Calvinism and the God of Second Chances

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by Wildfire, Apr 19, 2006.

  1. Wildfire

    Wildfire
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    A fellow Baptist pastor in my area claims to be solidly Calvinist. "God is sovereign!" he claims repeatedly. "God elects in His sovereignty who will go to Heaven and who will suffer in Hell."

    (n.b. We don't disagree that God is sovereign. I just don't believe that prohibits Him in His sovereignty from granting His creation free will.)

    The same pastor frequently, in sermons, refers to "The God of second chances."

    Does anyone else find this an odd contradiction? If a Calvinist claims to believe in total depravity, unconditional election, and irresistable grace, how can that same person see God giving anyone any chances at all ... much less second chances?

    Yes, I know I'm throwing a match into the kindling here, but I'm deeply disturbed by this notion that God is not only a tyrant (sending people to Hell for His own good pleasure, without even giving them the ability to believe) but also a liar (Saying to us, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man ..." when in the Calvinist view, we have no choice whatsoever).

    In fact, I am actually convinced that most Calvinists (note: I said most) are guilty of trying too hard to find some elite secret in their reading of Scripture.

    Fact: Numerous passages offer salvation to whoever will believe (pisteuo). Not a single passage of Scripture states outright that this is not true. Not a single passage of Scripture says that "whole world" means "elect." Not a single passage says "elect" means God chooses and that our faith results from His choice.

    Oh, yes, I've read the arguments. You have to really massage the Scripture to make it mean what it just simply doesn't say. From the first book of the Bible to the last, God begs people to repent and turn to Him. If, in fact, it's not a matter of our choice, why then would He spend so much time urging us to choose Him?

    I believe that my pastor friend knows in the depth of his soul that his Calvinist interpretation doesn't truly match the God of Scripture. That's why -- in perhaps a moment of clarity -- he speaks of "The God of second chances."
     
  2. Gina B

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    *sigh*

    I'll do to you what I've done to others. Hold on, it's a fun ride.

    The quiz. You cannot move on with any unanswered questions. This will be a series of ten.

    Question one: We don't choose to be sinners on our way to hell. We're born that way. So...when does our free will begin?
     
  3. Bill Brown

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    Wild, I appreciate your post. You see what you believe to be the errors of Calvinism. The errors you perceive seem to be based on what you have experienced more than what the scriptures have to say on the matter. Allow me to develop this thought.

    First let let correct a misonmer. Calvinism is the label given to those who believe in the Reformed view of soteriology (salvation). The Reformed view is often referred to as the doctrines of sovereign grace. To the uninformed they believe that Calvinist's are mind-numbed robots that follow the teachings of John Calvin. I am sure there are some of those folks out there, just as there are people who would blindly follow a free will teacher. Both are wrong and engaged in folly.

    The doctrines of sovereign grace can be traced well before Martin Luther and Calvin. Augustine of Hippo (354-432 AD)articulated these doctrines long before the Reformers did. The debate between the doctrines of sovereign grace vs. free will began with a prayer that Augustine wrote. In that prayer he penned these words, "(Lord)Grant what thou commandest and then command what thou wilt." Augustine was stating that the ends and the means proceed from God alone, without the help of man. Pelagius (354-418 AD)was a Celtic monk and a contemporary of Augustine. He read the prayer of Augustine and responded against it. So began a running "back and forth" debate between Augustine and Pelagius. Pelagius was branded a heretic by the church and a modified form of his theology (Semi-Palagianism) was condemned as heresy at the council of Orange in 529. Centuries later Joseph Arminius and John Calvin would face-off on the old Pelagian controversy. The heresy of Arminiansm (which is actually old Pelagianism) was debunked by the church at the Syond of Dordt. It was here at Dordt that the five points of Calvinism were first articulated in one set of documents. I know this is all dry stuff, but it is helpful church history. People get off on a lot of misconceptions and half-truths because they do not know the facts.

    The Reformers and those who hold to the doctrines of sovereign grace would never say to you that faith is not necessary for salvation. It certainly is! They would also never tell you that man does not have will. He certainly does! What they would tell you is that mans will is completely fallen because of the sin of Adam. Ephesians 2:1 tells us that, "And you were dead in your trespasses and sin." The word for dead in this passage is the Greek word "nekros." It means to be dead as in a corpse. This verse is speaking about the spiritual state of man. Spiritually man is fallen. Being dead he cannot choose God. Why? Because he is dead. Paul expanded on this thought in 1 Corinthians 2:14, "But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised." Who is the natural man? He is the same as the dead man in Ephesians 2:1. Notice that the natural man not only cannot accept (understand) the things of the Spirit of God, he is incapable of doing so. Why? Because he is dead. Dead bodies are incapable of making volitional choices. The free will side has misinterpreted these two passages. Instead of saying that man is spiritually dead, they say that he is merely sick. While man is certainly in state of moral suffering because of sin, he is not completely spiritually dead. He is able to understand the gospel if delivered to him. He need only reach out and accept the gospel in order to be made well. The problem with this view is that it is not biblical. The two verses I quoted clearly teach that man is fallen utterly.

    So what does the Calvinist believe about the will of man? He believes that the will of man is subject his nature. If fallen, man will choose sin. Even the good works of a fallen man are but "filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6). God is the one who must take the action of changing the human heart so it is able to believe. But the question is, does the bible teach that? Does the bible teach that God is one who acts first? Look at the following passage: Ephesians 2:4-10 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, that no one should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Remember that dead man we referred to? Well that same spiritually dead man is made alive by God (Eph. 2:5) in Christ. Who was the initator? God. But we have to be intellectually honest with our argument. In verse 8 we read, "For by grace you have been saved through faith..." So we do see faith at work. But how can this be? How can faith be instrumental in our salvation if God works on His own? Two answers. The first is the doctrine of regeneration. God initiates the change in us first. He removes our heart of stone and replaces it with a heart of flesh (Ezk. 36:26). This is called regeneration. Regeneration is not the same thing as salvation, although it is part of the process. Once our heart has been changed we are now able to excercise faith and freely choose Christ. Why? Because God has made our heart able to do so. It is no loner a heart of stone. We are no longer dead. We are able to believe. In this way the entire process is wrought by God alone. Man receives none of the glory. Think about it this way Wild. If you or I could say that we chose Christ by faith and of our own free will, then we have something to boast about. We rob of His glory. We take some of the credit. Salvation then becomes partly of works.

    I know I didn't answer all your questions. I have to get to work but I will pleased to respond to completion later this evening.

    I hope some of this was helpful.
     
  4. Andy T.

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    Since the basis of your questions is rooted in doubting your friend's integrity, I strongly encourage you to talk to him personally about your questions. Ask him to clarify his "second chances" quote. Ask him if he truly believes X and why he believes it. Debate forums can only do so much. Heart-to-heart conversations with real live friends is still the best avenue of communication, esp. when there is suspicion of a friend's integrity at hand.

    Just one comment to your post, though - the holder of the Doctrines of Grace is not the only one that has to explain certain difficult passages; all people come to a place where certain verses appear to contradict their system (and yes, everyone has a system - i.e., a way of interpreting the Bible) that they need to explain or clarify. I see non-Calvinists do this all the time with Romans 9 and Eph. 1-2, for instance. We're in the same boat on this one, brother.
     
  5. Wildfire

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    Gina, I'll be happy to let you make up new rules for the thread some other day. If you can show me a single Scripture that actually says the things listed above, we can move on to your questions. But, mind you, not one of those deep-hidden-meaning things. Something as clearly as 1 Peter 3:9 says that God is not willing that anyone should perish.
     
  6. Wildfire

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    Wow, a history lesson. Thank you. Naturally, being an ignorant person I didn't know any of that, and it all proves that the Bible doesn't mean what it says.

    Sorry ... that's sarcasm. But:

    If Calvinism is a misnomer, how did you know what I was writing about? Obviously it's not a misnomer, but simply another name by which the false doctrine is recognized.

    Yes, you can trace much of Calvinism's false doctrine back to Augustine who, by the way, is credited with being the founder of the Roman Catholic Church. Augustine also believed that you could not get into heaven without being baptized into the Catholic Church. Are you suggesting that he is the basis of sound theological argument?

    Ahhh, all the rest. The favorite arguments of those trained to follow the teachings of Jean Chauvin, the Frenchman who never actually was a Reformist. Show me the scripture, not the arguments of men! Show me one plain, clear verse that says that all of the other verses don't mean what they say.
     
  7. Wildfire

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    Since the basis of your questions is rooted in doubting your friend's integrity, I strongly encourage you to talk to him personally about your questions. Ask him to clarify his "second chances" quote. Ask him if he truly believes X and why he believes it. Debate forums can only do so much. Heart-to-heart conversations with real live friends is still the best avenue of communication, esp. when there is suspicion of a friend's integrity at hand.

    Just one comment to your post, though - the holder of the Doctrines of Grace is not the only one that has to explain certain difficult passages; all people come to a place where certain verses appear to contradict their system (and yes, everyone has a system - i.e., a way of interpreting the Bible) that they need to explain or clarify. I see non-Calvinists do this all the time with Romans 9 and Eph. 1-2, for instance. We're in the same boat on this one, brother.
    </font>[/QUOTE]That is a kind and polite answer, but not, I believe, an intellectually honest one.

    First, you presume that I haven't talked to my brother about his false doctrine. Don't presume that.

    Second, if I understand you, you imply either that God doesn't need to explain Himself or that true believers don't need to explain why they believe what they do (sorry, but I sort of got lost in the subordinate clauses ... it's early). While I would agree with the former, He does it anyway; that's the whole point of providing His word in the form of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16).

    As to the latter, the best way to cover a false doctrine is to be unwilling to give it light of day.

    Calvinists will fall back (like the post above) on Ephesians 2, etc., and say that believing equals works and therefore can't be part of the equation. But in all of the many, many passages that talk about repentence, faith, and believing, not a single one of them says that God must first regenerate the person before they can believe. Not one.

    So is God a liar? When He tells us that He sent His Son into the world for "whomsoever believes," when he said, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man answer ... " when he said that He "is not willing that any man should perish"? All lies?

    You see, you have to massage the clear, plain language of Scripture to get this strange idea of a loving God who chooses people to go to Hell "for His own good pleasure."
     
  8. Andy T.

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    Wildfire, the questions you've asked have been hashed out ad nauseum over in the Baptist Theology section, and before that there was a Calvinism/Arminian section. I suggest that since your questions are essentially theological that you post over in the Theology section.

    By the way, my response was not meant to address every one of your questions/objections in your OP. Am I required to do so? I responded to one aspect (on intepreting difficult passages) and also commented on going to your friend personally. Sorry for the assumption on my part, if you have gone to him and told him you think he does not believe his doctrine deep down in his soul. But then again, if you haven't I would encourage you to do so.
     
  9. Andy T.

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    No, this not what I was trying to say. My point was that everyone has to explain some verses that seem to contradict what they believe other verses clearly state. We all have to do this, not matter what our doctrine is.

    An example: Some Church of Christ people use the few verses in Acts where is says "Repent and be baptized" as proof-texts for their doctrine of baptismal regeneration. Of course, you and I would explain those verses differently in light of what we believe Scripture teaches regarding baptism (i.e., a sign, not efficacious). Our opponents would accuse us of "explaining away" those verses, just like you have accused Calvinists of doing so. The fact is, we all have to "explain away" some verses (from the perspective of our opponent). And by using the word "opponent" I don't mean it in an adversarial way, but in a formal debate way.

    [ April 19, 2006, 01:24 PM: Message edited by: Andy T. ]
     
  10. Wildfire

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    Andy, thanks for your replies. May I suggest that, if you're tired of discussing the matter you simply ignore it? The truth is, we never discuss anything here that hasn't been discussed in one way or another before, or that couldn't be discussed in another place.

    Thanks for correcting me on your point. Like I said, it's early and I did misread you.

    Unfortunately, it still seems to me that what you're saying ends up being that Scripture means different things to different people. No doubt true, but that doesn't mean there's not a correct meaning, nor that we shouldn't look for that meaning. Otherwise, cults are fine, too.

    For example, in Bill Brown's response, above, he uses Ephesians 2 and Ezekiel 36:26 to support his argument.

    Somehow, despite the numerous passages that tell us that we must believe to be saved, Calvinists take the view that believing equals works and therefore can't be the right answer. When confronted with all of these other verses, Calvinists tell us they just don't mean what they say. Words don't mean what they mean in every other passage of Scripture. "World" means "elect." "Whosoever believes" means "whosoever God chooses to regenerate and then believes ..."

    Ezekiel 36:26, a Calvinist favorite, is a prophesy written to Israel. There was a view at one time, before the fulfillment of Ezekiel 37, that this must apply to a "new Israel" (i.e, the church); however, the plain language of the Scripture tells us differently. Unless we're going to apply all of Ezekiel 36-39 to the church as a whole, it's wrong to cherry-pick a verse out of the middle and say this explains God's plan for all believers.

    Once again: Throughout Scripture, God begs us to believe and repent. Why would He do that, if we have no choice in the matter?

    So, once again, please show me a single passage of Scripture that says that no man can believe in God without first being elected and regenerated by Him.

    Blessings.
     
  11. Dustin

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    2 Peter 3:9 is written to believers about believers. Wildfire, have you entertained the idea that the ALL in that verse are referring to the elect?
     
  12. Wildfire

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    Naturally, I meant 2 Peter ... these fingers refuse to cooperate in the morning.
     
  13. Wildfire

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    Yes, I have entertained the idea. Then dismissed it. If they're already believers, why is God patiently waiting for them to become believers? And if He's waiting for the nonbelievers to become believers, hasn't He already, according to Master Calvin, predestined them?

    Sorry, it just doesn't work. You can't keep flipping back and forth.
     
  14. Andy T.

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    Wildfire, not everyone can respond to every question on this Board. Your OP had several questions/observations. I repsonded to a couple of them. Just because I didn't respond to your other questions, doesn't mean I don't have an answer or that I don't care.

    On Bible intepretation - no, that is not what I am saying at all. All that I am saying is that we all have to explain verses in light of other clear verses. So to accuse Calvinists of doing this is really not an argument at all, since the non-Calvinist has to explain Romans 9, for example, to fit within his system. But your accusations against Calvinists comes across as hypocritical since you have to do the same in light of your system.
     
  15. Dustin

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    Yes, they are predestined, but they have to HEAR the Gospel. They can't just automatically wake up one day, with no prior knowledge and say, "I beleive Jesus is the Son of God!" If God wills that none of the elect will perish, then THEY WILL NOT PERISH. If God wills that NONE as in all people perish, then why do so many go to hell? Because we're ALL born destined for hell with our sinful nature. God just has mercy on whom He will have mercy. Who are we to argue with God and say that it was a choice we thought we made when instead it was a mighty work of the living God?
     
  16. Andy T.

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    Yes, I have entertained the idea. Then dismissed it. If they're already believers, why is God patiently waiting for them to become believers? And if He's waiting for the nonbelievers to become believers, hasn't He already, according to Master Calvin, predestined them?

    Sorry, it just doesn't work. You can't keep flipping back and forth.
    </font>[/QUOTE]II Peter 3 is in the context of the Second Coming of Christ. Peter is addressing objections by people who say He is not coming again. If you interpet II Peter 3:9 to include all people, then Jesus would never come again, unless you believe at some point every individual on Earth will be saved. When Jesus comes again, there will undoubtedly be unbelievers on Earth. But He's not willing that any should perish, so why would He come again knowing that some are not saved?
     
  17. Wildfire

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    I'm asking for a simple thing. Same thing I ask of all Calvinists. Don't cherry-pick a verse out of context, just show me one clear passage that says a man must be regenerated by God before he can believe.

    That's the doctrine of Calvinism in a nutshell, so there must be at least one passage of Scripture that actually says it.

    Romans 8:29? Calvinists skip right over the "for whom He foreknew" or else they say that foreknowledge is the same as predestination. If it's the same thing, then the verse says, "For whom He predestined, He also predestined." Doesn't work. The only other view must be that he predestined them because He foreknew them. God is outside of His creation. Time is a physical dimension of creation, by which God is not constrained. Therefore, quite simply, He knows who will come to Him and He predistines them accordingly. To what? Salvation? No, to the works for which they are chosen (Ephesians 2:10).

    This comports with all other Scripture and doesn't require us to redefine words like "world" and "whosoever." It also comports with Matthew 7:23 ("I never knew you.") Note that Christ doesn't say, "I never chose you," or "I never elected you," or "I never predestined you." These were people who never chose to be in a relationship with Him, thus He never knew them.

    Romans 9? Yes, God gets to choose. It's His sovereign right. And He has given us the rules by which He promises in the covenant of Christ's blood (the "New Testament") to do just that. No mystery here, and no contradiction. He spelled out His plan in many places, including John 3:16-17.

    You point it out yourself ... Romans 9. God hardened Pharaoh's heart. Look at it! Does it say He chose not to regenerate Pharaoh? Absolutely not! If the Calvinist doctrine is right, then God wouldn't have to "harden" anyone's heart because they would all be damned unless He elected them.

    God knew Pharaoh's heart from eternity past. Still, He gave Pharaoh free will. But because He knew his heart, God chose the moment when it would be "hardened" in order to cause His plan for Moses to come about.

    No contradiction. No mystery. No verses taken out of context. And it blends perfectly with all other Scripture without having to change the meanings of words.

    Once again, everyone, God begs us throughout Scripture to believe, repent, and turn to Him. Why does He beg us to do this if it's not possible for us to choose?

    One clear, simple, straightforward Scripture that says that no man can believe until He is first elected and regenerated by God, and I will concede all and join the Calvinist ranks.
     
  18. Wildfire

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    Yes, I have entertained the idea. Then dismissed it. If they're already believers, why is God patiently waiting for them to become believers? And if He's waiting for the nonbelievers to become believers, hasn't He already, according to Master Calvin, predestined them?

    Sorry, it just doesn't work. You can't keep flipping back and forth.
    </font>[/QUOTE]II Peter 3 is in the context of the Second Coming of Christ. Peter is addressing objections by people who say He is not coming again. If you interpet II Peter 3:9 to include all people, then Jesus would never come again, unless you believe at some point every individual on Earth will be saved. When Jesus comes again, there will undoubtedly be unbelievers on Earth. But He's not willing that any should perish, so why would He come again knowing that some are not saved?
    </font>[/QUOTE]Nothing in 2 Peter 3:9 says He won't come until everyone believes. It merely says He is patient, not willing that anyone should perish.

    Now, if He has already predestined who is saved, what does he have to be patient about? And if He isn't willing that anyone should perish, why would He elect who does and who doesn't?

    The verse only makes complete contextual sense if you read it with an understanding that individuals have choices. Choice does not equal works. God's grace is sufficient, but it applies only to those who believe (Jn 3:16).
     
  19. Wildfire

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    A new thought. I'm surprised I haven't seen someone quote Jn 6:65 yet. It's a good one, and all by itself it would be enough to send non-Calvinists into turmoil.

    But read on to verses 70 and 71. Verse 65 is the clearest verse in all of Scripture that we can't come to Christ unless the Father provides the way. Yet just a few verses later, Jesus tells us He chose the Twelve and yet one is "a devil."

    It turns verse 65 upside down. God provided the way. Judas rejected it. Just as God used Pharaoh's rejection to get Moses moving (Romans 9), He used Judas' rejection to cause His plan to happen concerning the Messiah.

    Once again, it comes back to that word "believe." The Greek is pisteuo which means (in the context of Jn 3:16, for example) to place complete trust and faith in Him.

    Don't confuse God's will with His plan, and don't always trust the English translations concerning these words. We can go against God's will. Adam did. But we can never go against God's plan. We'll never catch Him by surprise. He knows every choice we will make, and it will all work according to His plan.

    Blessings!

    [ April 19, 2006, 03:45 PM: Message edited by: Wildfire ]
     
  20. Wildfire

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    Dustin, you argue against your own point.

    God does not will that anyone should perish, but they do anyway. Right? That means that people can go against God's will. Adam did. God told Him what to do, but He did the opposite. Jonah did. David did. Some believers gossip or think harsh or lustful thoughts -- sin -- which is against God's will, yet they are redeemed by Christ's blood. Some people reject God completely, which is against His will. When they do, they perish. That's not God's will, but they do it anyway.

    So, you see, you're right. 2 Peter 3:9 means exactly what it says. God is not willing that any man should perish. But (Jn 3:16) only those who believe on the Son will have everlasting life.

    These two verses can't contradict each other. John 3:16 doesn't say, "for whomsover is elected and regenerated will therefore believe and have eternal life." And 2 Peter 3:9 doesn't say, "God isn't willing that any man should perish except the ones He picks."

    The two verses comport perfectly exactly as they are written.
     

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