Archive for the ‘Calvinism’ Category

George Bryson wrote the following:

THE GOSPEL
ACCORDING TO
JAMES WHITE
OR
THE “REFORMED” DOCTRINES
OF
DOOM AND GLOOM

The First Point

The first side (the positive side) of the first point of Calvinism is that if you are one of those elected for salvation you will one day (in this life) inevitably be born again before the final judgment. When you are born again you will be given a new nature. As your old nature was an unbelieving nature so your new nature will be a believing nature. Here is how it unfolds. As a new born child of God you will (as a result of your new birth) believe in Jesus Christ. Because (and when) you believe in Jesus Christ you will be declared righteous and be guaranteed a place among the resurrection of the just-and at that time glorified for all eternity.

The second side (the negative or doom and gloom side) of the first point is that if you are not one of the elect, you will not and cannot born again. Here is how it unfolds. Because you are not born again and will forever be stuck with your unbelieving nature you will not and cannot believe in Jesus Christ. Because you cannot believe in Jesus Christ in your unregenerate condition, you will not be justified. If you are not justified you will eventually be raised with the unjust, and finally be sentenced to everlasting shame and torment. This to is according to God’s sovereign will and good pleasure.

The Second Point

The first side (the positive side) of the second point of Calvinism is that if God has chosen you for salvation He did so unconditionally. You do not have to believe to become chosen for salvation but you were chosen and created for salvation and so you believe as a result of being elected and created for salvation.

The second side (the negative or doom and gloom side) of the second point is that if God has not chosen you for salvation,-meaning He has chosen you for damnation-He did so unconditionally. You were chosen, decreed, and created for damnation. You cannot believe and are therefore damned for your unbelief because this is according to God’s sovereign will and for His glory and good pleasure.

The Third Point

The first side (the positive side) of the third point of Calvinism is that if you were chosen and created for salvation, Christ died for your sins so that the eternal decree for salvation would have an historical provision for salvation.

The second side (the negative or doom and gloom side) of the third point of Calvinism is that if you were not chosen and created for salvation-meaning you were chosen and created for damnation- Christ did not die for your sins because an eternal decree for damnation needs no historical provision for salvation.

The Fourth Point

The first side (the positive side) of the fourth doctrine is that if you were chosen and created for salvation, God will irresistibly draw or efficaciously call you (applying saving grace to your life and circumstance) to Himself, first giving you a new life, which in turn brings with it a new nature, which is a believing nature, resulting in your certain and immediate justification and eventual and everlasting glorification.

The second side (the negative and doom and gloom side) of the fourth doctrine is that if you were not chosen and created for salvation-meaning that you were chosen and created for damnation-you will not be irresistibly drawn, efficaciously called, and no saving grace will be extended to you, which means you will not and cannot be born again, which in turn means you cannot have faith in Christ and thereby be justified in this life or ultimately glorified in the next life. Instead you will suffer the torments of the everlasting lake of fire in accordance with the sovereign will of God because this is according to His good pleasure.

The Fifth Point

The first side (the positive side) of the fifth point of Calvinism is that if you were chosen and created for salvation, the new nature you receive when you are born again, and the saving faith that comes with that new nature, and the justification that immediately follows faith insures that you will live (however imperfectly) a sanctified, holy, or righteous life in faith (practically speaking) for the most part, from the time of your regeneration until the time of your glorification. This perseverance in sanctification, holiness, or righteousness in faith, while not perfect is inevitable for the truly born again and will be to the end of this life for the elect. It is not as though the elect should not fail to persevere (for the most part) but they cannot do so. If therefore a person appeared to be a saint earlier in life, but failed to persevere in faith and righteousness until the end of life, it proves he was never a saint or never born again, never had faith in Christ, and never had a holy and righteous life in faith to persevere in.

The second side (the negative and doom side) of the third point is that if you are not elect and created for salvation-meaning you are elect and chosen for damnation-you cannot be born again, have faith in Christ, live a holy or righteous life in faith for even one day, much less to the end of your life. Because God is sovereign and can do as He pleases with His creatures, God is free to mislead a person into thinking they are one of the elect, help them live much like the elect, but at the judgment reveal that they were convinced by God that they were one of the elect even though they were not. No matter how convinced someone is in thinking he is one of the elect, assurance of salvation and eternal life is impossible to secure. How could anyone know for certain that they will persevere to the end proving they were elect without actually having persevered to the end.
After many years (actually decades) of studying the Calvinist doctrines of grace, I am convinced that the best refutation of the five points of Calvinism is an accurate and honest explanation of the five points of Calvinism. Unfortunately most new converts to Calvinism are not aware of the flip side to the five points of Calvinism early on. Those who introduce Calvinism to the non-Calvinist believe that the new believer is not ready for the meatier stuff of Reformed theology. That, they say, should come only later when they can handle it. They reason that the positive side of each point is like simple arithmetic. The negative side is more like algebra or some other more complicated, difficult and higher form of math.

The truth is this; the negative side is not more difficult to understand for the new convert to Calvinism, it is more difficult to accept. The positive side seems more palatable whereas the negative side is difficult to swallow and some even choke on it. Full disclosure, early on and sometimes even later on, is a major hindrance to those committed to winning the non-Calvinist over to Calvinism. Admittedly, sometimes proponents of Calvinism do not lay it all out on the table because they themselves have not turned the coin over to see what is on the other side. Sometimes they ignore it. Sometimes they deny it. They are on the Reformed road and are trying to get others to join them. However, they have not gone very far and sometimes do not choose to go but a few blocks down the Reformed road. Some would like to believe that each of the five points of Calvinism are only five points of grace. It is too much (for them) to think that these five points also represent a very hard and harsh message of doom and gloom. In fact, John Piper happily concedes that:

The “Doctrines of Grace” (Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, Perseverance of the saints) are the warp and woof of the biblical gospel cherished by so many saints for centuries.

I responded as follows:

George, thanks again for chiming in on my blog. I just want to say in short that you are not representing the “Confessionally Reformed” tradition fairly. You may have met some obnoxious “5 pointers” and I can almost guarantee you that most have not actually read Calvin’s Institutes, nor the Confessional tradition that emanated from him (Belgic Confession, Canons of Dordt, Heidelberg Catechism). Calvin, along with the confessions, are very pastoral and present the doctrines of Scripture in a clear, yet necessarily nuanced form with regards to some doctrines that transcend our full ability to comprehend. Here’s an example from the Belgic Confession (emphasis mine):

Article 13: The Doctrine of God’s Providence

We believe that this good God, after he created all things, did not abandon them to chance or fortune but leads and governs them according to his holy will, in such a way that nothing happens in this world without his orderly arrangement.
Yet God is not the author of, nor can he be charged with, the sin that occurs. For his power and goodness are so great and incomprehensible that he arranges and does his work very well and justly even when the devils and wicked men act unjustly.

We do not wish to inquire with undue curiosity into what he does that surpasses human understanding and is beyond our ability to comprehend. But in all humility and reverence we adore the just judgments of God, which are hidden from us, being content to be Christ’s disciples, so as to learn only what he shows us in his Word, without going beyond those limits.This doctrine gives us unspeakable comfort since it teaches us that nothing can happen to us by chance but only by the arrangement of our gracious heavenly Father. He watches over us with fatherly care, keeping all creatures under his control, so that not one of the hairs on our heads (for they are all numbered) nor even a little bird can fall to the ground^20 without the will of our Father.

In this thought we rest, knowing that he holds in check the devils and all our enemies, who cannot hurt us without his permission and will.

George, on a personal note, I really wish you and CC would stop attacking Calvinism. I am meeting more and more former CC folks who have left because they were ostracized after claiming to like guys like John MacArthur, John Piper, and C.H. Spurgeon. It has gotten ridiculous out there. Do you seriously wish to continue to attack the Calvinistic understanding of God that MacArthur, Piper, Spurgeon, and the historical Church has held? Stop proclaiming that you are neutral on the Calvin-Arminian debate if you are going to continue to attack Calvinism and run very Godly pastors and “members” out of your churches and missions support because they share such convictions. I have met exCC folks who said that they would have remained in the fellowship with their Calvinisitic convictions if they weren’t attacked so vigorously. One gentleman told me that he was receiving correspondence from his CC friends about attending our church, whereas the concern was that we were heretical almost on the level of Mormonisn and JW. This is sad and I think you are partly responsible, unless of course you truly think we are borderline heretics, which means you should do everyone a service and tell all the CC bookstores to stop selling Tozer, MacArthur, Piper, Spurgeon, etc. My convictions are hardly any different from Spurgeon and yet his works are sold in most CC bookstores, whereas some CC members think that we as a church are almost heretical. Would you say the same about Spurgeon and his congregation? Consistency would definitely help, not only for your CC folks, but also for the church universal.

Grace and Peace…Rick

Hyde, Daniel R.. Welcome to a Reformed Church: A Guide for Pilgrims. Orlando, Fla.: Reformation Trust Pub., 2010. Print.

Reformation Trust provided this copy for a honest review on my part, so here it is:

Rev. Hyde offers readers a primer on the history and doctrine of the Reformed Church, focusing mainly on the 3 Forms of Unity (Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, and Canons of Dordt).

The Good:

Although an Evangelical Baptist, I am indebted to the 3 forms more than any other confession, catechism, or doctrinal formulation. I welcome with joy this brief book which introduces many to a heritage that is little-known in the broader American Evangelical Church.

Rev. Hyde takes great care to represent Reformed theology as a religion of the heart and mind. Hyde states,

“God has established an inseparable connection between truth and godliness. If truth remains in our heads but does not proceed to dwell in our hearts and find expression in our conduct, then we are no different, James says, than the devils (James 2:18-19).”

 Many have criticized Reformed theology as being arrogant and cerebral. While there are some who may unfortunately represent the Reformed heritage in such a way, this certainly is unrepresentative of the whole. Hyde commends Scottish Presbyterian John “Rabbi” Duncan’s quote, “I’m first a Christian, next a Catholic, then a Calvinist, fourth a Paedobaptist and finally a Presbyterian. I cannot reverse the order.” Hyde reminds us that we are first Christians, and secondly catholics. Catholic in the sense that we affirm solidarity with the church behind us, the church around us, and the church ahead of us.

Hyde also reminds us that Reformed theology highlights the importance of Sanctification. While many may first think of God’s sovereignty and Justification as key Reformed doctrines, the Reformers cared just as much about holy living. Hyde notes:

“Our Reformed fathers focused heavily on holy living. The volume of teachings they devoted to sanctification in their confessions and catechisms is striking. The Heidelberg Catechism devotes forty-four of its 129 questions and answers, more than one-third of its material, to sanctification, while the Westminster Larger Catechism devotes an impressive eighty-two of 196 questions and answers (42 percent) to this subject. By this emphasis, the Reformed churches declared that Calvinism is no mere religion of “head knowledge,” and we cannot live as if it makes us the “frozen chosen,” as we are sometimes derisively known. It is a religion of head and heart.”

The last emphasis that I found helpful was Hyde’s treatment of the Church and the centrality of the means of grace through Word and Sacraments. He reminds us that,

“It is the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ, then, that creates the people of God. The gospel not only saves us from our sins and the wrath of God, it places us in vital union with Jesus Christ and other Christians. Thus, the church is the fruit of the gospel; it is not our own creation, but a creation of the triune God of grace.”

The Bad: (more…)

Honoring John Piper

Posted: October 6, 2010 by Rick Hogaboam in Biography, Calvinism, From the Heart, Theology
Tags:

Justin Taylor and Sam Storms served as editors of a book that was released at the 2010 Desiring God “Think” Conference. The book is titled, “For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper”. Check out the lineup of contributors and the video of John Piper being presented with the book here.

I add myself to a great multitude of grateful saints for the ministry of John Piper. I was gifted on Christmas 2001 with the book, “Pleasures of God” from Pastor Ty Van Horn of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Manhattan Beach, where I served as a Pastoral Assistant/Intern. I have forever been changed by that and subsequent books and sermons by John Piper.

Here is a list of things I most admire about Pastor John Piper:

  1. His Godliness. Some fault Evangelicals for being overly pietistic, and John Piper confirmed in me that we are not pietistic enough in a Godward sense of emoting. Whenever folks accuse me of just being a pietistic Evangelical, I gladly bear the criticism. John Piper taught me, through the voice of C.S. Lewis, that our emotions are not too strong, but rather too weak. Piper’s words are forever branded in my heart and mind, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him”.
  2. His Exegesis. Piper wants everyone to see his preaching as the result of careful exegesis. Piper is committed to Holy Scripture and is captivated by it. Piper said that the best advice for a preacher is to be incredibly excited about the Bible. I may not agree with everything Piper says, but I don’t doubt for one minute that his convictions flow from hours of burning the candlelight before Holy Writ.
  3. Preaching as Exultation.  “The Supremacy of God in Preaching” is the greatest book I have ever read on preaching. Piper taught me that preaching is worship. Piper models this. He is known for often looking upward in a heavenly gaze when he preaches and I can’t help but think he is preaching to God’s glory above all else, before an audience of one. I have learned that the most important person to please when I preach is God Himself.
  4. Arcing. For more on arcing, visit http://www.biblearc.com/web/
  5. Love for the Unborn. Piper is a champion for the dignity of human life as reflecting the image of God. He has been arrested for protesting for life and has been bold enough to call out President Obama on the abortion issue. See this clip. I have taken up Piper’s tradition of preaching on Life every year during Sanctity of Life Sunday. I also walk in the annual Boise Walk for Life along with my family.
  6. Love for the Afflicted and Suffering. My theology of suffering was non-existent before I devoured Piper’s resources. While I affirm that Satan and his minions are at work in much suffering, I know that it is all sifted through God’s loving hands. I had the opportunity to attend The Bethlehem Institute and had some preliminary correspondence with Piper about starting a ministry for the disabled at Bethlehem Baptist. He was excited about such prospects. God closed that door and I never did go, but Piper’s love for the disabled, afflicted, and suffering is a healthy antidote to the “Health and Wealth” crap that passes itself off as Christian. Our family walks in the annual Boise Buddy Walk for Downs Syndrome and my pastoral care to the afflicted and suffering is much indebted to John Piper.
  7. Love for Global Missions. “Missions exists because worship doesn’t” says Piper. It is no secret that Piper loves the lost, was a friend of Ralph Winter, wrote a book on missions,  and has featured missionaries to his annual conferences.
  8. Racial Harmony. Piper has retained his residence in the “dangerous” urban area of Minneapolis. He has adopted Talitha, a black girl, and has reached out to the African immigrant community in the Twin Cities. Rather than “white flight”, Piper has embraced ministry to all who surround him.
  9. A Kinder Glorious Calvinism. Piper could care less if the “Truly Reformed” label him “Essentially Reformed”. I couldn’t care less as well. When Piper labels himself a 7 point Calvinist, he does so to see God’s glorious creation before, and God’s glorious consummation at the end. The glory of God bookends the doctrines of grace. Like Piper, I am an unashamed “Calvinist”, but I wear such a label as a humble  sinner who seeks God’s doxology above all else. Calvinism must be stirred within the broader framework of Scripture and the Glory of God.
  10. Theological Honesty. Love him or hate him, Piper is an eclectic dude theologically. His thoughts on Law and Gospel have evolved, he believes in the continuation of Spiritual Gifts, and his eschatology always seems to be intentionally ambiguous. He has fought against Open Theism in his own denomination, is complementarian, and supported an amendment to the bylaws of his church that would allow those baptized as infants join the membership of the church. He has caused a stir by inviting the likes of Doug Wilson, Mark Driscoll, and Rick Warren to his annual conferences. Don’t confuse this charity with theological indifference, but a canny discernment to be inclusive of those who keep the main thing the main thing. He even moderated an eschatological roundtable not to long ago between Sam Storms, Doug Wilson, and Jim Hamilton. Piper models charity to those within the broader Evangelical church, seeing the strengths among those he might disagree with on other issues. I try to model this healthy ecumenical Spirit. I am also an eclectic Evangelical, holding convictions on a host of theological issues that wouldn’t place me perfectly into any one circle. It’s better to be Theologically honest than a cross-fingered Evangelical who affirms doctrinal elaborations on paper that they really don’t believe. Theological credibility is important and I hope to be bold enough to state what I believe the Bible to be teaching and also humble enough to admit that certain things are a work in progress. This discernment that Piper has modeled teaches me to keep the Gospel front and center and to be gracious on secondary issues. My friends in the current pastorate consist of colleagues from the Foursquare Church, Nazarene Church, United Reformed Church, CREC, PCA, and OPC.

Well, I was teary-eyed seeing Piper accept the book on stage. I am grateful for him and am convinced that he will go down as one of the greatest Pastor-Theologians our country has ever seen.

The New Birth

Posted: June 8, 2010 by Greg Burkheimer in Calvinism, New Testament, Radical Depravity, Theology, Uncategorized

The new birth is not salvation? This was the troubling question on my heart as we covered the doctrine of regeneration one evening in Bible Doctrine III class. I had always thought that being born again was the same as being saved or justified and was a result of faith? The Reformed understanding of the Ordo Salutis (order of salvation) was about to challenge me to re-examine my belief. The purpose of this paper will be to briefly examine the Ordo Salutis in relation to which comes first, regeneration or faith?

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What Augustine can Offer to Reformed Theology

Posted: March 23, 2010 by Scott Kistler in Calvinism
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John Piper writes that Augustine offers a corrective when Reformed theology becomes joyless:

And we need to rediscover Augustine’s peculiar slant—a very biblical slant—on grace as the free gift of sovereign joy in God that frees us from the bondage of sin. We need to rethink our Reformed doctrine of salvation so that every limb and every branch in the tree is coursing with the sap of Augustinian delight. We need to make plain that total depravity is not just badness, but blindness to beauty and deadness to joy; and unconditional election means that the completeness of our joy in Jesus was planned for us before we ever existed; and that limited atonement is the assurance that indestructible joy in God is infallibly secured for us by the blood of the covenant; and irresistible grace is the commitment and power of God’s love to make sure we don’t hold on to suicidal pleasures, and to set us free by the sovereign power of superior delights; and that the perseverance of the saints is the almighty work of God to keep us, through all affliction and suffering, for an inheritance of pleasures at God’s right hand forever.

Source: The Legacy of Sovereign Joy: God’s Triumphant Grace in the Lives of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin, p. 73.  You can download the book for free in PDF format.

Greetings to all who were present at SGF this past Lord’s Day for worship.

I want to clarify a comment that was made which was erroneous. When commenting on the story of the “Unforgiving Servant” from Mt. 18:23-35, I made mention that the small debt owed to the forgiven servant was around $10. I meant to say around $10,000. I forgot to mention a few zeroes behind it. That’s the last time I will teach my kids that zeroes mean nothing. 🙂

At the end of the day, 6 Billion to $10,000 might as well be like a buck that is owed in comparison.

Also, in regards to whether the original servant really was forgiven, because he is later summoned and thrown into prison after failing to show mercy, I would say that the forgiveness wasn’t complete. If the king truly forgave Him, He would have no grounds to throw him into prison afterwards. In some sense, the forgiveness of debt was conditional. So also, our future glorification is conditioned upon a persevering faith that evidences fruits of sanctification (though never perfect in this life).

If the original servant truly was forgiven of the debt, it would have been realized in his heart and would inevitably affect his actions towards others. The fact that his heart was unchanged shows that he viewed his forgiveness as nothing more than”get out of prison” card. He had no gratitude, failed to appreciate the King’s heart in the matter, and failed to apply the forgiveness received. He flunked. Because of his deficiency, the debt really wasn’t fully settled, but was reasserted after it became evident that this guy was using the “King” by crying out for mercy.

How does this look today?

Well, someone comes to Jesus, and from all appearances it appears that the contrition, repentance and faith are all genuine. As such, I would baptize such a person and declare to them that they are heirs of eternal life and that their sins have been washed away based on the signs of their repentance. I am not omniscient and only declare according to what is seen. This baptized professor goes out rejoicing that their debt is settled and uses it as a license for hatred towards brother, and all manner of unspeakable sin. When confronted with such sin, if the person fails to repent, they would then be “excommunicated”. This excommunication is intended to convey that they no longer have the rights and privileges to the Lord’s Table and Christian fellowship. Now, were they saved in the first place or not? Only time will tell. I think it dangerous to emphatically state that they indeed were saved and have now lost it. It is also dangerous to say that they never were saved, when in fact their season of disobedience might not nullify a very real faith within. All we can do is administer the “keys of the Kingdom” based on what we see externally. Some would protest that this sounds like salvation by works. We, however, are told to judge fruit and take into account the fruits of repentance. There would be no basis for Church discipline if we were to ignore the way people behave. Church discipline is not a system of salvation by works, but rather an act that protects the integrity of the Church, the doctrine of salvation and sanctification, and is intended to provoke the unrepentant to repentance.

If the one disciplined were to return to the Church, we wouldn’t rebaptize them or declare that they are getting saved over again. We would simply restore them to fellowship and rejoice that the prodigal has returned. Our concern is not to make infallible statements about the deep things of the heart, which God alone knows. If we committed the error of saying that they never were saved, then many would be reluctant to restore a fallen brother thinking that they are faking it again. This is the error of the Corinthian Church which wouldn’t restore the immoral brother. The other extreme is to so distort saving grace, that you refuse to discipline and actually boast of sin within the body (which the same Corinthian Church did before Paul told them to deal with the immoral brother).

These matters are intricate and need to be administered with a proper understanding of the boundaries and jurisdiction of the local Church.

Now back to the parable. This story is told from Jesus and the illustrations don’t fit perfectly our context. First of all, the King summons the servant back and throws him into prison. This illustrates eternal punishment. One needs to be careful with establishing doctrine from parables, however this action would constitute God’s holy and righteous judgment at the last judgment. It will be shown that this servant will pay dearly for his misappropriation of forgiveness. This story only makes sense if someone infallible is telling the story (Jesus) who is able to infallibly make pronouncements on what really was going on from God’s perspective (King). At the end of the day, the King did show grace and forgave him his debt with the assumption that the person would be changed. This person was not changed and therefore never really was forgiven…he was still bound by hatred, unforgiveness, and a vindictive spirit. He was still bound to the evil one and his own flesh. He was not transformed and produced no fruit. He would be like the seed that fell alongside the road that was eaten up.

Jesus said that we must abide in Him and that He would abide in us and that we would produce fruit. If we don’t produce fruit, then Jesus threatens judgment. This is the same language employed by the prophets to the Covenant community before Christ and it is the same language spoken to the New Covenant community. I see no inconsistency with how the Bible speaks to God’s people in warnings, pleadings, and threats…with the doctrine of “eternal security”. The doctrine of “eternal security” only makes sense in the eternal perspective on things for those whom are truly the elect of God. The “elect” cannot be lost in the grand scheme of things. The physical “elect” Church community, however, is filled with the decreetive “elect” (those who will persevere) as well as tares (those who gave minimal signs of faith to bring them to baptism and the Lord’s table, but whose heart is far from God and fail to seek God’s grace in sanctification). This “unforgiving servant” was admitted to the “Church” by the gracious actions of the King, but upon further review, he never made his calling and election a sure thing, but chose to walk in the “church” of Satan instead. His baptism and profession of faith are therefore now something to heighten the judgment on the last day instead of tokens of grace.

Rick,

“By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of those ends, we say that he has been predestined to life or death.” (John Calvin).

As you are aware, not all Reformed or Calvinist websites are “equal”. Some who claim to be Calvinists do not agree with what Calvin said when he said that some people were create for eternal damnation. What about those on this web
site?

“created for” “eternal damnation”

George Bryson

My response is as follows:

Mr. Bryson,

I would need to write a book in response to that question. Let’s just say that GOD is sovereign, that He chose to create the world as we now know it, fully aware of everything that would come to pass (including the knowledge of those who would reject Him and suffer His wrath) and yet He still chose to create as He did. I do not believe there are limitations on God’s involvement with creation. There are times where He chooses to be passive (though it is according to His will, and His agency is less involved) and times when His agency is interventionist in nature. He can frustrate the kings, raises up leaders, pulls down leaders, is able to kill (Ananias and Sapphira) whenever and whoever He pleases.

Since I believe that God was not constrained and bound to create the world as we know it, and that He freely chose to create the world as we know it, then people being damned is well within His providential counsel. I believe that He could have created a world with no hell, He could have destroyed the Serpent before creation of the world, He could have given Adam no prohibitions, He could have done a lot of things. Such speculation isn’t helpful when we think in constant hypotheticals, but it does show us that God either created freely, or in constrained fashion, or He really didn’t know what was to come to pass and is either voluntarily bound from seeing the future (open theism) or necessarily bound from seeing free acts in the future (process theology). Even non-Calvinists who assert God’s exhaustive foreknowledge, if they believe God was free to create otherwise while hypothetically looking at different outcomes, still must deal with the fact that God created with the knowledge that some would suffer damnation and chose not to create otherwise.

You can say all you want about a person’s damnation being wholly their choice, which I agree with, but the mere fact that they even exist is according to God’s will, unless you’re a deist and deny to God the freedom over even who comes into existence. Anyhow, I don’t think that a person who asserts God’s exhaustive foreknowledge can conveniently pass off eternal wrath to Calvinists. This is why an increasing number of “Arminian” theologians have adopted a middle knowledge position, open theism, process theology, and some forms bordering on deism. You can’t avoid the very things you disagree with in Calvinism if you yourself believe that God foreknew the rejection of many people who would suffer wrath…that he could have created otherwise a world in which there was no potential for sin (which will be realized in New Heavens and Earth); but still chose to create as He did; with suffering, evil, and wrath included. It is what it is and I tremble before this Sovereign God, shut my lips against any accusation, “Why did you make me this way? Why did you crate the world as you did? etc etc etc”. Paul warns us from giving counsel to God or questioning His providential wisdom in all things.

Whether you believe that God is more or less active in the reprobation of sinners is somewhat besides the point if you still believe that God freely chose what we now know, fully aware of everything that would come to pass. If you reserve the right to God to have changed the outcome as we know it, then you are “Calvinistic”. We can bicker over supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism, or whether God actively condemns the sinner, or merely passes over the sinner and is more active in the redemption of the elect, but I think such discussions are somewhat vain if the intent is to somehow exclude reprobation from God’s eternal purposes. If the concern is more directed towards understanding God’s disposition and heart in the matter, then that would be a discussion perhaps worth having. Let me know what your intent was in asking my understanding of Calvin’s quote. Thanks.

Brother in Christ,

Rick Hogaboam, Pastor, Sovereign Grace Fellowship of Nampa (ID)

P.S.

For blog readers, George Bryson is the director for the Calvary Chapel Church Planting Mission Ministry and I am grateful for his service to the Kingdom and pray for God’s blessing upon their ministry.