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Correspondence on Calvinism

GARY: Thank you for the materials; they are much appreciated. We will do a detailed review of each.... I have one question. Would it be correct to assume that you hold to Calvinist principles and if so do you hold to all 5 points, some, or are you a hyper-Calvinist?

We at A Thief in the Night hold to a balanced doctrine; we believe there is an essential balance in the Word. If you read the Bible through you will find doctrine supporting both Arminianism and Calvinism. But a detailed study shows a balance between the two. But the fact of the matter is there is not much a difference in the doctrine of each, to really argue the point. I was just wondering so I know where you are coming from. I appreciate your ministry brother. I encourage you to keep up the good work.

Waiting for the Ultimate Thief, Scott Busbee; editor of A Thief in the Night; Hudsonville, MI

DEAR SCOTT BUSBEE: Thank you for the kind review of Darkness to light materials in your magazine....

In regards to your question on my Calvinism, I consider myself to be a "Five Point Calvinist." But I am definitely NOT a "hyper-Calvinist." The latter is a heretical view that denies human responsibility and the need to live a moral life (i.e.. antinomianism). Even Calvin considered this view heretical.

I would classify myself as a Sublapsarian, or more commonly, low-Calvinist. This is opposed to a Supralapsarian or high-Calvinist. The difference between these is rather technical. Suffice it to say here, the Westminster Confession advocates a low-Calvinist position.

As for your idea that one should "balance" Calvinism and Arminianism, I'm sorry but the two systems are incompatible. For instance, either ALL true believers will persevere to the end, or it is possible for some to fall away. Both positions cannot be true. The same can be said for the other five points.

Moreover, all five points "hang" together. You cannot eliminate one without being inconsistent on the others and/ or ending up into heresy. For instance, Karl Barth tried to be a "four-fifths Calvinist" (denying Limited Atonement). As a result, he ended up believing in Universalism (everyone will be saved).Praying hands

Also, there are practical implications as to which position one holds, such as how one prays. At least if a person is consistent. But, as is often said, everyone is a Calvinist on his knees. However, I must emphasize, in this debate, we are NOT dealing with an essential of the faith. As such, Christian need to act with charity towards those who hold an opposing view.

And lastly, keep up the good work. Your 'zine is interesting. Yours in Christ, Gary F. Zeolla

GARY: Thank you for your letter.... I am not trying to attack or change your beliefs; I am just trying to understand the fundamentals of Calvinism.

Limited Atonement sounds like a horrible and monstrous doctrine. How could God create one man and say "I love you; Heaven is yours" and then create another and doom him to Hell? I see it like a great painter working on a masterpiece (which we all are, praise God!) and then saying it's ugly and throwing it out even though it is created just like the rest.

Next, what is the Calvinist's stand on the verse that states God does not wish for any of us to perish but to have everlasting life? And lastly, if Jesus died on the cross for certain people, why should we go out and witness? Why should we do good works? Why shouldn't we just live life like the world does?

The Calvinist doctrine to me seems like the elect are mere robots doing what God wants them too. God chose them at the beginning of time and all the non-elect will burn in Hell. Doesn't sound fair to me; just sounds like a teach playing favorites on no basis at all.

I feel we have free will and God is sovereign. God gave us the Bible to tell us of sins, because sins have consequences. God set those consequences up and warned us so we wouldn't be hurt. If we are hurt it is our fault not God's. God is all knowing and knows what we will do but it is us that ultimately makes those turns on the road of life. How do you feel about this? I have yet to talk to a Calvinist who will give me any straight answers and I'm sure you won't jock me around. Tell me how it is....

Now that I am done criticizing which most people do without praise, I must now praise you upon your great work with your newsletter. I find it both intellectually stimulating and entertaining, while building up my spiritual muscle at the same time. I love what you are doing in the prisons and I hope my 'zine makes it into more prisons myself....

Waiting for the Ultimate Thief, Scott Busbee

DEAR SCOTT BUSBEE: Thank your for your letter. I will try to respond briefly to your concerns... In regards to Calvinism and Limited Atonement, you ask, "How could God create one man and say 'I love you; Heaven is yours' and then create another and doom him to Hell?" You further say this doesn't sound "fair."

The perspective you are describing is HIGH-Calvinism or Supralapsarianism. This position states that God, to glorify Himself, decided BEFORE the Fall to create some people to be saved and others to be damned. This was the view of Calvin, Luther, and other early Reformers.

However, most Calvinists since, including the Westminster Confession and myself, ascribe to low-Calvinism or Sublapsarianism. In this perspective, AFTER the Fall, God would have been totally just to have damned the entire human race. But, out of His mercy and grace, He chose to save some.

Furthermore, that God chose to save some sinners in no way obligates Him to save others. Our definition of "fairness" is not what matters. The Apostle Paul responds to those who say God is unfair in His dealings with people by declaring, "But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God?" (Rom 9:20).

And remember this statement, "Whatever God does is right, because it is God who does it." In other words, God cannot be held to any other standard than Himself. So if He does something, then it is a right (correct, good, proper, fair) thing for Him to have done by the mere fact that He did it.

So if the Bible teaches that God saves some while passing over others and damning them for their sins, then this is an appropriate (fair) thing for God to do. Thus the elect receive mercy, the non-elect receive justice, but no one is treated unfairly.

Also, you say "Limited Atonement sounds like a horrible and monstrous doctrine." Calvin called it a "Horrible Decree." But He believed it because he believed it is what the Bible teaches. Again, our thoughts of right and wrong must be subject to God's thoughts (Isa 55:6-11).

And why should we witness, do good works, etc.? Simple: because God tells us to! Is any other reason needed for the true Christian? Further, these are the means by which God accomplishes His purposes. The end cannot be separated from the means. This does not make us "robots" but obedient.

As for 2 Peter 3:9, this is probably one of the most commonly misinterpreted verses in the Bible. The question to be answered in properly interpreting it is, who is meant by "any" and "all?" Most assume these pronouns refer to humanity as a whole. However, NOWHERE in 2Peter is humanity as a whole ever addressed. Peter ALWAYS throughout his epistle contrasts believers versus non-believers.

In the context of 3:9, Peter is addressing the "beloved" (v.8). And who is the "beloved?" Those whom Peter is writing to, "those who have obtained like precious faith with us" (v.1:1). So in 3:9, Peter is saying that God is not willing that any BELIEVER should perish. And since God ALWAYS gets what He wants (Ps 33:10,11; 115:3), this verse is then a proof-text for Eternal Security and/ or Irresistible Grace.

On the other hand, if "any" and "all" refer to humanity as a whole, the verse would be teaching Universalism. But this idea is clearly contradicted elsewhere in Scripture (Rev 21:8).

Of course, much more could be said on the subject of Calvinism. For a good, simple discussion of the subject I would recommend R.C. Sproul's book Chosen by God.

Lastly, thank you for the kind comments. And may God be with you as you continue in your ministry.

Yours in Christ, Gary F. Zeolla

NOTE: Scott Busbee is the editor of A Thief in the Night. This informative magazine (or more correctly called an "underground 'zine") discusses "Contemporary Christian Music" and related issues. For subscription details write to: A Thief in the Night 6510 Balsam Dr. Apt. B-203 Hudsonville, MI 49426.

HI GARY: The concerns of Scott Busbee can be answered without necessarily entering the topic of lapsarianism. When Mr. Busbee asks, "How could God create one man and say 'I love you; Heaven is yours' and then create another and doom him to Hell'?" We may simply reply that:

(1) He is not taking into account the doctrine of the imputation of Adam's sin. We all are constituted guilty sinners because of the Fall, and therefore we all deserve God's punishment even "before" we ever start sinning [Psalm 51:5].

(2) He is not taking into account the fact that God's grace is really undeserved. It's amazing grace we are talking about! [Titus 3:3-7]

(3) He is raising the very objection that Paul said one could raise against his own theology (see Romans 9). The fact that in raising that objection he takes side with Paul's (imaginary?) opponents proves conclusively that his (Mr. Busbee's) complaints about Calvinism are unwarranted.

As for God's grace being then "not fair", I would answer Mr. Busbee that Yes, God's grace is not fair! Do we want God to be fair and just? Then we all would be damned. The point that needs to be stressed here is that God's mercy in election is "not" a form of justice, but a form of "non"-justice, albeit a good one! (See e.g. R.C. Sproul's Chosen By God for this point).Alleluia

Keep up the good work. In Him, G.M.; Finland

Response: As I was first reading the above letter, I was thinking the writer's comments sounded like R.C. Sproul's in his book, Chosen by God. And then I get to the last sentence and see him recommending it!

In any case, the writer's comments are right on. Nothing would be more scary than for God to be "just" with me. Praise Him for His grace! (Rom 3:10-28; 7:14-8:1; Eph 2:1-10).

All Scripture references from: The New King James Version. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982, unless otherwise indicated.

Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light

The above letters originally appeared in Darkness to Light newsletter in 1995.
They were posted on this Web site in July 1996.

Calvinism - Limited Atonement and Free-will
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