The Staunch Calvinist

"Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God." - Jonathan Edwards

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1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 3: Of God's Decree - Commentary

...to prove above. Many are comfortable in saying that God is sovereign over earthquakes, tornados, tsunamis and human life generally, but they have difficulty in saying that God is sovereign and ordains human evil—evil done by volitional agents. It is understandable in a certain sense. The big difference between these two is the fact that moral agents (humans) are held accountable for their evil deeds, while nature is not. It is humans who will stand before the throne of God and give account for every deed (Eccl 12:14). “Creation” or "nature” will not give an account for the tornados, tsunamis, and earthquakes that were brought forth from it. Those who oppose Calvinism think that if God were absolutely sovereign, as Calvinists insist, then that would mean that people are “robots” (as they like to say) and God is the author of evil (because He is in absolute control of evil). We obviously reject that. We believe in a micro-managing sovereign God and believe that humans are responsible for their actions. We do not believe that just because men do not have libertarian free will that they're freed from responsibility. Neither do we believe that because human actions are ordained by God and under His rule that men are excused of responsibility. We believe that the Bible teaches both things side by side. I don't understand how it works, but I see it in Scripture and thus I'm bound to accept that my knowledge is limited.

Our presuppositions

We certainly cannot believe that God, by Him being God and thus sovereign over all things including evil, makes Him the author of evil or makes Him an approver of sin and evil. That’s absolutely outside the bounds of Scripture. So we first establish that God is sinless and blameless in all that He does and then we look at the passages which describe His sovereignty over the evil acts of men.

Deut. 32:4 “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.

Ps. 92:14-15 They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, 15 to declare that the LORD is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

Ps. 145:17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.

Hab 1:13 You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?

Job 34:10 “Therefore, hear me, you men of understanding: far be it from God that he should do wickedness, and from the Almighty that he should do wrong.

Jas 1:13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.

I think that these verses speak loud and clear on the fact that God is absolutely holy and there is no way for Him to do something unholy—sin, which is evil. “All his ways are justice”, yes, even when He has decreed sin and evil. “His ways are justice” and He “is righteous in all his ways…” If we only look at the passages which speak of God’s sovereignty over evil and conclude that God actually causes sin and wickedness in the hearts of men and this reflects His nature, then we have not taken all divine revelation into consideration. Likewise, if we conclude from the following passages that God cannot have a purpose in ordaining evil, then we're not taking the whole of divine revelation into consideration.

Does God Have Two Wills?

Now that ...


A Review of RC Sproul's Willing to Believe & Thoughts on Free Will

...stion of human freedom and sovereignty. I remember that it was not much later than that I was studying Jonathan Edwards’ The Freedom of the Will, which was somewhat difficult.

In this great work this master theologian gives a historical theological study of important theologians throughout the history of the Christian church on the question of human freedom. He goes through some Christian heroes and giants of the faith like Augustine, Edwards, Luther and Calvin. Also some who were non-Christian and anti-Christian in their theology and thinking like Charles Finney and Pelagius. Lastly, theologians who belong more to the in house debate between Arminianism/Semi-Pelagianism and Calvinism, like Jacob Arminius himself.

The Pelagians

Pelagius was a British monk living in the fifth century and he is known to have a huge dispute with Augustine on the nature of man and free will. Pelagius reacted to a seemingly harmless prayer of Augustine which said: Grant what Thou commandest, and command what Thou dost desire. Harmless doesn’t it? Well, that’s not what Pelagius thought. He thought it outrages, because it showed man’s total dependence on God to graciously grant the ability to obey Him. Pelagius believed that commandment presupposes ability. What many nowadays believe. He said that God would never command something that man was not able to do. Therefore, everything that God commands man is able to do. So, away with Romans 8:7-8.

He further taught that Adam was in no sense the federal head of the human race. Adam was created mortal and would have died even if he didn’t sin. All men are born in the state that Adam was in. Adam gave man bad influence, not a sinful nature otherwise known as Original Sin.

He taught that the nature of man was basically good and that sinning didn’t effect that basic goodness of man.

Man has a free will to do good or evil and to obey God in all things.

Jesus’ death was not substitionary, but it was as an example for us.

People can live sinless lives, and in fact some have lived sinless lives.

The grace of God is important, but not essential. What I mean is that it would be awesome if one uses the grace of God for obedience, it will make things much easier, but it is even possible to obey without the grace of God.

This among other things are the things that he believed. I think, for any serious Bible student, they must conclude that this places him outside of Christian orthodoxy. Pelagius and his teachings were condemned in 418 and you would think that it will be the last thing heard of Pelagius, but then arises Charles Finney many centuries later in America.

Charles Finney

Charles Finney taught things very similar to Pelagius. In fact, he was more Pelagian than Pelagius.

He rejected the doctrine of justification by faith alone, which is the heart of the Gospel message.

He rejected the penal substitionary atonement of Christ in place of the believers. He posed the Governmental and Moral Influence theories of the atonement. He taught that all that was needed for conversion was good argumentation and persuasion. His influence is seen in the decisional evangelism/regeneration of our day, when people are told to make a “choice” for Christ. Or to make to choose Christ to be born again.

It is interesting to observe that this is the vision of the secular culture. That man is able to do anything possible. We think we are not bound by nature to anything. We think that we are the...


1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 8: Of Christ the Mediator - Commentary

...="color: #800080;"without any condition foreseen in them to procure it. 9
  1. John 6:37, 39; 10:15-16; 17:9
  2. 1 John 2:1-2; Rom. 8:34
  3. Rom. 8:1-2
  4. John 15:13, 15; 17:6; Eph. 1:7-9
  5. 1 John 5:20
  6. John 14:16; Heb. 12:2; Rom. 8:9, 14; 2 Cor. 4:13; Rom. 15:18-19; John 17:17
  7. Ps. 110:1; 1 Cor. 15:25-26; Col. 2:15
  8. Eph. 1:9-11
  9. John 3:8; Eph. 1:8

Introduction

Particular Atonement/Redemption or as it is most commonly known, Limited Atonement, is one of the most confusing doctrines about Calvinism to non-Calvinists. Honestly, it was not difficult for me to accept the L in TULIP, as it logically and naturally followed from the other points. If I believed that we were all dead in sin (Total Depravity), God has chosen from the world particular people to be saved (Unconditional Election), how would I reject Limited Atonement and remain consistent?

Some find the phrase “Limited Atonement” confusing as it may suggest to some the effect of the atonement itself was limited, but that is not the intended meaning, so they prefer to use other phrases as Particular Atonement/Redemption. That is fine, but as with every big theological term, we cannot simply assume the meaning. We must learn and try to understand what is being conveyed through the use of the term.

Christ’s redeeming work was intended to save the elect only and actually secured salvation for them. His death was a substitutionary endurance of the penalty of sin in the place of certain specified sinners. In addition to putting away the sins of His people, Christ’s redemption secured everything necessary for their salvation, including faith, which unites them to Him. The gift of faith is infallibly applied by the Spirit to all for whom Christ died, thereby guaranteeing their salvation.[19] 

By saying that the atonement is limited we are not saying that it is limited in its power, rather it is limited in scope. The Father’s will and desire is for Christ to be a perfect Savior for those whom the Father has given to Jesus (John 6:37-40). It was not the Father's will or intention for Christ to be the substitute for all sinners, but only those whom the Father has given Him. This is what we mean by Limited Atonement or Definite Atonement.

Both Calvinists and Arminians limit the atonement but in different aspects. The Calvinist limits the atonement in its scope, the Arminian limits it in its power. Charles Spurgeon rightly observed:

We are often told that we limit the atonement of Christ, because we say that Christ has not made satisfaction for all men, or all men would be saved. Now, our reply to this is that, on the other hand, our opponents limit it, we do not. The Arminians say, Christ died for all men. Ask them what they mean by it. Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of all men? They say, "No, certainly not." We ask them the next question-Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of any man in particular? They say, "No." They are obliged to admit this if they are consistent. They say, "No; Christ has died so that any man may be saved if"-and then follow certain conditions of salvation. We say then, we will just go back to the old statement-Christ did not die so as beyond a doubt to secure the salvation of anybody, did He? You must say "No;" you are obliged to say so, for you believe that even after a man has been pardoned, he may yet fall from grace and perish. Now, who is it that limits the death of Christ? Why you... We say C...


Preservation of the Saints - Scripture List

...s content is taken from this document

[1] I have used Preservation instead of Perseverance as the first title because of the doctrine teaches that God is the one who works in us and also that it does not destroy the TULIP acrostic.  For the Perseverance of the Saints see “Perseverance of the Saints.”

[2] James White, The Potter’s Freedom (New Revised Edition 2009) p. 40

[3] “The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented” Ed. 2, pp. 7-8.

[4] This section shows us that the believers are also active in their perseverance, but we’ve already seen that God is the one who preserves us. The verses are taken from “The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented” Ed. 2, pp. 150-3.

[5] Taken from “The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented” pp. 153-5. Not all Scripture from there are quoted.

[6] Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved..

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Welcome To The Staunch Calvinist

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God's Absolute Sovereignty: Resources used

...Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (direct link)
  • Albert Barnes New Testament Notes
  • ...

    1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 5: Of Divine Providence

    ...anyet is free to work without, above, and against them at his pleasure. 
    1. Acts 27:22, 31, 44; Isa. 55:10-11; Hosea 2:21-22
    2. Hosea 1:7; Luke 1:34-35
    3. Rom. 4:19-21
    4. Ex. 3:2-3; 2 Kings 6:6; Dan. 3:27

    This seems impossible to non-Calvinists, don't ask me why, but they always seem to think that if God is truly sovereign, then we can't be free or can't make “genuine choices,” or that we should just sit and do nothing. I've never understood that aspect of anti-Calvinism. The Scriptures teach both God's sovereignty and man's responsibility. A simple example is found in Philippians 2:12-13:

    Phil. 2:12-13 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

    Why would Paul say to the Philippians to work out (not work for) their salvation, if in the next verse He says that it's God who does it? Because Paul understands that God makes use of means. God commands us to do certain things, grants us the grace to perform them and works His sovereign will through that. Another example is in Acts 27. Paul is on a sinking ship.

    Acts 27:21-25 Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. 22 Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, 24 and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ 25 So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.

    God had promised Paul to save him and those who are with him in the ship from death, but how? Does it matter how these people act or what they do? The Scripture further says:

    Acts 27:31 Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.”

    Some people tried to escape from the ship, but God had determined to save only those who remain on the ship. God's sovereignty worked out through the men staying in the ship. God used the means of the men staying on the ship to save them from death. Many more examples could be given, but we must believe that God ordains the ends as well as the means thereto. God didn't just decree to save these men, no matter what. What if some of them tried to commit suicide, or jumped in the water, or tried to kill each other. God had decreed to save all of them, therefore, it doesn't matter what they do, right? Wrong! See also paragraph 6 of chapter 3.

    Dr. Sam Waldron comments on the second paragraph, which is also relevant here, writing:

    A course of events consisting of a series of free and contingent events is said to produce a predetermined result. The proof of this statement is the many places in which free or random actions are the necessary conditions of divinely determined events (Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 27:23-24, 31; Matt. 5:20; Phil. 1:19; Prov. 20:18; Luke 14:25-33). Victory in war is predetermined (Prov. 21:31), but careful preparation of your equipment (Prov. 21:31) and wise guidance are recommended (Prov. 20:18). The random shot of the Syrian bowman was the means of...


    1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 9: Of Free Will - Commentary

    ...The Freedom of the Will
  • R.C. Sproul – Willing to Believe (see review)
  • Thaddeus J. Williams – Love, Freedom, and Evil: Does Authentic Love Require Free Will? 
  • Calvinists have always been leveled the charge that our understanding of God’s absolute micro-managing sovereignty makes men as puppets and robots. One wonders what the reason was for the Westminster, Savoy and 1689 to offer a chapter on free will if they thought that people were merely puppets and robots as many critics like to mock Calvinism.

    In section 1, we will have our longest discussion of the will. There, I hope with Edwards’ Freedom of the Will, to lay the understanding of the human will as believed by Calvinists, which I believe happens to be biblical and logical. I have chosen to do this for two purposes: 1) I want to understand Edwards' position better first hand from him. Edwards is difficult to read and understand and sometimes you have to read sentences and paragraphs over and over or look somewhere for an explanation to understand what he's getting at. 2) And I would like you to understand Edwards’ position on the will which is the commonly held view by Calvinists. In the following sections, we will try to lay some things concerning man's will in the four states, from innocence until glory.


    §1 God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty and power of acting upon choice

    1. God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty and power of acting upon choice, that it is neither forcednor by any necessity of nature determined to do good or evil. 1
      1. Matt.  17:12; James 1:14; Deut. 30:19[1]

    God Ordains Human Actions

    From chapter 3 it is clear that God is sovereign and ordains even human actions. Therefore the freedom spoken of here is not autonomous freedom.

    Section 1: God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein; nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established; in which appears his wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing his decree. (See commentary)

    His sovereignty, orchestration and ordaining extends to all things whatsoever comes to pass, the good and the bad. Chapter 5 which speaks of God’s providence is even clearer on this:

    The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God, so far manifest themselves in his providence, that his determinate counsel extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sinful actions both of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission, which also he most wisely and powerfully boundeth, and otherwise ordereth and governeth, in a manifold dispensation to his most holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness of their acts proceedeth only from the creatures, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.

    If even the evil actions of men are under His control how much more the good actions? For the case that God ordains and is sovereign even over the evil actions of men and yet holds them accountable, see chapter 3 section 1 where I try to argue just that from the biblical texts. Consistent with what the Confession said in chapters 3 and 5, the fre...


    John Owen's Case For Particular Atonement

    John Owen’s Case for Particular Atonement

     

    (This post was originally written for a section in chapter 8 of the 1689 Baptist Confession.) 

    Introduction

    Dr. John Owen’s work titled “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ” is, by the admission of many Calvinists, the most extensive work on the doctrine of Limited Atonement, or better named, Particular/Definite or Atonement/Redemption. Therefore, it is beneficial for us to take a brief look at his case for Particular Atonement over against Universal Atonement. Dr. Owen is aware and acquainted with the material of the opposing position and he interacts with them and answers their objections. He is not writing against caricatures of the opposing side but has researched the materials and arguments of the opposing side and, in my opinion, utterly refutes their arguments.

    Almost everyone who has any reasonable knowledge of the debates concerning limited or unlimited atonement must have heard of Owen’s trilemma, which we have presented above. The trilemma is really forceful, but it is merely one argument out many more from Dr. Owen’s arsenal. The trilemma is not his only argument for Particular Redemption. But it may be an accurate summary of his case. He argues each of his points biblically. For a good summary of his arguments see here.

    Dr. Owen’s book is divided into four books and various chapters dealing with the issues related to the atonement.

    1. Book 1 (8 chapters) deals with the purpose of the Trinity in the design of the atonement.
    2. Book 2 (5 chapters) deals with the effects and application of the work of Christ.
    3. Book 3 (11 chapters) presents 16 arguments against Universal Atonement and for Definite Atonement.
    4. Book 4 (7 chapters) answers various interpretations and objections to Particular Atonement.

    Note: All biblical references in the quotes are modernized (e.g. John i. 1 to John 1:1 for the ease of reading and the recognition by the Scripture Tag).

    The General Purpose of Christ’s Death

    First, he enquires about the “general of the end [i.e., purpose] of the death of Christ” (book I, chap. 1). What does the big picture of Scripture say about the death of Christ? What is indisputable there about it? He divides this question into two sections:

    1. “that which his Father and himself intended in it” (book I, chap. 1):
      1. Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
      2. 1Tim. 1:15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
      3. Matt. 20:28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
      4. Gal. 1:4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,
      5. Eph. 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
      6. Titus 2:14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

    After citing and alluding to the above-cited passages, Owen says:

    Thus clear, then, and apparent, is the intention and design of Christ and his Father in th...


    Unconditional Election, Sovereign Grace - Scripture List

    ...ong>those who have obtained[7] a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: 2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.


    This content is taken from this document

    [1] James White, The Potter’s Freedom (New Revised Edition 2009) p. 39

    [2] “The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented” Ed. 2, pp. 6.

    [3] C.f. Ps 41:9

    [4] C.f. 1Kg 22:1, Mal 1:2

    [5] C.f. Isa 65:1

    [7]

    • G2975 λαγχάνω lagchano (lang-khan'-o) v.
    • 1. to lot, i.e. determine (by implication, receive) especially by lot
    • [a prolonged form of a primary verb, which is only used as an alternate in certain tenses]
    • KJV: his lot be, cast lots, obtain
    • Jonathan Kristen Mickelson's Enhanced Strong's Greek and Hebrew Dictionaries. Taken from the Bible software The Word.

    [8] Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved..

    ...