Brothers,

Consider me irked. Irked, as in, “I love you, guys, but you’re talking down to me, not with me.”

That’s my basic response after reading a brief interview with Matt Barrett and Tom Nettles about their new book Whomever He Wills (Founders, 2012) that puts forth a robust argumentation for a Reformed view of soteriology.

Many of you are my friends, including some of the authors of this volume. So, allow me say at the outset how much I admire your conviction, your theological rigor, and your commitment to rightly interpreting the Scriptures.

Let me also put this little squabble in perspective. When I consider the culture’s current trajectory as well as the disturbing evangelical capitulation to culture rather than biblical truth, this in-house debate between people who believe in the inerrancy and authority of Scripture is just that, in-house. It is certainly not the most important topic for discussion.

But as one who doesn’t follow your logical arguments all the way to their conclusions, I confess my frustration with the type of condescension that often accompanies your passion for your position.

Particular Redemption in Service to Universal Atonement

Here’s an example from the interview. Consider how the question is worded:

What about the death of Christ have convictional “four-point Calvinists” perhaps failed to adequately consider?

Instead of asking, “Why do you reject the unlimited atonement view?,” the question is framed in a way that treats four-point Calvinists like they have simply failed to adequately consider all the relevant points. The implication is this: Oh, those four-pointers are good guys, but they obviously haven’t thought it through as well as we have.

No, my brothers. There are plenty of us who reject the traditional Calvinistic understanding of limited atonement precisely because we have adequately considered the arguments and have found them wanting. The reason I stand with theologians like J.C. Ryle, Millard Erickson, Gregg Allison, Bruce Demarest, and Bruce Ware is because their argumentation is more persuasive than yours.

I understand you believe you are safeguarding the reality of Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice when you affirm a definite atonement position. Many non-Calvinists believe they are safeguarding the free offer of the gospel by affirming the general atonement position. The truth is, just as Calvinists can believe in definite atonement and the free offer of the gospel, so also can non-Calvinists believe in general atonement and penal substitution. Neither one is necessarily lost by either position. That’s why I defend Calvinists from the charge that taking a limited atonement position necessarily leads to apathy in evangelism. I’d appreciate it if you’d defend your general atonement friends from the charge that our position leads to universalism instead of saying our view “threatens to tear apart the Holy Trinity.”

Yes, there are statements in Scripture that stress the particularity of Christ’s sacrifice and its universality. But to squeeze universal feet into tight, particular shoes is precisely the wrong choice to make. Instead, when the particular texts are nestled snugly into their universal shoes, they fit more naturally.

In the context of the Old Testament, particularity serves universality. God chose a particular man in Genesis 12 (Abraham), in order that through his seed, the whole world would be blessed. God’s chosen people, Israel, are not selected merely to receive God’s covenantal benefits, but to be God’s missional people, a light to the nations. In other words, God’s choice of Israel was prompted by His love for the nations. The particular nation of Israel was the means by which He would provide redemption for all people.

In the same way, Jesus can say that He comes only to the lost sheep of Israel, not because He has no heart for the Gentiles, but because it is the particular nature of His ministry that will provide the catalyst for worldwide restoration. His mission to Israel enables the church’s mission to the nations.

Likewise, our election has a missional component. We are chosen to be the means by which God’s salvation extends universally. The particular nature of our salvation has, as its intention, the universal extension of the gospel as a sign of God’s benevolent heart to all.

So, just as my friend David Schrock can title a chapter “Jesus Saves, No Asterisk Needed,” I like to say, “Jesus died for the sins of the world,” and I don’t need an asterisk either.

Calvinism and the Gospel

Leaving debates about the extent of the atonement aside for a moment, I want to point out something else that continues to trouble me – the equation of Calvinistic soteriology with the gospel itself. I wish, for the sake of all of us, that you would abandon this divisive rhetoric, not because it’s divisive but because it’s simply untrue. The gospel cannot be reduced to a particular view of soteriology.

Now, to be fair, you consider the doctrines of grace as “the foundation on which the gospel itself is built,” not the message itself. And when you quote Charles Spurgeon’s words equating Calvinism and the gospel (a place where I believe the great Spurgeon got it wrong), you are not saying that those of us who do not subscribe to all the points of Calvinism fail to believe the gospel. Instead, you consider this shorthand for biblical Christianity.

I get what you’re saying. But please consider what it sounds like to those of us who disagree. It sounds like you are making a systematic presentation of theology the gospel. As if the gospel were a set of doctrines, not the announcement of King Jesus. Plus, it smacks of elitism and sends young Calvinists back to their churches, thinking that if their pastors haven’t parsed the petals of TULIP, they aren’t really gospel preachers.

Let’s be very clear. The gospel is the royal announcement that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, lived a perfect life in our place, died a substitutionary death on the cross for the sins of the world, rose triumphantly from the grave to launch God’s new creation, and is now exalted as King of the world. This announcement calls for a response: repentance (mourning over and turning from our sin, trading our agendas for the kingdom agenda of Jesus Christ) and faith (trusting in Christ alone for salvation).

The gospel is not the ordo salutis. It is not Grudem’s systematic theology. Nor is it the five solas.

I understand your desire to buttress the gospel announcement with a robust, theological vision of soteriology. But I think a stronger case can be made that one’s ecclesiological underpinnings are just as important (if not more so) to safeguarding the gospel. (I digress. That’s the Baptist coming out in me, so I’ll need to save that for another time, another post.)

Conclusion

So, my brothers, I thank you for your love for the Lord, the Scriptures, and the church. I simply ask that you consider the effect of your rhetoric on those who disagree with you, and that even when you disagree, you do not put forth your view with condescension.

Side by side with you,

Your Calvinist-loving but sometimes frustrated friend,

Trevin

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Comments:


151 thoughts on “A Word to My Calvinist Friends”

  1. John Mureiko says:

    Hey Trevin,
    I really don’t think you could have put it better. The fact that the “doctrines of grace” (a.k.a. Calvinism) are fundamentally a soteriological frame of reference is already a bit misleading if we think that once we have this down pat, the rest of what Scripture teaches on life and godliness will somehow follow. Our understanding of who God is and who we are is so much deeper than just the process of “how we get saved.” Where’s the church? Where is the kingdom? Why is Paul the only author of Scripture we are concerned about? These things can get sidelined in the process of figuring out the salvation issues (as important as they are), and I think it’s to our detriment.

  2. Thanks Trevin! I always appreciate your balance and perspective on these issues.

    GB

  3. K says:

    Thanks for this helpful clarification. I could never understand how the gospel could be good news to someone if you could not tell them that Jesus died for them until after they believed.

    1. EMSoliDeoGloria says:

      I also really appreciated this post. I haven’t the time this morning to go as far into the details of the subject as some of the commenters but I read the author interview you are engaging with last week too. As I read it, I had the thought that the attitude of the writers as well as the lack of biblical support for their most logical conclusions continues to keep me from embracing 5 point calvinism. I will admit that it is logical, but does it attempt to impose logic on the “mystery of godliness” in order to “fill in the blanks” of Scripture?

  4. Dave Moser says:

    I once was an idolator of Calvinism – that is, I was more concerned with TULIP than I was with the gospel. Thank you for pointing out the distinction in your second point that Calvinism cannot be conflated with the gospel. Combining the two makes of first importance something that should not be.

    As John Piper has said, I now have more in common with an Arminian who loves the gospel than a Calvinist who loves Calvinism.

  5. Joel Davis says:

    Trevin,
    I am so appreciative of your consistently balanced view of things. Also, as a four-pointer, I appreciate you sticking up for those who don’t always share the current, popular stances. Lastly, thank you for relentlessly bringing discussions back to the Gospel mission. I appreciate you and I am praying for you and your family.

  6. David Pitman says:

    You find this implication condescending:
    “Oh, those four-pointers are good guys, but they obviously haven’t thought it through as well as we have.”
    This could be considered condescending as well:
    “we have adequately considered the arguments and have found them wanting … their argumentation is more persuasive than yours.”
    But I am not “irked” by it ;)

    It is a debate among friends but we would all be better served by not being too sensitive and so easily “irked.”

    Praying for you and your ministry.

    1. Trevin Wax says:

      David,

      I don’t blame Calvinists for thinking they’re right. It’s not condescending to say, “You’re wrong on this, Trevin.” It’s condescending to say, “You’re wrong because you haven’t thought it through; otherwise, you’d come to the same conclusion as me.”

      That is the attitude that is irksome. ;)

      1. David Pitman says:

        Understood. I think we are all too sensitive to “tone” when we disagree with one another and much too oblivious to it when we do agree.

        1. Roger says:

          David, I think it would be appropriate for all of us to be more “sensitive” in regards to the consequences of our thinking, speaking and teaching. I have personally known a young Christian that was turned away from the Christian faith after listening to an arrogant sounding 5-point calvinist. Feeling depressed and deeply caught up in sin, he concluded “why bother… I have no choice to make anyway. God obviously has not chosen me” I love that scripture tells us that “Anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved”… The sensitivity to tone may be an indication that the stakes are often very high and that this “in-house” debate has a far reaching effect…

          1. David Pitman says:

            Perhaps… but my experience is that most people complain about “tone” when they don’t like the truth they’re told. Speak the truth in love by all means, but speak the truth. Our discussion here was not about a lost person’s reaction to the gospel but Trevin being “irked” by a brother’s tone. Let’s not play the “sensitive” card too soon. ;)

          2. David, I don’t know if you noticed, but you’re making Trevin’s point for him, “…most people complain about “tone” when they don’t like the truth they’re told.” Once again proclaiming that ‘most people only claim that we’re arrogant because we’re right.’ Is it OK to be condescending as long as you’re right (in your own mind)? I know you are talking about the reaction of an unbeliever to an arrogant Calvinist ~ but excusing arrogance is unhelpful. No one should be more humble and gracious than those who really believe the doctrines of grace. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. I’m a 4.75 point guy. To me particular atonement is necessary only for the system to work, not for life and ministry as a Christian. We are still going to “preach the gospel to every creature” and salvation is still of the Lord. I don’t understand the venom towards those who disagree. I used to wear the term Calvinist as a badge, now I avoid it as an idol. I am not a Calvinist. I am a Christian. I love the theology of Calvin, but Jesus died to give me life. My life is anchored by Calvin’s theology, but it is fueled and driven by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

      2. Jason says:

        I didn’t find the question that condescending. It included the word perhaps. It was asked that way because an answer was already on deck. Maybe it could have been worded better, but I think any condescension is read into it and not necessarily purposeful.

        1. Seth Rima says:

          I think blogging is great, and it is absolutely necessary to use the field of technology to advance the gospel, but isn’t part of the issue that many times the Calvinist-leaning and non-Calvinist-leaning laity often don’t engage in face to face interaction about the issue?

          For a Christian Philosophy class, I’m reading J.P. Moreland’s “Love Your God With All Your Mind” and it reminded me that it is crucial to expose ourselves to the arguments of those we don’t agree with, because it lessens our ability to become easily defensive and irrational in our argumentation.

          I appreciate your tone in this blog, and many others have struck the right chords also through blogging, but I do think a big part of the overall response to a blog of this nature is a result of not taking part in graceful conversations with those of a slightly different theological bent than us regularly.

        2. Very well put, Jason.

  7. Elaine says:

    Trevin,

    “When I consider the culture’s current trajectory as well as the disturbing evangelical capitulation to culture rather than biblical truth, this in-house debate between people who believe in the inerrancy and authority of Scripture is just that, in-house. It is certainly not the most important topic for discussion.”

    I hope you can see the irony of your post in light of your statement above. I guess you can say that a book is wasted opportunity to be touching on real important issues, whereas a blog post is, well, just a blog. I see.

    Moving on.

    “The reason I stand with theologians like J.C. Ryle, Millard Erickson, Gregg Allison, Bruce Demarest, and Bruce Ware is because their argumentation is more persuasive than yours.”

    For a moment there I thought you were going to say that it was because of biblical evidence for Amyraldianism. But it was their argumentation that persuaded you? That is to say that if a better argumentation can be made you would change your mind.

    In light of that, may I recommend you listen (better read, since the audio quality is not that great) to the brilliant scholar S. Lewis Johnson, a series of lectures he did titled “Inconsistencies in Modified Calvinism”:

    http://sljinstitute.net/sermons/doctrine/modcalvinism/modcalvinism_master.html

    Grace and peace to you,

    Elaine

    1. Trevin Wax says:

      Thank you, Elaine.

      I recognize the irony! :)

      When I mentioned the argumentation of these theologians, I was referring to their arguments about the biblical text itself. In other words, the strength of their exegesis is what persuades me. Their interpretation of the biblical evidence is more convincing to me than arguments on the other side.

      Thank you for the link.

      1. Elaine says:

        “[...] the strength of their exegesis is what persuades me.”

        Then you will see no problem in considering SLJ’s exegesis. Of course, both sides cannot be right, one of us is doing eisegesis.

        ;)

        1. Rob Pochek says:

          I believe I detect condescension in that last remark Elaine…
          ;-)

          1. Elaine says:

            Not at all Rob. Don’t be irked. =)

          2. Rob Pochek says:

            Not irked….I was “reformed” before most of the “young, restless, and reformed” types were even born. I weary of endless debates on the precise nature of God’s saving grace rather than living in the light of it. No, I am not making light of salvation. And, no, I am not unconcerned about exegesis.

            I am concerned that many engage this issue with the assumption that all may be neatly packaged up and “solved.” In so doing, they ignore what Calvin himself has said about the issue: that it is…”attended with considerable difficulty, is rendered very perplexed, and hence perilous by human curiosity, which cannot be restrained from wandering into forbidden paths, and climbing to the clouds, determined if it can that none of the secret things of God shall remain unexplored.” I fear too many of the “young, restless, and reformed” crowd are unwilling to allow mystery in the divine details of soteriology.

    2. Tony Byrne says:

      Hi Elaine,

      While I have great respect for Dr. Johnson, he was not adequately studied in the area of the history concerning the extent of the atonement. For example, in arguing for his Owenic position, Dr. Johnson employs statements by Charles Hodge and R. L. Dabney, as if C. Hodge and Dabney agreed with Owen. They did not. Hodge and Dabney both 1) rejected the double payment argument, 2) took an unlimited reading of John 3:16 and 1 John 2:2 and 3) Dabney even specifically names Turretin and Smeaton as men with whom he disagreed. Those men were in the Owenic trajectory, which is where S. Lewis Johnson was later in life.

      In fact, Johnson’s label “modified Calvinism” is problematic. Those who think Christ satisfied for the sins of all men and yet maintain a particularity in His intent are solidly *within* Calvinistic orthodoxy, and their view goes back to the first generation Reformers and even to Augustine and Prosper. Ursinus, Bullinger, Zanchi, Musculus and many others are even specifically named by Dr. Richard Muller as advocates for a universal view (which he calls “hypothetical universalism”). Not all non-Owenists are Amyraldian. Contemporary Reformed scholarship and historians are distinguishing between varieties of so called “hypothetical universalism.” There is the Amyraldian variety and there is the non-Amyraldian variety. Richard Muller, Carl Trueman, Jonathan Moore and several others are pointing this out in their recent writings.

      These are just some of the things that Dr. Johnson did not know about. I know. I used to speak with him face-to-face many times at Believers Chapel when he was alive and I have listened to *all* of his audio teachings. This is why I can confidently say he was not adequately studied in the history of this dispute. All of the first generation Reformers taught that Christ redeemed or satisfied for all men, so that view hardly constitutes a “modified Calvinism.” I will be very bold and say that it is the Bezan trajectory that is actually the modified view, historically speaking, as it was novel, only being held by Gottschalk before him.

      In Johnson’s lecture on “modified Calvinism,” he quoted Dabney’s “God’s Indiscriminate Proposals of Mercy.” Johnson should have recognized Dabney’s rejection of the Turretinian/Owenic trajctory in that one writing alone, but he did not. Consequently, Johnson lumps all these men (Turretin, Owen, Dabney, C. Hodge, Shedd, etc.) together when they are not all the same. Hodge, Dabney and Shedd all taught that Christ expiated for every man (contra Owen), but maintained a special intent in Christ that concerned the elect alone. These are things that Johnson did not know about, unfortunately.

      Grace to you,
      Tony

      1. Elaine says:

        Hi Tony,

        I don’t even know how to respond to you now. =) In all honesty, I feel very dumb. In any case, I hope you are not suggesting that because (according to you) SLJ did not know everything that there is to know about this particular issue, he could not be right about it at all.

        But that’s completely beside the point, imo. I am sure we could find a lot of faults in people who teach Amyraldianism as well.

        E.

        1. Tony Byrne says:

          Hi Elaine,

          It is correct to say that just because Johnson did not know about the history (or incorrectly taught it) it does not follow that his atonement position is unbiblical or untrue. That would not follow logically. My only point is that his lesson on “modified Calvinism” is significantly skewed because of his lack of historical awareness. Consequently, there is a false either/or dilemma created: either Owenism or Amyraldism. This dichotomy does not present the earlier option of Ursinus, Bullinger, Musculus, etc.

          In fact, Dr. Johnson showed no awareness of Calvinists themselves (such as C. Hodge, Dabney and Shedd) who rejected and argued against Owen’s double-payment argument. Johnson shows no awareness of their exegesis either, such as Dabney’s arguments for a universal reading of John 3:16 and 1 John 2:2. Dabney even noted Calvin’s own universal take on John 3:16 in his treatise concerning “God’s Indiscriminate Proposals of Mercy,” yet Johnson even seemed to miss that. I don’t know why.

          If Trevin and others also take a universal reading of John 3:16, just like Calvin himself did, then his position hardly qualifies as “modifed Calvinism.” Actually, the universal reading of that text (John 3:16) constitutes authentic Calvinism.

          Grace to you,
          Tony

        2. Tony Byrne says:

          p.s. You’re certainly not dumb, Elaine. If you’re listening to and reading Dr. Johnson, I take that as a sign of wisdom and of an honest heart. Again, I have the highest admiration for Johnson. Even though I disagree with his view of the extent of the atonement and with a few of his interpretations of passages related to that subject, I still highly recommend him to all my friends and family :)

  8. Ryan Lyons says:

    Excellent post, Trevin. Thank you for sharing. Your words in this post speak for many of us.

  9. Rob Pochek says:

    Good post Trevin.
    I guess I got in on this “debate” before it was cool! I became acquainted with and persuaded (for the most part) by the doctrines of grace in 1990 or so. Three years later, after attending a Reformed seminary and sitting under the teaching of their professors, I came away less in love in with Calvinism and more in love with being biblical. That was the result of THEIR influence on me! I also became less concerned with logical necessity and more concerned with biblical fidelity. That too, was THEIR influence on me.

    Now, I am reading about Calvinism in the SBC seemingly every day. It really does get wearying….I am all for defending biblical truth and a God-centered gospel, but just get tired of the insistence that every “i” be dotted and “t” crossed in exactly the correct, logical place.

    Recently someone asked me if I was a Calvinist. My response was:
    If by “Calvinist” you mean someone who believes that God has decided to save whomever will be saved, thus nullifying evangelism; someone who views mankind as puppets on a string and God is the grand puppeteer; someone who denies human responsibility or “choosing” in the matter of salvation; someone who would ignore missions and outreach, since God has taken care of everything regarding salvation; or someone who denies that believers ought to live holy and godly lives, since all the work in salvation is done by God – I am NOT.

    However, If by “Calvinist” you mean someone who believes in a Sovereign, loving God who graciously saves people apart from any good in them; someone who believes He does so because of his goodness, not theirs; someone who believes He does so without acting against their will, but rather, so transforms their will that they joyfully flee to him; someone who believes that when he saves them, he does so in such a way that they would never leave him or fall away from his glorious grace; someone who believes his salvation is so complete that they now joyfully and willingly pursue Christlikeness rather than self or materialism; and someone who prays to God, believing in the depths of their heart that our God is powerful and willing to save any and all who would turn to him in faith – I am!

  10. Trevin,

    First, irenic, compassionate exegetical dialog (different than discussion which rhymes with percussion) is or should be welcomed among brothers.

    Second, I have appealed in vain to have such deliberations.

    Third, when will there be a systematic, substantive and definitive Forum in which such a profile is pursued?

    I see almost every day posts that posit such an endeavor as “fighting”. Nothing could be further from the Truth. I realize that the tenor and tone of some who engage is sharp and lacks grace. However, Paul COMMANDS us to ‘rebuke’ what we understand to be errant or flawed declarations of the Truth (Titus 1:9). Failure to do so since the Azusa Street meetings at the turn of the century put us where we are. Irenically declaring and defending the Truth is not fighting. It is humble submission to all that Jesus commanded.

    When will this Forum be transacted. We post the text in the original languages, each take our turn at exegeting the meaning and come to a conclusion. The Law of Non-Contradiction says one or the other of us may be correct, both may be incorrect, but we CANNOT both be correct and have a differing interpretation. I pray we do this with precision, integrity, grace and humility.

    In Grace,
    Tom
    803 776 5282

  11. Steve Martin says:

    Lots of well-meaning people are wrong about things in the Christian faith and insist upon them, in spite of what Holy Scripture says about them. I could not imagine telling someone, “God might have died for you”, but Calvinists insist that is correct when the Bible clearly says in many places and many ways, that He died for and forgave “the whole world”. (just because He died for and forgave the whole world does not mean that everyone will be saved, however).

    But our ‘reason’ steps in to override the words of Scripture.

    And the Baptists/non-denom’s have the same problem with “free-will”.

    The Scriptures plainly tell us in many places and in many ways that “we are born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God”…but those well-meaning folks I mentioned, because of their ‘reason’, reject that plain word of Scripture and insist on the blasphemous view that humans actually play a role in their salvation.

    If we are saved it is ALL God’s doing and He gets ALL the credit. If we are lost, it is ALL our doing and WE get ALL the blame. That is the truth of it and it is quite biblical, but that little ‘reason’ bug prevents all sorts of Christians from believing it.

    Thank you.

    1. Nate says:

      I appreciate this, Steve. All TULIP does is waste my time with what amounts to metaphysics, and overobsesses me with my personal this-and-that. All Arminiamism does is let me know that if I don’t exert enough effort, I’m going to lose it all.

      Soteriology is not where you start or end the Gospel, and the above is why. If the “L” is the most urgent thing a Christian can find to write a book about, Jesus and his Kingdom are not really coming across as that big of a deal. He’s just sort of this doorway into a Socratic who’s-really-saved debate.

      1. Without the L in Tulip there is no basis for assurance of faith or any certainty at all that your sins are any more than potentially paid. Wihout the L you have no more than a “I hope so” salvation…so it is really crucial to LIFE as a Christian…effecting all aspects of spiritual growth or lack there of…

        1. Nate says:

          Unless personal salvation is not really what you spend your time dwelling on. The Kingdom is much bigger than me and my salvation. The Gospel Jesus preached certainly reached into everyone’s personal life, but it definitely didn’t leave them there. It turned them outward to see the vast, cosmic, redemptive work that was happening through him. And the assurance necessary for that is, not in “L,” but in the Resurrection.

          1. The resurrection guarantees that the specific Particular Redemption and purchase made by Christ was accepted. A simple question for you! Just who does Jesus “ever live to intercede for”. According to Arminians everyone, including people in hell. Which means God is not listening and Jesus is not in harmony with the Father. Who did Jesus pray for before he paid for THEIR sins? The world? NO WAY NO HOW. But he did represent and pray for the ones the Father gave Him. And he conquered death FOR THEM. Otherwise he would have been raised from the dead FOR ALL and ALL would of necessity be raised to new life…as with God’s creation, logical and orderly doctrine….

          2. Without L there is no basis in law (legal justification) for you having assurance. You say Jesus died for YOUR sins. hell is full of people you say Jesus died for and paid the legal price for and purchased. Hell is full of those people. You have no way of being certain you won’t end up there like all those others Jesus died for. None.

          3. Nate says:

            It’s not so much logical and orderly doctrine as it is philosophical gymnastics. That’s seems to be what TULIP does: requires this multi-step Socratic reasoning process that isn’t found in the Hebrew mind (and thus Biblically-shaped one).

            If the atonement is basically about getting people out of hell, (doctrinally conceived of as a legal framework), through “faith”– which ends up being more of a magic trick that transports you from one category (unsaved) to another (saved) –then yes, you have to find some way to secure assurance. In that case, let me know, by whatever doctrinal means necessary, that I REALLY AM going to heaven instead of hell. (I never knew people even had this struggle, by the way, until I met Baptists and Calvinists.)

            But if faith is equated(or heavily linked with) love for a supremely compelling person, rather than “that thing that keeps you out of hell,” then the most compelling thing keeping fear of any kind at bay is the presence of the person, by way of his Resurrection. So the complete story is kept in mind: that the Resurrection is the proof that he was the Messiah, that he dwells with his people, and that God’s perfect renewal/atonement/Kingdom project has indeed begun in him, and will be brought to completion, and that all people are invited into it. This way you really don’t need to “zoom in” on his legally atoning death to such a great degree, which actually causes the photo to become grainy despite what seem like philosophically plausible reasons for doing so. Other elements which also provide a great deal of assurance stay in focus. Like the Resurrection (Heb 2:14-15 could be seen assurance verses too. They depend on the Resurrection). Incidentally, this is why Calvin doesn’t appeal to me as a theologian, but someone like Luther does: he’s seems happy with “Christ was crucified so that I might have life.” Rather than an ever intensifying magnification of the doctrine behind the act itself.

            Question: in Scripture, are the limited atonement verses clearly used as a means to bolster the hearer’s assurance? And also, no passage provides assurance that doesn’t strictly speak of L? I’m sure I could find many…

          4. Nate says:

            It’s not so much logical and orderly doctrine as it is philosophical gymnastics. That’s seems to be what TULIP does: requires this multi-step Socratic reasoning process that isn’t found in the Hebrew mind (and thus Biblically-shaped one).

            If the atonement is basically about getting people out of hell, (doctrinally conceived of as a legal framework), through “faith”– which ends up being more of a magic trick that transports you from one category (unsaved) to another (saved) –then yes, you have to find some way to secure assurance. In that case, let me know, by whatever doctrinal means necessary, that I REALLY AM going to heaven instead of hell. (I never knew people even had this struggle, by the way, until I met Baptists and Calvinists.)

            But if faith is equated(or heavily linked with) love for a supremely compelling person, rather than “that thing that keeps you out of hell,” then the most compelling thing keeping fear of any kind at bay is the presence of the person, by way of his Resurrection. So the complete story is kept in mind: that the Resurrection is the proof that he was the Messiah, that he dwells with his people, and that God’s perfect renewal/atonement/Kingdom project has indeed begun in him, and will be brought to completion, and that all people are invited into it. This way you really don’t need to zoom in on his legally atoning death to such a great degree, which actually causes the photo to become grainy, despite what seem like philosophically plausible reasons for doing so. Other elements which also provide a great deal of assurance stay in focus. Like the Resurrection (Heb 2:14-15 could be seen as assurance verses too. They depend on the Resurrection). Incidentally, this is why Calvin doesn’t appeal to me as a theologian, but someone like Luther does: he’s seems happy with “Christ was crucified so that I might have live before God.” Rather than an ever intensifying magnification of the doctrine behind the act itself.

            Question: in Scripture, are the limited atonement verses clearly used as a means to bolster the hearer’s assurance? And also, no passage provides assurance that doesn’t strictly speak of L? I’m sure I could find many…

  12. Thanks for the post, Trevin. As someone who has been slowly coming into the Reformed fold, I’ve wanted to be careful to not mistake tradition-distinctives with the Gospel. People get saved and discipled by Arminians and Amyraldians and Molinists preaching the Gospel just as well as by Calvinists. The distinctives matter, I’m all for the distinctives, but keep the GOSPEL clear.

  13. Brushep says:

    Hi Trevin.
    This must be the week for mild rants! As with Thabiti’s, there is plenty to think about here.

    It may seem like hair splitting (petal parsing?) to point this out, but I did find it interesting that just before asking 5-pointers to consider how questions are worded, you described yourself as “one who doesn’t follow your logical arguments all the way to their conclusions.” If “not adequately considering” the implications of the death of Christ is a leading question, the assumption that Calvinists are driven by logic rather than Scripture is only slightly less so. In fact, whereas the interview question assumes all sides are biblically focused (their differences being a matter of weight) and refuses to paint all 4-pointers with a single, infallible brush (“perhaps”) – your comment denies 5-pointers the benefit of the doubt in either area.

    I suppose I can forgo inserting the usual quotes here from Edwards or Spurgeon on how it is not Calvin or logic that has captured their allegiance, but the teaching of Scripture.

    Of course, I am operating here on the assumption that in a post guaranteed to provoke a good amount of interest, words like this were carefully chosen – knowing the common (mis)characterizations on both sides as you undoubtedly do. If this accusation of being a slave to unbiblical logic was accidental, it may serve as proof of how unintentionally and non-maliciously your brothers employ “irksome” language. If it was done intentionally, it does seem to rob your lament of a bit of its moral force.

    Thanks for your thoughts,
    NT

    1. James Corona says:

      “If this accusation of being a slave to unbiblical logic was accidental, it may serve as proof of how unintentionally and non-maliciously your brothers employ “irksome” language. If it was done intentionally, it does seem to rob your lament of a bit of its moral force.”

      Good point.

  14. Levi Nunnink says:

    Trevin,

    Quick follow up question, if soteriology is not worth dividing over, than do we really have any reason to be separate from any branch of Christianity? I.E. If Arminians and Calvinists shouldn’t divide, then why should we stay separate from Roman Catholics or Eastern Orthodox?

    This isn’t a rhetorical question. I agree with your article. But if we don’t draw the line at soteriology, then were do we? Christology?

    1. Steve Martin says:

      Amen, Levi.

      Unity is great. But never at the expense of the gospel.

      __

      Our own congregation is now looking at leaving our denomination, because they have abandoned the Word of God in favor of more generous words of man.

    2. Wesley says:

      Levi -
      while i think i understand your point, it’s important to remember that both Calvinists and Arminians believe in salvation by grace alone through faith alone as well as a shared understanding of the Trinity; these distinctives cannot be said of the RC and EO church in my understanding of their theology and traditions.

      1. Levi says:

        Wesley-

        Trevin’s point is that some Calvinists (and probably some Arminians) don’t think the other has sufficient understanding of salvation therefore the gospel is compromised. My question is if both Arminians and RCs have insufficient understanding of salvation, why should we embrace one and reject the other?

        If we want to draw the line at soteriology, then Calvinists and Arminians don’t have a good basis for fellowship–no matter how much that may trouble us, we need to recognize facts. But if we want to say that soteriology is not a basis for division, then we need to repent of our division from the Roman Church.

        1. Wesley says:

          Levi -
          whatever “some” Calvinists and Arminians believe about the other does not change the truth of the matter. The gospel itself – as Trevin rightly points out – is a distinct message of Christ’s work on our behalf. These systems of thought are merely theological lenses by which we view this work differently. The gospel is not at stake in this argument, no matter how loudly one shouts.
          As i said though,an understanding of the gospel that denied that salvation was given by grace alone through faith alone (RC) or proposed a different understanding of the Trinity (EO) then begins to fundamentally alter the message of the gospel itself, not simply how we view that message. See my point.
          Spurgeon was wont to ask ‘why we need to reconcile friends?’ when asked about how to deal with Calvinist/Arminian issues. Good advice i think.

          1. Levi says:

            Wesley,

            There is a big difference between a Lutheran / Calvinist soteriology VS an Arminian Baptist / Wesleyan soteriology; as much difference as lies between Lutherans and Roman Catholics, in my humble opinion.

            So it’s very inconsistant to say that we all just need to agree in “The Gospel” and then say “but soteriology isn’t The Gospel”. Personally, I’m sympathetic to that idea. But I also think that we need to recognize that such a definition will not exclude Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox. If we say that soteriological systems are no place to draw boundaries and then reject the majority of Christendom because of its soteriology, I think we have the right to point out the inconsistency. Are we just playing favorites because we happen to run in similar circles?

          2. caleb says:

            Levi,
            So is your point that we should accept RC or EO? Or is the point that Calvinist ought to reject all non-Calvnists, and further that all people should reject all other people who have differing soteriological frameworks?

  15. Brad Whitt says:

    Thanks Trevin for your passionate and graceful post. I too have many friends who are Reformed/Calvinists. Most are graceful and kind even in our disagreements. Some, however (Many on the blogs)have not been so graceful or kind. Thanks again. I enjoyed your post.

  16. Tom says:

    Trevin, I’m with you that the 4 pointers and 5 pointers are friends and don’t need to be talking down to each other. The last thing I want to see is any sort of rift between these two groups. We need to be supporting and defending one another.

    But doesn’t anything we say in favor of one position against another have the potential to be received as “talking down” to the other? For example, the 5 pointer could read your wonderfully vivid and memorable statement (kudos here) that “to squeeze universal feet into tight, particular shoes is precisely the wrong choice to make. Instead, when the particular texts are nestled snugly into their universal shoes, they fit more naturally” as “talking down” to him. He could take your statement as an insult to his intelligence. After all, only children who haven’t yet developed a sense of size and proportion try to hammer the big pieces into the little holes.

    Or the 5 pointer could just acknowledge, “Of course this 4 pointer believes I’m uncomfortably squeezing big feet into little shoes. He thinks I’m mishandling the Bible and potentially (though not necessarily) undermining the free offer of the gospel. That’s why he’s a 4 pointer. Let him make his arguments and let the truth prevail.”

    And then we can all happily dwell together as friends in this sincere disagreement. : ) Why not let these disagreements between friends just roll off our backs? We can listen carefully to the arguments from the other side, and after giving honest and careful consideration, if we disagree, we can hold passionately to our convictions over and against the other. Why should it make us uncomfortable that someone thinks we are seriously wrong on a matter that has the potential to undermine the gospel (this is true of *every* secondary error)? Why does that need to divide or even “irk” friends?

    Still, your point is well-taken that we need to speak friendly words to one another. People who hold both positions sincerely try to to justice to the biblical texts. Both are respectable and have good historical precedent and pedigree. Both hold to the one true gospel. Benjamin Keach and Andrew Fuller would have been good friends. Pax.

  17. Charlie Waller says:

    I get your point Trevin. As a matter of fact, I understand it first hand and I have felt that certain Southern Baptist Convention leaders have have used intimidation and condescension to ridicule and insult Calvinists. Adrian Rogers did it regularly not to mention Jack Graham. These guys didn’t just use rhetoric to convince their hearers of their positions; they attacked as though the stake were waiting and the wood was ready. They sought to convince their congregations as well as their media audiences that to to be a Calvinist was to be heretic but not only a heretic, a stupid heretic.

    I don’t think it is condescending to say that once you embrace total depravity, you must embrace the other 4 points or that reflects a lack of understanding. Calvinism is a closed system. Each point compliments and supports the other 4. To take one out, or worse, to invert a point, removes the substances from the other 4 points and leaves nothing upon which the system can stand. It is like building a pyramid from the top down.

    Like I wrote before, I understand how you feel but I think you have probably misunderstood the intent of the statements as depreciating. At least I hope so.

    Thanks for blogging and serving Christ,
    Charlie Waller

  18. Amen. Thanks for this perspective, Trevin. I have often felt the irking you describe and definitely felt it when I read that interview yesterday. Grateful for your conviction and wisdom here.

  19. Derek says:

    Bravo! Trevin.

    “I want to point out something else that continues to trouble me – the equation of Calvinistic soteriology with the gospel itself. I wish, for the sake of all of us, that you would abandon this divisive rhetoric, not because it’s divisive but because it’s simply untrue. The gospel cannot be reduced to a particular view of soteriology.”

    I’m not a Calvinist. Some people see me as being hostile toward Calvinists in general. I’m not. I love you guys and can happily work in the ministry along side the likes of you, Michael Patton, Stetzer and others. But the so-called new Calvinism is something else altogether.

    When you write, “I get what you’re saying. But please consider what it sounds like to those of us who disagree.” I feel you’ve just related with us non-Calvinists (yes, I know we can be condescending too God help us – mea culpa!)

    1. Dan Martin says:

      I’m with Derek here. I’m (at best) a “one-half point Calvinist” as I think that the depravity of humanity is fairly empirically evident. But I’ve read and interacted with you before, Trevin, and I’ll testify to anybody that you bring a different attitude of grace to your disagreements, than the one you so rightly call out here. All of us are saved by grace. None of us are saved by right soteriology. It’s an important distinction. Bravo!

  20. Doug Tegner says:

    Trevin – one of the most poignant and insightful posts I’ve seen, which addresses a pastoral concern I have had in relationship to my fellow Calvinist friends. Turning the Gospel into a systematic theological treatise “before” anyone can “truly” enter into salvation, or expecting/requiring the lost soul to understand and believe in limited atonement – often rooted more in “systemized logic” than the whole counsel of God, has done immense damage through the years.

  21. Frank Turk says:

    I just want to know how sins which are atoned for must also be paid for in Hell. If that can be resolved for me, I can stop saying that the non-Calvinist, or the 4-point calvinist, or the Lutheran for that matter, hasn’t fully considered the Biblical account of things.

    1. Steve Martin says:

      I’m a Lutheran, Frank, and that’s a new one on me.

      I’m a Lutheran for almost 15 years now, and I have never been told that lie. Not that some Lutherans may believe that.

      Some Lutherans will believe anything.

    2. Tony Byrne says:

      If you really want to know, Frank, then read all of these sources (click). There you will read why Charles Hodge, R. L. Dabney and W. G. T. Shedd, among other Calvinists, rejected the double payment argument.

      First, the argument entails that the unbelieving elect would not be under God’s wrath if Christ satisfied for them. On what basis do they stand still condemned when in unbelief?

      Second, the argument confuses criminal or penal law with commercial or pecuniary debt. While Christ’s satisfaction is likened to a payment of a price, like money debt, it is not the same. For example, if we were at a restaurant, and I paid your bill, you are ipso facto liberated from your debt. The owner has no basis for pursuing you to pay. On the other hand, consider a criminal case. Suppose I committed a crime but you were suspected, convicted, thrown in jail and served the time. Later it was discovered that I actually committed the crime such that I was then put in jail. I could not say, “but Frank paid it already! The thing is paid!” No, criminal debt does not function like commercial transactions, yet the double payment argument confuses these two categories.

      As Dabney said:

      “Nor would we attach any force to the argument, that if Christ made penal satisfaction for the sins of all, justice would forbid any to be punished. To urge this argument surrenders virtually the very ground on which the first Socinian objection was refuted, and is incompatible with the facts that God chastises justified believers, and holds elect unbelievers subject to wrath till they believe. Christ’s satisfaction is not a pecuniary equivalent, but only such a one as enables the Father, consistently with His attributes, to pardon, if in His mercy He sees fit. The whole avails of the satisfaction to a given man is suspended on His belief. There would be no injustice to the man, if he remaining an unbeliever, his guilt were punished twice over first in his Savior, and then in Him. See Hodge on Atonement, page 369.” R. L. Dabney, Lectures, p. 521

      p.s. Even Carl Trueman doesn’t think the double payment is good or useful. He would rather lean on other arguments to prove his position rather than on that argument.

      1. MarieP says:

        Commented before seeing you’d posted- good quotes!

      2. Frank Turk says:

        Tony — as a quick check of the sources there, it makes the same error regarding Hodge’s argument that Michael made below. That is: is shows only Hodge expressing the objection and fails to show that he refutes the objection.

        To the Dabney quote you provide, thank God it’s not Scripture. As delightful as it is to have Danbey in the heritage of Southern Baptist teachers, his reasoning violates the reasoning of Heb 10:10 and 10:14, among other scriptures.

        To Carl Trueman, I’ll whip him the next time I have lunch with him. The link you provided does not, in fact, say that Trueman rejects the argument. He says that it’s not Owen’s primary argument but hung upon other vital parts of his theology of mediation.

        This is an objection which, while not fool-proof, it is also not adequately answered by the other side. We get the plethora of misquotes and overstatements of leading Calvinists we see here as support against the argument, but no refutation of it.

    3. Michael Lynch says:

      Frank,

      Here is Charles Hodge’s answer to the question (how sins which are atoned for must (i.e. can) also be paid for in Hell):

      “There is still another ground on which it is urged that Augustinians cannot consistently preach the gospel to every creature. Augustinians teach, it is urged, that the work of Christ is a satisfaction to divine justice. From this it follows that justice cannot condemn those for whose sins it has been satisfied. It cannot demand that satisfaction twice, first from the substitute and then from the sinner himself. This would be manifestly unjust, far worse than demanding no punishment at all. From this it is inferred that the satisfaction or righteousness of Christ, if the ground on which a sinner may be forgiven, is the ground on which he must be forgiven. It is not the ground on which he may be forgiven, unless it is the ground on which he must be forgiven. If the atonement be limited in design it must be limited in its nature, and if limited in its nature it must be limited in its offer.

      This objection again arises from confounding a pecuniary and a judicial satisfaction between which Augustinians are so careful to discriminate. This distinction has already been presented on a previous page. There is no grace in accepting a pecuniary satisfaction. It cannot be refused. It ipso facto liberates. The moment the debt is paid the debtor is free; and that without any condition. Nothing of this is true in the case of judicial satisfaction. If a substitute be provided and accepted it is a matter of grace. His satisfaction does not ipso facto liberate. It may accrue to the benefit of those for whom it is made at once or at a remote period; completely or gradually; on conditions or unconditionally; or it may never benefit them at all unless the condition on which its application is suspended be performed. These facts are universally admitted by those who hold that the work of Christ was a true and perfect satisfaction to divine justice. The application of its benefits is determined by the covenant between the Father and the Son. Those for whom it was specially rendered are not justified from eternity; they are not born in a justified state; they are by nature, or birth, the children of wrath even as others. To be the children of wrath is to be justly exposed to divine wrath. They remain in this state of exposure until they believe, and should they die (unless in infancy) before they believe they would inevitably perish notwithstanding the satisfaction made for their sins. It is the stipulations of the covenant which forbid such a result. Such being the nature of the judicial satisfaction rendered by Christ to the law, under which all men are placed, it may be sincerely offered to all men with the assurance that if they believe it shall accrue to their salvation. His work being specially designed for the salvation of his own people, renders, through the conditions of the covenant, that event certain; but this is perfectly consistent with its being made the ground of the general offer of the gospel. Lutherans and Reformed agree entirely, as before stated, in their views of the nature of the satisfaction of Christ, and consequently, so far as that point is concerned, there is the same foundation for the general offer of the gospel according to either scheme. What the Reformed or Augustinians hold about election does not affect the nature of the atonement. That remains the same whether designed for the elect or for all mankind. It does not derive its nature from the secret purpose of God as to its application.” Charles Hodge, ST, 2:557-8.

      1. Frank Turk says:

        Hi Michael –

        It’s a little sneaky of you to omit the balance of pg 558-560 — which is Hodge’s response to the objection you note.

        You can find Hodge’s own response to this objection here, and with him I reiterate the following:

        1. Any common Augustian can freely admit that Christ’s death secures common grace for all men so that they are not struck down upon the first sinful expression of their nature. In that way, Christ did die for all men.

        2. “All” in the ultimate sense does not mean every single one, but rather “all kinds.”

        3. The “us” whom the Apostle refers to over and over again is plainly not “every person ever” but “those of us under grace, in faith, in Christ.”

        Hodge does not admit that the problem is rightly turned against the Augustinian: he admits it is done so, and there are ample answers to the objection.

        1. Michael Lynch says:

          Hi Frank–

          I’m not sure why you impute a motive like “sneaky” behind my response. I gave a large quote with the citation supposing that whosoever (pun intended!) wished to read more Hodge could go and read him. Was I supposed to (without being sneaky!) quote three whole pages?

          More specifically, you asked a question to which I responded by giving you Hodge’s answer to that question. You may disagree with Hodge, which is perfectly fine, but I did not claim anything more than that Hodge addressed your question (his answer is found in the distinction between a pecuniary and penal satisfaction). If you agree that Hodge does not find your objection valid I rest my case. You need not agree with Hodge. For that matter, I need not agree with him either. But, we must all agree that Hodge does not find your “double-justice” argument valid (and the reason for this is found in what he calls the (unjustified) use of a pecuniary model of the satisfaction).

          On a larger level, I think it is a valid question, especially in light of the two centuries between say John Owen and Dabney/Hodge, how, if any, do these theologians exposition and defense of a Calvinistic view on the extent of the atonement differ. Are these differences substantial or accidental? A further question might be asked, namely, why is is that Dabney and Hodge found the double justice argument invalid while Owen (et al) use it so much? Why does Dabney call it a Socinian argument? I am not saying you or I have not thought about these things, but I think they are relevant questions often left untouched by those appealing to this or that theologian.

          Finally, I am not sure how the two Hebrews texts you mention deal with the precise question at hand with regard to double justice. I am open to more clarification or exposition of those texts if you wish.

          Blessings,

          Mike

          1. Zack Skrip says:

            I can’t speak for Frank, but let me take a stab at the Hebrew passages.

            They both show what exactly was bought by the sacrifice. Sanctification and perfection. One cannot say that Christ’s sacrifice is doing that for the non-believer who never believes. In what way did Christ sanctify or perfect the non-elect?

            I’m sure Frank will respond far better than I did, but that was my stab at it.

          2. Michael Lynch says:

            Hi Zack,

            Sure, Let me speak for the hypothetical universalist (HU) (sometimes if I may.

            The texts do teach that the sacrifice of Christ purifies those who believe. But note, the *precise* relationship between the two (sacrifice and perfection of those who believe) is not spelled out. In other words, for the hypothetical universalist why is it that the sacrifice of Christ purifies those who believe (i.e. the believing elect)? Because they believe. In other words, these texts don’t prove (1) that Christ made a sacrifice for non other than the elect; (2) that there is no intervening condition between the sacrifice and the efficacy of that sacrifice.

            To put it another way, we need not necessarily read those texts as saying: the oblation of Christ necessarily (i.e. not suspended upon a condition) sanctifies.

            So, to answer your question, I think the HU would say to your statement and question (“One cannot say that Christ’s sacrifice is doing that for the non-believer who never believes. In what way did Christ sanctify or perfect the non-elect?”): Of course the sacrifice does not savingly benefit the one who does not believe! Further, Christ’s sacrifice does not sanctify the non-elect because the non-elect will never apply (according to will of God) the death of Christ for themselves. But, don’t conflate redemption accomplished into redemption applied. Just because God makes a propitiatory sacrifice for all men (redemption accomplished) does not mean that all will be sanctified by it (redemption applied).

            However, these texts do teach that all those for whom the death of Christ has been applied it has been accomplished. *But not vice versa.*

            What I am really trying to do is exposit the mind of the HU and how they would read those texts.

            Blessings,

            Mike

          3. Michael Lynch says:

            A couple typos to fix from my 9:38PM post…

            Ignore: “(sometimes” in line one.

            Change: “non” in the first large paragraph should read “none”

            Sorry!

          4. Zack Skrip says:

            Mike – You wrote:
            ” In other words, these texts don’t prove (1) that Christ made a sacrifice for non other than the elect; (2) that there is no intervening condition between the sacrifice and the efficacy of that sacrifice.”

            I would agree, those texts don’t prove that. And this is an interesting point you make. I guess a follow up question to ask would be what benefit does the non-elect ever receive from Christ’s “oblation”? And, if there is a distinction in scope between redemption accomplished and redemption applied, then what exactly is “accomplished”?

            Is it possible that the distinction is not one of scope but of time? Is it possible that Christ’s sacrifice was wholly efficacious?

            Thanks for the thought provoking response!

            In Christ,

            Zack

          5. Michael Lynch says:

            Hi Zach-

            Sorry for such a late response. For the sake of time, I think it might be best to be brief in my answers and point you to written literature (within the Reformed tradition) that deals with these matters in greater depth. BTW, I appreciate the place you are going with the questions, because it shows me that you are grasping the HU position and are properly determining the essential issues in the debate. This also means that there is much that I am unable to talk about because of the blog context. We really ought to have a beer and chat about it! However…

            To your first question (what benefit does the non-elect ever receive from Christ’s “oblation”?) the HU might respond: Although most people affirm certain common grace benefits which accrue to the non-elect by way of Christ’s sacrifice, the HU sees as a benefit the death of Christ as able to bring to the non-elect a proper warrant for the both the elect and non-elect to come to Christ because Christ has been made the propitiation of all sin (elect and non-elect). Just a reminder: propitiation is redemption accomplished (not applied). Thus, propitiation allows God to forgive anyone (not just the elect) of their sins if they come–it doesn’t actually forgive anyone (or else you would have something like justification at the cross…think Dabney quote above by Tony).

            As for the second question (“if there is a distinction in scope between redemption accomplished and redemption applied, then what exactly is “accomplished”?”: As the HU answer to the first question suggests, what you have in redemption accomplished is both an offering of Christ which is sufficient to forgive all sin (because it is a propitiation for all sin) and a desire in God to redeem a people for himself (according to his secret will). In other words, at some point we are going to be met with the difficult question of God’s revealed and secret will. The former declares God’s will that all men be saved and that all men have a warrant to come to Christ on the base of X’s oblation. The latter declares that Christ sent his Son in the world *especially* to save his elect and have a chosen people for himself and that he willed X’s sacrifice to actually *apply* only to God’s elect.

            These answers are only brief and probably raise more questions re: the HU position than actually answering them. However, if you have the time and wish to read some old (and academic) HU literature, I would suggest reading someone like Edward Polhill (a contemporary of Owen). J. Owen actually wrote a preface to the book of which has this section: http://archive.org/details/essayonextentofd00polh

            If you wish to further discuss these matters, feel free to contact me at lynch dot j dot mike at gmail

            I would rather chat by email than on this blog. Also, I am interested in Columbia Sem. etc.

            Blessings,

            Mike

      2. michael white says:

        Michael Lynch,
        The problem is in the word, atoned. A more precise, it seems to me, way of saying it is that Jesus died for all sins so that all who believe will be atoned for. The question then would be like this: Why would Jesus die for sins that won’t be atoned?
        But even that is a little misleading, for, each one of us needs the whole death [His life given] to atone for our sins. It is not that one stripe was for you, and another for me. So that if more were atoned for, Jesus would have to suffer more.
        His greatest suffering was being forsaken of His Father.
        So Jesus could suffer no more or no less no matter how many came by faith. Thus all who come by faith can have their sins atoned for.

        Now the question of particularity comes in the intent of God.
        God certainly knows who will be saved. He is the one saving! And God certainly knew before he created just whom would be saved, their names and all. These we call the elect. We of all stripes of doctrine, should call these the elect. We may separate on how they became the elect, but they are the ONLY ones who will be saved.

        The problem is that we as preachers of the Gospel have no idea who these unsaved elect are, and God knows this. So God sends us into all the world to preach the Gospel to all peoples so that the elect will hear and God will save them.

        No one sins are atoned for until they have faith. Thus the atonement is particular to those. As far as we know everyone we witness to can come by faith, so we witness to all and leave the saving up to God.

        BYW, i am a 5 pointer.
        peace

    4. MarieP says:

      Hey, centuri0n! RL Dabney made an interesting point about double jeopardy in his Lectures. He asked for what reason the wrath of God abides on the elect before their conversion. He argued against Amyraldianism, but he made an interesting point about the double jeopardy argument. How would you respond?

      1. Frank Turk says:

        Hi Marie –

        Between you and me, I don’t like it when non-Calvinists talk down to me as if I haven’t thought of these things before. :-)

        My response to Dabney’s question against the elect prior to conversion goes like this: there are no people among the elect who are ultimately under God’s wrath in hell because all the elect are elect in Christ, and (as it was in Rom 8:29-30) they must be called, conformed, justified, glorified. So it begs the question to ask in what way they are under God’s wrath prior to regeneration — it is not at all the same thing.

        What is the threat against the elect prior to regeneration? Certainly: it is the threat of damnation — if they do not repent, they must be lost forever in God’s wrath. But because they never suffer it, there is no analogy to those who are lost forever. The question has to stand: if every person ever is atoned-for in Christ, on what basis are the many who are cast into the second death subject to the eternal wrath of God if Christ has paid for every bit of their sin, all of it nailed to the cross?

        1. MarieP says:

          “Between you and me, I don’t like it when non-Calvinists talk down to me as if I haven’t thought of these things before.”

          Amen to that! Same with Presbys (though many Baptists HAVEN’T considered why they’re Baptists.) It works both ways. And, just between you and me, I believe Matthew (great guy- he used to work across from me here in the SBTS library) and Dr. Nettles did not intend to insinuate lack of intelligence on the part of 4-point Calvinists (certainly not all of them). That’s why they said “perhaps.”

          As a side note, Dabney himself said, “That man who should profess to see no force in the objections to our views, would only betray the shallowness of his mind and knowledge.” I think those of us who believe in particular redemption need to remember that too (not saying anyone here isn’t remembering that- I was just reminded of that quote).

          “What is the threat against the elect prior to regeneration? Certainly: it is the threat of damnation — if they do not repent, they must be lost forever in God’s wrath. But because they never suffer it, there is no analogy to those who are lost forever.”

          But we were still under wrath. Surely Christ paid for the sins we committed before He came and preached peace to us. “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God”- John 3:18.

          “The question has to stand: if every person ever is atoned-for in Christ, on what basis are the many who are cast into the second death subject to the eternal wrath of God if Christ has paid for every bit of their sin, all of it nailed to the cross?”

          I don’t think anyone is saying that “Christ has paid for every bit of [non-elects'] sin, all of it nailed to the cross”

          And, I give a hearty amen to your three Augustinian statements!

          1. MarieP says:

            I agree with Phil Johnson:

            I would argue that if the atonement Christ offered is substitutionary, then it had to be of infinite value for two reasons:

            1. One, in the words of the Synod of Dordt, “because the person who submitted to the punishment on our behalf was not only really man and perfectly holy but also the only begotten Son of God, the same eternal, and infinite essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit.” In other words, the person who died on the cross was infinite in His glory and His goodness and therefore it was an infinite sacrifice. That’s the first reason.

            2. Second, the price of each person’s sin is infinite wrath. And if the price of atonement is infinite than the atonement itself in order to be accepted had to be of infinite value. In other words, if you had to suffer the price of your own sins you would spend eternity in hell and still you would not exhaust the infinite displeasure of God against sin. There’s an infinite punishment for sin. And that infinite wrath is the very thing Christ bore on the cross. So if Christ’s death was not sufficient to atone for all, then it wasn’t sufficient to atone for even one. Because atonement for sin even for one person demands an infinite price. Now again the overwhelming majority of Calvinists would agree with that. That is exactly what the canons of the Synod of Dordt say. That is mainstream historic Calvinism.

            So the real debate between Calvinists and Arminians is not about the sufficiency of the atonement. The real issue under debate is the design and the application of the atonement. And the question we are asking is not merely, for whom did Christ die? The real question is for whom did God ordain the atonement? In other words, the real issue in the extent of the atonement debate comes down to the very same issue as election itself. Did God purpose to save specific people or was He trying indiscriminately to save as many people as possible? What was His intent? What was His design? And if you accept the truth of election I can’t understand why you would balk at the truth that the atonement had specific people in view. So that’s the real question not was Christ’s death sufficient to save all but what was the design and the goal of the atonement? What did God intend to do through it? Did He intend to save specific people through Christ’s work on the cross? And if you answer that question, yes, you’ve affirmed the principle behind the Calvinistic position.

            http://www.biblebb.com/files/MAC/SC03-1027.htm

          2. michael white says:

            Marie,
            I agree with you in that the intent of God is where the discussion should reside.
            The word atonement is misunderstood to mean the death of Jesus when in reality His death is the sacrifice of the atonement and atonement [reconciliation] happens when one comes to faith and believes. until then, as noted by others, we are still under wrath as Ephesians 2 and enemies of God as Romans 5 and 8.

            Jesus suffered completely for my sin, and completely for your sin. The word, infinite, is a bad descriptor and a mislabeling. Thus Jesus would not have suffered one iota more if God had doubled the quantity of the elect.

            So as much as I respect Owens, double whatever is off the table. ONLY those who come by faith are atoned for, the rest are not.

  22. Casey Hough says:

    As a non-calvinist, I found this article to be wonderful. Thank you for your efforts!

  23. Suzie Lind says:

    “God’s choice of Israel was prompted by His love for the nations” “The gospel cannot be reduced to a particular view of soteriology.” There is so much about this post that I love but mostly I am thankful for your clarity on what the gospel is and what it is not and the prompting to not only love “in-house” better but to remember our true mission and purpose as those who have chosen to respond to the royal announcement…to love those who have yet to respond.

  24. Wesley says:

    Trevin -
    appreciate your candour and willingness to engage for the sake of unity. I am a convinced 5 point guy but i am absolutely with you re: protecting against the proclivity to conflate TULIP with the gospel. Not the same thing at all but rather a theological framework by which we understand the gospel. Mad love to you bro.
    W.

  25. John says:

    Curious, what is the 4-point understanding of the nature and extent of propitiation or could someone direct me to an article/book/post explaining it? It would seem the very definition of propitiation limits the extent. Unless we are willing to say that Christ satisfied the wrath of God for everyone, likewise expiating their guilt. If that is the 4-point position, then it might be necessary (for me at least) to re-examine the OT type for the term (Leviticus 16, et.al.) to see if the high priest offered a sacrifice of atonement (propitiation) for the whole world, or just those 12 tribes represented by the stones on his ephod. If Christ propitiated the wrath of God for every single person, then we may also need to re-examine John 3:36.

    J.I. Packer addresses a similar argument to that of Hodge’s “If the atonement be limited in design it must be limited in its nature, and if limited in its nature it must be limited in its offer” in his book Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God.

    Trevin, I certainly agree with you that the rethoric can often be abrasive, but I do not think that all “5-pointers” are elitist and give “systematic gospel presentations”. That may be an overgeneralization.

    Grace and Peace to you.

    1. Trevin Wax says:

      John,

      I do not believe all 5-poiners are elitist and give “systematic gospel presentations.” That would indeed be an overgeneralization, which is why I didn’t say that. ;) My issue is with the prevalence of Calvinist condescension in our circles and our inability at times to recognize it.

      1. John says:

        Trevin, I wholeheartedly agree with the condescension you seem to be addressing (and thanks for clearing up your scope, sorry if I scanned through too quickly). But that attitude would seem less about 4 vs. 5 point Calvinism and more about immaturity in the faith and a lack of understanding of the very doctrines being defended/expressed. The same attitude could be observed with a 5-pt Calvinist that attempts to biblically explain election to a room full of condescending Arminians.

        I do concur again with you about the failure to recognize the condescension amongst some Calvinists, though I still would argue it’s less about doctrinal positions (see the Arminian statement) held and more about misunderstanding the Gospel. Maybe a post could be written to broaden that sentiment outside of the 4-pt vs. 5-pt discussion.

        Any recommendations from you on the nature of propitiation that I mentioned?

        Grace and Peace.

      2. A proud calvinist is a contradiction in terms!

    2. Tony Byrne says:

      @John: With respect to the double-payment argument and propitiation, see my response to Joseph on this blog here (click).

      Also, see my response and Michael Lynch’s response to Frank Turk above here (click).

    3. michael white says:

      John,
      First, the High priest offered a sacrifice of atonement ONLY for the people of Israel and those aliens that were with them, but…
      In order to be atoned for one had to afflict[KJV] or humble NASB] himself.
      Lev 23:
      The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “On exactly the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of atonement; it shall be a holy convocation for you, and you shall humble your souls and present an offering by fire to the Lord. You shall not do any work on this same day, for it is a day of atonement, to make atonement on your behalf before the Lord your God. If there is any person who will not humble himself on this same day, he shall be cut off from his people.

      Thus there was no atonement for the Israelite who did not in his soul, humble himself.And who could do so unless by faith they believed? No one. Thus atonement has always been by faith.

  26. Michael says:

    Trevin:

    Every once in a while you hit one out of the park and this is one of those times.

  27. Ed Goodman says:

    It’s about time somebody said it! The gospel is not equivalent to Calvinism, and I do not preached an “adjusted” gospel by believing that salvation is freely offered to every individual who has ever lived.

    Trevin, this post possesses extraordinary balance and lucidity. After reading it, I felt that since you are often identified with the YRR crowd, your position would be well-received. And mostly, it has, though some commenters remain die-hard TULIP planters.

    The responses to your post are, and will be, very telling. Anyone who can’t meet you halfway and agree to disagree ought to be rebuked and corrected.

    1. Jeff says:

      Rebuked and corrected for “not meeting you halfway”? Really?

  28. Tim G says:

    Trevin,
    This is one of the best posts ever on this subject. Great job! For those of us who have numerous friends that are Calvinist/Reformed, you have addressed the frustration with actions and words of a few while upholding the many who do not participate in such.

    You hit this one so far out of the park that it is still sailing!

  29. Scott Gamel says:

    I’m a 2 pointer, but you can all me Calviminian. I tend to avoid most neo-Calvinist Reformbots because they throw off such an arrogant vibe and in general act like anyone who’s come to a position other than theirs is mentally/spiritually deficient. So, I thought it was a great article, needed to be said.

  30. Keith Lester says:

    Thanks for writing an informed and intelligent response. I appreciate what you have written. I would contend that the greatest error of people on both sides of the debate occurs when we apply terminology to a situation or group of people with whom God never applies the terminoloy. Scripture speaks in terms of election and predestination only in conversations with believers and only in regards to assuring believers that we are called to holiness and sealed to glorification based on God choosing us for salvation. Otherwise, these terms and this logic have no place in any discussion about the world as a whole or unbelievers in particular. Such usage is totally absent in Scripture.
    I propose that we limit such terms to the perspective and the audience utilized in Scripture.
    For those who are interested, you can find this analysis at:

    http://otguy.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-simplicity-of-gospel-and-grace.html

    The greater issue is that making an exclusive claim to understanding the gospel and giving such rally cries to pray for people to change their doctrine tends to be taken to the extreme by followers, so leaders should be careful what they say. In the comments on the article by Matt Smethurst, there is a quote by a Jerry Schmidt that demonstrates the very concern I am expressing.

    ” As I said, if a Calvinist wants to speak truth to a non-believer, the message would sound something like, “I believe God may have chosen me to tell you the Good News. However, just because He may have told me to talk to you, doesn’t mean you will be saved, because He may have already predetermined (by no fault of your own) that you are going to Hell. And unfortunately, you can do nothing about it, because it isn’t even you who can have hope or faith in Christ, because God chooses that for you, too.”

    1. michael white says:

      Keith,

      It isn’t clear if that last paragraph is yours or Jerry’s.

      1. Keith Lester says:

        That is the quote by Jerry Schmidt that illustrates an extreme hyper calvinist presentation of the gospel which is in no way reflective of the way a balanced calvanist would treat the gospel.

  31. Chase Krug says:

    Trevin,

    Not that I disagree at all with the sentiment of your post (in fact I’m very happy to hear this distinction between reformed soteriology and the Gospel articulated so diplomatically), but it seems that in your analysis of the “condescending” question you cited, you’ve forgotten to consider a very important word–”perhaps”. Doesn’t this word make a huge difference in the entire sentiment of the question? If I were to ask you, “Trevin, are there things about the death of Christ that PERHAPS, as a four-point Calvinist, you have failed to consider”, wouldn’t you have to answer, “Yes, perhaps”? Certainly you’d have to admit there is a possibility that you have failed to consider something about the nature of Christ’s death regardless how much you’ve thought, read, and prayed about it. Recognizing this crucial word changes the sentiment of this question from, “Trevin, you have failed to adequately consider” to “Trevin, PERHAPS you have failed to adequately consider.” Aren’t these very different?

  32. Vacca says:

    4 point Calvinist are Arminians. You take any point away and the whole thing crumbles

  33. Kennicon says:

    Perhaps the issue is looking to take offense and wearing emotions on the sleeve instead of dealing with the very important topic at hand. While it may be “in house” it is far more important than this article makes it out to be.

    It seems to be the latest trend to point out every instance where it could possibly be perceived that a Calvinist is being condescending without considering the likelihood that they may not be receiving the benefit of the doubt… Theological discussion would be a lot more profitable if we could all thicken our skin a little bit.

  34. CFlo says:

    Great post. I love my non-Calvinist and Calvinist brothers and sisters in Christ. I have learned much from both sides. While I do consider fatalism and easy-believism to be heresies, much of the Calvinist/Arminian debate is over secondary issues (not unimportant, just not worth separating over). I do think that the first four points of TULIP, properly defined, stand or fall as a unit. The fifth can be true independent of the other four. People who consider themselves to be 1 or 2 or 3 or 4-point Calvinists (or even 5-point sometimes) often given Arminian definitions to the points they claim to believe.

  35. 4 point Calvinist says:

    This is a very short article outlining what we 4-point Calvinists mean by our position: http://evangelicalarminians.org/files/Ware.%20Extent%20of%20the%20Atonement.pdf

    We affirm definite atonement/particular redemption in one sense, but we also affirm unlimited atonement in another sense. Yes the Father declares/elects, the Son accomplishes, the Spirit applies salvation for the elect. But there’s not just 1 intention of the atonement. The atonement also provides a genuine offer of salvation for non-elect. They just remain blinded and dead in their sins, running away from God, as we would be too if not for God’s grace in opening our eyes and taking away our rebellion from Him (which was paid for at the atonement), which is not at all due to our being smarter, more moral/humble than others and able to “figure out” that Christianity is true, but purely by God’s infinite grace.

    1. 4 point Calvinist says:

      Btw Trevin…you probably realize this, but your penal substitution view of the gospel (and you implicitly added alien righteousness with your statement about Christ’s perfect life in our place) basically means that Eastern Orthodox are not, in fact, preaching the gospel since they totally deny penal substitution. I totally agree with penal substitution and alien righteousness (even if I disagree that imputation is the mechanism by which that righteousness is counted as ours), but I disagree that those necessarily “need” to be included in the basic gospel message. This view of the gospel (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gpwe6H9mFSM) by Sam Storms allows you to include Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox while excluding Mormons/Jehovah Witnesses (since it’s easily argued that they believe in a different Jesus than we do).

      1. Dan Martin says:

        So @4point, are you suggesting that the criterion by which we judge a gospel witness is whether it includes and excludes the “right” people? Am I the only one who finds this notion troubling?

        1. 4 point Calvinist says:

          No, but I would say that someone could be saved by a mechanism they don’t actually know (this doesn’t mean I believe someone can be saved without consciously knowing Christ, of course). For example, and I know this will make Arminians furious, but Arminians don’t actually believe in salvation by grace alone. They believe in salvation by prevenient grace + something inside of the person that makes them make the correct free will decision to put their faith in Christ. If you ultimately think about conditional election, that’s what it means…NOT salvation by sheer grace alone.
          Gasp, does this mean Arminians are not then saved??? No, I think they’re saved by grace alone, and have been unconditionally elected. They just don’t know that/accept that. So then, I would say Arminianism is a major error, but not a fatal error. Similarly, not believing in penal substitution is a major, major, major error, but not a fatal error. Same with New Perspective view of justification, baptismal regeneration, denial of sola fide (major, major, major, major, major error, but not “necessarily” fatal…though very close).

          In contrast, modalism, tritheism, Arianism, Adoptionism, etc. would be fatal errors.

          1. 4 point Calvinist says:

            Add open theism (and process theology of course) to fatal errors (http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Bounds-Undermining-Biblical-Christianity/dp/1581344627)

          2. 4 point Calvinist says:

            So, just to summarize my view: I believe the Calvinistic doctrines of grace, sola fide, justification by Christ’s alien righteousness (that is counted as ours based on our unity with Him), penal substitution (+Christ Victor+moral example as lesser important parts of the atonement), etc. are very, very important clarifications of the gospel. One might say Calvinism is g,o,s,p,e,l spelled more clearly. But they are not “necessarily” the gospel itself.

          3. Levi says:

            Agreed. Well-said.

          4. Dan Martin says:

            Ah, now see.. We are saved by grace plus avoiding “fatal doctrines.” Perhaps you could do our souls a favor by maintaining an up-to-date list on the web. May I suggest http://www.fataldoctrines.org?

            I’d hate for my unconditional election to be blown by freely choosing to believe a fatal doctrine.

  36. Nick Carraway says:

    Wonderful post, Trevin! Your gracious wisdom is a source of such blessing.

    “to squeeze universal feet into tight, particular shoes is precisely the wrong choice to make” – fantastic!

  37. Andy says:

    Mr. Wax,

    If you are looking to be offended, you will be. I believe you have done just that. Drs. Barrett and Nettles were no more divisive in the post than would be expected by men espousing a belief system that is crucially unique to an understanding of the Gospel that they did.

    1. Jason says:

      “If you are looking to be offended, you will be.”

      Bingo.

  38. Todd Smith says:

    Good article. Now if we can get you to rethink that once saved always saved point and start speaking in tongues you would be on the straight and narrow.

  39. Fred Liggin says:

    Trevin,

    Thank you bro, for your graciousness and encouragement to our brothers of the calvinist persuasion to not equate a calvinist soteriology with the gospel itself. I appreciate your desire to keep the Gospel about the King, and not only the response to Him as King. I am grateful for your work.

  40. Bert says:

    @TW. Sometimes we need to keep our whining to ourselves. It’s very unbecoming when we ourselves turn into that which we are angry at. Your rant did nothing to unify the body, but merely fueled the anti -Calivinist rhetoric that is so prevalent today. Sometimes its better to vent to a few close friends than whine to the blogosphere.

  41. david carlson says:

    @Bert (and others)

    public speech demands private remonstrance? TW’s post was not a rant – it was a keen observation and if iron does indeed sharpen iron, then it should be taken to heart by those that it applies to. Unfortunately, it will likely only be attacked by those that would benefit the most

  42. Jim Sharp says:

    i think thou dost protest too loudly! … this is irksome also.

    “one drop of divine blood sufficient to save every soul … however,not one drop of precious blood could ever be wasted” but does accomplish its redemptive purpose … He must not lose one the Father has given to Him — and the only way to save and keep them was by shedding His blood for the elect. btw — since when is the bible ever illogical? logic is not the enemy of truth but one of its proofs.

  43. Michael Snow says:

    A Quaker professor once told me that reading Calvin’s Institutes was one of the great spiritual experiences of his life. Quite an admission when it was Calvinists that hung five Quakers on the Boston commons. Of course, Calvin and Calvinists can be horses of two different colors.

    On the death of Charles Colson, it was shocking to read a Calvinist’s assessment: “. For all the good he accomplished, there was also sin.” [e.g. the Manhattan Declaration!]

    “If Colson was a believer—and contrary to what some seem to believe, I never said that I believe otherwise—then he is with the Lord…”

    “Why should we refrain from speaking of a man’s very public sin when that is part of his legacy…”

  44. the gracist says:

    I can’t help it anymore. What a terrible waste of time and an equally wasteful display of self-serving, point-winning vanity. I proclaim gladly and confidently that I am not a Calvinist, a Reformist, a Universalist….or even a Baptist. I am a ‘Gracist’ : ) I noticed that there are 2 words missing from any of these replies which, if included, would clear up any confusion and leave no room for argument: ‘IN CHRIST’. 2Cor5:17, ‘If anyone is IN CHRIST, he is a new creation…’. 2Cor5:19, ‘God was IN CHRIST reconciling the whole world unto Himself, not counting their sins against them.’ 1Cor15:22, ‘For as in Adam all die, even so IN CHRIST shall all be made alive.’ Eph2:13, ‘But now IN CHRIST Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ’…..and on and on and on. Just do a search of ‘in Christ’ in the New Testament, it’s there in plain sight, undeniable and stands on its own. No endless TULIP questions, just one two-lipped question: Are you IN CHRIST? Not, “are you a Calvinist, etc.”? I am eternally free, forgiven, accepted, perfected, reconciled, complete, and best of all, IN CHRIST!

    That will cure any ‘irk’.

    Sincerely,

    The Gracist

  45. Michael Plato says:

    It appears James White has dedicated most of an episode of the Dividing Line to responding to this posting. In it he made a few pointed remarks. Any response forthcoming?

    1. bob says:

      I doubt trevin even knows about Dr. James White.

  46. Jeff says:

    One issue I have here, is that the word “arrogant” is being thrown around way too easily. “Arrogance” is a judgement call, and the accusation of such is best left out of the discussion.
    So Trevin got a bit put-off by the condescending tone of the authors…accusing them of such and then diving into rebutting their writing on a serious doctrinal issue was probably not the best way to air his difficulty swallowing what they were espousing.

    I think Trevin may have been a bit wild and loose on some of his points, like what the Gospel “is” and “isn’t”. I mean, really, “the Gospel isn’t the 5 solas”? You might want to scrub that one a little.

    The main theological question I have is, if you disagree with the underlying idea of “limited, or particular, atonement”, aren’t you inevitably diminishing the power of the ultimate sacrifice? If you believe in “general atonement”, wouldn’t the fact that Christ’s precious blood was spilled, unable to fully atone for the sins of mankind mean that Christ, as Savior, was insufficient in scope? That is, in essence, what is at stake with this doctrine.

    What does someone who believes in “general atonement” do with, among a host of other passages, John 6:37-39? – All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.

  47. Mike says:

    I never understood the gospel until a man named Darryl taught me the basics of reformed theology. My eyes were opened, and I was in awe of the beauty and glory of Christ. I was born again.

    I had grown up Baptist. I attended church 3xs a week. I knew all about the Arminian view of the gospel. It was IMO man-centered and watered down.

    Only once I realized the extent of my sin, God’s unconditional election despite that sin, the power of the atonement, the amazing & irresistible grace of God, and that nothing would ever be able to separate me from the love of God, I, for the first time in my life, began to truly worship. I began to bask in the grace of God. I began to realize that I am fully dependent on Christ. My fig leaves were no longer acceptable. Nothing in my hands could I bring, only to the cross could I cling.

    TULIP is beautiful because it exhalts and glorifies Christ and it has the potential to put us in our rightful place – humbly on our face.

  48. Ken says:

    Trevin you build a straw-man by attacking tonality that which can then lead you into your theological convictions contra 5-pointers. It sounds more like, “how dare you, these are your faults, and here’s my totally legitimate position that which is accredited by differing theological opponents.” By the way, is justification or union with Christ for that matter acutely and properly recognized in a dispensational schema? (pace Horton “Covenant and Salvation”)It is rather depressing to see an individual espouse a universal gospel call, but yet hold to a dispensational schema, hmm, so does not the ‘paranthesis’ set up parameters and restrictions to the gospel call? Just because the ‘universal call’ is found in the paranthesis, you must not lose sight of those outside… Honestly, all of your understandings of the ‘L’ in TULIP are ill-formed. Try a ‘D’ the atonement that which is definitively applied – it would be a shame if the blood of Christ was wasted, don’t you think? All that power, just spilled on the ground filling the crevices of parched land rather than parched souls. This blog has gone too far. Can someone please fess up, Trevin are you right or are the Calvinist’s, make a claim if you are that persuaded and rigorously defend not only for the sake of your people but more importantly the Gospel’s application and intent. This lame camp building is annoying, this is what it looks like in blogs: I love you, but I am over here and I am tacitly purporting my view of your ignorance and mis-conceptions of who God actually is. Lets call forth the big question, who is properly worshipping God, is it the men to the left, or the men to the right? (Otherwise know as Calvinists or Arminians. OR neither… Dare someone jump in and espouse a new soteriology in light of the conversation?)

  49. R. Delaney says:

    Trevin,

    It would have been nice if you showed this much backbone when your friend James MacDonald welcomed a heretic on the Elephant Room. Apparently he gets a pat on the head, but those who love and defend biblical truth get a kick in the pants.

    With regard to the atonement, please please please explain to me what actual, practical (i.e. real) substantial difference it makes to say that it is universal in scope but particular in intent. The end result is exactly the same. The elect are saved, the non elect are condemned. I guess 4 point Calvinism is better PR for God, and sits more easily in your bosom?

    1. mel says:

      Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

  50. Let me also put this little squabble in perspective. When I consider the culture’s current trajectory as well as the disturbing evangelical capitulation to culture rather than biblical truth, this in-house debate between people who believe in the inerrancy and authority of Scripture is just that, in-house. It is certainly not the most important topic for discussion. (You could not be more wrong. The Reformation eventually transformed society. The church has had the Arminian views in the majority for the past 100 or so years and during that time the church has become man-centered and useless. A shame to the name of Jesus. That is always the end result of Arminianism. Nothing can be more important to the church than a God honoring Biblical view of salvation. Arminianism in any form give the glory to man and thus the church is weakened and eventually destroyed from within and the world is left without light. It is THAT simple. And Spurgeon was correct. “Calvinism is the gospel”.

  51. “You are worthy to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
    because you were slain,
    and with your blood you purchased for God
    persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. Trevin, this one verse is enough to utterly demolish any view but particular atonement. You say Jesus died to potentially purchase all, or perhaps he did purchase all but some how they were sold back to the devil! Hmmm…without any interpretation, let the WORD speak. Jesus purchases US from out of….he did not purchase every tribe and language and people and nation! End of discussion.

  52. Jeff Higgins says:

    “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” John 6:37

    Here we have ‘gives me’ and ‘whoever’ in the same Christological sentence. It’s the mystery of the Gospel & we should fall on our knees and praise God that He is God.

    1. Joshua Brown says:

      The “whoever” in the latter part of the verse is defined by the “all the Father gives me” in the first part of the verse. All those who come to Christ were given to him by the Father, and are sure to be received by Christ when they come.

  53. Steven Chambers says:

    Thanks! I graduated from Southern in 2009 and I’ve been an associate pastor since then. This issue has come up in small talk with others. I have felt the pinch sometimes that you describe. Thanks for the helpful preservative! And thanks for the Gospel Project! I’m very excited about it!

    1. Sam says:

      My brother Darrel, let us please have grace not only in our doctrine but also in our words. As what you said implies, just like how we fall short of God’s glory in our imperfect doctrine, we do the same in our rebellion, in our sins. However, we are saved not by the perfection of our works nor by the perfection in our doctrine. Please let us be consistent with what we believe and consistent with the grace we have been shown. So, forgive me for saying this, but even if you are correct in all you say, there is something inconsistent about what you are saying and what you are conveying.

      1. Darrel says:

        Sam, If you wish to chide me for what I said, go ahead. If your feelings are offended, ok. If my tone is displeasing too, alright. None of that changes the truth of the Word which I have tried to explain to everyone here. There are not two ways to preach the Gospel; the one being from the “free-will” camp and the other straight from the Scriptures. There are not two ways to God, the one involving the action of the will in order to gain salvation and the other being the total sovereign work of the Triune God to save a soul and forgive it’s sins. You CAN NOT have it both ways which is what those of the “free-will” camp will insist is ok just in order to “keep the peace” and be “unified” with those who believe in the Scriptural Sovereignty of God. It is unbiblical to unify with such a person as this as their doctrine and ultimately what they teach concerning salvation is opposed to Scripture. 2Cor. 6:11-18. It is biblical to expose the error (Eph. 5:11 & others) with the hope that a genuine brother will see their error and turn to the Lord. It is common for those who have no biblically based response to give will resort to complaining of having their feelings hurt. It could be, however, that it is the Holy Spirit trying to set an errant heart aright by humbling themselves before the Lord and seeking forgiveness for teaching the error. Instead of worrying about your feelings being hurt, perhaps it would be proper for a man to see to it that the Lord’s feelings are not hurt and that blasphemy has not been committed. Repentance is never an easy exercise, but should be gut-wrenching and life changing in scope. May the Lord grant repentance and mercy to His people.

  54. Darrel says:

    Trevin: you are wrong.
    Take away all the froth, the high-sounding philosophical debate, the misinterpreting of Scripture (whether intentional or not) and what is left is a direct assault on the character of the Trinity, the evisceration of the Sovereignty of God and the elevation of the “free-will” of man past the status of idol all the way to the throne of the Lord Himself. Yes, it is that bad and worse. No matter what label is used, 4-pointer, Arminianism, or whatever, the bottom line is invariably the “free-will” of man trumps the sovereignty of God. It is the re-shaping of the character of God that is the root of all our sin, it goes back to Adam, Eve and Cain. Adam and Eve were in open rebellion and wanted to alter the nature of God by becoming as He was. Cain informed God that he was going to offer what he wanted to offer and God had better accept it. We all know the outcome of their rebellion. The demand that God must accept the action of our “free-will” in order for salvation to be granted to man is no different. This wickedness flies in the face of countless verses of Scripture that must be ignored, twisted to fit the other gospel that it presents, and deleted from arguments so that the “free-will” of man will triumph in the end. Tell me, Trevin, if man is saved by grace, through faith and that not of himself, where is there place given for the “free-will” action of a man to become saved? Also, if one is born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God where does the action of a man’s “free-will” fit into this equation? If a man claims to be saved because of the “free-will” choice to become saved, where is grace? If the “free-will” action is necessary to salvation as claimed by Arminians, 4-pointers and the like, then grace is not needed for one to become a child of God. But if grace (the God-prescribed ingredient along with faith-both gifts from God) is replaced by a man’s “free-will” how does this equal the salvation provided for by the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ? IT DOES NOT. Rather, this notion of the “free-will” action of a man to attain salvation is found to be wanting. Wanting not in the sense of needing a few tweeks and a little polish, but wanting in the fact that it is another gospel and not the real Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Please note that Gal 1:6-9 does not pronounce anathema on the message presented, but rather on the messenger. Since rebellion against the Lord and His Word has been the order of the day from the Garden of Eden until now, it might not be a bad idea to consider repentance in this matter of setting up the “free-will” of all mankind as superior to the Sovereign Will of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Triune God is not divided in this matter and manner of salvation for man, though it seems this is the latest in a long line of blasphemies and heresies being perpetrated upon the Lord and His Bride. Luke 24:45.

  55. Yoshua says:

    Trevin,
    as a SBC Calvinist that was recently frustrated and “irked” by some SBC non-Calvinist actions, I am very grateful for your words. For some reason I had been veiled from the happenings of the three past months, and in a matter of two days I was exposed to two big issues I had been unaware of. I was offended at actions and words, and frustrated because of the same. Then I was helped by Al Mohler’s words and Peter’s words in his first letter, and God began a healing process that brought humility and patience. Your words have been part of God’s continuing process of conforming me more to the image of Christ. I realize that I have not only been on the receiving end of the condescension, but on the dishing out side of it, too. Thank you Trevin!

  56. ETS says:

    All of these ‘Calvinists are mean’ books and letters are not helpful. They present a false narrative about Calvinists – especially for people who have not met Calvinists. And this ‘Woe is me. I’m a poor Arminian and everyone keeps beating up on me’ is just not true. Arminians can be as hurtful as the worst of them.

    1. Yoshua says:

      ETS, I am a Calvinist myself, yet I see much value in what Trevin has said. It’s true that a lot of non-Calvinists really don’t understand where we stand and why we stand there, and most of the time they portray a false image of Calvinists. But if you think Trevin is one of them, then you don’t quite understand who’s article you’re commenting on and who he is surrounded by all the time.
      The fact that Arminians can be hurtful doesn’t give us the right to retaliate with the same. “Revenge belongs to the Lord” and “You have been called [to suffer], since Christ also suffered for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting to Him who judges righteously; for by His wounds we are healed” (1Pe 2:21-24). Whether this article is coming from a non-Calvinist or not, the article is calling us to be more conformed to the image of Christ. There is great value in that. I can’t discern the tone and attitude of your comment, but if there is any bitterness and anger in your heart I would call you repentance. I’ve been where you are. I’ve felt the unjust brunt of non-Calvinists. But i realized that the anger and bitterness that was growing in me was sinful, and it was affecting the way I spoke about non-Calvinists. Let God be the judge of those who unjustly and wrongly speak of us, and entrust yourself to God just as Christ did. And ask God for grace so that you would not be the one judged for injustice and bitterness.

  57. Tom Major says:

    Although Romans 11:28 is referring to a “different” election, namely that of ethnic Israel, it is still helpful in the fact that it seems to make a distinction between election and the gospel!

    “As regards the gospel . . . But as regards election” Rom 11:28

  58. art says:

    I would simply like to hear your argument for your position from scripture. These men with whom you are irked, have done a great service for Christians by introducing many to the concept of the coherence of the trinity and helping them consider the priesthood of Jesus Christ and what it means for them. You don’t offer a biblically based counter argument, but stoop to your feelings are hurt? Doesn’t the gospel free us from real or perceived insults as slight as this? Instead of throwing your lot in with other well know 4 pointers, present a cogent argument from scripture and elevate the discourse vs. Playing the, “you hurt my feelings” card. I usually enjoy and am encouraged by your posts, but this one was off base.

  59. Daniel Broaddus says:

    Honestly, the idea of idealogical coexistence is getting harder and harder to maintain. So long as one continues to study and learn they will grow in conviction. Far from being a Calvinist myself, I must sympathize with the Calvinists that Trevin refers to.

  60. R. Delaney says:

    Trevin’s position is arrived at not by exegesis of Scripture (as James White aptly points out), but by his preconceived notions of fairness. For example:

    “Yes, there are statements in Scripture that stress the particularity of Christ’s sacrifice and its universality. But to squeeze universal feet into tight, particular shoes is precisely the wrong choice to make. Instead, when the particular texts are nestled snugly into their universal shoes, they fit more naturally.”

    What in the world does this mean? Care to elaborate so we can make sense of it?

  61. WestonStoler says:

    I think the fact of the Old testament “Blessing the whole word” Is a bit of flawed logic. If we want to apply the OT example lets go to the old testament sacrifices, who did the sacrifice apply to? Those for whom the sacrifice was given for, israel, it applied to israel alone. It did not apply to the whole word. Only those who believed.
    Now, in this covenant of grace, who did the llamb die for? Israel, it applies to Israel alone. It does not apply to the whole world. Only those who believe.

    1. R. Delaney says:

      Excellent points. The OT sacrifices were for those within the covenant, not the whole world.

      You probably won’t get any interaction from Trevin on a Scriptural or theological level. He just wanted to cry about being talked down to…

  62. Van Loomis says:

    Trevin, will you respond to and answer James White’s questions directed to you on his Dividing Line podcast on Aug. 28?

  63. Rick says:

    Exercise in missing the point.

  64. Joe Rainone says:

    Well written and thought out perspective of 4 point verses 5 point Calvinists. I understand that this more about Christians getting along and united in Christ than it is about Theology. I also see the huge implications it has on how we treat eachother and that pride is not of God and yet many do often resort to this kind of language.

    I think the argument of this doctrine has to go to the importance of it in in the reformed thinking. The Character of God is implied here to be either fair or unfair. All Christians want a fair God, but really what would that look like for either position?

    In light of Trevin’s argument, I understand that he is a 4 point Calvinist and not a 5 point Calvinist, (If I am wrong then I do apologize). In my understanding of the 5 points, it is the 1st point (Total depravity) that is the key to understanding the other 4 points of the doctrine. I do not see how one can believe in the 1st Point (Total depravity) That man is incapable of believing in his sinful nature without God’s election which is Point 2 (Unconditional election), and yet also believe that Christ also died for those who are not elected and will never believe due to their Depravity. Does Christ die for the sins of those who he will send to eternal hell? How does one have his sins paid for and yet still be guilty of these sins?

    Further to this, when I look at Jesus’s words, thoughts and teachings I have to see how consistent it is with point 3 of limited atonement. Does Jesus show us he dies for everyone or does he show us he dies for some?

    Matthew 13 , the disciples ask him, why do you speak in Parables, Jesus answers “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.

    Why would Jesus tell them the the kingdom of God is a secret and only be given to a few? Why would Jesus hide the truth from some people if he died for all?

    Matthew 11 Jesus prays to His father and utters these words, 25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

    Why would Jesus Praise his Father for hiding the truth from some and not to other? Does he not die for all? Would you not say it is unfair for God to have Jesus die for all people and then purposely hide this truth from them?

    Also why would Jesus say that hiding these things from some and revealing them to others was God’s gracious will?

    And why are the ones who know the Father other than the Son is the one’s Jesus chooses to reveal the Father to? Why would Jesus have to choose if it is for every man?

    Would not Jesus in this verse have to say, “Father please open the eyes of the wise and make them understand of your Gracious will” in order for unlimited atonement to be consistent with his death?

    John 17 verse 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.

    Why does Jesus exclude some but not others in his prayer. Why does He separate those whom the Father has given him to the ones who the Father has not given Him?

    We all know the verse John 3:16, but Jesus in John 10 Jesus says this John 10:11,15 “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep (verse 15) even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.”

    Why doesn’t Jesus say I lay down my life for the world and be consistent with John 3:16? Does world in John 3:16 mean something other than every man? You would have to say yes, or Jesus would not be consistent with that verse. If Jesus does die for the world as many people believe the word world is to mean, yet he states later on that he dies for his sheep. Would that would mean that sheep and world is the same thing and therefore there are no goats? And if everyone is a sheep then Are the sheep also those who enter eternal hell, or does no one enter hell? And yet we read that in Matthew 25 we see he separates the sheep from the goats and only the sheep enter into His Kingdom. Therefore if he dies for the sheep only, it means he doesn’t die for the goats. For unlimited atonement to be true, there would have to be a verse somewhere that would have to say I die for the world but only my sheep will enter into the Kingdom. However, I have yet to find such a verse.

    In the red letters of the words of Christ, he continually and consistently declares to us his death is for some and not for all. He hides the truth from some and not from others. He Prays for some but not for all. He praises His Father for exclusivity and is pleased with the fact that it is not universal. Jesus does this time and time again.

    How can one not lean strongly towards Limited Atonement?

    Not to mention Romans 9 which undoubtly teaches limited atonement in a large sense of the word.

    I respect this article written By Mr. Wax, his frustartion of obnoxious Christians beating their chests that they have the asnwers is very annoying. I do see his point of view regarding this, that being said it does not mean that these Christains are wrong in what they teach. As Mr. Wax points out, the 5 sola’s are not the Gospel but rather the words of Christ are. But when I look at Jesus’s words, I am convinced that limited atonement is closer to the truth than unlimited atonement.

  65. Lauren, it seems to me that the Arminian and Calvinist debate is in stalemate, with neither side generally conceding. (I think you implied this as well.)

    The simple fact is, the Bible cannot be understood as a divine book with a clear message/position on modern theological debates. The Bible is more easily understood as a very human document.

  66. Brent Cletheroe says:

    Jesus Christ never died for the sins of the world, he came into the world to save sinners. God loves the sinner but hates sin. He became sin for us, that we might identify with the death, burial and resurrection, which is the definition of the gospel. Mathew, mark, Luke and John, is the biography of what Jesus did for salvation. Acts 2:38 summs up the first message ever preached to the new testament church for salvation. The book of Acts is a biography, the only biography, of what we must do for salvation. Anyone looking to Romans or other epistles for what to do to be saved, is reading someone else’s mail so to speak because those epistles are written to churches (people who have already obeyed acts 2:38.) Not to sinners. The real question is who is Jesus? The son of God and the son of man. The dual nature of Christ, or oneness of God, manifests Jesus the image of God, the mighty God revealed in Christ. Jesus is not jehovah jr. But he dwells in the fullness of the Godhead bodily. Anything above Christ is antichrist, Jesus is God alone. He said himself if you do not believe that I AM he you will surely die in your sins. Niceancreed 325 a.d trinity fabrication was a lie from hell. One God. Monotheism. Truth is not a doctrine he’s a person. It you have seen him, you have seen the father… Do you see him?

    1. Weston Stoler says:

      “God loves the sinner but hates the sin”
      Yes this is why he puts the sin in hell and lets the sinner go free. God says in Psalms 5 he hates all those who work iniquity. This is a christian cliche that doesn’t cut the mustard biblically.

  67. Ron Vaughn says:

    On limited atonement. God the father chose only the elect. The Holy Spirit indwelt only the elect. But Christ died for everyone? How is that not a disparity in the Godhead? Limited atonement is totally consistent with the rest of Calvinism. ARMINIANISM You are walking down the street. You see a sign that says “Salvation inside.” You make a decision to turn and go in and another sign says congratulations you are one of the elect. You made the choice and your reward is that you have been given the Holy Spirit. Man driven salvation. CALVINISM You are walking down the street and you see a sign that says salvation inside. It means nothing to you because you cannot read, you are totally depraved. God makes an unconditional election of you by indwelling you with the Holy Spirit. Now you cannot only read, but because. his grace is irresistible you go in. This is God’s sovereign choice not yours. All five points of TULIP are intertwined. You are either a five point Calvinist or a zero point Calvinist. BTW John Calvin never saw TULIP. That came out of the Synod of Dort in late 1600s.

    1. Clint says:

      “BTW John Calvin never saw TULIP.”

      Nor did he advocate the “L.”

      “…for though Christ suffered for the sins of the world, and is offered through God’s benignity indiscriminately to all, yet all do not receive him.” – John Calvin

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Trevin Wax


​Trevin Wax is managing editor of The Gospel Project at LifeWay Christian Resources, husband to Corina, father to Timothy, Julia, and David. You can follow him on Twitter. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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