Taken from SBC Today, where it was posted on July 28, 2012 by the editors of SBC Today:
As I have read the comments regarding my interview and a portion of my book, a few things deserve a response from me. First, I am greatly heartened by those comments, agreeing or not, that sought to interact with my actual words in a gracious manner. Being human, I know how hard that is, and hence my magnified gratitude and admiration for your valiant reliance on the Holy Spirit. Thank you!
Second, the comments have exposed a few of my descriptions that either need further clarification or that can be restated in a better way without sacrificing my point; for example, I used “God of Calvinism”, which I think would be better stated, “according to Calvinism, God….” I changed the wording in my following responses and will also in future revisions of my book. Also, I can see that the contrast between “vertical and horizontal passion” needs more clarification since so many infer that I am commenting on whether a Calvinist can be evangelistic, etc., which I am not. Thank you for helping me to see these.
If my inability to communicate has caused my words to unduly hurt some of you who disagree with my position, I am truly sorry and ask your forgiveness. I am and will continue working on this weakness.
The following remarks are to only briefly offer a few clarifications concerning misunderstandings about some of my comments that have appeared in this forum. Please forgive me if I leave you still in want of a more comprehensive response. I am sure you understand that I simply cannot rewrite my book here or comment sufficiently on every puzzlement.
In order that you may sense my personal spirit toward Calvinists, I excerpted the following from the introduction of Reflections of a Disenchanted Calvinist.
“Disenchanted Calvinists would include me and all who once wore the label Calvinist, who now have doffed the Calvinist regalia, but yet still respect and love those who are Calvinist. Rather than being angry or resentful of Calvinists, disenchanted Calvinists are grateful for what they have learned from Calvinists and for most Calvinists’ deep love and respect for the Scripture.
Further, none of my statements concerning my soteriological position, or problems with the TULIP, are to be understood or characterized as against Calvinists, but rather against the system of Calvinism. I have great regard, appreciation, and esteem for most Calvinists’ love for God and His Word. Further, I owe no small measure of my spiritual growth and knowledge of Scripture to Calvinists.”
“Everything hinges on unconditional election”
Some Calvinists may believe that everything hinges (I mean in Calvinism and I am not concerned with decrees here, but just the TULIP) upon “irresistible grace”, which may be true. Others believe that everything pivots on “total depravity”, which again may be true.
However, I believe that in Calvinism, “unconditional election” is God’s eternal choice to elect some to salvation, and “irresistible grace” is the process for accomplishing that, whereas “total depravity” is why man needs saved. If God only desired to create man, allow for man to sin, and the next stop is hell, then his depravity—while horrid in its own right and end—is not the crux of the issue, but rather God’s choice, salvifically speaking, not to provide salvation. The only reason that man’s depravity matters in our discussion (or that there is a TULIP) is because of our belief that God desired to provide salvation for the depraved.
Therefore, I think it is better to see unconditional election as the axis and irresistible grace as the process, which overcomes the problem of total depravity in order to redeem man—remember I am speaking within the system of Calvinism. Now, if some disagree, that is quite all right, but those are my thoughts.
I do not think any of the three positions actually speak for or against the legitimacy of Calvinism; however, if one rejects unconditional election, he is not a Calvinist of any sort. Also, if I am correct, it does seem to me that my position brings greater stress upon those who claim to be 1-, 2-, 3- or 4-point Calvinists, but that is another discussion. Succinctly, I believe no unconditional election equals no Calvinism.
“I now am not a Calvinist-Biblicist, Arminian-Biblicist or Molinist-Biblicist, but simply a Biblicist without a preceding adjective.” If I would have referred to myself as a Biblicist and my Calvinist brethren as merely Calvinists, I would deem that to be an unwarranted and not-so-subtle slight. However, out of respect for the various approaches to Scripture mentioned, and because I do not seek the harmonization of the complexities of Scripture according to any of them, I now simply bear the title Biblicist. I recognize all serious students of the Scripture, which I consider most Calvinists to be, as Biblicists. The adjective just further identifies one’s overall perspective but does not imply any second rate standing. Undeniably, no honest Calvinist wants me saying I am a Calvinist-Biblicist. Additionally, I do not believe that I should have to also drop the term Biblicist since I am no longer a Calvinist. I believe we all desire to know God’s word better in order to love and serve Him more faithfully; hence, our discussions. I was no less serious about the word of God when I was a Calvinist than I am now, nor do I think such of my Calvinist brethren.
“But, what I find interesting is that Pastor Rogers is perhaps the first Calvinist, though now former, that I have ever heard of, who would claim to come to Calvinism through a study of systematic theology. Every Calvinist I know, myself included, would state they came to believe Reformed theology through reading the Scriptures. I just found that interesting.”
Sorry for any confusion that I might have caused in my interview, which might have led some to conclude this. Actually, with regard to the place of systematic theology in my adoption of Calvinism, I stated, “This provided me with a systematic approach to the perplexities of Scripture”. Two things should be noted; first, I did not say “This alone….” If I had, your inference would be correct. Brevity can either omit certain helpful clarifications and/or make each word present or absent all the more important; second, notice that the systematic theologies helped me with “the perplexities of Scripture” which came from spending five-to-12 hours a day in studying the Scripture and praying. Interestingly to me, I mentioned several five-point Calvinists’ theologies that I studied with equal diligence, but these were not (at least I did not see them) mentioned again in the comments regarding my not being a Calvinist—or at least one who really understood Calvinism.
“One might think it is double talk as Pastor Rogers has said more than once about other Calvinist claims. However, I do not know many if any Calvinists who would claim that God desires the vast majority to go to hell. They might say that it is part of his sovereign will but not that God desires people to go to hell.”
This is in response to my brief reference in part two of the interview where I mentioned that I had experienced my growing belief that Calvinism was wrong on a number of issues, one of which was, “God desiring the vast majority of His creation to go to hell”
The following seems inescapable to me. Here is the dilemma caused by unconditional election and selective regeneration. If God monergistically selects to regenerate some and not to regenerate others, and all whom He regenerates will necessarily believe, and none whom He does not choose to regenerate can believe, then God is necessarily the one deciding to send the vast majority (Matthew 7:13-14) of sinners to hell, just as He is deciding to send the minority to heaven.
In other words, according to Calvinism’s monergism, everything necessary to save one sinner—God choosing to regenerate prior to faith—is sufficient to save all sinners. The only thing lacking is God desiring to regenerate certain sinners. Therefore, it is an inescapable reality, based on Calvinism, that people are in hell because they are sinners and God sovereignly chose not to regenerate them—to say that God is just if everyone went to hell is neither denied by me nor a relevant response to what I am saying. God is the sole determiner that certain lost people cannot be saved and therefore must perish in hell. I maintain that the portrait of God painted by Calvinism is not the picture painted by Scripture and does not correspond to the picture of God’s love as portrayed in Scripture. Further, Calvinism says that God loves the elect different than the non-elect, which as a statement of fact I agree with. The problem is that Calvinism maintains that God’s love for the non-elect withholds what they most desperately need (and in light of makes every other need inconsequential like we say about Christians except the other side of the coin so-to-speak), which is exacerbated by the fact that in the Scripture God seems to offer it to them. I simply do not believe that loving someone to hell is the picture of God in Scripture.
“Mr. Rogers does not exhibit a clear understanding of what it is he was against – especially in light of the appeals to emotion and claims of personal sins as if they stem from Calvinism. Any Calvinist who acts pridefully BECAUSE of their “Calvinism” doesn’t understand the doctrines of grace to begin with. They are immensely humbling when understood rightly.”
First, I actually said, “Retrospectively, I was very prideful about Calvinism. Everything else was wrong and un-intellectual. I deeply regret my prideful attitude about that now.” Thus, I did not say that my pride was generated by Calvinism, but about Calvinism. My pride came from me and my sinful heart alone. I have been prideful about other things (I could fall into that same sin with my present or any other theological position) but none of those things caused my pride that is me and me alone. Please, the only thing that I take full credit for in my life is my sin—pride.
“You may already have addressed this but I searched and couldn’t find it. How did you square things with the church you pastor when “leaving” Calvinism and becoming “traditionalist”? (I assume the church knew you were a Calvinists and accepted Calvinism in part if not whole) By square things with them I mean did you offer to leave since your theology changed drastically and you didn’t seem to have things figured out? Did the church use congregational polity to decide to keep you as pastor? Did you tell the whole church or just the leaders? Did your change cause any division in the church? How do you handle those who still embrace Calvinism? Do you keep them from holding leadership or teaching freely? Sorry so many questions but this scenario begs these. Thank you.”
The church I pastor is a conservative biblical Baptist church, but does not require one to be a Calvinist or a non-Calvinist to be a member or leader. Further, my migration from Calvinism was over 13 years of reflecting, and I did not seek to push my Calvinism nor do I do so with my present position. For example, I train six-to-12 men a year in an intense training program and have not once sought to make someone agree with me on everything so long as their views are within the scope of biblical orthodoxy. Many Calvinists who have gone through the training will attest to this. I am merely on a quest to know God and help my church to do the same.
Double talk: I understand that this thought is upsetting to all of us, but I believe that rather than giving a standard answer, or becoming defensive, we must evaluate the possibility. I ask you to please read my definition. I went to great lengths to define it so as not to be pejorative as the dictionary definition may in fact be used. The intent is to help us know God more, and the first place I faced double talk was in my own life, and I still seek to purge my life of it. I have and still do observe it in what I hear and read from Calvinists. Succinctly, by double talk, I specifically and only mean thinking, praying or speaking in a way that obscures the inescapable harsh realities of Calvinism—what I call disquieting realities. If a person accepts these realities, then he can be a knowledgeable and consistent Calvinist; but if one is unwilling to face them and accept them, he cannot be a consistent Calvinist.
This is what I did and still see in Calvinism. Do others or I do it in other ways? Of course. I for one am trying to not do it, and hence my move from Calvinism. I either have or am considering each of your comments regarding double talk in my comments. I find such, while difficult to hear, helpful particularly if said in the spirit of Christ. If you or I are merely defensive, when I have defined it and expressed it as gently as I know how then I think we may find ourselves holding beliefs that do not glorify God. I do not believe that is what any of us seek. I do not think that I have arrived, but only that I am willing to face these difficulties and seek to harmonize each with each other and Scripture. If I were to use this concept to disparage anyone, I would have to be first in line. I am only asking others to do what I did and still do regularly.
Blogger, “how could I not have a passion for other sinners. Even if we only set out to “vertically” please God. Wouldn’t it be impossible to obey His command to love your neighbor without actually loving your neighbor”
The context is not discussing “love for neighbors” or love for family, etc., for even Calvinism recognizes various kinds of love. Rather the context makes it clear that I am only referring to passionate salvific love—that which Calvinists ascribe to the elect.
Every informed Calvinist knows that essential to Calvinism is, God does not love all of the non-elect lost enough to provide them with what would inviolably and unalterably grant them eternal life. If that were not an essential truth of Calvinism, the discussion would be over because everyone might have an opportunity to go to heaven.
Therefore, the love that a Calvinist may have in his heart that desires each certain person—whomever he may be unless he is one of the elect—or all persons to be saved is incongruent with God’s love in Calvinism because God, according to Calvinism, clearly does not so love; therefore, this universal love in the heart of a Calvinist is not emanating from God and for that reason is human love, etc., but not God’s passionate salvific love. I just don’t see it logically or any Scriptures that intimate that God has given a more far reaching love to His people than He Himself has for the lost. My position is consistent with unconditional election, selective regeneration and compatibilism. All of this is not to say a consistent Calvinist cannot have a general love for humans or people groups. But how can a Calvinist love each individual or all individuals with God’s passionate and salvific kind of love if God does not have that for them.
Blogger says, while the theology Calvinism posits does lend to his conclusions, I would probably argue with the Calvinist here that the FACT that no one knows who is and is not the elect, we all need to love one another in this life and leave the results up to God. I think in most cases, the charge that Calvinists are not evangelistic is unfounded. I do see the validity of the argument theologically but not in practice.
Brother, your admission that what I have said is congruent with the “theology” of Calvinism but not with the “practice” of Calvinism is my point. That being the case, Calvinism generates a serious problem that non-Calvinism does not. I think all of us desire for our theology to play out in practice. For any of us to allow or summarily dismiss such disjunctures as mentioned shields us from having to examine why this is.
Additionally, I believe that the concept “we do not know who is the elect and who is not the elect” helps to demonstrate my point. First, that is only a problem in Calvinism, which does not exist in non-Calvinism nor do I see such explicated in the Scripture; second, whether we know who the elect are misses the precise point I am making. I am saying that a consistent Calvinist cannot say he has a love and passion for all the lost to be saved, or look at a particular individual and say, I love you with God’s love and desire you to be saved since God in Calvinism undeniably does not have that kind of love for each person or all persons; thus, that horizontally passionate love does not emanate from God and for that reason cannot be His salvific love. It may be love for family, neighbor or even the non-salvation type of love that Calvinists claim that God has for the lost, but it is not God’s saving passionate love or else they would be the elect of Calvinism. Therefore, not knowing who the elect are is not germane to my position nor do I believe it lessens this quandary of Calvinism.
However, this passion to please God in no way excludes a passion for people. Pastor Rogers seems to portray the God we Calvinist believe in as a Sadist who has no compassion toward sinners at all, except for the elect. God is a just God, and His justness requires punishment for sins. Having perfect knowledge, He knows that His purposes are best achieved by actually punishing some people for their sins, while showing mercy and providing atonement for others. This does not mean that He sadistically takes pleasure in punishing the wicked; the Bible is clear that He does not.
First, my statement did not argue that the passion to please God “excludes” a passion for people nor do I think or say that the God according to Calvinism is a “sadist” who has “no compassion” toward the non-elect lost. Nor do I say, “He sadistically takes pleasure in punishing the wicked.” I do agree that the Bible is clear that “He does not.”
Your statement, which is consistent with Calvinism, “He knows that His purposes are best achieved by actually punishing some people for their sins, while showing mercy and providing atonement for others.” This is precisely what I am saying. How can a Calvinist show passionate salvific love from God for those whom God chose not to show mercy—again not knowing who the elect are is not germane to the issue? Further, I do not say that Calvinists cannot be evangelistic (he may in fact be the most evangelistic on the planet), but rather if he is consistent, it is a passion to carry out the mandate of God, to be used by God to gather His elect, vertical passion. Whereas I believe the Scripture teaches that God, Jesus, Paul, etc., demonstrated both a “vertical” and “horizontal” salvific passion for each and every individual; therefore, we should too, which Calvinism does not allow.
It cannot be a Holy Spirit led horizontal passion, which is a burden, love and hurt for all of the lost of the world, or even each particular individual, to come to know Christ. For God according to Calvinism does not even have such passion. (See my above response)
The following are John Calvin’s comments regarding the non-elect lost, “Many professing a desire to defend the Deity from an invidious charge admit the doctrine of election, but deny that any one is reprobated…. This they do ignorantly, and childishly, since there could be no election without this opposite reprobation…. Those, therefore, whom God passes by he reprobates, and that for no other cause but because he is pleased to exclude them from the inheritance which he predestines to his children”[i] (italics added)
Many Calvinists shy from the forthrightness of Calvin, but Calvinism inexorably leads to God sovereignly doing what pleases Him (which we believe, too, but we just disagree on what pleases Him), and therefore, either actively predestining some to hell or consequently doing so by choosing not to offer what would have surely delivered them from hell to heaven, i.e., selective regeneration. I agree that the Bible is clear that God does not take pleasure in the lost going to hell, but I disagree that is not the determined or consequential result of Calvinism.
Concerning missions in Calvinism, John Piper says the mission enterprise is “to reach all the peoples of the world and thus to gather the ‘sons of God’ which are scattered (John 11:52), and to call all the ‘ransomed from every tongue and tribe and people and nation.”[ii]
With regard to Matthew 28:18-20 Piper concludes, “Therefore in all likelihood Jesus did not send his apostles out with a general mission merely to win as many individuals as they could, but rather to reach all peoples of the world”[iii] (italics added).
Therefore, (I understand the options of the decrees but they do not alter my point) it seems undeniable that God either actively passed by the non-elect or did so passively, but God according to Calvinism does not afford a salvific love for the non-elect lost and neither can a Calvinist. Therefore, the mission of missions and evangelism is simply to gather the people of God – vertical passion.
A Calvinist simply cannot be in a room alone with one individual and feel God’s passionate salvific love for him if he is non-elect because God does not have that love for him. This same truth exists with regard to the lost world. Therefore, if a Calvinist does desire the individual (or world) to be saved, that desire is not from God. To wit, the Calvinist cannot have more compassion, etc., than God. This scenario illustrates how unrelated to my argument the response, “one does not know who the elect are” really is. I am talking about the limitation placed upon Calvinists by Calvinism regarding what they can believe, feel, and say, which I find contrary to the sentiment found in the New Testament.
“Moreover, the reason for a person being able to receive is God’s grace…. if faith is a gift from God then it does much more than affords man the capacity to believe. The gift of faith results in conversion. This is the underlying basis for the Calvinist platform. Faith is NOT a gift of God”
Calvinism emphasizes that faith is a gift given only to the elect. In contradistinction to Calvinism, I am arguing that, while faith is a grace gift, it is not given only to the elect. I believe that faith is good, and that every good thing (life, ability, family, faith, etc.) is a grace gift from God (James 1:17). The very idea, essence and capacity of faith (saving and otherwise), as all good gifts, are by God’s grace. If faith is not a gift from God’s grace, since it is good, it seems that it exists outside of God’s grace to us. Therefore, I maintain that faith is a gift of grace, but not only for some, or following regeneration and not emanating from compatibilism and therefore incapable of contrary choice with regard to salvation.
So now I don’t even have concern for the souls of men, eh? I guess I must be a disgruntled Calvinist too because I have had a greater desire to share the Gospel since I became convinced of sovereign grace than I ever had before. I guess I just haven’t thought it through and should just yield to brother Rogers and start hating people and be consistent. Oh well. (pardon my sarcasm)
I did not say, nor imply, that Calvinism leads to indifference for “the souls of men,” nor that consistent Calvinism requires “hating people.” Again, my statement does not say nor imply that Calvinists are not evangelistic or mission minded. There have been, and are at this present moment, many Calvinist missionaries and evangelists, and I thank God they are sacrificing to share the gospel. I don’t think one can ever find a statement by me that says Calvinists can’t be mission minded or evangelists.
In point of fact, there is a couple in our church whom God has called to the mission field. They are seeking to get on the field as soon as possible. The church is contributing to their support. I have told him personally and others as well, that I believe if anyone was ever meant to be on the mission field it was them. He is a strong five-point Calvinist.
My question is how can a Calvinist salvifically and passionately love a person whom God has not salvifically and passionately elected, for that is to love them more than God, which seems impossible to me.
My brother, according to Calvinism, God loved you with a passionate salvific love, which unalterably resulted in your salvation. However, the other side of that coin is that God withheld that same kind of love opportunity from others—the non-elect. Therefore, Calvinism’s claim that God loves the non-elect different than the elect seems to be the understatement of time and eternity, eternally speaking that is.
Although the forum and significance of our discussions may lead some to think that my love and respect for Calvinists diminished with my migration from Calvinism, but that is not the case. It was only my love for Calvinism that changed—see the introduction to my book. If we can listen and examine honestly our beliefs in light of Scripture, and graciously respond in agreement or disagreement, I think our reflections about God will be more honoring in five years. If we cannot discuss these important and difficult issues christianly, then the future does not seem so rich. To remove contrary opinions is to remove one of God’s greatest teaching tools. To eliminate contrary opinions is to create a monarchy.
I hold no ill will for anything said to me or about me and pray the same can be said of you, and that is what I assume. Thank You!
[i] Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, pages 225-226.
[ii] Ibid 204