Manipulation & Easy Believism

 

If you have been around church functions as long as I have you have seen just about every kind of motivation to get people to “come to Jesus” or just to “walk the aisle.”  And let’s just face it, sometimes people go way overboard in their attempt to “get people saved.”

I remember in my first VBS as a young pastor one of the workers coming to me with a group of over 20 kids ranging from ages 3 to 13 who she insisted were ready to be baptized. She apparently had taken it upon her self to offer the children an “altar call to avoid hell” in her recreation time.  Surprise, Surprise, not one of the kids wanted to go to hell!  As a compromise to her request, I agreed to meet individually with each child and try to assess if any were indeed ready for such an important decision.

One by one each child came into my office and, as I expected, proved not to have understood even the basics of the gospel appeal to repentance.  That was until Kimberly came in and sat down.  Kimberly was a delightful twelve-year-old girl who always wore a bright cheery grin.  But she wasn’t smiling this time.  I asked her why she came to the front to pray, fully expecting the same kind of shallow answers from the other kids.  She looked to the ground, shuffled her feet a bit, and then, to my shock, she looks at me with tears welling up and said, “Brother Leighton, I have sinned and I know only Jesus can forgive me.”  We talked for while and I found a spirit of broken submission. Repentance marked this young tender heart.  She was the only one we baptized that next Sunday.  Oh, and that VBS worker was not at all upset with me. It just so happened that Kimberly was her oldest daughter.

At the time this happened I was a Calvinist.  I hated manipulation tactics or even the hint of an “easy-believism gospel.”  False teachers, money hungry TV Evangelists, and health wealth prosperity preachers made my blood boil. I certainly was not about to allow an overzealous VBS volunteer manipulate a bunch of children!

So, now that I have left Calvinism one may think I embrace such evangelistic tactics?  Or maybe that I have at least mellowed out a bit against such things?

THINK AGAIN!

When I was a Calvinist at least I could fall back on my belief that false teachers did not have the chance of preventing the “elect ones” from being saved.  I did not see these manipulators of the gospel as a real threat to the eternal souls of people.  After all, my systematic taught me that God would certainly save all His chosen ones.  So, while I had a righteous indignation, I really did not see them as the threat they actually are in this world.

Sometimes I wonder why it is the Calvinistic believers who are the first to repudiate such tactics when it is those who believe as I do that should be the most indignant given what is at sake.

We all know strong faithful believers who first came to church or walked an aisle as a result of “questionable tactics” employed by “questionable motives.” So, were these tactics the means God ordained for His Holy ends? If so, then should we not respond to those means with the grace Joseph responded to his criminal brothers by saying, “What you intended for evil, God intended for good,” and let it go at that?

Why do manipulative means bother you?

1. Do you believe God ordained manipulative means to come to pass for His greatest glory?

2. Do you believe God purposed such unbiblical tactics to irresistibly draw out his elect ones (because He not only ordains the ends but the means)?

3.  Do you believe God is indignant toward some of the very means He ordained to draw His elect ones to salvation?

Do you see the problem with adopting the idea that God actually purposed the evil tactics to come to pass; rather than, His redeeming evil tactics to bring about a good purpose?

Inquiring as to how God brought about the good end without meticulously determining the means is tantamount to asking how an undefeated chess master soundly defeated every opponent.  Whatever answer you might attempt to offer, would you ever speculate that the chess master is somehow secretly determining his opponents every move in order to ensure his own victory? Or, would it be more beneficial to the “glory” of the chess master to conclude that he is so wise and great at the game of chess that every free move of his opponent was masterfully countered and turned into a victory?

God is a Master Redeemer. He knows how to take any move of his opponent and redeem it for His greater purpose.  How?  I have no idea and if I could figure it all out then it probably would not be all that impressive, because I am not all that bright.  No human is, by the way.  Some of us just haven’t come to that realization yet, in my humble (but accurate) opinion.

Think about all the human discoveries, studies, and disciplines that most of us cannot even begin to understand.   Neuroscience, molecular biology, thermodynamics, genetics, complex engineering and the list could go on and on. Even the greatest minds in each of these fields admit how little we really know or can understand of these disciplines. Are we so naive as to think we can put our peon minds around the inner workings of our infinite Creator God simply because we have a theology degree hanging on our wall? The subject matter of a theologian makes all other subjects look like child’s play in comparison.  We would be naive to presume we can explain exactly how our infinite God works within our temporal world.

All this to say that we cannot begin to draw hard and fast conclusions about God that may impugn His very character. I would much rather appeal to the mystery of man’s capriciousness than to impugn God’s character.  It makes little sense for God (or His followers) to express outrage against things that God Himself has determined beforehand will be the means to ensure His greatest glory.  There is no rational answer against the charge of divine culpability for moral evil if Calvinism’s claims are true. Calvin himself admitted as much when he wrote:

“How it was ordained by the foreknowledge and decree of God what man’s future was without God being implicated as associate in the fault as the author or approver of transgression, is clearly a secret so much excelling the insight of the human mind, that I am not ashamed to confess ignorance…. I daily so meditate on these mysteries of his judgments that curiosity to know anything more does not attract me.” (there are quotes from Piper, MacArthur, and Sproul appealing to this same mystery)

In the Calvinistic way of thinking, any critique of that which has come to pass becomes a criticism of God’s eternal self-glorifying plan. This interpretation requires the response of any and all rebukes of questionable means or evil actions to be answered with the all too commonly misquoted proof text, “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God?”

If a Calvinist says, “Arminian preacher, you shouldn’t  manipulate people with your seeker-sensitive easy-believism gospel!”

A consistent answer would be: “Who are you to question God?”

When another Calvinist complains saying, “Lifeway, you shouldn’t sell heretical books in your bookstores.”

An appropriate answer may be, “Who are you to question God?”

If a Calvinist podcaster states, “Churches, you shouldn’t become a country club that tickles the ears of your listeners.”

What keeps us from saying, “Who are you to question God?”

God has not brought these evil choices to pass!  He is not the one who ordained specific evil desires and deeds. We should be angry at such abhorrent actions because God is genuinely angry too, and He is not angry at Himself (His secret hidden will) or His eternal plan of self-glorification. He is angry at THEM for their CHOICES, period.  We can and should join God in his rebuke of bad choices without feeling that we are rebuking God’s secret eternal unchangeable plan of self-glorification. <more HERE>

We can rest in the truth that God is supernaturally able to redeem the evil intentions and actions of His creatures to bring about His greater good. But nothing, absolutely NOTHING, suggests we need to adopt any systematic (or philosophical theistic theory) which even implies that God brings about manipulations of His gospel, evil desires, choices or actions through “meticulous providence” or some kind of “divine sovereign decree.”

170 thoughts on “Manipulation & Easy Believism

  1. Today’s reading is Isaiah 30-33.

    30:15 This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:

    “In repentance and rest is your salvation,
    in quietness and trust is your strength,
    but you would have none of it.
    ———

    We see this kind of construction all over the Bible. He states that He is Sovereign, then He defines it. Repentance to the lord is where they will find salvation. But they (His chosen people) refuse it. He is Sovereign, and in His sovereignty He gives them the choice.

    30:18 Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
    therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
    For the Lord is a God of justice.
    Blessed are all who wait for him!

    19 People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you.
    ———-

    He “longs to be gracious” to them. Yet He waits. For what?

    As soon as they cry for help, He will be gracious to them.

    He wants to be gracious, but waits for people to cry out. The Scripture says this clearly in hundreds of places, just like this passage.

  2. Daily reading Galatians.

    5:1 Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

    2 Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
    ————-

    Why is Paul warning about having again the “yoke of slavery” if that is not possible?

    Why is Paul warning that “Christ will be of no value” if that is not possible?

    Why is Paul saying some have been “alienated from Christ” if that is not possible?

    Why is Paul saying some have “fallen from grace” if that is not possible?

    Paul says that the “only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” If this faith is given-forced-faith (you cannot have it unless God gives it; if God gives it you MUST have it), why all these warnings?

    I mean, really, if this is all a slam-dunk, done-deal like Calvinists say, then why all these dire warnings from Paul: “yoke of slavery,” “Christ of no value,” “alienated from Christ,” “fallen from grace”?

    Sure….. I know that Calvinists spend pages and pages assuring us that these verses do NOT mean. They often say “They do not say what it looks like they say,” but the simple question is…. why say it then?

    I mean, if Calvinism is true these verses mean nothing…. because you cannot “go back to slavery” ….you cannot be “alienated from Christ”…. you cannot be “fallen from grace.” So, what’s the point of any of it?

    He does not say…. “watch out or you will be alienated from Christ.” No! He says some HAVE BEEN alienated from Christ.

    1. Calvinists must deliberately close their eyes to these many, many verses that suggest God calling all men to turn from wickedness. And why does he ‘call’, why does he in some cases plead with them, and in other cases warn them to turn from evil or not abandon their faith?

      The only logical answer is that these are genuine options, that men can hear and respond to God’s calls, pleas and warnings. Stuck with their ‘dead man’ philosophy, Calvinists can only make themselves – and God – look silly, in suggesting that he calls those who cannot come, pleads with those who cannot hear, and warns those who cannot ‘fall from’ grace. I’m not sure if they tell themselves their God is foolish, schizophrenic or merely into playing cruel games with hopeless people. I would have a hard time trusting in any of the three.

      I am thankful that God is genuine, loving merciful and truly desires that all men take him at his word, believe in his extended mercy and turn from wickedness to learn the ways of righteousness. It is ours for the mere taking, no deserving, no earning and no special qualities required. God truly desires that none perish.

      1. TSOO writes : God truly desires that none perish.

        My Reply : No, this is wrong. why?

        1. Judas Iscariot perished
        2. The criminal on the left side hanging on the cross have perished
        2. The Edomites or the house of Esau shall be annihilated according to Obadiah 1:18 – they are destined to perish
        3. The goats mentioned in Matt. chap. 25 labelled as “cursed into everlasting fire” will all perish
        4. The false prophets, including Baal, Jezebel, etc. (they are also people, part of humanity) yet they will all perish
        5. Those groups of people described as : “swine”, “chaff”, “thorny ground”, “wayside soil”, etc……
        6. The people of Canaan that God commanded the Israelites to annihilate all of them perished
        7. The human race swept by the global flood perished
        8. The residents of Sodom and Gomorah burned to death also perished.

        Manipulating the gospel is done by those who keep on insisting that “God desires that none perish” – “The Universalists”, not the Calvinists.

    2. FOH : Why is Paul warning about having again the “yoke of slavery” if that is not possible?

      My Reply : There is the struggle between the “old nature” vs. the “new nature” – This has been experienced by the Apostle Paul himself. Don’t worry this struggle will have an end also. “The good work which God has started in the believer, God will complete it at the coming of Christ according to Phil. 1:6

      FOH : Why is Paul warning that “Christ will be of no value” if that is not possible?

      My Reply : Christ will never have of no value for the elect Jews and Gentile believers. This is only true for the perishing because the preaching of the cross is foolishness to them.

      FOH : Why is Paul saying some have been “alienated from Christ” if that is not possible?

      My Reply : Of course, the non-elect will be forever be alienated from Christ, but those Israelites that are scattered (alienated) will still be gathered together in the future events for them to acknowledge Christ as their Messiah to the fulfillment of God’s covenant promise to Abraham

      FOH : Why is Paul saying some have “fallen from grace” if that is not possible?

      My Reply : Actually there is no such “fallen from grace” because there is no legitimate offer of the gospel to the reprobates. Christ did not offer His life for them. Christ offered His life only to the sheep according to Jesus (not from Calvinists) in Jon 10:11, 15. The elect will never fall from the grace, why? Because they are being kept and watched closely by Jesus Himself, the good Shepherd.

    3. It’s astounding how your friend is so willing to just wipe away all scripture and say ‘No, this is wrong’. He could care less what scripture says, but is fully committed to defending Calvinism. An almost hopeless case.

      1. Right TS00.

        Just read and enjoy Scripture. See what God’s message from the Bible is. There will always be those who say, “Nope, can’t be what it says, cuz we know better.”

  3. FOH writes : “Nope, can’t be what it says, cuz we know better.”

    My Response :

    The above statement is a glimpse of the “too much idolizing the self, making man much more omniscient than the Creator”. It is a self defeating statement.

    TSOO writes : “An almost hopeless case”

    My Response is this :

    The elect will never be hopeless. Our security is in Christ not in man’s capabilities. We do not operate the Christian life based on fleshly efforts but through the grace of God.

    The Non-Calvinists believes that Judas Iscariot was not saved, but they still say God loves the entire human race including the false prophets. They choose to refuse in believing Christ’s statement (“I lay down My life for the sheep” – John 10:11, 15) of His atoning work at the cross of Calvary. It is really a shame when you say you love Christ and yet you don’t believe His declaration regarding the legitimate beneficiaries of His death on the cross. Because of this, they are so mad with the Calvinists. They even accused God as the author of Sin, when the Calvinists never say this thing. I think we need to be careful also about this when we defend our side because we have just the same God.

  4. JTLEOSALA is absolutely right that we should be cordial in these discussions. It is possible to hold respectful debates, especially with fellow believers. This is my intention in this post.

    JTLEOSALA writes, “Actually there is no such ‘fallen from grace’ because there is no legitimate offer of the gospel to the reprobates.”

    This is confusing because Paul (and the Holy Spirit) says there is, in fact, such a thing as “fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4). Moreover, if the gospel cannot be legitimately offered to most people, that means that when Jesus told us to spread the gospel, He was commanding us to (in some cases) tell lies. Consider the following:

    1. God commands us not to lie (Exodus 20:16; Proverbs 12:22).

    2. Jesus commands His followers to preach the gospel to the whole world (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15).

    3. The gospel includes the command to repent and have faith that Jesus died for your sins (Acts 2:38, 17:30-31; Romans 4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:20-21).

    4. We cannot discern (with absolute certainty) the elect from the non-elect.

    5. Hence, we will inevitably preach the gospel to those who are not among the elect.

    6. The third point of Calvinism (limited atonement) means that “there is no legitimate offer of the gospel to the reprobates.”

    7. Thus, when we preach the gospel to the non-elect (urging them to repent and believe that Jesus is their personal Savior), we are (according to five-point Calvinism) trying to convince them of a lie.

    8. Attempting to convince someone of a lie is the same thing as lying. (It makes no difference that the unregenerate do not believe the lie; a child who lies to his mother but fails to deceive her remains a liar even though his lie was not believed. It likewise makes no difference if the evangelist replaces “Jesus died for you” with the general claim that “Jesus died for sinners.” Only if the listeners believe Jesus is their personal Savior will they be saved, so the evangelist is still trying to convince them of a lie. After all, the evangelist is not hoping to convince his listeners that Jesus did NOT die for them. Such would be the opposite of the gospel!)

    9. We must conclude that if limited atonement is true, God gave one command (do not lie) that must be disobeyed if we follow His command to preach the gospel. In other words, God contradicted Himself. He doesn’t want us to lie, but He does want us to lie.

    10. God cannot contradict Himself (Hebrews 6:18).

    11. Therefore, limited atonement is not true.

    JTLEOSALA: “They choose to refuse in believing Christ’s statement (‘I lay down My life for the sheep’ – John 10:11, 15) of His atoning work at the cross of Calvary. It is really a shame when you say you love Christ and yet you don’t believe His declaration regarding the legitimate beneficiaries of His death on the cross.”

    I do believe Christ’s statement that He laid down His life for the sheep. I also believe John’s God-breathed declaration that, “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:2). Since the sheep are part of “the whole world,” Jesus obviously died for the sheep if He died for the world. 😊

    1. Lampstand 8:16 writes : “I do believe Christ’s statement that He laid down His life for the sheep. I also believe John’s God-breathed declaration that, “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:2). Since the sheep are part of “the whole world,” Jesus obviously died for the sheep if He died for the world.”

      I do respect your understanding and your sincerity of I John 2:2, however I need to explain also my side, i.e.:

      1. The wordings “propitiation for our sins” – refers to the mixture of believers in Christ – converted Jews and Gentiles (the recipients of this letter) according to I John 2:2. The verse itself denies the inclusion of unbelievers.

      2. The wordings : “but also for the whole world” – here it does not teach “universal salvation”. Rather , the “Whole world” refers to the group of people (called out ones before the foundation of the world) coming from different races of people on earth, but not the entire human race. If we are going to believe on this (entire human race) it will come out that the atoning work of Christ at Calvary is impotent/does not work for the “goats” that are to be thrown to hell. The gospel only works to the “good soil”- the group of people (whole world) whom God prepared beforehand. The other types of soil have no preparations made at all since that they cannot do it for themselves, why? (because they are spiritually dead). They also receive the “same seed” the gospel preached to them by the Calvinists and Non-Calvinists, yet all of them dies., why? because there was no legitimate offer, the drawing power of God the Father to the Son.; the quickening power of the Holy Spirit for them to become alive (regenerated so that the God given faith to them be exercised to come to Jesus and be saved). They have not actually possessed the gift of Salvation, thus there was nothing to be lost.

      3. The issue of “LYING” is just being “watered down” to attack and disprove the doctrine of Limited Atonement. Calvinists also admit that they are not omniscient to determine who are elect from the non-elect thus we are being charged as “lying”. For me when I share the gospel, I started with John 10: 11, 15. that : Jesus Christ laid down His life for the sheep. And who are the sheep?, if they will ask, then I will further explain to them…

      4. In the parable of the sower, the same seed was sown to all types of soil (representing the entire human race) yet those preachers who have sown the gospel were not charged as liars.

    2. And you see, from jtl’s response, why Calvinists don’t have alter calls. The response might be a bit slim to: “Come, unless you are a goat; the atoning work of Christ at Calvary is impotent/does not work for the “goats” that are to be thrown to hell. But there is a chance that you might be one of the lucky sheep; so hold your breath and see if you are regenerated so you can come. Good luck.” It just doesn’t have quite the ring as “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

      1. It is a sweeping statement to say that Calvinists doesn’t have altar call. Our altar call is not only limited to evangelism. There are several needs of the worshippers that we can pray for. Praying for each other is biblical. Worship Service is primarily intended for believers in Christ, why? How can the dead sinner have faith and be able to glorify God during worship except when God do a direct regeneration on the way to the church or right at the moment of corporate worship. Without faith it is impossible for us to please God during worship time.

      2. Preaching to the world cannot be labelled as “Manipulation of the Gospel”. One might have manipulated the gospel if it is a false assurance of Salvation offered to the reprobates. Trying to let them believe to own something which does not belongs to them, remains only as a dream but not true. “Easy Believism” on the other hand, may refer to those people whose lives reflect no indication of the New Nature implanted by God to sinners. They are the “Nominal Christians” in our days. Why they exists? Simple answer is: Because of those preachers who would like to convert as much as possible (because Salvation is for the entire human race) to the point promising them as : “from now on your name is now written in the book of life” after they say the prayer of acceptance to receive Christ.

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