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Q&A Calvinism

QUESTION
I was greatly disturbed by the articles on Calvinism on your site.  I have only had an opportunity to quickly review the materials, but it seems to me from what I have read already that hyper-Calvinism and dispensationalism were rolled up into one with all reformed theology. And, since all reformed theology is not dispensationalist or replacement theology, it tars everyone with the same brush.  It also seems to me that Calvin's human frailities and failures are being attributed to all who believe in election.  In fact, the doctrine of election seems to me to be misstated.  
I have heard you speak on several Internet radio programs and am very respectful of your knowledge of New Age deceptions.  I don't believe, however, that Calvinism qualifies as deception.  Perhaps you can shed some light on why your site includes material that indicates that this is your belief.  To that end, what is your assessment of the teachings of people like R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur and Phil Johnson?
Thank you for your consideration.

ANSWER - Note from Caryl.
Thanks for your inquiry on Calvinism and wanting it defined rather than given “the same brush”.
Thanks too for your encouragement regarding my knowledge on New Ageism and its mystical spiritual counterpart rampant in the church today. The Bible warns of deception not only from without: New-Age spirituality, Eastern Mysticism, cults, world religions et al, but also asks us to keep on guard against false teachings and doctrines from within the Church and from those who identify themselves as Christians:
“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would [no doubt] have continued with us: but [they went out], that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us." (1 John 2:19).

As a former Roman Catholic and one who believed myself to be a Christian, I understand the wiles of spiritual deception to be very cunning which of course is its nature. Having been deluded by men’s traditions in carnal religiosity, I take very seriously the commission, “that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude1:3) THE true faith can only come from Biblical teaching and not from philosophies of men.

“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” (Col.2:8)

It is Brenda’s testimony that you take issue with so I’ve passed on your letter for her to answer.

BRENDA’S ANSWER -
Hi, this is Brenda Nickel, the author of the articles that you found concerning on Caryl's site.  Thank you for writing with your concerns.  She's passed your inquiry on to me so that I might clarify a few things for you.  Hopefully, they will put your heart at ease.

TULIP
Let me define a few terms for you so that we can communicate clearly.  Calvinism is the gospel of Reformed theology, and is more commonly known as TULIP or the "Doctrines of Grace."  Calvinism is called the gospel of Reformed theology because it describes how a person comes to faith from a reformed perspective.  To summarize, the elect are unconditionally chosen (U) by God before time began because man is considered totally depraved (T) and unable to choose to believe.  Therefore, the elect are given irresistible grace (I) which gives them the gifted faith to believe with, as well as applies the blood of Christ to them before belief (L).  Once the gospel is heard and the elect believe with gifted faith, they then receive the righteousness of Christ (law keeping ability) in order to persevere in faith and obedience (P).

While this is the proper understanding of TULIP, many people pick and choose aspects of these points, and even modify them as they are internalized.  Therefore, we can talk to various Calvinists and find a variety of understanding.  Over time, the answers to their many questions will have the effect of bringing them into alignment with classic Calvinism.

Reformed Theology
Reformed theology is the overall framework of understanding from a Reformed perspective.  It is also known as Covenant theology.  Some distinctives of Covenant theology are; the church is made up of all the elect in history (back to Abraham or even to Adam), the church has replaced Israel and received all her promises, the church (then occupied by Jews) received the Mosaic Law and therefore is still under moral law today, the Tribulation happened in 70 A.D. (Preterism), we're in some type of spiritualized kingdom era now, and generally interprets scripture allegorically.  Without going into the complicated detail of this theology, I can tell you it is the opposite of Dispensational theology.

Dispensational Theology
Dispensational theology believes the Church began at Pentecost and therefore the Church and Israel are distinct programs of God, the promises God made to Israel will be fulfilled in the future, in the 70th Week prophecy of Daniel, the Church will be raptured before the Tribulation begins, the Tribulation is seven years and still yet future, the future millennial kingdom reign of Christ will be a fulfillment of promises made to Israel, and interprets the Bible literally.

Calvinism vs. Biblical Gospel
While Calvinism's TULIP gospel is the foundation for Reformed theology, Dispensationalism does not require Calvinism as its base.  All Reformed theologians believe in Calvinism, but not all dispensationalists are Calvinists.  In fact, many dispensationalists reject Calvinism.  Reformed theology (aka Covenant theology) is predicated on its Covenant of Redemption, from which Calvinism is derived.  Even though Dispensationalism does not require TULIP in order to be a viable theology, there are many dispensationalists who cite a Calvinistic heritage of dispensationalism and so hold to the gospel of Calvinism.  There are others in Dispensationalism, like myself, who reject Calvinism as the mechanism for how sinners are saved, believing instead that God has sovereignly given man the responsibility and ability to believe from their own personal free will.  These reject Calvinism's overemphasized sovereignty attributed to God.

Many in Christendom misunderstand these complicated distinctions, and blur the terms by referring to Dispensational Calvinists as Reformed, which isn't accurate.  The two contrasting theologies are Dispensationalism verses Reformed (Covenant) theology, and the two contrasting gospels are Calvinism's sovereign election verses Biblical free choice.  The two sides generally are at odds, while some try to blend the systems.  So it's no wonder there's confusion.  It is uncommon to blend hyper Calvinism with Dispensationalism, but I suppose that some might try to do this.

Reformed theology (aka Covenant theology) very definitely holds to Replacement theology because it teaches the church is made of all the elect in time.  Therefore the church in the OT was made up of the ethnic Jews whereas today the church is made up of ethnic Gentiles.  Even the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith refers to OT believing Israel as the "Jewish Church!"  For clarity, Calvinism just speaks to sovereign election and the tenets derived from its overemphasized view of the sovereignty of God.

Deception
Having been completely deceived by Calvinism, I can tell you that it very definitely is a full blown deception that nestles comfortably in and is protected by visible Christianity.  Those who hold to sovereign election not only understand most of scripture differently, but also have a different attitude creep into their thinking.  At the onset of this stronghold, there is great joy in thinking one has been sovereignly chosen.  It takes perhaps years for the new Calvinist to be brought into alignment with the classic understanding of Calvinism, but after this occurs the double bind of Lordship salvation begins to set in.

The double bind begins with judging whether the faith of others is gifted or personal. Calvinists are taught that personal faith is false, but that supernatural faith obeys.  Therefore if one cannot obey, then they believed with a false faith.  And if one believed with a false faith, then they are not elect!  The judgment cast by Calvinists toward others is eventually applied to themselves.  If they sin at all, they begin to wonder what type of faith they believed with.  Assurance then turns from the cross toward gifted faith evidenced by obedience.  Therefore, nearly imperceptibly, the Calvinist is turned toward works for assurance to prove to self and others they are truly elect.  It's a devastating scenario that undermines faith in the cross and leads to works, which no one explains at the beginning of this stronghold.  Even though most Calvinists deny this mechanic outwardly, they often have doubts and fears inwardly.  "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (2 Tim 1:7).  

Human Frailty
Calvinism also changes the internal attitudes of its followers as they begin to mimic the Calvinistic portrayal of God.  Calvinism portrays God as not caring or loving enough to elect all mankind, and so this attitude is reflected in its followers, of course to varying degrees.  So while people want to excuse John Calvin for human frailties, this theology is in part responsible for John Calvin's involvement in putting Michael Servetus to death. Michael Servetus was a physician who argued with John Calvin through many letters of correspondence, and who also rejected the Trinity and infant baptism.  When he passed through Geneva, he was arrested, tried as a heretic and burned slowly at the stake at Calvin's oversight!

Consider that John Calvin learned what's now known as Calvinism from Augustine, who was a neo-Platonist philosopher.  Ever wonder why Calvinist predestination is similar to Greek fate?  Augustine taught the "Just War" concept of putting people to death who didn't believe correctly, for the sake of forcing conversions.  This "mercy" became the seedbed for the Catholic Inquisition.  Martin Luther was also an Augustinian monk, who wrote polemic attacks against the Jews just days before his death, which also became justification in Germany for the Holocaust.  So Calvinism, also known as Augustinianism, cannot be excused.  We need to be very careful who we claim as our spiritual mentors to see if their theology promotes and reflects the character of God.  "For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully." (2 Cor 11:4).  

Jesus gave strong rebuke to the Pharisees who wanted to excuse their forefather's human frailties in Matthew 23 saying, "29Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, 30And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. 31Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. 32Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers."  

Misunderstandings
Having lived through the nightmare of Calvinism, I can tell you with earnest compassion that I am not misrepresenting it in the least, though others may not have had the same experience I've had.  I studied it rigorously and to my shame I believed this is what the Word of God taught.  I have honestly characterized it in the hopes that Calvinists will recognize their plight through my story so they know it's safe to come out of it.  You might want to read through my testimony posted on Caryl's "Teaching Tool on Calvinism" page to see how deceived I was by this tradition, and how I was delivered.

One of the accusations often raised by objectors is that I'm saying Calvinists aren't saved.  Though Jesus has final judgment, my hope is that most are.  Even Peter and Barnabas were carried away by the works based gospel of the Judaizers for a time.  Many young Christians are exposed to sovereign election and taken in by it.  They believe that the many verses used by Calvinists, strung together out of context, prove sovereign predestination is true.  Upon closer examination, it can be demonstrated to be false.

My greatest shame was misunderstanding the character of God, which has now become my greatest safeguard and the lens through which I interpret all scripture.  Think about Jesus is the Word become flesh, which indicates that to misunderstand or alter the meaning of scripture means we're making adjustments in His character. This dynamic is seen with Calvinism's limited atonement.  Did God's character provide salvation for all men, or only some?   This doctrine very definitely affects His character.  The question we all must answer is "But whom do you say that I Am?"   Is God a sovereignly electing God who doesn't give all men the equal chance to believe?  Or is He a God who equips all men to respond to His command to believe?  Does He tamper with the outcome?  Is He a just judge?  Paul says in Romans 9:14, "14What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid."

We have to be careful that scholarship isn't held higher than taking instruction from the Spirit of God who, "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth." (John 16:13).   Jesus was often questioned about His interpretation of the Law by the Pharisees who wanted Him to submit to the traditions of the elders.  The battle for control over the hearts and minds of the people was waged through the interpretation of the Word.

I can say with certainty, having been on both sides, that God sovereignly gives man the free choice and ability to believe the gospel from their hearts.  John 6:28-29, "28Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?  29Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent."

Theologians
To answer your questions about R. C. Sproul, he is a five point Calvinist Reformed (Covenant) theologian.  John MacArthur is a five point Calvinist "leaky" dispensationalist meaning that he tends to cross over into Reformed theology by acknowledging the "eternal decree of God" which is Reformed theology's Covenant of Redemption.  If a person is a dispensationalist, they use the term "Eternal Decree."  If a person is reformed, they use the term "Covenant of Redemption."  These are one in the same though each camp prefers their own term.  And I'm assuming Phil Johnson believes the same as John MacArthur since they are good friends, but I don't know this to be true with certainty.  I know that Phil Johnson is a huge fan of Charles Spurgeon whose quotes suggest he was on both sides of the debate.

I hope this helped to answer your questions and alleviate your concerns.  Feel free to contact me in the future if you have other questions.

Blessings in the Truth of Christ,
Brenda Nickel


 

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