A Letter to a Calvinist

The following is a seven-page letter I wrote in response to a Calvinist who came to our church and challenged our beliefs by email. The names have been removed out of respect for the recipients, and references to their previous email are in BLUE. I hope and pray you will read through and that you will find it helpful. You can also see a recent sermon post on this same subject. (http://links.acbc.ie/calvinismsermon)
(Below is a photo of a statue of John Calvin, which is located in Budapest.)

Dear …………,

Thank you for your email, and sharing ……… decision and your concerns.

Let me borrow your words for a moment :
”I wanted to personally say to you that before branding us as believing in false doctrine and settling that in your reasoning, I would ask you to prayerfully consider the following:” I am not in the business of branding, labelling and criticising every person I disagree with.   I am, however, in the business of teaching and leading those who will be taught.

Let me take a moment to acknowledge the scriptures you quoted, and add that if those were the only scriptures in the Bible, than I would be a Calvinist in a heartbeat.  If Romans 9:13-23 was the only passage I had, I could be a Calvinist, but this is not the case. Allow me to explain…

"without Him we can do nothing. John 15:5 This really humbles and breaks inward pride."

I agree with you, but this verse is conditional.

John 15:5: I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

It says, only if we (born-again Christians) abide in Christ will we bring forth fruit.  We cannot bring forth fruit without Christ. In other words a Christian can only bring forth fruit, if they are abiding in Christ.  

If you are trying to point out the “Depravity of Man”, yes, I believe and teach the “Depravity of Man” but not as Calvinists.  The Bible teaches that, though we are depraved, God also gives us a free will to be able to reject or receive Christ’s payment.  One example is, after the fall, Cain was given a choice, and he exercised his free will to not repent as God asked.

Genesis 4:7: If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.

Another example is how God wanted Israel to turn, stretched out His hand but they disobeyed him. 

Romans 10:21: But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people. 

There is no pride in receiving Christ’s payment any more than there is pride in a person drowning who grabs the life preserver.

“John 15:16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you. (Unconditional election).” 

CONTEXT:  John 15:16: Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

These verses you quoted are from the last supper, when Jesus met in the upper room with his disciples.  He was telling them He chose them, and He did. He specifically chose the twelve to follow Him, to be apostles.  To say that it is specifically referring to salvation is taking it out of context, and contradicts loads of plain scriptures.

Let's compare scripture with scripture.  

Mark 16:16He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. Conditional

Luke 8:50: But when Jesus heard it, he answered him, saying, Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole. Conditional

John 1:12: But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Conditional

John 3:14: And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
John 3:15: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. Conditional

John 3:16: ¶For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Conditional

John 3:17: For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. Conditional

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.  Conditional

John 3:36: He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.  Conditional

John 5:24: Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.  Conditional

John 6:35: And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.   Conditional

John 6:40: And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.   Conditional

John 6:47: Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.   Conditional

John 8:24: I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.   Conditional

(Here is a few more if you would like to look them up -
John 11:25; 12:36; 12:46; 20:31; Acts 8:36-37; 10:43; 13:39; 16:31; Rom. 1:16; 3:22; 4:5; 10:18-13; 1 Cor. 1:21; Gal. 3:22; 1 Tim. 1:16; 1 Jn. 5:13; etc.)

“Jhn 10:15 I lay down my life for the sheep. (Limited Atonement)” 

John 10:15: As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.

This does not mean He did not die for the goats, those who don’t receive Him as Saviour.  In fact II Peter 2:1 teaches that He purchased salvation even for unsaved false teachers.

II Peter 2:1: But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

To say John 10:15 is specifically referring to limiting salvation to a select few is to contradict plain scriptures.  In light of scripture there is no limit.  He purchased salvation for all. Does this mean all will be saved? No, it is conditional…repent and believe. 

John 3:16: ¶For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Mark 16:15: And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

II Corinthians 5:19: To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

Galatians 3:22: But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.

Isaiah 53:6: All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

II Peter 3:9: The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

I John 2:2: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

The words “all,” “whole,” “every,” “whosoever,” etc., must all be redefined to fit the doctrine of “Limited Atonement”. Instead, our doctrine should be defined by the scriptures alone, the clarity contained throughout the
whole of scripture.

“Jhn 6:44  No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him (Irresistible Grace).“

True, sinners do not seek God on their own, but Jesus also taught that “
all men are drawn”.
John 12:32: And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.
Jesus also taught that “every man" is given light,

John 1:9: That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.  

We also cannot be saved without Christ.  He paid our debt.  If He had not, we could not get to heaven, but does this mean salvation is irresistible?  What does the Bible say... 

John 5:39-40: Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.  Resistible 

Matthew 23:37: O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!  Resistible

I Timothy 2:3: For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;
I Timothy 2:4: Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

God wants all men to be saved.  It must logically be resistible, because they are not saved, as Jesus said in John 5:40, above (or do we need to redefine the words “all,” “every,” “would,” and “will,” to suit our doctrine?).

Psalms 78:41: Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.

limited God by resisting Him.

“Phil 1:6 that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:  
Romans 8:28-39. (The perseverance of the saints).”

I would agree that we cannot lose salvation.  Nothing can separate it from us.  

Some teach that if God truly "chose us" we will be able to stay holy despite the circumstances and we will never backslide.  That view of a believer persevering, I would disagree with.

“So you see these are not doctrines invented by Calvin but biblical truths he formulated into being easier to understand, to stand against the heretics of the day.”

I have preached that man is depraved and salvation is only by grace through faith alone for salvation. These are surface beliefs I would not disagree with, but Calvinism goes deeper. Calvin did a lot more to “heretics”, and anyone who disagreed with him, than just formulate a theology. That might be an interesting subject to research if you have the time.

Last, before branding us as believing in false doctrine and settling that in your reasoning, I would ask you to please prayerfully consider what has been written. You and …… are not “branded” by me, rather you are both loved and we trust that you will remember that we are your friends.

Proverbs 27:10: Thine own friend, and thy father’s friend, forsake not; neither go into thy brother’s house in the day of thy calamity: for better is a neighbour that is near than a brother far off.

We will respect ………… decision, and continue to pray for you both. Let us know if you need anything. Thank you for letting us borrow the book.

In Christ’s service,

Pastor Keith Hamilton