that all who hear the gospel can either respond in faith or choose to remain in unbelief (which is exactly what Arminianism and the Bible teaches).  Neither is there any Biblical basis for claiming that God can only enable a faith response through regeneration.  In fact, the Bible clearly puts faith before regeneration. But Washer won’t give up so easily.  As a last resort he appeals to personal experience to establish his case:

That’s why when you probably heard the gospel for many, many years and you were sitting there and you didn’t care, no big deal, maybe you made a confession of faith – nothing – and then, one day, the Gospel’s preached and you’re like [WHOOSH] – the blinder’s taken off and not only that, you want Him.

Unfortunately, our present theological convictions can easily color how we interpret a past conversion experience.  I remember desiring to live for God many times before I was willing to finally let go of those things I valued more than God.  I also remember sensing in that moment when I did finally fully surrender to God that I had full power and ability to reject Him once again and remain in my sin instead.  It felt like a real choice to me.  Did I feel God’s conviction very strongly?  Yes.  Did I sense that He was drawing me?  Absolutely.  Would I say that I was powerless to resist?  Not at all.  At the very least then, my experience alone renders Washer’s argument invalid.

Because some people say what God does is He draws us all to a certain point and then gives us a choice.

Rather, God’s drawing is what enables a faith response and thereby makes a “choice” possible.

There’s only a problem.  If God only illuminates the mind of the sinner, then the more the sinner sees God, the more he’s going to hate Him.  So, He not only illuminates the mind, He changes the heart and with the new heart for the first time you love Jesus, you can say, “I love Him, I’m irresistibly drawn to Him, and I want Him more than anything.”

Again, if God enables us to love and trust Him, then we do not have to continue hating Him.  To say that we would just keep hating Him is simply to deny that God has enabled the person to love Him, which is plainly question begging.  Either God has enabled the response of faith and love, making it a possibility, or He has not.  If Washer grants the Arminian concept of divine resistible enabling, then he can’t say that we would just keep hating God anyway.  That is just denying the very thing that was supposed to be granted.  The “new heart” of Ezekiel is a promise given to those who enjoy the blessings of the new covenant, and the new covenant promises (which include the promise of a new heart) are received by faith.  Therefore, a new heart is received by faith and does not cause faith (for more on that see my post Is The New Heart of Ezekiel 36:26-27 a Reference to Regeneration Preceding Faith?).


This interaction is very instructive in how Calvinists often come to their conclusions regarding election and how Calvinists primarily go about indoctrinating people into the so called “Doctrines of Grace” (which should be called “Doctrines of Grace for a Lucky Few” or “Doctrines of Limited Grace” or something similar, if we were to be truly honest about what this little self assigned catch phrase for Calvinism represents).

The student has a question about election, but Paul Washer doesn’t look to what Scripture says about election.  Rather, he goes on and on about depravity and tells the student seeker that his “problem” is simply the need to understand that “men are evil” and “hate God.”  There are passages in Scripture that teach on election and there are passages in Scripture that teach on depravity, but the Bible does not say, “Once you understand depravity, then you can understand election.”  That is not to say there is not some connection between these doctrines or any number of various doctrines, but if we really want to understand a doctrine, we should first look to what the Bible specifically teaches on that doctrine.  Paul Washer doesn’t do that here.  The truth is that unconditional election cannot be found in Scripture.  No passages expressly teach that election is unconditional. [5]  That may very well be the reason why Calvinists like Paul Washer typically lead people around in such ways.  First you need to understand depravity (as defined by Calvinism to mean that regeneration alone can enable [that is, “cause”] a faith response), and then you will see how the logic of depravity leads us to unconditional election, etc.

We have also seen how hard it is for a Calvinist to describe unconditional election as being something that should not be seen as capricious or unjust without temporarily abandoning fundamental Calvinist assumptions in favor of Arminian assumptions.  I am convinced that Calvinists so often talk like Arminians when trying to defend unconditional election because Calvinism, with its exhaustive determinism, simply cannot provide a satisfying framework for moral accountability or theodicy in general.  It is too bad that these same Calvinists do not pause long enough to take note of these practical inconsistencies (in the way that they still tend to think and talk about these issues) and re-evaluate their undergirding philosophical assumptions that make it so difficult to meaningfully communicate or explain issues of justice and moral accountability [6].

Lastly, we have seen yet another example of a Calvinist not really understanding or rightly grappling with the Arminian solution to depravity: resistible prevenient grace.   Rather, Paul Washer engages in blatant question begging in claiming that only irresistible grace can make faith possible, even to the point of immediately denying what he seemed to grant for the sake of argument.  Put simply, if God has overcome the sinner’s depravity, enabling the response of faith and love, then the sinner can respond in faith and love; therefore, it is by no means necessary for the sinner to continue hating God as Washer claims.


[1] Appeals to “permission” only make sense when determinism is denied and libertarian free will is affirmed.  Appeals to “secondary causes” likewise fail since God controls even secondary causes.  God controls everything.

[2] On this Arminius astutely observes:

“If any one acknowledges that this is indeed true [that the decree of predestination presupposes the fall and considers men as sinners], but says that God has arranged this, as an occasion for Himself, by decreeing that man should fall, and by carrying forward that decree to its end or limit, we ask the proof of that assertion, which, in my judgment, he will be unable to give. For that sentiment is at variance with the justice of God, as it makes God the author of sin, and introduces an inevitable necessity for sin. This I will prove. For if that decree existed, man could not abstain from sin, otherwise the decree would have been made in vain, which is an impious supposition.  For “the counsel of the Lord standeth forever.” (Psalm 33:11). We remark also that the human will would have been circumscribed and determined by that decree, so that it could not turn itself except in one direction, in which there would be sin; by that act its freedom would be lost, because it would move the will, not according to the mode of freewill, but according to the mode of nature. Such an act it could not resist, nor would there be any volition in that direction, indeed, there would not be the power to put forth that volition on account of the determination of the decree. (“An Examination of the Treatise of William Perkins, Part 1” pp. 264, 265 from The Wesleyan Heritage Collection, CD)

[3] The example of the Orcs is instructive because it actually corresponds with the fundamental assumptions of Calvinist theology that Paul Washer seems to ignore or forget when trying to explain why God is just in passing over so many of His creatures and denying them the salvation He gives only to the ones He unconditionally chooses from the fallen and depraved mass of humanity.

Assuming these Orcs come out of the ground “evil” by nature, having no ability or desire to do anything other than that which we would call evil, then it would be wrong to hold these Orcs morally accountable for their “evil”.  That doesn’t necessarily mean they shouldn’t be destroyed.  We could say that they should be destroyed because they are dangerous and harm others.  We could say they should be destroyed because “evil” should be eradicated.  However, we could not say they “deserve” to be destroyed in a moral sense.  We can’t hold creatures “morally accountable” for just being what they are by nature, anymore than we would hold a Lion morally accountable for attacking its prey (or for just being a Lion).  But this is what is at the heart of Calvinism, the idea that God rightly “punishes” (not just destroys) creatures who can no more help being what they are or doing what they do than an Orc can presumably help coming out of the ground “evil.”  In the end, we are saying that God holds His creatures morally accountable for being just as He intended for them to be, with no power or ability to be otherwise, and then punishes them for being just what He intended them to be.  Therefore, God essentially punishes His creatures just for being His creatures, and this is supposed to bring Him glory?

[4] For more on why Calvinist determinism makes nonsense of the language of “choice”, see my post, The Reality of Choice and The Testimony of Scripture.

[5] The problem for the Calvinist is that no passage of Scripture teaches that election unto salvation is unconditional.  There are passages that do not explicitly state a condition in reference to election, but the lack of a stated condition does not necessarily imply that the election being described is unconditional.  In fact, in most cases (if not all) a condition is either stated or implied in the immediate or surrounding context.  For a concise treatment of the corporate election view (which I hold to be the strongest Arminian view of election) along with some links to some very good articles on corporate election, see here.  Among the articles listed, I highly recommend the two by Dr. Brian Abasciano, Corporate Election in Romans 9: A Reply to Thomas Schreiner and Clearing up Misconceptions About Corporate ElectionAnother good place for getting a grasp for the corporate view would be this series of quotes from various scholars holding to the view here.  For a strong defense of the traditional Arminian view of election, I recommend F. Leroy Forlines’ excellent book, Classical Arminianism.  You can see my review of the Forlines’ book here.

[6] See this slightly abridged series by Thomas Ralston for a strong critique of Calvinist determinism and the many problems it creates for moral accountability and theodicy, as well as a strong defense of the Arminian accounting of free will.  For a more comprehensive listing of resources that challenge Calvinist determinism, see here.  Daniel Whedon, in his devastating critique of Edwards’ necessitarianism, The Freedom of the Will: A Wesleyan Response to Jonathan Edwards, summarizes the problem well,

“From all this, there results the conclusion that without free volition there can be no justice, no satisfying the moral sense, no retributive system, no moral Government, of which the creature can be the rightful subject, and no God, the righteous Administrator…If there is a true divine government, man is a non-necessitated moral agent.” (352)

How Can God’s Glory be “Diminished” in Calvinism?

Calvinist John Mac Arthur in his article, Why Every Calvinist Should be a PreMillennialist, writes: 

It is impossible to fully understand biblical teaching about the end times apart from understanding the future of Israel, the future of ethnic Jews in God’s plan. And if you don’t get Israel right, then your eschatology is confused and you cannot be blessed and you cannot give God appropriate glory and you cannot have a full hope for what lies ahead so that His glory is diminished, your joy and blessing are diminished as well (Bold emphasis mine).

I was under the impression that in Calvinism everything brings God glory.  He irresistibly controls all things in accordance with His secret eternal decree for the ultimate purpose of maximizing His own glory.  Even His decree to reprobate most of humanity is for the sake of bringing Himself maximum glory.  The sins He causes people to commit in accordance with His secret eternal decree are for His glory.  Everything is caused by Him in order to bring Him ultimate glory.  How then can someone diminish His glory if the presuppositions of Calvinism are true?  And how would MacArthur explain the fact that the one who supposedly diminishes God’s glory did so because God caused him or her to do so in accordance with an irresistible and unchangeable secret eternal decree?

So God causes some people to diminish His glory and this all for the sake of bringing Himself more glory?  Maybe it is something like how God irresistibly creates the pots for the purpose of talking back to the Potter and causes the “pots” to talk back to the Potter in Rom. 9:19, 20, and then rebukes them for talking back to the Potter.  But if diminishing God’s glory actually brings Him more glory, then why is MacArthur concerned that people will diminish God’s glory?  Wouldn’t he then be diminishing God’s glory by getting those who are diminishing God’s glory for the ultimate glory of God to stop diminishing God’s glory for the ultimate glory of God?  But then MacArthur’s act of diminishing God’s glory by stopping people from diminishing God’s glory for the ultimate glory of God would also bring ultimate glory to God anyway.  This stuff is really confusing.  Perhaps I have just misunderstood Calvinism.  Feel free to set me straight in the comments section if that is the case.

I actually agree with MacArthur that we can diminish God’s glory.  I think the Bible is clear on that point.  I just don’t see how one can hold to such a truth in light of the greater underlying presuppositions of Calvinism.  It is for this reason that I find Calvinism to be an impossible system to live out practically or even describe in normal language.  I am constantly reading statements like this by Calvinists that simply do not seem intelligible in light of Calvinist presuppositions.  Yet Calvinists continue to speak as they do because they actually live in a world that cannot comport with Calvinistic philosophy.  Maybe I am wrong or misunderstanding, but that is how I see it.  And if Calvinism is right and I am wrong then all of this (including my ignorance and misunderstanding of Calvinism) is just for the glory of God anyway in perfect accordance with an irresistible secret eternal decree.  With that in mind, I will try not to sweat it too much.

Some New Must Read Articles at SEA (Abasciano and McCall)

SEA has been diligently providing its readers with excellent Arminian resources.  Recently Dr. Brian Abasciano’s newest theological article on corporate election was made available.  Here is the write-up from SEA [Introducing Dr. Brian Abasciano’s “Clearing Up Misconceptions About Corporate Election”]:

SEA is excited to announce the addition to our site of Dr. Brian Abasciano’s recently published article Clearing Up Misconceptions About Corporate Election which argues forcefully and compellingly for the corporate view of election. The theological concept of corporate election has been gaining force in modern scholarship for quite some time. It is widely held among scholars that a primarily corporate election is the election described in the OT. It is on this basis that Dr. Abasciano and others argue that this corporate view of election is the view that Paul and the other apostles would naturally carry over into the NT. This is not just speculation but is strongly supported by the language of election used especially by Paul, not least in Romans and Ephesians.

But there are critics from the Reformed view who naturally recognize acceptance of the corporate view of election as a threat to the traditional Calvinist interpretation of key Scriptures and the nature of salvation since corporate election holds to a conditional rather than unconditional view of election. Foremost among these critics of the corporate view is Dr. Thomas Schreiner who criticized corporate election in an article in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (JETS) “Does Romans 9 Teach Individual Election Unto Salvation?: Some Exegetical and Theological Reflections” JETS 36/1 [March 1993] 25-40. Abasciano later responded, pointing out that the criticisms Schreiner leveled against the corporate view not only lacked cogency but were primarily based on fundamental misunderstandings of the concept (Corporate Election in Romans 9: A Reply to Thomas Schreiner, JETS 49/2 [June 2006], 351-71). Schreiner then wrote a reply in the same theological journal issue criticizing corporate election once again, even going so far as to make the unguarded and surprising claim that the corporate view is incoherent (Corporate and Individual Election in Romans 9: A Response to Brian Abasciano).

Abasciano sought to write a response to Schreiner’s follow-up article but the policy of the theological journal did not allow for further rebuttals. For this reason he decided to write a more general theological article on corporate election specifically addressing the many misconceptions held by those who have criticized the concept. In this present article Abasciano interacts with Schreiner and other scholars convincingly demonstrating that the corporate view of election is indeed the Biblical view. He draws on the Old and New Testament witness in order to make his case while showing that the attacks leveled against the corporate view by Calvinists are based on individualistic biases in handling the primary texts or misconceptions of what the corporate view entails.

He argues for a view of corporate election that has its ultimate basis in the divine election of Christ as God’s covenant Head through whom the covenant people of God will be named and identified as God’s children. Election is therefore primarily of a people and those people draw their identity as God’s chosen people through faith union with the chosen corporate representative, Christ Jesus. In other words, as the Scriptures testify, we are elect “in Him” (Eph. 1:4). Since one comes to be in union with Christ and His people through faith, it follows that election is conditional rather than unconditional.

It is my opinion that this article goes further than any previous work in making a clear and compelling case for the corporate view of election. No doubt Calvinists will continue to resist the mounting weight of scholarship in support of corporate election, but they will need to seriously contend with Abasciano’s work in order to gain any real ground. It will be extremely difficult from this point forward for any Calvinist scholar to be able to dismiss the corporate view by suggesting it is incoherent or does not fully deal with all of the Biblical data. It is my opinion that Abasciano’s work will stand the test of time and help to finally advance our understanding of such an important Biblical concept beyond the narrow and individualistic views of Calvinistic interpreters which have unfortunately led to so much unnecessary theological confusion and tension in the church today.

Clearing Up Misconceptions About Corporate Election

In addition to Abasciano’s important and compelling new article, SEA has also made available Dr. Thomas McCall’s theological articles addressing the serious problems inherent in the Calvinistic accounting of sovereignty.  In these articles, McCall interacts with John Piper and demonstrates that his accounting of God’s primary objection in reprobation is seriously flawed and leads to terrible theological implications and absurdities.  Here is the write-up from SEA [Dr. Thomas McCall takes on John Piper and the Calvinistic View of God’s Sovereignty]:

We are excited to have added two articles by Thomas McCall, assistant professor of Biblical and systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, which critique John Piper’s theology of God’s sovereignty. They appeared in an issue of Trinity Journal that features an exchange between Piper and McCall, with McCall firing the first volley (Thomas McCall, “I Believe in Divine Sovereignty”, Trinity Journal 29/2 [Fall 2008] 205-226), followed by Piper’s response (John Piper, “I Believe in God’s Self-Sufficiency: A Response to Thomas McCall”, Trinity Journal 29/2 [Fall 2008] 227-234), and then McCall offering a final rejoinder (Thomas McCall, “We Believe in God’s Sovereign Goodness: A Rejoinder to John Piper”, Trinity Journal 29/2 [Fall 2008] 235-246). McCall makes a compelling case against the typical Calvinist view of divine sovereignty (which amounts to exhaustive divine determinism), represented by Piper,[1] and for a more Arminian view of God’s sovereignty, which does justice to his power, love, and goodness. I appreciated Piper’s humble, pastoral response to such a strong critique of his theology when he said, “I do not rush to press people to believe all the hard things I believe without regard to their own conscience. I do not want someone to believe that God is evil, or that God ever sinned. So if my affirmation that God wills sin to come to pass . . . requires of someone that they believe in their hearts that God sins or that God is evil, then I say to them, ‘Do not yet believe what I say. Your conscience forbids it. You dare not believe statements about God which, according to your own conscience, can only mean that God is what he is not. Continue to pray and study. Either you or I (or both of us) will be changed in due time’ ” (p. 234).

This is wise counsel that we should take to heart, especially as McCall eventually lands a real knock-out blow (or close to it), by drawing attention to the fact that Piper admits that his view logically implies that we might as well sin that grace may abound, and resorts to pleading that we not follow where the logic of his position leads, since it directly contradicts God’s word (pp. 243-44). Calvinism as it is typically held is logically incoherent. That is one reason why I am an Arminian. It is a theology that is logically coherent, biblically faithful, and can actually be lived by the grace of God. Praise God for his sovereingty, love, and goodness! And praise God for this irenic exchange between Piper and McCall, which, in my view, has the effect of refuting the standard Calvinistic position on God’s sovereignty and providence and commending the Arminian one.


[1] McCall does make clear that Piper’s is not the only Calvinist view, and that he focuses on the popular Calvinistic view of God’s sovereignty, represented by Piper, that offers a theodicy for God ordaining sin and evil to the effect that it is necessary for God’s glory, and ultimately, for God to be God. But his essays still show up the deficiency of the more general and standard Calvinistic view (i.e., exhaustive determinism). Citing the judgment of Reformed historical theologian, Richard A. Muller, McCall also cautions that determinism is not the standard position of the broad Reformed tradition (p. 246 n. 34). Be that as it may, it is certainly the position of Calvin and standard Calvinism (see e.g., these quotes of Calvin; the Westminister Confession of Faith, 3.1-2; 5.1-4).

Jack Cottrell’s Critique of Bruce Ware’s Infralapsarian Calvinism

SEA has linked to a few PDF s of Jack Cottrell’s various responses to others from the Perspectives on Election: Five Views book.  Cottrell argues for the Classical Arminian view of individual conditional election based on foreseen faith.  He sees many of the election passages in Scripture as corporate but only as corporate election to service or the fulfilling of a certain purpose, and not to salvation.  Passages dealing with election to salvation he sees as election based on foreseen faith.  While I disagree with Cottrell in that I see corporate election passages as including election to salvation and reject the Classical “election based on foreseen faith” view, I do regard him as one of the strongest and most well argued proponents of the Classical view.  Below is a link to his critique of Bruce Ware’s infralapsarian Calvinist position.  Here is an excerpt from the essay:

One last claim draws my attention, namely, that God has two wills in reference to the salvation of individuals, namely, his “universal saving will” (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9) and his “specific and inviolable will” to save only some of those whom he desires to save (23-4).  According to Ware, God does in fact will not to save some people whom he could save and actually wants to save. Why does he will not to save them? Because his own glory and his greater values and higher purposes require him to send them to hell anyway (25). This horrible idea is based almost solely on Romans 9:22-24, a text horribly distorted to draw the conclusion that the “glorious display” of God’s just wrath against deserving sinners all the more glorifies the grace of God in saving the elect. And only when God thus displays both his wrath and his grace will “the fullness of his matchless glory” be manifest. And surely “the glory of God is the supreme value of God” (25). Thus in effect God’s very nature requires him to do something that is contrary to his own will.

I should think that if one is proceeding through his interpretation of Romans 9, 7 using the Calvinist template of unconditional election and reprobation of individuals as his guide, by the time he gets to 9:22-24 and finds himself forced to draw such conclusions as the above, he would immediately say, “Something is wrong with this picture! Something is wrong with this concept! Something is wrong with this system!” Indeed there is. That “something” is Calvinism. [source]

Other critiques by Cottrell in the same book:

Response to Universalist  Thomas Talbott

Response to Supralapsarian Calvinist Robert L. Reymond

More on the Psychology of Calvinism

Billy Birch has written an excellent post on why certain Calvinists might tend to act the way that they do towards non-Calvinists.  It is also a gentle and necessary reminder to us all to conduct ourselves with grace, compassion, and respect when discussing these controversial topics.  Thanks Billy!