Tag Archives: Calvinism

Eternal Security Debate Recap — B.J. Clarke

In 2016, in Lafayette, Tennessee, a Missionary Baptist Preacher by the name of Michael Brawner had a public discussion on the subject of baptism with brother Jack Honeycutt.   That discussion brought about so many positive results and conversions that the elders of the Willette Church of Christ (in Red Boiling Springs, Tennessee) sought to shine the light of Truth in the community on other matters of doctrinal importance. I received an invitation to participate in a public discussion with Michael Brawner concerning the matter of eternal security.

Mr. Brawner and I corresponded and agreed to participate in a public discussion at the Macon County Junior High School auditorium in Lafayette, Tennessee on May 26-27, 2017. We consented to follow certain rules, and we submitted propositions to one another for review and approval.

The Propositions

On Friday night, May 26th, Michael Brawner affirmed: “The scriptures teach that those who have been born again cannot so far depart from the will of God as to be finally lost in hell.”

On Saturday afternoon, May 27th, I affirmed: “The Scriptures teach that one saved by the blood of Christ can thereafter fall from grace by departing from the living God, and thus be lost eternally.”

The Presentations

Does the Bible teach the doctrine of “once saved, always saved”? Does the Christian have any security at all in Christ?

Michael Brawner’s Affirmatives

In his first presentation, and throughout the discussion, Mr. Brawner affirmed that if man could do anything to bring about his salvation, or to keep it, this would constitute salvation by works and nullify the grace of God. He argued that since grace is God’s doing, then once a man is in God’s grace that man is always in God’s grace; otherwise God’s efforts to save him would have failed, and man would be greater in power than God.

The problem with this argument is that it forgets the fact that God chose to give man the responsibility to obey His will in order to receive the benefits of His grace (Matt. 7:21; Heb. 5:8-9; Eph. 2:8-9). Thus, when man obeys God, in order to receive His promised blessings, he is not wresting the role of Savior away from God.  Rather, he is humbling himself before God. This is true, not only in becoming a Christian, but also in remaining a faithful child of God.

The argument also fails to recognize that there are different types of works spoken of in the New Testament. Salvation is not by works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21), works of the Law of Moses (Rom. 3:28), or works of human devising wherein we may boast (Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5). However, works of obedience, while not meritorious, are essential to be accepted with God (Acts 10:34-35; Psa. 119:172; James 2:17-24).

One of the chief arguments made by Mr. Brawner in the discussion had to do with the composition of man as both flesh and spirit.  However, Mr. Brawner’s position was/is that, because the flesh and spirit are different in nature, what one does in the flesh does not affect the salvation of the soul.  This is not a new argument.  Famed Missionary Baptist preacher, Ben Bogard, affirmed the same. He taught that once one becomes a Christian his soul becomes incapable of sinning. He cited 1 John 3:9 as proof of this. Consider the following quotation from the debate Ben Bogard had with N. B. Hardeman:

“But the reason given why they cannot sin is not because they can’t do it consistently — his seed remaineth in you — therefore you cannot sin!  Jesus Christ remains in us!  That prevents sin.  My soul Sin?  No.  ‘Has Brother Bogard ever sinned?’  In my soul, I do not.  I am as perfect as God himself as far as my soul is concerned.  Then what about my body?  It does sin.  (Hardeman-Bogard Debate, pp. 309-310).

Whereas the Bible certainly does recognize that man is made of flesh and spirit, the teaching of Scripture is emphatic that what we do in the flesh affects our soul/spirit. Paul concluded: “…I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:23). If one’s soul is automatically preserved blameless once and for all, why would Paul pray for something to be that was already guaranteed to be?!

Furthermore, Paul warned the Corinthians, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). This settles it—the things we do in our body, in our flesh, are the very things we will answer for when we appear before the judgment seat of Christ!

Does the Christian have a God-given responsibility to avoid the sins of the flesh because those sins will contaminate the soul? Let Paul answer the question: “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1).

B.J. Clarke’s Affirmatives

The Teaching of Ezekiel. Ezekiel 18:24-32 is a devastating passage for the proponents of the once saved, always saved doctrine. This text states emphatically the possibility of a righteous man turning from his righteousness (18:24), and also states the consequence of this turning—“for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die” (18:26).

The Teaching of Jesus. Many words of Jesus have been isolated by some in an attempt to prove unconditional eternal security. Mr. Brawner brought up passages like John 5:24; John 6:37, and John 10:28-29 in an attempt to prove his proposition. However, upon closer inspection these texts actually deny his proposition because they all employ present continuous action verbs to indicate that the promised blessing is only for those who keep on hearing, believing, coming, and following. You can have a driver’s license right now and yet lose it in the future because of future crimes. Possessing something right now does not necessarily guarantee permanent possession.

In my very first speech, (my first negative) I made certain to emphasize that I/we believe in the eternal security of the believer, as long as he remains a believer. Jesus did teach the doctrine of eternal security in John 10:28-29, but He promised it unto the sheep described in John 10:27. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). Accordingly, the sheep that will never perish are the sheep that keep on hearing the voice of Jesus and following His lead. But what about the sheep who quit following the Shepherd? They are not the ones promised eternal security! In fact, Jesus further taught that a branch that did not remain connected to the vine would be cast forth and burned (John 15:1-6).

The Teaching of Paul. Paul knew that men in a covenant relationship with God could fall and thus he warned, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:1-12). He informed the Galatians that their decision to seek justification in the Law of Moses meant that “ye are fallen from grace” (Gal. 5:4). In one of the most compelling passages, Paul affirmed that he kept his body in subjection lest he himself should be a castaway (1 Cor. 9:27). Paul was cleansed by the blood of Christ, and yet knew that he could end up castaway from God if he did not keep his body under control! Does this mean that Paul lived in constant doubt and fear? Far from it—he affirmed his readiness to die and knew that he would receive a crown of life (2 Tim. 4:6-8).

The Teaching of Peter. One text from Peter’s pen deals a demolishing blow to the once saved, always saved doctrine. In 2 Peter 2:20-22, he described those who had escaped the pollutions of the world and had become entangled again therein. Are they still saved, according to Peter? The inspired writer affirmed, “The latter end is worse with them than the beginning.” Does their apostasy mean they were never washed in the first place? No! They were washed but went back to the muck and mire of sin (2 Pet. 2:20-22).


This is but a small sample of the many passages discussed.  The full discussion is available on DVD.  As for measurable results, a young man came up to me during the discussion and said, “I was converted to Christ after the discussion last year on baptism. I left the denominational church my family raised me up in, and it has been very difficult. However, the truth you have preached here this weekend has confirmed for me that I made the right choice. Thank you.” If that is the only good to come of this discussion it was certainly worth every hour of preparation!

B.J. is a faithful gospel preacher of the Lord who is also involved in teaching future preachers at the Memphis School of Preaching, teaching on the Gospel Broadcasting Network, and many other fruitful works in the kingdom.





Perseverance Of The Saints – Mike Mitchell

The doctrine of “Once Saved, Always Saved,” also known as “The Perseverance of the Saints,” promotes the idea that a child of God cannot so sin as to be eternally lost. This is an idea as hold as man himself. It was preached in the Garden of Eden by that old serpent, Satan (Gen. 3:4-5). This evil doctrine was first preached to Adam and Eve. God had said to them, “for in the day you eat of the forbidden fruit you would surely die” (Gen. 2:17). In contradiction, Satan said, “Ye shall not surely die” (Gen. 3:4). In our present day, he was saying, “You as a child of God shall not be condemned because it is impossible for you to fall and be lost.” However, the evidence that he lied is overwhelming. The Word of God, the suffering of the human race, and the marble stones found throughout cemeteries all over the world show him to be a liar.

In order to correctly represent this doctrine that was born in the heart and soul of Satan himself, we quote the following: “We believe that the Holy Scriptures teach that such only are real believers as endure unto the end: that their persevering attachment to Christ is the grand mark which distinguishes these from superficial professors: that a special Providence watches over their welfare: and they are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” (What Baptists Believe and Why They Believe It, Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

The Southern Manual For Baptist Churches, edited by Edward T. Hiscox, says: “We believe the Scriptures teach that such as are truly regenerate, being born of the Spirit, will not utterly fall away and perish, but will endure unto the end.” (p. 67)

The Issue

We ask, “What is the issue?” When one rightly divides God’s Word (2 Tim. 2:15), these scriptures emphasize God’s love, his power, and his desire to save mankind.

The truth is salvation from sin is conditional. Eternal salvation is conditional. No one goes to heaven accidentally. The future inhabitants of heaven will have planned to go there. They desired to go there, and they sacrificed to go there. The child of God who refuses or neglects to comply with God’s conditions of eternal salvation can no more be saved than the alien sinner who refuses or neglects to comply with God’s terms of pardon (Heb. 5:8-9; 2:1-4; Matt. 7:21).


This matter of obedience has always been a problem of mankind. Ask the average believer, “What is the meaning of obedience?” They will readily say, “Obeying God’s commands.” That is correct. However, in this day and time we must seek a deeper meaning as to what obedience entails. It means to do what God says, the way God says, and for the reason(s) God says.

Paul wrote, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). When we go to the Old Testament, we see how the Lord in his goodness has given us two examples which define the meaning of obedience:

Moses. In Numbers 20:1-12, the record says that the children of Israel complained and quarreled with Moses because they did not have the comforts of Egypt and no water to drink (vs. 3-4). Moses and Aaron took the matter to the Lord (v. 6). The Lord gave them instructions on what to do. Notice what God said: “Take thy rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water” (vs. 8-9). However, Moses did not comply with the meaning of obedience. He struck the rock twice instead of speaking to it as God had commanded him, and suffered the consequences of his disobedience when God decreed he would not bring the children of Israel into the Promised Land (v. 12). Moses, a child of God, saw the Promised Land but died outside of it due to his disobedience.

King Saul. Scripture records how the Lord’s servant, Samuel, came to King Saul and told him what the Lord wanted him to do (1 Sam. 15:2-9). Saul’s armies were to destroy everything of Amalek, all men, women, children, and their possessions. With this in mind, remember the meaning of obedience: doing what God says, the way God says, and for the reason(s) God says. If one does not comply with any of these facets, they disobey God. The record shows that Saul disobeyed the Lord by sparing King Agag, the best of the sheep and cattle, and all that was good (v. 9). As a result of his disobedience, he lied to Samuel (vs. 13, 20) and disobeyed the Lord by doing evil in his sight (v. 19). Note what the prophet said to Saul in verse 22: “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” Because Saul did not listen and do exactly what God commanded, he lost his kingdom and perhaps his soul.

Today’s generation needs to listen to what Samuel said to Saul: “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (v. 22; cf. Acts 3:22-23; Matt. 17:5). We should listen to Jesus, the Son of God, because he and only he has the words of eternal life (John 6:68).

God’s Desire That All Men Be Saved

God wants everyone to be saved (2 Pet. 3:9). He finds no pleasure in the destruction of the wicked (Ezek. 18:23). However, mankind must comply with the conditions God has given in his Word in order to insure our eternal salvation (Tit. 2:11-12; Mark 16:16). Old Balaam said, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!” (Num. 23:10). However, one cannot die the death of the righteous if one does not live the life of the righteous.

This is why God repeatedly warns the righteous to continue holding fast to his Word in order to avoid a meaningless faith (1 Cor. 15:1-2). This is why Christians are exhorted to walk in the light and confess our sins in order to continually receive the cleansing power of forgiveness through the blood of Christ (1 John 1:7-9). This is why the saved are urged to grow in Christian graces, being specifically warned that “IF you practice these qualities you will never fall” (2 Pet. 1:5-10).

Let us think on these things as we travel the highway of life. Our salvation and our eternal destiny depends on it.



Irresistible Grace – Richard Mansel

What John Calvin formalized in the sixteenth century began with the teachings of Augustine in the fourth century. Since Calvin’s day, scholars have spread the doctrine throughout most of the denominational world. Through the years they simplified their teachings into five principles, the fourth of which is called “Irresistible Grace.”

Calvinists claim that since Adam and Eve disobeyed God, we’re all born sinners and are therefore too depraved to make sound spiritual decisions. As a result, God predestined certain individuals to be saved and others to be lost and that cannot be changed. Subsequently, Christ only died for the elect who are guaranteed heaven.

Calvinism is built on faulty presuppositions and half-truths. Their teachings are taken out of context or misinterpreted with such skill that they can bewilder the inattentive Bible student. In Calvinism, each point is ultimately wrong, but possesses enough truth to be dangerous.

Under Irresistible Grace, the handpicked elect are given a spiritual desire for the Lord so they will come to the Messiah for salvation. Once they are with Christ, they’re so grateful that they will never leave and are gathered into heaven for all eternity.

Since God is completely sovereign, they claim that man doesn’t have freewill and can’t resist God’s power. Basically, no one can choose Christ without divine intervention.

Despite their denial of freewill, conditional statements fill the pages of Scripture (Ex. 19:5; Deut. 11:13-15, 26-28; Is. 1:18-19). God’s Word is clear. We choose a life dominated by sin or one characterized by righteousness (Ezek. 18:19-23; Josh. 24:15).

“If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it” (Gen. 4:7, NKJV).

The doctrine of Irresistible Grace largely comes from John 6 and we want to examine that passage. God’s Word is the final authority in doctrine, not men and their ideas (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Jesus fed the multitude with five barley loaves and two small fish (John 6:1-13). The people were so impressed that they tried to find Him the next day to get more food (John 6:22-26). Jesus engaged them in a discussion about spiritual bread, but they only wanted Him to perform tricks for them like a common entertainer (John 6:30).

Jesus directed their minds back to spiritual things and specifically the manna in the wilderness (Ex. 16:3-8). Unlike the bread from Moses, the bread Jesus offered was spiritual and eternal (John 6:35).

Jesus said that he had not lost any of the souls God gave him, and he would not cast them out (John 6:37). Read through the filter of hereditary depravity, this means that man was too evil to choose Jesus so God gave his Son disciples. However we must take the entire Bible, not select passages into account.

Jesus built his church and kingdom (Matt. 16:18-19). Yet, God ultimately gave it to him (1 Cor. 15:24). When we hear the gospel (Rom. 10:17), believe the message (Heb. 11:6), repent of our sins (Luke 13:3-5) and confess Jesus as Lord (Matt. 10:32), we are immersed into Christ (Acts 22:16) and added to the Church (Acts 2:47).

God established Jesus as Lord, delivered a gospel message, presented Him with a kingdom, pronounced Him king and added converts to His Church. As a result, we must be in Christ in order to be saved (Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:27).

Jesus will not cast his children out of the kingdom (John 6:37). The Greek word for “cast” means “to drive out or expel.” John later used the word for a man who was cast out of the synagogue (John 9:22,34). You can’t be expelled from a building you’ve never entered.

While Jesus will not expel those who are in Christ, we can choose to leave (John 6:66; Heb. 2:1; 6:4-6; 10:26-31). Yet, in Christ, we are eternally secure as long as we choose to remain in holiness (Rom. 8:1).

The lost are drawn to Christ (John 6:44) because He is the Word (John 1:1-2) who offers spiritual life, truth and the way to salvation (John 14:6). As the Messiah, He was lifted up on the cross for all to receive or reject (John 12:32-33).

John believed strongly in human responsibility as evidenced by his demands that we choose between light and darkness (John 3:17-21; 8:12; 1 John 1:6-7).

God predestined a collective group of the elect who would come to Christ by the standards established before time began (Eph. 1:4; Ps. 119:89). We will be transformed by the gospel (Romans 12:1-2) and walk worthy of the calling of Christ (Eph. 4:1), because the Lord blesses us with all that we need to be holy.

We choose to be obedient to Christ (John 14:15), because the Lord allows us to be saved (Acts 2:37-38) by grace, through faith (Eph. 2:8-9). Accordingly, we cannot live in such a way where we force God to save us. He will never be in our debt. When we’ve done everything God asks of us, we’ll still need grace to enter into heaven (Luke 17:5-10).

As we walk obediently in the Light (Ps. 119:105), the blood of Christ cleanses us from our sin (1 John 1:7). We stand righteous because Christ’s blood is on our soul. Salvation is hopeless without Him. Adam sinned through disobedience but the obedience of Jesus makes salvation possible (Rom. 5:19).

To deny Calvinism is not to believe in a meritorious salvation. We are helpless without Christ. All spiritual blessings are found in Him (Eph. 1:3). By His strength (Eph. 1:19), we live in the light provided by the Lord and we walk by His hand (Eph. 5:8).

God is greater than man’s failings. Praise the Lord, for His way is blessed.



Limited Atonement – Wesley Walker

Over the past several years the evangelical world has had a resurgence of Calvinism. A new breed of young leaders have risen to prominence in evangelical circles. Their influence, not only among evangelical churches, but also within the churches of Christ, is growing through conferences, publications, and internet presence. This new resurgence brings to head old questions.

One of the fundamental questions of our faith is, “For whom did Christ die?” Those who are persuaded by the Calvinist understanding of soteriology (study of salvation) advocate a limited atonement. They argue that the Bible teaches that Christ died for those whom God gave Him to save (John 17:9). They state Christ died, indeed, for many people, but not all (Matthew 26:28). Specifically, Christ died for the invisible Church — the sum total of all those who would ever rightly bear the name “Christian” (Ephesians 5:25).

In essence limited atonement states that Jesus’ death was only for the elect. The word elect, as defined by the Calvinist, refers to individuals whom God has chosen to save. This salvation is irresistible. They are unable to choose not to be saved, rather God forces salvation upon them. It is this select group of people for whom Jesus died.

In support of this doctrine the adherents turn to several verses to make the case. From Matthew 1:21 they state that Jesus was only to save “his people.” From Matthew 20:28 they claim Jesus was only to pay the ransom for “many,” not for all. From John 10:15 they claim that Jesus was only dying for “His sheep.” From Acts 20:28 and Ephesians 5:25 the claim is made that Jesus’ death was limited to “His church.” Thus they argue that Scripture teaches that the death of Jesus is limited only to those who are His, and not available for everyone.

Before we look closer at the case presented above, we need to look at the verses in the New Testament which indicate that Jesus’ death was not limited. We should begin with the writings of John. In John 1:29 we are told that Jesus is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” In 1 John 2:2 we are told that Jesus was the atoning sacrifice (meaning of propitiation in the verse) for not only the sins of those who are in fellowship with God (the meaning of “us” in the verse), but for the sins of the whole world. It is clear in John that the “world”, when referring to people, is not in reference to those who are followers of Jesus, but rather it is reference to those who are opposed to Jesus (1 John 3:1, 13; 4:5; 5:19). Therefore John is making it clear that Jesus’ death was not just for His followers, but also for those who opposed Him. Jesus satisfied the wrath of God for all people.

This truth is also evident in the writings of Paul. Paul states that God wants “all to be saved,” and that He gave Jesus as a ransom for “all” (1 Tim. 2:3-6). Peter agrees as well stating that God does not want “any to perish” (2 Pet. 3:9). This would indicate that God would make the necessary provisions that all could come to salvation. In the first gospel message, after the ascension of Jesus, Luke records for us that the apostles proclaim salvation is available for “everyone” (Acts 2:21). The above passages from John, Paul, Peter, and Luke combined with the “whosoever” statements found throughout Scripture indicate that Jesus’ saving death is not limited to merely a predetermined small group, but rather to all the world.

How can Jesus’ death be stated to be both for a limited group of people (i.e. His disciples) and for all people? Three ways present themselves. First, everyone is saved by the death of Jesus. Second, the unconditionally elect are saved. Third, those who put their trust in Jesus are saved. The first option faces major challenges from Scripture, as the Bible states that some people will be lost (John 3:36). This leaves the final two options.

Option two does not do justice to the second set of verses, which make it clear that Jesus death was for all. This leaves us with option three, which is that those who put their trust in Jesus are saved. It reconciles both sets of verses. It can both be said that Jesus died for all and that Jesus died for the church. Jesus’ death made salvation available to all people, but it will only be received by those who through trusting obedience accept it.

The Bible does not teach a limited atonement. Rather it teaches an unlimited atonement, which makes salvation available to all men. Jesus died for the sins of the whole world–opening up the door of salvation to all men. However, it is only those men who will seek His forgiveness and are united to Him in baptism who will be the beneficiaries of Jesus death.


Unconditional Election – Jon Mitchell

If one holds to the doctrine of Total Hereditary Depravity and thereby believes that all of mankind is so utterly depraved that they cannot respond to the grace of God, one has to believe in the Calvinistic doctrine of Unconditional Election in order to have any sort of hope for salvation. John Calvin knew this. He said, “Predestination we call the eternal decree of God, by which he has 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 fore-ordained for some, and eternal damnation for others. Every man, therefore, being created for one or the other of these ends, we say, he is predestined either to life or to death.”

In other words, we cannot respond to the grace of God due to being totally depraved and lost in sin. Therefore, the only way any of us have any hope of salvation is for God to have already made up his mind to step in and choose to disregard the sin of some of us and give them salvation anyway. This doctrine, sometimes called the doctrine of predestination, is the basis of the Calvinistic tenet of Unconditional Election: the idea that God chooses some of mankind before they are born to be saved unconditionally.

However, the Scriptures teach that God shows no partiality (Acts 10:34-35; Rom. 2:11; 10:12; Eph. 6:9). He shows no favoritism of any kind. This goes against Calvinism’s teaching that God has chosen only some of us for unconditional salvation rather than all of us. If both Calvinism and the Word of God are true, why would God have chosen only some of us for unconditional salvation instead of everyone? Isn’t that showing partiality?

The Scriptures also teach that God wants everyone to be saved (John 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:4; Tit. 2:11; 2 Pet. 3:9). If John Calvin’s doctrine of Unconditional Election is true, God has chosen only some of mankind for unconditional salvation, not all. Logic dictates that if God has determined some of us to be predestined for salvation, he has also predetermined that the rest of us are destined for an eternity in hell. If both Calvinism and God’s Word are true, why wouldn’t God choose to save all of mankind unconditionally if he wants us all to be saved? Why would he have already decided that some of us will spend eternity in hell if he doesn’t want anyone to go to hell?

Any serious student of the Bible is familiar with the numerous warnings found within its pages. We are warned about Satan and his deceptions (1 Pet. 5:8; Eph. 4:27; 6:11; James 4:7). We are warned to avoid sin in order to avoid eternal punishment in hell (Matt. 5:22, 29-30). Christians are warned about the possibility of losing their salvation through unrepentant sin (Heb. 10:26-31). However, if Calvin is correct and God unconditionally elects some of mankind to be saved, then why would any of these warnings be in the Bible? Why would God tell those whom he has already chosen to be unconditionally saved to be on the alert for Satan? After all, if he has already decided that I’m going to be saved unconditionally, what can Satan do about it? Why would God warn those whom he has already decided are going to spend eternity in hell that they better not sin or else hell will be the result? Why the warnings about falling away from one’s salvation? If he’s already decided that hell is going to be where I end up, then it doesn’t matter what I do or don’t do. In fact, if God has already decided that I’m going to be saved no matter what, then why in the world would I even need to bother to go to church, read my Bible, obey the gospel, or uphold any sort of morality?

This reveals one of the major flaws in the doctrine of Unconditional Election. Under Calvinistic predestination, it would be possible for salvation to be given to a sinner who has never read the Bible or been part of the church. It would be equally possible for eternal condemnation to be given to a Christian who has read the Bible repeatedly and done his or her absolute best to faithfully live by all of its tenets and principles. In this way Calvinism really tries to make Christianity like Islam. Nonetheless, the Bible doesn’t teach what Unconditional Election proposes. One cannot hold to Calvinism and the Word of God without contradicting one or the other. Since God’s Word is truth (John 17:17), Unconditional Election is false.

However, Calvinists try to hold to both anyway. They cite Romans 8:28-30 as support for their doctrine of predestination: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (ESV). Calvinists cite the mention of predestination in this passage as proof that God unconditionally predestines some of salvation. However, such notions are proven erroneous when this passage is considered alongside the entirety of Scripture (Ps. 119:160).

Paul is telling us that God causes all things to “work together for good” (which would include obtaining eternal life in heaven) for two specific groups of people: “those who love God” and “those who are called according to his purpose.” One cannot love God without choosing to obey his commands (John 14:15; Josh. 24:15); our works of obedience, along with faith and God’s grace, justify us (James 2:24; Tit. 3:7). Likewise, the purpose for which God called those for whom he will cause all things together for good is to follow Christ’s example of doing good and enduring suffering as a result (1 Pet. 2:20-21). God calls us through the gospel (2 Thess. 2:14), which calls us to obey Christ (Matt. 28:19-20). Therefore, Paul in Romans 8:28-30 is referring to those who love God by their obedience, those who faithfully and obediently respond to the gospel call.

God did not randomly predetermine some of us for unconditional salvation and others for unconditional condemnation. He HAS predetermined that those who obey his gospel and obey his Son will be saved (Heb. 5:9), not the lucky few randomly selected for unconditional salvation. This is why we are to proclaim his gospel to all (Mark 16:15).


Total Hereditary Depravity – David W. Hester

The doctrine of total hereditary depravity is a foundational tenet of Calvinism. John Calvin believed that all babies are born in sin and that their nature had to be changed. In his Institutes, he wrote that babies “bear with them an inborn corruption from their mother’s womb” (Institutes II, 1340). “Indeed, their whole nature is a seed of sin; hence it can only be hateful and abhorrent to God” (Institutes I, 251). Calvin stated that “they must be cleansed of it before they can be admitted into God’s kingdom, for nothing polluted or defiled may enter there” (Institutes II, 1340). He contended, “original sin, therefore, seems to be a hereditary depravity and corruption of our nature” (Institutes I, 251).

Certain New Testament passages are used to justify this doctrine—which is held to by many mainline denominations. Romans 5:12 states, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” While Paul says that “death passed upon all men,” he does not affirm that guilt and corruption did so. To affirm that all people are guilty of Adam’s sin or because he sinned is to affirm something that Paul does not teach.

Ephesians 2:3 is another “sugar stick” passage used by Calvinists. “And were by nature the children of wrath” is used to affirm that we are born with corruption. Yet Paul does not state that we are born “children of wrath.” The word “nature” indicates practice. Paul affirms in verse 1 that we are “dead in trespasses and sins.” We are not born in that state.

In light of what Calvin affirmed, he also said “when man has been taught that no good thing remains in his power, and that he is hedged about on all sides by most miserable necessity, in spite of this he should nevertheless be instructed to aspire to a good of which he is empty, to a freedom of which he has been deprived” (Institutes I, 255). One can see the problem with this—in light of his teaching on depravity. Since the “good of which he is empty” and the “freedom of which he is deprived” are both good, then it is good for man to “aspire” to it. Yet, if he is depraved, then how can he “aspire” to it?

Total hereditary depravity is false doctrine. It is clear from Scripture that children are born innocent and remain in that state during childhood. Jesus said, “of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:14). He also said, “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3-4).

While it is certain that all people received the penalty of death because of Adam’s transgression, according to Romans 5:12-21, it is equally certain that all people are included in the redemptive act of Jesus Christ—and that “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Rom. 5:20).

Certain Old Testament passages affirm the innocence of babies and children. “Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto demons, and shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan; and the land was polluted with blood” (Ps. 106:37-38). “Moreover your little ones, that ye said should be a prey, and your children, that this day have no knowledge of good or evil, they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it” (Deut. 1:39). “Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till unrighteousness was found in thee” (Eze. 28:15). “And should not I have regard for Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?” (Jonah 4:11). “Before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land whose two kings thou abhorrest shall be forsaken” (Isa. 7:16).

Add to this what the New Testament affirms. “And I was alive apart from the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died” (Rom. 7:9). “For the children being not yet born, neither having done anything good or bad” (Rom. 9:11). It is abundantly clear that the Bible affirms the innocence of babies and children.

Scripture also clearly states that sin is not passed on from generation to generation. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die: the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him” (Eze. 18:20). “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin” (Deut. 24:16).

The New Testament plainly teaches how sin develops. “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren” (Jas. 1:14-16). “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (1 Jno. 3:4).

Calvinism is an insidious system that has subverted the souls of multiplied millions of people. The doctrine of total hereditary depravity is particularly abhorrent. When the Truth of God’s Word is utilized properly, it will always prevail. May God help all of us to clearly understand.





Calvinism — Jon Mitchell, Interim Editor (Editorial: September, 2014)

The doctrine known as Calvinism has permeated the foundational theology of much of the denominational world for centuries. Initially conceived by Augustine in the fourth century A.D., the doctrine was popularized in England, Ireland, and Scotland by John Calvin in the sixteenth century. Puritans and Presbyterians brought it to the New World in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, where Jonathan Edwards and others made various modifications to the theology. Today one will encounter various tenets of Calvinistic doctrine in various sects of the Baptist, Presbyterian, and Reformed Churches, among others.

The acrostic “TULIP” reveals the fundamental tenets of Calvinistic theology: Total Hereditary Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints. Each one of these false teachings are contingent upon each other. If man is in fact totally depraved due to inherited sin, he cannot respond to God’s grace. Therefore, God must have predestined who would be saved and who would be condemned. Christ’s death on the cross would atone only for those to whom God had already decided to grant salvation. Since God had already determined before they were born that the saved would be saved, it would be impossible for the saved to sin in such a way so as to successfully resist the grace of God and lose their salvation.

By themselves, the separate tenets of Calvinism show a logical thought progression. However, each of them falls short when compared to the totality of teaching in Scripture. The purpose of this issue of the Carolina Messenger is to examine each foundational tenet of Calvinism in light of the doctrine found in the Bible. I encourage the reader to pay close attention to the passages of Scripture brought out by each writer to combat the erroneous doctrines of man promoted by Calvinism. Study what the Bible says and commit these passages to memory in order to be better prepared to bring the gospel to the lost in your lives (Ps. 1:1-2; 2 Tim. 4:2; 1 Pet. 3:15). It is highly likely that any religious person with whom you study will have been taught one or more of these doctrines of Calvinism, and will have blindly accepted them as truth. If they are to know the actual truth of God’s Word which will set them free from the bondage of sin (John 8:31-37; 17:17), you must “explain to (them) the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26).

If there is anything the overwhelming acceptance and popularity of the false doctrine of Calvinism proves, it is that ignorance of Scripture does in fact destroy us (Hos. 4:6). Sadly, biblical ignorance is at an all-time high in our society currently. A recent article published by Biola Magazine titled “The Crisis of Biblical Illiteracy” states: “Christians used to be known as ‘people of one book.’ Sure, they read, studied, and shared other books. But the book they cared more about than all others combined was the Bible. They memorized it, meditated on it, talked about it and taught it to others. We don’t do that anymore, and in a very real sense we’re starving ourselves to death.”

Tragic, isn’t it? Does this tragedy describe you, friend? Know this: God expects you and me to continually grow in our knowledge of him and his Word if we want to spend eternity with him (2 Pet. 1:5-11). When we replace biblical knowledge and obedience with feelings and suppositions, we fall prey to false teachings like those of Calvinism, and will lose the salvation God offers to us (2 Tim. 4:3-4; Acts 20:29).


Look for the articles written about each facet of Calvinism in September’s issue to appear on this blog starting tomorrow!