Theology Corner

Addressing commonly asked questions about Christianity from the perspective of a non-theologian

2. Can God's Will be Thwarted?

This section of Theology Corner is a systematic, definitive refutation and repudiation of Calvinism based on logic, reason and Scripture, the Achilles tendons of all false teaching. It is aimed at Bible students who think about what they believe and why they believe it; if needed, basic principles of logic can be found in the "Logical Preliminaries" portion of Christian Handbood of Reason and Insight for Scientists and Technologists. This section was written because the foundations of the largest Protestant denomination in America are being undermined by aggressive, relentless infiltration of Reformed Theology. Congregations are asleep in the pews and leaders are kneeling in appeasement as they sacrifice truth at the altar of peace and unity. Denominational split is the most likely outcome because those who reject the following items cannot comfortably commune with those who embrace them:

  • Given two propositions (event happened) and (God willed event), both are true or both are false for every conceivable event.
  • Regeneration precedes faith because God elected only certain specific persons for salvation. These persons alone are unconditionally and irresistibly regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit and subsequently demonstrate repentance, faith and obedience. The souls of most men, women, children and babies are, upon death, sent to eternal damnation never having had an opportunity for salvation. God is self glorified as He watches this plan unfold.
  • God is the first-cause of all evil. All tragedy, suffering, disease, decay, iniquity, corruption, immorality, wickedness and depravity covering the manifold of sin in heaven and earth were decreed by God before anything existed except the Trinity.
  • In eternity past, God unchangeably ordained everything; therefore, your prayers can change the outcome of nothing.

God does not usually prevent the disintegration of a local church or even a worldwide denomination. But he may respond to sleeping believers who awaken and purge false teaching from their midst.

If the essence of Calvinism is encapsulated in a glass polyhedron, its appearance will differ depending on which face is used as a viewing lens. In what follows, Calvinism is viewed through the twelve lenses of Logic, Character of God, Life, Corruption of Creation, TULIP, Free Will and Salvation, Prayer and Predestination, Evangelism, Blasphemy, John Calvin, Corruption of the Southern Baptist Convention and Calvinist Playbook. The breadth and depth of this cumulative refutation and repudiation demolish the familiar claim that Calvinism takes a high view of sound reason, Scripture and the sovereignty of God.

LOGIC

Can God's will be thwarted? Two diametrically opposed answers are given to this question. Those who believe in accordance with Augustine and Calvin say no. Those who believe in accordance with Arminius and Wesley say yes. The bifurcation begins with the definition of God's "will." For the Arminian, "will" means "want, desire or wish" whether used as a noun or verb. For the Calvinist, "will" means "decree or command." If the God of Calvinism wills a certain event to happen, then it is ordained by His own decree and His desires always come to fruition.

The Calvinist subsequently argues that the conditional statement "if B then A" where A = (event happened) and B = (God willed event) can never be false because God's command can never be overruled. The Arminian claims this statement is false whenever B is true and A is false; this happens when God's desire is thwarted by rebellion and corruption (Ex 17:7 cf Heb 3:7-9; Eph 4:30). Consider, for example, A = (all men are saved) and B = (God willed all men be saved). The Arminian believes B is true and A is false; God desired all men be saved but many do not accept the gift of salvation. The Calvinist believes B must be false because A is false; God did not command all men be saved otherwise they would have been. But the truth of (God willed all men be saved) is a central motif of Scripture that reflects the very character of God. When a logical inference (B is false) contradicts an explicit, unambiguous, pervasive teaching of Scripture (B is true), we must question the premise from which the inference is made. This premise is the substitution of the word "command" for the word "will." Perhaps this premise suggests more about the character of the Calvinist than the character of God.

The Calvinist takes a second bold step, justified nowhere in Scripture even using his own "puppet master" redefinition of God's "will." The Calvinist insists the converse statement "if A then B" where A = (event happened) and B = (God willed event) can also never be false and therefore God did will all happenings. This means all space, time, matter and energy are under the complete autocratic control of God. The heart, intellect, desires and actions of each human and angel were decreed by God before anything existed except the Trinity. The Arminian claims this statement is false whenever A is true and B is false implying God did not will all happenings. Consider, for example, A = (babies were aborted in America) and B = (God willed babies be aborted in America). The Arminian believes A is true and B is false. The Calvinist believes B must be true because A is true.

The two conditional statements can be combined as "if A then B and if B then A" to yield the single biconditional expression, "A if and only if B" where A = (event happened) and B = (God willed event). Calvinists have erected a towering theological structure on the creaking foundation of this single statement by insisting it can never be false. In general, a biconditional statement is false when either A is true and B is false or B is true and A is false. But the Calvinist views this particular biconditional expression as a tautology (always true) by insisting A and B must both be true or both be false for every conceivable event. This premise defines A and B as having exactly the same meaning. To think otherwise would be to question the sovereignty of God. The Arminian, however, believes God continually permits this biconditional expression to be true or false without compromising His true sovereignty. This means events happened which God did not will and events failed to happen which God did will. One example of either sends Calvinism to the dust bin.

CHARACTER OF GOD

The Calvinist argues that not one speck of space, time, matter or energy can be outside the continual control of God or we have no guarantee that a single promise of God will be fulfilled. It is beyond the wisdom and power of God to create something that He does not meticulously control. The Arminian responds it is difficult to conceive of a less majestic God than One who is self limited to a deterministic mode of relating to His creation. It is hard to conceive of a weaker God than one who would be threatened by events occurring outside of His exhaustive control. What is praiseworthy about controlling events simply because you possess the innate power to do so? In fact, the denial that God can limit Himself if He so chooses constitutes a denial of divine sovereignty. For these reasons, the Arminian rejects: (a) the universal substitution of the word "decree or command" for the word "will" as applied to God and (b) the universal truth of "A if and only if B" where A = (event happened) and B = (God willed event).

However, God does insert Himself into His creation whenever He so chooses. Consequently, the Arminian does believe this biconditional expression is, in fact, always true for certain specific individual events and, for these events, "will" does mean "decree or command." Such events would be impossible without the specific command of God; examples include: (1) a universe that supports intelligent life, (2) the substitutionary atonement, (3) the bodily resurrection, (4) the prevenient grace of God and (5) miraculous healing. But the intellect, will and heart of God are not so small that all His desires must become decrees and this biconditional must become true for every conceivable event.

Since Christians believe they are created in the image of God, could worshiping a God who gets His way by divine decree inspire the Calvinist to do likewise? For most of us, it is moral and ethical character and not skilled intimidation that elicits praise. What is truly praiseworthy about God's sovereignty is not that He exercises a power He obviously has, but that, because of His character, He does not exercise all the power He could. Perhaps the greatest testimony to God's sovereignty is that God created beings who possess the power to say no to Him.

LIFE

Does life resemble a scripted full length movie in which you are merely an actor reciting your lines and doing precisely those things specified by the film writer/director? Or is life more like an interactive video game in which the game designer allows you, as actor/player, to make free will decisions which change the outcome? Consider that video game designers know the consequences of all possible choices but don't really care what choices you make; it's just a game. But what if the creator of the life-game video did care? What if He encouraged you to make the right decisions and grieved when you did not? What if He became so concerned as He watched you on a path to destruction that He inserted Himself into the game, absorbing the consequences of your bad choices, nudging you to a different path and trying to help you avoid ultimate disaster? Which God is more powerful, more praiseworthy, more majestic and more sovereign: (1) the scripted movie writer/director making you say your lines, hit your marks and even die forever, if that is the role of your character, or (2) the "interactive life-game" creator who wants you to win?

The Calvinist believes life is merely a scripted video with you playing the part you were predestined to play. The Arminian believes life is an interactive video in which God allows you, as both character and player, to make free will decisions that change the outcome. The Arminian believes your free will choices impact the fate of your soul.But how can God create something He does not meticulously control? If God chooses to limit Himself by allowing events to occur outside of His exhaustive control, would not all of creation be on the brink of chaos? Surely we could no longer trust any Biblical promise. A poster boy for the "Young, Restless and Reformed," who are the Storm Troopers of the Calvinist revolution, once said, "If there is one single molecule in this universe running around loose, then we have no guarantee that a single promise of God will ever be fulfilled…Maybe that one molecule will be the thing that prevents Christ from returning." Fortunately, the God of Arminianism is infinitely more powerful, praiseworthy, majestic and sovereign than the God of Calvinism. The infinitude of this one true God permits Him to instantly track all possible histories and futures of the universe with no more difficulty than for you to count the wheels on a bicycle. Comprehending the cumulative consequences, of all contingent first-cause, human free will decisions on subsequent events, is trivial for God. As the "interactive life-game" designer, God knows all possible paths your life can take from birth to death. God not only knows all contingencies but He has inserted Himself into the game as your advocate and He wants you to win.

CORRUPTION OF CREATION

As the issue relates to human free will and salvation, the various arguments for and against Calvinism usually revolve around Total depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace and Perseverance of the saints. However, the ramifications of this issue extend far beyond the salvation of souls. For example, did Satan and other spiritual beings rebel against God's will in the primordial past and do they now abuse their authority over certain aspects of creation? Does Satan, who holds the power of death (Heb 2:14) and is the prince of this world (John 12:31; 14:30-31; 16:8-11), exercise a pervasive, structural and diabolical influence so that all of creation descended into the bondage of evil? Should the pain-ridden, bloodthirsty, sinister and hostile character of nature be attributed to Satan and his army, not to God? Is God grieved by what has been done to His creation? Is God permitting, for a time and within limits, certain consequences of rebellion and corruption caused by both fallen angels and the humans who join them? Or, to somehow glorify Himself, did God simply "will" into being a violent, terrifying and carnivorous "mother nature" dominated by parasitic disease, suffering, decay, corruption and diabolical cruelty?

G. J. Romanes provides a good description of the animal kingdom: "teeth and talons whetted for slaughter, hooks and suckers molded for torment – everywhere a reign of terror, hunger, sickness, with oozing blood and quivering limbs, with gasping breath and eyes of innocence that dimly close in depths of cruel torture." W. E. Stuermann gives an equally sobering description of nature's web of interacting events: "The web unravels as often as it is woven in order. Frequently and brutally its threads are ripped in sudden and disconcerting manners, and the orderly tapestry of life unravels, leaving men broken by disaster and despair. Chaos looms before them and stretches to the horizons of their lives."

The intrinsic, pervasive and unmitigated cruelty of "mother nature" is an event that has happened. Therefore, by the fundamentals of Calvinism, God willed it to happen! Is such a conclusion consistent with your image of the Christian God? Look around. Did our good, omnipotent God create the inherently violent and terrifying system we see in nature, a system rife with sickness, suffering and death – a system red in tooth and claw? Does nature itself appear to operate contrary to the character of God? Does the world at every level appear to be at war? Does the world appear to be permeated and corrupted at all levels by an evil influence? Did Jesus believe that someone else had been given authority over this world and Jesus Himself must repair, reconstruct, restore and repossess?

TULIP

In the 5th century, Augustine laid the foundations of what we now call Calvinism. Nothing resembling his contrivance existed for the first four centuries of the Christian church. After Augustine's death, his invention lay dormant for eleven centuries but was resurrected by Calvin and the Reformers in the 16th century. Opponents quickly condemned this heresy by issuing the "Five Points of the Remonstrants" in 1610. These can be paraphrased as:

  • True faith cannot proceed from the exercise of our natural faculties and powers, or from the force and operation of free will, since man, in consequence of his natural corruption, is incapable of thinking or doing any good thing. It is therefore necessary to his conversion and salvation that he be regenerated and renewed by the operation of the Holy Spirit which is the gift of God through Jesus Christ.
  • God, from all eternity, determined to: (1) bestow salvation on those who, as He foresaw, would persevere unto the end in their free will faith in Jesus Christ and (2) inflict everlasting punishment on those who would continue in their unbelief and resist His divine grace.
  • The substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ covered the sins of all mankind in general and those of every individual in particular; however, none but those who believe in Him can be partakers of that divine benefit.
  • The Holy Spirit begins, advances and brings to perfection everything that can be called good in man; consequently, all good works are to be attributed to God alone. Nevertheless, this grace does not force man to act against his inclination but may be resisted and rendered ineffectual.
  • Those once united to Christ by faith may, by turning away from God, lose the great gift of salvation.

The powerful political forces of the Reformation retained the first point but negated the next four. The five points of the TULIP thus became:

  • Total depravity
  • Unconditional Election
  • Limited Atonement
  • Irresistible Grace
  • Perseverance of the saints

The "U" indicates the elect of God were unconditionally selected for salvation before the world was formed and not because of any work in this life such as responding to God's prevenient grace (the grace that comes before salvation) by confession of sin, remorse, repentance, faith and obedience. The "L" means Jesus died only for the elect; the sins of the non-elect (or reprobate) are not covered by the substitutionary atonement. The "I" suggests the elect cannot resist the grace of God even if they choose to do so. The "P" reinforces the inevitability and permanence of salvation for the elect.

In the ensuing 400 years since the 1618 Synod of Dort, the battle between Calvinism and Arminianism has been primarily confined to inconclusive skirmishes in the TULIP field of combat. But polemics on the TULIP have become a pedantic distraction from the primary confrontation. The main force of Calvinism long ago repositioned itself in such documents as the 1646 Westminister Confession and the 1689 London Baptist Confession. The latter document states, for example, "God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass." This is just another way of saying: (a) the word "decree" is synonymous with the word "will" as applied to God and (b) the biconditional expression "A if and only if B" where A = (event happened) and B = (God willed event) can never be false. This means A and B must both be true or both be false for every conceivable event.

Both men and angels are incorporated into the Reformed message promulgated by the Westminister and Baptist Confessions. By God's decree, some men and angels were predestined to everlasting life and others foreordained to everlasting death. These two mathematical sets were unchangeably designated before the world was formed; neither man nor angel can be moved from one set to the other.

Over the past 400 years, even the T of the TULIP has become a source of division between Calvinists and Arminians. Both sides believe in the Total Depravity of the human soul but the two sides do not share the same definition of Total. An analogy will serve to illustrate. Imagine every person is swimming in a dark, bottomless, violent ocean surrounded by wind, rain and terrifying, towering waves – the perfect storm. Jesus Christ is the captain of a magnificent, unsinkable ship. He is supervising as the crew throws doughnut shaped flotation devices, with ropes attached, into the violent waters. Calvinists believe that, occasionally, a flotation device will land exactly on a person's head. Such persons will be encircled and buoyed by this life preserver while being pulled aboard ship. These are the elect of Calvinism. Jesus obviously instructs that "ringers" be thrown to catch the elect without any effort whatsoever on their part. Of course, the greater portion of mankind is so far from the nearest life preserver that rescue is impossible; they are the reprobate of Calvinism and surely deserve to drown.

In contrast, the Arminian believes the ship's captain never instructs the crew to throw a ringer for anyone at any time. Instead, He dispatches His First Mate, a powerful swimmer, to dive into the water and push each person to within arm's length of the nearest life preserver. Then the First Mate says, "Confess your sins, repent and believe; take hold of this life preserver and you will be saved." The Arminian believes many will accept this gift of life made available by Prevenient Grace. Many will reach out their hand, grasp the flotation device and be pulled aboard ship. But the Calvinist insists that the First Mate has never been dispatched by the Captain to push anyone to a life preserver. Even if He had been dispatched, not one person would have the ability to take hold by exercising their own free will. All persons would be stopped by the Total Depravity of their miserable souls. Furthermore, even if one person fortuitously floated near a life preserver and extended their hand by one centimeter to grasp hold, that act would constitute a human work and would mean, contrary to Scripture, that the person was saved by a work.

The Calvinist teaches that you are so Totally Depraved that you cannot be saved unless Jesus instructs His crew to throw a ringer around you! The Arminian believes you must, by an exercise of free will, extend your hand in response to the Prevenient Grace of God.

FREE WILL AND SALVATION

As the issue relates to human free will and salvation, Calvinists claim all reality is interlocked in a causal chain leading back to God as the first-cause of all things; but humans are "free," even though they are pre-determined, because their choices are executed "willingly." The Calvinist defines man as a second-cause agent incapable of choosing a path different from that which God would have him choose. Because man doesn't know he is being manipulated, he believes himself to be a first-cause agent making free will decisions. This is the historic Calvinist concept of "free will." It leads to the idea that absolute determinism by God is compatible with the exercise of free will by man; this concept is sometimes called compatibilism or soft determinism.

Arminians agree much of reality is part of a causal chain but claim God does not determine the free will decisions of men or angels. The idea that men and angels are first-cause agents of choice, is a central concept of Arminianism and is sometimes called libertarian freedom. The Arminian believes "free will" makes you a first-cause agent of decisions. The compatibilist believes "free will" makes you a second-cause agent; you have simply been tricked into thinking of yourself as a first-cause agent. These two definitions of free will are mutually exclusive.

Consider a man who beats his wife, sexually abuses both his daughters and sons, steals from and abuses his parents and subsequently dies without confession of sin, without remorse for his brutality, without repentance and without asking for the mercy of God. The compatibilist claims each one of these events is God's will because God's sovereignty requires complete determinism of all things; God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass. The man may think he is acting freely but he is actually executing a sinister puppet dance, with God pulling the strings from behind His transcendence. However, the man is fully responsible for his second-cause sins since they were executed willingly.

The Arminian claims not one of these sins was God's will and God grieves deeply over each of them. Each sin represents a free will decision by a first-cause agent and is contrary to God's will. God permits, within limits and for a time, the consequences of rebellion but He is deeply grieved by the evil world in which we live. The Arminian believes the Calvinist concept of compatibilism is actually incompatible with God's attributes of holiness, justice, goodness and truth and with the clear teaching of Scripture:

  • If God credits the unsaved with second-cause sins then, in conflict with Scripture (Eph 2:8-10), He would credit the saved with second-cause good works.
  • A just God would not hold a man responsible for a sin which God made him commit.
  • If salvation were simply a matter of God exercising His free-will, then a good God would save all men.
  • The idea that free will can be exercised by a second-cause agent is logical nonsense. Free will can only be exercised by a first-cause agent. Consequently, the thesis (determinism by God is free-will by man) violates the logical rule of contradictories (b is-not not-b). Such a statement is called a paradox.

The historic Calvinist responds that we must not expect the holiness, justice and goodness of God will always make sense to our limited intellect. Furthermore, true free will can be exercised by second-cause agents; this central concept of historic Calvinism may be logical nonsense to man but not to God who reasons on a higher level using a different kind of logic. As a source of confusion on this issue, some modern Calvinists seem to view man as a first-cause agent of choice thereby abandoning the historic Calvinist concept of compatibilism. Once again, however, God is viewed as operating with some higher level of logic so the thesis (God as first-cause agent corresponds to man as first-cause agent) only seems to be a paradox but is not a paradox to God.

Finally, the Calvinist asserts the full weight of Scripture is on his side. However, the Arminian believes the character of God, which emerges from the Bible taken in its entirety as opposed to text out of context, is inconsistent with Calvinism. For example, the Calvinist contends regeneration precedes faith because God elected only certain specific persons for salvation. These persons alone are unconditionally and irresistibly regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit and subsequently demonstrate repentance, faith and obedience. The rest of mankind is condemned to everlasting punishment. This brutal plan somehow allows God to glorify Himself as He rejoices in its execution. To keep this theology afloat, however, the Calvinist must twist Scripture, including the text around the following verses, like Third Reich clergy twisted the Cross into a Swastika.

  • For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
  • He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)
  • Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. (Acts 10:34-35)
  • They came to him and said, "Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. (Mark 12:14)
  • This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive) that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe. (1 Tim 4:9-10)
  • This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim 2:3-4)
  • The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Pet 3:9)
  • Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? (Ezek 18:23)
  • Yet you say, 'The way of the Lord is not just.' Hear, O house of Israel: Is my way unjust? Is it not your ways that are unjust? (Ezek 18:25)
  • Say to them, 'As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?' (Ezek 33:11)
  • For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men. (Lam 3:33)
  • For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. (Deut 10:17)
  • Now let the fear of the LORD be upon you. Judge carefully, for with the LORD our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery." (2 Chron 19:7)
  • Is he not the One who says to kings, 'You are worthless,' and to nobles, 'You are wicked,' who shows no partiality to princes and does not favor the rich over the poor, for they are all the work of his hands? (Job 34:18-19)
  • For God does not show favoritism. (Rom 2:11)
  • And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him. (Eph 6:9)

PRAYER AND PREDESTINATION

Does the theology you adopt on this issue have any consequences for your daily Christian walk? When the eyes of your heart look toward the Holy Spirit, you are looking through a lens which has been shaped by some sort of Calvinism or Arminianism. The face of the Person you see looking back is focused by that lens. The Calvinist sees the face of a God who condemned the greater part of mankind to eternal damnation before the universe was formed. The Arminian sees a God who desires all to receive the great gift of salvation. However, the greatest havoc created by the "blueprint" theology of Augustine, Calvin and their theological progeny may be a distortion of the purpose of prayer. The Calvinist believes God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass. If, before the universe was formed, God unchangeably ordained everything, then your prayers can change the outcome of nothing. In contrast, the Arminian believes God always responds. Prayer always makes a difference. But the difference is not always dramatic and obvious because prayer does not cancel or suspend the particular network of constraints which are bringing some outcome into being. Prayer is the means through which the specific action of God works in and through that network, bringing some succession of events to what will always be a different outcome from what it would otherwise have been. This fact alone should make you come alive with commitment to prayer.

The Calvinist argues that not one speck of space, time, matter, energy or human thought can be outside the continual control of God; otherwise God would lose control of his creation and we have no guarantee that a single one of God's promises could be fulfilled. For the Calvinist, control requires foreknowledge and foreknowledge requires "foreordination." God must be the first-cause of all things if His foreknowledge is to be preserved. Otherwise, according to the Calvinist, God would not have been able to know, in eternity past, what your decisions would be in the future. Embracing this position erases the free will exercise of prayer. This is typical of how Calvinists confine God to a small enclosed space limited by their own intellect.

The Arminian responds it is difficult to conceive of a less majestic God than One who is limited to a deterministic mode of relating to His creation. It is hard to conceive of a weaker God than one who would be threatened by events occurring outside of His exhaustive control. What is praiseworthy about controlling events simply because you possess the innate power to do so? What is truly praiseworthy about God's sovereignty is not that He exercises a power He obviously has, but that, because of His character, He does not exercise all the power He could. Perhaps the greatest testimony to God's sovereignty is that God created beings who possess the power to say no to Him.

Furthermore, God's exhaustively definite foreknowledge does not require foreordination. As John Wesley wrote centuries ago (Works, VI. 226-7): "God foreknew those in every nation who would believe," and "In a word, God, looking on all ages, from the creation to the consummation, as a moment, and seeing at once whatever is in the hearts of all children of men, knows every one that does or does not believe, in every age or nation." Wesley saw no conflict between human moral freedom and divine foreknowledge. He affirmed that although God knows the future, He does not determine it. Wesley believed we must not think that things are because God knows them; rather, God knows them because they are. Could this reasoning retain its validity in the 21st century? Reconciliation of human free will with God's foreknowledge is not possible using our finite human intelligence. But it is possible from the perspective of an "infinite" God.

Consider the meaning of infinity. The smallest infinity is called aleph-null; its cardinality (n) is the number of elements in the set of all positive integers. This infinity is, by definition, "countable." After aleph-null, each element of an infinite set is a subset of elements from its predecessor. The cardinality (number of elements), for each successive infinity, is the number of subsets in the set of all possible subsets constructed from its predecessor. For example, the next infinity after aleph-null is aleph-1 or the continuum; its cardinality ( n' = 2n ) is the number of subsets in the set of all possible subsets constructed from the positive integers. This happens to be the same as the number of elements in the set of all real numbers. Aleph-1 is not countable. The next infinity is aleph-2; its cardinality ( n'' = 2n') is the number of subsets in the set of all possible subsets constructed from the real numbers. Consider the possibility that God can easily process at least n'''''''.... bits of information where the number of ' marks is n.

But wouldn't the sheer size of the known universe -- 100 billion stars in each of 100 billion galaxies -- overwhelm even the most infinite God? To put in perspective the overwhelming sovereignty of God's infinitude, consider the following illustration. Imagine the universe is constructed around a deformable cubic lattice such that the smallest identifiable physical entity is a region called a "voxel" which is bounded by eight vertices, twelve edges and six flat faces. The universe is thereby divided into an ordered (numbered) array of volumes. The volume enclosed by a voxel is on the order of the cube of the local Planck Length (e.g. 1.6 x10-35 meter). When a voxel is deformed by force, matter or energy, the eight vertices retain their identities but may change their positions, the twelve edges remain straight but each may change its length and each of the six flat faces either remains flat or deforms into a minimal surface with zero mean curvature (e.g. soap film). 13.7 billion years after the beginning, the deformable cubic lattice is no longer perfect but contains line and surface defects analogous to dislocations and stacking faults.

Assume the state of each voxel is 1 or 0. Then the state of the entire universe is defined by a countably infinite sequence of binary digits or, in other words, a single real number. The possible 3-D geometric arrangements of 1's and 0's would be more than sufficient to accommodate the complexity of any "Theory of Everything" that might be devised.

Now imagine God allows the state of each voxel to change at time intervals equal to the Planck Time (5.4 x 10-44 seconds). At the end of each time interval, a new real number defines the state of the universe. Nestled among the elements of aleph-3 are particular subsets of aleph-2 that track all possible histories of the universe from the big bang onward. An immanent God would only have to comprehend infinity at a cardinality of n''' to track all possible histories and futures. The Christian God understands infinity at least to a cardinality of n'''''''.... where the number of ' marks is n. This is so overwhelming that our human intellect cannot grasp it! The infinitude of God permits Him to instantly track all possible histories and futures of you, me and the universe with no more difficulty than it is for us to count the wheels on a bicycle. Comprehending the cumulative consequences, of all contingent first-cause, human free will decisions on subsequent events, is infinitesimally trivial for God. Couple this concept with the idea that God has inserted Himself into all levels of the "interactive life-game" video. As the life-game designer, God knows all possible paths your life can take from birth to death. God not only knows all contingencies but He has entered the game as your advocate and He wants you to win. He has given each of us the prevenient grace that brings salvation. He works in each heart, intellect and will. Given His intimate involvement and the infinitude of his knowledge and intellect, what could surprise God?

EVANGELISM

More than 150,000 people die in this world each day. Some souls are saved from eternal damnation but most are not. The Calvinist believes, at the end of each day, not one of the lost could have been saved even if the level of Christian evangelism had been increased by a factor of one billion for the past 1900 years. Conversely, at the end of each day, not one of the saved could have been lost if the level of evangelism had long ago dropped to zero. Before the world was formed, the Calvinist believes God assigned each person to one of two mathematical sets; elect and non-elect. Nothing can move a single person from one set to the other. When the Calvinist evangelist addresses a throng, he is not praying that all will be saved. He merely wishes to be God's instrument for helping the elect identify themselves prior to their unconditional regeneration.

The Arminian believes, at the end of each day, all 150,000+ human souls could have been saved and God grieves deeply for those who were lost. The Arminian believes salvation is offered to all by the prevenient grace of God which is the grace that comes before salvation. This Biblical concept of grace includes the following:

  • Man is totally depraved and not capable of thinking or doing any good thing – a concept embraced by both Arminians and Calvinists (Rom 3:23).
  • The prevenient grace of God that brings salvation appears to all men through the unconditional benefit of the atonement (Titus 2:11; Rom 2:15; Rom 1:20).
  • Prior to salvation, God initiates, advances and perfects everything that can be called good in man. God leads the sinner from one step to another in proportion as He finds response in the heart and disposition to obedience (John 16:8; Rev 3:20).
  • Some men allow God to quicken, assist and nudge their free will to facilitate confession of sin, remorse, repentance, faith and obedience so they may receive the great gift of salvation (1 Pet 1:9).
  • Other men choose to resist and reject the grace of God (2 Thes 1:8-9).

Arminianism holds that salvation is all from grace; every movement of the soul toward God is initiated by divine grace. But it recognizes also the cooperation of the human will in that the grace of God can be resisted and rejected. During the period prior to Augustine, this interpretation of the prevenient grace of God was questioned only by the Gnostics and Manichaeans. It was uniformly embraced by church fathers including Justin, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Origen and Cyprian. A lax interpretation of prevenient grace later led to Pelagianism. The unguarded condemnation of Pelagianism by Augustine led to what we now call Calvinism.

BLASPHEMY

If the Triune God truly ordained all future events before forming the universe then God may be angered by Arminians who consider this particular view of sovereignty as inconsistent with the Biblical presentation of God's character. Scripture is silent on the consequences of such a theological error. Alternately, if Calvinism is a theological error, the consequences of embracing and promulgating this error are given with somewhat greater clarity.

By the 1646 Westminster Confession (God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass) and the 1689 London Baptist Confession (God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass), God is the first-cause of all evil. All tragedy, suffering, disease, decay, iniquity, corruption, immorality, wickedness and depravity covering the manifold of sin in heaven and earth were willed by God before anything existed except the Trinity. Injustice also reigned since the greater part of mankind was predestined to eternal damnation by God's decree before the universe was formed (Mat 7:13, 14).

Matthew 12:31, 32 and Mark 3:29, 30 present the "unpardonable sin" of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Attributing, to Satan, Christ's authenticating miracles, done in the power of the Holy Spirit, is one path to blasphemy. What about attributing Satan's evil to the Holy Spirit? Is that less heinous than attributing the Holy Spirit's goodness to Satan? Might that be another path to blasphemy? Is Calvinism just one more arrogant theology concocted by a few Christian elite to create an "elect" aristocracy or is it blasphemy at its core? How could Augustine, Calvin and their theological progeny embrace such a grievous error? According to John Wesley's "Serious Considerations on Absolute Predestination":

"This doctrine is novel. In the first four hundred years after Christ, no mention is made of it by any writer, great or small, in any part of the Christian Church. The foundations of it were laid in the later writings of Augustine, when unguardedly writing against Pelagius. It was afterward taught by Dominicus, a popish friar, and the monks of his order, and at last, it was unhappily taken up by John Calvin."

Wesley goes on to say:

  • This doctrine is injurious to God because it makes Him the author of all sin and represents Him as delighting in the death of sinners, expressly contrary to His own declaration (Ezek. 33:11; I Tim. 2:4).
  • This doctrine makes the preaching of the Gospel mere mockery and delusion since many of those to whom it is preached are, by an irrevocable decree, shut out from being benefited by it.
  • This doctrine makes the coming of Christ and His sacrifice upon the cross, instead of being a fruit of God's love to the world, to be one of the severest acts of God's indignation against mankind. God only ordained a very few for salvation while hardening and increasing the damnation of the far greater number of mankind, namely all those who do not believe. The cause of this unbelief is the counsel and decree of God.

In contrast to Calvinism, Wesley affirmed that God has willed all to be saved and sacrificed his unique Son on the cross so that the great gift of salvation would be available to all mankind. There is hardly any other article of the Christian faith so frequently, plainly and positively asserted. It is that which makes the preaching of the gospel 'Glad tidings to all.' Had this offer of salvation been confined to a few, it would be 'Sad tidings of great sorrow' to most people.

JOHN CALVIN

But who was John Calvin the man? Some pastors and scholars claim he was the most brilliant Christian theologian since Paul the apostle. They extol his Institutes of the Christian Religion as the definitive work that most influenced their Christian formation. Before enshrining him on the throne of theological greatness, however, should we not examine his life to see if he walked the talk? If you were inclined to follow the leadership of Mary Baker Eddy, Charles Taze Russel, Joseph Smith, Sun Myung Moon, Charles Sherlock Fillmore, Victor Paul Wierwille or Herbert Armstrong, would you not first examine their fruit? What about Martin Luther, Aurelius Augustinus, Jacobus Arminius and John Wesley? Do any of these men get a free pass on behavior? John Calvin secured a theocratic vice grip on Geneva in 1541. Failure to join the "elect" aristocracy was hazardous to your health if you lived in Geneva. Calvin had no love, compassion, patience or tolerance for anyone who objected to the teachings in his Institutes of the Christian Religion or who refused to submit to him personally. Criticism of his teaching was considered heresy for which the sentence was death. In the ensuing years, he presided over approximately 58 executions, 76 exiles and numerous commitments to prison. Most of the hapless victims had dared to be critical of Calvin or his theology but the executions included about 34 women burned at the stake for witchcraft. For the burning execution of Michael Servetus, Calvin suggested that his men use green wood for the fire because it burned slower. Servetus was screaming as he was literally baked alive from the feet upward and suffered the heat of the flames for 30 minutes before finally succumbing. John Calvin was a diabolically cruel dictator incapable of Christian kindness, mercy or love. Do you believe God plucked a pitiless, ruthless, merciless and brutal man from the dust bin of history to resurrect and extrapolate a theology dormant for eleven centuries, a theology not found in the Christian Church for the first 400 years after Christ? But if not God, what other powerful authorities might have been instrumental in the empowerment of John Calvin?

CORRUPTION OF THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION

Some independent churches and many entire denominations (i.e. Presbyterian, Anglican) are founded on Calvinism. They view themselves as the keepers of orthodoxy for the Protestant Reformation which most Protestants view as the event in Christian history that rescued the church from the corruption of Roman Catholicism. Curiously, key personalities of the Reformation (i.e. Calvin and Luther) were at least as sinister, diabolical and cruel as those they sought to replace. Other churches (i.e. Nazarene, Wesleyan) completely reject Calvinism. Still others (i.e. Calvary Chapel, Bob Jones) refuse to take a position because they believe only God comprehends the meaning of His own sovereignty. The Southern Baptist Convention is bipolar on this issue and, like a great pendulum, is slowly swinging back toward its Calvinist roots. Southern Baptist congregations are discouraged, by pastors, from even discussing Calvinism. Anyone who raises the issue risks being labeled as "divisive" or "having an agenda." Meanwhile, Southern Baptist Seminaries and Bible Colleges are funneling a new generation of Calvinist pastors into the denomination.

Southern Baptists were predominately Arminian "hybrids" for most of the 20th century. They embraced all but the last one of the "Five Points of the Remonstrants" which are paraphrased by:

  • True faith cannot proceed from the exercise of our natural faculties and powers, or from the force and operation of free will, since man, in consequence of his natural corruption, is incapable of thinking or doing any good thing. It is therefore necessary to his conversion and salvation that he be regenerated and renewed by the operation of the Holy Spirit which is the gift of God through Jesus Christ.
  • God, from all eternity, determined to: (1) bestow salvation on those who, as He foresaw, would persevere unto the end in their free will faith in Jesus Christ and (2) inflict everlasting punishment on those who would continue in their unbelief and resist His divine grace.
  • The substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ covered the sins of all mankind in general and those of every individual in particular; however, none but those who believe in Him can be partakers of that divine benefit.
  • The Holy Spirit begins, advances and brings to perfection everything that can be called good in man; consequently, all good works are to be attributed to God alone. Nevertheless, this grace does not force man to act against his inclination but may be resisted and rendered ineffectual.
  • Those once united to Christ by faith may, by turning away from God, lose the great gift of salvation.

Rejecting this last point, the Traditional Southern Baptist believed that, once saved, no man can exercise his free will to reject God and thereby lose his salvation. This put all Traditional Southern Baptists in the precarious position of wearing the shoes of an Arminian except that one shoe didn't quite fit! Given a carefully defined set of axioms, Arminianism offers a logically tight, self-consistent soteriology. The same can be said of Calvinism. But mixing the two doesn't quite work. Loose ends appear. For example, why would God squelch your free will to reject Him? Nevertheless, the Traditional Southern Baptist fully embraced the Arminian concepts of Total Depravity, Conditional Election, Unlimited Atonement and Resistible Grace. He also embraced the essentials of Prevenient Grace as defined by Arminianism. Therefore, for the purpose of discussion, it is convenient to refer to a 21st century Traditional Southern Baptist as Arminian. This will, of course, offend the legions of Southern Baptists who puff their chests out and say, "I'm not Arminian, I'm not Calvinist, I'm just a Bible Believing Baptist."

The upper echelon elite in the Southern Baptist hierarchy are essentially conducting a great twenty first century experiment to make Calvinism and Arminianism co-exist in a single denomination. History does not bode well for success but failure portends denominational split. SBC Seminaries and Bible Colleges are riddled with Calvinist faculty sending a steady stream of Calvinist pastors into predominately Arminian congregations. If the Calvinist pastor has the courage of his convictions and tells the truth about his beliefs, he will either fail to find employment or split a church. A new strategy has evolved based on stealth, subterfuge, deceit, guile and duplicity employed, of course, with God's approval for the "greater good." This strategy is to suppress the issue of Calvinism/Arminianism in all local churches. If the topic surfaces in a church in spite of the pastor's best efforts to suppress it, he may try to convince the congregation that each individual's choice is simply a matter of personal preference, like whether to wear brown shoes or black shoes to church; no one must be allowed to express the possibility that Calvinism is blasphemy at its core. Because some local churches may see through this subterfuge, other strategies have been introduced with the hope of "tap dancing" around the core conflicts. These strategies include: (1) undermine all discussion and teaching on this issue and thereby maintain a level of ignorance within congregations and particularly within pastor search committees, (2) subordinate the importance of this issue to church growth, music, other entertainment and family ministries, (3) argue that the seriousness of the conflict is contrived in the sense that an Arminian pastor is really no different than an evangelical Calvinist pastor who believes in unconditional election, limited atonement and irresistible grace, (4) utilize Seminaries and Bible Colleges to convert Christians to Calvinists, (5) avoid Articles of Faith that clarify the denominational position, (6) assert the simultaneous validity of both Calvinism and Arminianism using a type of logic popular among intellectual elite called "positive tolerance," (7) claim to be above the fray by just "believing in the Bible" and (8) assert the sovereignty of God and the free will of man are like two parallel lines that meet at infinity. The true battle lines have been drawn, however, and do not meet at infinity. The Calvinist believes, "God did will all happenings." The Arminian believes, "God did not will all happenings." One is true, the other is false.

The SBC Articles of Faith are sufficiently vague to permit Traditional Baptists, Calvinists and even "Calvinist hybrids" to feel at home. One hybrid, touted by some pastors in the SBC, has been alluded to by historic leaders affiliated with other denominations. These leaders indignantly claimed to have serious reservations about both Calvinism and Arminianism. They wanted to move beyond these tiresome 16th century theologies and embrace a new theology that does not diminish the meticulous "sovereign" control of God over all space, time, matter and energy and, similarly, does not diminish the absolute self determination of man. "Calvinist hybrids" seem to view man as a first-cause agent of choice thereby abandoning the historic Calvinist concept of compatibilism. God is viewed as operating with some higher level of logic so the thesis (God as first-cause agent corresponds to man as first-cause agent) only seems to be a paradox but is not a paradox to God. They move up a notch from mere compatibilism (determinism by God corresponds to free will by man) and embrace a higher thesis (determinism by God corresponds to determinism by man). Man is not tricked into thinking of himself as a first-cause agent of choice; he really is a first-cause agent of choice, as is God! Modern day advocates try to intellectually prop up this invention by insisting we should not try to resolve theological tensions that the Bible itself does not resolve. They embrace the mystery of "Biblical Tension" which they attribute to the inability of mere mortals to comprehend the truth. Unfortunately, these intellectual sounding fixes are empty as a gun barrel. They are nothing more than unsound reason papered over with theological hocus-pocus and propped up with buzz words like "Biblical Tension." In analogy with the thesis of the compatibilist (determinism by God corresponds to free-will by man), the thesis of the Calvinist hybrid (determinism by God corresponds to determinism by man) violates the logical rule of contradictories (b is-not not-b). Such a statement is called a paradox.

Calvinists accept while Arminians reject the following two fundamental ideas: (a) the universal substitution of the word "decree or command" for the word "will" as applied to God and (b) the universal truth of "A if and only if B" where A = (event happened) and B = (God willed event). Calvinism and Arminianism are, therefore, mutually exclusive with no overlap and no possibility of consensus accord without violating the rules of logic and reason. But the SBC views both Calvinist and Traditional Baptist beliefs as equally true! This amazing sleight of hand is propped up by invoking positive tolerance, a construction of Hegelian dialectic reasoning in which we synthesize that both a theses and its antithesis are true. In other words, (a is b) is true and (a is-not b) is true; (Jesus is God) is true and (Jesus is-not God) is true. This means every individual's beliefs, values, lifestyle and truth claims are equally valid. Not only does everyone have an equal right to his beliefs but all beliefs are equally true. The concept of positive tolerance is incompatible with logic and reason. One of God's attributes is absolute truth; positive tolerance is absolute lie.

Calvinists have been permitted to divide the SBC at a fundamental level; soteriology is a cornerstone of the Christian faith. Without internal denominational agreement on soteriology, how can evangelism and discipleship be implemented? What will be offered to a seeker? What will be taught to a new believer? By Scripture, "Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste and no city or house divided against itself will stand." Is this passage coming to pass? For five years in a row, SBC membership has declined and the rate of decline is accelerating. 16MM members are claimed but primary worship attendance is 6MM. The SBC currently comprises Traditional Baptist beliefs; zero to seven point Calvinism; universalism and chrislam. God will probably not intervene to save a corrupted, disobedient church or even a worldwide denomination.

The co-existence of Calvinism and Arminianism in a single denomination is being orchestrated by SBC upper echelon elite under the guise of peace and unity. They believe success might be possible but only if a substantial level of ignorance, on the Calvinism/Arminianism issue, is maintained within local church congregations. They know a church will be fundamentally divided if the congregation repudiates the following items while church leaders embrace them:

  • Given two propositions (event happened) and (God willed event), both are true or both are false for every conceivable event.
  • Regeneration precedes faith because God elected only certain specific persons for salvation. These persons alone are unconditionally and irresistibly regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit and subsequently demonstrate repentance, faith and obedience. The souls of most men, women, children and babies are, upon death, sent to eternal damnation never having had an opportunity for salvation. God is self glorified as He watches this plan unfold.
  • God is the first-cause of all evil. All tragedy, suffering, disease, decay, iniquity, corruption, immorality, wickedness and depravity covering the manifold of sin in heaven and earth were decreed by God before anything existed except the Trinity.
  • In eternity past, God unchangeably ordained everything; therefore, your prayers can change the outcome of nothing.

This is not just a cosmetic divide. It is about diametrically opposed divine personalities. It is about the very essence of God. For nearly 500 years theologians have searched for a "consensus accord" and failed. But a politically correct SBC Committee might boldly endeavor to start with a thesis of Calvinism (God's will is not thwarted) and the corresponding antithesis of Arminianism (God's will is thwarted) and, by some Hegelian Dialectic, produce a stunning synthesis, even more clever than positive tolerance, which both sides can embrace. This committee might have to tweak the principles of logic and reason that have constrained the discussion for half a millennium. In any case, Traditional Baptists are unlikely to discover a "consensus accord" much different than the one Neville Chamberlain achieved at Munich. Takeover has been the orchestrated objective of Calvinists since the "conservative revolution" two decades ago. When a Calvinist pastor takes charge of a Traditional Baptist church and splits it in half, the outcome is not viewed as disruptive or destructive; Calvinists view it as "purification."

How incredibly smug and arrogant for SBC upper echelon elite to believe that the unsaved, the seekers and the new Christians around the world are too stupid to see that the SBC "emperor has no clothes." The emperor claims to be clothed in self consistent, Biblical truth. But he is really wallowing naked in the quicksand of positive tolerance. One new Christian might be told, by an SBC pastor or missionary, to believe election is unconditional, the atonement is limited and grace is irresistible. Another might be told to believe election is conditional, the atonement is unlimited and grace is resistible. However, when push comes to shove, it really doesn't matter because the SBC emperor says to just view both beliefs as equally true, at least for now! Can the vast unsaved of the world be treated like fools without damage to the overall efforts of the Great Commission?

One alternative to the plan of maintaining congregational ignorance is for the upper echelon elite to "man-up" to what they believe as individuals and have an open debate within the SBC. The associated risk is that a protracted struggle could damage a denomination which has already reached a membership plateau and begun the inexorable decline. A preferred alternative might be to actually educate congregations about this issue and let local churches decide for themselves. This is a moral and ethical option which relies on the "soul competency and priesthood of believers" and confirms the autonomy of the local church. A local church could decide, for example, to designate itself as "non-Calvinist" meaning, in that church, Calvinism is rejected by the leadership. Another church could designate itself as "Calvinist" meaning church leaders embrace Calvinism. Currently, neither Christian nor "seeker" can confidently determine the position of a particular Southern Baptist church on this issue without conducting an extensive investigation. For example, a church may have a non-Calvinist pastor but several Calvinist Sunday school teachers. Or a church may have a Calvinist pastor because his true theology was concealed from a non-Calvinist search committee. In particularly insidious cases, Calvinist "power players" bide their time until their non-Calvinist pastor departs and then quietly sneak a Calvinist pastor through the side door. In each of these examples, is the church Calvinist or non-Calvinist? Would the congregation know? Unfortunately, most Southern Baptist congregations are far too uninformed to recognize deceitful and duplicitous conduct by a few members of their own leadership. In any case, the proponents of Calvinism, hiding in and behind Seminaries and Bible Colleges, cannot allow local churches to openly discuss and debate this issue because these proponents fear the outcome. Similarly, most opponents of Calvinism, both pastors and laypersons, simply lack the courage to raise this issue in their local churches.

Ironically, local congregations of any non-Calvinist church, if given a choice, almost never choose the framework of Calvinism to define their theological beliefs. Calvinism usually makes its way into the Church via the vehicle of a new pastor or small group of elders infused with Calvinism by a Bible College or Seminary. The full face of Calvinism is never taught or preached by these infiltrators because the greater portion of the congregation would find it offensive. Nevertheless, theological threads will gradually be woven into the preaching and teaching of the church. For example, the tragic death of a child may be framed by saying, "Although we don't understand, we must accept God's will in the death of this child."

However, no one should doubt that within each of us is a monster from the Id feeding on evil from deep within our sin nature and telling us that we are intrinsically more valuable than those around us. If this monster breaks its chain, we might even embrace the desires of the Third Reich and become part of the master race to dominate the world. Or we could merely elevate ourselves above others in church who lack our talents and Spiritual Gifts. Alternately, rather than lift ourselves, we could simply diminish our brethren using the tools of malicious gossip, slander and false accusation. But the ultimate food for the monster is framed by Reformed Theology. The Calvinist can rejoice as he proclaims, "God chose me, before I was born, to be one of the elect, a joint heir to the Kingdom of Heaven; I am surely among the most favored of all men." He can look around at the vast sea of humanity and say, "I am infinitely more valuable than these reprobate scum who God selected for eternal damnation before they were born. I rejoice that God is glorified by their eternal punishment and by having me occupy my eternal place near the throne of glory." With food like Calvinism, the monster from the Id can become a behemoth.

The great Southern Baptist cruise ship is steaming on a long journey somewhere in the North Atlantic. The passengers are sleeping in deck chairs, stuffing themselves from an endless buffet, enjoying a wide variety of entertainment and wallowing in ritual and tradition. Cheerful crew members prance through the corridors chanting peace and unity like left over flower children from the 60's. But behind the façade, the ship's officers are not united. Some would like to take over the ship in a quiet mutiny of stealth, subterfuge and deceit to make sure the "elect" aristocracy on board can occupy the special peerage they deserve. These officers claim to have privileged information indicating the lower class passengers must never be permitted to disembark at the same port as the elect aristocracy. The lower class passengers don't know it yet, but they will be dumped off the ship at an unpleasant location which doesn't appear on their itinerary. But the mutinous officers say that's what these sorry reprobates have deserved from the time they left port. Many of the remaining officers are troubled by this plan particularly since some of the reprobates might be pastors, deacons and Sunday school teachers. But these officers are afraid to speak up for fear of being "divisive." They have been intimidated into believing that shipboard peace and unity must be preserved. While all this melodrama is taking place, a few of the intimidated officers have noticed that the ship is headed for an iceberg only a few nautical miles off the starboard bow. Like the Titanic, the great ship may shear in half before sinking thousands of fathoms into the icy darkness never to be seen again. If only the sleeping passengers would awaken and exert their authority in time to avert disaster. Should the intimidated officers risk disunity by taking command of the ship, alerting passengers to the imminent danger and working with them to restore the ship to its proper course? What would Jesus do? Did Jesus and the apostles sacrifice truth on a glorified altar of peace and unity (Mat 10:34; 1 John 4:1-4; 2 Pet 2:1)? Is the history of the Christian church one of theological appeasement (1 Thes 5:21)? Did the church welcome the beliefs of the Gnostics, Docetists, Ebionites, Arians, Apollinarians, Nestorians, Eutychians and Sabellians in the name of peace and unity? When Marcion demanded that Polycarp recognize his teaching, did Polycarp embrace him in the name of peace and unity or did Polycarp respond, "I recognize you as the first-born of Satan?"

CALVINIST PLAYBOOK

What is the position of your church on Calvinism? What is your position? If Calvinism is making uninvited, ninja-like infiltrations into your church or denomination and you decide to stand against it, be prepared for certain tactics frequently utilized by those who believe Calvinism should, for the greater good, dominate or at least co-exist. Once the core conflicts of Calvinism/Arminianism can no longer be suppressed by clever strategies, the proponents of Calvinism will generally maneuver from a tactical playbook that includes some of the following items:

  • Avoid admitting you are a Calvinist.
  • Avoid engaging your opponents with logic and reason.
  • Erect a few "straw-man" arguments, attribute them to your opponents and then show their weaknesses. (A typical straw-man argument erected by Calvinists is that Arminians believe in salvation by works because the act of free will acceptance is a "work." But Scripture never portrays a choice to receive a gift from God as a "work.")
  • Accuse your opponents of embracing Semipelagianism, an obscure soteriology uniformly condemned as heresy since 529 AD; for maximum effect, not only label your opponents as heretics but claim they are too ignorant to know it!
  • Never advocate the full face of Calvinism; instead, gradually weave theological threads into the preaching and teaching of the church.
  • Assert that Calvinist men and women are hard working persons of the highest integrity whose motives are beyond reproach.
  • Suggest that your opponents are divisive, narrow minded, mean spirited and instruments of discord.
  • Assert the intellectual, academic and spiritual superiority of Calvinist theologians and spokespersons.
  • Extol the magnificence of the Reformation and the Reformers.
  • Teach that peace and unity are more important than some antiquated concept of truth.

The opponents of Calvinism need only three items.

  • Calvinism is not supported by Scripture taken in its entirety.
  • Calvinism is not supported by logic and reason.
  • Calvinism is blasphemy at its core.

Claiming to uphold the intellectual magnificence and Scriptural purity of the Protestant Reformation is the most common ploy used by Calvinists as they assert their intellectual, theological and academic superiority. But doesn't Scriptural truth usually emanate from disciples who demonstrate love, integrity, righteousness, morality, ethics and character? What about the personal character of the prime movers of the Reformation, Martin Luther (1483-1546) and John Calvin (1509-1564)? While dictator of Geneva, John Calvin presided over approximately 58 executions, 76 exiles and numerous commitments to prison. Most of the hapless victims had dared to be critical of Calvin or his theology but the executions included about 34 women burned at the stake for witchcraft. John Calvin was a diabolically cruel dictator incapable of Christian kindness, mercy or love. Not to be outdone, 400 years after Martin Luther died, his teaching triggered particularly diabolical consequences. The prevailing view among historians is that Luther's anti-Jewish rhetoric contributed significantly to the development of anti-Semitism in Germany, and in the 1930s and 1940s provided an ideal foundation for the Nazi Party's attacks on Jews. Just about every anti-Jewish book printed in the Third Reich contained references to and quotations from Luther.

Based on history, the prime movers of the Reformation were at least as sinister, diabolical and cruel as those they sought to replace in the Roman church. Are you inclined to follow the religious teachings of documented reprobates who clearly did not walk the talk? If not, check out Jacobus Arminius and John Wesley. See if they walked the talk?

EPILOGUE

Calvinism has been viewed, in this section of Theology Corner, through the twelve faces of a glass dodecahedron. Its appearance differs depending on which face is used as a viewing lens. The information contained herein may seem logical and compelling but it will never convince a Calvinist. W. Shedd, a Calvinist scholar, one said: "The doctrine of predestination is too hard for new Christians. Never teach it to babies in Christ. Predestination is for settled, mature Christians only." If you attempt to refute and repudiate Calvinism to a Calvinist, he will simply view you as a misguided baby Christian or perhaps not a Christian at all.