When I was first converted to the truth of God’s sovereign grace in salvation based on the Person and Work of Jesus Christ alone approximately two years ago, I was encouraged by a brother to start writing. At that time (and to this day), I found/find myself having a lot of debates with “tolerant Calvinists” about the (de)merits of Arminianism on various internet forums and have joined/join other voices in standing against this heresy.
Many words have been written against the heresy of Arminianism, and praise God for that. Spiritual warfare is waged through the proclamation of the truth as against the lies of the devil. But as I was recently speaking to another brother, he pointed out something that I had not fully cognized even though I have been battling against it for almost 2 years. As we spoke, it hit me like a cold wet blanket-the most cunning deception of our day is not Arminianism. It is “Calvinism” as it is now popularly known and espoused.
Arminianism is open paganism. It is so off that it should be dismissed for the sub-biblical satanic cult that it is carte blanche, even by other nonbelievers like those of the “Reformed” faith. It is a Frankenstein of a doctrine, monstrous in its claims and diabolical in its implications. It is to be avoided at all costs in the same way a deadly and infectious disease is to be avoided.
Arminianism is satanic. There are no “blessed inconsistencies.” There is nothing there to be redeemed, no “essentials” to be preserved, no value whatsoever in the offer of salvation it gives. However, the blind will tell us that Satan has the “essentials” right, and therefore his gospel is something God can also use to save.
Strangely, in an ironic twist of the most ghastly and frightening sort, it is the modern Calvinist who has become an apologist for the false and satanic gospel of Arminianism. The modern Calvinist defends the Arminian lie as “essentially true.” The Synod at Dordt would be ashamed to have these unconverted compromisers identify with them.
This tolerance and compromise with satanic falsehood is the systematic teaching of the “popular” Calvinist charlatans of our day-James White regularly defends the satanic lie of Arminianism, chiding anyone who rightly states that it is heresy as a “hyper-Calvinist.” One has to wonder what exactly is the purpose of all his debating when none of it matters apparently, since, as he defends, Arminians agree on the “essentials.” One might begin to believe that if it is true that Arminians agree on the essentials and are no less a brother or sister than one who believes the truth (notice I didn’t say a “Calvinist”), then perhaps Mr. White simply likes to hear himself talk.
The late R.C. Sproul, another Calvinist of even greater renown than White, was widely and popularly known for defending the salvation of Arminians based on God cutting them a break on their unbelief. This man gave the pithy and nonsensical phrase “blessed inconsistencies” as a defense to the satanic message of Arminianism and in turn armed a generation of unbelievers with yet another way to undermine and attack the truth. Thousands of religious people are currently mourning his death, and yet he functioned largely to undermine the truth through his defense of Arminianism as “blessed inconsistency.” (side bar-“blessed” inconsistencies? Really RC? how exactly can believing a lie be a function of being “blessed?” How can anyone ever say that believing a lie was a “blessing?” How could anyone say that being lied to is a “blessing?” What kind of nonsensical bat guano is it to claim that evidence of God’s love on someone is that they believe a “blessed” lie? Is this too soon?)
John MacArthur is also another “Calvinist” who openly embraces Arminians as brethren, also excusing their unbelief. So does his yes man Phil Johnson. Voddie Bauchum affirms Arminians. Paul Washer affirms Arminians. Steve Lawson affirms Arminians. Tim Conway affirms Arminians. Albert Mohler affirms Arminians. David Platt affirms Arminians. Sam Storms affirms Arminians. Jeff Durbin affirms Arminians.
These men are all known for their “Calvinistic” leanings in their teachings, and yet they all, at bottom, are willing to affirm someone who believes a false gospel as a brother. How they miss Paul’s condemnation of other gospels in Galatians 1 can only be a product of thinking that Arminians do have the true gospel that Paul taught, which means that, at bottom, they too believe that salvation is conditioned, at some level, on the sinner.
The reason for this, at bottom, is because the natural man views these two doctrinal positions as merely interpretive positions. They think that there are “Calvinist” verses and that there are “Arminian” verses. They think that there are “tensions” and “paradoxes” in scripture. They think that each position is to some degree viable because each side has “its” texts. If that were true, then they would be right about not excluding Arminians.
That is how the modern Calvinist understands his current doctrinal position-as a mere interpretive standpoint which is more “consistent” than Arminianism. This is why they have no problem with considering Arminians brethren, because they see their own Calvinism as merely an interpretive standpoint. Further, most of them claim and believe that they were Arminians until recently when God taught them the “real truth.” So, what they really think is that “Calvinism” is optional window dressing that God may or may not teach one.
Arminianism and Calvinism are not interpretive viewpoints. They are not “lenses” through which we can read this text or that text as supporting one view or the other. There is one right view of the text, and millions of wrong views. The right view is whatever the text actually means as intended by the author.
That is the standard-what did the author actually and objectively intend to convey in writing that down? That’s what we need to seek when we read Scripture-the authorial intent of the message: what did the author mean? What did he want us to understand? That’s what we need to know. That’s what the text means-what the author meant when he wrote it down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
There are no “Arminian” verses. There are no “Calvinist” verses. There is just the text with its meaning. There are no paradoxes or tensions. There is one right interpretation which provides complete unity to all of the counsel of God. That right interpretation can only be made by those who are spiritual, by those who possess the mind of Christ. The doctrinal/interpretive result of being given the mind of Christ is to understand all of the text consistently in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ (no-I’m not claiming that upon conversion someone automatically understands the whole Bible, I’m claiming that upon conversion “tensions” go away and an interpretive harmony replaces it). That process produces the articulation of doctrines like the effective atonement of Christ for His elect; the unconditional election and reprobation of men; the security of salvation of the sinner.
It is not that those doctrines are “Calvinistic doctrines.” John Calvin did not make these doctrines up. Nor did he bring them to light. They have always been a part of the presentation of the true gospel, because they are the doctrines which compose the true gospel. Effective atonement, unconditional election, and security of salvation are what the Bible teaches. Those doctrines are the content of the teachings of scripture on salvation and justification. Those doctrines are not made up interpretation and viewpoints of equal value to some other viewpoint. Those doctrines are the only view point because those doctrines are the only doctrines the Bible teaches.
Before I was converted, I had happily adopted the label “Calvinist,” in spite of the fact that I had never, at that time, read anything John Calvin had written. Truth be told, to this day, I have only read his commentary on Ephesians 1. That’s it. That is the extent of my study of John Calvin. I do not believe what I believe about the cross because I studied Calvin. But, I was happy to adopt the label because it seemed to carry some legitimacy with it, like I had joined the group of people who were “serious” about Bible study.
These people read more than just John 3:16 and 2 Peter 3:8-9. These people seemed to be OK with God’s sovereignty in salvation. These people seemed to be more committed and generally more dedicated to scripture than any Arminian I knew at that time. It seemed to me that being Calvinist was better than being Arminian because it communicated to me that I was more serious about being religious and doctrinally consistent than those Arminians who just wanted to pray a prayer and be saved! Than those easy-believers who love their sin and don’t want to reform morally!
I started wading into forums and talking about Calvinism and Arminianism, and I sounded like so many others-“Arminianism is wrong, but Arminians are still brethren, they are just immature.” See, I was a tolerant Calvinist Lordship Salvationist before I was converted (that is a mouthful). I believed that salvation was ultimately conditioned on my changing enough (empowered by God, of course) to prove that God had truly justified me. Terrified because my sin just kept growing and getting worse, I was lost and in unbelief. At that time, while I was an unbeliever, I was calling myself a “Calvinist” or at least OK with people calling me that.
After God converted me to the truth, I stopped actively calling myself a “Calvinist,” mostly because I resented the idea that the doctrines of God’s sovereign grace were associated with what largely appears to be an interpretive viewpoint called “Calvinism.” However, I did still allow people to call me that, and I would even adopt the title for the sake of making it easier to talk with others. I use labels all the time to identify doctrinal positions, so I let people continue to call me a Calvinist BECAUSE the doctrines of depravity, election, atonement and security are associated with Calvinism. This ease of communication has been my sole and only purpose in allowing myself to be called a “Calvinist.”
However, in light of the comments I made above, I have no desire to be identified as a “Calvinist” any longer. I’m not a Calvinist. I do not believe what the modern “Calvinist” believes-I do not consider Arminianism to be a kindergarten gospel; I do not consider Arminians to be brethren; I do not consider effective atonement for the elect alone to be a “viewpoint” among others; I do not want to be counted amongst the tolerant and the compromisers; I do not want my gospel to be associated with the name of a man who actually taught that God loves all men and desires that they all be saved (See Calvin’s commentary on John 3:16 and 2 Peter 3:8-9), or in other words…Arminianism.
When I was first converted, one of the first articles I wrote had a passing comment about how I thought that the devil had used the label “calvinism” as a way to cause the unbeliever to dismiss the truth as merely dismissing an interpretive viewpoint. I am now convinced that is exactly what he has done. The devil has managed to attack the truth by sticking a label on it that men can refuse by thinking that they are rejecting a man. This problem is exacerbated by these Calvinist charlatans who are quick to reassure us that Arminianism is good enough for the purpose of getting you through those pearly gates. Modern Calvinism has become a thinly veiled defense of satanic Arminianism. How can I continue to identify in label with enemies of the cross? I cannot any more.
I know that many of us have adopted that label for the ease of communication with tolerants and Arminians. But I would encourage gospel believers to renounce this title because it has an appearance of wickedness to it-it is now associated with tolerance of a false gospel as also true.