Saturday, April 6, 2013

Why I'm Not a Calvinist

Calvinism/Reformed Christianity is all the rage nowadays:  the belief that humans have no free will, and that God predestines some to be saved and some to be separated from Him forever, and that He only died for those He "elects" (chooses for salvation), whom He draws to Himself by irresistible grace.

I have never been able to believe this.  Not that I just don't want to believe it.  I literally can't.

It's also not that I think I am incapable of error or that I have this perfect grasp of spiritual truth.  But the person I am, with the best heart attitude I can ascribe to and the best reasoning powers I can summon, has to believe in human free will.

Here's the way I see it. 

If God alone is responsible for saving humans, and humans really have nothing whatsoever to do with it-- then all He would have to do to save all human beings is exercise irresistible grace, and they would have to be saved. Oh, I know all the arguments about how we all deserve eternal separation from God*, and it's gracious enough of God if He just chooses to save some.

But to me, it's not. Not gracious enough. 

God created human beings-- all human beings.  If God holds humans responsible for their salvation, then they have to be capable of choosing salvation.  If they are incapable of choosing salvation, then their fate, whatever it is, is God's responsibility.

If humans are incapable of resisting His saving grace, then He is responsible for not saving them all, since it's completely within His power to do so, and no one else has any say in the matter. It's not a matter of what we humans deserve so much as a matter of impartiality in justice, and completeness in mercy. I can't believe that God exercises partiality in justice and limited mercy.  I can believe God could be infinitely better than I am able to conceive; I cannot believe that He could be worse.  That I, who love my children equally and would never set one up to receive my love and the best inheritance I can leave her, while consigning the other to total abandonment, could in my refusal to do this, be better than the God I worship.

But this doesn't mean I think humans can save themselves. (Non-Calvinists are often accused of believing this, but it isn't true.)  I don't think there's anything we can do or add to God's grace in order to be saved.  But I don't think grace is irresistible.

I think we can't come to God unless He draws us-- but when He draws us, we can choose to come towards Him, or resist and insist we don't want God. Simple as that. I think the image of God remains in us, distorted though it may be by sin. We are capable of responding to the Holy Spirit's influence for good, though incapable of moving towards the good on our own. But there are moments in our lives-- probably many, many more than one, for each of us-- where God draws us towards Himself, and that act of drawing suspends us momentarily between good and evil, allowing us to be capable of choosing -- either giving in to the drawing of God, or falling back towards wrong. He alone can make us free to choose, but He does make us free, and the choice is ours.

Could not God have enough skill and finesse to move a human heart into a state balanced between two choices so that we are in that moment free to make a choice?  Is God really incapable of drawing human beings gently enough that they don't have to come?

The idea that we have nothing whatsoever to do with it, that it's all God and there is no free will, as far as I can see, turns God into something awful. I have examined the argument that God's justice is so high above ours that what looks like injustice to us, really isn't; but I can't buy that-- especially for we who are redeemed. We can see what justice is-- and if it totally looks like something else, even after our eyes are opened to God's ways-- how can we call it justice? A God who makes creatures, claims to love them all, and then refuses to save some, is not a God of love or justice. I have tried, but the Reformed perspective simply makes no sense to me. In fact, it seems like an example of what Michael Spenser was talking about in his iMonk post, "More, Better, Most, Highest":

What I see happening . . . is an escalation of terms into the potentially useless. . . And the person willing to say the most, to make the highest claim. . . feels justifiably proud that he's climbed further out on the limb of faith than anyone else. . . 

We're justified by faith, right? Not works? Not any kind of works?

Not by saying "I believe in justification" MORE and LOUDER and with BIGGER WORDS and MORE ARGUMENTS than the other guy?


The language of the Reformed seems like that to me.  Do we believe grace alone saves us? Apart from any works? I mean ANY works? The highest we can go is to believe that it is somehow a "work" even to just give in when God draws us-- and therefore we can't even believe in humans just giving in to God, as part of grace.  No, He has to cause us to give in, or it's not grace.  But I don't think it's necessary to go that far in my belief that grace alone saves us. In fact, I can't.  My brain won't go there.

But some Reformed believers say that if I'm not willing to go as high as that, I must not really believe in "the doctrines of grace." Because they can do one better than me, with my insistence on free will.  That even surrendering to the grace of God is too much of a "work" on my part.  But I just can't see surrendering to grace as salvation by works.  It doesn't make sense to me. 

You see, I would call what I adhere to "the doctrines of grace," too-- so I disagree with appropriating that term for one particular expression of Christianity, with the implication that other traditions (such as the Wesleyan/Arminian) don't really understand grace.

The question then arises, what do I do with Romans 9:18-24? 

So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.  You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

Fortunately, I don't have to try to figure this out on my own.  Arminius and Wesley, and many other free-will believers, have gone before me.  (Roger E. Olson is a well-known modern example.)  I agree with them that this passage is not about salvation-- not in terms of individuals going to heaven or being with Christ in eternity. Arminians start at the beginning of chapter 9 instead of at verse 18, and note that after Romans 8, which is about individual salvation, Paul switches focus. He begins talking about Israel as a nation, and Israel's original covenant with God. Then Paul goes on to talk about Jacob and Esau, and then Pharoah-- but in terms of where their respective nations fit in God's earthly plan. The passage then begins to speak of Christians as God's new "nation," which is actually comprised of people from every nation. 

"Jacob I loved and Esau I hated" (v. 13) is not about God literally hating a human being that He created-- any more than when Jesus said we must "hate" our father and mother and even our own life in order to follow Him (Luke 14:26), He was speaking of literal hate.  This is part of a kind of poetic hyperbole which is a common feature in the Bible. Also, it's my understanding that the word "hardened" referring to Pharoah's heart would better be rendered "strengthened."  In Exodus 9:12 God strengthened (in the Scripture-4-All Online Interlinear, "made steadfast") Pharoah's resolve to do what Pharoah had already chosen to do.  But the Romans 9 passage is about Paul's looking back to the Old Covenant (which was with a nation, not individuals), and about whether God's plan for Israel as a nation has been nullified.  Paul's answer is "no."

The "vessels of wrath" are not individuals facing eternity, but nations in God's plans on the earth-- and the "vessels of mercy" are "us whom he has called" into a new covenant nation.  The destinies of these vessels are destruction vs. mercy on earth as nations-- but even though earthly nations may be "vessels of wrath," Paul goes on to show in Chapter 10 that "whoever believes in Me will not be disappointed" -- whether from the Jewish nation or a Greek one, any individual can receive eternal salvation and become part of the new covenant. Nor is this something they accomplish on their own-- but "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Chapter 10:17). Then Paul talks about how some form of "the word of God" has gone forth to everyone on earth-- through nature, when they cannot hear the the gospel (10:18).

In Chapter 11 Paul goes back to talking about Israel's calling as a nation again, and how a partial hardening has happened to that nation while mercy is being extended to the Gentiles to become part of the new "holy nation" which is the kingdom of God.

In other words, Arminians believe that God's earthly callings of nations, not the eternal destiny of individuals, is the topic of Romans 9. I think we miss this because of our overly individualistic mindset in the West. We tend to think it's all about individuals going to heaven-- but God is also interested in His kingdom, His holy nation, spreading on the earth.

With regards to other verses, this website briefly summarizes the Calvinist and Arminian positions on various Bible verses about predestination and calling.  There's no reason why any of the Reformed "clobber verses" have to be read as denying all human free will. 

The other issue I have with Calvinism has to do with "sovereignty."  I believe God is sovereign.  But I think Christians can at times get over focused on one attribute of God to the exclusion of other attributes. I think Reformed movements sometimes focus so much on God's authority and sovereignty, that they hardly have any room to think about God's humility and the freedom that Christ came to bring us. Ask some Christians what they are free from, and they'll simply say, "I'm free from bondage to sin. I'm free to live the way God wants me to." But the fact is that that we are also free from having to live in bondage to what Paul calls "the elements" of this earthly life, "do not handle, do not taste, do not touch" (Col 2:21) or the observation of "days and months and seasons and years" (Gal 4:10) or other things that are "destined to perish with the using."  Not understanding this can result in rules-based living-- though of course not all Reformed believers are legalists.

I find that sometimes a focus on God's sovereignty to the point where it almost shuts out any other attributes, seems related to a certain hierarchical view of the world-- a view that focuses on who is in authority over who, more than on service and love.  We can come to think God is all about enforcing His own authority, and that proper submission to authority is what the Christian walk is all about-- rather than, "righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." But I see God as One who would deliberately choose to be born in a manger, the Son of a lowly carpenter in backwoods Galilee. I see a Kingdom of mutual submission and service, of each of us having a mind like Christ's-- in lowliness of mind considering others better than ourselves, as per Phil. 2.  I see a God Who limits His own exercise of sovereignty, by His own free will-- in order to allow us ours. 

And I believe this spirit of humility which is a true characteristic of Kingdom living, can be manifest just as much in the Reformed tradition as anywhere else.  Just because Calvinism doesn't make sense to me doesn't mean I think I have a corner on the truth and I couldn't possibly be wrong.  You see, I am not saying all this to condemn Calvinists or Reformed theology. I am simply explaining my own journey, the way my mind works, and why limited atonement and irresistible grace do not sync, in my mind, with the God Whom I have, in my human, limited way, come to know and love.

When Christ returns and we become "like Him, for we will see Him just as He is" (1 John 3:2), then these sorts of disagreements will be over and done.  But for now, I'll believe in free will.  There isn't anything else I can do. 


--------------------------

*Note: as an annihilationist, I don't think eternal separation from God involves eternal conscious torment, either-- but that's a post for another day. 

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow, so good! I had never heard that explanation of Romans 9:18-24 before. Thank you so much for another wonderful essay.

Oasis said...

You echo some of my own thoughts, and I relate very much to your inability to believe otherwise. I have said the very same thing to myself - even if Calvinism started making sense, even if it proved itself to be true Christianity to me - I am unable to believe...for many reasons. In my opinion, within Calvinism lies the darkest doctrine that has ever passed for Christianity.

P.S. Been reading here for many months, love your blog!!!

Dave Lindsay said...

Kristen:

Others may call it Reformed theology but I prefer to call it Deformed theology!

Dave

Amy said...

This post is fantastic. Thanks.

Claire said...

Thanks for this post, Kristen. I was a mere teenage (15? 16?) when I was first introduced to the ideas of Calvinism (having grown up in a church with an Armenianist position). And, sadly, I was clobbered. For whatever reason, I was attacked like this issue was essential or core to salvation. I was pounded for my erroneous and naive theology. I had no idea how to respond to the Romans 9 sledgehammers thrown at me, but my heart couldn't embrace what they were claiming; it just didn't fit with a God who shows such patience with his children, "not wanting any to perish." My assailants were other teens, and I wonder how the issue had been approached with them to make them so vicious in their approach with others. I imagine discussions with the same people today would look very different! At least I hope so!

All I know is, my experiences caused me to hide from all discussions of predestination or Romans 9 for YEARS. It also caused me to shy away from other controversial discussions, such as evolution v. creation, etc. In hindsight, it's amazing how long this experience affected me. I hope to teach my own kiddos a little more softness and nuance in their approach to theological disagreements.

EricW said...

Kristen:

I posted a link to this essay on Facebook, and a Reformed friend responded that your Calvinist is a strawman. I told him that I would have to read Calvin re: irresistible grace to see if what you wrote comports with Calvinism. Here is his response:

Why would you need to read Calvin to know that? As I'm sure you know, Reformed Christians have explicit Reformed confessions that they believe accurately summarize what Scripture teaches. It's probably a better idea to read those (-> http://is.gd/5uQB47 the Westminster Articles are generally considered the "fullest expression" of the lot), because "Calvinists" are not beholden to Calvin anymore than Lutherans are to Luther (http://is.gd/wVJqPE). But even with the confessions, you'd still have to engage your friend, because she never defines her terms clearly. For example, "what do you mean by free will?" That's how she sets up a strawman which she can easily dismiss (and I'd say inadvertently as I don't see her consciously or maliciously doing so), because it's easy to dismiss a vaguely defined position that implies that Reformed Christians are hard determinants. Are they? What does the Westminster Confession say about this? Or the Canons of Dort? etc.

Lindsay said...

This is a great post! I have never been able to accept Calvinism, either. I went to a Christian college that taught Calvinism and I remember being repulsed by it the first time the theology was explained to me. Thank you so much for this fantastic analysis!

JBsptfn said...

Good post, Kristen.

Here is a blog post by Glenn Miller of A Christian Thinktank (I don't know if you have heard of this site, but it is good) that deals with this topic:

http://christianthinktank.com/nowhim.html

Steve Martin said...

I don't care for Calvinism because they distort the truth of the gospel. "Christ forgave and died for the whole world". Everybody.

Does that mean that ALL will go to Heaven? No.

It means that Jesus loves all.

Why some hear and come to faith, while others do not, is a mystery and a question that only God can answer.

I wouldn't dream of going up to someone and telling them, "You know...Jesus may have died for you."

___

Plus...Calvinists have to look inward for any assurance of their salvation. That's the last place we ought to look for assurance.

Thanks.

Kristen said...

Thanks, everyone, for the excellent comments. I have to say, in response to EricW and to the Anonymous who had never heard the Arminian reading of Romans 9 before-- it's really a pity that these doctrines aren't being carefully taught in our churches. What I expressed to you, Eric, about my understanding of Calvinism, is what I have understood Calvinism is in talking to actual laypersons who claim to be Calvinists. If this is not what Calvinism believes (and I can see from the Glen Miller sight that Calvinism is apparently more nuanced than I have understood it to be-- thanks, JBsptfn, for the link; I am familiar with Christian Thinktank but had not read that essay before)-- then why do lay Calvinists not know what they actually believe? And why don't Arminian churches teach the Arminian view of Romans 9? I first heard this teaching in the church I attend now, sometime in the last year or so. I have been a Christian for 34 years, and have attended Arminian churches for the majority of that time, and yet last year was the first time I ever heard that sermon.

I think pastors need to not be afraid to teach doctrine. There's nothing wrong with "here's how to live a better life" kinds of sermons, but the church needs more than that.

After skimming what Glen Miller says Reformed churches believe (I'll have to read the whole article more closely later), I still don't think I can agree with Calvinism-- but at least the picture of God it presents is not so much arbitrary and cruel as unsatisfyingly uncommunicative.

JBsptfn said...

You're welcome, Kristen.

And, I agree with what Steve Martin said.

What Calvinists seem to do, though, is to distort that and say that the people who don't choose Christ really didn't have a say in the matter.

That is a big lie.

Kiran said...

I am a Presbyterian elder (PCUSA), a denomination in the Reformed tradition, in the church I grew up in. Over the last few years I have read many people on the internet saying things against, or simply about, Calvinism or Reformed theology, and it never matches up with what I have been taught or what I believe. We talk all the time about how God has given us free will. I've never heard someone say that choosing to respond to God's grace and call on your life is a "Work." I'll admit, not often do I hear anyone talk about Calvin, and when I do it's at Presbytery level, but when I do it's about how he loved the sacrament of communion and caring for his congregants and the concept of the elect was supposed to reassure the people he taught who were constantly worried that they were going to lose their salvation.
Maybe my tradition isn't really Calvinist. If what the internet has to say about Calvinism is true, then I guess it isn't. I believe that God is sovereign, but I also believe that He gives us free will, that he sets aside his power in the Incarnation, that he wants us to be co-creators with him in this world. Yes, it is His grace alone that saves us--I don't know how I could save myself from sin and death--but His grace is saving the whole world through Christ and, in some mysterious way I cannot understand, through us as he works in us.
This is what I understand my Presbyterian, Reformed tradition to say. Have I heard wrong? Or are we not Reformed?

Kristen said...

Kiran, here's a definition of Calvinism which has been written by Calvinists.

A Brief Definition of Calvinism

It says that if God decides to save someone, he or she is saved. There is no human choice in the matter. If that's not what your church teaches, then it does seem to me that Presbyterian or not, they are not Calvinist- not 5-point (or "TULIP") Calvinist, anyway.

EricW said...

JBsptfn:

I read the Glenn Miller piece (or as much as I could), and it seemed to me that it still defaults to God sovereignly doing and being responsible for everything, but if it looks to us like he's damning some to hell and/or doing something that looks unjust, it's just because his ways are higher than our ways and we don't understand the reason yet (and maybe never will).

That is, unless I misread it.

Don D said...

Thank you Kristen...you write so beautifully with such insight. The comments have also been helpful. I can just say that I graduated from both Bible College and Seminary and never had Romans 9 explained in such a fashion before. As a result, I never taught or preached from it! Maybe most other preachers have avoided it for similar reasons. I need to further study it, of course, but your explanation has the "ring of truth" to it. Like you, I have found the irresistible grace and limited atonement troubling...that understanding does make God to be less, rather than who He is. Years ago I read numerous sermons by Charles Spurgeon who loudly proclaimed his Calvinism and found that I was drawn to his portrayal of what Calvinism is. I find that what he preached also "rang true" while much of what I read about the current Reformed movement gives me pause. As one of your commenters stated that PCUSA is reformed, maybe I need to start a more in-depth discussion with a PCUSA minister I know and respect.
As in so much theologizing, I find that so often we disagree on certain aspects of understanding, but still love and respect the person. Brings to mind the old parable of the blind men describing an elephant. The descriptions varied according to whether they had touched the leg, the side, the trunk or the tusks. We all "see through a glass darkly"...thank you for wiping some of the fog off my glasses.

kbonikowsky said...

Kristen,
I consider myself a Reformed Baptist…I hate the term Calvinist. My “reformation” occurred in a heavily-influenced-by-the- Methodist fundamentalist school. I wasn’t influenced by Calvin AT ALL. In fact, I didn’t even know what I believed had a name. I discovered God’s sovereignty on my own simply reading the Bible. It was a comfort. It was life-giving! It made me fall head over heals in love with Jehovah! And when I started telling everyone about what I’d found out about God in Romans 9, I got blasted for being a Calvinist, and I had NO IDEA what they were talking about! Lol.
You see, I am a missionary kid. My childhood was heavily influenced with witnessing and “come to Jesus” altar calls. I was terrified if I didn’t choose Jesus, God would damn me. I felt the heavy responsibility of choosing correctly. It was all about me and my free will. For me, that emphasis distorted God into a far-off spirit hiding behind MY decision to follow Jesus. Of course, as with any kid raised in the church, maturity helped me separate my false ideas of good works equaling faith. I’m sure I had “being good” confused with trusting Jesus, ya know?
Anyway, in college, my love of Scripture began. I read, and read and read. This: You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit. (John 15:16) You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. (Rom 5:6) For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. (Eph 1) Romans 9 came as a love letter. God wanted ME, personally. He showed mercy to me, when I could do nothing. I was powerless. I did not even have the will to choose rightly. He wanted me enough to insure I would get to Him. He didn’t even leave it up to me.
Now, as you read the above paragraph, I’m sure you are thinking there are so many problems with that way of thinking, and I actually agree. That’s why I never could throw over free will. Free will is the proof God is love…just as believing in God’s sovereignty makes me feel God’s own special love for me as well. There must be both, even if that seems impossible.
When I finally got around to sharing with my father all that I believed about election, he had a good laugh. Turns out he was raised Christian Reformed and graduated from Calvin College. And all this time, I thought he would disagree with my conclusions as well! He didn’t. But, as a missionary, he proved by his life… that people are given a choice and somehow in the mysteriousness that we can’t understand about God both are true : God elects and Man chooses.
The words of Spurgeon are brilliant for reconciling the two. He says, “Do not think that anybody will have the angels pushing them behind into the gates of heaven. They must go there freely or else they will never go there at all. We are not saved against our will; nor again, mark you, is the will taken away; for God does not come and convert the intelligent free-agent into a machine. When he turns the slave into a child, it is not by plucking out of him the will which he possesses.”
Oh how I love Jesus, because He first loved me. Whosoever will, may come!

Kristen said...

Don D. and Kbonikowsky, thank you for the words about Spurgeon-- though I never thought Calvinism taught we were saved "against our will," but rather that God makes the elect want to be saved, while with the non-elect, He doesn't go to the trouble. As Charles Wesley put it in one of his songs on the subject, "He did not damn them; just decreed they never should be saved." This still doesn't work for me.

But I have no quarrel with the doctrines of sovereignty or of election; I know God is sovereign but believe that His sovereign plan includes the non-exercise of His own sovereignty when He deems it necessary and appropriate. I believe He elects those He foreknows, as the Bible says-- but the question is whether He foreknows them because He makes them choose, or simply that He knows in advance what they will choose.

My real issues are the doctrines of limited atonement (that Christ didn't die for everyone, but just those predestined for salvation), irresistible grace (that we can't help but come when He draws us) and double-predestination (that He not only predestines some for eternal live, but predestines the rest for eternal conscious torment--horrible thought, that you're born to that without hope of escape!-- or at least complete destruction).

Matt said...

Hi Kristen,

This is a lovely and well-written short critique of a nasty theology. I tackled the same thing, but in much longer fashion and from many different angles, on my blog last year:
http://notbyhands.wordpress.com/

Kristen said...

Matt, that looks interesting! I am putting the link to Part 1 of your 7-part series here, so people can find the whole thing if they want to:

On the Absurdity of Calvinism, Part 1

Caron said...

I've been in reformed churches for approximately seven years now. Calvin wasn't even a Calvinist by today's standards. And some people confuse Calvinism with what is called hyper-Calvinism. One will never end the debate with a Calvinist because "the secret things belong to the Lord" and so on and so forth. Its circular reasoning.

Although there are mysteries in the Lord, He is not the author of confusion. I'm not a Calvinist - I've seen people so hurt by this teaching - and I'm glad I have finally walked away from it altogether. It sucked the life out of my faith and the joy from my relationship with Jesus.

I believe the enemy of our souls has a hay day with this teaching because one can become so consumed with the intellectual appeal in the reformed tradition that one is good for little but arguing because the sin of pride has been seduced under the guise of contending for the faith. That's not true with everyone but I have seen so much of this. Worse, people can be absolutely miserable, questioning their salvation constantly, so in their heads about all of this that they can't walk by the Spirit.

What I don't understand is exactly where I go from here. I'm not an Arminian either. I don't believe you can lose your salvation. Isn't that what he taught?

Please bear with me. I'm loving your site. I'm finding my way all over again....

Caron Strong




Kristen said...

Caron, it makes me so happy that this website is encouraging you! If it helps one person find their walk with God eased and strengthened, then it has fulfilled what I want most for it.

It's possible to be an Arminian and believe in eternal security. As this website states:

"Arminius himself was non-committal on the issue and never actually taught that believers may make shipwreck of their faith and so forfeit their salvation."

Caron said...

Oh, thank you! Yes, I am very encouraged! I will peruse this other site also!

Gary said...

Calvinistic Baptists have more in common with Lutherans on the Doctrine of Justification/Salvation than they do with their Arminian Baptist brethren.

When it comes to the conversion of an adult non-believer, Arminians, Calvinists and Lutherans are in full agreement: salvation occurs when the sinner believes. Baptism is not a mandatory requirement to be saved. We have theological differences on how belief occurs, but we all believe that the second a sinner believes he is saved. If he dies a second later, he will go to heaven. He is a Christian.

Our significant denominational differences arise when we talk about the salvation of the infants and toddlers of Christian parents: how are these young children saved? What happens if, God forbid, one of them should die before reaching the age where they are capable of expressing a saving faith in Christ?

The Arminian answer is this: God saves all infants and toddlers who die, even the infants and toddlers of non-believers. They have no hard proof from Scripture to support this belief, but they believe that King David's comments about his dead infant gives them support for their position. Infants who die are "safe" in the arms of a loving God.

Calvinists look at their children in this manner: Their children are either the Elect or they are not. Presbyterian Calvinists will baptize their infants to bring them into the "covenant" (whatever that is!) of the Church but do not believe that baptism has any salvific value. "If my child is of the Elect he will declare himself to be a believer when he is older."

A Calvinistic Baptist will not baptize his infant, but looks at Election in the same way as the Presbyterian Calvinist: My child is either of the Elect or he is not. There is nothing I can do but bring him up in the Faith and leave the rest to God.

Lutherans believe that when God told us to baptize all nations, he meant to baptize ALL those who are of the Elect. Many Arminians and Calvinists assume that Lutherans believe that anyone we run through the baptismal font will get into heaven. Not true! Only the Elect will get into heaven. We baptize our infants in the HOPE that they are the Elect. Is it possible that some of the infants of Christian parents whom we baptize are not of the Elect and therefore will not be in heaven? Yes! But that is a mystery of God that we do not attempt to explain or understand.

However, we believe we are to do our job of "baptizing all nations" (who are of the Elect) by baptizing our infants and we then leave their Election up to God. We then follow Christ's command to "teach" them in the Faith as they grow up, but when they are older it will be their responsibility to nurture their faith with prayer, Bible study, worship, and the Lord's Supper. If these infant-baptized persons abandon their faith and turn their back on God, they may very well wake up one day in hell! Baptism is NOT a "Get-into-heaven-free" card! Salvation is by God's grace alone, received in faith alone.

No faith--->no salvation--->no eternal life!

The Calvinist position on the salvation of infants is very confusing to me…

discussion continued at:

http://www.lutherwasnotbornagain.com/2013/07/calvinistic-baptists-have-more-in.html

Kristen said...

Another reason why I'm an Arminian. *grin*

Anyone who wants to talk about baptism with Gary should go to his website by pasting the url into their browsers. I don't plan to go into it here.

Steve Finnell said...

SAVING FAITH COMES FROM HEARING GOD'S WORD
Do men receive faith, that saves, because God arbitrarily bestows them with faith? Does God predetermined who will be saved and them cause them to have faith so they can be saved? No and No.

Faith comes from hearing God's word preached.

Romans 10:17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.(NKJV)

Romans 10:14 How they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?(NKJV)

Faith comes when men believe the gospel. Faith is not forced on men by God.

MISUNDERSTOOD PROOF-TEXT EPHESIANS 2:8

Ephesians 2:8 is used to prove that faith is a gift from God, however, that is not what is says.

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God,(NKJV)

Salvation is the gift from God. Faith is not the gift.

Mark 16:16 "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

Why would Jesus condemn men who do not believe if God is the one who arbitrarily bestows faith on men so they can be saved?

To have faith that Jesus is the Son of God is a choice. To trust in God is a choice. To believe that God resurrected Jesus from the grave is a choice. To believe that Jesus is both Lord and Christ is a choice. God does not force men to have faith. Saving faith is the not a gift from God. Salvation is the gift from God.

WHAT MUST MEN DO TO BE SAVED?

1. Hear the gospel. Romans 10:17
2. Believe. John 3:16
3. Confess. Romans 10:9
4. Repent. Acts 3:19
5. Be baptized in water. Acts 2:38


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Kristen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kristen said...

It's probably a good time to note, in response to the above, that the purpose of a comment section is to comment on the blog you are reading, not to post a sermon or a bible study of one's own. It's on topic, so I won't remove it, but it is more courteous to actually engage the opening blog post.

Lee said...

> the belief that humans have no free will

Lots of people don't like Calvinism, but you should make an effort not to mischaracterize what Calvinists believe.

Calvinists absolutely believe in free will. We humans have free will to choose anything we're capable of choosing.

But we're not capable of choosing the Lord, unless He opens our hearts to it.

> Oh, I know all the arguments about how we all deserve eternal separation from God*, and it's gracious enough of God if He just chooses to save some.

> But to me, it's not. Not gracious enough.

Well, at least now we've arrived at the root of the disagreement.

Calvinists believe that the Bible is the authority on such matters.

Apparently, you believe you are.

Kristen said...

Lee, I am not mischaracterizing what Calvinists believe. Arminians also believe humans have free will, but are incapable of choosing God unless God draws them. The difference is that Arminians believe God draws everyone, but not irresistably. To either be drawn irresistably, or left incapable of choosing God, isn't really very free, is it?

I also believe that the Bible is the authority on these matters-- but I don't take a few texts that appear to be about limited atonement, etc., and elevate them above the passages that say God is just and is no respecter of persons, that He "so loved" the whole world, and that Christ said, "If I be lifted up from the earth I will draw all men unto Myself." John 12:32.

BTW, you are beautifully illustrating my most recent post, "Saved by Being Right: Christianity and Dogmatism" - where I discussed Christians who make every disagreement into a moral issue and insist that those who differ from them are somehow in rebellion against God. Please let go of dogmatism and allow other Christians to disagree with you without becoming their judge and jury, Lee. If you can't, I'm afraid I can't allow you to keep posting here. See my rules for comments, posted in bold along the right-hand side of the page.

Lee said...

> Lee, I am not mischaracterizing what Calvinists believe.

I'm sorry, but you did precisely that when you wrote, "Calvinism/Reformed Christianity is all the rage nowadays: the belief that humans have no free will."

I think it would have been fair to point out Calvinists mean something different by the term "free will" than Arminians do. But that's not how you put it.

The Westminster Confession devotes an entire chapter to free will.

> I also believe that the Bible is the authority on these matters...

I accept that. But I was responding to what you wrote. And you wrote this:

> Oh, I know all the arguments about how we all deserve eternal separation from God*, and it's gracious enough of God if He just chooses to save some.

> But to me, it's not. Not gracious enough.

Since both of us accept the Bible as the authority, then what we're saying is:

1. The Bible is describing some objective reality; and

2. That reality, being objective, does not depend on what we happen to think or feel about it.

That means it's not on scripture to get right with us, but on us to get right with scripture.

And that means any case against Calvinism that is based on scripture is fair game.

When you say, "But to me, it's not [gracious]. Not gracious enough," that's not a Biblical argument. That statement sets up a different authority: you. I fully accept you didn't mean to do that, and that's why I'm going to some effort to respond. Nonetheless, that's what you did.

Any case against Calvinism, or Arminianism, needs to be based on the Bible. I fully agree that a Biblical case can be made for Armianism. But how you, or I, happen to feel about the issue at a gut level is probably the least important fact.

As to letting go of dogmatism... well, you can't have religion at all without dogmatism, can you?

In your last paragraph, you appear to be calling me out for something I didn't do -- if you're implying that I'm name-calling or attacking you personally. I only responded to what you wrote, and it sounded exactly like you were setting yourself up as the authority. I accept that you didn't mean to do that. But imagine hearing that from my perspective: since I believe that God absolutely decided who He'd save, calling such a God "not gracious enough" to me it sounds like judging God.

Your decision as to whether to post my response -- it's your blog. But I don't believe I've offended any of your rules. I'm blunt and direct in my writing, and that can sound rude. But it wasn't personal except to the extent that you introduced yourself into your argument (i.e., "to me...").

Whereas your prose is far more mellifluous than mine, but nonetheless you *did* get personal with me, though admittedly it probably sounds nicer than my not-getting personal with you, if only stylistically. You sweetly held me up as one of your bad examples, you pleasantly called me a dogmatist (which is apparently meant as a pejorative term), and ever so gently accuse me being Pharasitical, i.e., of becoming a "judge and jury" toward anyone who disagrees with me.

But as I said, it's your blog. I can't make you follow your own rules.

Lee said...

In addition to the post I sent you earlier, consider this... You wrote:

> To either be drawn irresistably, or left incapable of choosing God, isn't really very free, is it?

Question: can a baby choose a steak dinner? Technically, why not? But he would have to know that steak exists, and be able to articulate that desire, or, if not, be able to refuse the breast or the formula he was being offered instead. And then, even if his parents, in desperation, were to offer him some steak, would he be able to chew it? To digest it once he swallowed it?

The baby can choose: suck this nipple or formula bottle, and be fed; or not.

Paul said we are dead in sin. Not feeling a bit under the weather in sin. Not sick in sin. Not comatose in sin. Dead. Paul said no one seeks the Lord, not one. He didn't say, some seek the Lord. He didn't say, almost no one seeks the Lord. He said, no one. Not one.

That's the whole idea behind being "born again", which is necessary because we're dead in sin.

Are we able to raise ourselves from death? No.

As dead people, are we even able to ask for resurrection? No.

Unless He puts the idea in us that we want to be His, we don't get that idea.

In fact, we don't even want it. Do you think Richard Dawkins wants to find the Lord? Or did the late Christopher Hitchens want that? Both of them questioned the very motives of God at every opportunity.

God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoevery believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

You and I, we both believe that. The only issue here is whether it was our idea that we believe in Him, or His.

Kristen said...

Lee, with regards to your first point about Calvinists meaning something different by "free will," I suppose I could have been a little more nuanced in how I put it. However, from an Arminian perspective, what Calvinists call "free will" is not, in fact, free. To Calvinists, humans are free only to sin and reject God, because they cannot do otherwise-- or to come to God if God decides to draw them, because they cannot do otherwise. Freedom to make one choice and no other, is not freedom. The freedom to do anything that you can do is not freedom if the only thing you can do is one thing-- sin. If this is a misunderstanding of Calvinism, I apologize. But I have read quite a bit of Calvinist thought and I do think I have a decent grasp of it.

Next point: I agree that reality, being objective, does not depend on what we happen to think or feel about it. But there is also this: that God has given His children a basic grasp of fundamental justice, as well as His love in our hearts. It's all very well to say "His ways are higher than our ways" - but if what you claim the Bible teaches looks the opposite of anything my regenerated-in-Christ heart can recognize as justice or love-- if it calls wrong right and right wrong-- and if I am also supporting my understanding of right and wrong, love and hate, with what the Bible teaches these things are-- then I will maintain that what you claim the Bible teaches results in an untenable conclusion. When a premise taken to its logical consequences results in an untenable conclusion, that means the premise itself is false.



Kristen said...

On to your next point: You can't have a religion without dogma, but that's something entirely different from dogmatism, which I actually defined in that post as unwillingness to even consider any other view besides one's own.

As far as your discussion of whether I'm keeping my own rules-- perhaps you didn't mean your response to come across as a judgmental attack. But the words you used do usually mean, "I obey the Bible, but you obviously are in rebellion." If that's not what you meant, I apologize. But I do reserve the right, as blog owner, to call people out when they do make such personal attacks.

As I explained above, I was not setting myself up as an authority over the Bible. But I do expect that our words "love" and "justice" and "responsibility" mean real things that humans can actually understand. I recognize that my perspective is only a human one-- but I also firmly believe that God did create humans in His image, and thus with some ability to grasp these concepts with a reasonable amount of accuracy. Limited atonement violates these basic concepts. That's where I stand.

Kristen said...

Finally, with response to your last post, about human ability to come to God on their own-- I already explained that I'm fully in agreement with that idea. We are dead in sin, and we do rely on God alone to raise us, and even to give us the desire to be raised. Arminians don't differ from Calvinists on this, so I'm not sure why you're belaboring the point. The difference between Arminians and Calvinists, as I explained earlier, is that Calvinists believe in limited atonement and irresistible grace-- that is, that God chooses only a few people to give the ability to come to him, and leaves everyone else alone-- and that those whom He does give the ability to come to Him, must come to Him without any ability to resist. This is what violates any reasonable understanding or definition of words like "justice" or "love" -- that God creates certain humans specifically in order to damn them forever; that the Atonement was for only some humans, and not for all; that by drawing humans to Himself in such a way that they cannot resist, and completely refusing to draw others at all, God becomes responsible for creating humans entirely in order to be damned. It is this that I, like other Arminians, find untenable. And this is the issue. The issue is not whether it was our idea that we believe in Him, or His. Calvinists and Arminians agree that it was His.