By the Editors at Lighthouse Trails
From the Appendix from Bob Kirkland’s book, Calvinism: None Dare Call It Heresy
No subject ever discussed can be more important and crucial in this life than the subject of salvation. This is what the citizens of Berea were discussing where it says in Acts 17:11, “they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” The Bereans did two things right here in that their humble disposition motivated them with “readiness” to receive instruction, and they went to the Scriptures as the final authority on the subject. Notice the plural word “scriptures” is used as it is essential that Scripture be compared with Scripture in order to find out if “those things were so.”
Although this may sound elementary (and it actually is), the sad reality is that human nature (in particular our sin nature) tends to be impulsive, and it is so easy to grab one verse, or maybe just one or two words, from the Bible and run with it, twisting and distorting it from its actual meaning in Scripture. For example, Jesus referred to himself as “the bread of life” (John 6:35), which was obviously a figure of speech. However, Jesus then emphasized the point by saying, “For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed . . . he that eateth me, even he shall live by me” (John 6:55,57). Even though Jesus then qualified His statement by saying, “This is that bread which came down from heaven” (John 6:58), comparing Himself with manna, His disciples were already locked into a confusion, disputing amongst themselves what He could mean by His statements. The fact is, from a non-figurative perspective, partaking of human flesh was an unthinkable abomination, and the partaking of any kind of blood was forbidden in the Law.
For the reason of their great confusion, Jesus later explained to His disciples that (a) He would soon ascend to Heaven (John 6:62) making all He had said impossible in a physical sense, (b) that partaking of flesh “profiteth nothing” (John 6:63), and (c) the words He had spoken, “they are spirit” (John 6:63) (i.e., a figure of speech). Then, at the Last Supper, Jesus made it even clearer that He had been using a figure of speech by referring to the bread and wine as His body and blood (which obviously was impossible in a literal sense because He was still physically present) and then saying, “this do in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19) to signify that they were to remember His sacrifice on the Cross in this manner. Most unfortunately, the Catholic Church has turned this memorial into a very literal “sacrament of the Eucharist” where participation in this sacrament is what saves you. Hence, we now have “another gospel” that is works based and therefore never for certain.
Likewise, John Calvin did much the same thing, except in his case, he latched onto little more than a single word (predestinate) and ran with it. Then, rather than carefully looking to the whole of Scripture to verify his precepts and conclusions, he looked to the writings of Augustine to verify his thinking. The result is that, as with Catholicism, we now have “another gospel” that is not solely based on Scripture but on the confused thinking and misconstrued assumptions of a mere man.
With Calvin, rather than changing his views to fit Scripture, he changed the meaning of words in Scripture to fit his now distorted view of God and salvation.
We will, therefore, look to Scripture on the subjects pertaining to salvation. A good place to start is chapter 33 of Ezekiel where the very words of God, spoken through a prophet, reveal God’s heart on the subject of repentance:
Again, the word of the LORD came unto me, saying . . .
So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. . . .
Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel? . . .
[A]s for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turneth from his wickedness . . . When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered . . .
Yet the children of thy people say, The way of the Lord is not equal: but as for them, their way is not equal. When the righteous turneth from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, he shall even die thereby. But if the wicked turn from his wickedness, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall live thereby. Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. O ye house of Israel, I will judge you every one after his ways. (Ezekiel 33:1,7,11-13,17-20; emphasis added)
For the sake of brevity, we have hopped from verse to verse in Ezekiel 33, but if you have suffered under the teaching of Calvinism, it would do you well to carefully read all of this portion of Scripture through the twentieth verse as this passage refutes Calvinism without Calvinists doing some very serious mental gymnastics in altering and twisting the meaning of words. The italicized portions especially reveal that:
- God has given everyone a free will.
- Everyone already has the God-given ability to choose whether or not to live for God.
- Our destiny—Heaven or Hell—is our choice, but if we choose Heaven, we must choose to do it God’s way as we cannot trust (i.e., be saved) in our own righteousness.
- God takes no pleasure in sending people to Hell. It is not His choice but our choice to make.
- God is “equal” in His dealings with all of mankind. He is not a cruel or unjust God. It is those who depict God as cruel and unjust (as one who delights in sending people to Hell) who are “not equal”—or perhaps it is better to say blasphemous. Even the apostle Peter said that God is “no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34), and Paul said, “there is no respect of persons with God” (Romans 2:11). (See also Ephesians 6:9 and Colossians 3:25.) In other words, both Peter and Paul are in agreement with Ezekiel in that God is equal and fair in His dealings with all people. But John Calvin opposed this truth in saying, “All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation.”1
- Repentance* is a pre-conversion experience. It precedes the grace (indwelling Holy Spirit) that God gives to live a godly life.
Next, let’s consider the ministry of John the Baptist. Jesus said of him, “Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Luke 7:28). Scripture also says of him, “Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee [Jesus] . . . John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:2, 4). Though the religious leaders stayed away, many unconverted sinners came to John and partook of this baptism of repentance. As is indicated here, historically they repented as a prelude to later receiving Christ as their Savior. John the Baptist said of Jesus, “I indeed baptize you with water; but . . . he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire” (Luke 3:16). But, while these people were yet sinners, God made repentance available to all who willed it through the ministry of John the Baptist.
Then in Acts 16:30, the Philippian jailer asks of Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” to which they respond, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31).
For the Calvinist, any testimony of a conversion experience may be questioned and scrutinized. In fact, except for this being in Scripture, they would tell you that such a testimony is totally unacceptable. From a fatalistic, predestinate viewpoint, neither the jailer nor his family could have any choice in the matter, so most likely they would all go to Hell. Also, beyond their lacking any free will in the matter, they are fully degenerate to the degree that they are unable to repent or believe. Such is the predicament for the Calvinist who is fully indoctrinated into Calvin’s teachings. It is a large pill to swallow, and it is to be swallowed whole.
From a biblical perspective, the conversion experience is not forced or manipulated but initiated of a person’s own free will as the Holy Spirit draws him (remember John 12:32 where Jesus says He will draw all men). The individual repents (i.e., changes direction) and believes, then is “born again” of the Holy Spirit. From the Calvinist perspective, one must be born again first before one can repent and believe, but this is Scripture turned upside down and backwards.
Perhaps the act of becoming a Christian can best be explained by illustration: It is like a person walking down the wrong path; the person then stops and turns around (repentance), then looks to the right direction (faith). (This is what God requires to be born again.) To be born again means to be indwelt with the Holy Spirit as Paul indicates that Christians have God’s Spirit in them (Romans 8:9). Now with the Holy Spirit abiding within, the person begins walking in the new direction. It should be noted here that biblical repentance does not mean that we must clean up our act before we can come to Christ. Rather, it is an admission of our guilt and of our need of a Savior to begin transforming our lives to the image of God’s Son. Walking in the new direction, then, is subsequent to first repenting and believing. Then, as we will never be perfect in this life, we will continue to live a life of faith and repentance as the Holy Spirit continually transforms us to be like the Son.
In conclusion, it is important to realize that we will never understand all of Scripture perfectly, but the fundamentals of the Gospel can be readily comprehended. God is love and will not turn away whosoever comes to Him. Unfortunately, many come to Calvinism because on the surface, it appears to offer comfort and assurance of salvation. But, like Catholicism, there is no real assurance of salvation in Calvinism where salvation is deemed to be predestinated and therefore inaccessible by our choice or will. Once fully indoctrinated into Calvinism, the Calvinist is left wondering for the rest of his life if he is one of the elect. This is not a walk of faith but of doubt, and it is totally unscriptural. Scripture says that we can walk in assurance of eternal life:
Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God. (1 John 5:1; emphasis added)
And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. (Revelation 22:17; emphasis added)
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; emphasis added)
*Ironside: “To repent is to change one’s attitude toward self, toward sin, toward God, toward Christ.”
If you are following the Calvinist doctrine or are attending a Calvinist church, we urge you to read Bob Kirkland’s book, Calvinism: None Dare Call It Heresy. If you cannot obtain a copy, Lighthouse Trails will be happy to send you a free copy. Just send your e-mail address to email@example.com. We will keep your information confidential. If you do not wish to read an entire book, we have a growing number of articles on our blog discussing Calvinism and comparing it to Scripture. The Berean Call also has excellent articles on this issue as well. Calvinism is spreading throughout evangelical Christianity very rapidly today. The editors at Lighthouse Trails are obviously very concerned.
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