Thursday, April 13, 2006

Why Dr. Caner thinks he is predestined never to be a Calvinist


As is commonly known, Dr. Ergun Caner preached last Sunday night at Thomas Road Baptist Church (edit: click on April 9, 2006 sermon) in Lynchburg, Virginia on "Why I am Predestined Never to Be a Calvinist (or Hyper-Calvinist). I watched a video of the message once and, to borrow a line from Spurgeon, have not sinned sufficiently to warrant having to watch it a second time. James White plans to go over his sermon in today's Dividing Line. It ought to be enlightening.

Among the assertions that Dr. Caner makes, the following are most interesting.


  • Calvinism is the hottest topic on seminary and Bible College campuses in America.

  • Questions about Calvinism are being raised with Sunday School teachers all across the nation.

  • "There is now a famous preacher in my age group who's begun teaching that it is a sin to give an invitation because it is an insult to the sovereignty of God."

  • Modern Calvinists are like the Charismatics of the 1970s, some of whom split churches, giving the whole movement a bad name. Dr. Caner announced that he has an article about this in an upcoming National Liberty Journal.

  • John Gill redefined the word "all" in the Bible.

  • Romans 2:15 teaches that there are 3 kinds of life: unconscious, conscious, self-conscious. The first includes plant life. The third is comprised of people who have reached the age of accountability. The second is made up of animals and humans who have not reached the age of accountability. To illustrate this point, Dr. Caner referred to his sixteen month old son, Drake, whom he said (and I quote), "is like a dog." He is like a dog "theolgoically." [I am not making this up!] His son learns to obey the same way a dog does, through behavior modification. [This piece of Liberty Seminary theology comes right at the 1 hour mark of the video]

  • The age of accountability is not technically in the Bible "but Romans 2:15 calls it the age of consciousness." It is the moment that a person understands that something is right or wrong not because of reward or punishment but because it is intrinsically so.


His text was 1 Timothy 2:1-8 and he used it to give 4 reasons why he will never be a (hyper-) Calvinist.


  1. He rejects it spiritually because hyper-Calvinists cannot trust in the love of God.

  2. He rejects it evangelistically because they cannot believe that God wants all me to be saved.

  3. He rejects it theologically because they don't believe Christ died for the whole world.

  4. He rejects it missiologically because they do not see missions as an obsession.


I will not go into the details of his complete historical misrepresentation of William Carey's experience with the Northampton Association as he appealed to them to send the Gospel to "the heathen." Suffice it to say, his dates were wrong; his context was wrong; and his setting was wrong. Unfortunately, he did not let the facts ruin what turned out to be a very evocative story. Some call this distortion of facts a "preacher's license." But preachers are truth brokers. And when someone who represents the God of truth distorts the truth in any area, history, science, art--whatever, then it undermines his credibility and trustworthiness in the eyes of honest people.

Dr. Caner says some good things in his message--things with which evangelical Calvinists have never disagreed. It is unfortunate that his rants are directed against straw men. I genuinely would love to see him engage true Calvinism. As long as he is allowed to get away with caricatures, he will be able to continue to pose as a champion of free will who demolishes Calvinism at every point. His arguments remind me of the boy who broke a light bulb with a stick and went around bragging that he had put out the sun. It is profoundly sad to see such gifts and obvious passion for the things of the Lord given to such misrepresentation of those with whom he disagrees.


I am not going to give a pointed refutation of Dr. Caner's message. A simple and accurate reporting of serves as a formidable critique in itself.

89 comments:

Tim Ellsworth said...

Why does none of this surprise me?

Stewart said...

It is amazing that someone who is a "Doctor" can mishandle the tools of his trade so badly. How would Caner reconcile the ransom with the mediation?

Douglas said...
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Jared Moore said...

Tom,
I couldn't get the link to the sermon to work. It may be just me... Could you reply with another link? Thx brother.

P.S. It seems that... because Calvinism is attacked so, you spend much of your articles discussing God's Sovereignty. I would love to read your point-of-view concerning man's responsibility. You may have already written on this subject on here in the past... if so, could you point me in that direction?

Thanks brother. I hope all is well.

In Him,

Jared Moore

jbuchanan said...

If we are not trusting in the love of God, what exactly does he think we are trusting in. I would say that the Calvinist trust's soley and competley on the love of God. Does he really believe that men like Adoniram Judson and Luther Rice were not obsessed with missions. By the way, all Calvinists must be obsessed with missions because of the direct command of Scripture.

Tom, you had better be careful with this upcoming debate. Caner is obviously building sympathy and preparing the church and student body of LU for this debate. Personally, I would not participate and I will not attend. Theological debate is wonderful and I am all for it. But this will not be a debate. The "Chihuahua" of the evangelical world is already yapping and getting the kennel stirred up. This will become a spectical rather than a debate. Let's focus on reforming our churches, planting new churches, and proving that the accusations made against us are wrong.

YnottonY said...

Douglas: I don't think it's helpful to point people to the writings of Ron Hanko on hyper-Calvinism. He and other Protestant Reformed Church ministers deny the well-meant gospel offer and common grace. They are hyper-Calvinistic in that sense.

General Comments: It is a shame to see what Dr. Caner is doing. Quite frankly, he was mostly emoting rather than making careful distinctions. The lines between historic or classical Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism are blurred by him. One is left with the impression that John Calvin himself was hyper. Dr. Caner seems to be allowing his passions to overcome the need for careful reasoning. If he wants an excellent analysis of the History and Theology of Calvinism, I would suggest that he listen to Dr. Curt Daniel's lectures on it, particularly the lecture on Hyper-Calvinism. And, if he wants to prepare himself to understand the Calvinism of James White, he would do well to listen to Dr. Daniel's lecture on High Calvinism.

Having had Dr. Caner as a teacher at Criswell College, I know that he needs to learn how to be fair to his theological opponents, whether Calvinists or Roman Catholics. He frequently engages in misrepresentation. But, to be honest, many "Calvinists" also need to learn that lesson as well. As we grieve for Caner's shortcomings, let us renew our efforts to be honest and accurate to those we differ with. I sense that desire in Tom Ascol writings.

YnottonY said...

Here's the link to Dr. White's blog article. It contains the link to the video of the sermon:

Dr. Caner Preached on "Hyper Calvinism" at Thomas Road Baptist Church

Castusfumus said...

If hyper-Calvinism in non-evangelistic, then why bother refuting it. Is it not predestined to die out in a single generation?

I really don't see the point of trying to get someone in your camp when you are an isolationist.

Why would someone die to defend a position that doesn't exist? Am I missing something here or does Dr. Caner have a boogieman sleeping under his bed?

Matthew said...

Wow, this sorta thing plays right into White's hands.

Ranger said...
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Brian Hamrick said...

Here's a blog worthy of 300+ comments again. Nice work, Tom.

Scott said...

Tom,

Caner, Patterson, Hunt, Graham, Vines, Gaines, and others in their camp are killing our churches! The pulpits in the SBC the last 80-85 yrs have had this false teaching on certain doctrines going on. They wonder why they are loosing so many young people. They wonder why they have to do so many " Dog and Pony shows" to motivate people to share the gospel and come to church. These men think they preach a High View of God but they actually elevate man !
Divorce rate, loosing kids after high school, churches running out pastors left and right, deacons running churches, most church members don't share the gospel, unregenerate church membership, and hardly no family worship time in our homes. This is the picture of the SBC today! Who has been in the pulpits in the SBC the last 80-85 yrs?

Douglas said...
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YnottonY said...

Scott,

Frankly, your comments sound like a "Calvinistic" version of a Caner sermon.

YnottonY said...

Douglas,

To say that the PRC is against well-meant offers is not to say they are against "evangelism." They deny that the gospel is an offer, and that it's "well-meant" to the non-elect. Classic hyperism was not against evangelism per se. The PRC defines Hyper-Calvinism as being against evangelism. Not all were that way. Basically, the PRC is caricaturing hyperism as if it only the anti-missionary/evangelistic type. Hyper-Calvinism is a serious error, but those who maintain it are not stupid. They know the NT plainly teaches the need to evangelize. They just think it's a proclamation or command, not an "offer" (notice the false dilemma since it's all of those things). Further, since they view everything through the decretal will of God alone, the gospel proclamation is not well-intentioned or well-meant when it comes to the non-elect. God in no sense wants or wills the non-elect to comply with the gospel command. Notice how this idea is connected to their denial of common grace or the universal love of God, as well as to supralapsarianism (though not all supras are hyper). Hyper-Calvinism comes in different versions, and the Protestant Reformed Church (of which Ron Hanko is a representative) is a modern version of it. That's why I said what I said above.

David & Rose Ann said...

I heard him speak at the SBTC Evangelism conf. two years ago in Arlington, TX. I brought along a former muslim lady in our church and new convert to Christ. Caner is a former muslim and the son of a muslim cleric. That night after hearing him speak, I was embarrassed for my friend at this display. His over-the-top bombastic tirades (that night the topic was homosexuals and modern American culture) seem to appear when he leaves the blackboard and steps behind a pulpit. And, as such, he naturally appeals to those who react to style instead of substance. We're all like to some degree, though; I hardly remember any content that night, but I remember the style. And for that reason, how I yearn for the more erudite Yarnells of the convention when discussing the Doctrines of G.

As a footnote, after he spoke that night, Caner left the podium and walked toward the back exit where my friend and I met him on his way out. She took the lead by expressing her gratitude for his book Unveiling Islam. He was gracious and kind to her, former Sunni to former Sunni, both now Christians.

What a paradox.

I pray specifically now that the Spirit open his eyes after the White/Ascol debate. How great would that be.

Scott said...

ynottony,

Am I wrong? Just stating facts that are clearly seen.Have you served with any of these men? I have! All I said was in reference to Caners message. He shoots us down however I pointed out several areas of major weaknesses in our SBC churches and what has led to this( Their low view of God and high view of man).
I'm not at all saying or hinting that these men are not saved or don't preach things correct at times but their view of traditional Calvinism has done great damage in the SBC and their opposite teachings on the doctrines of grace have put our convention in a mess over the last 80 yrs.
I'm not at all trying to be ugly but just presenting some facts about Caner's message ! Thanks for the comparison !

Tom said...

Jared:

I don't know why the link does not work. I will try to fix it. Here is the address: file:///private/var/tmp/folders.501/TemporaryItems/AOLTemp.html

I have written on the responsibility of man, but I am not sure I have ever addressed it on its own. What I typically say is that God is 100 perscent sovereign and man is 100 percent responsible. Here is an excerpt from a booklet I wrote. It briefly addresses the issue theologically: http://www.founders.org/FJ24/sidebar2.html

Sam Hughey said...

For the first nine years of my life in Christ I was exactly where Dr. Caner is now. I once believed the same things and for the same reason. I am also very thankful to God that I was never challenged by someone then who knows what I know now because I would have made a mockery of God's Word and a fool of myself had I attempted to defend my beliefs on the basis of ignorance and arrogance.

The difference between misrepresentation and lying is how polite we are trying to be with that person. Somewhere along the way it must be discovered that one is either arrogantly lying or ignorant of the facts. The sin of pride is the most dangerous sin to any Christian.

If Dr. Caner truly believes he was not predestined to become a Calvinist then he obviously believes predestination is in the hands of God, which is what Evangelical Calvinism teaches. However, Dr. Caner's 'free-will' theistic view of predestination is in the hands of the ungodly and not God's which is a blatant rejection of God's Word that He chose us before creation according to HIS own pleasure.

Benjamin S. Cole said...

Butch is a friend and a prayer partner. I appreciate his ministry.

Douglas said...
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hashbrown said...

Let's all be mindful of our rhetoric and attacks.

Arminians love to come to reformed blogs to cut and paste harsh comments & criticisms in order to make their case that calvinists are mean and despise anyone who dares disagrees with them.

I think pity is more appropriate than anger sometimes when we come across sermons like Caner's.

For the record I am considering anger therapy after watching the sermon.

GeneMBridges said...

I sure hope Dr. Caner lists all the churches we have "split" in his journal article. I hope he does a better job with it than the one at Baptistfire, which says it documents the splitting of churches (and never tells us who did it or where these churches are or when these events happened, and never describes any of the alleged splits).

When he does, I hope he doesn't violate the 9th commandment if he quotes folks on these events. It'd be a shame for him to libel good people.

The irony here is that this confirms what I've been told by Liberty graduates. I want to thank Dr. Caner for this sermon, it will make his students go to the internet and the book stacks and read about Calvinism for themselves. I certainly expect to be hearing about even more of them coming out of Liberty saying that that is where they learned the doctrines of grace.

Why? Because, for all his bluster, Dr. Caner has not stopped the Lord from teaching His people. I have heard graduates from Liberty tell me that they have heard these rants from him and Dr. Towns before and have undertaken to study these doctrines so as to refute them themselves. When doing so, they find a major discrepancy between what they were taught by these men and what they learn from their study and from Scripture. So, the Lord does use these men to spur the study of these doctrines...though not in a direction these men would desire.

The sad thing, though is that men and women that do this graduate from the school and leave believing Dr. Caner to be a dishonest man for having said these things. We can only pray that he would repent and, while disagreeing, do better in presenting the truth about what we believe. In the end, if he fails to do this, history will remember him, but in no way that is flattering to his vanity (P.H. Mell).

Brent L. Williams said...

I’m a bit confused…I have listened to the sermon by Dr. Caner. I completely understand why this would frustrate or enrage “hyper-Calvinists”, but I’m not connecting the dots with the outrage against Calvinists. Is it because most believe that Caner is using the term “hyper-Calvinists” when in reality it’s just a cover to take cheap shots at Calvinism? Even from the title of this blog the correct title for Dr. Caner’s message was changed from “hyper-Calvinists” to Calvinists. I am by no means defending Dr. Caner. I struggle with his “Jerry Springer” style of preaching. I do not agree with many of his theological positions. I am just wondering if there is something I am missing. Is it his track record? Just on the merits of this one sermon, it would seem that he was very clear on who he was attacking, or did I miss something?

Chuck said...

Brent,

The problem is that much of what he attacks as 'hyper-Calvinism' is really Calvinism. Not all of it, but much. Not only that, he selectively reads and cites Scripture at times, painting a bit of a misrepresentation to say the least. All in all, his sermon was less than seasoned with grace; in our responses may we not stoop to the same level.

Nathan White said...

Caner’s sermon certainly should not be a shock to any of us, as we witnessed his ‘wrath’ in the comment section here just a short while ago.

A few weeks ago he spoke at Hunt’s church here in nearby Woodstock, GA. I didn’t attend, but I did get a chance to view the sermon on the webcast. No cheap shots were taken at Calvinism, but he got a thundering standing ovation when he went off on a rant concerning supporting our troops. I mean, he went nuts and the crowd followed as well. It certainly reminded me of a politician (especially given the subject they were applauding).

I’m not trying to judge Caner’s motives, but it does seem like these ‘rants’ are a planned event to get people all emotionally riled up (typical of many SBC 'Texas evangelists'). And when they're devoid of any real truth (or outright caricatures as in this recent sermon), then it becomes a real problem. I’m reminded of the Pharisees because “they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”

But we must remember, pragmatism is a way of life for many of these men. If people stand and applaud at what they say, then their philosophy demands that they must be doing something good and God-honoring.

In addition, pragmatism is half of the argument against Calvinism in the SBC. That is, they will say things like: ‘this church is God-honoring because it is big; this man is a faithful pastor because he has a lot of 'converts', etc.’ And they use this to jump over and say 'Calvinists don't produce as many converts; Calvinists don’t baptize as much; Calvinists neglect evangelism because they don’t practice the hugely successful method of altar calls, etc’.

So we must understand that when Caner is in his own arena, he will jump up and down at what excites him, and the response from the crowd will do nothing but confirm him in his error. He’s only being consistent with his pragmatism, and with his emotionally-driven (instead of truth-driven) methodology of conveying his message.

SDG

Scripture Searcher said...

Tom, my previous e-mail to you,Nettles and Bridges will fit in as a "calming comment" to this subject. And you have my permision to use it as a blog statement if you desire.



Trickery and Truth are not the same!

Keith said...

I just watched Dr. Caner's sermon and I am at a loss for words. I had heard of him through various blogs, but I'd never seen him preach or read much of anything he has written. What I saw was an angry, loud man with a bone to pick with someone...I just wasn't sure who.

He said quite a few things that I didn't really follow either his logic or how he was able to come to a particular "interpretation." One comment that did catch my attention, and maybe someone can point me to a source, where does it state in the Westminster Confession that "only elect babies are saved?"

Bereanized said...

I want to thank ynottony for seasoning his words with grace and for gently letting others know that their words did not contain such seasoning. I understand the passion for the "true-Truth" of God's Sovereign Grace, because I have it. However, I was also at one point in time a person that would have vehemently argued against God's Sovereign Grace in favor of free-will. After I finally became convinced of these doctrines of Grace, I, when attempting to defend them, would well up with a sort of spiritual/intellectual pride because I, like someone else mentioned, felt like I'd grown-up from a babe to a man in my Christianity. However, my pride proved that I was no such man, but a mere stripling. I should have realized that I no more came to Calvinism than I came to Christ in the first place...only by His Grace. Why then do we lash out with our tongues in prideful language at those who disagree with us? What is said by those who offer dissenting positions to our own may be ad hominem, and it may be very frustrating, which is why we should offer grace all the more.

Mark said...

Having heard Dr. Caner "preach" before this does not surprise me. About 4-5 years ago he appeared at my church and we were subjected to 45 minutes of charismatic jumping up and down screaming that passes for preaching in many SBC churches. "Surprisingly" no one walked the aisle to be tell Jesus they were ready to be saved (on certain conditions mindyou).

I have always been concerned with the SBC theologically. Even as a young teenager 30 years ago. The spleen venting rantings against reformed theology or calvinism has caused me to truely study the scriptures. Unfortunately my SBC pastor and all the associate pastors were and are unable or unwilling to answer my questions. But God has opened my eyes and erased my disbelief.

I find it ironic that listening to a SBC "preacher" like Dr Caner can make me feel sick to my stomach while listening to a Roman Catholic politican, like Alan Keyes, helps me understand the sovereignty of God. It is my prayer that sites like this one will help me as I begin to understand the Grace of God.

Benji Ramsaur said...

Tom,

My main encouragement to you and Mr. White is for you guys to keep your cool in this debate.

Aaron said...

I wonder if Dr. Caner's Islamic background is in some way responsible for his complete hatred of Calvinism. Islam is a fatalistic religion; Allah is the immediate cause of all events, and he has the power and authority to act in completely arbitrary ways.

I wonder if one of the reasons Dr. Caner became a Christian is because, reacting to the fatalist doctrine of Islam, he was attracted to the idea of free will that most Christian traditions proclaim today. If that is the case, I hope he will someday understand that Calvinism is not the same thing as the Islamic doctrine of fate.

Nick said...

Tom,
the link to "file:///private/var/tmp/folders.501/TemporaryItems/AOLTemp.html" is a link to a file that's on your computer (not your a web site).

It looks like others have properly identified the link to the video you want, though.

GUNNY said...

It's the caricature and misrepresntation(s) that really chap my hide, describing Calvinism and calling it hyper and vice versa.

I'm still steamed that my state convention sent out propaganda helping us pastors understand Calvinism. Don Cass, the director of evangelism, sent me two Roy Fish sermons and one from Dr. Patterson. I haven't listened to the others, but did read the '97 one by Fish.

While he apologizes profusely in the intro that he's not really qualified to give such a talk, he continues to do so and in a way that (mis)leads folks to think Calvinism is something other than it really is.

Calvinism itself is hard enough to swallow, but taking on the other slooge is just un-Christian, assuming intentionality.

If we're really interested in education, wouldn't you present both sides? Wouldn't you as a Calvinist what Calvinism is, and not a buffon? What about fair and balanced, we report, you decide type of stuff?

Thanks, Tom. Founders' efforts keep some of us (self included) hoping and at home in the SBC.

Jeremy Weaver said...

Most people would actually try understand what they critique, but not Baptists!!! Don't get me wrong, I are one, but the amount of bull that is spilled from pulits in Baptist churches is staggering.

Sam Hughey said...

mathete asked: where does it state in the Westminster Confession that "only elect babies are saved?

Chapter 10
Of Effectual Calling

3. Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated, and saved by Christ, through the Spirit, who worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth: so also are all other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.

DOGpreacher said...

If you haven't heard of the "Don Cass (Dir. of Evangelism)/SBTC" mail-out Tom....look into it. I wrote a comment about it on your previous post/article, as Gunny did here.

Gunny,
several Texas pastors are writing letters to Jim Richards concerning this. I hope you will join us in doing so.

Scripture Searcher said...

Dear BEREANIZED - a new name
to me and (I assume) a new blogger.



Welcome to the fellowship of
fanatical followers of Jesus Christ and the system of scriptural interpretation that was mistakenly, and unfortunately, attributed to
another sinner saved by His
sovereign grace.


Looking forwward to reading
more from you!


PS: I have been BEREANIZED
(Acts 17:10-12) for fifty
three wonderful years!


Persevere!

art rogers said...

bereanized,

Well said.

Aaron,

I don't think that Dr. Caner reflects his Islamic past as much as he reflects Jerry Falwell, whom he praises ceaselessly throughout his morning sermon.

I didn't bother to watch the sermon attacking the Doctrines of Grace. I may yet do so, but I am trying to decide if it would not be a waste of my time.

I did watch the morning sermon about "revolution." Same complaints of misrepresentation, exogetically light and straw men.

I noticed, though, and this may cause me to watch the evening sermon to see if it happens there too, Dr. Caner creates straw men that have effeminate lisps.

Did anyone else notice this?

Jim Crigler said...

Speaking of Dr Caner, James White wrote "[...] and you will hear him steal a horrific line recently used by Danny Akin about those who think "J.C." stands for John Calvin instead of Jesus Christ (a truly reprehensible line)." Really, I had something much more self-serving in mind as the meaning of that abbreviation.

Brian Hamrick said...

How do you get to the evening sermon? I only found the morning one, which was titled the same, but out of Acts 20 Caner really didn't make any direct case against Calvinism in it.

I'm on dialup. so the link provided in these comments doesn't work too well for me.

David & Rose Ann said...

DOGPreacher and Gunny, I urge you to indeed write the letter to Dr. Richards on the Don Cass matter. A friend and young pastor in SE Texas is planning to as well. He was very upset to receive this package.

It was Richards himself at my own church in 2005 who, in a guest sermon on Church Discpline, interestingly enough, said the following: "There is room under the SBC tent for one or two-point Calvinists like Paige Patterson and five-point Calvinists like Al Mohler." Now, if he really meant that, it's my belief that Cass did this on his own without consulting Richards, likely under the direct request of Welch and Gaines who attended the recent SBTC Evang. conference. The timing is perfect: The conf. was nearly two months ago, enough time to pull together the (outdated) resources that arrived in his mail-out.

Either way, Richards should be alerted to this.

As a sidenote: Paige Patterson welcomed guest speaker Mark Dever to the Southwestern Seminary chapel Tuesday. He had high praise for Dever's work and called him and Mohler "My two favorite Calvinists have now spoken this year at chapel." I like Patterson, and I might suggest he also be a CC recipient of whatever letters get written to Jim Richards. If Patterson is being genuine about keeping the Devers and Mohlers engaged in SBC life, he needs to know about the Caner and Cass developments in recent days.

Michael King said...

I wrote this on my own blog a few weeks ago. Since no one ever goes there and reads anything. I will paste it here. I agree with bereanized. Thank you.

I am a considerable, hardcore Calvinist. I have been so for about 17 years. So I believe I know what I am talking about when I say what I am going to say.

By simple definition, Calvinists claim to understand the grace of God more than the non-Calvinists. Our dogma is called the doctrines of grace. We often refer to sovereign grace or irresistible grace; we love the idea of God’s eternal purpose of electing grace. Sometimes I wonder if we really do understand it, simply because it really is so amazing. Nevertheless, we think we understand God’s grace more than non-Calvinists do. And I believe we actually do.

Because this is true, I think there should be (rather, there must be) a necessary effect on us who claim such knowledge. This grace that was so freely and unconditionally given to us wicked sinners (me specifically) should do something to us, something to our attitude, our behavior, our conduct toward others, especially our brothers in Christ Jesus. This grace that we are recipients of should work in us something I like to call grace, grace toward other people—other people who are not like us, who disagree with us, who debate and misunderstand us, who misjudge and mischaracterize us.

We should, we must be gracious people. We must be the most gracious people—gracious to those we do not really like all that much (for whatever reason). I believe this applies to all who believe in Jesus, but it is principally true of those Christians who assert a greater appreciation of this wonderful doctrine of the grace of God, the Calvinists. We should be the most gracious people on the entire planet.

Now because I am in a struggle with my lingering sinful nature, I find this too often and elusive thing. I am woefully guilty of becoming angry at those non-Calvinists who have missed the whole point. I have sometimes delighted in arguing with them and thought things about them I should not. I have many times been very ungracious toward them. I am ashamed of myself and my fellow Calvinists when we have done this. It betrays our own convictions about the doctrines of grace. I short, whenever we are not freely distributing grace with our brothers (and anyone for that matter), we are not acting like Calvinists. What is worse, we are not acting like Christ. He was “full of grace” (John 1:14). From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another (John 1:16). This is how we must be toward our “adversaries” who think differently that us, even if they are wrong.

Now this does not mean that we roll over and capitulate to their illogical, unscriptural, and ridiculous rants. We must argue the truth with passion and conviction, even it means that some people are unavoidably offended. We cannot control how others respond to truth; we cannot control how sensitive people will be when we tell them they are wrong about something. But we can be gracious. We have to be.

I figure it this way. I used to not be a Calvinist. My journey to discover these doctrines of grace and election took me about two years of heart-rending, hair-pulling, soul-searching Bible study; much kicking and screaming, crying and whining, fussing with God, and just plain struggling with unbelief. I wrestled hard before I could finally embrace this stuff, then even more before I could articulate and debate it. If God was patient and kind with me though all that, then how can I be otherwise with my non-Calvinist “arguing buddy,” even if he really irks me at times.

Dear Calvinist brothers, be gracious with people, or stop claiming to be Calvinists (at least not the bold kind). Much grace to you all,
Mike

Travis Hilton said...

Ergun's message is inspiring me to preach a sermon on "Why I'm not a Universalist" :) Oh, I know Ergun is not one, but I may conveniently mention his name to let everyone know I'm not implying he beleives everyone goes to heaven- he's different from THOSE universalists. Universalists are a big threat, though. Everyone is talking about them in the seminaries and on the blogs. They are a threat to missions, evangelism and the Gospel itself. They beleive "all" in the Bible means everyone, no matter what they beleive, will go to heaven.

That's a poor explanation, and even worse, the guilt by association would be intolerable if I ment it. But that is what Caner has done...again.

Alex F said...

Here we go again.

I find myself wondering why I'd want to waste my time on that sermon (and waste the energy that would go into the frustration sure to follow). No thanks!

Speaking Up said...

You all are Christians??? If you truly believe in Predestination, then why do you care what Dr. Caner says? He would obviously be doing what he was predestined to do? What are you all doing? Not spreading the gospel here from what I can tell. Tom Ascol gets the pot boiling and you all just keep it stirred up. I wonder if that is pleasing to the Lord?

As for Calvinism (5pt.) splitting the churches, I am experiencing it first hand at my own church. The preacher becomes infatuated with well known Calvinist theologians (he gets to meet them too) and decides to follow them. First, he indoctrinates his leadership, mostly by making them feel "less" spiritual if they don't understand/believe Calvinism. Then he starts preaching Calvinism from the pulpit, not the gospel, which is what he should (and used to) be preaching, but Calvinism, which he now believes to be the gospel. He has to "make" every message fit into the "box" of Calvinism. As more and more of his congregation begins questioning him about this doctrine, he makes them feel "less than" since they don't understand it. Many long time members are, sadly, leaving the church. Many other long term members just remain confused and not sure what to do. The preacher just watches the congregation grow smaller and smaller....determined that this must be what the Lord would want. There is NOTHING humble about this doctrine that I can see. I see pride in everyone who teaches it, and I see pride in most everyone who thinks they must defend it.

Do you think God is saying "go Tom go" find another topic to post worthy of 300 plus comments full of Christians attacking Christians...yeah! Who do you think that pleases?? I don't think it's God that's pleased.

I also would like to see Tom Ascol address Man's responsibility. He claims to know so much about God's sovereignty, but doesn't want to talk about our responsibility.

I'm sure I'll be accused of being angry because so many of you do seem to post in anger. I'm not angry, just grieved over they way Christians treat one another.

It will be interesting to me to see if my comment will be allowed on this blog.

Steve

Alex F said...

Steve,

Sad to hear about the trouble in your church. I myself have often wondered at the fact that there are many Calvinists who seem terribly puffed up and arrogant. It was a major stumbling block for me when considering these teachings. Then I realized one day what an irony it really was, because the doctrines of grace tell me that I had absolutely NOTHING to do with my salvation and contributed NOTHING to it at all. It was all God's grace. These are the most humbling of doctrines.

With that said, though, do recognize that it is unhelful and slanderous to say that EVERYONE who teaches these doctrines is prideful. I know plenty who are not. It does come across (at least to me) as ironic that you describe us as angry and wasting our time on this blog.

But I think I can speak for Tom in saying that you are welcome to comment.

Nathan White said...

Steve,

I cannot speak for Tom, but from what I believe, the purpose of this blog is not to use it solely as an evangelistic tool, but to point people to worship the God of scripture rather than the god of one's own imagination.

In addition, how can we be out 'spreading the gospel', as you say, if we don't agree on what exactly the gospel is? Does man have the power to regenerate himself or not? That's a pretty important question if your going to go out and spread the gospel.

With all due respect sir, this society hates those who claim to have objective truth, and I get a sense of that in your own comments as well. Maybe you see Calvinists as prideful because they are 100% confident that their position is correct. This would be similiar to an atheist believing you are arrogant because you are 100% positive that there is a God. So please understand that Calvinist see the desperate need in our church for a biblical view on God, and being confident that the Calvinist position is 100% correct, they only seek to proclaim the God of scripture over the god of tradition. That is not pride brother, that is love.

SDG

Keith said...

Sam Hughey, thanks for answering my question ...where does it state in the Westminster Confession that "only elect babies are saved?"

A couple of follow-up questions, if you all don't mind (I'm trying to understand all of this):

a) does that mean that all babies are elect?
b) does that mean that some babies are elect?
c) how did David know that his son was elect (cf 2 Sam 12:23b "I will go to him, but he will not return to me.")?

Nathan White said...

Mathetes,

I believe you are asking questions that the Bible does not address. Even among the living we have no clue who the elect are (besides the fruit that they produce after conversion).

As far as question C goes, I think it is pretty far-fetched to interpret that passage as affirming that David's child was in heaven. For we cannot know for sure that is what he meant, or if he was simply using a figure of speach to refer to the place of death.

Tim said...

One thing is for sure, I am continually amazed that men in positions such as Dr. Caner's, are as ill informed concerning the very thing that they are attacking.

As for the pride comments. Yes pride exists sometimes on both sides. I must admit that when I entered Dr. Caner's website, I get the feeling that there is an obsession with his own image, along with the many photos elsewhere that I have seen.

Those who love the truth of the gospel and the God behind the truth of the gospel are empassioned when they hear the truth maligned. The Arminian side does the same thing because they believe they are representing the truth and that Calvinists are misrepresenting it. Therefore, there is no warrrant for some to call "foul" in this area since the apostle Paul was clear in pointing out all false teaching that in fact becomes another gospel.

gracefellow said...

Per Tom:
"The age of accountability is not technically in the Bible "but Romans 2:15 calls it the age of consciousness." It is the moment that a person understands that something is right or wrong not because of reward or punishment but because it is intrinsically so."

I don't see this idea being established in Romans 2:15. Scripture and comments here: http://mercyfellows.blogspot.com

Also, what has to be done more and more is the disassociation of scripture truth from the nickname "Calvinism". The sooner people begin to see that Calvin didn't invent what he was saying the better. Doctrines of Grace, as they are called, are doctrines of Scripture. Defending these doctrines as "Calvinists" in the name of "Calvinism" only serves to perpetuate obscuring the real matter at hand, namely, the defense of the doctrines put forth by the Lord and His apostles.

Speaking Up said...

Alex,

Thank you so much for acknowledging that you "have wondered at the fact many Calvinists who seem terribly puffed up and arrogant". I have been studying this doctrine for quite some time now, and, for myself it's important to "see" how people who believe in this doctrine behave and live their lives. I apologize for saying "everyone" who teaches this doctrine is arrogant....I should have said "all I have heard" teach it.

I have been to many Calvinist blogs and discussion areas to help me try and understand this doctrine, and I haven't seen much love in helping someone understand the doctrine, or much openness to discuss the belief......just closed doors when you try to ask questions they can't or don't want to answer. They mostly seem to encourage each other in the doctrine and discuss the doctrine. I am really trying to look at this doctrine with an open mind.

I didn't say all were angry when they posted...some obviously were and several have admitted they are angry. Again, I apologize, I should clarify that I'm not just referring to the comments on this particular post...I have read through some of the other comments, and the post that had 300 comments on it? It does seem like a waste of time to argue continually like that, but, again I apologize for offending anyone. I guess you were implying I too am here wasting my time and must be angry. I can't prove I'm not angry, so if you want to believe I am, so be it.

I'm also not saying I agree with Dr. Caner. I am studying Calvinism at this time, and this blog was one my own Pastor recommended. It grieves me to see our church dwindling down...people being hurt and confused. This is my motivation for trying to understand this doctrine.

Nathan,

Why do Calvinists say things like this: "to point people to worship the God of scripture rather than the god of one's own imagination."

To me, it is arrogance to say if you don't believe what I believe (among Christians), then you're worshipping a God of one's own imagination?

You also say "In addition, how can we be out 'spreading the gospel', as you say, if we don't agree on what exactly the gospel is?"

Isn't the gospel in the bible? Can we just teach what the bible says?

Obviously many Christians have different interpretations of the "truth" of the bible. I believe love should be our motivation for teaching the gospel of the bible, not arguing with each other about who's truth is the true truth, as long we agree Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life.

I believe the Lord will convict us of the truth and false teaching when we seek Him for the truth. I think it's human nature to want to be right.

I have shared with a few atheists in my time, and have not been considered arrogant. They were people I worked with, and had respect for, they in turn had respect for me. Sharing the gospel with the lost is what (I believe) we are called to do, not argue with other Christians.

As I study/search Calvinism, I am finding there are different beliefs within this doctrine too. There are Reformed Charismatics, which I believe are Calvinists, not sure, as much of it is confusing to me right now. My own church is called "Reformed" but it's very conservative....they believe the gifts died with the disciples, sing mostly hymms, no raising of hands..etc. I don't know that I agree with all that, but, as long as the Pastor was teaching the bible (and he was) I was not going to argue about some of the different beliefs we have, but, now that he is preaching Calvinism (using that word or Doctrines of Grace all the time) and people are leaving....

Well....anyway, thank you for allowing me to comment here, and I am truly sorry if I offended anyone here. I will keep praying, reading and searching.

Steve

GeneMBridges said...

Sam Hughey, thanks for answering my question ...where does it state in the Westminster Confession that "only elect babies are saved?"

A couple of follow-up questions, if you all don't mind (I'm trying to understand all of this):

a) does that mean that all babies are elect?
b) does that mean that some babies are elect?
c) how did David know that his son was elect (cf 2 Sam 12:23b "I will go to him, but he will not return to me.")?


Mathetes, this is long, but will answer your question in detail.

First of all, the WCF represents Presbyterianism. They logically hold this position because of infant baptism and their belief in "covenant children." As Baptists, this is much more difficult to maintain doctrinally, so I am going to have to borrow from our Presbyterian brethren to do this.

Traditionally, Warfield has classified no fewer than five different positions on this issue:

1.From the beginning a few held with Zwingli that death in infancy is a sign of election, and hence that all who die in infancy are the children of God and enter at once into glory. After Zwingli, Bishop Hooper was probably the first to embrace this view. It has more lately become the ruling view.

2.At the opposite extreme a very few held that the only sure sign of election is faith with its fruits, and, therefore, we can have no real ground of knowledge concerning the fate of any infant; as, however, God certainly has his elect among them too, each man can cherish the hope that his children are of the elect. Peter Martyr approaches this sadly agnostic position.

3.Many held that faith and the promise are sure signs of election, and accordingly all believes and their children are certainly saved; but the lack of faith and the promise is an equally sure sign of reprobation, so that all the children of unbelievers, dying such, are equally certainly lost. The younger Spanheim, for example, writes…”they are justly reprobated by God on account of the corruption and guilt derived to them by natural propagation.

4.More held that faith and the promise are certain signs of election, so that the salvation of believers’ children is certain, while the lack of the promise only leaves us in ignorance of God’s purpose; nevertheless that there is good ground for asserting that both election and reprobation have place in this unknown sphere. Accordingly, they held that all the infants of believers, dying such, are saved, but that some of the infants of unbelievers, dying such, are lost. Probably no higher expression of this general view can be found that John Owen’s.

5.Most Calvinists of the past, however, have simply held that faith and the promise are marks by which we may know assuredly that all those who believe and their children, dying such, are elect and saved, while the absence of sure marks of either election or reprobation in infants, dying such outside the covenant, leaves us without ground for inference concerning them…It is this cautious, agnostic view which has the best historical right to be called the general Calvinistic one. Van Mastricht correctly says…

Warfield, Works, 9:431-434.

Warfield also mentions that “Calvin seems, while speaking with admirable caution, to imply that he believed some infants dying such to be lost,” ibid. 431, n66. If we accept what he says, that would, it seems make Calvin a hyper-Calvinist, correct?

R. C. Sproul even calls the doctrines of infant salvation “speculative.” (Providence, Tape 10,Q&A). Sproul points out that some reformers believe that all babies who die are numbered among the elect, and other reformers believe that all babies of saved parents who die are numbered among the elect.

According to Boettner: Most Calvinistic theologians have held that those who die in infancy are saved. The Scriptures seem to teach plainly enough that the children of believers are saved; but they are silent or practically so in regard to those of the heathens. The Westminster Confession does not pass judgment on the children of heathens who die before coming to years of accountability. Where the Scriptures are silent, the Confession, too, preserves silence. Our outstanding theologians, however, mindful of the fact that God's "tender mercies are over all His works," and depending on His mercy widened as broadly as possible, have entertained a charitable hope that since these infants have never committed any actual sin themselves, their inherited sin would be pardoned and they would be saved on wholly evangelical principles.Such, for instance, was the position held by Charles Hodge, W. G. T. Shedd, and B. B. Warfield. Concerning those who die in infancy, Dr. Warfield says: "Their destiny is determined irrespective of their choice, by an unconditional decree of God, suspended for its execution on no act. (Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, 143-144)

It seems to me that you're basing your definition, at least in part, on the notion that those who have held to the doctrine of infant reprobation have affirmed that infants suffer in hell as infants, but is this really the case? Those I have read qualify their position quite heavily.

i) Of course, much of what makes this mental image repellent is just that—the colorful imagery. But let’s not mistake Dante for whatever hell is really like. Those who hold this view have generally stayed away from "burning in hell" and looked beyond this imagery to hell as as Arminian heaven, where all bets are off and all its residents can do what they want as they want to their hearts content. Moreover, hell is a place of differing degrees, so it's not as if such persons, in this view are placed near the center. No, that is, it seems reserved for those who apostatized in particular. What we’re literally talking about is the state of the soul—whether a younger or older soul, which--at the general resurrection--will be reunited with a body.

ii) Is the age you die at the age you remain? If you die at 90, are you still 90 in heaven?

In heaven, wouldn’t you, in a sense, age up, age down, or both? You would age down in the sense that if you were past your prime when you died, you’d then revert to an optimal time of life—both mentally (in the intermediate state) and physically (in the final state). But you’d also continue to mature—in that same ageless and youthful state—to mature intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.

iii) The same with those who go to hell. Suppose that some of the great bloodletters of history like Hitler and Stalin and Mao and Attila and and Genghis Khan had died in childhood, died before they murdered their millions. And suppose they went to hell.

Should we really visualize them as cute, curly-haired, cherubic babies in hell—50 years later, a 100 years later? Or should be visualize them as what they became, and worse—far worse. In fact, if you put anyone in hell, without the preservative of common grace, much less saving grace, they’ll all turn into a Hitler or Nero or Stalin—a super-duper Hitler, Nero, or Stalin.

What you have here is a natural evolution of sin, from seed to full flower. It is not a little angel turning into devil, but a little devil turning into a bigger devil.

iv) And when we debate the merits of universal infant salvation, not only are we forming a mental image of babies in heaven or hell, but we’re tacitly projecting our mental image onto the mind of God, as if he is visualizing the very same spectacle.

But does God see a baby as a baby, as only a baby? According to Ps 139:16, God sees a baby as a storybook character in a novel that he himself has written. His entire life and afterlife is present to the mind of God—present because he penned every single page.
What is more—God has a number of unpublished manuscripts as well. Books that never went to press. Books he’s written with alternative endings (cf. 1 Sam 23:11-12; Mt 11:21-23).
The point is not that God chooses according to what’s in the book. The point, rather, is that what’s in the book is according to God’s choosing.

Moreover, when we see a baby or a little child, that is literally all we see. We don’t see the soul. But God sees the invisible soul. Not only does he see the future, but he sees an delitescent dimension of the present. Parts of his book are written in invisible ink—legible to his eyes alone.

Let's not forget this is still a problem for other theological traditions. The traditional rationale for infant baptism was the presupposition that infants were hell-bound due to original sin unless they received the sacrament of baptism. Although Catholicism has softened its initial position, it can only do so by impeaching its rationale for infant baptism. Logically speaking, the structure of Presbyterian theology is more predisposed to universal infant salvation than Reformed Baptist theology. To some extent, then, you have the same arguments and counterarguments for universal infant salvation as you have for infant baptism.

Related to Presbyterian theology is the assumption that if some infants are lost, they are the infants of unbelievers. This is why a Presbyterian in Gill's day would have found more comfort than Gill, since his theology is more conducive to universal infant salvation than Gill's was at the time.

But how this is supposed to follow? In the case of adults, we know for a fact that election cuts across family lines: that you have elect children of reprobate parents and reprobate children of elect parents—as well as elect children of elect parents and reprobate children of reprobate parents. Ergo, there's no pattern here from which one could extrapolate to the case of infant mortality.

Thus, you end up with universal infant salvation is justified on the grounds of some chronological threshold. This is variously called the age of discretion or the age of accountability. Although the two terms are used interchangeably, the concepts are hardly synonymous. Scriptural evidence for an age of discretion is not necessarily evidence for an age of accountability—especially in light of original sin, which both Arminians and Calvinists have generally affirmed, with the exception of certain more Pelagian traditions like the Campebellites.

On the face of it, the chronological threshold seems pretty artificial—if not wholly so. If a child dies at the age of 6, he is saved--but if the very same child dies at the age of 8, he is damned? One is, in effect, positing a transition from election to reprobation. This is a hypothetical transition, to be sure, but the whole discussion is hypothetical in the absence of clear revelation. Does your eternal fate really turn on which side of the age range you fall on? Is that the boundary-condition?

This doesn’t seem to be an argument that has nature in its favor. After all, cognitive development ranges along a continuum. It’s not as if the kid goes to bed one night below the age of discretion and wakes up the next morning above the age of discretion. Likewise, it’s hard to see how grace would respect a chronological threshold. How is the boundary drawn? Where is it drawn? Why is it drawn? If it isn’t a natural boundary or a gracious boundary, then what is it?

Is there really some invisible line to cross? Is the same line in the same place in the case of every human being? Or only those who die in infancy? Does God have the same line for those who die in infancy in some possible world, but not the actual world? The whole scheme strikes me as hopelessly ad hoc. It would seem preferable to affirm universal infant salvation by way of de facto election and regeneration into the kingdom, which is exactly what 10.3 affirms.

John Piper today is representative of this position.

In his monograph on imputation, Counted Righteous In Christ (pp. 95 -96), he writes on the teaching of Romans 5:12 that there are those who had not sinned in the likeness of Adam:

"Who are they? I am still inclined to think, against the most common scholarly opinion, that the group of people begging for an explanation, and providing the most relevant illustration for Paul's point, is infants. Infants died...

I know that many commentators object to the reference to children. It is indeed a very difficult complex connection of thoughts....Personal, individual sin cannot be the reason all died, because some died without transgressing a known law the way Adam did (v.14), and thus without the ability to have their personal sins reckoned to them in the sense of which he is speaking (v.13). Therefore, they must have died because of the sin of Adam imputed to them. "All sinned" in 5:12b thus means that all sinned, through the one man's disobedience." (v.19)."

From my perspective an Arminian arguing for universal salvation has an bigger problem, for it seems he should logically deny the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, since babies die and would have to do so from the imputation of Adam's sin, if they are innocent of personal sins themselves and not counted "guilty" until that ever illusive "age of accountability" which is generally the view they take. True God in His graciousness allows them into heaven and His presence, but they get their by way of moral innocence, not by the imputation of Christ's righteousness, or, alternatively by way of the imputation of Christ's righteousness which is conditioned on their moral innocence at the time of death. This certainly wouldn't be due to election, since election based on foreseen faith puts election itself outside a chain effected by grace, unless there is an alternative, hidden scheme for the election of infants operative in Arminianism that they've never articulated, at least to my knowledge.

Those that hold this position, (actually any position that accords infants salvation) would argue that is it precisely the imputation of Adam's sin to infants who die in infancy that allows them to die, but this is also that which means that God imputes the righteousness of Christ to them in order to bring them into heaven with Him.

We must remember that infants contain sin in "germ form." All that we are, they are in principle, but not yet in practice, yet not yet expressed. God, unlike man, sees the whole book, not just the first page. These children may be innocent babies to us, but to God they are much more.

By imputing them guilty in Adam, He can then impute them righteous in Christ, and, in so doing, no man, including those who were taken as infants, will be able to glory in his innocence as a means to gain eternal life. They will have all, infants, included arrived by the grace of God alone. I suspect those who die in infancy will have the most marvelous testimonies of all in the next world, for they never had to know much of what we experience here. They got to be with the Lord from the start!

The question of infant salvation is a limiting-case of hell. The reason for these makeshift distinctions is the unbearable specter of babies burning in hell. But is that an accurate depiction?

Once again, this ranges along a continuum. Consider the opposite end of the spectrum. What about the specter of your dear old grandmother roasting in the everlasting bonfire. Is that any less intolerable? What about your mother or father? What about an adult child who dies prematurely? Everyone is related to someone. Most-all of us would like to exempt our own family members for liability to damnation. So the logic for universal infant salvation is really of a piece with the logic for universal salvation, simpliciter. And, by that same token, the logic is reversible. If everyone is not saved, then…

Many things in life are unbearable, yet we go on with life. We all live with a certain amount of sorrow and heartache--some more than others. Life is a fallen world is rife with personal tragedy.

Those that do not favor infant salvation generally proceed on the notion that no man, infant or adult, has a free pass to heaven. God would be perfectly just in condemning them to hell. To us, this seems quite harsh. On the other hand, in doing so, He may be punishing one who would flower into a Hitler on steroids if left to common grace working itself out. God sees us as a whole book, not page one or two. He sees us as we really are. Who's to say that the spirit of a child does not go to heaven with all the faculties of adulthood? This is a relation about which we know nothing. God does. From our perspective, an infant is dying. From His, a serial killer may be dying. To deny this, from their perspective, involves a denial of imputation and/or original sin and/or the fall of men. Either all men are fallen and corrupt or they are not. Either they have been imputed guilty or they have not. Either no one can boast because grace alone gets them into the kingdom or they can boast that their moral innocence served to aid in the process.

Samuel Hopkins writes: “Many have supposed that none of mankind are capable of sin or moral agency before they can distinguish between right and wrong. But this wants proof which has never yet been produced. And it appears to be contrary to divine revelation. Persons may be moral agents and sin without knowing what the law of God is or of what nature their exercises are and while they have no consciousness."

Scripture itself is largely silent on this issue. It simply depends on how convinced one is about the exegetical arguments as to which position one takes. I wonder, is David's, "I will go to him" is really meant to infer universal infant salvation for all infants who die in infancy? That's a rather grand, sentimental application of the text. God may well do this. I think there is a pretty good chance He does. On the other hand, I must admit (a) He would not be unjust not to do this; and (b) if He does, it is by way of Calvary, not some kind of "age of accountability" that mitigates against us being counted guilty in Adam.

Those who affirm reprobation of infants, at least by way of abstract possibility, believe that it as it seems to lack in biblical certainty, it would be unloving to extend to someone "absolute assurance" where Scripture itself is not absolutely clear. What we can give unshakable assurance to, is that God is just and righteous desiring that none should perish; delighting not in the death of the wicked; and is at the same time both loving and holy, just and merciful, wrathful and full of grace. And in all that He does, He does with absolute perfection befitting His own righteous, holy character after the council of His will, to accomplish His purpose, for His own pleasure and for His glory alone (Cp, Ephesians 1:4-14). And it is there, that we must rest, find our resolve, and leave it with Him.

Simply put, there are too few Scriptures chasing this particular issue for either side to speak with great certainty, which is why 10.3 reads the way it reads. I find nothing "hyper-Calvinistic" in those who have espoused this view for that reason. My purpose is not to stake out a firm position on this issue, particularly since I favor universal infant salvation as articulated by Drs. Mohler, Akin, and Piper, but to simply draw attention to some neglected considerations.

Scripture Searcher said...

I have tried for more than half a century to achieve what blogger GRACEFELLOW has said in his final paragraph - see above.



Perhaps many more will eventually understand
the importance of doing what this new brother and contributor to the Founders Blog states


but I seriously doubt it will ever happen.


LORD, INCREASE MY FAITH!


Thanks GRACEFELLOW!


Persevere!

jdlongmire said...

Mathetes -

I certainly do not speak for anyone but myself, but I have ruminated on those questions:

http://jdlblog.blogspot.com/2005_08_01_jdlblog_archive.html

Tim Ellsworth said...

I think Gene needs to write a book. :)

Scripture Searcher said...

Amen! And when Gene writes
his books, I will buy them -
and urge all serious minded
men and women to do the same.

gracefellow said...

Scripture Searcher said:

"But I seriously doubt it will ever happen" in reference to what I had said above. Scripture Searcher, you have searched the scriptures and have seen the reality that what is put forth under the label "Calvinism" is according to their testimony.

It, being recovering these truths from sole association with Calvin, is achievable, at least one at a time, as we interact with others regarding them. Thank you for your encouragment.

GeneMBridges said...

Steve (speaking up), this is lengthy, but I hope you will pardon the length and grace this response with your reading.

it grieves me to see our church dwindling down...people being hurt and confused. This is my motivation for trying to understand this doctrine.

Yes, it can be heart breaking to see a church change. On the other hand, I know of many that need to change, and losing some folks can hurt in the short run, but greatly help in the long run. You could be on target in your observations. On the other hand, you may be judging a symphony halfway through.

The question here is "Why are they leaving?" Reformed churches, as a rule tend to emphasize church discipline and order. I have found that when Arminian churches "divide" over Calvinism, they do drop in numbers, but the quality of teaching, discipline, education, etc. rise. So, there are two sides to every coin.

Then there's the letter I got from a Calvinist in an Arminian church who went to his elders in a Matt. 18 manner and asked them about what he had studied and come to believe. They questioned his salvation. He remained silent. He did not make problems. He went to them a second time, when they began preaching against the doctrines of grace from the pulpit and misrepresenting them in the process. He took a friend with him to his elders and they told him to be silent or be put out of his church.

Likewise, I received a note yesterday from a reader of this blog directing me to a Christian Bible College in my state. The president had written a long anti-Calvinist rant, that is truly the only word for it, that quoted Dave Hunt ad infinitum. (Rule: Never quote Dave Hunt without checking his quotes...they were not accurate citations of the primary sources). In this essay, he told how he and the administration decided to get rid of all the Calvinists on their campus and took steps to rid themselves of them. So much for the free exchange of ideas on a college campus.

There are mean spirited Calvinists on the internet, but I have seen, experienced, and heard far more vitriole from the pulpits and memberships of Arminians than from Calvinists when this happens in the churches. Right now, I know of a church in my area that is going through this, and the Arminian contingent has, for all means and purposes, gone out of its way to make problems for the Calvinists, even after they (the Arminian group) left the church itself.

Now, that said, I'll answer some of your questions and observations.

If you truly believe in Predestination, then why do you care what Dr. Caner says? He would obviously be doing what he was predestined to do?

So were/did Pharaoh and Judas (Romans 9, Acts 2:23, 4:28 respectively). Will you honestly say that we should stand for untruth and misrepresentation? Sin is part of God's sovereign decree in the same way that everything else is (Job 2:9-10). God told Moses that He would harden his heart. Moses still opposed him and demanded he let the people go. We oppose Dr. Caner's sermon in that same sense.

Predestination is not fatalism. Dr. Caner, by the way thinks of predestination as fatalism. However, there is a huge difference:

We are not fatalists. We believe in what could philosophically be called determinism. Fatalism and determinism are not one and the same.

Theologically, we do not know the secret will of God. We have His moral will, and that is the way we are to order our lives.

This is fatalism:
• If it is fated for x to to be saved, then they will be saved whether or not you pray.
• Likewise, if x is fated not to be saved, x will not do so even if you share the gospel with him.
• So, evangelizing x makes no difference one way or the other. Ergo, why bother?


Calvinism looks like this:
• If it is predestined for you to be saved , then x will be saved.
• Likewise, if x is predestined not to be saved, you will not share the gospel with him.

God has said we are to pray for the lost and evangelize, and that this is a means to their salvation.

We do not know if x is predestined to be saved.

• So, if x is predestined to be saved, it matters if we evangelize.

In other words, we don't know if X is to be saved, but we do know that prayer is one means to that end, then it matters if we pray for them.

Let's put this another way to be clear.

Fatalism: • If it is fated for you to recover from your illness, then you will recover whether you call a doctor or not.
• Likewise, if you are fated not to recover, you will not do so even if you call a doctor.
• So, calling a doctor makes no difference.

Determinism: • If it is determined for you to recover from your illness, then you will call for a doctor.
• Likewise, if you are fated not to recover, you will not call a doctor.
• So, calling a doctor makes a difference.
That, in a nutshell, is why we care about Dr. Caner and what he says. The thread to which you refer, is one where he and his brother showed up and showed out. Speaking for myself, I would not feel the compulsion to post about Dr. Caner if he did not routinely go out of his way to misrepresent truth. As a rule, our posts are indexed to his statements.

Not spreading the gospel here from what I can tell.

First, Steve, this isn't an evangelistic blog. My blog (Triablogue) pulls far more duty in that respect, as we deal routinely with atheists and others. As to evangelism itself, history has demonstrated that Calvinists are highly evangelistic. In fact, you can often find folks from my church in front of the local abortion clinic at least one Saturday a month, often more. We are all aware, for the most part, of who has made no profession of faith among our regular attenders, and we do evangelism with them every Sunday and often during the week.

Second, one fails to see how taking some time to post comments on a blog is damaging to the gospel. There are folks out there who do internet apologetics. Some are writers. Moreover, the objection as it stands would fall back on you. If the folks here are guilty of not spreading the gospel for posting and studying, then what is your excuse for posting and studying? Moreover, Baptists from the 17th to 19th century often debated and wrote lengthy doctrinal pamphlets. We have an enormous amount of documentation of these debates and letters.

Third, let's look at the gospel here. If a man can contribute spiritual good for his salvation, then we have a problem with understanding the gospel. If we differ on that, we need to have a chit-chat. Dr. Caner's sermon does nothing to facilitate this.

Fourth, Calvinists haven't been "in charge" of Baptist pulpits in the SBC for the past several decades. Here's what the result has been: http://www.ccwonline.org/sbc.html

Then he starts preaching Calvinism from the pulpit, not the gospel, which is what he should (and used to) be preaching, but Calvinism, which he now believes to be the gospel.

I cannot address his motives or techniques or your evaluation of them. By definition, you are giving only your side of the story. This isn't a swipe at your character, rather it is simply a statement of fact. However, a few observations can be made.

First of all, a pastor is to teach the whole counsel of God, not give evangelistic sermons and invitations every Sunday. If he does this, the growth of the people will be stunted and they will never grow up. If that is what you expect from him, then I submit you need to get over that notion quickly. FYI, I learned that in a large, non-Calvinistic church, one of the largest in my state, serving under a prominent SBC pastor, so I say this not as a Calvinist, but as a Christian.

This isn't to say, he should preach the Five Points every Sunday. Rather, he should preach expositorily over the whole Bible. On the other hand, Calvinism exceeds the soteriological dimension. More on this below.

I, and my mentor, have seen far more churches collapse into legalism and licentiousness from shallow evangelistic preaching than any other thing, including Reformation. I am reminded of the story of a rather well known SBC evangelist who entered a church in our area, literally read one passage, and then gave an invitation for a full hour. I remember the church I attended in college. Every Sunday, they heard an evangelistic plea. They were not taught the Bible. I'd add that if you look at the numbers, the average Reformed church (Baptist, Presby, or otherwise) has an attendance nearly equal to or greater than the total membership. I know of no revivalistic Baptist churches that can make that claim. In fact, most of them have a ratio of 3:1 (Members to attendance) on any given Sunday.

Additionally, I certainly hope that you feel the same way about dispensational churches that preach the 7 dispensations ad infinitum. Most of the churches that I know that have "split" over Calvinism have been dispensational. Those who have exited have done so because they felt that Calvinism was "messing them up dispensationally." In short, they had been force fed a whole dispensational structure superimposed on Scripture for ages, and this was the underlying reason for their departure.

Second, I would suggest that the pastor have a Question and Answer time after the sermon in lieu of an invitation, unless the message lends itself to an invitation or, alternatively, offer for folks to stay behind after the service and ask questions of him directly in a small group. We do this in our church regularly, and this helps people understand what is preached. We've been studying Titus and biblical eldership and discerning the will of God in our church, and this has helped greatly.

Third, we generally affirm that Calvinism is the gospel by way of dogmatic (eg. confessional or theological linguistic usage), in that, as a comprehenisve, systematic soteriology it identifies the source of salvation, the condition of men, the nature of the atonement, the necessity of grace, and the assurance of salvation for all who will believe far more accurately than Arminianism. This is what Spurgeon meant, when he said, "Calvinism is the gospel." It is also a worldview that shapes much of the way we view the world. It is highly likely your pastor knows this. In our church, we affirm that where you stand on these issues affects the way you understand the whole world, though he sounds rather hamfisted in his methods with respect to communicating that. On the other hand, again, we only have one side of the story.

J.I Packer put it this way in his intro to John Owen's The Death of Death in the Death of Christ:

In the first place, Calvinism is something much broader than the 'five points' indicate. Calvinism is a whole world-view, stemming from a clear vision of God as the whole world's Maker and King. Calvinism is the consistent endeavor to acknowledge the Creator as the Lord, working all things after the counsel of his will. Calvinism is a theocentric way of thinking about all life under the direction and control of God's own word. Calvinism, in other words, is the theology of the Bible viewed from the perspective of the Bible - the God-centered outlook which sees the Creator as the source, and means, and end, of everything that is, both in nature and in grace. Calvinism is thus theism (belief in God as the ground of all things), religion (dependence on God as the giver of all things), and evangelicalism (trust in God through Christ for all things), all in their purest and most highly developed form. And Calvinism is a unified philosophy of history which sees the whole diversity of processes and events that take place in God's world as no more, and no less, than the outworking of his great preordained plan for his creatures and his church. The five points assert no more than God is sovereign in saving the individual, but Calvinism, as such, is concerned with the much broader assertion that he is sovereign everywhere.

Then, in the second place, the 'five points' present Calvinistic soteriology in a negative and polemical form, whereas Calvinism in itself is essentially expository, pastoral and constructive. It can define its position in terms of Scripture without any reference to Arminianism, and it does not need to be forever fighting real or imaginary Arminians in order to keep itself alive. Calvinism has no interest in negatives, as such; when Calvinists fight, they fight for positive evangelical values. The negative cast of the 'five points' is misleading chiefly with regard to the third (limited atonement, or particular redemption), which is often read with stress on the adjective and taken as indicating that Calvinists have a special interest in confining the limits of divine mercy. But in fact the purpose of this phraseology, as we shall see, is to safeguard the central affirmation of the gospel - that Christ is a redeemer who really does redeem. Similarly, the denials of an election that is conditional and of grace that is resistible are intended to safeguard the positive truth that it is God who saves. The real negations are those of Arminianism, which denies that election, redemption and calling are saving acts of God. Calvinism negates these negations order to assert the positive content of the gospel, for the positive purpose of strengthening faith and building up the church.


I would strongly encourage you to take the time to read the rest here: http://www.all-of-grace.org/pub/others/deathofdeath.html

So, we are left to reply to this:

Why do Calvinists say things like this: "to point people to worship the God of scripture rather than the god of one's own imagination." To me, it is arrogance to say if you don't believe what I believe (among Christians), then you're worshipping a God of one's own imagination?

Again. Packer in that same essay put it this way:

Now, here are two coherent interpretations of the biblical gospel, which stand in evident opposition to each other. The difference between them is not primarily one of emphasis, but of content. One proclaims a God who saves; the other speaks of a God who enables man to save himself. One view presents the three great acts of the Holy Trinity for the recovering of lost mankind - election by the Father, redemption by the Son, calling by the Spirit - as directed towards the same persons, and as securing their salvation infallibly. The other view gives each act a different reference (the objects of redemption being all mankind, of calling, all who hear the gospel, and of election, those hearers who respond), and denies that man's salvation is secured by any of them. The two theologies thus conceive the plan of salvation in quite different terms. One makes salvation depend on the work of God, the other on a work of man; one regards faith as part of God's gift of salvation, the other as man's own contribution to salvation; one gives all the glory of saving believers to God, the other divides the praise between God, who, so to speak, built the machinery of salvation, and man, who by believing operated it. Plainly, these differences are important, and the permanent value of the 'five points', as a summary of Calvinism, is that they make clear the areas in which, and the extent to which, these two conceptions are at variance.

So, one of us is worshipping according to our vanity, as where one stands here affects one's view of man, sin, Christ, God, the atonement, ethics, church order and discipline, worship, prayer, and a whole host of other things. I would add this: Arminianism is a mixture of truth and error as a system and a worldview. How can anybody look at historical theology and not see this? Arminianism is inherently Unitarian at a functional level. It puts, in its more Pelagian forms (like the easy believism of Dave Hunt)m both election and regeneration outside a chain effected by grace; only the cross is in view. Ergo, this is functional Unitarianism. In classic Arminianism, the kind with a real doctrine of prevenient grace (in the former this is explicitly equated with common grace, cf. Elmer Towns), a person is enabled to believe from a state of equipoise effected by grace, so, while regeneration is outside the chain of grace directly, indirectly it resides inside of it, because faith would not result in it apart from this grace. The Father, however, because He bases election on foreseen faith, is still outside the chain of grace. Ergo, this is "Bi-Nitarian." It's not without reason that Arminianism has historically flirted with Socinianism as a result of this. Let's not forget the General Baptists and early Arminians in general turned to Socinianism relatively quickly, and it was only via the New Connection that they survived among Baptists. Calvinism, unless it deteriorates into hyperism, has been a stabilizing force in theology and society in general. Neo-orthodoxy does spring from Reformed theology, but in so doing, the Neo-Orthodox deny their Calvinism, just as the Arminians did, so it can't truly be said to be "Reformed." The crossroads of theological liberalism also tends to lie near or in Arminianism. Moreover, Arminianism tends toward neo-sacramentalism in Baptist churches where it takes hold, contrary to our Baptist eccelsiology. They do not affirm baptismal regeneration, yet so much emphasis is put on aisle walking and hand raising and sacramental prayers (decisional regeneration) that they end up creating neo-Campbellite sacraments of their own when we do this.

However, not all Arminians are of a stripe. They range from classic liberals to neo-orthodox to Open Theists to evangelical Wesleyans and Methodists to the Assemblies of God to Free Will Baptists to the 4 Point Variety in the SBC like Dr. Caner. For the record, I have far more problems with those who claim to be "modified Calvinists" (eg. 4 Point Arminians) because, for the most part, they deny prevenient grace, lumping it with common grace, and, in so doing are closer to Campbellite theology than evangelical Arminianism.

If you define "gospel" in exegetical terms, both Arminianism and Calvinism affirm the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and the necessity of Sola Fide and personal conversion.

Ergo, when "gospel" is defined in this manner, closer to exegetical usage, the essential issue addressed by the Gospel is that man is a sinner, under the condemnation of God. The Gospel never calls upon the unregenerate to believe that they are unable to believe. Rather, it calls upon us to recognize our guilt before God, and to see Christ's sacrificial death as the sole remedy for our guilt and condemnation.

The Gospel message is about guilt, condemnation and forgiveness. It is not about "Who chose whom?", or "Where does faith come from?" Gospel-faith is trust in the person of Christ, having the confidence that He, by means of His Substitutionary death, has borne our sin and is fully able to forgive everyone who calls upon Him for salvation. Gospel-faith recognizes that Christ saves only those who trust in Him. It does not necessarily recognize the truth that this trust is God-given. One need not know or believe that God is the one behind your repentance and faith to experience repentance and faith. One need not understand the nature of justification before he experiences it. One need not believe in eternal security in order to be eternally secure; one need not believe it is impossible to fall away and fail to persevere in the faith in order not to fall away and persevere in the faith. Ergo, in this sense, both Calvinism and Arminianism can be said to encapsulate the gospel. However, if you use a more extensive definition, the contrary position simply cannot sustain itself either biblically, dogmatically, or practically.

Stephen Thomas said...

speaking up:

How do you reconcile these two statements:

To me, it is arrogance to say if you don't believe what I believe (among Christians), then you're worshipping a God of one's own imagination?

and

Then he starts preaching Calvinism from the pulpit, not the gospel, which is what he should (and used to) be preaching, but Calvinism, which he now believes to be the gospel.

Is it not equally arrogant to say that Calvinism isn't the gospel, just because you don't agree with it?

I'm not trying to act mean...I just wanted to point out what I saw to be a double-edged argument. For instance, I could say that it is arrogant for people to believe that they are right, but then it would be arrogant of me to think that I'm right in making that judgment.

Timmy said...

Steve (Speaking Up),

I don't think I can add to what has already been to said to your questions, so I thought I would just pop in to encourage you.

While I was in college, I was in a similar situation as I first encountered Calvinism. Guys went around telling me, "I am not a baptist; I am a Calvinist." I was like, "Whatever, man." I blew them off and distanced myself from them and their theology because of what I saw, not because of what they believed. Soon those students left, and I was left with squaring with Scripture. It took me well over three years of wrestling, fighting, weeping, and repenting that I came to appreciate and hold fast to the doctrines of grace. It was a long journey which only God could have brought me through by his sovereign mercy.

Part of the reason why so many here are so passionate about what they believe is because our theology is biography (at least in part). I presume that many will attest to the struggle that you are going through. Let me encourage you to not get discouraged or disengaged from the pursuit of God-centered theology.

I believe that Tom (and others here) want to answer your questions (as seen above) and want to help anyway we can. More than anything, it is my hope that in your study you will be apprehended by the God of all grace with such a view that leaves you truly amazed by sovereign love. And in the meantime, may you find loving encouragement as you continue in your study.

Douglas said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
SJ Camp said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
David B. Hewitt said...

Dr. Tom:

Thanks for posting that. I listened to James White's Dividing Line about this "sermon" and came away pleased with how he handled it, and the Scriptures that were brought up.

I also appreciate the spirit of what is being said here, with the strong reminders to be gentle as we seek to instruct others. Thank you all for bringing that to the forefront!

Oh, and yes -- I agree that Gene would write some excellent books. :)

SDG,
David Hewitt

SJ Camp said...

Good post Tom.

Dr. Caner is to Calvinism what Zane Hodges and Charles Ryrie were to Lordship Salvation. Like an adolescent, he is firing a cap gun at the Rock of Gibraltar thinking that he is really making an impact, but when the noise ceases all that remains is the residue and odor of a child’s toy.

In the words of my dear late friend, Vance Havner, "a bull dog can whip a skunk anytime; but in the end its just not worth it."

May we all remember that this is Resurrection Weekend. Let's not let Dr. Caner's rant (and that's all that it is – it cannot be taken seriously) be the rabbit trail that diverts our focus, energy and joy away from the once for all sufficient, vicarious, substitutionary, propitiatory sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Lord is risen He is risen indeed!
Steve Camp
2 Cor. 4:5-7

ScriptureSearcher2 said...

Though often lengthy, the comments by GMB (GeneMBridges) are
worth the time and effort and I pray he will continue to write for the benefit of those of us seeking more and more and more truth.


As the older Scripture Searcher usually concludes:


PERSEVERE!


I write this to both the writer and readers.

ScriptureSearcher2 said...

OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST IS ALIVE AND WILL COME AGAIN FOR ALL HIS PEOPLE....

I THESSALONIANS 4:13-18

Calvinist Gadfly said...

I found it telling that after Caner's anti-Calvinist sermon rant, Falwell closed the service by praying like a Calvinist:

http://www.calvinistgadfly.com/?p=205

Cheers,
Alan Kurschner

Benji Ramsaur said...

"The Sandy Creek Tradition"

by Gene Bridges

Now that would be sweet.

jbuchanan said...

I listened to this sermon but all I heard the Chihuahua say was "yip, yip, yip, yap, yap, yap, yip, yap, yapi, yip, yip, yip, yip, yip, yip, yip, yap, yadidy, yip, yap, yip, yap."

Of course this does not catch the rancor, ire, and indignation in his voice.

deusvult2 said...

Caner needs to realize Yahweh is not Allah.

Larry said...

I watched Caner's entire 'sermon' on the web. Much can be said about it and has been said, better than I could. However, the biggest issue to me was his mishandling of scripture. He says flat out that God hated Esau because of what Esau did, of course providing no scriptural support for this and despite the fact that a couple verses before what he read we're told directly that God's decision regarding Esau and Jacob was made before they were born and before either had done anything right or wrong (Romans 9:11). Caner deliberately skipped the part of the passage that would hurt his point. This is either intentional scripture twisting or the mark of one sorely unfamiliar with scripture. Either way it is not the mark of one qualified to be a seminary dean.

ScriptureSearcher2 said...

It bears repeating!


The growing number of men
(and women I pray) who love
the TRUTH is so refreshing
and encouraging.


And so many of them are using various blogs, etc. to openly declare their
knowledge and exchange their findings with others!


Not in my lifetime have I found so many intelligent
comments about theology and
the so-called doctrines of
God's sovereign grace.


Persevere, my brothers!


Good job well done, Founders
Ministries!!

fred said...

Larry,
"This is either intentional scripture twisting or the mark of one sorely unfamiliar with scripture. Either way it is not the mark of one qualified to be a seminary dean."

My thoughts exactly.

shick said...

Larry and Fred,
1. If God hated Esau because of what he did, what exactly did he do that God disliked? Scripture doesn't tell us.
2. In light of Romans 9:11, is it possible that God hated Esau because of what he did even before he did it? If that were truly the case, God would have no reason for loving any of us for we will all sin (Romans 5:12).

Mike Perrigoue said...

That's what gets me about Arminianism...it's all about what "I did" or "did not do".

I don't buy the "I'm saved because I did something smarter or better or more righteous than the other guy" argument of Arminianism.

Calvinism is not an easy pill to swallow. But how can you fight Scripture? And who says it's been left up to man anyway?

The "Potter and the clay" pretty much closes the case for me.

SDG

Gummby said...

When He "looked down the corridors of time," what did God see in me?

John Newton, author of Amazing Grace, once quoted a woman in his congregation as saying this:
Ah! sir, the Lord must have loved me before I was born, or else He would not have seen anything in me to love afterwards.

In his message "A Defense of Calvinism," Charles Spurgeon uses this quote, and then says this:

"I am sure it is true in my case; I believe the doctrine of election, because I am quite certain that, if God had not chosen me, I should never have chosen Him; and I am sure He chose me before I was born, or else He never would have chosen me afterwards; and He must have elected me for reasons unknown to me, for I never could find any reason in myself why He should have looked upon me with special love. So I am forced to accept that great Biblical doctrine."


To which I can only add a hearty "amen!"

fred said...

Shick

Romans 9:11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls,

See above text for answers to the questions you posed.

You: " If God hated Esau because of what he did,
Me: God didn't hate Esau for what he did.

You: "what exactly did he do that God disliked?"
Me: Esau didn't do anything, because he wasn't even born yet

You: "In light of Romans 9:11, is it possible that God hated Esau because of what he did even before he did it?
Me: No, Paul says that God's choice was not because of works, (Good or Evil)

You: "If that were truly the case, God would have no reason for loving any of us for we will all sin"
Me: I don't agree with your conclusion. God makes His choice for His purpose, knowing full well that we are all sinners and yet He says that His choice is not based on that. His reason to love us is because it is His desire to do so.

I am greatful for His grace

Speaking Up said...

Gene said:

"Second, one fails to see how taking some time to post comments on a blog is damaging to the gospel. There are folks out there who do internet apologetics. Some are writers. Moreover, the objection as it stands would fall back on you. If the folks here are guilty of not spreading the gospel for posting and studying, then what is your excuse for posting and studying? Moreover, Baptists from the 17th to 19th century often debated and wrote lengthy doctrinal pamphlets. We have an enormous amount of documentation of these debates and letters."


I wasn't saying it's wrong to comment/post/study on a blog. The (possible) damage I see is when Christians are arguing among themselves. I was thinking it would be a poor witness for unbelievers who may come along and read the blog.

I can see I'm not as intellectual as others here and may not communicate as well as I would like to. Blogs, message boards etc.,are somewhat new to me, plus trying to communicate without body language, and not knowing each other at all can be difficult.

Gene said:

"If you define "gospel" in exegetical terms, both Arminianism and Calvinism affirm the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and the necessity of Sola Fide and personal conversion.

Ergo, when "gospel" is defined in this manner, closer to exegetical usage, the essential issue addressed by the Gospel is that man is a sinner, under the condemnation of God. The Gospel never calls upon the unregenerate to believe that they are unable to believe. Rather, it calls upon us to recognize our guilt before God, and to see Christ's sacrificial death as the sole remedy for our guilt and condemnation.

The Gospel message is about guilt, condemnation and forgiveness. It is not about "Who chose whom?", or "Where does faith come from?" Gospel-faith is trust in the person of Christ, having the confidence that He, by means of His Substitutionary death, has borne our sin and is fully able to forgive everyone who calls upon Him for salvation. Gospel-faith recognizes that Christ saves only those who trust in Him. It does not necessarily recognize the truth that this trust is God-given. One need not know or believe that God is the one behind your repentance and faith to experience repentance and faith. One need not understand the nature of justification before he experiences it. One need not believe in eternal security in order to be eternally secure; one need not believe it is impossible to fall away and fail to persevere in the faith in order not to fall away and persevere in the faith. Ergo, in this sense, both Calvinism and Arminianism can be said to encapsulate the gospel."

Thank you, Gene, for including this in your response! I will have to print out the rest of your response and study it closer, but that last part I can understand! I'm a simple man. I'm not sure I can understand all your big words, and I'm not sure I need to, but I will try. I appreciate you taking the time to respond to my comments and help me to better understand Calvinism.

Steven Thomas said:

"How do you reconcile these two statements:

To me, it is arrogance to say if you don't believe what I believe (among Christians), then you're worshipping a God of one's own imagination?

and

Then he starts preaching Calvinism from the pulpit, not the gospel, which is what he should (and used to) be preaching, but Calvinism, which he now believes to be the gospel.

Is it not equally arrogant to say that Calvinism isn't the gospel, just because you don't agree with it?"

Only if I'm saying what I believe is the true-truth, and whatever you believe is wrong. I think we (as humans) are going to disagree on what scripture says to us individually. Definition of Gospel: Should we be preaching "Calvinism" instead of the "gospel" then? I'm not trying to be mean either, I'm just trying to understand. I don't consider myself Armenian, but I guess if I'm not, then I have to be Calvinist? Is that more important than being a bible believing Christian?

Timmy said,

"I don't think I can add to what has already been to said to your questions, so I thought I would just pop in to encourage you."

"I believe that Tom (and others here) want to answer your questions (as seen above) and want to help anyway we can."


Thanks so much for your encouragement Timmy, and for sharing your story. I hope to find more answers here because I have a few more questions. Such as:

Can you help me understand where Man's responsibility fits into the Calvinist belief?

Can someone tell me what a Reformed Charismatic is? Are they a Calvinist, or ?

How do you evangelize? I know I'm lacking in understanding, but, from what I think I understand, I don't see any need to evangelize if the chosen are chosen? I know it's not anything I do that brings others to Christ, but doesn't it take a willing heart, and one who loves the Lord to reach out to the lost? Or, are you saying God will make us willing? Can we ever be out of God's will?

Sorry for so many questions, once I got started asking, the questions seem to keep coming.

deusvult2 said...

Speaking Up,

I can't answer all your questions, but regarding evangelism, God determines the ends and the means. If He wills for a chosen person to be saved He certainly will decree the specific ways that person will be saved. And though this will invite laziness for many people, God needs no one to save anyone, if He has elected someone they will be saved if no one ever witnesses to them, but it seems certain that His preordained means of effecting their conversion comes through preaching. Trust me, do not try to think about this for too long.

batchap67 said...

I've noticed several references to Caner and Liberty in the same breath as SBC. As a current DMin student at LU and SBC endorsed chaplain, I always hear SBC referred to in the 3rd person.

The funny thing is that a vast portion of the DMin students are Korean Presbyterians.

deusvult2 said...

really? that's unbelievable...why do you think that any presbyterian would go to LU? I mean, why would they go there, there's always Westminster up in Philly.

ServingInRussia said...

I am Caner's worst nightmare...a "doctrines of grace" missionary family serving in Russia. His morning sermon, which I listened to first in error as I thought it was the "hyper calvin" sermon, was actually as bad as the misrepresentations he made that morning. Just a few excerpts from it in case you missed it..."I affectionately call my minivan my 'castration wagon'"..."We have everything in our church the world has to offer" (how right he is, sadly)...and the most shameful, when speaking about his parachuting effort he described the instructor strapped to him so he could jump with him as "...being to close for my taste. "And the he reiterated, I am assuming so all the young children listening could be sure and ask their parents later why everyone was laughing, he states..."Too 'brokeback' for my taste". Can you hear Spurgeon, Whitfield, Edwards, or any other great preacher (reformed or not)make comments like this!!! His moring sermon shows a prevailing lack of respect for God's word and for the highest calling of exposing God's word.

Timmy said...

Speaking Up,

I know that it has been some time, but I would like to address your questions. They are good questions which have oft been asked by many, the sincere and the sarcastic alike. Concerning evangelism, I look to begin a series of quotes and references to evangelism in the Reformed tradition after this week along with a few of my own. Let me just say that the doctrine of unconditional election (among others) is foundational to evangelism and serves as a great motivation to evangelize. The Apostle Paul attests much to this.

Once the T4G Conference is over and I have a little breathing room, I hope to address some of your questions including the all-important one between God's sovereignty and man's responsibility (becuase I do not believe they are yours alone). In the meantime, if you would like to email me, please do so at gospelcentral [at] yahoo [dot] com. Thanks.

volfan007 said...

calvinism and arminianism are young men's religions. dont settle for less than what the bible teaches by selling out to one of these systems of theology. also, i would encourage yall to be more concerned with winning souls to the lord than trying to win people to calvinism. get out of the extreme and return to the truth.

ErgunIsMyHero said...

Instead of speaking with thick piousness and trying hard to sound well educated by books, writings and notions of man...I think I'll commend Dr. Caner for bringing the Bible with a fire that we have long lost. I love how the author of this blog wrote that the Caner's are like firemen racing to a dying fire with buckets of gasoline! HA! That is exactly what draws us to men that are not afraid to teach the simplicity of the Bible instead of acting like they have God figured out...oh, like Calvinists. BTW, why are you "Calvinists" instead of "Followers of Christ?" is it because you solely rely on the logic and conspiracy theories of man to find the hidden secrets of the bible? Are there truly secrets? shouldn't your theories be treated just like the DaVinci Code?

I pray that God will have mercy on your souls in the end when we stand before him and he says -- Why hahve you led so many astray? Was it THAT important to sound smart? Was it SO hard to just take the grace that I freely give, than to distort it with how it is possible for me to give it?

You have done the worst thing ever, you have made an idol of God with your own rules instead of what the Bible simply says.

OneUnityPeace said...
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OneUnityPeace said...

OK, so I am not as learned in this area as most on this board. I did manage to attend Bible College for three years before not so politely being asked to leave.

So, with this being said, am I correct in the idea that Mr. Zane Hodges is Calvinist? I have read some of his works and like what he has to say, yet, the whole ABSOLUTE GRACE thing is still rather overwhelming. This may be in part that this concept rarely, if ever, exists in the here and now.