Let's be reasonable with one another, shall we?

Monday, October 03, 2005

Something that I have been thinking about and I want to know what others think about ... DEBATING CALVINISM

Should I read this book?
... Is it worth the time?

In the first year I was saved, I read through the Bible once, and started it a second time when I latched onto a certain radio Bible teacher that helped me a lot. There was one subject that he brought up that I hadn’t really thought about while studying the Bible on my own: the Bible's teaching on predestination. He talked about the differing ideas of freewill and election (while never mentioning the acrostic TULIP) and then he said that his conclusion was simple: BOTH predestination and free will are true … we just can’t understand completely how they work together. He used the illustration of walking through a door that says “whosoever will” on one side, and then after you walk through, looking back at the same door from the inside and above it, you read “chosen from the foundation of the world”. I guess he implied it was a mystery. (Having been so turned off by the many “mysteries” in the church I grew up in), I’m surprised I did, but I accepted this viewpoint. I never really thought about it much after that. If I came to a verse that suggested predestination, I would surrender myself to being too feeble of mind (as a human being) to grasp so great a perplexity. Don't get me wrong, I am not afraid of doctrine, I really enjoy digging deep into the Word of God and finding His treasures.


A friend of my husband brought it up to us and was stressing its importance. My husband, John, told me he had thought about it a lot before, and was ready and willing to help me understand. He hadn’t placed much importance on it, and in all of our discussions we had never dealt with this subject extensively. We had never debated it. John then told me how he was a four-point Calvinist. I was a little confused about what this all meant, so he gave me the small paperback simply entitled “TULIP”. I read this book and it completely floored me. How could people really believe this? I had been studying the Bible and was sure that Christ had died for all of mankind ... and that His invitation had gone out to all ... and that they would all be responsible to respond ... which they were completely able to do ... so therefore would be without excuse … and on and on.

The only two points I could accept were the first and last because I do believe that people have nothing good to offer God and because I could see, in scripture, that Christ would not lose one saved one (I’m simplifying a little here). I thought of all my lost loved ones that seemed so defiant toward the true gospel and I was quite disturbed … were they unable to repent and be saved … would God create these people with no chance of redemption? What kind of a person was He? I was so pale over this…it even caused me to doubt the goodness of God, which is a sickening thing for a child of God to do.

I talked to my husband about this nightly for months as I tried to reason through it. I never became convinced because of the verses on the other side that were contradicting this teaching that was so new to me. I cannot stress enough how disturbing this was to my soul because of the truth that I feared might be there, and what it implied about my loving God. (I wonder if other people have experienced anything like that).

Then I read a book…Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom by Samuel Fisk. It really helped me to, once again, put this thing in the “mystery” column while understanding that predestination is for the Christian (Romans 8:29). I began to see the predestinated ones as more of a group that was open, not individuals predestined to join that group. It seemed like once a person was born-again (by responding to the drawing of the HS, he would then be predestined for all that God had in store for His church). Anyways, I was content with this understanding and put it all back to bed.

Then I found the blogosphere.

Dave Mullins posted some articles about it and I found Jeremy (who is a very patient person) with his series on TULIP. This brought me to a new concern over TULIP. I am not deeply disturbed as before, but I just don’t understand why this is so important to so many people that they have embraced it with such abandon. So I guess you could say…I am open to some more scriptural reasoning.

Someone suggested a book, “Debating Calvinism”. But I am a little torn…is this worth my time and energy? My brother, Pat, recently was saved and we were talking about doctrine and how Christians sometimes disagree … I told him I was in the disagreement last summer with Dave Mullins (who had been meeting with my brother when he was born again) over TULIP. My brother didn’t know what TULIP was, so I briefly explained the debate. Pat is very much evangelism-minded as a new Christian, wanting to tell the world of the joy of salvation and the deliverance from sin's penalty. His response got me thinking … he told me he thought this was a great distraction which Satan was using to draw our eyes off of what is important in our Christian lives. Hmmm … out of the mouth of babes … what do you think?


  • As a general rule of thumb, I think you should have enough of a background in all aspects of the Word of God to have an opinion about that particular aspect. It's there for a reason.
    While it is true that some things do not reach the level of importance like faith and repentance, the deity of Christ, or the Trinity, we still must recognize that God has not revealed things in the Bible in order to have them remain a mystery. Otherwise, what's the point of revealing them in the first place?

    By Blogger Jeremy Weaver, at 10/03/2005 11:07 PM  

  • Jeremy, say that again, real slow. you said,

    As a general rule of thumb, I think you should have enough of a background in all aspects of the Word of God to have an opinion about that particular aspect.

    I'm not sure what you are trying to say to me.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/03/2005 11:30 PM  

  • Hi Rose,

    This is a subject I've thought about very extensively for a long time. You know about the five points of TULIP, which are often used to define Calvinism. These five points were given in reponse to the five points of Arminianism, in the remonstrance.

    Having looked over both views, I've reached the conclusion that they're both wrong. I'm oversimplifying, but here's why I say so.

    Calvinism is founded on the premise that man is totally deparved. If you believe that, then you must honestly agree with the remaining four points in turn. Arminisnism believes man is depraved, yes, but still able to respond with a saving faith. If you beieve that, you must honestly agree with their following points as well.

    The trouble is, that both premises make man the focal point of this question, and God is merely responding to man. And that is simply not the case. We know that Christ Himslef has the preeminence in all things. Consider:

    We know that the Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world, before man was even created. So when man was later created and fell, it fit within a broader framework that God had already establish, in the purpose He already begun through Christ.

    So in other words, God's purpose in glorifying Himself through Jesus alone is the real beginning point of this question, and this is the real mystery we need to be searching out. And the rest will follow from there.

    This is something you'll have to think about because it is deep. But let's start with Calvinism as the more familiar example, and I'll try to make my point:

    Calvinism says God foreknew us. God chose us. God predestined us. God saved us. God insures our perseverance. But what I'm seeing here is a system, not necessarily a relationship. Where does Jesus fit in . . . except to fascilitate the system?

    And of course, I don't mean to imply that Arminianism is better, because it's not. It, too, is a systematic belief. So do we put our faith in a plan of salvation, or in a Person of salvation? In my opinion, it comes down to that.

    I have to go and do some other things now, but let me leave you with some links if you're interested.

    First, if we really look for Jesus in the passages that speak of election, predestination, etc, how would that change our understanding of those events, and their essential meaning? For more on that, click here.

    Second, how would a truly Christ-centered perspective effect our understanding on the question of assurance? For elaboration on that, click here.

    Those are both blog links, so feel free to comment on anythign you find there. And I'll try to come back to this a little later.

    By Blogger loren, at 10/04/2005 3:23 PM  

  • Rose,

    There is a segment of Christianity that likes to delve into areas which, on the surface SEEM controversial, but which, when delved into turn out to actually BE controversial. Then they like to pretend that they understand the un-understandable better than others, who likewise think THEY understand.

    In my five 1/2 trips through God's word in study mode I have discovered that there are many things I just can't get my mind around.

    But this I KNOW: 100% of it is about Jesus; Jesus is all-suffecient and that's enough for me.

    If I could understand all of the aspects of God, I would BE God and neither of us would want that.

    Stay true to what you DO understand, and trust the rest to Him and I promise, because God promised, that everything will work out for the good.

    By Blogger Joe, at 10/04/2005 5:05 PM  

  • I guess I'm trying to say that even though we are finite creatures unable to grasp the infinite, that we should make an effort to understand what we can, as I know you are already doing.

    We will never understand the Trinity. But at the same time since the Trinity is revealed in Scripture, we should have some opinion of how the Trinity works. Not an opinion for the sake of opinion, but an opinion of what we believe the Bible teaches about the Trinity.

    In the same way everyone agrees that election is a biblical concept. Since it is a biblical concept we should believe something about it. I am not saying to become a Calvinist. I am saying, study Scripture and read what others have to say about the topic, find their reasons for believing what they believe, weigh all arguments against Scripture and make up your mind.
    Don't settle for a mystery.

    By Blogger Jeremy Weaver, at 10/04/2005 6:05 PM  

  • Wow, three wise men and it's not even close to Christmas!

    I appreciate all of your visits and all of your words.

    Thanks for clarifying - it sounded different than what you meant, so I'm glad I asked. You are right ... we should gather all the info available and come to the best understanding we can of any given Bible subject ... but I still say its OK, after that, to accept the un-understandableness (why isn't that a word?) of certain concepts. Thanks for coming over and God bless you! :~)

    Your comments are very interesting. I need to think about them some more. I always say we shouldn't try to put God in a box, but you are so much more eloquent about it than that. As far as the man-centered theology-Christ centered theology issue that you brought up, I have heard that concern from several people, and I just want to say:
    I (and I'm sure most Bible believers) totally recognize that God is the pre-eminent one, Christ was with God way before man was on the block ... but WE are human and when we talk about soteriology, there's no escaping the fact that we want to understand how WE fit into the mind and plan of God. It is just very relevant to us.

    May I say very kindly to you, (does that ring a bell?) I'm glad I'm not the only one with the limited mind! The truth of your first paragraph is why this subject has sometimes caused me to get quite irate. I also thank God for Jesus because I believe that He is a wonderful saviour to have laid down his life for His friends ... and given us a new life with which to rest in Him, not wrest one another over how He did it. Thanks for your encouragement!

    Here is my decision then: I will read the book, but I won't lose any sleep over it.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/04/2005 9:48 PM  

  • Oh, and just to clarify...I have been a Christian for 19 years and first heard of TULIP 9 years ago.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/05/2005 4:51 PM  

  • Three wise men or three wise guys?

    I had never heard of TULIP until I began blogging.

    I also thought that one's Christianity did not really count until entering the blogosphere.

    I could have been wrong about that, though.

    By Blogger Joe, at 10/05/2005 5:18 PM  

  • Joe, I perceive that you have a good sense of humor ... the blogoshere is blessed because you have been a blogger.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/05/2005 10:47 PM  

  • Rose,

    I remember not enjoying calvinists when I was younger 20s thinking they were so hard to talk to and such.

    To me I would not get much of anything out of a book on debating as I don't find much use to it. To me for example, if I want to find out a topic debating books tend to sometimes just twist each others words and then have funny disagreement. To me the way we should view scripture is delighting and seeing the greatness of God and his grace to save sinners. Start from the scriptures and trust God there and ponder them for long periods of time.

    Here's some random thoughts. I struggled with this stuff starting from the scriptures in my own theological studies about 4 years ago. I was 26 years old, I'm 30 years old.

    I remember remember pondering Romans 9 so much and other confusing text but Romans 9 confused me the most and thinking about the someone's commentary on it that was very interesting and kept me searching.

    I was pretty sleepless for about 2 weeks straight exploring this and seeing the picture God was painting in the scriptures and just reading and praying and asking God to give me wisdom and reading different opinions a bit once in awhile and looking up the topic in the context of the scripture it was in, etc. In reality, this was a really really hard time for me in many ways, very trying and stretching of my faith and teaching me to trust God all over again.

    I think back on this as a time that God had been molding me with the scriptures to think about the biblical evidences, etc. I think back on this time as such a glorious time in my walk with God that during the time it seemed so hard, but the fruit of that struggle with the scripture has been so helpful to me and my family, obviously i have problems, but God used all of the scriptures to really mold me into someone fascinated with Christ and His Word to keep me looking to Him.

    After the ability to sleep, it then began a few months struggle of trying to grasp the sovereignty of God and the depravity of man, and the perfect grace we have in Christ. I saw a new picture of scripture.

    This was very helpful to me as I began seeing the true nature of our depravity and my own total dependence on God for all aspects of salvation and how totally dead I was apart from grace given to me. The truth is no one actually seeks God in and of himself and it truly takes a work of marvelous grace.

    Thankfully God had this happen to me because God used that time to really get me searching the scriptures on election and sovereignty. The fact is God is a Sovereign God and it is all over the scriptures, but many times we can be loopsided in our faith and I would be afraid of that as well.

    Be a man of the book is all I can say or a woman of the book, pondering long the theology that is in there and all aspects of salvation.

    God used much of this time on the sovereignty of God and the study of salvation to help me write much of my website called


    By Blogger Shawn L, at 10/05/2005 11:21 PM  

  • Rose,

    You said yur husband was a four-point Calvinist. Which point does he disagree with?

    By Blogger loren, at 10/05/2005 11:58 PM  

  • Shawn,
    Thank you for your comments. I do and have always believed in the soveriegnty of God, I just tend to look at His control over mankind a little differently than you guys. I think He, in His soveriegnty, wanted to give us a certain freedom so we could have a relationship with Him. BTW, I have now come to enjoy talking with Calvinists...I don't get so upset by it all so easily.

    Also, you're right no one should ever be "loopsided" in their faith, one way or the other. :~)

    I would have to let me husband tackle that one. I must not speak for him in this case. Maybe he'll enter a comment.

    Jeremy, if you are reading this,
    I promise you, I have no idea who "Juan the Concerned" is! Promise.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/06/2005 7:44 AM  

  • Rose,

    I didn't mean to imply that you didn't believe in the Sovereignty of God, but more explaining my view is that the source of these conversations should start with and finish in the scriptures. Mostly trying to show the story of my life and such and how the scriptures really came alive to me in this type of study as for about the first 10 years of my christian life I just tossed everything up to "well we can't know any of that stuff" and it actually seriously confused me when I read the scriptures.

    To me I seriously shy away from debating books because they don't always help the body focus on the scriptures but more on straw man arguments back and forth at times.

    I think it should be more like sharpening iron and growing together in the scriptures.

    By Blogger Shawn L, at 10/06/2005 10:53 AM  

  • Shawn, actually, let me very briefly clarify that a little at the risk of boring those with whom I have already discussed this. I probably mean something different than you do by God's Soveriegnty. If what you mean is TULIP, then I don't believe the Bible supports that. It seems to in some places, (but not in others) so I can see why people are prone to go along with it. I don't go along with it, and here are my REASONS stated as pithily (is that a word?) as I can: I just don't see the scripture saying that God chose certain people to receive Him regardless of our response to Him(thereby not allowing others to do so - the "U").

    [CHOOSING US TO RECEIVE HIM- isn't that concept oxymoronic?]

    I don't see the scripture saying that Christ died for a limited ("L") number of people ... rather, QUITE the opposite. And I also don't see the scripture saying that there is no way to resist salvation. ("I") I think plenty of people resist God's grace and I find that in the scriptures.

    So I guess I am a two-point Calvinist. (what a ridiculous label!) Maybe. Anyways, I am okay with the fact that some Christians accept TULIP, but I don't understand why they do. I cannot see it in God's Word that he has not given a chance to all of the lost sinners that He created. But I do recognize that all will NOT be saved, so it seems the missing piece must be our response to His free gift of salvation. "Whosoever will" is a dear phrase in scripture to me.

    The bottom line is, I don't understand the workings of the mind of God and I am still learning. I do know the gospel by which I was saved, and like Joe said, that is good enough for me. God bless all you Calvinists!

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/06/2005 10:54 AM  

  • Shawn our comments crossed eachother in cyberspace! I want you to know I appreciate yours and I also think the Word of God is supreme over any man-made acrostic (like Loren said). Thanks for visiting and commenting.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/06/2005 10:57 AM  

  • Rose~
    A few years ago someone looked at one of my bookshelves and with a concerned look, said to me, "John, don't you read anything just for fun?" I don't remember what answer I gave back then, but today I would say "Yes! Debating Calvinism by these two saints: St.James and St. Dave!" It's not a waste of time if you're doing it for fun ... you may even learn something from both traditions along the way and be blessed. I sometimes think we "Fundamentalists" take ourselves too seriously and have lost the art or common humor to laugh at ourselves and enjoy that we are different. I have enjoyed controversy and even "confrontationalism" because of the spirit of the brotherhood. I love the spirit of those who love our Lord, and His people, even if we don't understand Christ the same way. It is so much more satisfying than trying to reason with unregenerate religionists, propagating humanism in the name of Christianity.

    Loren- One day if the Lord permits I will do post on that. For a cliff hanger, let me just say I had, at one time, been almost an Armenian (the daisy) ... and at another time, closer to a 8 or 9 point Calvinist (the Tulip Tree). But I'm really not as flaky as that sounds. :)

    Enjoying salvation,
    brother John

    By Blogger J. Wendell, at 10/06/2005 11:24 PM  

  • Hi John,

    Looking forward to your article. And I appreciate your attitude in discussing it with others!

    By Blogger loren, at 10/07/2005 3:29 PM  

  • Hi Rose,

    I've looked at this book. If you want to see a classic straw-man caricature of Calvinism--then read the book; Dave Hunt does an excellent job at this!

    I'm not a TULIP supporter, but there are much better/constructive ways of dialoging around this issue--than provided by Hunt. BTW, I'm not an Arminian either. What am I? Maybe a semi-Augustinian ;). . . what an interesting game (theology); with serious consequences.

    By Blogger BAG, at 10/10/2005 7:28 PM  

  • Hi Bob,
    I like your profile pic! It sounds like you don't like Dave Hunt much. I have, before, gotten a lot out of his writings. I have never read the other guy, so it should be interesting. My husband is reading the book and then I am going to. Thanks for stopping by. I am going to read some of your posts soon. I need a little time, I think, because I perceive it is not "light reading"! I need time to concentrate, but I have you bookmarked. I have gone over there about 3 times now, but haven't read much because of the length/time factor.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/11/2005 1:10 AM  

  • You've got a fun blog!

    God bless you as you write and explore.

    By Blogger Earl, at 10/11/2005 11:13 PM  

  • Earl,
    You've chosen an odd place to comment that my blog is fun. But thanks for the visit. :~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/13/2005 12:01 PM  

  • Some good thoughts, Rose. I have read Samuel Fisk's book. I think it is good, but a Calvinist friend of mine thinks it is not that good.

    God Bless

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 10/13/2005 12:31 PM  

  • Rose,
    I read Dave Hunt's book "WHAT LOVE IS THIS" and was put off by his straw-man characature of Calvinism.
    James White, on the other hand, is a Doctor of Theology and is very carefull in his handling of scripture. Enjoy the book.

    By Blogger bluecollar, at 10/14/2005 12:19 PM  

  • The whole subject of TULIP is very depressing to me. I need to be careful about getting involved in things that disturb my soul ... like the blogosphere! I may read it, I just can't figure out if it is truly a subject that matters so much to me.

    I have to weigh this:
    the truth of God's Word and what He has given me to understand
    a sectarian doctrine that is not essential (which is what it seems TULIP is).

    So if it is the latter, and it disturbs the peace of Christ in my heart, is it really good to continue thinking about it?
    Thanks for your comment.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/14/2005 12:33 PM  

  • Hi,

    I'm glad you're determined not to let anyone steal your joy. And you can take what I say with a grain of salt because I'm very much a partisan on theology.

    Once when I went to hear John MacArthur speak, there was a guy handing out flyers with strange-sounding (to me)quotes from a MacArthur book. Long story short I read books on both sides (of the lorship salvation controversy)and became a huge Zane Hodges and Free Grace fan. Hodges loves God's word and believes in it, that it can be trusted, including John 3:16. He believes that Christ died for all men, and that everyone is invited/commanded to believe. And he is against the Calvinist/Lordship (Hodges calls it all Neo-Puritanism)idea that faith is a work(!) so no one can believe who is not already born again--meaning they make regeneration preceed faith!

    On God's sovereignty and election, Hodges holds the middle-knowledge view, a view which I also find helpful. It retains the idea that we are chosen, and that others are savable, even if they don't in fact believe. (I think the Calvinists call the middle-knowledge idea 'the best possible world' view, and beleive it doesn't do justice to God's sovereignty. But IMO it does.) Basically the middle-knowledge view is the idea that before God created everything he most likely didn't sit there thinking for a while before he could come up with ideas that would work, that's too much like how limited humans behave. Instead God already knew intimately the incredibly vast number of different elaborate scenarios possible. His knowledge of all these different possibilities is called middle-knowledge. God then chose one of them. And when he made that choice, he foreknew who would believe and yes he chose the version of history where you and I believed. So he did chose us as well as foreknowing us. This means that my gut feeling that I'm free, that I have free will, is accurate. And John 3:16 is real, because whoever believes is saved. And we can be excited about getting the word out that Jesus is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!

    The Christian scholar and philosopher William Lane Craig is famous for explaining it and advocating it. Hodges has written about it in passing. In a footnote he has written that... 'God can instantaneously take account of an infinite number of possible scenarios and could ordain precisely that scenario in which His will is completely worked out within a cosmos containing actual free will.'

    Anyway, don't let anyone steal your joy, but be a Berean and search the Scriptures; shrug off the anti-doctrine Evangelicals.

    At this web page there is a review of Debating Calvinism:

    The reviewer says that Hunt writes that because Christ became sin (2 Cor 5:21), 'there is no way that Christ could pay the penalty for only a select group of sinners' (p. 194). Good point &'Why do Calvinists, in spite of so many Scriptures to the contrary, insist that God must sovereignly regenerate sinners before they know and believe the gospel? The answer is simple: If this were not the case, three of TULIP’s five points would collapse: total depravity, unconditional election, and irresistible grace. The totally depraved are unable to believe and therefore must be regenerated without faith. Nor would unconditional election or irresistible grace be necessary if the unregenerate could believe the gospel'

    You can also listen to a 50 min. debate between Bob Wilkin & James White.
    Look for the title, 'Debate with Dr. White on Perseverance of the Saints' on this page:

    By Blogger H K Flynn, at 11/05/2005 9:25 PM  

  • Rose,

    Thank you for your heart-felt musings. I, too, have struggled with the same issues.

    I have come to some very solid understandings concerning TULIP, and I reject them all.

    People cannot really understand what TULIP is by the mere explaining of the acrostic.

    Like the first, TOTAL DEPRAVITY. When a Calvinist uses these terms they do not merely mean that sin has affected all humanity and that we are spiritually separated from God. No. When they talk about total depravity, what they really mean is the SUPPOSED FRUIT of total depravity, vis-a-vis TOTAL INABILITY. They say that man cannot even believe in Christ in the gospel message that is to be delivered to all! They say that man is UNABLE to believe in Christ! What PISH-POSH.

    Sure, I believe in depravity! The Bible teaches that. I do not believe in the supposed fruit of it, total inability.

    You see, be careful with Calvinism. Their teachings at first are subtle, like a cult, not giving the full extent of what they believe (only giving the light side of it) while holding back the dark side of Calvinism.

    Perseverance of the Saints is another sly phrase. What Calvinists really teach here is that faithful obedience is NECESSARY for ultimate salvation. They say out of one side of the mouth that salvation is free apart from works, then on the other side make ultimate salvation contingent on faithful obedience for life.

    Their doctrine of perseverance of the saints is not the same thing as eternal security (OSAS). I believe in eternal security, but the Calvinist believes in perseverance.

    Don't get sucked up into Calvinism. It is a hole not easily dug out of.

    Antonio da Rosa

    By Blogger Antonio, at 11/06/2005 11:23 PM  

  • Rose,
    What I found when confronted with God's sovereignty and the doctrines of Grace is to leave the arm chair christian books alone and go back to the men whom studied God's word by candlelight and where not involved the world like A.W. Pink, Mr. Spurgeon, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Jonathan Edwards, B.B. Warfield, etc... They where not in the business of writing books for a living and tickling the ears of the people. These men where truly passionate about Jesus and His saving of His people. It is hard getting past the flesh but once you see just how sovereign the Almighty is it really becomes comforting. It has nothing to do with TULIP or Calvin. He was only one man amongst many. Men like Dave Hunt play on passions which can be deceiving. Pray that the God of the universe will give you wisdom and eyes to see. God bless you Rose and your passion for the truth.

    John Gipson

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/01/2006 7:13 PM  

  • Rose, I really enjoy your blog. You've received a lot of good thoughts here. I really liked the illustration about the door with words written on both sides. I think that is how I view it myself.

    By Anonymous janna, at 3/05/2006 6:31 PM  

  • John,
    Thanks for the comment. I can "hear" that you have a passion about this subject. Yes, I pray that God will open my eyes to see more of His marvelous Grace!

    Thanks for visiting! How nice to have a lady stop by! I will come around and look at your blog soon. God bless you.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 3/06/2006 1:39 PM  

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