The Modern-Day Pharisees: Calvinists
Pharisees – “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:8-9)
An article (sermon), worthy to be read with keen interest and no less acute attention, recently appeared on the Internet. It deals with the classic parable of the Pharisee and the Publican Jesus told in Luke 18 to illustrate the dreadfulness of self-righteousness.
As I was reading the article I noticed how the author, who is a staunch Calvinist, unwittingly impeached Calvinism with Pharisee-ism. Lo and behold, he even admitted that the Pharisees believed in election, predestination and limited atonement. That alone, by his own admission, proves that Calvinism and Pharisee-ism hinge on three of the most important elements in Reformed Theology.
To kick off my article I would like to begin with this particular camaraderie between Pharisee-ism and Calvinism.
ELECTION, PREDESTINATION AND LIMITED ATONEMENT
The Pharisees, as the meaning of the word “Pharisee” correctly conveys, believed that they alone were the chosen, pure and separate ones who distanced themselves from the unrighteous. Their right to have been the only ones elected and predestined by God was, as they said, their kinship to Abraham. No wonder John the Baptist rebuked them for their Abrahamic elitism.
Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. (Luke 3:8)
Believe it or not, some Calvinists (there are exceptions such as John Piper who believes all babies are saved) also base their election on kinship.
The sacrament (baptism) is afterwards added as a kind of seal, not to give efficacy to the promise, as if in itself invalid, but merely to confirm it to us. Hence it follows, that the children of believers are not baptised, in order that though formerly aliens from the Church, they may then, for the first time, become children of God, but rather are received into the Church by a formal sign, because, in virtue of the promise, they previously belonged to the body of Christ. (John Calvin, “Institutes of the Christian Religion,” Book 4, Chapter 15, Section 22) (Emphasis mine).
Our children, before they are born, God declares that he adopts for his own when he promises that he will be a God to us, and to our seed after us. In this promise their salvation is included. None will dare to offer such an insult to God as to deny that he is able to give effect to his promise. (John Calvin, “Institutes of the Christian Religion,” Book 4, Chapter 15, Section 20) (Emphasis mine)
The Pharisees believed that they alone were God’s sheep because they were Abraham’s direct Hebraic descendants. Everyone else was of no value in God’s sight and were called goats or dogs (outcasts). The Pharisees claimed that God’s salvific love and compassion were limited to them because He prospered them (Matthew 19:23-26) whilst the non-elect were trash and good for nothing else than to be made fit for eternal destruction in hell.
It is evident that the disciples had been influenced by the Pharisees’ prevailing attitude that poverty was a sign of the curse of God, while prosperity was believed to show the approval of God on one’s life. Their exceeding amazement at Jesus’ saying that a rich man shall hardly enter the Kingdom of God seems to suggest this.
Jesus nipped the Pharisees’ high-mindedness in the bud when He told them “ye believe not because ye are not of my sheep, . . .” Jesus Christ never denied that they were sheep. In fact, King David called the entire nation of Israel God’s sheep but most of them were sheep who had been lost and needed to be saved.
6O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker.
7For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today if ye will hear his voice,
8Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
9When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work.
10Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways:
11Unto whom I swore in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest. (Psalm 95:6-11)
This excerpt from Psalm 95 asserts that all Israel are God’s sheep (his people; his elect; see Romans 11:28) but that most of them hardened their hearts. In the very same way, the Pharisees were sheep but not the sheep of Jesus Christ’s fold who listened to and obeyed his voice.
They too, like their forefathers in the wilderness, hardened their own hearts, despite them having been elected by God. Isaiah 53: 6 confirms that everyone is a sheep, albeit sheep that need to be found and redeemed by the Good Shepherd. You are either a lost sheep or a sheep of Jesus Christ’s fold who listen to and obey his voice and follow Him.
But, what about the goats? Who are they? There is only one passage in the whole of Scripture that uses the word “goats” as a metaphor to depict rebellious human beings (Matthew 25:32-33). Contrary to the clear teaching of the Bible, Calvinists have found a slick way to associate the sheep with the elect and the goats with the non-elect or the reprobate.
The word “ehnos” in Matthew refers to non-Jewish, Gentile or heathen races, tribes and nations and NOT to the Jewish nation. Consequently, Jesus could not have implied that the Pharisees were goats when He said: “But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep,” unless the Pharisees were not circumcised Jews. He did not say “You are not sheep. He said, “You are not of my sheep.” The Bible Knowledge Commentary, p. 80 (John F. Walvoord and B. Zuck) under the heading “The Coming Judgment of the Gentiles” states:
25:31-33. The words the nations (ta ethne) should be translated “the Gentiles.” These are all people, other than Jews, who have lived through the Tribulation period (cf. Joel 3:2, 12). They will be judged individually, not as national groups. They are described as a mingling of sheep and goats, which the Lord will separate. (Emphasis added).
I can already hear a chorus of objection among Calvinists singing: “We do not base our election, predestination and limited atonement on physical kinship to Abraham or anyone else. Our election is based on God’s sovereign decree to save only the elect. It was made eons before the foundation of the world.”
As much as this assumption may be true in their view, Calvinists do have a strong affinity with the Pharisees in that they too believe that they are the elect who by virtue of God’s limited atonement were predestined to be saved before the foundation of the world.
This poses an immense problem which makes a mockery of Jesus’ words in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” If God had already predestined the so-called elect to eternal salvation eons ago and if His decree cannot be overturned (which is impossible because if it were possible to upend God’s will, his sovereignty would be seriously jeopardized), it is reasonable to argue that the elect had never been lost.
On one occasion in my many debates with Calvinists on YouTube I asked a Calvinist: “So, you were convicted of judgment (that you are on your way to hell) AFTER you had already been regenerated?” I deliberately articulated my question in this way because the Holy Spirit can only convict a sinner of judgment (that he is lost and on his way to hell) before regeneration and never after it.
The Holy Spirit cannot comfort someone with the assurance that he/she is saved and at the same time convict him/her that they are lost and on their way to hell. He answered me as follows:
“The bible never says that God’s people were ever bound for hell, it says they were chosen ‘in Christ before the foundation of the world.’ (Ephesians 1:4). The conviction of sin is usually misinterpreted by God’s people to be the conviction that they are hell-bound, the gospel explains to them that they are not, because of what Christ did FOR them.”
Therefore, they’d never been lost. This is a patent denial of what Jesus said in Luke 19:10. If the elect were never lost, Jesus never came to save them. It’s as simple as that.
He continued to say:
“Conviction of sin is the belief in the reality of sin in light of God’s holiness and perfection. Many of God’s children believe this to mean that they are going to hell. They are not. That is why they need to hear the good news of their salvation, so that they can believe it, rejoice in it, and profit from it. The gospel doesn’t make their salvation true, their salvation IS TRUE and the gospel proclaims it to the Lord’s people who receive it by faith and profit from that understanding.”
Therefore, they’d always been saved without knowing it? Really? What did Jesus say about eternal salvation? “And this is life eternal, that they might KNOW thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3). It is preposterous to say that the elect are saved without them knowing it and only need to hear the Gospel to convince them that they are already saved.
According to the usual run of the mill credo in Reformed theology man is dead in his sins and trespasses, even to the degree that he is unable to hear and understand the Gospel, and hence incapable to either willingly or unwillingly respond to it. The only option open to God is to sovereignly choose some among the dead, regenerate them monergisitcally (without faith) and then grant them the gift of faith subsequent to their monergistic regeneration.
Anything a sinner ventures to do, including putting his trust in Jesus Christ and his finished work on the cross, in order to be saved, is to a Calvinist sheer blasphemy. It supposedly robs God of his glory. This they cling to like a nit despite the clear teaching of the Bible that it is impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6), especially in the act of salvation/regeneration.
A Calvinist whom I know very well seems to be a little confused when he says the time has come to tell the people who believe in free-will and the necessity to have faith in Christ in order to be saved that they are going to hell, if they do not repent and turn to Jesus Christ for their salvation.
I appreciate his concern for the lost but how on earth can you expect someone who is dead in sin and trespasses to repent (“metanoia”- change his mind for the better with abhorrence of his sins) and to turn to Christ of his own accord? Repentance (to change your mind) and a turning to Christ involve free-will and faith and yet these are the very things my Calvinist friend rejects because it supposedly demeans God’s sovereignty.
Confusion seems to be the bedrock of Calvinism because none of them know what they really want – for a man to repent and turn to Christ of his own accord or to be monergistically regenerated because he cannot possibly repent and turn to Christ of his own accord. If, as Calvinists assert, no one can come to Christ unless he/she is drawn (John 6:44), then the plea to repent and turn to Christ is an absurdity.
You may as well tell people: “I don’t know whether you are one of the elect whom God in his own time is going to effectively draw to his Son Jesus Christ so that He may regenerate you sovereignly and monergistically. Nevertheless, I urge you to repent and turn to Christ for your salvation.”
Though my Calvinist friend piously urges people to repent and turn to Christ, it is quite evident that it is not what he has in mind. His main concern is that non-Calvinists embrace the so-called doctrines of grace (TULIP) so that they may prove that they are the elect and therefore liable for salvation. This, to say the least, is Phariseeism to its very core. It has absolutely nothing in common with biblical evangelism but has everything to do with proselytization.
Whereas evangelicalism is motivated by pure love to reach out to the lost and to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ so that whosoever will, may be saved, proselytization is a Pharisaic recruitment gimmick to get people to adopt their particular doctrines (which in this case is TULIP). Jesus’ indictment in Matthew 23:15 fits them like a glove.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. (Matthew 23:15)
EFFECTUAL CALLING (DRAWING)
Calvinists believe that only the elect are drawn to Christ (John 6:44) and that their drawing to Him is effectual which simply means that the Holy Spirit gets the job done. Every single elect person drawn to Christ is saved; none are lost. Rev Roger Smalling describes effectual calling as follows:
- The call is based on predestination. It is different from the general call to mankind to repent since it is for the few, not the many.
- This call invariably results in justification, which in turn gets us to heaven, glorified.
- This call is irresistible and efficacious. Otherwise, only some of those justified would be glorified.
- Faith is included in this call because faith is necessary for justification.
- This call must be involved with an internal transformation of the sinner, making faith possible.
- God alone is the cause. …He predestinated . . . He called . . . He justified . . . He glorified.
- This call must be a special grace from God different from His general benevolence toward mankind as a whole.
- This call is a sovereign act of God by which He saves the elect. Theologians call this doctrine by various names: Irresistible Grace, Special Grace or most often, Effectual Call.
Jesus’ parable in Luke 18 paints a completely different picture.
To a Jew, the holiest place in the temple was where God dwelt and as such, it was the ideal place to meet God in prayer. Jesus Himself said that the temple was designed to be a house of prayer for Jews and Gentiles alike (Mark 11:17). It follows that God, by virtue of the temple being a house of prayer, drew all men to Him. Religious zealots, publicans, the rich and the poor, the sick and the healthy, men, women and children were all drawn to the temple because that was where they could communicate with God in prayer.
The fact that the Pharisee went to the temple to pray, proves that God even draws His Son’s enemies to Him (John 12:32). Was the drawing of everyone always effectual? Did the Holy Spirit always get the job done in the lives of all those who were drawn to the temple to pray and effectually save them?
One would have expected that the Pharisee – who the author of the article I am critiquing admits that he believed in election, predestination and limited atonement – would have been the one who God effectually called to Him. Ironically the Pharisee, the one who believed in election, predestination and limited atonement, was the one who went home without being justified (Luke 18:14). It was the publican who did not believe in election, predestination and limited atonement who was justified.
What in particular tells us that the publican did not believe in election, predestination and limited atonement?
- The fact that he realized and acknowledged that he was a lost sinner who desperately needed to be forgiven all of his sins, proves that he did not hold to the infamous doctrines of false grace – election, predestination and limited atonement. He was not so utterly dead in his sins and trespasses that he was unable to pray to God for the forgiveness of his sins.
The only thing left for Calvinists to do, who believe they are as dead as a corpse in sin and trespasses and therefore completely unable to call on the Name of the Lord in the way the publican did, is to thank God that they are not like other men, by virtue of the already effectual accomplishment of their election and predestination.Even the great Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, fell into this dark Pharisaic conduit when he proudly said:
“I suppose there are some persons whose minds naturally incline towards the doctrine of free will; I can only say that mine inclines as naturally towards the Doctrines of Sovereign Grace!
Sometimes, when I see some of the worst characters in the street, I feel as if my heart must burst forth in tears of gratitude that God has never let me act as they have done! I have thought if God had left me alone and had not touched me by His Grace what a great sinner I would have been! I would have run to the utmost lengths of sin, and dived into the very depths of evil!
Nor would I have stopped at any vice or folly, if God had not restrained me; . . .” (Emphasis added). (Read).
What difference is there between his gratitude for not being like some of the worst characters in the street and the Pharisee’s phylacteric boastfulness that he was not as sinful and obnoxious as the publican? Spurgeon’s own immodesty is stained with the reformed doctrine that God foreordained everything that comes to pass, even the sins of all men.
Nevertheless, some, He restrains so that they may not sin as grossly as others, especially the elect. If, as Spurgeon claims, it was God’s restraining grace that prevented him from running “to the utmost lengths of sin, and dived into the very depths of evil” why didn’t He restrain Adam and Eve from their heinous sin that lurched the entire human race in the grip of sin and death? Surely mankind would have been spared the abyss of sin and death if He had restrained Adam and Eve from sinning against Him.
Spurgeon’s ostentatious and boastful words “if God had left me alone and had not touched me by His Grace, what a great sinner I would have been” is classic Phariseeism. Being lost is not construed by how great or how small a sinner you are; it is determined by the fact that we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
God never multiplies his grace to some so that they may sin less than others and withholds it from the non-elect so that they may “run to the utmost lengths of sin, and dive into the very depths of evil.” God poured out his grace on all men (Titus 2:11) so that whosoever believes in Him and his finished work on the cross may be pardoned and receive eternal life.
That’s precisely what the publican had done; he cast himself completely on the mercy of God and was immediately justified by the grace of God. He did not compare himself to others and arrive at the conclusion that God had restrained him from “the utmost lengths of sin” and “the very depths of evil.” He knew that he was a lost sinner and that’s it. Not once did he try to justify himself by comparing his own hardly conceivable sins with the sins of “some of the worst characters in the street.”
Spurgeon’s faith in God’s Sovereign Grace was so overwhelming that he believed it was God’s restraining power – a power He did not wield, to restrain Adam and Eve from sinning – that kept him free from acting in the horrendous sinful way the worst characters in the street were guilty of. How do you think Jesus would have compared Spurgeon to the woman of whom He once said:”Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.” (Luke 7:47).
Could it be, that Jesus restrained Spurgeon from sinning like the scum on the streets (and this woman) because He wanted him to love Him less? Perhaps Spurgeon’s heart should have burst forth in tears of gratitude, for rather not having been restrained from sinning, and sinned much, much more than the woman so that his love for Christ could have abounded in greater depths. In fact, Jesus did him a great disservice when He restrained Spurgeon from sinning like the scoundrels in the street and the woman in Luke 7:47.
- The fact that he went into the temple to pray proves that he willingly exercised his God-given free-will to call on the Name of the Lord for his salvation (Acts 2:21; Revelation 22:17).
The most distinctive difference between the publican’s salvation and the repulsive doctrine of election and predestination is that he was declared justified only after he had called on the Lord Name of the Lord and received forgiveness for his sins. Calvinists assert that they don’t need to call on the Name of the Lord for their salvation. Indeed, if they needed to call on the Name of the Lord for their salvation it would necessitate an act of faith on their part and faith as a precondition for salvation is a taboo in Calvinism. That is why the elect needs to be regenerated first before they can call on the Name of the Lord.
Needless to say, this is putting the horse before the cart. No one needs to call on the Name of the Lord for salvation when he has already been monergistically regenerated. That’s ridiculous. A very important question we need to ask ourselves is: Would or could God have saved the publican if he’d not cried out in shame over his sins “God be merciful to me, a sinner” and had not called on the Name of the Lord for the forgiveness of his trespasses?
Jesus provides the answer in Luke 5:31 where He likens Himself to a physician and a lost sinner to a patient. No one can refute what He taught here and that is that only those who realize and acknowledge that they are terminally ill (lost sinners on their way to hell) will come to Him for their healing (salvation). A terminally ill patient must of necessity trust the physician who treats him. That’s the very first prerogative on the path to recovery from the life-threatening disease of cancer.
A terminally ill patient will never go to a physician who he cannot trust or in whose hands he cannot entrust his life. The spiritual antecedent of this undeniable truth is Hebrews 11:6: “But without faith, it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” This is precisely what the publican ventured to do as opposed to what the Pharisee had done.
The Pharisee denied that he was terminally ill (lost and on his way to hell) but already whole and acceptable to God by virtue of his wonderful good deeds and law-abiding pristine lifestyle. Isn’t that what Calvinists believe – that they’d always been God’s elect (his sheep) and therefore never lost since before the foundation of the world? Yes, of course, they do not deny that they are as totally depraved as the non-elect (the reprobate) but unlike them, they’d never been lost. Yes, they would say, they’d been the lost sheep but not in the sense that they were bound for hell. Their lostness is more of a going astray than being hell-bound and their regeneration more of a being drawn to Christ and a monergistic regeneration than a trusting (having faith) in Christ to save them. Does the following testimony sound like someone who was once lost and on his way to an eternity in hell?
In an interview Phil Johnson had with John MacArthur, John explained his conversion as follows:
PHIL: So you’re saying . . . are you saying it would be difficult for you to put your finger on when your conversion took place?
JOHN: Yeah. I’ve never been able to do that. And it doesn’t bother me. I think I’m one of those kids . . . I was one of those kids that never rebelled and always believed. And so when God did His saving work in my heart, it was not discernible to me. I went away to high school and for all I knew, I loved Christ, I was part of the ministry of the church. I went away to college and I wanted to serve the Lord and honor the Lord. I was certainly immature.
But at some point along the line, I really do believe there was a transformation in my heart, but I think it may have been to some degree imperceptible to me because I didn’t ever have a rebellious time, I didn’t ever revolt against, you know, the gospel or not believe. And I guess that’s . . . in some ways that’s a grace act on God’s part. So that all that wonderful training found some level of fertile soil in my heart and none of it was wasted.
MacArthur’s “conversion” reminds one of Herman Hoeksema’s words, “regeneration can take place in the smallest of infants . . . in the sphere of the covenant of God, He usually regenerates His elect children from infancy.” (Homer Hoeksema, Reformed Dogmatics Grandville, MI: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 1966, 464.).
No wonder John MacArthur was unable to discern his sovereignly and moneristically imposed regeneration. Calvinists’ offspring, like John MacArthur, seem to have received the grace to live and behave in a far more sanctified and lesser sinful way than other children. Really?
Calvinists are indeed a rare species.
- They have never rebelled against God.
To make the extremely profound claim that they’ve never rebelled is equal to saying, “I have always been good.” Really? (Romans 3:12b).
- They have always believed.
To make the extremely profound claim that they’ve always believed is equal to saying, “I have always been endowed with God’s gift of faith.” If, as they say, God endows the gift of faith only to the elect subsequent to their monergistic regeneration, then it is reasonable to conclude that they’d always been regenerate. Really? (Romans 3:12a, 23).
- They have never revolted against the Gospel.
To make the extremely profound claim that they’d never revolted against the Gospel is equal to saying: “I have always understood, loved and embraced the Gospel.” In turn, they are saying that they’d never been natural men (unbelievers). Really? (Isaiah 53:6; 1 Corinthians 2:14).
- The transformation they allegedly experience in their hearts is to some degree imperceptible.
To make the extremely profound claim that the elect’s regeneration is to some degree unnoticed is equal to saying: “You cannot immediately perceive your regeneration. You will only know when you persevere to the end.” Really?Was Paul’s salvation imperceptible to some degree? Hardly, because he knew exactly when he was saved. “Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. (2 Timothy 1:11-12)
There are two things on which we need to focus our attention in Paul’s redemption.
- Paul knew exactly how and when he was saved. His salvation was not clouded with imperceptive vagueness. He knew that he was saved in Ananias’ house in Damascus when he first believed in Jesus and called on his Name for the cleansing of his sins (Acts 22:16).
- Paul never entrusted his salvation to his own perseverance but to Jesus Christ who he believed would keep that which he personally (not God) committed unto Him against that day when He catches up all the true believers to meet Him in the air.
How do the elect know they are the elect?
The doctrine of predestination, election, and limited atonement inevitably leads people to ask, “Am I elect?” The more they ponder this question the more uncertain some of them become. Many Puritans began to doubt their election on their deathbeds. R.C. Sproul wrote:
A while back I had one of those moments of acute self-awareness…and suddenly the question hit me: “R. C., what if you are not one of the redeemed? What if your destiny is not heaven after all, but hell?” Let me tell you that I was flooded in my body with a chill that went from my head to the bottom of my spine. I was terrified.” (R. C. Sproul, “Assurance of Salvation,” Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries, Inc., November 1989, 20.)
Contrary to the uncertainty that disturbed the election of some of the Puritans and R.C. Sproul, Paul of Tarsus never once doubted his salvation. He wrote:
“I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12).
He referred to that day, in Ananias’ home in Damascus, when he called in faith upon the Name of the Lord for the cleansing of his sins (Acts 22: 16). He recalled that day when he placed his trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for his salvation. Calvinists cannot recall any such day because they have ruled out faith and free-will as an important prerequisite for one’s salvation.
God must sovereignly and monergistically regenerate them without them really knowing when the regeneration took place. John MacArthur says “it was not discernible to me.” If the moment of their regeneration is not discernible, how could they possibly know that they are elect? The answer is really quite simple, as some Calvinists would say.
The fact that you believe and continue believing in Christ is the real litmus test, they say. The problem with this is that Calvinists do not believe that faith is a prerequisite or a precondition for salvation. Due to man’s total depravity, he is completely inept to hear, understand and respond to the Gospel in faith. R.C Sproul explains that according to the:”Reformed view of predestination before a person can choose Christ he must be born again”
A.W Pink declares
“the sinner, of himself, cannot repent and believe.”
Explaining Calvinism carefully, Palmer reiterates that no man can understand the gospel and that this “lack of understanding is also a part of man’s depravity . . . all minds are blind unless they are regenerated.” (Edwin H. Palmer, the five points of Calvinism (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, enlarged ed., 20th prtg. 1999), 16))
James White declares,
“The Reformed assertion is that man cannot understand and embrace the gospel nor respond in faith and repentance toward Christ without God first freeing him from sin and giving him spiritual life (regeneration).” (White, Potter’s, 101)
If these statements are true, it means that every single one of the pieces of evidence Stephan D Doe provides for the verification of election must be given after the elects’ regeneration and not before, simply because the depraved elect are incapable of believing unto regeneration.
They cannot believe the things Stephen D Doe lists prior to their regeneration because they are inept to believe before their regeneration. When does the Holy Spirit convict sinners of sin, righteousness, and judgment – before or after their regeneration? We may rightly argue that the Holy Spirit can and often does convict saints of sin after their regeneration.
However, what purpose is there in convicting them of righteousness and judgment after their regeneration? These two elements of conviction can only take place when a sinner is still in an unregenerate state, and in order for the sinner to respond to the conviction of the Holy Spirit before regeneration, he must be able to believe and understand the Holy Spirit’s conviction.
It is ludicrous to assert that the Holy Spirit can convict an elect person of judgment after his monergistic regeneration. The Holy Spirit cannot comfort him with the words “you are saved” and simultaneously convict him that he is on his way to hell after his regeneration.
Here are the pieces of evidence Stephen D Doe provides as proof for election.
So I will ask:
- Do you believe that you have offended the all-holy Creator (Rom. 3:10, 18; Ps. 51:1-4)?
- Do you believe that your sins cry out to heaven itself for justice, and that you deserve to perish under the wrath of the God you have offended by your sins (Isa. 59:2-3; Ezek. 18:4)?
- Do you believe that you are, in fact, dead in your sins and unable to make yourself alive? (Eph. 2:1-3; Rom. 8:5-8). (Thomas comments: This is so typical of the Calvinists’ insipid belief system. Only they can tell a corpse that cannot hear, understand or respond to anything: “Do you believe that you are, in fact, dead in your sins and unable to make yourself alive?”).
- Do you believe that nothing you could ever do no good deeds, no mighty acts of faith, no church attendance, no niceness of character will ever be sufficient to appease the wrath of your holy Creator against your sins (Mic. 6:6-7; Isa. 59:12-14)?
- Do you believe that God, the God you have offended by your sins, has himself provided the way of escape through his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (Titus 3:5-7; Col. 2:13)?
- Have you been united to Christ by faith, a faith you did not earn, but received as a gift from God? Do you believe that, having been savingly joined by faith to the Son of God, your sins are finally and fully paid for, and that you are forgiven and declared righteous, as though you had never sinned (Gal. 2:16, 20; Rom. 8:1-4)?
- Do you believe that, by the grace of God, having turned from your sins and turned to the Son of God to pay for your sins and to give you his own righteousness, you will be received by God as his own dear child, to be loved and blessed by him throughout eternity that is, that you are saved by God’s unmerited grace (Rom. 3:21-28; 5:1-11)?
If you believe these things, you are exhibiting a key characteristic of the elect: the elect believe the gospel of Jesus Christ and continue in faith. The elect do not focus on their election, but rather on their Savior. The elect are saved from the wrath to come because God has chosen them to salvation through Jesus Christ (1 Thess. 5:9-10; cf. 2 Thess. 2:13). And that is what the gospel promises as well: the one who believes in the Son has eternal life and escapes the wrath of God (John 3:36).
Think back to the day of Pentecost. In Acts 2, we find Peter directing the crowds to consider, not election, but the Lord of glory whom they crucified. The elect will believe the gospel, but the reprobate will turn away from the gospel.
Calvinists have an uncanny propensity to disagree with one another. Here Stephan D Doe says that “the elect will believe the Gospel, but that the reprobate will turn away from the Gospel.” What does he mean? Does he mean the elect will hear, understand and respond in faith to the Gospel while the reprobate will recoil in unbelief and never be saved?
If so, then he does not agree with the Calvinists I quoted above who says that no-one – not even the elect – are capable of believing the Gospel but first need to be regenerated – before the gift of faith can be given to them. In that case, Stephan D Doe is downright dishonest in saying the “the elect will believe.”
He should rather have said, “the elect will receive the gift of faith after their monergistic regeneration while the reprobate will neither be regenerated nor be given the gift of faith.” Therefore the gift of faith is withheld from the reprobate.
Jesus once said to the Pharisees:
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. (John 5:39-40).
Stephen Doe’s above dissertation is chock-full of verses proving that the author had thoroughly searched the Scriptures but not once does he encourage his readers to come to Jesus for their salvation (Matthew 11:28-29). How on earth can they, when they are told that they cannot come to Jesus of their own accord? (John 6:44). Neither are they told that the Father draws all people (John 12:32).
Even Roman Catholics will gladly bear out their belief in every single one of the seven points he mentions to prove that one is an elect. Are they saved? No wonder James, the brother of Jesus, had to rebuke some who claimed that they believed when he wrote:
“You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe-and shudder!” (James 2:19). Jesus commanded us to believe as the Scriptures have said (John 7:38).
Do Calvinists believe as the Scriptures say? To answer this question we need to briefly look at the so-called Reformed Doctrines of Grace entrenched in the acronym TULIP.
Total depravity, which in Calvinistic terms means total inability, deprives the elect of any capability to respond in faith to the Gospel or of their own volition to come to Jesus for their salvation. It also excludes the ability to choose according to one’s own free-will. The elect is dead in their sins and trespasses and need to be regenerated first, then granted faith as a gift so that they may come to Jesus.
As we’ve seen earlier, this is called effectual drawing or calling. Only the elect are called or drawn in this way. In fact, the drawing itself is the regeneration. James White writes:
“The Reformed assertion is that man cannot understand and embrace the gospel nor respond in faith and repentance toward Christ without God first freeing him from sin and giving him spiritual life (regeneration).” (James White: The Potter’s Freedom, p. 101).
RC Sproul explains that according to the
“Reformed view of predestination before a person can choose Christ he must be born again.” (R. C. Sproul, Chosen by God (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1986), 72.))
David Steele and Curtis Thomas, in their book “The Five Points of Calvinism,” p. 16, proclaim that:
“Because of the fall, man is unable of himself to savingly believe the gospel. The sinner is dead, blind, and deaf to the things of God; his heart is deceitful and desperately corrupt. His will is not free, it is in bondage to his evil nature; therefore, he will not-indeed he cannot-choose good over evil in the spiritual realm.
Consequently, it takes much more than the Spirit’s assistance to bring a sinner to Christ-it takes regeneration by which the Spirit makes the sinner alive and gives him a new nature. Faith is not something man contributes to salvation but is itself a part of God’s gift of salvation-it is God’s gift to the sinner, not the sinner’s gift to God.:
Jesus’ condemnation of the Pharisees in the Gospel according to Matthew fits Calvinism like a glove:
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces [by telling them God never loved them and that His Son Jesus Christ never died for them]. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.” (Matthew 23:13).
While Calvinists, as we’ve seen earlier, believe that man is completely unable to will to come to Jesus of his own accord and to respond in faith to the Gospel in order to be saved, some Calvinists have the nerve to preach on Revelation 22:17 and urge all depraved sinners to come to Jesus and to be reconciled to God through faith alone. Who are they trying to bluff? In short, they say:
- You are completely void of a free-will to come to Jesus but I am honored to invite you to come to Him and to be saved.
In their attempt to offer proof for their view that man has no free-will they refer to John 5:40 where Jesus indicts the Pharisees for their unwillingness to come to Him so that they may have life. The Pharisees acknowledged the Scriptures as the Sola Scriptura of God’s revealed truth but were unwilling to come to the Sola Dispendera (Dispenser) of God’s grace.
Their unwillingness to come to Jesus for their salvation was not due to an alleged non-existence of a free-will but rather to an outright refusal to come to Him. In fact, several other Bible translations interpret it in exactly those terms.
“And still you are not willing [but refuse] to come to Me, so that you might have life.” (AMP Bible)
“yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (NIV)
“But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” (NKJV)
“and ye do not will to come unto me, that ye may have life; (YLT)
The ability to will or not to will or to be willing or unwilling inexorably points to the fact that man does indeed have a free-will. Would Jesus have been so inordinately cruel to invite all who are weary and heavy-laden with sin to come to Him when He knew they had no free-will?
On the contrary, his invitation was/is an invitation to use their God-given free-will to come to Him when they experience the pangs of a weary and heavy-laden sinful life.
- God’s Spirit alone can make you willing to come to Jesus Christ for your salvation but I have the wonderful honor to invite you to come to Him and to be saved.
I have always maintained that a wrong interpretation of biblical eschatology often leads to an erroneous soteriology. One of the most forceful examples is the Emergent Church who believes that the Kingdom of God must be realized here and now through the altruistic and benevolent work of its followers.
In their appraisal of the end times there is no room for a Rapture, a seven years period of great tribulation on earth and eventually, a literal 1000 years of peace on earth when Christ will rule from the throne of his father David in Jerusalem. This particular model, they say, is too exclusive.
What they want and are working toward is an all-inclusive kingdom in which everyone – Christians and every other conceivable religious persuasion, including atheists – may share in the benefits of the kingdom. Needless to say, this model also excludes the unadulterated Gospel of Jesus Christ to the extent that it has become a redefined Gospel with no power (1 Corinthians 1:18). Tony Campolo, one of the most distinguished teachers and protÃ©gÃ©s of the Emergent Church, describes the emergent kingdom as follows:
“This is a theology that – with its implicit threat of being left behind [at the Rapture], of time running out – is used by Dispensational preachers to great evangelistic effect. It has been a very effective goad to conversion . . . To the contrary, the history of the world is infused with the presence of God, who is guiding the world toward becoming the kind of world God willed for it to be when it was created. Human history is going somewhere wonderful.” (Tony Campolo, in Brian McLaren and Tony Campolo, Adventures in Missing the Point ( El Cajon, Calif,: Youth Specialties, 2003), p. 59.
N. T. Wright, the doyen of the “New Perspective on Paul” (claiming that we have misinterpreted Paul and, in turn, the gospel, since the foundation of the church) and evangelicalism, has the same eschatological resolve,
“[Paul] was to declare to the pagan world that YHWH, the God of Israel, was the one true God of the whole world, and that in Jesus of Nazareth he had overcome evil and was creating a new world in which justice and peace would reign supreme.” (N. T. Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1997), p. 37.).
To illustrate to what extent the Emergent eschatology has putrefied the Gospel, I would like to quote Rob Bell and Robert Webber. Bell writes:
“Salvation is the entire universe being brought back into harmony with its maker. This has huge implications for how people present the message of Jesus. Yes, Jesus can come into our hearts. But we can join a movement that is as wide and as big as the universe itself. Rocks and trees and birds and swamps and ecosystems. God’s desire is to restore all of it.” (Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis ( Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), pp.109-110).
“For Jesus, the question wasn’t how do I get into Heaven? but how do I bring heaven here?… The goal isn’t escaping this world but making this world the kind of place God can come to. And God is remaking us into the kind of people who can do this kind of work.” (Ibid., pp. 147,150).
Robert Webber, the author of the influential book “Ancient-Future Faith,” believes that “Christ has bound Satan and all demonic powers,” (Robert Webber, Ancient-Future Faith, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2004) p. 49)), the result being that the followers of Christ can usher in the Kingdom of God by means of a “secular salvation” (by accelerating massive social and cultural changes). He writes:
“Faith in Jesus Christ, who is the ultimate ruler over all of life, can break the twisting of political, economic, social, and moral structures into secular salvation. Because those structures that promise secular salvation are disarmed, they can no longer exercise ultimate power in our lives. The powers have been dethroned by the power of the cross.” (Ibid, p. 51).
Judas Iscariot cradled a similar kind of “secular salvation.” He merely wanted Jesus to rid them of the Roman yoke of injustices, of suffering, and of poverty, without the cross (John 12:5; Stephan Joubert once told a gathering of pastors at the Moreleta Park DRC to sell their churches and give the money to the poor).
Although there are differences of opinion in the Calvinistic fold, the overriding eschatological position of Calvinism is that of Amillennialism. Like the Emergent Church, they too believe that the major principles of God’s Kingdom are already present on earth, i.e.
- Satan is already bound so that the Gospel may be proclaimed unhindered;
- the elect are already ruling with Jesus where He is seated at the right hand of God;
- God’s Kingdom began at Pentecost when Peter used the prophecies of Joel to explain what happened; and
- the Church and the spread of the Good News are Christ’s Kingdom on earth and will be forevermore [that is, every elect person shall be regenerated and effectively called to eternal life and faith in Jesus Christ and reign with Him forevermore).
No wonder many well-known Calvinists and churches have developed a penchant for Contemplative Spirituality (John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, Francis Chan, John Ortberg, Tim Keller, Mark Dever, Al Mohler and Joshua Harris). Having found a shared aim in their similar views on the Kingdom of God, many of the younger generation Calvinists have opted for the contemplative journey.
And why shouldn’t the young, restless and reformed (New Calvinists) feel so strongly connected to the Emergent Church and their Kingdom now theology when John Calvin’s Geneva was a model for God’s Kingdom on earth? In his book “Calvin’s Tyrannical Kingdom – Geneva’s experiment in Christian Dominionism,” Dave Hunt writes:
“From 1541 to 1549, French theologian John Calvin attempted the perfect marriage of Church and State in Geneva, Switzerland. Determined to transform the city into a model of God’s kingdom on earth, Calvin established numerous detailed “reforms” as well as devising a system to police citizens through regular home inspections-questioning the residents on all aspects of their beliefs and practice.
Some of those who profess a “Reformed” faith today take Calvin’s Geneva as their model and thus hope to Christianize the United States-and then the world. Is it any wonder that much of the general public, accusing evangelicals of orchestrating a “vast right-wing conspiracy,” recoils in horror at such a thought? Many Christian activists with looser attachments to Calvin hope to force an ungodly American citizenry into godly living. But is such an agenda within the will of God? No one ever worked so hard at attempting to do this, nor for so long a time, as John Calvin-whose “righteous” judgment dominated the people of Geneva for eight deadly years.
Should today’s Christian leaders continue to laud a man whose behavior was often so far removed from the commandments of Christ and the example of Paul? Should believers seek to celebrate (and emulate-Calvin’s theology-which led to his ungodly reign as “protestant pope” of Geneva?”
It is no surprise that Calvinists who shun biblical eschatological events such as the Rapture, the seven years tribulation period on earth and the Second Coming of Christ together with all the saints who had been raptured prior to Daniel’s seventieth week, to misinterpret Old Testament prophecies relating to the end-times. They prefer to interpret these end-time prophecies in terms of their doctrines of grace rather than what the text plainly says. A verse Calvinists often quote to verify their interpretation of Revelation 22:17 is Psalm 110:3.
They assume that whosoever willingly comes to Christ to take and partake of the Living Water do so, not because they desire it of their own accord (motivated by their own free-will) but because the Holy Spirit makes them willing and able to come to Jesus Christ. As we’ve seen earlier, this is called the effectual calling of the elect for they alone (not the reprobate) are made willing and able to come to Jesus Christ and receive the Living Water.
Calvinists need to answer several pertinent questions.
1a) Presupposition: The elect (we must deal with the elect only because they are allegedly the only ones being saved) are dead in their sins and trespasses and consequently do not have a free-will or the capability to hear, understand and respond in faith to the Gospel message.
1b) Consequence: To make the calling effectual the Holy Spirit (according to Psalm 110:3) first needs to make the spiritually dead elect alive (regenerate them) and only then make them willing to come to Jesus so that they may take and partake of the Living Water. (Dead people cannot exercise any shape or form of free-will and hence the Holy Spirit must first make them alive so that He can make them willing). The Canons of Dort declare, “Therefore all men . . . without the regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit . . . are neither able nor willing to return to God [come to Jesus Christ] . . . nor to dispose them to reformation.” (Canons of Dort (Dordrecht, Holland, 1619), III, IV:3.))
1c) Question: Why do the elect need to come to Jesus to take and partake of the Living Water (a metaphor of regeneration, redemption, salvation), when the Holy Spirit sovereignly and monergistically regenerates and grants them the gift of faith as well as the will to come to Jesus, subsequent to their regeneration and prior to their coming to Jesus? Surely, an elect person who had already been regenerated (redeemed) by the Holy Spirit has no need to come to Jesus and to take the Living Water.
Regeneration involves the Holy Spirit indwelling a repentant sinner through faith alone and as such he receives the Living Water at the moment of his regeneration because the Living Water IS the Holy Spirit (John 7:38-39). Therefore, it would not be unreasonable to infer that the elect are sovereignly and monergistically regenerated first, after which they are given the gift of faith and then made willing to come to Jesus so that they may take and partake of the Living Water. It means that the elect are saved (regenerated and gifted with faith and the will to come to Jesus) so that they may be saved (come to Jesus and take and partake of the Living Water).
2a) Presupposition: God’s calling of the elect is effectual to the uttermost which means that every single elect person shall be saved without exception. In layman’s terms, it means that God’s effectual calling is 100% perfect because 100% of the elect shall be saved.
2b) Consequence: No one is able to thwart, spoil or prevent God’s effectual calling of the elect and its inevitable consequences (the effectual regeneration of every single elect person).
2c) Question: If no scope of human intervention is able to thwart, spoil or prevent God’s effectual calling why is it necessary to persuade, urge, inspire, and plead with depraved sinners to come to Jesus Christ? Why do Calvinists impudently depend on their own superfluous persuasions when God’s calling is so powerfully and sovereignly effective?
In fact, the very thought that you can contribute something to God’s effectual calling (through the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit who provides both the faith and the will to come to Jesus Christ) maliciously demeans the sovereignty of God. It is arrogant, haughty, and downright puffed-up pride to think that you can contribute something to God’s effectual calling and convince depraved sinners to come to Jesus for their salvation. It is, therefore, no surprise that Paul Washer is at least honest when he laments his absolute inability to coerce or persuade people to come to Jesus.
And yet it is mostly the “tiny boys” who seem to think they can urge and persuade depraved sinners to come to Jesus for their salvation and to contribute something to God’s sovereign grace. What would happen if every preacher, pastor, evangelist, missionary and Christian witness suddenly stopped to proclaim the Gospel and urge and persuade depraved sinners to come to Jesus Christ to take and partake of the Living Water?
Would it hamper God in his sovereign decree to effectually call and save the elect? Would God still accomplish his will to save every single elect person in the world? Most definitely because God’s purpose cannot fail.
I have already mentioned Psalm 110:3 several times and briefly explained that Calvinists often use it to authenticate their doctrine of effectual calling. Let us now evaluate their assumption that it teaches effectual calling in the light of the Word of God. First of all, we must look at the Psalm in its entire context to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).
The Psalm is the antecedent of the New Testament’s teaching that Jesus Christ will return with His saints at the end of the seven years tribulation period on earth to judge the nations (Jude 1:14 and 15). It, therefore, has eschatological rather than salvific significance. It certainly does not teach that the Holy Spirit enables and makes the elect willing to come to Christ for their salvation.
The word “ne’Ã»m” (“says,” “said”) is often used to depict an oracle or a revelation. In this instance, David heard a heavenly conversation between the Lord (Yahweh) and David’s Lord (‘adÅnay), i.e. God the Father and the Messiah. In the Oracle, Yahweh says that David’s Lord, the Messiah, is presently seated at Yahweh’s right hand, the place of supreme authority, until the completion of the ages.
At that particular time, when He returns at his Second Advent to the earth at the end of the seven years tribulation period, the Lord will send David’s Lord, the Messiah, to subjugate his enemies. (Psalm 2:1-12).
Verse 3 describes the dominion Christ is going to exert over the entire earth when He returns with his saints at the end of the seven years tribulation period to do battle with the nations who treated his people (the Jews) with contempt. God is exceedingly angry with the heathen nations because of the false security they so precariously enjoyed whilst his people (the Jews) suffered so much.
While God was only a little angry with his people, desiring only a moderate punishment, the nations prolonged and intensified their persecution of the Jews (Zechariah 1:14-15). The saints who had been raptured prior to the seven years tribulation period are going to return with Jesus Christ and willingly offer themselves to take part in His battle. The Israelites of old were required to consecrate themselves to the Lord before going into battle with their enemies, and so too the saints must be holy before going into battle at the consummation of the ages (2 Peter 3:10-11, 14).
I must stress once again that the verse is no indication whatsoever that the Holy Spirit makes the elect willing and able to come to Jesus so that they may take and partake of the Living Water (Revelation 22:17). Calvinists will do anything to validate their agenda and often forcefully read things into verses that are not there.
The Pharisees who sat under the teaching of Shammai were the most important religious group in the time of Jesus. He founded his school shortly before Jesus Christ’s birth. The Shammai Pharisees hated the Gentiles and even the Jews who did not follow them.
Their hatred of the Gentiles was so intense that Shammai passed no less than 18 edicts to enforce separation between Jews and Gentiles. Jesus’ command in Matthew 5:43-44 to love your enemies was specifically aimed at the Shammai Pharisees who undoubtedly had some influence on Jesus’ disciples, in particular, Peter. (Mark 2:16; Acts 11:3).
Like the Pharisees of old, Calvinists have a propensity to love their own (the elect) and hate those who do not follow them and do not adhere to their doctrines of grace. Not even Christ Jesus’ command to love your enemies has made any headway in their so-called doctrines of grace.
In fact, they have shrewdly found a way to circumvent His command in Matthew 5:43-44 by differentiating between their own personal enemies and the enemies of God. According to this new Pharisaic Corban law, they absolve themselves from loving God’s enemies while pretending to obey Christ’s command to love their own enemies. The question we need to ask, is, who are God’s enemies and who are the elects’ enemies? Are they not the same individuals or group of people?
If we were to assume that Jesus Christ did not die on the cross for the non-elect, it follows that He does not love them and if He does not love them He must hate them. Having established who the enemies of God are, we must conclude that the elect has no option but to hate the non-elect as well. If they don’t they are not consistent in their determination to hate God’s enemies.
Who are the remaining individuals or group of people the elect may regard as their own personal enemies but not God’s enemies and who, they say, they ought to love according to Christ’s command in Matthew 5:43-44? It can only be the elect. This leads us to the bizarre situation where the elect love the elect, not because they are elect brothers and sisters in Christ but because they are enemies.
Where else are they going to find enemies to love if not from among their own elect brothers and sisters in Christ? Unless they learn to love their non-elect enemies who by divine decree are God’s enemies, can they in any which way possible avoid their new Corban Law “Hate God’s enemies but love your own personal enemies.” This again proves that Calvinism is not only a strange doctrine but a very dangerous one.
In the next and last segment of my article, I would like to respond to some of Sam’s inconsistencies. Sam owns himself the right to misrepresent me on his blog and spread a pack of lies about me and my beliefs in public. Therefore, I too retain the right to defend myself in public. His misrepresentation of me as an Arminian and Universalist is much worse than content theft of which some of his closest friends have accused me of and promptly reported to WordPress. Indeed, character theft/assassination is worse than content theft. They have the nerve to quote you word for word, spread lies about you and mention your name but as soon as you do it they report you.
In his article Tom Lessing 1944 (Updated) and in response to my affirmation that faith is a precondition for salvation, Sam said the following:
“. . . we Calvinists do NOT “reject the biblical truth that faith in Christ and his finished work on the cross is a PRECONDITION for salvaton.” (sic)
Of course, you need to believe to be justified and saved. (2 Tim. 3v15; Ep. 2v8; Gal. 2v16, 3v8, v11, v24, v26, 5v5; 1 Pt. 1v5, v9; Rom. 1v17, 3v22, v28, v30, 4v5, v9, v11, v13, 5v1, 9v30, 10v6; Heb. 10v38; Philip. 3v9).
Sam doesn’t seem to know what the word precondition means. The dictionary defines “precondition” as “something that must come before or is necessary to a subsequent result.” Therefore pre-conditional faith is a pre-salvific faith. If faith is a necessary condition to be met prior to a subsequent result (which in this case is regeneration/salvation/redemption), then the notion that faith is given to the elect only after their monergistic regeneration because an elect person has no free-will and is unable to choose, is incorrect.
Pre-conditional faith does not exclude free will or choice. If it had excluded free-will and choice faith would have to be an irresistibly imposed post-salvific faith which brings us back to where we started, and that is that Calvinists do not really believe in pre-conditional faith. Sam is being a little less than honest. Sam boldly states:
“Of course, you need to believe to be justified and saved. (2 Tim. 3v15; Ep. 2v8; Gal. 2v16, 3v8, v11, v24, v26, 5v5; 1 Pt. 1v5, v9; Rom. 1v17, 3v22, v28, v30, 4v5, v9, v11, v13, 5v1, 9v30, 10v6; Heb. 10v38; Philip. 3v9).”
The pretense is foul play but dishonesty is even worse; it is a travesty. Not only is he inconsistent in his reasoning but also in complete disagreement with most of the heavyweight Calvinists who claim “that no man can understand the gospel, and that this lack of understanding is also a part of man’s depravity . . . all minds are blind unless they are regenerated.”
Therefore his claim that “. . . we Calvinists do NOT “reject the biblical truth that faith in Christ and his finished work on the cross is a PRECONDITION for salvation” is clouded with dishonesty because a corpse cannot believe anything at all. It must first be revived (resurrected, regenerated) before faith can be imparted to it as a gift. And indeed, this is what Sam candidly admits when he says:
“Yet, Scripture tells us, that mankind is spiritually dead (Gen. 2v16-17: Lk. 15v24, v32; Jn. 11v25; Rom. 11v15; 2 Cor. 5v14), NOT universal endowed with faith (2 Thess. 3v2; Gal. 3v23; Eph. 2v8; Mt. 17v17), and that as a result, we did NOT choose God, but He chose us (Jn. 6v44, v65, 15v16).”
If man is spiritually dead, as Sam says, how can he exercise faith as a precondition for salvation? With this singularly short sentence, Sam smashes to smithereens his supposed belief that faith is a precondition for salvation. He even admits: ”
How is it, that the spiritually dead (Gen. 2v16-17: Lk. 15v24, v32; Jn. 11v25; Rom. 11v15; 2 Cor. 5v14; Eph. 2v1, v5, 5v14; Col. 2v13; Jude 1v12) can raise themselves to life, without God’s supernatural intervention?”
Having faith in Christ is in itself not salvation (to raise oneself from the dead). It is, as Sam said himself, merely the precondition for salvation and anyone who does not meet this condition cannot be saved. (Hebrews 11:6).
Furthermore, Sam refers to one Bible verse after another without providing any solid exegesis. In fact, he has a very sloppy way of handling Scripture. A good example is his reference to 1 Corinthians 12:4-9 to prove that God gives the ability to believe only to the elect. He wrote:
What we Calvinists do, however, also believe, is that faith [that is the ability to believe] is a Gift from God (1 Cor. 12v4-9; Eph. 2v8; Jn. 6v29), which is NOT universally bestowed on all mankind (2 Thess. 3v2; Gal. 3v23; Eph. 2v8; Mt. 17v17).
1 Corinthians 12:4-9 does not portray in the very slightest God’s decree to bestow the ability to believe the Gospel only on the elect and NOT universally on all mankind. Paul does not deal with believers and unbelievers with an intent to differentiate between the two groups, especially with regard to salvation. He addresses believers (the church) only and reveals to them the diversity of spiritual gifts the Holy Spirit bestows on individuals so that they may serve the Lord and the church effectively.
The gift of faith mentioned in verse 9 is NOT the alleged gift of faith that enables the elect only to believe on Jesus Christ. Faith in this instance is an unusual measure of trust in God that goes beyond the usual faith exercised by other Christian, for example, 1 Corinthians 13:2. Moreover, these gifts are given for the common good of the body of Christ and not for personal enrichment (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:4; 1 Peter 4:10).
Therefore, this gift of faith cannot be a gift to enable only the elect to believe in Jesus for their salvation because regeneration benefits only the individual and not a corporate group of people. Your salvation does not save others. Others too must be saved individually for their own spiritual and eternal enrichment.
In John 6:29 Jesus does not say that faith is a gift of God which He bestows on the elect only. Calvinists interpret the phrase “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” as though Jesus said it is God who works the work of faith in an elect person’s resurrected life so that he/she may have the ability to believe. It suggests that Jesus either did not understand their question in verse 28, “What must we do (with emphasis on the “we do”), to be doing the works of God?” or impassively ignored them.
It just shows to what length Calvinists are prepared to go to validate their own agenda. They don’t mind to portray Jesus as an ignoramus who failed to understand the Jews’ question and woefully groped for an answer that completely distorted God’s will in salvation for them.
Barnes says of verse 29 the following:
This is the work of God – This is the thing that will be acceptable to God, or which you are to do in order to be saved. Jesus did not tell them they had nothing to do, or that they were to sit down and wait [until they were monergistically endowed with the gift of faith], but that there was a work to perform, and that was a duty that was imperative. It was to believe on the Messiah. This is the work which sinners are to do [and not God]; and doing this they will be saved, for Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth, Rom 10:4. (Emphasis and parenthesis added)
Walfoord and Zuck in “The Bible Knowledge Commentary”, p 295, says:
6:28. The people recognized that Jesus was saying God had a requirement for them. They would do God’s requirement if He would inform them what it was. They believed that they could please God and thus obtain eternal life by doing good works (cf. Rom. 10:2-4).
6:29. Jesus’ response to their question was a flat contradiction of their thinking. They could not please God by doing good works. There is only one work of God, that is, one thing God requires. They need to put their trust in the One the Father has sent. Because of their sin people cannot please Bod by doing good works for salvation (Eph. 2:8 and 9; Titus 3:5). God demands that people recognize their inability to save themselves and receive His gift (Rom. 6:23). (Emphasis added).
A gift, as we’ve seen earlier, is something you willingly and perceptively receive from the donor, otherwise, it is not a gift. The Calvinist’s gift of faith, on the other hand, is something God imposes on the elect (it is called irresistible grace) without them perceiving or discerning it. That’s why John MacArthur can say “it was not discernable to me.”
Sam proceeds to defend Calvinism with another Strawman argument when he says the following:
“On the 3rd of April 2013 Lessing left the following comment on my responses to Kobus Hattingh:
COMMENT: “How perfectly ironical of you to mention the Pharisees who believed that they were the pristine chosen ones of God because they had Abraham as their father (Mat 3:9; John 8:33) whilst the rest were reprobates on their way to an irredeemable destruction in hell. Like the Pharisees who claimed that they had never been in bondage, Calvinists claim that they have always been Christ’s sheep who have always listened to and obeyed his voice.”
No Calvinist EVER claimed, “that they have always been Christ’s sheep who have always listened to and obeyed his voice”
To the contrary, Calvinists always confirmed their hopeless despair, prior to salvation.” [Thomas’ comment: Notice carefully, he does not say the elect were not sheep but that they were hopeless in despair prior to salvation. Indeed, who is not hopeless in despair prior to salvation? The Bible says all of mankind are like sheep, hopeless in despair and lost prior to salvation – Isaiah 53: 6).”
This is one of the most astounding confessions a Calvinist has ever made. Calvinists, and especially men like John MacArthur, persistently misquote John 10:15 by saying “and I lay down my life for MY sheep,” instead of “THE sheep” to prove that Jesus only died for the elect and not the reprobate who are allegedly the goats.provides a good summary of the Five Points of Calvinism. Under the heading “Limited Atonement” the author says:
Jesus died only for the elect. Though Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient for all, it was not efficacious for all. Jesus only bore the sins of the elect. Support for this position is drawn from such scriptures as Matt. 26:28 where Jesus died for ‘many’; John 10:11, 15 which say that Jesus died for the sheep (not the goats, per Matt. 25:32-33); John 17:9 where Jesus in prayer interceded for the ones given Him, not those of the entire world; Acts 20:28 and Eph. 5:25-27 which state that the Church was purchased by Christ, not all people; and Isaiah 53:12 which is a prophecy of Jesus’ crucifixion where he would bore the sins of many (not all).”
If, as Sam says in rebuttal to my assertion above, “No Calvinist EVER claimed, “that they have always been Christ’s sheep who have always listened to and obeyed his voice,” then he is, in reality, conceding to the fact that Calvinists were goats before their monergistic regeneration. What else could they have been other than goats if they’d not always been sheep who always listened to Jesus Christ’s voice?
Isn’t that what Jesus said in John 10:28-30? As you may have noticed already, this poses a huge problem for Calvinists because it suggests that Jesus actually died for some goats, albeit the elect goats. In fact, we now enter an entirely new ball game, one that has a completely new set of rules and regulations of which the following is the most important:
“John 10:11, 15 says that Jesus died for the elect goats (not the reprobate goats, per Matt. 25:32-33).”
They may, however, argue that they’ve always been sheep, regardless of the fact that they hadn’t always been the sheep of Jesus Christ’s fold, but sheep nevertheless, and never, but never goats who are always associated with the reprobate, as per Matthew 25:32-33.
If we were to assume that this is correct we would have to ask: “Would they have been lost and gone to hell if they’d (as sheep nevertheless) never been added to Christ’s sheepfold so that they, as His full-blooded sheep, could hear and obey his voice?” Well no, of course not, they would argue, because God’s decrees are unchangeable and his purpose cannot fail.
The elect sheep who are presently his sheep but do not listen to and obey his voice because they are not yet in his fold (as Sam confirms) will inevitably become the sheep of his fold so that they may listen to and obey his voice because God’s decrees cannot be thwarted or annulled.
If this is true, it is reasonable to assume that the elect cannot possibly and will never be lost which in turn means that they had always been saved in God’s mind from the eternities past. Even a Calvinist cannot dispute the fact that once God has settled something in his mind, no matter how many eons ago, it will come to pass, come hell or high water.
Therefore, the elect was irreversibly saved even in their pre-regenerated, pre-obedience to Christ’s voice, pre-Christ’s sheep-fold-sheep condition, simply because God’s sovereign decree with regard to their predestination and election before the foundation of the world cannot and will not be overturned.
That is why a Calvinist like John Mac Arthur can say “I have always believed” and an anonymous Calvinists on YouTube commented that “The Bible never says that God’s people were ever bound for hell, it says they were chosen ‘in Christ before the foundation of the world.'” (Ephesians 1:4). . . . “Many of God’s children believe this to mean that they are going to hell. They are not. That is why they need to hear the good news of their salvation so that they can believe it, rejoice in it, and profit from it. The gospel doesn’t make their salvation true, their salvation IS TRUE and the gospel proclaims it to the Lord’s people who receive it by faith and profit from that understanding.” His words “their salvation ‘IS TRUE’ simply means they have always been saved and never lost.
Sam regularly shoots himself in the foot which proves that, although he pretends to know so much about Calvinism, he doesn’t have a clue what it really represents. If Jesus died for the sheep (the elect) only and not the goats (the reprobate), as Calvinists so vigorously and progressively proclaim, then it is extremely dangerous to put the elect in the goats’ and not in the sheep’s fold, and that’s precisely what Sam has done when he said: “No Calvinist EVER claimed, “that they have always been Christ’s sheep who have always listened to and obeyed his voice,” unless, of course, he means that the elect was NOT something so repugnant as goats but rather benign animals such as doves or little bunnies or even little mice before they became Christ Jesus’ sheep.
There is not a single verse in Scripture that substantiates CALVINISM. And yet JACOB PRASCH (the Oscar-winning Jewish Midrash railer) hails John MacArthur and Paul Washer as true men of God. (2 John 9-11).
There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. (Proverbs 14:12)