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More Questions on Calvinism

In the following e-mail exchange, the e-mailer's questions are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My responses are in red.


>Could you please advise how I should address "you shall not eat it..." [in Genesis 3:3] in respect of Freewill. Any advise would be appreciated.

Len
2/19/2000<

There are several possibilities:

1. The same as all the other commands in Scriptures. They are God's way of showing us what His will is, and how we should live our lives. But because we are sinners we cannot follow His laws, so they are a means to lead us to repentance.

2. But, since Adam and Eve were created directly by God, it cannot be said they had a sin nature. So some Calvinists, namely low-Calvinists or "infralapsarian" Calvinists, do believe that Adam and Eve had "free-will" or the "power of contrary choice." But they used that free-will to sin against God. As a result, they and all of their descendents now have a sin nature. As a result, we can no longer not sin as it is our nature to sin.

In other words, Adam and Eve did have free-will in the Arminian sense, but as a result of the Fall, no one since has had a true free-will since we are all bound by sin until Christ sets us free.

3. The high-Calvinist, or supralapsarian, would say the Fall was predestined by God. So Adam and Eve did not have a free-will in regards to eating from the tree. The command was simply to show then what sin was, just as commands are for us today.

 Of these, I prefer number two, but number three is a possibility. 


>Hi Gary,

I found your site as I was doing a search in my effort to research Calvin. I read with very much interest and may I compliment you on a well developed site. There is a question that has always bothered me and one that I find great difficulty getting an answer to, that is, If Calvin was right and only the "elect" can be saved, and according to your site, cannot resist grace, that is, WILL be saved, then what is the point of church at all? If this is true, then doesn’t it stand to reason that preaching is an exercise in futility since it is not, cannot, effect the final outcome?<

Not at all. God works though means. And those means are evangelism and the like. Furthermore, we evangelize because we are commanded to do so. When the infinite, Creator of the universe tells us to do something, then we should do it!

>And how do you know that you are one of the elect Gary?<

By the fact that God led me to believe in His Son for my salvation.

> Isn’t it possible that you are not since on your site it states "...we do not know who the elect are..."<

I am referring to those who are not yet saved. I do not know if a particular person is one of the elect or not, but since I am commanded to preach the Gospel to all, then I do so.

> What a cruel joke it would be for one to come to the alter, accept Christ only to discover when they die that they are not of the "elect."<

If someone has trusted in Christ for their salvation, then that is the "sign" that they are "elect." There are no "cruel jokes" with God.

> Yes, as you have already figured out, I adhere to the Arminian teaching as a basis, but use the Word as a platform.

One other thing that I read on your site. You state that Arminians teach that if a person loses his salvation, it can be regained. This is simply not true. Hebrews clearly teaches that if salvation is lost, it can never be regained, this would be akin to "crucifying Christ afresh..." The question is, at what point would salvation be lost. Perhaps we can have a discussion of this at a later time.

In Christ,
Paul
1/14/2000<

I agree with you completely that "if" Hebrews 6:4-6 is teaching it is possible for someone to loose their salvation, then it is also teaching that it is impossible for someone who was once saved, and lost his salvation, to ever be saved again. However, there ARE Arminians who teach it IS possible to be "saved" more than once. On my site, I quote from a, now old, issue of Jimmy Swaggart's magazine as proof in this regard. But I am glad to hear that at least you are consistent in this regard : )


>I have been trying to do some research for a friend perhaps you can help. I'm looking for Christians (past and present) who believe in the doctrine of eternal security (so far I have found Martin Luther, John Calvin, C.H. Spurgeon, R.C. Sproul, Jonathan Owens, Jonathan Edwards, George Wishart, John Knox). If you can provide others or point me into a direction that might help I'd appreciate that.

Steve
1/10/2000<

Where do I begin? Basically you're talking about most anyone in the Puritan/ Reformed/ Presbyterian tradition, along with most Baptists.

You could start with Augustine, then Andrew and Horatius Bonar, William Law, Philip Schaff, J.C. Ryle, John Owen (note it's Owen, not Owens), John Gill, John Newton, John Bunyan, John Murray, John Flavel, John Robbins (that's a lot of Johns!), A.A. Hodge, Charles Hodge, F.B. Meyer, William Gurnall, Matthew Henry, Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, Jerimiah Buroughs, Richard Baxter, Stephen Charnock, D. Martin Lloyd Jones, David Brainerd, Thomas Goodwin, George Whitefield, Louis Berkhof, A.W. Pink, Francis Schaeffer, Sinclair B. Ferguson, D.James Kennedy, Charles Stanley. A.W. Criswell, Jay P. Green, Gordon Clark, Loraine Boettner, R.J. Rushdooney, Ian Murray, J.Gresham Machen, Charles Swindoll, B.B. Warfield, J.I. Packer, Jay Adams, Millard J. Erickson, Gordon Lewis, Lewis Sperry Chafer.

I could go on, but that's enough for now!

You could also check the list of contributors to the New Geneva Study Bible and the Believer's Study Bible. The first is all Reformed commentators, and the latter, Baptists. Then check out the authors of any P&R (Reformed/ Puritan) books.


>Dear Mr. Zeolla,

On Dec 30, 1999 I gave my life to the Lord.<

Praise the Lord! I am glad and thankful to hear that.

> The subject of Calvinism was brought up 2 days later with my church group. My class leader supports the theory. I, however, do not. I decided to browse web pages on the subject just for my own education. I have to say that is blows me away that anyone can actually believe in this doctrine! ...

Sincerely,
Brian
1/3/2000<

The subject of Calvinism vs. Arminianism is a very complicated, and I would say "advanced" topic. As a new Christian it is really not the type of thing you should be spending time studying. At this stage, you should be getting grounded in the "essentials" of the faith. You also need to understand basic apologetics, i.e. how to defend the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. And most off all, you need to be spending time reading the Bible.

So I would suggest you put the whole question of Calvinism on "hold" until you are more grounded in more important matters. You could begin by reading the many articles and Scripture studies I have written on the essentials and apologetics on my site. See under "Essentials of the Faith" on my Subject Index page. Begin at the top and work your way down. There is a reason I have the "Essentials" section at the top of the page, and the section with Calvinism below: I have listed items on my Subject Index in the order in which I think it is best for them to be studied.

May God be with you in your new life with Him!


>Gary ...

Hi ... I have found your site to be most helpful and informative.<

I am thankful you have found it to be of help.

> I have a question regarding John Chapter 15. I am one who holds to the position that a person who is truly born-again cannot (will not) lose his or her salvation. The text in John Chapter 15 verses 1-8 is interpreted by some to say that a person who is saved at one point can lose their salvation. I would like to know how that you would use this text to support the position of the eternal security of the believer.<

This is admittedly a difficult passage. If taken by itself, it *could* be interpreted in an Arminian fashion. but the question is, is that the necessary or only possible interpretation. I would say it is not.

The Calvinist recognizes that some can appear to be "in Christ" for a short while and then to fall away. This is the point of Jesus' parable of the sower. Some "believe" but because they have no "root" they quickly fall away. So the question is, was someone who had no "root" ever saved in the first place? I would say he was not. The person had an outward conversion, but not an inner change of heart.

Similarly, someone who appears to be "abiding" in Christ but never bears fruit, is he really abiding? If we are a "new creation" in Christ there should and will eventually be visible "fruit" to that conversion. If there is not, then the person is not and never was saved. He only had an outward conversion.

And that is what I think Jesus is describing in John 15 - a person who does not bear fruit has not really become His disciple (v.8). IOW, He is discussing the difference between the true disciple who bears fruit and the false disciple who does not.

>I do very much appreciate your time and consideration. Thank you and may God richly bless you and your ministry.

Your Brother In Christ,
Grant
12/22/1999<

I hope the above is helpful.


>Gary ...

Thanks for the quick reply! I have been studying the passages in John 15 extensively since I asked your opinion and I have come to basically the same conclusion that you have. I have found that it is in the phrase "in me" in verse two and the phrase "Abide in me, and I in you" in verse four, that the distinguishing characteristics of the true and false are brought forth. It is indeed a difficult passage to grasp at first glance, but it is through prayerful and careful study that God makes His Word known to us. In order for a person to be truly saved it is a two-way transaction, we must abide in Christ and He must abide in us, then and only then is there evidence of true conversion ... fruit.

If you know of any other studies/commentaries on John 15, I'd appreciate it if you could give me a "heads up" on them. Again, thank you very much! God be with you. See you either "Up there or in the air"! :-)

In Christ,
Grant
12/23/1999<

It's interesting that we would come to the same conclusion independently. I didn't check any commentaries in my reply to you. So I cannot recommend any off-hand.


>Hello Gary,

Would you please help me with the understanding of these verses [exodus 32:12-14]. It seems at first glance, that God was persuaded by Moses to change his mind. But that isn't possible because of God's immutability. Please correct me if there is error in my view. Also, additional insight would be greatly appreciated.

May God's providence be your hope always.

Bob
12/20/1999<

[Ex 32:12] "Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, 'He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth'? Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people. [13] "Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, 'I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.'"[14] So the LORD relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.

Since God knows all things past present and future, He knew that if He threatened to destroy the Hebrews that Moses would intercede for them. And it was to get just this response that God threatened as He did.

In prayer to God, it is not that we are changing God's mind but that He changes us in the process. Who we are, what our deepest desires are come out in prayer, especially when we pray for others. And Moses' true character was developed and revealed by his prayer.

So Moses prayer was one of the means that God used to bring about His purposes for Moses' life, and for the Hebrews.

I hope that helps.


>Gary,

I would have to say that, from everything I've studied regarding Calvinism, I like it. However, I have 2 questions that I'm curious about:

1. Because of its theology, is a Calvinist able to say to everyone and anyone that God loves them? If so, how? And if not, then how does one evangelize?<

"God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life." Sounds good; only one problem: nowhere in Scripture does Jesus or the apostles say anything remotely like this to all people indiscriminately. Passages like Rom 8 are directed to Christians, not non-Christians.

So the answer is no, the "Touched by an Angel" type of message is not the message Jesus and the apostles had for people. "Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand" is Jesus' first words when He starts His ministry (Mark 1:15), and His last words of instructions to His apostles is, "that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem" (Luke 24:47).

So one evangelizes by following the example of Jesus and the apostles and tells people they need to repent; and if they do, they will be forgiven. Promises of God's love should only be included within the context of His forgiveness, as shown in the death of Christ (1John 4:9).

> 2. In Luke 13:34 there is the account of Jesus weeping over the rebellious, unbelieving Israelites. How would a Calvinist view this passage?<

[Lk 13:34] "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!

A somewhat difficult passage, admittedly. But note that this passage is directed towards the leaders of Jerusalem, not the people per se (note "your children" and compare Matt 23:29-32). It is Jesus reiterating what He said to the Pharisees (Matt 23:13). So it is Christ in His humanity recognizing the evil of the misguided leaders.

>Thanks so much for your time and consideration. These are questions that I genuinely desire to know the answer to, for the Calvinistic camp is the one that I'm persuaded to.

Thanks again,
Pete
Psalm 119:165 "Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble."
11/24/1999<

I hope the above helps.

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