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

HOW RELIABLE IS DAVID CLOUD IN HIS EXAMINATION OF CALVINISM?

I agree with Mr Cloud on a lot of matters, especially as relating to the end time apostasy of the ecumenical movement etc., and also his views on Contemporary Christian Music. I also admire his work on the exposure of modern versions of the Bible, although I cannot match his view that the Authorised (King James) Version is a perfect translation and cannot be improved.

However, I have a problem with Mr Cloud's views on Calvinism. Not so much with his non acceptance of these doctrines (which, in my view, is his problem and not mine) but with the way he has gone about registering his dissent to them. A lot of people listen to Mr Cloud. His writings exude an air of authority and he writes extensively on many subjects. However, quantity is not necessarily quality and it is my feeling that his examination of Calvinism falls short of that which others desiring to examine these doctrines would expect.

Before we examine this theme further, two things need to be said.

[1] This is not an attempt to blacken Mr Cloud's reputation. I have no personal axe to grind with him. If he excels elsewhere, then I am pleased for him. However, it should be noted, that his treatment of Calvinism does leave me wondering a little if he has applied the same standard to other subject. More than ever, we ought to rely on the mouth (or writings) of one or two witnesses.

[2] I have answered Mr Cloud on his attacks upon Calvinistic doctrine in other places (See Calvinist index) and so this page is not employing the old method of denigrating an opponent when you cannot answer his arguments. I find that kind of tactic utterly repulsive.

So is Mr Cloud reliable in his attacks upon Calvinism?

Some of his arguments are sound enough arguments. They might not be particularly new, but then novel arguments are not always helpful. We do get to several crux passages of Scripture in his critique and that is helpful. Generally, we part ways as to whether the universal terms of the Bible (words like "all" or "every man" etc.,) always mean "each and every man without any exception" and if not, do they do so in the doctrine of salvation? Can God demand something of men which sin has robbed them of the ability to deliver? And other like questions which bring us down to the wire. If Mr Cloud's writings stopped here, then this critique would not have been written.

But it doesn't stop here. Mr Cloud goes further and in my mind detracts from his cause. I have examined Mr Cloud's statements as they are freely available on the internet. When I study a subject, I like to get both sides of the debate. If there are holes in my argument, I want those holes fixed up as soon as possible. I want to know if the hole is there because I am believing something entirely foreign to the word of God…in which case, I will drop it….or is it because I have failed to grasp the truth properly or failed to put it across properly…in which case, again, appropriate action will be taken.

WHERE DAVID CLOUD IS UNRELIABLE IN HIS EXAMINATION OF CALVINISM:

1 DAVID CLOUD'S ALLEGATION RE: JOHN CALVIN AND THE FREE OFFER OF THE GOSPEL

It was this which first brought to my notice the deficiencies in Mr Cloud's critique. Mr Cloud alleges:

Calvin denounced the universal offer of the Gospel. "When it appears that when the doctrine of salvation is offered to all for their effectual benefit, it is a corrupt prostitution of that which is declared to be reserved particularly for the children of the church" (Institutes, Book III, chap. 22).

I have answered this elsewhere. Suffice for the moment to say that Calvin here is not denouncing the free offer, but rather the teaching that when it is so offered and effectively received i.e. it has the same affect upon all who hear it. The very next sentence (which Mr Cloud ignores) actually states:

Let this suffice for the present: although the voice of the gospel addresses all in general, yet the gift of faith is rare.

There you are. The gospel addresses all in general but it only effectually benefits those who have the rare gift of faith. I emailed Mr Cloud about this one on a few occasions and the last email I got from him was to effect that since Calvin did not believe that the sinner could in himself partake of the free offer…then this meant that the offer was not free at all. However, if this is the criterion whereby Calvin is judged to have denounced the free offer, then no Calvinist may be said to believe it. And this will include Dr Paisley, Dr Masters and other Calvinists whom David Cloud named in his critique as those who have an evangelistic zeal. By the same standard, Mr Cloud would have to

state that Ian Paisley etc., denounces the free offer. Mr Cloud's chain of logic breaks here and such inconsistent reasoning does not endear him to those who want to study the issues clearly, even if they finally agree or disagree with him. This can be easily righted. His credibility as a serious critic of Calvinism would be enhanced if he stated that Calvin/Calvinists do believe in the free offer, although (in his view) not very consistently. We can cope with that, although we feel there is nothing inconsistent with a free offer of the gospel on one hand and unconditional election or particular redemption on the other. However to deny that Calvin preached a universal gospel flies in the face of the evidence that may be drawn from both Calvin's writings and the varied and indiscriminate nature of Calvin's soul winning. It is self defeating then to Mr Cloud to state things which may be easily checked and found to be wrong. Calvin must surely be the wrong man to so misrepresent. His sermons and writings and biographies are in abundance, both in print and on the internet. Gone are the days when people had little access to resources and generally took for granted that those who did knew what they were talking about.

2) DAVID CLOUD'S CLAIMS AS TO STUDYING BOOKS ETC.,

In his critique on Calvinism, Mr Cloud claims to have studied Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion. I am wondering whether or not he really did. It is my suspicion that he has a copy or access to a copy and has but glanced at it or used it to check out the odd reference gleaned from elsewhere. (I might be wrong in this, of course, but the outcome of the matter would not be inconsistent with this suspicion) I say this because despite his claims, he was willing enough to reproduce Dave Hunt's totally false allegation:

"There is no escaping the fact that in Calvin's entire Institutes of the Christian Religion there is not one mention of God's love for the lost!" (p. 151 What love is this?)

That this is so patently false may be seen from merely glancing at the titles of the four fold division of the Institutes of the Christian Religion.

The Knowledge of God the Creator (Book 1)

The Knowledge of Christ the Redeemer (Book 2)

The way we receive grace from Christ (Book 3)

The external means or aids by which God invites us into the society of Christ and holds us therein (Book 4)

Furthermore, I looked up the Scripture index in my copy of the Institutes and I find that John 3:16 is quoted or referred to no less than 7 times. Likewise Romans 5:8 (6 times) John 1:29 (6 times) etc., I forbear to quote more. No Escaping? Not one mention? Why did Mr Cloud not do likewise? Is it a light thing to cast such a black slur against the ministry of a departed brother who claimed to be called to the Christian ministry? Furthermore, in the very same book, Dave Hunt having poured forth all his absolutes, later changes his own story. From "no escaping" and "no mention" we are treated to the idea:

"Through his entire Institutes, Calvin scarcely mentions or considers God's love which, in Calvin's view, is secondary to His sovereignty."(P. 41 What love is this?)

As we say elsewhere, to investigate this particular charge, must involve us playing a kind of numbers game with a search engine, but the point is this: Mr Cloud, despite his claims to have studied (not merely read) Calvin's Institutes is quite happy to reproduce Hunt's weird and wonderful (and inconsistent) allegations when a simple check of the various indexes show otherwise. I believe here that we are either looking at shoddy workmanship or something more sinister. I usually go for the soft option, until proof otherwise is given, but neither leaves us with the idea that Mr Cloud, at least on Calvinism, is really to be taken all that seriously. (Of the two allegations of Hunt - one that there is absolutely no mentions to scarce mentions, David Cloud reproduces the more serious one.)

3) WHEN DAVID CLOUD WANTS TO BE CHARITABLE TO CALVINISTS - COMPARED TO THE REST OF THE TIME

Mr Cloud has a few Calvinist friends dotted around the world. As stated above, some of us find agreement and appreciation in his views on other subjects. Within the fundamentalist family, both Calvinists and non Calvinists generally get on together. We share a common Saviour etc., We will have to live together in Heaven and so we make an attempt to do so on earth.

In his main critique on Calvinism, Mr Cloud is prepared to give credit to Calvinists for some things. This is to his credit. There are many web pages out there which refrain from doing so. Here is the following places where Cloud shows his sense of pleasure:

Some Good Things About Calvinism

Though I do not agree with Calvinist theology, I can readily admit that there are many good things about Calvinism, especially if it is contrasted with the shallow, man-centered theology and evangelism that is so popular today. Four things come to mind readily:

1. Calvinism exalts God as the sole Author of salvation and gives glory to Him alone. In this, it is exactly correct and perfectly biblical and right on target. There is no salvation apart from God. There is no good in man and there is nothing he can do to achieve his salvation. It must be entirely of God. Except that God in His mercy and grace has provided salvation in Christ and has drawn men to this salvation, convicting them and enlightening them and granting them faith and repentance (which are both gifts of God), no man would be saved. All glory to God.

2. Calvinism humbles man and gives him no role in salvation and nothing to glory of. This is the flip side of the previous point, and in this Calvinism is perfectly scriptural. The Bible gives man nothing whatsoever in which to glory. Salvation is entirely of God and nothing of man. Romans 4:2 says that if Abraham's salvation were not entirely of God he would have something to boast of, but of course that is impossible because no man can ever boast of anything before a thrice holy God. Even man's righteousness, his very best deeds, are but filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6).

3. Calvinism gives eternal security to the believer. Calvinism promises eternal security to the believer, because it knows that (1) salvation is entirely of God's grace and thus depends nothing whatsoever on man's puny works whether good or bad, (2) God has elected and ordained the saved person to a glorious eternal inheritance, and (3) the saved persevere in the faith through the effective working of the indwelling Holy Spirit. In this it is right on target.

4. Calvinism teaches that the elect will give evidence of their calling. The Calvinist knows that salvation produces a dramatic change in a person's life, and in this he is right on target. Any "salvation" that does not result in a change of life and direction and thinking and purpose is not a biblical salvation.

Well and good. But if all this is true, especially in the last two points, praising Calvinists for their stand on eternal security, why does Mr Cloud reproduce the following allegations against Calvinism straight from Dave Hunt's book What love is this?

"Before beginning what turned into an urgent and in-depth study of Calvinism, I had thought that I was at least a one-point Calvinist. Surely my belief in eternal security, the assurance of salvation eternally in God's presence, must be the same as Calvinism's Perseverance of the Saints. That turned out, however, not to be the case. Why? Biblical assurance of salvation does not depend upon one's performance but upon the gospel's declaration that Christ died for the sins of the world and upon His promise that whosoever believes in Him receives the gift of eternal life. In contrast, the Calvinist's assurance is in God having predestined him to eternal life as one of the elect -- and his performance plays a large part in helping him to know whether or not he is among that select group." (What love is this? p. 377)

"Doubts even assail leading Calvinists. Zane C. Hodges points out that 'the result of this theology is disastrous. Since, according to Puritan belief, the genuineness of a man's faith can only be determined by the life that follows it, assurance of salvation becomes impossible at the moment of conversion.' And, one might add, at any time thereafter as well, for reasons we will show. No wonder, then, as R.T. Kendall has commented, that 'nearly all of the Puritan 'divines' went through great doubt and despair on their deathbeds as they realized their lives did not give perfect evidence that they were elect.' Arminius, on the other hand, contrary to the false label attached to him by his enemies, had perfect assurance and said that the believer can 'depart out of this life to appear before the throne of grace, without any anxious fear&Mac183;' Congdon writes, 'Absolute assurance of salvation is impossible in Classical Calvinism. Since works are an inevitable outcome of "true" salvation, one can only know he or she is saved by the presence of good works. But since no one is perfect any assurance is at best imperfect as well. Therefore, you may think you believed in Jesus Christ, may think you had saving faith, but be sadly mistaken and because unsaved, be totally blind to the fact you are unsaved&Mac183;'" (What love is this? p. 378)

Is Mr Cloud hunting with the hounds and running with the fox at the same time? Which Mr Cloud do you want to believe? The one who says nice things about Calvinists in one page on his web site or the one who reproduces Hunt's vilification of those same Calvinists on another? You can understand then why we feel Mr Cloud has a bit of work to do before we really begin to view his critique as a serious threat to Calvinism. What gets me, however, is the fact that many people look to Mr Cloud and doubtless quote him as an authority on this subject of Calvinism. Is such deserved?

4) HOW CALVINISTIC WAS C.H. SPURGEON?

Admittedly, this criticism of David Cloud's ability does not rank among the more serious ones, but it does serve to illustrate our previous point that he does tend to be inconsistent in his views. In his main critique on Calvinism, he reduces Spurgeon's Calvinism to the following:

Charles Spurgeon faced this in his day. He believed in Calvinism to some extent, though he refused to allow any theology to overthrow the clear teaching of the Bible.

And while Spurgeon was a Calvinist of sorts

Charles Spurgeon was a Calvinist, but he was his own kind of Calvinist.

Some extent? Of sorts? This suggests less than a whole hearted acceptance of these doctrines. The words "His own kind of Calvinist" readily suggest that he was practically out in a field on his own. Yet on the same page, CHS is restored again to full Calvinism:

Spurgeon was a Calvinist…

And elsewhere, on another subject (Bible versions - refuting Gail Riplinger's mouth foam that Calvinists are on the same level as Satanists etc,) he tells us that:

Spurgeon was a "staunch Calvinist"

We have documented Spurgeon's Calvinism elsewhere. Spurgeon said he would die for the doctrines of grace etc.,

Though Calvinistic doctrine is so dear to us, we feel ready to die in its defense, yet we would by no means set it up as being a test of a man’s spiritual state. (Vol 9: p. 274)

The picture that he believed Calvinism to some extent or was a Calvinist of sorts does not really fit the bill. A small point on its own, but when viewed as part of the wider picture, again we are left to guess how Mr Cloud arrives at some of his judgements on the Calvinistic controversy. He finds it hard, at least on Calvinism, to be consistent. Whether he agrees or disagrees with Calvinism is not the issue. It is not his views we are examining, but his reliability as a competent judge on the issue.

5) DAVID CLOUD'S USE OF THE SELECT AND INCOMPLETE QUOTE.

We draw attention to this elsewhere. To be brief, Mr Cloud judicially leaves out a paragraph from the Westminster Confession of Faith on the decree of God which solidly puts the reason for the sinner's condemnation on the sinner himself. By quoting only the first few paragraphs and omitting the other, he misrepresents the Calvinist position. Again whether this is sheer carelessness or otherwise, we will not here judge.

6) DAVID CLOUD'S INCONSISTENCY WITH THE CONCEPT OF "HYPERISM"

Mr Cloud is not willing to allow the idea that there are some professing Calvinists whom mainline Calvinists disown as "Hyper Calvinists" Our differences are real. It is not a matter of degree but actually of kind. Hyper Calvinists deny fundamental Calvinist doctrines like duty faith and repentance and refrain from giving an indiscriminate and unfettered offer of the gospel to the whosoever, elect or otherwise. This puts them very firmly outside the pale of Calvinism, no matter what they say. Mr Cloud, however, isn't having it. He writes:

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!

Even though Mr Cloud claimed to have read Iain Murray's book on Spurgeon and his fight with hyper Calvinists (See above, however, for my somewhat sceptical view of Mr Cloud and his books) he is loathe to use this term "hyper Calvinism." Which is a mystery to me because it would clear up a lot of misunderstanding on the issue. Particularly his. It is not that Mr Cloud is unaware of the term "hyper" or its import, because he actually employs it elsewhere on his site where he warns us of the dangers of hyper Dispensationalism. Furthermore, on the matter of using only the King James Version, he got pretty upset when his opponents simply lumped him in with Peter Ruckman. He complains to one opponent:

"You and your friends refuse to make a clear distinction between Ruckmanism and what I believe. That is dishonest, but it is a great debate tactic and it appears to me that your goal above all is to win a debate."

While he doesn't use the word "hyper" towards Ruckman, yet this is evidently the thought that comes across again and again on his site. Ruckman has taken the issue too far for Mr Cloud's liking (I agree) and that, by definition, makes Ruckman a hyper. And not to acknowledge this is, according to Mr Cloud, "dishonest" and " a great debate tactic" which is not exactly kosher. I agree again. But Mr Cloud judges himself here and I feel that by his own standards, he judges himself an unreliable critic.

Added Note: In a recent page on the Calvinist issue, Mr Cloud does use the word "hyper" in relation to Calvinism, although he does not elaborate upon it. However, at least it is a step in the right direction.

6) DAVID CLOUD'S ENDORSEMENT OF DAVE HUNT 'S BOOK

I have reviewed Hunt's book elsewhere. It is a crude hatchet job with use of any device to blacken Calvin's name. Mr Cloud was pleased to endorse this book and (as seen) quote from it extensively even when it slandered Calvin on the love of God and even contradicted what Mr Cloud was saying elsewhere. This is how he praises Hunt's book:

Dave Hunt of Berean Call Ministries has written a powerful refutation of Calvinism titled "What Love Is This?" and subtitled "Calvinism's Misrepresentation of God." (2002, Sisters, Oregon: Loyal Publishing, 436 pages).

Hunt deals with this controversial issue in a gracious yet bold-for-the-truth manner.

He has diligently researched his topic and has made a great effort to be fair to Calvinists and to represent them accurately.

If Hunt's efforts are examples of a "gracious yet bold-for-truth manner" and "diligent research" etc., then what does this say of Mr Cloud? Again, the issue here, is not that Hunt does not agree with Calvinism. The problem is the depths to which Hunt was prepared to plunge in order to blacken Calvin and Calvinists. It is this which I found sickening. Mr Cloud endorses this book. Where does that leave me in regards to Mr Cloud? Here's where: Somewhat wary of him.

Think of it this way. If a non Calvinist seeks to take me on in my Calvinism armed with some arguments drawn from Mr Cloud's armoury, I will not be too worried. Apart from the fact that any argument against the Doctrines of Grace is bound to fail (A view consistent with my belief that the Doctrines of Grace are entirely Scriptural and the Scripture cannot be broken: John 10:35) certainly any argument that can be seen to be inconsistent with what Mr Cloud is saying elsewhere defeats itself. If I see myself as equipping people to contend for the faith once delivered, I certainly would not want to sending them into battle with dummy bullets.

THE END

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