Cork Free Presbyterian Church, 10 Briarscourt (Annex) Shanakiel, Cork, Ireland Pastor: Colin Maxwell. Email: cfpc@esatclear.ie

 

A FRIENDLY DISCUSSION A NON CALVINIST ON SOME CALVINISTIC MATTERS

Below is an email discussion which we had with Eric, who does not embrace the Calvinistic interpretation of the Bible. It started off on our Calvinistic emails page but I decided to move it to its own page. Eric's comments are in dark blue...mine as ever in red.

We started the debate on June 25th 2003 and drew it to a close on July 20th of the same year. It was at all times a friendly debate and we know that some were helped through what was said. We agreed at the end to differ!

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Received 25-6-03

Dear Pastor: Colin

Pretty interesting site, and pretty fair and down to earth. It was linked some months ago on the BaptistBoard Calvinism/Arminianism forum where I have been debating Calvinists for a couple of years.

Thanks for your email and kind words. I appreciate you taking the time to write to me. Especially seeing that you take a different view from mine.

I had written my own page on the issue a few years ago, and had added to it several times based on some of the discussions I had had on this board, as well as Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals' forum, which has since been shut down. Thus, I focus on actual claims of Calvinists, rather than arguing so much on what Calvin, Spurgeon and others actually taught or contradicted, as some others have done. While the Alliance board was highly supralapsarian, the Calvinists on BaptistBoard held mainly the position you, gty.org and others hold. (Believe in evangelization, man's responsibility, etc., many profess single predestination). There are also some Primitive Baptists there who argue with both Arminians, plus even the Calvinists on different issues. So while I thought all Calvinism was "hyper", I now am aware of your position.

It will greatly help you to tell the difference between a hyper and a true Calvinist. Failure to do so leads to all kinds of confusion.

Yet the statement made by David Cloud you addressed was very true, especially in relation to much of the criticisms of Dave Hunt:

Whenever one tries to state TULIP theology and then refute it, there are Calvinists who will argue with you that you are misrepresenting Calvinism. It is not so much that you are misrepresenting Calvinism, though. You might be quoting directly from various Calvinists or even from Calvin himself. The problem is that you are misrepresenting their Calvinism!

Every doctrinal school has different shades of adherents. Cloud, however, was using this as a big stick with which to beat Calvinists. I was playing him at his own game as he, himself, branded some Dispensationalists as "hypers" He would probably get pretty uptight if I went around saying that Dispensationalists deny that the Lord's Prayer is meant for Christians etc., without making any distinction. Sometimes Cloud takes on too much and then is unable to keep it all consistent and so leads to self contradictions. On one page he praises the Calvinists for their teaching on assurance and on another he joins forces with Hunt to lambaste them for this very thing. He can be hard to fathom at times.

(Hard to believe I would ever agree with Cloud on anything. I have personally written back and forth with him briefly on his teachings on music, and also disagree with KJVO ism (though I actually prefer the KJV), and his attitude towards modern evangelicalism (though some things "separatists" like him say have some legitimate points)

I too believe in Separation, but then again I would embrace things that Cloud would reject and he too would embrace things that I would reject. But I do believe in separating from men and denominations which corrupt the basic message of the gospel or support those who do. I agree with Cloud on a lot of things, but his treatment of Calvinism leaves a lot to be desired. He appears to be a very busy man but he isn't too busy to write or publish long articles against Calvinism or what he has convinced himself is Calvinism. His problem is that he is too busy to listen to what people whom he has sometimes caricatured are trying to tell him. His email replies - if you do get one - are one or two liners and usually dismissive.

You then go to compare this with the different brands of Dispensationalism. As I reply on my site:

"I don't know as much about that debate, but in the Calvinism debate, these differences and their "generalizations" are being USED to their advantage; to brush off and discredit people's criticism of their doctrine. As all will agree, this issue is a bit more crucial than Dispensationalism and others as it involves the very definition of the Gospel.

Does it involve the very definition of the gospel...or the working out of the details? If I conclude that those who take your position are wrong, am I to say that they have failed to define the gospel at all? Surely we all agree on the fact that sinners need to be saved, can only be saved by the blood of Christ shed at the Cross and that faith alone appropriates the work?

The differences are so great in some areas that Calvinists practically call each other "Arminians" [e.g. hypers, supras, Primitives see man's responsibility, infralapsarian and "duty faith"/Gospel regeneration", respectively as Arminian, and the Calvinists who hold those positions accuse them-- particularly the hypers, of "using the logic of the Arminians"]. (I don't see non-Calvinists calling each other Calvinists, or Dispensationalists calling each other non-dispensationalists). So there is much "misrepresentation" going on even within their own ranks. It is very hard to address each and every little variations, so general agreements, such as the fate of the non-elect, the misinterpretation of "sovereignty", etc. are the focus. Hunt's book is addressing all of Calvinism, from Hyper on down, and didn't feel necessary to differentiate between them but so much. (Vance's book deals with the different variations a bit more, and still shows they ultimately lead back to the same thing)."

As mentioned above, Cloud has branded other Dispensationalists as "hyper". Elsewhere he puts distance between his form of non-Calvinism (an awkward term, I admit) and what he calls the "Quick prayerism" of other opposers of Calvinism in his school of thought. There has always been disagreement in the Church of Jesus Christ...some of the epistles were written for this very reason. There are certain differences which I can live with within Calvinism, but those tenets of hyper Calvinism I cannot. To deny duty faith etc., is effectively to lull sinners to sleep. This is deadly. Whatever your disagreement with Calvinism, a true Calvinist will urge men to repent and believe the gospel and this is pure NT Christianity. Calvinists are willing to take the flak for what they believe...but we refuse to be tarred with the failings of other men's beliefs if they are not our own.

Likewise, when I and others spoke on the Baptist Board of people being "elected to Hell", right away everyone jumped in disclaiming "Hypercalvinism" and accused us of "misrepresenting" them or "not knowing their position".

In trying to analyse these debates, I find that complex matters tend to get reduced too much. Just to say that Calvinism believes in people "being elected to hell" is a very bald statement. If it cannot be qualified then it should not be stated. Calvinists believe that souls of the non elect go to hell because of their own personal sin. That God did not decree to save them is surely beyond dispute (unless you have a God with frustration as an attribute)...that they are in hell because of sin is also beyond dispute. Spurgeon's maxim that "Salvation is all of grace and damnation is all of sin" is brilliant in that it is both short and 100% true.

Even when I referred to "reprobation", one moderator insisted on "preterition".

Calvinists tend to use more precise terms and this can sometimes confuse those who are not familiar with them or their meanings and so use them interchangeably. Calvinism has been accused of being complex, but then so can every other doctrine. We have all struggled with the theological niceties of justification etc., Preterition is only a part of reprobation.

So when Hunt quotes one thing Spurgeon stated, I notice, White and others could go find something else he said, and say "see, he doesn't teach that; Hunt doesn't know what he is saying; he is lying through his teeth"! (Still, Hunt should not have made such a big emphasis of that claim, as it is another tangent and source of unnecessary conflict we are being diverted to, and Spurgeon clearly advocated the other points of Calvinism)

I have documented Hunt's tactics elsewhere. I hesitate to brand any man as a liar etc., as it can be very easily done. Let's say that I must reserve my doubts as to whether Hunt tried to be as objective as possible. I'm glad that he is not on our side of the debate. I would probably die with embarrassment. Cloud endorsed him and showered him with a few accolades which did nothing for Cloud's credibility. Interestingly enough Cloud copped on when Hunt was up to his old tricks in leaving out essential information re the AV rendering of Acts 13:48 It is just a pity that Cloud hadn't the wit to see if he applied the same warped reasoning to the rest of his book.

But everyone claims their variation is the "true" Calvinism, and if you're going to deal with Calvinism, you must answer our exact representation of it, else the whole person's teaching is dismissed as "dishonest", "misrepresenting", "not knowing anything about our position" and "unqualified to say anything about it".

I think you are being a little unfair here. An entry below deals with differences among Calvinists over the extent of the word "world" in John 3:16 Some of us believe it is the world of elect and none elect alike. Others within our camp limit it to the elect. If you came on and said that Calvinists believe that the world in John 3:16 is limited to the elect, I would correct you by pointing out that only some Calvinists do so but not all. I wouldn't dismiss you as dishonest etc., but I would correct you. Neither do I brand those who limit the world in John 3:16 as hypers either. In itself the position is not hyper, but if it led to a limited preaching of the gospel then the all important line has been crossed and the opprobrium applied.

I concluded:

"Just remember, when Calvinists begin making sweeping statements [as in some of their calls to "reformation", etc] beating up on non-Calvinism and its "man centeredness", and how it has "eroded the truth", is "heretical", [and has absolutely no scriptural backing] etc.; they don't then disclaim the lesser distinctions between the different branches of Calvinism, -which all agree on "sovereignty" (however they express it) and therefore are treated as being on the same side (the side of "truth") in the ultimate issue of "sovereignty versus human autonomy"; so they should not then get mad and cry "misrepresentation" when the other side responds and lumps their positions all together in one rebuttal.

Two things here. First: There are certain beliefs which I happen to share with hyper Calvinists but not with the non Calvinists. On the other hand, there are certain beliefs that I share with non Calvinists but not with the hypers. Each case must be decided on its own merits. Secondly: If we are going to apply the term "heretic" to someone, then we must follow the Scriptural injunction through to the letter and reject them (Titus 3:10) and their writings and their hymns etc., I do not apply the term lightly and certainly not to a non Calvinist evangelical.

If you all agree that the "non-elect" had no chance to be saved, whether God actively reprobated them or passively preteritioned them ("according to" their will), and that this is one of the distinctives of "sovereignty", then that is what Hunt and the rest of us are refuting, and I think Hunt was basically on the mark in that objective, even if everything he said was not completely right."

It is wrong to say that the non elect have no chance to be saved. We are to preach the gospel indiscriminately to all men (elect or not) There is no bar on them coming to Christ, except their own chosen sin. They cannot blame the decree of God because this decree did not make them sinners. That God did not decree to save them is no excuse. He was under no obligation to save any and therefore under no obligation to save all. If any sinner uses the doctrine of God's Sovereignty as an excuse, he can be easily answered. Ask him if he wants to be saved here and now. God has made certain promises to every last sinner, summed up in the invitation: "Whosoever will may come" That word "whosoever" can never be whittled away. If he declines your invitation (which is really God's invitation) then why does he blame God for withholding something which he (the Christ rejecter) does not want? The utter helplessness of the sinner is self imposed and therefore culpable. He loves darkness rather than light...why should he complain if God leaves him in his darkness? He does not apply his reasoning on the sovereignty of God to other areas of life...why then this one which is the most important and far reaching?

This also addresses the other issues of use of the word "heretical" and other insults you address. While I do not condone that, and try very hard to avoid it on my page, you must remember Calvinists have said many harsh things about Arminianism (or "semi-Pelagianism" as they like to call it), so it is highly unfair to discredit non-Calvinist arguments because of that, when Calvinists do the same thing, even more, often. We are not to trade insults for insults, but then this can't be used as an argument against one side when the other is doing it as well.

I agree.

Thus I do admit that Hunt had said some things that were best left out (Calvinism is warmed over Catholicism, etc.). I try to stick to the main points that non-Calvinists really oppose rather than those side arguments.

I agree again. 100%

So here Is my page on Predestination. I hope you find it interesting and challenging, and fair. I wouldn't even call it "anti-Calvinist", since I am not against the people, but just challenging a position. I accept your distinction. I am sometimes accused of being "anti Catholic" when I am in fact anti Catholicism. However, the page is named now and it would take a while to change one letter to make it 100% accurate.

http://members.aol.com/etb700/predestination.html

I have downloaded your page and will look over it soon. Things are getting busy here as we head for the weekend but I will review it when I get a chance.

Yours in Christ, Eric

Thanks again for writing. I enjoyed our exchange of views. Colin.

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Received 28-6-03

Thank you for your reply and adding it to your site. Just to comment:

I appreciate you writing again, Eric.

[You wrote] Does it involve the very definition of the gospel...or the working out of the details? If I conclude that those who take your position are wrong, am I to say that they have failed to define the gospel at all? Surely we all agree on the fact that sinners need to be saved, can only be saved by the blood of Christ shed at the Cross and that faith alone appropriates the work?

Most Calvinists I have debated with have at some point, and in some way said that Calvinism was "the Gospel", and sometimes that the other side was not the Gospel. I believe it is the working out of the details, but some (as in just about every other issue) make the details out to be the Gospel itself.

Spurgeon is often quoted when he said that "Calvinism is the gospel and nothing else" and that we do not preach the gospel unless we exalt the sovereignty of God etc., (CHS 1:100) and yet he allowed elsewhere that Wesley preached the gospel. I think it better to say that Calvinism expresses the gospel in all its fullness.

[You wrote] Calvinists are willing to take the flak for what they believe...but we refuse to be tarred with the failings of other men's beliefs if they are not our own… In trying to analyse these debates, I find that complex matters tend to get reduced too much. Just to say that Calvinism believes in people "being elected to hell" is a very bald statement. If it cannot be qualified then it should not be stated…Calvinists tend to use more precise terms and this can sometimes confuse those who are not familiar with them or their meanings and so use them interchangeably. We have all struggled with the theological niceties of justification etc., Preterition is only a part of reprobation.

But this is just what I am saying. It is hard to know who will accept or use what terms. Some Calvinists (not just "hypers") do speak of election to Hell, or as White put it, "...that is their purpose" (i.e. to suffer "wrath" or "destruction" in Hell). I guess the Baptist Calvinists are a little bit more moderate, and the person I was debating with did not see "preteritition" as a part of "reprobation", because they were trying to completely remove any action on God's part in the damnation process.

Perhaps the best way to deal with this is to define terms before the debate begins. The issue is so big that it is very easy to misunderstand others and be misunderstood ourselves. I mentioned earlier Spurgeon's great maxim about salvation being all of grace and damnation all of sin. It is a very scriptural maxim and therefore I try to make my replies to any questions conform to it. Therefore my answer to the old question "Was Judas born to be damned?" would be: "No…he was born to glorify God and enjoy Him forever…and failed." Beyond that I am not required to go. Again (and let any prove me wrong) we can say that whatever else God did for Judas, He did not decree to save him. I could say a lot more, taking in Luke 22:22 etc., but I would concentrate my replies on Matthew 27:4 where Judas took the full responsibility himself and Acts 1:25 where the Holy Spirit indicts him.

[You wrote] I think you are being a little unfair here. An entry below deals with differences among Calvinists over the extent of the word "world" in John 3:16 Some of us believe it is the world of elect and none elect alike. Others within our camp limit it to the elect. If you came on and said that Calvinists believe that the world in John 3:16 is limited to the elect, I would correct you by pointing out that only some Calvinists do so but not all. I wouldn't dismiss you as dishonest etc., but I would correct you. Neither do I brand those who limit the world in John 3:16 as hypers either. In itself the position is not hyper, but if it led to a limited preaching of the gospel then the all important line has been crossed and the opprobrium applied.

But dismissing as "dishonest" is what I see people doing to Hunt.

Maybe I am not just as quick on the draw as others. Or even not as quick as I used to be myself. However, if it were a court of law, (to borrow a line from an old Bogart film) I would rather prosecute Hunt on the way he handled the whole Calvinism issue than defend him.

[You wrote] It is wrong to say that the non elect have no chance to be saved. We are to preach the gospel indiscriminately to all men (elect or not) There is no bar on them coming to Christ, except their own chosen sin. They cannot blame the decree of God because this decree did not make them sinners. That God did not decree to save them is no excuse. He was under no obligation to save any and therefore under no obligation to save all. If any sinner uses the doctrine of God's Sovereignty as an excuse, he can be easily answered. Ask him if he wants to be saved here and now. God has made certain promises to every last sinner, summed up in the invitation: "Whosoever will may come" That word "whosoever" can never be whittled away. If he declines your invitation (which is really God's invitation) then why does he blame God for withholding something which he (the Christ rejecter) does not want? The utter helplessness of the sinner is self imposed and therefore culpable. He loves darkness rather than light...why should he complain if God leaves him in his darkness? He does not apply his reasoning on the sovereignty of God to other areas of life...why then this one which is the most important and far reaching?

But the doctrine of total inability claims man got into this helpless position in the first place because God charged/imputed everyone with Adam's sin. They did not actually choose to be in that position, but according to some, they "chose in Adam", and thus are treated as if they actually consciously made the decision before they were born (Origen taught something like this), so therefore it is quite "fair" if He does not give them mercy. The person may not want God now, but once in Hell and perhaps then seeing the big picture, the question becomes what was he supposed to do, since election was unconditional, and man totally helpless. But "God concluded all in unbelief so he can have mercy on all"(Romans 11:31-2) This is why most non-Calvinists differ with Calvinism, but otherwise, the beliefs agree. People start off by nature not wanting God, and only God can change that nature, but we just don't believe that God chooses one and passes over another unconditionally just because He "can" (as some argue). Eric

The issue here as to why babies are born inheriting Adam's guilt is a lot bigger than the Calvinist controversy. It is the God of all the earth who does right (Genesis 18:25) who lays the charges and to the justice of the case we must reverently bow. The non elect in hell will blame themselves for their own sin, their own conscience witnessing against them (Romans 2:15) In the great Day of Judgement, every mouth will be stopped because there is no case to raise against God and His inscrutable justice (Romans 3:19) It is not reprobation that damns…it is personal sin against God. (Spurgeon's scriptural maxim again) Furthermore, if we take your line that God has provided salvation equally for all men without exception, then we must ask why has He not ensured that each and every man ever born in each and every country and born in each and every time period has even heard the gospel? After all, He had the power to put missionaries on every street corner but obviously did not exercise it. All God's decrees must be unconditional. He cannot foresee something is going to happen and then ordain that it will be so. If it was going to happen, then it would happen whether He ordained it or not.

Thanks for your comments. Colin.

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Received 29-6-03

Hi once again,

[You wrote:] Therefore my answer to the old question "Was Judas born to be damned?" would be: "No…he was born to glorify God and enjoy Him forever…and failed." Beyond that I am not required to go. Again (and let any prove me wrong) we can say that whatever else God did for Judas, He did not decree to save him. I could say a lot more, taking in Luke 22:22 etc., but I would concentrate my replies on Matthew 27:4 where Judas took the full responsibility himself and Acts 1:25 where the Holy Spirit indicts him.

My take on that is that Judas could have not wound up in that position. There were plenty of other hardened Israelites who would have gladly done it. The act was foreordained, but not necessarily the person who did it. How all of this stuff works out I would agree that we are not required to go. I just see assuming God never intended to save particular people is going a bit beyond that.

Although Calvinists believe that God's foreordaining events and circumstances makes them certain, it does not make them necessary. In other words, although God preordained that Judas would betray Christ, He did not violate the will of Judas to do so. Judas did it willingly and so bears the full responsibility. You obviously allow that the main event was ordained of God (i.e. redemption by Christ) and allow that the act which leads to this was ordained by God (The Cross) and an event which led to the Cross was ordained by God (The betrayal) but then God steps back and it is practically left to…what? Chance? Without being in any way the author of sin, God ordained that Judas would do the traitor's work. It does not lessen the impact any to merely say that God foresaw what would happen and allowed it to go ahead. He could have prevented it, just as He prevented earlier attempts to kill Christ. By allowing it to go ahead, He preordained that it should be so. However, as stated, if He foresaw it would happen, then He didn't have to ordain it since it would happen anyway. He can't foresee something happened and then prevent it. (An absurdity) On the matter of God "never intending to save particular people" - again a fundamental thought - no one can say that God ever decreed to save the non elect.

[You wrote:] Maybe I am not just as quick on the draw as others. Or even not as quick as I used to be myself. However, if it were a court of law, (to borrow a line from an old Bogart film) I would rather prosecute Hunt on the way he handled the whole Calvinism issue than defend him.

As I have been trying to show, since there are so many different versions of Calvinism, even though you may disclaim what the others say, you will have to pardon people like Hunt and the rest of us for attributing to "Calvinism" something you feel is a misrepresentation. I don't think there is anything he says that does not apply to some branch of Calvinism, and since they agree on "sovereignty", people lump them all in together.

What made Hunt inexcusable is that he made grossly untrue statements against certain Calvinists in particular. Spurgeon did not believe in an unlimited atonement even though Hunt repeatedly used verbal foot stamping to insist that he did. Calvin was not guilty of never mentioning the love of God for sinners in his Institutes. Hunt also blandly accuses Calvin of having no burden for the lost…something which Calvin's writings and life clearly testify against. I have answered these charges of Hunt which Cloud saw fit to reproduce and also gave 6 reasons why I reject Hunt and his book. Not one of these reasons is simply because he rejected Calvinism.

[You wrote:] Furthermore, if we take your line that God has provided salvation equally for all men without exception, then we must ask why has He not ensured that each and every man ever born in each and every country and born in each and every time period has even heard the gospel? After all, He had the power to put missionaries on every street corner but obviously did not exercise it. All God's decrees must be unconditional. He cannot foresee something is going to happen and then ordain that it will be so. If it was going to happen, then it would happen whether He ordained it or not.

But once again, this is a difficult teaching, regarding those who [never hear the Gospel, and thus] seemingly have no chance (most non-Calvinists would say if they pray sincerely for the true God to show Himself, He will make sure the Gospel gets to him so he can believe. Some point to Romans 1 and John 1:9, and suggest that every person has enough light by which they can repent and ask God to be saved. Everyone religion had somewhere in it's pantheon or at least history, an "unknown God" (Acts 17:23) who was believed to be the Most High, and they could ask Him to reveal Himself.

If Romans 1 and John 1:9 suggest that every person have enough light whereby they can repent and ask God to be saved…why then does Paul insist that missionaries are necessary in Romans 10:10-17?

Supporting this is the fact that people like Abraham and Job were found "righteous through faith" even though there was no evidence of any special prior revelation to them by God, or even knowledge of God in their lands. By this all men could be held "responsible".

We are told that God "preached the gospel unto Abraham" (Galatians 3:8) while Job evidently got his great knowledge from somewhere. Even if we allow that somehow God can reach individual pagans with saving grace, outside the usual means, this does not follow that these dealings are general.

And don't forget, the mitigating factor in the difference in opportunity to hear the Gospel is that people will still be judged according to "to whom much (or little) is given..."(Luke 12:48)), So I am not arguing completely "equal chances", as some other non-Calvinists do. The Luke verse shows not all are given the same amount. But God does take that into consideration when judging.

It is true to say that a man cannot be condemned for rejecting a gospel which he never heard. But he is condemned for other sins which his own conscience denied him. Again, we have to fall back upon the principle that the Judge of all the earth does right (Genesis 18:25) and not slack in our responsibilities to bring, as much as lies within us, the gospel to every last sinner.

I also do not argue "election by foreknowledge" as others do. Once again, we would basically agree that the full knowledge of how all this works is above us, and we would agree that each person's own conscience would condemn them.

If God does not elect according to foreknowledge…then how, in your view, does he elect?

Nice having this conversation with you. Eric

I am enjoying it too! Colin.

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Received 2-7-03

[You wrote:] You obviously allow that the main event was ordained of God (i.e. redemption by Christ) and allow that the act which leads to this was ordained by God (The Cross) and an event which led to the Cross was ordained by God (The betrayal) but then God steps back and it is practically left to…what? Chance? Without being in any way the author of sin, God ordained that Judas would do the traitor's work. It does not lessen the impact any to merely say that God foresaw what would happen and allowed it to go ahead. He could have prevented it, just as He prevented earlier attempts to kill Christ. By allowing it to go ahead, He preordained that it should be so. However, as stated, if He foresaw it would happen, then He didn't have to ordain it since it would happen anyway. He can't foresee something happened and then prevent it. (An absurdity) If God does not elect according to foreknowledge…then how, in your view, does he elect?

Once again, I don't argue foreknowledge as the basis for preordination. Just as your side would say that "God's sovereignty and man's responsibility" (Which Palmer phrased as "God ordains sin; man is responsible") is the "awesome asymmetry" or "quiet tensions" (paradox), I say how he does these things (without essentially leaving someone stuck in an inescapable state of sin unto [eternal] death) is the paradox. So no, God did not "step back" and "leave it to chance".

I think a lot of the conflict here is because we are spanning two different realms of reality, as I point out on the page. Going back to the question of whether the "non-elect" had "any chance to be saved", your answer was that we are to preach the Gospel to all indiscriminately (i.e. God's "offer" is to all), and He does not "bar" any, but they "of their own" choose sin. So in this world of time, God offers salvation to all, but many reject it of their own free will. But in the grand scheme of things, as Calvinists will admit, it is God who deliberately passed over those who therefore "chose" to remain in sin, and then judges them for what they could not repent of.

I think you need to qualify your understanding that their inability to repent and believe comes as a consequence of their sin. While a man can sin himself out of ability…he cannot sin himself out of responsibility.

So, in that realm, they actually "had no chance to be saved", even though to us looking at them in time, they are just as potentially elect as we are. Calvinists seem to be spanning both realms, initially emphasizing God's realm of eternal decrees, but then when people question it, then they fall back on our realm of "free choice". The final answer is that this issue is "a lot bigger than us"; God "does right", etc. But that is what I am saying. Man is in a world of time, but God is beyond that (many believe both space and time are mediums which He created along with everything else….Philip Yancey in Disappointment With God p.194-201, goes into an excellent discourse on the fact that God is not bound by time, and had to "step into" time when revealing Himself to man, who is bound by time. Quoting from The Confessions of St. Augustine p.286-7, he says "When asked 'what was God doing before creation?', Augustine responded that since God invented time along with the created world, such a question is nonsense and merely betrays the time-bound perspective of the questioner. 'Before' time, there is only eternity, and eternity for God is a never ending present." Yancey concludes along the way: "The church's long arguments over predestination and foreknowledge illustrate our awkward attempts to comprehend what to us, only makes sense as it enters time. In another dimension, we will undoubtedly view such matters very differently". So once again, I think one side saying "God ordained/elected only what/who He foreknew", and the other saying "God chose us, but 'passed over' these other people, never even wanting to save them, but still holding them 'responsible'"; both are trying to explain something none us can ever understand.

This is all very flighty stuff. I think the secret is to conclude that that which has been, is and will be has been preordained of God. Nothing happens outside His secret will - good or bad- but that man is still accountable for is done contrary to His revealed will i.e. the commandments etc in the Bible. This gives credibility to His claim to work all things after the counsel of His own will (Ephesians 1:11)

The reason many of us reject preterition/reprobation is because God does say that He "knows our frame; that we are dust"—he knows our limitations and judges us accordingly (Psalms 103:14). He would not charge all with Adam's sin, rescue some out of this, and then leave the rest to condemnation (Rom11:31-2) claiming "they did it to themselves", and even make them think they did it to themselves when He knows good and well that it was ultimately His determination whether or not they would be saved or spend eternity in Hell. (this would all be more palatable if the "non-elect" were just zombies without souls). Why try to say they really "can" come, or are not "barred" then?

He doesn't say that they "can come" In John 6:44/65 He distinctly points out the inability of the sinner to come as commanded to do so in Matthew 11:28/John 7:37 etc., Wherein lies this inability? In their fallen (bound - not morally free) wills (John 5:40) What should the sinner do then? Answer: Cry out to God and say "I believe, help thou my unbelief" How many will do that?

He may "have the right" to leave people in condemnation, but He would just say that He "created them to [fill a role of sin on earth and] go to Hell", rather than "But I really gave them a chance, and they could have accepted me".

Whatever arguments can be brought forth one way or the other, still it can never be argued that God decreed to save the non elect. Since we do not know (while they are yet alive) who the non elect are, God does not make statements like that suggested, but rather holds out the offer of mercy to those who will accept it. We have enough gracious information with which to evangelise every last sinner. I think this should concern us rather than trying to put words into God's mouth.

After all, as you cited, It is the God of all the earth who "does right" (Genesis 18:25). We can conclude that saying such would not be right is just "fallible human reasoning", driven by "emotion", and that something that doesn't seem right is "right" simply because God declares it so. But then in that case, God is speaking to us in terms we (including the saved) cannot understand (i.e we apparently have no clue what "right" is).

But we do have a clue what right is. The Bible ably instructs us: To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. (Isaiah 8:20)

Remember, that verse was spoken by Abraham, reasoning what else, but why God should not condemn certain people (didn't they all really "deserve" it anyway?), so I think our objection is valid as well.

That's the point…"certain people" i.e. righteous Lot. And God did do right. The righteous man was saved and the wicked left to perish. Why did God not wrought saving faith in the hearts of the Sodomites? The answer lies in Matthew 11:20-26 with the only palpable answer lying in the sovereignty of God.

This is also what Hunt, Vance and others are trying to say when they call "the Calvinist God" such nasty things ("monster", etc. It's unfortunate that they couldn't articulate it better, as I have searched for ways of reiterating the same points without doing that).

Hunt and others seem to omit the all important matter that God indicts men as sinners. Hunt etc., creates the fire breathing monster and then pin their invention on Calvinists. Calvinists on the other hand simply maintain the position that God knows no man anything and that those who perish do so because of sin. Which is the Bible position.

Also you answered "They cannot blame the decree of God because this decree did not make them sinners.", yet it was clearly another of His decrees that did! I'm sorry, but there's no escaping this.

But there is no escaping either the fact that nothing can happen outside the decree of God. Unless He really is the blind watchmaker who has opted out of certain situations. Is there such a God free zone where His writ and influence does not run?

One of the points of God's coming into the world as a man is to experience our existence as one of us with all our pains and temptations (e.g. Heb.4:15). The whole idea of a God who decides to pass over people in eternity and have it play out that they reject Him in time, but are helpless to do otherwise because of the eternal side of reality may be compatible with "sovereignty", but not with many things God has revealed of Himself in scripture. In His sovereignty, He can choose not to do things that way as well.

Exactly. In His sovereignty, He has chosen not to save certain people. This passing by (maybe the word you are looking for below) but leaves those certain people in their sins. These sins are the first and foremost reason for their damnation.

(Gee, it just dawned on me that "pass over" used to have a good connotation as an act of salvation from judgement, which foreshadowed our actual redemption, but now it is associated with judgement itself! Something to think on).

The whole thrust of wickedness and the just condemnation of it is that the person could have repented of it and didn't. If the wicked who die in their sins are just helpless drones scripted to that end, the entire concept of wickedness seems to lose its meaning. Wickedness was then just a role ultimately written by God, even though He also wrote that He wasn't "to blame" for it. Judgment of sin seems to lose it's meaning if people hadn't spurned an offer of salvation they really could have accepted on their own, and are simply characters playing a script where it only appears that they are punished for "willful sin" of their "free choice", but they were purely helpless. But once again, God has not actually said any of this we are arguing on; it is our deductions of what we think certain scriptural teaching must point to.

Your point is valid only if God treated men like pawns instead of responsible people. If you were arguing with a hyper Calvinist, you would have a point.

We all agree man is in sin, and needs to be saved, and God has saved us by grace and not by works, and now calls us to bring the Gospel, and I think we should all leave it at that.

I agree!

[You wrote] If Romans 1 and John 1:9 suggest that every person have enough light whereby they can repent and ask God to be saved…why then does Paul insist that missionaries are necessary in Romans 10:10-17?

For one, to answer their request. Just as you would say when people ask why in Calvinistic predestination would missions be necessary, God uses us as the means.

But surely such are not really necessary since there is enough light to repent and believe without them?

[You wrote] What made Hunt inexcusable is that he made grossly untrue statements against certain Calvinists in particular. Spurgeon did not believe in an unlimited atonement even though Hunt repeatedly used verbal foot stamping to insist that he did. Calvin was not guilty of never mentioning the love of God for sinners in his Institutes. Hunt also blandly accuses Calvin of having no burden for the lost…something which Calvin's writings and life clearly testify against. I have answered these charges of Hunt which Cloud saw fit to reproduce and also gave 6 reasons why I reject Hunt and his book. Not one of these reasons is simply because he rejected Calvinism.

Once again, while this may have been wrong, and I certainly do not defend it, still he is completely dismissed , even though he said so many things that are true. You left the options as "Is he a knave or a fool? ...God knows", but as you agree that many Calvinists also make untrue statements, and that it's wrong when they do it as well, that is un unfair statement. When a debate gets as heated as this, people tend to throw back at each other all sorts of cutting statements, and hyperbole such as "heresy", which as you correctly show, would lead us to totally break fellowship if we were consistent with it. You can see this in Hunt's book (p.52) where he answers White's claim that he was teaching "Rome's gospel", and then proceeds to throw this claim back on Calvinists (one of the things you all are criticizing him for). Most of us in the heat of debate at times bend the truth or hastily make assumptions about people, so while you can criticize or correct that, I think ad-hominem remarks like "knave or fool", or "poor scholarship", etc. are sinking to the same level as Hunt is on in his statements against Calvinism. Whatloveisthis.com and others focus more on that than the correct meanings of the scriptures discussed, as if that further proves the non-Calvinist has lost the dabate, (i.e. the "no further response needed" attitude I see) and non-Calvinists who are nice and don't use such strong language like Geisler seem to be brushed aside, while Calvinists who do make such statements are not completely discredited like that, (only disclaimed when someone asks), their whole work condemned, or called knaves or fools. People should tell him to correct the inaccurate statements; but instead they are demanding he withdraw the whole book! (as if the whole position it advocates is worthless, along with and not just the wrong things he said). We all have to overlook such flaws and quirks in writers and other such leaders, and in my case, if I do not completely agree with the way someone else on my side handles it, I write myself (which is why I have undertaken the project, because I realize that many non-Calvinists have used weak arguments.) Eric

Although Hunt has some acceptable arguments (which we welcome) yet the bad points greatly outweigh the good. I really don't think he had a basic clue what he was talking about. Certain statements of Calvin were doctored either because Hunt was using any tactic he could to undermine Calvin and Calvinists or he was a very poor editor. Rather than draw a wrong conclusion, I leave the options open. The phrase "A knave or a fool" is, of course, borrowed from every day speech. If he deliberately set out to discredit Calvin, then he is a knave. If he is a very poor editor, then I'm sure we could fish around for a more diplomatic word which would cover the idea of someone who is basically ignorant of his subject taking upon himself to write a full scale book on it and allow the most extravagant accolades ("Most important book of the 21st century!") to appear on the blurb. My problem is not with Hunt opposing Calvinism. It is (as said) with his methods. After all, you and I are now into our 3rd or 4th exchange and we have both managed to avoid any thing which discredits each others integrity. Colin.

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Received 3-7-03

[You wrote] I think you need to qualify your understanding that their inability to repent and believe comes as a consequence of their sin. While a man can sin himself out of ability…he cannot sin himself out of responsibility.

But was this "sin something they did, or something they were born with? Because they were born with it and didn't actually choose to be in that condition in the first place, that is why people say they wouldn't be responsible. But Calvinists claim that even the "guilt" was imputed to them, (through their "federal head"),but I think that is reading too much into Romans 5.

Both Wesley and Adam Clarke taught both these truths. They are not unique to Calvinism, but really a fundamental part of Christianity. I must be honest and say that I did not expect you to question them.

[You wrote] This is all very flighty stuff. I think the secret is to conclude that that which has been, is and will be has been preordained of God. Nothing happens outside His secret will - good or bad- but that man is still accountable for is done contrary to His revealed will i.e. the commandments etc in the Bible. This gives credibility to His claim to work all things after the counsel of His own will (Ephesians 1:11)

Whatever arguments can be brought forth one way or the other, still it can never be argued that God decreed to save the non elect. Since we do not know (while they are yet alive) who the non elect are, God does not make statements like that suggested, but rather holds out the offer of mercy to those who will accept it. We have enough gracious information with which to evangelise every last sinner. I think this should concern us rather than trying to put words into God's mouth.


But there is no escaping either the fact that nothing can happen outside the decree of God. Unless He really is the blind watchmaker who has opted out of certain situations. Is there such a God free zone where His writ and influence does not run?

"Flighty"? Even though the scripture doesn't discuss it as much, I still think it is an inevitable reality about the nature and realm of God. Just like you and other Calvinists keep talking about this "secret will", which I also do not see in scripture pertaining to who gets saved and who does not. What I am saying is basically the same as what you are saying regarding God's unsearchableness, yet you maintain God holding people accountable for what they cannot help as a consequence of God being sovereign, and man being responsible for sin. Then you have to add more speculation about God not really being responsible for sin, even though He "preordained" it, our sense of "justice" meaning limited and a secret will that we cannot know. What I'm saying is, wait a minute. Before you even get to that point, I think even those conclusions are already based on our limited reasoning. (Non Calvinists generally speak of an "eternal will" and "permissive wiill"). In God's realm, things don't fit together necessarily like that, just like you say He can work all things after the counsel of His own will and man is responsible. We actually both agree on that, just that I don't claim man is helpless in it, because God did offer to all at some point and in some way an ability to repent, and whatever they do with that will somehow fit into His plan (so no "leaving something to chance". It is our limited reasoning that assumes that is the only other possibility) So I think it is putting words into His mouth (going way beyond what He has clearly revealed) to say He never intended to save certain people.[I hope this didn't get too long]

How did God plan for the fact that multitudes would reject Him? Can we say to Judas or the rich man in hell…you are here according to the plan of God? This all fits in with what God has planned for your life?

You wrote: He doesn't say that they "can come" In John 6:44/65 He distinctly points out the inability of the sinner to come as commanded to do so in Matthew 11:28/John 7:37 etc., Wherein lies this inability? In their fallen (bound - not morally free) wills (John 5:40) What should the sinner do then? Answer: Cry out to God and say "I believe, help thou my unbelief" How many will do that?

So they're unable because they're unwilling. But then they're unwilling because they are unable —to cry out to God because He did not regenerate them first. This is a catch 22. Eric

The fact is that many sinners are still crying out in response to the divine command and all who do so are saved. If the sinner does not call…he will not be saved. If he does call…he will be saved. What does reason alone say to the sinner in such a state along with the whole tenor of the Bible? A sinner who tries to reason as you are doing may be judged to be holding unto his sin and doing so willingly. I think we need to take the facts as they stand. We are back again to the sovereign purposes of God.

Can you give me your views on the thought that no one can say that God ever decreed to save the non elect? Did God decree to save Judas Iscariot? Did He decree to save Simon Peter? Colin

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Received 6-7-03

[You wrote] Both Wesley and Adam Clarke taught both these truths. They are not unique to Calvinism, but really a fundamental part of Christianity. I must be honest and say that I did not expect you to question them.

I don't know much about Wesley's teachings, and nothing of Adam Clarke, but imputation of guilt a "fundamental part of Christianity"? It depends on what you mean by "sin". We inherited the sin nature from Adam, and this causes us to sin and come under God's judgement. What appears to be unique to Calvinism is the idea that God actually charges them with Adam's choice such that He basically treats them as if they did consciously at some point decide to become sinners; like they were consciously there beside ("in") Adam, and use this to justify them getting no chance to repent (i.e "they already had their chance and blew it, but God selects some for a grant of eternal life anyway"). There is one Arminian on the BaptistBoard who argues imputation of guilt (but then he still argues that God offers life to all, not only some), but he is the only one. He and the Calvinists think that Adam's nature passing down to us is synonymous with God charging all with his sin, but I don't see where it is, except in a very indirect way (since that makes it inevitable that we will sin).

The point is that neither Wesley or Adam Clarke were Calvinists. The teaching is not exclusively Calvinist...as your friend on the BaptistBoard also proves. Harry Ironside also taught the same truth and he was not a Calvinist. Surely the fact we all die in Adam (Romans 5:22) shows that we are guilty in him? Again (to take up the argument of the "justice" of it all) if my sin was inevitable because Adam's nature was passed on to me…why am I judged for it? It is the same argument that runs for the imputation of Adam's guilt. When all is said and done, I am either being charged with something or being controlled by something as to make my sin inevitable when I was not there. Your answer does not solve the problem. (Incidentally…Calvinists believe that life is to be offered to all and not only to some.)

[You wrote] How did God plan for the fact that multitudes would reject Him? Can we say to Judas or the rich man in hell…you are here according to the plan of God? This all fits in with what God has planned for your life?

They are there because of their sin (as you would even say), and God used them to fulfil his plan despite their not repenting.

I agree completely…but then I am a Calvinist who can talk freely about this plan. Did God plan that the rich man in hell would reject Him? Did he plan otherwise and have to adapt accordingly?

[You wrote] What does reason alone say to the sinner in such a state along with the whole tenor of the Bible? A sinner who tries to reason as you are doing may be judged to be holding unto his sin and doing so willingly. I think we need to take the facts as they stand. We are back again to the sovereign purposes of God.

Sinners may use all sorts of reasoning, and yes, those who do that are just trying to hold onto their sin. How many sinners are thinking about unconditional election and how it either excuses or condemns them, unless a Christian is coming hitting with all this in his witnessing (which I think is way too deep to be confronting the unsaved with). It still doesn't prove which side of this debate is true, and to me, as a Christian, it is just a legitimate question in the debate. (And I think that we're back again to the unsearchable realm of God, as are many such questions people throw our way).

God's election can never be held forth as a reason to reject the gospel, even by the relative few among sinners who know anything about it. As you say, it is not the opening paragraph in a gospel message. But the point is, reason alone suggests that the sinner should claim the promise of Revelation 22:17 and conclude that he is among the "whosoever" and claim the gospel promise for himself. If he is concerned about election, this act alone will prove that he is numbered among them. If he refuses to come, he may conclude (on death) that he was justly left alone to perish in his chosen sins. The divine reasoning and pleading then to the sinner is: "Turn ye, turn ye…why will ye die?"

[You wrote] Can you give me your views on the thought that no one can say that God ever decreed to save the non elect? Did God decree to save Judas Iscariot? Did He decree to save Simon Peter?

OK, well first of all, what do we mean by "decreed to save"? Is the actual act of saving the person (declaring Him forgiven and having eternal life after repentance), the "decree"? Then no. But if you mean a prior decision to save Peter, and not save Judas; followed by the scripting of their lives so that one would repent and the other would not, that is what the debate is about, and we can only explain but so much. Remember, you insist that people are only condemned for "sin", yet here, even though both sinned, a person is lost because he was preordained to betray Christ and not decreed to be saved, as others are also preordained not repent. This is why people criticise Calvinism in supralapsarian double-predestination or "hyper" terms even though you say it is not that. Even though you insist it is the sin that condemns, it is the preordination that trumps the sin (which was then just a means to an end), and there is no way around this. This question is what much of the lack of understanding between the two sides revolves around. Eric

OK…just as God has decreed that there is a day yet future when I will die (Hebrews 9:27) so too he decreed the day when I would come as a lost sinner to Jesus Christ for salvation. I am simply asking: Did God then ever decree that Judas Iscariot would be saved? Really…either He did or He didn't? I say that He obviously didn't. But what do you say? Colin.

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Received 10-7-03

[You wrote] Again (to take up the argument of the "justice" of it all) if my sin was inevitable because Adam's nature was past on to me…why am I judged for it? It is the same argument that runs for the imputation of Adam's guilt. When all is said and done, I am either being charged with something or being controlled by something as to make my sin inevitable when I was not there. Your answer does not solve the problem. (Incidentally…Calvinists believe that life is to be offered to all and not only to some.)

You are judged for it if you don't repent, and what people disagree is that God does not even aim to save certain people (whether or not "life" is really "offered" to them in some abstract way). I would say that they are being controlled by something to make sin inevitable.

[You wrote] Did God plan that the rich man in hell would reject Him? Did he plan otherwise and have to adapt accordingly?

[You wrote] OK…just as God has decreed that there is a day yet future when I will die (Hebrews 9:27) so too he decreed the day when I would come as a lost sinner to Jesus Christ for salvation. I am simply asking: Did God then ever decree that Judas Iscariot would be saved? Really…either He did or He didn't?

I think that these questions are what is beyond our scope of knowledge, and not discussed in scripture (though things proving one way or another are often read into them). Just like Calvinists say "God did not decree to save them (give him the "ability" to repent), but still expected him to repent (holds them "responsible") anyway".

Surely the matter is not as mysterious as you are trying to make out? The mystery lies in the "why" rather than the fact itself. What would be the consequences if God decreed that Judas would be saved and it turns out (as evidenced by Scripture) that he isn't? Simple answer: a frustrated God who signally failed on this one issue (evidently one among many) The answer must surely be that whatsoever has not come to pass has not been decreed by God. If He really does work all things after the counsel of His own will (Ephesians 1:11) then it is evident that the salvation of Judas wasn't included in the decree. Again, if God saved the rest of the Apostles (and He did) then evidently He decreed to do so from a past eternity since His purpose is said to be eternal in Christ (Ephesians 3:11) With all due respect, I think the matter is not so much beyond the any scope of knowledge, but rather beyond a willingness to accept what it really plainly taught in Scripture.

Just like you can say "the sinner should claim the promise of Revelation 22:17 and conclude that he is among the "whosoever" and claim the gospel promise for himself. If he is concerned about election, this act alone will prove that he is numbered among them. If he refuses to come, he may conclude (on death) that he was justly left alone to perish in his chosen sins. The divine reasoning and pleading then to the sinner is: 'Turn ye, turn ye…why will ye die?'", which seems to place the decision on the man, rather than God's unconditional election, yet you insist it is all God. That conclusion (preterition and responsibility without ability) is one step beyond mine, so I feel it is beyond what we can explain. However God did it, what happened fit into His plan.

There is no contradiction between an all sovereign God and an all responsible man. The Bible teaches both. It is all of God in the sense that while God works in me both to will and to do His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13) yet it is I who both wills and does. God gives me the faith and repentance, but he does not believe and repent for me. The sinner need only concern himself with the thought that there is mercy for sinners and he qualifies and should therefore seek the Lord. I usually end any gospel tracts which I write with the words: "Why not you? Why not now?" Colin

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I would also like you to include my earlier responses, which were edited out. Even if you have no response, they should be included, since non-Calvinists often ignore them, and people figure we have no kind of answer at all:

[You wrote] He doesn't say that they "can come" In John 6:44/65 He distinctly points out the inability of the sinner to come as commanded to do so in Matthew 11:28/John 7:37 etc., Wherein lies this inability? In their fallen (bound - not morally free) wills (John 5:40) What should the sinner do then? Answer: Cry out to God and say "I believe, help thou my unbelief" How many will do that?

John 5,6 seems like the strongest argument for your side, but it seems He was beginning to open up the Gospel to people in a certain order. As Romans explains, Israel was being blinded to pave the way for opening up to the Gentiles first. But none of these passages suggests that God would never offer salvation to all. Ch.12:32 shows after His death and resurrection, all would be drawn.

[You wrote] That's the point…"certain people" i.e. righteous Lot. And God did do right. The righteous man was saved and the wicked left to perish. Why did God not wrought saving faith in the hearts of the Sodomites? The answer lies in Matthew 11:20-26 with the only palpable answer lying in the sovereignty of God.

(My take on that is that this is temporal "destruction" foremost, and God does let such things happen to His "righteous". And the qualification for them repenting is them seeing His mighty works, not electing them, because the people who were seeing those works were not repenting, and His point was that they were more hard hearted then those heathens (whom they liked to despise a lot), not "God could have elected them, but passed them over instead".

[You wrote] But surely such are not really necessary since there is enough light to repent and believe without them?

Not enough light to know that Jesus Christ is the name under which they must saved. But they can still ask "God be merciful to me, a sinner". Eric

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Received 12-7-03

But I'm not arguing that God "decreed" to save Judas and was "frustrated" or "failed". I think Calvinists try to force the issue into that, to try to "stump" the other side, and accuse them of "refusing to accept clear scripture teaching". He may "work" things, but that means using whatever man does and whatever happens will fit into His will. It does not means He "does" these things, and then blames man for it. The "why" mystery is then thrown up to silence the objector, but "how" God works these things without doing them and clearly the mystery, and no scripture says "God does everything, but makes man responsible". That is a deduction read into scriptures like these. How can we possibly make such positive statements about how things are done from eternity? (which leads indelibly to a radical supralapsarian double predestination that many of you are now denying, if used this way) Eric

If we take the example of Joseph's brethren, then we see that while they doubtless sold Joseph into Egypt and confessed their sinfulness in doing so, yet Joseph distinctly said (in another sense) that it wasn't them at all but God (Genesis 45:8/50:20) Likewise with the Cross…who delivered up Jesus to die. On one hand it was Judas (John 13:2) while on the other hand it was God Himself (Romans 8:32) - same Greek word - perhaps all summed up in the words of Peter as he preached to the Jews in Acts 2:23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Here is both the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man. (Unless of course, we have the Cross as an afterthought with God) What other understanding can we take out of the Scripture? It is not a matter of trying to stump the other side, but if you are not arguing that God decreed to save Judas, then why not take the pretty obvious and logical alternative that He didn't decree to save him? How could eternity to come show that God did decree to save Judas if Judas was never saved? Colin

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Received 14-7-03

Once again, that still does not mean that God particularly chose Judas for that, and therefore withheld any offer of salvation to him. (The story of Joseph, God used their evil for his purposes, and salvation or reprobation is not in the question. Perhaps Judas himself did not necessarily have to be lost, either, but it was his killing himself that cut off any chance for repentance). Remember, you yourself said that everyone is potentially the "whoever" of Rev 22:17. We are in time, and that is how we must see it. But to try to jump to eternity and say "no, God was not really offering salvation to him at all, so that he could crucify Christ and never be forgiven", is to contradict what you have been saying, and once again, point to supralapsarian double predestination. When I earlier said "If the wicked who die in their sins are just helpless drones scripted to that end...wickedness was then just a role ultimately written by God, even though He also wrote that He wasn't "to blame" for it.", you responded "Your point is valid only if God treated men like pawns instead of responsible people. If you were arguing with a hyper Calvinist, you would have a point.", but can't you see that that is what that suggests (and the "responsibility" then is just the means to damn them by "their own" guilt, but otherwise, it is still a script they had no say so in). Eric

I am not arguing for the position that God "therefore withheld any offer of salvation to Judas" or indeed any one for that matter. The issue here is not the offer of the gospel - we both believe that it is for every creature - but the effectual application of the gospel. While the actual deed was ordained of God - Judas Iscariot betraying the Son of God - yet the will of Judas was not coerced in any way but he was left to his own devices. This is the standard Calvinist position as stated in the WCF and other Protestant Confessions. There is a balance there between God's sovereignty and man's freedom to follow the dictates of his own heart, although the heart of man is in bondage to sin. Do you think eternity to come will show that God did decree to save Judas if Judas was never saved? If so…how? I can state very clearly that God did not decree to save Judas, although in His mercy and grace offered Judas eternal life. My continual pushing of this point is as much to defend the worth of the decree of God (by which I am saved) as anything else. I can see that you want to do the same thing because you are not saying that God did decree to save him and have that decree frustrated. I am just wondering why you will not go further and state the obvious. Colin

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Received 15-7-03

Because I don't think it's so obvious. I think the statement God did not decree to save Judas, although in His mercy and grace offered Judas eternal life seems contradictory. You'll, of course, say it is God's secret counsel, or something else above our comprehension. I say, before you even get to that speculation, how this is reconciled is above our understanding. "Decreed to save" is obviously a term that presupposes unconditional election, and to a person who doesn't agree with that, it doesn't have much relevant meaning.

There seems to be two matters here. [1] Is there a doubt that God has a secret decree? Such is established from the Bible in verses like Romans 11:33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! and several verses of a similar kind e.g. Job 5:9/9:10/11:7/26:14 etc… all teaching us that God has not revealed everything to us. Our guiding star is ever that which is written or revealed, but there is a lot of background work going on which, although does not contradict what is revealed (2 Tim 2:13) yet is not revealed to us, except when it comes to pass. [2] That "decreed to save" presupposes unconditional election. I would reject this as a putting of the cart before the horse. We argue that unconditional election flows from God's decree to save. The reasoning is simple and scriptural. Does God do anything in time which He did not before hand plan to do? Since He does not changes (Malachi 3:6) then he cannot but have planned to do what He eventually does. Otherwise, we have a mind change somewhere along the way. Was there something He was not going to do…but later decreed that it should be done? Was I once non elect, but later got elected because God changed His mind? Were there people once elected but were later dropped before they were saved, because God changed his mind? Or did God have an eternal plan which is being carried out in time? I go for the last named. Indeed if God has a decree at all, then it must be eternal. The Bible links the concept of eternity to it in Ephesians 3:11 You allowed (above) that God has a plan…but beyond this statement you have said little more to say except that things which happen fit into it. However, when we try to pin down a specific matter, i.e. the non salvation of Judas, you cannot bring yourself to admit that this was part of God's plan. Did it happen then outside that plan? If not…then surely it must have been part of it? Either you have a God with no plan at all, playing it all by ear, working it all out as He goes along, or you have a God with an eternal plan and all events or non events (i.e. Judas' salvation) being part of it. Again, when all is said and done, no one can say that God decreed to save Judas Iscariot.

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Received 18-7-03

I have never denied that God did not have any kind of secret plan that is unknowable to us. (Secret decree, if taken to mean some decree of election and non-election, those scriptures you gave do not necessarily teach that; only that God does have unsearchable ways, and the problem is, we are speculating too much on what they are.) This in fact is what I have been emphasizing, and only suggesting that you are going past where I think the line of the unknowable. You call it "secret", but then look, you have it all figured out:

1) God writes everything, in eternity, then 2) it plays out in time. Where's all this "unsearchableness" at in that?

It is unsearchable in the sense that none of us can follow everything which God has decreed. Who can tell, to take one of the simpler examples given in Scripture, how many sparrows have fallen from the sky…or how many souls have been elected and have been or will be saved? Even John said that the number of the latter could not be counted by man (Revelation 7:9) It is unsearchable also in that the reason why so much happens has not been told us, apart from the fact that it was pleasing in God's sight (Matthew 11:25)

This:

a) fixes God's "eternity" to our line of sequential time, so that it becomes another event in the same time line. Therefore, God is in effect trapped in our time, and we can figure out perfectly how he saves in time. It is basically a lifeless script, even though it appears live (that is only it "playing out"). If not, then God "changes", is "frustrated", has "no plan at all, playing it all by ear, working it all out as He goes along", etc.

If God does indeed work all things after the counsel of his own will: (Ephesians 1:11) and this according to his eternal purpose (Ephesians 3:11) then this shows rather that He is in control of time…not trapped in it.

b) once again leads inescapably to double predestination: e.g. God predestined Judas to betray Christ and be lost, and it played out in time as him making a "free" choice, but it was really a secret eternal decree playing out. Both of these points your camp are fiercely denying; so then Calvinists appeal to God's unsearchable ways, and also whenever one asks why God chooses one over another, and why God ordains all this but makes man responsible. But you have already crossed into the unsearchable before getting to those conclusions.

I don't think there can be another alternative to what Judas did. Either it was planned by God in eternity or it wasn't. The "why" is unsearchable and even the "how" but not the fact since it is clearly revealed to us. Calvinists freely admit that there are things which we cannot reconcile…a sovereign God and a totally responsible man. We just accept both, content to know that God knows.

You're trying to get me to "admit" something, but can't you admit that maybe the whole premise of your side might be a mistaken result of our seeing through a glass darkly? That the way God's will plays out in time is not so simple that we can so easily package it up like that?

I'm just wondering how you cannot state that God did not decree to save Judas Iscariot. Indeed the more I think about it…if there is still room to believe that God did decree to save him, then either Judas is not in hell now, or the great gulf is not as fixed as Jesus said it was. Either that or God did decree to save Judas and it just didn't work out as God intended. I don't think the dark glass really blots out sight of a third alternative.

Once again, both of us admit we cannot understand everything. Both admit there is a paradox somewhere. I think where both sides need to agree to disagree is in these theories on how it all works out that we try to extract from scripture.


I think we have probably reached the place whereby we need to agree to disagree. The main thing, is of course, to keep preaching Christ crucified to every last sinner we meet and plead with them to be saved. On this, both Evangelical Calvinists and Evangelical non Calvinists agree. I have enjoyed our times of discussion. I got an email from a reader who professed to have been helped by the various exchanges, so that is always good. I think, we'll leave it there. Thanks for writing and taking time both to ask questions and answer mine.

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Received 20-7-03

An important point I forgot to mention before (was trying to keep it short again), was that both sides also agree that there are two wills in God; it's just that they see a different pair of wills; our side sees an "eternal" and "permissive" will, while Calvinists have one which they call "decretive" or "sovereign". The other one they have called "preceptive" or "moral". In our system, His eternal will would kind of correspond to the "moral will" mentioned, in which He wills all to be saved. Yet the other will, rather than being "sovereign" is "permissive", in which He allows people to refuse the offer of salvation. This seems to me to better reconcile God's sovereignty/man's responsibility than to have, essentially two non-permissive wills that will opposite things. (offer to/salvation of all; salvation of only some) Since the scripture does not explicitly delineate the different wills, this once again is where we have to agree to disagree.

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