The Oft Repeated but Unresolved Discussion

March 16, 2017 Leave a comment

DiscussionA recent discussion followed a somewhat a predictable path. I was (again) told that 2 Peter 3:9 was written to believers. As was explained, “God’s promises of salvation are intended only for ‘the elect’. If God wanted all people saved, then all people would be saved. But because of man’s fallen nature, man is spiritually dead. And spiritually dead people can’t respond to God. Only elect persons can respond to God because God pulls back the ‘sin-veil’ from them. And for reasons known only to God, not every person has had the ‘sin-veil’ pulled back and have thereby been given the gift of salvation. And, because God is sovereign and, for his own reasons, he has decided who are his “elect” and who is not.”

But I remain unconvinced if only because it just seems, well, a bit awkward to have to tweak, what is to me, the plain meaning of any number of verses in the Bible to eliminate the obvious intent of human free-will within the overall scheme of Christian theology. In the NIV, 2 Peter 3:9 states, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Clearly – and obviously – God wants everyone to come to a point of salvation! Isn’t that the clear and simple reading of this verse? God is doesn’t want anyone to perish. So, it therefore seems obvious that the reason why some accept faith while others reject faith is because God has given each person the ability (aka free-will) to accept or reject his offer of salvation.

Well-meaning Calvinists tell me that to understand the essence of this verse, and other passages dealing with TULIP matters, studying the original Greek and incorporating a lexicon and concordance is required. Maybe there are details to be drawn out with the Greek. Using a good translation (I personally like the NIV – which, according to the preface, is a new translation put together from the best available manuscripts by many Bible scholars knowledgeable in the languages, cultures and history) ought to be sufficient to derive fundamental truths from the Bible without doing a word-for-word translation and correlation. I’ll concede that maybe there are details that could be missed. But what isn’t missed is the fundamental truth.

And for me, the fundament truth is that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life. Have to check, but I think there’s a verse to that effect.

I’m not sure how best to phrase it other than despite our sins (past, present AND future), God doesn’t just ‘zap’ us (believers and non-believers alike). Per God’s holy nature and being, an immediate death is just and deserved. However, we continue to live despite the sinful thoughts and actions we continue to engage in. I’ve understood that the delay of God’s judgement is his forbearance towards his creation. So, are we, believers and non-believers alike, essentially vessels of mercy because we’re receiving the unwarranted forbearance of God?

If that is true, then it only stands to reason that all those who’ve received the forbearance of God’s judgement, believers and non-believers alike, have received his grace. So, is the blood of Christ offered to all people or not? I would argue that God’s grace has been offered to all. And that it is up to individuals to accept or reject that grace.

To me, there’s a Calvinist’s “disconnect” which emphasis that God has limited his grace and atonement to a very few people aka ‘the elect’. Yet, I find it ironic to be around Calvinists – all of whom give God all the glory because OF HIS ABUNDANT GRACE (emphasis theirs!). And yet, the very words on which Calvinism is founded i.e. unconditional election and limited atonement indicate that the god of Calvinism is somewhat retentive with that grace.

A Non-Calvinist Rendering of Election

February 27, 2017 Leave a comment

I’ve previously written election-tulipshow my understanding of Eph 1:4 is significantly different from what I hear and understand Calvinists to claim.  In this verse (and passage) I believe Paul is laying claim that despite whether one is a Jew or Gentile, individuals are now being made right with God through faith and no longer through the law.

The verse says; For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.

My overriding $0.02 worth on this verse is God predetermining that because of the sacrifices of Christ, believers would be made holy and blameless in his sight. I simply do not see how this verse could be interpreted otherwise. Perhaps my error, ignorance and bias are on display more than I realize or would like to accept.

Still, if I consider Eph 1:4 from (what I believe is) the Calvinism perspective, I’m at a complete loss to understand how it is that God can be considered a God of love. My thought process in understanding the nature and character of God according to Calvinism goes like this:  

  • Before the “foundation of the world”, God differentiated those individuals who would become the elect and those who would become the non-elect.
  • No individual prior to their becoming elect or non-elect (before the foundation of the world) was worthy of salvation. In fact, both sets of people were equally depraved before God. There was nothing within any individual which caused God to choose them to become elect or non-elect. God’s selection of the elect is, therefore, completely random.
  • Those who God randomly chooses to be elect enter into fellowship and eternal life. Those who God randomly chooses to be non-elect are exiled into Hell.
  • God condemns the non-elect – those he intentionally damned for his own glory.

As I see it, then, per Calvinism, God becomes impersonal, distant and even discriminatory in his dealings with his creation. To which, I struggle to accept that the God of Calvinism is the loving GOD of the Bible – who loved the whole world, sacrificed himself for our sins and wants none to perish.

Another Thought Regarding Limited Atonement

February 13, 2017 Leave a comment

vesselI recently added a post to the effect that for many, limited atonement is the lynchpin of Calvinistic doctrine. That seems to make sense from a logical perspective. However, for me, the overriding issue is unconditional election if only because of how I perceive the character and nature of God through the lens of God choosing some while intentionally not choosing others. In any event, it seemed worthwhile to look up some limited atonement verses I often see used. Interesting because as often as not, there’s not a reference to the individual per se but for a group i.e. “but also for the sins of the whole world” – or something equivalent. To me, this is indicative of God’s desire for everyone without exception or exclusion.


(1 John 2:2) He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

My $0.02 worth: Jesus paid the price for the sins of the whole world without exception or exclusion.

(2 Cor 5:15) And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

My $0.02 worth: He died for all without exception or exclusion.

(1 Tim 1:15) This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am chief.

My $0.02 worth: Note that sinners is plural and there’s no indication of exception or exclusion.

(2 Peter 3:9) The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

My $0.02 worth: Is this not a clear indication that it is possible for “all” to come to repentance? Furthermore, is this not a clear indication that God want no one to perish? If Calvinism is correct, then how does one reconcile God’s desire for all to repent if only certain individuals are predestined to salvation? Furthermore, I’m not aware of one instance where God forces anyone to get saved. As is, I see no indication of exception or exclusion.

(Titus 2:11) For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.

My $0.02 worth: God’s grace of salvation appears to all humanity without exception or exclusion.

(John 5:40) Yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

My $0.02 worth: If a person does not come, then that, to me, signifies an ability that they had (have) the option to come. Jesus said, “You will not”. Jesus didn’t say, “You cannot”! Surely, then, God-is giving his creation the option to choose or not to choose. God entrusts us with free will. We have the opportunity to choose. And we are without excuse. I’m sure I can find a verse to that effect. Somewhere.

In conclusion, then, the simple reading of scripture is that God has opened the door of salvation to everyone. There’s no exception or exclusion with regard to “elect” vs “non-elect” persons”.

Soteriology Simplfied – a Review

February 11, 2017 Leave a comment

Soteriology Simplfied.jpg

I recently purchased the book, Soteriology Simplified, which states on the back cover that, “All men are both responsible and response-able to respond to God’s initiatives in redemption, revelation and reconciliation.” This intuitively makes sense to me. To which, I’m hoping to have more “bullets in my gun” with which to better counter the arguments put forth by Calvinists. Living in the “land of Piper” (Twin Cities MN), I’ve found Calvinism to be a thorn in my side for longer than I’ve even understood what it was that Calvinists believed and taught. I’ve stated before that within my own dealings with Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike, I’ve discovered multitudes of smart and good-willed people on both sides putting forth persuasive arguments. The conundrum, then, is that many of the same scriptures are used to argue both sides of the spectrum which has led me to wonder if Christianity isn’t little more than a faith based on personal-opinion. I readily admit that my opinion on Christian doctrine is largely based on my antipathy toward Calvinistic thought and how I view the nature and character of God through the Calvinist’s lens. Nevertheless, my having “bad feelings” toward Calvinism doesn’t make it wrong.

Although I haven’t gotten very far in the book, I’m impressed that author Bob Hadley has nearly 550 references. The book looks to be well thought-out, clearly written with lots of references and I look forward to reading it. It may be true that for most people, the issue of Calvinism’s limited atonement (ref pg 11) is the fundamental point of contention. However, for me, it’s unconditional election. It’s my sense that if my arguments can undermine the concept of unconditional election, then limited atonement is less problematic. Granted, I understand how unconditional election must logically follow limited atonement. But I find the notion that God withholds the ability of some from coming to faith abhorrent and revealing an undeniability that God (per Calvinist doctrine) has not only chosen some for grace, he’s also intentionally chosen some for destruction.

I’m delighted to have this book on my shelf and will plan to write a more substantial review after reading it.

Tommy Flint (1934-2017), guitarist extraordinaire – RIP

February 8, 2017 2 comments

tommy-flintJust received news that Tommy Flint, 82,  has passed away in Nashville TN. As a high tribute to his gentle and humble ways, Tommy could well be one of the best known guitarists that no one ever heard of. He performed with all the top notch players, wrote dozens of guitar instructional books and I was fortunate enough to have had Tommy as my first guitar teacher from 1967-68 when I was in junior high school. He taught out of Broadripple Music Store in Indianapolis IN. Tommy took me through three Mel Bay books over the ~2yrs I took lessons from him. He also helped my parents choose a Gibson Melody Maker that was given to me as a Christmas present. Tommy was a phenomenal teacher and helped me establish a good foundation in reading music and general guitar technique. He also taught me to play great tunes like Pipeline, Wipeout and Walk Don’t Run. Unfortunately at the time, I had no idea who Tommy was. Nor did I  understand just how great of a player he was. Once in a while, though, after tuning up my guitar prior to a lesson, he’d “let loose” with some little riff. Wide eyed, I’d watch in amazement and ask him to teach me that. He’d smile and as much say something to the effect that I wasn’t quite ready for that but if I kept practicing then I’d get there soon enough.   

I saw a published book of his around 1990 at a music store in Minneapolis. Fond memories rushed back. I bought the book and shortly thereafter sent a letter to the publisher along with a recently completed demo tape. Within a month Tommy graciously responded with a hand-written letter. He was delighted that I still played and complimented me on my playing.

I caught up with Tommy in 1999 at the Chet Atkins Appreciation Convention in Nashville TN. Gracious as ever, I don’t think he remembered me as a fledgling student in Indianapolis. However, he did remember the letter and the tape I’d sent. We chatted for quite a while. I truly appreciate how fortunate I was to have had him for a teacher. Rest in peace, my friend. You have inspired legions of people with your musical talents and passion for all things guitar. Truly, it’s a sad day in the world of guitar thumb-pickers – but you won’t be forgotten.

Limited Atonement?

February 4, 2017 Leave a comment

atonement-lambCalvinists claim something called limited atonement – the reconciliation of God and “the elect” through the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross. Calvinists deny that Christ’s atonement was for everyone. If atonement was for everyone, then everyone would be saved – or so the argument goes. And, of course, not everyone is saved so therefore Calvinists argue that Christ’s atonement was only for the elect. I don’t make that connection myself. But this makes me wonder – is atonement given to the elect person while they’re still in a reprobate condition? I mean, at what point is the elect person actually saved? Before the creation of the world? Or at the moment the elect person confesses their sin? Hence, if I follow the logic, it would seem that salvation is given to the Calvinist before any expression of faith.  

So, if one is saved before any expression of faith, then why did God find it necessary to nail himself on a cross and ultimately die? For heaven’s sake (pun intended), if God decrees those who’re saved, then why couldn’t God have killed off, oh say, a spotted owl or some endangered species and call that sacrifice good enough? Animal sacrifice was good enough in Old Testament times. So, why did God, when feeling it necessary to develop a new covenant and bring Jews and Gentiles into fellowship through faith, feel it necessary to sacrifice himself for our sins? Why not continue with the OT practice of killing off an animal and make whatever required adjustments God deemed necessary for the remission of our sins? I’m not sure, but there has to be something exceedingly unique and otherwise sublime about God sending and sacrificing himself.

This, therefore, makes me think that atonement, in and of itself, does not bring about forgiveness of sins. Again, if I’m understanding Calvinist doctrines correctly, atonement is of no value until one steps out of the “reprobate condition” and is thereby given an “elect status”. Atonement, therefore, in and of itself is not effectual in that atonement is not (per Webster) “successful in producing a desired or intended result”. Atonement, then, would only bring about the possibility of the forgiveness of sins. In and of itself, atonement can’t (or at least doesn’t) bring about forgiveness.

This makes me further wonder, can the Calvinist’s concepts of total depravity of everyone and the inherent inability to seek God be defended scripturally given that both the OT and NT are replete with people responding to God’s initiatives. On his Facebook page, Pastor Bob Hadley phrases the question as to God’s sovereignty by asking, “How powerful can [God] be if He cannot speak to the unregenerate? The statement, one cannot be responsible if one is not response-able deserves thought.”

Furthermore, Bob George (author of Classic Christianity), talks about how the same sun which melts wax also hardens clay wherein God’s grace either brings about humility of spirit or the hardening of one’s heart (as a manifestation of pride?). If that is true, then it seems self-evident that we, as individuals are “responders” to God’s grace and mercy. And, if we are responders – as is apparent if only because some accept God’s grace while others don’t, then it only seems logical that individuals indeed have free-will in accepting or rejecting God’s grace.

Simply put, I reject the Calvinist’s claim of limited atonement and believe God saves those who repent. God isn’t the one deciding who repents. Scripture is clear, God wants none to perish. I bet there’s a verse to that effect.


If Predestination Is True . . .

January 27, 2017 Leave a comment

jerry-edmonI like the insight Jerry Edmon offers with regard to the Calvinist’s understanding of predestination wherein:

If predestination is true, one is either eternally saved or eternally damned before birth.

If predestination is true, then the concept of choice is a cruel deception.

If predestination is true, then the thought of being a free moral agent is simply a pretense.

If predestination is true, then reaching out to the non-elect is nothing more than an exercise in religious recital.

If predestination is true, then the sharing of the gospel by the elect can only stir up false hope within the reprobate.

If predestination is true, then why bother sharing God’s love unless it is just some misdirected sadistic tease to those who can never have eternal life?

If predestination is true, then preaching the gospel only dangles a mirage about the river of life to those dying of thirst who’re not able to partake of its stream.

If predestination is true, then the term “whosoever” from John 3:16 is a lie.

Edmon goes on to discuss two passages addressing predestination and how Calvinists have taken predestination out of context. According to Edmon:

[Romans 8:29-30 and Ephesians 1:3-14] specifically refer to a people group, not to individual people. What we see here is that God determined that he was going to have a people for himself, a Body. It is preplanned and predestined to happen. But it is misguided to take from these passages to suggest that [God] had selected [certain] “individuals to be saved” and [certain] “individuals to be lost”. God determined beforehand that those who believe in Christ will be adopted into his family and conformed to his Son. I believe in predestination as a people group. We are all called, but not as an individual. Individual predestination is misguided. We must individually hear the gospel and believe its message. We must appreciate the true condition of the fallen state of man and the plan of redemption that God provided for us if we will receive His precious gift. While it is true that man cannot come to God except he be drawn, that man still has to exercise his own independent choice to receive God’s invitation.


“Source Material” Confidence

January 26, 2017 Leave a comment

or-gateThat Calvinism and Arminianism emanate from the same “source material” (i.e. the Bible) has always been problematic to me. Readers of this blog know that I find Calvinism to be, well, distasteful to the notion of a loving creator. Arminianism just seems, well, more pleasant and believable – at least within the context of how I understand and relate to God. But the question that comes to mind is perhaps best framed within a logical argument:

if A=true, then ~A=false

So, if Calvinism is true, then Arminianism is false.

The converse is also correct wherein if Calvinism is false, then Arminianism is true.

By definition, or at least as I see it, Calvinism and Arminianism can’t both be right.

This infers that any logical deductions we make are valid as a function of the accuracy of the “source material”. Calvinism and Arminianism, in my opinion, cannot logically coexist. But being more comfortable with Arminian doctrine and therefore gravitating towards Arminianism doesn’t make it right. What if, however, the “source material” on which both Calvinism and Arminianism depend is not sufficient to adequately support either contention? Does this imply anything with regard to the inherent contradictions (that I see) between the respective doctrines?

Is it possible that incorrect theological positions have been construed because of the wide latitude within Biblical interpretation and no obvious way to Biblically eliminate the tension between Calvinism and Arminianism? Or, might the “source material” not be sufficiently “robust” to build the respective theological bases of Calvinism or Arminianism?

If Calvinism and Arminianism are in fact contradictory (which I believe is true) and logically exclude each other (which I also believe is true), it must be concluded only one of the two theological positions can be true. Or, since Calvinistic and Arminian positions are contradictory (i.e. matters related to God’s versus man’s role in salvation), and since both are developed from the same “source material”, then maybe it must be deduced that neither Calvinism nor Arminianism are correct if only because they present two different conclusions from the same “source material”.

Hmmm. I’m getting lost in my own arguments. Here’s the bottom line: what if we conclude that the “source material” supports contradictory answers? Are we then able to have sufficient confidence in the validity of that “source material”?

Another $0.02 Comment Regarding Unconditional Election

January 23, 2017 Leave a comment

two-centsFundamental to the reservations I have regarding Reformed doctrine is the concept of unconditional election. Perhaps I’m deluding myself, but I think I can adequately refute the Calvinist’s notion of election. For instance, Eph 1:4 is a popular verse used by Calvinists.

“In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,”

The obvious question for me – what’s God’s purpose? Well, looking at the entire passage, several things “pop” out:

vs 4 (God determining that we would be holy and blameless in his sight)

vs 5 (God determining that we would be adopted as his sons through Christ)

vs 9 (the “mystery” of his will)

vs 10 (that will is to be pout into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment)

vs 11 (God accomplishing his plan and replaces the law with faith)

As I see it, then, Paul’s explanation of “the mystery” relates to God doing away with “the law” thereby enabling both Jews and Gentiles to be made holy through God’s own sacrifice of himself by faith. To which, I see nothing within this passage supporting Calvinistic fatalism as to God predestining or otherwise “choosing” (i.e. electing) a very select few for salvation.

On the contrary, I see God’s desire for everyone to come into fellowship with him. Through Christ. By faith. But, I suspect that other’s “mileage” may differ. Please feel free to comment.



So, This Is Where I’ve Landed

January 23, 2017 Leave a comment

boat-landingIt’s been several months since leaving the church I had attended for ~12 years. Part of me thought that I would do more reading and studying during this absence. But I haven’t. In truth, I’m no closer to resolving questions I have regarding the nature and character of God. Whether it should be or not, the concept of unconditional election within Calvinistic doctrine is a huge stumbling block. That so many adhere to this doctrine just baffles me. If anything, what seems to make the most sense regarding Christian faith is contained within the Apostle’s Creed.

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended to the dead.

On the third day he rose again.

He ascended into heaven.

He is seated at the right hand of the Father and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

Seems rather black and white. Which is, frankly, how I view my faith – rather matter of fact. And not much else. Perhaps it’s enough.