Calvinist Credibility

John Piper said:

Why are Calvinists so negative?

I love the doctrines of grace with all my heart, and I think they are pride-shattering, humbling, and love-producing doctrines. But I think there is an attractiveness about them to some people, in large matter, because of their intellectual rigor. They are powerfully coherent doctrines, and certain kinds of minds are drawn to that. And those kinds of minds tend to be argumentative.

So the intellectual appeal of the system of Calvinism draws a certain kind of intellectual person, and that type of person doesn’t tend to be the most warm, fuzzy, and tender. Therefore this type of person has a greater danger of being hostile, gruff, abrupt, insensitive or intellectualistic.

Read rest of article hereBy John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.orghere.

Here is an extract from a letter written by a pastor frustrated by the problems hyper calvinists had settling in his church:

The main reason I am writing is to see if you know anything a person can do in response to hyper-calvinism. Around these parts, we are getting killed by very vocal, self-righteous hyper-calvinists, especially those who are connected with Piper’s church. He has a very strong following around here. They always use the same language and have the same condescending attitude toward everyone else. This stripe also seems to revere Bob Dewaay, Kirk Cameron, and Lighthouse trails research. They turn up their nose at Rick Warren and Bill Hybels.

The problem is that they just are relentless. Absolutely no discussion or compromise. I have had the life kicked out of me at my church this past year by some of these people. For them, it just isn’t good enough to be a solid evangelical who really loves Jesus and wants to serve him. It has to be all about reformed theology.

With regards to these dear folks at my church – the proud Calvinists – my approach has always been exactly what you were suggesting. I went out of my way time and again to be friends with them – the number of hours spent over coffee and lunch (funny thing, it was always on my dime!) was incalculable. The tool that I had leaned on for so many years in youth ministry, namely loving relationships, failed me. They were just too stuck in their theology to see anything else. We couldn’t ever just agree to disagree and leave it at that.

Which is why it is such a stretch for these people to find a home in our church. We deliberately say that we will not divide over theological issues like this. We are centered on the cross, on walking with Jesus. They just seemed like they were always picking a fight.

So, any thoughts, ideas, or suggestions?

Read complete article.

Clearly, based on his writing above, Piper himself is not too thrilled by this kind of outcome but acknowledges the problem.

I’ve mentioned my own experiences with these attitudes on the blog here previously. They spanned different groups of people and a number of years. Pentecostals get a bad reputation for being over emotional. ‘Emergents’ get a bad reputation for being too liberal. Well, this attitude issue seems to be the equivalent thorn for Calvinists.

So – is it possible to wholeheartedly join with a Calvinist movement – particularly the Reformed crowd – and not fall into these tendencies? If so, how is that outcome achieved?

If we are to judge a tree by its fruit, should we ignore those attitudes when choosing our teachers? After all, the theology is rigorous, whether we agree with it all or not, and the rigor is worthy of respect. Is there some flaw in the theology that leads to that fruit, or is it just human frailty? What does scripture have to say on the matter?

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RavingPente


82 thoughts on “Calvinist Credibility

  1. As in all brands of faith, there is a spectrum across the Calvinist band. Here is an article on an extreme kind of hyper-Calvinism which even rejects ministers such as John MacArthur as too compromising to be true ministers of the gospel. The compromise is agreeing that Arminians can be saved – ie: that having a particular belief about the nature of election does not define whether you are saved or not.

    “…this form of Hyper-Calvinism asserts that all of the above greats were in fact ministers of a false Gospel, servants of the Devil, because they failed to repudiate Arminianism as they should have.

    …This particular brand of Hyper-Calvinism rose up during a revival of Calvinism that occurred in the 1990’s and seems to be associated with internet forms of expression. I am saddened to watch how it tarnishes both the name of Calvin and Jesus. ” – from http://www.kurthutchison.com/tolerantcalvinism.html

    The equivalent Pentecostal extreme would be those who believe that if you are not ‘baptised in the Holy Spirit’ you are not saved.

    The equivalent Pentecostal condescension to the Calvinist intellectual condescension would be that if your church isn’t charismatic or ‘spirit-filled’, it is dead.

  2. In effect what you are talking about is a theology which at its core has ‘sovereign grace’. This is a magnificent doctrine. Teddy touches on it heaps. Taught well it is amazing stuff and helps to understand who God is and what He has done for us.

    But in reformed theology there is another word/doctrine which is equally true, but also which people of a certain yearning latch onto which permeates through: predestination. And what’s more for the Calvinsit you absolutely cannot lose your salvation (if Bull is reading I can feel quivering in indignation already at such a thought). What a combination.

    For those people who love certainty above all else this is the theology for them.

    It is a bit of an irony that a theology that has at its core sovereign grace would also attract some who can be so doctrinally bloody minded, uncompromising and sometimes hard hearted in their approach. Afterall this theology also provided that justification for apartheid.

    Now don’t get me wrong. There a many Christians who embrace this theology with humility and exercise great grace – because God’s sovereign grace is amazing – but for the grace of God therefore go I.

    But for those for whom the attraction is certainty and always being on the right side no matter what – oh dear – look if it wasn’t this theology it would be another one – lets not get too precious.

    The reformed church I went to initially had the most amazing teaching. But the teacher and teaching with it changed over time – it lost people because the teaching was just plain bloody hard – and being taught became like being beaten almost – to use Mosco’s phrase a bit of hyperbole – but it is why we took our family away – because the irony was even though one the core tenets of reformed theology is sovereign grace – I didn’t feel any in that place – to stay would have been a 24 carat payment on me, my wife, and our kids losing sight of that great God of grace.

    The position I came to in terms of predestination as I have argued before – and both Calvinists and Arminians can’t come at it – is that all things are pre-destined – as the bible teaches, and we have free will – as the bible teaches. That’s my piece of certainty – take it up with the Proprietor if you can’t accept it

    But I am reminded of a Clark & Dawe skit parodying Abbot over the perils of real democracy.

    B1: the bible says it is God’s will that none should perish

    B2: It is pre-destined

    B1: You’re rather certain of that aren’t you

    B2: Yes, it is pre-destined.

    B1: Why do you think you can’t lose your salvation

    B2: It is pre-destined

    B1: But what about those people who don’t know Christ?

    B2: She’ll be right, it is pre-destined

    B1: You’re being a bit hard hearted aren’t you.

    B2: Mate, its all pre-destined, I’ll be right, cos I’m on the right side now….

    Its the ultimate justification and ‘get out of jail free’ card.

    And it does a great disservice to the many, many Christians who are reformed, who genuinely focus on His Grace, without bringing this to the table – just as the pastor above and Piper were ruminating about.

  3. Well I also believe that everything is predestined or foreknown (not sure if there is a difference), and also that we have free will. For me, free will in no way detracts from God’s sovereignty.

    I cannot help but believe in free will for scriptural reasons – ha ha! That proves God’s sovereignty.

    It could well be that the reason for the attraction is the problem, rather than the particular theology ie – whether a person is attracted to God and grace vs certainty.

    I can relate to you saying your church changed over time, since mine did in a similar way. It is quite possible for a good church to change negatively but remain in the same movement, or I guess, the reverse, often depending on the leadership.

  4. Well, actually, I am not quivering in indignation.

    I like Kirk Cameron, Bob Dewaay and the Lighthouse Trails Research stuff. I like an awful lot of the reformed theology, largely due to its coherence and it’s intellectual rigour. However, the doctrine of “Once Saved, Always Saved” is an extra-biblical doctrine that has been read into the text, by ignoring other texts.

    Now, there is absolutely no reason for anyone to lose their salvation. No reason at all. Everyone who once believed, as long as they continue in the faith, will continue on the way …

    The real issue is what happens to people who stop believing.
    The options are:
    1. They still go to heaven, regardless.
    2. They were never really born-again so cannot expect grace and forgiveness.
    3. They were in the family but became apostate, or they chose to leave the family of God.

    It’s tricky, actually, to deal with this logically. God is all-powerful, and his Will can overpower mine in an instant. However, there is also a freewill choice for every person to make, even in their own sinful state, to choose or reject Jesus of Nazareth.

    I actually think that the truth lies somewhere within God’s Will and our limited freewills combining … He softens our hearts and touches our consciences in a way that I cannot adequately describe, but am so grateful to Him.

    The danger we all face is in getting so dogmatic about subtle aspects of theology that we are ready to burn one another at the stake. It comes from a genuine heart for the lost being outworked in an increasingly negative way. We want to be perfect in His sight, so we fall to the temptation to try and be perfect in our theology (hello!, Guilty right here!) and then subsequently to try to make everyone else perfect on the outside be preaching at them (yup … right here!) while glossing over and compartmentalising our own sins and being able to forget about them for a time.

    The ultimate direction that we can head towards is hypocrisy. Deep down, we all do things we shouldn’t do far too easily while neglecting to do those things that we know we should.

    It’s much easier to do this if we think we can never lose our salvation. I think it’s healthier (not healthy!) to keep short accounts with our Father and to seek forgiveness very regularly. (Most days.)

    We shouldn’t take His grace for granted.

    That’s all.

    Jesus blood was shed for you. He has bought and paid for you. Just don’t take it for granted, because every act of Pardon is written in His blood.

    Shalom

  5. “Deep down, we all do things we shouldn’t do far too easily while neglecting to do those things that we know we should.” Ahem.

  6. Bull, nice to hear your thoughts.

    “The danger we all face is in getting so dogmatic about subtle aspects of theology that we are ready to burn one another at the stake. ” – Bull

    Yup. At least these days it is figurative, not real.

  7. The original question that Piper poses is interesting – why are Calvinists so negative?

    I have to admit, my image of Calvinists isn’t good. But I only recently came across them – seriously!
    Paul Washer always comes across angry. John Macarthur always seems angry and criticising something – even if it’s his fellow Calvinist Driscoll. And of course there is the most famous 5 point Calvinist Church – Westboro Baptist who must be the worst advertisement possible.

    Why do they seem so angry and negative? Here are the two reasons I can see.

    1. Most of what we non-calvinists hear them talk about is their criticisms of pentecostals, charismatics, Catholics, and even evangelicals like Rick Warren. So they “appear” preoccupied with telling most of the Christian world why they are wrong. So if you speak out against not only gays but divorce, altar calls, purpose-driven books, church growth conferences, hillsong worship, motivation, etc, they come across as not being FOR much.
    (Their criticisms of some or all of the above may be valid, and once again the problem is that we don’t hear their weekly sermons.) But if you go to a site and you hear someone tearing famous charismatics sermons to pieces line by line, they can seem a little unfriendly)

    2. There are many converts to Calvinism from the evangelicalism and pentecostalism who then seem to want to prove that their leaving their previous world was the correct decision- so they can appear feisty and smug and more combatative then they need to be. In the same way, evangelicals who convert to
    Roman Catholicism tend to be much more enamored of church history, tradition, the mass, and more critical of Protestants than the average Catholic born into it.

    So, yes I know there are no doubt really warm, loving, let’s all get along Calvinists out there, but the “image” that I have encountered is different.

    For what it’s worth here are some more things I have noticed.
    1. There aren’t many black or minorities who are “into” Calvinism.
    2. As much as the new young Calvinists decry the hero worship in mega churches, Piper, Driscoll and a few others seemed to have just taken their place.
    3. It’s hard to ask some Calvinists simple questions about their faith without being directed to read whole books, websites or in some cases Calvin’s Institutes. So my impression is that it’s pretty hard to learn this stuff….?
    4. They tend to come across as elitist. One famous figure I heard stated that if you can’t find a church in your city where you don’t hear the “gospel” preached, just don’t bother going anywhere. And he seemed to indicate that there wasn’t much “true” gospel preaching going on.

    many will argue with these points – but they are just impressions – much the same way outsiders will say that pentecostals are emotional – may or may not be true and I know some unemotional pentecostals, but that’s the way they appear to many on the outside.

    Aha – I have another reason for the negativity. A lot of the recent resurgence in calvinism is US centered. And they tend to be more passionate and perhaps polarizing than other people – think Republicans vs Democrats.

    The totally best thing about Calvinists is that on the whole, they are happy to discuss things over a beer. In fact, they seem to enjoy that more than almost anything.

    P.S I may end up being a Calvinist one of these days so don’t go getting all offended.

  8. @MN – Bite me

    @Churchman – Calvinism is well beyond the five points 5 points:

    “We believe in the five great points commonly known as Calvinistic; but we do not regard these five points as being barbed shafts which we are to thrust between the ribs of our fellow Christians. We look upon them as being five great lamps which help to irradiate the cross; or, rather, five bright emanations springing from the glorious covenant of our Triune God, and illustrating the great doctrine of Jesus crucified.

    I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified unless we preach what is nowadays called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the Gospel and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the Gospel… unless we preach the sovereignty of God in his dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah. Nor do I think we can preach the Gospel unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of his elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend the Gospel which allows saints to fall away after they are called.”

    Not a bad start

  9. @Churchman – BTW the above was from CH Spurgeon

    @Bull – here is a nice simple summary of Open Theism from Matt Slick at CARM:

    “Open Theism, also called openness and the open view, is a theological position dealing with human free will and its relationship to God and the nature of the future. It is the teaching that God has granted to humanity free will and that in order for the free will to be truly free, the future free will choices of individuals cannot be known ahead of time by God. They hold that if God knows what we are going to choose, then how can we be truly free when it is time to make those choices –since a counter choice cannot then be made by us, because it is already “known” what we are going to do.1 In other words, we would not actually be able to make a contrary choice to what God “knows” we will choose thus implying that we would not then be free.”

  10. Mosco – no thanks – too tough and stringy

    As for both your Calvinist bent and also the open theist bent – especially this:

    “…They hold that if God knows what we are going to choose, then how can we be truly free when it is time to make those choices”

    waste of breath I know, but what a crock.

    The arrogance comes from assuming the position of being numbered amongst the elect, justifying all manner of theological preening.

    Similar is also seen amongst other religions and philosophies which has lead historically to all sorts of inhumanity to one’s fellow men and women.

    I actually don’t have a problem with most of it doctrinally, but once we hit predestination and the elect it generally deteriorates. Something to do with the assumption that we can explain the unexplainable.

  11. @MN – “The arrogance comes from assuming the position of being numbered amongst the elect, justifying all manner of theological preening.”

    Now compare this little clanger to the 16th-century Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church known as the Council of Trent, Cannon XV

    “If anyone saith that a man who is born again and justified is bound of faith to believe that he is assuredly in the number of the predestinate (saved) let him be anathema (cursed, damned to hell).”

    IN PLAIN ENGLISH: No one has the right to believe he or she has assurance of salvation. If you do believe it, you are automatically consigned to Hell, damnation, loss of salvation.

    Whilst your there poisoning the well on the doctrine of assurance perhaps you might like to explain that very dopey comment in light of this one that belongs to you a few threads back:

    ME:
    @MN – No good job, indepth thought – just one thing with regard your comment

    “I think the meat that is consumed by the mature is that which perfects our relationship with God over time, and the spiritual disciplines that come with that”

    “Would you say that our relationship or right standing with God is not instantaneous upon conversion but is more progressive with cooperation with God’s helping grace?” (I was testing your Romish affections here)

    YOU:
    Difference between two old fashioned words – justification and sanctification.

    Our status and standing before God is “instantaneous” from a salvation viewpoint if you like, but the relationship and the richness of – for us at least – should develop over time to the extent that we practice those things we ought to and put the work in. I am not trying to push a “works” line here.”

    Well MN – while you were not trying to push a works line “there” you paddling around in the Tiber here!

    “When we affirm that a believer can indeed be sure of his justification before God we immediately part company with religions like Roman Catholicism.”(John G Reisinger)

    The question of assurance was one of the primary points of contention between Rome and the Reformers. Rome called assurance of salvation “the Sin of Presumption” and was tantamount to an unwarranted presuming on the grace of God. It was and is literally a mortal sin.

    The Romish so-called sin of presumption on assurance of salvation of the Elect (whether ones view of it is prevenient grace or predestination) eminates from their view of progressive justification – which you expressly say you dont ascribe to?

  12. I like Paul Washer.

    I don’t think he’s negative at all. Calling on the church to repent is a good, positive thing.

    OK Mosco, I am too tired to read it all, so would you, in lack of a better or more accurate description of your doctrinal position, consider yourself to be a calvinist?

  13. @MN – I quoted Matt Slick at the Christian Apologetics Research Ministry for the purposes of a very basic plain english definition – this part you describe as a “crock”:

    “…They hold that if God knows what we are going to choose, then how can we be truly free when it is time to make those choices”

    As you may be aware the term “Openness Theology” derives its name from the 1994 book “The Openness of God”, by Clark Pinnock, Richard Rice, John Sanders, and William Hasker.

    The foundation of John E Sanders openess theology is that the only way a relationship can be real is if there is FREEDOM TO CHOOSE

    in a review by John A. Battle on Sanders’ book: The God Who Risks: A Theology of Providence – (specifically pg367)”If God were to know ahead of time what we would do, then our freedom of choice would be compromised; and God regards our freedom as a nonnegotiable requirement.”

    Pinnock holds the same view namely, that the freedom of man is compromised if God knows in advance what He will decide.

    Anything else MN?

  14. Great subject, RP. Questions that need to be asked, and worthwhile comments from the frustrated pastor involved. Many of the problems within the Body issue from the Reformist dogmatism. Even if they’re right, and that is debatable, there’s a right way of going about things.

    ‘Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.’

  15. I have read articles even from non-Christian perspectives which have commented on the paradox that the doctrine of “Total Depravity” (the first of the 5-points of Calvinism) actually seems to embolden some Calvinists.

    Perhaps it is the absoluteness and certainty that MN commented on, if you think you are totally depraved, but then unconditionally pre-destined to be saved, then un-able to lose that salvation – then when you look at the unsaved all you will see is total depravity.

    It seems to be all about having certainty for things I dont think we can be certain about.

    The other thing that happens is the dividing into two groups and being argumentative. I read an article on talk-back radio which said that if you discuss issues fairly looking at both sides your program will not survive. What you have to do is create the impression that you are giving a voice to a righteous minority, persecuted and silenced by the majority. This kind of conflict is what energises people.

    Some Christians (not only Calvinists) seem to need this kind of conflict to motivate and energise them, and they turn to preachers who are the equivalent of talk-back radio – always railing against the evils of either society or the church.

    In many ways we should ask whether thats a component of what is motivating ourselves on this blog.

  16. @ churchman – interesting that you point out there aren’t many black churches into “calvinism”. Over at Iron Sharpens Iron Radio broadcast I’ve listened to quite a few plack pentecostal pastors discussing their churches’ decision to adopt reformed/calvinist theology. Just as there are more young Baptists coming out of arminian style seminaries with a reformed bent,(same radio progamme discussing this).

    One of the better preachers I’ve listened to is the late Elder Ward, his sermons on the doctrines of grace – wow!

    From Tom Ascol – “It might be beneficial to distinguish Calvinism from hyper-Calvinism because the two are often confused. (Indeed some writers and teachers confuse them so often and so willingly that one must wonder if the practice is intentional.) In one sense, hyper-Calvinism, like Arminianism, is a rationalistic perversion of true Calvinism. Whereas Arminianism destroys the sovereignty of God, hyper-Calvinism destroys the responsbility of man. The irony is that both Arminianism and hyper-Calvinism start from the same, erroneous rationalistic presupposition: Man’s ability and responsibility are coextensive. That is, they must match up exactly or else it is irrational. If a man is to be held responsible for something, then he must have the ability to do it. On the other hand, if a man does not have the ability to perform it, he cannot be obligated to do it.
    The Arminian looks at this premise and says, “Agreed! We know that all men are held responsbile to repent and believe [which is true, according to the Bible]; therefore we must conclude that all men have the ability in themselves to repent and believe [which is false, according to the Bible].” Thus, Arminians teach that unconverted people have within themselves the spiritual ability to repent and believe.

    The hyper-Calvinist takes the same premise (that man’s ability and responsibility are coextensive) and says, “Agreed! We know that, in and of themselves, all men are without spiritual ability to repent and believe [which is true, according to the Bible]; therefore we must conclude that unconverted people are not under obligation to repent and believe the gospel [which is false, according to the Bible].”

    In contrast to both of these, the Calvinist looks at the premise and says, “Wrong! While it looks reasonable, it is not biblical. The Bible teaches both that fallen man is without spiritual ability and that he is obligated to repent and believe. Only by the powerful, regenerating work of the Holy Spirit is man given the ability to fulfuill his duty to repent and believe.” And though this may seem unreasonable to rationalistic minds, there is no contradiction, and it is precisely the position the Bible teaches.

    Why are these things so important to our discussion? Baptists have been confronted with these theological issues throughout their history. The Arminianism–Calvinism–Hyper-Calvinism debate has played a decisive role in shaping our identity as Baptists, and particularly our identity as Southern Baptists.”

    “From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist Convention: What Hath Geneva to Do with Nashville?”

  17. @Teddy – Love Iron Sharpens Iron

    Thats right, there are many great reformed African American pastors and the numbers are growing. I was listening to Paul Washer recently talking about how he was encouraged at the amount of African American youth were enquiring about reformation churches and theology

  18. Thanks for the links re black churches and Calvinism. That is certainly an interesting development.

    Yes, I’m aware of the young Baptists who are leaning towards Calvinism. I’ve read that one third of those graduating from SBC schools are Calvinist in doctrine. In fact, I think the resurgence of Calvinism is the biggest story of the modern church.

    Personally, I just don’t get it.

    But as for the original negativity question – I think Michael Serventus, murdered anabaptists, and loads of peasants and Jews on the receiving end of Luther’s raging diatribes probably also want to know.

    There are two people I have yet to meet though. One is the person who believes in Calvinism but who thinks that they aren’t one of the elect. That must be tough. The other is the Calvinist who thinks they are one of the elect but doesn’t want to be.

    Mosco, re the five points. It would have all been a lot easier if one of the gospel writers or Paul just condensed this for us back then.

    I’ll get back into this later, but just two quotes from Luther to brighten up your day.

    “Sin cannot tear you away from him (Christ), even though you commit adultery a hundred times a day and commit as many murders”

    “”Whenever the devil harasses you, seek the company of men or drink more, or joke and talk nonsense, or do some other merry thing. Sometimes we must drink more, sport, recreate ourselves, and even sin a little to spite the devil, so that we leave him no place for troubling our consciences with trifles. We are conquered if we try too conscientiously not to sin at all. So when the devil says to you: do not drink, answer him: I will drink, and right freely, just because you tell me not to.”

    Actually, that doesn’t sound so negative.

  19. @Specks – I think I am a Spurgeonist too

    There once was a man name Spurgey;
    Who hated the British Lit-urgy;
    But his sermons are fine, I use them as mine;
    And so do the rest of the Clergy

  20. Well, most people here seem to perceive the issue with attitude which is encouraging.

    To me, attitude can undermine any insistent doctrinal teaching, true or not. For a Christian to consistently ignore their attitude when teaching or arguing is a selective approach to scripture. It effectively teaches without necessarily saying it, that certain doctrinal approaches are all important, and the rest does not matter.

    Jesus summarised all the commandments, and gave us a new one, saying to love one another as he loved us, and to love God. We cannot claim to love God when we treat his creation – one another – with hatred, derision or contempt.

    So discussing what is essential to the gospel is important (not debating that on this thread), but so is how we do it. I think Piper is aware of this.

    Romans 14:
    1Now (A)accept the one who is (B)weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.

    2(C)One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is (D)weak eats vegetables only.

    3The one who eats is not to (E)regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to (F)judge the one who eats, for God has (G)accepted him.

    4(H)Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

    5(I)One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike Each person must be (J)fully convinced in his own mind.

    6He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he (K)gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God.

    7For not one of us (L)lives for himself, and not one dies for himself;

    8for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore (M)whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.

    9For to this end (N)Christ died and lived again, that He might be (O)Lord both of the dead and of the living.

    10But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you (P)regard your brother with contempt? For (Q)we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.

    11For it is written,
    “(R)AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, (S)EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME,
    AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD.”

    12So then (T)each one of us will give an account of himself to God. ”

    Now if we are all predestined to think one thing or another, and there is no free will involved, what is the point of bothering to be nasty to those who are predestined to have a different view?

    Isn’t it inconsistent to treat some of scripture – anything pertaining to the Calvinist definition of the gospel – in an iron clad, unquestionable fashion, but then just shove the scriptures regarding how we treat others, or fruit of the spirit, to one side, when they are inconvenient?

    I am not a Calvinist. Nonetheless, I do agree with a significant percentage of what I come across from that sphere of Christianity. I regard most Calvinist believers as brothers and sisters (even if they sometimes don’t regard me as one).

    However, given the growing influence of the reformed church, I am concerned that if this attitude (scripturally speaking, a bad fruit) is allowed to take root and grow in their midst, people will again be put off Christ. People are to know us by our love for one another. So this is no small matter.

    It would be sad to see the megachurch Pente movements fall and be replaced by something that is more reactionary than truth. If the fruit of the spirit is not evident in the character of those within the movement, then the replacement may well be more reaction than truth, or the truths in it may be obscured.

    However, if one believes there is no free will involved at all, I guess perhaps its easy to just not bother with attitude. Hmmm.

  21. So back to the original question – is there anything in the theology that contributes to the attitude? – perhaps the attitude springs from some people’s attitudes to predestination and election.

    Another might be rooted in the equating of Calvinist doctrine (TULIP) with scripture. So that if you have a different view, based on scripture but not in line with TULIP, you are not saved. It is not just sola scriptura, but sola one particular use of logic applied to scripture.

    This then excludes a huge number of people, including myself, from being accepted as Christians.

    Another would be the logic used by some that if one is not a Calvinist, one must be an Arminian. No other possible position recognised. And since Arminianism is to be opposed at all times, that means opposing all kinds of Christian who don’t subscribe to Calvinism.

    Just for clarity – I’m not suggesting all Calvinists go to these extremes! For example while Teddy has taken Calvinism on board, she has always recognised me as a fellow Christian, and her family and friends from her old church, even if we don’t agree on everything. 🙂 And I’ve had other Calvinist friends who’ve done the same, even when they had great reservations about my Pentecostal involvement at the time.

  22. Mosco I don’t really care about the councils of Trent or Nicea.

    RP reconstructionism is also alive and well in different forms – there is the trad version and the NAR version.

    All amounts to the same thing – pushing God to one side, and saying here let me do it for you God – I’ll sort it out, or using Him to do what we want to do.

    Which brings me to Teddy’s comment:

    “Whereas Arminianism destroys the sovereignty of God, hyper-Calvinism destroys the responsbility of man.”

    Ain’t that the truth – as Churchman’s Luther quotes also pointed out.

    Now I am not a works person – as previous members of this forum have had a go at me about – whereas Mosco on the other hints at it but won’t say it. Well let me push you along.

    Personal responsibility started from the Garden – we were given work to do, and God left us to it. God let Satan lose on Job, which by extension also means He left Job alone to deal with what was coming.

    Jesus gave us the parables of the vineyard, the servant who cut deals, and the talents – all of which are steeped in big doses of personal power and responsibility.

    It is even implicit in Paul’s instruction to Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach’s sake. James laid it out for us – faith without works is dead, and Jesus, Paul, Peter and John told us to love one another as well as a bunch of other things.

    If part of the function of Calvinism is that it denies personal responsibility or neuters it, we no longer are what God created us to be and cannot serve His purposes as He disclosed to us in Scripture.

    Polarise away – it just leads to death.

  23. Yes, that was an interesting quote of Teddy’s.

    MN, you don’t seem like a works person to me.

    I believe that I am completely saved by grace through faith in Christ and not through anything I do. Still, work and works have a big role in our lives right from the Garden as you point out. That’s a worthy topic for a post by itself. Even when we don’t believe works are what save us, there are many attitudes to both work and works that come up in churches, that can both encourage us and discourage us in our lives.

    Your point on personal responsibility is good. And I agree that polarising things can lead to death.

  24. For those interested:

    Here is an easy to read article describing how some Calvinist churches actually have congregations that are more Arminian in their outlook. The author was a 5 point Calvinist, but is now an Arminian. His moderate Arminian version of the 5 points is as follows:

    …And, as has always been true, Arminianism can be taken to the extreme of humanism. Calvinists have a sovereign God and an inactive man. Humanists have a sovereign man and an inactive God. Arminians lean toward the humanist end of this continuum and thus are always in danger of becoming humanists (see Humanism in Scripture and Culture: Recovering a Balance).

    So if you are a former Calvinist who has drifted into Arminianism with little thought and for mostly pragmatic reasons, be careful as you navigate in this territory. You probably knew the dangers of your former theology, especially of “hyper-Calvinism.” But you may not be aware of the dangers over here. Many of us Arminians have learned to stay out of the humanist end of the spectrum. We’ve learned that the best place to sail is on the Arminian end, but just over the line from Calvinism. Our five points would look something like this:

    1. Total Depravity

    Mankind is totally depraved, but God has extended His common grace to all so that every man or woman can search and find God.

    2. Unconditional Election

    Before the foundation of the world God elected all men to salvation but most refuse His offer.

    3. Limited Atonement

    The atonement of Christ is open to all men everywhere and is limited only by our refusal to be saved.

    4. Irresistible Grace

    The “common grace” [prevenient grace] of God is given to all men everywhere and it is irresistible, but saving grace can be refused by a stubborn heart.

    5. Perseverance of the Saints

    Once saved, a person will always be saved unless by defiant, continual, purposeful, rebellion he or she refuses God’s grace and chooses apostasy. Though relatively rare for a truly saved person, apostasy is possible.

    If you are recently coming from the Calvinistic end, be careful not to pass right by the middle ground and run off to extreme Arminianism: man-centered humanism. Instead, if you stay on the Arminian side, but at the end near the Calvinist line, you’ll be safe in these waters. If you want a name for that area—the area on the Arminian end, but just “a hair’s breadth from Calvinism,” some call this the “Wesleyan-Arminian” approach.”

    http://www.crivoice.org/arminianism.html

    Here is a brief summary of the contrasting beliefs of Wesley with the Calvinist 5 points:

    http://www.crivoice.org/tulip.html

    Each point of TULIP has the contrasting Wesleyan view beside it.

    Once again this indicates a spectrum of possible positions.

    And here is an article on ‘The Calvinism of John Wesley’. http://www.drurywriting.com/keith/wesley.the.calvinist.htm

  25. How does Arminianism destroy the Sovereignty of God? That is an extreme position in itself, which could only come from a Calvinist perspective. Surely Arminianism demonstrates the Sovereignty of God.

    The basics of Arminianism are:

    • Humans are naturally unable to make any effort towards salvation (see also prevenient grace). They possess free will to accept or reject salvation.
    • Salvation is possible only by God’s grace, which cannot be merited.
    • No works of human effort can cause or contribute to salvation.
    • God’s election is conditional on faith in the sacrifice and Lordship of Jesus Christ.
    • Christ’s atonement was made on behalf of all people.
    • God allows his grace to be resisted by those who freely reject Christ.
    • Believers are able to resist sin but are not beyond the possibility of falling from grace through persistent, unrepented-of sin.*

    This is consistent with scripture, and the truth that, ultimately, God is Sovereign over all decision making, regardless of human ability to make self-determining choices. Free will is not akin to deity, since the choice made by the human free will is, in the end, judged by God’s predetermined Word.

    [*Sourced from wickipedia, which isn’t always reliable, but sometimes gives a basic understanding which is accurate.]

    RP’s suggestion that those who are not Calvinists are not necessarily, by default, Arminianists is reasonable and reliable, and should be taken into account in all discussions on the subject.

    Neither Calvin nor Arminius should be our primary, or even secondary, source. We can live without ether or both. It is the doctrine of Christ we follow.

  26. Yes, thanks JL.

    “How does Arminianism destroy the Sovereignty of God? That is an extreme position in itself, which could only come from a Calvinist perspective. ” –

    I think in the context of the quote, it was humanism which destroys the sovereignty of God, and it was the author’s view that Arminian extremes could end up being humanistic, and that those extremes would be wrong.

    So it is still quite possible to have an Arminian view and believe in the sovereignty of God.

    The list of basics is nice and succint.

    I am still under the impression that if you pick a different century, these movements may have slightly different views associated with them. So Calvin himself might not agree with the hyper-Calvinists, and Wesley might not entirely agree with ‘Wesleyan Arminians’.

    I was given a basic Calvinist framework for my beliefs, years ago, but not really taught it was Calvinism at the time. Just that it was the truth and to be wary of leaders not approved by my local church. I learnt more about Calvinism from a Presbyterian friend. We used to discuss predestination, foreknowledge and election, largely for fun. (I guess we were strange girls.)

    At least looking at this I am beginning to understand why some Calvinists write off other Christians. I had always thought of those of us who genuinely place our faith in Christ as being saved, regardless of our understanding of how our salvation is effected. I had also always thought that our understanding of these things could change over time, but not that our salvation itself depended on the exact structure of that belief (this itself being a work of a kind and assuming that perfect understanding is beyond us anyway). It seems though that some believe the structure of that belief is also essential to salvation – if you have a different structure to your belief about _how_ God works your salvation, you are said to believe in a different God or a different Christ. So while I would regard those people as saved, but with a different view, they’d in turn regard me as unsaved, because of my apparently incorrect understanding of how it works.

    I am not even sure I could define my own position, but it seems to fit with what JL describes. At the same time, extremes of Arminianism are quoted from time to time that I don’t necessarily agree with.

    Once again – a spectrum.

    And I certainly agree with JL’s last para. But now I could begin to anticipate a hyper-Calvinist’s response. 🙂

  27. @MN If words mean anything……..???

    “Now I am not a works person – as previous members of this forum have had a go at me about – whereas Mosco on the other hints at it but won’t say it. Well let me push you along.”

    I dont care either if you dont like either Nicea or Trent – but you say you believe in Justification as a intantaneous legal and forensic declaration but you then turn around and agree with Rome?

  28. I wonder just how many Christians even know what the differences are? Looking back over our time at C3, knowing what we know now, we were subjected to the worst forms of legalism pastorally (and some of it was self-imposed).

    Didn’t have a clue what an arminian was, but we were most definately culturally formed to think that way. None of that stuff clings anymore, having become “well greased” with the understanding of God’s loving sovereignty and grace. And that is what’s missing at C3.

    A couple of days ago, we received an email out of the blue from a old friend – someone whose company we really enjoyed until we dared question the system. I wish I could paste it here but it would be too revealing. It was an outright attack, prompted, they say, by the Holy Spirit (hmmmm). Wonder why they waited 18 months to send it, that’s how long it had been since we last saw them.

    Mulled over it for 24 hours, (though wanted to rip threads of them too – my husband wrote a reply then deleted instead of sending, got it out of his system).

    Finally responded that we were happy, loved our church and missed the great times we shared, could we try getting together again? Still waiting.

    It goes without saying that I’m more interested in what Paul has to say than Calvin. Is JL FL? 🙂

  29. “A couple of days ago, we received an email out of the blue from a old friend – someone whose company we really enjoyed until we dared question the system. I wish I could paste it here but it would be too revealing. It was an outright attack, prompted, they say, by the Holy Spirit (hmmmm). Wonder why they waited 18 months to send it, that’s how long it had been since we last saw them. ” – Teddy

    That’s a real shame. Your husband was pretty disciplined not to respond initially, I suspect!

    “…And that is what’s missing at C3.” – I’d agree with the growing legalistic tendencies, but I think its a result of needing to control/sustain the business and aiming for a ‘vision’ more than knowledge of Christ, rather than the result of ‘arminian’ tendencies. Basically a focus thats been shifted off Christ onto other agendas.

    “Is JL FL?” 🙂 I’m assuming so. But his contributions have been restrained and good.

  30. So now I’m a catholic. Next thing he’ll be asking me if I support indulgences.

    I think I’ve been called almost everything now.

  31. Actually its pretty funny. We’ve been called more names (labelled) in the last day or two than in the past 2 years.

    We’ve had a lot of people visit the blog, but no one else has excelled in conclusions about us to this degree.

    My grandpa was a Methodist (read ‘Wesleyan Arminian’), but boy did he hate the Catholics. And ‘the Huns’. And ‘the Japs’. Wartime influence.

  32. I had a Sunday School teacher who I heard preach in church that a catholic couldn’t be a Christian. He was a very good reformed guy from Wales, but split with the Pressies because while being reformed to the back teeth infant baptism was anathema. He left a lot of churches in his day finally ending up in a splinter pressy church that stuck with baptism by immersion, and sadly left his sons behind as well who turned away big time.

    I told you this one before….then there was the hard hard core guy really concerned to preach the Gospel but put a charge (as an apprentice in that church mind you) on the pastor for allowing music in church, other than a cappella Psalms. The apprentice movedon after synod dismissed the complaint. He was an AW Pink man who also painted himself into a corner in his latter years as a good reformed man.

  33. 1. Total Depravity

    Mankind is depraved (all have sinned),and is without hope, but God has extended His common grace to all so that every man or woman can search and find God. And man has the ability to choose to do what is right. Faced with killing or not killing, a person (non-Christian or otherwise) can decide not to kill. Same with stealing, adultery and insulting people on blogs etc.

    2. Unconditional Election

    Before the foundation of the world God elected all men to salvation but man can refuse His offer.

    3. Limited Atonement

    The atonement of Christ is open to all men everywhere and is limited only by our refusal to be saved.

    4. Irresistible Grace

    The grace of God is given to all men everywhere, but saving grace can be refused by a stubborn heart.

    5. Perseverance of the Saints

    Once saved, a person will always be saved unless by defiant, continual, purposeful, rebellion he or she refuses God’s grace and chooses apostasy. Apostasy is possible.

    Sorry for amending that quote, but in case in the future, someone discusses these issues with me, the above is where I stand at the moment. That makes me not a Calvinist I guess. I’m aware of how these points could be argued and the scriptures that see problematic. But this pretty well sums up my take on Tulips in Oct 2010. I’m willing to change.

    My reading of the current church is that Calvinism will continue to increase in popularity if only for the fact that many in the evangelical world end up dissatisfied with a lot of what’s going on (read Internet Monk’s famous article on the decline of evangelicalism.) But the irony is that many come to Christ (sorry, I mean, Christ comes to them….) initially in Arminiast churches.
    One plants the other waters..?

    Re God’s sovereignty and Arminiasm, my thinking is that God is sovereign and can do what He wants when He wants, but that He doesn’t always get involved. Saul was knocked off a horse. I wasn’t and not many were. So I see that God can intervene in man’s affairs, but in my everyday world, I see a lot of room for human effort and responsibility. Some cultures have less crime and sin than others – because of the way humans conduct their affairs, laws, education. I think a person can plan their life (even their best life) attempting to succeed in family, career etc as per anthony Robbins , but as a Christian you realize God can upend the best laid plans of mice and Arminiasts.

    Getting sidetracked from rp’s question. Okay, maybe it’s not the theology that makes C’s negative, but that so many non-Calvinist people are happy and successful even though they haven’t studied all those big words and only feel “mildly” depraved?

  34. Maybe offtopic, but my favorite Calvinist has to be John Piper.

    Even if only for the gallant way he got in between Macarthur and Driscoll during the sex talk wars… He seems like such a peacemaker and a nice guy.

  35. Churchman: “And man has the ability to choose to do what is right. Faced with killing or not killing, a person (non-Christian or otherwise) can decide not to kill. Same with stealing, adultery and insulting people on blogs etc.”

    The only trouble with that is that prime function of the law is to show we can’t cut it. And obedience to the law in and of itself doesn’t re-establish the relationship with God. Scripture says all have sinned, and that there is no one who is good, no not one.

  36. “Mulled over it for 24 hours, (though wanted to rip threads of them too – my husband wrote a reply then deleted instead of sending, got it out of his system).”

    That must have been a tough 24 hours in Teddyville! Wow, there are times when I wished I would have just hit delete too! Now THAT is self-control!

    Mn and rp, enjoyed those stories. I remember the old days when the Uniting Church was formed in Australia. It’s only now that I am older that I realize how much debate must have gone on in the churches back then. Funny, though, I remember a friends Mum who used to be Presbyterian who dropped out of church because she was “Presbyterian – not Uniting Church”. But she somehow didn’t go to the Presbo Church in town who held out. Just …went nowhere. As for the grandpa and the “japs”. Almost all of the missionaries who went to Japan after WW2 had to overcome that. In fact many of them had the same testimony. “Lord I’ll go anywhere except Japan!”. But they still came. But I wonder how many felt the call but didn’t go.

    Me, there is not a denomination I hate. The only thing I have to overcome is at State of Origin time. Blue jerseys really make me realize the wicked state of my heart.

  37. Teddy, I thought Paul was on my side!

    mn, but the Law is good. I guess my point is this. I’ve lived in different places, and because of my age – different eras. I would rather live in a culture where people believe that “right living” should be taught, and it is possible to be practised. My gospel understanding is that all have sinned and that there will always be temptation present, and the tendency to sin. But, there are definitely people who have “tried harder” to not sin – even if only outwardly. And that’s a good thing. The bible speaks in a good way about Cornelius, but what about the Cretans? – evil beasts, liars, slow bellies!

    That’s why I will never teach my kids calvinism. Don’t want them saying “But we can’t obey. We can’t help it, We’re totally depraved!”

    The law is the schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. Schoolmasters aren’t all bad. They just are limited in what they can achieve.

  38. Calvinists never have a problem choosing State of Origin over church. The upside of being elect. 🙂

  39. Could God have sovereignly made Mr Teddy hit the SEND key instead of DELETE?

    I promise that’s my last zen question for today.

  40. “Calvinists never have a problem choosing State of Origin over church. The upside of being elect”

    That settles it. I’m gonna be a Calvinist! So, how do I get elected again?

  41. Yes but my email was “”Hail fellow well met” – (a somewhat archaic English idiom used either as an exaggerated greeting or referring to a person who is sociable and constantly making an effort to win friends). or was I just pouring hot coals?

  42. “That settles it. I’m gonna be a Calvinist! So, how do I get elected again?”

    Easy – you were chosen in Him BEFORE the foundation of the earth (and you were not there)!

  43. Teddy, that makes me want to ask a question. And it’s a serious question. I am really trying to understand Calvinist thought. So if you can clear this up for me, i just might get it.

    You said I was chosen in Him . I understand that you may know you were chosen, but how do you know I was?

    Would you say that the people in the C3 churches who went out on the altar call, got baptized etc, are “chosen in Him before the foundation of the world” too? Or could some of them and myself be deceived and just not chosen?

    Hoping you’re right there to answer. I have a patience problem!

  44. I’m here. Would you give a literal rat’s ….. about christianity if you were not indwelled by/or being drawn by the Holy Spirit? It is a tough question to answer.

    Has fruit got anything to do with conversion, a hunger for the knowledge etc of God? I believe it has. I’m seeing a hardness in one of my adult children that throws to my knees (figuratively) in prayer for her salvation. There’s a blank stare that is so disturbing yet her siblings are so different. Has anyone here experienced that?

    There’s a sense of fellowship and understanding here with all of you even when we so vociferously disagree – in other words, the fellowship of the Holy Spirit indwelling us. Can you be deceiving us? Yes but I doubt it. Go figure – I can’t explain.

  45. I’ve not answered your question about conversions at C3. My husband and I went forward there in 1986. I had prayed a prayer and “asked Jesus into my life ” at home in 1985 and something happened. I felt washed clean. There’s no other way to describe it. Where did that hunger to know God come from? I believe it’s the gift of faith given by God in the first place as he draws us to Him. I believed that God existed since I was 6 years old, just knew, and none of my family were Christians.

  46. Something else – before I prayed that prayer in 1985, I had spent the previous 5 years or so desperate to know who Jesus was and never picked up a bible! Weird!

    There was a book around at the time that tried to deny Jesus’ divinity. When I looked through it, I knew they were wrong, yet still had no understanding about the work Christ had done for me on the cross. All very unusual. So you can see why I do have a certain non-cessionist bent.

  47. “I guess my point is this. I’ve lived in different places, and because of my age – different eras. I would rather live in a culture where people believe that “right living” should be taught, and it is possible to be practised. My gospel understanding is that all have sinned and that there will always be temptation present, and the tendency to sin. But, there are definitely people who have “tried harder” to not sin – even if only outwardly. And that’s a good thing. ” – churchman

    I’d agree with that.

    I liked the school master analogy.

    Also – I agree that:

    “And man has the ability to choose to do what is right. Faced with killing or not killing, a person (non-Christian or otherwise) can decide not to kill. Same with stealing, adultery and insulting people on blogs etc.” – churchman

    It annoys me when occasional Christians presume that nothing good can come out of mankind outside the church, when its completely evident that God has enabled that to happen.

    It’s just that no one will be able to choose right 100% of the time because though we have a conscience, we can’t resist loving ourselves more than God and more than others, and if we fail in even one thing, we have missed the whole boat. And so are in fundamental need of Christ.

  48. “There’s a sense of fellowship and understanding here with all of you even when we so vociferously disagree – in other words, the fellowship of the Holy Spirit indwelling us. Can you be deceiving us? Yes but I doubt it. Go figure – I can’t explain.” – Teddy

    Yes, that’s true I think Teddy. I find it a bit like a family here, as you have said before – we squabble, we differ on a variety of things (and we play musical chairs when we discuss stuff), but we know we are united in our passion for Christ.

  49. Teddy your story of your prayer back in 1985 reminds me of a friend of mine who did something a bit similar. No meeting, no intervention by any person.

    This issue of whether you can be truly saved but lose your salvation comes up whenever someone seems to have accepted Christ, but later recants. I do think it is possible to choose to reject Christ, but I also wonder whether those who appear to reject Him actually knew Him in the first place. Maybe he was falsely represented to them in the first place, and they are quite right to reject that version of him, without yet knowing what he is really like.

    Someone close to me had an encounter with God’s powerfully felt presence. Woke up and felt overwhelmed by how drastically sinful they were. Begged Him for forgiveness in tears. Came to him in fear and repentance. Committed their life to him in utter sincerity. Became a member of their local church (Anglican).

    Later, they had other spiritual encounters. This person was not Pentecostal. Pentecostals were unable to help or perhaps tried to help the wrong way, despite the apparently demonic nature of the encounters. (Horrible visions while in a home group setting. Hearing hateful things spoken in the vision.)

    Now they no longer believe. The problems disappeared once they relinquished their faith, and they never talk about it. It’s as if it never happened.

    I don’t know how to explain what happened with this person.

  50. Would it be too crass to say “God hasn’t finished with your friend”? Psalm 139 comes to mind, especially verses 7-12. Demonic encounters might send me to the safety of “denial” too.

    This is why I love Dr Rod Rosenbladt’s “Gospel For Those Broken By The Church”

  51. A quote from Rosenbladt…..

    “If your friend can see for just a moment that the truth of the Gospel does not turn
    on Christ’s church, but only on Christ’s resurrection from the dead, it might be the first
    time he has ever thought such a thought.”

    Is your friend upset with the church or with Jesus?

  52. Teddy: “Has fruit got anything to do with conversion, a hunger for the knowledge etc of God? I believe it has. I’m seeing a hardness in one of my adult children that throws to my knees (figuratively) in prayer for her salvation. There’s a blank stare that is so disturbing yet her siblings are so different. Has anyone here experienced that?”

    Not sure what you mean by the first part, but know the second part. Mine wax and wane in the faith, sometimes from very hard places. Prayer is the only thing that will do it, together with listening to their issues and seeing something can be pointed to without moralising or being too religious. Other valued Christians also play a role in this.

  53. I know people who prayed for their adult children for decades.

    It took an awful long time but eventually, they became believers! Amazing story really. But they had to wait for nearly thirty years.

    My Brother-in-law, on the other hand, had a spiritual experience in his room and converted from more or less nominal Islam to Christianity in a moment (about a year or two after his sister and mother started in the faith) and was transformed. They all had to learn who he was again as the old, stressed out, basket case of a guy was gone. A new creation stood there, relaxed, happy, chilled out.

    God softens hearts over decades or minutes. But in His time not ours.

    Shalom

  54. The Rosenbladt article is pretty good, Teddy.

    “Is your friend upset with the church or with Jesus?” – Teddy

    I don’t think being upset with the church had anything to do with it in this case. It was the disturbing experiences (several) and that no one in the church seemed to be able to help. It seemed that the home church didn’t know how to help, and the relationships weren’t there in order for Christians from elsewhere to really be able to help. Or else perhaps their approach was wrong. I also didn’t have quite the relationship or wisdom at the time to do more than I did. 😦 (Not that I don’t acknowledge that really it is God’s work in a person that matters, but still I felt my contribution was inadequate, rightly or wrongly.)

    I think that in this instance it is most likely to have been ‘the safety of denial’ as you put it. These experiences were out of the ordinary, and very scary. (No, no drugs had been used, no psychological issues in the background, and it all stopped when their faith was given away.) It could also have been some sense of disillusionment that Christ’s representatives weren’t able to do anything effective. I don’t know.

    Anyway, as you say, it is possible that God has not finished there. I think the only thing to do is to pray, as Bull and MN and you have all been saying, and to trust that God will deal with it in time. I need to pray more. You get used to situations and stop praying about them sometimes. But we do need to persevere.

  55. Thanks for the answers Teddy.
    But you raised another one that got me thinking, and has made me appreciate the Calvinist view point.

  56. Thanks rp. My favorite part was

    “He was the center of the circle. Usually the night would end in drunken revelry with Luther in such a bad state that he would be brought home on a stretcher. ”

    And I thought I was bad…

  57. Thought I’d do a very simple word study (if you’d call it that).

    Our first pressie pastor was one of the two or three best teachers I have heard in 35 years. One of the things he said that stuck in relation to trying to make sense of scripture is distribute the weight and importance to us based on what is there – if there is a lot about something we give more priority than something that is there but not that much.

    So using the NIV version done a simple word count on the following:

    1. elect – 15
    2. faith – 286
    3. hope – 80
    4. love – 230
    5. trust – 32
    6. love – 258
    7. predestin (truncated) – 4
    8. grace – 116
    9. sin – 436
    10. Sovereign – 6
    11. Lord – 613
    12. king – 258

    Clearly there is no context here, so in the context of the above discussion much would not be relevant.

    But I would suggest the numbers irrespective of individual context actually tell their own story, and point to the things that are major touchstones and where our concerns should lie.

    Church has been going thru 1 John 5 from which the first part is below, which gives us a few tips on what we should llok for in ourselves first, and then may be other:

    Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

    Why does John write this?

    His next sentence: I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

  58. Mosco: “…still slightly intrigued why you believe that no one has the right to believe he or she has assurance of salvation?

    Why is that?” and

    “…could you just explain this comment in the last thread:

    “The arrogance comes from assuming the position of being numbered amongst the elect, justifying all manner of theological preening.”

    Firstly, I don’t and I never said that – your interpretation, not what I said. I actually am inclined to believe that one cannot lose one’s salvation, but have great sympathy for Bull’s position that it is possible and we have to work at it. Can put both views from Scripture – will elucidate in a minnie.

    Secondly, the issue about the elect. It’s there – no issue with that. But what that means is in a lot of ways not for us – probably more in the way of a comfort than anything.

    However the whole concept of the elect is often hijacked for nefarious ends. Let’s face it the only people who really talk about the elect generally see themselves as part of that exclusive club. And that is often the point – its an exclusive club, with all the arrogant pride and crap that comes with it – that Go hates.

    Now while I might side with the notion that one can’t lose one’s salvation, and can trot out all manner of Scripture providing a basis for assurance (not quite the same thing) about our salvation, but….

    this is where I switch sides (Bull)…. there are also heaps of Scriptures hammering us to make sure of our salvation (why, if we can’t lose it), salt having lost its saltiness is no good, if we fall away we can’t get it back, and even more about what we need to do to attain that salvation and then see in our lives to see the evidence of it…to retain and confirm that assurance.

    Forget the election and predestination – it is a comfort but not something to be assumed or taken for granted by us. Its fruit is often spiritual pride and an arrogance that is unbecoming.

    Scipture places a much stronger emphasis on daily following Christ, not taking him for granted and practising how to love as He did. This is not works; it is the evidence and part of our assurance, and above anything a command. This is more conducive from a position of grateful humility, than elect pridefulness which serves not useful purpose and just pisses people off.

    I’m coming to the position that (unfortunately for those for whom the doctrine of the elect is a driving force, and use it to exclude overtly or covertly) that God’s grace and His elect is much greater than we could possibly understand (that does not equate to universalism or a form thereof). I’m happy about that (not that God is hanging on my good opinion). But the other point about that as in the case of my views on judging, is that its not my concern – God chooses His elect for His purposes in His way, and what I think is irrelevant. What is relevant is whether I do what He says or not, or at least progressively come on board over time – stuff the elect.

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