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Viewpoint Tracts on Bible Subjects

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The Christian religion is the worship and service of Jesus Christ. It’s not Mary we worship, but her Son. We worship neither saints, angels, a law code, nor even God’s Spirit. It’s JESUS who is to be honored. The Bible is our guide.

BFL20-99 -- Is Calvinism

Please read and consider —


Am I right? I advised friends by e-mail on 10/16/99 that Calvinism is NOT Christianity. I suggested —

The Stone-Campbell unity movement was popularized by the preaching of Walter Scott, an evangelist whose work began around 1830, and then found hundreds and then thousands of champions who carried on Scott's methods and thinking. Most of these workers were not highly educated. None of them became rich through preaching.

The movement's leaders were Alexander Campbell and Barton W. Stone, both of whom gained many friends through public exposition of truth and through written publications. A compelling story of fast growth is told in Leroy Garrett's book (published by College Press in Joplin), "The Stone-Campbell Movement: The Story of the American Restoration Movement."

One reason the "Restoration Movement" found many disciples eager to believe in "the ancient gospel" was because of the prevalence in the U.S. in that day of doctrines earlier popularized by John Calvin. Those who believed what Calvin had taught were thrilled to learn that the Bible offered hope rather than despair to seekers after life and truth.

Many today are still led astray by modified forms of Calvinism which they think is the true doctrine of Christ. Bill Pile calls this modified Calvinism a new form of gnosticism. Perhaps he's right. Those who study the Bible should easily see that what is being taught and practiced is certainly not what was taught and practiced in early days of the church of the Lord Jesus. (Pile's comments are available in the Viewpoint tract, "Gnosticism Revisited" you can read at Viewpoint web site or receive by mail).

Most popular evangelists of our day don't dare (or choose to) preach the same gospel message that Peter announced on the birthday of the church. Peter's words simply don't match what many today claim is the Way of Christ. But Christ's Way has not changed, and will indeed never change. Those who preach a different gospel are in fact not teaching the Way of Christ as His apostles did.

The form of Calvinism popular in the first half of the 19th century included a "mourner's bench." And well men might mourn, for the message they heard was that men were not free to come to Christ until they could persuade God to "call" them to salvation. So they must pray and pray and pray until they somehow won "through" to salvation, which was usually accompanied by some "sign" to which they could testify as proof of their "conversion."

This practice was not copied from the Bible. It was based on the theories of John Calvin which in modified form still trouble those who seek to follow the Lord Jesus.

Calvin found Bible verses which seemed to imply that each man was so steeped in sin that he could only be saved if God "turned the key" to open the sinner's heart to hear and understand the Way of Christ. Calvinism's message is not an invitation to come to Christ, but instead sinners were told that they were unable to turn to Christ unless God personally "called" the sinner to salvation and reached into the sinner's heart to enable (and indeed, force) him to believe in Jesus as Lord.

The hours spent at the "prayer altar" were so that the sinner could "pray through" until God was willing to individually save that sinner. Supposing this method of salvation was correct, many in that day waited on a sign from God that they had been selected for salvation. Some waited in vain. Others found signs which surely didn't come from God.

In contrast to the true gospel, Calvinism portrays a God of whim and whimsy who wants men to beg and grovel so they'll properly appreciate salvation if they finally think they've found it.

Calvin's teaching was based on the erroneous idea that men are born as sinners totally unresponsive to the voice of God. It was thought that unless God intervened, every man would be a monster, doing everything evil and nothing good. The technical term for this theory is "total depravity." Unless God chose to intervene and change the sinner's nature, every person was only wicked.

And it was all up to God. The sinner was dead in sin, unable to seek God or find salvation without an individual miracle which would make that sinner alive and able to believe in Jesus.

In fact, the Bible teaches that men are a mixture of good and bad, but that God so hates sin that NO sin will be permitted into His eternal presence. So our hope of eternal life is based not on our good outweighing our bad, but rather in our being cleansed from all sin by the power of Jesus' blood.

The truth is that man's only hope IS in Christ. All of us do sometimes choose sin rather than salvation. We are always imperfect while we are on this earth, and cannot be saved in perfection since humans are NOT perfect, no matter how hard we might try. But the difference between Calvinism and truth is that God so loves us that He has made salvation possible for every man.

The Bible verse, John 3:16, tells the story simply. God so LOVED the world that He gave His unique Son to die in our place so that we might live eternally with God. Gospel truth is not complicated. But Calvinism is very complicated. Historic Calvinistic doctrine is based on total depravity of every man as a first principle. Joined to this theory is the idea that God has selected some for salvation and others to live and die without hope of glory.

Unconditional "election" is the popular name for this second tenet of Calvinism. It's thought that until God picks out an individual for salvation that person wants only evil and has no desire for good within. It's taught that sinners love only sin -- sinners can do nothing good.

Most observant people will see just by human experience that this idea is not true. For the worst men sometimes do good things. And the best men sometimes do unworthy things. And every man is a mixture of good and bad, even prior to any religious experience.

Calvin went on to teach that Jesus died only for those who had been selected for salvation. Those who had not "experienced" salvation COULD not receive salvation through Christ, for Jesus died only FOR the elect. Those who didn't get God's vote would live and die with no chance for eternal life. And God loved only some men and women. All others were doomed to eternal death.

Even more obviously wrong is Calvin's teaching that sinners have no choice whatever in moral matters. If God elected a man to salvation, then that man is fated to be saved in spite of anything he wants, thinks, says, or does. He has no choice in the matter. God's going to save that sinner because of God's choice.

No resistance is possible. No action on the part of the sinner can change God's mind. Weakness can't prevent. Wickedness can't alter. Those few who were selected by God are going to be born again. Then, no matter what THEY want, or how they live, they're going to be finally saved with God in glory.

God's grace is for few. But resistance is futile. Those who were selected by God are going to be saved regardless. All others will go to Hell regardless.

The fourth and fifth points in historic Calvinism merge as just stated. The doctrines are generally separated into a statement of "irresistible grace" and "perseverance of the saints." Such folly!

Thinking men in the 19th century rejoiced to hear that every man was loved by God, so that every man who wanted salvation could come to Christ and FIND love and grace and life. The truth is eternal.

There's no merit in the theories of John Calvin or other men that God destines particular men to life or death with those men having no choice in the matter.

Thinking men in the 21st century will be wise if they read the Bible and find there the truth that God loves every man and doesn't want ANY man to select sin over salvation. Individuals who want to be saved CAN be saved. Christ died for all. He invites ALL to be saved. Every person is free to either accept or reject the invitation.

Those who have in the past rejected the gospel are free to change their mind so long as they have life and breath. It's also true those who have in the past accepted God's grace are free to turn away and be lost. God gives man freedom of choice so long as the man is alive on earth. Men who are truly dead no longer can change their mind.

But living human beings are given freedom. God allows us to choose. Some make good choices. Some make bad choices. So long as we're alive, we CAN change. The path of wisdom is to seek truth and resolve to FOLLOW truth. Those who do so can enjoy LIFE with God through eternity.

I recently read a helpful study on Calvinism by Charles P. Schmitt. In the Fall 1999 issue of Immanuel's "Foundational Teachings" he writes on "The Five Points of Calvinism: A Contrasting Point of View." You could get a copy of the study from him by writing to him at 16819 New Hampshire Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20905.

Calvinism uses Christian words and names. But it's far away from true Christianity. I invite you again to carefully consider Seth Wilson's simple pointers to correct understanding of the Bible. These are presented at this web site in the 13 brief studies of " Proper Bible Interpretation" in the TRACT Studies.

They're also available as individual tracts I'd love to send you. The tracts are free. Your gift to Mission Outreach of $2 would cover my cost in mailing them to you at the mailing address you'll furnish me. Thanks.

published by Ray Downen