Dear Lighthouse Trails:
I would like to thank you for your continuing ministry particularly with regards to warning about Calvinism. I left a Calvary Chapel due in part with the leader and his ongoing support of Brian Brodersen who is clearly going down a contemplative route. But, I was interested to note in your current letter, that many Calvary Chapels are embracing Calvinism. While at that fellowship, on many occasions during sermons, weeknight studies, etc, much Calvinistic material was used with quotes from Piper, MacArthur et-al. Instead of the Bible, we would undertake studies of books by the likes of Tim Keller.
We now attend a very small fellowship comprised of folk who left the Calvary we used to attend. A very good friend of ours does most of the teaching, and we are going through John’s Gospel. He took 3 Sundays to teach on the issue of Calvinism and warn against what is in fact a heresy. At the end of the 3 Sunday’s, he distributed a paper put together by a close friend titled the “Protestant Pope” which is, in my opinion, a very good overview. Like me, this very close friend has the book by Kirkland which he has recently received. I have recently purchased the late Dave Hunt’s book “What Love is This” and also have his book “Tulip” to add to my library which also includes my friend’s book.
Keep up the good work and I wish you all a Very Happy New Year. God bless.
LTRP Note: As many of our readers know, Lighthouse Trails published a book about Calvinism in 2018. Below is a chapter from that book, None Dare Call It Heresy: A Spotlight on the Teachings of John Calvin by Bob Kirkland. In view of the fast-growing influence of Calvinism and Reformed Theology in the church today (as the letter above illustrates), we are posting this below:
“Created to Choose and to Reason”
By Bob Kirkland
BACK TO THE BEGINNING
Genesis 1:26 says, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” To be made in the image and likeness of God is multifaceted. Scripture, of course, makes it clear that man is not divine or a part of God, and it would be wrong for us to think so. However, it would also be wrong to minimize man to something he is not by stripping him of the abilities and attributes God has given him. So, even though Adam fell, man still has a soul. And man still has the ability to choose and to reason. These attributes were not taken from man when Adam fell as is very evident by simple observation. In Scripture, God commands the sinner to reason, to choose, and to repent. God’s grace operates in our lives in a viable active way (not a passive way).
But with Calvinism, grace is actually minimized, and God is made small by saying that the only way God can be sovereign is by allowing no free will at all (i.e., no choices, no reasoning). The Calvinist view has God operating in a way that is contrary to His original and unchanging design.
GOD GAVE ADAM A COMMAND
Genesis 2:15-17 says:
And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
As I pointed out earlier, A. W. Pink’s book The Sovereignty of God says man is “utterly incapable of willing anything.”1 What does the Bible say? It says, “God commanded the man.” If man was created without a free will and the ability to cause things to happen, there would be no need for this command or any other command found in the Scriptures.
In Genesis 3:6, we find Satan tempting Eve to disobey God. It says, “She took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.”
ADAM AND EVE MADE DECISIONS
Both Adam and Eve made a decision, each of their own free will, to disobey God. To suggest, as the Calvinists do, that God forced them to sin, we would have to change the verse above from “Thou shalt not eat of it” to “I will make you eat of it.” This is foolish and makes God the Author of sin. It is not only heresy, it is blasphemy! The Bible frequently describes God’s character and nature (e.g., Titus 1:2: God cannot lie), and He is described as a holy, righteous, loving, judging, honest, merciful, perfect God. He is never described as a God of sin; on the contrary, Scripture says, “God cannot be tempted with evil neither tempteth he any man” (James 1:13).
God confronted Adam and asked, “Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?” (Genesis 3:11). Verse 17 of chapter three continues:
And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.
Adam chose to listen to Eve rather than obey God. As a result of choosing to sin, the spirit of man died and, therefore, must be “born again.” Jesus went into much detail concerning being “born again” in John chapter three. The Bible plainly teaches that when a person is convicted by the Holy Spirit to repent of his or her sin, a decision must be made. If man chooses to trust Christ as Savior, the spirit of man is “born again.” We read in Ephesians 2:1, “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.”
ADAM AND EVE SENT FROM THE GARDEN
God sent Adam and Eve from the garden because they could have used their free will to eat of the tree of life and live in their sinful state forever. Genesis 3, verses 22-24 read:
[A]nd now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.
There would have been no need for the Cherubims with the flaming sword if man did not have a free will; it was for the very reason that man had free will that God had to block the way for Adam to get to the tree of life! What kind of game do the Calvinists think God is playing?
CAIN AND ABEL MADE CHOICES
In Genesis 4, we read how Abel decided to follow God and Cain decided to do things his own way. Verse 16 says, “And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD.” Cain also decided to persecute the one who followed God, even to the death. To say God put it in the heart of Cain to go out from the presence of the Lord and then kill his brother is wicked, ridiculous, and attacks the very character of God.
HOW CALVINISTS NEED TO RE-INTERPRET THE CREATION ACCOUNT TO BE CONSISTENT
To support Calvin’s wicked-God theory, we would need to change the creation account to read, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth . . . And God said, Let us make people with no free will. And then God said, ‘We will trick them into thinking they have a free will by saying . . . of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat. But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.’ We will let them think they can choose to disobey.”
Calvin’s distorted account would also need to say, “Because they didn’t really have a free will, God ordained it from the beginning for them to eat the fruit thereof. Then God confronted Adam and asked, Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? . . . Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life.” Concerning Cain and Abel, the story would need to be changed to read, “God then forced Cain to kill his brother and then put a curse upon him for doing it.”
It should be noted here that Calvinists (as did John Calvin) confuse God’s foreknowledge with predestination (or even just disregard foreknowledge altogether). God knew that Judas would betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver ahead of time according to Zechariah 11:12-13, but God had no hand in making these things happen. God also knew that the Jewish people would be scattered throughout the world; and even though they would prosper wherever they went, they would also be hated and persecuted among the nations. But God never sanctioned the persecution and attempted annihilation of the Jews under Hitler’s regime. Instead, we read in Scripture “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:3) and “he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye” (Zechariah 2:8). The persecutors of the Jews, as in the case of Adolph Hitler, were therefore held fully responsible for what they did.
But the Calvinist is locked into a fatalistic view where God preordains everything and therefore approves of everything. Hence, Scripture, like the above verses, must be twisted and distorted to accommodate a malicious “God.”
GOD COMMANDS PEOPLE TO TRUST HIM—Psalm 4:5: “put your trust in the LORD.”
Trust in the LORD. (Psalm 37:3)
GOD FORCES NOBODY TO TRUST HIM
. . . trusted not in his salvation. (Psalm 78:22)
. . . trusted in thy wickedness. (Isaiah 47:10)
. . . trusted in falsehood. (Jeremiah 13:25)
. . . trusted in thy works. (Jeremiah 48:7)
. . . trusted in her treasures. (Jeremiah 49:4)
MAN IS COMMANDED TO SUBMIT
. . . submit yourselves. (1 Corinthians 16:16)
. . . submit yourselves. (Ephesians 5:22)
. . . submit yourselves. (Colossians 3:18)
. . . submit yourselves. (Hebrews 13:17)
. . . submit yourselves. (James 4:7)
. . . submit yourselves. (1 Peter 2:13)
. . . submit yourselves. (1 Peter 5:5)
GOD NEVER FORCES ANYONE TO SUBMIT
. . . they hearkened not. (Exodus 6:9)
. . . they hearkened not. (Exodus 16:20)
. . . they hearkened not. (1 Samuel 2:25)
. . . they hearkened not. (2 Kings 21:9)
. . . they hearkened not. (Jeremiah 7:24)
. . . they hearkened not. (Jeremiah 7:26)
. . . they hearkened not. (Jeremiah 36:31)
MAN IS COMMANDED TO “REASON” ABOUT SALVATION
Isaiah 1:18 says:
Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
Matthew 16:7 says, “. . . they reasoned.”
Matthew 21:25 says, “. . . they reasoned.”
Mark 2:8 says, “. . . they reasoned.”
Mark 8:16 says, “. . . they reasoned.”
Mark 11:31 says, “. . . they reasoned.”
Luke 20:5 says, “. . . they reasoned.”
Luke 20:14 says, “. . . they reasoned.”
Acts 18:4 says, “. . . he reasoned and persuaded.”
Acts 24:25 says, “. . . he reasoned . . . Felix trembled.”
Acts 28:29 says, “. . . the Jews departed, and had great reasoning among themselves.”
AFTER REASONING, MAN HAS A FREE WILL TO COME TO HiS OWN DECISION
We read in Mark 2:6 that the scribes Jesus spoke to were, “. . . reasoning in their hearts.” Mark 7:9 tells us after their reasoning, they made a decision. Jesus rebuked them for their decision (but did not force them to change) saying, “[Y]e reject the commandment of God.” Hosea 4:6 refers to those who “rejected knowledge.” Second Kings 17:15 says, “They rejected his statutes, and his covenant.” Contrary to Calvinism, man can reason concerning salvation, and man can reject or receive the salvation God offers him through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
GOD COMMANDS MAN TO WALK IN HIS WAYS, BUT HE FORCES NO ONE
Isaiah 30:21 says, “This is the way, walk ye in it.” Psalm 81:12 states, “. . . they walked in their own counsels.”
GOD COMMANDS MAN TO BE HOLY BUT HE FORCES NOBODY
Leviticus 20:7 says “[B]e ye holy: for I am the LORD your God.” Deuteronomy 9:12 says, “. . . [they] corrupted themselves.”
FREE WILL AND THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
Thou shalt have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:3)
. . . served other gods. (Deuteronomy 17:3)
Thou shalt not make . . . any graven image. (Exodus 20:4)
. . . moved him to jealousy with their graven images. (Psalm 78:58)
Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain. (Exodus 20:7)
For they . . . take thy name in vain. (Psalm 139:20)
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. (Exodus 20:8)
. . . ye do, and profane the sabbath day? (Nehemiah 13:17)
Honour thy father and thy mother. (Exodus 20:12)
. . . children . . . rise up against their parents. (Matthew 10:21)
Thou shalt not kill. (Exodus 20:13)
They . . . murder the fatherless. (Psalm 94:6)
Thou shalt not commit adultery. (Exodus 20:14)
[T]hey commit adultery. (Jeremiah 23:14)
Thou shalt not steal. (Exodus 20:15)
[S]teal no more. (Ephesians 4:28)
Thou shalt not bear false witness. (Exodus 20:16)
[F]alse witnesses are risen up against me. (Psalm 27:12)
Thou shalt not covet. (Exodus 20:17)
I coveted them, and took them. (Joshua 7:21)
CALVIN’S TEACHING OF UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION
According to Calvinism, if we are to be saved, God chooses (elects) us to salvation. Calvinism teaches, “A man is not saved because he believes in Christ; he believes in Christ because he is saved.” In other words,
The elect of God are chosen by Him to be His children, in order that they might be made to believe, not because He foresaw that they would believe.2 (emphasis added)
By his unconditional election theory, Calvin meant that some are elected to Heaven while others are elected to Hell. It is wholly on God’s part, and we have nothing to do with our eternal destiny. This means God decided before we were born that we are going to burn in Hell forever or be in Heaven forever. We are simply a pawn in God’s big chess game. Calvinism further teaches that God could be glorified by bringing your family into the world for the express purpose of tormenting them in Hell for eternity. This is wickedness and is not the God of the Bible!
Lest you think I have misrepresented John Calvin, we will let him speak for himself. In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, Volume 3, Calvin stated:
[S]ome are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death.3
This is the view you will find throughout the teachings and sermons of Calvinist preachers and authors.
Why Are People Even Drawn to Calvinism?
As we are witnessing today, many people are being drawn to Calvinism (including many young people). In our age of uncertainty, Calvinism seems to offer some security in the thought that God has preordained everything. This would presumably put some order into our chaotic world.
Unfortunately, once someone has become fully engulfed in Calvinism, it offers no true security. It leaves a person without knowing what direction things will go but with clinging to nothing more than a fatalistic view of life—where things are locked in, and there is nothing anyone can do about it.
Unfortunately, Calvinism is a direct attack on the Gospel. The Gospel is activated by faith (whosoever believeth) but the fatalism of Calvinism can say no more than “what will be will be.” This is not biblical faith but actually a form of unbelief in that it leaves the recipient in doubt of his future. Although Calvinism seems to offer hope, in reality and in truth, it leaves a person in a lifelong quest of wondering if he is one of the elect. How totally opposite this is to the Gospel the Bible offers where the Good News of Jesus Christ offers hope and belief in it offers certainty:
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)
These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:13)
1. A.W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God, op. cit., p. 113.
2. Lorraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1932, 14th printing), page 101, citing Augustine.
3. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 3, op. cit., chapter 21, section 5, Kindle location 17221.
Bob Kirkland’s book, None Dare Call It Heresy was published by Lighthouse Trails in 2018. It is available in print, PDF, epub, and mobi on the Lighthouse Trails web store and can also be purchased through many online and walk-in stores.
(photo from bigstockphoto.com; used with permission)