Monday, November 26, 2007

Tolerating Calvinistic Poison?

FROM THE MAILBAG:

Anyone who denies that they have a part to play in their salvation is not likely saved. To deny free will is to reject what Christ taught. Anyone who rejects what the bible teaches in favor of the heathen philosophies of John Calvin, remains in darkness and has yet to be saved. Calvinist doctrines show us that they are not part of the elect. Calvinism is a deadly poison that must not be tolerated in the church. I will pray that you allow God's truth to be spoken to your heart.
In Christ alone,
Name Withheld



So I read this and think "where shall we start?" The Bible is very clear that we are to be prepared to give an answer to any who ask, for the hope that is within us (1Peter 3:15) - and I believe that applies to fellow believers that may not be clear about particular doctrines, as well as to the unsaved.

There are several issues here to address but I want to start with the issue of God's sovereignty as it specifically applies to the salvation of man, and man's responsibility. Since I don't believe man does "nothing" as it pertains to his own salvation, I'm pretty sure I've never written that here or implied that I do believe it. Man indeed does do something, he responds. As for where the faith comes to believe in the first place, that is a by-product of the inner working of the Holy Spirit (Eph 2:8). Scripture is very clear how this works; it is God that removes the heart of stone and replaces it with a heart of flesh (Eze 36:26), and it is the Holy Spirit that renews us (Titus 3:5). Scripture is also very clear as to why God must be the first cause in our salvation; no man comes to Him on his own, because man is naturally at enmity with God (Romans 3:11, 8:7), therefore man must be changed inwardly and supernaturally first, by God, enabled by God, before he will seek after God. Once this happens, man does indeed respond and seeks after God with his whole heart. It has been described many times like a drowning man gasping for air, or a thirsty man craving water, the way our hearts are changed and the response it generates in us.

The "part" we play in our coming to Christ is the response to regeneration which includes simultaneously our faith, repentance and new desire to live a holy life and place Him in the center of that life and serve Him only. God doesn't have faith for us, or repent for us, we do that on our own because we now see with spiritual eyes and understand that we are sinners in desperate need of a Savior. We see our sin for what it is, grievous to the Lord, and we desire nothing more than to turn from that sin and live righteously.

Much has been written on this very subject of God's sovereignty and man's responsibility (and in a much clearer way than I'm sure I could ever articulate) and there are great resources here on it that I would encourage anyone to read with sharp discernment.

The writer of the email states that denying free will is to reject what Christ taught. This is a subject I have agonized over, and studied hard because I once wrongly believed the same thing. For me there was one simple verse (Christ's very words) that proved to me beyond all doubt that free will simply does not exist. Jesus said:


"No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him" (John 6:44) and then it is recorded for us again: "Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father." (John 6:65)

Jesus is saying that it is impossible for man on his own, of his own volition, to come to Him. Man is incapable, left on his own. There is no amount of exercising one's mythological "free will" in making such a decision to follow after Christ. Further Jesus makes it crystal clear that there is only one way man can do this, and that is if it is given to that man to do so, by the Father. Only then will any man, woman or child ever come to Christ and place their faith and trust in Him. For a very eye opening resource on this I would suggest Dr. James White's Drawn by The Father. (I recently referred to this book in another post, and was reminded by Dr. White of the title and told that it is indeed still available).

Calvinism?

So far I haven't said a word about John Calvin, or Calvinism. What I wrote above and where I learned this was from studying what the Scriptures say about God's glorious plan of redemption. Not only did I not learn it from Calvin, I have never studied Calvin or read any of his works in depth. (Which is not to say that this is a bad thing, but it is to say that I don't believe what I believe based on what Calvin taught) I will say however that I am in fact a Calvinist, if what's meant by that is that I believe in the five points of the TULIP as Calvin did. John Calvin however did not dream up total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistable grace or perseverance of the saints - all of these things are taught in Scripture and are teachings that have been staunchly adhered to and taught by faithful believers in various aspects for 2000 years (even if that number was in the minority) - long before Calvin ever entered the landscape of Christianity. Simply put, Calvin taught to the best of his ability, what Paul taught, and what Jesus taught.

What really should be pointed out (instead of Calvinism) is the difference between monergism and synergism. I would say that I am in fact a monergist, in that salvation is purely by God, and that it doesn't take man's cooperation, permission, or assistance (synergism) in any way, to accomplish this. When God saves whom He will, He does not first stop and ask permission. He does not need man to help Him save himself, nor does He require man's cooperation in the process. He saves whom He will, period. (John 5:21, Romans 9:18)

I find it interesting that the writer of this email signed off with "in Christ alone" - one of the hallmarks of the great reformation (Solus Christus) that sought to rediscover and reestablish the absolute sovereignty of God at the very heart of Christian faith. If you scroll all the way to bottom of this blog you'll see this:

"Scripture alone, being our final authority, teaches us that salvation is by His grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, for the glory of God alone."

These are the Five Solas associated with the reformation. For someone to exalt free will, with a dose of Calvin bashing in the process and then turn around and say "in Christ alone" seems rather inconsistant to me. Our salvation is indeed found in Christ alone, and it is also by grace alone - meaning it is purely by God's grace that we have been regenerated and given faith to believe in the first place. God does not need man's input, to save him.