Monday, July 10, 2017

Ray Comfort: Why I'm neither Calvinist nor Arminian



How do God's sovereign grace and man's responsibility to turn to Him fit together?  For example, Ezekiel 33:11 says, "As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die...?"  

It is clear from Scripture that He grants us repentance (Acts 5:31; 11:18), and He also gives us faith as a gift (Romans 12:3), but He then commands all men everywhere to repent and to have faith (believe). See Mark 1:15; Acts 17:30.  

We also read that "Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Acts 2:21, Romans 10:13), and of course John 3:16 says "whoever believes on Him shall not perish." Whoever means whoever. 

Charles Spurgeon proclaimed divine sovereignty yet he also preached man's responsibility, although he admitted that he didn't understand how they fit together.  

Consider his exhortations to the sinner: "Believe in Jesus, and though you are now in slippery places your feet shall soon be set upon a rock of safety";  "Sinner fly to Christ";  "O sinner, humble yourself under the mighty hand of God..."


And he preached that it is the sinner's responsibility to trust in the Savior: "Trust Christ with your soul and He will save it.  I know you will not do this unless the Holy Spirit constrains you, but this does not remove your responsibility."

The Arminian and Calvinist views are diametrically opposed to each other, yet believers on both sides point to a multitude of verses to back their theology. If you choose one view or the other, don't let your choice cut you off from others who may believe differently. 


Is it possible that the two opposing truths can walk together?  It is, if all that is missing is some information for them to harmonize. The day will come when we will understand all things (see 1 Corinthians 13:12), and it is then that we will be glad that we didn't cause division in the Church, and "sow discord among brethren," something God hates (Proverbs 6:19). 

Sadly, Church history has shown us that Christ-centered men of God have clashed over these issues (e.g., Wesley and Whitefield). More recently I have seen brethren make a theological stand and much to their dismay they were marked by their home church as troublemakers. Fine missionaries have been pulled from the field, pastors fired from the ministry, and churches have split because of this issue.  

So, if you do think you have it worked out, be careful that you strive to keep unity among the brethren, and then focus on your God-given commission.  Firefighters exist to fight fires, not to fight each other. When the firing squad stands in a circle, it makes the enemy happy.  

Every moment that you and I spend arguing about theological interpretation is time we have lost forever that could have been spent in prayer for the unsaved or in seeking to save that which is lost. 


I wouldn't be surprised if much of the contention for this issue isn't based on a supposed love of the truth, but is rooted in sinful pride.

(Source: here)
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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

C.H. Spurgeon On Calvinism & Arminianism

Quotes about Arminianism and Calvinism from Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)


The controversy which has been carried on between the Calvinist and the Arminian does not so involve the vital point of personal godliness as to make eternal life depend upon our holding either system of theology. Between the Protestant and the Papist there is a controversy of such a character, that he who is saved on the one side by faith in Jesus, dare not allow that his opponent on the opposite side can be saved while depending on his own works. There the controversy is for life or death, because it hinges mainly upon the doctrine of justification by faith, which Luther so properly called the test doctrine, by which a Church either stands or falls. (1)


I think we are free to admit, that while John Wesley, for instance, in modern times zealously defended Arminianism, and on the other hand, George Whitfield with equal fervour fought for Calvinism, we should not be prepared either of us, on either side of the question, to deny the vital godliness of either the one or the other. (2)


The Calvinist has said, and said right bravely, that salvation is of grace alone; and the Arminian has said, and said most truthfully, that damnation is of man’s will alone, and as the result of man’s sin, and of that only. Then they have fallen out with one another. The fact is, they had each one laid hold of a truth, and if they could have put their heads together, and accepted both truths, it might have been greatly for the advantage of the Church of Christ. These two doctrines are like tram lines that you can travel on with safety and comfort, these parallel lines—
ruin, of man; restoration, of God:
sin, of man’s will; salvation, of God’s will:
reprobation, of man’s demerit; election, of God’s free and sovereign grace:
the sinner lost in hell through himself alone, the saint lifted up to heaven wholly and alone by the power and grace of God.
Get those two truths thoroughly engraven upon your heart, and you will then hold comprehensively the great truths of Scripture. You will not need to crowd them into one narrow system of theology, but you will have a sort of duplicate system. (3)


I do maintain there should be, and there must be if our churches are to be healthy and sound, a constant adherence to the fundamental doctrines of divine truth. I should be prepared to go a very long way for charity’s sake, and admit that very much of the discussion which has existed even between Arminians and Calvinists has not been a discussion about vital truth, but about the terms in which that vital truth shall be stated. (4)





1-Spurgeon: Heir of the Puritans
2-The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Volume 7
3-Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit,41:500
4-The Complete Works of C. H. Spurgeon, Volume 6: Sermons 286-347

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Friday, April 21, 2017

Labels, Logical Consistency, And Hidden Mysteries

Labels can be a good thing. They let us know where a person stands, without them having to spend 3 hours explaining to us every detail of what they believe. But perhaps sometimes, if we allow them to, labels can get in the way of obtaining Biblical truth.


It seems that, at times we attempt to reconcile by means of mere human logic, every seeming biblical inconsistency in order to maintain a tight grip on our theological system. For example, Arminians and Calvinists are correct in many of their understandings of Scripture, but our mistake, in my opinion, is in choosing one set of truths over another, rather than just accepting both regardless of their apparent contradictions. The "prince of preachers", Charles Spurgeon rightly attributed our lack of understanding to our finite, fallen minds and not to problems with God or Scripture. Spurgeon put it this way:
The Calvinist has said, and said right bravely, that salvation is of grace alone; and the Arminian has said, and said most truthfully, that damnation is of man’s will alone, and as the result of man’s sin, and of that only. Then they have fallen out with one another. 
The fact is, they had each one laid hold of a truth, and if they could have put their heads together, and accepted both truths, it might have been greatly for the advantage of the church of Christ. 
These two doctrines are like tram lines that you can travel on with safety and comfort, these parallel lines—ruin, of man; restoration, of God: sin, of man’s will; salvation, of God’s will: reprobation, of man’s demerit; election, of God’s free and sovereign grace: the sinner lost in hell through himself alone, the saint lifted up to heaven wholly and alone by the power and grace of God. Get those two truths thoroughly engraven upon your heart, and you will then hold comprehensively the great truths of Scripture. You will not need to crowd them into one narrow system of theology, but you will have a sort of duplicate system. (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit,41:500.) *emphasis mine

It should be our desire to be a Biblicist first, and then a Calvinist/Arminian/Lutheran/Baptist, etc, second. Though not a perfect man and certainly capable of misinterpreting Scripture, being a Biblicist first and foremost seems to have been Spurgeon's desire.

Our desire to reconcile truths that appear contradictory (like God's sovereignty and man's responsibility, for example) to our finite human minds, and our quest for "logical consistency" can in fact become our god. I myself, have fallen into this trap.
Often it seems, we end up ignoring or twisting Scripture that doesn't fit our preferred theological system. But instead, wherever Scripture teaches seemingly contradictory ideas, our theology should embrace those same ideas rather than resort to a logical consistency which rejects parts of God's revealed, inerrant Word.

Attempting to, through our own flawed reason and strength, peer into things that God has not clearly revealed in Scripture is a sin. Martin Luther says the same in his Lectures on Genesis:
This is how I have taught in my book On the Bondage of the Will and elsewhere, namely, that a distinction must be made when one deals with the knowledge, or rather with the subject, of the divinity. For one must debate either about the hidden God or about the revealed God [ie, God as we know Him through Christ, a God of mercy]. With regard to God, insofar as He has not been revealed, there is no faith, no knowledge, and no understanding. And here one must hold to the statement that what is above us is none of our concern. For thoughts of this kind, which investigate something more sublime above or outside the revelation of God, are altogether hellish. With them nothing more is achieved than that we plunge ourselves into destruction. *emphasis mine

Some will embrace sub-biblical ideas like double predestination and hard determinism, while others will reject clear biblical truths like the depravity/inability of man, and salvation based on grace alone and not on human will or effort, all in an attempt to remain "logically consistent" within their own theological system. However, I must fully agree with Spurgeon when he says:
My love of consistency with my own doctrinal views is not great enough to allow me knowingly to alter a single text of Scripture. I have great respect for orthodoxy, but my reverence for inspiration is far greater. I would sooner a hundred times over appear to be inconsistent with myself than be inconsistent with the word of God. (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 26: 49-52) *emphasis mine

Some Arminians have labeled me a Calvinist, and there's no doubt that most Calvinists label me an Arminian. So what am I really? I'm a Christian, a Protestant who affirms all 5 Solas of the Reformation, and who desires to see the modern church return to many of the theological truths of the Reformation that we've left behind. Labels are fine, but it should be our desire first and foremost, to be a Biblicist.
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