Christian Faith – Looking at a Picasso

March 4, 2018 3 comments


Christian Doctrine – Who’s Right? How Can We Know?

As much as I like to write, I don’t think of myself as good reader. Lists are much more readily absorbed. To which I recently found and watched an 8min video on the top ten things that Calvinists overlook with respect to John 6:37. These include:

10. “All” is treaded inconsistently

9. Not referring to church-age salvation after Pentecost

8. The “given” are the 12 disciples

7. Negative Inference Fallacy

6. Judas was both “given” and “lost”

5. Calvinists cannot prove he’s one of the “given”

4. Timing: No Holy Ghost, no death, burial, resurrection, etc.

3. The verses in the chapter that do mention “eternal life”

2. The stated purpose of the Book

1. The second half of the verse.

I am not familiar with Kevin Thompson, but the video can be found here:

I found this video informative and straight to the point in countering many of the typical arguments Calvinists have directed my way as to why they believe in TULIP in general and unconditional election in particular.

Scrolling down through the comments, one person referenced a rebuttal by no other than James White. White’s critique of Thompson begins at about the 1:08:00 mark.

Say what you will about Dr. White – he is passionate and articulate in his defense of all things Calvinism. And, although I find Dr. White to be annoying, arrogant and even condescending, it is not lost on me his defense of the doctrines he holds near and dear. To which, Dr. White puts forth (in my estimation, at least) a compelling hour long critique of Kevin’s Thompson’s list – point by point.

Well, not to just sit there and ‘take it’, Kevin Thompson puts out a lengthy refutation of Dr. White’s rebuttal. And at least from my perspective, Mr. Thompson takes apart Dr. White’s arguments very well indeed.

Suffice it to say, then, that the point-counterpoint of Dr. White and Mr. Thompson is on the one hand fascinating while on the other hand deeply troubling. I am impressed with the knowledge and skill both men employ and the detail in which both men counter each other’s arguments. In the end, I’m left with confusion and perhaps even a little despair. How is one to rectify the discordant views of those who profess Calvinism and those who don’t given that both sides present articulate and compelling arguments? Over the years, my Christian faith seems to have devolved into little more than personal opinion. At this point, I accept the historical personage of Jesus Christ. But, so what. Am I elect? Am I saved? Can there be assurance of salvation? I’m not sure. In the end, I reject Calvinism if only because, in my opinion, the nature and character of a holy God are laid to waste by God selecting very few people to join him in eternity while at the same time determining that the vast majority have no hope or even the ability to choose of their own volition and are subsequently cast off into the pit of Hell. Nevertheless, my antipathy towards Calvinism doesn’t make it wrong. And, too, having been told that my rejection of the doctrines of grace equates to me rejecting the gospel, well, maybe the conclusion is that I am indeed lost.

So, occasionally I search out and find something interesting such as a ‘top-ten’ list for ways to overcome the nemesis of my faith – Calvinism only to quickly discover (again!) that for every argument there is also a counter argument. In the end, perhaps I’m realizing that there is no answer. Unfortunately, if there isn’t an answer to the rightness or wrongness as to fundamental doctrine(s) emanating from the Bible, then how can one have any confidence regarding matters of faith? Unless, of course, one “feels” right about it. Perhaps the conclusion here is that Christian faith does break down to personal affinities – much like someone seeing beauty in a Picasso while someone else sees nonsense. Does it really matter?

The Proof of Calvinism; Reprobate Firewood

February 26, 2018 Leave a comment

Alcohol BurningCalvinists often use Eph 1:4 as “proof” that God elects or otherwise choses specific individuals for salvation from “the foundation of the world”. The thought recently occurred to me that with the prepositions removed, the verse distills down to God deciding that we were to be holy and blameless before he created the world. That is, the verse is not talking about a specific individual’s salvation having been predetermined.

Before too long, I was chided (albeit, gently) with the following comment, “Uh, [the word] ‘to’ is also a preposition [and] if you remove all [of] the prepositional phrases, [then there’s] no verse left! The idea that there is an end-result to God’s choice does not define in any way how God made the choice, or why God made the choice. [T]he basic facts we are left with are that 1) God chooses, and 2) those chosen will be made holy. [Eph 1:4] supports “Calvinistic” election more than it does not.”

Irrespective of my failure to realize that the word ‘to’ is a preposition, I maintain that the premise of the verse/passage is not about the individual salvation of certain individuals. Rather this verse is instead acknowledging the bestowment of a spiritual blessing wherein God is taking the initiative to create holy beings via the cross because of his desire that none should perish. John Piper, in an article written several years ago, (noted below) says he embraces unconditional election because: 1) it’s true, 2) it makes us fearless in proclaiming God’s grace, 3) it makes us humble, 4) it gives impetus for compassion, kindness, and forgiveness & 5) is a powerful incentive for evangelism.

Piper rectifies (what must be) a “discordant verse” with his Calvinistic overview and modifies a clear teaching of the Bible to justify an element of TULIP. Again, Eph 1:4 says nothing about one’s individual salvation. Instead, we’re to be made holy. It baffles me that Piper (and so many others, too), with knowledge of languages, cultures and history derive an entirely different conclusion.

All of which begs the question – why do I get so worked-up over the notion of unconditional election? Of the five TULIP elements, unconditional election is the one that most bothers me. Micah Murray (noted below) has a differing perspective on unconditional election and states:

If unconditional election is true, then salvation is an arbitrary lottery.

If unconditional election is true, then God’s creation is an act of cruelty.

If unconditional election is true, then God cannot be trusted.

Murray’s sentiments are at complete odds with Piper’s perspective. Per Piper, “Before you were born or had done anything good or bad, God chose whether to save you or not.” When viewed through a Calvinist lens, I can’t help but think that God looks to be a rather random, mysterious and capricious deity as unconditional election clearly implies that it is God who picks the “winners” and “losers” – and for no obvious or apparent reason.

A while ago I tried to calculate the percentage of “winners” (aka elected people – see link below). Maybe my math is a bit off as I essentially used the approximate number of Evangelical Christians divided by the total number of people in the world. As is, the likelihood of one being “elect” is ~1%. A rather puny number. But, put another way, for every person born throughout the world, there is a likelihood of ~99% that the individual is NOT one of the elect! So, why would God intentionally create so many “losers” in the world? What is the point of intentionally casting 99% of people to Hell? Perhaps God’s love, grace and mercy are in fact exceedingly limited? As Murray says, “If God chose before the foundation of the world who He would save and who He would not save, then it is an act of unimaginable cruelty to create [all of those] people he has already chosen not to save.” Murry goes on to state that God is essentially creating human firewood with only one purpose – to forever stoke the flames of Hell.

I can already sense the incoming responses:

  • God’s ways are not our ways.
  • Our understanding is confined by time and space – God’s isn’t.
  • He is God.
  • He is sovereign.
  • He is in control.
  • He is the potter and we’re just the clay. He makes us into whatever “vessel” he desires.

The end-result, though, is that I find unconditional election to be a significant bastardization of the Bible’s teaching. Furthermore, Calvinism lays waste the fundamental nature and character of God – one who loves all (John 3:16) and wants none to perish (2 Pet 3:9). TULIP, in and of itself, has a logical construct. However, when I look at various scriptures purporting to support Calvinism, it so often appears that the context of the verse/passage often indicates something altogether different. Being blunt, Christian faith is seems to be pointless with Calvinism at its core and fancy words spoken in a gentle manner by the likes of John Piper can’t cover the ugliness of a monstrous God who’s more inclined to display his wrath than he is to love his creation.

Blinded to Total Depravity (2 Cor 4:4)

January 8, 2018 2 comments

Blind GirlI’ve always understood that Calvinism’s doctrines (TULIP) are essentially in logical order. For instance, one must be totally depraved and unable to “see the light” in order to justify that it is God and God alone who chooses (i.e. unconditionally elects) those who’ll be given salvation. From there it follows that because there are only certain people saved, then the concept of limited atonement makes sense.

For reasons I don’t necessarily understand, unconditional election has been the stake driven through my heart which has caused the most angst within my spiritual walk. It’s been that way for years. Occasionally, though, a verse “pops up” and makes me go, “Whoa!” Such is the case for 2 Cor 4:4 which says,

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

I can’t count the number of times Calvinists have explained that all of man is spiritually dead and therefore unable, on their own accord, come to faith. Yet, here is Paul stating that Satan has “blinded” unbelievers so they can’t see. Why? If we’re spiritually dead, then what’s the point? Maybe Satan wants to add insult to injury?

In my own mind, logic and Calvinism are incompatible. And I am admittedly bothered that there are two very determined sides (or perspectives) in which the pro and anti-Calvinists will use many of the save verses to justify their respective positions. In my own opinion, though, regardless of what I see as the “Calvinist twist” applied to many verses, there are simply too many verses which seem to contradict the fundamental premise that God loves everyone and wants none to perish. To which, I believe that God has offered his gift of salvation to all who would accept. There’s no implied limitation as to the number of “elect” persons. But, that’s my perspective.

However, regarding Paul’s statement in 2 Cor 4:4, there seems to be no “logical” reason which necessitates Satan wasting his time and attention on spiritually dead people. It only seems to follow that Satan, instead, could be more productive with his time and attention directed at other matters. It’s almost as though Satan is sitting back in his easy chair clicking through channels on the television. However, the television is not on!

Total depravity, as has been explained to me numerous times, is the “inability” of people to get past their own sin. Mankind, according to Calvinism, is spiritually dead – and has been since the original mom and dad (aka Adam & Eve). Per Calvinism, we are born completely unable to see, hear, understand or respond willingly to the word of God. We are dead in our own trespasses. A spiritual corpse, therefore, is unable to see, hear, understand or otherwise repent of their own sins. Am I missing something? Is there not a fundamental contradiction here? Wouldn’t Satan’s work to blind people and snatch away the word be completely unnecessary and redundant? So, why does Paul mention that Satan works (and is presumably able!) to prevent folks from seeing the way, the truth and the light? Is Calvinism doctrine of total depravity false. Are Paul’s comments the “proof” which derails total depravity?

The Key to Election is a Preposition? Eph 1:4

January 7, 2018 14 comments

KeyAn article about how sinful we are led to this comment:

But also we will see that if it had not been for His “everlasting love” with which He loved us in Christ in Election “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4) and “the grace that was given to us in Him before the world began” (2 Timothy 1:9), there would be no hope whatsoever for any one of us because of How Sinful We Are.

The article was about how sinful we are. Yet, the above sentence is an obvious statement in favor of the Reformed doctrine of unconditional election. Calvinists seem to use Eph 1:4 a lot to defend personal election. And, fair enough, there it is – “he chose us”. What is there not to understand? However, reading the verse without the prepositional phrase sheds a completely different meaning to the verse.

[For] He chose us [in Him] [before the creation] [of the world] to be holy and blameless [in His sight].

Without the prepositions, then, the fundamental point of Eph 1:4 is that [God] chose us to be holy and blameless. To which, Eph 1:4 appears to have nothing to do with divine election of individuals unto salvation. Rather, this verse seems to be about holiness. This is, I believe, even more readily understood when I look up the word “chose” in my trusty Webster’s dictionary and see different meanings including: “to select freely and after consideration” and “to decide”. The authors of the NIV Bible selected the English word “chose” when translating Eph 1:4 from Greek to English. Perhaps given the constraints of translating from one language to another, “chose” is the best translatable English word. I accept that.

However, using Webster’s common English understandings for the word “chose”, I believe a fair interpretation of this verse is:

God decided that we were to be holy and blameless before He created the world.

How that came about was through the law in the OT and through faith in Christ in the NT. Hence, I would argue that Eph 1:4 is not a verse that Calvinists should use in their defense of unconditional election. The prepositions are the key.

Reference Article

The Beginning of Sin

January 7, 2018 2 comments

Beginning of SinA recent article I came across was entitled, The Beginning of Sin. The link has been posted below for convenience and reference. It begins, “In order to understand how sinful we are, we have to understand the beginning of sin.”

The author concludes by stating, “This, of course, did not catch God by surprise. He “knew” that Adam was going to sin; and in fact, He foreordained it without being the Author of Adam’s sin, so that it was “according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:11).”

For my clarification, I re-wrote the above sentence wherein:
[God] knew that Adam was going to sin.
– [God] foreordained [Adam’s sin] without being the author of Adam’s sin.
– [Adam’s sin] was according to the eternal purpose which [God] purposed in Christ Jesus   our Lord.

The author’s belief is that God fully intended and indeed implemented a way for man to sin (i.e. Eve being tempted by the serpent). I suppose this makes sense to a Calvinist. Maybe I can’t see the underlying principles here. Maybe I’m missing something. However, when I read Eph 3:11 in context, it’s clearly apparent that Paul is speaking to Gentiles and is explaining, that per God’s eternal purpose, the OT law is ‘kaput’ and now both Jew and Gentile alike can have salvation through faith in Christ. I see nothing, at least within this passage, as to the intentional initiation of sin into the world by God for the express purpose of setting up, as it were, man’s moral failure. But man did sin. And, rather quickly, too! But because of God’s desire for a continued relationship with his creation, God put into place a methodology for allowing man’s sin to be dealt with.

There’s no disagreement as to the sin nature that all of mankind has. I agree with the author, as was stated in the article, that Adam and Eve had free will. Therefore, it only seems reasonable that because of the free will ability which man has always had to turn away from God, it didn’t take long for sin came into the world. Consequently, I disagree with the author’s conclusion that the beginning of sin was because of God’s doing. Sin came about because of the free will that God gave man. Man is able to choose. And man chooses sin. In his grace and mercy, God still wanted a relationship with his creation and thereby worked out a way for man to be redeemed – through the law in the OT and by faith in Christ in the NT.

In conclusion, the author believes it is God who caused man to sin. And yet, in some way that is not clear to me, God is not therefore responsible for man’s sin. This is illogical. God did not create a robot. He created a free will creature who brought forth a lot of trouble and hassle. Further, the author’s argument is premised on an inaccurate reading and interpretation of scripture. Sadly, this is, to me, further evidence of the fallacy of Calvinistic beliefs and doctrines. With a bit of frustration, given the number of smart and gracious people that I personally know who adamantly espouse Reformed doctrines, I often wonder just what it is that I’m missing? However, when an argument is made regarding some aspect of TULIP and a simple reading of scripture coupled with a wee bit of logic explodes that argument, I’m left wondering – just what it is that compels Calvinists to hang onto their doctrines?

Original article

The Ballad of Mike & John

January 6, 2018 Leave a comment

calvin-servetus[1]The Ballad of Mike & John
by Carl Ganzel

Now there once were two fellers who were not the best of friends,
They quarreled about doctrine and just how far God’s sovereignty extends.

One was called John and the other called Mike.
Just wait till the end and see which one you like.

Now Mike said some things for which he could never be forgiven.
Like, “sprinkling those babies can’t get them to heaven,”

And some other ideas about the Trinity and such,
But it was his insults to the Institutes that put him in dutch.

“Your Institutes I’ve read,
And your TULIP is Dead”.

It was things like this that in letters to John he did write,
But it only made John angry and cause his hatred to ignite.

John said “God controls everything, so I want to too!
That’s why I count their dishes, their plates and silverware, it’s true.

Whatever I do I can’t let them be free!
For I know they are all bad and would never choose me!”

Just then a thought popped into John’s head,
The god of his Institutes had spoken, and this is what he said,

“I cause everything to happen from beginning to end.
Now some do deny this and those you will offend.

“I caused Adam to fall and his descendants to sin.
I hate most and love some, even one of a twin.

“Some I have chosen but most I have not,
From those I get glory for Hell is their lot.”

“Oh God,” cried John, “I hate that Mike for what he has said.
I wish I could kill him and chop off his head!”

“It’s good that you hate him,” said God, “and wish he were dead.
Now beheading is fine, but why not burn him instead?”

Hmmm a big bon fire and Mike is invited,
When John heard these words, he was certainly delighted.

Soon after, Mike came into John’s town just a sojourner passing through.
Going to church it was John’s law, so Mike slunk into the very last pew.

But he was seen and turned in by some local town folk.
Now cold and in prison, Mike knew this was no joke.

So, Mike had his trial, such as it was.
John said, “Burn the heretic” and that’s the way it twas.

“Bad deeds must be punished by me don’t you know,
Now get some green wood, so he’ll burn nice and slow!

“He insulted my book, so he’ll get what he deserves, don’t you see?
Well except for the green wood, that ones on me, hoho hehe!”

Now some folks will tell you that what John did was alright.
But does book criticizing justify the green wood that they light?

I say love your enemies and do good to those who hate you.
Didn’t Jesus say these words in a Book that is true?

Does John’s god have a neighbor? If so who would that be?
Does he love all or does he pass by the helpless like an old Pharisee?

Does he have delight in the wicked when they die?
Does he get glory for sending them to hell to fry?

“Does he hate some babies before they do anything wrong?
Or, does He long for our redemption with patience oh so long?  

Does He wait like the father for his son to come home again?
Doesn’t He run to meet him and forgive him for all his sin?

Choose you this day whom you will serve!”
Was this a real choice or was God throwing a curve?

It truly makes God sad when you won’t love and obey His Son.
He wants you to love Him freely, but it’s your choice and it’s a real one!


This poem was found on the FaceBook forum, Christians Against TULIP and the Heresy of Calvinism and has been reprinted with permission by the author.



Are We but God’s Little Dollhouse?

January 2, 2018 11 comments

DollhouseIt was incredibly interesting over this past Christmas holiday to have observed, what I believe to be, a huge commonality between Calvinism’s belief that God sovereignly decrees all that is to pass and how my four-year-old granddaughter plays with her dollhouse. She puts the furniture where she wants it. She clothes and places her dolls where she wants them. She initiates and maintains the conversations between the dolls. It’s fascinating to watch. Sometimes things are pleasant and sweet. Sometimes things are innocent and funny. And sometimes things get, well, nasty and one of the dolls is in a heap of trouble. This little girl is exercising her complete sovereign will over those dolls! And considering how completely Calvinist doctrine stipulates that EVERYTHING is ordained by God, I can’t help but sense that in the Calvinist’s sphere of being (best phrase I can think of) we, as God’s creation, are nothing more than puppets to him. God moves us where he wants us and we’re powerless to do otherwise. God dresses some with righteousness (i.e. being elect). To others God dresses in disease & pestilence, suffering and want or perhaps anguish and misery. For others, God does not clothe them. Instead, he leaves them naked in their natural state (i.e. being reprobate). For many, God chooses to stuff them into a suitcase and toss them into the deepest part of the closet never to be loved or cared for until finally, sometime later, they’re simply done away with – well, the non-favored ones, anyway. A few of the dolls are indeed favored and highly treasured. Most, however, are insignificant and of no importance.

The Odds of Calvinism’s Unconditional Election

January 1, 2018 3 comments

Small NumberThere was recently a discussion in which common grace vs special (or saving) grace was bandied about. Curiosity got to me and I wondered, as a function of the number of elect persons there are, just how special is God’s saving grace. And so, I looked up some numbers to calculate a ballpark figure. I’ll assume, for argument’s sake, that it’s only the US population of Evangelical Christians who comprise God’s “elect”. There might be a few others throughout the world that are elect. But, it’s also likely that not all of the US elect who think they’re elect are actually elect. Nevertheless, ~25% of the US population of 323M people are Evangelical Christian. The world population is ~7.6B People. So, if my math is right, then; 0.25(323e6) / 7.6e9 = 0.0107. That is, God’s election is only extended to about one percent of the world’s population.

Put another way, for every soul born throughout the world, there is a likelihood of ~99% that the child is NOT of the elect. Well, at least I now know my approximate odds of God having found favor with me before the foundation of the world.

Unconditional Election – Living in the Mansion or the Garage

December 31, 2017 Leave a comment

An analogy as to unconditional election:

A father recently brought his identical newborn twins home from the hospital. For reasons known only to the father, he loved one and hated the other. There was nothing different from the favored child vs the non-favored child. It’s just the way the father wanted it. And long before the twins were born, the father determined that the favored child would receive love and attention and would be given the best of everything. No benefit was withheld. The father ensured within his will that everything would be given to the favored child. All the while, the not-favored child was left wanting, not cared for and not loved. Further, the not favored child would have to live in the garage and would never be given the chance to live in the house. Further, there would be no interaction with his father.

How is this analogy not a reasonable description of unconditional election?

The Twin Faces of Calvinism

December 30, 2017 Leave a comment

TwinsDear Jim,

I too have been a greeter at church. All too many greeters, however, seem content to sit at the door and say, “Good morning.” I rather enjoyed engaging with new attenders – the “newbies”. I sense we have something in common here and would absolutely agree that words of affirmation – such as you used with those teenage girls are huge. In fact, that’s one of the types of love languages that Gary Chapman talks about in his book The Five Love Languages.

As best as I’m able to comprehend, I try to live my life by the precepts within the Bible. It’s just easier. And, no guilt! Doesn’t mean I’m perfect. And, thank God, I don’t feel the need that I have to be perfect. Forgiveness is a wonderful thing – both in the giving and the receiving of it. Sadly, I am certainly more skilled in the receiving of forgiveness.

I appreciate the compliment regarding my analogy of the petri dish. Analogies eventually break down. But for now, that’s the best way to understand what you’ve stated to me as to God’s application of his sovereignty over man. That said, I have never before considered your perspective that the reason God ‘sovereignly does’ all this stuff is to prepare for what he has planned in heaven. I’ll admit, the thought is intriguing. But, at this point I’m inclined not agree. Perhaps the notion is still too much of a fatalistic position for me to swallow. The nature and character of God, as I understand him, isn’t at all fatalistic. Perhaps in my ignorance I could agree that in the OT God had things planned out much more so. But within the NT, I see Jesus with the woman at the well, bringing sight to the blind, feeding many, calling out the Pharisees for their hypocrisy, reasoning and helping his disciples to understand that he is indeed the Messiah. He came that we might have life. He loves all and wants none to perish. Perhaps it’s along the lines of in the OT God treated people like children. However, in the NT, I sense that God is much more so treating people like adults. Whatever …. minor ramblings. Sorry.

You and I will certainly disagree on the interpretation of any number of verses and how they may, or may not help justify Calvinistic doctrines. In part, that is why I used the analogy of the petri dish. Perhaps other analogies might work better. But this one seems to make sense – at least to me. If I may, allow me to toss out another analogy on how I see the application of Calvinism in general and unconditional election in particular.

Much as my own son has disowned me, I will always hope that he’ll change or otherwise, as it were, return much like the prodigal son. To which, I simply can’t image a father ever turning away from one of his own kids. I suspect that both you and I would be reviled at a father returning home from the hospital with his newborn twins – one of whom he favored over the other. The father made his determination long before the twins were born. The favored child received his father’s love and attention. He was given the best of everything. No benefit was withheld. The father even changed his will so that everything would be given to the favored child. All the while, the not-favored child was left wanting, not cared for, and would have to live in the garage. Further, there would be no interaction with his father.

Truly, Jim, I would welcome your thoughts on how this analogy is not a natural outcome or construct of Calvinism. I’ll look forward to your response.