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In the following e-mail exchange, the e-mailer's comments are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My comments are in red.
>I have read your site on Calvinism, and can not conceive of a God who "elects" some for heaven and some for hell. This is not love.<
First off, I could respond by saying I cannot conceive of a God who is not in complete control. I cannot conceive of a God who would have human "free-will" determine human history and individual destines. And most of all, I cannot conceive of a God to whom I could not pray to and ask Him to change a person's heart.
But, of course, what kind of God either you or I can "conceive" of is irrelevant. What matters is, what do the Scriptures teach? In my Scripture studies and other articles on my site I provide ample, at least for me, evidence of the Calvinist position. And it is because of this Scriptural evidence, and not my own "conception" of what God should be like, that I ascribe to the Calvinist position.
Second, as for what "love" is, again, the Scriptures, not our conception, should determine the definition. I will say this, unless you truly accept and understand that ALL people, you, me, and everyone else, deserves damnation, then you will not understand Calvinism.
To me, it is the greatest demonstration of love for God to save so much as one hell-deserving sinner. Moreover, if God saves one person, He is in no way obligated to save another. To say that He is is to miss the first point, we all deserve damnation.
Furthermore, in the Arminian viewpoint, God did not actually save anyone through the death of Christ. God simply made it "possible" for people to be saved. But in the Calvinist viewpoint, the death of Christ ensured that people would be saved. To me, this is truly love.
> I have been a Christian for 36 years, and am recently transplanted into a Presbyterian church. Our pastor explained this doctrine last week, and I am made sick by the thought that they can believe that God is like this.<
I rejoice and am truly humbled by that fact that God saved me, a hell-deserving sinner. Moreover, when I came to understand that it was God and God alone that saved me, that my supposed free-will had nothing to do with it, it drove me to my knees in tears of thanksgiving to Him, thanking Him for my salvation.
So personally, this doctrine does not "sicken" me but truly humbles me and enables me to understand the incredible grace of God to save save people who could not, and most of all, would not want to save themselves.
Again, unless you truly understand and accept the Biblical doctrine that all people are hell-deserving sinners, and that there is nothing they can do to save themselves, or to participate in their salvation in any way, then you will not be able to accept the Calvinist position.
> When I came to the Lord, it was because of the love of God which showed through the lives of the members of an "Arminian" based church. God's love through them was irresistible.
In my present church, the people are snobbish, unloving, and full of pride. I can only conclude that it is because of their doctrinal beliefs, and feelings of eternal security. But, I don't know that this is true. It would make sense in explaining their lack of Christian virtues.<
Interestingly, just a couple of days ago I had a woman e-mail and tell me the exact opposite. She told me she found that Arminians are nasty and unloving, but it was in Calvinists that she saw true Christian love and humility.
I will say this, any Christian, Arminian or Calvinist, if they are truly a Christian, will be loving. Of course, no one is perfect, especially at always being loving. But one of the fruits of the Spirit is love (Gall 5:22).
Moreover, no Christian has any basis for being "snobbish" or "full of pride." Paul writes:
[Eph 2:8] For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,  not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Now Arminians and Calvinists might differ as to what the "that" refers to in the second half of verse eight. Some Calvinists believe the antecedent is "faith." Thus our faith is a gift of God. Meanwhile, Arminians relate it back to "saved" thus saying it is salvation that is the gift of God. But either way, Paul is clear in saying no Christian "should boast."
That said, personally, before I came to my Calvinist beliefs I had an element of pride in my salvation. I had thought I was "smart" enough to have figured out that I needed to be saved by grace! But when I came to find out that my very ability to figure out I needed to be saved by grace, for that matter, that my very desire to even think about wanting to be saved was given to me by God, then all basis for pride was dissolved. It was for that reason that I was driven to my knees in thanksgiving to God.
In other words, in my mind, the Calvinist has even less reason to "boast" than the Arminian. The Arminian can always have pride in his "free-will" choice to accept God's "free-offer" of salvation. But the Calvinist, who truly understands his theology, and most of all his Bible, will have no basis for pride whatsoever.
That said, I am sure there are those who claim to be Calvinists who are "snobbish" because they think they are "elect." To such Calvinists, I would say, get on your knees and repent! Any person who thinks as such does not understand salvation by grace, let alone what "election" really means.
> This is an evangelical church, but it seems to me that they do a great job at loving "vertically", but do poorly in fulfilling the second greatest commandment, "love your neighbor as yourself." One thing for sure, the "elect" need to be thankful to those who adhere to the Armenian doctrine because they are those who are "doing the job" in bringing a multitude to Christ through their genuine sincerity and love.<
Again, I doubt very much any type of blanket statement could be made that Arminians are more "loving" than Calvinists, or vice-a-verse. ANY Christian of any persuasion should be loving. If they are not, well, John had a thing or two to say to them (1John 2:10; 3:10-23; 4:7-21).
That said, you can be sure that Calvinists are just as "evangelistic" as Arminians are. My Web site is an example of that.
> I will never believe the Reformed Faith, and would not want to serve a God who practiced arbitrary election.<
There was a time when I, and many other Calvinists, would have said, "I will never believe the Reformed Faith." I have had several people e-mail me and tell me they became Calvinists even though they once had this attitude. And why did I and they do so? Because we came to realize that it was what the Scriptures taught. So the question you need to ask yourself is, are you open to believing whatever it is the Scriptures teach?
As for referring to election as "arbitrary" this is a favorite way for Arminians to misrepresent the doctrine of predestination. Election is not "arbitrary" it is based on the will of God (Eph 1:5).
> What's the point of loving people in general?<
Because the infinite, sovereign Ruler of the universe tells us to? For me, that is more than enough reason to do so.
> Do the "damned" just receive a little bit of God's love for a time, until he sends them to hell? That is not love, no matter what your theology.
Again, you are defining "love" rather than letting the Bible do so. You apparently define love as giving everyone the same "chance" at salvation. I define love as God actually saving people, and people who do not deserve or in any way contribute to their salvation at that. But again, what is important is what the Bible teaches.
Furthermore, the non-elect are damned because they deserve to be damned. Unless you understand that you will not accept Calvinism. And to understand why we all deserve damnation requires an understanding of the true depravity of our sins, and the absolute holiness of God.
I will close by simply encouraging you to look over my Scriptures Studies on Calvinism; look up the multitude of verses listed in their contexts, and see if in fact I am using them correctly. If not, then fine, reject Calvinism as being unscriptural. But if I am using the verses correctly, then you need to search yourself and ask if you are willing to believe what the Scriptures teach, or will you cling to your conception of what God and love "should" be like?
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