Posts Tagged ‘monergism’

This is an excerpt from an article written by Dr. John H. Armstrong. 

 

“The church in every age is in constant need of reforming. The followers of Martin Luther in the sixteenth century recognized this need, speaking of semper reformanda (always reforming). Calvin and the theologians of Geneva also recognized this need. These theologians did not seek to “reinvent the wheel.” They were not radicals, at least in the sense that this term has commonly been used. They were determined to express the gospel properly, believing that justification by faith alone was the articulus cadentis et stantis ecclesiae (“the article by which the church stands or falls”). For them the whole reforming movement hung upon this recovery. Here was the material of the gospel. Here evangelical religion was truly defined. Let him who denies or ignores the doctrine of justification by faith alone realize that he is no longer an heir of the evangelical movement begun in the sixteenth century. He may still use the term “evangelical” but he uses it merely as an adjective to describe his conservative beliefs. He must understand that he is not evangelical in the truest, historical sense of the term.

In our time sola fide is once again being considered by both serious theologians and interested laity. Increasingly careful readers of Scripture are coming to understand that justification by faith alone is central to healthy, biblical Christianity. It is vital that the church be shown the significance of this truth. A recovery of sola fide will clarify the gospel that we believe and communicate. It will strengthen our confidence in God to do His work through the proclamation of that gospel and it will enable us to build up holy worship which is supremely addressed to God alone. For these reasons alone we need to note several modern errors regarding sola fide:

1. Sola fide leads to faith placed in the proper person and place.

Contrary to much modern evangelistic terminology “inviting Jesus into my heart” is not the invitation of the gospel. This oft-used phrase, based mistakenly upon John 1:12, Revelation 3:20, etc., is not what the Scripture tells the sinner to do. The gospel tells the condemned man that he must “look to Christ” (in faith) as His substitute. He must “believe” and “trust.” As long as we persist in thinking of faith as a mystical transaction wherein Christ comes from one place, outside of me, into another place, inside of me, we will have the tendency to fall into some of the same errors inherent in Roman Catholic confusion.

The gospel is the good news of what God has done outside of me in the actual person and historic work of Jesus Christ. This gospel is a message of historic, objective reality. It is not an experience, at least not my experience. It is the good news of Christ’s experience—He suffered, He died, He arose and He ascended to the right hand on high. This is the message preached by the apostles.

The message of righteousness through Christ alone, imputed to me on the basis of faith alone, is a message grounded in something entirely external. I am “reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Romans 5:10), not by my religious experience.

There are two aspects of God’s work in salvation—His work for us and His work in us. In asserting justification by faith alone we do not confuse these as the church has been prone frequently to do. Faith, true faith, must be grounded in His work for us, not in my response or experience. A hundred ecstatic experiences and a moving testimony of how I felt when I invited Christ into my heart will not make me right with God. The essence of God’s work within me is to teach me to rely wholly on His work outside of me as the sole basis of my salvation. Sola fide protects this important point, and the church today needs this protection desperately.

2. Sola fide sees ultimate personal fulfillment in the next life.

This doctrine preserves me from looking for some kind of internal fulfillment in the present life that will fully satisfy. If I receive the salvation of God by faith alone then nothing I can or will do can make me more His child. Our fascination with perfectionism is patently observable in the modern evangelical church. What we need is a big dose of the realism of Martin Luther who, writing against a man named Latomus from his cell in Wartburg, said, “Every good work of the saints while pilgrims in this world is sin.” Because of sin none of us will ever experience, in this life, the fulfillment of God’s salvation. The Holy Spirit, who lives within the believer, is a down payment on what is to come. He is not the fulfillment. That follows in the age to come. Justification by faith alone, properly understood, will preserve believers from much disillusionment in the area of expectations that are false and destructive of genuine faith.

Christ is our ideal Man, the only human person in whom God’s purpose for man is perfectly fulfilled. In Him all aspiration is fulfilled, all hope is realized. Human nature is perfected here. This is the importance of faith alone, for through faith we are brought into union with this Man. He is the Man at God’s right hand. His humanity is my humanity. His righteousness is my righteousness. As Paul writes, “In Him you have been made complete” (Colossians 2:10). I like J. B. Phillips’ paraphrase of this: “Your own completeness is only realized in Him.

3. Sola fide keeps us from both antinomianism and legalism.

Justification by faith alone preserves the church from both antinomianism and legalism, both of which are rampant in the modern church. Romans 8:33-34 says, in part, “God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns?” Here we observe that the opposite of justification is condemnation.

It is faith that receives God’s gift. God’s gift is the righteousness of Christ. The justice of God, revealed in the Law, requires exact and perfect obedience. Man cannot be saved unless the law is fulfilled — every jot and every tittle. God does not look the other way when He saves the believing sinner. His holiness demands perfection. This is why faith alone is so important. The law must be honored and kept. If we are to be saved it must be justly and perfectly in accord with the demands of the law of God. Sola fide establishes the law. It protects against “cheap grace,” or antinomianism, because it truly upholds the law. Christ’s righteousness, which is ours in Him by faith, consists in perfect obedience to His Father’s law in our stead, on our behalf.

This guards, furthermore, against legalism. Why? Because we cannot earn or maintain God’s grace. We can only accept it with the hands of faith which look outside ourselves to Another. His sacrifice is vicarious. It is mine by faith, and it alone can satisfy God. John Bunyan said it well when he taught that Christ wove a perfect garment of righteousness for thirty-three years only to give it away to those who trust Him alone to save them.

The Holy Spirit’s role in the preaching of the gospel is to bring men and women to the place where they put their faith in “the righteousness of…Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1). This righteousness of faith is not a quality seen within our hearts, or felt by us experientially. It must not be confused with the work of regeneration or sanctification, which is Rome’s error. This righteousness remains in and with Christ alone. John Bunyan, writing in Justification By an Imputed Righteousness, illustrates this well by saying: “. . . the righteousness is still ‘in Him’; not ‘in us,’ even when we are made partakers of the benefit of it, even as the wing and feathers still abide in the hen when the chickens are covered, kept, and warmed thereby.” Sola fide keeps the believer from falling into the legal ditch of associating anything done in us or with our cooperation contributing anything at all to our righteous standing before God.

4. Sola fide promotes genuine reformation and revival.

This doctrine of sola fide prompts genuine interest in true revival. The First Great Awakening in America most likely began in Northampton, Massachusetts, where Jonathan Edwards was preaching a series of sermons on this doctrine of justification by faith alone. As he set forth Christ and His righteousness one woman came under deep conviction and the spark of a great movement of God was lit.

In our time much talk regarding revival centers exclusively around experience. We desperately need the perspective of the gospel if we would pray for revival that will honor God and bring showers of true blessing upon the church. Revivalism, of the type seen in the past 150 years or so, has much more in common with Roman Catholic doctrine than sola fide. Until men and women cry out, “How can I be made just in the sight of a holy God?” rather than, “How can I find peace, save my marriage or remove the financial pressures of the moment?” I do not think we shall see another Great Awakening. As Puritan Thomas Taylor wrote, “The reason so few are willing to ask ‘What must I do?’ is because so few will ask, ‘What have I done?’

Modern evangelicals, with their emphasis upon the infusion of power, security and peace are much closer to Rome at this point than most of them could possibly imagine.

5. Sola fide must not be ignored by modern evangelicals.

Finally, we need to guard against the modern tendency to ignore sola fide altogether. This particular tendency, due either to ignorance, willful distortion, or a lack of concern for this great biblical truth of the Protestant Reformation, is observable in many quarters. A recent example can be seen in the much discussed document Evangelicals and Catholics Together (1994).

Here we have a total absence of the truth of sola fide. One wonders what kind of evangelicalism lists doctrines that remain as differences between Protestants and Roman Catholics and ignores sola fide. This is precisely what was done in this document. I find it a sad day when evangelicals consider what unites and divides us with Roman Catholics, and this important evangelical truth is completely passed over in silence. Has Rome come to embrace the Protestant understanding of sola fide? Not at all, as we have seen. Has evangelicalism, on the whole, lost its grip on this truth? I fear this is so. All efforts to recover this truth are a welcome sign that the blessing of God may fall once again upon Christ’s church. Let us pray and labor to that end!”

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Couldn’t have said it better myself…

“I love the doctrines of grace and don’t shy away from the label “Calvinist.” I believe in the sovereignty of God. I’m convinced Scripture teaches that God is completely sovereign not only in salvation (effectually calling and granting faith to those whom He chooses); but also in every detail of the outworking of Providence. “Whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified” (Romans 8:30). And He makes “all things work together for good to those who love God, [i.e.,] to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Quite simply, He “works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11).

That’s what people commonly mean when they speak of “Calvinism.” When I accept that label, I am not pledging allegiance to the man John Calvin. I am not affirming everything he taught, and I’m not condoning everything he did. I’m convinced Calvin was a godly man and one of the finest biblical expositors and theological minds ever, but he wasn’t always right. As a matter of fact, my own convictions are baptistic, so I am by no means one of Calvin’s devoted followers. In other words, when I accept the label “Calvinist,” it’s only for convenience’s sake. I’m not saying “I am of Calvin” in the Corinthian sense.

Furthermore, I’m not one of those who wears Calvinism like a big chip on his shoulder, daring people to fight with me about it. It’s true that I can get feisty about certain points of doctrine—especially when someone attacks a principle that goes to the heart of the gospel, like substitutionary atonement, or original sin, or justification by faith and the principle of imputed righteousness. When one of those principles is challenged, I’m ready to fight. (And I also don’t mind beating up on whatever happens to be the latest evangelical fad.)

But Calvinism isn’t one of those issues I get worked up and angry about. I’ll discuss it with you, but if you are spoiling for a fight about it, you are likely to find me hard to provoke. I spent too many years as an Arminian myself to pretend that the truth on these issues is easy and obvious.

Now, don’t get the wrong idea. I do think the truth of God’s sovereignty is clear and ultimately inescapable in Scripture. But it is a difficult truth to come to grips with, so I am sympathetic with those who struggle with it. I’m Calvinistic enough to believe that God has ordained (at least for the time being) that some of my brethren should hold Arminian opinions.

Over the years I have probably written at least twice as much material trying to tone down angry hyper Calvinists as I have arguing with Arminians. That’s not because I think hyper Calvinism is a more serious error than Arminianism. As a matter of fact, I would say the two errors are strikingly similar. But I don’t hear very many voices of caution being raised against the dangers of hyper Calvinism, and there are armies of Calvinists out there already challenging the Arminians, so I’ve tried to speak out as much as possible against the tendencies of the hypers.

That’s why I’m probably a whole lot less militant than you might expect when it comes to attacking the errors of Arminianism. Besides, I have gotten much further answering Arminian objections with patient teaching and dispassionate, reasonable, biblical instruction—instead of angry arguments and instant anathemas.

Why not take a more passive, lenient, brotherly, approach to all theological disagreements? Because I firmly believe there are some theological errors that do deserve a firm and decisive anathema. That’s Paul’s point in Galatians 1:8-9; and it’s the same point the apostle John makes in 2 John, verses 7-11. When someone is teaching an error that fatally corrupts the truth of the gospel, “let him be anathema.”

But let me be plain here: Simple Arminianism doesn’t fall in that category. It’s not fair to pin the label of rank heresy on Arminianism, the way some of my more zealous Calvinist brethren seem prone to do. I’m talking about historic, evangelical Arminianism, of the classic and Wesleyan varieties — Arminianism, not Pelagianism, or open theism, or whatever heresy Clark Pinnock has invented this week — but true evangelical Arminianism. Arminianism is certainly wrong; and I would argue that it’s inconsistent with itself. But in my judgment, standard, garden variety Arminianism is not so fatally wrong that we need to consign our Arminian brethren to the eternal flames or even automatically refuse them fellowship in our pastors’ fraternals.

If you think I’m beginning to sound like an apologist for Arminianism, I’m definitely not that. I do think Arminianism is a profound error. Its tendencies can be truly sinister, and when it is allowed to go to seed, it does lead people into rank heresy. But what I’m saying here is that mere Arminianism itself isn’t damnable heresy. It’s just grossly inconsistent with the core gospel doctrines that Arminians themselves believe and affirm.

But as long as I’m sounding like a defender of Arminianism, let me also say this: There are plenty of ignorant and inconsistent Calvinists out there, too. With the rise of the Internet it’s easier than ever for self taught lay people to engage in theological dialogue and debate through internet forums. I think that’s mostly good, and I encourage it. But the Internet makes it easy for like minded but ignorant people to clump together and endlessly reinforce one another’s ignorance. And I fear that happens a lot.

Hyper Calvinists seem especially susceptible to that tendency, and there are nests of them here and there—especially on the Internet. And more and more frequently these days I encounter people, who have been influenced by extremism on the Internet, touting hyper Calvinist ideas and insisting that if someone is an Arminian, that person is not really a Christian at all. They equate Arminianism with sheer works salvation. They suggest that Arminianism implicitly denies the atonement. Or they insist that the God worshiped by Arminians is a totally different God from the God of Scripture.

That’s really over-the-top rhetoric—totally unnecessary—and rooted in historical ignorance. A couple of years ago, when I started my weblog, I mentioned that tendency in the first entry I posted, which was titled “Quick and Dirty Calvinism.” At the end of that post, I said this: My advice to young Calvinists is to learn theology from the historic mainstream Calvinist authors, not from blogs and discussion forums on the Internet. Some of the forums may be helpful because they direct you to more important resources. But if you think of the Internet as a surrogate for seminary, you run a very high risk of becoming unbalanced.

Read mainstream Calvinist authors, however, and you’ll have trouble finding even one who regarded Arminianism per se as damnable heresy. There’s a reason for that: It’s because while Arminianism is bafflingly inconsistent, it is not necessarily damnably erroneous. Most Arminians themselves—and I’m still speaking here of the classic and Wesleyan varieties, not Pelagianism masquerading as Arminianism—most Arminians themselves emphatically affirm gospel truth that is actually rooted in Calvinistic presuppositions.

This post is adapted from a transcript of a seminar from the 2007 Shepherds’ Conference, titled “Closet Calvinists.”

© 2008 by Phil Johnson
Executive Director
Grace to You

From the book “Night of Weeping and Morning of Joy” (Found at monergism.com)

They live by faith. Thus they began and thus they are to end. “We walk by faith and not by sight.” Their whole life is a life of faith. Their daily actions are all of faith. This forms one of the main elements of their character. It marks them out as a peculiar people. None live as they do.

Their faith is to them “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” It is a sort of substitute for sight and possession. It so brings them into contact with the unseen world that they feel as if they were already conversant with, and living among, the things unseen. It makes the future, the distant, the impalpable, appear as the present, the near, the real. It removes all intervening time; it annihilates all interposing space; it transplants the soul at once into the world above. That which we know is to be hereafter is felt as if already in being. Hence, the coming of the Lord is always spoken of as at hand. Nay, more than this, the saints are represented as “having their conversation in heaven,” as being already “seated with Christ in heavenly places,”(Eph 2:16 ) as having “come to Mount Zion , and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem , and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born. which are written in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect” (Heb 12:22 ). The things amid which they are to move hereafter are so realized by faith as to appear the things amid which they are at present moving. They sit in “heavenly places” and look down upon the earth, with all its clouds and storms, as lying immeasurably far beneath their feet. And what is a “present evil world” to those who are already above all its vicissitudes and breathing a purer atmosphere?

Such is the power of faith. It throws back into the far distance the things of earth, the things that men call near and real; and it brings forward into vital contact with the soul the things which men call invisible and distant. It discloses to us the heavenly mansions, their passing splendor, their glorious purity, their blessed peace. It shows us the happy courts, the harmonious company, the adoring multitudes. It opens our ears also, so that when beholding these great sights we seem to hear the heavenly melody and to catch the very words of the new song they sing, “Thou art worthy . . . for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth” (Rev 5:9).

It, moreover, points our eye forward to what is yet to come: the coming of the Lord, the judgment of the great day, the restitution of all things, the kingdom that cannot be moved, the city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God. While thus it gives to things invisible a body and a form which before they possessed not in our eyes, on the other hand, it divests things visible of that semblance of excellence and reality with which they were formerly clothed. It strips the world of its false but bewildering glow, and enables us to penetrate the thin disguise that hides its poverty and mean-ness. It not only sweeps away the cloud which hung above us, obstructing our view of heavenly excellence, but it places that cloud beneath us to counteract the fallacious brightness and unreal beauty which the world has thrown over itself to mask its inward deformity.

Thus it is that faith enables us to realize our true position of pilgrims and strangers upon earth, looking for the city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. It is into this that we are introduced by faith at our conversion. For what is our conversion but a turning of our back upon the world and bidding farewell to all that the heart had hitherto been entwined around? It is then that like Abraham we forsake all and go out not knowing whither. Old ties are broken, although sometimes hard to sever. New ones are formed, although not of earth. We begin to look around us and find all things new. We feel that we are strangers—strangers in that very spot where we have been so long at home. But this is our joy. We have left our father’s house, but we are hastening on to a more enduring home. We have taken leave of the world—but we have become heirs of the eternal kingdom, sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty. We have left Egypt , but Canaan is in view. We are in the wilderness, but we are free. Ours is a pathless waste, but we move forward under the shadow of the guardian cloud. Sorrowful, we yet rejoice; poor, we make many rich; having nothing, yet we possess all things. We have a rich inheritance in reversion and a long eternity in which to enjoy it without fear of loss, or change, or end.

Walking thus by faith and not by sight, what should mar our joy? Does it not come from that which is within the veils? And what storm of the desert can find entrance there? Our rejoicing is in the Lord, and He is without variableness or shadow of turning. We know that this is not our rest; neither do we wish it were so, for it is polluted; but our joy is this, that Jehovah is our God, and His promised glory is our inheritance forever. Our morning and our evening song is this “The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. The lines have fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage” (Psa 16:5).

Why should we, then, into whose hands the cup of gladness shall ere long be put, shrink from the vinegar and the gall? Why should we, who have dearer friends above better bonds that cannot be dissolved, be disconsolate at the severance of an earthly tie? Our homes may be empty, our firesides may be thinned, and our hearts may bleed: but these are not enduring things; and why should we feel desolate as if all gladness had departed? Why should we, who shall wear a crown and inherit all things, sigh or fret because of a few years’ poverty and shame? Earth’s dream will soon be done; and then comes the day of “songs and everlasting joy”—the long reality of bliss! Jesus will soon be here; and “when he who is our life shall appear, then shall we also appear with him in glory.”

Shall trial shake us? Nay, in all this we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. Shall sorrow move us? Faith tells us of a land where sorrow is unknown. Shall the death of saints move us? Faith tells us not to sorrow as those who have no hope, for if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, them also that sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. Shall the pains and weariness of this frail body move us? Faith tells us of a time at hand when this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and death shall be swallowed up in victory. Shall privation move us? Faith tells us of a day when the poverty of our exile shall be forgotten in the abundance of our peaceful, plenteous home, where we shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more.

Shall the disquieting bustle of this restless life annoy us? Faith tells us of the rest that remaineth for the people of God—the sea of glass like unto crystal on which the ransomed saints shall stand—no tempest, no tumult, no shipwreck there. Shall the lack of this world’s honors move us? Faith tells us of the exceeding and eternal weight of glory in reserve. Have we no place to lay our head? Faith tells us that we have a home, though not in Caesar’s house, a dwelling, though not in any city of earth. Are we fearful as we look around upon the disorder and wretchedness of this misgoverned earth? Faith tells us that the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Do thoughts of death alarm us? Faith tells us that “to die is gain,” and whispers to us, “What, are you afraid of becoming immortal, afraid of passing from this state of death, which men call life, to that which alone truly deserves the name!”

Such is the family life—a life of faith. We live upon things unseen. Our life is hid with Christ in God that when He who is our life shall appear, we may appear with Him in glory. This mode of life is not that of the world at all but the very opposite. Nevertheless, it has been that of the saints from the beginning. This is the way in which they have walked, going up through the wilderness leaning on their Beloved. And such is to be the walk of the saints till the Lord comes. Oh, how much is there in these thoughts concerning it, not only to reconcile us to it, but to make us rejoice in it, and to say, I reckon that the sufferings of this present life, are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us! For all things are ours, whether life or death, things present or things to come, all are ours; for we are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. Yea, we are heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. “This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord” (Isa 54:17).

We know not a better type or specimen of the family life than Abraham or Israel in their desert wanderings. Look at Abraham. He quits all at the command of the God of glory. This begins his life of faith. Then he journeys onward not knowing whither. Then he sojourns as a stranger in the land which God had given him. Then he offers up Isaac. Then he buys for himself a tomb where he may lay his dust till the day of resurrection. All is faith. He lives and acts as a stranger. He has no home. He has his altar and his tent, but that is all—the one he builds wherever he goes, in the peaceful consciousness of sin forgiven and acceptance found; the other he pitches from day to day in token of his being a pilgrim and a stranger upon earth. And what more does any member of the family need below, but his altar and his tent—a Saviour for a sinful soul, and a shelter for a frail body until journeying days are done?

Or look at Israel . They quit Egypt . There the life of faith begins. Then they cross the Red Sea . Then they take up their abode in the desert. They have no city to dwell in now. They have no fleshpots now—nothing but the daily manna for food. They have no river of Egypt now— nothing but a rock to yield them water. All is waste around. All is to be of faith, not of sight. They are alone with God, and the whole world is afar off. They rear their altar, they pitch their tents, as did Abraham, with this only difference: above their heads there floats a wondrous cloud, which, like a heavenly canopy, stretches itself out over their dwellings when they rest, or like an angel-guide, it takes wing before them when God summons them to strike their tents that it may lead them in the way. Nay, and as if to mark more vividly the pilgrim condition of the family, God Himself, when coming down into the midst of them, chooses a tent to dwell in. It is called “the tabernacle of the Lord,” or more literally “Jehovah’s tent.” Jehovah pitches His tent side by side with Israel ’s tents, as if He were a stranger too, a wanderer like themselves!

This is our life. We are to be strangers with God as all our fathers were. It is the life of the desert, not of the city. But what of that? All is well. Jehovah is our God, and we shall soon be in His “many mansions.” Meanwhile, we have the tent, the altar, and the cloud. We need no more below. The rest is secured for us in Heaven, “ready to be revealed in the last time.”

A great and very accurate article.

Acceptable Calvinism (by Bill MacKinnon)

Well, it has finally happened. Calvinists in the SBC are finally being told to hit the road. We have felt our unwelcome for some time now but until recently no one has had the courage to simply tell us to go. I considered posting links, but let’s face it, you know where to go to find your favorite anti-Calvinist commentary.

Now of course the folks I (and you) have in mind will object, claiming that they never said that they wanted all Calvinists to leave the SBC. They will no doubt claim that they work fine with Calvinists and are even friends with some of them. Technically, I have to admit, this is true. I have not truly seen any universal calls for the exit of all Calvinists from the SBC. There are, it seems, some Calvinists who are welcome to remain. It does not take long to find out which Calvinists those are, but I thought I would do the heavy lifting, and compile all the necessary attributes of “acceptable Calvinists.”

Acceptable Calvinists do not hide their Calvinism when they are looking for a ministry position, but if and when they do find a ministry position, they must hide their Calvinism thereafter. They must by no means try to persuade anyone else of their theological position. They must not, under any circumstances, become associated with the Founders organization. They must never refer to themselves as Reformed. Reformed Baptists have been told to take a hike from the SBC.

Acceptable Calvinists should be at most, 4 pointers. Now some may argue that 4 pointers are not Calvinists at all in the truest sense of the word, but that is not a debatable point. They must not hold to limited atonement, nor should they believe that regeneration precedes faith. If anyone ever refers to you as a Dortian Calvinist, you have most certainly not been complimented, and have strayed out of the “acceptable” zone.

Acceptable Calvinists must not use the term elder, but rather the BFM approved term of pastor. They must not seek to introduce a plurality of elders into any congregation in which they serve. If they feel strongly about this, they must become Presbyterians.

Acceptable Calvinists must not abandon the altar call, nor may they call into question its effectiveness or biblical-ness. They must never disparage Charles Finney. Everyone knows that Calvinists in the main are not evangelistic, so acceptable Calvinists must work doubly hard to prove that they are soul winners. Acceptable Calvinists must also not abandon the Sinner’s Prayer, nor terminology such as “ask Jesus into your heart to be your personal Savior.”

Everyone knows that Calvinists have a tendency also to be moderationists, but acceptable Calvinists are never moderationists. Acceptable Calvinists should never enthusiastically promote their soteriology, lest they be called “aggressive”. But they may, and should, aggressively promote abstentionism.

Acceptable Calvinists must be very careful about who they listen to. Patterson? Fine. Piper, maybe. Driscoll? Absolutely not. They must never speak positively about Acts 29. They must not attend Calvinistic conferences and it would be best if they did not associate with other Calvinists at all.

Acceptable Calvinists must realize that they are a tiny minority in SBC life and must never aspire to anything more than that. They must never repeat the insidious rumor that Calvinism was once much more widespread in the SBC.

Finally, acceptable Calvinists must acknowledge that while they will be allowed to remain in the SBC, they are not truly Baptists. Baptists, we are given to understand, are not Calvinists, because Calvinism is a man-made theology and Baptist-ism is straight from the bible. Baptists are biblicists; Calvinists are not. Baptists, are disciples of Christ; Calvinists are disciples of Calvin.

Epilogue: While I have listed these things in a somewhat lighthearted (and admittedly marginally sarcastic) way, I do not believe I have taken liberties with the underlying truth of these sentiments, as I have seen them in the anti-Calvinist, anti-Reformed wings of the SBC blogosphere. The question is: What do you think?

The reason I posted this is because I have, and am still, dealing with this very issue.

A Puritan\'s Mind

The term “Molinism” was recently brought to my attention. As I was doing some research I found this article on APM’s website and it seemed to me to offer the best summary of what I had been reading. This “doctrine” is more prevalent in the church today than I had thought. Take a read and let me know what you think.

The Heresy of Middle Knowledge

by Dr. C. Matthew McMahon

It is interesting to me to see what errors the Devil will keep alive during our present age in terms of the heresies many good men have put to rest by their orthodox pens. Some heresies have been thrown by the wayside; they have come and gone. Others are still in full bloom. Those who think they have a handle on Biblical theology, but have been led astray by these errors and their own twisted thinking have resurrected some again. And it is equally interesting to me that the more harmful errors and heresies at hand surround the doctrine of God or the doctrine of Christ. In this paper, the heresy I am re-refuting surrounds Theology Proper, or the doctrine of God. It is specifically in terms of the doctrine of the knowledge of God, or His Omniscience. The error is called Molinism, or Middle Knowledge (Today Open Theism is its close brother.).

It is unsure as to whether Luis de Molina (1535-1600) actually spawned the doctrine of Middle Knowledge. Others such as Fonseca and Lessius have put forth the same ideas. Whether Molina himself began it is of no consequence. What is important is that it be rejected by orthodox Christians as heresy. In 1609 the Roman Catholic church decided to allow this idea as something acceptable. However, upon close scrutiny, it is easily distinguished as something unbiblical and unorthodox.

According to Molina (as we will presume it was his idea since the term has been deemed thus by his own name) God has three kinds of knowledge: natural, middle and free. Natural knowledge is God’s knowledge of all possible worlds, i.e. all that concerns the necessary and possible in God’s understanding (this is orthodox). Free knowledge is God’s knowledge of this actual world. By a “free act,” He is able to know what He knows absolutely (this is also orthodox). Molina, however, said this knowledge is not something that is essential in God, which is ludicrous in and if itself. Lastly, middle knowledge states that God cannot know the future free acts of men in the same way He knows other things absolutely. Thus, this middle knowledge is dependent upon the free acts of what men will do. God, in His “omniscience”, waits for men to act and then will choose them to be saved based on their choice to be saved.

The real basis for this doctrine is not the Bible, but a twisted form of logic. The Molinian logician will argue that an action must first occur before it can be true. God, then, cannot know anything in this manner as true and absolute unless it has first occurred. God, then, becomes dependent upon the acts of men instead of on His own eternal decrees. And since the actions of men are contingent, the knowledge of such acts would be contingent as well. The Molinian logicians will also argue this in the manner of something being true. The free acts of men cannot be true acts until they are actually acted. Thus, God cannot know something as true until men, in time, act out their free choices. Then God’s knowledge becomes true.

It is certainly easy to see what the doctrine of Middle knowledge is attractive here. Men are ultimately their own little saviors, and every good Roman Catholic loves the idea of working for their own salvation. Secondly, it seems to provide answers to “theological conundrums” such as “hell” and the “problem of evil.” In reality, all of the above is but part of the Molinian facade.

In this position it seems that the Jesuits were simply attempting to preserve the heretical doctrines mustered up by the semi-Pelagians. Today, those who hold to Molinism simply reject the biblical data of God’s eternal decrees, His omniscience and His omnipotent power wielded in the doctrine of Continuous Creation. Molinism is not compatible with these doctrines. Molinians must simply deny most of the Bible in order to hold onto these ideas while at the same time exalt other portions of the Scriptures which they think holds their view together. They must simply deny texts such as Isaiah 46:10-11 because it is incompatible with their “logic;” “Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’ Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man who executes My counsel, from a far country. Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it.” Whenever men are placed in the driver’s seat of the future, God is diminished in His glory and the depravity of those men bolts to the forefront; then, doctrines such as Molinism rise to the surface. In light of the Biblical data, and logical reasoning itself, this doctrine comes to naught. The only reason why anyone would continue to hold this doctrine is due to unbelief – they reject the God of the Bible.

Turretin states the heresy and objections well, “The question is not whether God knows future contingencies…Rather the question is whether they belong to a kind of middle knowledge distinct from the natural and free [knowledge He already possesses of all things]. The latter we deny…therefore the question is whether besides the natural knowledge (which is only things possible) and the knowledge of vision (which is only of things future), there may be granted in God a certain third or middle knowledge concerning conditional future things by which God knows what men or angels will freely do without a special decree preceding (if placed with these or those circumstance in such an order of things). The Jesuits, Socinians, and Remonstrants affirm this; the orthodox deny this.” (Institutio, v1, Page 214)

Middle Knowledge is a non-entity. The reasons for this are many: First, both natural and free knowledge embrace the knowing of all things for God. There is nothing left to know after these. There is nothing in the nature of any thing whatsoever which is not possible or future. God’s knowledge cannot be said to move out of these bounds. He knows all things possible or future before the foundations of the world. Middle knowledge, then, is a non-entity. Second, no future conditional thing can be knowable before the divine decree. Thus, things not true cannot be foreknown as true. Third, all things are under the power of God’s providence, and thus, no thing can be independent of that providence. Fourth, the Bible does not ascribe to God any type of knowledge this is uncertain (the author is aware of the resurgence of “Open Theism” which is adequately dealt with by Bruce Ware in his book, “God’s Lesser Glory”). Molina would have God confused about all things since God’s knowledge is dependent upon the free acts of men. Thus, any knowledge about any thing in the created order would necessitate that all knowledge God has about the universe would be contingent upon the free acts of men in that universe – which is nonsense. God, then, would simply be a resurrected kind of “Zeus” figure from ancient mythology. Fifth, middle knowledge destroys the dominion of God over creation since all acts are not preformed by God’s decree, but the acts itself. Man, then, becomes “God.”

Molina did not place truth in is proper context. God’s knowledge of reality is not based upon that which is contingent, but His own nature. This means that God’s knowledge is not contingent on the condition of the things known. It based on His asiety, or His necessary being. Since God’s being is necessary in this manner, everything in known to Him is necessary not contingent. If God’s knowledge is dependent on the free actions of men, then God is not really God at all. It would be just as well to bow down to a graven image or an idol made from your own hands. He would have no power to act independently of men, nor would he have the power to enact any change whatsoever, not even the act of creation.

There is no position in between the two poles of logic – God is the cause of all things, both primary and secondary means, (this Calvinism affirms) or, He is dependent upon other free acts (Roman Catholicism and Arminianism affirms). God is either cause, or He is effect. The epistemological nature of God’s knowledge will not allow Him to become an Olympian god who peers over the clouds to see what trickery men have played against Him that day. Efficacious salvation would be impossible with such a “god.” How could Zeus ensure the salvation of any individual if the individual is the author and finisher of his own faith? Molinism does not only deny the cardinal doctrines of Theology Proper, but also denies the depravity of man at this point (and this the usual goal of such doctrines – to relieve man of his true misery and place in his hands a form of “power” that the serpent tempted Eve by).

Turretin sums up these ideas nicely, “The cause of the existence of thing differs from the cause of their fruition. Second causes can concur with God to cause the existence of a certain thing because they exist and are active at the same time with God. But no second cause can concur with him to cause the futurition of things because futurition was made from eternity, while all second causes are only in time. Hence it is evident that the futurition of things depends upon nothing but the decree of God, and therefore can be foreknown only from the decree.” (Institutio, v1, Page 218)

Brief Scriptural Support for the infinite knowledge of God and His power, and the Biblical denial of Molinism:

Acts 17:24-25, “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.

Col. 1:17, “And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.”

Acts 17:28, “…for in Him we live and move and have our being…”

Rom. 11:33-34, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?”

Psalm 147:5, “Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite.”

Heb. 4:13, “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”

Acts 15:18, “Known to God from eternity are all His works.”

Ezekiel 11:5, “Then the Spirit of the LORD fell upon me, and said to me, “Speak! ‘Thus says the LORD: “Thus you have said, O house of Israel; for I know the things that come into your mind.”

The Westminster Confession of Faith substantiates the orthodox position on this subject in chapter 3:1-3 – On God’s Decree.

I. God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass:[1] yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin,[2] nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.[3]

1. Psa. 33:11: Eph. 1:11: Heb. 6:17

2. Psa. 5:4; James 1:13-14; I John 1:5; see Hab. 1:13

3. Acts 2:23; 4:27-28: Matt. 17:12; John 19:11; Prov. 16:33

II. Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions,[4] yet hath he not decreed anything because he foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.[5]

4. I Sam. 23:11-12; Matt. 11:21-23

5. Rom. 9:11, 13, 16, 18

III. By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels[6] are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death.[7]

6. I Tim 5:21; Jude 1:6; Matt. 25:31, 41

7. Eph. 1:5-6; Rom. 9:22-23; Prov. 16:4

I’ve heard many times that “Calvinist take John 3:16 and just throw it out of the Bible.” On the contrary we lean heavily on this beautiful verse. In this video series Mark Kielar breaks this verse down for us.



“I frankly confess that, for myself, even if it could be, I should not want ‘free-will’ to be given me, nor anything to be left in my own hands to enable me to endeavour after salvation; not merely because in face of so many dangers, and adversities and assaults of devils, I could not stand my ground …; but because even were there no dangers … I should still be forced to labour with no guarantee of success … But now that God has taken my salvation out of the control of my own will, and put it under the control of His, and promised to save me, not according to my working or running, but according to His own grace and mercy, I have the comfortable certainty that He is faithful and will not lie to me, and that He is also great and powerful, so that no devils or opposition can break Him or pluck me from Him. Furthermore, I have the comfortable certainty that I please God, not by reason of the merit of my works, but by reason of His merciful favour promised to me; so that, if I work too little, or badly, He does not impute it to me, but with fatherly compassion pardons me and makes me better. This is the glorying of all the saints in their God” – Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will (Grand Rapids: Revell, 1957), 313-314.