The Acolyte Dialogues: Episode 4

© Copyright 2020, Steve Sabin.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Episode 4: Insulation

Several months have elapsed and our acolyte is loving every minute of the fellowship, Bible study, and iron-sharpening-iron discussion that occurs every Tuesday night.  He has missed only a single session – the unfortunate casualty of an overnight business trip.  On this particular Tuesday, the study has just concluded and the group has presented him with a birthday gift: a box containing a John MacArthur Study Bible with Jordan’s name embossed on the leather cover, The Sovereignty of God by A.W. Pink, and Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul.  Inside the box there’s also a tongue-in-cheek laminated wallet card made by X-man that signifies official membership in the six-forty-four bros.  Everyone is now making their way from the group’s customary corner table to the pub’s entrance and their respective cars.

Jordan, our acolyte, is in italics.  Thiely and the others are in bold


[X-man] Hey man – you’ve been standing us up for months now.  How about tonight you join me and Jake for some cigars in the back?

Guys, the conversation is appealing – and I don’t really want to call it a night yet – but you know I’m not a smoker.

[Jake] Dude, it’s OK.  You don’t have to smoke in there.  It’s just a quiet place to talk.  We like to get philosophical and it’s the perfect environment.

Yeah, but I can’t stand cigarette smoke. 

[X-man] I hear you.  That’s what makes this place so perfect.  They only allow tobacco pipes and cigars – no cigarettes or vaping. 

No cigarettes? 

[X-man] No cigarettes.

Only cigars and pipes? 

[X-man] Only cigars and pipes.

Well, then.  What are we waiting for?

(Jake, Jordan, and X-man make their way to the back – Jordan with his birthday loot in hand.  They take their leave of Thiely, Peter, and Andre who head home.  The back room is quite full, but there are three overstuffed leather chairs in a quiet corner, arranged in a circle, with a small table in the center.  Jordan sets his gifts on top to reserve the spot as theirs.  Jake and X-man walk to the humidor and purchase two cigars, prepare and light them in an elaborate-looking ritual, make their way to the circle of chairs, and take a seat.  They’ve obviously done this before.)

You know, those things don’t smell that bad.

[Jake] You should try one sometime.  It’s not an everyday thing.  Just a once-in-awhile thing, like a well-aged single-malt.  Besides, Charles Spurgeon smoked cigars.  And drank.  One of the heavy hitters in our Reformed Tradition, but he understood his Christian liberty to imbibe.

Spurgeon?  Really?  Did not know that.  Never would have guessed.  Regardless, I’m gonna pass on the cigars.  But you know, a single-malt scotch might be nice.

[X-man] Actually, there’s a bar in here.  Why don’t you get yourself one?  Better yet – why don’t *I* get you one.  It’s your birthday.

YEAH.  It’s my birthday.  And don’t you forget it!

(everyone laughs; X-man makes his way to the bar and is back a couple minutes later; Jake and Jordan banter in the meantime while Jake puffs away.)

[X-man] A server will bring it over in a few minutes. 

That was really nice of you.  Thanks – I mean it. 

[X-man] Love ya, bro.  It’s the least I could do.  You’ve been a great addition to the six-forty-fours. 

Six-forty-fours?  What happened to the six-forty-four BROS?

[X-man]  I know.  Don’t rub it in.  Gotta keep it short and sweet.  I hate to admit it, but Thiely was right.  Rolls off the tongue better when you drop the “bros”.

I agree.  The “bros” make it too clumsy.  Glad you aren’t afraid to change your mind. 

(X-man nods and takes a puff of his cigar)

Oh, by the way, I bought myself a gift this year.

[Jake]  Oh? Pray tell.

(Jordan rolls up the sleeve of his t-shirt, revealing his left deltoid and a tattoo of an intricate and tasteful cross with the words, “Solus Christus” underneath)

[Jake] Dude!  That’s awesome. 

Yeah, in time I plan to add the other solas.  But this seemed to be the perfect one to start with.

[X-man] I really like it.  Not too big.  Not too small.  Perfect. 

It’s great for the workplace: no visible ink.  Kind of like a concealed carry permit.  You know it’s there, but nobody else does.

[X-man] Yeah – tell me about it.  I have to wear long sleeves when customers visit our graphics agency.   I’m not too proud of what appealed to me BC.


[X-man] Before Christ.


[X-man] I’ve been slowly getting the really vulgar stuff on this arm removed using laser.  It does a good job, but it’s still faintly visible, so I’ve been putting Christ-honoring stuff in its place.  Right here, for example, used to be totally x-rated.

(he points to a spot on his arm where there is now a tattoo of Christ praying in the garden of Gethsemane.)  

Whoa.  Your ink guy does really good work.  If you hadn’t told me, I never would have known there used to be something else there.  

[X-man] It’s an ink lady, actually.  Anyway, it reminds me of what Christ did for me.  Covered my sin completely, forever. 

[Jake] Amen Bro.  Amen.

[X-man] Eventually, my arm won’t be the same.  But it’s expensive.  Like $75 per square inch just to remove them, and then there’s the money on top of that for the new tattoo.  So, it’s going to take me a few years to do my whole arm.  Sin leaves scars and has a cost attached – know what I mean?  My arm is like a self-contained sermon on the wages of sin – it takes not gives – and the power of the cross to cover my sin.

Dude, your whole life is a pretty powerful sermon on the power of Christ to redeem.  Have you ever thought of going into the ministry – or do you want to stay in the graphic arts?

[X-man] Actually, yes.  I would like to be in full-time ministry.

(points to tattoos)

I’m slowly saving up to not just get rid of these bad boys, but to go to seminary. 

I had no idea!  What seminary?  When? What kind of ministry appeals to you?

[X-man] Whoa.  Slow it down a bit.  One question at a time.  First:  which seminary?  I’ve got my eye on Pittsburgh Theological and Reformed Theological.

[Jake] Pittsburgh?  What’s up with that? 

[X-man] It’s where R.C. Sproul studied. 

[Jake] A true giant.  And what about – what was the other one? 

[X-man] Reformed Theological Seminary.  RTS has quite a few campuses. 

Anything not in Pittsburgh sounds good to me.

[Jake] True that.  What about Florida? That’s my kind of weather.

[X-man] Yes – actually.  They have an Orlando campus. 

Sweet!  Any timetable?

(X-man takes a puff of his cigar and blows a huge smoke ring; he’s obviously practiced.)

[X-man] 36 months.  I’m gonna save for 36 months and then – Lord willing – be a seminarian.  It should take me a couple of years to get my M-Div., because I already have a 4-year undergraduate degree – bachelor of fine arts.

Man, you’re just full of surprises.

[X-man] Where do you think I learned to draw?  Anyway, it’s not like I’ll be starting from scratch.  I figure 18-24 months max, and maybe some of it can be done online.

[Jake] And then what?

[X-man] I wanna be a pastor, man.  I like doing outreach in urban areas. 

You know, I can see that in you.  I can see that in you. 

(Jordan’s drink finally arrives and he takes a sip)

Whoa.  What is this stuff?  It’s WAY good!

[X-man] It BETTER be good – it cost almost as much as that shiny new study Bible you got there.

(laughter by all three; Jordan looks with newfound admiration at the amber liquid)

[X-man] It’s a blend from two shuttered distilleries in Scotland.  The fine establishment in which we’re sitting bought one of the three remaining reserve casks.  When they’re gone, they’re gone.  It’s 26 years old.

Seems you’re quite the connoisseur.  I’m impressed.

[X-man] Don’t be.  I just read the drink menu, memorized the impressive verbiage, and settled on their second most expensive single malt scotch. 

SECOND most expensive?

[X-man] I love you bro – but not enough to spring for 200 dollars a glass.  

200 hundred dollars a GLASS?

[X-man] You heard right.  200 dollars a glass.  

(Jake makes a whistling sound)

[Jake] So what about MY birthday?  It’s next month you know.   

[X-man] You get a diet Pepsi my friend.  $1.49 and unlimited refills.

(Jake, unruffled, takes a substantial puff of his own cigar, looks at it thoughtfully, and blows a huge cloud directly into X-man’s face.  X-man glares for a minute, then all three burst into laughter.)

[Jake] So let’s get serious boys.  Do you ever stop to ponder that God knows not just what we’re going to do, but that He actually decreed it from before the foundation of the world?   

[X-man] Yeah.  It’s kind of like living in The Matrix.  Whatsoever comes to pass was already decreed.  Nothing takes God by surprise.  Nothing we do wasn’t already decreed, long before we were born.

You know, I have trouble with that sometimes.  I mean, it’s one thing for God to KNOW the future – its a whole different thing for Him to be the ORIGINATOR of all of it. 

[Jake] It’s a mystery, man.  The mind of God is unsearchable.  It’s like it says in the Westminster Confession…

(Jake zips open his camo Bible cover to reveal a laminated index card in one of the inner pockets, and begins reading)

[Jake] “God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.”

[X-man] That’s why I’m going to seminary.  To understand that kind of stuff.

(laughter; Jake and X-man take puffs of their cigars; Jordan takes another sip of his scotch.)

Guys, TULIP is easy.  You’ve shown me it’s scriptural.  But this kind of stuff – well, I have a hard time getting my head around it.  How does God author everything yet without being the author of sin?  How does God decree even the minutiae yet without doing violence to man’s will or liberty?

(long pause; more puffing.  Jake finally breaks the silence.)

[Jake] Remember the website where Thiely often goes?

Yeah.  That one with John Piper, right?

[Jake] Bingo.  It’s called  I highly recommend it.  I’ve never come across anyone quite like Piper in making this stuff accessible for the layperson.  He never shies away from the really hard questions, but he brings it down to our level.

[X-man] Speak for yourself, man.  I’m going to seminary!

(more laughter)

[X-man] Seriously Jordan.  There’s a pretty rich ecosphere of resources to help with this stuff.  You don’t have to slog through everything with just you and your Bible.


[X-man]  You heard me.  ECOSPHERE.  I can be refined when I need to be.  Don’t let these tattoos fool you.  I’m going to seminary baby!

(X-man takes another exaggerated puff of his cigar, looking self-satisfied; laughter by everyone;)

[X-man]  I’m telling you.  There are so many resources out there when you’ve got these big, philosophical and theological questions.  People that have struggled with the same issues and have answers – all from a Reformed perspective. For example, ever heard of Pen & Parchment blog?


[X-man]  Apologia radio?


[X-man]  RefNet?


[X-man]  The Dividing Line webcast?


[Jake] Ligonier blog?


[Jake] Grace to You program with John MacArthur?


[Jake] Well, FINALLY.  Dude, you simply must keep up.  So many resources – so little time.

(more laughter; X-man and Jake take hefty puffs again; Jordan takes another measured sip – he wants to make this last – but there’s now only a single sip left)

[X-man] Tell you what.  I’ll compile a list of some of our favorite resources.  Between me, Jake, Thiely, Andre, and Peter, I bet we can cover about almost all of “the best of the best”.  I’ll email it to you later this week.  Sound like a plan?

Sounds like a plan.

(Jake and X-man take one last puff before extinguishing their hand-rolled Cubans.  Jordan drains his glass – grudgingly accepting the reality that he’s drained every expensive drop.)

[Jake] Shall we call it?

[X-man] Yeah.  Birthday boy has finished his cake.

(laughter all around; Jordan gathers his gifts and belongings, the others gather their Bibles and jackets.  They walk to the front door together, exit, and pause on the sidewalk.) 

[X-man]  Jake, See you Sunday?

[Jake]  Wouldn’t miss it.  See you next Tuesday Jordan.

Yeah – about that.  Got room in those pews for one more on Sunday?

[X-man]  What – you’re finally gonna make the move?

Yeah – I’m having a hard time getting much of anything from my old church these days.  I gave it a few months, but I think it’s time.  Besides, it isn’t a Reformed church and I’m starting to feel like a fish out of water.  When I hear words like “choose to follow Jesus” and “Christ died for everyone” and “God gave us free will” I know its time to move on.   

[X-man]  I hear you, bro.  You’re gonna find the resources I’m sending are awesome.  And you’re gonna love Grace Metro. 

[Jake]  Two services.  One at 8:30 and another at 10:30. 

I’m thinking 10:30.  Not a morning person.  At least, not when I have a choice.


[Jake]  10:30 it is.  See you then. 

[X-man]  We’ll save you a seat.  Don’t be late.  Fills up fast.

OK guys.  God bless.  Solus Christus.

[Jake and X-man, in unison]  Solus Christus.   


Our acolyte is now – as X-man put it – surrounding himself in a Calvinist ecosphere.   Although he’ll still be reading his Bible, fellowshipping, studying, and praying, it will increasingly become an echo chamber that presents only a single perspective.  TULIP will be treated as immutable fact, and the atmosphere he inhabits will not be a mix of gases but a single gas.  The gnawing questions he still has – and which we briefly glimpsed in this episode – will gradually fade from view as he reasons that he must be in good company with so many kindred theologians, preachers, teachers, books, podcasts, and other resources that align with his newly embraced theology.  They’ll drown out any lingering doubts – at least for a time – as he seeks safety in numbers.

His choice of church homes is likewise being realigned to agree with his new theology, and indeed there is no fault in worshiping with others that are likeminded.  But there is now virtually no exposure to – or interaction with – those that hold to any other theological framework.  His world is becoming monochromatic.

But most disturbing is that our acolyte now has not just a Bible, but a study Bible in which one man’s opinion – a renowned Calvinist – has become almost inseparable from the text of the Bible itself.  God’s word and MacArthur’s word literally share the same binding.  As such, it will become almost impossible for our acolyte to simply read the Bible.  When he encounters problematic passages, it will be all too easy to let his eyes move just a few inches across the page to be guided not by the Holy Spirit, but by a man.  And whether that man is a Calvinist or not, this is never a wise course of action.

The roots are going deeper, the lenses on the glasses growing thicker.  The allegiance to TULIP as the only way to understand God’s plan of salvation is slowly but surely overtaking the Bible itself in precedence, as competing viewpoints are removed from his field of vision.  Our acolyte is thus building an increasingly thick cocoon, insulating his Calvinistic worldview from the pure, unadulterated word of God. 

Will it take a sudden, seismic life event to shake up his theology, or perhaps a slow and almost imperceptible shifting – waking up one day to see that the continents have drifted and wondering why?   Or will our acolyte simply auger in deeper, spinning an ever-thicker cocoon?

Episode 5 holds the answers.  Stay tuned.  

25 thoughts on “The Acolyte Dialogues: Episode 4

  1. I’m not sure if your acolyte got an ESV study Bible or not, but I have been doing some research into the ESV, to see if it’s slanted towards Calvinism. (There’s got to be a reason Calvinists swear by the ESV!) Many people online say that they find hardly any Calvinist slant in it, but I have found plenty. If someone is using a John MacArthur Study Bible then they are being steeped in Calvinism, being preconditioned to read Calvinist theology into the Bible, and even more so if it’s an ESV.

    For anyone who’s interested:

    I don’t expect to convince others of the way I see the ESV, but I hope it at least makes people think and take a closer look at what they’re being taught and at who’s teaching it to them.

    1. Heather, here is what I have catalogued from the Calvinist influence in the ESV.

      1. In Rev 13:8 where it translates the Greek preposition apo as “before” when it clearly can only mean “from”, as the ESV itself even thus translates apo in the parallel passage Rev. 17:8. The word “from” gives the logical and biblical idea of names being added to this Book of Life when each individual personally trusts in God’s mercy for salvation. This Greek preposition apo never means “before.”
      2. In Luke 13:23 where the ESV translated the present tense as future – And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” The text literally reads – “Lord, if few [are] the ones being saved?” The question is not what has been determined for the future, but what is happening in the present time.
      3. In Rom 9:22-23 where the ESV translated two different Greek words with the same word – “prepared”, one “prepared for destruction”, and one “prepared before for glory.” But the first “prepared” should be translated “fitted”, more clearly indicating the sense of the verbal action of changing something that was already made. Even “prepared before” does not indicate before birth or before creation, but just some time before “glory”.
      4. In Luke 2:14 where the ESV translated the one word in the genitive case – “He is pleased” – instead of the literal “of good pleasure”. This word is describing the men to whom the angels are announcing peace (if the UBS manuscript view is followed). They are men “of good pleasure” or “of benevolence”. Nothing in this genitive word suggests it is God being pleased with them or how they got this character trait “of benevolence”.
      5. In 2Cor 4:3 where the ESV translated the preposition en as “to” when it clearly means either “in”, “by”, or “with”. The context indicates that Paul’s gospel was heard but is veiled now “in” those lost, or is being veiled “by” lost teachers that Satan is using to do it. There is no indication of “veiled from birth” in this passage.
      6. In Ps 139:4 the ESV translated the conjunction chi as “before”. The כִּ֤י that starts the sentence is either “that” or “because” which is confirmed by the LXX use of ὅτι for it. In this verse David explains the previous verse 3, which makes “because” the better choice, and definitely not “before”.
      7. In John 1:9 where it does not associate the phrase “coming into the world” with its closest antecedent “every man”, as even Calvin himself does, but with Christ, the true Light. It seems the ESV wants to negate the idea that Jesus would truly enlighten everyone who comes into the world, and wants to reject the idea of Christ drawing each of them to a bona fide opportunity of salvation at least once in their lifetime, which is what light does.
      8. In John 12:32 where it adds “people” to the word “all”, to encourage a distributive meaning for this universal adjective, i.e. “all kinds of people”, instead of leaving the choice for a comprehensive meaning for this universal adjective, i.e. “everyone”, which again would aid in promoting the biblical idea, that, in agreement with His own divine desire for all to be saved (1Tim 2:4), and since He provided the propitiation for the sins of the whole world (1John 2:2, a verse the ESV thankfully did not alter), Jesus can and does draw everyone to an opportunity of repentance, which also was His plan (2Pet 3:9)
      Also the ESV does not follow the traditional Greek manuscript evidence used through the centuries, but it follows the modern text UBS for choices that go against the truth of Scripture’s inerrancy. In Matt 1:7, 10 did Matthew really not remember the correct names of Judah’s kings – Asa and Amon? And in John 7:8, did Jesus really lie to his brothers telling them He was not going up “to this feast” and yet He did?
      But the Eternally Sovereign Version (ESV) 😉 has messed up… using the word “decree” twice in ways that undermine reformed theology’s idea of divine decree!
      God didn’t decree everything! Jeremiah 19:5 ESV — and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire… 👉which I did not command or decree👈….
      Unregenerate man knows God’s decree! Romans 1:32 ESV — Though 👉they know God’s righteous decree👈 that those who practice such things deserve to die….
      God must have “decreed” these helpful self-corrections in this reformed theology influenced translation! 😁

      1. Thanks for this, Brian. I will definitely look into it. I have been really interested in finding the Calvinist bent in the ESV ever since I realized how many Calvinists push the ESV as the “only/best Bible to use” (it was my Calvi-pastor’s favorite one, of course) and how many Calvinists worked on it. And yet, over and over again, I would see people online claiming that they don’t see any Calvinism in it at all. But if that many Calvinists swear by it then there has to be a reason! And if you know what to look for, the Calvinist-tweaks are there. And some of the changes I have found are inexcusable (at least to my way of thinking).

        For example (from my post that I shared the link to in my other comment):

        1. The NIV translation of 2 Peter 3:9 is “… He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”. But the ESV ends it this way: “… but that all should reach repentance.” Of the commonly-used “word-for-word” translations, the ESV is the only one that says “reach” instead of “come to.”

        Let’s say I lived in Kansas, and I posted a note on my blog saying “I hope everyone comes to Kansas.” I would be expressing a desire that I want anyone and everyone to visit me in Kansas, no matter where they are or who they are or where they are going. It’s an open invitation to anyone who wants to respond, to take me up on my offer. But if I posted a note saying “I hope everyone reaches Kansas,” it would clearly imply that I am talking only to and about those who are already headed to Kansas. I clearly would not be telling people headed to another state that “I hope you reach Kansas.” That would be an irreconcilable contradiction. It would be totally unrelated to and irrelevant for them. So obviously I am not talking to them. I am simply saying that I hope those who are purposely headed to Kansas reach their destination. This little change totally makes the verse more Calvinistic because it changes it from being an open invitation to all people to come to repentance into an expressed desire that all those who are headed to repentance reach repentance. And in Calvinism, that would be only the elect. (And interestingly enough, in none of the other verses where this Greek word is used do the ESV translators change it to “reach.” Only in this verse. That’s suspicious.)

        2. John 7:17 (NIV): “Anyone who chooses to do the will of God …”

        (KJV): “If any man will do his will …”

        (Berean Study Bible): “If any man desires to do his will …”

        (CSB): “If anyone wants to do his will …”

        What do all these have in common: “chooses … will do … desires to … wants to …”?

        They are verbs, something we do. They all show that the man himself is choosing to do God’s Will, wanting to do His Will. It puts the “choosing/wanting” in man’s hands, as though it is his choice to do it. And rightly so.

        But here it is in the ESV: “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will …” This is huge, making it totally and completely Calvinistic. Because in this translation (and only in this translation), it changes it from a verb to a noun, from man doing what he wills to man’s Will controlling him. So in the ESV, it’s not that the man is choosing/wanting to do God’s Will, but it’s that man’s Will is what determines if he wants to do and will do God’s Will. It’s a Calvinist way of adding their idea that we are slaves to our God-given Wills/natures:

        Essentially, in Calvinism, you don’t decide what you want to do. Your nature (given to you by God) determines what your Will will be, which determines what you will want to do and choose to do. And you cannot change it. Think of it like a “magic potion.” God gives the elected people a “love potion” that makes them “want” to love Him and obey Him, and so they can only choose to love Him and obey Him. But God gives the non-elected people a “hate potion” which makes them want to hate God and to sin, and ONLY want to hate God and to sin. And so they can only choose to hate Him and to sin because God didn’t give them the desires to do anything else. You can only make the “choices” that go with the desires of the potion (the nature/Will) God gave you. (How in the world can Calvinists call that a “choice”!?!)

        So in the ESV, and contrary to other translations, this verse is not saying that you desire/want/choose to do God’s Will (which would mean that you can choose between options, change your mind, etc.), but that your Will (which you have no control over, which God predetermined for you, which comes with pre-determined desires that you can’t change) determines if you will do God’s Will. And only the elect will be given the Will/nature that wants to do God’s Will.

        (You know how we can know for sure the ESV is WRONG? According to the concordance, the Greek word for “desires” in the phrase “if any man desires/chooses/wants/will do” is a verb. But the ESV shamelessly changes it to a noun, the “will” of a person. In the verb form, we control our desires. But in the noun form, our desires control us. Big difference!)

        3. This one is along similar lines. In the NIV, 1 Corinthians 7:37 is “But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but who has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin – this man also does the right thing.” In this verse, Paul clearly refers to the fact that we can make up our own minds about issues, without being under compulsion to choose what we do. That we are in “control” over our wills. This clearly goes against Calvinism. It clearly puts the responsibility for our decisions and desires and actions on us, not on God.

        However, while most translations says it like the NIV does (“control/authority/power over his own will”), the ESV changes it to “but having his desire under control.” Interesting! And very different! Of all the typical word-for-word translations, that’s the only one that words it that way: “having his desire under control.” To me, this is a deliberate attempt to sneak Calvinism in, by putting less “control” in man’s hands over his will than what the Bible originally said. “Having control over his will” is active. The control is done by the person. HE has control over his will. But “having his desire under control” doesn’t have to mean the man himself is doing the controlling. It’s just saying his desire is under control. But by whom? It’s like the difference between saying “I painted my house” and “I was having my house painted.” Big difference!

        Calvinists would say that people’s desires are controlled by the nature God gave us. And the nature God gives us comes with certain desires that we have to obey, and we cannot choose anything different. The way the ESV words this verse essentially changes it from “man controls his will/desires” (meaning then that man would have the ability to choose between various options, to decide which desires to follow, to change his mind, etc.) to “man’s desires are under control” (meaning, according to Calvinism, that they are under the control not of man but of God, of the nature God gave us, and so therefore man cannot really make his own decisions or choose between various options/desires).

        Researching the ESV has been eye-opening. And it only makes it more obvious how determined Calvinists are to twist the Bible to make it fit their wrong theological views. I wonder how many changes someone can make to the Word of God before it ceases to be the Word of God! (And who else does this remind us of? Subtly twisting God’s Words? Maybe someone from the book of Genesis, in the Garden of Eden?) Thanks again, Brian. God bless!

      2. Thank you Heather for your additional insights on other verses. I definitely see your points made concerning the ESV rendition of John 7:17 and 1Cor 7:37.

        The issue with 2Peter 3:9 is not as clear to me, but that is a verse the Calvinist tries to read his theology into, but which is clearly bullet proof against it. Here’s my take.

        2 Peter 3:9 NKJV — The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

        The identity of “any should perish” in 2Pet 3:9 is indeed interesting. It is certainly linked with the “all” of the last phrase… which clearly includes unsaved who have not yet come to repentance.

        But the choice has to be made whether this “any” points back to the personal pronoun “you”/”us” (manuscripts differ) or to the other word, identical to it in Greek, and usually translated “some” early in the verse, that is, to those who are questioning Christ’s return, identified earlier in the context as the mockers of verses 3-5.

        The personal pronoun choice (“you”/”us”) would point to the readers of this epistle as the “you”/”us”… those who are assumed by Peter to already profess salvation (though some may not have made that “sure” yet of their calling or election, 1:10). But that interpretive choice goes against the last phrase – “come to repentance” – unless one broadens the meaning of the “us”/”you” to theologically mean all who are eternally immutably elect, not just the readers of this verse, but also those not reading and not yet born again, even not yet born. That to me seems like an eisegetical choice, reading one’s theology into the verse.

        Choosing to link the indefinite pronoun “any” with the same indefinite pronoun “some” earlier in the verse, not only has the fact of it being the same word in its favor, but also that those “some”, who are also the context “mockers”, do indeed need to come to repentance, more than one would expect any of the readers would need to. Even the personal pronouns “us”/”you” can easily be viewed with the same indefiniteness as the “some” and “any”, when they are taken as pronouns of general reference, meaning all mankind. That would link the “us”/”you” also to the “all” of the last clause.

        For Peter’s context is about God delaying Christ’s return because of His longsuffering nature… and tied to providing more opportunities of repentance. And the divine “willing”/planning is present tense as a contemporary participle tied to the time of the main verb… clearly rejecting the idea that there was any made-in-the-past all encompassing decree, or completed divine will/plan before creation. God is still planning ways and opportunities for people to come to repentance.

        And He never has and never will plan damnation for someone without first giving them an opportunity to come to repentance. Praise His Name!

        2 Peter 3:15 NKJV — and consider that the 👉longsuffering👈 of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you,
        Romans 2:4 NKJV — Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and 👉longsuffering,👈 not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?


        NT authors are like normal pastors… when addressing their congregations, they use the general terms “brethren” or “beloved” based on the assumption of everyone’s profession… but then they always address the congregation somewhere to make sure they are in the faith. (See 2Cor 13:5, Heb 4:1-2) Peter does that in 2Pet 1:10.

        NT writers also use the personal pronoun “we” or “you” as general reference, like we do today, when we make statements in which the message is not directly referring to something true about ourselves (like Heb 10:26), or even about the expected audience, like here in 2Peter 3:9. See also Rom 8:13.

        The word “any” in “any should perish” is the same indefinite pronoun as “some” in “some count slackness” making it very likely that the same unsaved group is meant in both. And that “all should come to repentance” would normally refer to those living that had not yet come to repentance, which would exclude the “all” from just meaning those already saved, if the “you” earlier is supposed to mean those already saved.

        And doesn’t applying it to the so-called not yet saved “elect” sound like reading into the text? … “not willing that any of us (elect but not yet born and/or born again) should perish (which is impossible anyway in determinism) but that all (elect but not yet born and/or born again) will come to repentance (for which they are predestined anyway)…

        That certainly sounds like reading one’s theology into the text to me.

  2. And I was just thinking about how you titled this chapter “Insulation.” I think Calvinist churches do this too by shaming anyone who disagrees with them, by pre-brainwashing the congregation to view those who disagree as “unhumble, rebellious, disagreeing with God, opposing the Scriptures, etc.” This insulates them from opposition, from having to take any criticism seriously.

    I’ve mentioned this before, but when our church was taken over by a new Calvinist pastor, one of the first things I noticed was the manipulation coming from the pulpit. Before we even knew this pastor was a Calvinist, he began saying things like “Humble Christians have no problem accepting what I’m teaching; it’s only those who are unhumble and proud, who can’t submit to authority, who have a problem with it and oppose it.” He made sure to paint a bad picture of all who would disagree with him so that the congregation was predisposed to think poorly of anyone who disagreed in the future. This is one of the first things that made me question what he was going to teach us, that made me sit up and listen more closely. Because anyone who has to start with that kind of manipulation and shaming is probably trying to sell you something!

    1. Interesting Observation!

      The Calvinist mind is maintained in an ISOLATED state – in order to keep it from thinking outside of Calvinism’s tiny little box

  3. Crazy and sad how the acolyte just goes along with everything “”””…they say….”””

    Heather i have seen this and i thank you, for pointing so many things out, that you’ve been exposed to within this system.. I have felt the agenda of a teacher pushing, that boldness (really it’s an assurance this doctrine isn’t tenable) is actually defying authority hmm who do they fear… They alone have the right answer found only in the ESV specifically, but not exclusive “someone who shall not be named study Bible”
    It is interesting how they can abandon all reason in the light of numerous glaring contradictions within the Scriptures.. I like what someone wrote hear or it was on a t-shirt on the podcast… context kills calvinism… problem is some aren’t reading what God says only…. theyr are listening to the commentators..

  4. Reggie: ” problem is some aren’t reading what God says only…. theyr are listening to the commentators.”

    So true. Our Calvinist pastor (ex-pastor, we left that church in 2019) once gave a sermon where he quoted many Calvinist theologians but not one Bible verse. And I wonder if anyone even noticed.

    1. Excellent point Heather!

      The Catholic/Calvinist model – is to raise the PRIEST up – onto a pedestal – essentially making him divine.

      Then from that position of being divine – the Calvinist mind AUTO-MAGICALLY conflates Calvinism with scripture.
      They both become one and the same thing within the Calvinist mind.

      So that anyone who disagrees with a Calvinist is disagreeing with scripture.

      But then what do they do – when the one who is disagreeing – is another Calvinist?
      All of a sudden the AUTO-MAGIC conflation is gone! :-]

      Which means – that conflation was nothing more than a FABRICATION.
      Like the huge talking head in the Wizard of Oz

      All of the Calvinist’s huffing and puffing – was all along – just a man hiding behind a curtain.

      And the beast gave power to the image – so that the image could speak and say great things.

      1. BRDMOD: “Then from that position of being divine – the Calvinist mind AUTO-MAGICALLY conflates Calvinism with scripture.
        They both become one and the same thing within the Calvinist mind. So that anyone who disagrees with a Calvinist is disagreeing with scripture.”

        And the Calvinist pastors are great at brainwashing the congregation into this from the very beginning. My pastor always made sure to say things like “I am only teaching right from the scriptures” and “Disagreeing with this is disagreeing with God’s Word” and “We always have to go right to the text to see what it says.” This makes us think that he really is preaching scripture and being true to God’s Word. It lulls us into a false sense of trust, and so we shut off our critical listening/thinking skills and simply accept what he says as “truth.”

        But then, after repeatedly saying this, he would say things that were clearly not in the text, such as that “the world” in John 3:16 means “cosmos” … and that even though the Bible says Lydia was a worshipper of God, she wasn’t a believer yet … and that even though it says Pharaoh hardened his own heart for the first several plagues, it was really that God hardened it first .. and that even though the Bible says God loves people, He does not love everyone and He does not love everyone equally … and that even though the Bible tells us over and over again to seek God, no one can seek God unless God causes you to … and that even though the Bible says God hates sin, doesn’t tempt anyone to sin, and commands us not to sin, if you were abused as a child, it was God’s Plan A for your life, for His glory and for your good and to humble you.

        What the …!?! That’s NOT what the text says! But “I’m only preaching right from the scripture” predisposes us to think he’s only preaching biblical truth. The more you research Calvinism compared to the Bible, the more wicked Calvinism gets. As I’ve said before: If we don’t see the damage that Calvinism does to God’s Word and God’s character, then we either don’t really understand Calvinism or we don’t really understand God’s Word!

      2. Yes – essentially – the interpreter raises himself up to the level of scripture – because his presuppositions are part of his canon.
        So when a Calvinist says he is “comparing scripture with scripture” that process involves forcing the canon of scripture to comply with the canon of his presuppositions.

        For him – his presuppositions are (for all intents and purposes) scripture.
        What the Calvinist unwittingly does – when he conflates Calvinism with scripture – is to provide dead give-away for you and I to discern

        Interestingly enough – his demand to have everything his way – become his own demise.
        Because his process ends up violating his own discernment on the matter.
        Every sin has consequence!

        Dishonest Politicians do something very similar with the constitution.
        Claiming to be its protector – when the truth is the opposite.
        And they end up compromising their ability to discern the difference in the process.
        All sin has consequence!

      3. BTW: Another derivative of Catholicism that the Calvinist never cast off – is the practice of speaking EX-Cathedra

        Both N.T. Wright and Paul Helm’s have described John Calvin – as a “Catholic with a small c”

        So the Catholic practice of raising the PRIEST up on a throne – posturing to speak EX-Cathedra is another derivative which the Calvinist inherits directly from Catholicism.

        Many years ago – the Catholic church tried to stop the printing of scripture to prevent the masses from having personal access to it.

        Once they recognized they were not going to be able to stop its printing – they shifted their strategy of control.
        If we can’t keep people from reading scripture – at least we can stand behind them and tell them what each verse means.

        If you look for it – you can see many a Calvinist following that same strategy.

      4. Oh, and I forgot my Calvi-pastor’s three other favorite phrases: “Humble Christians have no problem accepting the idea of God’s sovereignty [he means his Calvinist definition of it]” and “We don’t have to like it or understand it [Calvinist predestination]; we just have to accept it” and “There are only three possible responses you can have [to Calvinist predestination]: to ignore, to get angry about it, or to accept it.” Clearly, disagreeing with him because you don’t think it’s what the Bible really teaches is NOT an option.

  5. My story attempts to show how this process of deception occurs — of gradually getting our acolyte to put on the “corrective” lenses so that he no longer distinguishes between what scripture actually says versus what Calvinism teaches him to think it says. It is meant to produce cringes and groans in the reader. And this is precisely why Calvinist churches emphasize teaching so heavily — because you won’t naturally arrive at these interpretations of scripture without external “help”.

    1. Steve: “…gradually getting our acolyte to put on the “corrective” lenses so that he no longer distinguishes between what scripture actually says versus what Calvinism teaches him to think it says.”

      So true! On a similar note, one thing I noticed with our Calvinist pastor is how he always says “Scripture teaches …” Such as “Scripture teaches that God predestines who goes to heaven and who goes to hell.” “Scripture teaches that God sovereignly controls all things, even sin [meaning the Calvinist definition of ‘sovereign control,’ of course].” “Scripture teaches that God ordains all things but still holds man accountable for his sins.” “Scripture clearly teaches the doctrine of predestination; it calls it the doctrine of election.”

      But about these kinds of Calvinist things, he almost never says “Scripture says …” or quotes a Bible verse that actually says those things.

      I think he, and Calvinists in general, strategically use the word “teaches” instead of “says” because they know the Bible doesn’t actually SAY those things. But if they cobble enough half-verses together, taken out of context, then they can convince themselves and others that the Bible “teaches” those things (when it really doesn’t) without actually “saying” it outright.

      If you hear someone say “Scripture teaches…”, take it as a warning to pay attention more closely to what they’re telling you the Bible teaches and then to examine Scripture for yourself to see if it’s actually what the Bible clearly and forthrightly says or not. I don’t care about someone else’s idea of what the Bible “teaches.” I want to know what God Himself actually SAYS.

  6. And of course, once you have taken the bait, it is vital to insulate yourself by reading from / listening to / watching only approved Reformed sources. Or if you frequent sites that offer contrary perspectives, to incessantly oppose them in the comment through carpet bombing.

  7. Greetings… I recently discovered the ACOLYTE DIALOGUES series. The site says there are to be a total of around 12 episodes… I can only see 4. Are there more episodes coming?? Fred

      1. Hello Steve. Im desperate to read the rest of the episodes. Do they need to be published here? Could you send them to me by email?

    1. Oh! Hi Darin!
      Good to see you!

      But I’m sorry to say – we haven’t had any more episodes for a while.
      I’m not sure what happened there 🙁

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