Taking the Mask off Calvinism
The Danger of Human Reason
by: Pr. Stuart Wood
(This article is republished with the author's consent)
Dear brethren of the ELCR, we live in a dangerous time. Today, more than ever before, Satan is trying to wipe true Christianity off the face of the map. We know that he cannot ultimately accomplish that, but we also know that he will not cease his efforts until the Lord comes. Jesus said, “No man can enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house.” (Mark 3:27). This binding of the strong man took place at the cross of Calvary. There our Lord rendered Satan powerless (Heb. 2:14). For the last two thousand years, He has been plundering his house, that is, rescuing poor lost souls who were formerly under his power. He has done this through the proclamation of the Gospel, how that “Christ died for our sins” (1 Cor. 15:3). When a person hears this Word and receives it in true faith, he “hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24). He is “delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son” (Col. 1:13). But the Scriptures also tell us that this blessed time will come to an end. Revelation 20 speaks of a “little season” shortly before the Lord’s return when Satan will be loosed of his bonds and will make one last all-out assault on the Christian church. Since he is loosed, his house will no longer be plundered nor his goods spoiled. Rather, he will once again “keep his goods in peace”, that is, keep the lost in their deluded lost estate. From this we see that Satan will silence the Gospel during this “little season”.
Revelation 20 also tells us how he will silence the Gospel. He will do this by assembling together a vast horde of spiritual enemies from the four corners of the world to oppose and overwhelm “the camp of the saints”, “the beloved city”, that is, the true invisible church of Christ. The Scriptures call this horde “Gog” and “Magog”. According to St. Augustine, the word “Gog” means “a roof” and “Magog” means “from a roof”, and so the two terms have reference to “a house”. God is telling us that in the last days Satan will assemble his whole unbelieving house against the true Christian church. In every sphere of earthly power true Christianity will be marginalized, maligned, hated, and persecuted. Whether in the educational sphere, the scientific sphere, the vocational sphere, the economic sphere, the social sphere, the media sphere, the political sphere, the religious sphere, or any other earthly sphere of power, Satan will rise up as a multi-headed beast with a crown on every head. He will so vilify and malign the church, so thoroughly delude and prejudice the minds of the unbelieving, that few will dare or think to take her message seriously. The anti-Christian spirit will rule all earthly powers and will dominate and control the entire world.
Brethren, do we not see this anti-Christian spirit already in place? No matter where you turn today, the Word of God and those who truly stand with it are ridiculed and silenced. The world will tolerate anything and everything except the truth of God’s Word. And since God’s Word contains both His law and Gospel, those who rightly divide the Word are the special objects of this opposition and hatred. The world does not want to hear that they are lost sinners and it does not want to hear that Jesus Christ is the one and only Saviour from sin and death. The world seeks to kill the “two witnesses”, the law and the Gospel, who have tormented them for so long. Ultimately, due to Satan’s influence, it is the Gospel that they are most against, because Satan knows that the Gospel is the only truth by which a human soul may be saved. Satan hates souls because he hates God, the Creator and Lover of souls. He will gladly promote any religion, including all false representations of Christianity, if it is devoid of the Gospel because that does him no harm. All, except the true invisible church, will enjoy his nefarious smile and the earthly honors and treasures that go with it so long as they reject the Gospel.
One such religion that rejects and destroys the Gospel is Calvinism. Throughout this paper, I am speaking of that Calvinism that denies the universal atonement of Christ. For this reason Satan has raised it up and established it in its many forms. Its errors are subtle, reflecting the deep guile and great might of our old evil foe. The Scriptures describe the serpent as “more subtil than any beast of the field” (Gen. 3:1). The deadly danger of Calvinism is that it looks so much like true Christianity. It is a counterfeit that can easily pass as public tender. In fact, I would never have known or even have suspected the poisonous nature of this devilish lie if not for the writings of Martin Luther which taught me faith and delivered me from its terrible snare. You see, Calvinism is really a false religion, despite its appearance as an advocate for Biblical truth. It is a religion led of depraved human reason and not that true religion which belongs to the Word of God and child-like faith.
Now the problem is that it is often hard to distinguish between faith and reason. Reason looks exactly like faith so long as the Word of God appears reasonable. It is only when the Bible asserts something that is higher than reason and seems contrary to reason, that we see reason’s true colors. It is at this point that reason will part ways with faith and begin to oppose and argue against it. For instance, both faith and reason are happy to partake of the Lord’s Supper in all earnestness and seriousness. But when the elements are consecrated, and Jesus declares the simple words “this is My body, this is My blood”, then these differences become apparent. Faith says, “Yea, Lord, Thy body and Thy blood shed for me”. But reason says, “Nay, Lord, this is not Thy body. This is not Thy blood. These are but symbols of Thy body and blood”. Now we can see the proud and defiant nature of reason as opposed to the humble and trusting nature of faith. Reason is unwilling to honor the Word of God and to “bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). Isaiah said, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts… For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isa. 55:7).
Martin Luther writes, “I always say that faith must have absolutely nothing but the Word on its side and must permit no subtle argumentation or human ideas in addition. Otherwise it is impossible for faith to be retained and preserved. For human wisdom and reason cannot progress beyond judging and concluding in accordance with what it sees and feels or with what it comprehends with the senses. But faith must transcend such feeling and understanding or make its decision contrary to these and cling to whatever the Word submits. Reason and human competence do not enable faith to do that, but this is the work of the Holy Spirit on the heart of man. Otherwise, if man could comprehend this with his reason, or if he were to resolve this in accordance with what is and what is not consonant with his reason, he would not need faith or the Holy Spirit… Reason cannot and will not remain within the Word or be captive to it, but it must also give its cleverness a voice, and thus insists on understanding and mastering everything… But against all that reason suggests or tries to fathom, yes, against everything that all senses feel and perceive, we must learn to cling to the Word and simply judge according to it… In short, if you will not esteem the Word above all your feelings, eyes, senses, and heart, you will inevitably be lost, and there is no help for you.” (Luther’s Works, Vol. 28, pp. 69, 70) The great theologian, Johann Gerhard, adds, “Human reason labors not only under weakness but also under blindness, darkness, and errors when it judges matters of faith. Not only does it lack the divine power to know completely and perfectly, but it is also corrupted with the opposite inclination to pursue errors and faults. ‘The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.’” (Johann Gerhard, On the Nature of God and on the Trinity, pp. 290, 291).
Now Calvinism is a religion of reason. It is a system of theology that originated with John Calvin, the late 16th century Swiss reformer. Calvin himself was the spiritual successor of Ulrich Zwingli, whom you will remember vigorously opposed Martin Luther concerning the Lord’s Supper. Luther did not regard Zwingli as a saved man, and refused the hand of fellowship to him at the Marburg Colloquy. On that occasion Luther said to him, “Our spirit is different from yours; it is clear that we do not possess the same spirit, for it cannot be the same spirit when in one place the words of Christ are simply believed and in another place the same faith is censured, resisted, regarded as false and attacked with all kinds of malicious and blaspheming words.” (Luther’s Works, Vol.. 38, pp. 70, 71). On another occasion Luther related, “Zwingli recently wrote that Numa Pompilius, Hector, Scipio, and Hercules are enjoying eternal blessedness in Paradise together with Peter and Paul and the other saints. This statement is nothing but a frank confession of their idea that a Christian faith and Christendom are of no importance. For if Scipio and Numa Pompilius, who were idolaters, have been saved, why was it necessary for Christ to suffer and die, or why is it necessary for Christians to be baptized or to be instructed about Christ? So horribly do men fall into deadly error once the Word is neglected and lost.” (Luther’s Works, Vol. 8, p. 134). Upon hearing of Zwingli’s death on the Swiss battlefield, Luther said, “Zwingli drew his sword. Therefore he has received the reward that Christ spoke of, ‘All who take the sword will perish by the sword’ (Matt. 26:52). If God has saved him, he has done so above and beyond the rule.” (Luther’s Works, Vol. 54, p. 152). A few years later, Luther recalled, “The landgrave [Philip of Hesse], once the patron of Zwingli, wished to establish unity between us and desired that we call each other brothers, but I was unwilling, although Zwingli declared with tears that he wished to remain in our church and to have no separation between us. I hope he was punished on earth and had come to his right mind. There will always be perils in false brethren.” (Luther’s Works, Vol. 54, p. 264). We should keep Luther’s thoughts about Zwingli especially in mind when considering the very same rationalistic theology of John Calvin.
The Calvinists commonly distinguish themselves and evaluate others around the acronym T.U.L.I.P., their supposed five cardinal doctrines. Interestingly, Calvin himself only held to four of these points. He did not explicitly teach the false doctrine of limited atonement. Rather, this was a logical deduction based upon his theological system. It was formally set forth by Calvin’s successor, Theodore Beza. Later it became popularized by the Council of Dort in 1619. Today it has become the litmus test as to whether one really is a true Calvinist. So let us now look at these five points of Calvinism in the acronym T.U.L.I.P.
The “T” stands for the doctrine of “total depravity”, that is, that man is completely under the terrible power of sin, including his mind, will, and emotions. He is dead in his trespasses and sins, and apart from conversion and the grace of God there is no good thing in him. We would agree with this doctrine, as it is thoroughly Biblical and stands in opposition to Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism which attribute some meritorious powers to man. It is the Calvinists themselves who do not hold to this doctrine as they think they do as evidenced by their high estimation of human reason.
The “U” stands for the doctrine of “unconditional election”, that is, that God of His own will chose us in Christ to be His own in His eternal kingdom before the foundation of the world and predestined us to obtaining our great salvation wrought by Christ at the cross. This also is a doctrine that in itself is true and correct to the Word of God. The problem here is that the Calvinists take it to the next logical, though unbiblical, step and assert the false teaching of predestination to damnation. Thus, not only did God choose and predestine who was to be saved, but He also chose and predestined who was to be damned. While this thought may naturally follow from depraved human reason, it does not follow from Scripture. A person is not damned because God did not choose him. He is damned because of his own sins and his own refusal of God’s gracious offer of mercy in Christ.
The third letter “L” stands for the false doctrine of “limited atonement”, sometimes also referred to as “particular redemption”. This doctrine asserts that Christ did not die for the sins of all men, but rather only for the sins of those whom He had chosen and predestined to be saved, that is, a limited number of men, not all. This is the chief doctrinal error of the Calvinists and we will spend a larger portion of this paper discussing it and its horrible implications upon the Gospel itself. We definitely do not believe in limited atonement.
The fourth letter is “I” and stands for the doctrine of “irresistible grace”. This doctrine can be taken in two different ways, one correct and the other incorrect. It all depends on how one defines this. If it is meant that “no man comes to the Father lest the Father draws him”, we whole-heartedly agree. God's grace alone conquers our unbelief and resistance to His truth. He alone makes the naturally unwilling willing. All is from Him and all glory is to Him. However, if the Calvinists mean that a person cannot resist God's grace, then we disagree. Stephen plainly said of the Jews (after seeking their conversion), “ye do always resist the Holy Ghost” (Acts 7:51). In fact, man left to himself can do nothing but resist the Holy Ghost and God's grace. If I am saved, it is all of God's doing. If I am lost, it is completely my own fault. Reason can't handle that, but that is the truth.
Finally we have the letter “P” which stands for the doctrine of the “perseverance of the saints”. Again this expression all depends upon what is meant. If the Calvinists mean that a person cannot lose their salvation, then we disagree. There are ample New Testament warnings and examples of the loss of salvation. Paul said, “For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off” (Rom. 11:21, 22). However, if the Calvinists mean that it is the nature of God's elect to persevere in true faith unto the end, then we happily agree. We are “kept by the power of God” (1 Pet. 1:5), and God's true elect necessarily can and will persevere in true faith unto the end.
Now we must underscore that our difference with Calvinism is not so much about our differences concerning individual doctrines. A person could easily think that we are just splitting doctrinal hairs about matters that are much bigger than either of us. But that is not the case. Our doctrinal differences, while important, are only symptomatic of the more foundational difference of being led by child-like faith or depraved human reason in regards to the Word of God. And since a person can only be saved by true faith, we are really talking about the issue of salvation itself when we are considering the errors of Calvinism. There are two key issues when it comes to salvation - the correct Gospel and the correct faith. By the Gospel, God extends the gift of salvation to us. By faith, we extend our hand to receive the gracious gift. And at these two crucial points, Calvinism errs grievously.
How is a person truly saved? That is the most important and most fundamental question for every Christian. We can be correct on many points, but if we are wrong on this point, we are of all men most to be pitied. But thanks be unto our loving and gracious God that He has made the matter abundantly clear in His holy Word. The Apostle Paul writes, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for IT is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” (Rom. 1:16). The Gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation. It is not just a message as any human message, but IT is the power of God unto salvation. It is the seed that produces the entire Christian tree and its fruit. Peter tells us that we were “born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you” (1 Peter 1:23-25). James writes, “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth” (James 1:18).
Now what specifically is the Gospel of Christ? We know that it saves us, but we must also know what it is. We must know its contents in order to correctly identify it and receive it in true faith. Again the Apostle Paul gives us the precise definition. He tells us, “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.” (1 Cor. 15:1-4). The Gospel, then, is the joyful and liberating declaration that “Christ died for our sins”, evidenced by the fact that “He rose again the third day”. Paul tells us that it is by this truth that “ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain”. We are saved by faith in the Gospel, this message of Good News, “how that Christ died for our sins”.
Concerning the Gospel, Luther writes, “If you ask: What is the Gospel? No better answer can be given than these words of the New Testament. Christ gave His body and shed His blood for us for the forgiveness of sins. This alone is to be preached to Christians, impressed upon them, and faithfully commended to them for constant meditation.” (Luther’s Works, Vol. 36, p. 183). Again, he says, “’Evangel’ (Gospel) is a Greek word and in German means a good message, good tidings, good news, a good report, which one sings and tells with rejoicing. So when David overcame the huge Goliath, the good report and the comforting news came among the Jewish people that their terrible enemy had been slain, that they had been delivered, and that joy and peace had been given them; and they sang and danced and were happy because of this. So the Gospel of God and of the New Testament is also a good message and report. The Gospel has resounded in all the world, proclaimed by the apostles. It tells of a true David who fought with sin, death, and the devil, overcame them, and thereby delivered, without any merit of their own, all those who were held captive in sin, were plagued by death, and were overpowered by the devil. He made them righteous, gave them life, and saved them. Thus their needs were satisfied, and they were brought back to God. Because of this they sing, thank God, praise Him, and are happy forever if only they believe and remain steadfast in this faith.” (Luther’s Works, Vol. 35, p. 358).
Now, this leads us to another vital question that must be answered. What is faith? And once again the Scriptures give us a very clear definition. First, the Apostle Paul tells us that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17). Here we learn that faith must be derived from the Word of God. There is no such thing as true Biblical faith that is not founded upon the objective external Word of God. Paul also gives us a sure and certain example of faith in the person of Abraham, “the father of all them that believe” (Rom. 4:11). He says that Abraham “staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.” (Rom. 4:20, 21). So Abraham’s faith rested upon the promise of God and the truthful and faithful character of God. He was “fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform”. Saving faith, then, is the reliance of the heart on the promises of grace set forth in the Gospel. The Lutheran theologians say that faith includes three things – knowledge, assent, and confidence. We must know of what we believe. We must assent to what we believe. And we must trust in what we believe. Such a faith pays no heed to the present state of things nor to the things that are seen and felt. As the writer of Hebrews says, it is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).
Concerning faith, Luther writes, “Faith is the yes of the heart, a conviction on which one stakes one’s life. On what does faith rest? On Christ, born of a woman, made under the Law, who died, etc., as the children pray. To this confession I say yes with the full confidence of my heart. Christ came for my sake, in order to free me from the Law, not only from the guilt of sin but also from the power of the Law. If you are able to say yes to this, you have what is called faith; and this faith does everything.” (Luther’s Works, Weimar Ed., Vol. 49, p. 9). Again, he says, “The Word and faith should stand together, for the one cannot exist without the other. He who believes, but does not have the Word, believes as do the Turks and the Jews. They believe that God is gracious and merciful, but they lack the promise; for God will not be gracious without Christ.” (Luther’s Works, Weimar Ed., Vol. 52, p. 498). And finally, Luther writes, “The Jews who had been bitten by the fiery serpents in the wilderness had to close their eyes, blind their reason, look at the brazen serpent on the pole, and cling to the word which God had spoken: If he who has been bitten looks at the brazen serpent, he shall become well and live. So we, too, must close our eyes, take captive our reason, look at Christ on the cross, and believe the word: He who believes in Me shall not perish but have eternal life. No doubt many Jews laughed at Moses and mocked him because of the brazen serpent, for they wanted to grasp and judge with their reason and affect a cure by other remedies. But they failed. Just so we, too, should not, on the basis of reason, argue about how these sublime matters can happen. Nor should we presume to be redeemed and saved from the power of the devil by other ways and means. We shall never be able to succeed by doing this. We should cling to the Word which Christ speaks: He who believes in the Son of Man, raised on the cross, shall be saved.” (Luther’s Works, Weimar Ed., Vol. 36, p. 186 f.).
Now what about Calvinism, the offspring of that rebellious and faithless woman, Madame Reason? How does Calvinism stand in regards to these fundamental and vital issues of the Gospel, faith, and the salvation of the soul? Here we will see the full flow of the serpent’s deadly venom. Let us look at only one, albeit the worst, of the errors of Calvinism, and that is the false doctrine of limited atonement, the central petal of the poisonous T.U.L.I.P. As stated above, the Calvinists do not believe that Jesus Christ, our Saviour, died for the sins of all men. According to them, he died only for the sins of some men, that is, those relatively few whom He had elected and predestined unto eternal life. The reasoning is thus. If Christ elected and predestined only a limited number of people to salvation, then it naturally follows that He loves only these few and that He died for the sins of only this limited number of people. How could He love those who are not His own? And how could He die for and pay for the sins of those who don’t end up actually saved? This would mean that Christ’s death was ineffectual. Furthermore, for Christ to have died for their sins, and for them to still have to pay for their sins, would be a double payment of sin. Thus, it is conclusive that Christ died only for the elect, not for the sins of the whole world. As you can see, this reasoning can sound convincing. But the problem is that it is not Biblical. It does not agree with the Scriptures, and in fact, changes the Gospel itself. Paul said, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8, 9).
The doctrine of Limited Atonement stands in opposition to the clear testimony of the Word of God. At the very birth of Christ, the angel of the Lord told the shepherds abiding in the fields outside of Bethlehem, “behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (Luk. 2:10). When John the Baptist saw Jesus coming to him, he cried out, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Jesus, speaking of Himself and His mission, testifies, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16). The men of Samaria declare, “This is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world” (John 4:42). The Apostle Paul calls Christ “the Saviour of all men” (1 Tim. 4:10). He plainly states that God “will have all men to be saved” (1 Tim. 2:4), that Christ “gave himself a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:6), and that “one died for all” (2 Cor. 5:14). He also proclaims that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them” (2 Cor. 5:19). The writer of Hebrews testifies that Christ “tasted death for every man” (Heb. 2:9). The Apostle Peter speaks of false teachers and prophets who were “even denying the Lord that bought them” (2 Pet. 2:1). He further says that God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). The Apostle John likewise testifies, “he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). And this is only a sampling of the many verses teaching the universal atonement of Christ for the sins of the world. There are actually at least 28 clear verses plainly stating this important doctrine. Other verses asserting the same truth are Luke 14:16-24; 22:20, 21; John 3:17-18; 6:33, 51; 8:26; 12:47; 16:8, 9; Acts 13:26; 17:31; Rom. 14:15; 1 Cor. 8:11; 15:1-4; 2 Cor. 4:3,4; 1 Tim. 2:5; Tit. 2:11; 3:4; Heb. 10:28, 29; and 1 John 4:13, 14. Isaiah writes, “To the law and to the testimonies; if they speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Isa. 8:20).
It is not only the Scriptures that testify of the universal atonement of Christ, but also the many faithful voices of the early church. The earliest church father, Ignatius (c. 35 - c. 107), the Bishop of Antioch, states, “Our God is a lover of mankind, and ‘will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth’.” Justin Martyr (c. 100 - c. 165) of the early second century, says, “The Father of all wished His Christ for the whole human family to take upon Him the curses of all.” He further adds, “His Father wished Him to suffer this, in order that by His stripes the human race might be healed.” Irenaeus (c. 130 - c. 200), the disciple of Polycarp who in turn was the disciple of the Apostle John, states of Christ, “It was He who should die and be buried for the mortal human race”. Furthermore, he says, “He removed the yoke and bondage of the old law, so that mankind, being now set free, might serve God.” Tertullian (c. 160 - c. 225) confirms the same testimony in the third century. He writes of “the Scripture teaching one full and entire satisfaction for the sins of the whole human race, once for all presented by our Lord Jesus Christ”. The prolific writer, Origen (c. 185 - c. 254), adds, “But He did come, because He was willing to come, and because it was manifest beforehand that His dying upon behalf of men would be of advantage to the whole human race”. The ancient Church historian, Eusebius (c. 260 - c. 340), testifies in the fourth century of Christ’s universal atonement. He says, “He was the victim offered to the Supreme Sovereign of the universe for the whole human race”. Athanasius (c. 296 - 373), the champion of Christian orthodoxy, author of the Nicene Creed, and rescuer of the faith from Arianism, states, “For whatever is written concerning our Saviour in His human nature, ought to be considered as applying to the whole race of mankind”. He further adds, “In Him the human race is perfectly and wholly delivered from sin and quickened from the dead, and given access to the kingdom of the heavens.” The three great Greek fathers, Gregory of Nyssa, Basil, and Gregory Nazianzen, all give voice to the universal atonement of Christ. Gregory of Nyssa (c. 330 - c. 395) says, “And the wood of the Cross is of saving efficacy for all men.” Basil (c. 330 - 379) says, “The Lord was bound to taste of death for every man--to become a propitiation for the world and to justify all men by His own blood.” Gregory Nazianzen (329 - 389) adds, Christ’s sacrificial death was “not for a part of the world, nor for a short time, but for the whole world and for all time”. Hilary (c. 315 - 367) writes, “Since the humanity of Christ is universal, His death was on behalf of all mankind, to buy the salvation of the whole human race.” The greatest Eastern Church preacher, Chrysostom (c. 347 - 407), refers to Hebrews 2:9 and says, “’That by the grace of God He should taste death for every man’, not for the faithful only, but even for the whole world: for He indeed died for all.” Finally, the greatest church father, St. Augustine (354 - 430), testifies, “When the angel, then, stretched out his staff and touched the rock, and fire rose out of it, this was a sign that our Lord's flesh, filled with the Spirit of God, should burn up all the sins of the human race.” He further adds, “And so it was at that time declared in a mystery that the Lord Jesus, when crucified, should abolish in His flesh the sins of the whole world, and not their guilty acts merely, but the evil lusts of their hearts.”
Now despite all of these sure and certain testimonies from Scripture and the early church, proud reason will not concede the point. Through the mouth of the Calvinists, she insists that she knows better, because she has deducted that if God elected only a limited number of people to salvation, then God loves only the elect and Christ died for only these few. Reason insists that she cannot be wrong. According to her, it necessarily follows. But do you not see that she is acting as her own lord? She will not acknowledge that there is One who knows better than she. She does not recognize that these truths are infinitely above her capacity to fully understand. She does not have the wisdom of child-like faith that says “yea” and “amen” to whatever the Word of God asserts. She hasn’t yet learned the sweet little song “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so”.
Now to some this seems like a slight error, nothing to make too much about. For after all, whether Christ died for the elect only or for the sins of the whole world, in the final analysis only the elect are saved anyway. So what difference does it really make? The difference, however, is great. It is the difference between a true Gospel and a false Gospel. And Paul says that if anyone perverts the Gospel of Christ let him be accursed (Gal. 1:7-9). Furthermore, by changing the Gospel, it destroys the only means by which a person can be saved. As David said, “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psa. 11:3). Limiting the atonement of Christ makes a huge difference. For if Christ did not die for all men, how can I now go up to an individual man and tell him that “Christ died for HIS sins”. I cannot tell him this because it may not be true. For according to limited atonement, chances are that Christ did not die for this man’s sins. Thus, I cannot preach the Gospel to him. I cannot preach to him how that “Christ died for OUR sins – yours and mine”. The best I can do is to tell him that “Christ died for sins”, whether his own I cannot say. Do you see how important each word of Scripture is? Remove one little word, the word “our”, from the Gospel, and you destroy it and entirely overthrow the Christian faith. Franz Pieper, orthodox Lutheran's finest theologian, says, “The Calvinistic doctrine which restricts the grace of God to only one part of mankind is a trap of despair, a pestilence, death and damnation for the soul... The Calvinist Reformed doctrine that the grace of God includes only one part of mankind is a soul-murdering doctrine.” (Franz Pieper, Theses on Unionism, p. 12).
While preaching on John 1:29, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world”, Luther beautifully states the importance of the universal Gospel. He says, “This is an extraordinarily fine and comforting sermon on Christ our Savior. Neither our thoughts nor our words can do the subject full justice, but in the life beyond it will redound to our eternal joy and bliss that the Son of God abased himself so and burdened himself with my sins. Yes, he assumes not only my sins but also those of the whole world, from Adam down to the very last mortal. These sins he takes upon himself; for these he is willing to suffer and die that our sins may be expunged and we may attain eternal life and blessedness... This is the basis of all Christian doctrine. Whoever believes it is a Christian; whoever does not is no Christian, and will get what he has coming to him. The statement is clear enough: “This is the Lamb of God who bears the sins of the world.” Moreover, this text is the Word of God, not our word. Nor is it our invention that the Lamb was sacrificed by God and that, in obedience to the Father, this Lamb took upon himself the sin of the whole world. But the world refuses to believe this; it does not want to concede the honor to this dear Lamb that our salvation depends entirely on his bearing our sin. The world insists on playing a role in this too, but the more it aspires to do in atonement for sin, the worse it fares.”
Luther continues, “For the Lamb itself preaches to us, ‘Behold how I bear your sins!’ However, no one will accept it. If we believed and accepted it, no one would be damned. What more is the Lamb to do? He says, ‘You are all condemned, but I will take your sins upon myself. I have become the whole world. I have incorporated all people since Adam into my person.’ Thus he wants to give us righteousness in exchange for the sins we have received from Adam. And I should reply, ‘I will believe that, my dear, dear Lord, the Lamb of God, has taken all sins upon himself.’ Still the world will not believe and accept this. If it did, no one would be lost... Refusal to believe this is not Christ’s fault, it is mine. If I do not believe this, I am doomed. It is for me to say simply that the Lamb of God has borne the sin of the world. I have been earnestly commanded to believe and confess this, and then also to die in this faith. You may say, ‘Who knows whether Christ also bore my sin? I have no doubt that he bore the sin of St. Peter, St. Paul, and other saints; these were pious people, O that I were like St. Peter or St. Paul.’ Don’t you hear what St. John says in our text: ‘This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.’ And you cannot deny that you are also a part of this world.’ For if you are in the world, and your sins form a part of the sins of the world, then the text applies to you.” (Luther’s Works, Vol. 22, pp. 162-169)
Finally, it is important to point out that there are still true and sincere Christians in many of the Calvinistic churches. But this is not due to her terrible doctrines, but to the Gospel itself, which is still believed by some as a result of what the Lutheran theologians called “a blessed inconsistency”. While Calvinism officially condemns the universal atonement of Christ and thereby destroys the objective proclamation of the Gospel, many within Calvinism in their simplicity assume a universal atonement and fall back upon the true and saving Gospel, how that “Christ died for our sins”. I say this, not to commend Calvinism in any way, but to commend the grace of God which often over-rules to the salvation of souls. A most interesting example of this is with Calvin himself, who though he did not explicitly teach a limited atonement, certainly opened the door for this error with his theology for his successors. But on his death bed, Calvin exhibited this “blessed inconsistency” in his own Last Will and Testament. He writes, “With my whole soul I embrace the mercy which He has exercised towards me through Jesus Christ, atoning for my sins with the merits of His death and passion, that in this way He might satisfy for all my crimes and faults, and blot them from His remembrance. I testify also and declare, that I suppliantly beg of Him, that He may be pleased so to wash and purify me in the blood which my Sovereign Redeemer has shed for the sins of the human race, that under His shadow I may be able to stand at the judgment-seat.” (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 8, p. 829).
I hope you can understand my heart in this matter. I myself was once a Calvinist, and even advanced above many of my fellows in Calvinism. I read Calvinist books, studied at a Calvinist seminary, and commended Calvinism to my congregation. I was convinced that it was the truest expression of Biblical Christianity. But God was gracious to show me that I was wrong. And now I am eager to show other Calvinists the error of this way, and to bring them into the orthodox Lutheran faith, that “faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). I don’t seek their hurt, but rather their welfare. As Paul said, “Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved” (Rom. 10:1). Martin Luther expresses these same sentiments in a wonderful comment on Psalm 45:3, “Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty.” He writes, “Our King does not strike in order to destroy men but in order to save them. So I fight against Carlstadt, Zwingli, and others, because I would rather have them live than die and come to naught. We injure not in order to damn men, but in order to heal them; as Christ said (Luke 9:56; John 12:47), ‘I have come not to destroy the world but in order that it may live.’ Thus our sword sets forth the Word of salvation, life, and righteousness, and it attempts to bring people back to the right way.” (Luther’s Works, Vol. 12, p. 218).
Name: Aaron Deskin
Subject: Your debate with Frank Turk
I see you jumped from the frying pan into the fire with your moving from Calvinism to Lutheranism, both are false gentile corrupt sects and neitehr has the truth or ever had such.
You didn't move anywhere, you are
still a daughter of Rome as seen in Rev. 17.
I am debating Mr. Turk right now on the Godhead issue of three persons in a godhead which he apparnetly could not affirm versus the Oneness Apostolic Biblical truth of One person of God and his name being Jesus.
Aaron Deskin aka SCHMIT on CARM message board as well.
Name: Drew Lomax (site operator)
Subject: Your debate with Frank Turk
The author of this article has been notified about your comment.
Just an aside, why do you believe Lutheranism is a "daughter of Rome"? Please clarify.
4:40am. Sunday, 11/21/10
|Name||Toni Marie Westwood|
|Subject||ELCR vs Amnerican LCR|
you are most definitely wrong concerning the doctrinal purity of the
Australian ELCR. They are wrong on justification, holding to the
Missouri Synod's false Objective and Subjective Justifications; against
which Ichabod constantly protests. |
The ELCR also have a very legalistic teaching and practice view on women's dress lengths, women not wearing slacks (trousers), and the necessity of women wearing hats.
The LCR - based in the US - had doctrinal talks with the Australian ELCR some years back, with whom they share the false UOJ/SJ doctrine, but fellowship talks broke down over the latter mentioned areas.
8:34pm. Sunday, 11/21/10
|Name||Drew Lomax (Site Operator)|
|Subject||ELCR vs Amnerican LCR|
|Comment||Your comment was moved to this blog only because it's platform is much better suited for comments. The articles author has also been notified of your comment.|