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Why I am a [Calvinistic] Christian – Part 1 – The Bible Says So

Discussion in 'Salvation (Soteriology)' started by abacabb3, Jan 19, 2014.

  1. abacabb3

    abacabb3 Newbie

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    A former Calvinist wrote posts here and here detailing why he is no longer one.

    Let me just say I didn’t know I was a “Calvinist” until fairly recently. I just read my Bible and believed it to be true. I thought that Calvinists were a bunch of egotistical, sexually repressed Puritans that burned witches in Salem that hypocritically did not understand the Christian religion. Instead, what I have found that many of those who oppose what is coined “Calvinism” essentially oppose Christianity outright. They don’t believe in the authority of Scripture and if Scripture says something they don’t like, they prefer their own beliefs over what the “good book” tells them to believe: lean not on your own understanding.

    So, here is part 1 of my refutation:

    Point 1: “Calvinism” Presents A “Historicized” Bible

    To accuse Calvinism of understanding a dehistoricized view of justification, usually it is implied that because “Calvinism” was contrived 1500 years after the time of Christ, the Protestant reformers had no idea what they were reading about. Of course, this isn’t true of 20th and 21st century Arminian scholars, Eastern Orthodox church fathers, insert “any other group here.” Even if we ignore the hypocrisy that all of us disputing the matter live 2,000 years removed from the early church and will equally be be chronologically impaired, their argument is faulty for two reasons:

    1. In as little as a few years, people can totally forget the original context of a belief anyway and change it to something totally different. Remember when the War in Iraq became more about “spreading democracy” (2004 Presidential election) than weapons of mass destruction (2002 midterm elections)? That’s how short term some people’s memories are. So, a belief system supposedly less removed in time (i.e. Roman Catholicism, Ethiopian Orthodox, etcetera) is not necessarily better, as people can start getting things wrong almost instantly.

    Evidence of this can be seen in the fact that we have Christian heresies talked about in epistles from Paul, Peter, John and Jude. Obviously, they were less removed in time than the Roman Catholic or Orthodox churches. Are those heresies more correct than what present day churches teach, due to their proximity in time?

    Ultimately, in the present day (2,000 years removed) we generally have monergists (belief is given to believers by God) and synergists (the opposite)*. Only one side is right. If proximity in time does not help us know who has it right, what does?

    2. Well, the Bible does! The Bible presents a soteriology, as do the earliest church fathers (Clement, Polycarp, and Ignatius), that is “Calvinist.” This proves to us that historically, the Calvinist interpretation is correct.

    Because this is evident to anyone who honestly reads the Scriptures, anti-Calvinists will ultimately deride Calvinists for their Sola Scriptura view because if we were to look at the Scripture alone, it is apparent that the doctrine of election is specifically stated (John 6:44, Eph 1:4, 2 Thes 2:13, etc) and monergism (Heb 12:2, Phil 2:13) is blatantly endorsed.

    What else does it mean when it is said, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8)? It specifically says the faith comes from the God, not the individual! All the historical context in the world does not unsay what it clearly says.

    So, as long as our understanding of something is grounded in Scripture, then we have the historical context correct, not incorrect. That is the whole idea behind sola scriptura, and as anyone who has taken History 101 knows, you should always get your ideas from primary sources, not secondary sources. The Bible is the Christian’s primary source.

    The earliest recorded interpreter of New Testament canon, Clement of Rome, understood it quite well and took it as a given that the people he was writing to got it too:

    They [Old Testament saints] all therefore were glorified and magnified, not through themselves or their own works or the righteous doing which they wrought, but through His will. And so we, having been called through His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified through ourselves or through our own wisdom or understanding or piety or works which we wrought in holiness of heart, but through faith, whereby the Almighty God justified all men that have been from the beginning; to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Clem 32:3-4)

    The reason I put the part about “our own wisdom” in bold is because if faith is not a matter of our own knowledge, it is evidently a matter of knowledge imparted onto believers.

    Not surprisingly, Ignatius of Antioch (probably our second earliest interpreter of New Testament canon) begins his Epistle to the Ephesians by saying:

    Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church which is at Ephesus, in Asia, deservedly most happy, being blessed in the greatness and fullness of God the Father, and predestinated before the beginning of time, that it should be always for an enduring and unchangeable glory, being united and elected through the true passion by the will of the Father, and Jesus Christ, our God: Abundant happiness through Jesus Christ, and His undefiled grace.

    Polycarrp makes a couple references that are of interest in his own surviving epistle:

    I knowing that by grace ye are saved; not by works, but by the will of God through Jesus Christ. (1:5)

    Now, technically we can argue that the plain reading that God’s will is the basis of salvation and faith is the means, is not a necessary reading of this passage. But, Polycarp makes another observation which reflects his worldview that God effects the will of believers:

    Wherefore, my brethren, I am exceedingly sorry for both him [Valens] and his wife; to whom God may grant a true repentance. And be ye also moderate upon this occasion; and look not upon such as enemies, but call them back as suffering and erring members. (4:6-7)

    Obviously, therein is an monergist assumption that it is in God’s power to give Valens and his wife repentant hearts, not that they can change their own minds all on their own.

    This is why the Bible says:

    I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. (Ezek 36:27)

    Salvation has always been understood as an act of election by God. Heck, the whole Old Testament is unintelligible if we didn’t understand that the story arc involved is that of an undeserving person/people who, by God’s grace, is elected and that God desires faith from this person/people. Then interspersed in all of these stories, are promises from God that though these people are not righteous, that He will make them righteous and will atone for their sins. Today, God still desires love and obedience from His elect.

    This is why the “Calvinist” mindset isn’t Calvin’s, or Clement’s for that matter, but obviously the God of Scripture’s. This is why those who are anti-Calvinist pretty much do not believe the Bible is their sole authority for truth. Interestingly enough, if you read the church fathers, they had no other authority other than Scripture. Every single doctrine they extrapolate is argued from Scripture, not from their own authority or from the authority of earlier church fathers. It is their model we should follow!

    So, instead of reading what some scholar tells you what Paul said, just read what Paul said:

    What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? (Rom 9:22)

    This is where the idea of “double predestination” comes from: God elects sinners for salvation and apparently also prepares vessels for destruction. Think this is out of context?

    The Lord has made everything for its own purpose,
    Even the wicked for the day of evil. (Prov 16:4)

    Apparently, with God hardening Pharaoh’s heart, turning Nebuchadnezzar to a beast, raising up and destroying whole empires and peoples–isn’t it totally obvious that God is totally sovereign over all of His creation, including human affairs? The Scripture just lays it out there and expects you to take this for granted.

    It seems to me that people that ignore this are adhering to Hellenistic (pagan) ideas concerning “free will,” which quite frankly the Bible never directly addresses. It does address, however, God’s power over human decision making again, and again, and again.

    Here’s a challenge to those who don’t like the fact that I can find all of this stuff in the Bible. Find just one verse in the thousands of verses in the Bible that shows a heart who God could not change, even though He wanted to. Yes, you won’t find it. In fact, the whole idea that God cannot change a man’s mind is simply not Biblical.

    One person told me about that passage in Romans, “Well, that’s a rhetorical question just like when Jesus said, ‘What’s it to you if he [John] remains until I come.’”

    Is there any truth to this contention? I figured the answer to the rhetorical question was a simple “yes.” But, how does Paul actually answer the rhetorical question? Well, he sure does, in the very next sentence:

    And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. (Romans 9:23-24)

    Did God make vessels of wrath according to Paul? Well, he clearly says, “He did so!” Why? “To make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy.” Who prepared these “vessels?” The vessels themselves by their own wisdom and works? No! God did, from the Jews and Gentiles he “called.”

    The use of the word “called” is obviously a reference to predestination. If it were a reference to anything else, in a sentence talking about how God prepared stuff, it simply wouldn’t make any sense at all. How could God call something that He explicitly “prepared,” but He had nothing to do with actually “calling it,” but rather the vessel in question somehow called itself? It is simply not logical and makes no sense.

    Anti-Calvinists simply present an unintelligible Bible. They ignore explicit statements that are found within, they ignore the interpretations of orthodox church fathers and they emphasize ideas, such as free will, that don’t even belong in Scripture.

    If you are confused about monergism, try reading Augustine’s On Free Will and Grace. You might be surprised that it answers pretty much all your questions on the matter, not from Manichean tracts, but right from the Bible itself. Further, if you google up “Free Will,” you will find that the whole idea is grounded in pagan thought.

    * It should be noted that synergists technically believe there is a sort of cooperation between God willing belief and a person’s will. While this is patently obvious (as long as we keep in mind that God is the “author and perfecter of our faith”) and not disputed aside from perhaps some hyper-calvinists. However, for all practical purposes, push a synergist hard enough and he will essentially say “God can’t make someone believer,” meaning God is not powerful enough to change someone’s beliefs. God can drag you to heaven kicking and screaming. Praise be to Him, He is doing that to me.
     
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  2. AndOne

    AndOne Deliver me oh Lord, from evil men

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    I love this ^.

    I can resonate well with the first paragraph. It wasn't until I actually starting reading Puritan writings before I realized what they are all about.
     
  3. Ignatius21

    Ignatius21 Can somebody please pass the incense?

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    You've obviously given this a lot of thought. And the Calvinist-turned-Orthodox who wrote the first blog article really did a scant job of proving his point. Referring the interested blog reader to thousands of pages of scholarly material by Wright and Dunn hardly makes a compelling case. He left himself open to misunderstanding and criticism. I don't think he fairly represented his point at all. Which is why your response to his point about the "dehistoricized bible" ended up actually being about predestination rather this the historicity of Protestant hermeneutics.

    Are you seeking engagement on these points? I'd like to provide that if you wish. I'm never interested in the snappy back 'n forth that passes for internet discussion, but serious discussion can be a benefit to all. I too was Calvinist and spent years ingesting every book by Sproul and Piper I could find.
     
  4. Skala

    Skala I'm a Saint. Not because of me, but because of Him

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    Nice post! Thank you.

    It does boggle the mind how many professing Christians just outright deny the sovereignty of God in salvation. No matter how much scriptural evidence you show them, they still refuse it.
     
  5. abacabb3

    abacabb3 Newbie

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    Ignatius, you have always come across as respectable and honest, so you are very welcome to write a formal response. I will certainly re-blog it, and if you like, I won't respond to it point by point!
     
  6. dogs4thewin

    dogs4thewin dog lover Supporter CF Ambassadors

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    How do we refuse it. I believe we have to WANT it but not that we can do it for ourselves.
     
  7. abacabb3

    abacabb3 Newbie

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    The reason I disagree is that the Bible says "no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit." (1 Cor 12:3) This precludes people doing it all on their own.
     
  8. dogs4thewin

    dogs4thewin dog lover Supporter CF Ambassadors

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    Depends on what you mean by say anyone can form those words in his or her mouth unless they are dumb in the real sense of the work, being mute.
     
  9. abacabb3

    abacabb3 Newbie

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    Saying it and believing it, not saying it apart from belief, anyone can do that.
     
  10. Skala

    Skala I'm a Saint. Not because of me, but because of Him

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    But the bible teaches nobody wants it until they are graciously quickened, aka regenerated. (Eph 2)
     
  11. dogs4thewin

    dogs4thewin dog lover Supporter CF Ambassadors

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    but just forming the words in your mouth is NOT that hard. I can say a lot of things I do not believe.
     
  12. dogs4thewin

    dogs4thewin dog lover Supporter CF Ambassadors

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    but they still want to it is not forced also I never did get why Calvinists seem to think that if I would rather God punish me even unto the point of Hell let me go to Hell if I want to that is what we deserve and if you know me in real life you know that I want what I deserve if I cannot pay for it I do not get it.
     
  13. SwordFall

    SwordFall Junior Member

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    The Caritas Gospel, in which man and God meet in the middle, is the historical Christian belief.

    Coming 1500 years later with an alleged reinterpretation of the early fathers and scripture is in itself enough to cause much suspicion, especially since the primary motive for doing so had little to do with Christian belief.

    If it were really so true, many would have been bound to notice long before Calvin. That's sort of why if one is going to posit Calvinism, there needs to be a whole lot more then what is typically thrown into debate, and quite frankly this thread is typical- quoting pieces of scripture and writing rather then the underlying philosophy.
     
  14. Skala

    Skala I'm a Saint. Not because of me, but because of Him

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    They did. Go read the council of orange 529 AD. Monergism is emphatically affirmed there.

    Better yet, go read the Bible. Monergism is everywhere.
     
  15. Skala

    Skala I'm a Saint. Not because of me, but because of Him

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    Honestly, I have no idea what you are talking about anymore. :(
     
  16. dogs4thewin

    dogs4thewin dog lover Supporter CF Ambassadors

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    God is love according to 1st John. If I want to disobey God He does not make me follow Him if He did He would never need to punish us. If I choose to disobey Him and just repeatedly take the punishment then so be it. If I want to go to Hell because that is what my sins deserve why would He not let me. If you know me in real life you know if I earn it that is what I want if that be Hell then so be it.
     
  17. SwordFall

    SwordFall Junior Member

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    Monergism is simply taking one side of the coin and ignoring the other- the part which is subject in synergy.

    And a vestige in a whole history of Christianity just doesn't suffice for historical support.
     
  18. Skala

    Skala I'm a Saint. Not because of me, but because of Him

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    Per John 3, the new birth is 100% monergistic: the work of the Spirit alone.

    There's no "other side of the coin"
     
  19. SwordFall

    SwordFall Junior Member

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    That's basically just your one sided opinion, to be perfectly honest. Nobody denies John 3, just your interpretation of it.
     
  20. Ignatius21

    Ignatius21 Can somebody please pass the incense?

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    Why would I want you to respond point by point?

    Anyway, since I was apparently predestined to have three kids at least, my responses my take some time to assemble :). Ain't much time these days for online discussions. And seeing as your thread has already devolved into another round of "nu-uh" and "yu-huh" I may put my response into another thread where hopefully our discussion won't be sidelined :)
     
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