“Calvinists Who Love Wesley”

by Fred Sanders on June 21, 2011

Online Source

Calvinists sometimes behave as if their Reformed credentials give them a free pass to forget there ever was a John Wesley, or that he is to be reckoned one of the good guys, or that he, being dead, yet speaks. They keep their distance as if Wesley were the carrier of a theological disease, to be given a wide berth. It’s one thing to say (as any good Calvinist must) that Wesley was wrong about a few important doctrines. But it’s another thing, a little tragic, to consign him to oblivion and imagine there is nothing to learn from him. Here are some Calvinists who know better. Their essentially pro-Wesley tone is striking, possibly because it’s becoming rarer than it once was.

John Newton (1725-1807) was as young, restless, and Reformed as anybody, but he could testify of John Wesley, “I know of no one to whom I owe more as an instrument of divine grace.” This line is quoted in Iain H. Murray’s book, Wesley and Men Who Followed (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2003), p. 71. Murray himself (b. 1931) is a great example of a Calvinist who unflinchingly opposes Arminianism, but is fully aware of how much spiritual blessing he has received through Wesley and the Methodists. Murray knows what the main things are, and knows that Wesley was sound on them, even though he was off the ranch on the beloved “doctrines of grace” as the Reformed see them: “the foundation of Wesley’s theology was sound. On the objective facts of the salvation revealed in Scripture –Paul’s ‘first of all’ of 1 Corinthians 15:3—Wesley was clear.”

Never to be outdone by anybody, Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) ventured that “if there were wanted two apostles to be added to the number of the twelve, I do not believe that there could be found two men more fit to be so added than George Whitefield and John Wesley.” (C. H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography, Vol. 1, p. 173.) Spurgeon may have been indulging in a characteristic dramatic flourish, but I don’t recall hearing that he surrendered his Calvinist card either before or after thus lumping together Whitefield and Wesley, respectively the great Calvinist and the great Arminian promoters of the eighteenth-century awakening. Witnesses like Newton and Spurgeon seem to prove that even Calvinists can learn from Wesley; in fact some of these Reformed witnesses seem to think that it is especially Calvinists who, while remaining as Reformed as they want to be, should labor to hear what this evangelical brother has to say to them.

Reformed people who read widely in Wesley (as opposed to reading a selected string of his anti-Calvinist zingers –like the time in 1765 when he said the revival was going great until “Satan threw Calvinism in our way.” Zing!) are always surprised, and usually delighted, to find that they find in him the same things they love in their favorite Reformed authors: A Scripture-saturated defense of original sin, justification by faith alone, a clear presentation of the gospel, a humble submission to God’s sovereignty, and a radical dependence on God’s grace.

Scottish pastor John Duncan (1796-1870), a decided Calvinist, read the Methodist hymnal and remarked, “I wonder how Charles Wesley could write that, and be an Arminian.” (Cited in John Brown, Life of the Late John Duncan (Edinburgh: Edmonston and Douglas, 1872), p. 428) Somewhat more snarkily, Duncan remarked (p. 401), “I have a great liking for many of Wesley’s Hymns; but when I read some of them, I ask, ‘What’s become of your Free-will now, friend?”

Any Reformed readers who take up and reads John Wesley will find themselves asking on most pages, “How could John Wesley write that, and be an Arminian?” There are many reasons for how satisfying Wesley is doctrinally, but one of them is that he was trying hard to be a good Protestant. Whatever the word “Arminian” meant to most people before Wesley, there is at least the chance after John Wesley that it could refer to a Christian who is doctrinally conservative and committed to the gospel.

Another reason is that Wesley did a great deal of good. “Mr. Wesley, and others, with whom we do not agree in all things, will shine bright in glory,” said George Whitefield (Murray, p. 71). More on what Whitefield thought about Wesley and glory in a moment.

The great (but mostly forgotten) Henry Venn wrote to Wesley for encouragement in 1754 in this touching letter:

Dear Sir,

As I have often experienced your words to be as thunder to my drowsy soul, I presume, though a stranger, to become a petitioner, begging you would send me a personal charge to take heed to feed the flock committed unto me. If you consider the various snares to which a curate is exposed, either to palliate the doctrines of the gospel or to make treacherous allowances to the rich and great, or at least to sit down, satisfied with doing the least more than the best, among the idle shepherds, you will not, I hope, condemn this letter as impertinently interrupting you in your noble employment, or think one hour lost in complying with its request.

It is the request of one who, though he differs from you, and possibly ever may, in some points, yet must ever acknowledge the benefit and light he has received from your works and preaching, and therefore is bound to thank the Lord of the harvest for sending a labourer among us so much endued with the spirit and power of Elias, and to pray for your long continuance among us, to encourage me and my brethren by your example, while you edify us by your writings.

I am sir your feeble brother in Christ. Henry Venn.

C. H. Spurgeon turned his pro-Wesley reflections into a warning to Calvinists, or to ultra-Calvinists, not to be such bigots:

To ultra-Calvinists his name is as abhorrent as the name of the Pope to a Protestant: you have only to speak of Wesley, and every imaginable evil is conjured up before their eyes, and no doom is thought to be sufficiently horrible for such an arch-heretic as he was. I verily believe that there are some who would be glad to rake up his bones from the tomb and burn them, as they did the bones of Wycliffe of old—men who go so high in doctrine, and withal add so much bitterness and uncharitableness to it, that they cannot imagine that a man can fear God at all unless he believes precisely as they do.

This is from a lecture entitled ‘The Two Wesleys,’ delivered on Spurgeon’s home turf, the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Dec 6, 1861. Spurgeon went on to say that on the other hand, Wesley fans can get pretty annnoying: “Unless you can give him constant adulation, unless you are prepared to affirm that he had no faults, and that he had every virtue, even impossible virtues, you cannot possibly satisfy his admirers.”

Bishop J.C. Ryle, in his book on Evangelical leaders of the eighteenth century, gets the warnings out of the way right up front: “He was an Arminian in doctrine. I fully admit the seriousness of the objection. I do not pretend either to explain the charge away, or to defend his objectionable opinions.” But he goes on to his main point, saying, “we must beware that we do not condemn men too strongly for not seeing all things in our point of view, or excommunicate and anathematize them because they do not pronounce our shibboleth.”

What is to be found in Wesley, according to Ryle? For all Wesley’s deviations from the Calvinist line, Ryle says

But if the same man strongly and boldly exposes and denounces sin, clearly and fully lifts up Christ, distinctly and openly invites men to believe and repent, shall we dare to say that the man does not preach the gospel at all? Shall we dare to say that he will do no good? I, for one, cannot say so, at any rate. If I am asked whether I prefer Whitefield’s gospel or Wesley’s, I answer at once that I prefer Whitefield’s: I am a Calvinist, and not an Arminian. That Wesley would have done better if he could have thrown off his Arminianism, I have not the least doubt; but that he preached the gospel, honored Christ, and did extensive good, I no more doubt than I doubt my own existence.

And like so many other Calvinistic Wesley-fans, Ryle goes on to caution against bigotry:

Finally, has any one been accustomed to regard Wesley with dislike on account of his Arminian opinions? Is any one in the habit of turning away from his name with prejudice, and refusing to believe that such an imperfect preacher of the gospel could do any good? I ask such a one to remould his opinion, to take a more kindly view of the old soldier of the cross, and to give him the honour he deserves. …Whether we like it or not, John Wesley was a mighty instrument in God’s hand for good; and, next to George Whitefield, was the first and foremost evangelist of England a hundred years ago.

There is a famous story about one of Whitefield’s followers, after a discussion about just how not Calvinist Wesley was, asking Whitefield what he took to be a hard question: Will we see John Wesley in heaven? Whitefield’s answer was that the Calvinists of his generation were unlikely to see John Wesley in heaven.

“I fear not;” said Whitefield. And then the punchline: “He will be so near the throne, and we shall be at such a distance, that we shall hardly get a sight of him.”

Spurgeon tells this Whitefield story, and comments, “In studying the life of Wesley, I believe Whitefield’s opinion is abundantly confirmed –that Wesley is near the eternal throne, having served his Master, albeit with many mistakes and errors, yet from a pure heart, fervently desiring to glorify God upon the earth.”

An earlier generation of Reformed thinkers and ministers were revived and awakened by Wesley’s teaching. Spurgeon knew that an awakener was not something to take lightly, that God didn’t often send people with that ability to revive and stir up the church. We always have to keep an eye on the main danger, and Spurgeon was quite sure that Wesleyanism wasn’t the main danger of his, or any, age. The main danger is Christians failing to be wide awake, failing to be fully Christian. Wesley was a strong stimulant, and Spurgeon wanted more, not less, of that from Wesley:

I am afraid that most of us are half asleep, and those that are a little awake have not begun to feel. It will be time for us to find fault with John and Charles Wesley, not when we discover their mistakes, but when we have cured our own. When we shall have more piety than they, more fire, more grace, more burning love, more intense unselfishness, then, and not till then, may we begin to find fault and criticize.

Taking a moment to compare his own ministry to that of Wesley’s, he thought the comparison was like a little candle held up in the sun: “For my part, I am as one who can see the spots in the sun, but know it to be the sun still, and only weep for my farthing candle by the side of such a luminary.” If you think your own ministry is like a little candle held up against the light of Spurgeon’s accomplishment, take a moment to imagine an even greater light of conservative, evangelical, Protestant witness in the English language. And then go read something, anything, by or about Wesley.

“Biblical Calvinism – An Introduction to the Doctrines of Grace” by Dr. Curt Daniel, Part 7

Perseverance of the Saints

God has sworn two blessings of salvation for the elect. First He promised to keep them forever and never forsake them. Second, He promised to work within them so that they will not fall away from Him. Both blessings are expressly promised in Jer. 32:40.

The Fifth Point of Calvinism take it title from Rev. 13:10 and 14:12, the Perseverance of the Saints. God promised to preserve the elect, and once they are saved they most certainly are preserved, kept and guarded by God Himself (Psa. 37:28, 66:9, 97:10, 145:14,20; 1 Tim. 1:12). God swore never to leave or forsake the elect (Psa. 94:14; Heb. 13:5). Jesus promised that He would never cast out any who came to Him (John 6:37). The elect are kept in the same way in which they were saved in the first place, namely, by the invincible power of God (1 Pet. 1:5).

This is especially explicit in John 10:28, where Jesus says “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My Hand.” The elect are eternally secure in the hands of Christ and the Father. God keeps them safe from Satan (1 John 5:18; John 17:11, 12, 15; 2 Thess. 3:3;Luke 22: 31-32). It is true that the elect slip and fall into sin. But when they do, God catches them (Deut. 33:27) and makes them stand again (Rom. 14:4). Even when the elect let go of God’s hand, God’s hand does not let go of them (Psa. 37:24).

So, the elect will always be saved. Why? Because they were eternally elected by grace (Rom. 8:29-30). Christ loves His bride too much to let her go. He will not lose even a single one of those who were chosen (John 6:39). Rom. 5:9-10 reasons that if Christ loved us enough to die for us, then surely He will do as much to keep us saved (cf. 8:32). Scripture most clearly teaches “once saved, always saved.” Salvation has a ratchet effect; it is irrevocable (Rom. 8:1, 11:29; Eccl. 3:14). Furthermore, when the elect are irresistibly drawn to Christ and regenerated by free grace, they are “sealed” by the Holy Spirit as a guarantee that they will always be God’s property (Eph. 1:13, 4:30).

Now Scripture also says that one must persevere in faith and obedience to make it to Heaven (Heb. 12:14). Those whose lives are not characterized by this are not saved persons, and they will not make it to Heaven (1 Cor. 6:9; Eph. 5:5). Only those who persevere to the end will be saved (Matt. 10:22, 24:13). But the glory of it all is that the elect most certainly shall persevere to the end (Job 17:9). They will continue in saving faith, for faith is a gift and Christ is the“Author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). So, in reality, it is the Perseverance of the Savior.

The true believer has received a new nature in regeneration, and so is not completely bound by the total depravity in which he was first born. This new nature guarantees that he will not (indeed, cannot) live in permanent, perpetual unbelief and disobedience (1 John 3:4-12). Thus, the elect shall bear fruit (Matt. 7:17-18) and shall continue in good works (James 2:14-26). God guarantees that the elect will always eventually repent when they sin (Prov. 24:17). All this is essential to the Fifth Point of Calvinism. The doctrine of eternal security totally excludes the possibility of a regular life of sin for true believers. But the final question is, “How?” The Calvinist answers, “The elect persevere because God perseveres in them.” God promised to finish what He began in the elect (Phil. 1:6; Psa. 138:8; 1 Cor. 1:8-9). He will preserve the elect and glorify them in the end (Rom.. 8:30).

Those who “fall away” by apostasy were never saved to begin with. Had they been true Christians, they would have persevered and been preserved (1 John 2:19). This Fifth Point of Calvinism, then, teaches both the preservation and perseverance of the saints by the sovereign grace and power of God.

Conclusion 

There have been, of course, many objections against the doctrines of Calvinism. Most of them boil down to two. The first contends that these doctrines are not true, for the reason that God is not totally sovereign. This objection is without foundation, for Scripture repeatedly states that God is sovereign. The second objection is founded on the mistaken notion of Man’s “free will”. As we have shown, Man is responsible but not free. He is a slave to sin until freed by Christ. Scripture teaches free grace, not free will. Underlying these objections is the secret (and sometimes open) objection, “That’s not fair!” This is worst of all, for it is a direct accusation against God. It mistakenly presupposes that Man has rights, when he has none. Man is a guilty, totally depraved enemy of God Almighty. Those who offer these objections would do well to read Rom. 9:20 and Ezek. 18:25.

The Doctrines of Grace have a twofold effect.  First, they humble the sinner and encourage the saint.  They give Man his due place.  Calvinism also invigorates the believer, who knows that if a sovereign God is for him, who can be against him? (Rom. 8:31).  The second effect is that they give great glory to God.  God is God, and He will not give His glory to another (Isa. 42:8, 48:11).  Calvinism recognizes that Man is Man and God is God.  We exist for God’s glory.  And so our song shall ever be…

“To God alone be the glory!”

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Dr.Curt Daniel is a knowledgeable student and teacher of Reformed theology and history. His approach is to “leave no stone unturned” in pursuing the truth of Scripture. His breadth of knowledge enables him to easily glean from the theological giants that have gone before.

Dr. Daniel attended Central Bible College (B.A.), Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.), and the University of Edinburgh (Ph.D.). Dr. Daniel teaches, preaches and publishes theological works consistent with Scripture and Reformed Theology.

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The entire teaching series “The History and Theology of Calvinism” by Dr. Daniel can be found at Monergism.com. You can listen online and/or download any of the available lessons. I have long since downloaded the entire series and listened to all of the lessons.

Final Note: Please know that I’m not trying to ‘convince’ anyone of ‘Calvinism’. Rather, I invite those with inquisitive minds to investigate.  I’ll entertain questions and I welcome intelligent and reasonable discussion.

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“Biblical Calvinism – An Introduction to the Doctrines of Grace” by Dr. Curt Daniel, Part 6

Irresistible Grace

God chose the elect and Christ died for them in a special way, but this redemption must be applied to them in order for them to be saved. This leads us to the Fourth Point of Calvinism. First, let us get the general picture and then the precise focus. As we have shown, there is a general sense in which God loves all men as His creatures (Matt. 5:44-45; Luke 6:35-36; Psa. 33:5,145:9, 14-16). We call this Common Grace. God gives them the bounties of life on this planet. Moreover, there is a sense in which God wills all men everywhere to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4), and so He offers them salvation indiscriminately.

We call this the Free Offer of the Gospel, and it is seen in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20). God issues a general “call” to all who hear the Gospel (Matt. 22:14). All who hear are invited. But because all men are totally depraved and hate God, they resist this call and the work of the Spirit (Acts 7:51).

Evangelicals agree so far, but again Calvinists go a step further. God has a special love for the elect and will do more than simply give an external invitation. He does something that guarantees that they will accept this invitation. He overwhelms them with what we call Irresistible Grace. In addition to the general call to all men, God gives them a special call (Rom. 8:28-30; 2 Pet. 1:10), or what Paul describes as a “holy calling” (2 Tim. 1:9). It is a calling by special grace (Gal. 1:15). God thereby draws the elect irresistibly to Himself with special loving-kindness (Jer. 31:3; Hos. 11:4; Song 1:4). He causes the elect to come to Him (Psa. 65:4) by turning our wills around (Prov. 21:1). This is irresistible, for God “drags” us to Christ (John 6:44) and “compels” us by divine omnipotence to come (Luke 14:23). He actually changes our wills so that we come willingly (Phil. 2:13; Psa. 110:3).

Now, exactly how does God do this? There is much mystery in how God works grace in the hearts of the elect, but the Bible tells us some definite things about the process. God sovereignly opens the dead hearts of the elect (Acts 16:14). It is not that they opened their hearts to receive Christ; Christ opened their hearts that He might enter. Only as a result can it be said that they opened the door. So, He opens our hearts, and with the doors of our hearts being opened we can hear His voice (John 10:16,27). This is not, of course, a literal voice but rather the special call of Christ in Scripture. In the process, God sovereignly gives the elect the new birth (John 3:1-8; 5:21; James 1:18). They did not regenerate themselves; they were regenerated sovereignly by God’s free grace (John 1:13). No spiritually dead man can make himself alive any more than a corpse can. Matter cannot create itself, and the new birth is a new creation that is sovereignly given by God’s grace (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal 6:15). It is a spiritual resurrection (Eph. 2:1, 5; Col. 2:13).

The elect are not born again because they believe; rather, they believe because they have been born again (1 John 5:1). The new birth is a sovereign gift, and so is faith (2 Pet. 1:1; Eph. 2:8-9; Phil. 1:29; John 3:27, 6:65; 1 Cor. 3:6; 4:7; Rom. 12:3). Repentance is also a free gift that is sovereignly bestowed (2 Tim. 2:25; Acts 5:31; 11:18). Because the elect now have faith, God justifies them and they are saved.

The distinctive of Calvinism on this point is that “Salvation is of the Lord”(Jonah 2:9). If any man is ever to be saved, it is only by God’s free grace from first to last. Evangelicals in general will agree that salvation is by grace and not by works (Eph. 2:8-9), but Calvinist go a step further and state that this saving grace is sovereignly given to the elect. It is not merely offered, for it is offered to all. It is sovereignly and irresistibly given to the elect and to them alone. It is not given to the non-elect.

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“Biblical Calvinism – An Introduction to the Doctrines of Grace” by Dr. Curt Daniel, Part 5

Limited Atonement 

God, then, chose some sinners to save. This did not make them saved at that time. It only guaranteed that they certainly would be saved in the end. Two more things needed to be done: prepare the means for their salvation and apply it to them. First, we read in Scripture that God foreordained that Jesus Christ would become a man and would die on the Cross as the means of salvation (Acts 2:23; 4:28). Christ died as a substitute for others (1 Cor. 15:3; Rom.5:8). He suffered the infinite wrath of God for sin, and satisfied that wrath. This is called propitiation (1 John 2:2, 4:10). Because Jesus was a perfect man and God in the flesh, His sacrifice had infinite value. He did not pay an exact equivalent for our sins; He paid a super-abundant payment infinitely above what we owed. All that He did would have been necessary had only one sinner been chosen, but He would not have had to do any more had all sinners been chosen.

Historic Calvinists teach that there are two aspects of this one atonement. The first is that there is a sense in which Christ died for all men everywhere (John 1:29, 3:16, 4:42, 6:33, 51; 2 Cor. 5:14, 19; I Tim. 2:4-6; John 2:2; 2 Pet 2:1). By His death on the Cross, He removed all legal barriers in case any man believes. His death for all men also purchased the common bounties of life for all men. It also secured a delay of judgment for them, as it were, though not a permanent one. All will one day be judged, but the fact that all men are not already in Hell is due to the atonement of Christ. Moreover, on the basis of this universal aspect of the atonement, salvation is offered freely to all men: “Come and dine, for all is ready!” (cf. Matt. 22:2-14; Luke 14:16-24). Also, Christ died for all men in this sense in order to be Lord of all men, whether alive or dead, elect or non-elect (Rom. 14:9; Phil. 2:10-11).

Most Evangelicals will agree with this analysis so far, but Calvinist go yet further. We teach that the death of Christ is sufficient for all men, but is efficient only for the elect. There is a sense in which Christ died for all, but there is a sense in which He died only for the elect. He died for all, but especially for the elect (1 Tim. 4:10). He purchased some blessings for all men, but all blessings for some men. Since the elect are scattered throughout the world and mingled together with the non-elect, Christ purchased the whole world with the special intent of owning the elect (cf. Matt. 13:44). This special aspect of the atonement is what is called Limited Atonement. Some call it Particular Redemption.

Eph. 5:25 says, “Christ also loved the Church [the elect] and gave Himself up for her.” A man loves all other persons, but has a special love for his wife and will do some things for her that he will not do for all other persons. The same is true with Christ. He has a general love for all men and did something for all men at the Cross because they were His creatures. But He has a special love for His bride and did something special for her at the Cross. He died for her in such a way as to guarantee that she would be saved, made perfectly holy and ready for Heaven (vs.26).

There are other verses that indicates this special intent of the atonement. John 10:15, 17 and 18 say that Christ the Good Shepherd died for “the sheep”. Lest somebody think that this could include all men everywhere, Christ goes on to say that some people are not His sheep (vs. 26) Hence there is a sense in which He died for the sheep (the elect) and not for the goats and wolves (the non-elect). Later in John 15:13-14, Christ said that He would lay down His life for His “friends.” But not all men are His friends. Isaiah 53:8 prophesied that Christ would die for God’s “people”, but not all men are God’s people-only the elect. Acts 20:28 says that Christ purchased “the Church” with His blood, but not all men are the Church. Further, Rom. 8:32 says that if God gave Christ to die for us, then He will surely give us all other things. Since He does not give all these things of salvation to all men, then it follows that Christ was not given for them at the Cross in this special way. Christ died so as to make possible the salvation of all men, but He died to make definite the salvation of the elect alone. It was designed for the elect.

Again, there are many objections to this truth, but they can all be answered by pointing out that no man deserved for Christ to die for him. Actually, there is no dispute that Christ did not die for Satan or the demons; the atonement is clearly limited there. But the non-elect are in the same situation as Satan-none will be saved because none were elected. The thing to keep in mind is that the atonement was designed for the elect.

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“Biblical Calvinism – An Introduction to the Doctrines of Grace” by Dr. Curt Daniel, Part 4

Unconditional Election 

Man cannot save himself in whole or in part. Only God can save Man. The good news of the Gospel is that God has provided a way of salvation through Christ (1 Cor. 15:1-4). But to understand God’s way of salvation, we have to again go back to the eternal mind of God in predestination.

Before all things were created, God foreordained to divide all mankind into two groups. Some would be His people and the rest would be left in their sins (Rom. 9). First, let us look at what the Bible teaches concerning the doctrine of election. In its simplest form, it is this: “He chose us” (Eph. 1:4). He did this in eternity past, not in time (2 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 1:9; Eph. 1:4). Those whom He chose are called “the elect” (Matt. 24:22, 31; Mark 13:20; Luke 18:7, etc.). They are sinners who have been chosen to receive salvation (1 Thess. 5:9; 2 Thess. 2:13). What moved God to choose them in the first place? God chose them by sovereign grace alone (2 Tim. 1:9; Deut. 7:7-8). God elected them to receive mercy (Rom. 9:23), to go to Heaven (Matt. 25:34), to be made perfectly holy (Eph. 1:4), and to be totally glorified (Rom. 8:29-30). God chose the elect “in Christ” (Eph. 1:4; 2 Tim. 1:9: Rom. 16:13).

In a general sense, God wills all men to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4). But in another, higher sense, God chose only some sinners to be saved. When He chose them, He wrote their names down in the Book of Life (Luke 10:20; Rev. 13:8, 17:8). The Father chose them and gave them to Jesus (John 17:2, 6, 9,24). God chose the elect. Christ is also God, so He had a vital part in this choice. What was it? Jesus chose His own bride from among the mass of sinful humanity. This was His right and privilege. He said, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you” (John 15:16). Nor did He choose the elect on the basis of anything He foresaw in them, for all He foresaw in their nature was sin. He “foreknew” the elect in the sense of knowing them in love from all eternity (Rom.8:29; 1 Pet. 1:2; cf. Amos 3:2). Remember Scripture says, “He chose us.” He did not choose us because He foresaw we would choose Him. Rather, He chose us solely out of free grace.

This election is personal. He chose the elect by name. And since it is not conditional upon anything in us, it is absolutely sure that all the elect will be saved one day. Therefore, we have Unconditional Election. Election is irreversible. When one comes to believe in Christ unto salvation, he then has the privilege of knowing that he is one of the elect (2 Pet. 1:10).

But God did not choose all men. He did not choose Satan or any of the demons, and He did not choose all sinful human beings. Some are elected, the rest were left in their sins (Rom. 9). This is the doctrine of Reprobation, or non-election. Since they were not chosen to salvation but left in their sins, they were foreordained to receive the due penalty for their sins-eternal wrath (1 Thess. 5:9; 1 Pet. 2:8; Prov. 16:4). Their names were not written in the Book of Life in eternity past (Rev. 13:8, 17:8), nor were they ever known by Christ in the election of grace (Matt. 7:23). In time, God leaves them in their evil nature and even hardens their hearts and further blinds their minds (John 12:39-40; Rom. 9:18, 11:7; Deut. 2:30; Josh. 11:20). God is fattening them up for the slaughter which they deserve.

But lest anyone think this is unfair, God replies, “Who are you, O Man, that answers back to God?” (Rom. 9:20). No man can blame God, for Man is sinful Man and God is a holy God. No man deserves to be elected; all deserve to be rejected. The wonder is not that God rejected some sinners; the wonder is that He chose any sinners to be saved.

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“Biblical Calvinism – An Introduction to the Doctrines of Grace” by Dr. Curt Daniel, Part 3

Total Depravity 

God is sovereign, but He made Man a responsible being. This is a paradox. We must believe both truths for they are both taught in Scripture. Man is certainly accountable to God (Rom. 14:12; Eccl. 12:13-14). God created Adam and Eve as morally responsible persons. In fact, they were created without any sin (Eccl. 7:29). But they fell into sin (Gen. 3). Since Adam was the head of the race of humanity, and we all descended from him, his sin affected the whole human race (Rom. 5:12-19). Human nature ever since then is flawed by sin, and every human being except Jesus Christ has inherited Original Sin (Psa. 51:5; Rom. 3). As a result, we all sin by nature and by choice.

Man is born in sin with an evil and wicked nature (Eph. 2:3; Matt. 7:11). In fact, we share the same evil nature as Satan (John 8:44). We sin because it is our nature to sin. Sin completely fills every aspect of our beings from head to toe (Isa. 1:5-6). Our hearts (Eccl. 9:3) and minds are filled with sin (Tit. 1:15; Eph. 4:17-19; 1Tim. 3:8; 6:5). “The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and desperately wicked” (Jer.17:9). There is no good left in man whatsoever (Rom. 7:18). Man is basically evil, not good.

The Bible paints a grotesque picture of Man, far different than the beautiful idea Man imagines of himself. Man is dead, not sick (Eph. 2:1; Col. 2:13). He is blind, not near-sighted (2 Cor. 3:14). His heart is as hard as stone (Ezek. 11:19; Jer. 23:29). By nature we are slaves of sin (2 Pet.2:19; John 8:34; Rom. 6:16, 20) and slaves of the Devil (John 8:44; Eph. 2:2; 2 Tim. 2:26). Calvinist utterly deny that Man has a “free will.” How can it be free when Scripture so frequently says that it is a slave? Man is enslaved to his sinful nature. What’s more, he is a willing slave and does not want to be free. He would rather be a slave to sin than serve God as his king.

There’s more still. Because of the utter sinfulness of human nature, Man does not have the moral ability to change his nature (Jer. 13:23). He cannot stop sinning or even want to stop sinning (2 Pet. 2:14). Everything he does has a sinful motive behind it, even when he does what outwardly appears to be good. “The wickedness of Man was great on the Earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). Man never obeys God. He is unable any longer to truly obey God (Rom. 8:7-8; Matt. 7:18). He never seeks God (Rom. 3:11) and is unwilling to come to God for help (John 5:40). He is unwilling because he is unable (John 6:44, 65).

Calvinism also denies that Man is ever morally neutral (Matt. 6:24, 12:20). Man is always set against God. His will is not neutral or self-determining. He always wills in accordance with his nature; since his nature is evil, his thoughts and motives are always evil. But this moral inability does not annul his responsibility. Quite the contrary-it compounds his guilt. Remember, this sinfulness is self-inflicted. God does not cancel Man’s debt simply because Man has squandered the loan and is unable to pay God back. Man is guilty and deserves to go to Hell (Rom 6:23). Granted, there are degrees of sin. Some sins are worse than others, and some sinners are worse than other sinners (John 19:11). But even the least sinner is totally depraved and morally unable to obey. At heart, all men love sin and hate God with all their hearts (John 3:19-20; Prov. 21:10; Matt. 6:24). He is totally without hope (Eph. 2:12), without strength to obey (Rom. 5:6) and without excuse (Rom. 2:1).

No theology except Calvinism teaches the full truth about the sinfulness of Man.

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Part 1

Part 2

“Biblical Calvinism – An Introduction to the Doctrines of Grace” by Dr. Curt Daniel, Part 2

The Sovereignty of God

To begin, we must go back to eternity past to when God alone existed. “In the beginning, God”(Gen. 1:1). God has always existed and is self-existent (Rev. 1:8). God is therefore totally independent of everything else. He alone is totally free and self-sufficient. He does not need Man or anything in all Creation (Acts 17:25). He is perfect (Matt 5:48) and is therefore perfectly happy in Himself. God is so far above Man that we cannot even begin to comprehend Him of ourselves (Isa. 57:15). In sum, God is God (Ex.3:14).

Now we know that God created all things (Gen.1:1). But have you ever wondered why God created the universe? What moved Him to do that? Or even more, why does God do what He does? God himself tells us in His Word: : “Our God is in the Heavens. He does whatever He pleases” (Psa. 115:3; cf. Psa. 135:5-6; Job 23:13; Eph. 1:11; Dan.4:35). God does whatever He wants to. This is the mere pleasure of God (Matt. 11:26). God does as He pleases, always as He pleases, only as He pleases.

God willed to create a universe. But before He did the creating, He formed a “plan” (Jer. 49:20; 50:45). Scripture calls this His eternal “purpose” (Rom. 8:28, 9:11, Isa. 46:10-11; Eph. 3:11; Acts 4:28; 2 Tim. 1:9). It is a blueprint for everything, as it were (cf. Luke 14:28-30). It is not merely a wish or a command, but His decree that preprograms everything. He “works all things after the counsel of His own will” (Eph. 1:11; cf. Psa. 33:11). Thus, it is absolutely essential to see that God foreordained everything that will come to pass. He predestined everything that will ever happen, down to the smallest detail. “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Rom. 11:36).

Moreover, God will never change His mind on this eternal plan. His purpose shall stand forever because God never changes (Jer. 4:28; 23:20; 30:24; 1 Sam. 15:29). Therefore, His purpose shall most certainly come to pass exactly as He planned it. Nothing can prevent it (Psa. 33:11; 148:3; Tit. 1:2; Prov. 19:21; Isa. 14:27; Heb. 6:17; Job 42:1). Neither Man nor demon nor angel can frustrate God’s eternal purpose from being accomplished, for all of their thoughts and actions are included in that purpose. God did not consult with us, not even by foreseeing what we would do or say. He consulted only with Himself within the Trinity (Eph. 1:11; Rom. 11:34; Isa. 40:13-14). With all this in view, then, we see that there is no such thing as chance, luck or accidents. There are no coincidences; everything has been predestined. Why, God has even determined in advance the flipping of a coin (Prov. 16:33; Jonah 1:7; Acts 1:24-26).

“The Lord God omnipotent reigns” (Rev. 19:6). God is King over everything that is, was or ever shall be (Psa. 93:1; 99:1; 103:19). He is an absolute monarch, yes, the most absolute monarch of all because He is King of Kings (Rev. 19:16). This is what we mean by the sovereignty of God. He has 100% total authority over everything. The universe is not a democracy; it is a kingdom ruled by God. And not only did He predestine all that happens in time, but in time He sovereignly guides all things through providence (Rom. 8:28; 11:36; Eph. 1:11). Lest somebody object that this does not seem right, God reminds us that the universe is His property and He can do whatever He wants to with it (Matt. 20:15). And He does just that– whatever He wants to.

The question then arises, “What is the final purpose for which God does all things?” Though God has not told us all the details of His secret plans (Deut. 29:29), He has granted us the privilege of knowing the bottom line. What is it? The final goal of the whole universe is the glory of God. “From Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to Whom be glory forever. Amen.” (Rom. 11:36). He foreordained and created all things to display His glory, and everything will give Him glory and praise at the end of time in eternity future (Prov. 16:4; Psa. 145:10; Phil. 2:11; Rev. 4:11). God is the First Cause and Last End of all things. There is neither chance nor fate. The universe has meaning, and so do we. We exist to give God glory.

This principle of the sovereignty of God must be clearly understood in order to grasp what Calvinism is all about.

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Part 1

“Biblical Calvinism – An Introduction to the Doctrines of Grace” by Dr. Curt Daniel, Part 1

“We only use the term “Calvinism” for shortness. That doctrine which is called “Calvinism” did not spring from Calvin; we believe that it sprang from the great founder of all truth. Perhaps Calvin himself derived it mainly from the writings of Augustine. Augustine obtained his views, without doubt, through the Holy Spirit of God, from diligent study of the writings of Paul, and Paul received them from the Holy Ghost and from Jesus Christ, the great founder of the Christian Church. We use the term then, not because we impute an extraordinary importance to Calvin’s having taught these doctrines. We should be just as willing to call them by any other name, if we could find one which would better understood, and which on the whole would be as consistent with fact.

The old truth that Calvin preached, that Augustine preached, is the truth that I must preach today, or else be false to my conscience and my God. I cannot shape the truth; I know of no such thing as pairing off the rough edges of a doctrine. John Knox’s gospel is my gospel. That which thundered through Scotland must thunder through England again.” -C. H. Spurgeon


Who rules the universe, God or Man? That is the basic question of theology. The system of theology known as Calvinism answers without any apology or compromise, “God is King.” Virtually all other systems of theology may say they agree, but upon closer scrutiny they place Man on the throne with God, or even depose God completely and enthrone Man.

Perhaps you may have wondered just what this Calvinism is to make such a bold claim. Obviously it is associated with the name of John Calvin, but its theology is much older. It is taught in both testaments of the Bible. Many of the early church fathers taught it, especially the great Augustine. Most of the Protestant Reformers were either Calvinists or in basic agreement with its theology, such as Martin Luther. Then there were the English and American Puritans, such as John Bunyan and Matthew Henry, almost all of whom believed in Calvinism. Later Calvinist preachers and theologians include Jonathan Edwards, Charles Hodge, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, A.W. Pink, Martin Lloyd-Jones and James I. Packer. Calvinism has especially thrived in Britain, Holland and America.

Most Protestant denominations that originated in the Reformation are founded on official confessions of faith that are clearly Calvinistic, such as the Westminister Confession (Presbyterianism), the Canons of Dort (Reformed), the Thirty-nine Articles (Episcopalianism), the Baptist Confession of 1689 (Baptists), the Savoy Declaration (Congregationalism) and many others. Historic Lutheranism is very close to Calvinism. So, the theology of Calvinism is quite old and has stood the test of time. It is not a theological fad.

Calvinism is a branch of Evangelical Christianity, holding to all the essentials of the faith, such as the full authority of Scripture and the deity of Christ. Since the time of the Reformation, Arminianism has been its chief rival within Evangelicalism. But while historic Calvinism has been a bulwark against the inroads of Rationalism and Liberalism, Arminianism tends to open the door to Liberal theology. This is because Arminianism weakens the Godness of God and exalts the humanity of Man, while Calvinism emphasizes over and over that God is God and Man is Man.

If one wanted to sum up the distinctives of Calvinism, then he need only learn the meaning of the words “Sovereign Grace.” All Evangelical theologies will agree that salvation is solely by God’s grace, but Calvinism alone says that it is sovereignly given to whomever God chooses to grant it. To fully understand the words, then, one must understand the Calvinist teaching on the sovereignty of God and what we call “the doctrines of grace.” These are usually summed up as the Five Points of Calvinism by the popular acronym TULIP: Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistable grace, and Perseverance of the saints. But, as we shall see, it all gets back to the question of who rules the universe.

We might add that Calvinism stresses the five great doctrines rediscovered in the Protestant Reformation, namely Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), Sola Gratia (grace alone), Sola Fide (faith alone), Solo Christo (Christ alone), and Soli Deo Gloria (to God alone be the glory). Since we believe that all doctrines must be tested by Scripture (Acts 17:11; 1 Thess. 5:21; Isa. 8:20), you are invited to search the Scriptures and see if Calvinism is indeed the teaching of the Word of God.

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Dr.Curt Daniel is a knowledgeable student and teacher of Reformed theology and history. His approach is to “leave no stone unturned” in pursuing the truth of Scripture. His breadth of knowledge enables him to easily glean from the theological giants that have gone before.

Dr. Daniel attended Central Bible College (B.A.), Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.), and the University of Edinburgh (Ph.D.). Dr. Daniel teaches, preaches and publishes theological works consistent with Scripture and Reformed Theology.

The entire teaching series “The History and Theology of Calvinism” by Dr. Daniel can be found at Monergism.com. You can listen online and/or download any of the available lessons. I have long since downloaded the entire series and listened to all of the lessons. There are other good series about our subject and perhaps I will share some of those at the end of this series of blog posts.

There’s some personal history to share. There was a time when I was about as ‘anti-Calvinism’ as a man can get. I swallowed everything bad I heard about John Calvin, hook, line, and sinker. I drank the Kool-Aid. In fact, I don’t remember hearing anything good about John Calvin and Calvinism. My journey from idolizing the autonomous free will of man toward Reformed Theology was the result of serious Bible reading concerning the real state of fallen man according to Scripture as well as actually studying the actual history of John Calvin and Calvinism. I’ve also become familiar with many Reformed theologians, both living and dead.

If you are wondering what Calvinism (Reformed Theology) means to this old soldier, I am compelled to say that my salvation, which is ALL of God, has become more and more precious to me through the years. Knowing that even my decision to embrace Christ as my Savior and Lord was an act of God only serves to make a man more humble as time goes by.

Does Calvinism Discourage Evangelism?

Posted by Nathan Busenitz

Seven years ago, a group of fifteen Southern Baptist evangelists met together to bemoan the growth of Calvinism within SBC circles.

When asked about his concerns, Jerry Drace (the evangelist who initiated the meeting) explained that some Baptist pastors are so Calvinistic “that they almost laugh at evangelism. It’s almost to the extent that they believe they don’t have to do it. So [Calvinism] gives them an excuse not to do evangelism.”

Drace’s comments raise an important question. Does an affirmation of God’s sovereign election in salvation (commonly called “Calvinism”) discourage people from faithfulness in evangelism?Calvin and Company

An answer to that question could be approached from several different angles.

One could, for example, consider evangelistic efforts among Baptists — comparing those who embrace the doctrine of election with those who do not. An SBC study “found that Calvinistic recent graduates report that they conduct personal evangelism at a slightly higher rate than their non-Calvinistic peers.”

A better place to go, of course, would be the Word of God. There are many passages to which we could turn (from John 6 to Acts 13 to Ephesians 1); but I would start in Romans 9–10. Pardon the anachronism, but it is no accident that one of the most “Calvinistic” chapters in the Bible (Romans 9) is partnered with the one of the most “evangelistic” (Romans 10). Clearly, the apostle Paul saw no disconnect between the reality of God’s sovereignty in salvation and his own evangelistic zeal.

We could also look to church history. As Mitch Cervinka explains:

One needs only examine Protestant history to see that Calvinists have been on the forefront of evangelism and missions. George Whitefield was outspoken in affirming all five points of Calvinism, yet he was one of the most zealous and effective evangelists of the Great Awakening. Wherever he traveled, both in England and America, people would turn out by the thousands to hear him preach in the open fields. The modern missionary movement began in 1792 when the Calvinistic Baptist, William Carey, left England to minister the gospel in India. With the help of William Ward and Joshua Marshman, he founded 26 churches and 126 schools, and translated the Bible into 44 languages including Sanskrit. In 1812, Adoniram Judson, another Calvinistic Baptist, sailed to Burma, becoming the first American to depart for the overseas mission field. . . . Other Calvinistic evangelists and missionaries of note include Jonathan Edwards, Asahel Nettleton and Charles H. Spurgeon. More than this, the Protestant Reformation was perhaps the greatest evangelistic movement of modern history. The Lord brought it about through the evangelistic zeal and unfailing courage of men who believed that God is fully sovereign in salvation—men such as Martin Luther,William Tyndale, John Calvin and John Knox, as well as lesser known men such as William Farel, George Wishart, Martin Bucer, Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley and countless others.

One of my favorite accounts from church history in this regard is the testimony of George Müller.  When he first encountered the doctrines of grace (such as mankind’s total depravity and God’s sovereign election), Müller tried to reject them. He would later describe his initial distaste in his autobiography, “Before this period I had been much opposed to the doctrines of election, particular redemption, and final persevering grace; so much so that . . . I called election a devilish doctrine.”

But as he continued to study God’s Word, Müller reached an unexpected conclusion. He wrote:

I went to the Word, reading the New Testament from the beginning, with a particular reference to these truths. To my great astonishment I found that the passages which speak decidedly for election and persevering grace, were about four times as many as those which speak apparently against these truths; and even those few, shortly after, when I had examined and understood them, served to confirm me in the above doctrines.

Müller initially feared that embracing the doctrine of election would quench his passion for evangelism. But he soon found it had the opposite effect. Consequently, he noted:

In the course of time . . . it pleased God then to show to me the doctrines of grace in a way in which I had not seen them before. At first I hated them, “If this were true I could do nothing at all in the conversion of sinners, as all would depend upon God and the working of His Spirit.” But when it pleased God to reveal these truths to me, and my heart was brought to such a state that I could say, “I am not only content simply to be a hammer, an axe, or a saw, in God’s hands; but I shall count it an honor to be taken up and used by Him in any way; and if sinners are converted through my instrumentality, from my inmost soul I will give Him all the glory;” the Lord gave me to see fruit; the Lord gave me to see fruit in abundance; sinners were converted by scores; and ever since God has used me in one way or other in His service.

That perspective fueled Müller’s evangelistic zeal — from the 10,000 orphans he helped to care for in England to the over 200,000 miles he traveled as an itinerant evangelist, taking the gospel to dozens of foreign nations. Müller’s example is one of many powerful answers, from history, to those who would allege that an affirmation of God’s sovereignty in salvation kills evangelism.

Whether we look to Scripture or church history, we quickly learn that a belief in God’s sovereign election — properly understood — is no deterrent to a passionate witness. In reality, it has the opposite effect.

A right understanding actually motivates the missionary spirit. As Charles Spurgeon explained to his students, “We must have the heathen converted; God has myriads of His elect among them, we must go and search for them somehow or other.”

That is the kind of passion for evangelism that ought to characterize all who call themselves “Calvinists.” If it doesn’t, it calls into question the authenticity of the label.

Online Source: The Cripplegate