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Responding to a Calvinist’s Perspective on My Sheep

June 11, 2009 Leave a comment

Dear Colleen,

In a previous response, you referenced Jn 10:27, which in the NIV says:

  • My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

As related to this verse, you indicated that faith is simple from the perspective that all we have to do is listen to His voice and follow Him.  Of course, according to Calvin, only the elect can hear His voice.  However, as I read and study Calvinist thought and perspective, it leads (for me, anyway) to all kinds of faith issues and theological problems – not the least of which is how God can love all as per Jn 3:16 and 1Pet 3:9 while predestining the vast majority of people to hell?  I’ve taken some liberty and altered the wording of Jn 10:25-28 from a Calvinist perspective.  It comes across harsher than I might wish.  However, it is what it is and I think I’ve accurately captured the Reformed concepts of election within this passage.

  • Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe because God has not granted you eyes to see and ears to hear.  Therefore, because of God’s sovereign election, you do not believe and are therefore eternally doomed.  The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me.  But let me repeat – you do not believe because God has already pre-determined from the foundation of the heaven and earth that you’re going straight to hell the moment you die.  I’ve already determined who my sheep are.  They listen to my voice.  I know them, and they follow me.  I give those lucky chosen few eternal life and they shall never perish.  No one can snatch them out of my hand.  You non-believers, on the other hand, who are not part of the elect because I don’t want to share eternity with you, are therefore not my sheep, and you folks, even though you didn’t have a choice in the matter, are eternally screwed!  Well, enjoy Hell because you folks get to experience my perfect wrath.  You’ve been created for the express purpose of Me sending you to Hell.”

Regarding sovereign grace and election per Jn 10:27 (or the passage for that matter), I don’t see that God unilaterally decided who would be his sheep.  Jesus doesn’t suggest that who were the believers and who were the non-believers was already decided before any of these people were born.  Could it be that Jesus, when He spoke these words, was actually talking to the Romans and Pharisees and whoever else was within earshot?  The author implies nothing other than some of the people immediately around Him were His sheep (believers) while others (i.e. Romans, Pharisees, non-believers, etc.) were not His sheep and therefore didn’t believe.

I welcome your comments.

Responding to a Calvinist’s Perspective on Faith

June 10, 2009 7 comments

Dear Colleen,

Your response to my post on the simplicity of believing as outlined by the Apostle’s Creed went in a direction I didn’t expect and so I’ve created a new post.

First of all – we need a definition for faith and the best definition of faith (that I know of) comes from Heb 11:1, which in the NIV says:

  • Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Christian faith makes intrinsic sense (to me, at least) when boiled down to the simplicity of believing per the Apostle’s Creed.  However, you surprised me stating that God is the giver of faith in the same way that God predetermines who’ll be saved (and conversely – who will not be saved).  Perhaps from a Calvinist perspective that makes sense.  In your response you stated that faith is a gift of God according to Eph 2:8-9 and that (I’m quoting you here) “the scriptures tell us that we must be asking God for that faith because it is His gift to give.”  Really?  The NIV reads:

  • For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.

That the English punctuation breaks Eph 2:8-9 into six “pieces” may or may not be significant.  Nevertheless, it’s an easy way to dissect these verses and so here’s my $0.02 worth as to why I disagree with your premise that God withholds faith from some while giving it to others:

  • For it is by grace you have been saved.  This is a demonstrative statement without ambiguity.  We are saved by grace.  The author doesn’t say we are saved by grace AND faith.
  • Through faith.  My trusty Webster’s Dictionary tells me that the word “through” is not only a preposition, it is also a “function word” used to indicate any number of things such as movement, time, means, completion, exhaustion, as well as to indicate acceptance or approval.  Could it be that God’s “approved way” of us receiving His grace (the free gift of salvation) is through faith?  There’s no indication here that God gives faith to some and withholds faith from others.
  • And this not from yourselves. Notice that the author uses the singular word “this” and not the plural word “these”.  I believe that the author is referring only to grace here.
  • It is the gift of God.  Again, notice that the author uses the singular word “it” and not the plural word “they”.  This would again seem to indicate that only one thought – in this case, grace, is being referenced.
  • Not by works. Self-explanatory – good deeds won’t cut it.
  • So that no one can boast.  Self-explanatory.

You’ll probably chastise me for re-ordering Eph 2:8-9.  However,  it makes my point – the author isn’t saying we must ask God for faith and that God may (or may not) give that person faith.

  • Through faith, you have been saved by God’s gift of grace.  You didn’t earn God’s grace.  Grace is God’s gift so don’t even bother boasting about your good deeds and actions.

With all due respect, Colleen, I think you’re making Eph 2:8-9 say something other than what it is saying.  These two verses state – we’re saved by grace.  Period.  From Eph 2:8-9 I don’t see that faith is a gift of God given to some and not given to others.  Rather, we’re saved by grace.   We’re saved by grace through faith.  We’re saved by grace through being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Well, there’s more I could add but this seems to be a good place to stop.

Take care, my friend.  I welcome and await your response.