Dear Mr. Arminian,
March 30, 2012, 3:29 pm
Filed under: Arminianism
Dear Mr. Arminian,

I find your article both badly composed and dishonest.  You begin by telling your readers that you intend to “look at all five points of Calvinism as taught by John Calvin”, and then to “see what the Bible has to say on each point.”  Yet not one time do you quote John Calvin anywhere in your article.  Instead, you draw false comparisons by misrepresenting him, and by contrasting the doctrines of your system of theology with your opinion of what is obviously second, third and fourth hand hearsay.  To make matters worse, you fail to provide a single reliable source in your footnotes, but instead cite a single, obscure cartoonist.   Excuse me, Mr. Arminian, but weren’t you supposed to examine the five points of Calvinism “as taught by John Calvin”?  Why then do you make references to Calvinism today?  And why is it that you fail to tell us what John Calvin actually said about these doctrines represented in the five points?   Would you not think it both unfair and deceptive of me were I to tell my readers that I intend to explain and examine the five points of Arminianism as Mr. Arminian teaches them, but then never quoted Mr. Arminian even once?  Would you not think it further unfair that the only person I do quote happened to be an obscure cartoonist with an axe to grind?

You tell me that Calvin argued, “no man has the ability to come to Christ, and unless God overpowers him and gives him that ability, he will never come to Christ.”

Where do you find this, Mr. Arminian?  I have searched Calvin’s Institution of Christian Religion, as well as his commentaries, but I have found this argument nowhere.    I did find this however:

“For our nature is not only utterly devoid of goodness, but so prolific in all kinds of evil, that it can never be idle. Those who term it concupiscence use a word not very inappropriate, provided it were added, (this, however, many will by no means concede,) that everything which is in man, from the intellect to the will, from the soul even to the flesh, is defiled and pervaded with this concupiscence; or, to express it more briefly, that the whole man is in himself nothing else than concupiscence.” – John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 2, Chapter 1, Section 8

That does not at all sound like what you tell us he argued, Mr. Arminian.  Why is that?

Calvin believed natural man – that is, man in an unregenerate state – cannot choose God, for he cannot do anything good.  (John 3:3, 1 Corinthians 2:11)

In other words, Mr. Arminian, as Edwards argued (another man I have no doubt you have never read), man always chooses according to his nature, and as his nature is evil from conception, he always chooses sin.  (Psalm 51:5, 52:2-3, Romans 3:9)

You say you believe the Bible teaches total depravity, but that this “simply means that there is nothing good in man to earn or deserve salvation.”  Pardon me, but what makes you think Calvinists see it any differently?  Was this not Calvin’s own argument?  Again, consider his words.  “. . . to express it more briefly, that the whole man is in himself nothing else than concupiscence.”   Is it your contention that “nothing more than concupiscence” means something other than nothing more than concupiscence?

Putting aside for the moment your failure to consider what Calvin actually wrote, it must be pointed out that your argument suffers from circular logic.  On the one hand you argue that total depravity “simply means that there is nothing good in man to earn or deserve salvation.”  Yet you turn right around and contradict this by saying the Bible “nowhere teaches total inability.”  Perhaps you have confused yourself once again, Mr. Arminian.   If it is true that there is nothing good in man to earn or deserve salvation, then it must also be true that man lacks the ability to do anything good to save himself.   Surely your argument is not that man can do something wicked to save himself, is it?

But perhaps it would be wise to examine both arguments more closely.

John Calvin taught:

1. The natural man is incapable of doing anything good.

2. Coming to Christ is good

3. Therefore, the natural man is incapable of coming to Christ.

Mr. Arminian teaches:

1. The natural man is incapable of doing anything good to earn salvation

2. Coming to Christ is a good way to earn salvation

3. ???  Although the natural man is incapable of doing anything good to earn salvation, he is nevertheless able to somehow do something good to earn salvation.  ???

4. Mr. Arminian contradicts himself

You say you believe man is incapable of doing anything good to earn his salvation, but the fact is you do not really believe this.   Rather, you believe the natural man is capable of doing at least one thing to earn his salvation. In fact, you even say,  “. . . the only thing that stands between the sinner and salvation is the sinner’s will.  God made every man a free moral agent.  And God never burglarizes the human will.”

Notice that, Mr. Arminian.  It is not God in His anger in regards to Man’s sin that you see as standing between the sinner and salvation.  Rather, it is Man’s willpower that you see as standing between the sinner and salvation.

You go on to argue, “By unconditional election Calvin meant that God has already decided who will be saved and who will be lost, and the individual has absolutely nothing to do with it.  This teaching insists that we need not try to win men to Christ because men cannot be saved unless God has planned for them to be saved.”    Again, Mr. Arminian, where do you find this in any of Calvin’s writings?  What I found is this:

“We ought to pray that this man, and that man, and every man may be saved, and thus include the whole human race, because we cannot yet distinguish the elect from the reprobate” – John Calvin, Commentary on the Gospel According to John, pg. 172

Your argument is a tired, old meatball of a strawman, Mr. Arminian.  You accuse Calvinism of a position it has never taken.  Ever!  Calvinists have always been very clear about this.   We do not know who all the elect are; and as Romans 1:16 declares that the gospel is the power to salvation, we have always said that we must do precisely as Christ commanded His disciples to do; that is, preach the gospel to all men, even to the ends of the earth” (Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:47).

Oh, but the strawman.  Always that same old, tired milksop of a straw man.  And the ironic thing is that the only thing you have actually succeeded in proving is the fact that you don’t believe the gospel is the power unto salvation.  Rather, you believe man’s free will is.

You go on to tell us about a booklet you have, entitled TULIP, and the fact that it was written by some guy, some dude, some who-knows-who by the name of Vic Lockman.   I googled the name Vic Lockman, Mr. Arminian, and what I discovered made me wonder whether you have ever in your entire life ever seriously listened to anything Calvinists have ever had to say.

As it turns out, Vic Lockman is an American cartoonist and comic strip writer.  He created the characters Newton Gearloose and Moby Duck for the Walt Disney company.  He also authored a 12-page tracts, one of which just happens to be entitled, TULIP.

Are you kidding me, Mr. Arminian?!   This is your source material?  A cartoonist?!

This is the material you reference in regards to examining what John Calvin had to say about the five points?  A 12-page tract authored by a cartoonist?   If it’s a problem of you not having access to Calvin’s works, then why not at least cite “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ” by John Owen?  Or why not cite any one of the volumes of “The Body of Divinity” by John Gill?  What about Edwards, Flavel, Toplady, Pink, Hoeksema, Clark, Haldane?   Mr. Arminian , why not even at least cite the Westminster Confession of Faith, or the Canons of Dordt?!   Why instead do you select a cartoonist – a talented artist, I’m sure – but certainly no theologian, no pastor, and no less a dishonest person than yourself.

Nevertheless, in quoting this aforementioned cartoonist, you say, “In the booklet Mr. Lockman attempts to prove the five points of Calvinism.  Under the point, Unconditional Election, he quotes Ephesians 1:4, but he only quotes the first part of the verse: ‘He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world.’  However, that is not the end of the verse.  Mr. Lockman, like most Calvinists stopped in the middle of the verse.  The entire verse reads, ‘According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.’  The verse says nothing about being chosen for Heaven or Hell.  It says we are chosen that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.”

Mr. Arminian, I notice that you too do not bother with the second half of the verse either.  At least, not really, not where it really counts.   The question I put to you is this, how can a guilty man stand blameless before God?   And remember, according to you, the guilty man in need of salvation is incapable of doing anything good to earn that salvation.  How then can a man who is guilty and unable to save himself, stand blameless before God?  “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.”   How is this possible, Mr. Arminian?

According to the arguments you have presented in your article, the answer is this: man needs only to do is use the power of his free will in order to believe himself into blamelessness.    In other words, according to you, man doesn’t need God to impute the righteousness of Christ to him.  Rather, according to you, man is quite capable of justifying himself via the power of his faith and free will.

To put it another way, you believe that even though a person may be declared blameless, and even though Christ may have fully satisfied God’s wrath for that person’s sins, that person may nevertheless yet still find himself condemned, because nothing that God does really matters until man first uses the power of his free will to believe himself into what God says is true about him.

In other words, according to you, what God says about a person is not really true until the person first agrees that it is true.  And he must continue to agree that it is true, for at the moment he no longer agrees that it is true, then what God says is true is no longer true.

You go on to say,  “By limited atonement, Calvin meant that Christ died only for the elect, for those He planned and ordained to go to Heaven: He did not die for those He planned and ordained to go to Hell.  Against I say, such language is not in the Bible, and the doctrine wholly contradicts many, many plain Scriptures.  For instance, the Bible says in 1 John 2:2, ‘He is the propitiation of our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world’ . . . no man will ever look at Jesus Christ and say, ‘You didn’t want to be my Savior.’  No! No! Jesus wants to be the Savior of all men.”

Putting aside the fact that this is not what Calvin argued, this argument was so thoroughly dismantled by the Puritans that I am truly surprised anyone even bothers to propose it anymore.  But of course, this necessitates that the anyone in question actually bother to read the Puritans.

If it is true that Christ’s death alone is the sole sufficient cause of a person’s salvation, and if it is also true that Christ died for all men, then why are not all men saved?  Obviously, either it is true that Christ’s death is not the sole sufficient cause of a person’s salvation, or else it is true that Christ did not die for all men.

Either 1 John 2:2 tells us that Christ satisfied God’s wrath against the sins of every man and woman without distinction, and thus, all men and women without distinction shall be saved, or else it tells us that the word “all” means all the other unconditionally elect people in the world, and not just the unconditionally elect people who were reading John’s letter at that he wrote it.

If it is the former rather than the latter, if John is telling us that Christ satisfied God’s wrath for the sins of every man and woman without distinction, then he is a liar, for Christ Himself promised that He would deny many people on the day He returns to judge the living and the dead.  (Matthew 7:21-23)

But how can this be, Mr. Arminian?  How can God deny anyone, if in fact He has fully satisfied God’s wrath for the sins of everyone without distinction?   Obviously, we’re back to square one.  If you say man’s faith is required, then you blot out the cross of Christ as being the sole source of salvation.

You say,   “Some argue that if Jesus died for the whole world, the whole world would be saved.  No.  The death of Jesus Christ on the cross was sufficient for all, but is efficient only to those who believe.  The death of Jesus Christ on the cross made it possible for every man to be saved.  But only those who believe that He died to pay their sin debt and who trust Him completely for salvation will be saved.”

This argument is just rank semi-palageanism.   In other words, according to you, the finished work of Christ is not the sole sufficient cause of anyone’s salvation.  Rather, according to you, Christ died for people in order to give people the opportunity to justify themselves by using the power of their free will to believe in something.  And this, lest we forget, even though Man is supposedly incapable of doing anything good to earn his salvation.  Or does Mr. Arminian think he can do something bad to earn his salvation?

I have saved the best for last.  In next turning to the doctrine of irresistible grace, you actually take the position of Erasmus over against Luther!    You say,   “If Calvin had talked the irresistible grace as the irresistible act of God compelling a man to be saved who dos no want to be saved, so that a an has no choice in the matter at all, except as God forcibly puts a choice in his mind. Calvinism teaches that man has no part in salvation, and cannot possibly co-operate with God in the matter.  In no sense of the word and at no stage of the work does salvation depend upon the will of man or wait for the determination of his will.”

I take it, Mr. Arminian, that like Erasmus, you disagree with this?  I take it that like Erasmus, you think Man is quite capable of putting his best foot forward and using his free will to choose salvation?  I mean, after all, you do say,   “That means that those who are not saved could have been saved.  Those who have rejected Christ could have accepted Him.  God offers salvation to those who will have it, but does not enforce it upon anyone who doesn’t want it.”

Mr. Arminian, Luther laid utter waste to this stupid argument.   I now do the same.

“Even grammarians and schoolboys at street corners know that nothing more is signified by verbs in the imperative mood than what ought to be done, an that what is done or can be done should be expressed by verbs in the indicative.  How is it that you theologians are twice as stupid as schoolboys, in that as soon as you get hold of a single imperative verb you infer an indicative meaning, as though the moment a thing is commanded it is done, or can be done?  But there’s many a slip ‘twixt the cup and lip! – and things that you commanded and that possible enough may yet not be done, so great a gulf is there between imperative and indicative statements in the simplest everyday matters!” – Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, pg. 159

Just because God commands something to be done, Mr. Arminian, does not automatically mean it can be done.  Even schoolboys understand this simple truth.

“The law was given so that sin might abound.” – Romans 5:20

“But maybe this is the dream of the Diatribe, that between these two things, ‘ability to will good’ and ‘inability to will good’, there may be a middle term, that is ‘willing’ in the abstract, without respect to good and evil; so that, by a logical finesse, we may now steer clear of the rocks and say that there is in man’s will a certain willing; without grace it cannot indeed will good, or downwards by sin towards evil.  But what then becomes of your statement that is has lost its freedom and is forced to serve sin?  Where then is that effort and endeavor that you left it?  Where is its power to apply itself to that which pertains to eternal salvation? For that power of applying itself to salvation cannot be just willing, unless salvation itself is said to be nothing!  Nor can that effort and endeavor be just willing; for effort must strive and aim for something.  In a word, where the Diatribe turns it cannot keep clear of inconsistencies and contradictions, nor avoid making that very ‘free-will’ which it defends as much a prisoner as it is itself.” – Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, pg. 147

Mr. Arminian, if a man cannot do anything good to earn his salvation, then trying to believe Jesus for salvation IS NOT A GOOD THING!!!  In that case, either man earns salvation by being wicked, or man really cannot earn salvation at all.   The latter is gospel, Mr. Arminian.  The former is semi-palagean heresy.  It is plain which position you take.

Sincerely,

Sovereign Grace Society

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