Back when I was an Arminian I understood conversion to be that act of God whereby He convinces people by means of a mystical experience to make a decision to surrender themselves completely to His will for their life. This is how I understood my own conversion. I had believed God had convinced me to make a decision to surrender myself completely to His will for my life. How did Christ’s death fit into this? I believed His death fit in like this — I believed Jesus had died for my sins in order to show me how great God’s love is for me so that I would surrender myself to His will for my life once He convinced me to make that decision.
I am certain were we to ask most people today who profess to be Christian they would for the most part agree with everything I have just said. However, standing now on the other side of all that I now recognize what I had believed for what it was. It was nothing less than Fullerism. It was the acceptance of Fuller’s commercial view of the atonement. I had understood the cross to be a token symbol of God’s love for mankind designed to help convince us to make a decision to surrender ourselves to God’s will for our lives.
Today I am convinced that most tolerant Calvinists are functional Amyraldians who dabble in Fuller’s commercial view. After all, where else do we hear talk about salvation being an act of surrendering ourselves to the Lord’s will for our lives? We hear it in Lordship Salvation, don’t we. You’re not really saved until you surrender yourself to Christ as Lord of your life.
Now, far be it from me to insist the Bible doesn’t instruct us to surrender ourselves to God’s will for us. Indeed it most certainly does! Pick up your cross and follow Me is not a suggestion, nor is it a command that demands we remain independent of God’s will for us. But is that the gospel? Is the gospel the good news the news that Jesus has made it so that we are now able to surrender ourselves to God’s will for our lives?
In the book of Acts, we find the apostles preaching a message which concerned two promises – the promise of the Holy Spirit and the promise of resurrection.
Acts 2:33 . . . and having received the promise of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 26:6-8 And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day. And for this hope I am accused by Jews, O king! Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?
We are told these two promises were made by God to the fathers (the fathers being the Old Testament saints of faith), and that although the twelve tribes (the physical descendants of the fathers) hoped to attain the promises, the promises were nevertheless reserved instead for those who share in the same faith as the fathers (Romans 4, Galatians 3:7).
This fact is further demonstrated in that neither Ishmael nor Esau inherited the promises, though they were both physical descendants of Abraham and Isaac respectively.
In addition to this, we are further told in 2 Corinthians 1:22 and Ephesians 1:14 that the Holy Spirit is the guarantee of the fathers’ inheritance. Working from the fact that there were two promises made to the fathers – the promise of the Holy Spirit and the promise of resurrection – we can surmise that the receipt of the first promise is the guarantee that the children by faith will receive the second.
According to Galatians 3:13-14, Christ sacrificed His body to God at the cross in order to deliver the two promises to the children of faith.
Galatians 3:13-14 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” – so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
What this means then is that Christ did not go to the cross in order to make it so that we would be able to surrender ourselves to God’s will for our lives. Instead, He went to the cross in order to redeem the children of promise from God’s wrath that stood against them for their sins so that God can legally and justly provide them with the promise of the Holy Spirit who is the guarantee of the promise of their resurrection. This is the gospel. This was the message the apostles preached to both Jews and Gentiles. The problem with Tolerant Calvinists today is that this is not the gospel they are preaching.
Inconsistency. This is what I keep hearing about from some tolerant Calvinists. I agree, we are all inconsistent in some areas of our belief. For example, I have never yet met a newly converted Christian who was able to give me a consistent definition of the Holy Trinity. In fact, in most cases, what I usually hear is fairly heretical, though I know the person does not intend to be so.
But what I hear from Tolerant Calvinists is something different. I hear Tolerant Calvinists tell me that real actual Arminianism is a heresy, but because most Arminians are inconsistent about their beliefs they are nevertheless saved.
What exactly is that supposed to mean? Anything? I mean, if we simply accept what it says, that Arminians are Christian because they are inconsistent about Arminianism, then anyone who is inconsistent about anything can be a Christian too, because we have not addressed the fundamental question: do they believe the gospel?
We are all inconsistent about some things. So what? What does this have to do with the question, do you believe the gospel? Most Arminians today are inconsistent about Arminianism. Okay, and? What does this have to do with the question, do you believe the gospel? Just because they are inconsistent about Arminianism does not grant the assumption that they believe the gospel. Andrew Fuller was inconsistent about Arminianism. Are any Tolerant Calvinist willing to conclude that he was a Christian?
At some point we must draw a line. Otherwise, if we simply accept that everyone who is inconsistent about some, or even most Christian doctrine and yet still claims to be a Christian really is a Christian, then we would have to accept Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses as Christians too. After all, are they not also inconsistent?
Where do we draw the line then? Where do we say so far and no further? Do today’s Arminians believe Christ went to the cross in order to redeem the children of promise from God’s wrath that stood against them for their sins so that God can legally and justly provide them with the promise of the Holy Spirit who is the guarantee of the promise of their resurrection? No, they do not. They believe instead that Christ died for everyone’s sins at the cross in order to show the world how much He loves everyone so that they will want to surrender their will to God’s will for their life. If they believe anything at all about propitiation, it is that they believe Christ satisfied God’s anger on behalf of everyone’s sins in order to show the world how much God loves the world so that the world will want to surrender their will to God’s will for their life.
This is not the gospel. This is Fullerism. Yet today’s Tolerant Calvinists insist people who believe this are brothers in Christ.
Today’s Tolerant Calvinists, though they ascribe to substitutionary atonement, are in fact functional Amyraldians. That is, they subscribe to definite substitutionary atonement, but in practice they function as men who subscribe to an Amyraldian governmental theory of the atonement.