Thursday, August 20, 2015

Handling the Charge of Hyper-Calvinism


Many of the books that I review on my blog come through crossfocusedreviews.com.  As part of receiving the free book, I agree to post my review on my blog as well as on amazon.com.  Occasionally, I will receive feedback from my blog readers, but most of the negative comments I receive are responses to my book reviews posted on the Amazon website.  Therefore, I have a series of blog posts that I've labeled Countering Criticism where I evaluate the validity of the negative feedback I receive.  Today, I would like to look at one comment from a poster named Macphile regarding my book review on Honest Evangelism.  You can read my original review here.

On August 18, 2015, Macphile says:
"Yours is an extreme view of soteriology that is basically hyper-calvinism. This is not the soteriology of Spurgeon and Whitfield.

This statement is indefensible from the Bible: "One of the problems with this book is how the author defines salvation. He says that God is sovereign in salvation (Kindle location 662 & 670), but then he uses language that also points to man's decision in salvation; which means that ultimately, God is not sovereign, man is."

The Bible uses both types of language. God's sovereignty never, ever eliminates man's responsibility to both proclaim and respond. Paul urged, pleaded, and wept for the lost to respond to the good news! The Great Commission is not simply for pastors but for the whole church as Acts 1:8 makes clear - all who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit are to be witnesses both at home and to the uttermost."
First, in my original review as quoted above, I stated that man does not have a decision in salvation.  Macphile's critique above is based on man's responsibility to proclaim and respond.  Decision and responsibility are not the same.  Macphile implies that because man is responsible to respond to the Gospel call, man also has the ability (decision) to respond to that call.  The biblical view is that man is responsible (Rom. 10:9), but does not have the ability, nor the desire, to repent and believe (Rom. 3:10-11).

In his Primer on Hyper-Calvinism from spurgeon.org, Charles Spurgeon gives the comprehensive definition of Hyper-Calvinism from a popular theological dictionary:
    "1. [Hyper-Calvinism] is a system of theology framed to exalt the honour and glory of God and does so by acutely minimizing the moral and spiritual responsibility of sinners . . . It emphasizes irresistible grace to such an extent that there appears to be no real need to evangelize; furthermore, Christ may be offered only to the elect. . . .
    2. It is that school of supralapsarian 'five-point' Calvinism [n.b.—a school of supralapsarianism, not supralapsarianism in general] which so stresses the sovereignty of God by over-emphasizing the secret over the revealed will of God and eternity over time, that it minimizes the responsibility of sinners, notably with respect to the denial of the use of the word "offer" in relation to the preaching of the gospel; thus it undermines the universal duty of sinners to believe savingly in the Lord Jesus with the assurance that Christ actually died for them; and it encourages introspection in the search to know whether or not one is elect. [Peter Toon, "Hyper-Calvinism," New Dictionary of Theology (Leicester: IVP, 1988), 324.]"
Macphile charges that my view of soteriology is Hyper-Calvinistic because he thinks that I have removed all of the responsibility of man from salvation.  That simply is not true.  Man is responsible, BUT because of his inherent fallen nature, he cannot respond to the offer of salvation in the Gospel on his own.  In Calvinism, Hyper-Calvinism, and Arminianism: Issues Shaping Our Identity as Southern Baptists, Tom Ascol writes: "The Bible teaches both that fallen man is without spiritual ability and that he is obligated to repent and believe.  Only by the powerful, regenerating work of the Holy Spirit is man given the ability to fulfill his duty to repent and believe.  And though this may seem unreasonable to rationalistic minds, there is no contradiction, and it is precisely the position the Bible teaches."

Macphile's main argument is that my statement above on salvation (the fact that man does not make a decision regarding salvation) is indefensible from the Bible.  Let's see what the Bible says to determine if his statement is true (emphasis mine):

"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: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God," (John 1:12-13).

These verses distinctly show that man has no part in salvation.  Who gave the power? God.  Whose will is it? God's.  Is salvation the will of man? NO.  Jesus gives every believer the power to become a son of God.  Salvation is accomplished through God's will.  There is NO decision on the believer's part because salvation is a monergistic work of God.

For additional biblical proof that salvation is accomplished by God alone, see the following verses (emphasis mine):
  • "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day," (John 6:44).
  • "God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord," (1 Cor. 1:9).
  • "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)," (Eph. 2:4-5).
  • "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast," (Eph. 2:8-9).
  • "Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began," (2 Tim. 1:8-9).
There is a general call for all to repent and believe, but unregenerate man can not and will not respond, (Rom. 3:10-11).  It is the effectual call of God that accomplishes salvation.  The London Baptist Confession of Faith, Chapter 10, para. 1 states that "Those whom God hath predestinated unto life, He is pleased in His appointed, and accepted time, effectually to call, by His Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God; taking away their heart of stone, and giving to them a heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by His almighty power determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace."*

Next, Macphile appeals to Paul's example of urging, pleading, and weeping for the lost to respond to the good news, but he does not include a Bible reference to support his argument.  The word 'respond' NEVER occurs in my Bible.  Like the Apostle Paul, all Christians should be concerned for the salvation of others.  A Christian prays for an unbeliever's salvation because he doesn't know who God will and won't save; however, a Christian's prayer does not change the will of God.

Finally, Macphile made a non-sequitur assumption that because I believe salvation is a monergistic work of God alone, I also believe that there is no need for evangelism.  Men are called to preach the Word (2 Tim. 4:2) and believers are called to give an answer of the hope within them (1 Peter 3:15).  These evangelistic duties are part of a believer's responsibilities, but the power of salvation still remains with God.

It is the Apostle Paul himself who states that man is without strength (Rom. 5:6) and at enmity with God so that he cannot be subject to the law of God (Rom. 8:7).  Therefore, man has no will to do any spiritual good accompanying salvation (LBCF Ch. 9, para. 3).  But it is also Paul who tells us "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.  For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.  Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?  For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe," (1 Cor. 1:18-21).

The London Baptist Confession of Faith, Chap. 20, para. 4, nicely sums up how the Gospel works with God's grace: "Although the gospel be the only outward means of revealing Christ and saving grace, and is, as such, abundantly sufficient thereunto; yet that men who are dead in trespasses may be born again, quickened or regenerated, there is moreover necessary an effectual insuperable work of the Holy Spirit upon the whole soul, for the producing in them a new spiritual life; without which no other means will effect their conversion unto God."**

Soli Deo Gloria!


*Scriptural support: Rom. 8:30, 11:7; Eph. 1:10,11; 2 Thess. 2:13,14; Eph. 2:1-6; Acts 26:18; Eph. 1:17,18; Ezek. 36:26; Deut. 30:6; Ezek. 36:27; Eph. 1:19; Psalm. 110:3; Song of Solomon 1:4.

**Scriptural support: Ps. 110:3; 1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 1:19,20; John 6:44; 2 Cor. 4:4,6.