Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Calvinist Grand Quandary

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on August 28, 2014

PPT Handle“At any rate, the very attempt by Calvinists to evangelize places them in a twofold grand quandary that requires the abandonment of rudimentary logic.”

“But in contrast, if God’s choice over our choice is the crux of the gospel, that crux must be explained in order for the presentation itself to be a true gospel.”    

At the 2008 T4G conference, John MacArthur Jr. officially came out of the closet as a bonafide New Calvinist. He did this because he was convinced by John Piper and others that New Calvinism is Old Calvinism. MacArthur signed up because it’s true, and he was unwilling to reject Reformation tradition. Apparently, only other-than Anglo Saxon can be deceived en masse.

MacArthur’s keynote address was titled, The Sinner Neither Able Nor Willing: The Doctrine of Absolute Inability. MacArthur was converted from his Lordship Salvation escapades of the late 80’s by the New Calvinist camp. According to a pastor I knew at the time, Michael Horton and others challenged MacArthur to rethink the controversy he had started. The result is MacArthur still affirming Lordship, but as a manifestation rather than actions of new creaturehood. I recently completed a series explaining all of the confused controversy in regard to the Lordship Salvation issue.

At any rate, the very attempt by Calvinists to evangelize places them in a twofold grand quandary that requires the abandonment of rudimentary logic.

I have written before about the Gospel of Sovereignty. Any ability at all on the part of mankind is a slight against God’s sovereignty. This is the hypothesis of MacArthur’s aforementioned messages. Hence, the “good news” is man’s “absolute” inability and God’s sovereignty. MacArthur’s primary text was John 3:1-8…

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

MacArthur stated during his messages that when the gospel is presented we must make it clear that people can only do one thing in response to the gospel: ask for salvation, and then wait to see if the wind blows or not. So, it is not a decision, often maligned in Reformed circles as “decisionism,” or a choice. Either suggests ability on the part of the individual to make a decision for God or to choose God; ability and God’s sovereignty are mutually exclusive. If man can choose, or make a decision, God ceases to be God.

This qualifies a fair challenge to all Calvinists: “Do you make it absolutely clear in your gospel presentation that people have no ability to choose God?” If they do not do this, if this is not qualified, they are presenting a false gospel by their own definition. Why? The truthfulness of their gospel must be verified by the certainty that the individual does not assume they have a choice or can make a decision.

Most Calvinists get around this by replying that people are being called on to believe only, not make a decision or a choice. However, it also stands to reason that belief itself is a choice. When we are presented with a proposition, we DECIDE to believe it or not believe it. In all fairness, according to their own definitions, Calvinists must make this distinction clear in their gospel presentation. Let’s face it; few do if they evangelize at all. In fact, when Calvinists are cornered with this question, they immediately start acting like a toddler who needs to use the bathroom. Basically, they know that the lack of this distinction in their actual gospel presentation is telling. Their presentation is supposedly purified by the absence of information.

On another wise, Calvinists are also admitting that they are asking for a mere mental assent to acknowledging that God saves people. The Bible states that part and parcel with belief is the acceptance that God exists and is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Obviously, among the unbelieving, there are those who reject the existence of God altogether, and those who believe in His existence, but don’t want anything to do with Him. Is the wind only blowing halfway in those cases? Are there three different wind advisories? None, moderate, and gale force? Furthermore, if people have no ability to choose, is a decision to choose Buddha over Allah made for them? The logic seems to be that man can indeed choose, but will only choose other gods unless God intervenes—if they understand that they have no ability to choose.

If we give this whole construct merit to this point, we further find that the definition of faith must be a mere mental accent to the facts of the gospel with an intentional non-response; any response must be from the blowing wind. MacArthur stated in the same messages that we know  Nicodemus was saved because “the wind blew” referring to his righteous actions.

Hence, if the Calvinist gospel is not false by their own definition, it must be presented as follows:

“God saves people, and you may be one of them and you may not be one of them, but if you are able to choose, God is not sovereign, and you are trusting in your own ability to choose.”

Unwittingly, some Calvinists say it is alright if people initially think they are able to choose, but later understand that it wasn’t their choice. So, it is alright if they initially trust in their decision in order to receive the gift of salvation from God, but later realize this was not the case at all. So at what point were they really saved? And would not sooner be better than later? Why not tell them from the get-go? This implies a cult-like procedure that misrepresents the truth, and then slowly indoctrinates the individual to a just standing. Others suggest that the evangelist should never state that it is their decision, but rather cite Scriptures that imply such—that way, apparently, it is the Holy Spirit lying instead of you. But nevertheless, what the individual believes about choice is uncertain unless clarified.

In the final analysis, everyone but the recipient of the gospel knows they have no real choice, but thinking they have a choice might be necessary to get them into the kingdom. But in contrast, if God’s choice over our choice is the crux of the gospel, that crux must be explained in order for the presentation itself to be a true gospel.

Add to this the definition of “believe” in the Bible. In the Bible, “believe” is never defined as a mere mental assent to the facts of the gospel; it also involves a commitment to kingdom living. More than not, it was the “gospel of the kingdom” that was preached by Christ and the apostles. As I explained in the Lordship series, it is impossible for the execution of the commitment to save you because justification and sanctification are completely separate. But clearly, a response to the gospel must include a decision to leave life A for life B. The follow-through doesn’t save you, the decision saves you. Because of the weakness of the flesh, love for God’s ways will vary in application, but you are not only choosing a savior; He is also Lord.

Consequently, Calvinists insist that repentance be left out of the gospel presentation for this reason—it calls on the individual to choose a different way. In the book of Acts, Christianity is referred to as “The Way” in several places. This is more information that must be excluded from the Calvinist gospel in order to make it true by their own definition. Therefore, in order for their gospel to be truthfully presented by their own definition…

“God saves people. If He saved you, you will live differently. The wind will blow, but it’s not your choice, do you believe this? And by the way, don’t change your life to prove to yourself  God saved you, that’s fruit stapling. If you believe, that’s great, but now you must wait to see if the wind blows. The Christian life is a Sabbath rest.”

Anything less than this in a Calvinist gospel presentation is a false gospel by their own definition.

And let us not forget, in Calvinist post salvation status, the wind keeps on blowing, or not. It is undeniable that Calvin himself believed in three classes of people: the non-elect, the called, and those who persevere. Said another way: no wind at all, those who are temporarily enlightened (the wind stops), and the ones who get a steady wind to the end.

There is only one way Calvinism can be feasible; logic must be completely divorced from the Bible.

paul

8 Responses

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  1. paulspassingthoughts said, on August 28, 2014 at 7:06 AM

    Reblogged this on Clearcreek Chapel Watch.

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  2. paulspassingthoughts said, on August 28, 2014 at 2:06 PM

    My daughter sent me a note about this post today. When she was in our former church’s youth group, this was the same mantra: choice circumvents God’s sovereignty. BUT, again, that’s post conversion. How many Calvinists make it clear in their gospel presentation to the one being evangelized that they have no choice and their final destiny is uncertain. Most say that you don’t tell them that upfront–they learn it later.

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  3. paulspassingthoughts said, on August 28, 2014 at 4:07 PM

    …which by their OWN definition makes it a false presentation, no? If man can choose, he/she is participating in their own salvation–they are partly saved by their choice…THAT IS their argument.

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  4. paulspassingthoughts said, on August 28, 2014 at 4:50 PM

    I guess the question for them is; were they saved when they originally committed to Christ, or later when they realized it was never their choice?

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  5. Carmen S. said, on August 28, 2014 at 9:04 PM

    The Calvinists have admitted that “good grammar makes for bad theology”. Yet, everyday I must read grammatically to honestly understand what I have read. I was sitting here an hour ago with the thought going through my head, “Why would God not write to me grammatically?”

    I realize it’s loaded language to place the word “gospel” in front of every word possible. How can I disagree with the gospel? To make everything cross-centered doesn’t mess with my mind because I also think about His resurrection. But to make everything “Christrocentric”…this messes with my mind. How can I be against Christ?

    A second thought pops into my mind. If I read the Bible grammatically it means something totally different than if I read it Redemptive-Historical? Why would God write to me in a special code? He wouldn’t. Where would this come from then? It didn’t come from Calvin, Luther, Augustine or Plato.

    Ephesians 6:12

    Sometimes things just have to hit you at a gut level.

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  6. Lydia said, on August 30, 2014 at 4:58 PM

    “But to make everything “Christrocentric”…this messes with my mind. How can I be against Christ?”

    And if Christ is God then what is the difference? They subtly make Jesus into a different and lesser god. I was talking to a professor last Sunday when I visted a small country church that is NOT into all this evangelical madness and how a larger picture of “God with us” is needed. He pointed out that in the story of Moses birth and adoption by pharaoh’s daughter, God is not mentioned. However, if we look at the Hebrew word for the “basket” Moses was put in by his mother, it is the same word as used for Noah’s ark. A sort of safety vessel. And those are the only two places it is used. I thought that was beautiful. Although I have not checked it out. He is a prof of Hebrew at a very small seminary that is post evangelical and he was willing to come and speak at a rural country church that will not help him in a career since he is in his 70’s. :o) It was most enjoyable to speak with someone like that.

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  7. […] The Calvinist Grand Quandary. […]

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