Sunday, August 22, 2010


I'm what's commonly called a "Calvinist." One is called a "Calvinist" for believing in what are called the doctrines of Grace. Five doctrines of grace are usually associated with Calvinism and, normally, holding to these five results in one being identified with that label. But, when someone holds to only one of the doctrines like say Eternal Preservation [Security] or, as it is sometimes referred to, Eternal Perseverance, they are called a Calvinist also. The word "Cavinist" comes from the man John Calvin who became known for the formulating of the five doctrines which are also designated with the acronym TULIP. Stated this way...

T__Total depravity
U__Unconditional election
L__Limited Atonement
I__Irresistable Grace
P__Preservation of the Saints.

My point with this post, let me be clear here, is not to defend the five doctrines or even to explain them. I certainly will not defend Calvin himself because he left some things indefensible IMHO. I don't even particularly like being known by the designation "Calvinist." I don't like labels in general, even the Southern Baptist one.

But I'm smart enough to know that labels are only words which, if carefully defined, can convey an idea of what a person believes. But remember that no single label can adequately nor accurately reveal who a person is or what they believe really. Even the term "Christian" falls into that category in these times it seems to me.

All that said, I want to respond to a single accusation made against the idea of holding to one of those doctrines of Grace. It is the one that is refered to as "Limited atonement" which is also known as "particular redemption" as I prefer to call it. This is the belief that Jesus ACTUALLY died for some people and that those will ULTIMATELY come to know Him. This, instead of a second idea that He died for ALL people and potentially NONE, SOME, OR ALL, could come to know Him. [With some variations of this out there.]

But the thought/accusation I'm addressing is that, if one holds to the first, which I do, then there would/will be no need for evangelism in that person's opinion and, in fact, evangelism will suffer. Even die as an enterprise.

Bear in mind as you read this who is writing it. I'm one who believes different opinions can be discussed graciously, lovingly, nicely and even enjoyably. Within Southern Baptists there are people who hold differing views on the doctrines of Grace. [Especially particular redemption or limited atonement.] Within my friends there are differing views held. Within my family there are differing views often. Even within my marriage there are sometimes differing views on some things... but my view is the right one of course. ; ) is possible to talk about issues with differing views without rancor and anger and that is what I hope we do here.

Remember.. the point I'm addressing is NOT which view of the purpose of the death of Christ is correct, but whether or not if holding to the limited atonement view kills true evangelism. In other words..does believing Jesus ACTUALLY died for some people who ULTIMATELY will come to know Him kill evangelism?

I say it does not. In fact, William Cary, the father of the Baptist mission movement personally held to limited atonement, and no one doubts his love and heart for evangelism.

My father-in-law was a five-point Calvinist [Which includes limited atonenment and you get my meaning now I'm sure.] and for the first several years of his Christian life led someone to faith in Christ EVERY DAY. I mean literally, every single day.

Finally, a day came when no one believed the gospel in his presence and he had to re-evaluate and come to the understanding that God's purpose was for him to share the gospel EVERY DAY and leave the results with God. He did just that for the REST OF THE YEARS of his life. I'll say it again, clearly. Every day of his Christian life until his death Fred Cherry shared the gospel with SOMEONE who was not a Christian.

C. H. Spurgeon was a Calvinist [Five pointer] and asked his people to stay home one Sunday a month in the later years of his ministry so non-christian people could come hear the gospel at the Tabernacle in London. They filled it those set aside Sundays.

Who knows how many have come to faith in Christ throught the evangelism of Calvinists? I could continue to name people who held to particular redemption like William Cary, Jonathan Edwards, John Murray and, my goodness, the list could go on for some time.

I have delighted in sharing the gospel and still do. I once would drive to a gas station to put in gas and talk to someone about Jesus Christ while putting in two dollars and go to another to finish filling up to get to share with someone else. While my methods have changed through the years the delight in sharing hasn't.

Though my preaching seldom if ever uses the label "Calvinism" which I dislike, or even uses the terms spoken about in the acronym TULIP, my preaching WILL cover the truth of Grace declared in scripture. My message winds up being a God-centered message which gives opportunity for people to respond and to take responsibility for repentence and brokenness over the message of the gospel which, I believe is evangelism.

Of course, if one defines evangelism in a narrow, free-will sense of getting someone to pray a little prayer because they're emotional and want to go to heaven, then Calvinism IS killing toward those kind of antics. I'm even opposed to powerless preaching or sharing from the pulpit that produces such.

But if by evangelism one means the preaching/sharing of the gospel and looking for the Holy Spirit to break, open, and move someone to receive the truth of the message of Christ and His Cross work because of their being humbled, then Calvinism will ALWAYS only enhance evangelism and fire the souls of people who know Christ to keep on evangelizing.

I fully believe people who teach free will in an inappropriate biblical fashion AND hyper-calvinists who are biblically inappropriate as well could BOTH kill evangelism since NEITHER is biblically correct and true to the gospel. But one who has the true knowledge of the true doctrines of Grace and an understanding of the work of the Spirit in setting a person free will ALWAYS acknowledge the METHOD of sharing the gospel is the MEANS by which God does His work of salvation. And that a true biblicist will know that our commission is to go to every creature [person] with the gospel leaving the results with God Himself.

I want to say in closing this post that I would never want to leave an impression that preaching the gospel is a pulpit thing ONLY. It is a personal and moment by moment thing for All believers who are ALL ministers of the gospel.

I wouldn't wish to even convey that it is a verbal thing ONLY. It is a life/relationship thing that results in words that give the message of Christ and His Cross work and can even BE someone preaching from a pulpit though never reserved FOR the pulpit only. [Who even needs a pulpit when we gather??

But, as we go sharing the gospel, our going is NOT because of a love for the ones to whom we go. We don't even know them often. Our love is a responding love to the One who loved us, redeemed us, and sent us out with His message to every creature. It is that "love of Christ" that" constrains" us as Paul the Apostle says, by which he meant it is an internal engine driving us forward to all people with the good news of Christ and His redemptive act.

And, if any respond, it is the work of God in them that brings it about. It is not our persuading them to do something that only they can do if they would just say yes. Evangelism is seeing people changed and moving in grace and power with the Lord of Lords. It's truly beyond us all but ours to do.

I can live with this.

Paul B.


Arron said...

Thanks for this. Really encouraging to know that the Lord is at work in your life, and I pray that He will continue to use your ministry and this blog for His glory.

Love in Christ Jesus, and the faith of God's Elect,


Anonymous said...

People like you are God's gift to the church and the preaching of the gospel is exactly what I believe in. However I take umbrage with the term "free-willers". This is the term that has been used to describe any who are not Calvinists and it is a term that has been used by many to put down brothers and sisters in Christ who do not agree with limited atonement as if we are somehow defective and man centered. I for one strongly believe in the Sovereignty of God. Just because I believe that God has granted man to be able to respond to God's call and to the gospel if man will humble himself doesn't make me man centered for it is God's plan in the beginning and God's power that enables man to hear and receive as the gospel is the power of God.

The main problem that I have is the divisiveness of setting up labels that put down other Christians as if non-Calvinists do not have the ability to properly proclaim the gospel and lead the unsaved to faith in Christ. The push to have non-Calvinists become Calvinists or be separated from the church has harmed many including myself. Our church was not a Calvinist church until the pastor became a full five point Calvinist and then sent letters to kick out all who would not accept Calvinism. No longer was there any toleration for the terms "free will" or toleration for the denomination's view that Jesus died for the sins of everyone and brother was turned against brother as the pastor taught that unborn babies go to hell if they were not of the elect. The pastor was eventually removed by the denominational officers for doing this to the church but the division that he caused in the local church still exists today and we no longer are free to go there as non-Calvinists are seen as being disloyal to the truth of God. Those who are still loyal to the former pastor still see us as the enemy and the pain that Calvinism caused us personally is immense.

My vision is that we grow together in love and that the truth of God's word is understood in balance so that there is no longer any division that treats brothers and sisters in Christ as outcasts and defective because they are not Calvinists.


Paul Burleson said...


Thanks for commenting. Feel free to do so often.


Point taken. My apologies!! I will immediately alter and correct a bad use of a word. Thanks for calling me on it.

I regret what I read you describing as done by your former pastor. One of my greatest problems is with "Calvinists" who act like everyone who believes differently is second-class spiritual citizens somehow.

I added to that with my mistake. I could say it wasn't intended as a slam, but what does that matter!!Inadvertant or not, I did it.

Your final paragraph is my heart and my prayer. Thank you for your comment.

Aussie John said...


C.H.Spurgeon once said, "There is no soul living who holds more firmly to the doctrines of grace than I do, and if any man asks me whether I am ashamed to be called a Calvinist, I answer—I WISH TO BE CALLED NOTHING BUT A CHRISTIAN(my emphasis); but if you ask me, do I hold the doctrinal views which were held by John Calvin, I reply, I DO IN THE MAIN HOLD TO THEM, AND REJOICE TO AVOW IT (my emphasis) . But far be it from me even to imagine that Zion contains none but Calvinistic Christians within her walls, or that there are none saved who do not hold our views."

I would be glad to stand in front of anyone and declare those words as applying to myself.

But I would also be inclined to say to anyone who wants to wear labels, It is clear there are disputes and quarrels amongst you, some even refusing fellowship with those who disagree. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or " I follow Calvin", or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided?

In exactly the same way as the word "Christian", Muslim",ignite a fire in the empty minds of some, so too the words "Calvin" or Wesley", "Calvinist" or "Arminian".

No wonder a fire is ignited because every one of those I've quoted are experts at building straw men.


I think I know how frustrated Paul must have felt as he wrote that first letter to Corinth.

Of one thing I am certain,there will be NO Calvinists in heaven, and there will be NO Arminians, as well!

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

As usual..your comment is better than my post. I say two things..
2. Your final paragraph says it all.

Rex Ray said...

I told myself I was not going to comment on this post, but after reading the comments, I feel a lot better.

So I will say sometimes we never get too old to change, and as an example:

Paul Burleson said...


I can imagine the restraint it took since I'm sure you have some disagreements with me on this kind of theology. I commend you for showing that kind of restraint.

I'm making just one point really and that is that the charge of "evangelism killing" because of this belief doesn't always stand.

People with other views about this belief are many and are my friends and brothers/sisters in Christ and would say this....

1__They would say they have served on staffs with me harmoniously.

2__They would say they seldom ever hear me talk about life in Calvinistic coded language.

3__They never doubt that I believe "whosover will may come." [I just believe the will has to be worked on divinely for things to happen.]

4__They know I believe no one is saved BECAUSE of election but because of repentence and faith in the person of Christ, [I just believe one has to be worked on for repentence and faith to be present.]

5__They would say believing about this as I do NEVER creates a line of fellowship that cannot be crossed. [Our fellowhip is around the person of Christ Himself NOT a stated view of how things are worked out in eternity.]

6__My preaching is NEVER about "Calvinism" but about the scriptures and the message of Christ and relationships both with Him and others in grace and love.
[When I'm at that place in Ephesians where it clearly say He chose us I talk about it. When at the scripture where it clearly says we must repent, believe, and chose Him I talk about that.]

7__They would say my heart is to know intimately the "Truth" who is a Person and the details about Him come as the Spirit gives insight/understanding which, as you said well Rex, never stops coming as we grow in understanding of the scriptures.

Aussie John said...


I got carried away and didn't answer the question you asked.

Absolutely, "NO!" Calvinism, so-called, most certainly does not kill evangelism. What I found in my own life, and those I trained in evangelism, was that we were set free from any obligation to get results.

Preaching the good news of Jesus Christ and His finished work, is all that is necessary for His Spirit, to convict of sin and convince of need. He is so very good at His job!

The proof: In my own lifetime of ministry, we saw two of the congregations, where we ministered, more than double in size,through local evangelism.

In one of those we had a deacon, who despised Calvinism, and complain loudly that there were too many new faces in the congregation. Explain that to me!

I am convinced that those who see Calvinism as an impediment to evangelism, simply have received wrong information (more often than not straw men) from which they come to very sad conclusions.

Anyway, Calvinism was good enough for Paul, so it's good enough for me. :)

Anonymous said...

.Ok let’s see if I can formulate my thoughts…

The issues that I have with Calvinism have very little to do with evangelism. I will whole heartedly admit that God must initiate a relationship with us before we would ever even think about a relationship with Him. I have no problem with God’s foreknowledge. I have no problem accepting the fact that our birth-day and death-day are set. I have no problem seeing God as the Ultimate Chess Master (No matter the skill of the other chess player, no matter what move or sequence of moves that are made, A Chess Master know how to use the board to His advantage to win any game). I have no problem with the promise that “all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose.”

I no problem with the fact that God thwarts the plans of evil men. I have no problem with the fact that ”the king’s heart is in the hand if the Lord and He directs it wherever He pleases.” Or that believers are “predestined to be conformed into the likeness of the Son.”
I have no problem believing that God is completely in charge and completely in control.

But where I struggle is in the area of human freedom and responsibility. Even in that I am willing to acknowledge that God allows things to happen within the realm of human freedom and responsibility. Somehow He does work in the midst of our choices so Sovereignty still balances everything out

I do not believe that God’s sovereignty is diminished if He allows human freedom and responsibility (after all He always has the final say). Even Pinnock’s “open theism” view does not diminish the greatness of God’s sovereignty (If I understand him correctly) He believed that God has chosen to “self-limit” himself in the area of relationship with humanity. I would not go as far as to say God does not know what is going to happen but even if I did, does it diminish God’s sovereignty if he chooses to self- limit himself? Does the incarnation diminish the divinity of Jesus even though He limited himself (Look at Philippians 2)?

I know it has been done before but the question has been asked, “How can God allow people to go to Hell based on the fact that they are sinners if “grace is irresistible” and “election is unconditional”

For that matter why give Adam and Eve the choice to sin (or not to) when there really was not a choice. It seems as if God is using “slight of hand” to play a dirty trick on humanity.

Anonymous said...


Of course every time someone take issue with a theological perspective there is usually a personal story attached. I am no exception.

I was eight years old (the same year I came to know the Lord) when I stumbled across my first piece of pornography. I found it in a trash heap. I tell you every detail of the picture on the first page my eyes looked upon. I remember the smell of the paper and the rush of “forbidden excitement”. The chance encounter set the stage and wet my appetite (experts call it sexual mapping) for a life-time of hunger and pursuit of pornography.

I remember as a young teenager being overwhelm with guilt and desire. I remember begging God to take the desire away. I remember the years if failure and I returned to my addictive sinful behavior time and time again. I remember the duel personae I created to hide my double life. I remember preaching about grace and believing it applied to everyone but me. I remember the pain I brought to loved ones. I remember the day I really came to understand God really loved me and had forgiven me I remember (after a year of Godly marriage counseling) waking up one day and realizing that pornography no longer had the grip on me that it once had.

Do I blame God (He predestined it) for that “chance encounter” with pornography when I was 8? No. Can I accept the fact that He allowed it? Yes. Am I willing to admit that I would not understand grace like I do know if I had not gone through all those years of struggle? Yes

If it were not for the idea of sin “sticking in my craw” I would be a Calvinist! Murder, Rape, Abuse, War, Pain, Suffering, and ultimately Hell are the issues for me.

Yes I know that a diamond shine the most brilliant against a black cloth (Spurgeon).

I know that God will ultimately judge the world and set everything right. However, If there was no freedom and responsibility there is nothing to judge because in the end God was responsible for it all.

Paul Burleson said...


Thank you for your willingness to be transparent about your own struggles with sin and your journey through it all. Thank you for you honesty about your theological struggles as well.

Some will applaud you for your openness as do I. Others may not. But always opt for transparency in an appropriate fashion and forum. You have done that well. Doing so with God's people is seldom the wrong PLACE for such.

You are on a journey of Grace, which you recognize, and whatever the mixture of human responsibility, Sovereignty, and understanding of how it all fits together with ultimate Truth you might or might not have, you are standing in Grace. His name is Jesus as you know.

I have had my own life struggles in some areas as my next post [already written] will reveal and I have my own theological views which I've briefly stated in this post. But the journey isn't over yet. You and I will both learn more of how it all fits together as we go along I'm sure.

Whether we EVER agree with each other on it all or not is of no issue for me. Whether we walk in the light we have, faithfully, is the issue. May we both be faithful to our Lord and our light.

Blessings my brother.

Christiane said...


From my perspective, I haven't ever been able to sort out Calvinism, true.
But I know this about my Calvinist acquaintances:
that they share this belief with St. Augustine in reference to Lord Christ who gave His life for others:

"To live for Him means allowing oneself to be drawn into His Being for others. "
Augustine of Hippo

Rex Ray said...

Do not feel you were/are alone as the feelings you expressed are common to man.

Don’t blame the porn picture. If you’d never seen it, there’d been something else; mine was Sears & Roebuck in the outhouse used for toilet paper.

Courage is not the absent of fear, but the overcoming of fear.

I tell that to a lot of people contemplating going down the slide. (Do you think Paul would join the 218 people [age 4 to 78 and 40# to 300#] that have gone down? :)

Like courage, living a Christian life is not the absence of sin but not continuing in sin since sin grieves the Holy Spirit making us miserable.

Paul said, “Some will applaud you for your openness as do I. Others may not.”

I believe most want to see the diamond, but not covered with the black cloth as sin is long remembered after the diamond is forgotten.

I praise your last point:
“If there was no freedom and responsibility there is nothing to judge because in the end God was responsible for it all.”

Good quote!

Paul Burleson said...


I agree with Rex..."good quote."


You said..."I believe most want to see the diamond, but not covered with the black cloth as sin is long remembered after the diamond is forgotten."

I have a little different perspective about people sharing struggles.[If that's what you were refering to.]

When someone shares a tremendous struggle they might be having with something [sin] in their life I'm always reminded of the "Righteousness" of Christ accounted to us as believers.

So I don't see what they are honestly speaking about in their struggle as identifying them but what the Father sees when He sees them...just as when He sees me...the "finished work of Christ truly identifies them." That's the memory I carry away from someones sharing of struggles.

This is important to me because my wife always say, correctly I think, "Exposure plus acceptance equals encouragement." I always want to be an encourager to spiritual siblings in my spiritual family.

Paul Burleson said...


I have requested that if you choose to comment here your comment must not be...

mean spirited
use of bad [profane] language

I have deleted a comment that I found by my definition to be inappropriate violating the first two of these. Remember, it is my definition that counts on this blog.

Check your words before you post a comment please. I will delete all that are inappropriate.

Rex Ray said...

Yes, I was referring to sharing struggles.

There is a big difference in saying ‘I was tempted to kill my neighbor, but God has forgiven me’ than saying, ‘I killed my neighbor, but God has forgiven me.’

People want to hear of ‘successful struggles’; not ‘failed struggles’.

Did Jesus struggle in being tempted by the devil? Yes Did he fail? No.

A successful struggle is the diamond on black cloth, but failed struggles covers the diamond. My opinion of course. :)

Paul Burleson said...


I want to be with brothers and sisters wherever they are in their struggles.

We'll just have to agree to disagree on this one too. :)

Anonymous said...


To answer your question...
Did I feel alone? For years,, no.

Sin makes you stupid (OK the biblical phraseology uses phrases like blind, hard-hearted, decieved stubborn, self-centered...but I hope you get my point.)

Part of Satan's strategy is to get you to believe that you are alone (isolation is one of his greatest weapons)

That is why secrets have power that openness can diffuse.

That is also why a little light can dissipate darkness. (Because darkness is simply the absence of light.)

I do not blame the picture, or God, or even myself for the first exposure. I blame sin and the impact that it has had on all creation.

However, the desire it awoke in me was really a desire for intimate relationship. For years, i was decieved in that search as well.

But when you take away that early exposure, and years of deception, I still made choices of my own free will that kept me in bondage.

God was always there. He was not angry with me.He had already forgiven my sinfulness and he extended so much grace that I choke up just thinking about it now.

That is the main point.

Romans 3 tells us that the wages of sin is death (you get what you earn). The gift of God is eternal life (you get what you do cannot earn). Romans 5 tells us that sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin... but the gift is not like the trespass... judgement followed sin...but the gift brought justification!

It seems to me that the capacity to choose relationship with God is part of what make us image bearers.

If the Apostle Paul is correct in Romans 14 and everything that does not come from faith is sin. Then sin is by definition the absence of faith. Because the Biblical understanding of faith is at it's core relational.

I have no problem believing that God gave humanity the ability/capacity to choose relationship (faith) or the freedom to not have such a relationship (sin).

History is filled with the compounded consequences of those choices.

I guess I could blame God for giving the devil such leeway or allowing sin to impact creation and humanity (and even me) so much but once you taste and see that the Lord is good that just does not seem to fit. Because where sin grace abounds grace abounds all the more!

Again, I have no problem believing that God created all of the ingredients and his hand is in the mix. I also know in the end,the finished product will be wonderful...I know because I have licked the spoon!

If Paul does not go down your slide when he makes it to Bonham, he is just a big weenie!

I know you may delete that last comment as inappropriate but I still stand by it. :)

Rodney Sprayberry said...


Your wrote:

There is a big difference in saying ‘I was tempted to kill my neighbor, but God has forgiven me’ than saying, ‘I killed my neighbor, but God has forgiven me.’

Remember, temptation is not a sin and does not need to be forgiven (unless Jesus needed forgiveness!)

However Jesus did say "It is not the heathy who need a doctor, but the sick. Go and learn what this means 'I desire mercy not sacrifice' . I have come not to call the righteous , but sinners."

Only sinners have need of and can experience the amazing effects of forgiveness! :)

Bobby Brown said...

Obviously God gave Adam free will and Adam chose to sin. But Calvin pointed out this does not solve the problem. He asked whether God permitted sin willingly or unwillingly. If God willingly gave Adam free will, knowing full well that Adam would plunge the human race into sin, then sin had to be under God's sovereign decree. Thus there is really no difference whether you say that God permitted it or He will it, since He permitted it willingly. Calvin insisted, "God's will is, and rightly ought to be, the cause of all things that are." If you deny this you fall into dualism, the view that there is an evil power equal to or greater than God. But, while insisting that "man falls according as God's providence ordains," Calvin also insisted, "but he falls by his own fault". He exhorted, "Let us not be ashamed to submit our understanding to God's boundless wisdom so far as to yield before its many secrets". In other words, there is a limit to human understanding, and we err to press farther than Scripture allows. (Taken from Stephen Cole's comments on Habakkuk)

Regarding evangelism I believe God's means of irresistably calling forth His elect is the preaching of the gospel. If no one preached the gospel no one would be saved except the rocks preach out.

Christiane said...


I am keeping both you and Belle in my morning vigil prayers and I hope everything is as good as it can be for you both.

Remain in God's keeping.
Love, L's

Paul Burleson said...


From Arron, the first to comment, to Bobby and Christiane, the last two to comment, and all of you in between, it has been a good conversation all the way around. Thanks for participating.

I'll be posting a new post tomorrow which is in a TOTALLY different vein. But I hope it will be helpful and thought provoking as well.

Rex Ray said...

I see your point that Jesus was tempted but his temptation was not sin for him.

The big difference in the way Jesus was tempted and the way we are usually tempted is the way temptation occurred.

Jesus was praying to his Father. He did not look for the devil – the devil came to him.

Most of the time we’re tempted is because we’re doing something borderline to start with.

Otherwise, why would “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” be in the Lord’s Prayer? Did those words say temptation was evil?

If the man that was tempted to kill his neighbor had the desire to get something from him – money – property- his wife – etc. - or from anger (next post), then I believe temptation was a sin to him and he needed forgiveness.

You said, “Only sinners have need of and can experience the amazing effects of forgiveness! :)”

I know you don’t mean how that could be taken as Paul squelched the thought: “Should we continue in sin that grace may multiply? Absolutely not!”

“Can a man a man embrace fire and his clothes not be burned? Can a man walk on coals without scorching his feet?” I believe forgiveness is one thing but sin leaves a mark.


Rex Ray said...

Compared to my father who was a school teacher/preacher/chaplain, my mother was a SAINT, but she said, “We’re not led into temptation; we run and jump.”