Sunday, October 31, 2010

95 Theses

To my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, I have written here regarding the doctrines of Calvinism. I write only to glorify the name of the pure and holy triune God, who deserves all glory, honor, and praise both now and forever.

In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1. The doctrines of Calvinism dishonor the pure and holy name of the Lord by teaching unbiblical concepts about His character, and thereby inadvertently portraying the Lord God Almighty as unloving, unjust, the inventor and instigator of all sin, in discordance with His own nature, and without full Sovereignty over creation.

2. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, referred to Himself as “I AM.” God is pure essence. The name Yahweh is based on a Hebrew name YHWH, which is a form of “to be.” It reflects the existentialism of God. Whoever He is, He is.

3. His every choice is sovereign, but sovereignty does not imply the freedom of God to go against His own nature, but rather implies the subjection of all creation to the decrees of God, which are always in accordance with His nature.

4. God is the Father of Lights, without variation or shadow of turning, and light emanates from a light source in every direction.

5. God consistently acts in accordance with his nature, not because he is under any obligation to any created being, but rather because it is who He is.

6. Nowhere in the Bible is found the teaching that God acts in exactly the same way toward all creatures, or even toward all men. However, it would be illogical and unbiblical to take this to mean that God is not the same Being and essence toward all.

7. Therefore, if God is a God of justice, He is just toward all. If God is wise, He is wise toward all. If God is all-powerful, He is all powerful toward all. If God is love(agape), He is love(agape) toward all.

8. Any doctrine which teaches that God is love only toward some, and not toward others, denies God's intrinsic nature.

9. God is absolutely Sovereign over all creation. This fact is seen clearly and referred to many times throughout the Bible. Yet nowhere does the Bible teach that this absolute Sovereignty involves micromanaging every aspect of creation.

10. The book of Corinthians teaches that a Christian can determine some choices in his heart, stand steadfast according to those, and make decisions, without any necessity, but rather in power and authority over his own will.

11. Those who have not been born again are slaves to sin, and those who have been regenerated are slaves of righteousness. Therefore, any free agency, or authority over ones own will does not imply freedom from slavery. An unregenerate person with free agency is one who can choose between one sin and a different one.

12. Therefore, though the will of man always be enslaved to one entity or another, the claim that no man can determine any of his own choices, or have authority and power over his will is without Biblical support.

13. Calvinism maintains that God could not possibly be sovereign, if His creatures have any authority over their own decisions. It may as well be asked whether a king can rightly be called king, if his kingdom has free agents as subjects.

14. In the earthly case, a subject can freely choose not to pay taxes, and the king, having more power, can choose to have the subject burned at the stake. Other subjects might then decide that although they want to avoid paying taxes, they also don't want to be burned to death, and therefore might freely choose to pay taxes.

15. If human kings can exercise power over their subjects, how much more is God, with His infinite tact and power, able to reign over His subjects without His reign being threatened by allowing them to have responsibility and authority over their own will.

16. God's Sovereignty, therefore, is not threatened by the choices of “free” creatures. While it takes little skill to orchestrate the activities of those whose minds are completely under your power, it takes much wisdom and strength for a Sovereign to reign completely over any number of free agents.

17. Calvinism denies the power and sovereignty of God, by teaching that He does not have the freedom to create, or to be Sovereign, over creatures who would be able to determine their own choices.

18. Let it said that God is under no obligation to give His creatures authority over their own will, but He is certainly free to do so if it pleases Him, while remaining in perfect Sovereign control over the universe.

19. Free agency in creatures only can exist if the Sovereign wants it to exist. Therefore, there is no tension between God's sovereignty and man's free agency, since man's free agency only exists, and is upheld, by God's decree, according to the good pleasure of His will.

20. Jehovah has the power to shuffle history. He chose the line of the Messiah; He chooses who your family is. No matter what man chooses, God's plans happen. The Lord is God, and nothing is too hard for Him. Though a man may mean an act for evil, yet God can work it for good, according to His foreknowledge and plans.

21. The Lord God sovereignly chooses where and when any of us are born. If God knew that Pontius Pilate would not have condemned Jesus to death, then there would have been no reason for God to allow Pontius to exist at that time in history, and in that position of authority.

22. We know that nothing happens without God's knowledge, whether in the past, present, or future. God, being timeless, is not only capable of knowing His own actions, but also is capable of seeing through time and knowing all actions and thoughts of any creature.

23. The doctrine of Calvinism that denies that God has this power of foreknowledge, but claims that He is limited to being able to know any detail of the future if, and only if, He Himself directly caused it is without logical or Biblical grounding.

24. It is based on this unscriptural principle that the claim is made: “God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.”

25. This teaching denies the goodness and benevolence of God and invests him with all the attributes of sheer cruelty and maliciousness, insofar as it holds that he made the universe as it is, and, for his own pleasure and glory plunged it Himself into all the miseries, temporal and eternal, which it endures or is to endure.

26. These miseries cannot be the just punishments of sins, in the Biblical meaning of “justice,” for He causes the sins; and if he caused them and damns the universe for them, it renders the cruelty more revolting.

27. It will be said that God caused the action of sin, but that man is responsible for his evil motives. Yet if nothing can happen, save that it be foreordained and inspired by God, then God has irreversibly caused the wicked motive as well.

28. We know that God is the most righteous and holy of beings, who is too holy even too look upon sin. Every perfection is found in Him, and His character defined what is righteous and holy, of which the law is only a dim shadow.

29. The system of Calvinism denies God's righteousness by teaching that God is the sole, original, voluntary originator of sin, that he chose its existence when as yet it did not exist, and decreed it when, but for his decree, it never could have been, thus declaring that he preferred some sin to universal holiness--if, indeed, his own decree was his choice.

30. This insults the purity and holiness of God, making him not, indeed, the most holy, but the only unholy being in the universe, the cause and source of all impurity, in addition to being the cause of all creatures.

31. The doctrine makes God the mastermind and moving force behind the fall of man from innocence to that dreadful state of damnable depravity into which every child is now born.

32. Speaking now into the lives of believers, if nothing happens but by God's decree, then God must unchangeably degree every sin of every christian, clearly showing that He prefers that the elect should commit a great deal of sin after they are regenerated, rather than be holy.

33. The Holy Scripture gives believers the promise that God will not allow them to be tempted beyond what they are able, and with every temptation will also make the way of escape.

34. If this promise be true, along with the other verses, then the claim that God foreordained, secretly decreed, or otherwise inspired all sin, in such a way that no being could decide or act contrarily to, is scripturally unfounded.

35. The Lord God is also known as “the God who provides.” Just as He provided the ram for Abraham to make the sacrifice with, He also provided animals for the Israelites throughout the years to sacrifice, and provided the atonement of His own Son for sin once and for all.

36. God also provides supernatural strength when He gives a command, such as when He commanded Lazarus to come forth from the grave. The Lord, who is merciful, gives the command to all men everywhere, that they should repent. With the command, He, the God who provides, also provides a supernatural grace that they will be able to respond in repentance.

37. This undeserved grace was given freely and without reserve, through the conviction of the Holy Spirit upon the whole world, and through creation, clearly showing His invisible attributes, His eternal power and Godhead.

38. From the doctrine of original sin, we know that every child born into the world is born with a sinful nature, and is enslaved to sin. Thus, those who repent do so not because they are morally-neutral, or without an enslaved will, but solely because of the provision of God's unmerited grace.

39. Those who turn away from the grace of God, turning their back on Him, and committing blasphemy against the Holy Spirit are justly judged and finally condemned. Their damnation is just, for the wages of sin is eternal death.

40. Though God gives grace to all, He is Sovereign and unquestionable in His choice of who to have mercy on, and who to harden. God hardens the hearts of the wicked, and brings their destruction to pass in a way that glorifies Himself.

41. God is Lord of all creation, and Lord over all salvation. We cannot answer back to him and complain about who He has chosen to save.

42. Those who would deny that God has the ability and authority to justly grant undeserved salvation on a conditional basis deny God's absolute sovereignty, power, and wisdom.

43. Jesus Christ is the author and finisher of our salvation, and is the one who suffered a violent death for the sake of sinful man. If it pleases Him to give grace to everyone, we do not have the right to answer back to Him. Furthermore, does He not have the right to give undeserved salvation conditionally, in accordance to the good pleasure of His sovereign will?

44. Throughout the entire New Testament, salvation is shown to be both conditional upon faith, and also undeserved.

45. Grace given to believers is conditional, and yet undeserved. Believers rightfully deserve nothing good from God, and yet God grants grace to those who fulfill the condition of having humility.

46. When God chooses to save someone, even if He chooses in His good pleasure to only save those who meet His condition, it must be a work by His power, and His power alone. Man cannot save himself, nor can he assist in his own salvation somehow.

47. Those who deny God's freedom to grant salvation, based on His chosen condition that a person must have faith, on the basis that it would be a works-based-salvation deny the many Scriptures which teach clearly that faith is not a work.

48. Scripturally, a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ. Those who are denied salvation are denied because they did not seek it by faith, but by the works of the law. Faith and works are not at all biblically equivalent.

49. Additionally, the teaching of Calvinism denies that God is able to give man enough grace that he could accept God's gift of salvation, and yet not so much that he cannot resist it.

50. This teaching denies God's complete power over creation, and proposes that God does not offer salvation to all, with only the proof that God did not have the choice to give man the grace to accept or resist His command to repent and believe.

51. Generally, the logic given to defend this view of God's impotence is that since the unregenerate man is dead in sin, he is completely unable to do any spiritual good, and cannot have faith until he is first made alive by regeneration.

52. Speaking from the perspective of logic, this view is inconsistent since if death implies inability, then moral death would imply inability to do moral good or moral evil, even as a dead man can neither walk to help someone, nor walk to go and hurt them.

53. However, the idea that death is primarily inability is a pagan concept which proceeds from mere observation of those who have physically died, without faith in any sort of afterlife.

54. According to the Word of God, death is not mainly inability, but separation. From human logic, it made seem obvious that a dead man cannot do anything, but the Scriptures show that a dead man is able to do many things in the afterlife, and it is only his old body which is thrown off like old clothes.

55. The initial death, spiritual death, was the separation of our spirits from God. Physical death is the separation of a person from this physical universe. The second, death is the final and eternal separation of a person from God.

56. Death does include inability, even as life includes inability. The rich man in Christ's story, though able to speak, was unable to go back and warn his brothers. In life, you cannot fly like a bird, and in death, you will not be able to beat God at a game of chess.

57. Therefore, God is perfectly powerful, and fully capable of granting grace to those on earth, in order to, if He pleases, allow His fallen creature to accept or else reject His gift of eternal life, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

58. The denial of God's power in giving grace, and Sovereignty over His choice of who to save results in doing further violence to His character, insomuch as it leads to the belief that God is not love toward all men.

59. We know from the Bible not only that God is loving, but that God is love. God neither owes love to men, nor owes salvation to men. Rather, His love is completely undeserved, is an intrinsic part of His holy character, and is displayed for His glory

60. The claim that Christ did not provide salvation for all of mankind denies the character of God, in that it denies the love of God.

61. Love that inspires no action is not true love, and therefore those who hold that God loves the non-elect, while simultaneously withholding grace that they could repent, hold to a contradiction.

62. If God had decided ahead of time not to die for, or give salvific grace to a person, is it not still love to allow them to live, experience the blessings of life, such as rain on the just and the unjust?

63. No, but rather every sin will magnify the torments of the damned. Now, why were they permitted to live to commit personal sins and thus increase their torments? Why? Not that they might repent; not that they might turn and live. This was eternally impossible. Why, then, were they permitted to live? For this--that they might have an opportunity to increase their damnation a million-fold.

64. They are called to return unto God, to repent, to believe in Christ, to a holy life--no one of which calls could they possibly obey. And yet, for not obeying, every time they refuse, their damnation is increased.

65. It could have been a mercy in God to have sent them to hell when they breathed their first sweet breath upon a mother's bosom.

66. And here let me ask, why shall Calvinists demur when we charge them with holding to infant damnation? The fact is, they hold to no other kind of damnation.

67. If Christ did not die for those who are damned, then they are not damned for unbelief. Otherwise, it must be said that they are damned for not believing a lie.

68. Our Lord Jesus Christ said “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. "

69. Then, especially, when drawing nigh the city, he wept over it and said, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together... but you were not willing!”

70. Him in whose mouth was found no guile, Calvinism makes full of deceit void of common sincerity, in claiming that He calls those that cannot come--those whom he knows to be unable to come--those whom he can make able to come, but will not--how is it possible to describe greater insincerity?

71. This doctrine represents Him as mocking his helpless creatures by offering what he never intends to give. It describes Him as saying one thing and meaning another--as portraying a love which he had not.

72. Furthermore, the teaching that God does not give those He has destined for damnation the ability to repent, when He calls them to repentance, makes God a liar in His claim that He desires for all men to repent and be saved.

73. If God does not, in Spirit, in truth, or in action, love(agape) all men, then we as Christians are given contradictory commands throughout Scripture:

74. For righteousness is conforming to the character of Christ, and to be like Christ is to fulfill the law.

75. Love is the fulfillment of the law, and the Scripture calls us to imitate Christ, and therefore to love is to imitate Christ. If we do not love, we do not abide in Christ, but are in darkness until now.

76. We are all called to be holy as God is holy, and the law is summed up in two commands: Love God, and Love your neighbor as yourself.

77. Love your neighbor, imitate Christ, and be Holy as God is holy are three commands that must not contradict.

78. The teaching that God does not love the non-elect in Spirit, in truth, and in action puts these commands in contradiction to each other, and makes Christians have to choose between obeying the command to love, and the command to imitate Christ.

79. According to the Scripture, inspired by God, and penned by the Apostle John, God is love. This Scripture is not in contradiction with the Scriptures which state clearly that God hates all unrighteous, and hates the wicked themselves with a burning passion.

80. God hates the wicked enough to desire their eternal destruction, and yet loves them enough to desire that they repent, be reborn, and therefore be perfect and therefore without need of destruction.

81. Insomuch as we read in the Psalms that the Lord, who is holy, hates all those who do wrong, we also read that we were wicked, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents. Yet while we were sinners, Christ loved us enough to die for us so that we would no longer be wicked.

82. He was raised up, like the bronze serpent was raised up for the snake-bitten Israelites, to provide healing for all of them, but only to enact healing through those who looked upon it.

83. Similarly, though Christ died for every sinful man, woman, and child, thus providing salvation for all, through His infinitely precious blood, yet He procured and enacted salvation only toward the elect, which are those who believe. The atonement is universal in scope, and provisional in application.

84. Whoever believes on Christ is promised eternal life. But those who do not believe on Christ are condemned already. Therefore, salvation is not procured for or applied to the unbelievers.

85. However, nowhere in the Word of God is found the doctrine that Christ did not die to provide salvation for all. This teaching, in fact, is directly contrary to multitudes of express declarations of revelation and to the whole tenor of divine teaching.

86. It is contrary to those passages which teach that Christ died for all men, for every man, for the whole world; It is contrary to those Scriptures which contrast the death of Christ with the fall of Adam; It is contrary to those Scriptures which require all men to believe on and accept Christ; It is contrary to those Scriptures which represent the cause of the sinner's damnation as being his rejection of Christ and unbelief in him.

87. It is contrary to those Scriptures which teach that some for whom Christ died may perish. “And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?” “There will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them.” “Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died.”

88. It is contrary to those Scriptures which represent the Lord as not willing the destruction of sinners, but as regretting their folly and desiring them to turn and live; It is contrary to those Scriptures which represent God as a being of universal love; It is contrary to those Scriptures which represent him as impartial.

89. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of God's throne, but God's justice, in addition to love, is lost in the teachings of the doctrines of Calvinism.

90. In the New Testament, God commands all men everywhere to repent, and we are told that we shall not escape if we neglect so great a salvation. Yet if the reprobate are not able to believe, then they are required to perform an absolute impossibility.

91. If all the non-elect are inevitably and necessarily damned, then they are punished unavoidably--they are placed in circumstances where such damnation is the consequence of that over which they have not, and never did have, any control.

92. This teaching, along with the teaching that God causes each act of sin unavoidably, not only goes against Scriptural proclamation, but also goes against the sharp conviction given by the conscience of every man.

93. God requires of his subjects only conformity to himself--to his own moral excellencies---but he affirms of no obligation on himself to work impossibilities; and does he impose obligations on his subjects which he himself refuses to assume?

94. He does not regard it as an excellence in himself to work that which is impossible for Him; does He then command it as a virtue in his subjects? If indeed God does not work true impossibilities, then how can it be thought that He will require of his creatures that which He Himself cannot do?

95. The doctrine that man is held responsible for all sins which God causally determined that they do, and then the non-elect damned for not believing on Christ, which would be an impossibility for them, completely contradicts and undermines the system of responsibility, culpability, and justice, as set forward in the Word of God.

*Written mainly by Rebekah Reinagel, but includes integrated quotes from Dr. Beecher and R.S. Foster, taken from Foster's book "Objections to Calvinism: As it is."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Fiery Dilemma

Today it was plastered all over the internet news: A house burned to the ground while firefighters stood by and watched, because the residents had not paid their annual $75 fire-protection fee. You can read all the details here: Yahoo News Article. Just as food for thought, why is it that a house can be described as either "burning up" or "burning down" in the same set of circumstances?

Pictured above: A completely irrelevant house burning

Anyway, at first glance, it seems to be heartless of the firefighters to just stand by while a person's home goes up in flame. Especially considering the prices of homes and how many years and years of hard work it takes to buy one of those. On second thought, though, it seems clear that if all the community relies of how heartless it would be for the firefighters not to put out a fire on their house, even if they didn't pay dues, then none of them would feel inclined to pay. Whereas, if they realized that their own house *actually* burning down was a real risk, they would be lining up down the street to pay $75! Even to slap on a fine of $1,000 might not motivate people, because it's so much easier to imagine that you'll never need the insurance, and then if you hit the situation, you'll pay for it then. Americans do have the tendency to think that the world owes them, and therefore would be outraged when they don't receive a service which they had every chance to subscribe to, but choose not to.

In other words, letting the house burn to the ground was just, but it was not merciful. Strike the scoffer, and the simple will become wary. People will realize that safety is not magically guaranteed, and will take the deal more seriously. Rather than learning that they can get away with not paying, they will learn that justice does not bow to the American "you-owe-me" mentality, or popular vote (which would have gone in favor of putting out the fire.) So, I can readily understand and every support where the firefighters were coming from on that one.

But, you know me, I'm all heart. I would go with mercy. If the justice was about something horrible like killing, or even a habit like stealing, then I might justly let a person's house burn to the ground. But for a small amount of money? I would question the system, because deciding that the *only* way to make people pay dues was to show them that deliverance was not a right. You see, I like to show mercy, when it's at all feasible (but not when it would be inappropriate)

In some places, we still have volunteer firemen in this country, people who would put out fires for no money at all -- and surely that's loving. If I had been in charge, I could have put out the fire, and then pressed supervisors about how badly it would have gone if I hadn't, even though they hadn't paid, and propose to make it a mandatory fee (like car insurance.) The system may be better if you just slap people with a $1,000 fine if you have to put out a fire when they weren't "insured" like that. Alternatively, it could be better if those sort of things are covered in taxes, like they are where I live. I mean, of all the silly things our taxes dollars go to work on, fire protection easily ranks high.

So, I would have mercy on the poor people and save their house, and then re-think the system so that we could get the money we need/want, and people still don't end up having to beg and plead and cry while their house burns down before their eyes. Even if their proud lack of foresight justly deserves that disaster.