Is the Calvinist-Arminian Debate Really Important?

Interview with John Piper, May 4, 2020

Audio Transcript

Is the Calvinist-Arminian debate overblown? It’s a question today from a young man, a listener to the podcast who writes us this: “Pastor John, hello! I’ve argued about predestination and free will with fellow believers for years. I’m a five-point Calvinist. But lately these conversations have grown tiresome to me. No amount of debate seems to settle all the questions. And I recently read a letter by C.S. Lewis where he called the Calvinist-Arminian debate pretty much pointless because it only answers questions about this life, answers meaningless in eternity.

“He wrote, ‘Both the statement that our final destination is already settled [Calvinism] and the view that it still may be either heaven or hell [Arminianism], seem to me to imply the ultimate reality of time, which I don’t believe in. The controversy is one I can’t join on either side, for I think that in the real (timeless) world it is meaningless’ (Collected Letters, 2:703). I think Lewis raises a fair question: Is this whole debate time-bound? And even within time, I find myself more and more asking, What is the real-life fallout? Is the practical and spiritual value of Calvinism for this life significantly better? If so, how?”

Oh, Lewis, Lewis, Lewis! My friend! My mentor! Let’s start here. There is a huge difference between saying, on the one hand, that fruitless debates have grown tiresome — which I can totally understand and would not encourage — and saying, on the other hand, that I’m not seeing the real-life fallout or the practical spiritual value of Calvinism in this life. Those are radically different sentences and the last one is tragic — tragic. And I hope such a theological, personal malaise doesn’t fall on me, and I hope it can be lifted from our young friend.

Philosophy and Exegesis

So, first let me say a word about Lewis — bless his heart and rest his soul in heaven — and then about Calvinism and time. That’s the issue that he raised: time. And as I go along, I will try to show for our friend the preciousness of these things.

I have read more of C.S. Lewis than any other author on the planet except Jonathan Edwards. I love C.S. Lewis. He has made a great difference in my life. But one thing you will look for in vain in all the writings of C.S. Lewis: careful, serious biblical exposition. We have no idea how he did it (I presume he did it); we have to guess how C.S. Lewis read his Bible because he does not show us, which means he comes at biblical-theological questions more philosophically than he does exegetically.

This is certainly the case when it comes to Calvinism versus Arminianism. As far as I can tell, he simply sweeps aside dozens of specific, clear biblical sentences with the philosophical wand of timelessness. Nobody who reads the Bible carefully, and seeks to submit to the Bible’s own logic — not an alien philosophical presupposition — will be content with Lewis’s way of handling the issue of Calvinism and Arminianism. It cannot satisfy if you’re a Bible-saturated person who takes sentences — real, live, meaning-carrying sentences — seriously when you read the Bible.

Let’s just pretend that I’m now talking to C.S. Lewis about the five points of Calvinism. Here’s what I would say to Lewis. Four of them, Mr. Lewis, do not address the time issue at all. And the fifth one addresses the time issue because God made it address the time issue. God put the pre- in predestination. Man didn’t decide to do that; God did that, and he had good reasons for doing it — not to be swept away by the wand of timelessness. So let me take them one at a time.

1. Dead in Total Depravity

The issue is: At the point of my conversion, was I dead? Was I dead? Was I utterly incapable of seeing or savoring Jesus Christ as my supreme treasure? Answer: yes, I was. I was dead, blind, spiritually incapable of believing on Jesus. First Corinthians 2:14: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God.” No way. I’m stiff-arming them totally in my deadness and fallenness and blindness. They are folly to me. I’m not able to understand them. They are spiritually discerned, and I don’t have the Holy Spirit. I hate God, and I love myself, and I am in bondage.

The question is not one of time. And the answer makes all the difference in the world about whether you praise yourself or praise your God in speechless wonder that you are now a lover of Jesus — that you can see the light of the glory of the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4). John Piper now sees the light of the glory of the gospel.

How did that happen? If you think you were only partially incapable of faith, and just needed a little divine nudge, your amazement, your humility, your worship, your reverence will be hindered. How dead and how helpless were you when God saved you? Come on, Lewis. Come on. Talk about 1 Corinthians 2:14, talk about Romans 8:7, talk about Ephesians 2:4–5, talk about 2 Corinthians 4:4. Don’t give me your philosophical wand of timelessness. Talk to me about the deadness of the human soul.

2. Awakened by Irresistible Grace

The question, Mr. Lewis, is, What happened on that bus ride that you described in Surprised by Joy — the one that you began as an unbeliever, and to your own amazement, you ended as a believer? What happened?

The Bible is not silent about what happened. It is not left to your philosophical speculation. It goes like this: “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).

God did a creative miracle in your life, Mr. Lewis — just as much as when he called the universe out of nothing. He took out the heart of stone and put in the heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). He raised you from the dead and seated you in the heavenly places with Christ (Ephesians 2:4–6). He opened your eyes to give heed to the truth, and in the very moment when you passed from death to life, God was decisive — not you. You did not impart life to your dead self. This is not an issue of time, Mr. Lewis; this is an issue of worship. To whom will you give glory for your decisive passage from unbelieving death to believing life?

3. Purchased by Limited Atonement

Here the question is not time. The question is whether the new-covenant miracle that happens to every Christian when their dead heart — our dead heart — is replaced with a new heart was definitely purchased for them by the death of Christ, but was not so purchased for everyone. That’s the issue. Everyone would have a new heart if it was purchased the same way for all.

Jesus called his blood the “blood of the covenant” (Matthew 26:28). Jesus called it “the new covenant” (Luke 22:20). And what the new covenant promised was that the old, unbelieving, rebellious hearts of C.S. Lewis and John Piper would be sovereignly replaced by God with a new, soft, believing heart, and that the law of God would be written on that heart so that we do from the heart what we’re called to do, like believe and obey. We don’t write it. He wrote it.

This was all secured when we were purchased by the blood of the new covenant. When Christ died, he secured a perfect, complete redemption, including the undeserved mercy of our conversion and faith. This is not a question of time; this is a question of what Christ achieved for his people on the cross. Did he lay down his life for the sheep (John 10:11)? Did he ransom the children of God (John 11:52)? Did he ransom for himself a people scattered among the peoples (Revelation 5:9–10)? Or didn’t he? That’s the issue.

4. Secure in the Perseverance of the Saints

This is not a question of timelessness or time. This is a question about whether you and I will wake up a believer tomorrow morning. Will I? And I cannot imagine for our young friend who wrote in this question anything more immediately relevant to me when I go to bed at night or think about it all day long, than the answer to the question, Will I wake up a believer, heaven-bound, tomorrow morning, or won’t I?

Jude is so blown away by the glory of God’s sovereign keeping that the greatest doxology in the Bible is crafted to extol this work of God’s sovereignty over our fickle, so-called “free will.” If God left me to my fickle free will, I’d be out of here. “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it — prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it” — chain it, bind it, keep me.

Here’s what Jude says: “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless . . .” He’s going to keep you and present you blameless because he is sovereign. If he doesn’t do it, it isn’t going to happen. And then he says, “. . . to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24–25).

That’s how amazed Jude was that God would not let him go. God wouldn’t let him fall into unbelief. God would not let his vaunted free will have the last word. This is not a matter of time; this is a matter of sweet assurance that tomorrow morning I will wake up with a heart for God.

5. Awestruck by Unconditional Election

Here we meet time. Ephesians 1:4–6:

He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace.

Paul’s aim here is to inflame the praise of the glory of the grace of God. That’s his purpose. That’s the goal of Ephesians 1:4–6. The sovereign saving grace of God that is based not on our so-called “free will,” but on “the purpose of his will.” Paul intends to put God’s saving grace outside our control so that, when all history is said and done, the song of the ages will be to the praise of the glory of God’s free, invincible grace, so that no human might boast except in the Lord.

And I would just say in closing that if these five realities are not humbling, emboldening, stabilizing, worship-inflaming, sacrifice-empowering, joy-igniting, what we ought to do is not ignore them, but get on our knees and cry out for the eyes of our heart to be opened.


John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently Come, Lord Jesus.


Online Source: Is the Calvinist-Arminian Debate Really Important?

Essential Characteristics of Genuine Revival


Well, regardless of whether or not the 2023 ‘Asbury Revival’ proves to be a genuine revival or not, it certainly has generated a lot of interest, both in Christian circles and the general press. Only time will tell if it’s genuine or not, and only God knows if any revival is actually a genuine revival.

Nevertheless, it is possible to define what we can call essential characteristics of a truly genuine revival. The revival research this old man has done through the years has revealed that opinions about what real revival is, and isn’t, vary. I read at least a half dozen articles about revival just today that I added to the revival folder in my files that already contained a sizable number of files from having examined revivals of the past.

Perhaps a good, if not the best approach to study revival might be to examine what happened on the Day of Pentecost in the city of Jerusalem.

Pentecost was originally one of the most important festivals of the Jewish calendar, commonly called the Feast of Weeks, and marked the end of the grain harvest. There was therefore a very large number of Jews from far and wide visiting the city in addition to the city residents.

In the New Testament, Pentecost marked the birth of the Christian Church. The Holy Spirit was poured out on Jesus’ disciples as they were gathered together in a room, away from the crowd. The Apostle Peter, filled with and empowered by the Holy Spirit, preached the first sermon of the new church to a large crowd gathered in the streets of Jerusalem.

After having read quite a bit of material concerning revival, I found that there are several characteristics common to genuine revival, no matter when it has occurred, or might be happening today.

Awareness of God’s presence, and especially an awareness of His holiness and majesty

A fundamental feature in revival is the sense that God has drawn awesomely near in his holiness, mercy, and might. As J. I. Packer explains, “God ‘comes,’ ‘visits,’ and ‘draws near’ to his people, and makes his majesty known.” It’s what we see in the prayer of Isaiah the Prophet recorded in Isaiah 64:1-2, “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence.” We see an example of that presence in the first few verses of Isaiah chapter 6, when Isaiah he ‘saw the Lord sitting on a throne’ in the temple and heard the angels’ song — ‘Holy, holy, holy’— and cried out, ‘Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips’ (Is. 6:1-5). Revival begins with this searching, scorching manifestation of God’s presence begins and is sustained.

Responsiveness to God’s Word

When there is a sense of God’s presence, the authority and truth of God’s word is greatly magnified. The message of scripture searches the hearts of its hearers and readers and cuts to the very core of their being. That is exactly what happened on the day of Pentecost when Peter preached the new church’s first sermon! Peter had studied the Jewish scriptures and that is exactly what he presented to the gathered crowd! When Peter told them, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 3:36), their immediate response was “. . . they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Sensitiveness to Sin

Peter’s words had cut deep into the heart and soul of Jewish listeners. As Packer tells us, “No upsurge of religious interest or excitement merits the name of revival if there is no profound sense of sin at its heart.” Peter’s listeners on the day of Pentecost were ‘pierced to the heart,’ which literally means “to pierce thoroughly, that is, (figuratively) to agitate violently (“sting to the quick”), (Strong’s Concordance). Completely shattered, the congregation cried out, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’ Knowing that conviction of sin is a means to an end, Peter responded, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ. . . .” Peter showed them the way of faith, repentance, and discipleship through Jesus Christ, and three thousand were saved that day! (Acts 2:37-41).

Liveliness in Community

Another characterization of a revived church is the life, joy and power of the Holy Spirit. Fellowship with Christ becomes the clear center of our worship and devotion. When the glorified Christ is shown, known, loved, served, and exalted, love and generosity abound. There is also a profound sense of unity and joy, assurance and boldness, a spirit of praise and prayer. We see all of this in the newly birthed church in Jerusalem:

42And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47, ESV).

Fruitfulness in testimony

Revival always results in evangelism, through personal witness as newly saved believers share the gospel message and their changed lives with others, and as God’s “sent ones”, such as the Apostle Paul not only preach the gospel message, establish new local churches wherever they travel. When God brings revival, “New life overflows from the church for the conversion of outsiders and renovation of society. Christians become fearless in witness and tireless in their Savior’s service. They proclaim by word and deed the power of the new life, souls are won, and a community conscience informed by Christian values emerges. Also in revival times God acts quickly; his work accelerates. Truth spreads, and people are born again and grow in Christ, with amazing rapidity.” (Packer)

In summary, there you have a pattern of revival that is common to all genuine revival. “Christians in revival are accordingly found living in God’s presence (coram Deo), attending to his word, feeling acute concern about sin and righteousness, rejoicing in the assurance of Christ’s love and their own salvation, spontaneously constant in worship, and tirelessly active in witness and service, fueling these activities by praise and prayer.” (Packer)

As for the Asbury revival? It’s been announced that it is “ending” this week. As one article reported “Life will return to normal on the campus of Asbury University and in the town of Wilmore once this week is through.”

Again, I’m reminded of something Jordan Standridge said in a Cripplegate article:

“Only God knows if a revival is taking place. These pastors (who declared it a true revival) can’t know. The skeptics can’t know. It is only God who can cause a revival and it is only God who can know if a revival is taking place.”

Please pray for everyone who has been involved with the events at Asbury University and beyond; that God will indeed bring salvation and lasting revival as He the invades hearts and minds of many during these times.

Be Blessed!


Portions of this article were adapted from Marks of Revival, by J.R. Packer, and Essential Characteristics of Genuine Revival, by Erroll Hulse, both available online at

Ultimate Collection of Free Presuppositional Apologetics Lectures

The Domain for Truth

knight armor

The blog True Forms ( used to have a popular post titled “Ultimate Collection of Free Presuppositional Apologetics Lectures” that was heavily promoted on Social Media.  Unfortunately the blog owner has recently deleted his blog account.  Which is unfortunate if you are looking for great lectures on Presuppositional apologetics online.

I’ve been digging around online to reconstruct that original list.  I have also decided to post the listing with further expansion of other lectures!  This is a work in progress.

Feel free to share this on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.

Also if there are more resources that you feel should be included on here, please let us know in the comment box.

Camden Bucey
1. Defending the Faith

Shane Kastler
1. Expositional Apologetics

Fred Butler
1. Apologetics Evangelism 101

Jonathan Harris
1. Apologetics Sunday School Class 2011

Brian Rickett
1. Presuppositional Apologetics 2014 Paschal Lectures by Brian Rickett (Videos)

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Resolutions, Resolutions!

Well, here we are again, nearing the beginning of 2023, and quite naturally, the subject of New Year’s resolutions surfaces once again for many of us. Some of us old guys have long since tried to put the subject behind us, having made them, only to break most of them along the way. A simple internet search of the term New Year’s resolutions will yield a veritable plethora of ideas and articles, as well as tips on keeping them.

The practice of making of New Year’s resolutions has a long history, going all the way back to days of the Babylonian empire, and had to do with making promises to various gods. Participation rates, along with success and failure rates varies depends on whose survey you are using. I’m sure we all have stories about resolutions we’ve made through the years.

I’d like to set our personal experiences aside for now and talk about a set of resolutions crafted by a man who was perhaps the greatest theologian ever to grace American soil. His name was Jonathan Edwards. I we know about him at all, it is probably in connection with a famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands a of an Angry God., and/or the first Great Awaking in 18th century America.

Edwards was born in 1703, the son of a Puritan minister in Connecticut. His mother was the daughter of a minister from Massachusetts. While he delighted in religious studies from a very young age, it was when he was in his late teen years, that he experienced a turning point in his spiritual quest. In the Spring of 1721 he wrote:

“I was brought to a new sense of things, to an inward sweet delight in God and divine things, quite different from anything I had ever experienced before. I began to have a new kind of apprehension and idea of Christ and the work of redemption and the glorious way of salvation by him.”

A year later he began writing a series of life resolutions he felt would greatly assist his spiritual growth in grace and God-centered living. The first 21 resolutions were crafted in a single sitting in 1722, which were added to at various times until, in August 1723 the list included 70 resolutions. He then read them once a week for the rest of his life.

Who among today’s evangelicals would take up a such a lifelong commitment? Some of us might even call it a legalistic attempt to please God. That would be an erroneous assumption. Edwards himself acknowledged who could provide him with the ability to keep his resolutions, including a short preface to the resolutions themselves:

“Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat Him by His grace to enable me to keep these resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to His will, for Christ’s sake.”

What follows is the list of resolutions, each one beginning with the word “Resolved.”, indicating a firm decision made with a soul deep gravity. Here are the first seven resolutions, to whet your appetite and arouse your interest.

1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many soever, and how great soever.

2. Resolved, to be continually endeavoring to find out some new contrivance and invention to promote the aforementioned things.

3. Resolved, if ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again.

4. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.

5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.

6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.

7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.

If you are considering your own resolutions for this new year, and to follow Jonathan Edwards’ example, let these three simple principles resolutions be your guide:

1. Let the glory of God be the ultimate goal of any resolution you make.

2. Consider resolutions that will last a lifetime instead of just a year.

3. Like Jonathan Edwards, draw from God’s strength

You can find a complete list of the seventy resolutions here (Jonathan Edwards: Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume One – Christian Classics Ethereal Library (

Have a divinely blessed New Year!

Why the Reformation Still Matters

As Reformation Day approaches, a timely reminder posted here a few years ago.

The Battle Cry

by Michael Reeves

Last year, on October 31, Pope Francis announced that after five hundred years, Protestants and Catholics now “have the opportunity to mend a critical moment of our history by moving beyond the controversies and disagreements that have often prevented us from understanding one another.” From that, it sounds as if the Reformation was an unfortunate and unnecessary squabble over trifles, a childish outburst that we can all put behind us now that we have grown up.

But tell that to Martin Luther, who felt such liberation and joy at his rediscovery of justification by faith alone that he wrote, “I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.” Tell that to William Tyndale, who found it such “merry, glad and joyful tidings” that it made him “sing, dance, and leap for joy.” Tell it to Thomas Bilney, who found it…

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A Comparison of Arminianism and Calvinism

From 10+ years ago, and still relevant today.

The Battle Cry

The information below provides an accurate and easily understood explanation of the central teachings of two schools of thought concerning the salvation of men. This post is not intended to promote one view or the other. The topics presented can certainly be discussed without labels connected to the men they represent, Jacob Arminius and John Calvin. However, they seem inextricably linked and therefore are used in this post. You are encouraged to further research both systems of thought, and to examine both in the light of Scripture.

Free-Will or Human Ability – Arminianism

Although human nature was seriously affected by the fall, man has not been left in a state of total spiritual helplessness. God graciously enables every sinner to repent and believe, but He does not interfere with man’s freedom. Each sinner possesses a free will, and his eternal destiny depends on how he uses it. Man’s freedom consists…

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Who CAN (is able) come to Christ?

This is a blast from the past (2011) worthy of repeating…

The Battle Cry

Is anyone and everyone able to come to Christ, solely in the strength of human will? What, if anything, does the Bible have to say about who can (has the ability) come to Christ? For the moment, lay any doctrinal position you already have aside and just focus on the words in the pages of Scripture.

No one cancome to me unlessthe Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyonewho has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.” – John 6:44-45

Those who are drawn by the Father, and who have heard from and learned from the Father are able to come to Christ. We are in fact told that they will come.

“. . .no one can come to…

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