An Oxymoron – Calvinist Evangelism?

I have a young friend who has gone over to the other side and almost overnight he has become an expert at everything to do with the doctrine of Grace and the subject of soteriology. What he means by Grace and what I mean are two different things. He means “Sovereign Grace” (predestination and particular or specific election) while I mean something different. I mean what the Bible teaches…  

 11 For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. 12 And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, 13 while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. 14 He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.                                                                                   Titus 2:11-14

He recently wrote me the following, At one point you seem to be arguing that being a Calvinist means that your (sic) passive and lazy whereas Arminians (*For the purpose of clarity I am not an Arminian except by default. I am a non-Calvinist.) are go-getters.  This is simply untrue and any (sic) virtually any Calvinist resource could have corrected you on this matter.  God uses means to achieve his ends and so we act.”  He wrote me much more than this but for my purpose this will do.

My objection has nothing to do with Calvinists being lazy.

I do not need the help of an agent of Calvinism to know full well that they have been and are presently engaged in evangelism. They do not persuade and in most cases shun any kind of altar call or invite a decision but they are involved in preaching the gospel. In fact, historically they were on the vanguard of the advancement of the gospel throughout the world and though now they spend an inordinate amount time on evangelizing the evangelized to Calvinism they are still active in both evangelism and missions. Here’s my problem? I just cannot figure out why. For me, on their part this activity is a redundant absurdity.

My objection is simply this – they do not have to be involved in evangelism.

When asked why they do evangelism they will give two reasons. The first reason is legitimate but based upon their soteriology and view of sovereignty, the second is not.

Reason 1. 

We are commanded to preach the gospel and in obedience, we do it.

Reason 2.  

In reaching the elect God has chosen the means of preaching. We do not know who the elect are.

This may shock my Calvinists readers but preaching is not the means of election. The sovereign, predetermined will of God IS the only means of election. Preaching is meaningless. Evangelism is absolutely immaterial and unnecessary. People can do evangelism all they like but it has nothing to do with the ultimate outcome of a single persons’ eternal whereabouts. Insist and disagree all you like, it will not change a thing as Mr. Calvin has painted himself into his own corner.

Double  Predestination is the foregone conclusion.

This isn’t particularly complicated. Now let’s look at Calvin’s own words one more time and see if I am not right. Please tell us if the elect are not the elect no matter what. Tell all of us how preaching will change what has been decided in eternity past.

People are either saved or doomed and hopeless from the beginning. There is no way around it. It should not require a Ph.D. in logic to understand this. It could not have been made more clear. The elect are the elect and the damned are the damned. I suggest that folks who fatalistically believe in preordination – who don’t believe that prayer and preaching changes things, should just stay at home.

“Predestination we call the eternal decree of God by which He hath determined in Himself what He would have to become of every individual of mankind.  For they are not all created with a similar destiny; but eternal life is foreordained for some, and eternal damnation for others…  We assert that, by an eternal and immutable counsel, God hath once for all determined whom He would admit to salvation and whom He would condemn to destruction.  We affirm that this counsel, as far as it concerns the elect, is founded on His gratuitous mercy, totally irrespective of human merit: but that to those whom He devotes to condemnation, the gate of life is closed by a just and irreprehensible, but incomprehensible judgment.”

A comprehensive statement that incorporates the various elements of the Doctrine of Election into one concise paragraph.

 John Calvin                  

The Institutes of the Christian Religion II xxi. 4, and xxi. 7.

Based on Calvin’s position statement, I am sorry to further report that God has misled us and he turns out to be a respecter of persons after all. Since missions and evangelism have nothing to do with the final outcome we are left with a problem. From what is observable to the eye and perhaps supported by statistical analysis, God appears to prefer Americans to Sri Lankans and South Carolinian’s to Vermonters. He does not really want a “multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues.” Along with God, we should be satisfied with a smidgen of well-heeled folks from Grand Rapids, Minneapolis and Louisville.

 The Bible declares, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”  (Romans 10:17). But according to the tenants of Calvinism this is not true. Faith cometh by the predetermined will of God. Hearing is the outcome of faith and not the other way round. God must first set a man alive before the man can hear and thus have any kind of faith.

I’d like to be wrong but I don’t think I am.

4 Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? 5 But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who “will render to each one according to his deeds”…

Romans 2:4-6

How hard is this to understand? I shouldn’t think anyone requires the twists and turns of a Calvinist interpretation to figure this out. If a simple man can’t get it, it isn’t worth having. Man is culpable from the get go. In the end, a man’s lostness is not and will not be God’s fault. (I haven’t the time to explain how Calvinists wiggle out of this knot.) He has stretched out His hand all the day long and through the hardness of men’s hearts (God resisteth the proud) God’s goodness has been rejected. For this reason men will justifyably experience the wrath of God.

Calvinists: Please do not instruct me on the finer points of how you handle culpability. I already know what they are. Your explanation is entirely too convoluted. Thanks.


9 Responses to “An Oxymoron – Calvinist Evangelism?”

  1. September 18, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    There is a problem with predestination and problem of suffering that is also overlooked. If God knows everything and is able to choose, then his Love is in question when many bad things happen. Fact is we have free will to choose who to love and who to hurt, and this is one of the greatest gifts we could have. You give great point on the need to preach, evangelism is not only commandment to us it is having the Heart of Christ. And there are plenty of places that you would have to go around by using Greek. And that in itself is a problem for if there is such thing as predestination then should God not have foreseen it and predestined all ambiguous texts out of the scripture regarding predestination.

    I do however accept and acknowledge many other great things done and written by Calvinists and certainly would consider them dear brothers in Christ. (I’m Baptist and in our tradition we have both Calvinists and Armenians, not that I’m being exclusive you know what I mean).


    Defend the word

    • September 18, 2009 at 9:22 pm


      Thanks for your comment. I have, in other entries, dealt with the problems of pain, suffering, love and goodness inherent in the doctrine of predestination but you succinctly nail it on the head. I was raised a Calvinist by my southern Baptist father who had came into contact with some high-Sovereigntists. This presents another problem, almost no one becomes a Calvinist on their own and rarely by simply reading the Bible. Travel the world over and wherever high-sovereignty is believed it has been taught by men. Oh, I know, someone will say, “But what about Calvin?” Calvin was influenced by Augustine and Augustine influenced by Greek philosophy and in particular, Platonism.

  2. 3 disciple1
    September 19, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    If you elevate your “free will” above the soveriegnty and the will of God, you are attempting to elevated yourself into the Judgement seat of Christ, saying that you have a power greater than His- namely your “free-will”. Your will does not override the will of God Almighty.

    And, if you do not understand that the term “all men” was used in reference to the non-Jew, Gentile Church that God had predestinated to become His, then you should take the time to study it out; It is obvious you haven’t. You may be able to persuade those who are unlearned in the doctrine of Christ, and those who do not study the Greek Received Text, but I doubt you know how foolish you sound to those of us who do actually study (and believe) the Word as it was delivered to the Saints.

    You better repent and bow to His will. If you do not, you will be in Hell seconds after your demise. Oh and by the way, you won’t be going there by your own “free-will” either. False teachers are “before of old ordained unto that condemnation”- yet another predestination verse that you cannot lie your way around.

    Seriously, repent. You may be the last sheep numbered for the fold, and, if you are, we can all get outta here.

    Greg Argo Sr.

    • September 19, 2009 at 6:28 pm

      Dear Greg,
      Thank you for your polite response. I was captured by how well you interacted with the content of the blog entry, “An Oxymoron – Calvinist Evangelism.” You demonstrated your intellectual superiority. I agree, indeed, I don’t know what I’m talking about “when compared to those of you who do actually study (and believe) the Word as it was delivered to the Saints.”

      You live up to the reputation of most advocates of Calvinism. Calvinism is perhaps the only doctrinal distinction I would reject simply because its proponents are so universally rude and arrogant. For this reason, I think that I’ll just leave your comment without a defense as an example of what I have been saying along. Calvinism is no lap-dog, it is a Rottweiller. The purpose my blog, in part, is to prove this point.

      As for your last two paragraphs, don’t be so silly, according to you, should I turn out to be among the Elect, I can’t lose my salvation anyway.
      Regards, Your faithful servant, Michael Servetus

  3. 5 Confused
    September 21, 2009 at 1:04 am

    To Whom It May Concern:

    I’m involved in a church where the “new” Pastor,of three years, is from all accounts a five point Calvinist.

    I have become very confused by the debate that my pastor brings forward; this man is very well educated and is very persuasive with his words.

    I first became concerned when he explained “his” John 3:16, which looked very different from what I read it to mean. The more preaching I have heard the more concerned I have become to the point of being disturbed and terrified by his view.

    Even now, as I write to you I have tears welling up inside because of the hurt I feel within my heart, soul, and Spirit. I feel that everything I have learned in my youth has been a lie, according to this new teaching.

    When I have been told to search my heart and check myself I have wondered, ‘what difference will that make? If I’m saved, I am saved and if not then there’s no recourse for me so what in the world is the point?’

    My 16 year old son has come to me in recent days concerned for his little brothers. My son’s question to me was, “What if Timothy and Samuel are not chosen?” When my husband, who had come to accept this new Calvinistic teaching, tried to encourage him and told him, “We need to pray for them and teach them God’s Word.” My son’s response was so disheartening. My son’s only response was, “Why should I pray for them? What difference will that make?” What a sad day that was to me. I don’t even know how to respond. My 16 year old went away sobbing and he went away without peace or assurance of anything.

    I don’t know how to respond to those that are so well educated and can explain the Bible from the Greek and Hebrew texts. I know that God knew I wouldn’t know those texts and that I would only have the English Bible to refer to, isn’t his Word preserved for me? When I read throughout Scripture, without knowing anything but English, I see the love of God and Christ’s redemptive work given and poured out for all men. How do I refute that all, world, and mankind simply mean people from every nation?

    This “new” God of Calvinism, new to me, is a God I don’t know. I’m sure, that as I’ve been told from the pulpit, this MUST mean I am not the elect since I don’t accept, embrace, and love that “truth”.

    I thought I had become a born again believer, when at the age of twelve I cried out to God for forgiveness and placed my hope and faith in Him alone to save me. I now have questioned my salvation every single day since hearing the doctrine of election.

    I often think to myself, If God is the God of Calvinism then do I truly want to serve Him? I am ashamed to share the gospel that Calvinism is spreading. How do I share it without a tongue in cheek sort of hesitance? How do I tell people that, “Maybe God loves you and maybe Jesus died for you but maybe not.” The gospel seems to be like the good news for some and the really bad news for others.

    Please, if you have any encouragement for me or more Scripture that maybe I haven’t already found to refute these teachings then please send them my way.

    Thank you for your time and concern.

    Many Blessings

    • September 21, 2009 at 2:59 am

      You may want to visit my earlier blog entry entitled “Hyper-Calvinism.” This may help you get a glimps of what you are up against. Calvinism is a little like Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Islam and other mind control groups. Let me do it this way. Joseph Smith was considered a prophet as was Mohammed and so forth. When any of these individuals made a declaration it would not matter what contradictory evidence is brought to oppose it, the prophet has spoken. Confidence is no longer placed in the Word of God and the Holy Spirit, it is placed in it’s prophets and interpreters. Calvin has spoken and this becomes dogma. People place their confidence in a mediator. This is dangerous business. This is how men end up with 13 wives (Joseph Smith) or twenty-nine (Brigham Young). This is how people wind up giving unswerving allegiance to The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (Jehovah’s Witnesses).

      It is late but I will have more for you tomorrow.

  4. 7 Confused
    September 21, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    Thank you, Tony, for getting back to me so quickly.

    I’m just glad to know that I am not alone when I say that I don’t believe that Calvinism is true. I have been struggling because after being a Christian for 23 years and believing the Bible, Calvinism is introduced and all those around me seem to be accepting it as the real deal. I sit in a Southern Baptist church with other believers that I have worshipped with for nine years; we all once believed that Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost until three years ago when we were all “enlightened” by our new pastor. I asked question upon question of our new pastor without clear or satisfactory answers about his ‘new’ teachings. (I use new because although they may be ancient they are brand new to me.) I felt stupid everytime I’ve asked a question and he answered by some means of twisting Scripture to fit his doctrine or added words to verses to make them mean what he wanted them to mean. Adding words like, “all of the elect of the world”, so “none of the elect should perish”, “not willing that any of the elect should perish”, and so on. I’m sure you can understand my concern when as I continued to study the Bible, in order to search the Scriptures to prove this man’s words, I found them wanting around every corner. I continued to realize that those that sat around me in church were accepting and embracing these words of false teaching and heresy. No one will stand up, no one will speak contrary to this man and these teachings that I know are wrong. Everyone sits and nods and agrees! My husband was in agreement until I was able to bring a few things to his attention that he was going to have to deny about God and Christ’s death in order to fully embrace this new and disturbing way of thought.

    After I read this blog and sent you my first message last night, I went on to read more of your blogs on Calvinism and feel that I am not alone in my rejection of this teaching. I sit in a church of over 120 people that have now turned from Truth to Calvinism and I am angered and saddened beyond what I can express. I’m at a loss as to what to do and how I contend for the Faith. I think I need to leave this church because of the heresy taught, especially because my husband and I have children now under this destructive teaching.

    Thank you for having a blog where I am able to see that another viewpoint does actually exist and that I am not crazy or unsaved because I know that I can NEVER EVER embrace Calvinism. I embrace Christ and Him crucified and to me- THAT IS THE GOSPEL!

    Thank you for contending for the Faith.

    Many Blessings and Peace to you and yours.

  5. September 21, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    I promised that I would provide you with some additional oppositional content. See the following, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9n_NUoslp0 from Dr. Norman Geisler.

    You will never find non-Calvinist materials as well developed as Calvinist. Why? We don’t specifically care what people believe concerning the subject of how sovereignty works until it starts to split our family or our church. Sovereignty is simply not our proselytizing hobby horse.

    Every Christian believes in God’s sovereignty. We just don’t agree on how it looks. The Calvinist sees it as a scale with God on one side and man on the other. Non-Calvinist see sovereignty as a circle with God in control but man able to make authentic choices.

    My favorite and a most thorough treatment is found at http://www.thenarrowpath.com . Steve Gregg offers free mp3 downloads of his lectures. Look on the left sidebar and click “Topical Lectures.” Scroll through and you’ll find his series on Calvinism.

    Do know this, no matter what arguments you put forth, you will be told that you don’t understand sovereignty. Trust me, I’ve read more than thirty books on both sides of the subject and taught “Sovereignty and Free-Will” for fifteen years and nothing I have ever offered has satisfied an ardent Calvinist. I’ve never managed to have much affect on a JW either.

    I work in Europe as a missionary to post-modern / post-Christian people. Most people are former Roman Catholics. They do not say, “You don’t understand what we believe.” Often I encounter Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormon’s. When I challenge them, they never say, “You don’t understand.” Quite the contrary, they want to know how I know so much about their belief system and accuse me one being a former JW or Mormon. It is only the Calvinists who say, “You don’t understand Calvinism.” The real problem, I understand the implications of Calvinism all too well.

    Have you ever really listened to a Calvinist explain what they believe. It amounts to speculative philosophy and that’s all.

    Joyfully in Christ,

  6. 9 Confused
    September 23, 2009 at 12:35 am

    Hi Tony.

    Thank you once again for taking time out to answer some of my questions. As I continue to study I continue to have a few questions. If you have an email that I can send these questions to, if that is better than this particular forum, then I can send my inquiries there.

    Just one quick question…if I believe in Christ and therefore “choose” to believe then is that a work since I’m having to believe. I never considered that but the more I’ve read from Calvinism’s view I’m seeing that can certainly be viewed as I’m elected because I selected Christ therefore leading to a “works” based salvation. I don’t know…it’s a little fuzzy and I could use a bit of clarification. I know salvation has nothing to do with me but then how do I reconcile that if I accept Christ I’m saved and if I reject Christ I’m not saved, which is what I do believe, but then how’s that nothing in and of me?

    Thanks so much.

    Your Friend In Christ,


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