The Truth Shall Set You Free

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Are You An Extreme Calvinist?

Since joining the ranks of the blogosphere in March of this year, I’ve been involved in ‘chatting’on line with a number of Christians about the topic of Calvinism. I will confess some of it was edifying and then some was not. I quickly realized that Calvinism has several different camps. Some embrace TULIP from a ‘moderate’ view, others consider themselves Calvinists but embrace only some of TULIP’s doctrines, and then others hold to what I would describe as a hyper or extreme Calvinist position regarding TULIP. The purpose of this post, and perhaps more to follow, will be to explore the world of the extreme Calvinist. Most of my points are gleaned from Dr. Geisler’s excellent book Chosen But Free. I highly recommend it for those struggling with this topic.

What does the acronym TULIP stand for?

  • T stands for Total Depravity
  • U stands for Unconditional Election
  • L stands for Limited Atonement
  • I stands for Irresistible Grace
  • P stands for Perseverance of the Saints


This theological framework came out of the later writings of St. Augustine (A.D. 354-430) as a result of his controversy with the Pelagians who emphasized free will at the expense of grace. Augustine overreacted with an emphasis on grace at the expense of free will. [Chosen But Free; p. 168; Dr. Geisler] We discern from a careful study of early church history and theology that among the great Fathers of the church, with the lone exception of Augustine’s later writings; Irenaeus, the early writings of Augustine, St. Anselm, and Thomas Aquinas all affirmed the ability of fallen human beings to exercise free choice in their own salvation. They also rejected the doctrine of irresistible grace on the unwilling, as well as, limited atonement, unconditional election, and total depravity as conceived by extreme Calvinism.

What’s important about the early church’s theological position with the exception of Augustine’s later writings in response to the Pelagian’s emphasis on free will at the expense of grace is there would have been no notable extreme ‘Calvinists’ during the first 1500 years of the church. Much detail and documentation of these facts are available for those interested, but for brevity’s sake I will forge ahead into the distinctions between “moderate” Calvinism and “extreme” Calvinism.

How does the Moderate Calvinist view Total Depravity?

  • Corruption of good
  • Effects of sin are extensive
  • Born with propensity to sin
  • Human will is diminished


The moderate Calvinist embraces the concept of total depravity amply supported by Scripture. Basically, all the Scriptures used by extreme Calvinists are accepted by moderate Calvinists with the primary difference being that moderates insist that being “dead” in sin does not mean that unsaved people cannot understand and receive the truth of the gospel as the Spirit of God works on their hearts. That is, it does not in effect erase the image of God, rather it only effaces it.

Unconditional election is also held by moderate Calvinists. It is unconditional from the standpoint of the Giver, even though there is one condition for the receiver – faith. This does not mean the sinner must perform some work in order to become one of the elect. God alone does that on the basis of grace alone. It means only that the elect must believe in Christ to receive this gift of salvation.

Limited atonement is also affirmed by moderate Calvinists in the sense that it is limited in its application. That is, although redemption was purchased for all and is available to all, nonetheless, it will only be applied to those whom God chose from all eternity – the elect.

Moderate Calvinist believe irresistible grace is exercised on all who are willing. That is, anyone who is receptive to God’s work in his heart will be overwhelmed by His grace.

The perseverance of the saints is an essential part of moderate Calvinism. It affirms that all regenerate (justified) people eventually will be saved, in other words, once saved always saved.

[The above was adapted from p. 120-121, Chosen But Free]

How does the Extreme Calvinist view Total Depravity?

  • Destruction of good
  • Effects of sin are intensive
  • Born with necessity to sin
  • Human will is destroyed

[p. 57-58, from Chosen But Free]

Extreme Calvinism is marked by a particular understanding of the ‘Five points’, or TULIP, which must either stand together or they fall together as a result of their peculiar logic. For the extreme Calvinist, total depravity does not mean that humans are as depraved as they could be. They even believe that man is capable of social or domestic good as a result of God’s ‘common grace’ to all men. However, mankind is incapable of any spiritual good and, according to extreme Calvinism, they are totally incapable of initiating, attaining, or ever receiving the gift of salvation without the grace of God. They believe a person is ‘spiritually dead’ which eliminates all human ability to understand or respond to God. A fine point but arguably critical, they believe the effects of sin are intensive (destroying the ability to receive salvation), not just extensive (corrupting the ability to receive salvation). Extreme Calvinists obviously admit that fallen humans have biological life; however they deny they are alive in any sense in which they can respond to God. And whereas the faculty of will is present, the ability to choose to follow God is destroyed. [Chosen But Free; p. 58]

As a result of the extreme Calvinist’s position on total depravity, he must have regeneration occurring prior to faith. In other words, we are saved in order to believe; we do not believe in order to be saved. R.C. Sproul is a modern day extreme Calvinists that champions this view. Please note a quote from R.C. Sproul’s Chosen by God; p. 118. “In regeneration, God changes our hearts. He gives us a new disposition, a new inclination. He plants a desire for Christ in our hearts. We can never trust Christ for our salvation unless we first desire him. This is why we said earlier that regeneration precedes faith.

The Lord willing, I will continue to contrast the ‘U-L-I-P’ of extreme Calvinism versus moderate Calvinism in future posts. For now, I would like to ask those who consider that God must do a work so that man can believe (regeneration precedes faith) to give Scripture that supports that view. Of course, any other comment(s) are also welcome.

In Him,

Eye

17 Comments:

  • Geisler's books sounds very interesting. I may have to get it and read it. Right now I'm behind on my reading, so Geisler's book is at least third in line.

    Wow. I did not realize that moderate Calvinists believe like I do, for the most part. At least it looks that way from what Geisler has said.

    Seems to me that most of the Calvinists I've come across or come to know are of the extreme persuasion. And some have crossed over into the hyper-Calvinist camp, unfortunately.

    Great information, Eye. I look forward to reading about the rest of the acronym.

    It will be interesting to see if anyone will be able to produce the scriptures proving regeneration before faith.

    By Blogger Dawn, at July 17, 2006 1:14 AM  

  • Dawn,

    Thank you for your comments! You are exactly right -- Dr. Geisler's book Chosen But Free is a book I would recommend to anyone interested in understanding the controversy of Extreme vs. Moderate Calvinism. Dr. Geisler documents the clear writings of the Fathers and they do not come anywhere close to holding what we would call an Extreme or Hyper position. Dr. Geisler also does a masterful job of undermining Extreme Arminianism. Truly there is a balance to it all and his work does a most excellent job of finding that middle ground.

    I might add, Dr. James White took exception with Dr. Geisler's book and the version of Chosen But Free I purchased has Geisler's rebut of White's rants on this topic.

    At the end of the day, I would have to agree that 'Moderate' Calvinism as defined by Dr. Geisler appears very sound. I for one do not ascribe to labels and I will always hold to Puritan Belief's Doctrinal Statement "The Holy Bible" vs. a man made system.

    Take care and tell Dr. Jones hello for me when you see him.

    In Him,

    Eye

    By Blogger Eye, at July 17, 2006 8:21 AM  

  • Eye,
    It's been a while since I read it, but I seem to remember that Geisler's book was rather confusing to me...It appeared he was trying to redefine the terms of Calvinism to mean things that Calvinists really wouldn't mean by those same terms. When I talk to someone subscribing to Calvinism, there is more at stake than simply how they define theological terms...I believe any form of Calvinism undermines the truth of God's sovereignty and character. But of course I am a cynic at heart, which the Lord is slowly changing. :)
    I suppose what I am trying to say here is that truth is best described apart from the terms/definitions of both Calvinism and Arminianism.

    By Anonymous Mike, at July 17, 2006 11:13 AM  

  • Eye,
    I am interested in your response to my last post, as I am very open to being wrong (if there's one thing the Lord's taught me in my short life...). :) The following is the first article I mentioned in your other post.

    Calvinism on Trial, Part I

    This article is the first of a series intended to defend God's absolute power as demonstrated in the creation of the present universe, specifically the creation of free will beings. As the Lord Himself has designed, declared, and repeatedly responded to man's freedom in choice, it is assumed that He would not deceive every person into believing that they have choices to make - that is, effects that they themselves will cause - when in fact they have no such choice or power to bring about said effects. One of the prominent enemies of God's power, ironically, is that system of theology which claims to uphold His sovereignty above all other standards: Calvinism.
    Calvinism claims to uphold God's sovereignty through a "complete micromanagement" view of God's work in the universe. Unforunately, as a system, Calvinism diametrically opposes fundamental beliefs on which each person conducts their life regardless of all other beliefs they may hold. Such beliefs include (but certainly are not limited to) the idea of possibilities, the idea of freedom of choice, and the idea of ability and consequent responsibility.
    Calvinism, being one of the oldest Protestant systems of theology, began almost in its present form, deriving most of its ideas and philosophies from philosophy/theology/exegesis of the Reformation time period. Edward de Bono may give us a hint of the problem with the thinking (in philosophy and theology) of that time period, as he writes in his book Lateral Thinking on how information is processed by the human mind: "...information is always arranged in the best way (most stable in physiological terms). As more information comes in it is added to the existing arrangement...But being able to make sense of the information at several stages does not mean that one can go on. There comes a time when one cannot proceed further without restructuring the pattern -- without breaking up the old pattern which has been so useful and arranging the old information in a new way. The trouble with [the way that the human mind works] is that the sequence of arrival of information determines the way it is to be arranged. For this reason the arrangement of information is always less than the best possible arrangement for the best possible arrangement would be quite independent of the sequence of arrival of the pieces of information." In this way, we can see that there would not have been a lot of time for new theological or philosophical "information" to come into view in the early Reformation days. Most of the thinking would have either been steeped in Catholicism or a reaction against it. At some point, it should prove useful to perform some "insight restructuring", as de Bono calls it, in order to analyze the best way to put together the pieces (old and new) of the theological puzzle.
    One of the puzzle pieces which will be the focus of this series is Calvinism's assumptions which it is built upon; these assumptions are not Biblical, to say the least, and are most likely faulty, to say more than I should at this time. One of these assumptions will be examined presently.

    ---------------------------------------
    Calvinism's Assumption #1
    God foreknows that which He foreordains,
    or (the negative) God cannot know what He has not foreordained

    This is one of the most basic assumptions by all Calvinists. They maintain that God foreknows that which He has foreordained (presumably everything that occurs in the universe), or that He cannot know that which He has not foreordained. In its negative form, it is mere speculation as to the content and type of God's knowledge, is illogical (How could God have ever determined anything without knowing at least the possibilities of what He would determine? One solution would be a god who in fact has no free choice either), anti-Biblical (see Matt. 11:21,23, John 8:29, John 15:24), and consequently it is an assumption to which it is not worth responding.
    In its positive form, however, it certainly is an attractive logical stance to take. If the future is foreknown, then how can anything else happen except what is foreknown? Therefore, God must have foreordained it. There are two main sub-assumptions here: 1) God has foreordained everything; and 2) Since what is foreknown will happen, nothing else can happen.
    Sub-assumption #1 is not Biblical (with the possible exception of Ephesians 1:11, if we define "works all things according to His will" as "foreordained everything") and actually contradicts several implications of statements made by God Himself. (Refer to C. Gordon Olson's Getting the Gospel Right or Calvinism and Arminianism for further study.) As it is a groundless assumption, it is one on which it proves dangerous to build a system of theology.
    Sub-assumption #2 is slightly harder to think through, but I believe it is only a confusion of terms and perspectives. First of all, from God's perspective, presumably nothing is "fore"-known by Him, for He does not experience time the same way that we do. Therefore, to God, knowledge is knowledge; what is "foreknowledge" to us could be present or past "observation" to Him. The idea of observing everything that happens in the universe from a time-exempt perspective is obviously inconceivable to us, who are time-bound beings. But to satisfy curiousity, let us examine the argument with the assistance of a timeline:

    ---Eternity Past------>-------Foreseen Event A------------>----Event A

    Note that the order in which events happen is that Event A is "foreseen", then Event A happens. Or to put it in "cause/effect" language: Because God foresees Event A, Event A has to happen. But this is only the timeline from a human standpoint! Let us look at the timeline from God's viewpoint:

    ---Eternity Past,Present, and Future (including Event A and all other possible Events)------>--------Foreseen Event A

    This is the correct view of God's foreknowledge: He foreknows what will happen because what will happen (according to our future) has already happened according to His viewpoint. Notice the reversal of the cause/effect statement in this timeline: Because Event A happened, God "fore"sees Event A. Just because our choices are "in the past" for God, so to speak, does not mean that our choices are already determined. It simply means that He experiences time differently than we do. Therefore, God could foreknow anything that will happen, whether He "foreordained" it or not. In addition, He knows things that He has not ordained (see Matt. 11:21,23,et al), which proves that He can foreknow that which He does not ordain.
    (And if a Calvinist were to say, "No, God does not observe everything that happens in the universe; He causes everything that happens in the universe," then the disagreement on this point is obviously at an impasse; for each side will refuse the other's Scriptural support (and probably rightfully so). Usually the discussion will at this point move into a discussion of possibilities (see Article 4), where the non-Calvinist side will be seen to have the high ground, at least when considering Biblical support (and not man's philosophies) the high ground.)

    By Anonymous Mike, at July 17, 2006 11:17 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Dawn, at July 17, 2006 11:21 AM  

  • Well, as soon as I finish this post I'm on my way out the door to go buy the book. The bookstore is holding it for me. I probably won't be able to start it for a few weeks, maybe longer.

    I had started reading Debating Calvinism by James White & Dave Hunt, but never got around to finishing it. I was a bit stunned at how badly White butchered one of the scriptures he used to prove one of the points of Calvinism. Sorry, but the scripture escapes me at the moment. He made it say something that it absoulutely did not say.

    I also have Why I Am Not An Arminian. I started it also, but have not finished it. Maybe I will be able to do so at a later date.

    I don't ascribe to labels either. It's the HOLY BIBLE vs. a man made system for me, too.

    I will tell Dr. Jones you said hello next time I see him.

    By Blogger Dawn, at July 17, 2006 1:18 PM  

  • Mike,

    Thank you for the post -- I will read it and comment.

    In Him,

    Eye

    By Blogger Eye, at July 17, 2006 4:41 PM  

  • Dawn,

    Happy reading! Sounds like you've got the beginnings of a library any theologian would be proud to claim. :)

    In Him,

    Eye

    By Blogger Eye, at July 17, 2006 4:42 PM  

  • Mike,

    I didn't get the feeling that Dr. Geisler was 'redefining' terms in his book Chosen But Free. Rather, I simply saw an effort to clarify what the 'moderate' or historical Calvinistic position that's been around for a long time believed based on their understanding of select passages. Geisler in turn clearly shows that moderate calvinism has deviated dramatically from that and he clearly points out several un-biblical positions that must be assumed to make 'extreme' calvinism work.

    'Regeneration before faith' which is a clear heresy...

    God actively damning individuals to Hell, including infants...

    There are others but you can see the pont with these. I for one have seen these strange doctrines in many discussions with those I would clearly label as 'extreme' or 'hyper'. Funny thing is most of these folks I would call extreme Calvinist go to 'extreme' measures to explain to someone like me, who points out their error, that I'm misinformed, ignorant of the teachings of Calvinism (I'm not) or I'm just a name caller.

    In Him,

    Eye

    By Blogger Eye, at July 18, 2006 4:31 PM  

  • Mike,

    I typed this, 'Geisler in turn clearly shows that moderate calvinism has deviated dramatically from that and he clearly points out several un-biblical positions that must be assumed to make 'extreme' calvinism work.'

    I meant to type, 'Geisler in turn clearly shows that EXTREME calvinism...

    By Blogger Eye, at July 18, 2006 4:35 PM  

  • Mike,

    I enjoyed reading your post and thanks for bringing it to my Blog! Couple of questions and comments:

    What do you mean when you say "complete micromanagement"?

    I believe Calvinism actually has its roots in the works of Augustine who live in the 3rd and 4th century AD. See my article for details.

    I must admit that your analysis of Calvinism Assumption #1 (God foreknows that which He foreordains) is good.

    However, let me ask you to provide background on where you get this qoute or assumption as you call it.

    I especially like your explanation regarding time and the fact that God is outside of that continuum.

    Here's the thing I like about Geisler's book, he goes into detail regarding what I believe to be your Assumption #1.

    I will quote from pages 47 - 55.

    Extreme Calvinism: predetermination is independent of foreknoweldge.

    According to this view, God's predetermination is done independently of His foreknoweldge of human free acts. God operates with such unapproachable sovereignty that His choices are made with total disregard for the choices of mortal men. (Eye's words -- if you follow this position to its ultimate end, man has no say in his own salvation)

    Arminianism: God's predetermination is based on His foreknoweldge.

    This view faces several difficulties. First, Biblical data seem to say more than that God simply knew what was going to happen. It appears that God actually determined what would happen and that He even assures its accomplihsment by effectively working to bring it about. Second, if God's choice to save was based on those whe choose Him, the it would not be based on divine grace but would be based on human decisions. (Eye's comment: this would conflict the clear teaching of Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 3:5-7, Romans 11:16 and support the notion that salvation springs from the will of man).

    Mike, the point you raise and it is a good one regarding God's view of time is dealt with by Geisler on page 52. If you still have the book you might want to check it out...

    Moderate Calvinism: God's predetermination is in accord with His foreknoweldge...

    This position postulates that God's election is neither based on His foreknoweledge of man's free choices nor exercised independent of it. As the Scriptures say, we are 'elect according to the foreknoweldge of God' (1 Peter 1:2). That is to say, there is no chronological or logical priority of election and forekowledge.

    As Geisler says, ' God's predestination and human free choice are a mystery, but not a contradiction. They go beyond reason, but not against reason. We apprehend each as true, but we do not comprehend how both are true.'

    Hope this is helpful...

    In Him,

    Eye

    By Blogger Eye, at July 18, 2006 6:20 PM  

  • Eye,

    You asked for Scriptural evidence that regeneration precedes faith.

    Eph 1:4 says, "he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love." God elected the elect before creation. Romans 9:10-16 supports this: before Jacob and Esau were even born or had shown whether or not they had faith, God elected Jacob. So God shows mercy before people show faith (v. 16). This makes sense, since before we have faith we are "dead."

    Eph. 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;

    Eph. 2:5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

    Col. 2:13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses.

    Dead people do not exercise faith. We cannot exercise faith until God quickens us (makes us alive), that is, until He regenerates us.

    Limited atonement is a difficult issue. Let's say Christ died for all people (as Jn 1:29 and 3:16 seem to say). How then can God send some of those people to Hell, for whom Christ died? Was Christ's atonement insufficient? Saying that Christ died for the elect only solves that conundrum. The Arminian says that Christ's atonement was sufficient for all, but only effective for those who receive it by faith. I'm not sure if that is an adequate qualification. For one thing, either it was totally sufficient or it was not--to say that something was sufficient but not effective sounds like quibbling over words to me. For another thing, it can be made to look like faith is a work, and it is necessary for man to do the work of faith in order to complete Christ's work of atonement. Once again, it implies that Christ's atonement was not totally sufficient for salvation.

    Any theological system that desires to be biblical, comprehensive, and logically consistent must deal with these issues.

    Dr Davy

    By Anonymous Dr Davy, at July 20, 2006 3:14 PM  

  • Dr Davy,

    Ephesians 1:4 clarly teaches God's election but in no way proves regeneration comes before faith...

    Ephesians 2:1 affirms we are LOST and in need of a Savior and God does the saving -- no question about that, but God doesn't save a person until they BELIEVE the gospel... Cornelius, Phillipian jailer, and many other clear examples...

    Where does Col 2:13 show the order of salvation being regeneration prior to faith?

    You said: Dead people do not exercise faith. We cannot exercise faith until God quickens us (makes us alive), that is, until He regenerates us.

    Eye's response -- again, this is the Extreme Calvinist position as argued by Sproul and others. The Bible does not teach a secret regeneration so a person than can believe the gospel. Show me one example of the gospel in action where a person is regenerated prior to placing faith in Jesus...


    Dr Davy also said: Limited atonement is a difficult issue. Let's say Christ died for all people (as Jn 1:29 and 3:16 seem to say). How then can God send some of those people to Hell, for whom Christ died?

    Eye's response: They didn't believe the gospel.

    Dr. Davy said: Was Christ's atonement insufficient? Saying that Christ died for the elect only solves that conundrum.

    Eye's response: No, I think that viewpoint contradicts many clear Scripture that say Christ died for all.

    Dr Davy said: The Arminian says that Christ's atonement was sufficient for all, but only effective for those who receive it by faith.

    Eye's response: That may be true of the Arminian position but I believeit is the case with the Moderate Calvinist position also -- from my post "Limited atonement is also affirmed by moderate Calvinists in the sense that it is limited in its application. That is, although redemption was purchased for all and is available to all, nonetheless, it will only be applied to those whom God chose from all eternity – the elect."

    Hope this is helpful.

    In Him,

    Eye

    By Blogger Eye, at July 20, 2006 7:48 PM  

  • Let me preface that when I type in all caps that I am not yelling, I’m just emphasizing my point.

    Dr. Davy "Eph 1:4 says, "he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love." God elected the elect before creation. Romans 9:10-16 supports this: before Jacob and Esau were even born or had shown whether or not they had faith, God elected Jacob. So God shows mercy before people show faith (v. 16). This makes sense, since before we have faith we are "dead."

    God elected the elect before creation, but He elected them on the condition that they were believers/faithers/committed on/to Jesus Christ. God had foreknowledge of those who would believe. (Romans 8:29)

    Where in Romans 9:10-16 does it state that Jacob and Esau were elected to salvation? It does not. It states they were elected in terms of service. The elder will serve the younger.

    Verse 16 speaks of mercy, but mercy comes in many forms and doesn't always mean salvation, and I don't believe it means salvation in this case.

    You are right, God DOES show mercy before faith. The bible teaches that God rains on the just and the unjust. Look around and you will see that He allows evil people to be successful and to live long lives. That is mercy. We were all unjust at one time.

    Yes, we are all spiritually dead before we have faith in God. It is when we put our (God-given) faith in God that He quickens us spiritually and we are thus born again.

    Dr. Davy "Dead people do not exercise faith. We cannot exercise faith until God quickens us (makes us alive), that is, until He regenerates us."

    Dead people exercise faith all the time. Now, I will grant you that once we put our faith in God, we are then GIVEN saving faith. That is when we are quickened and born again and given a new nature. But we MUST, MUST, MUST choose to believe that Jesus is Lord BEFORE God quickens our spirits.

    Dr. Davy "Eph. 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;

    Eph. 2:5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
    "

    Wait a minute there. Let's look at the scripture in context.

    Ephesians 2:1-7 "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus." (emphasis added)

    It is saying here that God loves us ALL EVEN WHEN WE'RE DEAD IN SIN. (Not yelling) That is how rich His mercy is toward mankind.

    Let's back up to verse 1. "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;"

    Who is the "YOU" God has quickened? It is those who have placed their faith in God. Those who choose to believe Him at His word as seen in Ephesians 1:13.

    Ephesians 1:13 "In whom ye also trusted, AFTER that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also AFTER that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,"

    So we see very clearly that it is up to man to believe and receive the gospel while GOD does the SAVING.

    Dr. DavyLimited atonement is a difficult issue. Let's say Christ died for all people (as Jn 1:29 and 3:16 seem to say). How then can God send some of those people to Hell, for whom Christ died? Was Christ's atonement insufficient? Saying that Christ died for the elect only solves that conundrum. The Arminian says that Christ's atonement was sufficient for all, but only effective for those who receive it by faith. I'm not sure if that is an adequate qualification. For one thing, either it was totally sufficient or it was not--to say that something was sufficient but not effective sounds like quibbling over words to me.

    I don’t think limited atonement is a difficult issue at all. The only reason any of this appears to be difficult is because Calvinists of the extreme or hyper persuasion have totally and completely complicated the simplicity of the gospel and the perspicuity of scripture. They’ve done this by redefining biblical terms, creating false analogies, creating false doctrines, using fallacious arguments, taking scripture out of context, twisting scripture, ignoring tons of scripture and maligning God’s very character.

    You said, “Let's say Christ died for all people (as Jn 1:29 and 3:16 seem to say). How then can God send some of those people to Hell, for whom Christ died? Was Christ's atonement insufficient? Saying that Christ died for the elect only solves that conundrum.

    It is very clear that Christ died for all people, but that’s not the whole of the gospel. There was a caveat attached to Jesus’ death. The caveat being that one must actually believe the gospel. And I’m not talking Easy Believism here. As Eye has pointed out numerous times, the word believe is an action word that means to faith/commit. One must not only believe Jesus is Lord, but one must put their trust and faith in the Lord and commit their lives to His service. When we believe on the Lord in those terms then Jesus’ death on the cross is effective. It WAS, IS and ALWAYS WILL BE sufficient whether we believe or not.

    How can God send some people to Hell? Easy (though it grieves Him tremendously while at the same time it is His JUSTICE), because the Bible states that one must believe on the Lord Jesus to be saved. Was Christ’s atonement insufficient? NO WAY! The question is irrelevant because the argument that His dying for ALL dictates that ALL must be saved is a logical fallacy. Saying that Christ died for the elect ONLY is simply wrong because Calvinists have CREATED the so-called “conundrum.” Sorry, Dr. Davy, but there was never a conundrum. NEVER.


    Dr. DavyThe Arminian says that Christ's atonement was sufficient for all, but only effective for those who receive it by faith. I'm not sure if that is an adequate qualification. For one thing, either it was totally sufficient or it was not--to say that something was sufficient but not effective sounds like quibbling over words to me.

    The fact that Christ’s atonement was/is sufficient for all while not effective for all is in no way an inadequate qualification, rather it is the ONLY true and correct qualification as taught by the word of God. When we know and understand the whole of the gospel we understand the differences between sufficiency and efficacy, not to mention the actual definition of the words are DIFFERENT.

    sufficient adj. 1. adequate for the purpose; enough. 2. Logic. (of a condition) such that its existence leads to the occurrence of a given event or the existence of a given thing. Compare NECESSARY (def. 4c). 3. Archaic. competent. sufficiently, adv.

    effective adj. 1. adequate to accomplish a purpose; producing the intended or expected result: effective teaching methods. 2. in operation or in force; functioning; operative: The law becomes effective at midnight. 3. producinga deep or vivid impression; striking: an effective photograph. 4. prepared and available for service, esp. military service. -n. 5. a member of the armed forces fit for duty or active service. effectively, adv. effectiveness, effectivity, n. - Syn. EFFECTIVE, EFFECTUAL, EFFICACIOUS, EFFICIENT refer to that which produces or is able to produce an effect. EFFECTIVE is applied to something that produces a desired or expected effect, often a lasting one: an effective speech. EFFECTUAL usu. refers to something that produces a decisive outcome or result: an effectual settlement. EFFICACIOUS refers to something capableof achieving a certain end or purpose: an efficacious remedy. EFFICIENT, usu. used of a person, implies skillful accomplishment of a purpose with littlewaste of effort: an efficient manager.

    Christ’s atonement was sufficient to save the entire world. His atonement is only effective when one applies the correct principles to that atonement (i.e., believe (believe/faith/commit) on the Lord Jesus Christ).

    Dr. DavyFor another thing, it can be made to look like faith is a work, and it is necessary for man to do the work of faith in order to complete Christ's work of atonement. Once again, it implies that Christ's atonement was not totally sufficient for salvation.

    Sorry, DD, but only a hyper/extreme Calvinist would ever see faith as a work. The Bible explicitly states that faith is NOT a work. (Romans 3:27) So WHY would ANYONE EVER see it as a work? The ONLY way they would ever see it that way is if they were TAUGHT to see it that way. FAITH IS NOT A WORK and can NEVER be seen as a WORK. Saying that one can exercise their GOD-GIVEN FAITH is in no way an implication of insufficiency of Christ’s atonement. It’s just NOT. God is the only one who can save, but He requires some participation from man, and that participation of faith is NOT a work. That IS what the Bible teaches. Man’s participation in no way takes any sovereignty away from God. Man can’t save Himself, but He must obey the word of God by placing his faith IN God. God then quickens our spirits to life and we are new creatures IN HIM. It is ALL the work of God.

    Dr. DavyAny theological system that desires to be biblical, comprehensive, and logically consistent must deal with these issues.

    Absolutely, but both the Arminian and Calvinist camps have deviated from these principles. Therefore, I do not hold to either camp. I am a biblicist.

    By Blogger Dawn, at July 23, 2006 3:48 PM  

  • Dawn,

    Well said!

    In Him,

    Eye

    By Blogger Eye, at July 23, 2006 5:47 PM  

  • Dawn,

    I applaud you for being a biblicist. I applaud you for not submitting to a label.

    Being a biblicist implies that biblical theology is more important to you than systematic theology.

    In biblical theology you look at each passage and draw principles directly from that passage. Knowing that Scripture does not contradict itself, and that God the Holy Spirit is the Author of all Scripture, you know that you can use other passages to support the principles you find in one passage.

    Systematic theology just takes those principles and puts them in topical order. In doing this, it facilitates the development of a personal theology, a world-view. This world-view can be summarized and internalized so that it directs our actions.

    Converting biblical theology to systematic theology also helps a person to see whether there are any principles that do not fit into a coherent, consistent world-view. Some people study historical theology in order to see how other people have found something to be heretical and have worked out a better position.

    People who have articulated and debugged their personal theology often find that it corresponds, or nearly corresponds, with what others have espoused. Those people then accept a label for themselves, albeit sometimes with qualifications -- e.g., four-point Calvinists, or moderate Calvinists.

    One of the Bible teachers whose knowledge I most respect calls himself a biblicist, so I am not disparaging biblicists, but neither should we disparage those who have found that a label fits them.

    Unless, of course, that label designates fatal heresy.

    Dr Davy

    By Anonymous Dr Davy, at August 07, 2006 12:22 PM  

  • Dr. Davy, the main thing that bothers me about those who label themselves other than Christians or biblicists is that they tend to appeal to authority. That would be fine if that authority were God and not John Calvin, John McArthur, James White, Jacobus Arminius, John Wesley, etc. Not that these men aren't good men of God, but they are not God. :-)

    Thankfully you have never suggested such a thing. I've thoroughly enjoyed our discourse here at Eye's place. It's been a refreshing experience.

    By Blogger Dawn, at August 11, 2006 3:34 AM  

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