Archive for the 'Justice' Category

Righteousness and justice for the Christian

Saturday, December 19th, 2015

(courtesy clipartbest.com)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

The Christian can be trapped into thinking that when ‘righteousness’ is used in Scripture it has an English flavour in its meaning. Oxford dictionaries give the meaning as ‘the quality of being morally right or justifiable’. It is the opposite of wickedness or sinfulness (2015. S v righteousness). Or, it has the meaning of being ‘morally good: following religious or moral laws’ (Merriam-Webster Dictionary 2015. S v righteousness).

Is that the meaning of the word in Bible verses such as Rom 3:21-26 (ESV)?

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Meaning of righteousness in Scripture

Richard Strauss has summarised the biblical material well, in my understanding of Scripture,[1]

While the most common Old Testament word for just means ‘straight,’ and the New Testament word means ‘equal,’ in a moral sense they both mean ‘right.’ When we say that God is just, we are saying that He always does what is right, what should be done, and that He does it consistently, without partiality or prejudice. The word just and the word righteous are identical in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Sometimes the translators render the original word ‘just’ and other times ‘righteous’ with no apparent reason (cf. Nehemiah 9:8 and 9:33 where the same word is used). But whichever word they use, it means essentially the same thing. It has to do with God’s actions. They are always right and fair.

God’s righteousness (or justice) is the natural expression of His holiness. If He is infinitely pure, then He must be opposed to all sin, and that opposition to sin must be demonstrated in His treatment of His creatures. When we read that God is righteous or just, we are being assured that His actions toward us are in perfect agreement with His holy nature (Strauss 1984:140).?

I was alerted to that quote in Bob Deffinbaugh’s article, ‘The Righteousness of God‘.

1. Justice and righteousness[2]

Image result for clipart justice public domainIn English, righteousness and justice are 2 different words but in the Hebrew OT and Greek NT that is not so as there is only one word root behind both ‘righteousness’ and ‘justice’.

The word for righteousness, dikaiosune,[3] means ‘uprightness, justice as of a judge’. Examples include ‘enforce justice’ (Heb 11:33), ‘judge justly’ (Acts 17:31; Rev 19:11); ‘righteousness, uprightness as the compelling motive for the conduct of one’s whole life: hunger and thirst for uprightness’ (Matt 5:6) [Arndt & Gingrich 1957:195, emphasis in original].

So the meaning of this word is that God always does what is correct/right and God determines the standard of what is right.
These verses teach us this meaning of righteous/justice (emphasis added):

  • Gen 18:25 (ESV), ‘Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?’
  • Deut 32:4 (ESV), ‘all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he’.
  • Isa 45:19 (ESV), ‘I the Lord speak the truth; I declare what is right‘.
  • Paul tells us that God’s sending Christ as a sacrifice for the punishment for sins in Rom 3:25-26 (ESV), it ‘was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus’.

This is reason for us to praise God that in everything he does; all his ways are righteous. They are just; there is no injustice in Him. Question: How does God’s justice harmonise with the killing of all the inhabitants of Ai (Joshua 8:24 ESV)?

When we examine a text such as Genesis 15:16, [4] we see what God warned Abraham what would happen: ‘And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete’ (ESV). The promise was that the time of the iniquity of the Amorites ‘was not yet complete’ after the Israelites left the nation of Egypt. The implication of that Scripture is that when the wickedness of the Canaanites had reached God’s limit of guilt or restraint, God would remove them from the land.

That is what he did to Jericho and Ai (Joshua 8:18-26). He did it with Makkedah (Josh 10:28), Lachish (Josh 10:32); Eglon (Josh 10:34-35); Debir (Josh 10:38-39), and the cities of the Negev and the Shepheliah (Josh 10:40). You can read about God’s punishment of Hazor, Madon, Shimron and Achspaph (Josh 11:10-14). It happened previously to Sodom & Gomorrah. You can read about what God did with his punishment of other cities according to Judges 19 and Judges 20.

When we engage in the plain reading of Scripture, we cannot get past the fact that when degenerate idolatry and brazen moral depravity developed in nations, God had to remove them so that the theocratic kingdom of Israel could settle in those regions.

I do not like the deplorable loss of life and atrocities that happened in these nations, but it would be much worse if these depraved activities were allowed to continue among God’s people.

How does God’s justice harmonise with this carnage? God warns about the consequences of sin. If people and nations continue to act against God’s instructions, he will so what is right and bring punishment. He warns before he does it. ‘Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?’ (Gen 18:25). The lesson is this: Anyone can live this life as he/she wishes, but there are consequences – God’s consequences – when we give God the shaft and follow Frank Sinatra’s dictum, ‘I did it my way‘.

See John MacArthur, ‘The lover of righteousness’ (in MacArthur 1993: December 15).

How does righteousness fit with ‘holiness’?

2. Holiness

Psalm 99:9 (ESV) states, ‘The Lord our God is holy‘. God is called the ‘Holy One of Israel’ (Ps Pss 71:22; 78:41; 89:18; Isa 1:4; 5:19, 24; etc). When God says he is holy, it means he is separate from sin.

However, using his own holiness as an example, God commands, ‘Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy’ (Lev 19:2 ESV). We find a similar message in 1 Peter 1:16 (ESV), ‘since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy”’. Also, in the New Covenant, ‘Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord’ (Heb 12:14 NIV). Hebrews 12:10 (ESV) reminds us that God ‘disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness’.

Free photo of a red rose bud

What is the meaning of holiness to be experienced by the Christian believer? Heb 12:14 is a parallel verse to 1 Thess 4:7 (NIV), ‘For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life’. Hagiasmos (holiness) in Heb 12:14 (NIV) presupposes that a person is reconciled with Christ through justification. ‘The word denotes a process by which we become separated unto God in our entire life and conduct. We, who are already hagioi [holy] by faith, are ever to continue in pursuit of hagiasmos, a life that is more and more sanctified to God’ (Lenski 1966:443). The author of Hebrews was writing to people in a pagan culture who had recently become Christians. They knew what it was to be embroiled in a culture that was very unlike that of God’s requirements. Unless this changed life of growing to be more like the holy God was evident, these people would not see God. Why? It was because they were not Christians and were incapable of separating from worldly things.

So, God disciplines us so that we may share his separateness from sin. As we grow to be more like Jesus, we will more and more be separate from sin – not performing acts of sin. This is related to sanctification. That is how Lenski translates Heb 12:14, ‘Peace continue to pursue with all, and the sanctification without which no one shall see the Lord’ (Lenski 1966:442).

It does raise the question: How can any believer be separate from sin in a world that is contaminated by sin?

How does this sanctifying holiness relate to purity?

3. Purity

Do you remember the problems that Paul had with moral impurity in churches? See the church of Galatia (Gal 1:6-9; 3:1-5) and the church of Corinth (1 Cor 3:1-4; 4:18-21; 5:1-2, 6; 6:1-8; 11:17-22; 14:20-23; 15:2; 2 Cor 1:23-2:11; 11:3-5, 12-15; 12:19-21).

Second Cor 12:21 (ESV) states, ‘I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practised’.

Pure EvidenceLet’s look at the opposite word first. The word translated ‘impurity’ relates to ‘those who sinned’. It is the Greek, akatharsia, that is translated as ‘impurity’ (ESV, NIV, NLT, NASB, HCSB, ISV, NET, NRSV, NAB, NJB), ‘uncleanness’ (KJV, Douay-Rheims, NKJV). Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek lexicon (1957:28) gives the meaning as referring literally to ‘refuse’ (Matt 23:27) and in a moral sense of people who commit ‘immorality, viciousness, especially of sexual sins’ (2 Cor 12:21; Gal 5:19; Col 3:5; Eph 5:3) and is the opposite of hagiasmos (or hagismos) in 1 Thess 4:7 and Rom 6:19.

Thayer’s lexicon gives the meaning of hagiasmos as consecration and the effect of consecration (which is sanctification of heart and life) as in 1 Cor 1:30; 1 Thess 4:7; Rom 6:19, 22; 1 Tim 2:15; Heb 12:14. It is produced by the Holy Spirit (2 Thess 2:13; 1 Pet 1:2), so it is opposed to lust (as in 1 Thess 4:7) (Thayer 1885/1962:6).

Impurity will separate the sinner from worship of God and involvement with God’s people. Paul could be referring to the libertines of Corinth who could state, ‘Food for the stomach and the stomach for food’ (1 Cor 6:13 NIV). A follow on to this philosophy could be that other physical satisfactions were also permitted – including impurity.

So, purity, being the opposite of impurity, can have this meaning: Wayne Grudem provides this definition, ‘The purity of the church is its degree of freedom from wrong doctrine and conduct, and its degree of conformity to God’s revealed will for the church‘ (Grudem 1999:371, emphasis in original).

Purity in Christian conduct thus deals with acceptance and practice of God’s standard of doctrine and behaviour. It is caused by the Holy Spirit’s ministry to us and clean-up of our lives.

How does this relate to God’s call for the Christian to be perfect? Or, is ‘perfect’ the wrong word in English translations.

4. Perfection

A person asked: I see a Christian is imperfect or incomplete and is without purity. She thinks perfection ‘describes only God’.[5] This cannot be correct because Matt 5:48 (ESV) states, ‘You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect’. So believers need to be perfect in some way that is parallel to that of the heavenly Father’s perfection.[6]

I need to dig deeper. Does ‘perfect’ here have the meaning in English, ‘Having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be’ or ‘free from any flaw or defect in condition or quality; faultless’? Does it mean ideal, flawless or exemplary? (Oxford dictionaries 2015. S v perfect).

So, what then is the meaning of ‘perfect’ in Matt 5:48 (ESV) if ‘you therefore must be perfect’?[7] How can you and I be or become perfect in the English sense of faultless?

Image result for clipart goal public domainThe word used in the Greek of Matt 5:48, teleioi, is from telos, which means end, goal or limit. So, the standard to which we are called – the goal – is the Heavenly Father’s standard. The word is also used for a relative perfection of adults when compared with children.

The parallel verse is with Deut 18:13 (ESV), ‘You shall be blameless [upright, sincere] before the Lord your God’. So God is perfect in the sense of being true and upright in how he deals with us. That is the model we have to follow. In the Hebrew of Deut 18:13 (ESV), the word sham is used for ‘blameless’ and has the sense of being complete like a whole number, the full time, an animal without blemish or deformity.

In Matt 5:48 (ESV), it is the English understanding of ‘perfect’ as sinless that causes us to miss the meaning. We know that sinlessness is not the meaning of ‘prefect’ because in Matt 5:6 (ESV), the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told his disciples (and us) that ‘blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied’.

It is unfortunate that the English does not seem to have a single word that conveys the idea of the Greek of aiming for the goal. Yes, that goal should include loving our enemies and friends but this love will have blemishes in it as we reach for the goal.

So to become perfect is not referring to perfection – in the English sense of the word. That will never be possible in this life. It is referring to reaching for the goal of becoming like our Father. He is infinite in his attributes. We are finite. Becoming more like Jesus in our thinking and actions should be our aim. This is called progressive sanctification; becoming progressively more like Jesus is our goal.

This will include renewing of the mind. See my article: Are unthinking Christians normal for Christianity?

Conclusion

Four aspects of the Christian’s new life in Christ were investigated: righteousness, holiness, purity and being perfect.

It was found that righteousness and justice are synonymous terms, from God’s perspective. God’s expectation of believers is that they do what is right (practise justice) with God’s law as the standard.

Holiness is the call to be separate from the actions of sin in a sinful world. This involves progressive sanctification, a process by which we become separated to God in our entire life and conduct.

This is parallel with purity, which means acceptance and practice of God’s standard of doctrine and behaviour, through the enabling of the Holy Spirit’s ministry.

To be perfect as our heavenly father is perfect does not involve what the word for ‘perfect’ means in English. It refers to the call of all believers to reach for the goal of becoming more like the Father.

All of these words cover various areas of growth in sanctification for the believer. My observation is that this is not an area of emphasis in many evangelical churches in my part of the world.

(courtesy pinterest.com)

Works consulted

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature.[8] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

Grudem, W 1999. Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith. J Purswell (ed). Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press (by special arrangement with Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House).

Lenski, R C H 1966. Commentary on the New Testament: Interpretation of the Epistle to the Hebrews and of the Epistle of James. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers (limited edition licensed by special permission of Augsburg Fortress).

MacArthur, Jr., J F 1993. Drawing Near. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books.

Strauss, R L 1984. The Joy of Knowing God. Neptune, New Jersey: Loizeaux Brothers.

Thayer, J. H. 1885, 1962, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (being Grimm’s Wilke’s Clavis Novi Testamenti). Tr, rev & enl by J H Thayer. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.  (Note: The first Zondervan printing of this edition was in 1962, but Thayer’s preface in the lexicon was first written in 1885.) A Cornell University edition is available online at: http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=coo.31924021607704;view=1up;seq=13;size=125 (Accessed 18 December 2015).

Notes


[1] I posted this material in Christian Forums.net, ‘Righteousness, Holiness, Purity, etc’, OzSpen#2. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/righteousness-holiness-purity-etc.62455/ (Accessed 18 December 2015).

[2] I posted the following material in ibid., OzSpen#7.

[3] The last Greek letter in dikaiosune is eta, seventh letter of the Greek alphabet, which is transliterated into English as ‘e’ with an ellipse. However, the html of this website converts letters with an ellipse into question marks. Therefore, I have used ‘e’ as the transliteration, but that is also the transliteration of the fifth letter of the Greek alphabet, epsilon. That is confusing but I am left with no alternative. Since ‘o’ with an ellipse is the transliteration of omega, the last letter of the Greek alphabet, I have chosen to use a transliteration of ‘w’, which was used by some earlier Greek NT scholars. Wikibooks states, ‘Sometimes unofficially it is rendered as w (inspired by the shape of the small letter)’ (2014. S v Modern Greek / Lession 4x).

[4] This response is based on Christian Forums.com [as opposed to Christian Forums.net], Christian Apologetics, ‘Contradictions in the Bible’, December 10, 2015, OzSpen#165. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/threads/contradictions-in-the-bible.7918 (Accessed 18 December 2015).

[5] Christian Forums.net, ibid., Classik#10.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#12.

[7] Most of this information was shared in ibid., OzSpen#14.

[8] This is ‘a translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Wörtbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur’ (4th rev & augmented edn 1952) (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:iii).

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 19 December 2015.

Does God create all of the evil in the world?

Thursday, November 19th, 2015

(courtesy BibleGatewayBlog, 14 November 2015)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Let’s put it another way: Did God know human beings would create evil or did He decree that evil would take place according to God’s will?

With the slaughter of about 129 people in Paris on 13 November 2015, this causes Christians to ask further questions about evil and the manifestation of evil in our world. It was on the evening of 13 November that there was a series of co-ordinated terrorist attacks across Paris with mass shootings, suicide bomb and hostages taken. For details of where the Paris killings took place, see The Telegraph [UK] article, ‘Paris terror attack: Everything we know on Wednesday evening’ (18 November 2015). This report states that there were seven co-ordinated attacks in Paris.

Andy Rau asked this series of solemn questions:

One of the oldest and toughest challenges for Christians is finding a way to understand the existence of terrible evil in a world that is ruled by a loving, all-powerful God. It’s not an easy question to answer—if it were, we wouldn’t be struggling with it thousands of years after Christ—but the Bible does offer hope in the face of violence and evil.

We’ve talked about terror and the question of evil here in relation to terror attacks in past years. Most of those reflections are still relevant today in the wake of the Paris attacks; if these latest terror attacks have you wondering why a loving God could let this happen, take a few minutes to read through these reflections:

The terrorist group, Islamic State, has claimed responsibility for the slaughter in Paris.

(Islamic states (dark green), states where Islam is the official religion (light green), secular states (blue) and other (orange), among countries with a Muslim majority, courtesy Wikipedia)

Australia’s ABC News reported:

’Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility for the deadly attacks in Paris that killed at least 129 people, saying its fighters carried out the operation in various locations which were carefully studied.

In a statement posted online, IS said the attacks were a response to France’s campaign against its fighters and insults against Islam’s prophet.

It said “eight brothers wearing explosive belts and carrying assault rifles” conducted a “blessed attack on … Crusader France”’ (‘Paris attacks: Islamic State claims responsibility, French president Francois Hollande calls it “act of war”‘, ABC News, Brisbane Qld, 15 November 2015).

I ask, “Doesn’t God’s sovereignty include human beings’ genuine, free choices? If not, they are forced to act and they do not have genuinely free choices’.[1]

One response I received was: ‘“The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes” (Proverbs 21:1 NASB). How free is the king’s will?’[2]

This Paris attack raises a number of issues regarding the allowance or cause of evil in our world.

 

(In front of restaurants Le Carillon and Le Petit Cambodge on 16 November 2015 after terrorist attack, Paris, courtesy Wikipedia)

A. How free are governments under God’s decrees?[3]

Let’s check out some examples from our recent history and in the contemporary world.

If the government leader’s (king’s heart) is turned wherever God wishes, how does that account for the following?

I asked: Are you saying that Adolph Hitler, the leader of Germany, according to your theology, was turned by God himself to slaughter 6 million Jews during the Holocaust? Is that your practical application of Prov. 21:1 in your theology? Did God know or did God cause this to happen by his decretive will?
‘Seventy years too late: Russia finally admits slaughter of 20,000 Polish officers at Katyn was on Stalin’s orders’ (Daily Mail, 26 November 2010). So was Stalin’s slaughter according to God’s decree?

To whom do we attribute this evil, God or sinful, free will human beings? ‘Was the London killing of a British soldier “terrorism”’ (The Guardian, 24 May 2013)? This article begins:

Two men yesterday engaged in a horrific act of violence on the streets of London by using what appeared to be a meat cleaver to hack to death a British soldier. In the wake of claims that the assailants shouted “Allahu Akbar” during the killing, and a video showing one of the assailants citing Islam as well as a desire to avenge and stop continuous UK violence against Muslims, media outlets (including the Guardian) and British politicians instantly characterized the attack as “terrorism”.

That this was a barbaric and horrendous act goes without saying, but given the legal, military, cultural and political significance of the term “terrorism”, it is vital to ask: is that term really applicable to this act of violence?

See also,

If God decreed (foreordained) all evil, what are the implications? Are Calvinistic Christians going to state that this is according to God’s ‘decretive will’? That was the language used on Christian Forums for God’s relationship to evil as applied to Proverbs 21:1: ‘Free to do God’s decretive will’.[4]

What about the many perpetrators of sexual abuse including the rape of children? Were their criminal and sinful acts decreed by God?
How free were Hitler’s and Stalin’s free wills? That is determined by the living God and he has given us teaching on this that is not in accordance with the Calvinistic imposition on the text (see below).

I affirm the view that God’s decrees are not inconsistent with freedom of choice, which could be called free agency. They do not eliminate human responsibility and do not make God the author of sin. God’s decrees involve His eternal purposes that are based on His holy, wise and righteous (just) nature. So God, to promote His own glory, decreed or foreordained everything that happens in our world. He does this effectively either by absolute decree (as in creation) or by permission (as in the moral evils I have raised).[5]

Biblically, we see these examples (not comprehensive) in Gen 1-2; Isa 14:24; Rom 8:28; Eph 1:9, 11; 2 Tim 1:9; 1 Pet 1:20; Rev 13:8.

We have it revealed in Scripture that God permitted sin in the world and did not necessitate it when we have the revelation of the threats of punishment for sin (Gen. 2:17; Ex 34:7; Eccl 11:9; Ezek 18:20; 2 Thess 1:7-8).

  • What do we read in Psalm 78:29? ‘And they ate and were well filled, for he gave them what they craved‘ (ESV).[6]
  • Again from the Psalms: ‘He gave them what they asked, but sent a wasting disease among them’ (Ps 106:15 ESV).[7]
  • In Acts 14:16, Paul taught, ‘In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways‘ (ESV).[8]
  • Acts 17:29, ‘The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent’ (ESV).[9]

B. Free will and God’s decrees

This is my understanding of free will (volition) in ‘Did God know?’ Yes, God did know (his foreknowledge), and it is authentic free will because God,

  • ‘gave them what they craved’;
  • ‘gave them what they asked’;
  • ‘allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways’;

All these dimensions are included in God’s wonderful gift of free will. He decreed the free will that all human beings received and this means that some will do horrific evil in the choices they make, including:

(Hungarian Jews are selected by Nazis to be sent to the gas chamber at Auschwitz concentration camp, May/June 1944, courtesy Wikipedia).

  • Kill 6 million Jews;
  • Slaughter people;
  • Rape children,
  • Kill 129 people in 7 co-ordinated attacks in Paris, 13 November 2015, etc.

Let’s get it very clear! God did not cause all of these sinful choices. He permitted them because he gave all human beings genuine free will that allows them to make authentic volitional decisions about a whole range of issues, including Adam and Eve’s choice to sin and inflict sinful natures on the whole human race, and for people to serve the Lord or not:

Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:14-15 ESV).

Romans 8:28-30 confirms this:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good[10] for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified (ESV).

C. Conclusion

I praise God for giving all people the risky gift of free will. This does not make God into an evil tyrant who decrees horrific moral evil such as the Holocaust and the rape of children by paedophiles. The almighty, living God, revealed in holy Scripture, does not decree this evil to take place through dictatorial imposition. He permitted it as demonstrated by the scriptural statements that some people ‘crave’ certain things and how God permitted some nations to live ‘in their own ways’.

For a refutation of how some Calvinists see God being responsible for decreeing all evil in the world, see my article, ‘Is God responsible for all the evil in the world?

(Skulls of Khmer Rouge victims, Cambodia, courtesy Wikipedia)

Notes


[1] I asked this question on Christian Forums, General Theology, Soteriology, ‘Did God know…’, OzSpen #73. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7743521-8/ (Accessed 25 May 2013).

[2] Ibid., Hammster #79.

[3] The following is from my response at ibid., #93.

[4] Ibid Skala #80. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7743521-8/ (Accessed 25 May 2013).

[5] Some of this information is from H C Thiessen 1949. Introductory lectures in systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company 153-154.

[6] Emphasis added.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] The footnote at this point in the ESV stated, ‘Some manuscripts God works all things together for good, or God works in all things for the good’.

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 1o April 2017.

God’s hate: Isn’t that obnoxious?

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

Hate Pride     God is Love

    ChristArt                                                 ChristArt

By Spencer D Gear

Surely the God of love would not be so loathsome that he would demonstrate hate towards anyone?

Yet we have these statements about God:

checkerboard-arrow-small  ‘And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory”’ (Isaiah 6:3 NIV).

checkerboard-arrow-small ‘Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love (1 John 4:8 NIV, emphasis added).

checkerboard-arrow-small ‘But the Lord Almighty will be exalted by his justice, and the holy God will be proved holy by his righteous acts’ (Isaiah 5:16 NIV).

But there is another side to God’s actions:

snowflake-red-smallThere are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him’ (Proverbs 6:16 NIV, emphasis added).

snowflake-red-small ‘Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated”’ (Rom 9:13 NIV).[1]

snowflake-red-small ‘The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness’ (Romans 1:18 NIV).

snowflake-red-small ‘Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life’ (Matthew 25:46 NIV).

How is it that the God, whose essence is holiness, love and righteousness/justice, can hate, be angry, and send people to eternal punishment? Norman Geisler provides this helpful insight:

God is not only merciful to the repentant, but He is also wrathful upon the unrepentant. These actions are not incompatible, since they are exercised on different objects.

The definition of God’s wrath

A number of Hebrew words are translated as ‘wrath.’ Charown (Ex. 15:7) means ‘burning anger,’ ‘fury.’ Aph (Ex. 22:24) means ‘ire,’ ‘wrath.’ Ebrah (Num. 11:33) depicts outbursts of passion, anger, or rage. Chemah (Ps. 59:13) literally means ‘heat’ and, figuratively, ‘anger.’ Qetreph (2 Chron. 19:2) speaks of a rage.

The New Testament word for ‘wrath’ is orge. It carries the meaning of ‘strong desire,’ ‘violent passion,’ and ‘ire’ (see Eph. 2:3; Col. 3:6; 1 Thess. 5:9; Rev. 6:16). As applied to God, wrath means His anger at and hatred of sin, His righteous indignation at all evil, and His jealous execution of judgment on unrighteousness. However, wrath, while rooted in God’s essential nature as just, is not an attribute, but an act that flows from His unchanging righteousness (Geisler2003:396-397).

The answer is fundamental: The God whose essential essence is holiness, love and righteousness, cannot tolerate sin in his presence. To those who repent, God demonstrates his mercy. But for those who are unrepentant, they can expect God’s wrath as a manifestation of his hatred of sin.

God’s wrath is a manifestation of his essence of holiness and righteousness/justice. ‘Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you’ (Psalm 89:14 NIV).

God’s wrath against evil has its foundation in His essence/nature of unchanging righteousness. So the wrath or hatred of God against sin is not God’s essential nature but flows from God’s immutable (unchanging) righteousness.

C S Lewis put it well:

‘God is the only comfort, He is also the supreme terror: the thing we must need a nd the thing we most want to hide from. He is our only possible ally, and we have made ourselves His enemies. Some people talk as if meeting the gaze of absolute goodness would be fun. They need to think again. They are still only playing with religion. Goodness is either the great safety or the great danger -according to the way you react to it. And we have reacted the wrong way’ (Mere Christianity, chapter 5,We have cause to be uneasy‘).

What a sad day it will be for those who reject the One who makes imputed righteousness possible through Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice!

Works consulted

Geisler, N 2003. Systematic theology: God, creation, vol 2. Minneapolis, Minnesota: BethanyHouse.

Notes

[1] This is citing Malachi 1:2-3.

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 18 November 2015.

Limited atonement conflicts with God’s goodness

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

clip_image002

(image courtesy Clker.com)

By Spencer D Gear

What do Calvinists mean when they support the doctrine of limited atonement or particular redemption? Was there absolutely no possibility for Hitler or a multitude of reprobates to be redeemed? Who created all of the evil in the world? Was that God or someone else?

Did Jesus die for Hitler and all of the other evil monsters in the world over the last 20 centuries, including domestic violence perpetrators and paedophiles? Did God decree all of the evil in the world, including the Holocaust, Gulag, Pol Pot’s and Idi Amin’s atrocities? Was Jesus’ atonement only designed for a limited number of people throughout history and the rest are damned to hell for eternity – damned by God himself?

Here are a few samples of Reformed teachers who promote limited atonement or particular redemption and what they understand it means:

A. David Steele & Curtis Thomas

Christ’s redeeming work was intended to save the elect only and actually secured salvation for them. His death was a substitutionary sacrifice of the penalty of sin in the place of certain specified sinners. In addition to putting away the sins of His people, Christ’s redemption secured everything necessary for their salvation, including faith, which united them to Him. The gift of faith is infallibly applied by the Spirit to all for whom Christ died, thereby guaranteeing their salvation” (Steele & Thomas 1976:17)

The Scriptures that they use to support this view are in Steele & Thomas (1976:40-47). They include this scriptural support from Steele & Thomas (1976:40-47):

A. The Scriptures describe the end intended and accomplished by Christ’s work as the full salvation (actual reconciliation, justification, and sanctification) of His people.

     1. The Scriptures state that Christ came, not to enable men to save themselves, but to save sinners.

  • Matthew 1:21: “… she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
  • Luke 19:10: “For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost.”
  • II Corinthians 5:21: For our sake he [God] made him [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
  • Galatians 1:3, 4: Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.
  • I Timothy 1:15: The saying is sure and worthy of full accept­ance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And I am the foremost of sinners.
  • Titus 2:14: . . . who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.
  • I Peter 3:18: For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.

    2. The Scriptures declare that, as the result of what Christ did and suffered, His people are reconciled to God, justified, and given the Holy Spirit who regenerates and sanctifies them. All these blessings were secured by Christ Himself for His people.

    a. Christ, by His redeeming work, secured reconciliation for His people…. Etc, etc.

[The full list of Scriptures from Steele & Thomas (1976:40-47) has been transcribed HERE.]

George ‘Lee’ Nickles (2001) gives a brief summary of some of these Scriptures used to support this view (based on the 1963 edition of Steele & Thomas 1976). They stated:

Probably the most difficult to agree with. Also called Particular atonement.

Only the elect will be saved.

I. Christ does the saving

    1. Matthew 1:21

    Who does the saving?

    2. I Peter 3:18

    Who does the saving?

II. Christ is the basis of salvation (reconciliation, justification, sanctification)

    3. Colossians 1:21-22

    What is reconciliation?

    4. II Corinthians 5:18-19

    How are we reconciled to God?

    5. Romans 3:24-25

    How are we justified? What is justification?

    6. Galatians 3:13

    What is redemption? How are we redeemed to God?

    7. Titus 2:14

    What does Christ do for us? (2 things)

III. Only some will be saved

    8. John 10:24-29

    Does everyone follow Christ?

    9. John 17:1-3, 6-9

    Who does Christ pray for?

    10. John 17:24

    What does Christ want for his people?

IV. Concerns about “world” and “all”

    11. John 3:16

    What does “world” refer to here?

B. J I Packer:

Definite redemption, sometimes called “particular redemption,” “effective atonement,” and “limited atonement,” is an historic Reformed doctrine about the intention of the triune God in the death of Jesus Christ. Without doubting the infinite worth of Christ’s sacrifice or the genuineness of God’s “whoever will” invitation to all who hear the gospel (Rev. 22:17), the doctrine states that the death of Christ actually put away the sins of all God’s elect and ensured that they would be brought to faith through regeneration and kept in faith for glory, and that this is what it was intended to achieve. From this definiteness and effectiveness follows its limitedness: Christ did not die in this efficacious sense for everyone. The proof of that, as Scripture and experience unite to teach us, is that not all are saved (Packer 1993:137).

C. R C Sproul:

I prefer the term definite atonement to the term limited atonement (though it turns tulip into tudip). The doctrine of definite atonement focuses on the question of the design of Christ’s atonement. It is concerned with God’s intent in sending Jesus to the cross….

Christ’s atonement does not avail for unbelievers…. Some put it this way: Christ’s atonement is sufficient for all, but efficient only for some. This, however, does not really get at the heart of the question of definite atonement…. The Reformed view holds that Christ’s atonement was designed and intended only for the elect. Christ laid down His life for His sheep and only for His sheep. Furthermore, the Atonement insured salvation for all the elect (Sproul 1992:1975-176).

R. C. Sproul (cropped).jpg

R C Sproul (Wikipedia)

D. Did John Calvin, the founder of Calvinism, believe in limited atonement?[1]

Did John Calvin (AD 1509-1564) support limited atonement? In the early days of his writing when he was aged 26, he completed the first edition of The Institutes of the Christian Religion. In these Institutes, he wrote:

I say with Augustine, that the Lord has created those who, as he certainly foreknew, were to go to destruction, and he did so because he so willed. Why he willed it is not ours to ask, as we cannot comprehend, nor can it become us even to raise a controversy as to the justice of the divine will. Whenever we speak of it, we are speaking of the supreme standard of justice (Institutes 3.23.5).

Here Calvin affirmed that God willed the destruction of unbelievers. Calvin continued:

Their perdition depends on the predestination of God, the cause and matter of it is in themselves. The first man fell because the Lord deemed it meet that he should: why he deemed it meet, we know not. It is certain, however, that it was just, because he saw that his own glory would thereby be displayed (Institutes 3.23.8)

While this description is tied up with Calvin’s view of double predestination, it is linked with the doctrine of limited atonement this way: How could God predestine unbelievers to eternal damnation, thus guaranteeing no hope of eternal salvation, while offering unlimited atonement? Unconditional election to damnation – which is the corollary of unconditional election to salvation – would make unlimited salvation useless to those who are deterministically damned. That is the logical connection, as I understand it.

I appreciate that there are some evangelical preachers and teachers who do not believe in eternal hell for the damned. See

clip_image004 Hell No!: A Fundamentalist Preacher Rejects Eternal Torment by Charles Gillihan;

clip_image004[1]Can a Loving God Send People to Hell?’ Debate: William Lane Craig vs. Ray Bradley;

clip_image004[2]Clark Pinnock’s thoughts on hell

I am not of that view. See my articles:

clip_image005What is the nature of death according to the Bible?

clip_image005[1] 2 Thessalonians 1:9: Eternal destruction;

clip_image005[2]Hell & Judgment;

clip_image005[3] Hell in the Bible;

clip_image005[4]Should we be punished for our sins?

clip_image005[5]Paul on eternal punishment;

clip_image005[6]Where will unbelievers go at death?

clip_image005[6]Torment in Old Testament hell? The meaning of Sheol in the OT;

clip_image005[7]Eternal torment for unbelievers when they die;

clip_image005[6]Will you be ready when your death comes?

clip_image005[8]What happens at death for believer and unbeliever?

clip_image005[9]Does eternal destruction mean annihilation for unbelievers at death?

clip_image005[10]Refutation of Seventh-Day Adventist doctrine of what happens at death;

clip_image005[11]Near-death experiences are not all light: What about the dark experiences?

However, even if one were to disbelieve in hell, the problem is still there for the Calvinist regarding God’s unfairness (injustice). If God makes salvation freely available to only a section of humanity and the rest are left to die in their sins, God’s goodness is violated by this injustice. But I’m jumping ahead of myself. That exposition is below.

Roger Nicole’s article on “John Calvin’s view of the extent of the atonement”, indicates that Calvin did not believe in limited atonement, but that it was a doctrine originated by Calvinists following Calvin. Calvin’s first edition of The Institutes was in Latin in 1536 and this was published in a French edition in 1560.

John Calvin did progress in his thinking when he wrote his commentaries on the Bible later in life. His first commentary was on the Book of Romans in 1540 and his commentaries after 1557 were taken from stenographer’s notes taken from lectures to his students. He wrote in his commentary on John 3:16:

Faith in Christ brings life to all, and that Christ brought life, because the Heavenly Father loves the human race, and wishes that they should not perish….

And he has employed the universal term whosoever, both to invite all indiscriminately to partake of life, and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers. Such is also the import of the term World, which he formerly used; for though nothing will be found in the world that is worthy of the favor of God, yet he shows himself to be reconciled to the whole world, when he invites all men without exception to the faith of Christ, which is nothing else than an entrance into life (bold emphasis added; italics emphasis in original).

Thus John Calvin himself is very clear. He believed in unlimited (or universal) atonement.

E. What do some online Christians think of limited atonement?

Colossians 1:20

ChristArt

There is a considerable amount of back and forth between Arminians and Calvinists on the largest evangelical online forum that I have found, Christian Forums. I asked someone online at this Forum, ‘And you want me to believe that Christ preached and taught limited atonement? I do not support that view’.[2] The response was: ‘It’s the only view you can hold, since, obviously, nobody is burning in hell for sins that Christ already paid the penalty for’.[3]

My reply was: Limited atonement is not the only view that I can hold. I, as a Reformed Arminian, do not hold to limited atonement. I differentiate between Christ’s atonement SUFFICIENT for the whole world but EFFICIENT only for the elect.
I consider that the New Testament teaches these two doctrines in John 3:16; 1 Tim 2:4; and Acts 16:31. ‘The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient towards you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance’ (2 Peter 3:9 ESV).

I support the view in which Ron Rhodes has presented a summary case for unlimited atonement in, ‘The Extent of the Atonement—Limited Atonement versus Unlimited Atonement‘.

The response on the Forum was:

Unless you are a universalist, it is the only position you can hold, for the reasons I explained before. Otherwise, you believe in a conditional atonement, which is accessed when people meet that condition; after that, the atonement is limited to whoever accepted it. No one in hell has had their sins atoned for, otherwise they wouldn’t be burning for them.

“The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient towards you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9 ESV).” The context here is “us-ward,” as the KJV puts it, or “towards you,” in this case, the church. It is not referring to the scoffers and the damned reserved for judgment in the previous verses.

That the atonement is not conditional, but is effectually carried through to all the elect, is self-evident from Christ’s reply to the unbelievers in John 6.

“But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.”
(John 6:64-65)

This cannot be so if the atonement is conditional and is not given effectually to the elect, or that it is foreknowledge of who would obey and believe which determined their membership in the elect. Otherwise Christ’s reply would be nonsensical.[4]

My reply, in quoting verses provided by Matt Slick (a Calvinist) of CARM, was:[5]

Jesus died for everyone:

  • John 1:29, “The next day he saw Jesus coming to him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!'”
  • John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
  • John 4:42, “and they were saying to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.'”
  • 1 Tim. 4:10, “For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.”
  • 1 John 2:2, “and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”
  • 1 John 4:14, “And we have beheld and bear witness that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.”

The supporter of limited atonement came back with:

Matt Slick of CARM is a Calvinist, just FYI. Nothing is more common for the Jews, in their writings, to limit the “world” to particular persons, or to even use the word “world” when they are referring only, perhaps, to the Gentiles, or on other occasions, to the Jews. That atonement is limited only to believers is not a point that can be disputed, as if self-evident from the other verses CARM provides, and my own. Of course, we (you and I) dispute on how they come to believe. In which case, you would need to reconcile the verses from, say, John 6, and others like them, with your view of a conditional atonement. Since if it is only “offered,” but not effected, we cannot say that some do not believe because it was not given them to believe.[6]

I didn’t come down in the last shower!clip_image006 I know Matt Slick is a Calvinist. However, even he admits that there are Christians on both sides of this debate. And he provided verses to support unlimited atonement (quoted above).

I further emphasised[7] that Calvinists who support limited atonement need to make ‘world’ = particular persons in the world. Arminians take the word ‘world’ at face value, meaning the whole world. We know that this is what the Scriptures intend, based on 2 Peter 3:9, ‘The Lord is … not wishing any should perish’ (ESV). This is not saying ‘The Lord … is wishing many to perish’ (through double predestination).

However, what does this verse say? First John 2:2, “and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”

This is to refute the idea that the sins of the world = sins of part of the world. First John 2:2 is very clear that Christ Himself was the propitiation for the sins of the WHOLE world and NOT PART of the world.

First John 4:10 makes it clear how this applies as Christ’s atonement is sufficient for the whole world but efficient for those who believe, when it states that Jesus is ‘the Savior of all men [male and female], especially of believers.”

I find that unlimited atonement is the biblical teaching. Christ’s death is sufficient for the whole world, but it only applies to ‘whoever believes in Him’ (John 3:16).

However, I cannot see us agreeing on this point, even though I find the Scriptures to be clear about Christ’s atonement being sufficient for all but efficient only for those who believe.

This person did respond to me.[8] Did you notice what he did in his response to me?[9] He did not answer my post and verses I gave, with the interpretation I provided. He simply went ahead and gave his interpretation of a few verses. He ran off with his own agenda and did not respond specifically to my objections. What is he doing when he does this?

If he wants me to take notice of what he writes, he needs to stop using this kind of straw man logical fallacy. I will not engage with him further if he continues to use this tactic of writing what he wants to say and ignoring my objections. We cannot have a logical conversation when someone uses logical fallacies. For a good overview of logical fallacies, see The Nizkor Project.

clip_image007This person wrote:

First, if Christ is the propitiation for every single human being’s sins, then it means that He has atoned for the sins that they are still being punished for. It does not say that he is the possible propitiation. It says that he is, at that time, for every person in the world. This cannot be true, since only believers are saved. Unless you are a Universalist, this cannot be the verse for you. Also, your view is illogical, since it supposes that Christ died for sinners already in hell, or those who would go to hell, and millions of people who never heard the Gospel and never would, in all ages, whom the scripture regards as entirely under the guilt of sin and damned.

Arminians take these verses at “face value,” and contradict the whole of scripture and common sense. You also didn’t attempt to reconcile these views with that verse from John 6, either.

Next, let’s also put this verse side by side the parallel passage:

1 John 2:2, “and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”[10]

My response was:[11]

Let’s try just one verse in this post and my response to your statement regarding 1 John 2:2 which you have quoted.

One of the most prominent Greek exegetes from the 20th century – and a Southern Baptist – Dr A T Robertson, provided this exegesis of 1 John 2:2: ‘For the whole world (peri holou tou kosmou). It is possible to supply the ellipsis here of twn hamartiwn (the sins of) as we have it in Heb. 7:27, but a simpler way is just to regard “the whole world” as a mass of sin (5:19). At any rate, the propitiation by Christ provides for salvation for all (Heb. 2:9) if they will only be reconciled with God (II Cor. 5:19-21)’ (Robertson 1933:209-210).

Lutheran commentator, R C H Lenski, prefers the translation of ‘expiation’ to ‘propitiation’ for the Greek, hilasmos. However, his exegesis is:

John advances the thought from sins to the whole world of sinners. Christ made expiation for our sins and thereby for all sinners. We understand kosmos [world] in the light of John 3:16 and think that it includes all men [male and female], us among them, and not only all unsaved men [male and female]. John does not add this “but also” as a matter of information for us regarding other people but as assuring us that, because Christ is expiation (qualitative, without the article; like dikaion) “in regard to the whole world,” we are included.

Augustine and the Venerable Bede offer the interpretation that “the whole world” = ecclesia electorum for totum mundum dispersa, which Calvin seconds…. But see II Peter 2:1: the Lord bought even those who go to hell. “The whole world” includes all men [male and female] who ever lived or will live (Lenski 1966:400).

Second Peter 2:1 reads, ‘But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction’ (ESV, emphasis added).

As for John 6:64-65, this interpretation that I have provided in no way conflicts with these two verses which read: ‘But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father”'(ESV).
These verses harmonise beautifully with Jesus’ foreknowledge of those who would believe (as opposed to unconditional election). This is obvious from the words, ‘Jesus knew from the beginning’ (his foreknowledge) those who would believe, even Judas who would betray him. The Father grants belief (faith) to those who come to him.

This fellow who was opposing me online, did run off with a long-winded reply that did not address the matters I raised, in my view.[12]

https://i2.wp.com/www.christart.com/IMAGES-art9ab/clipart/1692/candle-cross.png

(courtesy ChristArt)

F. Prevenient grace

In the above kind of discussion, irresistible grace and unconditional election are often supported by Calvinists. It is at times like this that I enter into the Arminian discussion on prevenient grace. As to prevenient grace, this is my understanding of its meaning (which I support). Roger Olson, an Arminian, stated that prevenient grace ‘is the powerful but resistible drawing of God’ towards the unbeliever. ‘Prevenient grace’ is not a biblical term, “but it is a biblical concept assumed everywhere in scripture” (Olson 2006:159).

The Remonstrants,[1] Article 4 (as the earliest Arminians promotion of resistible grace), described it this way:

That this grace of God is the beginning, continuance, and accomplishment of all good, even to the extent that the regenerate man himself, without prevenient or assisting, awakening, following and cooperative grace, can neither think, will, nor do good, nor withstand any temptations to evil; so that all good deeds or movements that can be conceived must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. But with respect to the mode of the operation of this grace, it is not irresistible, since it is written concerning many, that they have resisted the Holy Spirit (Acts 7, and elsewhere in many places).

The Remonstrants understood that there was only one way to eternal salvation and that was achieved when God’s grace came to human beings before, during and after justification. Why was God’s grace needed in this way? It was because, as the Remonstrants stated, that no human being could ‘think, will, nor do good’ unless they received God’s prevenient or assisting grace.

Steve Lemke put it this way, when speaking of the Remonstrants’ response to Calvinism in Article 4 (above):

The Remonstrants taught that the only way for anyone to be saved is for God’s grace to come before, during, and after justification because even the best-intentioned human being can “neither think, will, nor do good” apart from God’s grace.[13] They even went so far as to say that all good in “any way that can be conceived must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ.”[14] But the question is, Why is this saving grace of God not appropriated or experienced by all persons? Has God failed in some way? Does God not truly love all persons? Does God not desire the salvation of all persons? No. The Remonstrants refused to blame this failure on God but rightly assigned this failure to the rebellion and resistance of fallen human beings. God created human beings with the free will either to cooperate with God and receive His grace or to reject finally God’s gracious gift…. Human beings would have no salvation at all apart from the grace of God; but God refuses to actualize that salvation in the life of anyone who continually resists God’s grace, refuses to humbly receive it, and finally rejects it’ (Lemke 2010:110).

G. How Calvinists tame the language of ‘irresistible grace’[15]

R. C. Sproul (1992:169-170), a Calvinist, describes irresistible grace as ‘effectual calling’. For Sproul,

the effectual call of God is an inward call. It is the secret work of quickening or regeneration accomplished in the souls of the elect by the immediate supernatural operation of the Holy Spirit…. Effectual calling is irresistible in the sense that God sovereignly brings about its desired result…. irresistible in the sense that God’s grace prevails over our natural resistance to it.

We need to understand that the language of ‘effectual calling’ is a way to soften the language of ‘irresistible grace’, with the latter coming with overtones of God forcing a person to receive salvation. Lemke (2010:112) considers that ‘some contemporary Calvinists seem to be a little embarrassed by the term “irresistible grace” and have sought to soften it or to replace it with a term like “effectual calling”’.

While Sproul (1992), Spurgeon (1856) and Packer (1993:152-153) use the language of ‘effectual calling’, other Calvinists are more up front in emphasising that grace that brings about salvation cannot be refused – people are unable to resist. Packer’s language is that ‘in effectual calling God quickens the dead’, people understand the gospel through the Holy Spirit enlightening and renewing the hearts of elect sinners. They embrace this ‘truth from God, and God in Christ becomes to them an object of desire and affection’ as they are now regenerate and have been enabled ‘by the use of their freed will to choose God and the good’ and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour (Packer 1993:153). Spurgeon (1856) said, ‘If he shall but say, “To-day I must abide at thy house,” there will be no resistance in you…. If God says “I must,” there is no standing against it. Let him say “must,” and it must be’.

Steele, Thomas and Quinn (2004:52-54), as Calvinists, are more to the point, using the language that ‘the special inward call of the Spirit never fails to result in the conversion of those to whom it is made’. It is issued ‘only to the elect’ and the Spirit does not depend on ‘their help or cooperation’. In fact, ‘for the grace which the Holy Spirit extends to the elect cannot be thwarted or refused, it never fails to bring them to true faith in Christ’. That sounds awfully like God forcing the elect to come to Christ and by implication, leaving the non-elect to damnation.

John Piper and the staff at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, MN, do not use the softly, softly language. They state that irresistible grace

does not mean that every influence of the Holy Spirit cannot be resisted. It means that the Holy Spirit can overcome all resistance and make his influence irresistible…. The doctrine of irresistible grace means that God is sovereign and can overcome all resistance when he wills.[16]

However, there is a paradoxical statement in the Bethlehem Baptist statement in that only a few paragraphs after making the above statement, it stated:

Irresistible grace never implies that God forces us to believe against our will. That would even be a contradiction in terms. On the contrary, irresistible grace is compatible with preaching and witnessing that tries to persuade people to do what is reasonable and what will accord with their best interests.[17]

It sure is a contradiction in terms and the Bethlehem Baptist Church has given that contradiction by affirming that ‘the Holy Spirit can overcome all resistance’, yet God never ‘forces us to believe against our will’.[18] Sounds awfully like a Bethlehem Baptist contradiction to me.

Irresistible grace has been described as:

When God calls his elect into salvation, they cannot resist. God offers to all people the gospel message. This is called the external call. But to the elect, God extends an internal call and it cannot be resisted. This call is by the Holy Spirit who works in the hearts and minds of the elect to bring them to repentance and regeneration whereby they willingly and freely come to God. Some of the verses used in support of this teaching are Romans 9:16 where it says that “it is not of him who wills nor of him who runs, but of God who has mercy“; Philippians 2:12-13 where God is said to be the one working salvation in the individual; John 6:28-29 where faith is declared to be the work of God; Acts 13:48 where God appoints people to believe; and John 1:12-13 where being born again is not by man’s will, but by God’s.[19]

H. One of the major problems with the doctrine of limited atonement

Good Witness

(courtesy ChristArt)

This also applies to the Calvinistic understanding of unconditional election and irresistible grace as well. These three doctrines cut to the heart of God’s love, goodness and justice. In my understanding, limited atonement renders impotent God’s love for the world; it attacks the goodness of God; and it makes God’s justice look like injustice for the damned – those who are elected to damnation by God.

Roger Olson has stated that the pride of place or first principle of Arminian construction is ‘the Arminian vision of the character of God as discerned from a synoptic reading of Scripture using the revelation of God in Jesus Christ as the hermeneutical control’. He explained that ‘all Arminians object to is belief that God controls human choices – especially evil and sinful ones! And Arminians do not see any way to embrace divine determinism (monergism) and avoid making God the author of sin and evil…. Arminianism does not object to the idea that God controls human choices and actions through the power of persuasion’ (Olson 2006:98).

1. God as the author of sin (i.e. rape, murder, rebellion)

Olson drew my attention to this quote from Calvinistic theologian, Edwin Palmer’s[20] 1972 publication, The five points of Calvinism (see bibliography for details): ‘The Bible is clear: God ordains sin’ and ‘although all things – unbelief and sin included – proceed from God’s eternal decree, man is still to blame for his sins’. Olson’s citation was to Palmer (1972:85, 103, 106, in Olson 2006:99, n. 4). I examined my hard copy of Palmer (1972) and the pages stated by Olson and these exact quotes were nowhere to be found in those stated pages given by Olson. I did find the following different quotes in my 1972 edition of Palmer in which he stated that ‘whereas the Arminian denies the sovereignty of God, the hyper-Calvinist denies the responsibility of man’ (1972:85). His response, under a heading of Calvinism, ‘a paradox’, was that

the Calvinist accepts both sides of the antimony. He realizes that what he advocates is ridiculous. It is simply impossible for man to harmonize these two sets of data. To say on the one hand that God has made certain all that ever happens, and yet to say that man is responsible for what he does? Nonsense! It must be one or the other, but not both. To say that God foreordains the sin of Judas, and yet Judas is to blame? Foolishness! Logically the author of The Predestinated Thief[21] was right. God cannot foreordain the theft and then blame the thief (Palmer 1972:85).

Palmer than claimed that ‘the Calvinist freely admits that this position is illogical, ridiculous, nonsensical, and foolish’. He appealed to Paul in 1 Cor 1:18 to support this view: ‘The word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness’ (Palmer 1972:85) as

the Greeks seek after wisdom and logic, and to them the Calvinist is irrational. The Calvinist holds to two apparently contradictory positions.[22] He says on the one hand, God has foreordained all things. Then he turns around and says to every man, ‘Your salvation is up to you. You must believe. It is your duty and responsibility. And if you don’t, you cannot blame God. You must blame only yourself. But if you do believe, remember that it was God who worked in you both to believe and to do according to His good pleasure (Phil. 2:12, 13). ‘If you do press on to lay hold on the goal of life, remember that Christ laid hold on you that you might lay hold on it’ (Phil. 3:12). In the face of all logic, the Calvinist says that if man does anything good, God gets all the glory; and if man does anything bad, man gets all the blame. Man can’t win (Palmer 1972:85).

However, Palmer’s theology is inconsistent in that he claims that while ‘all things – unbelief and sin included – proceed from God’s eternal decree, man is still to blame for his sins’. However, in the same publication he states that ‘our first parents, being seduced by the subtilty[23] and temptation of Satan, sinned in eating the forbidden fruit. This their sin God was pleased, according to His wise and holy counsel, to permit, having purposed to order it to His own glory’ (Palmer 1972:103, emphasis added). How can it be that ‘unbelief and sin … proceed from God’s eternal decree’ but this means that God chooses ‘to permit’ the Fall into sin by ‘our first parents’? This is a conflicting interpretation. Again he has deconstructed ‘God’s eternal decree’ to mean, ‘to permit’. Honestly, this is Palmer’s promotion of contradiction. To make decree synonymous with permit, prostitutes the English language.

Thus, Calvinistic theologian, Edwin Palmer, has admitted to the content of the very Calvinistic theology to which Arminians object regarding God’s creation of sin and God’s decreeing all of the evil in the world.

Palmer wrote: ‘The Bible is clear: God ordains sin’ (Palmer 2010:83). This is a later edition of Palmer’s 1972 publication. Although Edwin Palmer died in 1980, here in this article I am citing from and enlarged third edition that is indicated as Palmer (2010) in which the quotes by Olson appear (Olson 2006:99). However, this 2010 edition was published first in 1980 (Palmer 2010:4). Palmer stated that, ‘All the Five Points of Calvinism hang or fall together’ (2010:84). He continued, ‘To emphasize the sovereignty of God even more, it is necessary to point out that everything is foreordained by God’ and

although all things, unbelief and sin included, proceed from God’s eternal decree, man is still to blame for his sins. He is guilty. It is his fault and not God’s….

To emphasize the sovereignty of God even more, it is necessary to point out that everything is foreordained by God. Not only is God omnipotent, so that the nations are to him a drop in the bucket or as a fine coating of dust on weighing scales (Isaiah 40), but he also ‘works all things according to the counsel of his will (Eph. 1:11).

It is even biblical to say that God has foreordained sin. If sin was outside the plan of God, then not a single important affair of life would be ruled by God. For what action of man is perfectly good? All of history would then be outside of God’s foreordination: the fall of Adam, the crucifixion of Christ, the conquests of the Roman Empire, the Battle of Hastings, the Reformation, the French Revolution, Waterloo, the American Revolution, the Civil War, two World Wars, presidential assassinations, racial violence, and the rise and fall of nations.

In two instances, the Bible is especially clear in teaching that everything, including sin, is ordained by God: the selling of Joseph and the crucifixion of Christ (Palmer 2010:103, 100).

This kind of statement about the absolute sovereignty of God’s foreordination of sin and evil, by Palmer, has obnoxious ramifications. It means that every act of a reprobate in paedophilia, rape, violence of person-to-person, the Holocaust, the Gulag, and every other evil act imaginable by individuals, groups and nations is attributed to the sovereignty of God in decreeing sin and evil. This is not only a reprehensible view, but it is not consistent with Scripture. How is it possible to harmonise Palmer’s perspective of the sovereignty of God who causes (decrees) all of the sin and evil in the world, with an appeal to the Scriptures?

Edwin Palmer (2010) has added this section: Twelve Theses on Reprobation[24]

This focus of Calvinistic theology is torn apart when faced with the character of God as the following exposition investigates.

2. Paedophilia, rape, the Holocaust: God’s justice and goodness.

Love and justice

(courtesy ChristArt)

Roger Olson has nailed the major problems for Calvinists: ‘This is why Arminians object to belief in the exhaustive divine determinism in any form; it cannot avoid making God the author of sin and evil, and the logical conclusion must be that God is not wholly good even though Calvinists and other monergists disagree’ (Olson 2006:99).[25] Then Olson affirms one of the Arminian vs Calvinistic differences:

Arminianism begins with God’s goodness and ends by affirming free will. The latter follows from the former, and the former is based on divine revelation; God reveals himself as unconditionally and unequivocally good, which does not exclude justice and wrathful retribution. It only excludes the possibility of God sinning, willing others to sin or causing sin’ (Olson 2006:99).

Olson could not be clearer:

There is no example within humanity where goodness is compatible with willing someone to do evil or sin and suffer eternally for it. Arminians are well aware of Calvinist arguments based on the Genesis narrative where Joseph’s brothers meant his captivity for evil but God meant it for good (Gen 50:20). They simply do not believe this proves that God ordains evil that good may come of it. Arminians believe God permits evil and brings good out of it. Otherwise, who is the real sinner?

Arminianism is all about protecting the reputation of God by protecting his character as revealed in Jesus Christ and Scripture…. God does not have to be fair. Fairness is not necessary to goodness. But love and justice are necessary to goodness, and both exclude willing determination of sin, evil or eternal suffering (Olson 2006:100, emphasis in original).

Palmer’s Calvinistic promotion of God as the author of sin and evil, runs aground on God’s attributes of goodness, justice and love. Let’s examine these attributes from God’s perspective and using some Calvinistic theologians to explain these attributes.

3. God’s goodness

There’s a marvellous verse that begins Psalm 136, ‘Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever’ (Ps 136:1 NLT).

So the Lord God is ‘good’ and his ‘faithful love’ continues ‘forever’. What does it mean to say that God is good?

a. Calvinist theologian, Charles Hodge

Hodge wrote of the goodness of God:

Goodness, in the Scriptural sense of the term, includes benevolence, love, mercy, and grace. By benevolence is meant the disposition to promote happiness; all sensitive creatures are its objects. Love includes complacency, desire, and delight, and has rational beings for its objects. Mercy is kindness exercised towards the miserable, and includes pity, compassion, forbearance, and gentleness, which the Scriptures so abundantly ascribe to God. Grace is love exercised towards the unworthy. The love of a holy God to sinners is the most mysterious attribute of the divine nature (Hodge 1979:1.427)

Thus it is impossible, based on that definition, for the God of goodness to decree to create all evil and suffering in the world and for God to be the good God and responsible for all the reprobate monstrosities that happen in our world. God’s goodness does not equate with God being the creator of sin and evil. And this is the Calvinist, Charles Hodge, speaking.

b. J I Packer, Calvinist theologian

Packer claimed of particular redemption that

this sovereign redemptive love is one facet of the quality that Scripture calls God’s goodness (Ps. 100:5; Mark 10:18), that is, the glorious kindness and generosity that touches all his creatures (Ps. 145:9, 15-16) and that ought to lead all sinners to repentance (Rom. 2:4). Other aspects of this goodness are the mercy or compassion or pity that shows kindness to persons in distress by rescuing them out of trouble (Pss. 107, 136) and the long-suffering, forbearance, and slowness to anger that continues to show kindness toward persons who have persisted in sinning (Exod. 34:6; Ps. 78:38; John 3:10-4:11; Rom. 9:22; 2 Pet. 3:9). The supreme expression of God’s goodness is still, however, the amazing grace and inexpressible love that shows kindness by saving sinners who deserve only condemnation: saving them, moreover, at the tremendous cost of Christ’s death on Calvary (Rom. 3:22-24; 5:5-8; 8:32-39; Eph. 2:1-10; 3:14-18; 5:25-27) [Packer 1993:46].

How does Packer, the Calvinist’s, description of God’s goodness line up with Palmer’s understanding that all sin and evil are decreed by God? Packer aligns God’s goodness with:

  • Particular redemption (limited atonement); the obvious corollary is particular eternal damnation. The latter hardly adds up to a demonstration of God’s goodness.
  • God’s glorious kindness and generosity to all people and living things. How can that be for those eternally damned and suffering eternal punishment? It cannot work for those who do not make it to eternal bliss through salvation. The Calvinistic God in action represents deterministic, censorship of those who are not included in the redeemed. Goodness as discrimination is not a consistent application of God’s goodness to all people.
  • He wrote of mercy, compassion and pity in demonstrating kindness to people in distress and rescuing them from trouble. That doesn’t work for those who are eternally damned by God or left out of God’s eternal salvation. That is not a manifestation of His goodness, but of evil. This attribute of rescuing people in trouble does not apply to the reprobate. It can’t, in the Calvinistic system.
  • Amazing grace and inexpressible love and kindness by saving sinners who deserved condemnation? What about the multiple millions throughout human history who are now experiencing torment? That’s a violation of God’s goodness, especially since they are unconditionally damned (the necessary consequence of the Calvinistic unconditional election, limited atonement and irresistible grace).
  • Saving sinners through the cost of Christ’s death on Calvary. Wait a minute! Multiple millions since the first century have experienced eternal loss and were not included in the limited atonement provided by the Calvinistic God. This is not a demonstration of God’s goodness, but of God’s contemptible prejudice against them. That’s my understanding of how the God of Calvinism is not the good God of the majority of humanity for those unconditionally elected to eternal condemnation and for whom there was no atonement through Christ’s death.

c. Louis Berkhof, Calvinist theologian

Of the goodness of God, Berkhof wrote:

This is generally treated as a generic conception, including several varieties, which are distinguished according to their objects. The goodness of God should not be confused with His kindness, which is a more restricted concept. We speak of something as good, when it answers in all parts to the ideal. Hence in our ascription of goodness to God the fundamental idea is that He is in every way all that He as God should be, and therefore answers perfectly to the ideal expressed in the word “God.” He is good in the metaphysical sense of the word, absolute perfection and perfect bliss in Himself. It is in this sense that Jesus said to the young ruler: “None is good save one, even God,” Mark 10:18. But since God is good in Himself, He is also good for His creatures, and may therefore be called the fons omnium bonorum [source of all good gifts]. He is the fountain of all good, and is so represented in a variety of ways throughout the Bible. The poet sings: “For with thee is the fountain of life; in thy light shall we see light,” Ps. 36:9. All the good things which the creatures enjoy in the present and expect in the future, flow to them out of this inexhaustible fountain. And not only that, but God is also the summum bonum, the highest good, for all His creatures, though in different degrees and according to the measure in which they answer to the purpose of their existence. In the present connection we naturally stress the ethical goodness of God and the different aspects of it, as these are determined by the nature of its objects (Berkhof 1941:70).

How is Berkhof’s understanding of God’s goodness compatible or otherwise with the Calvinistic theology of limited atonement? Berkhof believes God’s goodness means this:

  • ‘It answers in all parts to the ideal… He is in every way all that He as God should be’.
  • ‘Absolute perfection and perfect bliss in Himself’.
  • ‘Source of all good gifts’.
  • ‘All the good things which the creatures enjoy in the present and expect in the future’ come from God’s goodness ‘for all His creatures’.
  • He is ‘the highest good for all His creatures’.
  • The stress is on the ethical goodness of God.

I find it impossible to match these points regarding God’s attribute of goodness with the Jesus of Calvary who only died for a portion of the human race, leaving the rest to experience eternal damnation. God is thus not the source of good gifts for the lost. Yes, all creatures, redeemed and reprobate, enjoy good things in their human life but the expectation of damnation for a large hunk of the human race is hardly an experience of God’s ethical goodness. How can it be ethical goodness in operation to damn people eternally?

Now let’s check out a few Arminian or Arminian-leaning theologians for their definitions of God’s goodness.

d. Theologian Henry Thiessen, whose views harmonise with Arminians

Thiessen explained:

In the larger sense of the term, the goodness of God includes all the qualities that answer to the conception of an ideal personage; that is, it includes such qualities as His holiness, righteousness, and truth, as well as his love, benevolence, mercy, and grace. It is probably in this broad sense that Jesus said to the young ruler, “Why callest thou me good? None is good save one, even God” (Mark 10:18). In the narrower sense, however, the term is limited to the last four qualities named (Thiessen 1949:130)

Thiessen proceeded to explicate these four qualities of God’s goodness, the first being,

(i) The love of God

God is Love

(courtesy ChristArt)

By the love of God we mean that perfection of the divine nature by which God is eternally moved to communicate Himself. It is, however, not a mere emotional impulse, but a rational and voluntary affection, having its ground in truth and holiness and its exercise in free choice. This love finds its primary objects in the several persons of the trinity…. True love necessarily involves feeling, and if there be no feeling in God, then there is no love of God.

The Scriptures frequently testify to the love of God. They speak of him as “the God of love” (2 Cor. 13:11) and declare him to be “love” (1 John 4:8, 16). It is his nature to love. He is in contrast with the gods of the heathen, who hate and are angry; and of the god of the philosopher who is cold and indifferent. The Father loves the Son (Matt. 3:17), and the Son loves the Father (John 14:31). God is said to love the world (John 3:16; Eph. 2:4), his ancient people Israel (Deut. 7:6-8, 13; Jer. 31:3), and his true children (John 14:23). He also loves righteousness (Ps. 11:7) and justice (Isa. 61:8)[26] (Thiessen 1949:131-132).

God’s love, from this Arminian view, is extended to all (as in John 3:16; 1 John 2:2; 2 Peter 3:9), but not in the Calvinistic TULIP theology. God is not eternally moved to communicate his saving truth to the damned in Calvinistic theology. Why would God want to converse with those who are not unconditionally elected, included in the limited atonement, and for whom he does not extend irresistible grace? It would be a waste of God’s resources to extend himself to communicate with those who would never ever respond. Why wouldn’t they respond? Because they are eternally predestined not to respond! That is my understanding of Calvinism. This is far removed from the actions of the loving God who is absolutely good to all of his creation. Calvinism sounds more like the discriminatory action of a deterministic dictator who hates a large chunk of humanity and doesn’t want them in his eternal presence.

The second quality of God’s goodness according to Thiessen is,

(ii) The benevolence of God

Thiessen stated:

By the benevolence of God we mean the affection which He feels and manifests towards His sentient and conscious creatures. It is due to the fact that the creature is His workmanship; He cannot hate anything that He has made (Job 14:5), only that which has been added to His work. Sin is such an addition. The benevolence of God is manifested in His care for the welfare, and is suited to the needs and capacities, of the creature. “Jehovah is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works… Thou openest Thy hand, and satisfieth the desire of every living thing” (Ps 145:9, 15, 16). See also Job 38:14; Ps. 36:3; 104:21; Matt. 6:23. It also extends to men as such: “He left not himself without witness” (Acts 14:17); even to men as sinful: “He sends the sunshine and the rain upon both good and bad” (Matt. 5:45)[27] (Thiessen 1949:131).

This view is contrary to the Calvinistic view of God being responsible for all of the sin and evil in the world. We note Thiessen’s understanding of the decrees of God:

Most of the difficulties concerning the decrees disappear with the proper apprehension of the nature of the decrees. They are not, as some erroneously suppose, inconsistent with free agency; they do not take away all motives for human exertion; and they do not make God the Author of sin…. We believe that the decrees of God are His eternal purpose (in a real sense all things are embraced in one purpose) or purposes, based on His most wise and holy counsel, whereby He freely and unchangeably, for His own glory, ordained, either efficaciously or permissively, all that comes to pass (Thiessen 1949:147, emphasis added).

Those emphasised words are critical. The decrees of God are designed by God efficaciously or permissively. As Thiessen explained,

There are two kinds of decrees: efficacious [which means to produce the desired effect] and permissive. There are things which God purposes that He also determines efficaciously to bring about; there are other things which He merely determines to permit…. Even in the case of permissive decrees, He overrules all for His own glory…. The decrees embrace all that comes to pass. They include all the past, the present, and the future; they embrace the things which He efficaciously brings about and the things which He merely permits. Surely, this conception of the decrees removes most of the difficulties that are often associated with them (Thiessen 1949:148).

Thiessen explains that the events that happen in our universe are ‘neither a surprise nor a disappointment to God, nor the result of His caprice or arbitrary will, but the outworking of a definite purpose and plan of God, is the teaching of Scripture’ (Thiessen 1949:148). Thiessen quotes these verses to support this teaching:

‘The Lord of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand….26 This is the purpose that is purposed concerning the whole earth, and this is the hand that is stretched out over all the nations. 27 For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?’ (Isa 14:24, 26-27); ‘making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ…. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will’ (Eph 1:9, 11).

The eternal nature of these decrees is noted in Ephesians 3:11, ‘This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord’.

So God, in his eternal purposes has permitted sin to enter the world through human beings, but God has not decreed such evil as it would make God the originator and perpetrator of sin and evil – according to the Calvinistic scheme. Such is contrary to the holiness, goodness and righteousness/justice of God. The goodness of benevolence that God has manifested to all human beings is that they are given free will to choose to obey or disobey God and that God did not decree that people would sin. Human beings, starting with Adam, chose to disobey. It was not decreed by God that Adam should disobey God and that sin should infect the entire human race. It was Adam’s choice and he was acting on our behalf. We would have made the exact same decision if we had been there.

It is as William G T Shedd has stated, ‘Sin is no part of creation, but a quality introduced into creation by the creature himself’ (in Thiessen 1949:153). This revolt by human beings against the will of God cannot be associated with God as the cause of sin as James 1:13-14 teaches, ‘Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”, for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire’. There you have the key to temptation and sin by human beings, ‘by his own desire’, or as the New Living Translation puts it, ‘Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away’ (James 1:14).

God declared in Ezekiel 18:23: “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” Notice the language, ‘When they turn’ from their wicked ways. Too often, we hear Calvinists say that the damnation of the non-elect is ‘the good pleasure of His will’. But here, God states explicitly that He takes no pleasure in damning anyone but prefers that they turn from sin and live. How this idea fits into the Calvinist scheme is not at all clear.

Thiessen asks this penetrating question: ‘How could He [God] be the Author of sin and then condemn man to an endless hell for doing what He caused him to do?’ (Thiessen 1949:153). Olson affirmed the Arminian position, contrary to Calvinism: ‘Arminius’s main concern was to avoid making God the author of sin’ (quoting William Witt) and ‘to put it bluntly, for Arminius, God could not foreordain or directly or indirectly cause sin and evil even if he wanted to (which he would not), because that would make God the author of sin. And God’s good and just nature requires that he desires the salvation of every human being. This is completely consistent with Scripture (1 Tim 2:4; 2 Pet 3:9)’ (Olson 2006:103).

What, then, is the origin of sin? How did it enter the universe when we understand God as an absolutely good and benevolent God? Arminius, contrary to Calvinism, expounded this as ‘the cause of sin’, i.e. Adam’s first sin:

The efficient cause of this sin is two fold. The one immediate and near. The other remote and mediate.

(1) The former is Man himself, who, of his own free will and without any necessity either internal or external, (Gen. iii. 6,) transgressed the law which had been proposed to him, (Rom. v. 19,) which had been sanctioned by a threatening and a promise, (Gen. ii. 16, 17,) and which it was possible for him to have observed (ii, 9; iii, 23, 24).

(2.) The remote and mediate efficient cause is the Devil, who, envying the Divine glory and the salvation of mankind, solicited man to a transgression of that law. (John viii. 44.) The instrumental cause is the Serpent, whose tongue Satan abused, for proposing to man these arguments which he considered suitable to persuade him. (Gen. iii. 1; 2 Cor. xi. 3.) It is not improbable, that the grand deceiver made a conjecture from his own case; as he might himself have been enticed to the commission of sin by the same arguments. (Gen. iii. 4, 5.) (Arminius 1977:1.481).

Thus, the biblical data is consistent with the Arminian view that God did not create or decree that first sin, but in his permissive will he allowed for human beings to break the law of God, commit the first sin and so infect the entire human race. The Bible is very clear about that: ‘Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned’ (Rom 5:12). This is consistent with God’s attribute of goodness. It is not God who decreed sin, but it was God who permitted Adam to sin and the sin infection came to the entire human race because of one man’s sin. Ephesians 2:3 confirms that the Ephesian Christians are ‘by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind’.

A third quality of God’s goodness, according to Thiessen, is

(iii) The mercy of God

Thiessen explained:

By the mercy of God we mean, his goodness manifested towards those who are in misery or distress. Compassion, pity, and loving kindness are other terms in Scripture that denote practically the same thing. Mercy is an eternal, necessary quality in God as an all perfect being; but the exercise of it in a given case is optional. To deny the freeness of mercy is to annihilate it; for if it is a matter of debt, then it is no longer mercy…. The Scriptures represent God as “rich in mercy” (Eph. 2:4) and as “full of pity [compassion] and merciful” (James 5:11).[28] He is said to be merciful toward Israel (Ps. 102:13), toward the Gentiles (Rom 11:30f.), and toward all that fear him (Ex. 20:2; Luke 1:50)[29] and seek His salvation (Isa. 55:7; Luke 1:72) [Thiessen 1949:131-132].[30]

What does it mean for reprobate people who are in distress because of their sin? If God provides atonement only for a certain section of humanity (the elect), he cannot manifest his goodness – through mercy – to the entire human race, including those who are eternally damned. The Arminian view of God’s mercy is more in line with the biblical message than that of Calvinism.

Bread from God

(courtesy ChristArt)

There’s a fourth quality to God’s goodness that Thiessen identifies;

(iv) The grace of God

By the grace of God we mean the goodness manifested toward the ill-deserving. Grace has respect to sinful man as guilty, while mercy has respect to him as miserable.[31] The exercise of grace, like that of mercy, is optional with God. He must be holy in all his actions; he may or may not show grace to a guilty sinner…. The Scriptures show that the grace of God is manifested toward the natural man: (a) In his forbearance and long-suffering delay of the punishment of sin (Exod. 34:6; Rom. 2:4; 3:25; 9:22; 1 Pet. 3:20; 2 Pet. 3:9,15) and (b) in His provision of salvation, the Word of God, the convicting work of the Spirit, the influence of God’s people, and prevenient grace. This is the common grace of God (1 John 2;2; Hosea 8:12; John 16:8-11; Matt 5:13, 14; Titus 2:11).

They also show that His grace is especially manifested towards those who respond to prevenient grace: (a) In their election and foreordination (Eph. 1:4-6), (b) their redemption (Eph. l:7, 8), (c) their salvation (Acts 18:27), (d) their sanctification (Rom. 5:21; Titus 2:11, 12), (e) their preservation (2 Cor. 12:9), (f) their service (Heb. 12;28), and (g) in their final presentation (1 Pet. 1:13). This is God’s special grace[32] (Thiessen 1949:132, emphases in original).

God’s grace toward the undeserving is evident to all, from an Arminian perspective, but only to a select minority of those for whom there is limited atonement in the Calvinistic theology. The Arminian teaching, in my understanding, is more consistent with Scripture in accurately upholding the grace of God

e. Arminian theologian, H Orton Wiley

Christian Theology -<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> By: H. Orton Wiley</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> <p>

H Orton Wiley (christianbook.com)

Wiley explained goodness, as an attribute of God:

The goodness of God is that attribute by reason of which God wills the happiness of His crea­tures. Perfection as we have shown, is the absolute ex­cellence which God has in Himself; goodness is that ex­cellence which moves God to impart being and life to finite things apart from His divine essence, and to com­municate to them such gifts as they have capacity to re­ceive. Goodness is generally expressed by the Hebrew word chesedh, and by the Greek words  agathosune or chrestotes and such like terms. The goodness of God ad intra [towards the inside, i.e. internally] belongs to the Holy Trinity, in which the Blessed Three eternally communicate to each other their infinite richness. In this sense, goodness is eternal and neces­sary. The goodness of God ad extra [in an outward direction] is voluntary, and refers primarily to His benevolence which may be de­fined as that disposition which seeks to promote the happiness of His creatures. Schouppe defines it as “the constant will of God to communicate felicity to His crea­tures, according to their conditions and His own wisdom.” It is related to love, but love is limited to respon­sive persons or to those capable of reciprocation, while goodness applies to the whole creation. Not a sparrow is forgotten before God (Luke 12:6). The word is applied to the whole creation in the dawn of its existence. And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good (Gen. 1:31). The positive declarations of Scripture concerning the goodness of God are numerous and convincing. God said to Moses, I will make all my goodness pass before thee (Exod. 33:19); and again, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth (Exod. 34:6). The psalmist seems to take delight in meditating upon the goodness of God. Surely goodness and mercy shall fol­low me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever (Psalm 23: 6). I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Psalm 27: 13). O how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee (Psalm 31: 19). The goodness of God endureth con­tinually (Psalm 52: 1). They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness, and shall sing of thy right­eousness (Psalm 145: 7). Isaiah mentions the great goodness toward the house of Israel (Isa. 63: 7) and Zechariah voices the exclamation, For how great is his goodness, and how great is his beauty! (Zech. 9: 17). In the New Testament the Apostle Paul speaks of the goodness of God as leading to repentance (Rom. 2:4); and in the same epistle mentions the goodness and severity of God as apparently the constituent elements of the divine holiness [Rom. 11:22].[33] In Gal. 5:22 and Eph. 5:9 goodness is mentioned as a fruit of the spirit (Wiley 1940:362-363, emphasis in original).

God’s goodness, based on this definition, deals with what God wills for the happiness of human beings. Eternal damnation through limited atonement thus violates God’s attribute of his goodness and how it functions in the external world because it does not lead to the happiness of creatures. It leads to the damnation of a large portion of humanity.

f. Methodist and Arminian theologian, Thomas C Oden

Oden wrote:

The psalmists delighted in meditating on the goodness of God (Pss. 1:2; 77:12). For “The goodness of God endureth continually” (Ps. 52:1). “Thou, O God, in they goodness providest for the poor” (Ps. 68:10). “How great is thy goodness” (Ps. 31:19). The same divine goodness is celebrated in the New Testament as leading to repentance (Rom. 2:4) and providing the gifts and fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22; Eph. 5:9).

The divine goodness is that attribute through which God wills the happiness of creatures and desires to impart to creatures all the goodness they are capable of receiving….

God is not only good in himself, but wills to communicate this goodness to creatures. Not merely possessing goodness, but communicating it to others, is characteristic of Scripture’s attestation of God. This may be viewed in the light of triune teaching. For within the Godhead, there is an eternal communication of the Father’s benevolent self-existence and life to the Son by eternal generation, even as the Father and Son communicate the effulgence of divine glory to each other and to creation…. God’s goodness is wholly voluntary – not imposed upon God by something else….

Divine goodness profoundly qualifies all other divine attributes, for there is no divine power apart from its being benevolent. There is no divine justice that could ignore what is good. There is no truth of God that is not good for creatures. The being of God encompasses every excellence that can properly belong to the One eternal, personal Spirit who is incomparably good, undiminished by defects, uncorrupted by evil motives and unsurpassable in holiness….

God’s goodness corresponds with, yet transcends, the best conceptions of moral good of which we are capable….

[In the goodness of God], the varied themes of divine reliability, veracity, and benevolence have been constantly and necessarily interwoven with the theme of the love of God. As divine goodness is the bridge between God’s holiness and God’s love, so does divine love constitute the aim, end, and zenith of all divine attributes (Oden1987:116-117).

Notice some of Oden’s descriptions of the goodness of God and how they do not apply to Calvinistic limited atonement (or unconditional election, or irresistible grace).

  • ‘God wills the happiness of creatures and desires to impart to creatures all the goodness they are capable of receiving’. This cannot be applied to those who are damned eternally through limited atonement. That would make happiness = reprobation with eternal suffering. An abominable thought!
  • ‘There is no divine power apart from its being benevolent’. This is false when applied to limited atonement. Those sent to eternal perdition for lack of receiving Christ’s atonement, do not experience the goodness of God through benevolent divine power. They receive evil from God. But that is the fundamental error of TULIP coming to light through these violations of the goodness of God
  • ‘There is no divine justice that could ignore what is good’. Yes there is if one believes in TULIP, with application here to limited atonement. Divine justice does evil to the reprobate according to the Calvinistic view of particular atonement.
  • ‘There is no truth of God that is not good for creatures’. There most certainly is if one is not included in limited atonement.
  • ‘The being of God encompasses every excellence that can properly belong to the One eternal, personal Spirit who is incomparably good, undiminished by defects, uncorrupted by evil motives and unsurpassable in holiness’. That’s not the case for those who are left out of salvation through unconditional election, limited atonement and irresistible grace. These TULIP characteristics again shatter the goodness of God. They make goodness equal badness and doing sinful evil.
  • ‘God’s goodness corresponds with, yet transcends, the best conceptions of moral good of which we are capable’. That’s not according to the Calvinistic limited atonement.
  • ‘[In the goodness of God], the varied themes of divine reliability, veracity, and benevolence have been constantly and necessarily interwoven with the theme of the love of God’. Not so with the Calvinistic doctrines of salvation that prostitute the teaching on the goodness of God.
  • ‘As divine goodness is the bridge between God’s holiness and God’s love, so does divine love constitute the aim, end, and zenith of all divine attributes’. That’s if one is an Arminian in theological understanding of the biblical material, but it most definitely gets a fail grade in the examination of the biblical teaching on eternal salvation.

We remember what Edwin Palmer, the Calvinist, stated: ‘All the Five Points of Calvinism hang or fall together’ (Palmer 2010:84). With the ULI violations of the goodness of God, this should cause Calvinists to reconsider their false teaching on ULI of TULIP and its conflict with the goodness of God.

Evangelical theologian, Norman Geisler, stated:

All Calvinists believe in some form of irresistible grace: Strong Calvinists believe grace is irresistible on the unwilling, and moderate Calvinists [where he identifies himself][34] believe it is irresistible on the willing…. But in view of God’s onmibenevolence [i.e. goodness], it follows that grace cannot be irresistible on the unwilling, for a God of complete love cannot force anyone to an act against his will. Forced love is intrinsically impossible: A loving God can work persuasively, but not coercively (Geisler 2003:370, emphasis in original).

Other fundamental attributes of God also come into conflict with limited atonement (and unconditional election and irresistible grace). These are:

4. God’s righteousness and justice.

a. Henry C Thiessen – an Arminian perspective

Thiessen summarised the biblical material on these attributes:

By the righteousness and justice of God we mean that phase of God’s holiness which is seen in his treatment of the creature. Repeatedly, these qualities are ascribed to God (2 Chron. 12:6; Ezra 9:15; Neh. 9:33; Isa. 45:21; Dan. 9:14; John 17:25; 2 Tim. 4:8; Rev. 16:5). In virtue of the former [the righteousness of God] He has instituted moral government in the world, imposed just laws upon the creatures, and attached sanctions thereto. In virtue of the latter, he executes his laws through the bestowal of rewards and punishments. The distribution of rewards is called remunerative justice, and is mentioned in such Scriptures as the following: Deut. 7:9-13; 2 Chron. 6:15; Ps. 58:11; Matt. 25:21; Rom. 2:7; Heb. 11:26. The infliction of punishment is called punitive justice [the expression of divine wrath] and is mentioned in such Scriptures as these: Gen. 2:17; Exod. 34:7; Ezek. 18:4; Rom. 1:32; 2:8, 9; 2 Thess. 1:8 (Thiessen 1949:129-130).[35]

Thiessen (1949:130) inserted this quote from Wm G T Shedd:

Divine justice is originally and necessarily obliged to requite disobedience, but not to reward obedience…. God cannot lay down a law, affix a penalty, and threaten its infliction, and proceed no further, in case of disobedience. The divine veracity forbids this…. Hence, in every instance of transgression, the penalty of law must be inflicted, either personally or vicariously; either upon the transgressor or upon his substitute…. Justice may allow of the substitution of one person for another, provided that in the substitution no injustice is done to the rights of any of the parties interested (Shedd 1888: 370-373).

Thiessen concluded: ‘In other words, justice demands the punishment of the sinner, but it may also accept the vicarious sacrifice of another, as in the case of Christ’ (Thiessen 1949:129-130). However, with Calvinistic theology, there is no justice for all sinners because salvation to eternal life is only available to some sinners – those who are deterministically, discriminately chosen by God through unconditional election, limited atonement and irresistible grace. God’s justice is in conflict with Calvinistic theology because of the discriminate way in which the atonement is made available – not to the whole world, but to the limited number who are the subjects of particular redemption.

b. H Orton Wiley, a Nazarene Arminian theologian

Orton Wiley, an Arminian, described God’s justice and righteousness:

Dr. Strong[36] regards jus­tice and righteousness as transitive holiness, by which he means that the treatment of His creatures always con­forms to the purity or holiness of His nature. While closely related, justice and righteousness may be dis­tinguished from each other, and both from holiness. The term holiness applies to the nature or essence of God as such, while righteousness is His standard of activity in conformity to that nature. This refers both to Himself and to His creatures. Justice may be said to be the counterpart of God’s righteousness but is sometimes identified with it. Righteousness is the foundation of the divine law, justice the administration of that law. When we regard God as the author of our moral nature, we conceive of Him as holy; when we think of that na­ture as the standard of action, we conceive of Him as righteous; when we think of Him as administering that law in the bestowment of rewards and penalties, we con­ceive of Him as just. Justice is sometimes considered in the wider sense of justitia interna, or moral excellence, and sometimes in the narrower sense as justitia externa, or moral rectitude. A further division of the term is (1) Legislative Justice which determines the moral duty of man and defines the consequences in rewards or penalties; and (2) Judicial Justice, sometimes known as Distributive Justice, by which God renders to all men according to their works. The justice by which He re­wards the obedient is sometimes known as remunera­tive justice, while that by which He punishes the guilty is retributive or vindictive justice. But whether as legis­lator or judge, God is eternally just.

In the following scripture references no distinction is made between the terms justice and righteousness. The careful student of this subject will be impressed with the many and various ways in which these attributes are combined. The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether (Psalm 19: 9). Justice and judg­ment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face (Psalm 89: 14). There is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me (Isa. 45: 21). The just Lord is in the midst thereof; he will not do iniquity (Zeph. 3: 5). Who will render to every man according to his deeds (Rom. 2: 6). Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways (Rev. 15: 3).

Dr. Strong takes the position that neither justice nor righteousness can bestow rewards, in that obedience is due to God and therefore no creature can claim a reward for that which he justly owes. Dr. Pope takes a more scriptural position, insisting that while all that is praise­worthy in human nature is of God, either by prevenient grace or the renewing of the Spirit, there can be no men­tion of merit except as the word is used in divine con­descension. Nevertheless, He who crowns the work of His own hands in glorifying the sanctified believer, con­stantly speaks of his own works of faith as a matter of reward. God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love (Heb. 6: 10 ). Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man) God forbid for then how shall God judge the world? (Rom. 3:5, 6).[37] The rewards of God’s judicial or distributive justice are, therefore, according to St. Paul, to be reckoned not of debt but of grace (Rom. 4:4). The last day is, by the same apostle, called the revelation of the righteous judgment of God (Rom. 2:5). We may therefore with confidence believe that the punishment of evil-doers, will be at once an infliction of the divine judgment and the consequences of the treasuring up of wrath against the day of wrath. And we may equally assure ourselves that the rewards of the righteous will be at once the decision of a Just Judge, and the fruitage of their own sowing in righteousness (Wiley 1940:387-388, emphasis in original).

The following Calvinistic theologians had this to affirm about God’s righteousness and justice:

c. Wayne Grudem, a Calvinistic Baptist theologian

Grudem explained that in English, righteousness and justice are two different terms ‘but in both the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament there is only one word group behind these two English terms’. Therefore, these two terms deal with one of God’s attributes:

God’s righteousness means that God always acts in accordance with what is right and is himself the final standard of what is right…. What is ‘right’? In other words, what ought to happen and what ought to be? Here we must respond that whatever conforms to God’s moral character is right…. It should be a cause for thanksgiving and gratitude when we realize that righteousness and omnipotence are both possessed by God. If he were a God of perfect righteousness without power to carry out that righteousness, he would not be worthy of worship and we would have no guarantee that justice will ultimately prevail in the universe. But if he were a God of unlimited power, yet without righteousness in his character, how unthinkably horrible the universe would be! There would be unrighteousness at the center of all existence and there would be nothing anyone could do to change it. We ought therefore continually to thank and praise God for who he is, ‘for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and right is he’ (Deut 32:4) [Grudem 1999:93-94, emphasis in original].

A major issue arises out of this kind of definition. This deals with hermeneutics (biblical interpretation). For the Calvinist, what God considers is ‘right’ includes limited atonement. For me, a Reformed Arminian, what God considers is ‘right’ is that ‘the atonement is universal. This does not mean that all mankind will be unconditionally saved, but that the sacrificial offering of Christ so far satisfied the claims of the divine law as to make salvation a possibility for all’ (Wiley 1952:295). Therefore a better statement, in my view, could be , ‘God’s righteousness means that God always acts in accordance with what is right by His holy standard, but sinful human understanding of this righteousness by Christian believers is limited by the hermeneutical biases of the interpreters of Scripture’. Based on my hermeneutical bias, the God of Calvinism has an attribute of determinism that causes him to be unjust towards the unbelievers to whom he does not extend the benefits of Christ’s atonement.

d. J I Packer, Anglican Calvinistic theologian

Packer explained:

Justice, which means doing in all circumstances things that are right, is one expression of God’s holiness. God displays His justice as legislator and judge, and also as promise-keeper and pardoner of sin. His moral law, requiring behavior that matches His own, is “holy, righteous and good” (Romans 7:12). He judges justly, according to actual desert (Genesis 18:25; Psalms 7:11; 96:13; Acts 17:31). His “wrath,” that is, His active judicial hostility to sin, is wholly just in its manifestations (Romans 2:5-16), and His particular ‘judgements’ (retributive punishments) are glorious and praiseworthy (Revelations 16:5, 7; 19:1-4). Whenever God fulfils his covenant commitment by acting to save his people, it is a gesture of “righteousness,” that is, justice (Isa. 51:5-6; 56:1; 63:1; 1 John 1:9). When God justifies sinners through faith in Christ, He does so on the basis of justice done, that is, the punishment of our sins in the person of Christ our substitute; thus the form taken by His justifying mercy shows Him to be utterly and totally just (Romans 3:25-26), and our justification itself is shown to be judicially justified (Packer 1993:43-44).

I find some issues with this explanation. These include:

  • Like with Grudem’s definition, here he defines justice as meaning doing things that are right and being a just legislator and judge. This relates to the problem of hermeneutics. Packer as a Calvinist supports limited atonement, which he calls ‘definite redemption’ (Packer 1993:137-139). How can that be called a just judgement by God when God’s provision of atonement through Christ is not made available to all people in the world. This doesn’t mean all will accept it, but Packer’s definition is limited to his Calvinistic hermeneutical restriction of the atonement to particular redemption.
  • There is another issue as Packer’s definition of justice includes God’s ‘covenant commitment’ to ‘save his people’. That means justice is deconstructed to mean justice for some and not all of the people in the world. There is no justice here for the reprobate who are damned for eternity.
  • God’s justifying ‘sinners through faith in Christ’ is ‘on the basis of justice done’, with ‘the punishment of our sins in the person of Christ our substitute’. I find this to be a cagey way of Calvinists putting it as it avoids stating ‘the punishment of our sins’ only refers to those who experience definite redemption and excludes the rest of humanity. My understanding is that Packer here redefines injustice as Calvinistic justice. This should make the postmodern deconstructionist[38] smile with glee. For the deconstructionist, there is no fixed meaning in the text. The meaning of the text is not determined by the intended meaning of the original author, but is determined by the reader/interpreter of the text. For postmodern deconstruction, there are multiple meanings to a text and these meanings can be determined by multiple interpreters or by the one interpreter in multiple situations.

e. Reformed theologian, R C Sproul

In his explanation of the justice of God, R C Sproul wrote:

How then does mercy relate to justice? Mercy and justice are obviously different things, though they are sometimes confused. Mercy occurs when wrongdoers are given less punishment than deserved or greater rewards than they earned.

God tempers His justice with mercy. His grace is essentially a kind of mercy. God is gracious to us when He withholds the punishment we deserve and when He rewards our obedience despite the fact that we owe obedience to Him, and so we do not merit any reward. Mercy is always voluntary with God. He is never obligated to be merciful. He reserves the right to exercise His grace according to the good pleasure of His will. For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion” (Romans 9:15).

People often complain that because God does not distribute His grace or mercy equally on all people, He is therefore not fair. We complain that if God pardons one person He is therefore obligated to pardon everybody.

Yet, we see clearly in Scripture that God does not treat everyone equally. He revealed Himself to Abraham in a way He did not to other pagans in the ancient world. He graciously appeared to Paul in a way He did not appear to Judas Iscariot.

Paul received grace from God; Judas Iscariot received justice. Mercy and grace are forms of nonjustice, but they are not acts of injustice. If Judas’s punishment was more severe than he deserved, then he would have something about which to complain.

Paul received grace, but this does not require that Judas also receive grace. If grace is required from God, if God is obligated to be gracious, then we are no longer speaking of grace, but of justice.

Biblically, justice is defined in terms of righteousness. When God is just, He is doing what is right. Abraham asked God a rhetorical question that can only have one obvious answer: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25). Likewise, the apostle Paul raised a similar rhetorical question: “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not!” (Romans 9:14) [Sproul 1992:53-54, emphasis in original].

Sproul provided this summary of his view:

1. Justice is giving what is due.

2. Biblical justice is linked to righteousness, to doing what is right.

3. Injustice is outside the category of justice and is a violation of justice. Mercy is also outside the category of justice but is not a violation of justice.

4. Biblical passages for reflection are:

Genesis 18:25

Exodus 34:6-7

Nehemiah 9:32-33

Psalm 145:17

Romans 9:14-33 (Sproul 1992:54).

I find some serious issues with this description of justice/righteousness in the light of Sproul’s support for ‘definite atonement’, which he prefers to the term ‘limited atonement’ (Sproul 1992:175-177). The points with which I have contention are:

  • ‘God is gracious to us when He withholds the punishment we deserve’. But this graciousness does not extend to all human beings according to Sproul’s view of ‘definite atonement’. God withholds punishment from the elect but he lambasts the rest of humanity with the damnation of eternal punishment. That is hardly how to defend God’s gracious actions in withholding punishment that all human beings deserve; but only some are saved from it through definite atonement that covers only salvation for the elect.
  • ‘Mercy occurs when wrongdoers are given less punishment than deserved’. That’s OK for the elect who are redeemed but not OK for the reprobate who experience the injustice of death without mercy and then eternal damnation inflicted by God. That is deconstructing mercy.
  • ‘Mercy is always voluntary with God. He is never obligated to be merciful. He reserves the right to exercise His grace according to the good pleasure of His will’. That comes out as deterministic, voluntary refusal to grant mercy to unbelievers for whom God does not provide atonement. Sadly I have to say that that is censorship in the name of mercy – Calvinistic deconstruction is in operation again.
  • ‘People often complain that because God does not distribute His grace or mercy equally on all people, He is therefore not fair. We complain that if God pardons one person He is therefore obligated to pardon everybody’. People have every right to complain because limited atonement is grossly unjust when it comes to God’s eternal treatment of people, based on Calvinism. It is one thing to see that God treated people differently while they were on earth. But it is quite a different perspective when one’s eternal destiny is determined with grace for those who receive limited atonement, but not received with God’s grace for the rest of the damned. This in injustice with a capital I, but all in the name of Calvinistic views of the ‘grace’ of God in ULI of TULIP.
  • ‘Mercy and grace are forms of nonjustice, but they are not acts of injustice’. This is an example of Calvinistic sloganeering. If one is among those for whom there is no atonement in Christ’s death, no mercy and grace were offered to the sinners who were damned, but mercy and grace were provided to the elect. Sproul’s ‘nonjustice’ language is a euphemism for injustice to those who experience eternal punishment in the afterlife.
  • ‘If grace is required from God, if God is obligated to be gracious, then we are no longer speaking of grace, but of justice’. If grace is a dimension of God’s goodness – as it is – then limited atonement conflicts with God’s goodness, repudiates God’s grace, and demonstrates God’s injustice towards the ungodly in their eternal suffering in reprobation.
  • ‘When God is just, He is doing what is right’. That is correct! But God is not doing what is right by not providing an opportunity for all people to have access to Christ’s atonement through his shed blood on the cross. Limited atonement offers a large chunk of humanity the injustice of God. It rescinds God’s goodness and justice by excluding it from large numbers of people in the world.
  • “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not!” (Romans 9:14). There is no unrighteousness with God but there is certainly unrighteous injustice in the Calvinistic censorious application of the atonement, by leaving a large portion of fallen humanity to wallow in their own sins without any opportunity of redemption. Such is a rewriting of the justice of God to make it synonymous with the injustice of God – for the Calvinist.
  • ‘Biblical justice is linked to righteousness, to doing what is right’. Therefore, Calvinistic limited atonement is linked to biblical injustice by doing what is wrong for a large number of people throughout human history. Damnation, without the opportunity of redemption (which is what limited atonement does) amounts to Calvinistic discriminatory practice of injustice towards the Calvinistic non-elect.

Conclusion

God’s righteousness is the standard of God’s action by which he bestows rewards and penalties in conformity with God’s holy nature. How can there possibly be holy, righteous justice when God discriminates in providing atonement for some and condemning the rest of humanity to outer darkness, according to the Calvinistic system? God’s righteous justice does not harmonise with discriminatory action towards people, providing salvation for some and damnation for the rest.

As this article has summarised, the Calvinistic understanding of limited atonement (with its package that includes unconditional election and irresistible grace) is in significant conflict with the nature of the goodness of God in its failure to demonstrate God’s goodness through love, benevolence, mercy and grace in action to all people throughout human history.

For your consideration:

I have covered similar issues in my articles:

# The injustice of the God of Calvinism;

# Is a Calvinistic God a contradiction when compared with the God revealed in Scripture?

See also my articles on Christ’s atonement,

blue-satin-arrow-smallDoes the Bible teach limited atonement or unlimited atonement by Christ?

blue-satin-arrow-smallCalvinistic excuses for rejecting Jesus’ universal atonement’;

blue-satin-arrow-smallDoes God’s grace make salvation available to all people?

blue-satin-arrow-smallDid John Calvin believe in limited atonement?’ ‘

blue-satin-arrow-small What is the connection between Christ’s atonement and his resurrection?

blue-satin-arrow-smallDoes God want everyone to receive salvation?

I also recommend consideration of the content of:

design-gold-small Keith Schooley, ‘Why I am an Arminian, Part 1’;

design-gold-small Keith Schooley, ‘Why I am an Arminian, Part 2’.

design-gold-small Keith Schooley, ‘Why I Am Not a Calvinist (with apologies to Bertrand Russell) Part 1’;

design-gold-small Keith Schooley, ‘Why I Am Not a Calvinist (with apologies to Bertrand Russell) Part 2’.

I recommend the article by Roger E Olson, ‘What’s wrong with Calvinism?‘ (Patheos, March 22, 2013).

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Steele, D N & Thomas, C C 1976. The five points of Calvinism: Defined, defended, documented. Philadelphia, Pa: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co.

Steele, D N, Thomas C C, & Quinn S L 2004. The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, Documented. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed.

Strong, A H 1907. Systematic Theology (online), three volumes in one. Philadelphia: The Judson Press. Available at BibleStudyTools.com, http://www.biblestudytools.com/classics/strong-systematic-theology/ (Accessed 7 October 2013).

Thiessen, H C 1949. Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Thiessen, H C (rev by V D Doerksen) 1979. Lectures in Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Vanhoozer, K J 1998. Is there a meaning in this text? The Bible, the reader and the morality of literary knowledge. Leicester: Apollos.

Wiley, H O 1940. Christian theology, vol 1 (online). Kansas City, Mo.: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City. Chapter 14 on ‘The attributes of God’, is available from Nampa, Idaho: Northwestern Nazarene University, Wesley Center Online, at: http://wesley.nnu.edu/other-theologians/henry-orton-wiley/h-orton-wiley-christian-theology-chapter-14/ (Accessed 7 October 2013).

Wiley, H O 1952. Christian theology, vol 2 (online). Kansas City, Mo.: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City. Chapter 24 on ‘The atonement: Its nature and extent’, is available from Nampa, Idaho: Northwestern Nazarene University, Wesley Center Online, at: http://wesley.nnu.edu/other-theologians/henry-orton-wiley/h-orton-wiley-christian-theology-chapter-24/ (Accessed 7 October 2013).

Notes:


[1] I have taken this section from my article, ‘Does the Bible teach limited atonement or unlimited atonement by Christ?’ (Spencer D Gear).

[2] I am OzSpen#36, Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘Calvinist Arminian dialog’, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7773893-4/ (Accessed 21 September 2013).

[3] Petruchio#37, ibid.

[4] Petruchio#41, ibid.

[5] OzSpen#42, ibid. In my original quote I did not mention Matt Slick but gave the link to his website, CARM.

[6] Petruchio#43, ibid.

[7] OzSpen#50, ibid.

[8] Petruchio#54., ibid.

[9] I told him so at OzSpen#56., ibid.

[10] Petruchio#54, ibid.

[11] OzSpen#58, ibid.

[12] See the long-winded reply by Petruchio#59, ibid.

[13] His footnote here was: ‘The Five Arminian Articles,” Articles III and IV, in The Creeds of Christendom (ed. P. Schaff; 6th ed.; Grand Rapids, Baker, 1963), 3:547, available online at http://www.puritansmind.com/Creeds/ArminianArticles.htm; accessed November 1, 2008’ (Lemke 2010:110, n. 1).

[14] Ibid.

[15] I have taken this section from my article, ‘Is prevenient grace still amazing grace?’.

[16] Desiring God, ‘What we believe about the five points of Calvinism’ (rev. March 1998). Available at: http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/articles/what-we-believe-about-the-five-points-of-calvinism#Grace (Accessed 5 October 2011). I was alerted to this reference from Piper in Lemke (2010).

[17] Ibid.

[18] This contradiction was pointed out in Lemke (2010:112).

[19] The Calvinist Corner, available at: http://calvinistcorner.com/tulip (Accessed 3 October 2011).

[20] The Baker Publishing Company, which published Palmer (1972), gave these biographical details about Edwin Palmer: ‘Edwin H. Palmer (1922-1980) was a theologian, scholar, teacher, and pastor. He served as executive secretary on the team’, available at: http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/authors/edwin-h-palmer/286 (Accessed 6 October 2013).

[21] This refers to Henry Statius’ (AD 1585-1623) book from the 17th century that had the unusually inflated full title (for the 21st century) – typical for that era – of, The predestinated thief. A dialogue betwixt a rigid Calvinian preacher and a condemned malefactor. In which is not onely represented how the Calvinistical opinion occasions the perpetration of wickedness and impieties; but moreover how it doth impede and hinder, nay almost impossibilitate the reducing of a sinner to emendation and repentance. London: printed by R. Trott for Daniel Jones, and are to be sold at the three Hearts in S. Paul’s Church-yard, 1658. Statius’s book is available online from Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan, Digital Library Production Service, at: http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=eebo2;idno=A60360.0001.001 (Accessed 6 October 2013).

[22] At this point the footnote was, ‘It should be emphasized that the contradiction is only apparent and not real. Man cannot harmonize the two apparently contradictory positions, but God can’ (Palmer 1972:85, n. 2).

[23] This is an archaic form of the spelling of ‘subtlety’ according to Dictionary.com at: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/subtilty?s=t (Accessed 8 October 2013).

[24] This website from Our Savior Lutheran Church, Houston, Texas, is available at: http://www.osl.cc/believe/rom6.htm (Accessed 6 October 2013).

[25] At this point, Olson had the footnote, ‘I am well aware that Calvinists (and other divine determinists) say that God is wholly good and they appeal to some higher good that justifies God’s foreordination of sin and evil. But Arminians want to know what higher good can possibly justify the Holocaust? What higher good can possibly justify some significant portion of humanity suffering in hell eternally apart from any genuinely free choices they or their federal head Adam made? Appeal to God’s glory to justify unconditional reprobation to hell, as Wesley said, makes our blood run cold. What kind of God is it who is glorified by foreordaining and unconditionally reprobating persons to hell? If appeal is made to the necessity of hell for the manifestation of God’s attribute of justice, Arminians ask whether the cross was sufficient’ (Olson 2006 99, n. 5).

[26] At this point, Thiessen (1979) added, ‘The assurance of God’s love is a source of comfort to the believer (Rom. 8:35-39)’.

[27] At this point Thiessen 1979 adds, ‘The benevolence of God is manifested in his concern for the welfare of the creature and is suited to the creature’s needs and capacities (Job 38:41; Ps 104:21; 145:15; Matt 6:26)’. However, this added information is not from Thiessen but from his new reviser, V D Doerksen. It seems as though Doerksen has Calvinised Henry Thiessen, the Arminian, a little, which would be contrary to Thiessen’s theological persuasion.

[28] We could add that God has ‘great mercy’, according to 1 Peter 1:3.

[29] See also Psalm 103:17.

[30] At this point in Thiessen (1979), the editor added, ‘The term is often used in salutations and benedictions (Gal. 6:16; 1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2; 2 John 3; Jude 2)’.

[31] At this point the editor of Thiessen (1979) added: ‘Scripture speaks of the “glory of His grace” (Eph. 1:6), “surpassing riches of His grace” (Eph. 2:7; cf. 1:7), “manifold grace” (1 Pet. 4:10), and “true grace” (1 Pet. 5:12).

[32] At this point the editor of Thiessen (1979) added, ‘Like mercy, this term is also often used in salutations and benedictions (1 Cor. 1:3; 16:23; Eph. 1:2; Philem. 25; Rev. 1:4; 22:21)’.

[33] The original had Rom. 22:22, which is a typographical error.

[34] Geisler wrote, ‘Moderate Calvinists, such as I am, differ with Arminians on many points’ (Geisler 1999:117).

[35] The editor of Thiessen (1979) inserted the following at this point: ‘God cannot make a law, establish a penalty, and then not follow through if the law is disobeyed. When the law is violated, punishment must be meted out, either personally or vicariously. In other words, justice demands punishment of the sinner, but it may also accept the vicarious sacrifice of another, as in the case of Christ (Isa. 53:6; Mark 10:45; Rom. 5:8;1 Pet. 2:24). The righteousness of God is revealed in his punishing the wicked (Rev. 16:5-7), vindicating his people from evildoers (Ps. 129:Iff.), forgiving the penitent of their sin (1 John 1:9), keeping promises made to his children (Neh. 9:7ff.), and rewarding the faithful (Heb. 6:10)’.

[36] Here he refers to Baptist Calvinistic theologian, Augustus Hopkins Strong (1907:249f).

[37] Here Wiley provided the bibliographical information: ‘(Cf. STRONG, Syst. Th., I, p. 293 and POPE, Compend. Chr. Th., I, p. 341.)’.

[38] What is postmodern deconstruction? Kevin Vanhoozer explained its meaning: ‘Through the activity of reading, interpreters construct the text, or rather, its meaning. This is a new role for interpretation… hence the postmodern ‘incredulity towards meaning…. Deconstruction, as its name implies, is a strategy for taking apart or undoing’ (Vanhoozer 1998:18, 20, emphasis in original). Vanhoozer provided this further insight: ‘The virtue of deconstruction, according to David Clines, is that it undoes dogma: “The deconstructive strategy eliminated dogma as dogma, and in recognizing that multiple philosophies are being affirmed in the deconstructible text loosens our attachment to any one of them as dogma”…. Where, however, does deconstruction get us? After casting down the graven images, the Idols of the Sign, what does deconstruction put in their place? Nothing but empty spaces. Having cleaned the home of meaning of its author, the Undoer may find that seven other worse spirits return to take possession of the text (cf. Matt. 12:45)’ (Vanhoozer 1998:184, emphasis in original).

[39] This is ‘published by special arrangement with Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530’ (Grudem 1999:4).

[40] This is based on the 1963 edition of Steele & Thomas (1976).

[41] This was previously published in 1980 (Palmer 2010:4).

 

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 3 November 2015.

The injustice of the God of Calvinism

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

By Spencer D. Gear

Tipped Scales

(image courtesy ChristArt)

A. Introduction

Let’s suppose that my wife and I have three children, Jane (12), Billy (10) and Carl (6). Since Jane was our first born, she has received lots of favours and preferences over the other two. I have given her special preference when it came to buying clothes she liked, theme parks she enjoyed attending, and food, food, and food – her kinds of food. She was graced with the privilege of receiving what she wanted, especially her favourite passionfruit ice cream from that special ice cream parlour.

But there’s more! She got lots more cuddles, sits on my knee, and extra help with school homework. In fact, I’ve had it said that she is my very favourite child – and she is.

Yes, I love Billy and Carl, but not as much as Jane. She is graced with lots of special privileges, including that special watch, extra special dresses and jeans. I make so bones about it. She is my very, very favourite. There is nobody in the world like my Janie. She’s a doll and the very best child I have.

I don’t forget about the other kids, but they come in a distant second and third in popularity with me. I’ve had some folks call me a bigoted, biased, unjust father. But why would they think like that? Isn’t it OK to have special favourites and especially in my family?

And that is what is happening in some theological circles with the promotion of a certain God who acts like my treatment of Janie. This God plays favourites; he only

  • chooses some people for salvation (the elect), and he chose this limited number from before the foundation of the world. This means that if he chose some for salvation, he left the remainder for damnation. By inference, they were chosen by God to be condemned – and that for eternity. In other words, he rejected large numbers of human beings throughout history and only chose a smaller group to join him through salvation in heaven. He’s a God who shows favourites through his deterministic will.
  • This means that Jesus didn’t die for the sins of the whole world, but only for the sins of the elect. The majority of human beings will never ever be able to be saved because Jesus’ didn’t pay the price, the atoning sacrifice (or propitiation) for their sins, through his shed blood on the cross.
  • The third factor is that that these saved believers have no say in salvation. They are irresistibly drawn and cannot say, ‘No’. Many people in the world are not in this category, so are not God’s favourites. He shows partiality towards a certain group of people. But there’s more….
  • These people are so special and given such favouritism that they are regenerated before they even have faith in him. It is said by some of the promoters of this kind of God that people believe in Christ because they have already received regeneration from God.

Let’s check out what this God of favourites does – this God of injustice and partiality! This is the God whom Peter declared in the King James Version of the Bible, ‘Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons’ (Acts 10:34). How does this God who is impartial, ‘no respecter of persons’, line up with the Calvinistic evidence?

B. Certain Christians and favourites

OCAL favorite folder icon by gsagri04 - open clip art library favorite folder icon (OCAL Logo from pianoBrad)

(image courtesy Openclipart)

This illustration about the family has some strong overtones in the evangelical Christian community. I’m not talking about the liberals. They don’t accept the Gospel of salvation through Christ alone (according to Acts 4:12), they denigrate Jesus, deny his deity and substitutionary atonement, and do not treat the Scriptures as authoritatively from God. See some of what I mean in my articles on:

Also refer to:

Instead, I’m talking about what is happening in some evangelical Christian circles in the name of Calvinism.

Which is the largest Protestant Christian denomination in the USA? According to 2012 figures, it is the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) with 16.2 million members. The SBC is concerned with the inroads of Calvinism in the Convention. Christianity Today, 18 June 2012, reported that

a just-released survey conducted by LifeWay Research found that roughly equal numbers of SBC pastors identify their congregation as Calvinist/Reformed (30%) or Arminian/Wesleyan (30%). More than 60 percent are concerned about Calvinism’s influence on the denomination.

A 2006 Lifeway survey found that only 10 percent of SBC pastors identified themselves as “five-point Calvinists.” However, a similar 2007 study of young ministers by the SBC’s North American Mission Board discovered that almost 35 percent of SBC ministers that graduated from SBC seminaries in 2004 and 2005 self-identified as “five-point Calvinists.”[1]

Those concerned with the influence of Calvinism in the SBC organised ‘The John 3:16 Conference’ on November 6-7, 2008, that was held at First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Georgia. The papers presented at the conference are published in Whosoever will: A biblical-theological critique of five-point Calvinism (Allen & Lemke 2010).

Here is another example from my personal experience of what happened when I tried to expose the nature of Calvinism and its view of God. When I made the following post to a certain Christian online forum, I had it removed by moderators as being inflammatory since I wrote that ‘the God who shows partiality by dying for some but not for all is the kind of Calvinistic God of injustice I’m talking about’. So, is it unfair to point out the nature of the unjust God of Calvinism? Was I being honest or unfair? Yes, it was a provocative kind of post, but that is the way that I see the issue as the following discussion will reveal.

The debate on this online forum emerged with a person (whose post has now been deleted) stating:

I believe that the Bible does teach that Christ died for everyone but I’ve never really studied the subject which is an omission on my part which I need to rectify I know, but what I don’t understand is how belief in a limited atonement is compatible with people being at fault for not believing in Christ. If Christ only died for the elect then how can the non-elect be found guilty of rejecting Christ when in actual fact He never died for them in the first place? “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God (John 3:18 ESV). Also Christ said, ‘Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me (John 16:7-9 ESV). How can it be a sin not to believe in Christ if in fact Christ didn’t atone for that person’s sin?

My response (also now deleted) was:

You have stated it very well. That’s what I’ve been trying to say … when I stated that the God of Calvinism is unjust. He damned the whole of humanity through original sin, but only provided the opportunity of salvation to ‘some’ of humanity whom he saved through unconditional election, limited atonement and irresistible grace.

It makes God into an impartial, unjust being who doesn’t care for the whole of humanity, but only for the damnation of all of humanity through original sin.

Thank you for saying it so well. You have articulated the unjust God of Calvinism in a very reasonable way. Don’t be surprised if you get a response something like: ‘But those who are damned and do not have an opportunity to receive salvation, are getting what they deserved anyway – hell and judgment’. But that avoids the issue of the injustice of this God in demonstrating partiality.

I consider that this issue involves the contrast between two teachings at the core of Christianity that leads to Calvinism’s promotion of an unjust God:

(1) When did sin start and how much of humanity is infected with sin as a result of breaking God’s law and God’s infliction of punishment (death and sin) on all individuals of the human race? God was responsible for carrying through with this punishment. And….

(2) For whom did Christ die? How many people are potentially able to be saved? Is salvation available to all of humanity or only some human beings today and throughout history who are called the ‘elect’?

Let’s examine these core doctrines briefly:

C. God’s justice in damning all sinners

You Sinner

(image courtesy ChristArt)

This deals with the doctrine of original sin and its consequences. On a practical level, this is the issue that I raised with that brief quote that was censored from that Christian forum. I know it was a provocative quote but here I’ll try to demonstrate that it was an accurate assessment that shows the justice of God in damning all people and the injustice of God in the Calvinist’s view of salvation.

I believe in the doctrine of original sin or inherited sin as taught in Scripture. Original sin means that God counts all human beings as guilty of sin because they sinned when Adam, the federal head of the human race, sinned against God and, thus, all sinned in Adam. This is affirmed in Scriptures such as:

blue-arrow-small ‘‘Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned’ (Romans 5:12 English Standard Version).[2]

Original sin entered the world because Adam disobeyed God’s command,

blue-arrow-small ‘And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die”’ (Genesis 2:16-17).

What did Adam do with this command?

blue-arrow-small ‘So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths’ (Gen 3:6-7).

And the rest is history! We have these amazing two verses to tell us the consequences of this original, inherited sin:

blue-arrow-small ‘Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.’ (Romans 5:18-19).

So Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s commands and they, as representatives of the whole human race, caused all of us to be infected with sin. And sin leads to death and condemnation by God.

Another way of stating inherited sin is the doctrine of total depravity. See the article, ‘total depravity’, meaning comprehensive depravity of all human beings from conception. This is a result of Adam’s sin.

This is sound biblical doctrine that all human beings are infected by sin and are suffering the consequences of that sin – condemnation, damnation. See the sermon, ‘The justice of God in the damnation of sinners’.

Wayne Grudem summarised the doctrine of inherited sin this way:

The conclusion to be drawn from these verses is that all members of the human race were represented by Adam in the time of testing in the Garden of Eden.  As our representative, Adam sinned, and God counted us as guilty as well as Adam.  (A technical term that is sometimes used in this connection is impute, meaning ‘to think of as belonging to someone, and therefore to cause it to belong to that person.’) God counted Adam’s guilt as belonging to us, and since God is the ultimate judge of all things in the universe, and since his thoughts are always true, Adam’s guilt does in fact belong to us.  God rightly imputed Adam’s guilt to us (Grudem 1999:213).

So, it is a clear biblical doctrine that all are damned because of inherited sin from Adam. Theologian Wayne Grudem, as cited above, is Reformed in his doctrine of original sin. Eric Landstrom’s review of Grudem’s Bible doctrine (Grudem 1999) stated that ‘Grudem is a Calvinist’.[3]

That is how the entire human race contracted the disease, but is there a cure and how does it happen?

D. God’s injustice did not make salvation available to ALL.

Free Gift

(image courtesy ChristArt)

But what is God’s solution according to the TULIP Calvinists? TULIP means:

  • Total depravity,
  • Unconditional election,
  • Limited atonement,
  • Irresistible grace, and
  • Perseverance of the saints.

This will be a brief examination of the points of ULI only, along with the Calvinistic interpretation that regeneration precedes faith.

1. Unconditional election

Matt Slick of CARM, a Calvinist, stated his understanding of unconditional election was that ‘God elects a person based upon nothing in that person because there is nothing in him that would make him worthy of being chosen; rather, God’s election is based on what is in God. God chose us because he decided to bestow his love and grace upon us, not because we are worthy, in and of ourselves, of being saved’.[4]

J I Packer explains election:

The verb elect means “to select, or choose out.” The biblical doctrine of election is that before Creation God selected out of the human race, foreseen as fallen, those whom he would redeem, bring to faith, justify, and glorify in and through Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:28-39; Eph. 1:3-14; 2 Thess. 2:13-14; 2 Tim. 1:9-10). This divine choice is an expression of free and sovereign grace, for it is unconstrained and unconditional, not merited by anything in those who are its subjects. God owes sinners no mercy of any kind, only condemnation; so it is a wonder, and matter for endless praise, that he should choose to save any of us; and doubly so when his choice involved the giving of his own Son to suffer as sin-bearer for the elect (Rom. 8:32) [Packer 1993:149].

Packer does what not all Calvinists do. He goes on to state his understanding of ‘election’ of the remainder of humanity – the reprobates:

Reprobation is the name given to God’s eternal decision regarding those sinners whom he has not chosen for life. His decision is in essence a decision not to change them, as the elect are destined to be changed, but to leave them to sin as in their hearts they already want to do, and finally to judge them as they deserve for what they have done. When in particular instances God gives them over to their sins (i.e., removes restraints on their doing the disobedient things they desire), this is itself the beginning of judgment. It is called “hardening” (Rom. 9:18; 11:25; cf. Ps. 81:12; Rom. 1:24, 26, 28), and it inevitably leads to greater guilt (Packer 1993:150)

Thus, the God of Calvinism is a God of injustice and partiality who unconditionally elects some to eternal salvation and leaves the rest to eternal damnation.

2. Limited atonement

Again, Matt Slick stated his doctrine of limited atonement: ‘Christ bore the sin only of the elect, not everyone who ever lived’.[5]

That is not the view of John Calvin, the father of Calvinism, who wrote in his commentary on John 3:16:

Faith in Christ brings life to all, and that Christ brought life, because the Heavenly Father loves the human race, and wishes that they should not perish….

And he has employed the universal term whosoever, both to invite all indiscriminately to partake of life, and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers. Such is also the import of the term World, which he formerly used; for though nothing will be found in the world that is worthy of the favor of God, yet he shows himself to be reconciled to the whole world, when he invites all men without exception to the faith of Christ, which is nothing else than an entrance into life (emphasis added).

Thus John Calvin himself is very clear. He believed in atonement for the whole world.

R C Sproul:

I prefer the term definite atonement to the term limited atonement (though it turns tulip into tudip). The doctrine of definite atonement focuses on the question of the design of Christ’s atonement. It is concerned with God’s intent in sending Jesus to the cross….

Anyone who is not a universalist is willing to agree that the effect of Christ’s work on the cross is limited to those who believe. That is, Christ’s atonement does not avail for unbelievers. Not everyone is saved through His death. Everyone also agrees that the merit of Christ’s death is sufficient to pay for the sins of all human beings. Some put it this way: Christ’s atonement is sufficient for all, but efficient only for some.

This, however, does not really get at the heart of the question of definite atonement. Those who deny definite atonement insist that Christ’s work of atonement was designed by God to atone for the sins of everyone in the world. It made possible the salvation of everyone, but made certain the salvation of no one. Its design is therefore both unlimited and indefinite.

The Reformed view holds that Christ’s atonement was designed and intended only for the elect. Christ laid down His life for His sheep and only for His sheep. Furthermore, the Atonement insured salvation for all the elect. The Atonement was an actual, not merely potential, work of redemption. In this view there is no possibility that God’s design and intent for the Atonement could be frustrated. God’s purpose in salvation is sure (Sproul 1992:175-176).

I have reached the view that a doctrine that claims that Christ did not die for the whole world but for only some of humanity, the elect, is a doctrine of an unjust God. He is the God of favourites, as I was of Janie. He is not the God revealed in Scripture. A God who condemns the whole of humanity to damnation because of the sin of the fountain head of the human race (Adam) is a just God as Adam was our representative. But a God who does not provide an opportunity through Christ’s death for all to be saved, is an unjust God. He promotes discrimination on a massive scale.

3. Irresistible grace

Matt Slick wrote of irresistible grace: ‘The term unfortunately suggests a mechanical and coercive force upon an unwilling subject. This is not the case. Instead, it is the act of God making the person willing to receive him. It does not mean that a person cannot resist God’s will. It means that when God moves to the save/regenerate a person, the sinner cannot thwart God’s movement and he will be regenerated’.[6]

Wayne Grudem concurred when he stated that sometimes irresistible grace is used for regeneration. Irresistible grace

refers to the fact that God effectively calls people and also gives them regeneration, and both actions guarantee that we will respond in saving faith. The term irresistible grace is subject to misunderstanding, however, since it seems to imply that people do not make a voluntary choice in responding to the gospel – a wrong idea, and a wrong understanding of the term irresistible grace. The term does preserve something valuable, however, because it indicates that God’s work reaches into our hearts to bring about a response that is absolutely certain – even though we respond voluntarily (Grudem 1999:301).

This is surely a mixed bag of ideas from a leading contemporary theologian since he states that irresistible grace:

  • Guarantees that a person will respond in saving faith.
  • It is a wrong understanding to eliminate voluntary choice by human beings in salvation.
  • God’s response in the heart is absolutely certain, even though
  • Human beings respond voluntarily. This is an oxymoron.

This is a confusion of ideas that human beings respond voluntarily but God gives them irresistible grace that guarantees they will respond in faith. Talk about mixed up thinking – voluntary by people but irresistible by God!

This, nonetheless, means that God is unjust in providing irresistible grace only to the unconditionally elect for whom Jesus died and he did not die for the sins of the whole world.

4. Regeneration precedes faith

Wayne Grudem explained the Calvinistic perspective:

The idea that regeneration comes before saving faith is not always understood by evangelicals today. Sometimes people will even say something like, “If you believe in Christ as your Savior, then (after you believe) you will be born again.” But Scripture itself never says anything like that. This new birth is viewed by Scripture as something that God does within us in order to enable us to believe.

The reason that evangelicals often think that regeneration comes after saving faith is that they see the results (love for God and his Word, and turning from sin) after people come to faith, and they think that regeneration must therefore have come after saving faith. Yet here we must decide on the basis of what Scripture tells us, because regeneration itself is not something we see or know about directly: “The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8) [Grudem 1999:303].

R C Sproul, another Calvinist, wrote:

The key phrase in Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians is this: “…even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have you been saved)” (Eph. 2:5). Here Paul locates the time when regeneration occurs. It takes place ‘when we were dead.’ With one thunderbolt of apostolic revelation all attempts to give the initiative in regeneration to man are smashed. Again, dead men do not cooperate with grace. Unless regeneration takes place first, there is no possibility of faith.

This says nothing different from what Jesus said to Nicodemus. Unless a man is born again first, he cannot possibly see or enter the kingdom of God. If we believe that faith precedes regeneration, then we set our thinking and therefore ourselves in direct opposition not only to giants of Christian history but also to the teaching of Paul and of our Lord Himself (Sproul n d).

What about the master Calvinist himself – John Calvin? When did regeneration take place for him? In his commentary on John 1:13, he wrote:

Hence it follows, first, that faith does not proceed from ourselves, but is the fruit of spiritual regeneration; for the Evangelist affirms that no man can believe, unless he be begotten of God; and therefore faith is a heavenly gift. It follows, secondly, that faith is not bare or cold knowledge, since no man can believe who has not been renewed by the Spirit of God.

It may be thought that the Evangelist reverses the natural order by making regeneration to precede faith, whereas, on the contrary, it is an effect of faith, and therefore ought to be placed later. I reply, that both statements perfectly agree; because by faith we receive the incorruptible seed, (1 Peter 1:23,) by which we are born again to a new and divine life. And yet faith itself is a work of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in none but the children of God. So then, in various respects, faith is a part of our regeneration, and an entrance into the kingdom of God, that he may reckon us among his children. The illumination of our minds by the Holy Spirit belongs to our renewal, and thus faith flows from regeneration as from its source; but since it is by the same faith that we receive Christ, who sanctifies us by his Spirit, on that account it is said to be the beginning of our adoption (Calvin n d; emphasis added).[7]

Here, John Calvin clearly disagrees with contemporary Calvinists, Wayne Grudem and R C Sproul. Calvin believed that regeneration is an effect of faith and does not precede faith. In other words, regeneration takes place at the time a person believes in Christ for salvation.

Calvin’s theology on regeneration also is contrary to that espoused by Calvinist, A W Pink, who stated that ‘man chooses that which is according to his nature, and therefore before he will choose or prefer that which is divine and spiritual, a new nature must be imparted to him; in other words, he must be born again’ (Pink 2008:138).

God’s injustice is promoted again as God shows partiality by providing irresistible grace to only some of human beings throughout human history.

E. But He is the God of justice and impartiality

Love and justice

(image courtesy ChristArt)

Scripture reveals the Lord God Almighty as one who is just and impartial. A few verses will be enough to cement these attributes of God.

1. The God of justice revealed

‘By the righteousness and justice of God we mean that phase of the holiness of God which is seen in His treatment of the creature. Repeatedly these qualities are ascribed to God (e.g. 2 Chron. 12:6; Ezra 9:15; Neh. 9:33; Ps. 89:14; Isa. 45:21; Dan. 9:14; John 17:25; 2 Tim. 4:8; Rev. 16:5). In virtue of the former He has instituted a moral government in the world, imposed just laws upon the creatures, and attached sanctions thereto’ (Thiessen 1949:129-130).

A sample from these verses includes:

  • Psalm 89:14, ‘Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you’.
  • Daniel 9:14, ‘Therefore the Lord has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the Lord our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice’.
  • 2 Timothy 4:8, ‘Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing’.
  • Revelation 16:5, ‘And I heard the angel in charge of the waters say, “Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was, for you brought these judgements’

Since God’s righteousness and justice are synonymous, we know from both Old and New Testaments that God’s righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne and that God is righteous in all the works he performs. God is the righteous judge and he, the Holy One, is the God of justice. That’s his nature and how he acts.

Thiessen explains further that God demonstrates remunerative justice by giving rewards (see Deut. 7:9, 12, 13; 2 Chron. 6:15; Ps. 58:11; Matt. 25:21; Rom. 2:7; Heb. 11:26). By inflicting punishment, God is engaged in punitive justice as demonstrated by Gen. 2:17: Ex. 34:7; Ezek. 18:4; Rom. 1:32; 2:8-9; 2 Thess. 1:8 (Thiessen 1949:130).

2. The God of impartiality revealed

  • 2 Chronicles 19:7, ‘Now therefore, let the fear of the Lord be upon you; take care and do it, for there is no iniquity with the Lord our God, no partiality, nor taking of bribes’.
  • Job 36:5, ‘Behold, God is mighty, and does not despise any; he is mighty in strength of understanding’.
  • Acts 10:34, ‘So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality’.
  • Romans 2:11, ‘For God shows no partiality’.
  • 1 Timothy 2:4 states that God our Saviour ‘desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’.
  • James 1:17, ‘Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change’.
  • James 3:17, ‘But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere’.
  • 1 Peter 1:17, ‘And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile’.

Could it be any clearer? The Lord God Almighty, revealed in Scripture, by nature is just (righteous) and impartial in his actions. This is quite different from the God who is a respecter of persons (the elect) and plays favourites according to Calvinism with unconditional election, limited atonement, and irresistible grace.

See Caleb Colley’s article, ‘God is no respecter of persons’.

F. Who got it wrong?

Calvinistic theologian, Charles Hodge, wrote:

In the sight of an infinitely good and merciful God, it is necessary that some of the rebellious race of man should suffer the penalty of the law which all have broken. It is God’s prerogative to determine who shall be vessels of mercy, and who shall be left to the just recompense of their sins. Such are the declarations of Scripture; and such are the facts of the case. We can alter neither. Our blessedness is to trust in the Lord, and to rejoice that the destiny of his creatures is not in their own hands, nor in the hands either of fate or of chance; but in those of Him who is infinite in wisdom, love, and power (Hodge 1979, vol 2:652, emphasis added).

Hodge’s view is that:

  • God is infinitely good and merciful;
  • Rebellious human beings should suffer the penalty for breaking God’s law;
  • His language is ‘it is God’s prerogative’ to determine those to whom he extends mercy and those who are left without God’s mercy (to suffer recompense for their sins);
  • These are the facts from Scripture;
  • We are blessed to trust the Lord and rejoice in God’s partiality (he doesn’t use this word) in declaring the destiny of two different groups of people;
  • This partiality is based on God’s infinite wisdom, love and power.

My, oh my! What a distorted understanding of God’s goodness, mercy, infinite wisdom, love and power!

What could be clearer than 2 Peter 3:9? This verse states, ‘The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient towards you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance’ (ESV).

One Calvinist wrote:

So God is patient toward you/beloved/Christians/God’s elect, not wishing any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. The whole point is, God is patient towards his elect, not wishing any should perish, but that all of his elect should reach repentance. God is delaying the 2nd coming of Christ until all of his elect reach repentance.[8]

What about these interpretations of 2 Peter 3:9 by two Calvinistic commentators, including John Calvin himself? They disagree with the view that this verse refers to the elect Christians.

John Calvin wrote of 2 Peter 3:9, ‘So wonderful is [God’s] love towards mankind, that he would have them all to be saved, and is of his own self prepared to bestow salvation on the lost’ (The Second Epistle of Peter, p. 419, emphasis added).

In this passage Calvin does give his particular view of predestination,

But it may be asked, If God wishes none to perish, why is it that so many do perish? To this my answer is, that no mention is here made of the hidden purpose of God, according to which the reprobate are doomed to their own ruin, but only of his will as made known to us in the gospel. For God there stretches forth his hand without a difference to all, but lays hold only of those, to lead them to himself, whom he has chosen before the foundation of the world.

So the father of Calvinism states that 2 Peter 3:9 means that God’s love for all human beings is such that ‘he would have them all to be saved’. That’s Calvin’s understanding of the context.

Another Calvinistic commentator, Simon J. Kistemaker, wrote of 2 Peter 3:9,

Not wanting anyone to perish.” Peter is not teaching universalism in this sentence. In his epistle, he clearly states that the false teachers and scoffers are condemned and face destruction (see 2:3; 3:7; Rom. 9:22). Does not God want the false teachers to be saved? Yes, but they disregard God’s patience toward them, they employ their knowledge of Jesus Christ against him, and they willfully reject God’s offer of salvation. They, then, bear full responsibility for their own condemnation.

[God wants] everyone to come to repentance.” God provides time for man to repent, but repentance is an act that man must perform (Kistemaker 1986:334).

For a more detailed discussion of 2 Peter 3:9 in support of God’s not being willing that any of the whole of humanity should perish, see my article, How a Calvinist can distort the meaning of 2 Peter 3:9. See also, ‘Does 2 Peter 3:9 teach universalism?

Who got it wrong according to the Scriptures? The Calvinists did and they got it wrong BIG TIME. They got it as wrong as I did when I played favourites with Jane, the eldest child. They get it wrong because they make God a respecter of persons when he is not (see Acts 10:34 NLT, ‘Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favouritism’).

What is the solution to the unfair, discriminate, unjust version of God promoted by Calvinism?

G. The solution

The solution is found in providing biblical answers to these four questions:

  • What is God’s basis for election to salvation?
  • Did Jesus die for all people or only for the elect? Is the atonement limited?
  • Does God extend his grace to all or only some people?
  • Is regeneration prior to or coinciding with faith?

1. What is the basis for election to salvation?

Purple Salvation Button

In contrast with the Calvinistic definition of unconditional election, the biblical material points to a better understanding: ‘By election we mean that sovereign act of God in grace whereby He chose in Christ Jesus for salvation all those whom he foreknew would accept Him. This is election in its redemptive aspect’ (Thiessen 1949:344). Here I’m using election and predestination as essentially synonymous terms.

Henry Thiessen was a leading Arminian theologian of the twentieth century. Roger Olson explained that ‘one of the most influential Arminian theologians of the twentieth century was Henry C. Thiessen…. Thiessen was apparently not aware that he was an Arminian! But his pattern of thought is clearly Arminian’ (Olson 2006:190).

Thiessen (1949:344) explained that election is a sovereign act by God Himself as God was under no obligation to elect anyone as all people had lost their standing before God. Even after Christ’s death on the cross, God was not required to make salvation apply to anyone. However, it was a sovereign act of grace ‘in that He chose those who were utterly unworthy of salvation’ Human beings deserved the opposite ‘but in His grace God chose to save some’. On what basis does he tell us this choosing took place? Scripture is clear that God chose people whom he knew would accept Christ’s salvation. The Scriptures are clear that God’s election is based on his foreknowledge. Here is some biblical support:

arrow-small ‘For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified’ (Romans 8:29-30; emphasis added).

arrow-small ‘To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood’ (1 Peter 1:1-2; emphasis added).

Thiessen’s statements profoundly summarise the biblical material:

Although we are nowhere told what it is in the foreknowledge of God that determines His choice, the repeated teaching of Scripture that man is responsible for accepting or rejecting salvation necessitates our postulating that it is man’s reaction to the revelation God has made of Himself that is the basis of His election. Since mankind is hopelessly dead in trespasses and sins and can do nothing to obtain salvation, God graciously restores to all men sufficient ability to make a choice in the matter of submission to Him. This is the salvation-bringing grace of God that has appeared to all men. In His foreknowledge He perceives what each one will do with this restored ability, and elects men to salvation in harmony with His knowledge of their choice of Him. There is no merit in this transaction. (Thiessen 1949:344,345).

The salvation-bringing grace of God that appears to all people is affirmed in Titus 2:11, ‘For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people’ (emphasis added). Notice the emphasis – for all people. It does not say, ‘For all who are in the elect of God’.

Thiessen rightly sees the connection between Calvinistic unconditional election and God’s injustice:

In the minds of some people, election is a choice that God makes for which we can see no reason and which we can hardly harmonize with His justice. We are asked to accept the theory of “unconditional election” as true but unexplainable in spite of the fact that the persistent demand of the heart is for a theory of election that does commend itself to our sense of justice and that harmonizes the teaching of Scripture concerning the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man (Thiessen 1949:345).

Thiessen outlines the biblical proof of election as:

  • Based on God’s foreknowledge;
  • Christ died for all human beings;
  • The doctrine of God’s justice;
  • It inspired missionary activity (Thiessen 1949:345-347).

His pointed statement regarding the justice of God and election sinks the Calvinistic doctrine of unconditional election, as I understand it:

“But it is difficult to see how God can choose some from the mass of guilty and condemned men, provide salvation for them and efficiently secure their salvation, and do nothing about all the others, if, as we read, righteousness is the foundation of His throne. God would not be partial if he permitted all men to go to their deserved doom; but how can He be other than partial if He selects some from this multitude of men and does things for them and in them that He refuses to do for the others, if there is not something about the two classes that makes the difference? We hold that common grace is extended to all, and that every one has the ability restored to him to ‘will and to do His will.’ The salvation-bearing grace of God has appeared to all men; but some receive the grace of God in vain. It seems to us that only if God makes the same provisions for all and makes the same offers to all, is He truly just (Thiessen 1949: 346-47).

This view is incorporated in the Arminian view of election. It sees that God’s justice requires that God offers to all humanity – all sinners – the possibility of salvation. It doesn’t matter whether it is Judas Iscariot, terrorists, Hitler, Stalin, the apostle Paul, St Augustine, Martin Luther, Henry Thiessen or Wayne Grudem. God provides as much grace for salvation to all these sinners in his consistent view of election. The nature of God is such that he must always act in justice to all people. He does this in the moderate Arminian view of election as summarised by Henry Thiessen.

David Servant has shown how the totality of Scripture does not support unconditional election in his article, ‘Calvin’s unconditional election’. In fact, he takes a line similar to the emphasis of this brief article on the injustice of the Calvinistic God who promotes unconditional election and irresistible grace that provides salvation for some people when all the rest are damned by God. In this article, he wrote:

How will God judge the world in justice if unconditional election/damnation is true? When He says to the goats on His left, “Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink” and so on, might they not rightly say, “But we could not help but sin, because You created us totally depraved, and because we were not among the elect, You never did bestow upon us Your irresistible grace! We never had a chance to be saved, because our damnation You predestined before we were born! How can you righteously condemn us?”

Will God condemn them for what it was impossible for them not to do? Will He punish them everlastingly for not escaping what they could not escape? He might as justly punish people because their hearts beat within them! So do Calvinists nullify God’s justice by elevating His sovereignty to unbiblical proportions.

I recommend Roger Olson’s article, ‘Election is for everyone’. See also, ‘Divine election and predestination in Ephesians 1’. This is the view that affirms God’s justice.

2. Did Jesus die for the sins of ALL people (unlimited atonement)?

Cross Clip Art

(image courtesy Clker.com public domain)

Henry Thiessen helpfully summarised the biblical material:

Christ Died For The Elect. The Scriptures teach that Christ died primarily for the elect. ‘For to this end we labor and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of them that believe’ (1 Tim. 4:10); ‘even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many’ (Matt. 20:28); ‘I pray for them; I pray not for the world, but for those whom thou hast given me; for they are thine’ (John 17:9); ‘who saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace’ (2 Tim. 1:9); ‘even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it’ (Eph. 5:25); ‘whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, in his blood, to show his righteousness because of the passing over of the sins done aforetime’ (i. e. in saving those who believed in pre-Christian times, Rom. 3:25); cf. also Rev. 13:8. He died for the elect, not only in making salvation possible for them, but also in the sense of actually saving them when they believe on Christ.

Christ Died For The Whole World. The Scriptures also teach that Christ died for the whole world. See again 1 Tim. 4:10 (above); and, ‘behold, the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29); ‘who gave himself a ransom for all’ (1 Tim. 2:6);  ‘for the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men’ (Titus 2:11); ‘who privily shall bring in destructive heresies denying even the Master that bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction’ (2 Pet. 2:1); ‘but is longsuffering to you-ward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance’ (2 Pet. 3:9); ‘that by the grace of God he should taste death for every man’ (Heb. 2:9); ‘and he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world’ (1 John 2:2). There is a necessary order in a man’s salvation; he must first believe that Christ died for him, before he can appropriate the benefits of His death to himself. Although Christ died for all in the sense of reconciling God to the world, not all are saved because their actual salvation is conditioned on their being reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:18 – 20). Hodge paraphrases these verses thus: ‘ Seeing that God in Christ is reconciled, and that He has commissioned us to make known this great truth, it follows that we, as preachers of the Gospel, are ambassadors of Christ.’ Chas. Hodge, Op. cit., p. 146 (Thiessen 1949:329-330)

These sound like contradictory positions and could have the potential for a cry of foul, ‘Your Bible is presenting conflicting positions. It can’t be believed’. Thiessen rightfully does not see the situation that way:

His death secured for all men a delay in the execution of the sentence against sin, space for repentance, and the common blessings of life which have been forfeited by transgression; it removed from the mind of God every obstacle to the pardon of the penitent and restoration of the sinner, except his wilful opposition to God and rejection of him; it procured for the unbeliever the powerful incentives to repentance presented in the Cross, by means of the preaching of God’s servants, and through the work of the Holy Spirit; it provided salvation for those who die in infancy, and assured its application to them; and it makes possible the final restoration of creation itself (Thiessen  1949:330).

Conrad Hilario of Xenos Christian Fellowship provided this penetrating assessment of limited atonement and concluded that it is not a biblical doctrine: ‘For Whom Did Jesus Die? Evaluating Limited Atonement’.

We know that Christ died for the whole world of sinners as it is affirmed in these verses

  • ‘behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world‘ (John 1:29 ESV);
  • ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16).
  • ‘who gave himself a ransom for all‘ (1 Tim. 2:6);
  • ‘for the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people‘ (Titus 2:11);
  • ‘that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone‘ (Heb. 2:9);
  • ‘but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance‘ (2 Pet. 3:9);
  • ‘and he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world‘ (1 John 2:2).

Therefore, we know from these verses that …
World = whoever = all = all people = everyone = the whole world.

See,

3. Is there any kind of grace from God that is extended to all people?

Grace Candle

(image courtesy ChristArt)

I already have addressed this topic in another article, ‘Is prevenient grace still amazing grace?’ Let’s check out the Scriptures. I find that prevenient grace is still amazing grace for these biblical reasons:[9]

a. God must take the initiative if human beings are to be saved to enjoy eternal life. God’s common grace will not bring people to salvation. That God took the initiative in salvation is shown by what he did with Adam & Eve after the fall into sin (Gen. 3:8-9). Even after they became fallen human beings, they were still able to hear the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden and the Lord God called on the man and that man was able to hear God – even though ‘totally depraved’ (this terminology is much later language than the era of the original Fall).

b. We know this from the teachings of Isa. 59:15-16 and John 15:16. Paul told us in Rom. 2:4 that God’s kindness was designed to lead people to repentance.

c. In accepting prevenient grace, I understand that God, in his amazing grace, has made it possible for all people to be saved (e.g. 2 Peter 3:9; 1 John 2:2; Titus 2:11). With Titus 2:11, this amazing grace of God has appeared ‘bringing salvation for all people’ (ESV) or ‘the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men’ (NIV).

d. The result is that the human will is freed in relation to salvation. This is what is implied in the OT and NT exhortations to turn to God (see Prov. 1:23; Isa. 31:6; Matt. 18:3; Acts 3:19), to repent (1 Kings 8:47; Mark 1:15; Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 2:38; 17:30), and to believe (2 Chron 20:20: Isa 43:10; John 6:29; 14:1; Acts 16:31; Phil 1:29; 1 John 3:23).

e. We must remember what this means. It DOES NOT mean that prevenient grace makes it possible for a human being to change the permanent bent/nature of his will in favour of God. It does not mean that a person can stop sinning in the natural and make herself/himself acceptable to God. It does mean that a person can make an initial response to God (as with Adam & Eve) and God can give repentance and faith. God can say as he stated in Jeremiah 31:18, “Bring me back that I may be restored, for you are the Lord my God”. Or, “Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us” (Ps. 85:4). God does it, but not without ‘restore us again” or “bring me back”. This truly is amazing grace. If we can say this, God has granted us a measure of freedom to respond to him – truly amazing grace. This means that in some way God has enabled us to act contrary to our fallen nature. If we will say this much, ‘bring me back’, God will grant a person repentance (“Acts 5:32; 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25) and faith (Rom. 12:3; 2 Peter 1:1).

f. God’s amazing prevenient grace has enabled human beings to have this opportunity to respond to God. It is a resistible grace, but God has enabled the will to respond to Him.

g. So prevenient grace is amazing, common, God-sent grace.

Henry Thiessen describes prevenient grace as common grace: ‘We hold that common grace is extended to all, and that every one has the ability restored to him to ‘will and to do His will.’ The salvation-bearing grace of God has appeared to all men; but some receive the grace of God in vain. It seems to us that only if God makes the same provisions for all and makes the same offers to all, is He truly just’ (Thiessen 1949:347; emphasis added).

This is what Norman Geisler wrote in 1986:

Irresistible force used by God on his free creatures would be a violation of both the charity of God and the dignity of humans. God is love. True love never forces itself on anyone. Forced love is rape, and God is not a divine rapist (Geisler 1986:69)

His language in 1999 when discussing hell was,

God’s Love Demands a Hell. The Bible asserts that “God is love” (1 John 4:16). But love cannot act coercively, only persuasively. A God of love cannot force people to love him. Paul spoke of things being done freely and not of compulsion (2 Cor. 9:7). Forced loved (sic) is not love; it is rape. A loving being always gives “space” to others. He does not force himself upon them against their will. As C. S. Lewis observed, “the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of his scheme forbids him to use. Merely to override human will … would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo” (Lewis, Screwtape Letters, 38). Hence, those who do not choose to love God must be allowed not to love him. Those who do not wish to be with him must be allowed to be separated from him. Hell allows separation from God (Geisler 1999:311).

Now that kind of language will get some Calvinists to oppose Norm Geisler when he calls the God of ‘irresistible’ to be a ‘divine rapist’ because ‘forced love is rape’.

See also, ‘How does grace work in Arminian-Wesleyan theology?

4. Regeneration coinciding with faith

Born Again

(image courtesy ChristArt)

See my article, ‘Does regeneration precede faith in Christian salvation?

H. There are some practical implications

1. It can zap motivation for evangelism

The Lost

(image courtesy ChristArt)

One Orthodox Presbyterian Church pastor[10] asked a good question, ‘Does Calvinism nullify evangelism?’ His response was:

But it is important to recognize that the God of the Bible ordains not only the end (salvation) but also the means to the end (the proclamation of the gospel)….

The ordinary means by which God gathers his people is through their hearing and believing the gospel message. In Romans 1:16, Paul declares that he is not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. In Romans 10:13, he states that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Then he adds, “How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!’ ” (Rom. 10:14-15 NASB)….

Why am I, a Calvinist, so passionate about evangelism? Several reasons immediately spring to mind. First, my Lord Jesus Christ commands me to do so (Mark 16:15). Second, given that my chief duty (and delight) is to glorify God, I am moved by the fact that the Father is honored whenever the Son is honored. The supreme means of honoring the Father is preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ (John 5:22-23)! Third, I know that when the nonelect reject the gospel, as they are wont to do, preaching leaves them all the more without excuse when they receive the condemnation they justly deserve. And last, I know that God brings his elect to himself through the preaching of the gospel.

It is important to remember that Calvinism does not need to quash evangelism as we know from James Kennedy, the originator of the evangelistic program, Evangelism Explosion. He was the pastor of a church in a denomination that is known for its Calvinism, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Nevertheless, one five-point Calvinist, Phil Johnson, was concerned about the impact of the rise of hyper-Calvinism on evangelism. He wrote:

Many modern hyper-Calvinists salve themselves by thinking their view cannot really be hyper-Calvinism because, after all, they believe in proclaiming the gospel to all. However, the “gospel” they proclaim is a truncated soteriology [doctrine of salvation] with an undue emphasis on God’s decree as it pertains to the reprobate. One hyper-Calvinist, reacting to my comments about this subject on an e-mail list, declared, “The message of the Gospel is that God saves those who are His own and damns those who are not.” Thus the good news about Christ’s death and resurrection is supplanted by a message about election and reprobation—usually with an inordinate stress on reprobation. In practical terms, the hyper-Calvinist “gospel” often reduces to the message that God simply and single-mindedly hates those whom He has chosen to damn, and there is nothing whatsoever they can do about it.
clip_image001Deliberately excluded from hyper-Calvinist “evangelism” is any pleading with the sinner to be reconciled with God. Sinners are not told that God offers them forgiveness or salvation. In fact, most hyper-Calvinists categorically deny that God makes any offer in the gospel whatsoever.
clip_image001[1]The hyper-Calvinist position at this point amounts to a repudiation of the very gist of 2 Corinthians 5:20: “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” The whole thrust of the gospel, properly presented, is to convey an offer (in the sense of a tender, a proffer, or a proposal) of divine peace and mercy to all who come under its hearing. The apostle’s language is even stronger, suggesting the true gospel preacher begs sinners to be reconciled to God—or rather he stands “in Christ’s stead,” pleading thus with the sinner. Hyper-Calvinism in essence denies the concept of human responsibility, and so it must eliminate any such pleading, resulting in a skewed presentation of the gospel.[11]

So Phil Johnson can see how a certain form of Calvinism can have a detrimental effect on how the gospel is presented in evangelism by this hyper-Calvinistic group. His warning needs to be taken seriously that for this group, ‘the good news about Christ’s death and resurrection is supplanted by a message about election and reprobation – usually with an inordinate stress on reprobation’. When election and reprobation replace the gospel call of all to come to Christ, Calvinistic doctrine has detrimentally affected the nature of evangelism.

Vincent Cheung, a hyper-Calvinist, leaves no doubt about how his Calvinism affects evangelism:

It is wrong and sinful to preach the gospel as if there is a chance for even the non-elect to obtain faith and be saved, as if God is sincerely telling them that he desires their salvation and that they could be saved (Luke 10:21; John 6:65).  We do not know the precise content of God’s decree in election (as in who are the elect and who are the non-elect), and so we must not act as if we know.  However, it does not follow that we should speak as if election is false when we preach the gospel.

Instead, in our message, we must make it clear that God seriously commands every person, whether elect or non-elect, to believe the gospel, thus making it every person’s moral obligation to believe – those who do will be saved, and those who do not will be damned.  But we must not present this as a “sincere offer” of salvation from God to even the non-elect.[12]

Thus, there are Calvinists who state clearly how their theology affects evangelism and the gospel call.

I suggest that you read this article from SBC Today (25 September 2012), ‘Some Calvinists are not evangelistic just like some traditionalists are not evangelistic’. However, there was a Calvinism Committee within the Southern Baptists that was concerned about the extremes of Calvinism and Arminianism and their impact on evangelism and the salvation of the sinner. Part of the report to the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President, Frank Page, in June 2013 stated:

Both sides of the theological divide [Calvinism and Arminianism], the report says, have extremes that should be rejected.
“We must stand together in rejecting any form of hyper-Calvinism that denies the mandate to present the offer of the Gospel to all sinners or that denies the necessity of a human response to the Gospel that involves the human will. Similarly, we must reject any form of Arminianism that elevates the human will above the divine will or that denies that those who come to faith in Christ are kept by the power of God. How do we know that these positions are to be excluded from our midst? Each includes beliefs that directly deny what The Baptist Faith and Message expressly affirms.”
SBC leaders, entities, churches and even prospective ministers all have a role in ensuring that a debate over Calvinism does not divide the denomination, the report says (Foust 2013).

Why was this Report commissioned? ‘The advisory team — not an official committee of the convention — was assembled by Page in August 2012 to advise him on developing “a strategy whereby people of various theological persuasions can purposely work together in missions and evangelism”. The committee was composed of Calvinists and non-Calvinists from different walks of life in the convention’ (Foust 2013).

One news report from Associated Press stated:

Is God’s saving grace free to anyone who accepts Jesus, or did God predestine certain people for heaven and hell before the beginning of the world? That’s a 500-year-old question, but it is creating real divisions in 2013 in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination….

The Lifeway poll also found that 61 percent of pastors were concerned about the impact of Calvinism on the SBC.

Evangelism is a huge focus of Southern Baptist life and some non-Calvinists worry that the belief in predestination is incompatible with spreading the gospel.

“People involved will always say, ‘If you believe in Calvinism, you don’t believe in evangelism. If you believe everything is predetermined, why even bother to preach the gospel?” Kidd [Thomas Kidd, professor of history, Baylor University) said. “But as it turns out, Calvinists have never acted that way in the Southern Baptist Convention” (Loller 2013).

2. ‘God will bring them in’

I was in personal conversation with a Calvinist, Presbyterian pastor, at one time and asked why there was no active, overt evangelism taking place in his church. His immediate response was, ‘God will bring em in’. Not one ounce of evangelism was promoted by that church, but still ‘God will bring em in’ – as that church continues to lose members and is diminishing in size. I find this to be an abominable excuse, but it is consistent with the view of Calvinism I have expounded above that has the potential to close people down in their evangelistic activities.

There is a further issue that was raised by a forum supervisor when I stated, ‘The God who shows partiality by dying for some but not for all is the kind of Calvinistic God of injustice I’m talking about’. My chastisement stated that by this kind of statement I was inferring that Calvinists were not Christian. Is that so?

I. Are these Calvinists Christians?

Let me be clear up front. I have never stated nor inferred that Calvinists are not Christian. That’s a false allegation. My position is that they are teaching a false view of the nature of God’s justice and impartiality. I consider it is false teaching about unconditional election, limited atonement, and irresistible grace.

However, they are most certainly Christian because they believe in salvation by grace through Christ alone. Here are a few samples:

3d-red-star-small  Wayne Grudem (1999:321),

Faith is an instrument to obtain justification, but it has no merit in itself…. Justification comes after saving faith. Paul makes this sequence clear when he says, “We have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall no one be justified (Gal. 2:16). Here Paul indicates that faith comes first and it is for the purpose of being justified….Scripture never says that we are justified because of the inherent goodness of our faith, as if our faith has merit before God. It never allows us to think that our faith in itself earns favor with God. Rather, Scripture says that we are justified “by means of” our faith, understanding faith to be the instrument through which justification is given to us, but not at all an activity that earns us merit or favor with God. Rather, we are justified solely because of the merits of Christ’s work (Romans 5:17-19)’ [emphasis in original].

3d-red-star-small Matt Slick,

Justification is by faith.  True faith is God’s work (John 6:28-29), granted by God (John 1:29), and is concurrent with regeneration (2 Cor. 5:17), which God works in us by his will (John 1:13).  This result of this justification and regeneration is that the sinner turns from his sin and towards doing good works.  But it is not these works that earn our place with God nor sustain it.  Jesus accomplished all that we need to be saved and stay saved on the cross.  All that we need, we have in Jesus.  All we need to do to be saved, to be justified, is to truly believe in what God has done for us in Jesus on the cross; this is why the Bible says we are justified by faith (Rom. 5:1).  This true belief with justification before God and regeneration in the new believer, results in good works.[13]

3d-red-star-small Ligonier Ministries (the teaching fellowship of R C Sproul) and John Calvin,

John Calvin comments, “If it be the office of Christ to save what was lost, they who reject the salvation offered in him are justly suffered to remain in death.” Scripture teaches universalism when it comes to humanity’s fallenness, but it does not teach universalism regarding salvation. Redemption is limited to those who are in Christ — those who rest on Him alone for salvation and prove this faith by putting His words into practice (1 Cor. 15:22).[14]

3d-red-star-small J I Packer

How are believers saved? Packer wrote that salvation is ‘through Christ, and in Christ…. Our salvation involves, first, Christ dying for us and, second, Christ living in us (John 15:4; 17:26; Col. 1:27) and we living in Christ, united with him in his death and risen life (Rom. 6:3-10; Col. 2:12, 20; 3:1)…. Rather, we should live in light of the certainty that anyone may be saved if he or she will but repent and put faith in Christ (Packer 1993:149, 151).

While I differ markedly in my understanding of God’s attributes of justice and impartiality with Calvinists, I regard them as fellow Christians. I have considerable difficulty with their doctrines regarding election, atonement, and grace leading to salvation, but I enthusiastically endorse them as brothers and sisters in Christ as long as they maintain salvation through Christ alone. I will continue to challenge their teachings that differ with Scripture in these areas. Never let it be said that I do not regard these people as Christians in the body of Christ with me. There is absolutely no statement or inference in what I write that states they are not Christian.

J. Conclusion

Much of this discussion would be unnecessary if there was a general consensus on the freedom of the will within evangelical Christians. Such agreement is not there. For affirmation of freedom of the will, see: Ransom Dunn, “A discourse on the freedom of the will’.

My conclusion, based on the above assessment, is that the God of Calvinism is one who plays favourites, is discriminatory towards a large section of humanity today and has been throughout history. The Calvinistic God promotes injustice and partiality, which are contrary to the nature of the Lord God Almighty revealed in the Christian Scriptures. He is not the God I choose to worship. The biblical revelation reveals the true nature of God as one who is righteous, just and loving towards ALL human beings.

This means that the biblical view of God is:

  • God’s election of human beings to salvation is based on his foreknowledge of how they, using their free will, respond to the Gospel of salvation through Christ alone when it is preached or shared.
  • Jesus died for the sins of the whole world. Thus, his atonement is universal or unlimited.
  • Prevenient or common grace is provided to all human beings to enable them to respond in faith to the Gospel.
  • Christians are born again – regenerated – simultaneously when they, by faith, receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.

This is my understanding of these teachings of biblical Christianity, which are in contrast to the views of Calvinism that promote an unjust God.

K. For your consideration

See my article,

L. Bibliography

Allen, D L & Lemke, S W (ed). Whosoever will: A biblical-theological critique of five-point Calvinism. Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Academic.

Calvin, J n d. Commentary on the Gospel according to John, vol 1. Tr from Latin by W Pringle. Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, available at: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/comment3/comm_vol34/htm/i.htm (Accessed 4 July 2013).

Foust, M 2013, Calvinism committee issues report, urges SBC to ‘stand together’ for Great Commission, May 31. Baptist Press, available at: http://bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=40419 (Accessed 7 July 2013).

Geisler, N 1986. God knows all things, in D Basinger & R Basinger (eds), Predestination & free will, 61-98. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.

Geisler, N 1999. Hell, in N Geisler, Baker encyclopedia of Christian apologetics, 310-315. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

Grudem, W 1999. J Purswell (ed), Bible doctrine: Essential teachings of the Christian faith. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press.

Hodge, C 1979 reprint. Systematic theology (in 3 vols). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Kistemaker, S J 1986. New Testament commentary: Exposition of James, epistles of John, Peter, and Jude. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

Loller, T 2013. 500 years later, theological debate over Calvinism still simmers among Southern Baptists. Associated Press, Daily Journal, 7 June. Available at: http://www.dailyjournal.net/view/story/9c64374dcfce4d88a756dc96e7750f37/US-REL–Southern-Baptists-Calvinism/http://www.dailyjournal.net/view/story/9c64374dcfce4d88a756dc96e7750f37/US-REL–Southern-Baptists-Calvinism/ (Accessed 7 July 2013).

Olson, R E 2006. Arminian theology: Myths and realities. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Packer, J I 1993. Concise theology. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers.

Pink, A W 1961. The sovereignty of God, rev ed. Edinburgh/Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust.

Sproul, R C n d. Regeneration precedes faith. Available at Monergism, at: http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/sproul01.html (Accessed 4 July 2013).

Sproul, R C 1992. Essential truths of the Christian faith. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Thiessen, H C 1949. Introductory lectures in systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Notes:


[1] Weston Gentry 2012. As Baptists prepare to meet, Calvinism debate shifts to heresy accusation, Christianity Today, 18 June. Available at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/juneweb-only/baptists-calvinism-heresy.html (Accessed 6 July 2013).

[2] Unless otherwise stated, all biblical quotations are from the English Standard Version (ESV) of Scripture.

[3] Wayne Grudem’s Bible Doctrine Book Review by Eric Landstrom ©2001, Available at: http://www.ovrlnd.com/Book_Reviews/Grudem_doctrine.html (Accessed 3 July 2013).

[4] ‘What is CARM’s position on Calvinism?’, available at: http://carm.org/carm-calvinism (Accessed 3 July 2013).

[5] ‘What is CARM’s position on Calvinism?’ available at: http://carm.org/carm-calvinism (Accessed 3 July 2013).

[6] ‘What is CARM’s position on Calvinism?’ available at: http://carm.org/carm-calvinism (Accessed 3 July 2013).

[7] This is from Calvin’s commentary on John 1:6-13, available at: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/comment3/comm_vol34/htm/vii.ii.htm (Accessed 4 July 2013).

[8] This Calvinist was participating in an online discussion at Christian Forums, General Theology, Soteriology, ‘Good News, Really?’, griff #273, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7711171-28/#post62087962 (Accessed 1 January 2013; emphases in original).

[9] With considerable help from Thiessen (1949:155-156).

[10] Bill Welzien 2001, Calvinism and Evangelism, July. Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Available at: http://www.opc.org/new_horizons/NH01/07b.html (Accessed 5 July 2013).

[11] Phillip R Johnson 1998, A primer on hyper-Calvinism. Available at: http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/articles/hypercal.htm (Accessed 5 July 2013).

[12] Vincent Cheung on Calvinism and evangelism, June 28, 2011. The ‘sincere offer’ of the Gospel, Countering the rise in Calvinism, available at: http://counteringcalvinism.wordpress.com/2011/06/28/vincent-cheung-on-calvinism-and-evangelism/ (Accessed 5 July 2013).

[13] Matt Slick, ‘Verses showing justification by faith’, CARM, available at: http://carm.org/verses-showing-justification-by-faith (Accessed 6 July 2013).

[14] Ligonier Ministries, Saved through Christ alone, available at: http://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/saved-through-christ-alone/ (Accessed 6 July 2013).
Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 30 April 2016.