James White says he is not ready to kick them out of heaven. R C Sproul claims they are saved, but just barely. John MacArthur is sure they have made Jesus their savior even if not yet their Lord, while Paul Washer has said he would rather spend eternity with them than with a person who takes Calvinism seriously. Who are they? They are the semi-pelagians, the free willists, the liberal Evangelicals and all who believe another gospel. But the men who assure us these people are saved are the tolerant Calvinists.
What is a tolerant Calvinist, you ask?
As the name suggests, a tolerant Calvinist is a Calvinist who tolerates false gospels. To be more precise, a tolerant Calvinist is someone who believes it is possible, and even quite common, in fact, for some people to be imputed righteous and regenerated under the preaching of a semi pelagian gospel. The tolerant Calvinist thinks of doctrines like election and definite atonement as the mere cherry one might add to the already finished sundae.
“People sometimes ask me if I believe Arminians are saved. I usually answer, ‘Yes, barely. They are Christians by what we call a felicitous inconsistency.’” – R C Sproul, Willing to Believe, pg 25
The tolerant Calvinist stands side-by-side, hand-in-hand with the Arminian, and even in some cases like J. I. Packer, with the Roman Catholic. He declares the semi pelagian a brother in Christ, a fellow member of the Kingdom, another member of the flock, blood bought and redeemed, even if only just barely. While the tolerant Calvinist is himself every bit as lost and as wicked as the most self-righteous Arminian, he is far more deluded, far more self-deceived, for in most cases, though he understands why the Arminian system is self refuting and unbiblical, he yet insists that some people are brought to faith in the accomplished work of Christ through the teaching of such a system.
For the tolerant Calvinist, knowing the answers who and why and how God saves is not nearly as important as discovering the measure of a man’s heartfelt sincerity. In fact, for the tolerant Calvinist, doctrines like definite atonement and unconditional election are better kept hidden as a kind of shelf doctrine, buried somewhere in the back of the mind far away from evangelistic discussions so that more relevant matters like creationism, nationalism, anti-abortionism, and the latest issue of Young Republican can be brought to bear. What matters chiefly for the tolerant Calvinist is a nice fireside chat with any Evangelical or Protestant who happens to be sincere about his belief that Jesus rather than Buddha is Lord; just a couple of “brothers in Christ” conversing over a cup of coffee while discussing the Democrat Party’s latest shameful attempt to pervert the nation’s moral center.
Jesus is indeed Lord. And while heartfelt sincerity is certainly a nice thing to have, it is not faith. The people in Matthew 7 were sincere about their belief in the truth that Jesus is Lord. They even appealed to Him as Lord, addressing Him not once, but twice as Lord. “Lord, Lord, did we not do many might works in Your name?” Even so, with all their sincerity, they still had not been justified, they were still unregenerate, they had not been brought to faith in the cross work of Christ. They had counted on their works to get them past God’s demand for the satisfaction of His justice. What they received instead was the ultimate rejection. “Depart from Me, I never knew you.”
Deny the things God says are true about redemption, and the tolerant Calvinist will identify you as a brother. However, explain why both the denial and the identity is a lie, and that same tolerant Calvinist will identify you as a zealous mad man, a mere fellow who needs to be locked away in a cage in some far dark corner somewhere.
“cage state | noun | demonstrating wild and possibly deranged excitement over the seventeenth century pronouncements of the Synod of the Canons of Dordt in the Netherlands. These pronouncements are often referred to as the five points of Calvinism and, once a person becomes convinced that these five points are true, he or she enters the dreaded cage stage . . . Symptoms include: high fever that results in delirious incoherence of thought and speech; vomiting spasms brought on when anyone mentions free will, or asking Jesus into their heart, or the dreaded philosophy of Jacob Arminius; restlessness, especially during church services, when the sufferer goes more than an hour without hearing the TULIP’s five bells ringing in their ears; and diarrhea of the mouth, where uncontrollable spasms of verbal nonsense put everyone within earshot at risk. The recommended treatment is complete isolation, restriction of movement and speech, until the symptoms pass.”
– Anonymous Baptist pastor, chortling to himself while he dismisses truth with a wave of his hand
In his epistle to the Romans, Paul defines the gospel as “the revelation of God’s righteousness” (Rom 1:16-17). He elaborates on this in the third chapter, telling us that this revelation is by faith in the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood for the redemption of His people who He justifies by His grace as a gift in order to show His righteousness apart from the Law. (Rom 3:21-26). In other words, the gospel is the revelation of God’s righteousness revealed by faith in the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
We face two questions in the light of Paul’s definition. First, are there other redemptions to be found besides the one that Paul explains is in Christ? And second, what exactly is this redemption that Paul says is found in Christ Jesus?
As to the first question, there are indeed CLAIMS to other redemptions. None of these redemptions are true though. None of them save and none of them are Biblical.
An Arminian redemption, for instance, is one such claim to a false redemption. The Arminian redemption is a possible redemption rather than an accomplished one. That is, in the Arminian scheme, Christ died for everyone in order to make it possible for everyone to be redeemed. Under this scheme, Christ’s death introduced an immediate condition that has to be met in order to fulfill the requirement necessary for redemption. This condition that Christ’s death introduced is said to be a free will choice made by the recipient of the death – us, in other words. Under this scheme, the choice itself, rather than the death that necessitated it is the righteousness which serves to secure the redemption. In other words, in the Arminian scheme, the Arminian uses his free will choice to finish and procure what Christ began but never finished.
Contrast this possible redemption with the redemption described in Scripture. The redemption which Scripture describes as redemption is a redemption that has already (past tense) redeemed all those for whom Christ’s death was intended. It is not a will redeem, but rather a has been redeemed. Therefore, the redemption found in Christ Jesus is a redemption that does not need its intended to choose it before its intended can be redeemed. Rather, its intended will be brought to faith because Christ’s death has already redeemed its intended.
Hebrews 9:11-12 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.
Ephesians 1:13-14 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation – having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession to the praise of His glory.
Notice in these texts that the Holy Spirit is an inheritance. An inheritance is not something you receive that causes you to later become a member of the family. No. You had better already be a member of the family if you expect to receive an inheritance. An inheritance is something only a family member can receive. An inheritance is not something the gardener receives.
The Holy Spirit is given as a pledge of our inheritance. A down payment, if you would like. And He is given with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession. In other words, the reason why the Spirit is given is because God has a possession that He has redeemed (again, past tense). How has He redeemed this possession? He redeemed it with the death of His Son two-thousand years ago. His Son’s death two-thousand years ago redeemed all His possession past, present and future two-thousand years ago.
In most churches today, the kind of redemption you hear about is a redemption that God and man working together will one day accomplish at some point in the future. This is terrible news. Not only does it rob God of His glory and grace, but it also leaves the listener lost in hopelessness and despair. If the death of the Son of God was not enough to redeem me, then what is enough? After all, I can never measure up to Christ’s perfection. If His death couldn’t redeem me, then what hope do I really have that I will ever be redeemed?
In the darkness of such a hopeless message people are taught to look to their obedience for assurance. How do I know I will be redeemed? Guess I had better check in with my performance to see if I have improved.
But the good news of the God’s righteousness says something far different. The good news of God’s righteousness informs us that Christ died to redeem a select few whom He had chosen for salvation from before the foundation of the world. His death satisfied God’s holy demand for the deaths of His chosen people as punishment for their disobedience. At the cross, God charged His people’s guilt for their disobedience to Christ. And then there upon the cross, God poured out upon Christ the full and eternal measure of His wrath that had been reserved for His people. Christ obediently took the full measure of God’s anger against His people, and He obediently died on the cross in their stead.
To prove that Christ had fully and forever satisfied God’s anger that had been reserved for His people in return for their disobedience, God raised Christ from the dead. Christ’s resurrection is the proof that He has fully and forever redeemed His people from the punishment of death for their sins.
In dying for His chosen, Christ accomplished what no goat, no bull, no dove, no lamb or sinner’s pledge of improved performance had ever done or could ever do – He atoned for their guilt. His death did not make redemption from God’s righteous judgment possible. Rather, His death accomplished it. It is done. The fact that it has been done is why He brings His people to faith. His death is why His people are made willing to believe. His death is why not one of His people shall die lost.
If you are looking to an improvement in your behavior to see whether you are redeemed, then you are not looking to Christ and what He accomplished at the cross. If you are looking to an improvement in your behavior to see whether you are redeemed, then you do not believe Christ has already accomplished His people’s redemption. Faith has an object and that object is the Christ who has accomplished His people’s redemption by offering His body to God at the cross as a sacrifice for His people’s sins.
What a contrast! What a difference between this redemption and the redemption propagated by those who adhere to a free will scheme. Yet even the same, knowing the huge difference that exists, the tolerant Calvinist nevertheless insists some people are justified by an inconsistent or deficient belief in a message of a possible redemption. The tolerant Calvinist’s argument is fatal.
If Christ’s death is the sole cause of a person’s redemption, and not everyone is redeemed, then Christ’s death cannot have been intended for everyone. Christ must have died only for those He intended to redeem. His death is why they have been redeemed. This means that an accomplished redemption requires a definite atonement. How is it possible that someone who denies definite atonement – as all Arminians do inconsistent or otherwise – nevertheless still believes redemption is accomplished?
Suppose I am convinced that 2 = 9. Would you assume I also believe 2 + 2 = 4 simply because I tell you that 9 + 9 = 18? No, because no matter how correct I might be about the fact that 9 + 9 = 18, 9 + 9 is still not the same thing as 2 + 2. The tolerant Calvinist presumes I believe 2 + 2 = 4 rather than 2 + 2 = 18 simply because I believe 9 + 9 = 18. He disregards the fact that I believe 2 = 9.
The Arminian believes his possible redemption is found “only in Christ” rather than “only in Buddha”. The Arminian is correct to say redemption is found only in Christ. But redemption found only in Christ does not equal accomplished redemption found only in Christ. 2 does not = 9.
But the tolerant Calvinist disregards this fact. Instead, he operates under the assumption that “only in Christ” also means accomplished redemption. It most certainly does not. In the Arminian scheme, “only in Christ” means possible redemption only in Christ and not instead also Buddha. The Arminian is not inconsistent about this. He means his possible redemption is found not in Buddha, not in Vishnu, nor in any other god, but rather exclusively in Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the incarnate, crucified and resurrected second Person of the Trinity. The Arminian believes he will one day be redeemed because he has chosen to exercise the choice to believe this Jesus of Nazareth rather than Vishnu is Lord.
“Traditional Southern Baptist soteriology is grounded in the conviction that every person can and must be saved by a personal and free decision to respond to the Gospel by trusting in Christ Jesus alone as Savior and Lord.” – A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation