On the Brink of a Quantum Singularity with Calvin and Arminius

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Last year, the well-known physicist Stephen Hawking admitted he was wrong about one of his pet theories concerning black holes. In the rarefied academic air, this amounted to a near recanting of biblical proportions. But Hawking’s admitting that his formulas can’t accurately describe what takes place in the physics world within a black hole was no death knell for his career. The truth is, no one has been able to accurately describe what happens on the brink of a quantum singularity.

If you don’t already know, black holes form when very large stars die and collapse in upon themselves, creating an incredibly dense piece of matter—a quantum singularity—whose mass is so enormous that it warps the fabric of space itself into a giant, nearly bottomless well. If you’ve ever seen one of those parabolic coin games where you roll a coin along the edge and it progressively travels in tighter and tighter circles until finally falling into a hole at the end of the funnel, then you’ve seen the basics of a black hole at work. Once matter gets trapped beyond a certain point of the black hole’s tug of gravity (the “event horizon”), that matter, be it dust or even a massive star, can’t escape the gravity grip of the singularity, in the process possibly being totally destroyed even down to the subatomic level.

Physicists for years have tried to explain the physics behind black holes and their singularities with astonishingly little success. The problem is that all the physics we hold dear (from Einstein’s relativity theories to Maxwell’s equations) cease to work the closer one gets to a quantum singularity. Physicists see cracking the physics behind a black hole as one of the true Holy Grails in physics. Whoever manages to do it will join the pantheon of greats right up there with Albert E. himself.

This brings us to John Calvin and Jacobus Arminius.

You’ve probably heard those names tossed about if you’ve been a Christian longer than a year or two. Both of these men proffered different takes on the “quantum singularity” of Christian theology, how people technically come to (and stay with) Christ.

Let’s take a look at the basics of each:

Five Points of Arminianism

  • Conditional Election – Election is based on the faith or belief of men.
  • Universal Atonement – The atonement is for all, but only believers enjoy its benefits.
  • Saving Faith – Man, unaided by the Holy Spirit, is unable to come to God.
  • Resistible Grace – The drawing of the Holy Spirit can be resisted.
  • Uncertainty of Preservation – This doctrine was left open to inquiry.

Five Points of Calvinism

  • T = Total Depravity – Man is completely a sinner, without any hope of helping himself.
  • U = Unconditional Election – God elected saints to salvation when they had no merit at all. God did not look down upon the earth and see some sinners believing, therefore elected them to salvation, but He looked down upon the earth, and saw all were sinners, therefore elected some to salvation.
  • L = Limited Atonement – The atonement is limited to the elect.
  • I = Irresistible Grace – It is impossible for a sinner to resist salvation once the Holy Spirit begins drawing him.
  • P = Preservation – A saved person will be saved forever, and will live a holy and Godly life.

(Thanks to Pastor Wayne Reynolds for the quick overviews of Calvinism and Arminianism.)

These two streams of belief divide the Protestant world almost in half (there are other belief systems that don’t adhere perfectly to either stream, but they are not majority groups.) Most American denominations that arose out of the Second Great Awakening follow Arminianism and, technically at least, are the Evangelicals we hear so much about. Churches like The Assemblies of God or Methodists are representative. The “Old Line” Presbyterian or Reformed churches are Calvinist, but have muddied the water by occasionally assuming the title “Evangelical” in order to sound like they are up to date with the rest of the Protestant churches out there.

These two streams have slugged it out for a long time. Interestingly enough, the blogosphere is becoming a battleground for these two points of view, with blogrolls developing that highlight bloggers who ascribe to one view or another. I have read so many blog posts lately that can be condensed to “Only Calvinism is Truth” that I have lost count. Anyone who has stumbled into such a debate can attest to the viciousness that often results in defense of one position or another.

Now comes the point in this post where I alienate every single one of my readers.

A physicist like Stephen Hawking is brilliant enough to be able to describe the way virtually all of the universe works from a physics standpoint. He can tell you how it is possible to hit a kilometer-wide target on a moving planet, something NASA does effortlessly (most of the time). He can tell you how gravity works, and light, and the weak force, and electromagnetism…in short, virtually everything we know about how the universe works, he can explain. But he can’t explain what happens on the brink of a quantum singularity.

Likewise, I wonder if John Calvin and Jacobus Arminius are not in the same bind as Hawking when it comes to theology. I contend that perhaps what Calvin and Arminius are trying to describe are the edges of where Jesus wants His true followers to be. It is possible I think, that God never intended us to be hanging out at the brink of the theological quantum singularity Calvin and Arminius address.

Another way of looking at this: If you have teenagers or have ever worked with them, you know that on the issue of sex it is inevitable that you will get asked the question, “Well, how far is too far?” Wise people understand that this is actually the wrong question, but the kids don’t. I suspect that this may be the case in the Calvin/Arminius debate, too.

Take a look at the issue of Preservation of the Saints, for instance. Arminians typically believe it may be possible to wander away from God and lose one’s salvation. Calvinists would argue that this is impossible, contending that if such a thing were to happen the original nature of a person’s “conversion” would be suspect.

But isn’t this like the black hole issue? Jesus calls us to be His disciples and the point of being a disciple is to stay at the Master’s feet, not to toy around with “How far can I wander away and still be saved?” Nor is it a matter of saying, “I can get away with just about anything because He won’t cast me out.” Don’t we see how both of those are skirting the edges of where we need to be as disciples? Those are “brink of the quantum singularity” thoughts—not where the Lord wants us to focus. Sadly, a lot of people get sucked out of the rest of the Christian universe and get stuck at the event horizon of such ideas, forever trapped by the power of one stream or the other. This results in a great number of causalities out there in the pews.

We all know people who have been crushed by their struggles at the brink of this theological quantum singularity. But there is a whole universe of faith as a disciple where those forces don’t have to tug us down a hole. In truth, they may very well be moot points for a person who seeks only to please the Lord in all he or she does.

Ours is a love relationship with the Lord of the Universe. This is more important than the mechanisms that get us there and keep us there. Discipleship is like a marriage between Christ and the disciple—divorce is out of the question and the engagement is merely a formality once the marriage is consummated. We can’t live like the man who asked to bury to his parents, or the one who looks back over his shoulder at what is being left behind.We simply cannot live at the brink; true disciples want to be in the center of the Lord’s will. We do what the Lord asks and are content in doing so.

And maybe that is where the Lord would prefer we all be.

I know this is a contentious issue. R.C. Sproul is probably already scratching my name off his mailing list. So if you have comments, please feel free to leave them—with all humility and love for the brethren, of course. (In other words, take a deep breath and count to ten before you post!)

18 thoughts on “On the Brink of a Quantum Singularity with Calvin and Arminius

  1. Sonspot

    Great stuff. Go on nearly any Christian forum and this will be at the bottom of some big fight. Go to any church and see pastors mix the two and leave people feeling confused and never sure of their salvation. When people keep moving goal posts or can’t agree where the goal posts are, makes for a hobbled Christian community.

    With that said, Calvin was right you know 😉

  2. Thank you for this post. You seem to keep wriitng on topics I want to write on..LOL.

    I am neither a hard-core Calvinsit nor a hard-core Arminian. So I am a Middle person. But there is no name for us..LOL.

    I lean toward the Calvinistic side more but have problems with two the TULIP points.
    I think we should think up a nifty name for us Middle people…:)

  3. Anonymous

    “Ours is a love relationship with the Lord of the Universe. This is more important than the mechanisms that get us there and keep us there”

    I agree with a lot of what you say and I consider myself a fence-sitter on the whole issue.

    However, I do think there are consequences to what we think keeps us in relationship with God. If you do lean towards the Arminian side, there can be a tendency towards performace based religion and thinking that we have to maintain some standard to keep ourselves saved. Legalism is bred in an environment like this.

    Not saying that it absolutely will happen – just that our view of salvation affects how we think our sanctification and ulimate glorification is accomplished.

    sozo
    http://www.reasonswhy.org

  4. I do believe the debate between Calvinsim and Arminism is an esoteric one. It is important for scholars and theologians to think about matters like free will and the scope of grace (Jonathan Edwards wrote an excellent book debating Ariminism entitled, “On the Freedom of the Will”). Most of the laity are unconcerned with this issue, and don’t need to be. As you say, each Christian ought to live before God, and ought to seek to have a close relationship with Him.
    I do think that much of the problem is that most do not know what Calvin or Arminius actually taught. They know what others say they taught, but they have never read them. I, unfortunately, have not read them. We might find that they are not as distinct as we would like to make them be. We may find they are more distinct. I feel we just need to find them, and not solely their followers.

  5. “In truth, they may very well be moot points for a person who seeks only to please the Lord in all he or she does.”Now that seems to be where I am at, or have ended up after being endlesssly mauled and trampled upon (and a one-trampler) amid the theological fights of all descriptions, especially this one between the Big A and the Big C. The last I heard neither Arminius or Calvin are of the Godhead.

    What happened to “to only know him and him crucified”? Will not just pursuing him exhaust us in the most pleasant way? Maybe all these heady theological tussles (which aren’t getting anywhere fast) are about the people who conduct them, here or there, on this side or that; and they leave our Lord cold at the fringes. Does anyone remember HIM? His name is Jesus THE Lord — for those who have forgotten.

    I figure most are fighting for their own pride, rather than a position necessarily. Perhaps, in Nimrod-speak, they “want to make a name for themselves”. Ultimately their tower will fall and they will end up as part of the unintelligable rabble with no place to go any where fast.

    Frankly, so much of it is a total bore and, I think, unworthy of the Lord’s character. Where are the generous spirits, the graceful conversations?

    In the meantime the vast majority of Christians who don’t have it together intellectually enough to forcefully debate such things let alone understand them (through no fault of their own) may very well be blessed by not being able to participate in such a theological pub-brawl. May the Lord bless them in the simplicity of their faith.

    For me, I am trying to undo years of theological authoritarianism and slavish devotion to tower-building. I am rediscovering what it means to truly sit at HIS feet and HIS alone and to hear HIM and HIM alone and be ministered to by HIM through his indwelling Spirit. It is just soooo refreshing, and rather quiet too.

    Come join me — there is plenty of room sitting in the dust before him. All one has to do is to hear HIS voice and open the door and ask him to come dine. He said he would (Rev 3:20) and I believe him.

    It is all rather simple, in reality, and I think it is there at HIS feet that one can truly learn how to love him and his people, and also have a heart for the lost for whom the Messiah died (read that anyway you like).

    Blessed be the name of Jesus.

    1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9, and 10…post

  6. There are fairly clear statements in scripture on these matters, and there are harder-to-interpret passages that are taken to be clear but aren’t. I do think these are important issues that every Christian needs to understand what scripture says about. I don’t think the technical terms used by theologians are necessary for that. I don’t understand the attitude commenters (and I’m not sure about the post) seem to be taking regarding the illegitimacy of trying to understand what God has revealed to us in his word. It’s not just anti-intellectual, though it is that. It’s anti-truth. I don’t see why anyone would divide over this, and I think that should include denominational and congregational divisions. I am sure that every Christian needs to seek to understand what the Bible says about such issues, and teachers in the church have an obligation to teach on the passages that deal with these issues and not just dodge them. They are real issues, and there is a real difference of opinion. There are minor issues within each view that I think each needs to give some ground on, but there are also clear, major issues that make a big difference for how we understand God and our Christian life that we shouldn’t just pretend aren’t important.

  7. doulos2k

    These are weighty debates and it is easy to get bogged down on the issues of who is right and who is wrong. The paradox of the Bible is that both sides have proof texts to show their point.

    I do like what Piper says on one of these issues in a sermon where he discusses the paradox between human will and God’s sovereignty.

    If it’s all about the human will – we become arrogant and place ourselves on the throne. If it’s all about God determining all events and we’re but marionettes in a cruel cosmic play – it leads to apathy (why try when it’s all determined for us anyway).

    The problem, of course, is that there are scriptures that lead to either conclusion. There is a constant tension between His will and our obedience. To obey God alludes to us having a choice in the matter, but if God gives us the faith that enables obedience, can we truly call the choice 100% our own?

    The point, I think is that as far as it goes with us – we are to constantly ask God to empower us with the faith to obey Him and pursue Him with passion. No one can argue that the Bible clearly calls us to obey and no one can argue that the Bible clearly states that it is God working within us in some way to bring about obedience – WITHOUT taking away this obedience being an act of our will (John Owen in his fantastic work – “The Mortification of Sin in Believers – specifically calls this out). All this so that God still gets all the glory, but we still get incredible benefit – not simply in blessings, but in the joy that comes from obedience and knowing that you’ve pleased the Father.

  8. Jim from OldTruth.com

    Dan Edelen wrote:

    “…what Calvin and Arminius are trying to describe are the edges of where Jesus wants His true followers to be. It is possible I think, that God never intended us …”

    Wow! What a statement. And it is a typical modern statement that declares the Reformers and Puritans wrong, in what they considered important, relating to Grace, the sinfulness of man, and the Gospel in general. Men like Jonathan Edwards and Francis Schaeffer (who’s books you recommend on this site) would wholeheartedly disagree with such a statement. Consider statements like these:

    Martin Luther (Bondage of The Will):
    “If any man doth ascribe aught of salvation, even the very least, to the free-will of man, he knoweth nothing of grace, and he hath not learnt Jesus Christ aright.”

    From Charles Spurgeon’s sermon “In Defense of Calvinism”:
    “I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching
    Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called
    Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the
    gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if
    we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we
    preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless
    we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love
    of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it
    upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen
    people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a
    gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers
    the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having
    once believed in Jesus. Such a gospel I abhor.”

    http://www.spurgeon.org/calvinis.htm

    —Jim

  9. Jim,

    You quote Luther to make your point, but Luther was not a Calvinist. Is this to say that the man God chose to start the Reformation did not hew to the Gospel?

    I am not declaring anyone wrong. I am much closer to the Calvinist side than you know. But there are problems with Calvinism that Calvinists do not wish to admit. If taken to its logical conclusions, there is no room for personal evangelism in Calvinism because nothing I can say as a believer that will ultimately make a difference whether someone comes to Christ or not—God will draw whom He wills and I really have nothing to do with influencing that predestined outcome. This leads to a sort of paradox that afflicts every story you’ve ever read about time travel—how can any outcome be changed that was fore-ordained? This has led to an insular trend within the more ardent Calvinist churches I’ve seen. Your own post on decisional regeneration will tend to the same outcome as I just mentioned above.

    I appreciate Spurgeon. The quote you give is a great one, but there are many solid Christian people who would argue with saying the whole of the Gospel is contained in Calvinism and that Calvinism is the whole of the Gospel.

    I’m with Spurgeon on most of his contentions here. But as many Calvinist bloggers as there are who are unwilling to give folks leeway on what of the Gospel they comprehend, why give Spurgeon a complete pass on what he comprehends? Yes, he was The Prince of Preachers, but there are others of his time who have just as strong a systematic theology who would differ with him on some points. We have to apply the same standard across the board or we cannot apply it at all.

  10. Jim from OldTruth.com

    Dan said:
    “If [Calvinism is] taken to its logical conclusions, there is no room for personal evangelism”.

    Your statement goes against what was thought by many of the greatest evangelists and missionaries in Christian history. They were Calvinists, and they did not see the contradiction between evangelism and predestination that you do. Several of the authors of the books that you recommend on your website would also disagree with you on your understanding of this. Some further reading:

    Seven Reasons Why Calvinists Evangelize

    Calvinists And The Free Offer Of The Gospel

    Dan said: “You quote Luther to make your point, but Luther was not a Calvinist”.

    That depends upon what you call a Calvinist. Remember, nobody was called a “Calvinist” during the time of the Reformation (not even Calvin). And Martin Luther spoke more about predestination than Calvin did.

    Dan said: “why give Spurgeon a complete pass on what he comprehends?”

    Well I dont think I’ve mentioned Spurgeon on my blog more than you’ve mentioned Tozer on yours. I just think it’s a good idea to consider the views of Christians in the distant past, even before Tozer and Spurgeon. Christianity has been around for 2,000 years after all. Many of the views that you express on your blog, as well as what you express in the comments section of my blog, are very modern views that would have been rejected by Christians in earlier centuries.

    Dan said: “[according to Calvinism] God will draw whom He wills and I really have nothing to do with influencing that predestined outcome”.

    How does John chapter 6 read to you? Here’s what Spurgeon (again) had to say about verses 37 and 44 of John 6. And herein lies the reason why I think you are mistaken to infer to your readers that these issues are not important ones for Christians to grapple with:

    “[Salvation is not based] on something which man does, but on something which God the Father does. The Father gives certain persons to His Son, and the Son says, “All that the Father giveth Me Shall come to Me.” If any do come to Jesus Christ, it is those whom the Father gave to Christ. And the reason why they come, – if we search to the very bottom of things, – is, that the Father puts it into their hearts to come. The reason why one man is saved, and another man is lost, is to be found in God; not in anything which the saved man did, or did not do; not in anything which he felt, or did not feel; but in something altogether irrespective of himself, it is the sovereign grace of God. In the day of God’s power, the saved are made willing to give their souls to Jesus. The language of Scripture must explain this point. “As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John i. 12, 13). “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy” (Romans ix. 16). If you want to see the fountain of grace, you must go to the everlasting God; just like if you want to know why that river runs in this direction, and not in that, you must trace it up to its source. In the case of every soul that is now in heaven, it was the will of God that drew it there. In the case of every spirit that is on its way to glory now, unto God and unto Him alone must be the honour of its salvation; for He it is who makes one “differ from another” (1 Cor. iv. 7). I do not care to argue upon this point, except I put it thus: If any say, “It is man himself who makes the difference,” I reply, “You are involving yourself in a great dilemma; if man himself makes the difference, then man himself must have the glory.” Now, I am certain you do not mean to give man the glory of his own salvation; you would not have men throw up their caps in heaven, and shout, “Unto ourselves be the glory, for we, ourselves, were the hinge and turning point of our own salvation.” No, you would have all the saved cast their crowns at the feet of Jesus, and give to Him alone all the honour and all the glory. This, however, cannot be, unless, in that critical point, that diamond hinge upon which man’s salvation shall turn, God shall have the control, and not the will of man. You know that those who do not believe this truth as a matter of doctrine, do believe it in their hearts as a matter of experience.” (Sum and Substance of All Theology, year 1861)

    —Jim

  11. Jim,

    The issue of Calvinism and evangelism is not new to this blog. In fact, more than one Calvinist blogger has pointed out this problem. If anything, I’m just referring to what people within the camp are saying. And that’s not the wishy-washy ones out there, either. Big name Calvinist bloggers have raised the same red flag.

    On Luther and Calvinism:

    Jim, Lutherans do not consider themselves Calvinists! And there were plenty of places where Calvin did not agree with Luther. The theological system that became Calvinism is different than what Luther was preaching. Yes, they are both considered Reformation thinkers and yes, they had plenty of overlap. But it is not an “A=A” correlation.

    On “giving Spurgeon a pass” and the usefulness of the past:

    No blog goes back to the past more than this one does. I just blogged a few days ago about the foolishness of ignoring 2000 years of Church wisdom and history as if we today are the pinnacle of spiritual enlightenment!

    Having said that, I will also be the first to say that different parts of the Gospel are emphasized in different eras. The Reformation Age is not noted for its kindness to the poor and ministry geared to the down-and-out, for instance. Changes in emphasis are not bad unless someone bristles at the whole idea of change. Still, there is nothing new under the sun, so even our change is just a shift to something that was already emphasized at one point previously.

    Back to my comments on “God’s drawing” and evangelism:

    Jim, I’m not disagreeing with what you posted from Spurgeon. What I’m disagreeing with is using a theological system like Calvinism as a means of discerning who is In and who is Out because of how some outside observer perceives another person’s “salvation experience” happened. That implies that you, or me, or someone else has perfect knowledge of the exact way in which God drew someone to Himself! The problem is that God draws people when they are at different places in life. The Holy Spirit is at work in many different ways in wooing the unsaved to Christ.

    I wrote the “Quantum Singularity” post because I’m seeing people battered and judged by theological systems. We should not be doing that. Jesus calls us as disciples to do one thing: sit at His feet and stay there. If a person has repented and surrendured his life to the Jesus Christ, Jesus asks him to come sit at His feet and live out the life of a disciple. “Follow me” means just that. If I am following Him and staying in the center of His will, everything else becomes a moot point. Do you disagree?

    We use theological systems to frame the borders. That’s fine! But I suspect that we too often get obsessed with the borders and not obsessed enough with the person of Jesus Christ. At least that it was I see in a lot of the Christian blogosphere.

    Your post a few weeks ago on decisional regeneration is a case in point. How can any human being say that the weepy-eyed fellow who walked down the aisle after the pastor gave an altar call was not being drawn 100% by God? Why call that man’s salvation into question? Proof is in the fruit. If he stays at the feet of Jesus and walks out a life sanctified by the Holy Spirit, how can anyone say he’s not saved because his “experience” didn’t conform to the ideal set forth by Calvinism—or some hyper-Calvinist interpretation of traditional Calvinist thought or any other theological system?

    That’s my whole point with this post.

  12. Jim from OldTruth.com

    Dan said: “The issue of Calvinism and evangelism is not new, more than one Calvinist blogger has pointed out this problem”.

    I just cant imagine a decided Calvinist doing that; it shows a misunderstanding of the whole theological system. Rather than trust some professed Calvinist bloggers, why not go with the words of a well-known Calvinist author or leader. Can you find me anything in Jonathan Edwards writings in which he says “Im a Calvinist but I think there is a conflict with Calvinism and Evangelism”? How about his friend David Brainerd the Calvinist missionary, or Matthew Henry the Calvinist commentator, or Calvinists with large evangelism-oriented churches like Spurgeon or MacArthur. This whole line of reasoning is a straw man, based on faulty human reasoning. It doesnt line up with history, nor does it reflect the beliefs of any Calvinist that I know of.

    Dan said: “What I’m disagreeing with is using a theological system like Calvinism as a means of discerning who is In and who is Out.”

    Who is doing this? Most of my friends are NON-Calvinist believers, and I firmly believe they are “IN”. I disagree with their soteriology, obviously. But I certainly dont think they are “OUT” (as you say). I also dont know any other Calvinists who believes that NON-Calvinists are “OUT”.

    Dan said: “I wrote [this] post because I’m seeing people battered and judged by theological systems”.

    And I responded to your post because I see those who take a firm stance on Calvinism or Arminianism as being judged and battered by your posts. Your “dogma” that we should not be dogmatic on these issues, is in fact a dogma of it’s own.

    Dan said: “I suspect that we too often get obsessed with the borders and not obsessed enough with the person of Jesus Christ”.

    The problem is, you see the topic at hand as “a border” issue. There are others that dont see it that way. We see it as a central core issue relating to Christ’s atonement, man’s depravity, and as Luther said in the quote I gave you above – it’s key to understanding God’s grace. This is why Spurgeon said “Calvinism is the Gospel”. He felt that these issues are woven into the fabric of how people are saved.

    Dan said: “If I am following Him and staying in the center of His will, everything else becomes a moot point. Do you disagree?”

    Yes, I disagree. Error in doctrine leads to error in practice and I refuse to regard anything that the bible reveals as being “optional truth”. We need to do our best to understand all of God’s word, and not put yellow police tape around certain topics and passages in scripture, calling those things “un-important”.

    Dan said: “Your post a few weeks ago on decisional regeneration is a case in point. How can any human being say that the weepy-eyed fellow who walked down the aisle after the pastor gave an altar call was not being drawn 100% by God?”

    We can’t know for sure if the weepy-eyed fellow is truly saved or not, at least not until a year or two down the road. We can eventually say however, that certain practices have the tendency to breed false converts, and are misleading at best. Some practices lead people to believe that they have control of what Spurgeon referred to as the “diamond hinge” on which salvation turns (in his quote from above). We should call people to salvation, but not give them the idea that it’s a light switch that they can control, whenever and however they want. Salvation is something that God does. To Him be the glory.

    Dan said: “Why call that man’s salvation into question? Proof is in the fruit.”

    I suspect that we have two different definitions of “fruit”. Im guessing that you regard a profession of faith as an actual salvation. I would prefer to call it a “profession of faith”, and do as George Whitefield said, in delaying any guesses as to their conversion, until a year or so down the road. You’ve indicated that you dont think it’s right “to judge” someone’s salvation. Then why are you so eager to judge them as positively converted, as soon as they make a profession?

    Dan said: “If he stays at the feet of Jesus and walks out a life sanctified by the Holy Spirit, how can anyone say he’s not saved because his “experience” didn’t conform to the ideal set forth by Calvinism”

    Perhaps you misunderstood my post. God can save anyone, anywhere. I know someone who was saved through a Stryper concert (that’s a Christian Metal Rock Band similar to the secular group “Kiss”). Does that mean I should advocate Stryper concerts as the way to be saved? Is Stryper really the ideal setting for conversion? It has nothing to do with an “ideal set forth by Calvinism” (your words) at all.

    Also, Calvinists dont “save people into Calvinism”, we preach repentance and faith in Jesus Christ and allow the Holy Spirit to covert whomever He will to Christianity (not Calvinism). I would be delighted to preach the Gospel to someone and have them come to salvation, regardless if they agree with me on Calvinism afterwards or not.

    Dan said: “Lutherans do not consider themselves Calvinists!”.

    A subtle topic change there Dan. You originally asked me about Luther’s beliefs, not the Lutheran church. Philipp Melancthon, who lead the Lutheran church after Luther, disagreed with Luther on predestination, and the Lutherans followed his lead after Luther died. All of this is well documented. Aside from issues related to communion, Martin Luther and Calvin were very much in step on most things of significance.

    It doesnt appear from the things you write, that you understand Calvinism. Im not saying you have to. But I think it would be a good idea, if you are going make statements against it. Or if you are going to tell your readers that they should not be dogmatic about such things.

    Some advice before you write against Calvinism: It wouldnt be honest to find the fringes of something, and treat it as though it were the mainstream. That’s what is happening when you try to sell your readers on how Calvinism has “inconsistencies” (on evangelism, etc.), citing a few Calvinist bloggers that you feel claim such inconsistencies. Stick to the mainstream, as there are fringe groups in every belief system. Perhaps you could reference the beliefs of some of the mainstream Calvinist authors whos books you recommend on your site. Those would be excellent sources to quote from.

    Thank you in advance Dan,
    —Jim

  13. Anonymous

    (1) It is hard for me to understand why one of the predestined elect would need to go through “conversion” or any other kind of process. It is equally hard for me to understand how we can assign any blame to one of the predestined un-elect for his or her actions. Calvin’s ideas seem to imply that everything is following a script, and an unalterable one at that. Calvin and his many commentators have addressed this question in many ways, but it still seems to boil down to the idea that we humans have no free will. If this is true, I’d say we are truly beyond blame, beyond future redemption (because if it was going to take place, it already happened), and truly beyond right and wrong. I am not able to accept this conclusion, so I cannot accept its premises.

    (2) I wonder if this whole Arminian – Calvinist argument comes from insisting on applying our limited, human concepts to God. It seems like we limit His existence and nature to the paltry scope of our understanding. Or maybe it would be better to say that we limit our understanding of His greatness to the extent of our reason. (It’s the best we’ve got, but it’s human; it’s not God-like.) This would make Him seem a lot like us, and involve Him in apparent contradictions.

    (3) For example, the whole issue of predestination comes up, really, when we ask how God could be omnipotent and omniscient, and yet still provide us with freedom of will. But actually, omniscience and omnipotence depend on our ideas of time and space. And we believe God is outside of time and space — completely different from them and not constrained by them. So even asking whether he caused our actions *before* they took place doesn’t make sense, because *before* depends on our ideas about time and space.

    If God cannot be limited by my own personal beliefs about good and bad, I don’t see how he can be limited by my own beliefs about time and space… or about causality.

    Best regards, everyone, from Popeye.

  14. candleman

    Jim,

    You say � �Who is doing this? Most of my friends are NON-Calvinist believers, and I firmly believe they are “IN”. I disagree with their soteriology, obviously. But I certainly dont think they are “OUT” (as you say). I also dont know any other Calvinists who believes that NON-Calvinists are “OUT”.

    And then you go on to say � �We see it as a central core issue relating to Christ’s atonement, man’s depravity, and as Luther said in the quote I gave you above – it’s key to understanding God’s grace. This is why Spurgeon said “Calvinism is the Gospel”. He felt that these issues are woven into the fabric of how people are saved.�

    And I see this resoning countless times with Calvinists. You talk about the immediate group of Christians you fellowhip with as non-Calvinists and believe that they are �in�.

    But then go on to say what is shown above, that they have it all wrong when it comes to salvation. This makes absolutely no sense to me. You say that the issues being debated are the very issues that determine how people are saved. You quote Spurgeon and how he said �Calvinism is the Gospel”, and then go on to say that friends of yours who do not subscribe to it are �in�. I have yet had a Calvinist explain this.

    {{{Candleman}}}

  15. The debate sails past the point of the Bible and the Christian witness. It’s pure theosophy.

    This is partly because it’s entirely me-centered, and boils the Gospel’s effects down to one’s personal destiny.

    It’s also of a Platonic and dualistic nature. It is not of Oriental or Hebrew thought. You don’t find it in the early church fathers, or in the New Testament.

    Edwards, Calvin, Spurgeon, and the roll call of people since the Reformation have been working with enlightenment epistemology and not Biblical/Hebrew epistemology. The divergence in thought is marked and witnessed to by many, many saints throughout history, but the fish doesn’t see the water it’s swimming in, does it? Thus Western Christianity turns everything into a head game where finding the right answers to philosophical questions constitutes the faith. Again, this idea is foreign to the New Testament.

    Spurgeon is categorically wrong about Calvinism being the Gospel. The Gospel is defined by Jesus in Mark 1:15, Paul in 1 Cor 15: 1-8, and it is preached seven or eight times in the book of Acts. Nowhere are the five points of Calvinism a defining factor in those definitions. Maybe “T” but that’s about it.

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