A “from the Gut” Response to a Reader’s Question

Here is a  question from one of my readers. Read it then see my, “off of the top” response.

“…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,


My response went something like this…

In the Gospel sense, believe is the same as put confidence in.  God instructed the Israelites through Moses to look upon the serpent on the pole and be saved (Numbers 21, John 3). This is not a natural reaction when surrounded by serpents (especially a deadly serpent that can kill with a single bite). The human tendency would be to do one of three things, run, get up on something higher or go down swinging – stomping snakes (sin). You’ll remember that at least 3,000 rejected the offer and by disbelief perished. 

The unlikely, but saving action would be taking God’s instruction seriously, turning your eyes upward and away from self-dependency and, by faith (“belief in action”), trusting in Christ to do the work on your behalf (“being made sin for us… the just for the unjust that He might bring us to God”) and do what human effort (church attendance, ritual, good works) cannot do. This is how James argues for the definition of faith. We prove and demonstrate what we believe by our actions based upon that belief. This is why, as unbiblical as they are, some instituted altar calls. Jesus and the early church used public baptism  (a pretty all-or-nothing altar call) – in many cases a death sentence. See: my entry, “The Fallacy of Calvinism at First Glance.”

The thief on the cross could not offer anything to procure his salvation. He simply had to call out for mercy with confidence that Jesus, even while nailed up, dying on a cross, had the authority and power to provide it. Sometimes people can only see their own unrighteousness when compared to the glory and holiness of Jesus and this may bring about a hearty repentance – a repentance unto salvation.

It is said of the prodigal that he looked around at his situation and circumstances caused him to come to his senses, ie: “he came to himself” Luke 15:17. He thought, even if I am a slave in my father’s house, I will not be turned away and will be treated better than this. I will humble myself, admit that I have sinned by returning home. Sometimes people look at the condition of their sin, where it has taken them, have the same thought (“I’m in a pickle! I need to do something about this!”) as the thief on the cross. This may bring about what some have called an awakening followed by conviction, resulting in a hearty repentance. 

All of this is absolutely the opposite of works and self-confidence. Belief has nothing to do with works. It is a declaration of  the end of one’s self and expresses confidence in Christ alone… Christ plus nothing!

I can stuff you in a rain barrel, nail the lid on tightly over your head and everything you need to go to heaven is in that rain barrel. This doesn’t sound like works to me.  

Calvinists will make faith (belief in action) into a work.

Belief is just the opposite. Belief in the work of Christ alone is what separates Christianity from all other religious systems. This is contrary to religion (salvation by works or human effort). Religion requires that one manipulate the spirits, appease the God’s in one way or another.  

By contrast, the Bible says,

“What shall we do that we might work the works of God? … This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.”  It appears there is at least one work required.

“Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” “

Look unto Him all ye ends of the earth and be ye saved.”

“And ye shall seek me and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”

“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”  

Why should God seem to reward seeking? Isn’t that a work? Why should God reward any activity of man? Simply because believing and seeking is opposite to the very nature of man.

God does not reward the sun for shining. Why? Because the sun is doing what God made it to do.  But when you say all of this to a disciple of Calvin and point to scripture like these above and a hundred others, they will deny what they see and begin to extrapolate, dismantle and reconstruct to suit their speculative philosophy. They will resort to linguistic and intellectual gymnastics.  They will now say, “Yes, yes, okay, but where did faith come from in the first place? Unh? Unh?”  

To this, reply, “You know what, I don’t know and I don’t care. All I know is, once I was blind but now I see. I just did not call God a liar and took Him at his word and when I was twelve years old, I believed, trusted and called out, I was forgiven of my sin and I walked away a new creature in Christ Jesus. I have the inner witness that I am a child of God. I am in love with God through Christ and God’s love displayed for me through the cross. I don’t care a bit about the science of your soteriology.

I only can think that it would not be possible for anyone to know if they were elect or not. Aside from the subjective witness of the Spirit of God, no one could have a drop of confidence that they are among the elect. I will not allow you and your doctrine to rob me of my liberty and certainty.

Frankly, I don’t think that you are among the elect. Oh, well, that’s what I think. You may know Hebrew and Greek but I’m not certain that you know the living God. You have reduced God to a chemistry textbook while I have him in a love letter. It’s a romance – more like art than science.

Let’s say that in the end you are right and predestination and election is the truth. I doubt if it is, but say it is, who will care? Perhaps only those who thought they were elect and weren’t or those who thought they weren’t elect and are. Some will care for the better and some for the worse. For me, I simply believe what the scripture has said and took God at His offer of free grace, These things I have written to you who believe (put confidence in) in the name (authority) of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” 1 John 5:13.

I’m sorry, but I just can’t live with the “Iffy-ness” of Calvinism. Calvinist election is not as secure as God’s whosoever and all “and “all” means “all”- the kind of “all” that everyone on the planet seems to understand.

Calvinism deals with the philosophy of salvation; the intricate what’s, how’s, who’s, when’s and why’s of soteriology. That’s nice, but it is not a biblical approach. Here’s the scriptural confidence. I was lost at sea and from somewhere came a life preserver. I didn’t care a straw on how it got there or what it was anchored to, or how well it was fastened at the other end. I just grabbed it and it held.

Perhaps you have heard the Blondin tightrope walking incident? Well, I was one who trusted Christ enough to get into the wheel barrel. You know what? He has promised to carry me across and he will. You are boring me with your articulate but cold, dispassionate chatter.”  

But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: “DO NOT SAY IN YOUR HEART, ‘WHO WILL ASCEND INTO HEAVEN?’ (that is, to bring Christ down),  or ‘WHO WILL DESCEND INTO THE ABYSS?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).”  But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART”–that is, the word of faith which we are preaching,  that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;  for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”  Romans 10:6-10

Though I don’t suggest that anyone deduce their theology from Christmas greeting cards or hymns, you might sing to him, “I Know in Whom I Have Believed.” from the old Broadman Hymnal.

Here’s the deal. Calvinists have made God and the Bible too small. If the Bible simply gave us nothing but predestination and foreordination verses and context then I wouldn’t even type another word and no one else would either. I think that this is enough for today. Yes?

One more thing…

It could be that prdestination is true. I don’t think that it is, but it could be. For every verse where a Calvinist might demonstrate their concept of sovereignty there might be five or ten that indicate otherwise. I am not trying to get anyone’s agreement with my view of sovereignty. I don’t have an exact model in mind. In fact, Calvinists can believe as they please on this subject, especially when believing as they do, should they be right, changes nothing anyway.

What I most hope to do is challenge their sophomorical smugness about the subject. I oppose their “cock-sureness.” Does anyone really believe that with such arrogant certainty, measly human beings, confined to a finite intellect can exhaustively figure how the infinite God does anything He does? He has not given us enough information whereby we might bring Him down to our puny level.

“Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.”



1 Response to “A “from the Gut” Response to a Reader’s Question”

  1. 1 Taking God at His Word!
    September 23, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    Thank you for this clear, concise and Scriptural answer to the question.

    God is good and I’m ever rejoicing that God is the God of the Bible and NOT the god of Calvinism! Amen and AMEN!

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