Some years ago I asked a friend this question: “Are you now a Calvinist?” For the next twenty minutes he talked about God’s Sovereignty and the nature of faith and “easy-believism” and an incredibly diverse list of other topics. He concluded his long answer with this statement, “If that makes me a Calvinist, then I guess that is what I am.” I simply suggested that he ask me the same question I asked him. My answer was short and simple: “No, I am not!”
My answer was perhaps too short and too simple. Perhaps his longer and somewhat confusing answer was based on some fear of being misunderstood and misaligned. Perhaps he is simply being influenced by some rather powerful leaders. Whatever the reasons, I still like my answer the best! I am not a Calvinist and I am not reformed. Here are a few reasons why:
- I believe that depravity is Biblically compatible with responsibility. Man is depraved, and depraved far more deeply and darkly than any of us can really understand. We are sinners in every way and are without doubt deserving of eternal judgment. However, we are also commanded to repent, to seek God, to believe in Jesus Christ, and to be born-again. On the one hand, the Bible is quite comfortable teaching complete depravity (and uses every description possible to help us wrap our finite minds around that truth). On the other hand, the Bible is just as comfortable in teaching that men everywhere ought to repent and believe on Jesus Christ to save them from sin and hell, and holds them entirely responsible and completely able.
- I believe that love and holiness are God’s primary attributes. Everything He does will be right and will be based on those two attributes. I love it that our God will always do right based on His Love! He doesn’t just love, He is love, and He did love the whole world at the Cross (John 3:16).
- I believe that Christ died for the sins of the whole world and offers definite salvation to whosoever will trust in Him for the forgiveness of sin and the gift of eternal life. I believe that “there is no respect of persons with God” (Romans 2:11); that He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (1 Peter 1:9); and that “he is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world” (I John 2:2).
- I believe that God’s grace can be rejected and that His will is not always done on earth. “I would have, but you would not” is common Bible theology. God is willing to save, but many refuse and reject. God is willing to forgive, but many will not confess. “You do always resist” is an indictment straight from the words of the NT writers. Praying “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” implies very simply that God’s will is not always done on earth, but that God desires it to be and combines the enactment of His will with our prayers. Do I understand that? Not at all, but I do believe it is clearly taught in the Scriptures. In fact, I marvel that God continues to love us and to offer us His forgiveness and mercy and grace simply as a gift free for the believing. Ephesians 2:8-9 is very clear about this matter. God’s salvation is by grace and through faith and is a gift from Him based on the death, burial, and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ. God does draw sinners to him (all men, according to the Words of our Savior); God does desire to save (all men, according to the Words of the Apostle Paul); God does offer salvation to those who will believe (whosoever will, is how Jesus said it); and it is based on the fact that Jesus did die for sin (the sin of the whole world, is how John said it).
- I reject the teaching that some are unable to be saved because they are elected to be lost eternally and no atonement was provided for them. Years ago, when I held my firstborn in my arms, I wrestled with the question of whether or not my baby could be destined to eternal hell without any hope. If Jesus did not die for all, perhaps He did not die for my little one. If God only elects to save some, perhaps He did not elect to save this one. If God condemns some to hell without an atonement available to them, perhaps His atonement was not for her. If some cannot believe because God will not give to them the gift of faith, perhaps she will be unable to believe because God will not give to her the gift of faith. If eternal life is dependent on her persevering to the end, perhaps she will not persevere. And on and on my mind raced. I praise God for the comfort I found in the simple truths of the gospel. Salvation really is based wholly on Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection and it really is available to all who will believe on Him. Salvation is Jesus Christ and His death, and burial, and resurrection. My eternal life is based on Him, and Him alone. Are there issues I can’t explain? You know it! Are there some texts that stretch my understanding? Absolutely. Did Jesus die for the sins of the whole world? No doubt. Is salvation promised to all who believe? Yes. Yes. Yes.
And dear friends, for these reasons, and others, I do not consider myself a Calvinist or reformed!
I know many good people wold take a different position, and some of my own personal friends would. I know some who are Calvinistic and reformed and win many souls to Christ. I respect their system of theology and am in no way attacking them or separating from them. I simply take a different position and wanted to offer some reasons why I do.
Thanks for reading,
Your sincere friend,