The following is an excerpt from article DD802-1 from the Christian Research Journal. The full article can be viewed by following the link below the excerpt.
By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which He determined with Himself whatever He wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of those ends, we say that he has been predestined to life or death.1
— John Calvin
God elects a specific people unto Himself without reference to anything they do. This means the basis of God’s choice of the elect is solely within Himself. His grace, His mercy, His will. It is not man’s actions, works, or even foreseen faith, that “draws” God’s choice. God’s election is unconditional and final.2 — James White
James White, my counterpart in this debate, embraces the Calvinistic doctrine of unconditional election, sometimes referred to as the second point of Calvinism. I do not. Because the election to which unconditional election refers is election unto salvation, I will “cut to the theological chase” and answer the more practical (and I believe the more biblical) question: Does God require that a lost person believe in Jesus Christ as a condition of salvation? The reason is simple. With all due respect to many devout Christian believers, I not only reject the Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election, but also I believe it to be nothing more than a theological invention of Calvinism based on the unscriptural Calvinistically defined doctrine of sovereignty and predestination. This does not mean that I do not believe God is sovereign or that He has not predestined all that was, is, or will be. I do (see Ps. 115:3; Eph. 1:11). I believe also, however, that Scripture teaches that God sovereignly ordained that faith in Christ be a real condition for salvation and not (as Calvinists teach) a mere consequence of election (see Acts 16:31).
How would you answer the following two questions? Is God sovereign? Are everyone and everything (acts, words, thoughts, intentions, motives, events, etc.) predestined according to God’s Sovereign will?
GOD REALLY IS SOVEREIGN
If you say yes to the first question (as I do), you must also (logically) say yes to the second question, as I know my Calvinist friends would agree. To be more specific, I would say if God is truly sovereign, then everyone and everything must be predestined according to God’s sovereign will. I believe when something predestined (which is everything comes to pass, it is simply the outworking of sovereignty (or sovereign control) from all eternity to all eternity. I believe if something could come to pass that God did not predestine, then that something would happen, by definition, independently of God. If something could or did happen independently of God, then God would not be sovereign or be in sovereign control of everything that happens.
To surrender sovereignty is logically impossible. If an eternal God could ever not be absolutely sovereign, it would mean He never was absolutely sovereign. That would mean we are not talking about the God of the Bible. It would be like saying God surrendered His absolute holiness (even if just fro a moment). If an eternal God is absolutely holy, holiness must be an eternal constant. . A corollary to my view of divine sovereignty is that God has ordained everything. From all eternity He ordained everything that was, is or will be. I believe (in accordance with what I am convinced is taught in Scripture) God’s sovereignty is absolute and predestination is all encompassing (Dan. 4:34–35).
SALVATION IS SOLELY THE ACT OF GOD
I believe God can and does save a lost human being and only God can and does accomplish anything that can rightly be considered a work of salvation. I believe the saving work (i.e., redemption, atonement, forgiveness, etc.; Eph. 1:7; 1 John 2:2) accomplished through the cross of Christ was all and only a work of God. I believe only God can and does savingly regenerate or give new and eternal life to the spiritually dead (John 1:13). I believe only God can and does savingly justify the ungodly Rom. 8:33). The reverse of this is that I do not believe man can or does accomplish anything of a saving nature. He does not, cannot, and need not pay any of the price of redemption. Christ paid it all on the cross (John 19:30). Man cannot, does not, and need not forgive himself of his sins (Luke 22:20; Heb. 9:2). He cannot, does not, and need not regenerate or justify himself. Salvation is, therefore, all from God and not in any way from man. Nevertheless, Calvinists refer to the view I have just articulated by the theological pejorative, synergism.
MAN (NOT GOD) MUST REALLY BELIEVE TO BE SAVED
Why? Because I also believe, in accordance with what I am convinced is taught in Scripture, that God requires that a lost human being believe in Jesus Christ as a condition of salvation (John 3:14–18; 6:33–40; 20:24–31). I believe:
· Only those who put their trust in Jesus Christ can enjoy the saving benefits available because of the work of God.
· All who put their trust in Jesus Christ become recipients of the saving benefits of the work of Jesus Christ (Rom. 1:16–17).
From the human side of the salvation issue, I believe it is faith alone in Christ that results in the salvation of the lost (Eph. 2:8–9). In effect, Calvinists have confused the biblical truth that God requires a lost person to believe in Jesus Christ (as a condition of salvation) in order for him or her to be saved by God with the unbiblical error that a person can or does make a contribution to his or her salvation and thereby becomes a cosavior with God. It would seem that to avoid the latter error, Calvinists have needlessly denied the former truth. Just because the candidate for salvation has some presalvation responsibility (i.e., to believe in Jesus Christ), does not make him or her even partially a Savior. Most mainstream Calvinists would agree with me that in some sense:
· All people should believe in Christ and become saved (John 10:39, see also John Calvin’s Commentary on John 3:16).
Calvinists disagree with me that:
· All people are enabled (i.e., enlightened, drawn) to believe in Christ.
Calvinists agree with me that:
· All who are enabled to believe (and, in fact, do believe) are not enabled to believe because they should believe in Him but because the Holy Spirit enables them to do so (John 1:9; 6:44; 12:32).
Calvinists disagree with me that:
· A person who is enabled to believe in Jesus Christ in not thereby made a believer; that is, a person must also choose to come to Christ in faith after he or she is enabled to do so (Matt.22:3; John 5:35–40).
· A person becomes a believer only by choosing to do so, though he or she can only choose to do so because God enables him or her to believe (John 6:44; 12:32; Acts 16:31).
· Faith in Christ is only possible because of what God does, but it is not inevitable because of what God does. God’s enabling work is not designed to make us believe but to make it possible for us to believe (2 Cor. 5:18–21).
In stark theological contrast:
· Calvinists believe some of the people who ought to believe in Jesus Christ are unable to believe in Jesus Christ and will never be enabled to believe in Jesus Christ (see Calvin’s commentaries on John 3:16).
· Calvinists believe only some people (a transitional class they call the elect) are enabled to believe in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit (see Calvin’s Commentaries on John3:16).
· Calvinists believe these same people that are enabled to believe are, at the same time, unable not to believe in Jesus Christ.
· Calvinists believe that the Holy Spirit, when He regenerates human beings, also makes these people believers or makes these people believe.
MONERGISM OF THE CALVINIST KIND
The type of monergism that Calvinists embrace, in effect:
· Makes God both the object of faith and the subject of faith.
· Makes God both the giver of the gift of new and eternal life and the one who accepts that gift on behalf of the recipient.
Calvinists say if you receive (preregeneration) the gift of eternal life, you are thereby the giver or cogiver of that gift. The logic of this escapes me. Nevertheless, as Calvinists see it, there can be only one will involved in the saving of a human being. If you make a choice to be saved (i.e., you must believe as a condition of salvation), then you are, according to Calvinism, helping to regenerate yourself, paying part of the price of redemption, and son on. What makes a theological conviction or commitment monergistic, however, is not about how many wills are involved in the saving of a person but how many saviors actually save the person. If man (along with God) was able to (or did) accomplish something of a saving, redemptive, or atoning nature, that would constitute synergism.
RECEIVING IS NOT GIVING
Suppose a man works extremely hard to earn enough money to buy his mother a home. Having earned enough money, suppose he takes that money and actually buys a home for his mother. He does all the work to earn the money and pays the entire price of the home. All the mother must do to have and enjoy that home is accept it from her son. Would that acceptance make his mother a coworker of the son or a cobuyer of the home? I do not think so; yet, this is what Calvinists say about those of us who believe we must accept the gift of God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ and what He has done for us.
While Calvinists give theological lip service to the place and importance of faith, Calvinists do not see faith as a condition of salvation, but instead they reduce it to a mere consequence of election, irresistible grace, and regeneration; that is, if you are among a transitional class of people called the elect, you will believe and cannot do otherwise, because you irresistibly will be drawn to God and regenerated, at which time you will be made a believer. If a person is not among that class, it is just too bad for that person. Is this really the message and meaning of John 3:16?
Is Faith Really a Condition of Salvation?
1. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, iii, xxi, sec. 5, 206.
2. James R. White, The Potter’s Freedom, (Amityville, NY: Calvary Press, 2000), 39.
This article is an excerpt from article DD802-1 from the Christian Research Journal. To view the full article, please click here.