Calvinists Agree: God Decreed the Fall

“God not only foresaw the fall of the first man, and in him the ruin of his posterity; but also at His own pleasure arranged it … Though their perdition depends on the predestination of God, the cause and matter of it is in themselves … Man therefore falls, divine providence so ordaining, but he falls by his own fault.” 1

“Even the fall of Adam, and through him the fall of the race, was not by chance or accident, but was so ordained in the secret counsels of God.” 2

“Surely, if God had not willed the fall, He could, and no doubt would, have prevented it; but He did not prevent it: ergo He willed it. And if He willed it, He certainly decreed it” 3

“Plainly it was God’s will that sin should enter this world, otherwise it would not have entered, for nothing happens except what God has eternally decreed. Moreover, there was more than a simple permission, for God only permits things that fulfill His purpose.” 4

“Not only did God have a perfect foreknowledge of the outcome of Adam’s trial; not only did His omniscient eye see Adam eating of the forbidden fruit, but He decreed beforehand that he should do so.” 5

“Also, Calvinists often affirm that Adam was free before the Fall.  But again, I always speak of freedom relative to God, and from this perspective, I would say that Adam had no freedom whatsoever even before the Fall.  To be “free” from sin is irrelevant. The issue is whether Adam was free from God to choose to remain free from sin – he was not. In addition, I would not say that God permitted Adam to fall, but that God caused it.” 6


 

1 John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3.23.7; 3.23.8

2 Loraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, p. 234

3 Jerome Zanchius, The Doctrine of Absolute Predestination, Ch. II, Sec. II, Par. 4 (Link)

4 A.W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God, p. 162

5 A.W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God, Appendix II, The Case of Adam, p. 283

6 Vicent Cheung, The Author of Sin (<http://www.vincentcheung.com/books/authorsin.pdf>), p. 15

R.T. Kendall on Once Saved, Always Saved

“What do we mean, ‘once saved, always saved’? … Before we introduce various terms let me give a definition of the teaching we are affirming.  Whoever once truly believes that Jesus was raised from the dead, and confesses that Jesus is Lord, will go to heaven when he dies.  But I will not stop there.  Such a person will go to heaven when he dies no matter what work (or lack of work) may accompany such faith.”

– R.T. Kendall (2005: Authentic Media), Once Saved, Always Saved, p. 1

Charles Stanley: God Will Save Unbelievers

“[T]he unfaithful believer will not lose his salvation … Even if a believer for all practical purposes becomes an unbeliever, his salvation is not in jeopardy.  Christ will remain faithful … Christ will not deny an unbelieving Christian his or her salvation … believers who lose or abandon their faith will retain their salvation, for God remains faithful.”

– Charles Stanley (1990: Thomas Nelson), Eternal Security: Can You Be Sure?, pp. 92-4

Feedback: Why Don’t You Man Up?

This week’s feedback comes from reader H.P.  It is a good reminder that empty rhetoric does not amount to a reasoned argument.  H.P.’s comments are reproduced in their entirety, followed by my response.

Round 1

H.P.: “Why don’t you be a man and use a REAL document that expresses the full understanding of Calvinism like the Canons of Dort instead of arbitrarily quoting sources out of context.  Are you trying to be the next Dave Hunt on anti-Calvinism?  I would love to take up a debate with you and your ideology of Arminian demises.  Contact me [contact details removed]”

It’s interesting to note that you don’t explain how you define a “REAL” document, other than that it must express a “full understanding of Calvinism”. 

This raises the question, do Calvin’s Institutes not express a full understanding of Calvinism?  Highly doubtful, considering that it “was Calvin who wrought out this system of theological thought with such logical clearness and emphasis that it has ever since borne his name.” (Boettner, pp. 3-4) 

What about Boettner’s Reformed Doctrine of Predestination – does that fail to express a full understanding of Calvinism?  Highly doubtful, considering that among the endorsements for this classic work, we find the following:

“This is one of the most thorough and complete, as well as one of the most interesting and convincing statements of the doctrine of Predestination that has appeared in any language.  In addition Dr. Boettner provides in this book a scholarly and comprehensive statement of the Reformed or Calvinistic faith.  For more than thirty years The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination has been regarded as the authoritative work in this field.”

“Not only a clear and cogent presentation of the Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, but of all the great distinctive doctrines of the Reformed Faith.”

“A book that will live for years as one of the most scholarly, helpful and interesting discussions of a difficult subject.”

“The mantle of Dr. Warfield, Calvinism’s most distinguished expositor and defender of the last generation, seems to have fallen on Dr. Boettner’s shoulders.”

“Whoever really wants to know what Calvinism teaches cannot do better than to read this book from cover to cover.”

What about A.W. Pink’s Sovereignty of God – does that fail in expressing a full understanding of Calvinism?  Granted, the book is not specifically about the TULIP (but then again, Calvinism is more than TULIP), but it is considered to be one of the classic texts on the Calvinistic view of providence, predestination, and the ‘Doctrines of Grace’ in general.  The review on R.C. Sproul’s Ligonier Ministries website gives this endorsement:

“This book … fiercely defends the sovereignty of God, and all the cognate doctrines such as the Doctrines of Grace. It is THE book to give to those just after conversion, and a prime book to give to anyone who defends the free will of man… It is an important stone to guide the steps of those who are not yet convinced of God’s absolute sovereignty over all persons and events.”

What about Edwin H. Palmer’s Five Points of Calvinism – does that fail in expressing a full understanding of Calvinism?  Highly doubtful, considering that it was this book that made leading Calvinist exponent James White a “full ‘five pointer’”.  Monergism Books gives this endorsement:

“Using the classic TULIP acronym (Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the saints), this primer on the five points of Calvinism is perfect for students and laypeople alike. Using the Scriptures from which they are drawn, Edwin H. Palmer analyzes each point and explains them in accessible language. Helpful discussion questions follow each chapter, making this book ideal for classes or study groups.”

What about another source that I have quoted from, R.C. Sproul’s What is Reformed Theology?  Given that this resource is touted as offering “a comprehensive introduction to Reformed theology,” I dare say that this qualifies as a “REAL” document on the subject.

Another book that I’ve quoted from is Boice and Ryken’s The Doctrines of Grace.  I fail to see how anyone could libel this classic text as not being a “REAL” document on the subject of Calvinism, especially when a leading proponent of Reformed Theology, namely Dr. R.C. Sproul, writes the following: 

“In this book Drs. Boice and Ryken not only provide a lucid and compelling exposition of the doctrines of grace but also provide a historical framework for their development.” (From the Foreword) 

Another reviewer writes that the book is

“an in-depth examination of each of the five doctrines of grace. Eschewing the traditional TULIP acronym, Boice chooses instead to speak of Radical Depravity, Unconditional Election, Particular Redemption, Efficacious Grace and Persevering Grace. Each of the points receives a full examination … This book provides a beautiful and captivating introduction to Calvinism.”

It’s funny also that you haven’t so much as attempted to substantiate your claims of me “arbitrarily quoting sources out of context”.  It has been well said that ‘what can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof’.

I fail to see the purpose of the Dave Hunt question.

Perhaps I’m not the one who needs to man up.

Round 2

H.P. wrote back, now claiming that the aforementioned sources (from Calvin, Boettner, Sproul, Palmer, Pink, et al.) don’t qualify as “REAL” documents or express a full understanding of Calvinism:

H.P.: “No, not at all and here’s why: these sources that you list are documents that do not give an adequate definition of what Calvinists mean by the terminologies they have have. You have only arbitrarily quoted a few sources to show that Calvinism does not make sense, without acknowledging that these are variant expressions of their understanding of T.U.L.I.P. If you are going to attack a view, at least use a source that actually does into the polemical depths like the Canons of Dort prior to making a complete fool out of yourself.

If you would like, I would love to debate you.”

On the contrary, these works do indeed provide adequate definitions of what Calvinists mean by their use of theological terms. If you want to deny that these works are “REAL,” then that’s your choice, but bear in mind that it lacks any credibility. By denying that Calvin, Boettner, Shedd, Pink, Palmer, Sproul, et. al represent “REAL” Calvinism, you’re the one who is making a fool out of yourself.

Round 3

H.P. now comes back for one last bite at the cherry:

H.P.: “I can say your sources are misquoted because I have read several of the books and there are other quotes to prove my position. I accept Calvin, Boettner, Pink, and Palmer, but these are variant expressions of the same key doctrines. Besides they are not as ‘in depth’ as the Canons, which I think you should read.

I have grown tired of the same meaningless rantings that anti-Calvinists such as yourself keep posting as if we have no alternative response. The Canons of Dort have done enough justice by exposing Armnianism for what it was: an error. I may not agree with everything, but you could take down the stereotypical arguments that you keep using over and over again. It’s kind of trite and lame.”

You said:

“I can say your sources are misquoted because I have read several of the books and there are other quotes to prove my position.”

Mere assertion. I could just as well write ‘I can say that my sources are quoted correctly because I have read several of the books and there are other quotes to prove my position.’ Mind you, if I were to reply thus, the discussion would not progress one bit. Without corroborating evidence, your statement is meaningless.

By the way, where are these supposed quotes that prove your position?  One would think that if you actually did have quotes that both prove your position and refute my position, then you would be a man and produce the alleged evidence rather than a whole lot of hot air.

“Besides they are not as ‘in depth’ as the Canons, which I think you should read.”

What’s to say that I haven’t read the Canons of Dordt? The fact that I haven’t yet quoted from them? That’s nothing more than an argument from silence, which is no argument at all.  (For the record, I have indeed read the Canons of Dordt)

“I have grown tired of the same meaningless rantings that anti-Calvinists such as yourself keep posting as if we have no alternative response.”

Such as? If you’re going to accuse me of “meaningless rantings,” why don’t you be a man (to use your words) and provide more than a mere assertion of such.

“The Canons of Dort have done enough justice by exposing Armnianism for what it was: an error.”

Debatable, but once again, you have done nothing more than simply assert your position, rather than provide a reason for it.

“I may not agree with everything, but you could take down the stereotypical arguments that you keep using over and over again. It’s kind of trite and lame.”

Actually, what is lame is that you keep accusing me of “meaningless rantings,” “stereotypical arguments,” and “arbitrarily quoting sources out of context,” but don’t (or is that can’t?) even substantiate your views.

Best regards,

Arminian

Individual Apostasy

The following is from Donald C. Stamps, Life in the Spirit Study Bible, pp. 1962-3:

“The Greek words for apostasy appear twice in the NT in the noun form apostasia, (Acts 21:21; 2 Thes 2:3) and here in Heb 3:12 in the verb form aphistemi, (translated here as ‘departing,’ but in some other translations as ‘turn away’).  The Greek term literally means ‘standing away’ from God and refers to abandoning what one has previously believed and experienced in Christ.  It involves a disowning of Christ and departure from the body of Christ and the Christian faith. Apostasy is the consequence of a deliberate and volitional choice to ‘[depart] from the living God’ (3:12).

(1) Individual apostasy is possible only for those who have first experienced the blood of the new covenant in regeneration and sanctification, renewal through the Holy Spirit and relationship with Christ (cf. Heb 6:4-5; 10:29).  The Christian faith is primarily about relationship to God.  Thus the Bible speaks of God’s fatherhood and Christ’s sonship, and our relationship to God as His family and children (Rom 8:14-17).  Whereas logical systems of thought and natural law are cold, fixed and unrelational, salvation in Christ is personal, relational and requires our responsiveness.  God’s grace in His Son makes possible our relationship with Him and is sufficient for sustaining it.  In Jesus’ analogy about the vine and the branches (John 15:1-8), the believer (BRANCH) who remains in relational union with Christ (VINE) is secure and has life.  Should a believer because of hardness of heart ever choose to break this relational grace-union with Christ and thereby ‘depart’ that person may in the end perish eternally as an unbeliever (John 15:6).

(2) The Bible issues urgent warnings about this grave possibility, designed both to alert us to the deadly danger of abandoning our union with Christ and to motivate us to persevere in faith and obedience.  The divine purpose of these warning passages must not be weakened by the view that states, ‘the warnings are real, but the possibility of actual apostasy is not.’  Rather, we must see these warnings as speaking to the reality of our probationary period, and we should regard them with alarm if we want to be saved in the end.  A few of the many NT warning passages are: Mat 24:4-5, 11-13; Luke 12:46; John 15:6; Rom 11:17-21; 1 Cor 15:2; Col 1:23; 1 Tim 4:1, 16; 2 Tim 4:2-5; Heb 2:1-3; 3:7-19; 4:1, 6-7, 11; 6:4-9; 10:26-31; 12:25; 2 Pet 1:10; 2:20-22.

(3) Examples of actual apostasy can be found in Ex 32; 2 Ki 17:7-23; Ps 106; Is 1:2-4; Jer 2:1-9; Acts 1:25; Gal 5:4; 1 Tim 1:18-20; 2 Pet 2:1, 15, 20-22; Jude 4, 11-13; see article on The Age of the Antichrist, p. 1912, for comments on apostasy predicted to occur within the professing church in the last days of this age.

(4) The steps that lead to apostasy are as follows:

(a) Believers, through unbelief, fail to take the truths, exhortations, warnings, promises and teachings of God’s Word with utmost seriousness (Mark 1:15; Luke 8:13; John 5:44,47; 8:46).
(b) If the realities of the world become greater than the realities of God’s heavenly kingdom, believers gradually cease to draw near to God through Christ (Heb 4:16; 7:19,25; 11:6).
(c) Through the deceitfulness of sin, they become increasingly tolerant of sin in their own lives (1 Cor 6:9-10; Eph 5:5; Heb 3:13). They no longer love righteousness and hate wickedness (see Heb 1:9, note).
(d) Through hardness of heart (Heb 3:8,13) and rejecting God’s way (Heb 3:10), they ignore the repeated voice and rebuke of the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:30; 1 Thes 5:19-22).
(e) The Holy Spirit is grieved (Eph 4:30; cf. Heb 3:7-8) and His fire put out (1 Thes 5:19) and His temple violated (1 Cor 3:16). He eventually departs from the former believers (Judg 16:20; Ps 51:11; Rom 8:13; 1 Cor 3:16-17; Heb 3:14).

(5) If backsliding continues on its course unchecked, individuals may eventually reach the point when no second beginning is possible. (a) Those who once had a saving experience with Christ but deliberately and continually harden their hearts to the Spirit’s voice (Heb 3:7-19), continue to sin willfully (Heb 10:26), and refuse to repent and return to God may reach a point of no return where repentance is no longer possible (Heb 6:4-6; see Deut 29:18-21, note; 1 Sam 2:25, note; Prov 29:1, note). There is a limit to God’s patience (see 1 Sam 3:11-14; Mat 12:31-32; 2 Thes 2:9-11; Heb 10:26-29,31; 1 John 5:16). (b) This point of no return cannot be defined in advance. Therefore, the only safeguard against the danger of ultimate apostasy is found in the admonition: ‘To day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts’ (Heb 3:7-8,15, 4:7).

(6) It must be emphasized that while backsliding is a danger for all who drift from the faith (Heb 2:1-3), apostasy does not occur without constant and willful sinning against the voice of the Holy Spirit (see Mat 12:31, note on sin against the Holy Spirit). The person whose heart is truly hardened by sin may then calculatingly choose to turn away from God (Heb 3:12).

(7) Those who genuinely become concerned about their spiritual condition and find in their hearts the desire to return to God in repentance have sure evidence that they have not committed the unpardonable sin or apostasy (Heb 6:4-6). Scripture clearly affirms that God does not want anyone to perish (2 Pet 3:9; cf. Is 1:18-19; 55:6-7) and declares that God joyfully receives the prodigal who repents and returns to Him (Luke 15:11-24; cf. Gal. 5:4 with 4:19; 1 Cor 5:1-5 with 2 Cor 2:5-11; see also Rom 11:20-23; Jas 5:19-20; Rev 3:14-20; note the example of Peter, Mat 16:16; 26:74-75; John 21:15-22).”


Stamps, Donald C. (2003: Zondervan), Life in the Spirit Study Bible

Faith and Grace

The following is from Donald C. Stamps, Life in the Spirit Study Bible, pp. 1748-9:

“Our salvation comes as gift of God’s grace and is appropriated by the response of faith.  To understand the process of salvation, we must understand these two words.

Saving Faith.  Faith in Jesus Christ is God’s requirement for receiving His free gift of salvation. Faith is what we believe about Christ and our heart’s response of trust that causes us to follow Him as Lord and Savior (cf. Mat 4:19; 16:24; Luke 9:23-25; John 10:4, 27; 12:26; Rev 14:4)  

(1) The NT conception of faith includes four main elements:

(a) Faith means firmly believing and trusting in the crucified and risen Christ as our personal Lord and Savior (see Rom 1:17, note).  It involves believing with all our hearts (Rom 6:17; Eph 6:6; Heb 10:22), yielding up our wills and committing our total selves to Jesus Christ as He is revealed in the NT.

(b) Faith involves repentance, i.e., in true sorrow turning from sin (Acts 17:30; 2 Cor 7:10) and turning to God through Christ.  Saving faith is always a repentant faith (Acts 2:37-38; see Mat 3:2, note on repentance).

(c) Faith includes obedience to Jesus Christ and His Word as a way of life inspired by our faith, by our gratitude to God and by the regenerating work of the Spirit (John 3:3-6; 14:15, 21-24; Heb 5:8-9).  It is an ‘obedience to the faith’ (Rom 1:5).  Therefore, faith and obedience belong inseparably together (cf. Rom 16:26).  Saving faith without the commitment to sanctification is impossible.

(d) Faith includes a heartfelt personal devotion and attachment to Jesus Christ that expresses itself in trust, love, gratitude and loyalty.  Faith in an ultimate sense cannot properly be distinguished from love.  It is a personal activity of trust and loving self-giving directed toward Christ (cf. Mat 23:37; John 21:15-17; Acts 8:37; Rom 6:17; Gal 2:20; Eph 6:6; 1 Pet 1:8).

(2) Faith in Jesus as Lord and Saviour is both the act of a single moment and a continuing attitude that must grow and be strengthened (see John 1:12, note).  Because we have faith in a specific person who died for us (Rom 4:25; 8:32; 1 Thes 5:9-10), our faith should become greater (Rom 4:20; 2 Thes 1:3; 1 Pet 1:3-9).  Trust and obedience develop into loyalty and devotion (Rom 14:8; 2 Cor 5:15); loyalty and devotion develop into an intense feeling of personal attachment to and love for the Lord Jesus Christ (Phil 1:21; 3:8-10; see John 15:4, note; Gal 2:20, note).  This faith in Christ brings us into a new relationship with God and exempts us from His wrath (Rom 1:18; 8:1); through that new relationship we become dead to sin (Rom 6:1-18) and indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Gal 3:5; 4:6).

Grace. In the OT, God revealed Himself as a God of grace who showed love to His people, not because they deserved it, but because of His own desire to be faithful to the covenant promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (see Ex 6:9, note; see articles on The Passover, p. 112, and The Day of Atonement, p. 190).  Justice is getting what we deserve; mercy is being spared what we deserve; grace is being given what we do not deserve.  The NT emphasizes the theme of God’s grace in the giving of His Son on behalf of undeserving sinners.  God’s grace is multiplied to believers by the Holy Spirit, imparting forgiveness, acceptance and power to do God’s will (John 3:16; 1 Cor 15:10; Phil 2:13; 1 Tim 1:15-16).  The whole movement of the Christian life from beginning to end is dependent on God’s grace.

(1) God gives a measure of grace as a gift (1 Cor 1:4) to unbelievers so that they may be able to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph 2:8-9; Tit 2:11, 3:4).

(2) God gives grace to believers to be ‘made free from sin’ (Rom 6:20, 22), ‘to will and to do of his good pleasure’ (Phil 2:13; see Tit 2:11-12; see Mat 7:21, note on obedience as a gift of God’s grace), to pray (Zech 12:10), to grow in Christ (2 Pet 3:18) and to witness for Christ (Acts 4:33; 11:23).

(3) God’s grace must be diligently desired and sought (Heb 4:16).  Some of the ways (i.e., means of grace) by which God’s grace is received are: humbling ourselves before God (Jas 4:6, 10); studying and obeying Scripture (John 15:1-11; 20:31; 2 Tim 3:15); hearing the proclamation of the gospel (Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8; Rom 1:16; 1 Cor 1:17-18); praying (Heb 4:16; Jude 20); fasting (Mat 4:2; 6:16); worshiping Christ (Col 3:16); being continually filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph 5:18); and participating in the Lord’s Supper (Acts 2:42; see Eph 2:9, note on how grace works).

(4) God’s grace can be resisted (Heb 12:15), received in vain (2 Cor 6:1), put out (1 Thes 5:19), set aside (Gal 2:21) and abandoned by the believer (Gal 5:4).


Stamps, Donald C. (2003: Zondervan), Life in the Spirit Study Bible