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Calvinism -- Ten Little Caveats*

by Bob Moore

Copyright 1998



Among others, doctors R.C. Sproul, with his Ligonier Ministries; James Kennedy, with his Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church TV ministry; James Boice, John MacArthur, and John Piper, with their media outlets, are doing an excellent job of presenting the Calvinist position of the Christian faith.

Friends and children of mine have changed their thinking to conform to this position. I have been challenged to do so as well. If God was really sovereign in the way they say He is, I had to change my view of Him and I thought I had a pretty good understanding of what God was like. My Calvinian friends argued that my resistance came from feeling that my supposed autonomy was threatened. Was I not wanting to be the one who determined whether or not I was saved? I had to answer, "No, that's not my problem; I am convinced that to God alone belongs the glory for my salvation."

So, I thought about leaving the situation as an agreement to disagree. After all, the Calvinist and I both believe we are responsible to believe God and persevere in our faith, so on a practical level we live our lives the same way. We both believe that we have personal responsibility with regard to our salvation. We both are tempted to wrongly fret about problems. And, we are both tempted to wrongly believe that God is not in control of things in our lives. This being the case, why not leave things as is?

I'm not concerned for my family and friends, that they are Calvinian. In fact, I think they are in a good place in the Christian faith. The history of conservative Calvinism has produced many individuals of great faith, love, character and maturity having brought much glory to our Lord. I would much rather these friends be good, solid Presbyterians than theologically loose-thinking Arminians.

I have not written, therefore, to press my friends for a conversion back to their former positions_ but, it is hard to leave things as they are, especially if you consider the possible harm there might be of living your life with false understandings. I know Calvinists think the same way. We both might think of the illustration of the Mad Hatter in ALICE IN WONDERLAND. Hatters became "mad" because they lived their lives unaware of the harm involved in not knowing the truth about mercury poisoning in the materials they used. Not everything is that drastic, of course, but it behooves us to believe the truth as much as it lies within our power to be discerning of it.

Sproul and the others believe this too; that's why they have tapped into the media to get the word out. Non Calvinists certainly are using the media, but in the lectures or books I have read I haven't seen a satisfying presentation that shows how God's way of saving individuals differs from the Calvinian view. I thought I would try to do this on the Internet with a downloadable book.

The "problems" dealt with by me in this book have been studied and expounded on by specialists a thousand times over. Every argument on whichever side has its reasonable rebuttals, but I intend to approach the matter in a different way. I will start with presuppositions that Calvinist's have and show how these lack the ability to support their position. Toward the end of the book I'll deal with what I consider a major Bible-text argument used by Calvinists (Romans 9). But of the less weighty texts on both sides, I'll try to refer you to some authors whom I think do a fair job of explaining things.

I realize that the job of "explaining away" difficulties often looks like, and often is, "special pleading". I'm thinking, for example, of treatment I've seen on ("Not willing that any should perish but that all come to repentance", et. al.) from the Calvinist camp. Or, Jn. 6:65b ("_no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.", et. al.) from Arminian camps. However, once a person has the correct presuppositions about God's revelation, the explanation of scripture becomes a little easier.

In contrasting the Calvinist, Arminian, and what I take to be a third, distinct, Biblical view of the way God effects salvation, I hope to do two things. First, I would like to espouse a higher view of God's sovereignty than Calvinists have done, and second, I would like to urge that a vision of Christian unity be built that will enable us to "speak the same thing" , "that they may all be one_that the world may believe_" But more about these purposes as I proceed.

Just a note on gender-specific usage: Please forgive my penchant for use of the male gender to represent both male and female. In my view it is a much more fluid style than that of jerking around our consciousness with alternating usages. Using one person to represent others also has the backing of the Bible and our form of government. I have seen bumper stickers that say, "She who laughs last...". I have thought it would be witty to add: "She who laughs last humbly acknowledges the wisdom of representative government", but then, who would get it?

* Caveat:  a warning or explanation to prevent misinterpretation.