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Reformed. Christianity. Evangelism. Modern Culture.
Mark Cahill recently went nuclear. Leaving behind him a mushroom cloud of raised eyebrows and a hushed silence. His article decrying The Doctrines of Grace titled Calvinism and the Bible has been a cause of concern in many evangelical circles. Colin Maxwell graciously put together this wholesome rebuttal as a gentle answer.
1) Where he is obviously ignorant about what Calvinism teaches e.g. he seems to be unaware that Calvinism believes that man has a will that chooses and is responsible for its actions.
2) Where he attributes things to Calvinism which it does not hold. e.g. that the call to repent in Matthew 4:17 is addressed only to the elect.
3) In his salvic application of his disagreements – if Calvinism is Galatians 1 ground (as he claims at the end of his article) then he has just damned in hell many of the greatest Christians who ever lived, including many of the translators of the KJV, Spurgeon, Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards etc., As I point out, if he is wrong (the “if” of argument, not of doubt) then he damns more people than Calvinism was ever supposed to do. (Although Calvinism only damns those who will not believe and no one else.)
4) in his virtual claim at the end of the article to have insight into the decree of God regarding how many of the offspring of Calvinists will be damned.
5) In his disagreement with basic and general (i.e. both Calvinist and Non Calvinist) Evangelical doctrine. He appears to find fault with the Evangelical concept that man cannot believe without the enablement of the Spirit of God.
1) The belief that none can believe on Jesus Christ except first being enabled to do so is the common belief of all Evangelical Christians, both Calvinist and Non Calvinists.
For instance, even the avowed Arminian commentator, Adam Clarke affirms; “Unless God thus draw, no man will ever come to Christ; because none could, without this drawing, ever feel the need of a Savior. See August. Tract. 26, in Joan. and Calmet.” Likewise, John Wesley also commented: “- No man can believe in Christ, unless God give him power: he draws us first, by good desires.” (Both Commenting on John 6:44)
2) Calvinism believes that natural men can and do make choices about God and salvation. It is just that they do not make saving choices without being enabled by the power of God, as per the first observation.
John Calvin himself wrote on the great text of John 5:40 where Jesus said to the unregenerate Jews, “Ye will not come to me that ye might have life: “And you will not come to me. He again reproaches them that it is nothing but their own malice that hinders them from becoming partakers of the life offered in the Scriptures; for when he says that they will not, he imputes the cause of their ignorance and blindness to wickedness and obstinacy. And, indeed, since he offered himself to them so graciously, they must have been willfully blind; but when they intentionally fled from the light, and even desired to extinguish the sun by the darkness of their unbelief, Christ justly reproves them with greater severity.”
3) Calvinists also believe that “Men are required to make a choice for God in this lifetime. This is why we are here. Period.” Indeed we believe it with all our hearts. Period.
4) God can judge people who have no ability to repent and believe in Him, because their inability to do is entirely sin driven.
Excuse the cut and paste method here, but the above quote from Calvin sums it up nicely and reinventing the wheel isn’t a great idea.John Calvin himself wrote on the great text of John 5:40 where Jesus said to the unregenerate Jews, “Ye will not come to me that ye might have life: “And you will not come to me. He again reproaches them that it is nothing but their own malice that hinders them from becoming partakers of the life offered in the Scriptures; for when he says that they will not, he imputes the cause of their ignorance and blindness to wickedness and obstinacy. And, indeed, since he offered himself to them so graciously, they must have been willfully blind; but when they intentionally fled from the light, and even desired to extinguish the sun by the darkness of their unbelief, Christ justly reproves them with greater severity.”
5) The issue is not so much how God created man, but rather what happened after the Fall of man. Man was created upright, but he sought out many inventions, and so has destroyed himself.
Even in the midst of Calvin’s writings on Reprobation etc., we find words like these, which should never be omitted when quoting him on election etc., “Whence then the depravity of man, which made him revolt from God? Lest it should be supposed that it was from his creation, God had expressly approved what proceeded from himself Therefore man’s own wickedness corrupted the pure nature which he had received from God, and his ruin brought with it the destruction of all his posterity. Wherefore, let us in the corruption of human nature contemplate the evident cause of condemnation (a cause which comes more closely home to us), rather than inquire into a cause hidden and almost incomprehensible in the predestination of God.” (Institutes 3:23:8)
7) Calvinists believe that damnation in hell is always judicial and has no other immediate cause than the sinner’s own wickedness.
The above quotes from Calvin again supply more than ample proof, but let me also introduce some others. Let me introduce Arthur Pink here, whose Calvinism knew no dilution. What did he write on John 5:40
8) John 3:19, Matthew 4:17 say nothing one way or the other about man’s ability. They do say plenty, though, about the self inflicted cause of their condemnation, which is always sin related – about their responsibility to obey God, which cannot be reduced because they are sinfully unable to repent.
7) I am unaware of any Calvinist who claims that God was only speaking to the elect in Matthew 4:17. Very noticable that Mr Cahill supplies absolutely no references here to back up his statement.
8) Calvinists also believe that God calls everyone to repentance and that it is their choice if they do so. No one ever repented against his will.
9) When Calvinists say that man has no desire for spiritual things, we mean that he has no desire in and of himself. Even Mr Cahill gives God the glory for placing curiosity in men to enquire further.
10) Calvinists also believe that creation around us speaks of our wonderful Creator.
11) John McArthur’s statement would need to be put into some kind of context for any judgement to be made upon it. I suspect that he has said more than this on the matter. We are left looking at a statement which, from the reference given, is (at least) third hand.
12) Calvinists believe that men who are dead in trespasses and sin need to have divine life to believe, therefore regeneration precedes and leads to faith in Christ. The Bible attributes the new life as being from above, not from within.
13) The problem of God allowing sin in enter into the world is a problem faced by all Christians and not only Calvinists. Unless you believe that God was either taken unaware by Adam’s response or was powerless to prevent it, then welcome to the Calvinist camp.
14) Calvin’s quote teaches that the wicked are restrained by the power of God and that God sometimes utilises their wickedness for His own holy ends. If you are reading into this that God makes men wicked, then you are obviously unfamilar with Calvin’s many writings on this subject.
15) As above, Calvinists believe that the reason why the non elect go to hell solely because of their own sin, not because they have been passed by in election.
16) Why a loving God allowed sin into the world and conditioned salvation on faith, when He could have (a) prevented sin and (b) just saved everyone out of it is not exclusively a problem (if problem it be) for Calvinists.
17) I would need more than this one one quote, with no context, to comment on RC Sproule’s statement. Again, getting it (at least) third hand is not inspiring. Again, I notice the use of his words “strongly suggest” and “as though”.
18) Calvin himself taught that men go to hell of their own volition. His quote actually makes no mention of man’s volition and therefore does not deny it. Mr Calvin’s quote and the inference which Mr Cahill draws from it don’t match up.
19) Mr Calvin, in the same Institutes, teaches that those who are doomed to destruction are doomed because of their own sin. I must query the ethics of truncating quotes and wrenching them away from their context. Is this what it takes to refute Calvinism?
20) Calvinists The wicked (Note the title) are doomed, first of all, because of their own sin and secondly, because God set the standard of His law at such a high pitch. When the Judge of all the earth (who ever does right) says to the stubbornly wicked, “Depart from me, ye cursed, I never knew you” then Calvinists believe that He will do so for and to His own glory. Whatever God does is for His own glory.
21) When the Bible teaches that God is not a respecter of persons, it relates to the outward circumstances of the person. In Acts 10:43 it refers to the birthplace of the Jews as opposed to the Gentiles.
22) In 1 Peter 1:2, the word “foreknowledge” means much more than simply having some pre-information. The same Greek word is translated as “foreordained” in the same chapter (v20)
23) Mr Cahill seems to limit the words “all” and “world” to one, singular grammatical meaning, when they grammatically admit of two. Simple use of a concordance will show this to be the case. Over the page, the word “everyman” is introduced. In Luke 16:16, we read: “The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.” Is every man (without exception) pressing into the Kingdom of God? Or do the words carry another meaning which is in accord with English grammar and Biblical theology i.e. that every kind of man is pressing in?
24) Calvinists actually differ over the width of the “world” in John 3:16 and even the “all” in 1 Timothy 2:4 where God desires the salvation of all men. The latter depends on how deep you run with the verb “wills” i.e. does God will with the force of a decree.
25) The issue in the “whosoever’s” is not so much as to who is invited to come. All men without exception are invited to come. The deeper issue relates to who will actually come. The free offer of the gospel is not an issue at stake here in the disagreements between Calvinists and Non Calvinists.
26) Mr Cahill would have to tell us on what moral and just grounds any of the wicked dead are in hell if Christ actually paid the penalty of their sins. He has only superficialy skimmed the surface here and not dealt with the pressing issue of God demanding payment twice for the same sins.
27) Calvinists believe that in irresistable grace, God frees the will and so enables the sinner to believe. Calvinists do not believe that sinners are dragged against their will to Christ.
28) Calvinists also believe that sinners can resist the Holy Ghost. Mr Cahill gets very shoddy here in that he obviously never bothered consulting the Calvinist commentators here.
29) For Mr Cahill’s remarks to stand, you need to find a Calvinist who has never been exposed any teaching whatsoever. No books, no internet, no mp3 sermons etc., It assumes that in listening to tapes etc., that they were unable to discern between truth and error. I suggest that if Mr Cahill is serious in his charge here, then he should go through his library and write “bewitched” over every Calvinist bok and commentary he has! let him start with his Matthew Henry commentary. If he uses the KJV, then him write “Bewitched” over it too, because the man yof the translators of it were Calvinists.
30) Calvinism believes that Christ died for our sins and rose again etc., and therefore does not contradict 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. It is very strange that Mr Cahill should refer to these verses as if they did.
31) As before, Calvinism teaches that man’s inability to repent and believe is sin induced. Inability to believe does not mean inability to see the creation of God as taught in Romans 1:18-20.
32) If Mr Cahill’s comments are obligating God to show grace to everyone without exception (or, indeed, anyone in particular) then he has just singlehandedly undermined the whole concept of grace which cannot operate under any obligation to the creature whatsoever.
33) Is Mr Cahill suggesting that Calvinists are in the same league as the false teachers of 2 Timothy 4:2-4 and the false prophets who are ravening wolves of Matthew 7:14-15? I must ask here, because this paragraph is so vague as to be worthless without a definite answer. If he is, then he must also declare his policy in relation to working with Calvinist Christians (assuming that he accepts that some might even exist) and more pointedly, his policy towards those Non Calvinist Christians who work quite happily with Calvinist evangelists etc., Maybe he hasn’t thought that one through?
34) If I read these quotes from Joshua 24:15 and Deuteronomy 30:19 right, I can either serve the true God or serve false deities of the pagans according as I declare my hand on this matter of Calvinism? Am I right in thinking that if I chose Mr Cahill’s interpretations of certain passages, then I am choosing life, but if I decide (again) that he errs on the matter of the extent of man’s depravity, election and the extent of Christ’s atonement, the nature of God’s drawing grace etc., then I shall die?
35) It seems that I am right in my assumption, because Mr Cahill has me “devoted to destruction” with his Galatians 1:8-9 quote. OK – I might just be heading there, but then again, I have been a Calvinist for about the last 30 years and have taught it in many pulpits. Perhaps, as I type these words critiquing Mr Cahill’s article, I might even be crossing over the deadline. Of course, if Mr Cahill is wrong, then he is damning into hell more people than he is convinced the Calvinists do. I suppose Spurgeon must be gnashing his teeth in hell even now. And Jonathan Edwards must’ve fallen as a devoted-to-destruction sinner into the hands of his angry God. Better write “devoted to destruction” or “cursed of God” over Matthew Henry’s commentary, rather than merely “bewitched.” Again. what is he going to do about fellowshipping with those who themsevves fellowship with such doomed and soon to be damned Calvinists? Would he fellowship with those who fellowshipped with Jehovah Witnesses – the comparison he himself rakes up?
36) Again, John Calvin did not teach that people go unconditionally to Hell. Calvin taught that men go to hell because of their own personal sin.
37) John Calvin only agreed with Augustine where the latter agreed with the Bible. Calvinists make the same application to John Calvin.
38) BTW, the Council of Trent condemned Calvinists because they denied the teaching of free will, as Rome (and Mr Cahill) understand it. This was one teaching that Mr Cahill failed to leave behind when he got out of Rome.
39) I have searched Calvin’s Institutes of Christian Religion (3:23:5) and cannot find the quote which you attribute to him. I doubt if it is there, as is alleged. Meanwhile I will supply some quotes which teach that Calvin believed that salvation is offered to all men and that we are to evangelise as much as we can.
40) Who is Mr Cahill to say categorically that I have four children (or two or ten or whatever the case may be) and that God has only elected one of them to go to Heaven and the rest to Hell? Not even, that I might have such children, but I actually do have? Is he claiming to have access to the decree of God? What claims are these? Is the Bible not enough for Mr Cahill that he can build his arguments on the most stupendous of claims?
41) Calvinists believe as much in man’s responsibility as they do in God’s sovereignty. Therefore, I view all my children as (at least) potentially elect (as indeed I do every living member of the human race) and seek to be the means that God uses to bring them to Christ. I know this, that if (God forbid!) any of them should be lost eternally in hell, then all the following will be true:
A/ They went to Hell despite the invitation of God (under the general “whosoever”) to come and receive Christ as their Lord and Saviour.
B/ They went to Hell despite my efforts, and those of other Christians, (Calvinist or otherwise) who laboured faithfully to save bring them to Jesus Christ.
C/ They went to Hell because they loved and chose the darkness rather than the light and subsequently are there to the glory of the perfect justice of God.
42) Calvinism weighed in the balances and found wanting? Not in the balance of truth, but in the false balance of Mr Cahill and therefore of little consequences.
THE END- Original article by Colin Maxwell