Dancing on the Edge of Calvinism

Enticed by Calvinism

There have been times in my life where I desired to accept the Calvinist theological system. Primarily because of the great blessings I have received from sitting at the feet of the puritans, reading their writings. I deeply appreciate their devotional depth and their focus on the glory of God in all things. Calvinism, at least in its classical form, also emphasizes the need for holiness, a need that I have recognized from the first day Christ saved me. This is a basic aspect of the Christian faith that is obviously lacking in our day in which worldliness is rampant among those who confess Christ. Besides these reasons for desiring Calvinism, there is the simple fact that embracing a tradition that already claims to have an airtight logical grid through which to view every verse of Scripture was very tempting to my lazy heart. But I was never able to embrace it, though I honestly tried to accept as much of the system as I could without throwing God’s word under the bus. 

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Acts 13:48 – A Calvinist Verse? (Part 2)

(This is the second post in a series of posts on Acts 13:48. To read the first post please click here.)

The Greek word “tasso” translated “appointed” or “ordained” in most Bible translations is the cause of many non-Calvinist headaches, though it needn’t be. Many, in an attempt to relieve their aching head, have tried very hard to find various ways to translate this word into something more appealing. But I believe there is plenty of scriptural evidence to show that “appointed/ordained” are valid English translations for Luke’s use of the word. Given that I am almost totally unschooled in biblical Greek many might be tempted to ignore my opinion on this point, I can accept that. And if what I present is at odds with the majority of Greek scholars, I would suggest that would be wise. But thankfully, there is a biblical way to determine what Luke had in mind without knowing the ins and outs of biblical Greek.

Luke uses the same Greek word (tasso) in four places besides Acts 13:48. By looking at how Luke uses the word elsewhere we can get a fairly accurate idea of how he intends to use it in the verse we are considering. Luke uses this particular word more than any other New Testament writer. Paul uses it twice in Romans 13:1 and 1 Corinthians 16:15. Matthew uses it once in Matthew 28:16. But Luke uses it a total of five times (Luke 7:8, Acts 13:48, 15:2, 22:10, and 28:23). So before jumping into the context of Acts 13:48, let’s take a look at these other passages and see how Luke uses the word.
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A Much Abused Passage – Ephesians 2:1-10 (Part 2)

The Gift of God

In the last post we looked at Ephesians 2:1-7 and asked whether Calvinism’s claim of regeneration before faith is taught in that passage; by comparing it with a similar passage in Colossians 2:12-13 we saw that Paul taught people are “raised up with Christ” through faith during baptism in water. In this post we want to look at a couple more verses in Ephesians chapter 2 that have been used as Calvinistic proof texts.

Ephesians 2:8-9

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one can boast.

The Calvinist logic on these two verses is simple. Faith is a gift from God. But even more, it is a gift that we cannot reject. Simply put, no one can believe in Christ except those who are given the gift of faith, and those who are given the gift of faith by God’s unilateral grace cannot resist it.
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Calvinism’s Missing Contexts – Part 3

Philippians 1:6

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

Ephesians 1:4

“He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.”

Calvinist Challenge:

From these 2 verses it is clear as day that every individual who has been saved was predestined for eternal life from all eternity and will never fall away from the Christian faith. God will complete the work he started in each and every Christian. And he chose each individual that would be saved before the world began.
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Calvinism’s Missing Contexts – Part 2

As we search the scriptures honestly and diligently to find answers to our questions about various issues about living in God’s kingdom we will sometimes find ourselves in deep waters. Sometimes we will stumble upon verses that seem to point us back to the conclusions of our Calvinist brethren. Verses that are clearly about predestination and divine election will seem to jump off the page. The reason for this is that divine election, predestination, the radical corruption of mankind, and other similar topics are taught again and again in God’s word. These doctrines are wonderful and reveal the loving plan of God for the human race in general and his followers in particular. It is not these teachings that are dangerous, but the false understanding of them which is promoted by Calvinism. Understanding them is very important if we are going to come to a well-balanced understanding of our faith.
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Ground Rules of Biblical Interpretation – Part 2

(This is the second post in a 2 part series,click here to read part 1.)

Scripture Interprets Scripture (in context)

The second principle we want to look at is that “scripture interprets scripture.” This principle is just what it sounds like. When we face a passage or verse that is hard to understand, we can look elsewhere in God’s word to gain clarity. Since the entire Bible was inspired by the Holy Spirit, its teachings do not contradict one another but complement one another. Something in the Gospels might be clarified by a passage from the letters of Paul, and vice versa. Whenever Calvinism is discussed this principle is often abused. Not just by Calvinists but also by those on the other side of the issue.

That scripture interprets scripture is a very basic rule of how to find out what the Bible is trying to say. Some passages have a clearer context than others. The more complete the context, the more confident we can be that our understanding of a particular verse or passage is correct. But it is often abused by those seeking to defend Calvinism from scripture. We must make it very clear that scripture interprets scripture, but scripture does not overrule scripture. Often the verses that speak of God’s sovereign rights are used to explain away the genuine responsibility (i.e. “ability to respond”) and choices of men.
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Five Questions About Predestination – #3 How?

Question: How does one become a member of Christ’s predestined people?

Answer: By believing in the Gospel of Jesus Christ

When we talk about individuals being part of God’s Old Testament chosen people, Israel, because of their relationship with Abraham, it is not hard for us to understand the nature of that relationship. They were related to him because they had his blood running through their veins. But when we discuss the nature of the relationship between Christ and his Church we are not talking about physical ancestry. God’s New Testament chosen people are not determined by their race, but by their faith.
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The Extent of Spiritual Death

“Very, Very Dead”

Calvinist Position:

Ephesians 2:1-2
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked…”

The spirit of man is dead because of sin. A lot of people were crying and making all kinds of racket around Lazarus’ tomb during the four days he was laying their dead, but it didn’t wake him up or disturb his sleep. Lazarus didn’t help prepare his body for burial, didn’t give his opinion on who should be invited to the funeral or help decide on the menu for the guests; he was dead! We all know that dead men cannot do anything good or bad.

Lazarus was not able to respond to the people at his funeral. In the same way we couldn’t respond to God when we were dead spiritually. Everyone knows that a dead man cannot feel conviction for their sins or place their faith in Jesus Christ. Only living people can be convicted of their guilt or place their trust in something. A dead man can’t do anything. And a dead spirit cannot repent or believe! The only way that Lazarus could greet the guests who attended his funeral was by being raised from the dead. Only after he was alive could he be grateful that they had come to show their respects. And only after someone is born again by the grace and power of God can someone repent of their sins and place their trust in Christ. God decides who he will give life to, not because they repent and believe, but because of his predestined choice. He FIRST gives them new life, and THEN they are convicted of their sins, repent and believe. Faith and repentance are part of salvation, not the means by which we receive it.

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