Why Theology Matters

There they were, talking theology again. It seemed like every time I went upstairs to the second floor of Lincoln Hall, I would find those four guys discussing theology. Travis Campbell was one of them. You can see him here discussing 10 Undisputed Facts About Jesus. As they would discuss theology, I would stand there and listen as long as possible. But truth be told, most of it was over my head.

They discussed things like predestination, the sovereignty of God, election, and man’s free will, or lack thereof (depending on how you define free will). I had a great deal of respect for the men who were in those debates, many have gone on to fruitful ministries.

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Calvin on Wives Submitting to Their Husbands

I’m preaching through 1 Peter and decided to read Calvin’s Sermons on Ephesians for the corresponding passage dealing with wives submitting to their husbands. I love reading commentaries from men of Calvin’s generation in helping me understand how the text has been viewed in history given that our culture is so completely inundated with the idolatry of the individual, also known as radical feminism.

I was going to use the following quote but decided that it was too controversial in nature. Heidi told me it was what we call a “parachute illustration.” That comes from a fellow pastor, Grover Gunn, who used an opening sermon illustration that was so horrifying in its description that, I didn’t hear the rest of his sermon. That illustration involved a man who was parachuting with a group of others and his job was to film everyone else. As they were descending, one after another pulled their chute and he continued to fall. After the last of the group opened his chute, the view from the camera became erratic, and it started spinning. The man who was filming the others, forget to put his shoot on before jumping out of the plane. He fell to his death. But alas, the camera survived and we have this horrible story to share with our congregations.

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The Covenant of Grace Has No “Ifs” and “Buts”

From Charles Spurgeon’s sermon The Blood of the Everlasting Covenant, preached October 2nd, 1859. 

Nothing which man has made is everlasting, because he cannot ensure it against decay. But as for the covenant of grace, well did David say of it, ‘It is ordered in all things and sure.’

…There is not an ‘if’ or a ‘but’ in the whole of it from beginning to end. Freewill hates God’s ‘shalls’ and ‘wills,’ and like man’s ‘ifs’ and ‘buts,’ but there are no ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ in the covenant of grace.

…Almighty grace rides victoriously over the neck of freewill, and leads it captive in glorious captivity to the all-conquering power of irresistible grace and love. It is a sure covenant, and therefore deserves the title of everlasting.

Furthermore, it is not only sure, but it is immutable. If it were not immutable it could not be everlasting. That which changes passes away. We may be quite sure that anything that has the word ‘change’ on it, will sooner or later die, and be put away as a thing of nought. But in the covenant (of grace) everything is immutable. Whatever God has established must come to pass, and not word, or line, or letter can be altered.

My Egregious Public Error

I never really know what to do when I get comments like the one below on a post or my blog. Robert, who is a first-time visitor, was able to discern from my posts that not only do I believe in original sin (see Romans 5:12) but also the fact that all are conceived in iniquity, therefore sinners, even at their conception (see Psalm 51:5).

In other words, there are no innocent children. No one is born with a clean slate. We are all born into iniquity. In fact, Paul shows us in Ephesians 2 that we “were all by nature children of wrath” until we were made alive by the Spirit of God. The implication is that this is what we are born into because of the fallen nature we inherited from Adam (original sin). We start life in the realm of Satan, the flesh and the world, and it is by God’s mercy that we are moved from being dead in our trespasses and sins, to a state of salvation and new life.

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Top 2015 Posts For the Year: Posts 25-21

It is that time again, when we look back over the past year to see our accomplishments. For me personally, this is truly a wonderful exercise given how the LORD has worked in my life in the past year. A year ago, I was single, barely employed, and living with family. Now, I’m married to a wonderful woman, teaching urchins in the public schools, and currently looking for a house to buy. God’s hand has really been evident.

I have also seen some major accomplishments with my blog. Two major milestones were reached, the first was that this year has been the most popular since moving to WordPress back in 2010. The site crested more that 70,000 hits for the year and is currently approaching  77,000 hits.

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Updated Blogroll

Updating my blogroll use to happen far more frequently than it does now. I think that was because I was able to spend more time on blogging, reading as well as writing. I can no longer do that. I have barely enough time to write any posts at all, much less keep up with all the blogs I’ve subscribed to. The only reason I’m doing it now is because I cannot sleep.

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Do Calvinists Put God in a Box? Of Course We Do, But So Do You!

If you have held Calvinistic positions on anything concerning Scripture for more than a minute, you know that the moment you voice such convictions, it will not take long for someone to make the claim that they disagree with you and “will not put God in a box.”

The irony is that the moment they say they will not put God in a box, is the moment they do. The problem with their box is that it is much worse than the box used by Calvinists because their feelings and emotions define the box they use, as opposed to the box used by Calvinists, which is scripture.

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Ephesians 1 Is Not For Us?

I hate surprise arguments, especially the ones that make no sense at all. I confess, the argument the Arminian made to me in my last debate so caught me off guard and surprised me that I was almost speechless. Given Proverbs about not answering a fool lest he think himself wise, I probably should have remained speechless.

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Not Willing That Any Should Perish

Again, I was listening to another excellent sermon by Voddie Baucham yesterday and he pointed out the falsehood that so many use in their attempt to destroy the doctrine of election from 2 Peter 3:8-9.

But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us,[a] not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

Using verse 9 alone, many make the argument that God doesn’t want anyone to go to hell. They see it as support for their position that only the only people who go to hell are those who refuse to turn to Christ in repentance.

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Dallas Theological Seminary: Great At Teaching Moralism and Calvin Bashing

A friend wrote me this past week and asked me to listen to a recent sermon by her pastor. I typically only go to one place to listen to sermons, SermonAudio.com* because most sermons today are more inspirational chats from a qualified life coach and rarely resemble the preaching of God’s word. (Just the fact that pastors are referred to as life coaches and team members at all, shows us the desperate state of the church).

The reason my friend wanted me to listen is because at about minute 43, the man complained about suffering from making the Bible an idol. I know what he meant, but it really disturbed my friend. There are some times when we revere the Bible so much that we exalt it above the God it exalts. I have no reason to believe that this is a major sin in the church, given that most don’t even open their Bibles. But that is another post.

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Jerry Johnson — A Skinny Jean Wearing Calvinist?

Several weeks ago, pastor Ed Young out of Dallas went on an anti-Calvinist rant for some odd reason, accusing them of … and I’m not making this up… of wearing skinny jeans. For those of you who know a Calvinist, you know we are hiding under our desks with this new charge! Yes, we’re guilty of wearing skinny jeans. However, I have not worn any skinny jeans since some time in the 1980s.

Of course, I’m jesting. There is nothing wrong with wearing skinny jeans as long as you are skinny. I am not, so I like to wear relaxed fit jeans. Not baggy, gang banger jeans, but jeans with some room in them so I don’t look quite so fat (apparently I am, a friend who turns 99 next November accused me of such while I was on vacation.)

The point is that Ed Young ripped into us Calvinist accusing us of all manner of things, like wearing skinny jeans, in order to tell his congregation of 24,000 that we are … nasty bad people and that he doesn’t like us very much. Poor Ed Young did an absolute terrible job of showing how we are bad, after all, the Scripture never says anything about wearing skinny jeans. BTW, for those of you who do not know, Ed Young is absolutely enamored with what pastors wear since he has started a fashion web site to help inform us that we need to dress more like him.

This tirade of Young’s was answered by those who are bona fide Calvinists and know what we actually believe. You can see Neil’s post here, and James White’s response here. You may remember I met James White back in April.

Young didn’t seem to really know what we believed. Give what his tirade was over, Young might be hard pressed to give one theological distinctive of Calvinism. James White shows that Young really doesn’t know…

BTW, this is one of the reasons I believe in denominationalism. If he were a member a true denomination, they could actually rebuke and deal with Young. But given the state of the non-confrontational churches, there is no real oversight or accountability for people like Young. One reason why he may have gone off the deep end.

In the video below, Jerry Johnson gives his take as well.

The Prayer of an Arminian

I have often said that when an Arminian prays, they pray like Calvinist when it comes to the salvation of others. What I mean by this is that Calvinist believe that the Spirit of God must move in a person’s heart before they are saved. The Spirit moves, causing them to be born again, and THEN they have the ability to believe in Jesus Christ for salvation. God gets all the glory for our salvation because we are completely dependent upon Him.

Whereas the Arminian goes around spouting the damnable doctrine of free will. They say that we have the freedom to choose God of our own and when we trust in Christ for salvation, it is because we are just infinitely smarter than everyone else. The focus is always on what we “do.”

Yet, when it comes to their prayers, Arminian’s do not pray consistently with their doctrine. Instead of praying that God need not move in the hearts of the unbeliever, since they are wise enough to make the choice on their own, they pray that God would move and change their hearts… O Lawd!!!

Jerry Johnson, with Against the World, demonstrates this by giving us a consistent Arminian prayer in the following video:

Baptist Vote to Keep “Sinner’s Prayer”

The Southern Baptist Church voted this week at their convention to keep the “sinner’s prayer” as a form of conversion. Some might think this an odd thing, but the there have been those Baptist Calvinist who have questioned the use of the “sinner’s prayer.” They have done so because it gives the allusion that by saying the “sinner’s prayer,” one is actually saved.

One is not saved by saying the “sinner’s prayer.” I agree with the Calvinistic Baptist and this in one of the reasons I left the SBC back in the 1990s. Too much emphasis is put on what we do as opposed to what God does in saving us. No where does the Bible ever tell us to utter this prayer, it truly is an invention of men, specifically that bastard of revivalism known as Charles Finney. Sorry but I must call him that. He did more damage to the church in American than a hundred liberal courts or seminaries with the implementation of his new methods, i.e., the sinner’s prayer. More churches have been led down a hell-bound path by adopting such practices as altar call than any liberal professor could ever dream of. It would boggle our minds to know the number of people who were led to believe they were saved by trusting in these damnable actions of their own, instead of trusting in Christ. You hear it today every time the sinner’s prayer is put forth, and once a person says this prayer, they are told to write the date down so they can remember when they were saved.

This is all focused on what the sinner does and not what Christ does. If we are truly to be saved, we must believe in Jesus Christ for salvation. We are not to “say” a prayer, although prayer will result after true belief comes about. We are not told in Scripture to walk an aisle, go to the altar or do any other thing in order to be saved. Simply believe in Christ and His work for salvation. We are saved by faith alone in Christ alone, and this is NOT of ourselves, but is a gift of God. We are merely passive recipients of God’s grace.

To take and add altar calls and sinner’s prayers to the gospel is no different than the Roman Catholics calling for indulgences in order to be saved. It is Christ plus our works that ends up not saving us at all.

So I am saddened by the actions of the Souther Baptist Convention. They have added works to our salvation. This should be rejected by all Christians, Baptist and non-Baptist alike.

Here is a bit from the story about the SBC:

The resolution was originally presented by Eric Hankins, pastor of First Baptist Church in Oxford, Mississippi, though the version approved by the committee omitted language designed to refute the denomination’s increasingly Calvinist membership. (An effort to put much of the language back in was defeated in a floor vote, as was an effort to remove references to the phrase “Sinner’s Prayer.”)

Indeed, Hankins says his resolution was sparked by a talk from one of the SBC’s Calvinist stars, David Platt. Speaking at the Verge church leaders’ conference March 1, the pastor of the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, said the emphasis on the Sinner’s Prayer is unbiblical and damning.

“I’m convinced that many people in our churches are simply missing the life of Christ, and a lot of it has to do with what we’ve sold them as the gospel, i.e. pray this prayer, accept Jesus into your heart, invite Christ into your life,” Platt said. “Should it not concern us that there is no such superstitious prayer in the New Testament? Should it not concern us that the Bible never uses the phrase, ‘accept Jesus into your heart’ or ‘invite Christ into your life’? It’s not the gospel we see being preached, it’s modern evangelism built on sinking sand. And it runs the risk of disillusioning millions of souls.”

Speaking at the SBC Pastors’ Conference preceding the Baptist’s annual meeting, Platt referenced his Verge sermon, lamenting that his messages “can become three-minute YouTube clips.” But, preaching from John 2-3, he reiterated his statements that believing in Jesus is not enough. “Many assume they are saved simply because of a prayer they prayed,” he said. “It’s not that praying a prayer in and of itself is bad—but the question in John 2 and 3 is what kind of faith are we calling people to?”

Debate: Calvinism — For or Against?

I heard about this debate from one of the men attending my church. I’m glad he mentioned it and glad I found it at Ed Stetzer’s site. It’s worth the listen, so play it in the background while you go about your work. I will post comments once I finish listening to it. Also, listen to it and see if there is something said by either side that really challenges your views.

Thoughts? After I listened to it, I saw what the man in my church told me about the debate. Michael Horton, who was defending Calvinism, kept referring to passage after passage, while Roger E. Olson just kept appealing to his logic. Not good.

One point that both Horton and Olson agreed upon were about those who try to claim to be “biblicist” as opposed to being Arminian or Calvinist. I saw this in my series in Answering an Arminian, where that writer tried to claim to be a Biblicist. I liked what both men pointed out is that the moment you open Scripture, read it and begin to interpret it, you start doing theology and that immediately puts you in one camp or the other. so this claim to be a “biblicist” is completely false. No one can just open Scripture and quote it without interpretation.

Answering an Arminian’s Charges: Part One on Limited Atonement

I had a recent exchange with a former member of the church and his position against Calvinism. Since he was public in his point of view and a former elder, I have no problems answering him publicly and do so for the benefit of the flock entrusted to me. He shall go nameless, and will remain so unless he chooses to respond. I really wanted to leave this be, but given that the effects of those who think and teach this way are so pervasive among the flock entrusted to me and the other elders by Our LORD and Savior Jesus Christ, I feel compelled to answer.

Allow me to say upfront that when I say the word Calvinist, I do not mean by it that I get up on the morning and read from John Calvin’s work for my quiet time. I do not mean by the term that I follow John Calvin and that he is any way my LORD and Savior. He is not. He is a fallen man that I believed was simply used by God during his time to express clearly what the gospel was and is according to Scripture. This form of theology is only held to where Scripture confirms it, and where Scripture does not confirm it, we distance ourselves from such things. The Bible is our guide and God’s glory is our goal in understanding how we view the world in which we live.

The opposing view to Calvinist doctrine is Arminianism, which was started by Jacob Arminius. He was a Dutch theologian who lived in the 1600s and he opposed Calvinism with his views. If you are a protestant living today, you fall into either one or the others camp.

My antagonist here will say that he is neither Arminian nor Calvinist, but that he is a biblicist. This is nothing more than an arrogant attempt to sound pious by saying that he holds only to what the Bible says. Let me be clear, both sides hold to what the Bible says, in that we appeal to the Bible for our views. However, I must confess than when I see what the Arminians are saying… it seems they do a lot of disregarding what the Bible actually says. They also do a lot of reinterpretation. For instance, the latest that I have heard is that when it comes to the word “elect,” they are actually saying that God elects “everyone.” This view is unsupportable as I hope you will see.

To the letter:

My position was stated as clearly as possible to the congregation in writing, but those writings seem to have been suppressed as I stated in my resignation letter. Please consider this my position as delineated to the elders of First Christian regarding Calvinism:

The theory which is today commonly known by the name Calvinism was first introduced by Augustine in the fourth century.

Yes, both men agreed on a lot of things because they were drawing their beliefs from Scripture. When the Bible is the place of our beliefs, we tend to agree on a lot of points. John Calvin appealed to Augustine to help show that he (Calvin) was not out of line with Christian orthodoxy, but that it was the Roman Catholic Church that was in error. He was using Augustine, one whom the RCC claimed as a pope, to show their error.

Calvin did not agree on all points with Augustine. But on the main issues, they were in agreement, as are those in the Reformed camp today. The reason this is so, is because these truths that both Calvin, Augustine, and those who are Reformed hold to, are biblical truths (Please note that I was accused of being a Calvinist before I knew what a Calvinist was. Why? Because I was preaching and teaching what Ephesians and the Gospel of John taught us.)

He taught that Christ did not die for all men, but for a chosen few whom God had chosen and predestinated to become His children.

This really is one of those questions that separate Calvinists and Arminians. Who does Jesus truly die for? Most in evangelical circles will start screaming John 3:16!, John 3:16! But those of you who know me know that I reject using John 3:16 for the answer to every Arminian affirmation. John 3:16 says that God so loved the world, not that Jesus died for every single soul to walk the earth. As was recently pointed out by Stan in the comments section, the “so” in that verse is qualitative, not quantitative. In other worlds, God loves the world in a certain way, that He gave His Son. Not that He loved everyone without exception.

This topic is really under the heading of limited atonement, or, what many like to call as particular redemption. The atonement is not limited in its ability, but limited to those whom it is applied to. The Arminians want to say that the atonement applies to all, and it is our responsibility to make it apply to us. Calvinists are saying that it only applies to the elect. In other words, we believe that Christ’s atonement is complete and not faulty at all. He doesn’t need our help in saving us. What He did on the cross was completely sufficient for all who believe and there is nothing that needs to be done by us in order to be saved.

The Arminians, on the other hand, believe that Christ’s atoning work made it possible for all to be saved and only those who really work hard enough will actually be saved. This is basically works theology and human-centered theology. That is the crux of the difference when it comes to our view. Arminians want to say it is about us and our choices, while Calvinist declare that it is God and His Sovereign will.

But back to particular redemption. Why is it that Calvinists hold to this position? We do so because we believe that God’s sovereign and declare will is that there are a certain number of elect and Christ will save everyone completely who is elect. I know, this idea of election causes many to bluster at the thought, but is is Scriptural. We get the idea from verses like Deuteronomy 7:6-8; John 13:18; Romans 9:11-24; 11:5-6; Ephesians 1:3-14; 2 Timothy 2:19; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2, 15, 2:4, 9, 21; 2 Peter 1:10, just to name a few verses.)

The idea of particular redemption stems from this concept of election. Not only did God choose those whom He planned to save before the foundations of the world were laid, but He also guaranteed that they would be saved by Christ’s work on the cross. In other words, His atonement is certain because it doesn’t rest or reside in the one being saved, but in the One who is doing the saving.

Listen to Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. The appointment stems from His election of us. This isn’t based upon anything in us, but because of His own free, immutable and contingent-free will. Before Adam had sinned, God had already decreed whom He would save and whom He would leave to their sin. In this election, He determined that we would be free from His wrath because of the atoning work of Christ on the cross. Christ died for us, the elect. He didn’t die for those who are not the elect. To do so would mean that His death was powerless, otherwise if He died for all, all would be saved. However, we know this not to be true.

This last statement ruffles the feathers of those who seek to let their entire theological view be informed by John 3:16. Their argument is that Christ died for everyone in the world without exception. But… the text doesn’t say that. It said that God so loved the world that He gave His Son that WHOSOEVER believes in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life.

Only those who believe in Him will benefit from His death. Those who do not believe in Him will not benefit from His death, for they were not destined to believe or benefit from the cross. Who is Christ’s atoning work effectual for? Those who believe AND those who don’t believe, or just those who believe? Calvinist believe that His death is completely effectual for the elect, because this is who Jesus died for.

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her. Notice who Christ gave Himself for. It was not the world, but the church, those who believe in Him. His purpose is to take the elect, cleanse them and make the ready for the great marriage feast to come. In fact, the Father predestined those who believe to be blameless, holy and spotless before Him (Ephesians 1:4). His death accomplishes this decision by the Father completely. His death on the cross was the specific means for bringing His elect into this holy condition and to make those who are His elect His sons. How? By Jesus Christ Himself (Ephesians 1:5).

This act of grace is not for the world or the non-elect, but for those who are His and have been predetermined to be His. Let me state it again, Christ gave Himself for the church, not for the world.

Paul will say this again in Galatians 1:3-5 Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. Again, who did He die for? The text says that He gave Himself for our sins, so that we would be delivered from this present again, according to the will of God our Father, and not our wills (John 1:12-13).

Do you see a constant reoccurring theme here? Over and over again, I appeal to Scripture to make my case. I don’t just appeal to ONE verse, but many. I don’t just rest on twisting one verse, like John 3:16, but let Scripture support what I believe.

OK, let’s look as some more verses on this topic. Look at what Christ says about His own people and His own death. John 10:14-15 14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. Notice who Jesus say He lays His life down for… His sheep, who know His voice. He doesn’t lay His life down for the goats, but those who belong to Him.

Jesus also goes on to rebuke those who do not believe in 10:26 But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. It is very simple, those who believe in Him for salvation are His elect. He died for His elect. He rejects those who do not believe because they are not His sheep.

One final verse. Jesus also says that those who are His sheep, not only believe, but also follow Him as well. John 10:27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. We see that intimate knowledge by Our Lord. He knows them. He doesn’t just die for us, call us, and redeem us, but He knows us. Those of us who belong to Him, listen to His words and believe as He has taught us.

This is why Calvinists believe in particular redemption. This is why we say that Jesus died for those who are His. We say it and believe it because He said it, and both Peter and Paul said it. This is not a doctrine that we have come up with on our own, but one in which our very LORD gave us. If you do not believe it, perhaps you should ask the question: “Am I really one of HIS?”

Now, let us go back to the words of my antagonist. He writes:

He taught that Christ did not die for all men, but for a chosen few whom God had chosen and predestinated to become His children.

It is true, Calvin did teach these things. He taught these things because Jesus taught these things, so did Paul, and so did Peter. Our antagonist doesn’t offer any proof against this position, he just blasts it and move on. This is the case for so many who rail against Calvinism. They just accept whatever sounds good without looking at the biblical reasons we hold to the positions we do. They think in attack us they are doing the gospel a favor. But they are not. It is better to believe in the truth given to us by God, than try to water it down and make it acceptable to men. I admit, these truths are difficult. But they are the truths of Scripture and we need to try our best to understand them and teach them.

The Heresy of Ignorance

One of the saddest aspects of fundamentalist Christianity is that those who hold to that tradition, often do so out of the worst of ignorance. For instance, their is one entire non-denominational denomination that claims the following: “No creed but the Bible!” This statement is said with the pride, arrogance and self righteousness of which should never be found in the life of a true Christian, for we know that we are saved by grace alone, by Christ alone through faith alone, and not because of anything found in us. By God’s grace, we also realize that such a declaration of no creed is actually a creed itself, therefore contradictory to our belief system that we are so proud of.

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Dr. Robert Pyne and Chosen By God

I recently received an offer from Ligonier Ministries for a special 25th anniversary edition of R.C. Sproul’s Chosen by God. If ever there was a book that helped solidify my understanding and belief in Calvinism, this was the book. Reading John Calvin’s Institutes of Christian Religion was a big bonus as well. But Sproul really helped me understand predestination, human free will and God’s sovereignty in our salvation.These three doctrines are extremely important, which explains why there is so much debate concerning these truths. As the questions go, who does what in our salvation and who gets the glory? The answer is one and the same: God does.

But lo, the Arminians love to put forth that idolatry known as free will, saying that salvation is all our decision. From their point of view, they think God provided the way and it’s up to us to get on down the road. This view is really humanism (which harkens back to the temptation by Satan in the Garden of Eden) mixed with some misapplied bible passages.

The problem with free will is that the Bible doesn’t speak to the issue very often, and when it does, it doesn’t bode well for the Arminian camp. For instance, when the Bible says, “Repent and be baptized” the Arminians believe this command implies free will, or the ability to repent. But this is reading their belief into Scripture, for simply because we are all obligated to believe in Christ to be saved, does not imply that we have the ability to do so.

The Bible speaks far more of the heart as the governing agent within our beings. It is our heart that guides our decisions and the heart is wicked beyond belief. This is why it so silly to say such things as: “Follow your heart.” Our fallen hearts govern our actions and our hearts are in bondage to sin. So we have no freedom at all. We are bound and enslaved to our fallen hearts.

When the Bible does speak of man’s will, it shows that our election by the Father is not guided upon by our decision making ability, but based on His decision alone. In Paul’s account of God choosing Jacob over Esau he writes: For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will .” So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. This is monumental truth in the debate for it speaks to our wills and our works. Election or predestination is up to God, not us. Since this is true, salvation is of the LORD and He bestows it on whom He pleases.

This is not what Arminians teach. They teach that God gives us road and we have to travel it to be saved… sort of like what the Roman Catholics teach.

The irony is that Sproul’s book was recommended to me by Dr. Robert Pyne while I was a student at Dallas Theological Seminary. During one of our courses, Dr. Pyne had us reading books outside of our tradition for extra credit. I was interested in the topic of limited atonement so I chose John Owen’s The Death of Death and The Death of Christ. For anyone who has tried to read this particular book, it is well worth the attempt. But given my understanding of things at the time, it was way over my head.

I went to see Dr. Pyne after class and told him of my problem. He quickly recommended Dr. Sproul’s book which I joyfully bought the next day. I wasn’t joyful because it was going to answer all my questions, or because I came across an excuse to buy another book. I was joyful because I was going to receive extra credit for a book that was only 211 pages compared to Owen’s monstrous and laborious 340 pages. That is a huge difference when you see Sproul is using 12 pt. font compared to Mr. Owen’s 9 pt. font.

I know that my joy was not spurred on by the purest or most noble motives. But God will use those too for my good and His glory.

Reading Sproul’s book was a breath of fresh air in my theological training. He really began to bring together what the Bible said with clarity. When he began to explain that the cardinal point of Reformed theology is that regeneration proceeds faith, it was eye opening. Not only because that is what Scripture pointed to with clarity, but it also reflected my experience as well. I knew when I came to know Christ, it wasn’t because I made a decision or said some prayer. There were too many lights that were turned on when it came to Scripture for me to believe that it was my doing.

Sproul writes:

“Our nature is so corrupt, the power of sin is so great, that unless God does a supernatural work in our souls we will never choose Christ. We do not believe in order to be born again; we are born again in order that we may believe.”

This was not what I was hearing in a lot of my seminary classes, but it was what I believed Scripture to be saying. I can vividly remember one professor telling us that the moment we said the sinners prayer is the moment that God was duty bound to cause us to be born again. I didn’t like the sound of that. God is duty bound to mankind? If that is the case, He is not God but our slave. I knew that not to be the case.

Sproul laid it out clearly. God was God. We were dead spiritually because of sin. He had to create a new heart in us in order to believe. Our salvation was His work upon us. We were the happy recipients of His grace and He is only bound to us by His love that He chooses to show us, not because we said some formulaic prayer.

I was quickly becoming a Calvinist after this point. There are others who helped along the road, but this is where it began to click for me while I was a student at DTS. It wouldn’t be long before I became completely Reformed in my convictions. It was also about this time that I quit entering into the discussions at DTS. It makes me laugh now, but I quickly realized that once some of my fellow students realized I was a Calvinist or Reformed, the attack was on! Don’t worry, I still count them as my dear brothers in the LORD. They were just doing what they thought best for me… convince me that I was wrong in my understanding and beliefs. We will all laugh about it in heaven someday.

As for Sproul’s book, I highly recommend it. You might even try to get the 25th anniversary edition because it is in hardback.

The Pope and Arminians Hold Hands on Free Will

I know I belabor the issue of free will quite often on my blog. I do so because I feel that the point of free will that is held by Arminians glorifies man, whereas the point that I and other Calvinist hold to glorifies God.  Let me explain: Arminians hold the view that when it comes to the gospel of Christ, that every man has the freedom of the will to decide for himself whether or not to believe in Christ or not. The typical line is that God provided salvation for us, all we have to do is reach out and accept this.

My problem with this is that the Bible doesn’t teach this. It doesn’t teach freedom of the will at all. When it does discuss the will, it is usually God’s will, and on rare occasions, the will of man and it NOT being about our decision to believe in Christ. John 1:12-13 But as many as received Him, to them He gave them the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. Arminians love to focus on those who received Him without looking at the condition that must take place first for that reception to occur. The condition: they must be born of God, or born again. The new birth must occur before reception of Christ can occur.

The Bible really doesn’t speak of man’s will, but of our hearts. The will is truly guided by the heart. Now look at what the Bible says about the heart and you can see where I am going with this. It is the heart that guides us. Not some will that we have that is somehow untainted by sin. The Bible shows us to be totally depraved, which means that all aspects of our being are tainted by sin (not that we are as wicked as we can be). So if we were to have a will that was free from the governing of our hearts, it would still be tainted with sin and reject all that there is about God.

In view of this, I would like to quote A.W. Pink from his book The Sovereignty of God, the chapter concerning God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Will. He is making the point that we do not have a will that is free until after God has moved in us and created a new heart that desires the things of God. One of his points is that what the Roman Catholics believe about free will and Arminians, goes hand in hand. This is because the natural indication of man is to slide back into the free-will position. It’ appeals to the flesh, and not the things that are Spiritual.

Pink writes:

Among the ‘decrees’ of the Council of Trent (1563), which is the avowed standard of Popery, we find the following: … ‘If anyone shall affirm, that since the fall of Adam, man’s free-will is lost and extinguished; or that it is a thing titular, yea a name, without a thing, and a fiction introduced by Satan into the Church; let such an one be accursed!”

Thus, those who today insist on the free-will of the natural man believe precisely what Rome teaches on the subject! … In order for any sinner to be saved three things were indispensable: God the Father had to purpose his salvation, God the Son had to purchase it, God the Spirit has to apply it. God does more that ‘propose’ to us: were He only to ‘invite’ every last one of us would be lost. This is strikingly illustrated in the Old Testament. In Ezra 1:1-3 we read, Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put itin writing, saying,

 2 Thus says Cyrus king of Persia:

   All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. 3 Who is among you of all His people? May his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel (He is God), which is in Jerusalem. Here was an ‘offer’ made, made to a people in captivity, affording them opportunity to leave and return to Jerusalem–God’s dwelling place. Did all Israel eagerly respond to this offer? No indeed. The vast majority were content to remain in the enemy’s land. Only an insignificant ‘remnant’ availed themselves of this overture of mercy! And why did they? Hear the answer of Scripture: “then rose up the chief the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites, with all whose spirit God has stirred up, to go up to build the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem.” In like manner, God “stirs up” the spirits of His elect when the effectual call comes to them, and not till then do they have any willingness to respond to the Divine proclamation.

Pink then turns to the pulpits in the country and shows the blame that those who have stood in them bear because of their lack of teaching the truth of God.

The superficial  (Pink’s words…) work of many of the professional evangelists of the last fifty years is largely responsible for the erroneous views now current upon the bondage of the natural man, encouraged by the laziness of those in the pew in their failure to “prove all things” (1 Thess. 5:21). The average evangelical pulpit conveys the impression that is lies wholly in the power of the sinner whether or not he shall be saved. It is said that “God has done His part, now man must do his.” Alas, what can a lifeless man do, and man by nature is ‘dead in trespasses and sins’ (Ephesians 2:1). If this were really believed, there would be more dependence upon the Holy Spirit to come in with His miracle-working power, and less confidence in our attempts to ‘win men to Christ.’

Pink goes on to point out the foolishness of presenting the gospel as if it were some mere medicine to cure those who are sick in which all the sick must do is reach out and take the gospel, instead of being the radical, life-giving, resurrecting power that it is, Pink continues:

Christ came here not to help those who were willing to help themselves, but to do for His people what they were incapable of doing for themselves: “To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house” (Isa. 42:7).

Now in conclusion let us anticipate and dispose of the usual and inevitable objection–Why preach the Gospel if man is powerless to respond? Why bid the sinner come to Christ if sin has so enslaved him that he has no power in himself to come? Reply– We do not preach the Gospel because we believe that men are free moral agents, and therefore capable of receiving Christ, but we preach it because we are commanded to do so (Mark 16:15, 1 Cor. 1:18, 1:25)…

To fleshly wisdom it appears the height of folly to preach the Gospel to those that are dead, and therefore beyond the reach of doing anything themselves. Yes, but God’s ways are different from ours. It pleases God “by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (! Cor. 21). Man may deem it folly to prophesy to “dead bones” and to say unto them, “O ye dry bones, hear the Word of the Lord” (Ezekiel 37:4). Ah! but then it is the Word of the Lord, and the words He speaks “they are spirit, and they are life”… We go forth to preach the Gospel, then, not because we believe that sinners have within themselves the power to receive the Savior it proclaims, but because the Gospel itself is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes, and because we know that “as many as were ordained to eternal life” (Acts 13:48), shall believe (John 6:37 & 10:16–note the “shall’s!) in God’s appointed time, for it is written, “Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power” (Psalm 110:3).

In all this, we do see the necessity of the Gospel being preached and the movement of the Holy Spirit for men to be saved. We cannot win them for God in our own strength. It takes a miracle for someone to be saved and that miracle is beyond anything found in us, especially since we are dead spiritually speaking until God moves and brings us to life.

Are you beginning to see why this issue is so important to our faith? To say that we can persuade men by our own strength, wit and power is to bring about a church that is filled with carnally dead church goers. If we are going to be nothing more than carnally dead church goers, then we would be better off becoming Islamic in the long run, for we would be far safer and more comfortable in the short run.

But alas, if we are truly called of God, then let us put aside this foolishness that we have free will. We are saved completely by God’s gracious hand in our lives, not because of our self-righteous free will.