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The dangers and concerns in ‘Four Point Calvinism’

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Those whom God elects, He redeems, and those He redeems, He regenerates and sanctifies. All that believers have they owe to the Triune God. The ELECTION of God the Father, the REDEMPTION of God the Son, and the REGENERATING work of God the Spirit, ought never to be separated. They arise from one and the same Will. The Trinity works in harmony to bring about our salvation. So any theology which disconnects unconditional election from particular redemption is not only inconsistent within their own theology, but makes the Trinity out to have a confused, disharmonious will in the purposes of redemption.

So-called four-point Calvinism fails the test of biblical Calvinism because this view tends to see the TULIP as an abstraction rather than seeing it Christocentrically. The TULIP only works when we see Christ at its center. Consider the TULIP as a chiasm with the “L” at the top of the pyramid. It is Jesus Christ which makes sense of all the doctrines of grace. Four-point Calvinists who reject Limited Atonement but embrace irresistible grace must consider this: Irresistible grace is not some abstract doctrine but must be seen in relation to Jesus Christ, specially in relation to the grace purchased by Christ upon the cross. The Spirit of Christ illuminates, regenerates and effectually brings to faith his elect. And this enabling, effectual grace is, from first to last, Christ-centered. It does not come out of a void, nor from some hidden source of grace in God the Father. Therefore Christ must have died for the elect so as to purchase that grace in a way – a redemptive way – that he did not die for the non-elect. That is why we often call it particular redemption. Irresistible grace is one of the redemptive benefits purchased by Jesus Christ … and it was never granted to the non-elect nor intended for them.

Four point Calvinism not only fails the test of Christocentricity but fails to acknowledge that the Trinity always works in harmony. The Father elects a particular people for himself, Christ dies to secure their redemption and the Holy Sprit unites the same to Christ applying the benefits of Christ’s redemption to them. I believe that until Jesus Christ is seen as central to the TULIP then four-pointers will continue to reject the christocentric nature of the Scripture and the gospel is partly distorted as a result.
John Hendryx

HT Monergism

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2 responses to “The dangers and concerns in ‘Four Point Calvinism’

  1. bobschilling January 11, 2013 at 08:30

    Hi John,

    In all theological discussions we need to attempt to (1) represent fairly those with whom we disagree and (2) represent fairly the whole counsel of God. Error often is a slice of the truth over-read and over imposed resulting in a denial of the whole truth. I’m sure you’ll agree with me that that is what we see in the modern expression of the “grace only” sanctification debate with Tullian Tchividjian and company.

    I think you’re doing the same thing here brother.

    The far more representative position in Reformed Theology that holds to a universal atonement is not what you refute, merely “four-point Calvinism” but what you know is historically called Hypothetical Universalism. Staunchly defended by stalwarts of the Reformed Tradition, John Davenant, J.C. Ryle, and so many others and articulated in our day by many, including Curt Daniel and David Ponter. Members of the Synod of Dordt and hosts of others – these Reformed Theologians hold to both a Limited aspect and an Unlimited aspect of the atonement. A universal propitiation according to 1 John 2:2 (and many other texts) as well as a particular redemption for the elect. (You can disagree with the exegesis and position – but just grant the Reformed pedigree to many who hold this in the Reformed tradition) God is the Savior of all men, especially those who believe (1 Tim. 4:10).

    There’s no disharmony when both aspects of the atonement are recognized and acknowledged. In fact, I would defend that there is greater symmetry, unity and harmony displayed in the HU exposition of Scripture. Scripture is our test and text, not your or my sense of logical consistency. But consider the harmonious unity of the Trinity in the Scriptural teaching of both unlimited and limited aspects of the atonement.

    (1) The Father.
    In one of the quintessential texts regarding God sending his Son, of whom does it speak that He loves? John 3:16, “the world.”

    Are you going to hypercalvinize that and make it the ‘world of the elect’? Most Owenian five-pointers don’t.

    The Father sends the Son for who? You say the elect, so do we. Who does the Father love, that compels Him to send His Son? The text is plain: “God so loved the world that He sent His Son…” So God loves the world, not just the ‘world of the elect’ and sends His Son (Matt. 1:21) “to save His people from their sins.” Universality and particularity. Read D.A. Carson’s “The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God” – God loves all; He especially, uniquely loves the elect. So we say, in our understanding of Scripture that Chris died for all, especially, uniquely for the elect. Synod of Dordt language: sufficient for all, efficient for the elect – the historical use of that comparison is important.

    (2) Who does Christ die for?
    In one of the quintessential texts regarding propitiation of whom does the text speak? 1 Jn. 2:2, “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”

    You say, in complete harmony with His Father who gave some to His Son – Christ propitiates the wrath of His Father ONLY for the elect. In your mind it is disharmonious for the Father to elect some and then for the Son to die for all (we’ll not here deal with your classic “double-payment” fallacy – we’ll just agree to disagree in the interpretation of that text, but grant your opponents the coherency of their argument. We grant you logical consistency; we defend the same for us – again, the issue is decided by scripturalness not logical consistency – but we lose nothing on that front – which is my point in this response). We say, what harmony in the teaching of Scripture that God loves all and sent his Son to make propitiation for all (for that’s what John 2:2 says; “whole world” according to 1 John 5:19 is not a reference to ‘elect Gentiles’ or some such thing – “the whole world lies under the power of the evil one”) AND – God in sovereign grace elected only some – and for those particularly (i.e. especially) Christ died so as to secure their salvation. So as the Father loves all and sends His Son especially for the elect; The Son dies for all, especially for the elect.

    (3) The Holy Spirit. Most five-pointers (HU’s are more like 6-pointers, they are not 4-pointers) assume that this is the clincher regarding the blatant disharmony necessitated in anyone holding to a universal aspect to the atonement. It’s so simple, you say: the Father elects some, the Son dies for those elect – and then the Spirit applies redemption to the same elect. You don’t have the Father choosing some – the Son dying for everybody and the the Spirit reverting back and applying it only to the elect. That’s “inconsistent” in your view, “disharmonious.”

    It appears that way to you and others John because you only present part of the story. You gloss over the Father’s love for all men which motivates His sending of His Son (And we can still maintain His special love uniquely for the elect). You deny the universal aspect of Christ’s propitiatory death and focus exclusively on His particular redemption of the elect. And then regarding the Holy Spirit you limit His work, as sent by Christ exclusively to the elect, but the Scriptures do not.

    (3) When we think of texts regarding the sending of the Spirit what is one of the quintessential, classic texts we think of?

    John 16:7-11. Jesus is going to send His Spirit and who is His Spirit going to convict? Jesus tells us: “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.
    And when he comes, he will convict **the world** concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, **because they do not believe in me**; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”

    Where is the Disharmony?

    The general call of the Gospel to all men empowered by the Spirit and the effectual call of the Spirit to the elect – the same pattern.

    God Loves the world, Christ dies for the world, the Spirit convicts the world. And – The Father gives the Son a people; Jesus dies especially for them, securing their salvation, the Spirit regenerates the elect granting them faith whereby they receive the saving benefits of the cross.

    Obviously men differ theologically – but don’t misrepresent classic, Reformed, Calvinistic, limited/unlimited atonement as being “unharmonious”.

    • Acidri January 11, 2013 at 15:53

      Thanks Bob.

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