Confession: I Think I’m Becoming A Calvinist

Confession: I Think I’m Becoming A Calvinist June 20, 2016

Heaven or Hell, Two Blue Road Sign with text Heaven and Hell with bright and stormy sky background

It’s no secret- I’ve been a little hard on my Calvinist friends over the years (well, I only have 2 so there’s that). I’ve critiqued some of the crazy things their leaders have said. I’ve pointed out why some of their core beliefs are utterly offensive to me.

What can I say? Calvin and I have a pretty contentious relationship, if you could really call it that.

But for all my criticism of Calvinism, and my open distain for the way Calvinism distorts the image of God found in Jesus, I must confess: I think I am slowly on the road to becoming a Calvinist. I’ve tried to ignore all the signs. I’ve tried to deny it to myself and pretend it wasn’t happening. I’ve, I’ve… ugh. I’ve resisted it, but I am slowly losing my grip on my previous beliefs about who God is and who God is not… and as I lose my grip, I find myself drifting towards being the biggest Calvinist you’ve ever met.

Let me explain:

At the core of being a Calvinist is the belief that God hand-picks the people who will ultimately go to heaven and spend eternity in a paradise, where all the pains of this world are healed with perfect love. Calvinists will often describe the points of their belief system using the word TULIP, and this idea that God picks who will go to heaven is the “U,” meaning “unconditional election.” Essentially, God in his sovereignty selects people to extend his love and grace and mercy toward– and this act is unconditional.

Of course, Calvinism must account for the need of human beings to respond to God’s love and invitation, which brings us to the “I” in their scenario: “irresistible grace.” This idea of irresistible grace is that when God calls someone, when he invites them to come and experience his love, it is ultimately irresistible. God’s love pursues them to the ends of the earth– until they can’t resist anymore, and end up embracing love.

This also brings us to the P: perseverance of the saints. This is the idea that those who are chosen by God, who in turn respond to his love, can never be lost– it is a permanent salvation that cannot be undone by any slip up on the part of the individual. Thus, one can rest secure in God’s love, knowing that nothing they could do would earn them rejection by God.

Calvinism would be one of the most beautiful religions in the world if it were premised on UIP, but as far as I know, UIP doesn’t really spell anything. Where things get disgusting is when we add in the T and the L: every person is totally depraved and that Jesus only died to save a few people– not the whole world. The beauty of being chosen by God, being loved with a grace that’s irresistible, and being secure in a love that will never reject, is lost when we add in depravity and limited atonement.

A God who would pick people for hell before they were even born, is no one worthy of honor and praise– such a deity would be a monster.

In 5-point Calvinism, the Gospel is really, really good news for the few people God chooses to love and save, but is absolutely horrible news for the people God chooses to burn in hell– people who have no option or choice in the matter, because God himself created them for the sole purpose of sending them to hell.

That version of Calvinism is quite sick.

But 3-point Calvinism? This is where I find myself drifting lately.

To the idea that yes, God chooses who he will save, who he will heal, and who will experience his wonderful love– but that maybe God is so loving he chooses everybody.

The idea that yes, God’s grace is so wonderful and beautiful that it cannot be resisted– and that God will extend that irresistible grace to everyone… even pursuing them throughout eternity, until every last one decides to embrace love, and to walk out of hell.

The idea that yes, those who God has chosen can never be lost– that he is unwilling that any should perish, but that every last person who has ever lived would one day, whether now or in eternity, come to repentance– turning toward his love and his healing.

The more I travel the world, the more I find myself invited into people’s stories, and the more I learn how to love, the more difficult time I have believing in a god who doesn’t ultimately get what he wants: that no one would perish, but that everyone would experience his love and healing.

And even while I’ve written extensively on the theology of evangelical conditionalism (annihilation), and believe in the strength of my arguments, my heart believes it less and less as I learn to love people more and more.

I could be wrong in my drift towards the position of Universal Redemption (the belief that Christ will ultimately save all). But honestly, these days I’m more concerned with being authentic and transparent about who I am, and the journey I’m on, than I am concerned with being right.

And so, I confess: I think I’m becoming a Calvinist. Sort of. I doubt any self-respecting Calvinist would have me– but I’m thinking maybe Calvin was partly onto something.

I think I’m starting to believe that a God who is perfect love must pick everyone. 

I’m starting to believe that perfect love would not fail– that everyone who experiences it would find healing, and embrace love back.

I’m starting to believe that maybe, just maybe, everyone experiences irresistible grace and that God’s love will never, ever reject anyone in the end.

Because that’s the kind of thing that would actually be “good news.”

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  • Connie OI

    Phew. You had me scared for a minute…

  • Nancy Moore

    I could be that kind of Calvinist, and have been for a long time.

  • RevCamlin

    Benjamin, Calvinism doesn’t require that you believe all five points. Even the puritan theologian Richard Baxter was a four-pointer (because he rejected Limited Atonement). Besides… I’m not so sure that even Calvin himself would have considered himself a five-point Calvinist. After all, those five points were developed a generation AFTER his death, and only in response to a perceived theological threat from Jacobus Aminius. So… “Meh” with five-point Calvinism (and even “Calvinism” as a label). I prefer aligning with the Reformed Tradition, which is far richer and more varied than depending upon the writings of Calvin alone.

  • A form of theology that upholds both God’s superordinate responsibility, as well as purgatorial universal reconciliation, has been my passion for several years now (see my profile link). I think this form’s big memetic weakness has been that these two parts must be posited simultantaneously for them to multiply together and explode into a beautiful resolution for soteriology, eschatology, and theodicy (and metaphysics). And, of course, it’s hard to simultaneously posit two things that are unpopular (it’s far easier to do one or the other, since folks crave being “single issue crusaders”).

    I read a few of your articles last year where I felt myself really rooting for this blog as it explored so honestly and passionately, especially rooting to follow some of its excellent premises to their corollaries on the matter of Judgment.

  • Brian Kellogg

    Click bait!!! But the bait ended up tasting a lot better than I first suspected! This is something I’ve thought and read about a lot over the past decade and am coming to the same conclusions.

  • murfle

    How would you differentiate your current views from traditional Universalism?

  • Mike Thomas

    What parent would only pick some of their children to love while abandoning the others?
    God’ love is universal and limitless.

  • diamondsarentforever

    This wouldn’t be Calvinism, this would just be Universal Reconciliation. Calvinism at it’s core is still just as horrid as you initially described it to be. Am I missing something? Hoping there’s some sarcasm in here.

  • Matthew Burr

    Personally, I think theology begins to get dangerous when one leans toward extremes. Therefore, a true five point Calvinist thought is quite horrific. But so is the extreme the other way, God plays no role in the salvation decision of the person, it’s all on the person.

    I believe the extremes are built off of flawed humanistic understanding of a immensely mysterious Deity. The more we try to limit God into our understanding, the more off base we get. For instance, I believe it’s entirely possible, in it’s impossibility, that God can be completely sovereign in election yet man completely responsible in faith. I believe God can elect unconditionally yet man can still reject. I believe man can be totally depraved yet persevere in his salvation. I believe Jesus can die for all and not all come to salvation.

    Therefore, I guess I’m a 3 point Calvinist (Total Depravity 1, Unconditional Election .5, Limited Atonement 0, Irresistible Grace .5, Perseverance Of Saints 1). Sheesh, what a mess.

    Thank You Jesus for becoming a man, redeeming Your creation, and paving the way for the restoration of Your Kingdom on earth. Let’s just stick to that and let Calvin mess with the other junk.

  • Matthew Burr

    You should include a link to a thesaurus with your posts… For numbskulls like me.

  • Realist1234

    Ben, a bit of a misleading headline! I think im right in saying no Calvinist today would recognise what youre proposing. You’ve actually just picked 3 of its basic tenets and then twisted them!

    In many ways I agree with you it would be nice if universalism was real, but from my understanding of Jesus’ own words and the rest of the NT, I simply cannot accept it. God is full of mercy and love and it was shown ultimately in the death of the Son. There is simply no mercy left for those who continue to reject the Son and His gift of life. The fact that so many believe they have no need for Jesus and have no intention of bending the knee to Him, really does show how separated they are from the God of the universe. Me and you were just like that. Regardless of how you believe grace works (personally I think its a combination of God’s choice and ours), me and you came to the realisation as to who Jesus is, and what reality actually is. In arguing that in loving people more it makes you believe that they will all be saved in the end tends to reflect badly on Jesus, who is love personified and loved people deeply, yet His words and actions do not reflect the position to which you are drifting. And He knows the full reality.

  • Mark Edward

    Universal reconciliation is tops.

    I moved through annihilationist thought for several years before finally arriving at universalism. Books like Robin Perry’s Evangelical Universalist don’t do the position much justice, in my opinion; he fails to tackle key parts of the bible, and he commits many of the same problems proponents of the other views do.

    I think universalism is the outcome of the Gospel, but I biblicist approaches need a serious retooling.

  • Lana

    Yes, I’ve wrtten about this before. I use to be a Calvinist. I actually becamse a Calvinist because I didn’t want to be a universalist. Then I left Calvinism for universalism. I’ve always been one or the other.

  • There’s universalism which says “all roads lead to the top of the mountain” which I categorically reject. Then there’s universalism in the idea that Christ may save everyone in the end– and that’s what I’ve been exploring. One is an anything goes type deal and the other is firmly Christ-centered. Hope that helps.

  • Sure, slightly misleading but it was a play on the old joke:

    Q: What’s a Christian Universalist?
    A: A really nice Calvinist

  • LorenHaas

    Dude, I almost passed out from holding my breath until I got to the end of this one!

  • Iain Lovejoy

    Had a lot of people worried there, I suspect.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    Where you got God’s mercy being limited from anything said by Jesus I am unclear.

  • Animal

    That’s not Calvinism (3 pt or 5 pt) you are describing. That’s God’s universal love and grace… pure and simple. God is much more than what we can neatly contain within a pretty theological box.

  • Stephan Stephanie Gensicke

    Sounds to me like you are heading the same way as Karl Barth. He said, when asked if he was teaching and considering Universal Redemption: I’m am not teaching it, but also not not! (Sounds better in the German original). ;)
    (I had to write a paper on it during my studies and I hated his long sentences, but he was a brilliant Theologian.)

  • VisionaryJax

    YES! Oh, Benjamin, I am so happy to read this! I remember positing this idea in a comment to one of your posts about Annihilation a year or two ago, and your response that God couldn’t FORCE you to love Him so that Universal Reconciliation didn’t work. But now you’re getting it, I think. It’s not forcing you to love Him, it’s wooing you — if you’ve ever fallen in love, you get it — it’s irresistible, but it’s not FORCE. I am happy for you, and I agree with you … and I love that you found LOVE to be the deciding factor. I wish I could put a bunch of little heart emoticons. And also, let me quote you here and say to the following: YES, YES, YES.

    “To the idea that yes, God chooses who he will save, who he will heal, and who will experience his wonderful love– but that maybe God is so loving he chooses everybody.

    “The idea that yes, God’s grace is so wonderful and beautiful that it cannot
    be resisted– and that God will extend that irresistible grace to everyone… even pursuing them throughout eternity, until every last one decides to embrace love, and to walk out of hell.

    “The idea that yes, those who God has chosen can never be lost– that he is
    unwilling that any should perish, but that every last person who has ever lived would one day, whether now or in eternity, come to repentance– turning toward his love and his healing.”


  • Summers-lad

    Robin Parry’s “The Evangelical Universalist” made me think I could become a Calvinist, in much the same way as you have described. The argument of the book is fairly Calvinist in style, especially in how it stresses God’s sovereignty and choice, with the crucial difference as you say that it doesn’t accept the L (the T could still be there).
    I don’t think 5-point Calvinism is good news even for the elect though, because enjoying salvation while believing that others are condemned totally without hope does not seem to me to embody the spirit and grace of Christ. Therefore their salvation (or sanctification – part of the same thing) is incomplete.
    Meanwhile I remain a fan of Calvin – and Hobbes!

  • The drift towards Universal Redemption is a beautiful drift. :)

  • BJR1961

    You didn’t have me worried at all. I am perfectly capable of reading the first four books of the New Testament, and responding with my OWN beliefs. If someone else doesn’t believe my way, fine. My way is the simplest – Jesus said to obey the Ten Commandments, and he taught us the Golden Rule. He treated women, and the other underdogs of the world at the time equally, and he didn’t suffer hypocrites very happily. And God thought of all humans as his children. If he is a Good God (and mine is), that means just what it means with our own children. Love.

  • Tracy

    I think there is a danger in making God into our image here. We say ” we cannot believe in a God that does rah rah rah….. but what if he did? We start to put conditions on God, which are limited by human understanding. At the end of the day – do we trust him enough that it’s all going be ok? It would be great to think the whole world would eventually bow the knee, but I don’t see that in scripture. I think God is far more generous, and far more loving that we will ever understand, but there is a little word – Justice – that keeps me from falling into universalism. You guys all might be right – here’s hoping – but at the end of the day – do we trust him without our ‘conditions?’

  • Agni Ashwin

    Did not Calvin teach that God had already has chosen some for salvation even before the creation of the world?

  • Agni Ashwin

    Actually, you are a Calvinist. The “T” stands for “Total Theosis” and the “L” stands for “Limitless Atonement”.

  • I particularly thought of you while writing this one :)

  • Yes– and he chose some for hell too. He was a sick pup, sadly.

  • This is true– but Calvinism is also based on everything being predetermined, so there’s no way I could actually be a Calvinist as an open theist myself.. I was just sorta playing off some of the 5 points and giving them a little twist.

  • Matriarch

    As a young child born and raised in Baptist Fundamentalism, I cut my teeth listening to my dad and my uncles debate Calvinism vs. non-Calvinism. But in the end, what was left was that God would have great plans to throw most of humanity into hell because they didn’t worship just right, didn’t follow the right theology, choose the right dogma or pray the right version of the ‘sinner’s prayer.’ I was terrified of God when I was young. Jesus might love me, but God the Monster was bigger and would overrule Jesus’ love if I …. well, I had no idea how long the list might be that would throw me into hell. I was taught that if I was ‘saved’ then I would know for certain in my heart. If I didn’t have ultimate faith then I wasn’t saved. I regularly threw up on Sunday mornings before church, the fear was overwhelming. When my father died shortly after my 19th birthday, I ditched church. I understood that I was going to hell and that I couldn’t ever believe enough of anything to keep me out of hell, so I was not going to spend what life I had worshipping a God who was so cruel. ‘Conditions’? No, no conditions on God’s behavior. Simply a wider exposure to theologies and books and possibilities that God might not be a monster. I can live — and worship — with that.

  • I hear you.

    I don’t think we get to define for ourselves what we think God would and wouldn’t do, but I do think we can decide if something is consistent given the revelation we have from God, most fully and clearly in Jesus. It’s not so much that God can’t be X, or I wouldn’t like it if God were X, but X may seem ridiculously unlikely given what we know about God.

    So, for instance, if someone said, “God wouldn’t send anyone to Hell because that’s mean,” well, ok, but that’s more like what you were saying – we’re taking things we don’t like and making them constraints that God has to fill.

    However, it’s very different to say, “God wouldn’t send anyone to Hell, because that kind of cruelty seems very disproportionate to what we know of His love and justice.”

  • Ron McPherson

    I remember hearing a sermon from an evangelist about self examination to test whether you are in the faith. It was a list of maybe 5 things. If you met these, then all was well with your soul. But he didn’t say anything about how MANY you had to meet, nothing about what it means if you met them during one season of life but not another, etc. Then I read an article from another pastor who had a list, but it was different in that there were like 8 items. Then read another article from another pastor and his was different too lol, it had 11 tests. For years I almost went crazy. It was not a good recipe for one who is an OCD sufferer. Ministers are well meaning, but don’t realize how often they complicate the gospel. Do I love ENOUGH?. Do I have ENOUGH faith?. Do I obey ENOUGH? Do I exhibit ENOUGH fruits? Have I repented ENOUGH? Entire sermons are built around the necessity of faith to only then be wrapped up by having to DO something. I finally just came to the conclusion that John 3:16 is not that complicated. It’s all of grace anyway. Jesus is the answer. He’ll get us there.

  • RevCamlin

    Predestination does not equal predeterminism. How familiar are you with the theology of Karl Barth? Barth, thoroughly Reformed, was accused of universalism because his take on Calvinistic predestination is that all humanity is predestined to salvation, and Christ alone was predestined to reprobation. There really is room for you in the Reformed Tradition, Benjamin! :-)

  • I was a Calvinist for many, many years and could probably whip up a decent-ish apologetic for it contra Ben’s portrayal, but I actually thought Ben was too generous.

    Because the “U” in TULIP already sets the limits for the “L.” Since God has elected some to salvation, and since Jesus’ atonement pays for sins, it has to be limited because, otherwise, people would be in Hell that Jesus paid for, and that wouldn’t be just. I think Calvinists rightly perceive that, if you believe in penal substitution, Universalism and Calvinism are your only real consistent options. Otherwise, you end up with Jesus paying for your sins but God still holding you accountable for them if you don’t “accept” that fact.

    In that dynamic, the death of Jesus actually does not show mercy, because God still exacts his price. If you owe me $20, and someone else pays your $20, so I no longer demand the $20 from you, that does not make me merciful.

    Penal substitution, along with the traditional doctrine of Hell, just screws everything up. Although, Universalism can easily suffer from the same problems if it doesn’t challenge those core presuppositions. The idea that there is an eternal Hell that everyone should go to by default is what needs to be challenged, not arguing over how many people will end up there.

  • Q: What’s a postmillennialist?
    A: A really optimistic amillennialist.

  • :) Haha!

  • davewarnock

    So, all the people of the world who put their faith in Christ go to heaven, but those who don’t go to hell? Or does everyone who has ever been born go to heaven? And that would include the Jew, the Muslim, etc. What about those of us who don’t believe there is a god there at all- or a heaven…if we are wrong, what is our fate?

  • GaryBT

    You should consider the Wesleyan tribe (although there are some Arminian Calvanists). I would recommend Randy Maddox’s “Responsible Grace” for an excellent Wesleyan theology.

  • Nobody really knows for sure, IMHO, but it is kinda fun to engage smart attractive peeps in endless speculations about faith. Here is something I found on Richard becks blog ; experimental theology. I like this! *~C|°●D
    ‘the issue here is about bumping into transcendence vs. getting trapped in your head with a lot of questions and doubts.’
    ‘ I’m talking about a spiritual life that is preoccupied with doubts and questions at the expense of cultivating experiences where God is encountered rather than thought about.’

    I think peeps find it very difficult to give up control esp when one has been abused, abandoned & betrayed by authority claiming a spiritually exclusive domain. Amazing what one has to go thru to unlearn!
    Don’t wanna burn nobody, don’t wanna be burned
    Don’t wanna learn from nobody what I gotta unlearn
    Read more: Bob Dylan – Do Right To Me Baby (Do Unto Others) Lyrics | MetroLyrics

  • Gerlof Lutter

    “…but that maybe God is so loving he chooses everybody…”

    Now try explaining to others that this also means that he also included people like Hitler, Stalin, Idi Amin, Osama Bin Laden and a whole lot of other people we, as a people, loathe. You will get burned.
    Its what I allways found when I tried to explain to others what I believe Jesus death means to us. It hard for all of us to understand that God is love.

  • Yeah ditto for me buddy! BTW I like your new photo. You have a charming, engaging , somewhat goofy smile! *~C|°●D

    New Living Translation
    And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1.6

  • No splainin necessary! ☆~{|°●D

  • Iain Lovejoy

    The issue is not making God in our image, but in refusing to believe God is a hypocrite. God tells us to love our enemies, so we must assume God loves his enemies; God tells us to forgive those who wrong us repeatedly and without question, so we must assume God does so too etc
    Universalism does not lack justice: it does not (in its classic form) deny judgement, but asserts that God will (eventually) bring to himself even the lost in hell.
    For a universalist hell is not where those God has abandoned are left for an eternity to rot but a place where sinners are refined and transformed and in the end reconciled to God and the rest of mankind and whole of creation in heaven.
    An eternal hell is a denial of justice, I would have thought, since no matter how badly someone has sinned their sins are finite, and cannot therefore merit infinite punishment.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    The universalism that Ben refers to does indeed mean everyone goes to heaven, not just Christians, and that would include atheists, too. The “universal” in the name means of exactly what it says.
    It has got to be one of the strangest ideas that some Christians put about that eternal judgement consists of a theological “pop quiz” where someone who in good faith has got his ideas about God wrong (including e.g. his existence) is then consigned to eternal torment, particularly when if theological correctness was such an issue God could have made his presence a little more obvious if necessary.
    A universalist argues that it is the willingness to accept and reciprocate the love of God which is at issue, and there is no reason why an open-minded atheist should not do so (having got over, I suppose, the surprise of finding out God actually exists after all).

  • Tim

    That’s the sort of “Calvinism” I can get on board with. I actually arrived at that conclusion about 9 years ago. Welcome to the party.

  • Tim

    Richard Beck has a series on his blog about universal salvation. His conclusion was that it is the only good ending to the story.

  • Isn’t it tho?! ☆~¡¡]°●♢

  • You can read about him. Calvin was a horrible person and It’s nice to know that thinking people totally reject this asshole today.

  • Amen.

  • Ron McPherson

    Philippians 1:6 is a great one. It’s gotten me thru many trials : )

  • Floyd Phillips

    I tend to agree with your sentiment and have been moving toward a more pure belief in God’s attitude toward sinners for a number of years. The point where I can’t embrace pivots on a different understanding of the real reason anyone could be lost. It is never, ever because God’s grace and love are at last withdrawn as you assume at the end of this post.
    Love will never fail, at least in the sense of lapsing. Love will never reject or anything similar. At the same time I have seen that if God were to force people to accept His love or force them to remain alive against their will until they finally relent, then again we are reintroducing dark elements into the concept of God that taint the beautiful truth of free will on our part.
    I feel that the only way free beings can respect God in the end is if they are given the full freedom to embrace love and reflect it because of their own will, not because God will never let them off the hook. Those who are lost choose it against all odds, but if God forces them to remain alive until He gets the decision He wants in the name of irresistible love, well, in our lingo it is called abuse.
    But even in what I have come to believe in this matter, in no way does that infer that I think God is complicit in their demise. Those who are lost will choose to return the gift of life God has given them freely in exchange for eternal non-existence by their own free will. God respects the most important part of our make-up, our free will and He protects our use of it incessantly. For without this option to choose not to love, true love simply cannot exist or thrive. That is the part I believe is vital to appreciate and is the key truth that provides security for God’s government throughout all eternity without the slightest presence of fear. It will be respect for the kind of God who respects our free choices that guarantees our willing eternal participation in treating others the way we are treated by God. Anything short of this taints the purity of the very nature of love which includes respect. That is the kind of God that is capturing my affections after many years stuck in fear and legalism.

  • Tracy

    I don’t know. I honestly don’t. I hope you guys are right, and what you have said does merit consideration. Thanks for replying :)

  • RonnyTX

    What parent would only pick some of their children to love while abandoning the others?
    God’ love is universal and limitless.

    Ronny to Mike:
    Amen Mike, amen! :-)

  • RonnyTX

    Benjamin to Murfle:
    There’s universalism which says “all roads lead to the top of the mountain” which I categorically reject. Then there’s universalism in the idea that Christ may save everyone in the end– and that’s what I’ve been exploring. One is an anything goes type deal and the other is firmly Christ-centered. Hope that helps.

    Ronny to Benjamin:
    So true! :-) And for years, I knew some people were wrong, in thinking all roads/religions lead to God/Jesus Christ and that is why, I stayed a Calvinist in belief. Then around 7 years ago, I ran upon a person online, who believed in Christian universalism. That is, that God had chosen to save everyone, by way of Jesus Christ and the cross. And as I’ve said before, right at first I wished that was true; but I thought it too good, to be true! (ha) But then, I did what God had previously taught me to do. I read a lot more, that some Christian universalists had written. I wanted to see, why they believe as they did and what scriptures they used, to back up their beliefs. And that is how I came to see, they were right. :-) Jesus Christ truly is, the Savior if the whole, wide world, with no one left out! :-) And this is why, when I walk my little dog by a local cemetery, I so often start singing this song. When we all, get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be. When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory! :-)

  • Tim Boone

    Its a bit roundabout way to get there Ben but I think you are onto it. I think ultimately He chooses everyone… we may go through a great deal including the refining fire but we end up with Him. Phillip Gulley has written very well on this as has Julie Federwer in “Raising Hell” .. I the only struggle I have is believeing that the Ayn Rand devoted, gun running, elitist Republicans running the USA today will end up in Heaven….surely gives me pause….. :-)

  • Tim

    Eh, I imagine it will be a lot like the Pharisees; many will enter ahead of them.

  • Ben, you really scared me. I just couldn’t believe it; now I understand. I am a hopeful universalist, too, but I can’t discount freedom of will.

    I am not sure UIP is Calvinism at all.

  • Tim

    No need to discount freedom of will. Ever read Tom Talbott’s Inescapable love of God?

  • Susan Herring

    I have been reading your blog for months and have found my beliefs to be very similar to yours. I am a Christian (descended from a long line of Southern Baptists) who worships at a Presbyterian church. Presbyterians are, by and large, Calvinists. Like you, I struggle with the exact same issues you describe in this article. Maybe we could consider ourselves “reformed” Calvinists. I believe “love” is the key. God IS love. According to Jesus, the greatest commandments are to “love”. Love covers a multitude of sins. You can be the smartest, most knowledgeable, person on earth…but without love, you are nothing. I believe God is much more capable of loving the unloveable than I am….or ever will be.

  • Realist, you wrote: “There is simply no mercy left for those who continue to reject the Son and His gift of life.”

    But consider whether these folks really understand the situation. Through misinformation (garbled story), the baggage of misguided Christian beliefs and practices, mental issues, and scarred psyches, many people cannot make a clear decision. What is it they are really rejecting when they ‘reject the Son and His gift of life”?

    I believe everyone will have opportunity to respond to God’s offer of eternal life with a clear mind and comprehension. This might happen after death.

  • A few years ago, I only had a general idea of what Calvinism was when I stumbled on a pastor’s blog and saw someone asking about what he should say to family/loved ones if he thought they were members of the Reprobate and why God would make someone so close to him into one. The pastor replied:

    The question that Paul says we should not ask [in Romans 9] is precisely the one that you are asking: “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?'” If you are a reprobate, then the matter is simple. This passage says that God has made someone like you so that someone like me can learn about his wrath, his power, and his patience – that he would tolerate someone like you for so long – and in contrast, about his riches and mercy toward me. So if you are a reprobate, this would be a satisfying conclusion to my response.

    … and it took me years to recover from it.

  • Ron McPherson

    No wonder, geez

  • People tend not to accept the idea that anything can change in Heaven, that there’s no time left to learn lessons.

  • Al Cruise

    Calvinism [5 point] at its core is not based on love and therefore is alien to the true nature of God. Interesting how the proponents of it always feel “they” are definitely elect. Maybe they worried about their own salvation and need something to convince themselves they are special. ie The Gospel Coalition of today.

  • Jeff Preuss

    “But honestly, these days I’m more concerned with being authentic
    and transparent about who I am, and the journey I’m on, than I am
    concerned with being right.”

    Thank you for that. Would that each of us just be honest about our own journey, and how our faith impacts it.

  • RonnyTX

    So, all the people of the world who put their faith in Christ go to heaven, but those who don’t go to hell?

    Ronny to Dave:
    No, for there is no Jesus Christ created hell of eternal torment. And faith, that is a gift of God, that God gives to us human beings; but God giving that to each person, at the time of God’s choosing. “8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8,10

    Or does everyone who has ever been born go to heaven? And that would include the Jew, the Muslim, etc. What about those of us who don’t believe there is a god there at all- or a heaven…if we are wrong, what is our fate?

    Ronny to Dave:
    Every person, from Adam on down, will be born of God by way of Jesus Christ and the cross. And that whether a person is Jewish, Muslim, gentile, atheist or even Baptist! :-) The thing is, it is God who does the saving and God is love. So, everyone will be born of God and we will all spend eternity together. :-)

  • That’s one of the worst things i’ve ever heard in my life…and i’m a social worker.

  • davewarnock

    It’s very possible that the Paul who wrote those words was seriously deluded. And the pastor who wrote the above is delusional on steroids. I’m so glad to be done with Christianity, and free from the mental gymnastics required to make the Bible make sense.

  • This sort of blithe, self-assured and profoundly unempathetic callousness has come to define everything I despise about so many Christians. “I have the answer, the answer is horrible, and the answer satisfies me so it ought to satisfy you. And if it doesn’t, I don’t really have to care — I’m saved and you’re not, so I can just let God show you the truth via an eternity of agonizing torment that I’ll think of fondly from time to time while I practice harp lessons.

    But don’t get me wrong – I love you. In a purely platonic, agápē sort of way, of course. The kind of love that works better if you don’t look at it too closely, or you wind up seeing how it barely differs from disdain or disgust. And if you point out that I should actually be thinking of it as philēo instead of agápē, I’ll just consider you a willing pawn of Satan and react accordingly, if childishly, because that kind of behavior is the sort of thing Jesus condemned. And if you hate me for it, then I’ll just point out that Jesus said we’d be hated too, so clearly I’m doing something right.

    What do you mean, you’re Christian and you disagree with everything I stand for? Oh well, not all who cry “Lord, Lord” and all that, antichrist. Now piss off, I have orphans whose parents I have to go mock for dying in poverty in order to justify why I don’t give to charity.”

  • “Oh, but GOD BLESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • davewarnock

    Well, as much as that’s a nice idea (I think?), I see no evidence to suggest that it’s true. I will just go with what I know to be true- that we have this one life here and now, and I’ll seek to make the most of it.

    I certainly don’t abide by the idea that God’s son had to die on the cross so that he could redeem all of the people he created in the first place.

  • My faith in Christianity never survived the problem of evil. I found it easier to believe in the deity who was responsible for good and evil than to believe in one solely good, but believing in a deity capable of evil didn’t make me want to worship it.

  • davewarnock

    It’s funny to me that everyone who ascribes to the Calvinist doctrine believes they are one of the chosen ones.

  • I’ve actually encountered people who didn’t. They weren’t fun to be around.

    One of those that I’m thinking of, if I have the names and faces straight, also said that every person has a soul mate, a sole individual somewhere in the world who they are fully compatible with in a way that they will never be compatible with anyone else. The problem? That person may be born 400 years ago on a different continent, because screw you.

    This person also expressly rejected doing anything that led to happiness, as anything which detracted from focusing attention on God or trying to get everyone else to focus on God was inherently evil.

  • And no, I’m not at all troubled by the multiple pastors who have written blog posts and given sermons about how they’re glad people were massacred last Sunday and how they hope God “finishes the job.”

  • jekylldoc

    Of course, it is possible to drop the gymnastics (admitting that the Bible has lots of flaws) and still be a follow of Christ. Just sayin’.

  • jekylldoc

    “I love you, but if you don’t agree with everything I believe, too bad for you.” We’ve all heard it.

  • jekylldoc

    Want to upvote 40 times.

  • Thanks for making room for me :)

  • Gary Gill

    Maybe you’re just becoming a Calvin Kleinist ??? :)

  • Dan Tucker

    As long as the Calvinists won´t have you, in my opinion you´re safe. Once they accept you, you are too far gone. Resist, Dr. Corey.! Resist the disgusting lies!

  • Dan Tucker

    BUT, UIP is close enough!

  • I have not read it, but I can guess the argument from the title. I like the idea, however I don’t think God will force anyone to accept eternal life if they object.

  • Me too! Tried & true! ☆~¡¡]°●》

  • davewarnock

    Yeah, I know a lot of people who do that. It doesn’t work for me though. It’s hard to understand how people get an accurate view of who Jesus was and what he was like unless they get that from the Bible. And that opens a whole other can of worms in that Jesus had a whole lot to say about hell, and told his followers they must choose allegiance to him over their own family members. So that paints a fairly unflattering picture of Jesus for me.

    It was not hard for me to let go of that Jesus after I let go of the Bible as the word of God. I find it a lot simpler just to live life for what it is and be the best person I can. I don’t need to follow Jesus to do that.

  • davewarnock

    maybe they were hoping that God would change his mind and choose them.

  • EXTERMINATE!!!EXTERMINATE!!! resistance is futile!!! ~the Daleks (dr.Who)

  • Yikes! I ran into a corollary to this belief in AA. Peeps rather heartlessly said that some alcoholics had to die so some of us could live. They called it ’12 stepping us’ (providing a bad example as a warning). Actually it was just abandonment.

  • So articulate!!! Thank you for this! The emperor had no clothes! `~<|°●》

  • jekylldoc

    Dave –

    No problem. Better to get by without community than be part of a toxic community. I feel very fortunate to have found Christian churches that are not toxic, but I also know lots of great people with views like yours, and they also count as community.

  • Paul Julian Gould

    I wonder how many will read your lede (which, dear Dr. Ben, is, after all some pretty serious clickbait… *smile*) and not read your article.

    I admit, I make no claim to the label of Christian, as I’ve said here and elsewhere, and really only tend to label myself as an unaffiliated Jewish mystic, but I enjoyed the read, and the direction you’re leading yourself… I may not agree across the board, especially regarding labeling and specific terminology, but it is fascinating.

    NB: The reason I stick around your estimable blog is that you and I tend to be much in agreement about so much, regardless of the terminology each of us may choose. Brightest blessings, Dr. Ben, and well-said.

  • The involvement of religion in AA disturbs me on so many levels for how very, very, very easily it turns into spiritual abuse… which is probably why AA fails more often than it succeeds. -_-

  • Yeah! I know first hand. Which is worse getting sober in AA & buy into the inherent spiritual abuse or staying sober by buying into what those who are dry drunks pass for their program? Sobriety is an inner transformation not dependant on peeps IMHO. I am thankful to know the difference today but it cost me!

  • Beauty!

  • Paul Julian Gould

    Grand applause, friend… That’s where I lived for many a year… and life is so much more pleasant, chill and with a lot more smiles decades after such.

  • It took me a long time to really heal from all the bad Christians I dealt with throughout my younger years, but I think I’m in a decent place now.

  • Guy Norred

    Honestly I think very few of them actually are sure they are elect. Most seem truly scared they are not and this fear overflows into all their interactions.

  • Questioning

    Agreed, I know what I don’t know, and that is about all I know for sure.

  • Guy Norred

    Ask them if they know why these people were the way they were. I don’t know what it takes to become a monster like any of these, and I hope I never learn.

  • Guy Norred

    That is such a stumbling block. Paul himself fully acknowledges that in this life we do not have all the information, so how should anyone expect that minds won’t be changed when it is all laid out in front of us.

  • Guy Norred

    The justice question to me always comes back to seeing the heart in a way that only God can. The first time this really jumped out to me was when a friend said something about how it was obvious Hitler was in hell and it occurred to me to wonder how one becomes the monster we see when we think of Hitler. Without walking in his shoes, I cannot be assured I wouldn’t end up the same monster, so how can I find justice in his being in Hell and my being in Heaven if the only reason I didn’t turn out that way was that I didn’t have to go through what he did. For that matter, even if I did go through whatever it was that he went through without doing the evil things he did, then Hitler’s crime would be to not be strengthened with whatever it is that I apparently have to strengthen me–which would sound a lot like Hitler being born to burn.

  • Guy Norred

    I have a friend who was raised with this picture of God. I am rather happy he is an atheist now. It is progress.

  • RonnyTX

    DaveWarnock to Jekylldoc:
    Yeah, I know a lot of people who do that. It doesn’t work for me though. It’s hard to understand how people get an accurate view of who Jesus was and what he was like unless they get that from the Bible. And that opens a whole other can of worms in that Jesus had a whole lot to say about hell, and told his followers they must choose allegiance to him over their own family members. So that paints a fairly unflattering picture of Jesus for me.

    It was not hard for me to let go of that Jesus after I let go of the Bible as the word of God. I find it a lot simpler just to live life for what it is and be the best person I can. I don’t need to follow Jesus to do that.

    Ronny to Dave:
    Dave, what we have today, are many different translations of the bible and by far, not all are accurate. And I personally wouldn’t claim any of them, are 100% accurate; but some, are a lot more accurate than others. And Dave, actually Jesus Christ had nothing to say about hell. A good article on that, in the following link. And it also shows, that it was some people, who added hell on to some translations of the bible.

  • RonnyTX

    Amen Susan, for God/Jesus Christ, surely is love, pure love. :-) And God proved that to me, when I was 16 years old and born of God, at that time. That’s when God proved to me, just how greatly God/Jesus Christ loved me. And in and as a part of that, God gave me the desire, for all people to have a relationship with God, just as I had. God, gave me that desire; but the church I had been brought up in, it was Calvinist. So there, I had been taught God only chose to save a few and God chose for the rest, to go to hell. And in that same church, I had already been falsely taught to believe, that my church teachings and all I heard from our pulpit, that such as that, was one and the same as my hearing such from God. It wasn’t; but back then, I didn’t know that and believed such. Just so glad now, that a few years ago now, God showed and taught me better. :-) God showed me that, as God showed me, that Jesus Christ is truly the Savior of the whole world. :-)

  • RonnyTX

    Jesuswithoutthebaggage to Tim:
    I have not read it, but I can guess the argument from the title. I like the idea, however I don’t think God will force anyone to accept eternal life if they object.

    Ronny to Jesuswithoutthe baggage:
    One beauty of all of this, is that no one will object. :-)

  • Ron McPherson

    Totally agree. A friend of mine said he used to go to a very conservative church where the unspoken culture was “bring your bibles but leave your problems at home”

  • Guy, I totally agree!

  • Some folks in my life have been encouraging me to be more open with the public about some of my faith struggles and my current journey. I’ve always tried to be really open and authentic, but admittedly have been a bit more withdrawn and private in recent months. But from their prodding, I’ll be opening up a bit more in the blog in hopes of encouraging others who are going through similar faith struggles.

  • davewarnock

    I have heard all those arguments; and even used them when I was a Christian. It’s a noble effort to try to make Jesus out to be nicer than he was. He not only used the words Gehenna, etc., but he also mentions “eternal punishment”, “outer darkness”, “fiery furnace”, and so on.

    There are too many places in the NT where Jesus is purported to have talked in different terms about the concept of the righteous being eternally rewarded and the wicked being eternally punished.

    IMO, I don’t find it intellectually honest to attribute all of them to poor translations. We’ve tried to clean up the language of the NT, but it’s just too much of a mess.

    No, thanks.

  • davewarnock

    I too know of non-toxic churches, and I celebrate them. I even spoke at one recently.

  • PaulWilkinson

    You were my last hope.

  • PinkyAndNoBrain

    I’ve never heard someone put it like that before. This is one of the reasons I almost lost my faith — I spent so much time with all of those people, to the point where I thought anyone who wasn’t like that couldn’t be a Christian. I wasn’t CALLED an antichrist, but there was a lot of praying that I would be saved from Satan’s influence. We were literally told that if we aren’t hated then we’re doing something wrong.

    It took people like Ben and this amazing comments section to let me realize that maybe it’s okay to be Christian and still believe in evolution, the rights (and rightNESS) of the LGBT+, and all that. But this comment gave me chills because there are so, so many people I know who think like that, and they’re so convincing because they’re so convinced, and so unbothered by it.

  • PinkyAndNoBrain

    Commenting again because I struggled with both of those as well. The soul mate thing tends to assume that God will lead that person to you, but it’s still up to you to recognize them as such and not have already chosen someone else, or not want them for whatever reason. I was a nervous wreck over that one as well.

    Ditto for anything distracting from God; I couldn’t watch TV for a while because I thought I should be reading my Bible.

  • PinkyAndNoBrain

    Have you read Ben’s series on Jesus and the atonement? Not saying it’ll convince you, but he has some pretty fascinating thoughts on it.

  • jekylldoc

    Ronny – I am butting in a bit here. I think there are lots of complications in trying to put together a picture of what Jesus taught. It seems pretty likely that he was a fairly extreme rabbi, but also well-loved and deeply inspiring. In the end, that part won out.

    Rather than protect the traditional view of Biblical authority, I prefer skipping to the part where the Holy Spirit convicts me of my lack of love, using the Bible or not. If I can be the means of grace to some others in my life, I will feel I have done well, and followed Jesus.

  • Calvin: They say the world is a stage. But obviously the play is unrehearsed and everybody is ad-libbing his lines.

    Hobbes: Maybe that’s why it’s hard to tell if we’re living in a tragedy or a farce.

    Calvin: We need more special effects and dance numbers.

  • Tim

    Ah, but it isn’t about forcing. I’d highly recommend you read the book.

  • Tim

    Ah, but it’s not about forcing. I highly recommend you read the book. Another good one along similar lines might be God’s Final Victory, by Kronen and Reitan.

  • Realist1234

    My point is God the Son coming to earth and sacrificing Himself is the ultimate and final revelation of God’s mercy and love (Jesus’ parable of the vineyard shows this). To reject Him is rejecting that ultimate show of mercy and love. ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. Noone goes to the Father except by Me. If you know me, you would know the Father’.

    Jesus also said, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.”

  • Tim Boone

    Dave, if you look to the Bible as a collection of inspired poems and letters and stories….not a legal constitution…. and use an interlinear bible so that you can make your own decisions re translation, I believe you will find it as useful. Very different than what is so often preached but perhaps helpful in your journey

  • “Milquetoast Christian” is another common epithet, to the point that anyone using the word “milquetoast” automatically makes me think they’re a conservative Christian bigot. I rarely hear the word used by anyone else.
    Fred Clark and his comment section did it for me, helped a great deal with the healing process. I’m unlikely to regain my Christian faith, though. It’s just too badly damaged to recover; I can’t unlearn what I’ve learned. I have faith, but it’s a quieter sort nowadays, full of irony and exasperated optimism.

  • Ron McPherson

    So did Hobbes truly come alive when alone with Calvin or was it all just Calvin’s imagination? I’ve always argued for the former

  • RonnyTX

    It’s funny to me that everyone who ascribes to the Calvinist doctrine believes they are one of the chosen ones.

    Ronny to Dave:
    Dave, the Calvinist side has somethings right and somethings wrong; but then, so does the Arminian/free will side. And as I’ve said, I was Calvinist till around 7 years ago; but that, simply because I was brought up in a Calvinistic teaching church, from the time I was born. Then I was born of God, when I was 16 years old and from that, I knew I was one of the chosen ones. But in saving me, God gave me the desire, that every last person have a relationship with God/Jesus Christ, as I then had. But my church taught and said, such was not possible. Well, I got a number of things from my local Calvinist teaching church and some of those things were right and some were wrong. And I can see, where the same would of been true, if I’d grown up in an Arminian/freewill church. For as God has shown and taught me later in life, both of those sides have somethings right and somethings wrong. But one of the main things God has taught me and that has helped me so much, is that I’m to simply believe and follow God/Jesus Christ. And if I don’t understand something and really want to, then I am to simply ask God to guide me and show me, as I read the scriptures. In other words, I am to depend on God and not preachers and teachers. I am to follow God/Jesus Christ and not be a preacher/teacher follower. Now it’s fine and good, to listen to such people. For God has used such people, to help me a lot. :-) But what I’m saying is, we should never listen to and follow a preacher or teacher, as if that person was God/Jesus Christ. And from what I’ve seen of some people, they surely believe and teach, that you should believe and follow them, as if they and their word, was always the same as what God/Jesus Christ says. And just want to add on, it’s much better to listen to someone, who can say I’m not sure on this or that. Better to listen to someone who has that humility, as opposed to someone who thinks every word they say, has to be the same as you hearing such, straight from God.

  • Ron McPherson

    Ok but I’m gonna be pissed if your next post opens up with “Confession: I think I’m Becoming a King James Onlyist”

  • RonnyTX

    “…but that maybe God is so loving he chooses everybody…”

    “Now try explaining to others that this also means that he also included people like Hitler, Stalin, Idi Amin, Osama Bin Laden and a whole lot of other people we, as a people, loathe. You will get burned.
    Its what I allways found when I tried to explain to others what I believe Jesus death means to us. It hard for all of us to understand that God is love.”

    Ronny to Gerloff:
    It may be hard for some to understand; but it is so great to know, that God/Jesus Christ is love! :-) And all those people you mention, well, Jesus Christ was on the cross for them as well, there taking their sins upon himself. He was there for them, just as he was there, for me and you. So that shows us, just how much God/Jesus Christ loves us, one and all and not a one of us, left out! :-)

  • RonnyTX

    You should consider the Wesleyan tribe (although there are some Arminian Calvanists). I would recommend Randy Maddox’s “Responsible Grace” for an excellent Wesleyan theology.

    Ronny to GaryBT:
    Wow, this is the first time, I’ve heard the term Arminian Calvinist! :-) Just wondering what you mean by that? And well, thinking I may be such, in belief? Why? Well, because I agree with both the Arminians and Calvinists, on somethings; but just as surely, I also disagree with both sides, on some things.

  • davewarnock

    Indeed. The Bible being the complex mess it is, it’s hard to get a clear picture of much of anything it’s saying. I tend to agree with your sentiments, it’s just that I no longer ascribe the altruistic things I do to the prompting of the Holy Spirit- as I don’t think anything like that exists. I used to, but not anymore.

    As far as following Jesus, it would seem to me we’re talking about the kinder and lovelier aspects of humans- and following that insofar as the Jesus we are aware of modeled it. Love and kindness did not originate with the Jesus character.

    Other than all that- we agree completely! You are a good person. Cheers.

  • RonnyTX

    Al Cruise:
    Calvinism [5 point] at its core is not based on love and therefore is alien to the true nature of God. Interesting how the proponents of it always feel “they” are definitely elect. Maybe they worried about their own salvation and need something to convince themselves they are special. ie The Gospel Coalition of today.

    Ronny to Al:
    I would agree with you, that 5 point Calvinism, is not based on love. But then, I would have to say the same, about full blown Arminianism/free willism. The following article, takes around 5 minutes to read and explains it the best, as to why I said the above, about both Calvinism and Arminianism.

  • Al Cruise

    I agree with you.

  • RonnyTX

    DaveW to ASam:
    It’s very possible that the Paul who wrote those words was seriously deluded. And the pastor who wrote the above is delusional on steroids. I’m so glad to be done with Christianity, and free from the mental gymnastics required to make the Bible make sense.

    Ronny to DaveW:
    Actually Dave, Paul the apostle wrote a lot, about the salvation of all people and or what some call, universal salvation. :-) Just one example below.

    “20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. 21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. 24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. 25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. 27 For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. 28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” 1 Corinthians 15:20,28

    So as Paul puts it, we all died in Adam; but just as surely he says, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. And he goes on to tell us, that the last enemy Jesus Christ is going to destroy, is death. Well, when death is destroyed, then all that is left, is life! :-) But then both the Calvinist and Arminian side say and teach, the death is going to last forever, for a good number of people. For their teaching is, many will be eternally dead, in hell.

  • GaryBT

    Jacob Arminius was an early Reformed Theologian whose thinking on free will was generally rejected by his church. John Wesley championed his cause. There is at least one Baptist Theologian on Patheos who is Arminian but I am not sure of his name at the moment.

  • RonnyTX

    Jekylldoc to Ronny:
    Ronny – I am butting in a bit here. I think there are lots of complications in trying to put together a picture of what Jesus taught. It seems pretty likely that he was a fairly extreme rabbi, but also well-loved and deeply inspiring. In the end, that part won out.

    Rather than protect the traditional view of Biblical authority, I prefer skipping to the part where the Holy Spirit convicts me of my lack of love, using the Bible or not. If I can be the means of grace to some others in my life, I will feel I have done well, and followed Jesus.

    Ronny to Jekylldoc:
    Feel free to butt in, all you want to. :-) I sure do, as I go about posting! :-)

    And I may very well not understand fully, somethings you say here; but I agree with you completely, that anyone has done well, if they simply follow Jesus Christ! :-) We do need to follow his example and love all others, as he loved. And I know some want like that, because loving all people, is sure not easy! But Jesus Christ never told me to follow the easy way, instead, what I am to do, is simply follow him.

  • Tim

    Not sure why my other further comments aren’t showing up here. Anyway; not to try to belabor the point too much, but I came across a really good article today on our tastes and how and why they change over time. It’s a really long article, but the ideas in the first 1/4 to half of it (it’s really long) really do a great job of expressing many of the reasons why I’m not convinced that even the most ardent people cannot resist the change into what we’re meant to be forever. Probably in a lot less time than that!

  • davewarnock

    Yes, both sides support their position with scripture. As I have long said, you can make the Bible say anything you want it to say.

    I was a Christian for over 30 years, and a minister for much of that time. I used to believe the Bible was inspired by God. I now see it as a collection of writings by superstitious people over an extended period of time. It has some value as metaphor for life lessons and wisdom- but nothing more, IMO.

  • I would like to read it, Tim. But my current reading list is very long.

  • Agreed!

  • “The question that Paul says we should not ask [in Romans 9] is precisely the one that you are asking”

    Really? You were asking why there were so few Jewish converts and so many Gentile converts in light of the fact that the Jewish people have the promises, oracles, and covenants?

    That is a weird coincidence.

  • GaryBT, in case you are not aware. Freewill Baptists and General Baptists are Arminian, and their roots are older than Calvinistic Baptists.

  • Tim, I am not sure where your comments are either. You made an additional comment on Talbott’s book, and I replied that I would like to read it but my current reading list is very long. I don’t see my comment either.

    I will read the article, but it might not be right away. Thanks for sharing it with me.

  • Realist1234

    I agree that limited atonement can be seen as logically consistent with penal substitution. But Im not sure we can always just talk about ‘logic’ when it comes to the death of Jesus on the cross, simply viewing it as A + B = C. As Ive said before, there is a deep mystery surrounding the death of Christ, and whilst I tend to view the idea of penal substitution to be central to it, I also accept it is not the be all and end all to that mystery. The late I Howard Marshall, who believed in penal substitution, did not accept limited atonement, but rather viewed the death of Jesus as providing the means by which anyone can be saved, but that personal salvation depends on us accepting God’s offer of life. My (bad) analogy would be Jesus is the bridge between me and God, but I still have to walk across that toll-free bridge.

    In some sense, Jesus ‘became sin’ when He hung on the cross, attracting the wrath of God on His person, but at the same time He was offering His righteousness in exchange for our own unrighteousness. But we have to accept that offer.

    Perhaps I have been overly critical previously of other views of the death of Jesus, for which I apologise. I am content to leave it as a mystery, but continue to have my own views, based on my understanding of Jesus’ own words and the rest of the NT.

    But, as for Universalism, I simply cannot find any scriptural support for that view. Im not saying there are not one or two verses that may give some credence to it, but given the overall teaching of the NT, particularly from Jesus Himself, then I must reject it. In believing it, effectively you are saying it ultimately doesnt matter whether you follow Jesus or reject Him this side of death, God will eventually ‘save’ you, even if it is still through Jesus. Sorry, but I find that position unsupportable.

    As for ‘hell’, I agree that rather than conscious eternal torment, those not ‘saved’ will be ‘destroyed’ and cease to exist is a possibility. But if that is reality, it will follow from real judgement.

  • Realist1234

    I would only say that God knows everyone’s heart, and whatever the outcome, it will be just and right and good, and no human will be able to say ‘that’s not fair’. John said “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” Of course how we understand ‘having the Son’ is open to debate, but I think to rely on or hope for a post-mortem offer of salvation is foolish. Im not saying it is impossible, but rather I see no real evidence of that possibility from Jesus’ own words or the rest of the NT. But as I said, whatever happens to an individual, it will be ‘right’.

  • Guy Norred

    I recently have found myself kind of anti-“Jesus Loves Me” (the children’s song–I am convinced I am loved). Predicating this love on the fact that “the Bible tells me so” is the beginning of much Bibliolotry and can lead to a great deal of pain if and when the Bible tells me that Jesus doesn’t love me. I have gone through similar bouts with “Amazing Grace” and, of course, Paul, and may yet find myself turning to “Jesus Loves Me” with new eyes, as I have with these others but for now, for me, it is out of the Canon. (not that I think anyone has considered it a part but I am more than a little anti-“closed Canon” as well)

  • Guy Norred

    LOL! The first person I ever heard use the word was my agnostic husband, and this was simply to disparage the looks of a friend as rather plain (who to be frank, I think is rather handsome). He had nearly no background in truly conservative Christianity before meeting me. I remember for a while he decided to listen to conservative Christian radio and would constantly bring something he heard to my attention with a “Can you believe they said this?”. I always could.

  • Guy Norred

    Paul says that in this life none of us has a completely clear picture of God, but that one day we will. Would it be just of God to hold it against those who in this life were never able to find the image of God that those who have accepted this gift in this life have been able to find? I fully expect that when we see everything there will be some surprises for each of us, but if God is prankster who likes gotcha moments, that would be one for me.

  • Nimblewill

    I’ve been working this out for several years now and have come to the exact same conclusion. My wife and I just had a huge blowup over it. I cannot be honest about this where I am. It would ruin my influence-testimony-reputation.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    The parable of the vinyard is about Israel, so I can’t see the relevance.
    What Jesus says in John 14:6 is actually “No-one comes to the father except through me.” and it is in answer to Thomas’ question about how the disciples will find Jesus again, not how one reaches the Father. It basically says the opposite of what you seem to think it says, saying that anyone who seeks and finds the Father will also inevitability find Jesus on the way, not that Jesus blocks the way to the Father for anyone who doesn’t follow him.
    In your second quote this refers to someone presently in opposition to Jesus: it gives no indication that there is any time limit on repentance, as you seem to imply. (I looked up the Greek and it uses a present participle which apparently signifies continuing action, not a single act of opposition.)

  • James

    Practice freewill and become an atheist – then you can convert back just to show the Calvinists they’re nuts. Just kidding, of course.

  • Molly Griffith

    Truly good news! Yes.

  • Like so much else that’s theological & speculative nobody really knows! ☆~<]°●》

  • bridgett
  • Realist1234

    Yes the parable was directed towards Israel, but the point I was making was that the Son was the final revelation from God, and Israel as a whole rejected Him. However, it would be unreasonable to insist that that is irrelevant to all believers or non-believers. The Son has come and revealed Himself to all, Israel and then the Gentiles, and still it appears the majority of the world continues to reject Him.

    Re “I am the way,…” Jesus is not ‘on the way’ He is the Way (to God)! He clearly is talking about being the way to God the Father and welcoming his followers into His Father’s and His presence (preparing a place for them). He is saying precisely what I said He is saying. I do not see how you can think otherwise.

    Re John’s quote, he is saying if one continues to reject the Son, they will not see life. This implies, by stating it as the only alternative to having eternal life through the Son, that there will be at least some people who ‘will not see life’. Otherwise why state the alternative if in reality that alternative does not exist, because all will ultimately ‘see life’? There is no indication at all that everyone will be given all eternity to repent and bend the knee to Jesus. That is just wishful thinking Im afraid. A significant number of Christians do not believe that one is even ‘conscious’ after death, but rather one awakens on the resurrection day. It is a debatable point, but if true it would be a further nail in the coffin, as it were, of universalism.

    And that idea, that all will be saved, simply contradicts so much of what Jesus said. If ultimately everyone is saved through Jesus, why did He give so many warnings about not accepting Him?

    I certainly think that many people are looking for some sort of spiritual reality, which explains why there are so many religions in the world. But is that not one of the raison d’etres of the church, to point people to the true reality in Jesus of Nazareth, rather than false beliefs in unreal gods and ‘spiritual realities’ which simply do not exist?

  • Donniemcleod17

    I can not believe that a loving God would reward Christian leaders supporting Donald Trump, a narcissist, as President. You might hate Clinton but Trump is deadly.

  • Huh?

  • PinkyAndNoBrain

    “Irony and exasperated optimism” is an emotion I’d like to see associated with faith more often. It’s a much healthier place to be.

  • Donniemcleod17

    Well you imply this Calvinist God of yours gives everyone a chance to be loved. How can a Donald Trump Christian supporter, especially a preacher, ever redeem themselves for believing a habitual liar is good for Christianity. Clinton at least will reduce ignorance and misery so lengthen life spans. I appreciate you, as a Christian, find this appaling.

  • Mine is a faith that says, quite explicitly, “This is ridiculous. It’s absurd, unrealistic, and almost certainly whimsy at its finest, but screw it — what have we got to lose?”

  • Pretty much all of Romans 9 irritates me to no end, but I take special exception for the verse about God hating Esau. Esau got a bum rap.

  • Ron McPherson

    Yes Ben. When Calvin wrote of ‘election’ he definitely had in mind the 2016 presidential ‘election.’ Good grief. Do we have to spell it out for you? Sheesh

  • Iain Lovejoy

    Re “I am the way … ” etc – As I said you have to read the previous verse. Jesus is not answering the question “How do we the find the Father?” by saying “You can’t unless you go through me.” but is answering the question “How will we find you? [Jesus]” And answering it by saying “I am the way to God, seek the way to God and you will find me also; I am the truth, seek the truth and you will find me also, I am the light of God, seek the light and you will find me also.”
    “Re John’s quote, he is saying if one continues to reject the Son, they will not see life. This implies, by stating it as the only alternative to having eternal life through the Son, that there will be at least some people who ‘will not see life’.”
    “Anyone driving south will not reach Canada.”
    Where is there the implication that some people will never stop driving south?
    “There is no indication at all that everyone will be given all eternity to repent and bend the knee to Jesus.”
    Phillippians 2: 9-11: “For this reason God has lifted him high, and given him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven, on the earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

  • Tim

    Hmm; Weird. Must’ve been a hiccup with the system.

  • Tracy

    Isn’t that where faith comes in? None of us, even those who ‘see’ God clearly, see him clearly. We all have a distorted view of God. Every single one of us. We lack the ability to understand him this side of death. We each have glimpses of what God is like, and we put our worldviews and interpretation on that perhaps? There seems an urgency in scripture to put your faith in Christ TODAY. Not wait until we die. While it’s a nice thought that all might be saved, I haven’t come to that point yet where i clearly see that in scripture.

  • MurrayBaker

    I’m with you Matthew – if this is a serious post Stan needs to learn to write for the masses:)

  • Tracy

    can I ask how you would explain this refining process? What would God do to those people, and where does free will and the fullness of sin come into the equation…… just wondering as i have heard it said several times about a type of purgatory process……but what does that look like to you? Would discipline be enough to turn someone to love the one who is disciplining – or make them hate him even more I wonder…

  • Wait, hold the phone – are you actually saying that your objection to Universalism is that God can’t love Trump supporters?

  • cipher

    If that’s one of the worst things you’ve heard, take a look at this:

    Piper wrote it in response to Thomas Talbott, the evangelical universalist. He ends with this:

    I have three sons. Every night after they are asleep I turn on the hall light, open their bedroom door, and walk from bed to bed, laying my hands on them and praying. Often I am moved to tears of joy and longing…

    But I am not ignorant that God may not have chosen my sons for his sons. And, though I think I would give my life for their salvation, if they should be lost to me, I would not rail against the Almighty. He is God. I am but a man. The potter has absolute rights over the clay. Mine is to bow before his unimpeachable character and believe that the Judge of all the earth has ever and always will do right.

    In other words, if God wants to send his kids to hell, he’s okay with it.

    This is who they are. The Calvinists (along with the Dominionists) are the evangelical subculture now. They’ve taken over the franchise.

    I’ll leave you with one more:

    In heaven, glorifying God and thanking him for everything will always absorb us. All our love for and joy in others who are with us in heaven will spring from their doing the same, and love and pity for hell’s occupants will not enter our hearts. Their hell will not veto our heaven.

    Granted, this sounds to us more like hard-heartedness than Christlikeness, yet Christlikeness is precisely what it will be. Our difficulty is that we cannot now conceive the heavenly condition in a full way.

    For me, these statements, and others like them, define and epitomize evangelicalism. This is what an evangelical is. People like Piper, Packer and the above-referenced pastor aren’t the exception; they are, collectively, the rule.

  • Donniemcleod17

    Yes, Donald Trump’s Christian supporters are empowering a liar. I appreciate they want him to use vilolence to impose God’s will. Vilolence is often seen as better way to do this. Thoughtful discourse is hard work. In the end violence shortens life spans of innocents. God must know this.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    I would have to agree that tje idea of a transforming / refining hell makes no kind of sense if we envision it as a deliberate torture inflicted by God to force people into submission.
    The concept relies on a different (but very ancient) concept of the pains of hell as being self-inflicted by sin (as often is the consequence of sin in life). (I have seen this described memorably as “passive-aggressive hell”.)
    Ideas of why such transformation might be painful are:
    – Someone who dies in sin may be clinging on to the world and life although dead and continue to experience the pain of death because they will not let go.
    – Separation from God may itself be experienced as pain
    – Without the world and flesh to distract one, there is the pain of being constantly and unflinchingly presented with one’s own sin.
    – A transformation of the soul into a new creation must surely be painful if one fights it and clings on to the sinful self.
    – The Eastern Orthodox church conceives heaven and hell as basically the same place: the light and glory of God is bliss to those who are sinless and respond in love, searing fire to the sinful who fight God and resist letting go of their sin.

  • Well, sure, but it’s one thing to point out someone’s wrongdoing and another thing altogether to say that puts them outside the reach of God’s love.

    I don’t think Christians should support Donald Trump, either, but declaring that God cannot love them because of it seems pretty extreme. Where’s your evidence for this claim?

  • Which makes me wonder, why would any Calvinist have kids if there is a danger that the children won’t be elect?

  • Donniemcleod17

    The Ten Commandments are pretty clear to avoid people who bear false witness because they are either narcissists, like Donald Trump, or a psychopath, like Ted Cruz.

  • cipher

    Someone else asked me this recently recently. I imagine they think it’s their divinely ordained duty to reproduce, plus societal pressure to have kids, and hang the consequences.

    Beyond that – who knows what they think? I don’t even understand why conservative Christians are opposed to abortion. They think the fetus is endowed with an immortal soul that goes straight to heaven. On the other hand, if it were brought to term and lived to adulthood, the chances are overwhelming that it would end up in hell. It would appear that in terms of sheer number, abortion clinics are better at getting souls into heaven than Jesus is.

    People rarely consider the logical extensions of their beliefs.

    (If you’re a Christian and this offends you, my apologies. I’m aware this is a Christian blog.)

  • And yet, God still loves people who break the Ten Commandments.

  • Phleb

    “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.”
    -Deut 7:6

    He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
    -Matt 15:24

    Seems like God chooses some children over others, often.

  • Donniemcleod17

    I can see him loving a narcissist like Donald Trump but not loving the gullible people who support him. They have the God given cognitive powers to recognize a God given narcissist like Donald Trump.

  • Ok, well, you’re entitled to your opinion, but I’d encourage you to stay out of the ministry, because we really don’t need anyone else drawing arbitrary lines between whom God does and doesn’t love.

  • Good, thoughtful and perfect for these times. I’m with you. The TULIP model always bothered me — but not all of it. I think you have it figured out!

  • Donniemcleod17

    I have decided to be an anti-theist until God strikes dead a narcissist, like Donald Tump, or a psychopath, like Ted Cruz, for manipulating ignorant Christians.

    I have rattled a few Christians enough to question their faith.

  • Heh. Ok.

  • Donniemcleod17

    Ten years ago Christians had trusted status. Today they are commonly viewed as dangerous paranoid losers.

  • Brenda McCaskill

    Calvinist thinking or not, many are called but few are chosen. Some refuse to go “through” the process of sanctification.

  • James

    And you think the alternative is Clinton? I got news for you my friend Clinton must not get into office or the damage that Obama has done will continue but only much worse. The gaping wound our current administration has caused will continue to get much bigger if she gets into office so no Trump might not be the best candadite but he’s the lesser of the 2 evils and much much better to run the White House then Hillary.

  • James

    Um hope for what?

  • James

    Would a loving God force anyone to come into His home if they don’t want to(aka atheists,etc)? Answer that one!!!

  • Donniemcleod17

    For the economy Obama has done very well despite what Fox News tells you and how disruptive the GOP has been to undermine Obama. Clinton will also do a good job. You may never know.

  • James

    If you honestly believe that I have ocean front property in Montana to sell you?

  • Donniemcleod17

    If the property is 66.6 meters above sea level today it will be ocean front property within this century thanks to people like you.

  • James

    Spoken like a true far left liberal. Problem is that your ilk are what’s wrong with our society in this country we call America. Delusions of Grandeur and PC liberalism has become a cancer to America thanks to people like you.

    I suggest taking off that veil that blinds you,get right with God and do something about this otherwise you’re delusions will cloud your judgement and it will lead to all sorts of bad things.

  • Donniemcleod17

    When I die and God, if he is real, asks me what was the best thing I did I will tell him trying to get you to inquire.

  • James

    If that’s the best thing you done then I feel sorry for you!

  • Quartermaster

    having read Calvin’s “Institutes” there is a great deal wrong with it from a biblical perspective. I have found I can’t be an “any point” Calvinist as there are serious problems with each point. There is a good reason Universalism is a common heresy of Calvinism.

  • Donniemcleod17

    You are running scared so hurting yourself.

    The sound of a driven leaf shall put them to flight, and they shall flee as one flees from the sword, and they shall fall when none pursues. They shall stumble over one another, as if to escape a sword, though none pursues; and you shall have no power to stand before your enemies
    Leviticus 26: 36-37

  • James

    Oh man I’m done talking to you. Talking to someone that is deluded is like talking to a brick wall.

  • Donniemcleod17

    I have the advantage. Your patterned behaviour is proof we evolved from plankton eating fish. The quote fom the Bible shows this patterned behaviour is a weakness. You prefer our sub human thinking process that has you resolute that a leaf is a predator fish. I don’t trust that thinking process. I prefer the other one. The thinking process that is proof we progressed beyond monkeys. It allows us to confront threats, as this Bible quote suggests is preferable.

  • Paul Bruggink

    His name is Roger E. Olson, and his excellent blog can be found at

  • Paul Bruggink

    Roger E. Olson is also the author of several books on Arminianism, including “Against Calvinism” (Zondervan, 2011).

  • Sarah

    Goddess (or God, if you prefer- I think it has no gender) is definitely
    pure love. And in pure love nothing less can exist, so for me, it’s a
    no-brainer that everything that extends (or is created) from pure love
    is pure love. Perhaps we as humans on our little plane of existence
    which is (by necessity?) a binary existence, cannot (typically) see that
    pure love in each and every thing (I certainly strive to), but it’s
    still pure love. I’ve never been able to wrap my head around a divinity
    that would intentionally punish and torture that which it created.

    I love Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet”. In it, he speaks on good and evil:

    An excerpt:
    “In your longing for your giant self lies your goodness: and that longing is in all of you.

    But in some of you that longing is a torrent rushing with might to the
    sea, carrying the secrets of the hillsides and the songs of the forest.

    And in others it is a flat stream that loses itself in angles and bends and lingers before it reaches the shore.
    But let not him who longs much say to him who longs little, “Wherefore are you slow and halting?”

    For the truly good ask not the naked, “Where is your garment?” nor the houseless, “What has befallen your house?””

  • Amtep

    The beauty of Calvinism is that God has decided at the beginning of time whether or not you will be a Calvinist.

  • John

    So, basically, you let your heart guide you instead of the Word of God. I would respond with Jeremiah 17:9,

    “The heart is more deceitful than all else
    And is desperately sick;
    Who can understand it?”

    Personally, I think molinism has the best of both worlds. It preserves the total sovereignty of God while also allowing total individual free will to choose God.

  • MrYowza07 .

    I’m hearing you Benjamin.

  • simplymagic

    Yes, that’s why there are so few holding public office, amoung the elites, and generally in powerful positions in the Western world… oh wait.

    Kidding aside, yeah, Christianity has some well-earned baggage these days. But “dangerous paranoid losers” is a pretty brash statement coming from someone who spends their time haunting the combox pining for God to “strike dead” politicians they don’t like.

  • John Orlando


    Your story sounds similar to mine in some ways. I was
    extremely hostile to Calvinism, until I found myself drawn “irresistibly” to it
    in 1999. My life hasn’t been the same sense—the Reformed faith has had an
    immensely positive impact.

    A couple of things became apparent as I read your article.
    First, I like the way you try to simplify things. However, one downside is that
    your articulation of what is actually taught is not quite accurate. For
    example, with regard to the “I”, you can certainly say that God relentlessly
    pursues His people until they come. However, the emphasis in the I is on the
    saving, omnipotent power of God’s grace in raising spiritually dead sinners to
    spiritual life. So, it teaches at the moment that God determines to bring about
    spiritual rebirth, He never fails to do it. He grace is effectual (i.e., it
    works and accomplishes what He sets out to accomplish). So, the correct
    understanding of I is that the Holy Spirit, at the moment of His choosing,
    powerful raises spiritually dead sinners to spiritual life, renewing their
    wills and enabling to freely embrace Christ.

    This lead to a discussion of 2 of the points that you say you detest: Totally depravity, and limited atonement. The reason the U and the I are necessary is because man is totally depraved. What this means is not that he is a evil as he could possibly be, nor that he possesses no virtue whatsoever from a purely human perspective. What it means is that sin has corrupted the entirety of man’s nature: his mind, his will, his emotions—the effects of the fall and it’s corruption on the human heart is total. There isn’t an aspect of his nature that man, in his
    pride, can point to and say, “well, that part has not been corrupted.” This
    doesn’t mean that man has lost the ability to make choices. Quite the contrary—he most certainly does! The problem is that his “willer” is tied to and directed by his heart, which as been corrupted by sin. Thus, man does desire the things of God in an ultimate sense. He will not and cannot incline himself to
    spiritual good and “choose” Christ. He cannot come to Christ apart from
    regenerating grace. Thus, this is the reason the I is necessary. Man must first
    be given a new nature so that he can comply with the Gospel commands to repent and believe the Gospel—which are spiritual acts.

    This leads the L. Christ didn’t just make salvation possible—He
    actually it accomplished by securing and guaranteeing the salvation of everyone
    for whom He made atonement (i.e., all that the Father gave Him before the
    foundation of the world, hence the connection to the U, and perfect consistency
    in the eternal, Trinitarian plan of redemption). The choices are between an
    actual atonement that actually saves, or a hypothetical atonement that saves no
    one in and of itself.

    As for the word “limited”, everyone who does not believe that every single person who ever has or will be saved “limits” the atonement. Either it is limited in its extent, or in its power. The Arminian limits the power of the atonement by divesting it of any and all inherit power on its own to save. This is why classic Arminians do not say that Christ’s death paid our
    penalty—if He did, then there’s no penalty left to be paid. Nor do they say it
    is substitutionary. It can’t be, for if Christ truly atoned for someone—truly satisfied the wrath of God for them and actually (not hypothetically or potentially)
    reconciled and redeemed them, then it is impossible for those things not to be
    applied to them.

    The Calvinist affirms the omnipotent power of the atonement to
    save in and of itself every single person that it was intended to save, hence it limits the scope and design of it to the sheep that Christ laid down His life for (John 10). The true limitation here, then, that is truly lamentable is the one that would rob the cross of all of its intrinsic power to save. Thus, Spurgeon puts it well, “[Calvinists] are often told that we limit the atonement of Christ, because we say that Christ has not made a satisfaction for all men, or all men would be saved. Now, our reply to this is, that, on the other hand, our opponents limit it: we do not. The Arminians say, Christ died for all men. Ask them what they mean by it. Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of all men? They say, “No, certainly not.” We ask them the next question—Did Christ die so as to secure the
    salvation of any man in particular? They answer “No.” They are obliged to admit
    this, if they are consistent. They say, “No; Christ has died that any man may
    be saved if”—and then follow certain conditions of salvation. We say, then, we
    will go back to the old statement—Christ did not die so as beyond a doubt to
    secure the salvation of anybody, did He? You must say “No;” you are obliged to
    say so, for you believe that even after a man has been pardoned, he may yet
    fall from grace, and perish. Now, who is it that limits the death of Christ?
    Why, you. You say that Christ did not die so as to infallibly secure the
    salvation of anybody. We beg your pardon, when you say we limit Christ’s death;
    we say, “No, my dear sir, it is you that do it.” We say Christ so died that He
    infallibly secured the salvation of a multitude that no man can number, who
    through Christ’s death not only may be saved but are saved, must be saved, and
    cannot by any possibility run the hazard of being anything but saved. You are welcome to your atonement; you may keep it. We will never renounce ours for the sake of it.” (see full quote here:

    The objection would then be, “well, all of the benefits are theirs if they believe.” But, Christ’s atonement not only purchased them individually, but also every spiritual blessing and benefit of the Gospel, to include our ability to believe—the new heart that is given to us in the new covenant (which was purchased in Christ’s blood). Hence, as one theologian puts it,“It isn’t the cross plus my converted heart that equals salvation; rather, it is the cross that gives me a converted heart and therefore salvation.”

    Finally, you lamented the fact that Calvinism
    teaches that God selects people to go to hell. That is not an accurate
    assessment of what historic, biblical Calvinism teaches. We teach that election
    is unto salvation, not damnation. Those that are not elect in Christ are passed
    by and left in their sinful state to endure the justice of God. This is called
    reprobation. So, when we speak of double predestination, it’s important to keep
    in mind the distinction between election (which is God’s active choosing of a multitude of hell deserving sinners unto salvation in Christ), and reprobation (God’s passing by those not elect in Christ and leaving them in their state of sinful rebellion and hatred of God).

    The choice then is really between a God who
    actually decrees and accomplishes His plan of redemption, or one who seeks to
    save, but leaves it all up to the power of the man. The Calvinist casts his lot
    with the wisdom and omnipotent grace of God, and the assurance that it brings,
    that our salvation from beginning to end is the work of God that cannot
    possibly fail precisely because He is God.

  • Ron McPherson


    First of all, I think Ben wrote this as somewhat tongue in cheek in the sense of Christian Universalism being a type of reverse Calvinism. And I’ll admit I personally lean towards a view that would be more Calvinist than Arminian. However, I struggle with double predestination. You wrote (and this is not meant to be taken as criticism)

    “We teach that election
    is unto salvation, not damnation. Those that are not elect in Christ are passed
    by and left in their sinful state to endure the justice of God. ”

    Critics of Calvinism see this view as severely lacking. In other words, they see it as a semantic copout. If God is truly sovereign, then He possesses the power to prohibit every soul from suffering eternal damnation. To just say that He leaves one in “their sinful state to endure” His justice necessarily means He “selects people to go to hell.” That is, if God possesses the power to save who He will, then inaction to do it must equate to the selection of some to be damned.

    Again, I hope I don’t come across as argumentative. Just saying that such a viewpoint is less than persuasive.

    Peace brother

  • PinkyAndNoBrain

    I feel in many ways that this is a more honest faith than a lot of people’s. People act like anything less than 100% certainty is akin to pure atheism.

  • That’s because their faith doesn’t allow for uncertainty. Uncertainty is death, therefore nothing is allowed to be questioned unless one is willing to accept the answer immediately, with a minimum of fuss, regardless of how flimsy or unpleasant it seems. If a person asks about all the children killed in the Flood, they must accept that God knew that each and every one of them would grow up to be evil, and they must accept that God killing thousands of newborns and toddlers and preteens is not only righteous, but good and praiseworthy, because God was the one who did it and God will punish anyone who doesn’t accept it as the truth.

    Small wonder so many people lose their faith. It’s either that or go quietly insane, purposefully sociopathic, to stem the hurt. It’s all built upon a house of cards in a drafty room and one can either let it collapse or turn around and pretend it’s as solid as granite reinforced with high-entropy alloy rebar and wurtzite boron nitride particles, silencing anyone who points out the mess of cards behind them. Nigh-every person doubts their faith at one point or another, but authoritarians aren’t allowed to acknowledge it.

    Me, I went through Hell and came out the other side. I’ve handled the venomous snake that is Truth and I looked on Paradise a few years back for it, but I still have to accept that what I “know” could as easily be delusion, wishful fabrication, hallucination, or maybe just me being too human to understand it. I look at my house of cards and occasionally it still falls over, but the insidious thing is that I never remember how it gets put back together, I just know it’s built better every time I see it.

  • PinkyAndNoBrain

    Damn, that’s an impressive bit of writing. No sarcasm, do you have a blog to subscribe to?

    The sheer arrogance of people who claim to understand everything in the bible is appalling. Anytime someone acts like it’s clear and in no way disturbing, I assume they’re either willfully ignorant or incapable of empathy…or seriously brainwashed and afraid to look too close, as though God and Truth are so fragile they can’t withstand more than the gentlest touches and most cursory glances.

  • I do, but rarely post to it, especially nowadays while my time is extremely limited (after work, commute, and sleep, I have about 45 minutes in the morning and evening for personal time and a lot to cram into it — my gaming has been sorely neglected and I have no idea how I’ll manage Kingdom of Loathing’s often very demanding Crimbo event in December, except that it will undoubtedly lead to a lot of lost sleep). This on top of having my paradigm rocked by the revelation that I was probably misdiagnosed in my youth and have spent a chunk of life thinking of myself as something I’m not (someone with Antisocial Personality Disorder) has led me to do a lot of soul searching, and I’m loath to put my thoughts down on digital paper until I have enough clarity to do so coherently.

    Speaking of clarity, something Fred Clark once said about the Bible’s clarity has stuck with me for a long time (well, since March last year when it was posted):

    As a general rule, it’s best to avoid saying anything along the lines of “The Bible is really clear about X.” The Bible is large. It contains multitudes. It’s a diverse collection of ancient writings collected over many centuries and, as such, it tends not to be as “really clear” about much of anything as some people might want it to be.

    That’s not to say that the Bible is lacking in clarity. The problem, rather, tends to be a surfeit of clarity. If you turn to the Bible looking for an unambiguous, definitive and categorical statement on almost any given point, you’ll likely find one. That would solve your problem … until you realize that you can find more than one, and that they’re not all the same.

    This is the trickiest, most troublesome kind of ambiguity. It’s relatively easy to deal with a single vague statement that might be open to more than one possible meaning. We have a good set of tools for handling that kind of ambiguity. But it’s a much tougher situation when we’re confronted with multiple statements that are not vague — statements that do not seem to be open to more than one possible meaning, but which do not all say the same thing.

    That is the kind of ambiguity that the Bible often presents us with, and that is why it’s almost always unwise to say “The Bible is really clear about X.” It may be true about X. But it’s quite likely just as true about Not-X.

  • Vic Lafleur

    Romans 9:22- 24 22 What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— 24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?

  • Carter J. Griffin

    And nary a Scripture was quoted that day.

  • Gilsongraybert

    “The idea that yes, God’s grace is so wonderful and beautiful that it cannot be resisted– and that God will extend that irresistible grace to everyone… even pursuing them throughout eternity, until every last one decides to embrace love, and to walk out of hell.”

    That’s Universalism, Patrick.


    For all the ‘Christians’ throwing scriptures around, Jesus said, In that hour, do not worry about what you are going to say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you. If the Holy Spirit will teach you in that hour, that means you will not already know what you need to say because you will have no knowledge of it. So all of your knowledge of scripture means that you know it well. People who throw bible scriptures around often like to show off their knowledge of scripture just like the Pharisees and Sadducee; men versed in scripture. The answer will not always come from the Bible, but, if you are beneath the governance of the Holy Spirit, the answer will always come from The Spirit. Jesus did not always teach from the Torah, this is one of the reasons those viperous Rabbis so despised Jesus and kept asking him, “From where do you get this authority?” (and the reason you will ask me who do I think I am, blah, blah,blah)! This is also the reason there is a NEW TESTAMENT that our Lord Jesus’ GOSPEL delivered.

    Adam and Eve were kicked out of the GARDEN OF EDEN, or more aptly PARADISE ON EARTH, our original home. Yet, you think we’re going to Heaven? Animals don’t go to Heaven, but Adam and Eve were surrounded by animals.Please don’t quote a scripture misinterpreted by the scholars of a Heathen King who indulged himself in young boys. I could care less, because Jesus will very shortly clear up all the misunderstanding from his majestic lips! Thank the Lord for that!

    While you’re at it, “Be not forgetful” and let the crucifying begin!


    (Edited) Your comment SEEMS to be a mixture of pagan ideology, beautiful poetry, and eastern philosophy. And even though I no longer completely subscribe to the any of those ideas, I fully understand where you’re coming from.


    Then there’s the Christians arguing and debating about something as wicked and ungodly as politics. Well Benjamin, it looks like I won’t be coming back here. Too many demons mingling with so few saints!

  • Sarah

    You know, “Pagan” was just a catch-all word for all religious practices that didn’t conform to a patriarchal monotheism.


    I was a practicing pagan before being put back on the path of patriarchal monotheism . Heathen and Pagan are interchangeable and, in the eye of most patriarchal monotheist, refers to the ideology and practice of Doing as Thou Wilt while rejecting the commands giving to the patriarchal monotheist to love and appreciate the truth and power of YHVH. Since Zeus, the ‘goddess’, and the rest of the pantheon of Pagan god’s have very few morals and principles, Pagans will continue to do as thou wilt. But I get your point, absolutely.

  • Sarah

    “Morals” and “Principles” are pretty subjective, though. Not all Pagans and Heathens were/are the same. How did the “goddess” have few “morals and principles”? And what kind of Paganism did you practice?


    Therein lies the problem, Sarah. In your subjective view of morals and principles, homosexuality, wife swapping and drug use may be perfectly normal.

    The problem is that pagans see Biblical commandments and laws as a restriction to personal freedom. However, for those few Christians who truly practice those laws and commandments, they were given by God as a protection; not in an attempt to keep humans from missing out on a good time as many pagans would have us believe. Religion is a gate and the fence is the Bible. Pagans have no fence (boundary), no gate (restriction), and have no Sheppard, and that is fine for the pagan, but chaotic for the Christian. To a child molester, his twisted and subjective point of view of his actions is that what he is doing is perfectly normal. But yes, morals and principles can be very subjective.

    I will admit that while I was pagan I did enjoy having sex with lesbians/witches who swore they would never get into the same bed with a man. Do as thou will is the pagan commandment no matter what form of paganism you are practicing.

    To answer your question Druidism was the form of pagan practice I was involved in. I am, however, still a practicing exorcist.

  • Sarah

    The bible is an interesting piece of literature. It’s kinda like a user-friendly guide to life, but for the most part removes responsibility for actions from the actor. “The devil made me do it”, “as long as I ask Jesus for forgiveness, I’ll be fine”. I’m sure parts of it are a step in the right direction for people who find taking responsibility for their actions too chaotic, but parts of it are so clearly outdated. Problem is, as with any dogma, people like to take it literally, and can cause all kinds of pain and death in the name of religion. And would not the child molester, if he asked Jesus for forgiveness, find a place in heaven too?


    Here we have another problem in that you are using so-called Christians as examples. So-called Christians claim that a football player can pray to God and He will aid him in making a touchdown while playing a violent game ( when there are children being murdered, people being raped and corrupt officials having their way). Not to mention after the football game, the players are known to involve themselves in all kinds of BS. I’m sure you’ve heard the old “God is making a way for me to get out of the Ghetto selling drugs”. All of aforementioned ideology is the subjective and deluded reasoning of the Christian hypocrite, not those very few true Christians. You can can on one finger how many true Christians you’ve met.

    These same types of so Christians cannot give a satisfactory answer as to why King David killed a man to have sex with his wife, or why Samson was allowed to have sex with prostitutes. Because God willed it is not a satisfactory answer and will silence neither pagan nor atheist. So-called Christians are all hypocrites. Baptist will tell you that the “Lawd Jesus Christ blesses with money and material things” when he told the rich businessman something completely different. But you are talking about the so-called Christian who is nothing but a hypocrite.


    This discussion is not going to get any further because you appear to want me to accept your point of view alone as valid when it is a strong personal conviction steeped in what appears to be a dislike for Christians,which I completely understand. I was a gangster. A legitimate street thug who loved to take out the trash. It was while I was a gangster that I was an active pagan. By our brief conversation, you would have never known that I was a gangster with a decorated past, and this is directly related to my relationship with my God (or fairy tale as the nerds say). I take responsibility for my actions, but I also know there is a God who I have to answer to, and this is what keeps me in line (knowing that there is a Higher Power). That’s why I have a picture of a pissed little baby as my avatar. You are free to believe whatever you want, and that’s your business. It’s been nice!


    I decided I would take a trip to refresh my memory on where our conversation began. I don’t know how I ended up on, but I realize now why our conversation went the way it did. After reading my original response, it may have seemed that I was coming off as a bit snide and callous which is anything but true. I hope that I didn’t offend you with that original comment,and if I did, I apologize.

  • Sarah

    I don’t dislike Christians. I do dislike some of their actions. I was raised Presbyterian, and I was quite devout as a young girl. But then one day my sunday school teacher said some stuff that was inconsistent with a god that I was taught to believe in. He said that my girlfriend, because she was a Mormon and not a Presbyterian, would go to hell. It was about then when my devoutness began to crumble. After more time, more critical thinking, Ronnie James Dio, and a good talking-to from my wonderful grandma, I came to the conclusion that dogma is no good for anyone. And I continue to live my life that way. I have an infinite capacity to love absolutely anyone, and continue to do so on a daily basis and in my work as an escort. In my view, the god you have to answer to is your higher self, which is a part of all of us. None of us is a separate being. I think we take different paths to the same ocean, my friend. I bear no hard feelings at all for you, and I love that you’ve engaged with me here. :) I respect your path; it’s just not the path for me. But we’ll meet each other at the end, and I’ll love you just the same. :)

  • Sarah

    Wife (or husband) swapping is really fun. :) I think honesty with oneself is paramount to a pure life. If you come from a place of love, integrity, and purity in all things (even wife swapping or sex with lesbians), you can only emanate love, integrity, and purity. And that can only improve the world around you! :)

  • Sarah

    No, I took no umbrage from your comment. It was a great discussion, even though we disagree. Most people in this discussion probably disagree with me, and I’m fine with that. I’ll still love them all. :)
    I do recommend Sacred Pleasure by Riane Eisler:
    Excellent book.

  • Chreeha

    I’ve held 5 Pt for some time. I would offer another perspective on ‘the Gospel is really, really good news for the few people God chooses to love and save,’ as you put it. In the Apocalypse, John DID see a crowd so big that no man could number it…

  • ericCD

    many Calvinists prefer the phrase Particular Atonement to the one that fits the acronym, in practice it normally means the same thing but focuses on the atonement being for those who are being saved rather than on its “limit”. With that in mind I think I too am moving….from a 5 point Calvinist to a 5 point calvinist who believes ( sort of , not quite there yet) that the atonement is for everyone, everyone individually, “particularly”, and therefore all will be saved in the end. Nothing else really makes sense of texts like “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”. He didn’t come to just to atone for sin but to save, not to offer salvation, but to save…..and yet there are passages in the New Testament that are hard to square with universal salvation. I don’t really have a problem with “total depravity” except it isn’t a biblical phrase and is easily misunderstood because of the way the word “depraved” is used nowawadays.For most Calvinists I know it means only that we are unable to contribute anything toward our salvation, or even desire it, until the Spirit begins to work in us.