Why I Left Calvinism

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Having grown up in the Southern Presbyterian tradition, I was taught the five points of Calvinism from my mother’s womb. I memorized the children’s catechism early on and very nearly finished memorizing the famed Shorter Catechism itself—but one can only take so much. After my college days, I worked for a while within the ‘truly reformed’ community as a campus minister’s assistant, studying everything I could get my hands on related to the glorious ‘doctrines of grace.’ And yes, to my shame I taught Calvinism as the truth of the gospel. Although rigorously logical and thoroughly biblical, in a curious sort of way, somewhere inside I always knew that fundamental errors loomed at the core of the Calvinist system.

Before I set forward my main points as to why I left Calvinism, I want to make two important comments. First, to this day, I love John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion and his various biblical commentaries. Apart from his doctrine of reprobation (see Institutes III. XXI), which he got from Augustine, I find the Institutes to be beautifully written, even devotional, and certainly far more moving than the type of theology handed down by his descendents, which reads more like religious insurance manuals than its does a song of someone who loves God. Calvin is cut from a different piece of cloth than the Calvinists. And, by the way, although the doctrine of “limited atonement” logically follows Calvin’s doctrine of double predestination, he never taught it. Second, I believe that the larger Christian community owes a serious debt to Calvinism. Almost single-handedly it has maintained an interest in the stunning, gospel-filled doctrine of election. Granted, that what it gives with the one hand (election is true), it takes away with the other (it is only true for some), but what could be more stunning than the truth that we were known and loved and indeed embraced by the Father, Son and Spirit from all eternity. My beef with the Calvinists here is not with the fact of our election, but with the way they limit it, and thus limit its preaching as the unconditional truth for all. Be that as it may, I am grateful to my own tradition for keeping the heart of the gospel before us, even in its limited form. What the Calvinists think is true for only a few, should be proclaimed to every person on the planet: “The Father himself set his love upon you before the foundation of the world and predestined you to be adopted into the very trinitarian life of God. And his own beloved Son, Jesus Christ, has come and accomplished his Father’s dreams for you and the human race.”

Sorting through the issues of the Calvinists’ system is like untangling a box full of loose coat hangers, so I will keep my focus, for now, on the three main reasons that I left Calvinism.

(1) The first concerns the origin of the idea of reprobation. In Calvinism there are two groups of people, those “elected” to salvation and those “passed by” or “deliberately damned” or “reprobated” before the foundation of the world. My question is, where did such a notion originate? Is reprobation the Father’s idea, or the Son’s, or perhaps it is the Holy Spirit’s?

Many years ago I read Athanasius’ treatise Against the Arians, and his statement that there was never a time when the Father was alone, existing without his Son, and was just God and not Father. Athanasius’ point was that the relationship of the Father, Son and Spirit is not a form that the single God assumed for a moment in time. This relationship is the eternal and deepest truth about God. God is Father, Son and Spirit—always has been and always will be—and therefore every thought of God, every idea, every dream, and every plan of this God is relational, flowing out of the relationship of the Father, Son and Spirit.

Athanasius, thankfully, rocked my Calvinistic world. He made me see that whatever we say about God (or about God’s will) has to be grounded in the relationship of the Father, Son and Spirit, for there is nothing deeper about the being of God than this relationship. The ideas that God would elect some to salvation and pass others by, or outright reject them, must be, theologically speaking, grounded in this relationship. It is obvious how election to adoption would flow out of the Father-Son relationship, for the Father loves the Son and shares all things with him in the Spirit. So it is not out of character or odd that the blessed Trinity would think of including others in the trinitarian life. But why would this God think of excluding? What about the life that the Triune God lives would ever lead to the deliberate damning of people? Does such an idea flow out of the way the Father and Son relate? Is there are part or side of the Father that is disinterested in his Son, neutral, even eager to dismiss, look over, and, indeed, to reject him? And is it this dark side of the Father’s relationship with his Son that thus gives natural rise to the rejection of large parts of humanity?

Or perhaps there is a second Son, banished from the Father’s love and presence from all eternity, and thus in the Father’s rejection of the second Son originates the idea of the Father rejecting part of his creation? If you cannot ground God’s decision to pass by or to reject parts of his own creation in the relationship of the Father, Son and Spirit itself—in God’s very being—what is its ground? Is there something deeper about God than the love and fellowship of the Father, Son and Spirit? Is there a god behind the back of the Trinity who ultimately calls the shots? While I have actually had Calvinists contend that the New Testament never teaches that fellowship is at the core of God’s being, for me it was a scriptural, historical and theological no-brainer. So for me, the doctrine of double predestination (of electing some and damning others) is patently non-Christian, because it cannot be grounded in the blessed life and way of relating of the Father, Son and Spirit. And if you cannot say that there is a part of the Father that eternally rejects his beloved Son (and who would dare think of such a thing), then there is no theological basis—in the being of God—for positing why God would think of passing by or rejecting large parts of his creation, or even conceive of such sadness. For me, the reprobating part of the Calvinists’ doctrine of double-predestination both denies that the Trinity is the ultimate and eternal truth about God, and supposes that there is something deeper about God than the fellowship of the Father, Son and Spirit that ultimately calls the shots for creation.

(2) The second reason I left Calvinism is the doctrine of limited atonement. The Calvinists prefer the phrases “definite atonement” or “particular redemption” to the phrase “limited atonement” because they are trying, rightly so, to maintain that the death of Jesus actually accomplished something. I am with them here. But in their system, “accomplishing something” leads to the idea that Jesus never intended to and never did die for the whole human race. He came to die for and to save only the elect (and here I can only say, tongue in cheek, “of course”). Their system of God’s election of some and reprobation of others logically carries them away into such a grotesque notion that Jesus gave himself only for a limited number of people. They honestly don’t think that there is anything wrong with such an idea. In the end, the doctrine that Jesus died only for some and not for the whole human race is a theological denial of the deity of Jesus Christ, and that, to me, was and is as scary as denying that the relationship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is the deepest truth about God’s being.

The apostles are crystal clear that it was in and through and by and for Jesus that all things came into being and are sustained. Let me cite a few verses.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being (John 1:1-3).

For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together (Colossians 1:16-17).

And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3).

John and Paul and the author of Hebrews are emphatic that Jesus is the Creator and that not one thing that was created came into being in any way other than through Jesus Christ. And note that this point is not relegated to obscure footnotes in the latter chapters of their writings. This is the first point. As a side note, when is the last time you heard a sermon on the fact that Jesus is the Creator, the one in and through and by and for whom all things were created? Why isn’t such an obvious apostolic emphasis prominent in our preaching today?

My point here is to say that in the apostolic mind there is a definite and clear connection between Jesus Christ and all creation. Unless we are prepared to posit that the Father created and sustains creation’s existence behind the back of his Son, then, with the apostles, we affirm that everything came into being through the Father’s Son, and we affirm that everything continues to live and move and have its being through him (see Acts 17:28 and I Corinthians 8:6-7). Everything, including every human being, derives existence through Christ and breathes’ Christological air. Let me quote Calvin himself here and his comments on John’s phrase, “in Him was life” (John 1:4).

So far, he has taught us that all things were created by the Word of God. He now likewise attributes to Him the preservation of what had been created; as if he were saying that in the creation of the world His power did not simply suddenly appear only to pass away, but that it is visible in the permanence of the stable and settled order of nature–just as Heb. 1.3 says that He upholds all things by the Word or command of His power. Moreover, this life can either be referred at large to inanimate creatures, which do live in their own way though they lack feeling, or expounded only of the animate. It matters little which you choose, for the simple meaning is that the Word of God was not only the fount of life to all creation, so that those which had not yet existed began to be, but that His life-giving power makes them remain in their state. For did not His continued inspiration quicken the world, whatsoever flourishes would without doubt immediately decay or be reduced to nothing. In short, what Paul ascribes to God, that in Him we have our being and move and live (Acts 17.28), John declares to be accomplished by the blessing of the Word. It is God, therefore, who gives us life; but He does so by the eternal Word. (John Calvin, The Gospel According to John, translated by T. H. L. Parker, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), 1988, pp. 10-11.0).

Following the apostles, Calvin is at pains to point out that the creation and the continued existence of all things are completely dependent upon the Son of God. The critical question here, for me, was what happened to the connection that the Father’s Son has with all things when he became a human being? Does the incarnation mean that he ceases to be the one in and through and by and for whom all things were created and are sustained? Did he break ties with his creation? Of course not. The incarnation is the coming of the One who is already the source and sustenance of all things. He brings his prior relationship with the cosmos and every human being within it with him as he becomes human.

While the Son incarnate is certainly a real man, an individual person, he is much more. His humanity is, as J. B. Torrance insisted, “vicarious humanity.” What becomes of him is not small-print, back-page news, which may or may not be relevant to us. He is the one in whom all things came into being and are continually upheld, thus what becomes of him has immediate implications for the whole creation. This fact should lead us to see with Paul that when Christ died, we died. When he rose, we rose. When he ascended, we were lifted up in him to the Father’s arms (see Ephesians 2:4-6; 2Corinthians 5:14ff). But this is a subject for another day (see my books, The Great Dance, and Jesus and the Undoing of Adam, and the lecture series, “The Big Picture: From the Trinity to Our Adoption in Christ”). For now, the point is that it was Jesus’ relationship with the entire cosmos and with the whole human race that called a halt to any notion of limited atonement that I had running though my brain. The life, death, resurrection and ascension of the incarnate Son/Creator was as wide and deep and large as creation itself. To deny this was simply to deny that Jesus was the incarnate Son of God and the Creator in and through and by and for whom all things were created and are sustained.

I remember standing on Canal street in New Orleans arguing with a Calvinist about this very point. He did not like my questioning the doctrine of limited atonement. We were both attending an American Academy of Religion conference and happened to bump into one another on our way to get something to eat. He started firing questions at me. There were hundreds, if not thousands, of people on Canal street at that moment, and I asked him, “where did these people come from?” He answered, “God made them.” I asked, “which God?” He tried to look perplexed, but he knew where I was going. So I asked again, “which God?” And he said, “you know, the Christian God.” Notice that he did not say, “the Father, Son and Spirit,” for that would mean that all of these people had come into being through Jesus, and thus that Jesus already had a relationship with them. So I just stared at him waiting for more. So he qualified his remarks, by adding, “God created them through common grace.” “You are hiding,” I said, which he did not like at all. “Hiding from what?” he retorted. “Behind the smoke screen of God’s common grace, you are hiding the plain biblical fact that all of these people came into being and continue to live through Jesus Christ.” He acted like he could not understand what I meant. For the deity of Christ, the fact that Jesus is the one in and through and by and for whom all things were created and are sustained is the end of the doctrine of limited atonement, and he knew it. The fact that Jesus is God means that the entire cosmos, and the whole human race within it, are implicated in his incarnate existence, and in what becomes of him. If he dies, we die. If he rises, we rise. If he ascends to the Father, we ascend to the Father. And that is what happened.

(3) My third reason for leaving Calvinism is more pastoral, and has to do with the way Calvinism gave me nothing objectively real to proclaim as divine fact, and thus leaves us with no basis for real assurance. For me, the very heart of Christian living is parrhesia—assurance, confidence, freedom, security—which is rooted in the Father’s eternal and unyielding love, which Jesus himself reveals to us in the Spirit. But how could I hope that Jesus would reveal the Father’s love to a person, in the power of the Spirit, when I could not declare to them that it was absolutely true. Let me cite Calvin again.

Now we shall possess a right definition of faith if we call it a firm and certain knowledge of God’s benevolence toward us, founded upon the truth of the freely given promise in Christ, both revealed to our minds and sealed upon our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Institutes, III.2.7).

For Calvin, the very center of Christian faith is the certain knowledge that God is for us. Without knowing that we belong to the Father himself, and without experiencing the unearthly assurance that baptizes our souls as we do, our souls are left simmering in the poisonous roux of fear. And here we should note Louis Berkhof’s lament: “There are comparatively few Christians to-day, who really glory in the assurance of salvation. The note of heavenly joy seems to have died away out of the life of God’s people” (Louis Berkhof, The Assurance of Faith, p. 16). Berkhof was a Calvinist theologian of the last century. So we have Calvin defining faith as a firm and certain knowledge of God’s benevolence toward us, and Berkhof lamenting the fact that few Christians experience real assurance. Wonder why?

Is there is way to experience real assurance of the Father’s love and of our salvation in Christ when are told that before the foundation of the world God elected some to be saved in grace and others to be damned for the glorification of divine justice? Calvin himself recognized the problem and pointed us in the right direction, only to fall at the last hurdle. Calvin directs us to Christ as the mirror of our election (Institutes III.xxiv.5), so if we struggle with whether or not we are one of the chosen, we are to look to Christ. But, and this is the problem, the mirror of Christ reflects two groups of people, the one’s loved by Jesus’ Father, and the others who are eternally not loved and doomed by the same Father.

This is a serious problem. The human soul is fragile. It is designed by God to live out of the baptism of unearthly assurance that comes from a firm and certain knowledge of the Father’s love. But how can we know that the Father loves us when he may have rejected us before the foundation of the world? Calvinism give us nothing objective to say to the world, no unconditional word of God to proclaim openly to everyone—except that we are all sinners. What is the gospel to be proclaimed according to Calvinism? For me, the gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ and of what became of the cosmos and of the human race in him. When he died, we died. When he rose, we rose. When he ascended, we ascended into the Father’s embrace, and there accepted forever as his adopted children. Our adoption in Christ is objectively true for everyone, a divine fact, established in Jesus Christ’s own existence forever, whether anyone believes it or not. To believe the truth, to believe that you are so loved and accepted is to experience the unearthly assurance of the Father’s love, and thus to begin the journey of learning how to live life in the security and freedom of his passionate embrace.

A Calvinist could only hear what I am saying and conclude that I am teaching universalism. While I am not a universalist, I am saying that before the foundation of the world, the Father, Son and Spirit set their love upon us all, determining to give us a place in the very trinitarian life itself. And, I am saying that Jesus has fulfilled the Father’s dreams of our adoption. In his incarnate life, death, resurrection and ascension he cleansed us of sin, recreated us in his resurrection, and lifted us all into the Father’s arms in his ascension. The Holy Spirit himself was poured out on all flesh to bring us to know the truth so that we could be set free from the great darkness and its terrible, life-canceling fear.

The fact that we are all included in Christ—and in him adopted children of the Father—and the fact that the Holy Spirit has been sent to lead us to know the truth does not mean universalism; it means that we have something real to preach, namely that we all have a beautiful life to live, and that we are all called to live it, called to believe in Jesus and his Father, called to let go of our hellish anxiety and to receive the Father’s love and live. The ones who believe in the witness of the Spirit to our adoption by the Father in his Son, experience the baptism of unearthly assurance (the firm and certain knowledge that the Father himself loves us). Those who don’t believe the Spirit’s witness do not experience the baptism, and continue to live in the doom of the darkness and its anxious hell. Let me put this another way. The human race has been justified by the Father, Son and Spirit. Those who believe that God has justified them, experience the freedom of their justification—rest, peace, hope, assurance. Those who don’t believe that God has justified them, continue to experience a life of striving and self-justification, anxiety and insecurity—religious death.

It is critical, to my mind, not to confuse the divine fact with our experience. People can be loved, adopted and justified, and yet not experience the Father’s love, or the freedom of his adoption, or the peace of his justification because they do not believe these realities to be true. What they believe does not have the power to change the facts, but our faith or lack of it does affect our experience of the facts. To believe that the Father loves you does not make it true, (for it is true whether you believe it or not), but believing the Father’s love to be true means his love becomes a real experience for you.

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).

Giving us no objective gospel or absolute truth to proclaim to the human race, no absolute fact of the Father’s love and the finished work of Christ to shout to the world, Calvinism gives us nothing to say to humanity, and gives the human race nothing real to believe, no concrete, objective basis for faith, and thus no possibility for unearthly assurance. What do the Calvinists call people to believe, and to believe in? “Jesus” would seem the obvious answer, but how can you really believe in Jesus when you have no basis for believing that he even died for you at all? Are we supposed to believe that we may be loved by the Father, and that we may be included in Jesus? What basis, what ground is given by Calvinism to anyone to believe that they are loved by God? How is one to know for sure? In the Calvinists’ system, we cannot even look to Jesus himself, for their Jesus embodies and reveals the Father’s divided heart. In the end, and at all points in between, Calvinism leaves us with maybe as the object of our faith, and with no option but to look to ourselves to find proof that the maybe is actually true and we are of the chosen. Being left to ourselves to move from maybe to firm and certain knowledge of the Father’s love is simply not a recipe for Christian faith and assurance, not to speak of peace and rest.

So, for me the Calvinists’ doctrines of double predestination and limited atonement form a tag team that not only gut-punches our already anxious souls, but fuels our profound anxiety, because it gives us no objective truth to proclaim or to believe. Without objective truth, we can never have unearthly assurance, and we are doomed to live with an assurance that is of our own making. Calvinism leaves us either in denial of our waywardness, for to acknowledge it would be to face “proof” that we are not of the elect, or it leaves us inventing a religious form that we can follow to prove that we are—and self-righteously proud that we are doing so. No thank you.

Is the gospel a theory or a declaration? Is the gospel the news that the Father may have embraced you in Jesus, or is it the news that the Father has embraced you in Jesus forever? Thank God, the gospel is a declaration of a divine fact—you are embraced, included in the trinitarian life of God. And this divine fact carries with it both a promise and a warning. Its promise is this: if you believe that you are included, you will experience the Father’s love. The warning is this: if you do not believe that you are included, you will continue to experience striving, insecurity and fear. In which world do you want to live, the world of the Father’s embrace, or the world of maybe?

The best treatment of the problem of assurance from a Calvinist’s perspective is Louis Berkhof’s, The Assurance of Faith. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1939). He sees the issue and has some helpful things to say, but in the end he leaves us with ourselves and the hope that the Holy Spirit can take the vague, even deceptive message that “God loves sinners” (for the Calvinist’s God loves some sinners) and use it to give an individual firm and certain knowledge that the Father loves them in particular. Thomas Erskine’s, The Unconditional Freeness of the Gospel, written in the land of Calvinism, is the book to read if you want to understand the gospel and to experience real assurance (available on our web site).

The best book on Calvin’s theology is Victor A. Shepherd’s, The Nature and Function of Faith in the Theology of John Calvin, (Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 1983).

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Showing 41 comments
  • bill winn
    Reply

    I’ve had enough fear and doubt about whether I was accepted into the Father’s embrace- I’ve walked home from that date before.
    My experience is that parhessia tastes more like home. “Thank you Holy Spirit I’ll have more please!” The darkness just keeps bleeding daylight doesn’t it?! Go ahead Jesus!

  • Brandon Vaughn
    Reply

    Wow … reading this brought tears to my eyes … tears of joy and excitement in the ONE true Trinitarian God that loves us. I have realized in the past months how I have long worshiped a “schizophrenic” God. You can see it everywhere (God loves some but hates others, or that God loves us while alive but hates us after we die, or that God loves me when I perform correctly but hates me when I don’t, …). The FREEDOM to know this Trinitarian truth of God!

    The truth of the Trinity was always such a “trivial” piece of knowledge to me … what does that matter to life?! But now I see it is the very CENTER of our faith.

    And didn’t Paul even tell us that our ministry now is to tell people about reconciliation? Sin has been dealt with forever. The doors of the prison cells stand open, yet in our blindness man sits in his cell.

    Thanks Baxter for this article. It was simply amazing, and you should consider making it into a paper for download on your website (or a book … I’ll help you write it if you like!!).

    I’m going to share this with my Calvinistic friends. Thanks for the references too because I want to do more study in this. If you have any other resources that would be helpful in untangling the mire of Calvinism back to Trinitarian truth, please let us know!

    Blessings,
    Brandon

  • Jerome Ellard
    Reply

    Really a wonderful exposition, Baxter. Thank you for writing it. I am reminded of the struggle I have always had of reconciling a good God with the doctrine of an ever-burning, torment-filled hell as a place of eternal punishment meted out by a holy and just God. The idea there says that the ultimate truth about God is his stainless steel holiness (defined as pure, uncompromising righteousness). The purveyors of this idea state that it is a higher order truth about God than the truth of the Trinity. The idea of the trinity is purposely presented as so mysterious that no one can really understand what it means. It is A truth about this mysterious God, but it’s safer to put the concept on the shelf and let it get dusty. Thinking too much about it only distracts one from contemplating the terrible holiness of the Almighty God. In this idea, He is SO “HOLY” and RIGHTEOUS that one sin DEMANDS an eternal punishment. What a recipe for unearthly anxiety! God bless you and your family, Baxter, and thank you for being my friend in the Lord!

  • Rick Gibson
    Reply

    Wow Baxter, you just blew my socks off! I’ve always believed that we were created by and for and sustained in Jesus. And I’ve always ready Paul saying that we died with Christ, I’ve just never put 2 and 2 together. You just flipped on a light switch for me, thanks~ I can see the implications for the sign of Baptism now, how much more meaningful this makes it compared to the disconnected traditional view of the Cross and Baptism.

    Oh and if you see my socks, please let me know :-).

    Rick

  • Glen Weber
    Reply

    Excellent, Baxter. What true assurance. I am presently preaching through Hebrews and the writer regularly calls the reader to assurance or confidence, yet so few believers walk in that assurance.
    I’d love to see you also write on the even more frightening belief of “free moral agency.” At least with Calvinism I have a bit of a chance!!! With free moral agency it depends on me. Now that is a scary thought!

  • Doug Johannsen
    Reply

    I’m wondering if the double predestination belief somehow helps “Christians” justify oppressive sorts of behavior such as slavery, war, and even genocide. After all, if you think you’ve figured out that an individual or group is damned, then what’s the problem? Seems to me that sort of belief would allow someone to live contrary to II Cor 5:16a “From now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.”

  • Brandon Vaughn
    Reply

    I sent this article to my Calvinistic pastor. Obviously he disagreed with it (big shocker). Here is the main part he wrote me (he first quotes Baxter’s article):

    “‘for there is nothing deeper about the being of God than this relationship. The ideas that God would elect some to salvation and pass others by, or outright reject them, must be, theologically speaking, grounded in this relationship.’

    Brandon…..this is a statement I cannot find in scripture. It is a statement that is based on an assumption about God. I happen to disagree with it actually…..I would say that there is nothing deeper about the being of God than His desire for His Glory.”

    Sigh …

    Blessings,
    Brandon

  • Reply

    Thanks boys. That is very encouraging.

  • Reply

    Brandon, brother, what does the man believe about god?

  • Reply

    Doug, you are dead on. This sad theology has been used across the world to oppress maore than we can imagine. It is time for liberation.

  • Brandon Vaughn
    Reply

    Baxter,

    I have no idea. I wish I knew. The only thing I can think is that sterile, cold Augustinian view of God. It sounds very much like when you were talking of the faceless “God” in Hour 2 or 3 of The Great Dance series.

    This is a young guy in a “mega” church, who is in heavily with Dallas Theological Seminary. He preached a few months ago from, I believe, Malachi 4:3 about how we (the “elect”) were going to rejoice when the “non-elect” are thrown into hell. They don’t preach a steady diet of Calvinism though … but when they do, they have the most ludicrous interpretations of Scripture. I find it hard to believe that he has actually studied hermeneutics.

    I actually wrote him back and mentioned to him that in the Hebrew the word “tread” does not mean destruction to ruin. That same word is used of crushing grapes to make wine. It is a destruction to transformation! We “tread” upon the wicked now when we share the Good News that they are included in Trinitarian salvation. Such news destroys our belief in The Lie, but that destroying leads to the beautiful truth of our inclusion and adoption in Jesus. It speaks of “ashes” as well, and often in the OT this is spoken in reference to repentance.

    Blessings,
    Brandon

  • Reply

    Brandon, that is a great point about the word ‘tread.’ Our Father is not into retribution, but healing. It does not surprise me that your pastor disagrees with me about my point that fellowship is the deepest truth of God’s being. I am surprised that he actually put it in writing. May it haunt him into knowledge of the truth. His other statement tells me he is a John Piper fan.

  • dwell
    Reply

    The curious thing for me is would you (baxter) ever write an article called “Why I left Arminianism” ?

    For some of us that is the unbearably tormenting doctine we have escaped from.

    Whilst I totally agree that the teachings of ‘Limited Atonement’ and ‘Double predestination’ are false, i cannot see Real security in the Perichoresis standpoint – at least not the ‘official’ perichoresis standpoint.

    In traditional Arminianism the message is bascially that Jesus did 99.9 % of the work….all we have to do is the .1 of the work – ie believing. (For a great book see http://www.martinzender.com – “The Really Bad Thing About Free Will”) But with the official Perichoresis message it seems to me that although it is better on the surface – ie We are all justified, and sit at the right hand of the Father in Jesus etc…..The bottom line is that WE still have the burden of deciding our destiny….With Perichoresis it’s more like 99.999999999 of the work is done, and now all we need to do is the .000000001 of the quota…but it might as well be all of the work still, cos in the end Jesus’ work is still potential – even though it on the surface seems universally accomplished.

    If the work of redemption is objectively true, than it has to be real for people whether they are aware of it or not yet …and i think it’s just semantics to say that people can be in the kingdom but still be in the dark cos of their blindness – and call that hell…Yes they might be there right in the Father’s embrace but it would be Hell for them….This is just semantics – for them they might as well be in the traditional hell of burning fire pits etc as the experience will feel the same.

    With all the talk of ‘assurance’ in Perichoresis books ironically it can lead to more acutely feelings of doubt i think.

    To sensitive people who struggle with faith, and consistent believing the Perichoresis message can only seem like an exaggeratted form of Arminianism.

    For some of us who are told that you can go to the door of Universalism but you can’t go through…I’m sorry, it’s too late, we’ve already walked through.
    I hate labels but i guess a CalBarthian Perichoretic Universalist would suit me….not neat, but then again life isn’t.

  • Brandon Vaughn
    Reply

    Hi Dwell,

    I’m certainly not going to answer for Baxter and would much prefer his comments. But I wonder why you feel that a Trinitarian vantage point lacks assurance. I see Arminianism and Calvinism as two-dimensional graphs. If there is a third dimension, you will never see it on a two-dimensional graph. In fact, the third dimension on a 2-D graph will just blend in with everything else … possibly to the point that you would never think there is a 3rd dimension (sorry, I teach math).

    To me, the truth is that 100% of the work is completed. There is nothing left to do except say “Thank you.” Now, is the “Thank you” part of the work? It would be like sitting in a chair. What holds you up? Your rest or the chair? I would contend the chair does. And if you don’t trust the chair, it does nothing to change the fact that the chair is able to support you. The choice to sit down only allows you to experientially know what was already true to begin with … that the chair will hold you up. Your choice does not make it happen though. It is the conduit by which we live it out (“through” faith not “by” faith).

    To me, universalism says “You are in whether you want to or not.” This again is cold and sterile. It leaves out the relational aspect of Trinitarian truth. To enter into the truth of adoption requires a complete abandonment which says “I can be as God apart from God.” It isn’t like we say that, “Oh, you are a Buddhist, but that doesn’t matter.” The Gospel is centered on Jesus Christ. In Him is our inclusion, and only in Him is it found.

    And it probably is just semantics. I don’t really like the term “universalist” because it has that connotation. But terms like “ultimate reconcilation” are a different matter. If all in Christ live, then what happens to a man who has yet to “sit down” and dies? I think that is a fair question.

    To me, though, in terms of the “sitting down”, imagine the insanity if you are already sitting down but you don’t think you are. Our message to people is “be reconciled to God”, which suggests the problem with man today is his thinking. That is why I love that shirt that Baxter has … you ARE included. Done deal. And now it is time to start resting in that.

    But I’d be interested in Baxter’s take on that.

    Blessings,
    Brandon

  • dwell
    Reply

    Brandon

    I don’t like the term ‘universalist’ also, but prefer ‘Universal Reconcilation’ or ‘Trinitarian Universalism’

    I certainly don’t think Universalism is cold or sterile. One book i read by Thomas Talbott ‘The Inescapable Love of God’ shows how God’s love is both irresistable – ie in the sense that we are drawn to it like someone beautiful (not like a robot) and yet it will ulimately win over all who resist it. God’s love is the only force that is irresistable – Love never fails – if someone can resist it forever than it has failed. I don’t see that as cold or sterile – the opposite – God’s will is more powerful than our will – What a freeing thought! Cos there can always be a part of me that doubts i can ever trust in Christ…What a relief to know i don’t have to have faith in my faith!

    One connotation i don’t like is the idea that we can really be ‘free persons’ in the ultimate sense…There has to be a context for it…Otherwise Perichoresis is only creating a dualism that is more subtle than the dualism we have escaped from in the typical evangelical world.

    If we are free persons with no boundaries, than what’s to stop someone exiting the future heaven that is the home of assurance? If the gates of heaven are open so that anyone can enter, than can anyone leave?

  • Brandon Vaughn
    Reply

    Dwell,

    I have that book but haven’t read it yet. Seems like a good one though. Gregory McDonald’s book is interesting as well.

    What I hear Baxter saying is we are IN the very heart of the Trinity. God did this work. How can we escape it?

    I can understand what you are struggling with though. I do think there is a higher realm. We, as humans, feel the need to explain and rationalize everything. And if we can’t explain it then we throw it away.

    What if they are both true? What if God’s love will trump our decisions, but yet at the same time that love works through our decisions? In other words, what if our choices are the very vehicle through which God’s sovereign plan is manifest?

    I’m sure we all remember the story of Jacob from Genesis. His brothers planned it … PLANNED it … for evil. What did God do? He took their choice and worked His will through that.

    Divine mathematics.

    We are inside the Trinity, inside Jesus Christ Himself. We can’t be more safe than that. And our decisions don’t provide some magical exit ramp that trumps the love of God. But they do give the dance floor by which our dance with Him takes place.

    What are we afraid of in our choices? That we sin? God has dealt with sin. That we fail? God only uses failures. That we miss Him? We can’t miss someone in whom we dwell and in who indwells us.

    So what is really wrong about being “free persons”? I can understand though … from the Arminian standpoint, this could spell out a forfeiture of salvation.

    But if that is true, then God has more to lose than we do … because He took a covenant oath with Himself to save us.

    To me (and I could be wrong), I feel Trinitarian truth says this: take Calvinism and throw out that the message is only for a few select people … throw out that Jesus only died for a few select people … throw in that man can choose how he lives out this work … that to me is much more in line.

    If I’m missing your point, let me know. I came more from Arminian understanding than Calvinism. I just think we as “theologians” think far two-dimensional. God’s truth is full of color and three-dimensions. It is bigger and grander and more awesome than we think.

    Blessings,
    Brandon

  • Reply

    I have never hear an Arminian preach your are saved, believe it.

  • Brian
    Reply

    Did everyone see Baxter’s reference in the May issue of Christianity Today. I think the essay is called “The Wrath of Love”
    I encourage everyone to write to CT and ask the to interview Baxter. We can just say we read about him in their magazine.
    Baxter please blog on the article. I’d love to get your thoughts.

  • Scott
    Reply

    A favorite scripture reguarding “Assurance”
    This Spirit you have received does not leave you in the old relationship to God of terrified slavery. No! This Spirit you have received makes you a son in the family of God, dear Father!’ This same Spirit joins with our spirit in the assurance that we really are children of God. Romans 8:15,16 William Barclay

  • Michael and Joan
    Reply

    I am in the middle of reading your blog but I can’t help but stop and comment. I heard about you from James Jordan of Fatherheart Miinistries. He mentioned your book ‘Jesus and the Undoing of Adam’. It confirmed so many things that Father revealed to me when I called Him ‘Abba, Daddy, and He undid ALL my 54 years of depression, guilt, denial, sense of never having lived, fear, unworthiness and yet I was a very active Chrisitan in a pentecostal church but had had a Presbyterian upbringing. I had NO idea that there could ever be anything different from anything I knew and experienced. My Christian life was ALWAYS a struggle and I never ever felt good enough. the day the daddy came to me was the best day of my life and I now realise the bondage that my early childhood beliefs put me in. I never had any testimony for anyone and never knew who I was apart from my Christian work. Oh the freedom and joy and peace I now know. I so long to share Him with people and I see so many church people who are just like I was. It is utterly a living death and although this revelation of Father’s love came to me about 4 years ago, it still remains my total foundation and I think I was born again at that moment. Who would have believed that I could come home and remain home. Thank you so much for enlightening us.

  • John A
    Reply

    It may sound trite but I think the best and easiest reconciliation of Calvinism and Arminianism is the simple phrase “Who does God choose? Whosoever will”.

    Why does man continue to try to force God into a box? The Scripture supports facets of both and somehow both are true though as the Apostle Paul said “we see through a glass, darkly”. It’s the same with God being both three and one – I don’t pretend to know how but I know it’s true and not merely one or the other.

    I’ll leave the corralling of theology to greater minds than mine and echo the sentiment of the Apostle Paul when he said “I am determined to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified”.

  • Phil
    Reply

    I come from a very self consciously TR background. I almost named one of my children Dabney. Anyway, I’m repenting of all that.

    I’m wondering, could you explain how you understand the Spirit’s role in our Union with Christ. If union with Christ is the result of his divinity, then it is eternal and universal. All men are united to Christ. Is there an additional union (more akin to a Reformed understanding of Redemption applied) that results from Christ’s work? Is this union a reality for some only, and if so, do the apostles use different phrases to refer to the eternal and temporal unions?

    Thank you for your efforts.

    Christ’s peace,

  • Cam
    Reply

    Wow, and Wow! 🙂 thanks so much for this. This adds more food to what I’ve been eating on recently, as Papa has been taking me out of the religious shackles and into a life of relationship and freedom.

    Although I’ve never professed to be a Calvinist, I have had struggled with much of the conversation that would be described as “Calvinistic”, so thank you for laying it all out in such a concise and comprehensible manner.

    I’ve started reading “The Parable of a Dancing God” and that too has been confirmation of other things I’ve been listening too and reading. It’s been such a breakthrough to see God as a truly loving Father, I’ve always known it to be true, but for the longest time, I’ve been so indoctrinated by my religious world view that I found it really difficult to put the religious god with this loving Abba. The things I’ve heard recently from people also thinking like you seem to, have been the hammer to the shackles, and I have been feeling so very free in this new-found place.

    cam

  • Tiff31
    Reply

    I left a Calvinist church after 25 years which I thought was pretty good considering that I’m a dispensationalist. I guess I didn’t understand all this when we joined. It is a mega church in our area and had good preaching and Bible studies and my wife and I joined a neighborhood group where we made good friends. In order to join each of us had to give our testimony that we had repented and accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Some time later I discovered that the pastor didn’t believe in the Rapture. When asked about the Millennium he said he was a Pan Millennialist. He said everything will pan out in the end. When asked about the Book of Revelation he said he didn’t understand it. Later I found out that people who believed as did I were called “dispensationalists” and some of the people who are not dispensationalists are Calvinists. I came to the Lord after I heard about the Rapture. God’s Spirit convinced me that if Jesus were to come and Rapture His children I’d be left behind. We were in a Lutheran church at the time and when I discussed it with the pastor he told me not to worry because I was baptized. But I surrendered my life to Jesus anyway and eschatology became a very important part of my reading. This Calvinist church we joined had a lot of people who believed as did I so I wasn’t alone.
    Aside from a discussion once in a while about “once saved, always saved” we didn’t get into Calvinist theology. After reading your blog I can tell you that if we had been fed that doctrine I would have left in spite of all the good things we had there. This all having been said I’ll get to the point I’d like to make. Having already mentioned my leaning toward dispensationalism, though certainly not the “ultra “kind, you can discount what I say here because having been painted with that brush my veiws may be considered somewhat extreme. But I can say that these conclusions have been formed after years of study often from books written by dispensational teachers.
    Religion was started over 2000 years before Christ was born at the Tower of Babel. It continued down through the years until around 400AD the Christian Church was made the State religion and all the pagan people began to come. They brought with them their old pagan rituals. The clergy accommodated them by “christianising” these pagan trappings and they still exist in “Christian worship today. The Reformation came along a few of the worst doctrines were thrown out but other doctrines were added. These doctrines were, of course, mens attempt to define God or to attempt to please Him and appease Him. And so we have Religion Today, a mix of the pagan with mens attempts to define God to their own specifications and enough Bible Scripture so it can be called “Christian”.
    But here’s truth of the matter, CHRISTIANITY IS NOT A RELIGION. CHRISTIANITY IS A RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD MADE POSSIBLE BY JESUS’ SACRIFICE ON THE CROSS. JESUS didn’t come to start a new religion or to compromise with the one already under way. Jesus came to redeem us so that we could be cleansed from our sin and become children of The Most High God. There is no “right” religion. Surrendering your life to Jesus is the only way. Allowing God’s Spirit to teach truth is better than wollowing in the doctrines and creeds of men. Well, that’s what I think.

  • AmyC.
    Reply

    Baxter,
    Thank you so much for writing this Blog!!! The Holy Spirit totally showed me the absolute truth!! It’s done, done! Jesus finished it…for everyone. While I have understood this mentally for a long time…I think, just today, after reading this…I really get it in my heart!!! Oh my goodness!!! The hugeness of this!
    ~Amy

  • Robin @ Heart of Wisdom
    Reply

    Thank you Baxter. A lot of time and thought went into this post. Writing helps us clarify our thoughts doesn’t it? I’ll be passing this post around.

    “God wants you to know that there is nothing you can do to make him love you any more today, and nothing you can do that will make him love you any less. He just loves you.” (Wayne Jacobson)

    I’m giving away The Shack in a blog contest.

  • Robert
    Reply

    My problem with this is the same as dwell’s; that it still puts the burden on the person to be sure they truly accept and believe. This is highly nuanced no doubt, but some of us do struggle with it.

    And what of the Calvinists Baxter spoke of who had no assurance that- due to their theology- they were loved and accepted by God ? Are they lost forever?

  • Gary Amirault
    Reply

    So, since you say you do not teach a Christian form of universalism, are you just simply now an Arminian, that is, God would LIKE to say all mankind but can't because Satan or human will is too strong for His love to overcome?

  • Gary Amirault
    Reply

    Jesus Christ is the one in whom all things came into being and are continually upheld, thus what becomes of him has immediate implications for the whole creation. This fact should lead us to see with Paul that when Christ died, we died. When he rose, we rose. When he ascended, we were lifted up in him to the Father's arms, For by Him (Jesus Christ) all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things have been created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. The life, death, resurrection and ascension of the incarnate Son/Creator was as wide and deep and large as creation itself.
    Creation is connected to Jesus and Jesus is connected to creation. All creation is in him, Jesus (- his death, burial, resurrection and ascension ) has happened to the creation too. Jesus is the one in and through and by and for whom all things were created and are sustained. To deny this was simply to deny that Jesus was the incarnate Son of God and the Creator in and through and by and for whom all things were created and are sustained. the gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ and of what became of the cosmos and of the human race in him. When he died, we died. When he rose, we rose. When he ascended, we ascended into the Father's embrace, and there accepted forever as his adopted children. Our adoption in Christ is objectively true for everyone, a divine fact, established in Jesus Christ's own existence forever, whether anyone believes it or not. To believe the truth, to believe that you are so loved and accepted is to experience the unearthly assurance of the Father's love, and thus to begin the journey of learning how to live life in the security and freedom of his passionate embrace.

    That sure sounds like universalism to me. 🙂

  • Gary Amirault
    Reply

    Speaking of universalism, there is a new youtube video that features a lot of the new books out on the subject. If one keys on "Victorious gospel" on youtube, a short presentation of all the new books have been made available through Tentmaker Ministries.

  • michaeldavidjay
    Reply

    The last time I heard a message that spoke of Jesus' role in Creation was the meeting for worship on the Sunday following Christmas. Several people spoke about Jesus and incarnation, and one expounded on this very part of John's gospel.

  • Anonymous
    Reply

    I have just been reading the lion's share of The Great Dance and am very new to this Trinitarian theology.

    What strikes me are a few things: I understand that Trinitarian thinking is wrapped wholly in the relational reality of the Trinity and our participation in it such that humanly invented labels are abhorrent, but an objective truth about all mankind now being adopted into relationship with the Trinity is Universalism, whether one wants to admit it or not.

    What also looms large in this thinking is a serious question: how weak must this inclusion in the Great Dance of the Trinity be (or conversely, how strong the lie) that the vast majority of people are unawares or worse, live in abject evil ways? Bonhoeffer proclaimed the "weakness of the Word" that the seed sown amongst thistles could be choked out and some would reject the Word such that the disciples should shake the dust off their feet, but once in the embrace of Jesus, we would be held fast forever. If my sister is objectively in the embrace of God the Father and already adopted, am I to think that the only barrier now is her consciousness of that? But how insignificant must that be that she cannot even be conscious of it even though she has heard that truth before?

    Lastly, I see that the view of baptism, central in the Great Commission of Jesus before his ascension, is attributed to the act of becoming conscious of this objective reality. It has little to do then with the actual death and rebirth of a person to life in Christ. That's perhaps what is most disturbing to me, that grace is a system and I just have to finally see it for what it is. Rather, grace is costly, and Christ paid for my sins particularly and personally, and I died to sin and became alive in him, illustrated in the act of water baptism, sealed by baptism in the Holy Spirit, and now I have assurance by the Spirit in relationship with the Father through the blood of Christ. So I pray in the Spirit to the Father in the name of Jesus. But that was a very personal and objectively real conversion, whether I was predestined from the beginning of time or not, I came face to face with Jesus and he saved me. And all who hear the word have that same salvation, so that the writer of Hebrews says "how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?" And Jesus himself shows his sovereignty and calls us to "go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." Calvinism aside, there is a conversion, a baptism by which we are adopted as sons. The Gospel is an invitation.

  • Clark
    Reply

    Malcolm yarnell called this a stinging rebuttal. Malcolm Malcolm malcolm. Seriously? as I posted on Facebook.
    The sad fact is his reasoning is fallacious, his hermeneutic sounds like 3rd century spiritualizing, and the end of his argument, If he was honest with himself, is in fact universalism.(He claims he isn't but he's changing his hermeneutic midstream.)
    But he's a good writer, and funny. I especially like how he always paints reformed people in a bad light. Quite a guy, and obviously a man of character!? I may be a bit harsh, but at least I'm being straightforward. Dr. Baxter just got cute with it. And I don't even believe in double predestination.
    It's just sad to see this article written and praised by intelligent people.

  • MAFDAV
    Reply

    Baxter,
    I have been immersing myself in your incredibly insightful blogs for hours the last few days. Now I have not yet read all the comments of this "Calvinism" blog which you recommended, so maybe it is addressed. You said, "The critical question here, for me, was what happened to the connection that the Father’s Son has with all things when he became a human being? Does the incarnation mean that he ceases to be the one in and through and by and for whom all things were created and are sustained? Did he break ties with his creation? Of course not. The incarnation is the coming of the One who is already the source and sustenance of all things. He brings his prior relationship with the cosmos and every human being within it with him as he becomes human." One thing I have been pondering is that when Christ "emptied" Himself did He empty Himself of His, for lack of a more appropriate term, function, as "sustainer" of all creation? My understanding of His incarnation places Him among us as one of us, that is walking by faith with His Abba, and not having recollection of His past glories or His 3 "omnis". I used to believe and teach that He had a "God card" so to speak, which allowed Him to perform miracles etc. Now I think it was by faith through the power of the Spirit of God. If what I'm "hearing" you say is true, He was still "at work" so to speak, or were the Father and Spirit "minding the store"?

    DL Minor
    Midland, TX

  • Anonymous
    Reply

    I'm confused. You said that you left Calvinism because no person can have assurance if they were among the selective elect, and I agree with you.

    You speak about an unearthly assurance when we come to believe that gospel on how that we are already saved and forgiven.

    You leave me guessing as to whether a person can truly trust this gospel if they are now in a position to get up and walk away and revert back to old thinking.

    If you did not like Calvinism who believed the saved is kept always, then cannot a person walking away from the faith resulting in him or her reverting back to their former condition? Will their end now be the same as those that have never believed?

    I hope I am making sense here. If you do not believe in Universalism (I do not either), but if the person that does not believe is already forgiven, righteous, reconciled, then what separates him or her from the person that DOES believe that is forgiven, righteous, and reconciled, but later in life turns back to the yoke of bondage?

    I am not sensing much security here if it depends constantly on me to perpetually believe that I am such things. Our minds easily can revert back to darkness.

    Am I not understanding something here?

  • Robin Sampson
    Reply

    I made this Calvin Image- how Bible is seen with TULIP glasses. http://ow.ly/erX8h

  • Anonymous
    Reply

    I am going to have to do this in segments: I've never been Calvinist. Alth0ugh I do enjoy reading Charles Spurgeon's Morning and Evening devotionals. I met a Calvinist, 5 point, TULIP believe family that I think so much of. After some discussion of the differences-I am a Jesus Christ only way Baptist-I have been reading/studying on my own the last two years. I came across this today and have a few questions concerning your "everybody" will be at the table although I'm not calling it universalism statement.

    Let me state a few things first I have about Calvinist and what they SEEM to believe. I've never met a Calvinist family who didn't believe that all their children were chosen. I mean after all, how could you tell one of two of them that haven't been chosen that even though you taught them the Bible and God's word the same as the others, that you taught them to live good, moral lives based on God's word, that you memorized His scripture, that you followed the 10 commandments, or morals based on the 10, and that you spanked them cause they lied, or were disobedient, according to God's word, you taught them to obey their parents in the Lord, for this is right and it will be "well with you if you do" and your days will be long upon the earth, that after all is said and done though, that it is okay for God to not choose you and send you to hell cause it would glorify him and his sovereignty.

    Why teach them to be good at all? If it does them no good, let them have merriment here on earth, satisfy their lusts and desires, for later when this Sovereign God, who created them to go to hell and suffer, all the merriment they could have had in this life will be over. I am being facetious you do understand.

    If the sovereignty of God is true,that there is limited atonement, that some have no hope of ever coming to the knowledge of the truth, then when a preacher stands before a congregation, and unless he has forknowledge that ALL are chosen, then he is lieing to part of them, for there is no hope for them if they are not chosen. Does this Sovereign God they believe in want them to lie? Because it is a lie! His commandments say it is a sin to lie, is that not true? Or does God lie?

  • Anonymous
    Reply

    So many problems I find with Calvinism, but the question I want to ask you Baxter is this. What do you do with the words of Jesus when he says "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven."? What do you do with Jesus' words to Nicodemus that says "Ye must be born again."? What do you do with Hell? What do you do about the story of the rich man who looked up from Hell?

    All of our righteousnesses is as filthy rags. Nothing we can do can get us to heaven. We must be covered by the blood of Christ. Jesus did 100% of paying for the sin debt, for no sin can enter heaven. We though must choose. Just as the angels in heaven chose, unless God created part of them to be evil. Just like Noah had to choose to go into the Ark, God did not put him there, God told Noah "Come." God was there waiting on Noah, to close him up into salvation and save him from the wrath, but Noah had to make the choice to go into the Ark. Just like when the death Angel was to smite Egypt, there were requirements-the sacrificial lamb was slaughtered, the blood flowed, but unless the Hebrews took the blood and personally applied it to the doorpost and lintels, the death angel would have smitten them too. We have to personally apply the blood of Christ to the door posts of our hearts. It is plainly stated to repent, believe and confess and thou shalt be saved. The sin debt has been paid, by someone who knew no sin. Yet there are people who have refused to repent, accept and believe in Christ. buddist do not believe he did this, they have nto repented. Muslims do not even believe he is the Christ, nor do most of the Jews. The payment has been paid. It is a gift of God not of works. By grace are ye saved. If people are atheist and don't even believe in God how can they have faith?

    I do not understand the mind of and infinite God with my finite mind, but I do hear his word. What is the blaspheming of the Holy Spirit?

    You are doing as much disservice as the Calvinist when you say all are going to heaven, when by God's word it is not true.

    The truth is I am going to heaven because of the work Jesus did on the cross. I am putting my faith and trust in Him. There are days I don't 'feel' I am saved, but because I've accepted him and his father has accepted what he did as payment in full, I have no need of fear. I have no fear of hearing "Depart from me, I never knew you."

    I agree that that God/Jesus/Spirit has touched us all, "God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul." Imagine having God touch you, but then sin separated us. "For the wages of sin IS death, but the gift of God IS eternal life THROUGH Jesus Christ our Lord."

    Why did God warn us to flee from the wrath to come, if there is no wrath to come for anyone?

    For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that WHOSOEVER him, should not perish but have EVERLASTING life. For God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him MIGHT be saved. John 3:16-17

    John 3:18 He that believeth on him is not condemned, but he that BELIEVETH NOT is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

    There is a choice to make, we are paying for the sin, but we are choosing the payment. If not those whose names were not found written in the book of life will be cast into the lake of fire.

    It is simple, faith as a little child. Some of the words that a lot of people discuss, that are not even understood by a lot of people are confusing. God says faith as a little child.

    Anyway this is my points to ponder. Calvinist are wrong and I believe you are wrong for it seems you are saying that everyone on earth that has ever been or ever will be are going to heaven. I believe the Bible teaches that is not true.

  • Anonymous
    Reply

    It's been a few months since the last comment. I think the anonymous person made some very good points and asked questions worthy to be addressed. As much as I liked you article, these questions are the same as the ones I was going to ask.

    Dear Baxter, would you please consider responding? I'm in a season of much change in my theological understanding. It feels life altering. I'm basically begging you to respond to the last comment. I really want to understand your take on what Jesus said about repentance and hell.

    God bless you.

  • Anonymous
    Reply

    I don't think Baxter can explain. But here is my thoughts.

    Accept, Believe, Confess.

    Then Galatians 5:18
    If ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law."

    NOT "Am I perfect in myself before the law?" BUT "Am I perfect in Christ Jesus."

    NOT "Am I without sin naturally?"
    BUT "Have I been washed in the fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness?"

    NOT "Am I myself well pleasing to God? BUT "Am I accepted in the Beloved?"

    NOT "My faith has unbelief in it, it is not able to save me." BUT
    "Consider THE OBJECT of my faith, there is no failure in HIM, and therefore I AM SAFE."

    NOT "My hope is dimmed by an anxious carefulness about present things, how can I be accepted?"
    BUT "Regard the ground of my hope. The promise of God stands sure, and whatever our doubts may be, the oath and promise never fail."

    It is better to be led by the Spirit into gospel liberty than to wear legal fetters. Judge myself as to what Christ IS rather than what I am.

    If I look at my own character and position from a legal point of view I will live in despair. If I am to be judged on the footing of the law, no flesh living shall be justified. Instead of looking at th top of Sinai, look at the light of Calvary!!!

    Satan tries to mar your peace by reminding you of your sinfulness an dimprfections: Meet his accusations by faithfully adhering to the GOSPEL and refusing to wear the yoke of bondage.

    Jesus paid the price!! It's all about him. "YE must be born again!" Faith in Christ alone.

  • Michael Hicks Thompson
    Reply

    Dr. Kruger,

    I’m going to order your book, Patmos, as it was recommended by a good friend. But first, after reading your “Why I Left Calvinism” article, I’d like to ask a few questions, if you don’t mind.

    First, I’d like to use some of your points and make a counterpoint, if you don’t mind. Of course, the important thing for both us to keep in mind is not to quibble over the minors when the majors are much more important. Like the Great Commission. Much more important than discussing election.

    However, in the spirit of friendly theological dialogue, I’d like to respond to your treatise on Calvinism, and your explanation from disavowing its doctrine.

    Here is one of the statements you wrote:

    BK: What the Calvinists think is true for only a few, should be proclaimed to every person on the planet: “The Father himself set his love upon you before the foundation of the world and predestined you to be adopted into the very Trinitarian life of God. And his own beloved Son, Jesus Christ, has come and accomplished his Father’s dreams for you and the human race.”
    In Calvinism, there are two groups of people—those “elected” to salvation, and those “passed by” or “deliberately damned” or “reprobated” before the foundation of the world. My question is, where did such a notion originate? Is reprobation the Father’s idea, or the Son’s, or perhaps it is the Holy Spirit’s?

    MHT: Where in scripture does it ever mention that the three persons of the trinity were not intrinsically intertwined into one thought of mind?

    BK: But why would this God think of excluding? What about the life that the Triune God lives would ever lead to the deliberate damning of people? Does such an idea flow out of the way the Father and Son relate? Is there are part or side of the Father that is disinterested in his Son, neutral, even eager to dismiss, look over, and, indeed, to reject him? And is it this dark side of the Father’s relationship with his Son that thus gives natural rise to the rejection of large parts of humanity?

    MHT: You are insinuating that there is a “dark” side to God the Father because he may have mercy on some and pronounce justice on others. I beg to differ. What you are not recognizing is that God is not part of our story… we are part of his. How can the clay say to the potter, “Why did you make me like this?” Romans 8 & 9 are very clear on this. Let’s not fall into the Jeffersonian mindset. “I don’t like what that verse says. I’ll just cut it out, make my own Bible, one that I can believe in. For surely, God could not be so harsh.”

    Thomas Jefferson did just that. He failed to recognize the immense, sovereign nature of God. Jefferson wanted no part of a god that controlled everything. Jefferson’s god was a small god. Not the God of the universe, the one true God.

    None of us deserve eternal salvation. We all deserve his punishment. Even for one single sin. Scripture is plain on this. Think. Why else would God send his only son to die for us? Jesus is the propitiation for our sins. Not everyone buys into this. Our faith, pure and simply comes first from God. He loved us first—even while we were yet in our own sin. And In our sin, it is not possible for us to love him first. Sin is the great divide between us and God. Faith? Even that comes from him.

    It’s a nice sentiment to believe that God will save all people. Even you know that all people will not be saved for eternal life, a new heaven, and a new earth. Therefore, how is it that some will not be saved? Would you say it is their choice to be saved? If that were true, then scripture is a lie. For scripture teaches very plainly that we cannot save ourselves for eternal life, or from eternal damnation.

    BK: But why would this God think of excluding? What about the life that the Triune God lives would ever lead to the deliberate damning of people? Does such an idea flow out of the way the Father and Son relate? Is there are part or side of the Father that is disinterested in his Son, neutral, even eager to dismiss, look over, and, indeed, to reject him? And is it this dark side of the Father’s relationship with his Son that thus gives natural rise to the rejection of large parts of humanity?

    MHT: I believe your view of God is too small. Realizing the complete sovereignty of God is the prerequisite for understanding predestination.

    Would you allow me to consider another doctrine, one that might help get at the root of God’s sovereign election? Let’s ask ourselves: where does evil come from? Is God the author of evil? Never! In him there is no evil. But, he did allow that evil exist. That’s not the same as saying evil is good. We should never say that.*

    [Wasn’t it thirty percent of the angels with free will who were ejected from heaven? Lucifer being the chief angel.]

    So why? Why did God allow evil? Because, like a particular sect of the angels he created in heaven had free will, he gave us humans free will. Now, you’d think it’d be unfair for God to then condemn any of us to an eternal life in hell if we could not—of our own volition—accept Jesus as our savior, right?

    But, scripture explains that all—not some, not most—but all of us deserve eternal damnation because of our sins. Even one sin is too much for our sovereign God to allow a sinner into his heavenly kingdom. We must be washed free of our sin before God can allow us into heaven. And that’s what Jesus did for us.

    So, how does God resolve our sin and our inability to save ourselves? Through his mercy! His mercy for some, but not all… His justice must never be forgotten. We all deserve his judgment. And he doesn’t meet it out merely here on earth. It’s for all eternity.

    Yes, he offers salvation for all. But, why in Romans 9, would he plainly state through his divine word that some are destined for destruction so that those who are saved for eternal life will have a gratitude of everlasting worship? Nobody, not one, did anything to deserve eternal life in heaven. God gave Lucifer and those angels free will. Lucifer, like so many of us, wanted to be in control of his life. He wanted to sing, “I Did It My Way,” Sinatra’s anthem to hell. Lucifer’s pride. It’s why God ejected him from heaven and exiled him to earth. Sounds like fiction to many. Which is understandable, given we will never be able to understand the mind of the creator of us and the universe.

    Do you believe we are born as sinners?
    Do you believe God elects people to eternal salvation?
    Do you believe he does this with everyone? Or, is his list limited?
    Do you believe we can resist his calling for salvation?
    Do you believe once we are justified that we are kept in his bosom forever, and nothing can change that?

    If so, then you are a Calvinist.

    *Taken from Tabletalk, R.C. Sproul, Ligonier Ministries, The Mystery of Evil.

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