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A Little Ocean Ambiance
WITH THE CALVINISTS
Dr. Richard Flanders
Juniata Baptist Church
I have no problem with a Christian who calls himself a Calvinist. By this
I mean that I hold no grudge against these folks, and I do not consider
their theology outside the realm of fundamental orthodoxy. However I have
developed an unreceptive attitude toward the influence some of my
Calvinistic brothers have had on the brethren. And their influence is
growing in both fundamentalist and broader evangelical circles, so that I
run into problems with them more and more often. I am not a real
Calvinist, although many Arminians would tag me with the name, but my arguments with certain Calvinist brethren are not so much about their system of doctrine as about how they hinder the cause of revival! This
problem is not necessary because many good revivalists have been more or
less Calvinistic, and many Calvinists have been evangelistic in both
spirit and practice. Some with whom I have fussed in recent years are
soul winners, but what they teach other preachers (often unsuspecting
non-Calvinists) prompts me to speak up in protest! Let me boil down my
complaints to three. These charges are not made against all Calvinists,
but where they do apply, I definitely have a "beef" with the offenders.
They negate God's plan.
I won't argue with how you explain the doctrine of election as long as
you agree that God has a passion, a plan, and a provision for the
salvation of every sinner! There is something wrong with an
interpretation of one doctrine in the Bible that absolutely contradicts
another clear Bible doctrine. And the Bible clearly teaches that God
wants all men to be saved.
"The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men
through him might believe." (John 1:7)
"Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." (John
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that
whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that
the world through him might be saved." (John 3:16-17)
"For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who
will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the
truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the
man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in
due time." (I Timothy 2:3-6)
"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count
slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should
perish, but that all should come to repentance." (Peter II 3:9)
"And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also
for the sins of the whole world." (I John 2:2)
"And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the
Saviour of the world." (I John 4:14)
Of course not everyone in the world will be saved, but the Lord has
certainly stated His desire for the salvation of everybody
"I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn
from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will
ye die, O house of Israel?" (Ezekiel 33:11)
The blessed doctrine of election brings comfort to a believer in Christ,
but it shuts no one out of God's mercy. Any explanation of it that
confines God's love to the elect is a perversion of it. Any teaching that
robs "whosoever" of its meaning and turns the Gospel invitation into a
pretense is simply wrong.
There is a difference between doing evangelistic work in search of the
people God wants to save, and spreading the Word with the conviction that
God wants to save them all! It makes a big difference what you believe
about this when you seek to win people to Christ. So I object when a
Calvinist reasons away the truth that Jesus came to be the Savior of the
They negate God's promises.
Some Calvinists unnecessarily apply the doctrine of God's sovereignty
where it does not apply. Certainly the Lord is sovereign, but this truth
does not cancel the conditional nature of many of His promises. If He
says that He will react in a certain way to some action of ours, we can
expect that reaction when we meet the stated condition. This is how a
conditional promise works! When somebody says that God is completely
unpredictable, he is negating the conditional promises found in the
Bible. A sovereign act is an independent act not conditioned on any human
act. The promises of revival are the most common victims of this
misapplication of divine sovereignty. See what they say.
"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and
pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear
from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." (II
"Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee? Show
us thy mercy, O LORD, and grant us thy salvation. I will hear what God
the LORD will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his
saints: but let them not turn again to folly. Surely his salvation is
nigh them that fear him; that glory may dwell in our land." (Psalms
"Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye unto me, saith the LORD of hosts,
and I will turn unto you, saith the LORD of hosts." (Zechariah 1:3 )
"Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts."
"Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye
sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and
mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to
heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift
you up." (James 4:8-10)
God repeatedly promises to revive His people if they will turn back to
Him. In the New Testament, this means the fullness of the Christian life.
We call it "revival." But Calvinists have taught us that revival is
always "a sovereign act of God," that we cannot expect it and should not
seek it. Not all of the Calvinists teach this, but those who do are
quenching the flickering flames of revival.
If God's people today draw nigh to Him in repentance, in prayer, and in
belief of His promises, will He not lift them out of their carnality,
worldliness, and disobedience? Have we the right to expect a fresh
anointing of the Spirit in answer to absolute surrender and believing
prayer? These are vitally important questions for fundamental Christians
today, but teachers influenced by a certain kind of Calvinism are giving
us the wrong answers! And the wrong answers will harm both individuals
and churches. I am optimistic about the prospects of Biblical revival in
our time because the promises of God make me that way. That's why I have
a complaint against those who would make these promises void by
misapplying the doctrine of sovereignty.
They negate God's program.
It is nearly the definition of hyper-Calvinism to let Calvinistic
doctrine affect one's practice. Those who consider themselves followers
of reasonable Calvinism sometimes say that the "hyper" version of that
theology opposes inviting the non-elect to Christ. In other words, when
somebody's evangelistic efforts are hindered by his belief in Calvinism,
that person has become a hyper-Calvinist. The "doctrines of grace" deal
with the "secret counsels of God" and do not relieve a Christian of his
responsibility to spread the Gospel to all. An accurate understanding of
Calvinism would not stop anyone from being an aggressive winner of souls As we have said, the false idea that God does not want to save everybody
tends to cool evangelistic zeal, but there is nothing in Calvinism itself
that says it is wrong to work hard at converting sinners.
Unfortunately, many who deny being hyper-Calvinists do work hard at
discouraging people from intensive evangelism. "Emotional appeals" are
decried and sometimes public invitations are opposed. Door-to-door
visitation is criticized as ineffective, and praying with sinners for
salvation is belittled and mocked. However, the truth is that true
Calvinists ought not to fear that earnest entreaties and altar calls will
get non-elect people saved! A speaker has gone overboard when he
discourages revival campaigns, personal witnessing, or evangelistic
services. And he is doing real harm.
The Bible does not forbid the application of emotion in Gospel appeals.
Further it commends rather than condemns a call for repentance following
the presentation of the truth.
"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give
you rest." (Matthew 11:28)
"Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out
. . ." (Acts 3:19)
The Bible teaches that Christians ought to be working daily for the
conversion of lost souls.
"And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach
and preach Jesus Christ." (Acts 5:42)
When Calvinism restrains us from seeking to reach the masses with the
Gospel of Christ, it has been perverted and is injuring our spiritual
lives. That's why I have a "beef" with those who preach it that way!
Without question, Calvinists and non-Calvinists can work together for the
Cause of Christ. Doubtless genuine Christians with such theological
differences ought to treat one another with love and respect. However,
when the influence of one upon the other hinders the Cause, then there
must be some fussing and perhaps some parting of ways. Let us always be
kind, and let us never judge another, but let us be scriptural and honest
with the brethren even if we may be accused of being contentious. God's
love extends to all the world, and our concern should be to reach them
all with His Gospel. May nothing hinder us!
Friday, October 04, 2002
by Dr. Rick Flanders
currently Pastor of
Juniata Baptist Church
Juniata Baptist Church|
5656 Washburn Road
Vassar, MI 48768
Dr. Rick Flanders Biographical Data
Converted in 1963 through a radio ministry.
Earned B.A. and M.A. degrees from Bob Jones University.
Honorary D.D. from Pensacola Christian College.
Pastor at Juniata Baptist Church since 1973.
On BCPM Board, (Baptist Church Planting Ministry)
and also MACS. (Michigan Association of Christian School)
- Articles published in the;
- Sword of the Lord
- Baptist Preacher,
- Christian View of the News,
- Pulpit Helps,
- Maranatha Watchman
- Church Bus News,
- and other national periodicals.
His Majesty's Service
In His Service,
Teaching the Word
To Glorify Our Lord
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