Many have asked what specific points led me away from Calvinism. Being a Professor of Theology that once affirmed TULIP gives me a unique perspective on this subject. However, I do not claim to be an expert in the field nor do I begrudge those who disagree with my perspective. I simply desire to interpret rightly the Word of God. Hopefully this podcast and article can help you understand why I could not continue to support the Calvinistic interpretation of the text.
I believe there are many who are hoping to convince someone they care about to leave behind their Calvinistic beliefs. I hate to tell them, but it is doubtful a blog post or a podcast will accomplish that feat. It is very difficult to convince YOURSELF to leave a long held theological perspective and next to impossible to convince another. For me it was a painstaking three year journey after I engaged in an in-depth study of the subject. I had no desire to leave Calvinism and I fought tooth and nail to defend my beloved “Doctrines of Grace” against the truths my studies led me to see. There was no single book, article, or discussion that led me to recant my adherence to the TULIP systematic.
In fact, I’m quite certain I could never have been “debated out of Calvinism.” I was much too competitive to objectively evaluate my systematic in the heat of a contentious type discussion. Even if I were to come against an argument I could not answer, I would have never admitted that to my opponent. Few individuals would be able to get around the intense emotion and pride inducing adrenaline brought on by debating theology. Our innate desire to be esteemed by others and seen as “smarter” than we really are often overwhelms any potential for learning and profitable dialogue.
If someone disagreed with me, my presumption was that they must not really understand my perspective. So, instead of attempting to listen and objectively evaluate their arguments I focused on restating my case more clearly, confidently and dogmatically. If I did not fully understand what they were saying I would often label them and dismiss them instead of taking the time to fully evaluate their point of view. I am not attempting to suggest every Calvinist makes these errors — I am only reflecting on what I now view as my mistakes.
I competed on the state level in CX Debate in High School and College. Our debate coach drilled into us the SKILL of taking on both the affirmative and negative side of every issue. And believe me, that is a learned skill. It is very difficult to put down one view in the defense of another opposing view, especially if you are emotionally and intellectually attached to a given perspective. It is rare to find real objectivity in a discussion among theologically minded individuals over a doctrine as emotionally charged and intimately personal as that of our salvation. This is ESPECIALLY true of those who have made a living and developed their identity around a particular set of beliefs. Imagine RC Sproul, for example, coming to believe he was mistaken on these points of doctrine. Think how much it would cost him and his reputation as a scholar to recant those views. This is never an easy or painless transition.
I say all this to tell any Calvinistic readers who may have clicked on this link in order to refute my claims: I am NOT so naive as to think this article or podcast is going to convince you to leave Calvinism, thus that is NOT my goal in creating it. My goal however, is that you simply understand the reasons I left Calvinism. That most likely cannot happen if you begin with an axe to grind or a point to defend. Can we put down the weapons and first seek to hear and fully understand each other before launching into a debate? If you finish this article or listen to my podcast and walk away still as Calvinistic as you are right now, but you understand why I felt I had to leave Calvinism then I will consider this a great success.
I adopted all five points of the the Calvinistic TULIP when I was a freshman in college after digesting books from John MacArthur, RC Sproul, JI Packer and later John Piper. Louie Giglio, the man who brought John Piper into the mainstream through events like Passion, was one of my father’s close friends. My first ministry position was with GRACE at Hardin-Simmons University modeled after Louie’s ministry at Baylor University in the 80s. Here is where I worked along side Matt Chandler, being discipled by the same mentor. I grew very convinced in my Calvinism over the next decade of life even helping to start a new “Reformed” Baptist Church that split off from my home church. (This is where my parents and all their friends were attending. I only see now how much this must have hurt them.) Later I served on staff at this church and then began working for the state convention. We hired John Piper along with various other notable Calvinistic communicators to speak at many of the events I coordinate. I very much loved being apart of this “brotherhood” of ministers who proudly affirmed the doctrine of Spurgeon and the forefathers of our Southern Baptist faith. I was a card carrying member of the “Founders” of the SBC and would never have dreamed that one day I would be writing this article.
One morning I was reading a book by AW Tozer, a man I knew was respected in the Calvinistic community. John Piper often quoted him and people referenced his works regularly in my Reformed circles. Some of what he wrote simple did not fit into my paradigm. “Isn’t Tozer a Calvinist,” I remember thinking out loud? I distinctly remember how I felt when I learned that AW Tozer and CS Lewis, two men I greatly respected, did not affirm TULIP. At that point I remembered what my debate training taught me and I realized I had never really objectively and thoroughly vetted the scholarly views that oppose Calvinism. This started my journey.
Six months to a year into this sporadic study of doctrines I was not the least bit convinced that Calvinism was wrong. Even after being presented with several convincing arguments against my long held beliefs, I subconsciously felt I had too much too lose to leave my Calvinism. My reputation, my friends, my ministry connections…all gone if I recant my views on this! I had converted way too many people and hurt way too many relationships in defense of these views for me to go back on what I was certain to be true. However, my years of training in debate helped me to recognize this bias and proceed with my studies nonetheless. As I was trained, I forced myself to drop my preconceived ideas, my biases, and anything that might hinder me from fully understanding the other perspective.
In that process there were five key truths that came to light which eventually lead me out of my Calvinism. Below is a short summary of those views, but on the podcast titled “5 Points OUT of Calvinism“ I expound on each of these more thoroughly:
POINT #1: I came to realize that the “foresight faith view” (classical Wesleyan Arminianism) was not the only scholarly alternative to the Calvinistic interpretation.
I had so saturated myself with Calvinistic preachers and authors that the only thing I knew of the opposing views was what they told me. Thus, I had been lead to believe the only real alternative to Calvinism was this strange concept of God “looking through the corridors of time to elect those He foresees would choose Him.” Notable Calvinistic teachers almost always paint all non-Calvinistic scholars as holding to this perspective. Once I realized I had been misled on this point, I was more open to consider other interpretations objectively.
I found a much more robust and theologically sound systematic in what is called “The Corporate View of Election,” which so happened to be the most popular view among the biblical scholars of my own denomination (Southern Baptists). Much more can be said about this view that I will not take the liberty to expound upon in this article. However, I must warn readers that the all too common phrase, “nations are made up of individuals too,” does not even begin to rebut the claims of this perspective. Individuals are just as much involved in the Corporate perspective as they are the Calvinistic perspective (maybe even more so). Anyone who believes the Corporate view is easily dismissed with that simple one-liner has not yet come to understand it rightly. In my experience, very few Calvinists give this view the attention it deserves because it requires a shift in perspective that, if recognized, would undermine their entire premise.
Do you understand “The Corporate View of Election”…I mean really understand it? Could you defend it in a debate if you had to? Could you explain it objectively to a classroom of students? Are you willing to study it and evaluate its claims?
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” -Aristotle
Point #2: I came to understand the distinction between the doctrine of Original Sin (depravity) and the Calvinistic concept of “Total Inability.”
Calvinists teach that “the natural man is blind and deaf to the message of the gospel,” but I learned that is the condition of a judicially hardened man, not a natural condition from birth (Acts 28:27-28; John 12:39-41; Mark 4:11-12; Rom. 11). Instead, God’s gracious revelation and powerful gospel appeal is the means He has chosen to draw, or enable, whosoever hears it to come. Thus, anyone who does hear or see His truth may respond to that truth, which is why they are held response-able (able-to-respond).
Listen to my sermon at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary on this subject HERE.
At the time while Christ was on earth, the Israelites (in John 6 for example), were being hardened or blinded from hearing the truth. Only a select few Israelites (a remnant) were given by the Father to the Son in order for God’s purpose in the election of Israel to be fulfilled. That purpose was not referring to God’s plan to individually and effectually save some Jews, but His plan to bring the LIGHT or REVELATION to the rest of the world by way of the MESSIAH and HIS MESSAGE so that all may believe (John 17:21b).
The vine the Jews are being cut off of in Romans 11 is not the vine of effectual salvation, otherwise how could individuals be cut off or grafted back into it? The vine is the LIGHT of REVELATION, the means through which one may be saved that was first sent to the Jews and then the Gentiles (Rom. 1:16). The Gentiles are being granted repentance or “grafted into the vine” so as to be enabled to repent. The Jews, if provoked to envy and leave their unbelief, may be grafted back into that same vine (Rom. 11:14, 23).
KEY POINT: God DOES use determinative means to ensure His sovereign purposes in electing Israel, which includes:
- (1) the setting apart of certain individual Israelites to be the lineage of the Messiah, and
- (2) the setting apart of certain individual Israelities to carry His divinely inspired message to the world (using convincing means like big fish and blinding lights to persuade their wills) and
- (3) temporarily blinding the rest of Israel to accomplish redemption through their rebellion.
However, there is no indication in scripture that:
- (1) all those who DO believe the appointed messenger’s teachings were likewise set a part by such persuasive means (especially not inward effectual means).
- (2) all those who DO NOT believe the appointed messenger’s teachings were likewise hardened from the time they were born to the time they died.
As a Calvinist I did not understand the historical context of the scriptures as it relates to the national election of Israel followed by their judicial hardening. When the scriptures spoke of Jesus hiding the truth in parables, or only revealing Himself to a select few, or cutting off large numbers of people from seeing, hearing and understanding the truth; I immediately presumed that those were passages supporting the “T” of my T.U.L.I.P. when in reality they are supporting the doctrine of Israel’s judicial hardening.
“FROM AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO TO THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, WESTERN CHRISTIANITY HAS TENDED TO INTERPRET THE DOCTRINE OF ELECTION FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF AND WITH REGARD TO INDIVIDUAL HUMAN BEINGS. DURING THOSE SAME CENTURIES THE DOCTRINE HAS BEEN FAR LESS EMPHASIZED AND SELDOM EVER CONTROVERSIAL IN EASTERN ORTHODOXY. IS IT POSSIBLE THAT AUGUSTINE AND LATER CALVIN, WITH THE HELP OF MANY OTHERS, CONTRIBUTED TO A HYPER INDIVIDUALIZATION OF THIS DOCTRINE THAT WAS HARDLY WARRANTED BY ROMANS 9-11, EPH. 1, AND I PETER 2? IS IT NOT TRUE THAT THE MAJOR EMPHASIS IN BOTH TESTAMENTS FALLS UPON AN ELECT PEOPLE — ISRAEL (OT) AND DISCIPLES OR CHURCH (NT)?” – James LEO GARRETT
Point #3: I realized that the decision to humble yourself and repent in faith is not meritorious. Even repentant believers deserve eternal punishment.
Calvinists are notorious for asking the unsuspecting believer, “Why did you believe in Christ and someone else does not; are you smarter, or more praiseworthy in some way?” I asked this question more times than I can remember as a young Calvinist. What I (and likely the target of my inquiry) did not understand is that the question itself is a fallacy known as “Question Begging.” (or more specifically “plurium interrogationum” or “Complex Question”)
Begging the question is a debate tactic where your opponent presumes true the very point up for debate. For instance, if the issue being disputed was whether or not you cheat on your taxes and I began the discussion by asking you, “Have you stopped cheating on your taxes yet?” I would be begging the question.
Likewise, in the case of the Calvinist asking “Why did you made this choice,” he is presuming a deterministic response is necessary thus beginning the discussion with a circular and often confounding game of question begging. The inquiry as to what determines the choice of a free will presumes something other than the free function of the agent’s will makes the determination, thus denying the very mystery of what makes the will free and not determined.
The cause of a choice is the chooser. The cause of a determination is the determiner. It is not an undetermined determination, or an unchosen choice, as some attempt to frame it. If someone has an issue with this simply apply the same principle to the question, “Why did God choose to create mankind?” He is obviously all self-sustaining and self-sufficient. He does not need us to exist. Therefore, certainly no one would suggest God was not free to refrain from creating humanity. So, what determined God’s choice to create if not the mysterious function of His free will?
In short, whether one appeals to mystery regarding the function of man’s will or the function of the Divine will, we all eventually appeal to mystery. Why not appeal to mystery BEFORE drawing conclusions that could in any way impugn the holiness of God by suggesting He had something to do with determining the nature, desire and thus evil choices of His creatures?
What also must be noted is that the decision to trust in Christ for our salvation is not a meritorious work. Asking for forgiveness does not merit being forgiven. Think of it this way. Did the prodigal son earn, merit or in any way deserve the reception of his father on the basis that he humbly returned home? Of course not. He deserved to be punished, not rewarded. The acceptance of his father was a choice of the father alone and it was ALL OF GRACE. The father did not have to forgive, restore and throw a party for his son on the basis that he chose to come home. That was the father’s doing.
Humiliation and brokenness is not considered “better” or “praiseworthy” and it certainly is not inherently valuable. The only thing that makes this quality “desirable” is that God has chosen to grace those who humble themselves, something He is in no way obligated to do. God gives grace to the humble not because a humble response deserves salvation, but because He is gracious.
Point #4: I accepted the fact that a gift doesn’t have to be irresistibly applied in order for the giver to get full credit for giving it.
According to Calvinism, God does not merely enable people to believe (as the scriptures say), but He has to actually change their very nature so as to certainly make them believe. As a Calvinist I remember shaming other Christians for “stealing God’s glory” by suggesting they played any role in their salvation. I insisted they would be “boasting” to believe that they chose to come to Christ unless they first admitted that God irresistibly changed their nature to make them want to come. I recall a wise elder from my home church challenging me on this point by asking, “Why do you believe God’s choice of you for no apparent reason is less boast worthy than his choice of me for being a weak beggar?” I honestly did not know what he meant at the time, but I do now.
At the time of that encounter I had not reached the pigsty of my life. I was young and arrogant. I had never really been broken by my sin and brought face to face with my depravity. I thought I understood forgiveness and grace but truthfully it was not until much later in my life that I would be brought to the end of my self. I used to think the idea that God chose to save me before I was born and done anything good or bad was humbling, but it is not near as humbling as the reality that God would choose to save me in the middle of my worst sin, my brokenness, my humiliation and my shame. Like the prodigal who returned home from the pigsty of his life, broken and humiliated, seeking to beg for handouts, deserving nothing but punishment, receives instead the gracious love of a father, I too felt the choice of a Father to forgive me right then and there in the middle of my filth. It was not some theological concept of God picking me for no apparent reason out of the mass of humanity at some distant inexplicable time before time was. It was my Daddy choosing to love me in the middle of my deepest sin and pride crushing shame. No one…no Arminian, no Calvinist or any one in between…I mean NO ONE boasts about being forgiven like that. If they do, or they think others would, I cannot imagine they have ever been there.
“But let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” (Jer. 9:24)
Why can’t we give God all the glory for enabling mankind to respond to His gracious truth? Why must he irresistibly cause our acceptance of that truth in order for Him to get full glory for giving it?
It in no way robs God of glory by suggesting He does not irresistibly determine men’s choice to accept or reject the gospel appeal. In fact, it seems to lesson His glory by making Him appear disingenuous in that appeal sent to all people. Should not God get the glory even for the provision of those who reject Him?
“A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.” – C.S. Lewis
Point #5: I came to understand that sovereignty is not an eternal attribute of God that would be compromised by the existence of free moral creatures.
Some seem to believe that for God to be considered “sovereign” then men cannot have a free or autonomous will. Should sovereignty be interpreted and understood as the necessity of God to “play both sides of the chess board” in order to ensure His victory? Or should it be understood as God’s infinite and mysterious ways of accomplishing His purposes and ensuring His victory in, through, and despite the free choices of creation?
I’m not pretending that we can really understand His infinite ways or the means by which He accomplishes all things in conjunction with man’s will. We cannot even understand our own ways, much less His. But, I’m saying that the revelation of God’s holiness, His unwillingness to even tempt men to sin (James 1:13), His absolute perfect nature and separateness from sin (Is. 48:17), certainly appears to suggest that our finite, linear, logical constructs should not be used to contain Him (Is. 55:9).
One point that really helped me to understand the apparent contradiction of this debate was realizing the divine attribute of sovereignty is not an eternal attribute of God. Calvinists always argue that God cannot deny Himself or His eternal nature, which is true. God cannot stop being God. Based on this Calvinists conclude that because God is eternally sovereign that He cannot deny that sovereignty, an attribute of His very nature, by allowing for others to have any measure of control or authority.
What the Calvinist fails to see is that sovereignty is not an eternal attribute of God. Sovereignty means “complete rule or dominion over creation.” For God to be in control over creation there has to be something created in which to control. He cannot display His power over creatures unless the creatures exist. Therefore, before creation the concept of sovereignty was not an attribute that could be used to describe God. An eternal attribute is something God possesses that is not contingent upon something else.
The eternal attribute of God is His omnipotence, which refers to His eternally limitless power. Sovereignty is a temporal characteristic, not an eternal one, thus we can say God is all powerful, not because He is sovereign, but He is sovereign because He is all powerful, or at least He is as sovereign as He so chooses to be in relation to this temporal world.
If our all-powerful God chose to refrain from meticulously ruling over every aspect of that which He creates, that in no way denies His eternal attribute of omnipotence, but indeed affirms it. It is the Calvinist who denies the eternal attribute of omnipotence by presuming the all-powerful God cannot refrain from meticulous deterministic rule over His creation (i.e. sovereignty). In short, the Calvinist denies God’s eternal attribute of omnipotence in his effort to protect the temporal attribute of sovereignty. Additionally, an argument could be made that the eternal attributes of God’s love and His holiness are likewise compromised by the well meaning efforts of our Calvinistic brethren to protect their theory of deterministic sovereignty over the temporal world.
Please understand, sovereignty is most certainly an attribute of God, but it is a temporal attribute. The Omnipotent God has not yet taken full sovereign control over everything on earth as it is in heaven. Is not that His prerogative? Passages throughout the bible teach that there are “authorities” and “powers” which are yet to be destroyed, and that have been given dominion over God’s creation.
A time is coming when the Lord will punish the powers above and the rulers of the earth.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the evil powers of this world.
1 Corinthians 15:24
Then the end will come; Christ will overcome all spiritual rulers, authorities, and powers, and will hand over the Kingdom to God the Father.
Don’t misunderstand my point. I affirm that God is greater than these powers and authorities. He created them after all.
For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.
And one day God will strip them of that authority:
God stripped the spiritual rulers and powers of their authority. With the cross, he won the victory and showed the world that they were powerless.
Much more could be said, but in short we must refrain from bringing unbiblical conclusions based upon our finite perceptions of God’s nature. We must accept the revelation of scripture. He is Holy (Is. 6:3). He does not take pleasure in sin (Ps. 5:4). Some moral evil does not even enter His Holy mind (Jer. 7:31). He genuinely desires every individual to come to Him and be saved (2 Pet. 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:4). No man will stand before the Father and be able to give the excuse, “I was born unloved by my Creator. I was born unchosen and without the hope of salvation. I was born unable to see, hear or understand God’s revelation of Himself.” No! They will stand without excuse (Rm. 1:20). God loves all people (Jn. 3:16), calls them to salvation (2 Cor. 5:20), reveals Himself to them (Titus 2:11) and provides the means by which their sins would be forgiven (1 Jn. 2:2).
“God sovereignly decreed that man should be free to exercise moral choice, and man from the beginning has fulfilled that decree by making his choice between good and evil. When he chooses to do evil, he does not thereby countervail the sovereign will of God but fulfills it, inasmuch as the eternal decree decided not which choice the man should make but that he should be free to make it. If in His absolute freedom God has willed to give man limited freedom, who is there to stay His hand or say, ‘What doest thou?’ Man’s will is free because God is sovereign. A God less than sovereign could not bestow moral freedom upon His creatures. He would be afraid to do so.” – A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God
Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.
Here are some helpful quotes regarding how we should approach this discussion:
“Paul did not mean, that this (being puffed up, i.e. arrogant) is to be reckoned as a fault attributable to learning—that those who are learned are often self-complacent, and have admiration of themselves, accompanied with contempt of others. Nor did he understand this to be the natural tendency of learning—to produce arrogance, but simply meant to show what effect knowledge has in an individual, that has not the fear of God, and love of the brethren; for the wicked abuse all the gifts of God, so as to exalt themselves.” -John Calvin
“We got into an argument over the color of love. I said it was pink, and he said it was red. So you see, I had no other choice but to stab him.” ― Jarod Kintz
“Discussion is an exchange of knowledge; argument an exchange of ignorance.”
― Robert Quillen
“The most important tactic in an argument next to being right is to leave an escape hatch for your opponent so that he can gracefully swing over to your side without an embarrassing loss of face.” ― Stephen Jay Gould
“I am very cautious of people who are absolutely right, especially when they are vehemently so.” ― Michael Palin
230 thoughts on “The 5 points that led me to leave Calvinism”
Thank you for reminding Dr Flowers about my questions. Thank you also for sharing your thoughts about Calvinism.
As I mentioned before, I am a Calvinist, and I am fully aware of the issues you raised regarding its harm. In fact, last Friday, from the pulpit, I expressly warned my church the dangers of hyper-Calvinism. There will always be the harmful elements or potential harm in any theological construct. This is when one does not realize the limits to such constructs and begin to take it to its so-called rational/logical end, turning a blind eye to Scriptures that do not support or contradict the systematized construct, or twist/mold the contradicting Scriptures to fit the construct. Then, we will see the ugly side or the harmful side of any theology, hence, we see hyper-Calvinism, hyper-Arminianism, hyper-dispensationalism, replacement theology, and the list goes on. This is when theology becomes ‘inspired’ by its proponents and those who dsagree are either in ‘error’ [and need to be shown the errors of his/her way] or worse.. being given the label ‘heretic’ and ‘damned’.
I adopt an approach, that there are limits to any theology and never go overboard. A Calvinist or be it an Arminian [I personally do not like putting labels] must be aware of the limits and even flaws in the theology and be honest about it. This side of eternity, we with all our human limitations to understand and the fact that Scriptures do not reveal everything now and it will take perhaps whole eternity for us to fully grasp…. one can only be humble and say ‘I do not have all the answers’.
Just to share, in Malaysia, sharing the gospel to certain group of people means prosecution. There are two pastors that really touched my life, one is an Arminian [kidnapped and no one knows where he is.. may be martyred already] and another is a Reformed Baptist, who spents his evening going around on his bicycle searching for opporyunity to share the gospel, who daringly share to anyone who is willing to listen despite the fact he can land up in jail… Do I for a minute even think such people are, especially the Reformed pastor, is doing it out of duty? Never crossed my mind. I also know, a Calvinist brother, who despite being a diabetic, having spinal problem… drove his SUV into the interior to reach out to the native people living at the fringrs ofthe jungle…. he did it not because it is a duty. Yes, he may not have all the answers with regards to how to balance everything between God’s sovereignity, human responsibility, election, predestination… etc. but one thing is clear he would not have done this ministry unless there is a genuine love for the lost.
Thank you Edlic for sharing those wonderful stories of faithful brothers identified with different theologies but each serving the Lord in risk of their lives in Malaysia. I wish I was on the front lines there with you and them.
Like you, those faithful men probably do not push the issue of election if they are Calvinist, or the issue of losing salvation if they are Arminian, or push whatever controversial issue they believe is true whatever the theology of which they have been convinced. They just want to see souls saved.
And I truly hope their main motive is love for Christ and His love for the all who are lost. Persecution certainly keeps pretenders in the faith to a minimum. But they can still exist, even in the midst of persecution. And some men unfortunately “love” the thrill of risk and the honor they receive from others for taking it. Usually you can tell how much they truly love the lost by how much the love the brethren also.
Please address me as Brian. We may only know each other in these few words we’ve shared, but we are brothers, and the Lord doesn’t want us to greet each other with titles (Matt 23:8-10). Thx.
It is our Asian culture to address someone with title.. it is a sign of respect, unless that person is someone we have known for a longer time.
I can assure you their motive is love. Yes, it is true some men ‘went to war’ for the adventure, glory, booty… but there are many who risked their lives out sacrificial love of God.
There will always be diversity of theological views and as long as they do not violate cardinal truths that all of us across the divide hold so dearly, there should be liberty and respect. What saddened me the most is how fellow believers ‘bashed’ each other over theological differences when the focus should be ‘preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom ….. to all nations… and the end shall come’ , just like John wrote… maranatha… looking forward to His coming Kingdom.
Bro. Edlic I appreciate that you dropped the “Dr.” in your greeting address to me. Cultures can have very good motives behind their traditions, but Jesus is clear about commanding His disciples not to greet one another based on titles for positions they might hold in ministry. Christianity is to be prescriptive to culture not descriptive of culture except when to win souls, but always under submission to Christ’s law.
More teaching needs to be done on how important it is to discern what the gospel is, what sound doctrine is, and how all else are doubtful matters to be held personally but not used to divide the brethren. The gospel must divide between who I call “Brother” and sound doctrine must help me discern who is qualified to shepherd God’s people and who is not. But teachings of the gospel and sound doctrine are very clearly written out in Scripture. They are not formulated by theological inference or extrapolation and definitely not from man-made tradition outside of Scripture.
Thanks for sharing. Concerning culture, there is nothing wrong as long as it does not violates biblical principles. On hindsight into history, one of the main stumbling block to Christian mission in some parts of Asia, was a very Western centered approach… meaning bringing a person to the faith was also to Westernized a person. Mission work came with imperialism and no less cultural imperialism. Missionaries to China later learned to live like Chinese, speak Chinese to reach out to Chinese people.
I do not see any problem in greeting a person formally [especially when you hardly know the person personally] and do not fully agree with your interpretation of Matthew 23:8-10. If you have not visited Malaysia, perhaps a trip to my country and visit to Chinese, Tamil, Indonesian, Borneo, and Native churches, you will see how culture has been adapted to biblical truths. I am not sure about your background or societal backdrop, I live in a very diverse society.
“More teaching needs to be done…………. They are not formulated by theological inference or extrapolation and definitely not from man-made tradition outside of Scripture.”
I say Amen.
By the way, going back to my main reason for visiting this website, will Dr Flowers answer my questions soon? It is alright if he is not free to do so although I would really appreciate if he could.
Hi Bro. Edlic… I just reminded Leighton again last night. I agree with what you said about missionaries or foreign believers adopting as much cultural norms as possible and greeting formally with formal secular greetings… similiar to Mr. or if a judge or king or secular doctor whatever title fits that culture. But the command not to greet those in ministry by a title is a command. There is no room to miss the clear meaning.
Bro. Brian, thanks for your reply. I hope he would reply soon.
I need some answers also insights into TGC’s agenda especially in Malaysia. I want to know their link with certain seminars/conferences and their organizers in Malaysia. I want to be aware because the young adults in my church have been actively attending them and now are promoting those seminars from the pulpit.
I, even though a Calvinist, I certainly do not agree people pushing their theological views in the expense of church unity, communion, and the leadership of affected churches. I think it is very unscriptural that someone pushes a certain theology without regards for the leadership of a church no matter how convicted or convinced the person is.
For example, I reject certain teachings of the Pentecostals/Charismatics, but when I was invited to preach in an Assembly of God church, I will talk on issues we disagree on simply because out of respect of leadership unless being asked to.
I am worried that TGC through their Malaysian partners are pushing Calvinism and undermining non-Calvinist churches.
I’ll try again… to remind him. I’ll paste this comment from you in an email to him.
Do you have Facebook? Message me there. There is a man named KL NG on Facebook who lives there in Malaysia who may be able to give you more insights.
I will NOT talk on issues we disagree on simply because out of respect of leadership unless being asked to. [mistake]
Bro Brian, I do not use Facebook. Could I have KL NG contact? Thanks.
Edlic… I don’t have it, but will let Leighton know you are asking for it.
Hi Edlic! Here are the email addresses Leighton gave me to pass on to you. They are the ones who invited him to come to Malaysia during his last visit there.
Wing Choong Cheah – firstname.lastname@example.org,
“Anthony K. K. Too” -email@example.com,
Andrew Wong – firstname.lastname@example.org,
Dexter Ng – email@example.com,
Adrian Low – firstname.lastname@example.org,
Kien Ng – email@example.com
Hope this is of some help to you in your research!
Bro. Brian, thanks. I do not know any of them in the list. Would Dr Flowers answer my questions? I wish to communicate with him. I have been waiting for more than two weeks.
Edlic, you asked for those addresses… Do you feel awkward writing to any of them? I would think they would have a better idea of your situation than Leighton, and I would think they would hold the same theological perspective as him.
But if you can list your specific questions again in a response here, I will copy and send them to Leighton. I may try answering them also. Blessings.
Bro. Brian, yes I did ask for the address of someone Dr Flowers referred to as KL Ng. I thought Dr. Flowers would give me some information regarding that person first. Those on the name list are total strangers to me and this issue about the spread of Calvinism is to a certain degree sensitive. Just to put into perspective, my church,s interim moderator (we do not have a pastor since the previous one left) is supportive of seminars related to TGC. Here are my specific questions again for Dr Flowers and perhaps you could also shed some light. Some of them may be just a repeat .. please bear with me.
1- What TGC really stand for and what is their main agenda?
2- Are they purposefully spreading Calvinism without regards for leadeship of churches who do not hold their theological views, i.e. TULIP? Is it their policy to do that?
3- Who are the key leaders in TGC and are they hyper-Calvinist, e.g. believe in double predestination, fatalism etc.?
4- What define hyper-Calvinism according to you and Dr Flowers?
5- Who are TGC’s main contacts or should I say collaborators in Malaysia? I know roughly there are some Christian para-church groups that are actively organizing seminars.
6- Is what is happening in United States and somehow in Malaysia too is what some termed as New-Calvinism that appeals to young adults?
7- Does TGC really promotes a balanced view of Scriptures via a sound bible study approach (e.g. historical-grammartical and literal) or are they imposing a theological grid on Scriptures. and ends up doing eisgesis?
8- Waht do you think about John MacAuthur, he is a 5 pointsCalvinist, and pre-mill… in many ways my own views are very simikar to what is taught in Master’s Seminary.
9- What is TGC’s agenda for Malaysia through their local partners?
10- Based on what you know [Dr Flowers] how critical is the situation in Malaysia with regards to Calvinism vs others, please elaborate? [I think it must be bad enough that they invited you an ex-Calvinist and a professor of theology to come to Malaysia.
11- What do both of you think concerning ‘Christ-centred’ or Gospel-centred hermeneutics, seemed to be popuar with these people? [I personally think it actually divert people from an objective study of Scriptures though it sound so ‘spiritual’ or so ‘Reformed’]
These are my questions. Just to be open, I am asking them because I want to do what isright within my small sphere of influence. I am a nobody in the Malaysian church. I hold no office.Nonetheless, I preached and teach regularly in my church; do missio work among native people; and sometimes get invited to preach in other churches.
My biggest concern is that people get distracted from the preaching of Kingdom Gospel, unity of the body, compassion for the needy and fellow believers because of theological ‘conflicts’. I am reminded of how even after the Reformation, even some evangelical groups got persecuted almost the same way the Roman Catholic church did it on heretics just because they did not agree with the theology of those in power in Protestant Europe. I also remember that Martin Luther depite been almost ‘venerated’ by some was ruthless against if I am not mistaen the Anabaptists and definitely was an anti-Jew. His writtings later on inspired a monster like Hitler who adored him in his book Mein Kampf.
I also fear that by systematically and continually exposing a person to just one theological perspective, the ability of believers to think critically and objectively is impeded. Hence, we can end up in the scenerio where someone believes something is correct because of theological in-breeding.. affirming one another without even truly considering other valid views. I say this with humility as a Calvinist, I am onvicted about the theology I hold BUT I will never consider it fautless or flawless.. in other words ONLY the Scriptures are inspired NOT my theology… and an Arminian brother or sister can be as just as convicted as I… I want to promoted thinking not in-breeding.. so to speak.
Thanks Bro Brian and Dr Flowers
Not sure why your pressing for Leighton to answer these questions on this post it is about the Potter’s Promise an amazing book that explains Romans 9 very thoroughly!
Where you say this below I find hope, because I agree no systematic held above God’s Word should be arduously held to!
Hence, we can end up in the scenerio where someone believes something is correct because of theological in-breeding.. affirming one another without even truly considering other valid views. I say this with humility as a Calvinist, I am onvicted about the theology I hold BUT I will never consider it fautless or flawless..
I did not go through theological training, but what I can tell you is when I was first introduced to your systematic in 2013 after only 5 short years as a believer it made me confused🤔 By that I mean the over whelming love I knew that came into my heart because of what Jesus did for me on the cross was not for me alone!!! This was from my reading of the Scriptures alone with the guidance of the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth. I knew what was being presented to me didn’t line up with what He had taught me in His Word. When I finally (Praise God alone!) stumbled upon Leighton’s site I knew finally minus older works that the revelation in Scripture was enough and for all people. Of course because God is so gracious and Amazing He also gave me a (now) close friend who was going through similar things in her family that I was going through very encouraging!!! We are made in God’s image and I think we know what love is and for God to make people specifically to go to hell goes against His character. Here is a good post to read along with many others you can find.
But the main point here is your desire to know about the TGC it can be found online at; https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/sections/arts-culture/
Thank you for caring about the lives of others
In Him alone we can stand
Thanks for sharing brother. I am actually corresponding with Bro. Brian and have posted earlier some questions for Dr Flowers [which remained unanswered]… if you would follow the conversation you will understand the context in which those questions were posted.
God bless you.
Bro Brian and also Dr Flowers,
I have re-listed my questions and posted them on April 6. I have been waiting for almost a month now. I do not want to sound rude, but if Dr Flowers is not keen or is not available to answer my specific questions just be frank with me. I will not continue asking after this. Thanks.
There are some that I may be able to find some kind answers on TGC website BUT I sincerely do not think I will find out clearly what is their agenda.. people can say all kinds of things on their website so to speak.
Thank you for your time.
Edlic, let’s try this… email me directly – firstname.lastname@example.org. That way I will have your email address and will forward it to Leighton’s personal email. That’s about the best I can do. Leighton has become very busy in the last months. I am sure it is just an oversight on his part, trying to grapple with all the contacts that are being made to him. But have you tried emailing any of those in your country, using the email addresses I gave you? If not, why not? Is there a problem taking that kind of initiative in your culture. Thanks.
I would not believe TGC is trying to “undermine churches with their agenda”, though that is indeed what may be happening. I would tend to believe that these are true brothers in Christ who are just loyal to some pretty harmful teaching, having trusted their teachers’ authority for it, instead of the clear teaching of Scripture. They would not see it as “sheep stealing”, I wouldn’t think, but again, that may end up being the result. That happens with all dogmatic theological positions. Paul warned clearly about this to the elders/pastors of Ephesus –
Act 20:28-31 NKJV – 28 “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. 31 Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.”
I will e-mail you directly. Thanks for helping me.
Brother Edlic, I have not received an email from you yet. Have you sent it, and if so, can you double check if you copied my address correctly? Also, I was still wondering if you did try to contact any of your fellow Malaysians from the list of email addresses Leighton provided. Thanks.
Bro Brian, I think your e-mail domain is incomplete.. edu.?
Bro Brian, I double checked your e-mail … I did not realize it does not have the usual country extension.. unique to me. I will e-mail you now.
Got it, Brother Edlic.
I have tried to find a way to reach Dr. Flowers and cannot. So this is the best I can do. I have just started reading “God’s Provision for All” and appreciate it very much. We have, in our Bible studies, a young lady who had Calvinist friends and she is quite confused. We have helped her quite a bit, I think, and Dr. Flowers’ book is a valuable resource.
But in the introduction I found two things that bear comment. The first is regarding the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam and Eve already knew good — they knew God. More information and knowledge down that road is always desireable. All they did not know was evil — the results of disobedience. Dr. Flowers seemed to indicate that it was simply the increase in knowledge that was bad, and that might need to be re-thought. Increase in the knowledge of God, and of His creation is not bad. It was the knowledge of evil that was so bad.
The second thing has two parts: regarding Noah’s Flood. If you check the ages of the sons and the age of Noah when he entered the Ark, you will find that the building time was much less than 100 years. The 120 year limit mentioned in Genesis 6 has to do with the final lifespan of a man, which is what we have today.
And about the children dying. The clue here may be found in Abraham’s discussion with our Lord before the Sodom destruction. 50 righteous men? 40? 30? …down to ten. If there had been only ten righteous men in Sodom, the city would have been spared. The point is that children being raised up would have a choice between good and evil. But they didn’t. We read, essentially, the same in Genesis 6. No choices left for the children. So God collected them, if you will, despite a moment’s pain and panic. It was a mercy on God’s part, not the vindictiveness some claim.
My husband is Barry Setterfield and we have been Bible students for, collectively, about 80 years. I am 71 and he is now 77. About 25 years ago I was the coordinator for deaf interpreters for the Ligonier Conferences on the west coast. I had no idea at the time what Reformed theology was and I can remember vividly the first time I heard about predestination. I was not the interpreter at the time and I remember looking around in shock to see if others were stunned by it, but they all seemed to accept it. I went home and spent about 2 years combing through the Bible to find out how anyone could believe that. Actually, the answer was very simple, in Genesis itself. “If….then….” Why all those warnings if no one had a choice? There are lots more reasons for my resignation from working with Sproul, but that is the first.
At any rate, if there is any way Dr. Flowers is interested in these comments, great. If not, that’s fine, too. God bless you all.
I could add another reason to leave Calvinism. Have you ever seen the video of a Calvinist preacher evangelizing an atheist named Pinecreek. Pinecreek asks the preacher…tell me about Jesus and salvation. The evangelist starts out as you would normally expect but within a minute Jesus takes a back seat to Election. It causes you to want to jump through the TV screen and grab that preacher and say STOP! He keeps jumpimg back and forth between belief in Jesus and election. It literally makes you cringe. I truly felt sorry for the atheist, that he had to hear this sermon posing as the gospel. It’s truly unbiblical and awful. But don’t take my word for it…google “evangelistic calvinism pinecreek”.
Thank you for this post Richard!
Based on the search string you provided, I used it in a youtube search.
The first one listed has this title:
Kris and Calvinism: How do I get the desire to Repent?
The atheist mind thinks RATIONALLY.
The Calvinist mind is reliant upon DOUBLE-SPEAK TALKING-POINTS.
The atheist asks a question and you can see the Calvinist trying to line that question up with a TALKING-POINT.
When the questions start – the Calvinist has no problem finding an applicable TALKING-POINT.
But as the questions begin to drill down and become more pinpointed – the Calvinist starts to struggle for a few seconds trying to find a TALKING-POINT that will fit the question..
As the questions drill-down they start to reveal contradictions.
And in those cases the Calvinist evades the question altogether and simply recites some TALKING-POINT that is almost randomly selected – just to be able to say he responded to the question.
This video is REVEALING!
This line of thought seems ever so uncharitable. Shouldn’t you be rebuking the implied assertion that the behavior of a particular claimed proponent of a theological system can form a basis for rejecting that system? Adding something like this to Dr. flowers five well-articulated objections will only devalue them and lead away from substantive conversation about the merits of Traditionalism or Calvinism.
Further, you offer broadbrush descriptions of Calvinism that certainly will apply only in selected cases. This is also uncharitable and seems to reveal a prejudice rather than a commitment to objective, rational discourse around the issues. What if I or some other Calvinist came along and said Traditionalism should be rejected because we saw a traditionalist argue in a certain way, or present the Gospel in a certain way? I suspect you would take us back to Scripture and ask us to ground our arguments there.
As Christians, we should be basing our views on Scripture and not building them from ad hominem arguments. Dr. Flowers’ general approach to theological debate seems opposite to what I am observing in this morning’s comments.
Hello THEOparadox and welcome.
This line of thought seems ever so uncharitable. Shouldn’t you be rebuking the implied assertion that the behavior of a particular claimed proponent of a theological system can form a basis for rejecting that system?
Actually its simply being realistic – based upon consistent observable characteristics. There is a consistency over time and with the general population of Calvinists which is highly repeatable. Additionally I make the observation not to present some form of rebuke. But to highlight what is observable so that others can be informed and benefit.
Adding something like this to Dr. flowers five well-articulated objections will only devalue them and lead away from substantive conversation about the merits of Traditionalism or Calvinism.
That may be one’s perception – but it certainly isn’t mine. Again see answer above.
Further, you offer broadbrush descriptions of Calvinism that certainly will apply only in selected cases. This is also uncharitable and seems to reveal a prejudice rather than a commitment to objective, rational discourse around the issues.
This argument is often presented in a response to statistics and demographics on crime. There does not need to by any prejudice for persons involved. Such prejudice is only projected in the mind of an objector.
In this case the phenomenon is quite consistent.
What if I or some other Calvinist came along and said Traditionalism should be rejected because we saw a traditionalist argue in a certain way, or present the Gospel in a certain way? I suspect you would take us back to Scripture and ask us to ground our arguments there.
That of course depends upon whether or not that is observed as consistent or inconsistent.
In this case – that is taken into consideration.
As Christians, we should be basing our views on Scripture and not building them from ad hominem arguments. Dr. Flowers’ general approach to theological debate seems opposite to what I am observing in this morning’s comments.
In the realm of debate or dialog there are always two things to concentrate on. (1) The actual subject matter of the statements made. (2) the FORM of which those statements are made. This is where we get our list of logical fallacies.
Thank you THEOparadox – and blessing so to you also. :-]
I’m not sure you saw the right video. Let me be more specific….google/evangelical Calvinism/pinecreek….it’s listed on Soteriology 101, A discussion with a Calvinist, Eli Ayala….the point in seeing this video, is that instead of Scripture, counter Scripture arguing, as important as that is, this let’s you see Calvinism in action. Namely a cringe worthy gospel presentation never encountered in the pages of the Bible.
Ok thanks Richard – there appears to be two.
One with Dr. Flowers and the other one prior to that with the Athiest interview.
They are both on Youtube and the one with the Athiest interviewing Eli Ayala is titled:
Christian presup Eli Ayala and I talk about worldviews.
The one with Dr. Flowers interviewing Eli Ayala is titled:
A Discussion with a Calvinist: Eli Ayala
So anyone who wants to see both of those can use those titles in the Youtube search
I’ll go ahead and watch both of them
Hi Richard – I just watched Dr. Flower’s interview with Eli Ayala
Maybe its because I’ve been exposed to Calvinist language for so many years – I don’t know – but what this Calvinist said did not at all surprise me. It may be that years ago listening to it for the first or second time I would have had a response of disgust over his language. But its been a number of years now for me and nothing they say shocks me anymore.
On this Calvinist Eli Ayala – I see the same exact language patterns that I find typical with Calvinists.
They will firmly reject a certain concept in one statement. And then in the next statement they will smuggle that concept right back in.
For example, Dr. Flowers shows a small clip of this Calvinist’s interview with Doug the Atheist.
And Eli when asked “What can I do to desire god” instantly moves to craft statements that are HIDDEN SUBJUNCTIVE CONDITIONALS.
A subjunctive conditional is an IF-THEN statement
IF and only IF god decrees you can/will [X] then you can/will [X]
Otherwise you cannot and will not [X].
When the Calvinist says “you must repent” and omits the IF condition he is HIDING the most critical aspect of his theology. And this is what is meant by a HIDDEN subjunctive conditional.
I found this Calvinist doing the exact same thing both with the Atheist and with Dr. Flowers.
He uses language that allows for the very things he rejects.
I simply think Calvinist are taught to use misleading language because it works for them.
But I wasn’t shocked by anything he said.
Perhaps I’m just numb to the evilness of it?
Calvinism mixed in with the gospel, something I’ve never seen before and I hope I never see again.
A very illuminating question I find – is:
If Calvinism REALLY is the true Gospel – then why is it always enunciated with DOUBLE-SPEAK?
I think we should drop the name Calvinism and replace it with Fatalism. If you watch the video, that’s how Mr. Pinecreek perceived it. This is the depths to which the Gospel has sunk to.
Although there are some Calvinists who are new-bees to Calvinism who will in ignorance enunciate elements of fatalism – the serious Calvinists know the difference between fatalism and determinism.
It is the tiny little difference between “Necessary” and “Certain”.
Still – even some serious Calvinists who should know better will craft statements that enunciate fatalism.
But still there is a difference between it and determinism.
However the difference is very slight.
And that’s why we see Calvinists going there.
Really great stuff here. I’m in the process of really developing a more biblical view on these controversial issues. I have identified more with non-Calvinistic views but really enjoy listening to John MacArthur because I he really explains the scriptures clearly. Now that you have come to a newer stance in your convictions, what do you think and how do you feel about these men that you use to really follow? Thanks!
Hello Angel and welcome!
I think if you review articles and posts here by non-Calvinists you’ll find they don’t trust Mr. MacArthur as an intellectually honest person.
I know that sounds a little extreme – but when one understands the bulk of the dark implications inherent in Calvin’s doctrine – and the degree of misleading and sometimes duplicitous language strategies used by Calvinist speakers – designed to hide those implications – then you’ll understand the basis for that observation. We always want to remain open minded so we allow ourselves room to recognize such things.
If God granted all your prayers for the week, how many people would be saved?
This is an in-house debate, correct?
Those who do mot agree are treated that way?
This a general comment that may or may not be helpful to anyone but me relating to free will. How does God wish to be worshiped?
From the Woman at the Well parable;
John 4:23-24 (NASB)
23 “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.
24 “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
All of God’s creation, especially the inanimate where science excels, does exactly as it was created to do. The problem comes with living beings having free will; angels, humans, and pets as “In the dog house.” if we were the automatons of TULIP and nothing more where’s the Spirit and Truth? Where’s the Chumba Wumba as in “I get knocked down, but through in Him, I’m overcome by His Spirit and the Truth, His love and forgiveness I get up again?” -with a constant ratcheting up of Oh yea, now I see it. What an idiot I’ve been!
Our worship of God, must be in spirit and truth. If we are not growing in faith we are not worshiping in spirit and truth.
Hello Glen and Welcome
Intentional misquotes seeking to highlight what I believe He wants His creation most to know:
abide in my sovereignty (John 15:9)
it is good for the heart to be strengthened by sovereignty (Heb 13:9)
Give thanks to the LORD for He is sovereign, for His sovereignty is everlasting…His sovereignty is everlasting… … (Psalm 136)
I have posted elsewhere here about my introduction to Calvinism:
I want to be clear – I am not a former/recovering Calvinist. However, I was challenged about 12 years ago by two of my very good friends to examine my theology regarding God’s sovereignty. In short, they both appear to be 5-point Calvinists, and because I had never been exposed to these teachings previously, I dug deeper. About the same time, I happened to be reading in Romans 9 (which is perhaps one of the letters Peter refers to in 2 Pet 3:15-18) and this is admittedly a difficult passage to understand. In particular, I wanted to find out what kind of predestination was being discussed by Paul and whether we really served a God t
I began to read more about Calvinism, trying to stick close to people that were considered leading contemporary authorities on the subject like Loraine Boettner and RC Sproull. I also made it point to read through the entire Bible, cover to cover, with a particular view to any scriptures, no matter how indirect, that supported any of the 5 points of TULIP.
Here are a few select observations (not exhaustive by any means) of what I have found in the intervening 12 years:
– Calvinists are very quick to point out that they are “Sola Scriptura” and the implication is that anyone who is not a Calvinist is engaged in heavy-duty eisegesis, while Calvinists proudly affirm that they are the only true exegetical practitioners. While both sides are generally very sincere, and I don’t accuse Calvinists of being insincere or of being unsaved, I have generally come to the exact opposite conclusion: Calvinists bring biases to the text that cannot be reasonably inferred UNLESS you have built a systematic theology that you are furiously trying to protect. It reminds me a bit of the (in)famous Mann “Hockey Stick” model for climate change: any random dataset yields the hockey stick curve when plugged into the model. It is incapable of giving any other answer than the one Mann wants. TULIP cannot be reasonably inferred from scripture. It has to be injected into it. Once injected, it is internally very consistent, which is to be expected given that Calvin was a lawyer by training. But if you can generally show that any of the 5 points is false, the other 4 topple like dominoes.
– The word “grace” becomes a sort of codeword for the only true enlightened; the unwashed masses, in contrast, do not understand the very essence of the gospel because they are still engaged in “works”. This has given way to a hyper-grace movement, but in many ways, it is a natural consequence of TULIP.
– Warnings in scripture to “continue” in the faith are explained away as not jeopardizing one’s salvation, but merely one’s rewards. All those who fall away are thrown into the same bucket: never saved in the first place (“I never knew you” of Matt 7:23).
– “Sovereignty” is redefined in ways that are foreign to the average person and the normal understanding of the word. Extreme levels of cognitive dissonance are necessary to simultaneously hold to this extreme definition of sovereignty and any passages that hold man responsible for his choices and actions.
– Non-Calvinists are dismissed as relying strictly on romanticized appeals to God’s character rather than “Sola Scriptura”.
– Scriptures that are clear to even the smallest children, like John 3:16 and 2 Pet 3:9 have to be suitably tortured until they are bent into a shape that supports TULIP. Instead of scripture reigning supreme, TULIP reigns supreme and scripture must conform to its rigid framework. Calvinists indeed pride themselves on this very high level of internal consistency, forgetting that anyone can build an internally consistent set of equations, axioms, corollaries, etc. that are consistently false.
– A high level of spiritual pride usually accompanies Calvinist teachers.
– There is usually an appeal that when you disagree, you are either mischaracterizing what Calvinists really believe (and by implication you would embrace it if you only understood it), or you are rejecting the clear teachings of scripture. If you reject it, you are likely not one of the elect.
– Calvin was deeply influence by Augustine of Hippo. In many ways, Calvinism is Augustinianism. Augustine was confused about many things, and I am inherently suspicious of any systematic theology that derives from him.
– I emerged from my studies deeply impressed with the truth of Ps 119:160 – “The SUM of thy word is truth…” When the entirety of the Bible is considered, and not just selected Calvinistic “proof texts”, God’s ways, God’s character, God’s plan, God’s purposes, and God’s truth becomes clear.
I have been very impressed with the level of courage it takes for someone like Dr. Flowers to question decades of contrary belief and teaching, and being willing to change his theology to fit scripture rather than vice-versa. I have know a few other people like this in the course of my life, and they have my deep respect because it shows a level of intellectual honesty and humility. Dr. Flowers had much to lose and for this reason his about-face speaks all the more powerfully.
I have known a few other people like Dr. Flowers in the course of my life, and they have my deep respect because it shows a level of intellectual honesty and humility. Dr. Flowers had much to lose and for this reason his about-face speaks all the more powerfully.
Thank you Dr. Flowers and Eric – for SOT101
I am interested in hearing only from those who are former Calvinists on the topic below. See the very end of this post for two questions to you.
NOTE: I respectfully request that if you are still a Calvinist, PLEASE refrain from replying because it inevitably results in auto-immune responses that are not helpful. If I were actively seeking the Calvinist point of view, I know where to go. I am here precisely because I have already weighed Calvinism, found it lacking with respect to scriptural support and common sense, and discarded it as a viable theology. I am well aware that the words “common sense” are a trigger, and will elicit pages of passionate responses from Calvinists, finger-waving that “our ways are not God’s ways.” Thank you in advance and you may consider me “virtually reproved” without the need to start furiously typing.
We now return to our regularly scheduled program.
I have commented elsewhere that as part of my multi-year journey to really study out the biblical support for TULIP and determinism, I took it upon myself to stop focusing exclusively on Calvinist proof-texts and instead just read through the entire Bible to see if the over-arching message supported or rejected this theology. Without hyperbole, I can say that on almost every page, I found that the teachings of Calvinism are not supported (and are indeed directly opposed) to that of scripture and require one to jettison about 99.94% of the Bible in order to accommodate a few proof-texts tossed about by Calvinists. This percentage is not an exaggeration. There are 31,102 verses in the KJV. If we generously assume that there are 200 “proof-texts” used by Calvinists (I believe the number is actually far less), this gives 0.06% of the total number of verses.
In my daily reading and studies, I have been again going cover-to-cover through the Bible in a year. When I said above “on nearly every page” this too is not an exaggeration. Let me give you a few examples from the last few days: (all passages are from the NASB)
Luke 13:34“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it!”
Q: Why do You plead with those who have no choice?
Luke 14:16-24 But He said to him, “A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many; and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.’ Another one said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.’ Another one said, ‘I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.’ And the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ And the slave said, ‘Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.’”
Q: Why do You invite those who reject You? Was it not Your will that they accept? Why do they reject You? Why do You get angry with those who were decreed to reject You? Isn’t this like getting angry at a block of code that You Yourself wrote? Why was it necessary to compel anyone if they had no choice but to carry out Your decree?
Mark 3:5 After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored.
Q: Why do You get angry with (and become grieved by) those who have no choice?
1 Cor 9:26-27 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
Q: Why do Paul’s own actions have the potential to disqualify him? Even if it is argued that this is not disqualification from salvation, and only pertains to the office of Apostle and/or heavenly rewards, why does he feel the need to share an admonition with those who are merely responding in every respect to things that have already been decreed?
2 Cor 8:3 For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord…
Q: If one cannot do otherwise than that which God has decreed, why does the scripture say that “they gave of their own accord”? This strongly implies the latitude to make a right or wrong decision of one’s own free will.
2 Cor 9:7 Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Q: If one cannot do otherwise than that which God has decreed, why does the scripture say “as he has purposed in his own heart”? This strongly implies the latitude to make a right or wrong decision of one’s own free will, and to do the right things for wrong reasons (“under compulsion” or without being “cheerful”).
Here are my questions to FORMER Calvinists who are reading this:
1) What is it that turned you around in your thinking?
2) How did you manage to ignore the bulk of scripture that makes it clear man can choose to accept or reject the will of God, can grieve and frustrate God by his choices, and ultimately receives the just penalty for sin based on this choice? In other words, how did you explain the page after page of narrative that shows God appealing to man, by prophets, by Apostles, and by the biblical writers and the logical absurdity of pleading with people and indeed unsuccessfully trying to convince them to change direction if not for the existence of free will.
Correction to my math: 99.4% and 0.6% respectively.
I was saved in a Calvinist church but left the church a few months ago, looking for a new church. How do I pray? in that church we prayed to god to control everything; send an evangelist to my family to save them, be with family who lost loved ones, etc. I know that we are to ask in prayer but I do not think we should pray in the form to direct our LORD. this is important to me. I want to talk to God in the way he loves. Piper, also talk about contemplative prayer, I believe this is wrong.
Hello Sherry and welcome!
I bless the Lord that your internal senses warned you that things were wrong in the Calvinist environment – because they most certainly are.
For Calvinists to pray for the the divine will to be done – is actually a part of the Calvinist condition of DOUBLE-MINDEDNESS.
You see – the substratum and foundational core of Calvin’s doctrine – is the underlying assertion that *ALL* events which come to pass – can only do so (1) by Calvin’s god conceiving of that event – and (2) Calvin’s god decreeing that event.
According to John Calvin’s core belief – absolutely no event can possibly come to pass without those two prerequisites.
And *ALL* events which come to pass do so infallibly – and there is nothing any fallible creature can do to resist or alter them.
So in Calvinism – every thought within your mind that you become aware of – was infallibly decreed and comes to pass irresistibly.
Since that is the case – for a Calvinist to ask for the divine will to be done – is asking god to continue being god.
Who in their right mind is going to believe that god is somehow not going to be himself – unless one prays for that?
So – based on the core doctrine of Calvinism – we should be able to see how DOUBLE-MINDED it is for a Calvinists to pray for god’s will to be done.
Now on contemplative prayer – you are absolutely spot on!
This entered the church through Catholic monks dabbling in the New Age movement.
You are very wise to stay away from it.
Some of these “so called” spiritual practices are nothing more than giving one’s self to a counterfeit spirit.
You are best to pray simply as you see exemplified in the NT.
Never give any of your faculties over to the spirit world – or let any of your faculties become passive.
The Holy Spirit always wants us to be in full possession of our soul and our body in our service to himself.
I feel blessed to have found this site and it seems I have been watching Dr Flowers’ videos nonstop ever since. One thing it has caused me to do is wonder about pastors I have been listening to. One is Dr. David Jeremiah, who I have listened to for many years and never heard a position on Calvinism that I am learned enough to have understood prior to listening to Dr. Flowers. Does anyone know what Dr. Jeremiah’s position is on 5-Point Calvinism (TULIP)? Thanks in advance for any help.
Hello Cliff and welcome
Thank you for your kind words!
We all feel the same degree of gratitude concerning Dr. Flower’s ministry.
On your question – I’ve personally asked the same thing.
And you can find people on Baptist forums asking the same question.
I think its fair to say Dr. Jeremiah is careful to not use language that distinguishes a position one way or the other.
Since the underlying and core foundation of Calvinism is UNIVERSAL DIVINE CAUSAL DETERMINISM, that would be what one would be looking for – as an indicator.
Thank you for the response! That seems to be what I found as well during my internet search. I am excited about this site and look forward to reading Dr. Flowers books. Have a blessed day!
And you also Cliff!
May the Lord continue to bless you and give you further insights! :-]
MAKING CALVINISM’S TULIP MORE INTELLECTUALLY HONEST
“T” Totally Predestined Nature:
The state of man’s nature at any instance in time is totally predestined prior to creation, and therefore absolutely nothing about any part of man’s nature (or anything else for that matter) is ever up to any man.
“U” Unconditional Destiny by Design:
Every aspect of man’s design and destiny is in total-abject-absolute unconditional subjection to an external divine and secret will. Nothing about man’s past, present, or future is ever up to any man. And nothing about man’s design or destiny is conditioned upon anything having to do with man.
“L” Limited Possibilities and Human Illusions:
All human impulses, perceptions, choices, and desires are exclusively predetermined for each human at the foundation of the world. And any perception of multiple options available for a human to choose from, exist only as divinely predestined human illusions. Illusions of non-predestined events, which as such never had any possibility of ever coming to pass, at pain of falsifying what was predestined.
“I” Irresistible Human Functionality:
All human functionality, including morally significant functionality, is produced by impulses infallibly actualized within the human brain which occur as irresistible.
“P” Possibility of Election:
Any human certainty of election in this lifetime is a predestined illusion. Each believer is promised only the possibility of election. The vast majority of the human race (including believers) are specifically created and designed for eternal torment for his good pleasure.
I have listened to many of your presentations and find myself largely in agreement, but just yesterday I had a troubling thought, as I was praying. I have much to be thankful for, and I thank God for all of them, but is God the one who is responsible for all of them, or have I made good choices in life that have led to some of these blessings? I don’t want to be like the guy who prayed I am thankful I’m not like the guy over there, but don’t I make choices that affect my health? Didn’t I choose who I married and where I went to college? In what way do I share responsibility for the things I than God for?
Maybe I will hear you comment on this in some future broadcast.
Hello Ron and welcome,
Dr Flowers – due to his schedule – is not here very often to interact with posters.
You may more readily find him on Face Book if you are an FB user.
But I will pass on your question to him.
Your question – if you don’t mind me making a comment – does presuppose a Calvinistic model – in that it presupposes all human functionality as FIXED in the past by divine decree – and therefore does not originate from the human – but rather from a divine external mind.
If seems to me – if we remove that Calvinistic lens – then we don’t have that conundrum.
In such case – you would be the author of your own choices.
It would be a world in which God does leave *SOME* decisions UP TO you.
And in such a world – He could hold you accountable for those decisions that he grants to be solely UP TO you.
Thank you, BM. Actually, I intended to assume the non-Calvinistic position to ask why I should be thankful, if my own good decisions are responsible. I am thankful for the favorable conditions I am in that are outside of my control, like a sound mind, good upbringing, and the generally Christian culture in which I grew up. All those made my good decisions easier to make.
I totally agree!
We are blessed to have such a loving Father and a wonderful savior! :-]
Hello! Could anyone, please, help me to understand something that’s really making me feel upset? Here it is: Why would anyone not accept Jesus salvation to eternal life? I don’t understand why some people just don’t accept the Truth and some others do since God made possible for everyone to believe in Him. I know that the main problem is in the heart, but why? Why does the heart of some people do not accept Jesus? I’m not getting this. I say that because it is so obvious that we must accept Jesus. I also know that sin is the main reason, but how that happens? Why a person choose sin if this person many times knows that it will led her to death? Thank you everyone for this great blog! God bless everyone!
Hello Humberto and welcome
There are two answers to that question.
The Calvinist answer – is that Calvin’s god – determines EVERY impulse that will come to pass within the human brain.
For the Calvinist – he is a divine potter – who DESIGNS the majority of humans specifically for eternal torment in the lake of fire.
The NON-Calvinist answer is stated by Dr. Alvin Plantinga
A world containing significantly free creatures is more valuable than a world containing no free creatures at all. God can create free creatures. But even an omnipotent God can’t CAUSE free creatures to only do what is right. If he did, then they wouldn’t be significantly free.
Thus, in creating creatures capable of moral good, God must create creatures capable of moral evil. When these creatures misuse their freedom, evil and suffering result. This fact does not count against God’s goodness or power, however, since God could prevent the occurrence of moral evil only by preventing the possibility of moral good.
BRDMOD, thank you a lot for taking a time to answer me! God bless you!
You’re very welcome Humberto!!
And the Lord bless you also!!
You and yours – be well :-]
The will of man is merely an expression of the human heart. It’s not autonomous but is tied to the state of the heart. If the will expressed anything other than the nature of man, man would not be at all responsible for its expression. But as it is, the Hebrew would have one word for heart, will, and mind. What the heart is so is the will and so the mind is. That’s why one cannot will to be a cat or cow. It’s not in their nature to be. They are not autonomous to be so. But also, that the will is an expression of the heart means that a desperately wicked and sick heart is a desperately wicked and sick will, unfree and unable at all to cure itself. No autonomy there, no freedom (unless we define freedom as continual evil and sickness). Lastly, I think one must distinguish between voluntary choice (choice without external coarcion) from autonomy. Otherwise we may engage in straw-man fallacy.
Hello Joseph and welcome
The will of man is merely an expression of the human heart.
On Calvinism – this statement is a way to obfuscate the WHOLE truth.
In Calvinism – the state of nature – at any instance in time – is 100% determined before man exists.
And that includes the state of man’s nature – at any instance in time.
ZERO% is left UN-determined
Which leaves ZERO% left over for any man to determine
Therefore nothing about man’s state of nature (or anything for that matter) is ever UP TO any man.
It’s not autonomous but is tied to the state of the heart.
In Calvinism – it is neither autonomous-from or independent-of the infallible decree
Man’s being and functionality is in total abject subjection to the infallible decree
No decree for any specific impulse in the human brain – equals no impulse in the human brain.
No autonomy there, no freedom (unless we define freedom as continual evil and sickness).
In Calvinism – man is ONLY free to be/do what is infallibly decreed
No alternative from the infallible decree is ever permitted
The infallible decree does not permit itself to be falsified.
Lastly, I think one must distinguish between voluntary choice (choice without external coarcion) from autonomy. Otherwise we may engage in straw-man fallacy.
Is it logically possible for you to volunteer something that is not UP TO you to volunteer?
I would like to take a ride on air-force one – can you volunteer air-force one for me?
Since in Calvinism – 100% of whatsoever comes to pass is determined solely and exclusively by infallible decrees
And since ZERO% is left UNdetermined
And since that leaves ZERO% left over for any man to determine
Then it LOGICALLY follows – 100% of whatsoever comes to pass is UP TO the divine will
Which leaves ZERO% left over – to be UP TO any man – including man’s will.
And you cannot volunteer that which is not UP TO you to volunteer
Therefore in Calvinism there is no such thing as man volunteering anything.
Wow! Somebody has a hard time talking like a normal person.
That’s an understandable response.
Universal Divine Causal Determinism – is not a normal belief system.
Calvinism is so blatantly wrong that I feel it’s pointless to go back and forth quoting scriptures & demonstrating how illogical it is.
It’s like arguing with Catholics about Mary or the other countless secret special doctrines those of weak faith use to prove they’re enlightened. They’re resisting the Holy Spirit – that’s where the battle lies. They need to be taught to dig deep into why they refuse to accept the Simplicity of Christ. Why their pathetic side doctrine dominates their lives instead of Jesus Christ. Why their lives are filled with the Lust of spewing their shocking error all over their brothers so they can set up another winner takes all argument.
This is the path. Proclaim Truth & let it stand. By trading scriptures & points of Logic forever , we are feeding their lust with precisely what their sick souls crave.
Thank you James
I do agree with most of what you observe.
However I am also pursued these are people whose minds have wittingly become captured.
There is a consistence mental characteristic of Calvinists which follows a constituent pattern.
The ones who escape from it tend to be those who desire truth above its mental safety blanket and its hierarchy of respected persons
You said – “Thus, I had been lead to believe the only real alternative to Calvinism was this strange concept of God “looking through the corridors of time to elect those He foresees would choose Him.” I find it incredible that you have such a limited view of God that you miss His unlimited overview and overseeing of His creation. I believe you are missing the true endless and infinite greatness of God in that you fail to realize His true unlimited oversight of all of His creation, in that you conceive Him as so limited that He (Who created time along with space and the universe and is therefore not in any way limited by His creation), is in some way limited, or controlled by that which He created. By this I mean that the God/Creator Who created time is not in any way limited or controlled by time – which is itself only one of His creations. God is so far outside of His creation that He is able to see all of time at once and interact to a level far above that which our limited imaginations can grasp.
I’m puzzled that anyone who truly believes in the limitless creating God cannot grasp that His power is limitless and He can do anything He desires within and without His creation. The supposedly “strange concept of God looking through the corridors of time” ought not to be strange at all to any that believe in an unlimited Creator God. In fact that man-conceived concept itself comes from a limited understanding of the greatness and power and the superiority of His creation and His control over that creation.
I have only ever and believed in a truly Wonderfully unlimited and limitless creative God Who is truly in total control of His creation, yet so much in control that He is able to allow free-will without losing sovereignty. This Almighty Creator is able to not “struggle to look through the corridors of time”, but to see and control any part of His creation at any time without limit. Thus He quite obviously, (to me), can foresee, (not through any limiting time corridor, but directly), those that will believe and choose them as His own people. It is only from our perspective that we understand it as fore-seeing what is to happen from our limited experience.
Hello colnunn1 and welcome
Welcome Colnunn1. You have said a number of good things. I think you might want to consider again the idea of what God’s sees as it relates to creation’s past, it’s present, and it’s future… and also reconsider that when the Scripture says God “foreknows” something, it is from His perspective, not just mans’, for Scripture is His Word. So, I agree that God did not look/is not looking down any “corridor of time”, for no such corridor exists, and the past no longer exists and the future does not yet exist. God’s Word describes the future as partly determined already in His mind, and partly to be determined by His cause or permission from possibilities that still exist in His mind.
Thank you for your comment. I understand what you say, but I believe that God cannot be limited in any way by our understanding which is very limited by our earthly personal experience. We tend to judge God Himself by our limitations and our human inabilities. I suppose wrongly, that if I cannot know the future, then it seems obvious to me that God cannot. If the past is dead and gone to me, I think that then it must be past to God too. But is this necessarily true? We have a very tiny grasp of the nature of the unlimited infinite God and ought not to confine Him in our thinking to those limits to which we ourselves are confined. We need to have a view of God that gives to Him all possibilities in regard to His existence. He speaks to us in ways that recognize our limited experience and abilities and thus His descriptions of future and past etcetera such that we can understand.
If God is as limited as you suggest, then we can have no faith that the future can be determined nor can we be sure that our own futures can be assured. We fall back into the Calvinist situation in that we cannot be sure of our salvation since God Himself cannot be sure. God is as limited in your scenario and we are no better off than are those under Calvinism.
I believe we have to get our minds around the Creator that is truly unlimited in all ways in spite of our inability to grasp that possibility. He is superbly infinite even though this concept is out of our grasp and is hard to even imagine the consequent outworking. Otherwise we are unsure and can only be unsure of any real future, and thus cannot rest in faith. To answer this by simply saying that we have to trust this limited God to bring good out of evil is to trust in a God Who does not know what is going to happen.
Whereas the God that the Bible speaks to me about, knows it all and knows how to work all things together for good to those that love Him and can do so in ways that we cannot imagine. He is able to place people into time such that the right people come across the correspondingly right people because He is in charge of time in ways that are beyond us.
I trust in such a God – a Creator who is truly unlimited, and therefore I know that all will be well.
Thank you colnunn1 for your thoughtful reply. I don’t believe my words have limited God. I’m saying His Word accurately reveals the truth about His reality, which is the only reality. When He speaks in His Word of the past as past, that is what it is to Him. When He speaks of the future as future, with some things already unconditionally set to happen and others which can still be changed, that is the truth about the future in His mind.
Here are some verses that might help.
Verses – future is not completely set in God’s foreknowledge.
Genesis 2:19 NKJV — Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam 👉to see👈 what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name.
Exodus 33:5 NKJV — For the LORD had said to Moses, “Say to the children of Israel, ‘You are a stiff-necked people. I could come up into your midst in one moment and consume you. Now therefore, take off your ornaments, 👉that I may know👈 what to do to you.’ ”
Jeremiah 18:11 NKJV — “Now therefore, speak to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Behold, I am fashioning a disaster and 👉devising a plan👈 against you. Return now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good.” ’ ”
Matthew 24:20 NKJV — “And 👉pray that your flight may not be in winter👈 or on the Sabbath.”
Matthew 26:39 NKJV — He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, 👉if it is possible👈, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”
God’s mind conforms univocally with what He has revealed in His Word. It’s not locked in right now to seeing everything as “will be” or “is”. God’s foreknowledge is dynamic and includes also the truth about what “might be” or “might not be”.
1. Was God waiting to see what Adam would call the animals, to know what they would be called?
2. Was God waiting to see if Israel would take off their ornaments to know what He would do next?
3. Was God saying He was devising a plan which means making decisions in His mind not made before about the future.
4. Did Jesus affirm the disciples’ prayer could effect the setting of the date of Jerusalem’s fall, indicating Jesus’ believed it might not yet be set?
5. Did Jesus pray about possible changes that could be made in God’s will because He knew such changes were indeed possible?
The answer is an obvious “yes” to all those questions which are based on the clear meaning of those texts. If anyone thinks those texts don’t clearly show those self evident implications it must be because they are biased against the idea of the future being able to work out more than one way.
The underlying issue in foreknowledge is if one is willing to believe that there are truly changes taking place in God’s mind in His knowing a “before” that then becomes known as an “after” and a “might be” that then becomes known as either a “will be” or a “could have been”.
Calvinism rejects that such change in God’s mind exists before or after creation. Arminianism rejects that the idea of “before” creation means “before” and illogically accepts that changes in God’s mind exist and don’t exist at the same time. Molinism believes logically that some kind of change existed in God’s mind before creation but which cannot happen now after creation.
Only Dynamic Omniscience offers the idea that God’s mind corresponds with the truth and sequence revealed in His Word univocally. An event declared as “will be” was known only as “will be” in His mind. Once it happened, it became known as “fulfilled”. Those declared as “might be” are only known as “might be”. He will freely choose to cause or permit one “might be” to change in His mind to a “will be” and another “might be” into a “won’t be/could have been”.
The idea the future is limited to and locked in to working out only one way is a lie… or that changes happening in God’s mind is imperfection is also a lie. God’s Word counters clearly those lies. And God’s mind cannot believe lies as truths.
1. Was God waiting to see what Adam would call the animals, to know what they would be called?
Not at all. Though I am not a Hebrew student, I always see this as a Hebrew (or Aramaic perhaps?) expression that simply says that God brought the animals to Adam and Eve to allow them the pleasure of attaching names that they felt suited the animals. It was the particular vernacular way of expression of that culture. The same goes for questions 2 and 3.
As for Jesus, He was limited in His knowledge by the fact that He took upon Him human nature with its limitations and therefore throughout His earthly life He relied upon His Father to guide Him in all that He did and said – as a human must. He couldn’t for instance tell His disciples what was to happen in the last days, but stated that only the Father knew of those specific things.
Isn’t it possible that God speaks down to us in a sense, in that He communicates to us in a way that we can grasp by using such mental representations? To believe that God changes His mind is to be unsure of Him and opens us up to all and any possibilities.
When God suggested that He was going to disown the nation of Israel and replace them with the nation of Moses, do we really believe that He was going to do so, or did He know that Moses would defend them and beg for mercy for them and thus allow Him to have mercy on them? God knows us such that He knows our every plan, thought and motive. He was not surprised that Moses prayed for his people and ‘tried’ Moses in a way that was not questioning Moses, but by which His own plan was implemented.
Genesis chapter 1 speaks of God’s creating the world in six days. Each day’s description says that ‘God saw that it was good’ The concepts you espouse suggest that God’s creation might have been bad according to your way of interpreting the Word. God must have been unsure as to whether the creation was going to turn out to be ‘good’ or not.
Genesis 3 tells of God asking “Where are you?” when Adam hid from Him. Do you really think that He could not know where they were? Is He that limited?
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother?” – also “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.” Did God not know what Cain had done? Of course He did. That’s why He asked Cain where Abel was – in order to reveal the crime.
Gen 9:14-16 “When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember ny covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature os all flesh that is on the earth.”
According to your way of interpreting God’s Word, God really would need to be reminded of His covenant, but you and I know that God intended the rainbow as a sign for mankind, not as a reminder for His own forgetful mind. His words in so many scriptures are not meant to be taken quite so literally as to mean exactly what the words could mean.
“Then the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.”
Why did The Lord have to come down to see what was happening in Sodom? Could He not see from the Heavens? This scripture could also be seen to limit God if taken literally. Did He not come down in order to tell us of important things about Himself such as His awareness of all that happens on the earth, and His determination to judge wrong etc. Surely this passage does not prove that God is limited and cannot see what is happening on earth from His position on high?
Is He so changeable that these events are uncertain and that our lives as a consequence are also uncertain, or does He speak into our lives in such a way that we can be sure of our standing with Him? We need to believe in a Creator that actually can have it all planned out yet in such a way that men can actually make free-will decisions, yet He still being capable of working circumstances and men’s decisions into His over-all will. We limit Him by saying “No, He can’t do that” because our minds and imaginations are unable to grasp that possibility.
Remember that God created the universe which includes the whole of space, time and matter. Time is tied up with matter and space such that time itself is a part of the creation. Time itself is able to be altered as matter approaches huge speeds, so therefore time is not something that simply existed before God Himself, nor is it something that controls or limits God or His powers. His sovereignty is real sovereignty that by the way allows us free-will. yet He remains in control in ways that we cannot imagine. Time cannot limit its Creator.
Thank you again colnunn1 for your thoughtful reply. I will take God at His Word and not believe He is speaking “down” to us in it, so that “scholars” can tell us what He really meant, even the opposite of what was said. I don’t know if I can convince you that you have chosen some other passages as straw men, which I never pointed to… like God asking questions for which He knew the answer, or using the word “remember” which in Hebrew includes the fulfillment of a promise in its meaning.
But yes, God was serious in the conditional plan He had in mind for Moses, in rebuilding Israel through him. Why should we doubt God being serious and truthful in His warnings? Though we can assume there might be conditions in them, whether they will be fulfilled or not. That is why they are warnings.
As for Gen 18, 21 –
The Sodom story is not the best text to try to teach a partly open future in my view , but it does confirm God’s knowledge, at least His experiential knowledge, changes. Gen 18:20-21 NKJV – And the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, 21 I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.”
For verse 21 – אֵֽרֲדָה־נָּא וְאֶרְאֶה הַכְּצַעֲקָתָהּ הַבָּאָה אֵלַי עָשׂוּ כָּלָה וְאִם־לֹא אֵדָֽעָה׃ – God is saying literally – “Let me please go down, and let me see the-according-to-outcry-of-her, (which) entered to me, (if) they did a full end, and if not I will know.”
The key words are “a full end”. I think God, already knowing exactly how bad things are by His omniscience (from a distance but still accurate), and knowing any and all possibilities that might remain for the slim chance of repentance of some and the saving of the whole city based on those few responding the right way, wants to present the city with a final personal confrontation (visit) to see (experience) if those few will freely repent, or after seeing (experiencing) their rejection is at “a full end” personally, He will then “know by experience” that judgment is necessary.
God is not changeble in His life, love, truth, and righteousness… but according to His Word He can and does change in various ways, and is still making decisions between available possibilities. Of course if He makes an unconditional promise, by His omnipotence He will bring it about, no matter what unchosen possibilities still remain known just as possibilities in His mind. He is perfect, which means He is not locked in and limited to knowing the future as working out only one way.
As for time – consider this – Ps 90, 2 Sequential Reality
There are two definitions for “time”. One is connected only to creation… it is the measurement of matter in motion. The other is connected to reality which is from God’s nature.
Reality consists of sequential events… befores and afters, coming out of the infinite past and going forwards infinitely. His eternality is described clearly – “from everlasting to everlasting” (Ps 90:2)… “who was and is and is to come” (Rev 4:8). There were events of communication, relationship, and decision making in the Godhead before creation of space and matter… right?
The premise that reality is both sequential and non-sequential for God at the same “time” is a logical contradiction borrowed into Christianity from neo-platonism. The Scripture gives no other “competing” reality for God’s presence, than the sequential one, and a competing reality would be contradictory to the word “reality” anyway.
His foreknowledge is dynamic therefore, each time He makes a decision His knowing goes from “will happen” to “has happened”. It is not static. His understanding is infinite (Ps 147:5). He knows all the possibilities that still exist to decide upon, to cause one or permit another, and He knows all things that are already determined by Him that limit those possibilities.
Some like the illustration of God as in a blimp watching the full parade below. But for a sight from a blimp to watch a parade, the full parade has to exist. The future does not exist as a completed entity to watch, either as a place to see or as a finished story in God’s mind.
Reality is only sequential, and comes from God’s eternal nature. His eternality is described clearly – “from everlasting to everlasting” (Ps 90:2), “who was and is and is to come” (Rev 4:8). Relationship and communication in the Godhead existed before creation and were sequential (with befores and afters).
The underlying important issue is – Does God’s mind reflect univocally the sequential reality of His Word, or have scholars discovered in their philosophical reasoning that God hid from Scripture His perspective of a non-sequential reality? This philosophical reasoning would be a perspective that also makes man’s normal perspective in Scripture actually faulty, for Scripture reveals the future as not yet existing, but in these scholars’ “reality” it is already existing as completed (forever). But God’s reality as revealed in Scripture is the only true one.
Thank you for sharing this! It was very enlightening and informative! You very eloquently stated many things that brought home points of Calvinism that I always disagreed with or questioned.
Welcome Katherine! I’m glad you were encouraged by Leighton’s testimony!
Hello Katherine and welcome
You sharing how you left Calvinism reminds me of my experience doing the same. I had appreciated growing while part of a Calvary Chapel in Orange County. I assisted in youth ministry. Some of the young people started being influenced by ‘CURE’ and really started preaching Calvinism around. It kind of led me to check it out. I too was greatly impacted by RC Sproul and some others. But then it was some things that RC Sproul said and wrote that eventually led me to close the book on Calvinism. Total Depravity did my head in from the start. Being dead in my sins being compared to me being dead in a casket having complete inability to believe unless God regenerated me so I could believe just never set well in my mind. Dave Hunt writing about the other side of Unconditional Election (Damnation) also helped me. But it was when RC Sproul talked about the prodigal son coming to himself being regeneration, and then when he made fun of those who say they have ‘received Jesus’ is when I ‘closed’ that book. I’m glad I did.
Hello Mark and welcome!
Your testimony is appreciated!
And on the subject of Total Depravity – I think you will eventually find it is used as a smoke-screen to obfuscate the underlying doctrine of decrees – which stipulates that nature (including man’s nature) at every nano-second in time – is 100% meticulously predestined at the foundation of the world.
Total Depravity in Calvinism thus serves as a lie of omission.
A lie of omission occurs when a statement is designed to mislead – by virtue of omitting critical facts – which if not omitted would not mislead.
The critical fact omitted in Calvinism’s presentation of Total Depravity is the fact that man’s nature – at every nano-second in time is 100% meticulously predestined. And that which is predestined cannot be other than what it is predestined to be.
Total Depravity in Calvinism is used to FALSELY attribute man’s eternal destiny and man’s sinful nature – to man’s condition – when the TRUTH is – both man’s eternal destiny – and every nano-second of man’s nature is AUTHORED by divine decree.
The Calvinist knows that people are going to reject Calvinism – if they are told the truth.
So Calvinism uses Total Depravity as a way of evading telling the truth.
Welcome NTEB – what was a major influence that began your turning away from Calvinism. Here is what I’ve read from others.
13 Reasons People Begin to Rethink and Leave Calvinism that I have read.
1. Some became willing to test again each of the arguments of Calvinism that they presumed were true only because of the men (books, podcasts) they respected, who had taught them those premises. They approached them anew for themselves, and from the perspective of a debater who must force themselves to take the other side and to try to see the strongest legitimate arguments for that other perspective.
2. Some of those had started reading through the whole Bible and noting that the tenor of the majority of Scriptures was plainly teaching the opposite of what the few favorite Calvinistic proof texts seem to teach.
3. Some started looking back on their life and became convinced in their heart and mind by the HS that they could have done differently at times. They knew this thinking clearly rejects what their deterministic theology says about everything happening in a predestined way.
4. Some started to sincerely listen to good testimonies of former Calvinists and the sound arguments from Scripture that began then to convince them what the HS had been nudging them to reject all along in the harmful doctrines of Calvinism.
5. Some started wondering, after having children of their own, how their love for each of their children, even wayward ones, could be any more than God’s for all of His “children” by creation. How could He not give them all sufficient opportunity to seek His mercy and grace? This led them to recheck the underlying teaching and alternative teachings to predestination of a limited elect.
6. Some started seeing the unspiritual responses of some who professed Calvinism, like calling it the “gospel”, or those in leadership being oppressive, plus seeing some other reformed teachings that they felt the Scripture didn’t support, all of which caused them to research the points of Calvinism more in depth and that study led them to reject Calvinism.
7. Some started seeing that attributing their own failures/sins to God’s predestination and not accepting personal responsibility for them was a reaction from fleshly pride. They decided to reevaluate the theology that taught them all was predestined to work out only one way. Studying graciously presented teachings contrary to that idea of predestination helped them reject Calvinism.
Here’s part of one specific testimony – “I began to become very disillusioned with what I now call theological determinism, as it was having a significant impact on my prayer life and ambivalence towards my sanctification. I could not shake these questions from my mind. Why pray when everything is already determined? Why struggle against sin when God ‘clearly’ determined me to have these thorns in the flesh? Why evangelize when the Elect will come to faith no matter what?”
“As someone who has a very logical mind, after years of believing Calvinism, I came to realize the logically consistent conclusions of these doctrines and I hated what it was doing to my walk with the Lord. Even though I knew Scripture described God as loving, merciful, and slow to anger, my Calvinistic cognitive dissonance screamed otherwise. As if the Lord knew my heart and desired to help me understand the truth, I stumbled upon Leighton Flowers and Soteriology 101.”
8. Some researched the Servetus affair and became alarmed by the defense and revision provided by Calvin and Calvinists for such an un-Christian response against heresy. They became willing to research opposing explanations of Romans 9 and other passages, leading them to reject Calvinism.
9. Some saw the hardening effect the teaching of Calvinism was having on their children… producing a fear of God but not a love for God or for the lost. They then prayerfully read through Scriptures and saw more clearly God’s universal love, leading them to reject Calvinism’s view that God eternally hates most people.
10. Some began reading writings from early Christian history which sounded nothing like Calvinism and even sounded condemnatory to what looks like it.
11. Some didn’t get satisfactory answers to the questions that plagued them. Listen to this personal testimony:
“They couldn’t answer my questions. For me there’s a point where you think they just don’t want to. Then you graduate to – they just can’t be bothered. Then you graduate to the realization that it’s not that they won’t; it’s that they can’t. Then you either accept the incoherence for whatever reason or you roll up your metaphysical sleeves and get to work finding a system that is more coherent.”
12. Some began to rethink why they should be forced to think God is less merciful. Listen to this personal testimony:
“Seriously though, the thing that really got me rethinking Calvinism was a quote I saw on twitter…: ‘Calvinism has taught the church that we should all be shocked that God would show mercy to even one unworthy sinner, but anyone knowing Jesus and His selfless sacrifice on the cross should be shocked that God would refuse to show mercy to even one unworthy sinner!’
…I couldn’t think of anything to say right then so I just went on about my day and forgot about it. That night I was trying to fall asleep and pulled back open twitter and my message box was still open waiting for me to reply… I remember thinking to myself, ‘Why do we (Calvinists) work so hard to try and make people think it should shock us that God would be merciful to as few people as we can imagine….’
That question ran through my mind for a good week and I just kept trying to ignore it by telling myself, “My flesh is trying to take glory from God by claiming it for myself.” But deep down I knew that wasn’t my root motive in asking that question. My motive was that I really wanted to highlight God’s love for everyone and his genuine desire for their salvation. Deep down I wanted for God to be more loving and desirous of others salvation than I am. I know that my heart’s desire for my sister and many of my close friends that remain lost is for them to believe and be saved and I wanted to believe that God really wants that too. I knew that consistent Calvinism doesn’t allow for that and that was my struggle.
So, that’s when I went back and read… articles about how defending free will is actually more about defending God’s holiness and something just kind of clicked.”
13. Some felt deceptive during evangelism trying to answer sincere questions about how God felt about the specific sinner in front of them. Listen to this personal testimony:
“It was not until I left Calvinism that I was able to share the Gospel without measuring my words or evading questions…. I was struggling to express the most plain Biblical truths all because I didn’t want to violate Calvinism. It is a terrible feeling to be sharing the Gospel, and at the same time hoping the hearer doesn’t ask you too much about it. I have shared the Gospel on the corner and had the fellas ask questions like the one below:
‘Man Jay, I have done so much dirt. You think God wants to save me’?
In my heart i want to just blurt out YES! But instead, I am thinking ‘I wish he said save ‘someone like me’; then I could technically say ‘Yes’. Instead I respond: ‘It doesn’t matter what you’ve done. That won’t stop God from saving you.’ Now I feel dirty because he’s trying to make it personal and I’m trying to make it general. He thinks I am talking about him (which is what I want him to think). The truth is I’m talking about the concept (technically a person’s sin doesn’t stop God from saving them). The man wants hope for salvation and I’m scared to give it to him because I don’t want to violate the GOSPEL! Lord forgive me.”