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Austin Fischer, Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed: Black Holes, Love, and a Journey In and Out of Calvinism. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2014, 130pp. $16.00/£10.00


Austin Fischer, the 28-year-old Teaching Pastor at Vista Community Church in Temple, Texas, has written an honest, intelligent, accessible book about why he is no longer Reformed. Lauded by the brightest stars in the Arminian firmament—Scot McKnight, Roger Olson, Greg Boyd, Rachel Held Evans—Fischer is to be commended for writing on such a difficult topic with disarming prose and without biting rancor. I can understand why Christians on the other side of this issue may feel like this is the Book They’ve Been Waiting For. Of course, given my position as an ordained Reformed pastor it will come as no surprise that I found his arguments ultimately unpersuasive and, in several instances, full of significant weaknesses. But more on that later.

Fischer’s Journey

In eleven crisp chapters, Fischer tells the story of how the image of God in the face of Christ compelled him to leave Reformed Christianity behind in favor of a picture of God that is more loving and more satisfying. As a high school student, Fischer had the “more” itch, a hunger for more out of his faith, more out of life, more out of God, and more out of himself. His youth pastor recommended Desiring God by John Piper. The book scratched a deep itch. Fischer came to see God as bigger, more glorious, and more all- consuming. Although he struggled with the implications of some Reformed doctrines, Fischer couldn’t deny (at least at the time) that these teachings were in the Bible. So kicking and screaming he entered the Reformed fold.

He went to college as a “precocious freshman theology major” who was, he notes, “fairly assured I had the answers” (19). But during his freshman year, he encountered “one professor in particular who was a nagging thorn in my Calvinist side.” Fischer was “ruthlessly” exposed to “one hell of a problem”—reprobation. How could a good God create people just to damn them? Sure, God could plan any number of catastrophes to be for the ultimate good of his eternally saved people, but “how will God make it up to the reprobate?” (25). Fischer couldn’t help but think of a scene from Schindler’s List where a little girl in a red coat who is tragically and senselessly killed: how could a good God create her for the purpose of punishing her in hell? Fischer’s Calvinism was beginning to unravel.

At first, Fischer was prepared to accept Calvinism no matter what, as long as he saw it in the Bible. But then he questioned how the Bible could be trusted at all if Calvinism was true. Given the doctrine of reprobation, how could God be loving, just, or good in any sense of those terms? And if God is not virtuous in any way that we understand virtue, then how do we know he has been truthful—as we understand truthful—in revealing himself in Scripture? In other words, if Calvinism is right we must be unbelievably wrong about the most basic things pertaining to God (33).

The remedy to this problem is to start back at square one, and for Fischer that means beginning with the belief that Jesus is God. This is the heart of Fischer’s biblical argument against Calvinism. If Jesus is the exhaustive revelation of God’s character (41), we are obligated to test all of our ideas about God against the picture of Christ we see in the gospels. With a Barthian view of inspiration in place and a Moltmann-inspired approach to the incarnation, it’s a natural step for Fischer to ask the question he poses on page 44: “Does the God of Calvinism accurately depict the God revealed in Jesus?” The answer is a resounding no. Jesus shows us a “crucified-for-sinners God” while Calvinism gives us a “creates-sinners-in-order-to-crucify-them God” (49). Therefore, we cannot accept the predestinating Calvinist God whose chief end is to glorify himself, because “At the center of the universe, there is not a black hole of deity, endlessly collapsing in on self, but a suffering, crucified, mangled lamb, endlessly giving away self” (50, emphasis in original).

That’s the central thesis in Fischer’s argument. The remainder of the book aims to bolster this claim.

  • The chief end of God is not to glorify God, but to express love, which is his glory (Chapter 6).
  • Yes, God is sovereign, but he empties himself of his sovereign prerogatives and grants us free will so that the divine-human relationship can be authentic (Chapter 7).
  • Sure, free will theism presents us with logical and biblical problems, but every system does, and if we have to live with mystery, it’s better to live with the mystery of love (Chapter 8).
  • After all, certainty is the enemy of good Christian limping (a la Jacob at Jabbok), and having doubts is the mark of theological maturity (Chapter 9).
  • In the end, the gospel of the kingdom is about much more than substitutionary atonement. It’s about making disciples, and Calvinism—which does not allow for choice, decision, or wills that matter—cannot naturally produce disciples of the kingdom (Chapter 10).
  • Besides, Romans 11 has nothing to do with personal salvation or damnation and has everything to do with God’s plan for Israel and the faithfulness of God (Chapter 11). Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed is a thoughtful book which leans on the likes of Karl Barth, Jurgen Moltmann, Dallas Willard, Daniel Taylor, N.T. Wright, Scot McKnight, and Roger Olson to make the case that Calvinism leaves the Christian with a God bent inward instead of directed outward, a God who glorifies himself at all costs instead of loves at all costs, a God who resembles a black hole instead of mangled Lamb. And if those are the choices before us, Calvinism looks like a loser.

A Few Black Holes in a Book About Black Holes

I think Fischer has written a good book in so far as I imagine it will be energetically passed around by pastors, professors, and churches who are looking for an easy-to-read accounting of the errors of Calvinism. I don’t suppose many of those pastors, professors, and churches also read this blog. Nor do I suppose that a book review is the place to make my case for being young, restless, and Reformed (and truth be told I’m actually not that young and never was that restless). So I will try to refrain from writing a 20,000 word review on a 25,000 word book. If you want to read the case for Reformed soteriology, you can pick up any number of books by John Piper, R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, or one of the bazillion resources you can find on sites like The Gospel Coalition or Monergism.

My aim is simply to highlight a few serious shortcomings in this engaging book. I can’t mention every interpretation or every claim I disagree with, but perhaps by introducing a few general categories of critique, I can help future readers of the book—both friend and foe—to ask the hard questions I believe Fischer himself would be happy for his readers to ask.

Is Reformed Theology Represented Accurately?

It’s worth noting the chronology in Fischer’s journey. He became a Calvinist in high school (p.8) and started rethinking his Calvinism already as a freshman in college (19), which is not a lot of time to explore the depths of the Reformed tradition. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t sincerely Reformed and couldn’t understand the basic contours of election and reprobation, but it does put his “deconversion” story in context. Fischer was given a John Piper book in high school and became Reformed “kicking and screaming.” He then went to the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (hardly a bastion of Calvinist ideology methinks) where he began to question Reformed theology. Following college, he went to Truett Theological Seminary where, judging by the acknowledgements, Roger Olson was something of a mentor to him. None of this makes Fischer’s story suspect or his arguments illegitimate. What it does mean is that this is not the journey of a lifelong Calvinist or a deeply entrenched Reformed thinker who threw in the towel, as much as it is the story of an earnest young Christian who didn’t grow up Reformed, was never trained to be Reformed, but who embraced Reformed soteriology for a short time as a teenager before he found a better alternative in the Arminianism of his esteemed professors.

I believe Fischer has tried hard to be fair with Calvinism. He does not make ad hominen arguments. He does not take cheap shots. But despite these good intentions, Fischer’s arguments suffer from a lack of familiarity with important distinctions frequently cited in the Reformed tradition. For example, Fischer suggests that Calvinists believe that when people are raped, maimed, murdered, and tortured that God ultimately did those things to them (21). What’s missing here is an awareness of the distinction between remote and primary causes. No Calvinists I know would say God rapes people. God is never the doer of evil. Arminians may not find the distinction compelling, but Reformed theologians have always made clear there is a difference between God ordaining what comes to pass and the role of human agency in actually and voluntarily performing the ordained action.

Likewise, Fischer assumes several times that in Reformed theology the human will is only an illusion. The picture painted is of a God who makes sure people do what he wants, whether they will to do so or not (46, 71). So God, according to Fischer’s version of Reformed theology, must put the impulse to sin inside Adam (75). In his chapter on kingdom discipleship, Fischer argues that Calvinism cannot naturally produce discipleship because at the heart of being a disciple is making a choice to follow Jesus, and in Calvinism “you simply do not have a choice and therefore do not have a will that matters” (97). But Dort makes clear that divine sovereignty “does not act in people as if they were blocks and stones; nor does it abolish the will and its properties or coerce a reluctant will by force” (III/IV.16). Calvinists may believe there is a divine will prior to all human willing and they may deny that our wills are free in a libertarian sense, but they do not deny the reality of human choice or that our decisions matter.

Fischer also describes reprobation in terms that are more extreme than even a supralapsarian Calvinist would use. While he is right to insist the Calvinist own up to double predestination, his description of the position—God creates people in order to damn them (22, 26)—is not how Reformed theologians have explained reprobation. Dort is typical in describing reprobation as God’s decision to pass by the non-elect, leave them in their sin, not grant them faith and regeneration, and finally condemn them for their unbelief (I.15). Again, Arminians may not care for the nuances of infralapsarianism and the order of the decrees, but they should at least interact with the Calvinist position as it presents itself in the best of our confessional tradition.

Have the Problems with Arminianism Been Squarely Faced?

The most effective aspect of No Longer Reformed is how Fischer forces us to stare at the doctrine of reprobation and consider whether this is a picture of God we can live with. There’s no doubt that double predestination is a tough pill to swallow and that reprobation can feel like a “horrible decree” (to use Calvin’s phrase). I think in the end the best thing the Calvinist can say is “who are we to talk back to God?” (Rom. 9:20) and “who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” (Rom. 11:34). Fischer eventually comes to find this response untenable. For my part, I resonate with Bavinck’s appeal that Calvinism “invites us to rest in him who lives in unapproachable light, whose judgments are unsearchable, and whose paths are beyond tracing out” (Reformed Dogmatics, 2.395).

Whether the doctrine of reprobation should finally be accepted or not is a question that Scripture alone must settle. What Scripture also must settle is whether the Arminian can see his way through the problems that come with free will theism. To his credit, Fischer spots the “monsters” and acknowledges them. But then he doesn’t do much to slay any of the dragons. He refuses to stare them down to the bottom like he does with the Reformed doctrine of reprobation. And when he does find a “win” for his side, the logic ends up helping his position much less than he thinks.

For example, Fischer objects to Calvinism because it suggests that “the God who would stoop so low as to be crucified and buried is the same God doing the eternal crucifying of countless souls for things he had made sure they would do” (p.46). Putting aside whether “made sure they would do” is the best way to speak of the divine decrees, the sharp disjunction put forward by Fischer could just as easily be constructed out of the Arminian position: “how can the God who would stoop so low as to be crucified and buried be the same God doing the eternal crucifying of countless souls for things he knew they would do when he created them and could have easily prevented?” The Arminian position doesn’t really gain us any theodicy points.

Similarly, Fischer argues that the Reformed idea of God doesn’t work because in the gospels we see a God who is the healer of suffering and sickness, not the cause of it (47). Not only does this ignore a whole lot of Scripture to the contrary (Judg. 9:23; 1 Sam. 1:5; 16:14; 2 Sam. 24:1; 1 Kings 22:20-23; Isa. 45:6-7; 53:10; Amos 3:6; Ruth 1:20; Eccl. 7:14), but Fischer has painted himself into a corner that no orthodox Christian can get out of. If you have, like Fischer does, a doctrine of hell and if you have penal substitutionary atonement—not to mention the whole history of divine judgment in the exodus, the conquest, the exile, and in the consummation–you have a God who causes suffering and is just to do so.

Fischer also struggles to give a response to the problem of our own willing in Arminian soteriology. He affirms total depravity and that we do not have the ability to turn to God on our own. Commendably, Fischer wants to safeguard that salvation is of grace and leaves no room for human boast. But he doesn’t own the uncomfortable conclusion at the bottom of free will theism, namely, that the reason some people open the gift of salvation and others don’t, the reason some people surrender and float up to safety while others struggle and drown (to use Olson’s analogy), is owing ultimately to our decision. Why are some people in heaven and some people in hell? The Calvinist says the decisive factor was God. In free will theism the decisive factor is you. Fischer dismisses the whole issue as a problem we don’t need to worry about (79).

Again and again, Fischer falls back on mystery, which feels a bit awkward considering how much he criticized the Calvinist for appealing to mystery when it comes to the difficult doctrine of reprobation.

  • How can God relinquish his sovereignty in granting free will and still be sovereign himself? “[T]ake it up with God” (70). That’s just the way he does things.
  • Where did Adam’s sin come from if it wasn’t ordained by God? We can’t explain it. “It’s a mystery” (75).
  • How can we reconcile that a loving God created this world and created us knowing that sin and rebellion would happen? “[W]e are left capitulating to a mystery” (81).
  • And why do some accept Christ and others don’t? Once again: “It’s a mystery” (76).

Surprisingly, Fischer then goes on to quote Jerry Walls saying, “The Calvinist cannot tell us why or on what basis God chooses some for salvation and passes others by” (76). But of course, the Calvinist can say on what basis some God predestines the elect. It is “according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace” (Eph. 1:5-6). Maybe it’s because Fischer champions doubt and pillories certainty that he can be so unbothered by the problems of free will, Adam’s sin, and why some believe and some do not (76). But he certainly has not stared at the Arminian difficulties as fully and as viscerally as he probed the difficult doctrines he saw in Reformed theology.

Has the Case Been Made Based on Rigorous Exegesis of Specific Texts?

Most problematically for Fischer’s case is his penchant for dealing in biblical generalities rather than getting into the weeds of the text. For example, he affirms that “the Bible talks about God’s self-glorification a lot” and cites nine passages in an endnote. But then the rest of the book criticizes the black hole of a glory-seeking God. What about those texts Fischer learned when he was Reformed? What do they mean now? You can’t acknowledge that “the Bible talks about God’s self-glorification a lot” and then write a book purporting to debunk the whole notion of a glory-seeking God without looking at any of those glory texts.

Later he quotes from a paragraph in which John Piper argues for election by referencing fifteen different texts in the Gospel of John. Fischer’s response does not deal with any of them. He admits that Piper’s Reformed reading “is a fair case to be made.” But then adds, “if you’re looking for Calvinism in the Gospels, you’ll leave parched. You’ll hone in on a couple of teachings in John and then project them elsewhere” (48). That could be, but fifteen texts is not “a couple,” and even it were only a couple, you should go to the trouble of showing why “all that the Father gives me will come to me” (John 6:37) and “no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44) do not mean what Calvinists think they mean. No attempt is made to interact with the texts Piper cites.

Similarly, Fischer dismisses the Reformed understanding of Ephesians 1:11 without any exegetical work except to admit that the Calvinist reading is “possible,” but he “no longer find[s] it the best possible reading” (68). To wipe away texts with personal assertions that they don’t work is hardly a compelling argument.

Fischer’s tendency to hover about the text makes for a series of definitive statements that are much less than meets the eye. He constantly reminds us that at the center of the universe is not some glory-seeking God, but the mangled lamb of Revelation 5, as if Revelation 4 and the vision of him who sits on the throne receiving unceasing worship has nothing to do with God’s purpose in glorifying God. Fischer makes much of the fact that in Jesus we see a desire to love at all costs, not a desire to glorify himself at all costs (58), as if the high priestly prayer in John 17 was not chiefly concerned with the glory of the Father and the Son. Fischer uses the story of Jacob wrestling with God as evidence that good theology always has doubts and uncertainty because when you come face to face with God you walk with a limp (85ff.), as if the text even mentions Jacob limping or other heroes of the faith limping or has anything to do with theological method at all. Moses seems more interested in drawing implications about not eating the sinew of the thigh than in extolling the virtues of chastened epistemology.

No Longer Reformed is full of pithy phrases and arresting sentences, but often the most clever lines set up false dichotomies that can’t be supported by Scripture. Do we want a God who reigns from a rugged cross, or a God who reigns from a celestial throne? A God who controls everything, or a God who wants to have a genuine relationship with us? A God whose love is just a cog in the glory machine, or a God who loves because he is love? These are biblical themes meant to be held together, not driven apart for rhetorical effect. And besides, hasn’t John Piper (channeling Jonathan Edwards) made his whole ministry about showing how these diverse excellencies are not mutually contradictory? After reading the book I know that Fischer disagrees with Piper, but I have less of a sense why I should find Piper’s arguments unacceptable because they aren’t handled in any detail.

At the risk of repeating myself, let me say it again: the prose is warm, the writing personal, and the arguments serious, but there is next to no detailed exegesis in the book. Even when Fischer finally talks about Roman 11 in the very last chapter, he simply restates N.T. Wright’s basic line—Paul is talking about Israel, not asking sixteenth-century questions—and then proceeds to explain all of Romans 9-11 as concerned with the temporary hardening of the Jews and the ingathering of the Gentiles. No doubt, Paul is trying to explain in Romans 9 how the promises to Israel have not failed. But to make his point, he argues that not everyone descended from Israel belongs to Israel (9:6), which leads him into an explanation of election and reprobation. And Paul’s thinking must include the idea of individual predestination, for he uses the example of twins who were set apart for different purposes by the plan of God (9:9-13). The point in “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” is that God has mercy on whom he will have mercy and hardens whomever he wills (9:14-18). Fischer’s comments on Romans 9, like his comments on most passages, are true enough in broad strokes, but fail to engage the particularities of the text. To settle for the exploration of big themes at the expense of verse-by-verse exegetical work is to enjoy the wonders of the forest and ignore all the trees.


Although I disagree with Fischer on a lot of things, I agree with his insistence that what we make of Reformed theology is tremendously important. I love this line at the end of the book: “I wish there were middle ground, but . . . where would it be?” (108). Amen. It’s not possible to be a Calviminian. If you care about theology and care about consistency—like Fischer does—you’ll see how different understandings of God’s sovereignty set you on markedly different intellectual, devotional, and practical trajectories. Austin has a different approach to biblical authority, a different place for substitutionary atonement, a different understanding of the freedom of the will, a different take on epistemology, a different level of confidence in whether God knows all things, and a whole different set of authors he looks to for theological guidance. These are not small issues we are dealing with. It’s no wonder, then, that the Calvinist-Arminian divide is so wide and deep and that becoming Reformed or becoming no longer Reformed is such a big deal. So even if I find Fischer’s book unconvincing—and actually reinforcing for my Calvinist convictions—I can be thankful that unlike many Christians, he believes the debate is worth having.

This review first appeared on Reformation 21.

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186 thoughts on “Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed: A Review”

  1. Robert says:

    I guess I come at this from a much less educated point of view than many of you on here, but then Jesus said we should have faith as a little child does. I have several thoughts based on my reading of the bible which do not let me accept the idea of Calvanism and actually leads me to think of the notion as the kind of man made legalism that Jesus called out in people.
    1). I believe in the goodness of God. I believe that He gives us very clear examples of how to define goodness throughout the Bible. Furthermore, I believe that in Jesus, He has actually given us a perfect example of how to define goodness. He does the same thing with the concept of love. For me to believe that God creates people who will follow all their desires to sin and turn away from Him, desires which He has ordained and made to happen. And then for Him to purposely not let them see the light of the gospel while letting others see it contradicts all the definitions of love and goodness which He so clearly defines for us throughout. I would have to learn an entirely new definition of love and goodness to be able to accept this. I believe in the love and goodness of God as He has shown us.
    2) In my reading of the Bible, the notion of salvation based solely on God’s election, and the notion that He would choose to pass people over for salvation and let them be “rebrobates” never occurred to me. And when I mention it to Christians not familiar with this doctrine, it also never occurred to them. I take God at His word that He truly loves the world and desires for all to be saved. Thus He gives us Grace through Jesus to all who would believe in Him. I don’t believe it is the faith that is the Grace, it is Jesus that is the Grace. Throughout the gospels Jesus repeats over and over to the people he has healed or forgiven ,”your faith has…..”. He even marvels at the faith of the Centurion declaring He has not seen faith like this in all of Israel. Yes, God chooses Abram. But then He tests him. Abram “believes God” and his faith is credited to him as righteousness. Galatians says that God did this knowing that it is by faith that salvation would one day come to the Gentiles.
    3) Which brings me to the notion that by allowing us to choose Jesus we are somehow saving ourselves. Really? You could read the Bible and think that you could save yourself? Your faith is only as good as the object of your faith. We were dead in our sins. Without God stepping into our world and giving us the grace of His Son to take our rightful punishment, exchanging His righteousness for our unrighteousness, a free gift for those who would believe in Him, we would still be dead in our sins. If you find something to boast about yourself in that go ahead, but I’ll boast in God that He would save me, a sinner deserving of wrath.
    4) As for being dead in our sins according to Ephesians. I think it’s quite possible that a meaning outside of what was intended has been added to this. The popular phrase is “dead people can’t choose God!!” I never took it to mean that until people like Driscoll and Piper came along shouting it (again, I am not a theologian, just a guy reading his bible and trying to walk humbly with God). When I read that I always took it to mean that we had a death sentence hanging over us because of our transgressions and sins we had already committed. We are already under God’s wrath. We are dead men walking. God then makes us alive by grace, through faith in Jesus. It is a gift, we don’t earn it. But if you want to say that I am doing a work and saving myself by having faith, then read John 6:28-29. How in the world could you ever boast in yourself for ever believing in the Christ who was only given to you by Grace? I don’t know how or why it happens, but I believe that Jesus really is the light of the world and the darkness cannot overcome it. When people hear the gospel, the veil is lifted enough for them to make a choice, and when one turns to the Lord the veil is removed. God gives us every chance to choose Him. The offer is genuine. To say that He dangles it out in front of you but doesn’t enable you to see it goes against all I know of Him.
    5) The idea of common Grace. Yes I fully believe that God makes the sun to shine and the rain to fall on both sinner and saint. But Calvanists somehow try to soften the idea that people will be sent to hell for eternity solely on reprobation with the cheery statement “Yes, but they enjoy common grace while they are alive.” Really? Is there anything that anyone could give you during your years on earth that would soften the impact of an eternal hell? A hell that you were eternally predestined to go to. That is just a disengenous statement.
    6) The idea of loving your neighbor as yourself. Love God, love your neighbor as yourself, right? These are the commandments that everything falls back to. Yet so many Christians are in the end okay with the majority of the world being damned for not believing God, when they are predestined to never be able to see Him. These Christians are okay with it because they believe that they themselves are saved. Are you sure about that? Seems hard to love your neighbor as yourself and yet be okay with that, yet scripture is clear that love will be the defining characteristic of the Christian. I know, I know, we should hate even our own family in comparison to God, but really, think about that.
    7) The effect of prayer. The bible says that the prayers of a righteous person are powerful and effective, right? Look at Elijah and his prayers. Why do we pray for people if their destinies are already predetermined? We can pray all we want for our brothers, sisters, parents, kids. If they are predestined for hell it won’t change a thing. I believe Jesus when He says we should ask God for things. I pray for people believing God listens and can make things happen in their lives.
    8) Finally the idea that my view elevates man and decreases God’s sovereignty. In no way do I believe that God cannot do exactly what he wants. What I do believe is that because of God’s love for the world he has proven through Jesus that He is willing to step into our existence, make Himself nothing, and offer us a free gift and the option to receive it through faith. He is sovereign!! He chooses the Way, and then He says “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” Luke 13:24. How much more sovereign can you get than that? But how many examples do we have to have throughout the Bible that He wants a Genuine relationship with us? That involves choice and free will. He “could” save us through unconditional election, He is sovereign. He could also just send everyone to hell and destroy His creation. Instead, He chooses to unconditionally offer us all a chance through grace. And that is all the more to His Glory! If you go to hell, it is because you have truly rejected God after He offered you every chance. As far as why He still allowed you to be born when He knew you would refuse? Remember, He Is sovereign and you do have a part to play in His plan. He still loves you and gives you a genuine offer, each and every one of us. He uses every little thing for His glory. Those who accept will not have deserved His love, we’re just thankful because we were headed for condemnation. At the end of our lives we are free from condemnation and no one can snatch us from the Father’s hand. Those who refuse will surely deserve their condemnation. For those who never get to hear the gospel, I fall back on God’s goodness and sovereignty in judgement, along with Romans 1, John 9:41, and Luke 12:47-48
    In the end I will admit I don’t know the answer and have to fall on my knees and beg God that I have not wrongly portrayed Him. I must remember Deuteronomy 29:29 and 1 Cor 13:12-13. I don’t know the mysteries of God, but I trust God. I trust in His goodness and power. I am lost without Him. All I have to offer is a sliver of faith. He will take that faith and through the power of the Holy Spirit accomplish His will. Without the Holy Spirit it is impossible to live a life that pleases God. The same Spirit with which we were sealed when we heard the gospel of our salvation and believed.

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    “how can the God who would stoop so low as to be crucified and buried be the same God doing the eternal crucifying of countless souls for things he knew they would do when he created them and could have easily prevented?” The Arminian position doesn’t really gain us any theodicy points.” . . . . . .Unless you believe in Open Theism. Seriously, it definitely “wins points in theodicy.” It basically says that God know all, and in knowing all He knows all the different futures possible, but that doesn’t mean He doesn’t predestine somethings for sure to pass (Isaiah 41, 46), but that kind of like the Nature-Nurture debate, it’s actually a both. So if you want to really win points in theodicy, first shed the Calvinism, and be an Open Theist Arminian, which actually has nothing to do with the nature of God at all, but the nature of the future. For more information check out

  14. Joel Kessler says:

    “how can the God who would stoop so low as to be crucified and buried be the same God doing the eternal crucifying of countless souls for things he knew they would do when he created them and could have easily prevented?” The Arminian position doesn’t really gain us any theodicy points.” . . . . . .Unless you believe in Open Theism. Seriously, it definitely “wins points in theodicy.” It basically says that God know all, and in knowing all He knows all the different futures possible, but that doesn’t mean He doesn’t predestine somethings for sure to pass (Isaiah 41, 46), but that kind of like the Nature-Nurture debate, it’s actually both. So if you want to really win points in theodicy, first shed the Calvinism, and be an Open Theist Arminian, which actually has nothing to do with the nature of God at all, but the nature of the future. For more information check out

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  20. LeRoy says:

    Passing by sinners and leaving them reprobate when He _could_ do otherwise is the very problem. I do not see this taught in the Bible. And if one’s system logically leads to such an affirmation, it should indicate a problem in some premise, at least to one who personally enjoys a relationship with our loving Father, who sent His Son to save us. Besides this, it should now be accessible to all Biblical scholars and serious students that neither the historical context or the rhetorical/discourse thread of Romans has anything to do with debating, much less implicitly presenting, Greek philosophical presuppositions. Paul, in Romans 9, Eph. 1, etc. was speaking to Judaizers who wanted people to be circumcised in order to participate in the covenant. Paul said this was added later as a sign, and the more fundamental (yea, from the foundational earth history in terms of deciding to come die, and even before creation in terms of having a people in His image who would serve Him from the heart) reality is that the Lord has always sought a people who would follow Him, on earth as it is in heaven. Granted that all Scripture may have bearing on later theological questions that those converts (and otherwise) ensconced in Greek philosophical worldview may have had, there is no reason to wrench Paul out of context and assume he was saying anything directly to that, especially when we know from the writings themselves that he was speaking to those who were not properly understanding the relationship of believers (Jew first, but also the Greek) to traditional Judaism. To assert that Paul was actually teaching from either a Calvinistic or Arminian perspective (two sides of one coin) is grossly asynchronic.

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  23. Russ Davis says:

    Ironically Kevin and Austin suffer from a similar problem, a real naïvetè about the importance of theological legerdemain and a real lack of the Ps 19 clean fear of the Lord that should make us fall down in worship at the amazing profundity of The Almighty Word of God Written, necessarily coextensive with The Almighty Word of God Incarnate whereby to sin against the former is to sin against the latter, an idea even more unknown in our day than it was rightly feared in days past.
    While Austin may be somewhat more Biblically knowledgeable than the average person, or even the average pastor or professor/theologian, an honest, informed appraisal of today’s barren landscape would have to conclude there is rank illiterate useful idiot bigotry on nearly every side to the point where I’ve had to repudiate my former professors for their departure from Biblical norms, e.g. my erstwhile Biblical seminary choosing a man openly arminian to lead the Missions Dept.
    Now why do I imagine the glorified heavenly hosts forever crying the Trisagion “Holy, Holy, Holy” have the right idea of the proper appellation for The Glorious Creator Alone Worthy of praise over us dead in sin fools only ever free to sin; who’da thunk it?! Much of Kevin’s review would have been better spent on a Biblical/exegetical focus vs following Austin into the theological wilderness that was a serious aspect of his problem in the first place, as it was for similarly naïve Arminius who really didn’t formulate his soteriology fully before his death, beginning his abandonment of the Reformed faith in the 1690s & dying soon after in 1609, hardly time to grapple fullly with all the ramifications, Dort being shortly after it in 1616-19. Ironically “Arminianism” is a singularly unfortunate nomenclature for a philosophical system largely crafted by men did so AFTER he died, one of many things misrepresented in the jArminian-Calvinist debate where truth is usually absent and emotions are usually high. God save us, Soli Deo gloria!

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  25. Epi says:

    Russ says: “Ironically “Arminianism” is a singularly unfortunate nomenclature for a philosophical system largely crafted by men did so AFTER he died…”

    And this differs from Calvinism how? Oh, of course. Calvinism came from the mouth of God directly and unambiuguously, it had nothing to do with men, it has nothing to do with philosophy in the slightest, it is completely uniform as a movement, having no serious diversity of views from within, and no-one has diverted from what Calvin said one iota following his death!

    Thanks for clearing that up! ;)

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  29. Laura says:

    “To say that He dangles it out in front of you but doesn’t enable you to see it goes against all I know of Him.” Such a Spirit-led comment! This is exactly what Calvinism, boiled down, is saying. But God cannot be good in the sense that we understand good if He only gives some the opportunity to be saved. Absolutely, we all deserve hell!, But does the unpartial God of the Bible only choose to give some men the ability to be saved while pleading with others to repent fully knowing they CANNOT? No. Simply, and emphatically, No. Dear Calvinists, please see this!

  30. timbushong says:

    “But God cannot be good in the sense that we understand good if He only gives some the opportunity to be saved.”

    Your comment assumes that anyone wants to be saved in the first place. Paul uses emphatically negative language in Romans 3 to describe the natural man’s hatred of God–and in Romans 8:7-8 he absolutely rejects the concept of the natural man desiring to be saved, let alone his ability to do anything that is pleasing to God.

    “But does the unpartial God of the Bible only choose to give some men the ability to be saved while pleading with others to repent fully knowing they CANNOT?”

    For that comment to make sense it would mean that God’s saving grace is obligatory on His part. That’s one of the reasons that soteriological calvinsm is called the ‘doctrines of God’s free grace’, because of the necessity for grace to be freely given by God–not to be required of Him to give to all. Biblical salvific grace ALWAYS produces holiness, and is always effectual. The only option is some kind of universal ‘prevenient’ grace, which makes all men ‘save-able’, but is not powerful enough to effect salvation itself; it takes the co-operative work of the creature in order to ‘work’.

  31. Robert Pineda says:

    I love that this thread is still going on, as it has for hundreds of years now. I love that we think we’re going to put the creator of the universe in a box of our own theological ideas, because we’re so smart right? Look at any pictures from the Hubble telescope or an electron microscope lately? And we’re going to figure out THAT creator? God is good (I believe that by faith and His revealed word). Everyone who could possibly be saved, will be saved (let’s let God figure out exactly how that will work, and trust that He is good). Maybe we should acknowledge that God is God, not us. Get off our theological soapboxes and get back to loving our neighbors so that they might come to know Him and His salvation, however that comes about in the hearts of men. This is a fun and lively topic for discussion, but does nothing to advance the gospel, which is simple and beautiful. Think about it, at the end of your life, if you end up separated from God, one side will say “well, he was never really saved by God”. The other side will say “well, he had every chance and rejected God in the end, he walked away from his salvation”. Will the correctness of either of those positions matter to you at that moment? Just trust God! The world is full of real need and injustice, more than enough for us to tackle. Let’s get back to it.

  32. lona says:

    Austin’s testimony is beautiful why do you, a Calvinist, have to be such a dumb ass!

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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