Discussions with a Calvinist

Discussion with Darin

Hi Steve,
Thank you for your work with the "Local Church".  We met friends who attend "The Church of Eugene".  The name sounded strange so I started to research it.  I agree that much of contemporary Christianity does not line up with scripture.  Therefore, there is much tension between Christian unity, Jude 3, and Galatians 1:6-9 (different gospels).  I try to focus on "The Gospel" when discerning Christians, ministry, churches, and gospels (Rom 1:16; Gal 1:6-9).

I was ministered by your overview on the Local Church but was really shocked to read your statement of faith in regards to the Gospel.  I'm confident that we would agree that Romans is the book to discuss the Gospel.  The word "Gospel or Good News" is used 60 times in Romans.  The word "justification is used 30 times in Romans.

Original Sin: Your understanding of original sin does not even get close to what God has revealed in Romans chapter 1, 2, 3:1-20.  We are all guilty by the imputed sin of Adam.  He was the represented of all mankind (except Christ born of a virgin) - Rom 5:12-20, 1 Cor 15:22.  How do you reconcile 5:13-14 and reject the imputed sin of Adam?  How do you reconcile Rom 3:23?

"Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Psalm 51:5

Atoning work of Christ: Intended for All (1 John 2:2).  What is your understanding of 1 John 2:2?
"He is the propitiation for our sins, and nor for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world"
What is your understanding of the work of the cross (propitiation?).  Did Christ exhaust (appease, satisfy, pay the penalty) the wrath of God for the sins of forgiven sinners?  God is not unjust.  Why would He punish unbelievers in eternity if Christ paid for their sins at the cross?  Is unbelief or rejection of the Gospel a sin?

My personal opinion about Christ crucified means nothing.  Our contradictory opinions have equal weight (zero).  All that really matters is what God has revealed in the scriptures.  The person and work of Christ on behalf of sinners is not a minor issue.  Christ crucified is the heart of Christianity!  We all want to glorify God, especially in the area of His saving work in us. The following text is the central issue of our conflicting views:

"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst."  1 Tim 1:6

What was accomplished by Christ in His perfect obedience to the Father's will on earth? Did the work of Christ secure salvation for all that God intended?  What was lost in the garden with the one act of disobedience of Adam?  Is our will free or in bondage to sin?  The Apostle Paul was obsessed with Christ crucified; "For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ crucified." 1 Cor 2:2.  Paul lived a cross centered life because the cross saved and transformed his life.  This is not cold theology but a powerful transforming truth (Rom 1:16).

I used to believe in free will (human ability).  However, after searching the scriptures regarding the concept of free will, I could not find it taught anywhere.  All I found was the concept of God's will being accomplished.  Free will (human ability) is an enemy of the cross because it goes contrary to the Word of God (John 1:12-13).  We were saved to glorify God to the praise of His glorious grace.  We were not saved to protect the so called free will of sinful mankind.  Receiving the gospel is not a free will choice, but a command.  It's a sin to reject the gospel.

"He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus" 2 Thes 1:8
"And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ". 1 John 3:23
"..., but now he commands all people everywhere to repent".  Acts 17:30

How about those who perish without hearing the Gospel?
"Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life. but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him".  John 3:36
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.....like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath"  Ephes 2:1-3.

Saving faith is truly a gift!  "Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you". Rom 12-3

We should look into the unity text:  "May they be brought in complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me".   John 17:23.  Look at the verses John 17:17 first before applying unity: "Sanctify them by the truth, your word is truth".  Think about John 4:23-24 "Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.  God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and truth."

True Christian unity is grounded in the essential truths of the faith.  Anything apart from that is worldly and sinful.  "There is one body and one Spirit -just as you were called to one hope when you were called - one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."  Ephes 4:5-6.  The person and work of Christ on behalf of sinners is the core of Christianity: 2 Cor 5:21.

Our primary purpose in life is to glorify god and enjoy Him forever (1 Cor 10:31).

"Do your best to present yourself to God, as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth."  2 Tim 2:12

"Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation.  For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit",  2 Peter 1:20

May we all continue to grow in the unsearchable riches in Christ.  "We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.  To this end we
labor, struggling with all his energy ,  which so powerfully works in us.

Steve,
I am thankful the Lord has called you to minister to the "Local Church".  However, you cannot replace error with your errors in the area of the gospel.  We have complete sufficiency in Christ and the scriptures.  I hope this stimulates you to search the scriptures diligently in regards to the "Good News".  God's Gospel shines brighter in the background of His biblical bad news.  God's saving grace is worthy of our full attention as revealed in the scriptures.  Glossing over or mishandling scripture does not glorify God.  We (in Christ) are all growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ to the praise of His glorious and sufficient grace!  If you believe that the atoning work of Christ is intended for all, God cannot be sovereign because many perish.  You believe God cannot accomplish what he intended.  Why, is he a weak an anemic god?  Is sin a bigger problem than he anticipated?  Is Satin stronger than he thought?  NO, NO, NO!!!!!.  Our God is bigger and more powerful than we both can comprehend.  All that He wills we come to pass to the praise of His glorious grace!  If this is not truth, your faith is not assured and rest on uncertainty.  It is not solid!

Your friend in Christ,
Darin
 


BCBSR Response

Darin,

Concerning your statement and questions:
"Original Sin: Your understanding of original sin does not even get close to what God has revealed in Romans chapter 1, 2, 3:1-20.  We are all guilty by the imputed sin of Adam.  He was the represented of all mankind (except Christ born of a virgin) - Rom 5:12-20, 1 Cor 15:22.  How do you reconcile 5:13-14 and reject the imputed sin of Adam?  How do you reconcile Rom 3:23?"

I don't see Paul mentioning Adam in the first three chapters of Romans. Can you show me where in the first three chapters of Romans Paul says that were are guilty not because we sin but because someone else sinned on our behalf? In Romans 3:23, if you follow Paul's argument through the first three chapters, Paul is saying that all have actually sinned, and not that sin is imputed to them in some positional sense, but rather that people are guilty because they actually commit sin.

Not even in Romans 5 where Paul explicity deals with concept of original sin does Paul state that all are guilty by the imputed sin of Adam. But in answer to your question concerning that section you can read http://www.bcbsr.com/books/rom5b.html which not only comments on the section but responds to a number of Calvinistic ideas.

You quote
"Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." Psalm 51:5 

Yes, children are observed to be naturally sinful. But that says nothing of imputed guilt.

You ask,
What is your understanding of 1 John 2:2"He is the propitiation for our sins, and nor for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world"

It means what it says. It means He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

You ask,
What is your understanding of the work of the cross (propitiation?).  Did Christ exhaust (appease, satisfy, pay the penalty) the wrath of God for the sins of forgiven sinners?

see http://www.bcbsr.com/topics/atonement.html

You ask,
would He punish unbelievers in eternity if Christ paid for their sins at the cross?  Is unbelief or rejection of the Gospel a sin?

Answer: Christ's payment for their sins in not applied to them unless they believe in Christ. And yes, unbelief is a sin. But more to the point is the fact that Christ's payment for sin was done graciously. If it's justice you're concerned about where's the justice in an innocent man being murdered? It was not just for Christ to be put to death. He didn't do anything wrong. And yes he MORE than satisfied the demands of justice. For God is not simply just. He is also gracious.

But concerning justice and your concept of "God", where's the justice when it comes to your concept of imputed guilt? How is it that you believe that God imputes guilt to people? How is it that you believe that God reckons that someoneelse sinned on their behalf and on that basis He condemns them? Where's the justice in that? Sorry I just don't see such a view of God in the Bible.

You ask,
What was accomplished by Christ in His perfect obedience to the Father's will on earth? Did the work of Christ secure salvation for all that God intended? 

Answer: First of all the Bible indicates that we were not justified by Christ's sinless life. We were justified by his blood. If Christ lived a sinless life but hadn't shed his blood then our salvation would not have been secured. However having been reconciled to God through his death Christ places his life in us which leads us to perfect sanctification.

You ask,
What was lost in the garden with the one act of disobedience of Adam?

Answer: The freedom from death and corruption for Adam and his posterity.

You ask,
Is our will free or in bondage to sin? 

Answer: Depends on what you mean by "free" and "in bondage to sin". While we are influenced by many things, circumstances, God, other people, the flesh, the devil, we are not puppets to such things. Certainly in regards to sin as the Bible indicates we are accountable or culpable for our behavior, therefore since God is just we must logically have freedom of choice to which we are held accountable. In fact even concerning behavior why do God's messengers urge people to change their behavior if in fact they are incapable of doing so or if they have no freedom of choice? Or do you think that God holds people accountable for things they have no control over?

Here's one of many non-sequitor statements you've made. "Receiving the gospel is not a free will choice, but a command." So you're saying that a command never involves a free will choice? Better yet, lets see how the gospel is presented and see if choice is never implied.

For example consider the response to Peter's presentation of the gospel in Acts 2:38-40

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off— for all whom the Lord our God will call." With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation."
Doubt I've ever hear such a statement from a Calvinist. In fact if it weren't in the Bible I would think this would be heresy to a Calvinist. Not only is Peter indicating a choice, but even that they can take action to save themselves!

How does Paul and Silas answer the question, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ" Acts 16:30,31 But in contrast to Paul's answer would you rather say, "There's nothing you can do to be saved. There's no choice. It's all fatalistic. God has either chosen you to be saved or  chosen you to be damned and you're just a puppet without any free will."

You ask,
How about those who perish without hearing the Gospel?

Answer: They will be judged based on their behavior. But if you're really into the Calvinistic doctrine what about unbelieving infants of Christians who are baptized? Do you reckon such children may be saved, not having heard the gospel?

And by the way Eph 2:3 "we were by nature objects of wrath" is contrary to Calvinistic doctrine which teaches that the elect were never objects of wrath since that would mean that God changed his mind about them. But since under Calvinism God never changes his mind therefore they were never actually objects of wrath, contrary to what the Bible says.

As for "faith a gift", Saving faith is a gift given in a synergistic sense, not a monergistic sense. See http://www.bcbsr.com/topics/faithagift.html

Then you speak of unity essentially trying to push the idea that Christians should be united around Calvinistic Theology. Thanks, I'll go with Biblical Theology instead. In fact I find Calvinists some of the most divisive and denominationally oriented of Christians.

Then you argue:
If you believe that the atoning work of Christ is intended for all, God cannot be sovereign because many perish.  You believe God cannot accomplish what he intended.  Why, is he a weak an anemic god?

The God of the Bible "wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." 1Tim 2:4 And "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16 But not eveyone will be saved.

Does the Bible indicate that what God wants is always accomplished? No. When you sin are you acting according to God's will or contrary to God's will? Or if you answer in the affirmative then is it not written, "The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever." 1John 2:17  But if you affirm that people can do nothing but the will of God, then you interpret this to mean that everyone will be saved?

While Calvinists appear to view the God of the Bible as a "weak anemic god", the weak anemic god of Calvinism is incapable of creating free will creatures. He's a puppet master playing with people like Barbi dolls.  Some he arbitrarily throws into the fire in the name of "justice". Though no actual justice is exercise since they had no choice to begin with. Some he loves and makes a Barbi doll house for them. But such is only a "love" for an inanimate object. There is no "grace" in such love.

I think I chose to believe in the God of the Bible rather than the "god" of Calvinism. Thank you very much.

Steve Amato
The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources



The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Jul 29,2015