Are you the Kind of Calvinist an Arminian Can Approve?

The preachers who “play it safe” enough for nobody to notice their “Calvinism” easily do so because they are really Arminians

Any “gospel” which says that Christ died in common for every sinner but that not all these sinners receive a common salvation is logically saying that Christ’s death is not enough for any sinner.

In John chapter 10, Jesus says that he dies for the sheep. Jesus also says that those who do not believe do not do so because they are not his sheep.

There are many all statements in the NT. II Cor 5:14-15 identifies the “died for all” with the “all have died”. This is representative substitution. Some Arminians give lip-service to the idea of penal substitution. More logically consistent Arminians denies that this is the nature of the atonement.

In any case, unless you are an universalist, then you cannot teach from II Cor 5:14-15 that non-elect sinners have died.

To go to one more “all” statement, Romans 5:18 teaches that one trespass (Adam’s by imputation) led to condemnation for all, so one act of righteousness (Christ’s death) leads to justification and life for all. Again, unless you are an universalist, you cannot read this to teach the justification of every sinner. Neither can you read it to mean the possibility of justification, if extra conditions are met.

Even though all the elect are born in Adam, they do not stay in Adam. Only the elect are in view on both sides of a verse like Romans 5:18 (also I Cor 15:22, where the resurrection of the non-elect is not in view).

I do not teach that Christ died for all sinners. I do teach that Christ will save all for whom He died. There are many differences between Calvinists, but any “Calvinist” who denies that Christ will save all for whom He died is not a Calvinist.

A propitiation which does not propitiate is not a real propitiation. A redemption which pays the price but does not redeem is not a redemption.

Arminians assume that the default baseline interpretation of John 3:16 is what Billy Graham says, that Jesus loves everybody that He died to give everybody a chance. John 3:16 teaches that only as many as believe in Him will not perish. It does not teach that Jesus died to condemn anybody or to make anybody an offer. It certainly does not teach that God loves those who perish.

Anybody who denies that the death of Christ is what makes the difference between saved and lost will self-righteously add something else to the equation, something other than Christ’s death, to make the difference between saved and lost., Anybody who teaches that Christ died for every sinner but not every sinner is saved, is thereby conditioning salvation on something in the sinner being saved, even if they give God the credit for putting that something there.

Isaiah 53;11—“out of the anguish of his blood he shall see and be satisfied, by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.”

My point is not simply about the extent or intent of the cross; it’s about the nature and necessity of that death. This “justice” which demands salvation for all for whom Christ died is the joy of my life.

To give some NT texts: John 17:2 “You have given the Son authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given Him.” The Lord Jesus asks for the elect, not for the world (in this text, the non-elect, not everybody) based on the fact that “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work you gave me to do.”

Christ’s justice, the righteousness of the last Adam, leads to eternal life, according to Romans 5:21. As Romans 8:10 teaches, “the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” II Peter 1:1 teaches that those who are given faith in the gospel obtain that faith “by the righteousness of our God and Savior Christ.”

Calvinists like John Piper say that they are also Arminians (plus some more). I am not like them. I am not an Arminian also. While they do philosophy about “common grace” and “offering what Christ didn’t do”, I am sticking with Scripture. They are welcome to all the labels like classical and evangelical.

Lutherans teach baptismal regeneration and that the once justified can become apostate and that Christ died for all sinners. While Lutherans are not exactly Arminians, I am not bound to a Reformed confession. I am content to talk about the righteousness, the justice, what really happened at the death of Christ.

I judge that Arminians are still ignorant of the gospel, not yet Christians. The nicer and kinder Calvinists of whom Arminians approve judge that I am simply ignorant, and that I am incapable of understanding what I read from them.

I appreciate it when Arminians and tolerant Calvinists begin to see that we are not talking about two versions of the same thing, with one group being on the better side of the road.

There is no contradiction between the idea of God saving as many as believe, and the many Scripture texts which teach that God has chosen some sinners to salvation, and to believe. I Cor 1:16 “The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

It is a false Calvinism which would teach that God saves people apart from the true gospel. I Cor 1:16 teaches that the message of the cross (the death, what was it for, what difference did it make?) is the power of God. Where there is a false gospel, there is no power of God to save. The necessity of believing the gospel by no means contradicts the truth that “God chose you to be saved through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.” (II Thess 2:13)

The false teachers of adding circumcision do not deny that Jesus died, but they deny that the death alone saves. Since Arminians teach that Jesus died for every sinner, but not every sinner will be saved, then Arminians also deny that the death alone saves. It’s something else added which must save, according to their view.

The Scripture teaches that there is a repentance which does not please God, and a repentance which does. Any repenting that thinks that it’s the extra thing (besides the cross alone) which will make the cross work is a repenting which God finds to be an abomination. Such a repenting sets itself up in competition with Christ’s death.

Some Arminians think there is only kind of Calvinism, the kind they know, the kind which they approve.

Unconditional election is incompatible with “the free offer”. I agree on this point with Arminians against all those Reformed people in the middle. That being the case, I find it ironic that these same Arminians fault me for not being an “orthodox Calvinist”.

If their point is that “orthodox Calvinists” contradict themselves, then why would they want me to be one of those guys. Unless of course they need a strawman which says that all Calvinists contradict themselves!

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4 Comments on “Are you the Kind of Calvinist an Arminian Can Approve?”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    The Arminian who didn’t approve of me deleted my post from his blog, because I would not engage him as a Christian. Ironically, he can not engage me as a Christian either. Read this.

    WilliamWBirch February 17, 2011 at 11:27 PM

    Mark,
    What a dear, dear shame for you to go to all that trouble only to have your work, which you labored greatly over, deleted, unnoticeable for others to read. And why? Because you cannot engage Arminians as brothers and sisters in Christ, but must refer to their biblical view of God as a false god, their biblical theology as a false theology, and their biblical gospel as a false gospel. Truly, “Calvinists” such as yourself disgraces godly Calvinists and Calvinism as a system. Though, I will admit, I have noticed plenty of Calvinists in history to follow your unfortunate path (John Owen, Augustus Toplady, Abraham Kuyper et al.)

    I pray that you truly are saved. I sincerely have my doubts, because you also disgrace God and the gospel by your additions to both (His nature and character, as well as the nature of the gospel itself). You have made Calvinism your idol and are being called to repent of idolatry and trust in Christ alone and His gospel. I pray to that end.

  2. markmcculley Says:

    I am a Nicer Calvinist writes:

    “If Arminianism is so evil, why did many Reformed believers start their Christian lives as Arminians, as Christians who believed in “free will”? I myself was a believer in “free will” for years, and it was a long and painful journey for me to finally see the biblical basis for the doctrines of grace.

    “All those years, I read my Bible, prayed, and sought the salvation of my friends and loved ones, just as I do now. My transition to Calvinism was somewhat reluctant, but the inevitable result of Christian maturity, good Reformed books, and the patience and godly example of Reformed believers who did not castigate me for my free will beliefs but encouraged me to see the greater richness and deep biblical truths of Reformed doctrine.

    “I was loved into the Reformed Faith; not condemned into it. People like you, instead of showing compassionate acceptance to those with deficient doctrinal understanding, attack them as enemies of Christ and alienate them, proving that you care more for artificially rigid doctrinal precision than for people.

    Answer: A principle of all arguments in defense of the false gospel is that those who defend Arminianism show agreement with what they defend. The basic points are as follows:

    First, because many “Reformed” believers began their Christian lives as believers in the “free will understanding” of salvation as taught by Arminianism, it can not be distinguished from the “Reformed Faith” as something evil, but as a less consistent and immature expression of the faith which is most biblically expressed in Reformed theology.

    Second, this view teaches that love and tolerance are the key elements in ministry to those with ” Arminian” assumptions. The idea is that people are more apt to listen to you and even agree with you if you treat them with acceptance and love, affirming them where they are, so to speak.

    Third, this view sees those who regard Arminianism and the Reformed faith as two different gospels as fixated on artificially rigid doctrinal hair- splitting which sacrifices the lives of people on the altar of being right, or values winning an argument about “truth” over showing love.

    Each point is a different way of granting legitimacy to Arminianism as a valid expression of the Christian faith, and a different way of saying that “Arminian” believers are true Christians who mean well and are a little confused.

    Everything depends on the sacrosanct position that Arminians are true, biblical Christians, including the person formulating the argument. Challenge and expose that position as false, and the whole argument disappears.

    The entire assumption of the false gospel of Arminianism is that of human sovereignty and divine dependence on the will of man for salvation and forgiveness. Otherwise, it would not be Arminianism. What makes it distinctive is its premise of human sovereignty (“free will”) and inherent human righteousness (“foreseen faith”).

    Whereas the Bible clearly teaches that Jesus Christ’s death on the cross was necessitated out of the fact that salvation could not be gained by human work or righteousness (Isaiah 59:15-20; Galatians 2:21; Titus 3:5), Arminianism actually grounds salvation ultimately in the work of man, asserting that God’s actions toward men are indiscriminate and that the difference between those who belong to God and those who do not is not found in God, who treats all men the same and desires equally that all men should come to him, but is found in man, and his sovereign free will.

    In the face of the biblical statements about the horrible judgment that fell on Christ and the purpose of this work on the cross to secure the salvation of his elect people, such an assertion is consummate perversion, and gross evil.

    By expressing the conviction that “free will Arminianism” and the “Reformed Faith” are two versions of the same thing, distinguished as a more or less biblically consistent rendition of the same belief, the transition from Arminianism to Calvinism is seen by this argument as a transition from one seat to another on the same bus.

    For the person making the transition this way, it is indeed a change from one seat to another on the same bus. The seat may read “the Reformed Faith”, but the issue is not the seat at all, but the bus. If you sit in the ” Reformed Faith” seat on an Arminian bus, you are just riding more comfortably in the same direction.

    I say this to such a person: No wonder you get along with all the other “free will” passengers so well. You are one of them. You may have a form of godliness, but you deny the power of godliness (II Timothy 3:5).

    If the “Arminian” bus is headed for a fatal precipice, and I can see this, am I showing love to the people on the bus by smiling and waving them along? Or should I not warn them of their grave danger? If they do not agree with me that their course is indeed a perilous one, how could they do other than see my earnest warnings as condemning, harsh, and un-loving?

    They may be headed for a picnic on their nice bus, and I want to spoil their picnic. I can see how if I came on their bus to warn them with the urgency warranted by their peril and they did not believe me, they would want to throw me off the bus as a disruptive, crazy kook who is trying to sow discord among the passengers on the bus and create unnecessary speculation as to their destination.

    I am compelled to warn those under the evil spell of the Arminian lie of their grave danger. This is the only loving thing to do for the sake of the elect who may need to be rescued from the darkness of religious wickedness, and it is the only thing I can do for the sake of God and his purposes in hardening those who refuse to accept the warning.

  3. markmcculley Says:

    a:How could you reject common grace as unbiblical (Acts 17:25)? This is why I stated on Amazon that your comments were largely ignorant — you do not know what you are talking about, but you sure are making some rather bold statements.

    m: well, we are both making some judgments. I am judging that you are still ignorant of the gospel, not yet a Christian. You seem to be judging that I am simply ignorant, although you do hint above at the possibility of my having a false gospel. Since there are not two gospels, and since grace conditioned on the sinner is incompatible with grace not conditioned on the sinner, at least one of us has a false gospel.

    If you can get “common grace” from “he gives to all mankind life and breath and everything they have”, then you need to think some more. But not about what’s common. Think about what makes the difference between saved and lost!

    I am willing to look at any text in context to discuss what it says. But this would do no good if it’s simply obvious what texts say and no discussion is necessary. When you take the time to deal with one context, then I will also.

    For example, what does it mean (do you think) that the Spirit convinces the world concerning righteousness? What does Jesus going to the Son have to do with convincing anybody of righteousness? This is a precious text, not to be thrown away as a “general statement” about something you want to assume.

    a: if that does not give you pause for concern, then I certainly question your spiritual state of being. God has chosen to save “those who believe” (1 Cor. 1:21). Paul did not state that He has chosen who will believe and who will not believe: God has chosen to save “those who believe” (1 Cor. 1:21). I fear that you have philosophized your way out of Classical Calvinism and into something entirely alien.

    m: 1. I appreciate that you now see that we are not talking about two versions of the same thing, with one group being on the better side of the road.

    2. There is no contradiction between the idea of God saving as many as believe, and the many Scripture texts which teach that God has chosen some sinners to salvation, and to believe. I Cor 1:16 “The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

  4. David Bishop Says:

    The representative substitution view of the atonement is the view that Jesus is God, and God is worth all men, then His death is for all men. But this renders His death of no consequence, for His death secures nothing if it does not also lead to the justification of all men without distinction. But we know all men will not be justified, and so therefore, if the representative substitution view of the atonement is correct, then His death is of no consequence. But if His death is of no consequence, then there is no justification for anyone, for only His death leads to justification.

    And around and around we go.


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