Guest Blogger: Jason Helopoulos

What is the heartbeat of Reformed Theology? Some would point to the Doctrines of Grace (Five Points of Calvinism) and others to the Solas of the Reformation. Still others may be inclined to assert that it is the sovereignty of God or union with Christ. All of these are good answers, but if I was pressed to articulate the one thing that drives Reformed Theology, I would reply that it is the glory of God as revealed in the Scriptures:

  • We emphasize reliance upon the Scriptures because observing the rule He has given for faith and practice ascribes glory to God.
  • We emphasize the sovereignty of God because a theology rooted in His supremacy ascribes glory to God.
  • We emphasize the distinction between Creator and creature because a right understanding of His “otherness” ascribes glory to God.
  • We emphasize the sinfulness of man because recognizing His unfathomable grace ascribes glory to God.
  • We emphasize the inability of man in salvation because accentuating His mercy ascribes glory to God.
  • We emphasize predestination and election because distinguishing He is a God who freely chooses ascribes glory to God.
  • We emphasize prayer because faithful dependence ascribes glory to God.
  • We emphasize the preached Word because listening to His voice ascribes glory God.
  • We emphasize the sacraments because participating in these gifts to the church ascribes glory to God.
  • We emphasize holiness in the Christian life because being conformed to the likeness of Christ ascribes glory to God.
  • We emphasize daily quiet times because seeking Him in private worship ascribes glory to God.
  • We emphasize worship in our homes, because centering our homes upon Christ ascribes glory to God.
  • We emphasize Lord’s Day corporate worship, because gathering with the bride of Christ ascribes glory to God.
  • We emphasize preaching Christ from all the Scriptures because maintaining the centrality of Christ ascribes glory to God.
  • We emphasize providence because trusting in Him for all things ascribes glory to God.
  • We emphasize missions because spreading His fame throughout all the earth ascribes glory to God.
  • We emphasize theological rigor because worshipping God with all our mind, heart, and soul ascribes glory to God.
  • We emphasize the covenants because treasuring God’s faithfulness ascribes glory to God.
  • We emphasize the pilgrimage of the Christian life because seeking Christ above beauty ascribes glory to God.
  • We emphasize that the treasure of heaven is Christ because observing there is nothing better ascribes glory to God.
  • We emphasize conversion because calling men, women, and children to faith in Christ ascribes glory to God.
  • We emphasize common grace because recognizing that all good things come from above ascribes glory to God.
  • We emphasize the local church, because as the appointed bride of the Son ascribes glory to God.
  • We emphasize union with Christ in salvation because seeing every aspect of our salvation in relation to Christ (as the Scriptures do) ascribes glory to God.

What is the heartbeat of Reformed Theology? I wouldn’t feel the need to argue with someone who would suggest it is the Doctrines of Grace, union with Christ, or even the Solas of the Reformation. Yet, I think it is more accurate to say that Reformed theology is a system of doctrine that seeks to rightly articulate the teaching of the Scriptures for the glory of God. It is His glory that is our heartbeat, propels us to action, and the reward that we seek after.

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42 thoughts on “What Is the Heartbeat of Reformed Theology?”

  1. Eric says:

    You describe the reformed theology as a highlighter that points to the Glory of God. The law of God is a highlighter too. It too highlights His character, his holiness, his otherness, His power, His beauty, and Paul tells us in Galations that it points us to Christ. Is it different that law? “If I abide by reformed theology then I will give glory to God.” All in all I am not sure if the above statements are well founded and reliable. How am I to know they are true. It makes much of the theology (which is from men). It does not emphasize God like it hopes to. It emphasizes our progress in theology. Isn’t that an emphasis on our works. All in all I am concerned about putting so much weight on it that we say it is “His Glory” at it’s heart. It may be our own glory. Who will tell us?

  2. anaquaduck says:

    Regarding Erics comment…

    In the context of the law (which has multi functions) & Reformed Theology there would be agreement (Heidelberg Catechism) & also the letter to the Galatians regarding Christ which is emphasised in the catechism.

    Reformed Theology in contrast to other Theologies (with all respect) has a strong emphasis on God, That is not to say that in application it doesnt fall short, but who doesnt fall short as Gods truth remains steadfast & his faithfuness never ending.

    So was the Bible from men or God & is the church from men (women & children) or God, Scripture says God. And is not your argument also from a man. The church is to fulfil her role on earth given by God. Rom 12: 1-2. Eph 4:7-8.

  3. Peter McKenzie says:

    “We emphasize predestination and election because distinguishing He is a God who freely chooses ascribes glory to God.” Is there any room for the possibility that, while you emphasize these things, that you are misguided as to what they mean? And if that is the case, then it changes everything. For example, what if the use of the term election in Romans 9 is referring to God’s choosing to use some for noble *purposes* and some for ignoble *purposes* – over against electing some to be saved and some to be damned. In other words, he chose Pharoah to further His purpose and did so based on His knowledge that Pharoah would do the evil thing He knew He would. This is a lot different than God electing Pharoah to be reprobate before He was born. I think Pharoah had a case for objection if that were true. Similarly, what if being “chosen in Christ” has an entirely different semantic range and meaning than “chosen to be put into Christ”? – which is what your emphases emphasize. I would emphasize predestination also. But I interpret it as the fact that God pre-planned what would happen to believers once they made the choice to follow Christ. Ie, “now that you are with me, this is what await all those who, like you, have forsaken all to follow me”. I suspect you have heard these arguments before, but I would urge you to take a hard look at them. The character of God weighs in the balance of the interpretation of these concepts. I could not imagine choosing one of my kids to go to heaven and willingly selecting another to go to hell. And I am more evil than my Father.

  4. anaquaduck says:

    Should not the atonement also bring into question the charachter of God. What sort of father would allow there one & only son to be brutally beaten & hung on a tree for what others have done ? just saying.

    God is holy & blameless & who are we to judge God. He himself in a way went to hell (& back) The children that we have are a blessing from the Lord, we dont own them as such nor do we have the power or ability to enforce an immense judgement such as choosing whom should go to heaven & hell. God alone knows all things. The moment we put ourselves above God is the moment we become arrogant & prideful somehow assuming that we know best or better than God.

    The doctrine of predestination is challenging indeed, the fact that God should choose some & not others is down to God (& not humans) as Reformed Theology teaches. Election is only one part of the glorious gospel of Christ crucified & risen.

  5. Peter McKenzie says:

    Your question seems to reinforce a case to question a God who would select some to be saved and some to be damned – rather than support it. If I announced to my family that I was taking everyone to Disneyland (while being under no obligation to do so) they would be jumping up and down with joy and extolling my greatness as a father. However, this “greatness” would be immediately questioned when I (on the heels of the first bit of news) announce that Joey will not be coming and will be going to stay at his grandparents (brutal as they are) – and for no particular reason. In other words, Joey has done nothing (good or bad) to warrant staying back.

    I don’t think the concept of predestination is as difficult as you think. Look at it this way. The principal of a school announces that the school has been chosen to perform a drama at the White House and anyone in the school who wants to be in the drama will be selected. Some choose to join the drama group, while others opt out. Holes could likely be poked in the analogy, but its hopefully a way to bring enlightenment; the person who is going to the White House can say that they were chosen to perform there, but it is clear that they were not individually selected. The same holds true for the person who doesn’t go. It can’t be said that he wasn’t chosen to go – he chose not to. Therefore the whole school was predestined to perform and the choice to be on the team was made available to all.

    As I mentioned before, this is the same as believers being chosen in Christ. We participate in Christ’s chosenness. That’s what chosen in Christ means. If you can accept this, the rest of the scriptures fall into place and the character of God remains on a high level. Reformed theology will fail at each of its five points if you examine them. I realize it is difficult to consider that something you have believed in for a long time is wrong. I have personal experience with doing that. It is hard to listen to the points of the “other side” when there is a preconceived bias that they lack understanding. That’s why its best to examine the scriptures in context with proper exegesis leading the way.

    I looked at a verse in James yesterday and it caused me to draw a comparison with Reformed theology. The verse (James 2:4) says “…Has not God chosen the poor of the world…”. When I looked at it, it occurred to me that I could start making a big bru haha about the fact that God chose some people to be poor. (Of course there are some Reformists who believe in complete divine determinism who will say just that – others are less rigid in their doctrine toward that end). Even when others would object and say that “the passage doesn’t say that, read the context etc.”, I would not allow my sense of reason to kick in – and in stubbornness I just continue with my mantra that the verse says that God chose some to be poor. Even if that were true, it is obvious that this is not a supporting verse for that belief. It is classic eisegesis.

    As Christians we could agree to disagree with these things. But I don’t think the issue is as minor as you would like to think it is and the points are not so easily brushed aside. It is really a different God that we believe in. You can’t choose a middle ground as the sides are so diametrically opposed to each other. To convert, one has to let go of strongholds that deal with free will and sovereignty.

    If you are open to it, there is a good book at written by Hudson Smelley. He is a former reformist who is also a lawyer. He gives a thorough analysis of the topic. It is called Deconstructing Calvinism and you can buy the kindle version for $2.65.

  6. John says:


    You are probably aware, but it might be worthwhile to go to some of your older posts and check out some of the comments in your older postings. A June 2014 comment on your review of Christian Smith’s biblicism book is quite obscene.


  7. anaquaduck says:

    Ultimateley you seem to be saying salvation depends on ‘man’ & Christs death did not ensure the salvation of anyone but merely created an opportunity to be saved. I appreciate that there are several books out there. For me J I Packer ( & Scripture) unfolds the philosophical & theological sytems of thought held by many throughout the ages.
    D. Steele & C. Thomas . The Five Points of Calvinism. Defined, Defended, Documented.

    My question was considering the atonement in terms of a human father & how it could be considered responsible or loving, the same could be considered regarding Abraham & Isaac. Yet in this we see the wisdom of God & obedience to Gods call, not that of a ‘man.’

  8. Peter McKenzie says:

    Yes I firmly believe in a universal atonement – yet deny universal salvation. It all depends on God. Like Austin Fisher said on his blog, if there a mathematical equation where 1+0=1 – where God’s part is 1 and our part is zero, our part is still necessary. I realize that this is a huge stumbling stone for the Calvinist and that always causes consternation for me – in that it doesn’t seem to be that difficult to grasp. If you are open to it, I would be willing to debate scripture with you one passage at a time. I have to say that I would not be in it to hone my debating skills. It would be more that I would want to try to shift your belief system. I firmly believe that if you read the book I recommended, (with a willingness to admit any shift in your thinking that might happen) that you would see things quite differently. I could read Packer et al, but I am very familiar with TULIP and I doubt that I would see anything new. I don’t mean for that to sound arrogant so forgive me if that is the case.

  9. anaquaduck says:

    Much comes down to the meaning of foreknew as is discussed in the book I mentioned. Apart from Theology I cannot deny my own life & how Christ drew me, I had no intention of following or looking into the things of God. I sought the Lord not & since receiving the free gift of faith he continually upholds & feeds me by His Grace..A bit like the Apostle Paul in many respects but with less religious zeal & more seeking of worldy satisfaction.

    To debate I would at least have to re read the book I noted, a debate sounds a bit daunting when it comes to the interpretation of language & context.

    The interesting thing about TULIP for me is that it came in the form of a defence addressing the claims of the followers of Arminius/Remonstrants? but it has been many years since I have had to get into it.

    I dont mind if a teacher causes me to stumble as ultimatley it is Christ whom matters the most & I find him best in Reformed Theology (without wanting to come across as arrogant either). I have been in Brethren & Baptist churches in earler days so its not as if I havnt experienced the emphasis of differing Theologies.

    Thanks for the reference & noted blog.

  10. Peter McKenzie says:

    I appreciate your kind response and respectful dialogue. I know in my life, one of the most important things is to have a good worldview and systematic theology. As I witness to God’s love and His plan of salvation, I want to be very sure that I understand who He is according to the scriptures. Re the tenants of Calvinsim (TULIP) it is important for a reformed person to know what they are. Essentially they point toward the reformed understanding of sovereignty and predestination. I do believe that the reformed interpretation is misguided and TULIP is wrong. If you check those authors out, I am sure that you will be pleasantly surprised. Hudson is a lawyer who is also seminary trained. Austin is a pastor. Both converted from Calvinism. Incidentally, I am not an Arminian either. Be blessed!

  11. Curt Day says:

    Looking at all of the wonderful things we emphasize one might expect us to imitate the Pharisee in the parable of the two men praying.

    In addition, for all of the wonderful things we emphasize, think about all of the sins we neglect to mention. This is particularly true regarding the sins of those with wealth and power. Do we preach against the illegal wars of our nation or do we even mention how our current economic system is more based on the love on money than ever? And how many times have we preached against how our lifestyles and business practices attack the environment? But, on the other hand, we more than make up for that by zeroing in on same-sex marriage. Certainly, same-sex marriage is sin. But why do we excel at pointing out individual sins while we neglect to mention the sins of our sacred cow groups and systems? And all of that is despite all of the wonderful things we emphasize.

    Is it possible that we are so enamored by what we emphasize that we believe we have “everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them”? And perhaps that is why we go exclusively the past for all of our answers while turning a deaf ear to today’s voices.

    So again, the list of what we emphasize just might cause some to expect us to pray the prayer of the pharisee in the parable of the two men praying. Are we meeting those expectations?

  12. Stephen Lewis says:

    On Peter’s interesting analogy between God’s sovereignty in election and a father giving no reason for excluding Joey from the Disneyland trip: It was a really funny analogy but it was really flawed too. I mean, it’s pretty easy to see that it refutes your own case. Your analogy assumes a happy family in which all the family members have an inherent right to be there and to participate in the blessings of family vacations. The truth of the matter, which I haven’t seen you interact with on this thread yet, is that our human race forfeited that status and entered into the “we deserve death” category when we sinned in the Garden. So instead of a happy family vacation setting for your analogy you need something more like a death row setting where the governor decides not to explain why he is pardoning some inmates and passing over others. I’d truly love to read even a partial reply.

  13. anaquaduck says:

    Regarding Curt,
    The cultural mandate, laws regarding the treatment of animals & the land, the wisdom of Solomon regarding creation would probably all back you up & Davids Psalms & the parables of Jesus regarding wealth. A bit like art I suppose, it is there but not central. It probably should be incorporated more in terms of responsibility.

    But in the end will this too be interpreted as legalism or bringing glory to God through humble obedience. The environment was not so manipulated before or shaped by corporate profits or deadly wars. One thing is for sure, it points to human depravity so is a good topic to point to sin & corruption & humanity dwelling in a lost estate destined for destruction. Our very own Disneyland/Deathrow.

  14. Peter McKenzie says:

    Stephen, like a parable, the analogy was an attempt to make a point. As I pointed out myself, it held flaws if one wanted to wander away from the main point and poke holes in the periphery of the argument. The issue I was trying to get at, was the fact that the actions of the father indicated that he was not a good father. As an earthly father, I would not do that to any of my kids and most fathers wouldn’t (although I know of some of have). Your analogy of the partial judge helps as well – but it seems slightly less impactful. Perhaps it is because you failed to include the part where the judge offers to pay the penalty for all the death row inmates (by taking their place)
    – and then says to some of them, “forget it, I don’t choose you – without offering an explanation”.

  15. Peter McKenzie says:

    Incidentally, I am not at odds with the fact that we all deserve eternal punishment. Just for the record.

  16. Stephen Lewis says:

    Peter, thank you, truly, for the interaction. It’s good to know that you agree that we all deserve eternal punishment. That fact right there is enough to poke a hole not in some peripheral portion of your analogy and argument, but through the very center of it. What makes the father’s actions to Joey so horrid is that the setting has portrayed the relationship as normal. What makes our family relationship with God so horrid is not his commitment to the just punishment of the damned but our sin. We should be much more horrified by our slightest sin than by the idea that God has passed over some while saving others. I will concede that the passing over of some really, really bugs me. But I attribute that to the conflict of interest I have when I approach the question. As a sinner myself, I am not exactly objective on this subject. I have to trust that God is right. Thanks again for the back and forth.

  17. Curt Day says:

    If repentance from personal sin is central to preaching the Gospel, then why isn’t repentance from corporate sin also central to our preaching?

  18. Peter McKenzie says:

    Stephen, staying with the Joey analogy, you are right in that we should be horrified by our sin – and by anyone’s sin. But if we look at this through the lens of unconditional election, if we adhere to that tenant, we should not be too appalled at Joey’s behaviour. The reason for that is that Joey was created that way. He didn’t have a choice in the matter – so common sense says that we shouldn’t be hard on him, as he cannot do otherwise. Note that in my original, hastily put together analogy, I did not say that Joey’s behaviour was any better of worse than the other kids. The dad just made an ad hoc decision to leave him behind. it was a natural thing for the kids to question that behaviour. Of course, the dad can maintain that he is the dad and he gets to do what he wants. That answer will not win him points with his kids though – as they will have serious doubts with his character make-up. Some of the kids that get to go (the self-centered ones) will not give Joey’s passover as an issue to be concerned about. They got to go and that’s all that matters. Other kids will be troubled by it. They will ask themselves how a supposedly loving father could do such a thing. Funny enough, I planned a trip to an NBA game in Portland to watch the Suns play. At the last moment, one of my sons did something wrong and lied to cover it up. As a consequence for his actions, he stayed home from that trip. It hurt me to do that as well as it hurt him – and his brother and sister, because we seriously missed him on the trip, as his sin did not diminish my love for him whatsoever. But he knew full well why he had to stay home. Joey was not afforded that luxury. While my son would not likely question my love for him, Joey would have every right to do so with his father.

    I have heard many reformists say that God doesn’t love everyone. I would say that the Bible teaches otherwise. If we say that God not loving everyone means that He doesn’t have mushy feelings for the rapist or child pornographer (for example) or the gossip (just to derail a potential rabbit trail :) ), I would not disagree. But if we consider that God’s type of love or agape, and we consider that that love means that He desires the highest good of all people He has made, we can easily say that God loves everyone. The points of the Reformed doctrines do serious harm in that they erode the confidence of the reformist to be able tosay that God is love.

  19. anaquaduck says:

    When I look at books such as Revelation & Corinthians there is very much a call for repentance as a whole & also in times of corporate prayer congregations would come before the presence of God in prayer & confession.

    I think ministers should be pointing to the greed of, or the injustice of, a nation or individuals that fall for the lie of godlessness without partiality or favourtism. I also assume that many would, how could you not when considering all Scripture.

  20. anaquaduck says:


    To appreciate sin, how it happened & who is left accountable within Reformed Theology would mean looking through the lens of Total Depravity not election as you have chosen to do.

    To assume that we shouldn’t be hard on Joey denies the severity of sin & Gods just judgement apportioned to Adam & Eve & all who descend from them (humanity).

    Even within your own framework (whatever it may be) wouldn’t you acknowledge that God (if He is sovereign) has the power & will to save all, yet decides not to do this.

    God did indeed desire the highest good, but humanity threw it away because of the lie. God is under no obligation whatsoever, Hence He has mercy on whom He has mercy. Rom 9:16

    Reformers can say with confidence God is love because that is what the Scriptures proclaim. It is an exclusive love found in Christ alone, by grace alone through faith alone etc etc & Eph 2:10.

  21. Peter McKenzie says:


    I do appreciate the severity of sin, but while you consider Joey’s state of depravity, don’t forget that his brother and sister are in the same state. Otherwise, you miss the point. TULIP determines that God created some to obtain eternal life and he created (chose) some to be reprobate – and inherit eternal death (eternal BBQ if you will). This is the crux of my argument with Reformed theology – it impugns God’s character and makes him out to be a monster. Even Hitler exterminated the Jews, but Calvinism contends that God will punish those forever, those who were only able to do evil. This is double pre-destination.

    Re God’s not saving those who He could have, I would just say that He offers the same opportunity to everyone to be saved. The fact that they are not is no fault of God’s. He is glorified more by someone who freely chooses HIm – than pre-programming some to love HIm and some to not love Him. Free will is a biblical concept which can be easily shown in the scriptures. This is the feature that Calvinists get tripped up on. If one denies that God has given man the ability to freely respond to the truth of the gospel (which is the power of salvation), then I suppose that the Reformed path is somewhat attractive. But it then has to rely on proof-texting and question-begging.

    Re sovereignty, consider this: God is sovereign over His decision to give up some of His sovereignty during the time of this age. In His security in the knowledge of His sovereignty, He is not threatened in the fact that He knows that His plan will work out eventually. Even though he seemingly gave up some sovereignty in giving man the ability to freely choose once presented with the gospel, eternity will prove out that He is absolutely sovereign – and we will marvel.

    //God did indeed desire the highest good, but humanity threw it away because of the lie. God is under no obligation whatsoever, Hence He has mercy on whom He has mercy. Rom 9:16// This has not changed in that God still desires the highest good for each person today. Its not that He agape’d them in the past – but He does so no longer.

    Romans 9 is probably the most eisegeted passage for Reformed theology. But if we step back to see what Paul is saying, it will show that the chapter is not teaching Limited Atonement. Paul is talking about Israel and the fact that God moved past them in giving the task of reaching the lost to the Gentiles. In doing so, he is pointing out to them that God is not done with them (in an absolute sense). He shows that not all Israel is Israel so that we know there is a faith component to election. The elect were those that were chosen to shine God’s light to the Gentiles. Ethnic Israel believed that their chosenness was based on their lineage from Abraham – but Paul clarified this to show that it was about Isaac and his lineage that made the faithful (true Israel) the children of promise. So if we look at this in context, it is not difficult to see that Paul was most definitely not talking about salvation here. Israel was chosen for a purpose ant the purpose was to serve God. If you quote v.16, you should also read verses 17 and 18 also – as they shed light on what I am saying. Pharaoh was raised up for the *purpose* of showing God’s power – so that His name could be proclaimed in all the earth. As I said before, that is much different than saying God created Pharaoh to be evil. True, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, but it was a hard heart to start with and God used that hard heart to further His purpose. Within that setting, we can say that God was merciful to who He wanted to be merciful to. But no one could ever said that He was evil in the process of hardening an already hard heart. So the people who Calvinists would say are the elect (the Israelites), turned out to be (in many cases) the non-elect. In reality, the true elect were those who pursued it by faith (see v.32).

    Re your statement on God’s love and having confidence in that love, it rings a little hollow. I don’t mean to sound mean, but that verse is not saying what you want it to say.Grace and faith are not the same thing as love. It may cause you to squirm, but you are forced to admit that If God doesn’t love everybody and therefore has favourites, His love is not something that we have a comparison/template as humans – even in our weakened state. Of course, I agree with John 3:16 where it says that He does love the world. Romans 10:13 says that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

    As a non-Calvinist (who make up the majority of believers – Calvinists are a minority in the church), I have the luxury of being able to take those verses at face value. In other words, I don’t have to try to force them to mean something else. I would urge you to re-consider what you believe on these matters.

    In Christ

  22. Stephen Lewis says:

    Peter, you’ve shared quite a bit here and I want to first of all say that I appreciate your thoughtfulness. I sense that you actually consider us Calvinists to be your brothers and so out of love you want us to reconsider our views. I’m thankful for that spirit of love from you. On the subject of love I do want to clear up at least one matter. You seem to be using “agape love” as if the word “agape” always means self-sacrificing or selfless love. It does not. The semantic range of “agape” can cover just about everything that the English word “love” can cover. Case in point. Consult the LXX (the ancient Greek translation of the OT which Jesus and the apostles often used) and read 2 Samuel 13:15 – “Then Amnon hated her with very great hatred, so that the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her. And Amnon said to her, ‘Get up! Go!'” If you know the story, you know that Amnon’s so-called love for his half-sister would be better termed “lust” or “obsession.” I think we can agree that it was not some special God-kind-of-love. But it so happens that the word the LXX translators used for “love” in this verse was “agape.” The point I’m making should at least steer you away from throwing “agape” around as if it is a special word. It’s not. But my point goes farther than that. You are acting as if no distinctions ever need to be made between one kind of love which God has for some and another kind of love which he has for others. We’d have to go passage by passage and exegete, but I would encourage you to see that as a non-Calvinist you do not have the luxury of ignoring nuance in the text, or ignoring the semantic range of a word. All of us – Calvinists or not – must feel the pressure to rightly handle the Word. If God loves everyone in exactly the same way then what does the Word mean when it quotes God as saying “Jacob have I loved, Esau have I hated”? One thing it cannot mean is that God has the exact same love for Esau as he has for Jacob.

    I think the bigger issue here is that it sounds like you and I have different views of original sin. You seem to think that we cannot be blamed for sin because when we sin we are simply living according to the way we were created. David’s words in Psalm 51 tell us that it’s a bit more complicated than that – “in sin did my mother conceive me.” Not that my conception was itself sinful but that sin and its effects were in play from the moment of my beginning. You write: “Joey was created that way. He didn’t have a choice in the matter – so common sense says that we shouldn’t be hard on him …” If you are right then we shouldn’t be too hard on anyone for anything. Lady Gaga would be right – “you were born this way, baby.”

  23. anaquaduck says:

    I am finding you presentation a bit bizarre Peter. On the one hand you say Pharoah’s heart was already hard, but what of Jacob & Esau then…before either had done anything good or bad ?

    Also claiming the majority vote allows you to read verses at liberty but where does it actually state that God rules by majority ? I find you seem to be reading more into & out of the passages than that are already there, particularly with your version of love & original sin.

    I am not sure where you got Jason from either.

    I am not claiming God has favourites but that He has mercy & He has bestowed this upon an underserving people who were totally lost in sin.

    I am not sure where you are getting your squirming assumptions from or that I cannot be confident in God who is love & has demonstrated that in Christ.

  24. Brittney says:

    There is visibly a bundle to realize about this. I suppose you made some good points in features also.

  25. Curt Day says:

    My experience is that most ministers are not pointing out the sins of the nation to which they belong or systems from which they benefit. I understand if your experience is different. BTW, my first note was intended to address this blog by a gifted writer only.

  26. Peter McKenzie says:

    Stephen, my point in saying that the love that God has (and is) is that it is not a phileo love or an eros type of love. I would still contend that it is agape love. It is the type of love that desires the highest good for every single one of his created people. This fact is typified by the verse that says that He desires that none perish. The bottom line is that the Calvinist must come to grips with this fact. I don’t dispute the fact that agape love is used in passages where others are mentioned instead of God. I just don’t know of any other type of love that there is. Do we have a fourth type called God’s love?

    Re Jacob and Esau and hate and love, Paul is here talking figuratively about God’s selection of the nation of Israel (represented as Jacob) to continue the line of blessing according to God’s promise (harkening back to the same thought in Malachi).. It has nothing to do with salvation from hell in an individualistic sense. As I mentioned before, the whole chapter is devoid of any kind of individual election – rather all about Paul’s talking to Israelites about God’s original promise to Abraham and the ensuing results of Israel’s disobedience to God’s plan for them. Just to finish up with Esau. It is my understanding that the thing he did to make God “hate” him was to sell his birthright. It seems to me that he made the choice to do that.

    As far as original sin is concerned, I would say that I believe that in Adam all sinned, but each person will be judged for the evil that they have done. In that sense, I have my own guilt that Jesus needed to atone for. Anyone who is judged to be unworthy to inherit eternal life (ie. those who rejected Jesus), will be judged based on their own sin – and not the sin of Adam. I know this is not the same way that you see original sin, but it doesn’t affect our discussion of Limited Atonement and double predestination. I think we should leave Joey alone, as I seem to not be able to make my point that Joey and his siblings are equally sinful. Unconditional election does not dispute that fact – yet you seem to want to force me to say that Joey has some redeeming qualities. In doing so, you are trying to push the analogy to a different topic than what I was intending. I guess I could pad my analogy by saying that the trip to Disneyland was planned before any of the children “had done anything right or wrong” ☺. I would happy to discuss original sin but I think we need to finish up with unconditional election and limited atonement first.

    At this point, if you will allow me, I would like to ask you some questions. I think your answers will help bring the discussion back to the center of the argument.

    1) Are you saying that God actually hated Esau (ie. literally hated him)?
    2) If so, did God create Him in that hated state? I think if you are adhering to consistent Calvinism, you must agree that God pre-determined everything –including everyone’s bent toward evil. Therefore is God the inventor of evil also? Did he program Esau to sell his birthright?
    3) Do you agree or disagree with what I said about the mindset of Paul when he wrote Romans? In other words, he was not writing to Calvinists about unconditional election; rather he was writing to the Jews about their propensity to question God on his apparent reneging of His promises to Abraham.
    4) If you do agree with this, would you say that a lot of the verses in chapter 9 in particular, that might seem to support unconditional election, are not even talking about that doctrine? Ie. the verses have been taken out of context by the Calvinist and there Paul is not even referring to salvation from hell. Do you see that within the realm of possibility?

    I guess what I want to do here is hold your feet to the fire and ask you to rightly handle the word. It is so easy in these type of conversations (trust me – I have engaged in many) to try to win the argument and avoid tackling the hard objections from the other side. Personally, I am way more interested in the truth than I am in winning arguments. I could win arguments just because I am smarter than the other guy (not true here) – but in my eloquence and wittiness, I could still be wrong. Therefore, I think it behooves the Calvinist to come to grips with the whole deal of God’s love. How could a loving God consign those who could nothing about it, to an eternal fire?

    I guess one could reconcile this one by saying that they believe in universalism. My answer to them would be that God has placed conditions on the entry to eternal life – those conditions being faith and belief in the finished work of Jesus on the cross and in his resurrection. I don’t believe that Him placing conditions on the entry diminishes, in any way, His love. But telling someone to open the door when He has nailed it shut, logically gives room for anyone to question His love –and perhaps His moral sanity. (I use the nailed door argument, knowing that you might suggest that the wicked sinner will not even think to try to open the door – but then we have drifted into Total Depravity. I believe that all of TULIP is wrong so happy to go there as well, if you like – but lets stay with double predestination for now).

    I guess at this point, I would love it if you would take the time to answer the questions I posited. Be blessed.

  27. Peter McKenzie says:


    Sorry for calling you Jason – my mistake.

    Re the majority thing, I was not trying to say that majority wins. I said that in response to something you said that seemed to indicate that you thought I was of a minority position. I merely wanted you to know that the rest of the church that is not of a Calvinist mindset has thought through the issues of ramifications and I don’t think we are misunderstanding anything.

    Please do not hear this as boasting, but I know that I have done more study on TULIP than many Calvinists so I don’t think I am suffering for lack of information on the matter.

    As far as Jacob and Esau are concerned, please read what I wrote to Stephen above.

    Re God’s love, see my points there also. But I would maintain that it is logically non-sensible for you to be able to claim that God is a God of love, yet He chooses (in His mercy) to save some and to damn some – all in an arbitrary fashion. The unlucky losers get to suffer for an eternity. As you said, this was before they did anything wrong. Sucks to be them.

    You may have heard that Ronald Reagan said that the people who are for abortion were those who were not aborted. In the same way, it is all well and good for you to talk about God’s love for you – because He chose you. How would you like it if you were the last one picked for the team – but then the team picker changed his mind and you ended up not being picked at all. You can argue by saying that it is God’s right to do that as He is sovereign and He knows best – so let’s just leave that as a mystery. (Incidentally, non- Calvinists are those who are on the team and are seriously challenging the actions of the one who picked them. I am confident in what I believe by saying this – and I don’t fear any repercussions from the team picker for the things I am saying to you).

    Fine – but then now I have to square that knowledge (or lack thereof) with the fact that He has told me to love my enemies. He has told me to do the difficult thing, but His example shows that He won’t do what He has told me to do – because there are many (most perhaps) that He hates. What kind of God is this? Please consider this question carefully and thoughtfully – before you write me off as an uninitiated person who doesn’t understand the “doctrines of grace”. Believe me I am someone who embraces Jesus and does my best to follow Him and be his disciple.

  28. anaquaduck says:

    Hi Peter,
    By your own claim that God is sovereign but is happy to switch that soveriegnty on & off as He has faith in humans discovering Christ (although totally lost in their sin), I can only conclude that you also (hyperthetically) could question that God, if He wanted to, could switch His soveriegnty on & save everyone, after all, nothing is impossible with God.

    You say you are able to get a straight forward reading of Scripture & point to Jn 3:16 (the gospel call) but you cannot read straightforwardly Rom 9:13 without inserting your own doctrine which is anti election.

    I believe no one can resist Gods will regarding His irrevocability, God is sovereign, He has made all things & is free to do as He chooses asthe church preaches the gospel of peace.

    God did not look into the future to see who would & wouldnt follow Him but rather He intiated a new work in the stone cold hearts of humanity, it is only with His touch that we can become soft & malluable & bring glory to Him.

    Often I fall & stumble but am not cast down for God takes me by my helpless hands & lefts me up, time & time again.

  29. Peter McKenzie says:

    Hi Anaquaduck,

    I would challenge you to make it a focus in your life of shoring up your theology. It seems that you are rambling quite a bit. Please do not take what I say here as being a slight toward who you are, but I don’t think you are really that confident in what you believe. I feel strongly that if one has good theology, their life will go much better.

    Re your intimation that I am saying that God will switch his theology on and off, I can only say that it is God himself who has decided how things will play out and the role He will take as history unfolds. I choose to go by the scriptures first. It is a good thing in when doing hermeneutics to gather together the evidence that is of the greatest volume when trying to figure out what the Bible says. If you are studying a topic you would go with the view that features the most supporting scriptures. The next step will be to wrestle with the smaller amount of evidence – in order to see how they fit with the larger body of evidence. Unfortunately, many doctrines seem to take root when this formula is not followed and in fact is done backwards.

    I am fairly confident that I have given a good, exegetical view of Romans 9. I am not a theological expert, but the meaning that I hold to (as I have pointed out) makes the most biblical sense to me. As I said, it doesn’t require me to have to dumb down my appreciation of God’s character and muse that there are just “some things that are higher than my ability to understand”. No – I believe that God wants us to know some things about Him, so that we can be sure of His great love, mercy and kindness. The confident knowledge of these things will lead us to embrace Him more fully and enjoy who He is and not have to wonder if He loves us when we do fall. Additionally though, as we come to know Him more through the increased revelation of scriptural truths, we will become more and more mature and grow in the knowledge of Him. Essentially, we will lead more victorious, overcoming lives.

    That is why good theology is important. I will not respond to your mention of one verse (Romans 9:13). Obviously, I am able to read it on its own. The difference is that you want to take it in isolation and insist that it must meant that God hates the wicked. I see no other reason for your bringing it up again. On the other hand, I have given you what I think it means and you have said that I have inserted my own doctrine into the reading of it.

    There is not much more I can say to un-package my previous explanation. I will say this though: if you want to maintain that God hates the wicked there are some serious questions that you must ask yourself: How do you know you are of the elect? Is it not possible that you are deceived? if you are not of the elect, by your own line of reasoning, does it therefore not follow that God hates you?

    I don’t write this flippantly, but if you are honest, my questions will hit home – when you consider what you are really saying when you say that God doesn’t love everyone (whereas I believe the plain, loud, obvious witness of scripture is that He loves all He has made). I really want to force this issue. But you see, I don’t believe for a moment that God would hate you (even if you are deceived) and I can confidently tell you that God loves you. Therein lies the difference between you and I.

    Incidentally, if you read the first few chapters of the book of Job, you can get a sense of what I meant earlier when I said that God is confident in His plan (whereby man will choose freely to worship HIm). He is confident in the fact that Job knows who is worthy of following and will still worship Him no matter what Satan throws at him. In this sense, we can also say that God has gone all in on the gospel – and is banking on it to be successful. He is taking a risk that He could be rejected by man, but He takes the risk nonetheless. With the billions of people who have chosen to put their trust in Him through the ages, it would appear that it was a risk that has paid off. But let me ask you this: how would there be any risk in God creating/forcing people to follow Him. Without willingness how can there be meaningful love? In fact, if I embrace this concept, I would have to consider if God isn’t somewhat insecure. All one has to do to understand this concept, is to compare an arranged marriage to one where the bride and groom agree to marry based on their mutual love for each other. (Please don’t read anything more into that analogy than the choice part. I know – the bride and groom are sinful people. That trick gets old. The main thing is to weigh and test and see if I am making a good point. We are not lawyers trying to get a client off the hook. We are 2 truth seekers who want to make sure that what we believe can stand up to biblical scrutiny).

    I am not trying to hurt you. I can’t be sure, because of course, I am not with you to gauge your response to what I am writing. I just aim to challenge you to re-examine what you believe. It seemed to me that you were being a bit defensive and you resorted to eliciting some jargon. I am really open to discussing points exegetically without getting into ad hominem arguments.

  30. Stephen Lewis says:

    Peter, I don’t think you see my point about agape love. You write, “my point in saying that the love that God has (and is) is that it is not a phileo love or an eros type of love.” You seem to imply that there are only 3 types of love: agape, phileo, and eros. Truth is, these 3 Greek words can be used in dozens and dozens of ways to mean dozens and dozens of things. You chose not to respond to my Amnon example where the word, agape, clearly means something like “lust” or “desire.” Whether you and I ever agree on double predestination, perhaps we could at least agree not to call God’s love “agape love,” as if adding the word “agape” inserts anything of value to the sentence. You “still contend that [God’s love] is agape love.” Why do you still contend that, when my Amnon example basically refutes it? You go on to say that God’s love “is the type of love that desires the highest good for every single one of his created people. This fact is typified by the verse that says that He desires that none perish.” The 2 Peter 3 passage doesn’t use the word “love,” but instead uses the word for “patience” twice. My point in writing about the folly of using “agape love” as a useful category is this: rather than generalize about God’s love and then force every passage of Scripture to back up your generalization, it would be better to exegete each passage and consider how the various words for “love” are being used in each passage. If you do that, then you will have to be more open-minded than you currently are. Currently, you read each passage and insist that it has to back up your previously arrived at assumption that God’s love is applied to each person the same. You’ve put God’s love in a box, as if you have figured out the mystery of the love of God.
    Brief replies to your questions: 1) Yes, God literally hated Esau. 2) God created Adam and Eve. He created us by creating them. Yes, he knit us together, personally, in our mother’s womb, but we cannot simply say (concerning our conception and birth) that who we are by birth is what God created. Elsewhere you claim to have read more about TULIP than most Calvinists. I don’t know how you could possibly know that. Have you taken a survey or something? Anyways, here you claim that if I am consistently Calvinistic, I will embrace the idea that God is the inventor of evil. Every classic Calvinist will deny that God is the author of evil, and I join them in denying it. We say that there is mystery here. That is the consistent Calvinist position. 3) I disagree with what you wrote about Romans 9. You offer some unsupported assertions. You say that Paul isn’t writing about individuals. If so, why does he mention that God made this choice “before the twins were born”? One problem you have here is a false either/or: you think the passage either has to be about individual election or corporate election. Why can’t it be about both? Peter, you have begged others on this thread to reconsider their views. I will return the favor and beg you to reflect on Romans 9:19. Paul anticipates an objection to his argument there. He writes, “One of you will say to me: ‘Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?’” On your reading of this passage Paul’s words here would be a strange non sequitur. It’s only on the Calvinistic reading of this passage that the anticipated objection makes sense. 4) You ask if I even see the possibility of Paul not referring to salvation from hell in this passage. Many things are possible, but in light of 9:22 – “What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath – prepared for destruction?” – it’s kind of hard not to think that hell is a good short hand for “wrath” and “destruction.” I don’t know, what do you think “wrath” and “destruction” pertain to in this sentence?
    Can we talk about Joey one more time? “I think we should leave Joey alone, as I seem to not be able to make my point that Joey and his siblings are equally sinful.” We all agree that Joey and his siblings are equally sinful. That is what makes grace to Joey’s siblings so very amazing. You say that God has put certain conditions on attaining eternal life. Does he provide faith and repentance to sinners as a gift in order to meet that condition, or must they come up with that faith and repentance on their own? Did Jesus actually save anyone when he died on the cross, or did he merely make salvation possible?

  31. anaquaduck says:

    Well I don’t think you have answered the questions & I don’t really see any value in your judgement regarding my faith, assurance or theology. Romans 9 was just one verse to keep it simplish. The sovereignty of God & Divine Election is much, much, more along with Reformed Theology that points to God & gives Him the glory.

    The world is condemned, we all like sheep have gone astray, God hates sin & there is a price to pay. Yes anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But also many will prophecy in the Lords Name & He will say, depart from me, I never knew you. All this is true as the Scriptures declare. God has demonstrated His love first to the patriarchs, then Israel, then the gentiles. This is consistent with Reformed Theology which draws on Scripture to formulate it biblical summaries.

    It is no trick that I say I am weak & He is mighty, it is the truth even if you imagine it to be otherwise. When it comes to my faith it is worthless if it is not backed up with actions as James point out. It is Gods grace that will lead me home, this I know, for the Bible tells me so, as I said before I can be confident in God, in fact He tells me to trust Him more than anyone else.

  32. Peter McKenzie says:

    Stephen, it is not that I am missing your point re agape love. I realize that it is used in other passages that have nothing to do with God’s love. There are also passages that use phileo for God’s love. It just seems as though you are straining out a gnat to press the issue so strongly. All I was trying to do was to suggest that to essentially say that if God loves everyone, this does not mean that we have to agree that He has mushy feelings about them. I will continue to contend that God loves everyone as per John 3:16. Your suggestion to eliminate the word agape when we talk about God’s love seems a little awkward to me. After all the word is used in many, many instances in Scripture. Even so, though, I am wondering why you are so opposed to the word agape. If it has to do with a self-sacrificial, unconditional, unselfish love, why can’t we say that agape love is a good description for God’s love? Why make it a bone of contention? Even so, perhaps it would be helpful if you can describe what you think is a good definition for God’s love. At least it would be helpful for me to understand what you are driving at.

    Sorry to say, but it seems like an attempt to derail the argument so that we just dance around the periphery of it. Despite your attempts to do so, I will keep pressing this point. If God is love, how can the Calvinist be honest about espousing that He is love, if they will continue to defend double predestination and then try to duck around the embarrassment of that – by calling it a mystery. It is not a mystery – it is a paradox. It is a classic non sequitor.

    I will disagree with you disagreeing with me about Romans 9 ☺. It is not an obscure way of exegeting the passage. It takes into account the background and the issues of the day. If we are doing honest hermeneutics we should consider Paul’s audience. It is a mistake to think that Paul was addressing someone who wanted to know about unconditional election – as Paul was not a Calvinist. As a side note to your answer to my question 1 , I guess I need to ask you if you hate your mother and father? Obviously you don’t – so why do you accept the figurative speech of one passage and not the other. We could go back and forth like this, but I suspect that you will not accept any rendering that doesn’t support Calvinist doctrine. Of course, you could say the same about me. The only thing I would say in my defense is that if I am wrong, I don’t suppose God will be too upset with me for proclaiming that He loves everyone that He ever created. If you are wrong however, He is not going to be happy. I will continue to say that the main reason we should believe anything or hold to any doctrine, is that we firmly believe that the scriptures teach it. Emotions should not lead the way – but they may confirm things we suspect are scripturally true. In that regard, my whole being screams out in repulsion when you teach that God hates anyone.

    In the hermeneutical circle, one must figure out where to enter that circle. I would posit that a determination of God’s character and who He says He is might be a good starting point. Exodus 34:6-7 gives a good glimpse. It did cause Moses to bow in worship.

    Toward that end, here is a good quote to ponder:
    “The acid test for *any* theology is this: Is the God presented one that can be loved, heart, soul, mind, and strength? If the thoughtful, honest answer is: “Not really,” then we need to look elsewhere or deeper. It does not really matter how sophisticated intellectually or doctrinally our approach is. If it fails to set a *loveable* God – a radiant, happy, friendly, accessible, and totally competent being – before ordinary people, we have gone wrong. We should not keep going in the same direction, but turn around and take another road”.

    I am out of time, but lest you think I am ducking out of answering some of your questions, I will come back later and give them a go.

  33. Peter McKenzie says:

    Stephen, it is not that I am missing your point re agape love. I realize that it is used in other passages that have nothing to do with God’s love. There are also passages that use phileo for God’s love. It just seems as though you are straining out a gnat to press the issue so strongly. All I was trying to do was to suggest that to essentially say that if God loves everyone, this does not mean that we have to agree that He has mushy feelings about them. I will continue to contend that God loves everyone as per John 3:16. Your desire to eliminate the word agape when we talk about God’s love seems a little awkward to me. After all the word is used in many, many instances in Scripture. Even so, though, I am wondering why you are so opposed to the word agape. If it has to do with a self-sacrificial love

  34. Peter McKenzie says:

    Oops! Sorry for the duplicate (partial) comment

  35. Stephen Lewis says:

    Peter, at the risk of gnat-straining, this is my point about agape which I believe you are still missing (which probably means I am doing a poor job of making the point): you and I both acknowledge that sometimes agape is used to describe what human beings do. That is not my point. You seem to think, however, that when God is said to have “agape” for someone that suddenly the word agape can only mean self-sacrificial, selfless, unconditional love. I’m suggesting that language does not work that way. When John 3:16 says, “God agaped the world …” we should not automatically say: “This means God has an unconditional love for every human being because after all, the word here is ‘agape.'” The fact that the word is “agape” is not enough information for us to make that conclusion. The word agape can be used many, many ways, even when God is the subject of the verb. I am not opposed to the word agape. I’m just saying that sometimes it means “desire;” it can even mean “lust.” It is a word that overlaps with phileo and eros. They are not in separate boxes. That is why if you want to be accurate (and you say that you care about truth more than anything), you should probably stop throwing “agape” around in your comments. The question is what does “agape” mean in any given passage, not what does it mean in general.

    Your helpful comment on how to enter the hermeneutical spiral indicates that you are reading the Bible in the following way: decide in advance what kind of God I can love (this makes my judgment the standard – a very foolish way to live); the kind of God I can respect and love is a God who has an uncomplicated and unconditional love for every human being; I will call that love “agape love” because it will lend a certain scholarly or biblical weight to my assertions; I will then insist that every time the words “God” and “agape” occur together that they must refer to this unconditional love; then I will accuse Reformed Christians of being dishonest about God’s love when they say that it is more mysterious than this. We don’t have space in this blog thread for me to provide a full-orbed definition of God’s love. But the short version is that God has different loves. He loves all of humanity in certain ways and in certain respects. He loves the elect in peculiar ways – ways that I think you are ignoring. I don’t get your point that if I am wrong then I’m in worse trouble than you because God will be OK with your error but he will be steaming mad at my alleged theological error. Consider this possibility: you are being ungrateful for the peculiar love that God has shown to you personally in electing you. The fact that you don’t believe in double predestination does not itself mean that it is false. If it is true then you should be thankful for it. You should thank God that he loves you so much to not merely provide the possibility of salvation but to actually save you. Jesus is your Savior, not just your salvation-possibility provider. Your gratitude will be deeper when you see the depths of God’s peculiar love for his elect – a vast multitude from every people group, a multitude that I trust includes you as well.

    You say that you are deeply repulsed by a God who would hate anyone. You avoid this repulsion towards the biblical God by deciding that when the Bible says that God hated Esau that this is figurative language. Figurative for what? Even on your corporate reading of Romans 9 Esau has to be a figure for a group of human beings. I will accept your disdain for my retreat to mystery. I would much rather admit that God is mysterious, that I do not fully understand him than to commit myself to being repulsed by God. This blog post is about the glory of God being the heart of Reformed theology. The Reformed doctrine of God is one in which he is incomprehensible, mysterious, above us, in so many respects unlike us, and yet he chooses to accommodate to our weakness and dwell with us and reveal himself to us. Reformed Christians are honest about God’s love – God’s love in its full-orbed and often mysterious glory. You, on the other hand, seem to be limiting God’s love to a little box called “unconditional.” An unconditional love would not be a very helpful love. Thank God that his love for you is much better than unconditional. It is a love that has an agenda: your glorification and his own greater glory. He has told us that he has a particular love for his elect (Jacob) that he does not have for the non-elect (Esau). That is a glorious love. If that love repulses you it is because you have made your own notions about love the standard by which you are judging God. I would be careful not to place my notions about what kind of God is a good God in the driver’s seat. An approach that starts with me might never lead me to him, to the God who is actually there. The real, undomesticated God is someone worth fearing, worshiping, loving, and enjoying. We start by fearing and we move towards enjoying. You seem to want to start with enjoying – what kind of God will I enjoy considering right now?

    Peter, I really appreciate your putting up with me and writing a lot here. I promise to think long and hard about what you’ve written. Please do the same with what I’ve written. I will let you have the last word.

  36. Peter McKenzie says:

    Stephen, thanks for the insightful comments. I think we are at an impasse. No matter how you try, I will be unable to accept your concept of God’s love. If we keep it in the realm of mystery, we will never be able to grasp what that love entails – because what you are asking me to embrace doesn’t look like love at all (no matter what type we are suggesting it is). You are making it into something that I have no grid for. I would challenge you to fully consider what one aspect of a full orbed definition of love might be. To be honest, that rhetoric seems to inch toward Gnostic terminology somewhat. I believe in that in God’s communication to us, it has to be in language that we understand and we can therefore, make a connection with.

    You may not appreciate another analogy, but let’s use the arranged marriage again. Let’s imagine that the parents of the husband let their son choose between 2 potential wives. The son proceeds to choose one girl and then quickly murders the other girl – just to tie up loose ends. He spends the rest of his life trying to defend his goodness to his wife. No matter how hard he tries, it is impossible because his actions demonstrated otherwise. He protests by saying that it is a mystery – he actually is good.

    Actions speak louder than words. If you tell your wife you love her and then you cheat on her every day – the act of adultery renders the words meaningless. So you can dissect God’s love to pieces, but if you tell me that He is love and that type of love (foreign as it may be) is going to consign helpless sinners (the ones who were not lucky enough to be picked) to a future of unending torment. And then you want me to rejoice that I was picked (wicked yet lucky). I am human so a part of me will be infinitely joyous. But another part of me (the part with a heart) will question who it is that picked me. I am supposed to spend my life getting to know this God (who is supposedly “LOVE”) and yet the first thing I know about Him contradicts that very characteristic. And you say, “don’t worry – be happy”. I am very worried. I hope you can get a sense of what I am saying – and not be disposed to rabbit trail off on the analogy. I realize both wives are undeserving and all that…

    Just to finish up with this, you seem to base your beliefs a lot on Romans 9. To answer a few of your points, it is obvious that Paul was referring to Jacob and Esau as nations. This can be seen from his reference to Genesis 25:23. It is very clear that this is the case, because he says that 2 nations are in the womb – and the elder would serve the younger. This was a prophecy and it would have proven to be false if it was about Jacob and Esau as individuals – as Jacob the person did not serve Esau the person. There is even reference to the fact that Esau worshipped God later in life. Given that the nuance is about nations, if you want to force the passage to be talking about soteriology, you would have to acknowledge that none of Esau’s descendants were saved. Conversely, you would have to say that all of Jacob’s descendants (Israel) were saved. We know this is not true.

    Re your reference to it possibly being a situation where both individuals and corporate peoples are in view, I guess it is possible but the context doesn’t really suggest that. It would be reaching to try to build a case for something that is just not there. Outside of Romans, Genesis 25 and Malachi 1:2, the Bible mentions that He loves Jacob – but never again that He hates Esau. I think you need to stay with Paul’s purpose of writing this letter to convince the Jews that God will in the end be faithful to His promise to them. That is the focus – not salvation. The text says that Esau shall *serve* Jacob, not *the elder shall be saved and the younger shall not be*.

    I just want to make a comment about your question about the seeming language of hell later in Romans 9. I totally get why you would think that way and this is a difficult passage. However, if you look carefully at the mention of the “vessels of wrath made for destruction” the context doesn’t suggest any talk about final punishment. Different versions say that they are “fitted” for destruction. That just means that they were ready for destruction – or deserved it. Again though this is said in the context of the clay and God being able to do what He wanted with it. It was His prerogative. But the shaping of the clay vessels was unto their service – not their creation for the purpose of their destruction. That would make no sense – or nonsense. Basically, Paul was saying that God was going to use the disobedience of the Israelite’s, in order to bring about the blessings of Abraham to the families of the world. (In my own world view, I use the Abrahamic covenant as a starting point to keep in mind the purpose of God in this world). So it was really about the formation and destruction of nations interspersed in the analogy of clay. God was just in His using the nation of Israel to gain His purpose. He can destroy nations (Israel in this case) and he used the ‘destruction” of Israel to bring a blessing to the Gentiles (who were essentially not part of the elect for the most part – yet). But in Israel’s rejection of Jesus, He used this evil for good and as a result Jesus died on the cross so that all people could come to him and receive eternal life by faith and their acceptance of Him – and be the seed of Abraham.

    When you say, “that is a glorious love. If that love repulses you it is because you have made your own notions about love the standard by which you are judging God. I would be careful not to place my notions about what kind of God is a good God in the driver’s seat,” I don’t think the love you are proposing is a glorious love at all. I do have notions about God’s love, but only because He has portrayed them for me in the Bible. The cross is the best example of all of that. I can trust that there is a good God in the driver’s seat. If the Calvinist god was in the driver’s seat I would be concerned. I may even stop to consider if he is a bit like Allah (please don’t be offended by that – I am just being honest). You may think I am edging toward blasphemy when I say such things. But you see, I don’t have to make unsubstantiated determinations about who the God is in the driver’s seat and what He is like. I have been given the information SO that I will know Him and what He is like. There isn’t any speculation required to come up with the knowledge of His love. John 3:16 is basic in this regard. Also 1 John 4:10 “In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins”. Of course, I anticipate your argument here that He died for His friends and not for anyone else. But to do that, one has to import that notion into the verse. The whole argument tips on this verse actually. For to conclude “L” here, the Calvinist must reason away all the “whosoever” verses and come up with new meanings for the word “world”. The nice thing about the non-calvinism soteriology, is that we can accept the face value of words to mean what they want to say. In doing so, it creates a proper and balanced theology of who God is when it says that “He so loved the world…” Wow – what a loving God. I can embrace Him with that knowledge. Not a God of my own private understanding, or a god that I created in my imagination – but a loving God who has been completely portrayed in scripture as Love. A God like Jesus as it were. “If you have seen me you have seen the Father”. Funny how Jesus rebuked the priest (elect as he was) but commended the good samaritan (non-elect as he was). I could go on but that was the first one that came to my mind.

    Just so I am not skipping anything, in answer to your questions, “Does he provide faith and repentance to sinners as a gift in order to meet that condition, or must they come up with that faith and repentance on their own? Did Jesus actually save anyone when he died on the cross, or did he merely make salvation possible? Faith is not a gift given to us. This notion comes from a faulty read of Ephesians 2:8. Where it say, “it is the gift of God’, the “it” there is salvation – and not faith. It is easy to see this if you read the verse in context. Likewise, repentance is not a gift either. He does make provision for it via His kindness – but it is something we are commanded to do. The atonement is universal – in that Jesus died for all the sin in the world such that everyone who wants forgiveness and redemption may have it. Not everyone wants it though, so salvation is not universal. It is an unlimited atonement that is sufficient for whoever wants it. Again though, our impasse surrounding the answer to your question will always come back to “what are you going to do with the “whosoever” verses (Revelation 22:17 as a sampler)? It requires a huge exegetical tap dance to make that work in your soteriology.

    Its been a good chat. Thanks Stephen.

  37. Peter McKenzie says:


    I was not questioning your faith. I was just making a point based on hypotheticals to show a possibility. Christians who believe in once saved always saved, when asked about the people who fall away, respond with “they were never saved in the first place”. My response back is “how do you know with certainty that you will not fall away – and if that happens perhaps you were never saved in the first place”. An honest answer to this does not add to assurance. It diminishes rather than cements it.

    Calvinism just muddies the water on so many fronts and it brings division to the church. The path to salvation comes through the preaching of the gospel – which is that Jesus was born a virgin, lived a sinless life, was crucified and then was raised from the dead. In doing so, He defeated His enemies and He is coming back again to get His world back. If you believe that He is God and He has the power to forgive your sins and grant you eternal life, you will be saved. That offer goes out to each and every person – whoever wants it can have it. God is not a respecter of persons.

    You may have heard this before, but the gospel is like a train. On the outside of the train it says, “Whosoever Will”,
    and on the inside it says, “Chosen from the foundations of the Earth”. To get on the train, one must respond (in faith believing) to the gospel. No one ever got on the train by someone merely telling them that they were among the elect. They came to be the elect once they made the free (God-honoring) choice to get on the train – by responding to the gospel. This is the crux of the dispute – the Calvinist things he was chosen to get on the train. For this to happen, he must have responded to the gospel. The non-calvinist believes he just accepted an open (to all) invitation to get on the train that was already in motion from the very beginning. All Calvinism does is bring confusion and division to the Body of Christ.

    “The world is condemned, we all like sheep have gone astray, God hates sin & there is a price to pay.AGREEDYes anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But also many will prophecy in the Lords Name & He will say, depart from me, I never knew you. AGREED – there will be false prophets.All this is true as the Scriptures declare. God has demonstrated His love first to the patriarchs, then Israel, then the gentiles. AGREEDThis is consistent with Reformed Theology which draws on Scripture to formulate it biblical summaries”. YET IT MAKES SERIOUS ERRORS IN ITS INTERPRETATION OF SOME OF THOSE SUMMARIES THOUGH.

  38. anaquaduck says:

    The Bible tells me all Scripture is God breathed. 2 Tim 3:16. The Bible also encourages me to watch my life & doctrine closely. 1 Tim 4: 16. So there is a bit more to Bible knowledge than a simple or brief gospel call. All this is plain & basic teaching & again, consistent with Reformed Theology. (of which your objection is noted but not really qualified clearly).

    ” the Calvinist things he was chosen to get on the train.”

    I wouldnt fall for this simple analogy…

    The Christian ( Calvinst) realises that they must respond to the call of Christ, having done so they also see the hand of God in regeneration. He worked it from before the foundation of the earth & he gets the glory. To be a partaker of salvation & brought into partnership with God is a humbling journey realising that they do not deserve this as they were Gods enemies lost on the path of destruction. Eph 4: 1-16.

    So not only do we get to rejoice in Jesus the Saviour who has died for all our sins but also a generous & merciful God who lifted us up out of the mud & mire, twice as good you might say.

    Your entitled to throw your mud claims at my faith in Christ. It happened in the OT church & the early church also long before the “reformers” came on the scene (historically speaking). I tend to think it is Satan who muddies the waters & those who do his bidding.

    We are also very limited in our ability to see & understand if it were not for God opening our hearts & minds to the complexity of ancient texts through academic study, debate, distractions, conversations, claims & counter claims.

  39. JISnyder says:

    Good point. Also, some regard Isaiah 40:5 as the heartbeat of the Prophets.

  40. Peter McKenzie says:

    Anaquaduck, with all due respect, I am having difficulty making sense of your points. It seems that you are just parroting Calvinist jargon. – but in no way have I thrown mud at your faith. I would simply encourage you to know what you believe and know why you believe it. 1 Tim 4:16 is one of my favourite verses and I am glad that you adhere to that also. Toward that end, I have done anything but muddy the water. My points have been concise, coherent and logically consistent. They haven’t gained much traction here, but I have done my best to herald the truth of the gospel. I am going to bow out of this – be blessed.

  41. anaquaduck says:

    Every body has jargon, you included. I was looking this afternoon at the concepts that goes beyond Calvin & Arminius & back to Ausustine & Pelagius. Its a pity that you lay blame regarding division & confusion to Calvinism. I am sure many Christians struggle with assurance & ask wether they rightly belong to God regardless of their denominational convictions as they search the Scriptures & do battle with Satans guilt trips among other things. Not to mention schisms & schemes, the churchs one foundation remains Jesus Christ.

    I am happy to say I have looked into Scripture & whether its Jn 3:16 or Rom 9 :11 Unconditional Election is where I am at. & I am most grateful for those whom God has placed near to me & ministered to me. Blessed be His Name.

    Take care

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