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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Hooray for the Hypocrites

One of my Neo-Calvinist friends wrote to me yesterday. He said that I should like a favourite preacher of his (David Platt). He said that this preacher “holds to the Reformed theology”. Then he added, “People who truly understand the Reformed theology have a passion for lost souls”.

His first statement is probably true.

If the second one is true, the first one is certainly false.

If a Calvinist loves the salvation message it might make him a nice person but it also makes him a bad Calvinist.

Deformed Theology

Oddly enough, there is a very limited sense in which his second statement might sort of be true. But if it is, it’s no thanks to Reformed theology. Some Neo-Calvinists, you see, are blessedly inconsistent about the implications of their beliefs: they love the salvation message even though their doctrine gives them no reason.

Why would I say that? Well, ‘Reformed’ theology says that Christ didn’t die for everyone, just for the people God arbitrarily chose before the creation of the world, whom they dub the “Elect”. If you’re not already one of the “elected” people, then the message of salvation falls on deaf, dead ears. So God says he wants all to be saved, but really he means only the Elect.

In other words, God lies.

Oh, they spin it. They say, “We really mean that God has a ‘public will’ that all men should be saved, but in his ‘secret counsels’ he knows they won’t.” But this is simply doublespeak: they’re really saying God says one thing and does another.

George Orwell would have gotten a real kick out of the Neo-Calvinists.

And they call this foul doctrine, “Limited Atonement” (point 3 in their acronym, “TULIP”).

That’s not my God.


And that’s not salvation. Biblical salvation is open to all.

Their Reasoning

Why would they ever want to believe such nonsense? Well, it starts with the first two points of their belief system, Total Depravity and Unconditional Election. First, they say that human beings are not just sinful but so “dead” to spiritual things that they cannot even possibly respond to the salvation call. Secondly, therefore the only way a person can be saved is by being already among the “Elect”, those who were chosen individually by God before creation, and by being “made alive” by God arbitrarily. So God has to say, “All may come”, but mean “Only the Elect may come”.

They figure that if Christ died for the lost, then that would mean he suffered needlessly … at least inasmuch as he suffered for those who would not be saved. So they figure he actually didn’t suffer for them at all. He died and paid the price only for the “Elect”.

So they “limit” the “atonement”: get it? Limited Atonement.

Passion for Lost Souls?

Now, if this looks a bit lunatic to you, welcome to my party. As I see it, they’ve got a huge problem with masses of important scriptures. When they say that Christ died only for the Elect they are simply denying the plain sense of the invitations made by God. For example, they have to think that far from taking “no pleasure in the death of the wicked”, God would have to be quite gratified to see the lost march off to their doom. In fact, Neo-Calvinists would have to believe he has been intending their destruction since before the foundation of the world.

Wow. That’s cold.

Likewise on the Neo-Calvinist reading of all salvation passages. Let’s take good old John 3:16, and look at it through their lens. It must read to them as follows: For God so loved the Elect … that the Elect could never have perished in the first place, and so always were guaranteed eternal life anyway.

You’ll notice I had to leave out the whole part about God giving his Son. This is because I can’t make it fit their thinking. Oh, I know they put it in, but there’s no sense to why they do. After all, God arbitrarily chose the Elect to be saved before the foundation of the world; and if so, nothing really changed when Christ died: the method of salvation was completed, perhaps, but the message of salvation was already redundant. The Elect were already saved.

As for the lost? Well, they're just lost. Always were. Always will be. Don't expect God to raise a finger to change it. He made them for destruction.

And as for the Son, he didn't die for them: Limited Atonement, remember?

The Heart of Christ

In this tragic belief, they depart radically from the heart of our Savior. He loves the lost, even if they are dead set on staying lost. In fact, the whole miracle of the gospel is that God’s love exceeds mankind’s potential for love, in that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.

Christ Jesus died for sinners. That’s the salvation message we preach. If anyone is teaching a different take on it, then the scripture has a simple answer for him.

Platt-itudes

So what do we do with people who, on the one hand, claim to be “Calvinists”, but on the other claim to “love the gospel” or “have a passion for souls?” I think we simply regard them as “saved and confused” until further notice.

I don’t know David Platt personally. I’ve watched his videos, and he seems a pleasant person. He also seems to me to be one of those inconsistent Neo-Calvinists who keeps on loving the salvation message despite nominally holding to a theology that makes it pointless. He’s a nice guy, and a lousy Calvinist.

Does that make him inconsistent? Sure. Does that make him a bad man? No.

Hooray for the hypocrites.

The Neo-Calvinist Gospel

If he were more ‘reformed’, he would be like one of my other Neo-Calvinist pals. For example, consider my pal Dave. His ten-year-old son recently confided to his parents he was feeling worried about his relationship to God. He thought that maybe there was something he should have done that he had not yet done ...

His parents told him, “Don’t worry; the fact that you are concerned at all shows you’re probably one of the Elect anyway”.

End of story.

Yikes.

That’s not the first Neo-Calvinist I’ve met who entirely dismisses the human responsibility to receive Christ. A work colleague of mine couldn’t understand what I was saying when I asked her, “When did you become a Christian?”

She looked stunned. Then she said, “I was born one”. Then she looked at me as if I were mad.

End of story.

Double yikes.

Bottom Line

Maybe David Platt and some others of the Neo-Calvinists do love the salvation message. But if they do, they really aren’t Calvinists at all.

And if they are Calvinists, then their gospel is not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It’s not my gospel.

End of story.

7 comments :

  1. Calvinists share the gospel for the two main reasons anyone should:
    1: The declaration will bring glory to God regardless of its acceptance
    2: It is commanded by Christ

    I think that the gospel is shared less by non-calvinistic evangelicals because they put their number 1 goal as salvation of the sinner. While that is the heart of God, it is not His primary concern, and it should not be ours. To do so puts us in the position of 'savior' not messenger. And if the response of the individual is not toward God, we become a failure.
    I am not a Calvinist, but I have learned many things about the character of God from discussions with them. Mainly that there are some things so complex and wonderful about Him that we really cannot understand

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    1. I think you're misjudging people who do not agree with Calvinism there, BT.

      The glory of God is indeed number one job in the universe, and no theologically-informed person from either side would doubt it. Nor is it true that people who preach the gospel become "saviours" instead of messengers. That does not follow at all. Nor would it be true to say that a person who is saved through the message of another is responding to them rather than to God through them.

      As for the claim "there are many things so wonderful...we cannot understand,"
      that is of course true, but begs the question of whether that's relevant to this particular question.

      It does not seem too much to ask that when we are sharing the gospel we ought to have clear idea of what is being asked of us. And, in fact, I find Scripture very clear on it: a response of belief and repentance is required of all sinners, and this response is not arbitrarily forced on them by means of the instantaneous regeneration of their minds against their wills. Were it not so, passages like Luke 13:34, to say nothing of every single demand that people should believe, would make no sense at all.

      I find, a lot of my Calvinist friends and interlocutors resort to this dodge whenever they feel cornered: they say, "Well, it's a mystery..." and in general, they seem to make this move whenever the illogic of their own position becomes too urgent to them. And what you're suggesting is irrational: that God wishes us to preach a gospel without actual power, for according to Calvinism, it can have no effect whatsoever on what God has ordained before the foundation of the world with regard to salvation.

      Calvinists think we're just "going through the motions," so to speak. And I suggest that is a total denigration of the gospel, however mind-bogglingly "wonderful" they may claim it is.

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  2. My comment was not meant to say anything negative about non calvinist, but merely to say that their sharing of the gospel by a calvinist is not a contradiction of what they believe.
    By 'saviors' I mean that there are many who evangelize that put the burden of salvation on themselves, what they say, and how they say it.
    I did not say that the gospel is without power... Paul says that the gospel is God's power that brings salvation... But not all who hear will get saved... this does not make the gospel that they heard without value.
    As far as the wonder of who God is... I have met people on both sides (calvinist and anti-calvinist) who are completely sure of who God is in the TULIP areas. In discussions with them passages are brought up and things are shown me through the Word of God about His person and character that I cannot wrap my mind around. And that sense of wonder is how I often come away from these discussions.
    Like I said... I am not a Calvinist... but the ones I have come in contact with seem to have a genuine love for the lost and the gospel they proclaim is sound (though it does become confusing if you would sit down and discuss the TULIP with them) and I think it would be right to rejoice that they do proclaim the gospel.

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    1. Well, I'm certainly not accusing you of being a Calvinist, BT, and I wouldn't reject you personally even if you were. I have strong friendships with Calvinists; but that doesn't mean I agree with them. We have long discussions. I think confused theology is an opportunity for conversation, not a reason for rejecting someone. We're all learning. So I keep the channels open, and we talk.

      I find my Calvinist friends both honest and confused -- honestly confused, if you will. They mean well, but they think poorly sometimes. And they're often very, very afraid to think outside of their set Calvinist doctrines.

      On the other hand, as per your point 2, I haven't met those people you describe as putting the burden of salvation upon themselves. If you find some, I agree with your correction that only the Lord achieves that. All the Christians I know would agree.

      On your third point (the power of the gospel), the issue is not that some will not be saved, for every Christian knows that. The real problem is that Calvinism teaches that not all who hear will even have the *opportunity* to be saved. The gospel, then, has no power to those who are not said to be elect. To them, say Calvinists, it is a dead message, one indeed with no power to save them.

      In other words, Calvinists believe that God *does not* love the world, nor is God "not willing that any should perish." They think He loves only the elect, and that He is more than willing that the unelect should perish. Consequently, the message of salvation is, to them, a deception: for it invites the lost to be saved, but in truth, they are denied any chance of responding.

      That's the real problem: Calvinism lies about the character, intentions and sincerity of God as expressed in the message of salvation. It teaches that God says one thing, but does another.

      That, for me, is a huge problem. Thus, I no longer share your confidence that the Calvinists proclaim the gospel at all. I would rejoice if they did. I think they really preach a thing called Divine Determinism, which they love far more than the gospel. Unfortunately, their message is not "good news" at all, for according to them it changes nothing: the elect are still elect, and the unelect are unloved, unwanted and uninvited to know God.

      Yes, my Calvinist friends quite sincere: but one can be sincerely wrong, can't one?

      I also confess I cannot share your sense of wonder at Calvinist doctrines. And I would simply repeat what I suggested in my last message: that wonder can be produced by two things -- genuine mystery or mental confusion. I note that the Calvinist "wonder" seems always to come online for them whenever they are simply at a logical dead end with their own doctrine and threatened by having to rethink. That is truly unfortunate wonderment.

      As you say, I do think Calvinists often genuinely love the lost. But their doctrine would then make them out to be better than God -- for they insist He does not love any but the elect, and yet they claim to love everyone. Still, I do rejoice that Calvinists who are lost in their wonderment may still accidentally preach the message of salvation. But I do not put that down to their Calvinism, but to the Lord's overruling their error...a thing which He often does for all of us, does He not?

      Thanks for your thoughts.

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  3. Is this an old item.. posted 2017 all the comments are from 2015? Just asking.

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    1. Yes. This week and next are holiday/recycling weeks (as detailed in Sunday's post).

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  4. You have put your finger on a huge sore spot which is the most confounding problem that faces humanity. That is that it seems impossible for many to figure out the logical and the factually and morally correct path to get from point A to point B in their lives. Naturally I am not referring to those with a mental or emotional handicap. A crass example is available every day by observing how many people drive on the road. Logic dictates that they do get from point A to point B in a responsible, considerate and safe manner but actually and morally they are not willing to, or are unable to, figure out how to do that correctly. They may have the car full of innocent bystanders, their children, spouse, relatives, friends, etc., and yet they will travel at 70 to 80 mph 2 to 10 yards from the car in front of them, in dry or wet conditions, without considering the poor logic and consequences of their behavior for themselves, their passengers and other cars. This lack of self-awareness, logic, concern, empathy and foresight does not seem to impact them in any way and they will continue to do this habitually as though they lived in an alternate reality. Similarly, the same unwillingness, or seeming inability, to make healthy, logical and careful decisions will manifest itself in other circumstances and make people easy targets for manipulation by all kinds of schemers and charlatans and that, of course, includes the religious sphere.

    For me the main question is how something like that can have, and continues to come, about and it will depend on who you ask. The evolutionist and psychiatrist will tell you that it is because evolution has simply produced different personality types based on inherited good or bad genetic traits. This argument may be pushed to the limit by excusing even near criminal traits. A Christian may tell you that it is because of the biblical Fall. I will suggest a variation of that in that I suspect the underlying cause is that God built this potentially negative trait into his creation by absolutely wanting a creature with true free will. This then obviously includes the potential for making wrong (uncaring, selfish, slovenly, etc.) choices as the behavior of early humanity demonstrated even while still in paradise. Naturally, this is only fixable therefore in one way as the Catholic, Protestant, etc., Christian has figured out, namely by turning to the original designer and asking for his help in fixing this problem on a daily and lifelong basis. It is just so frustrating that you continue to come across this problem so frequently and in such a pervasive manner with no apparent end in sight because we continue to be free to decline a cure.

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