Resource Saturday- Recalling T4G 2008

August 1, 2009

Okay, so I didn’t get to go to the last one, but the other day I was thinking about how next spring the 2010 Together for the Gospel conference will be making its way into my new residence of Louisville, KY and it got me to listening to the messages from the 2008 gathering.  And you know what?  They’re not that bad.

Seriously though, it’s hard to see how anyone could not benefit from what was taught in Louisville in 2008.  One particularly good message is John MacArthur’s defense of the doctrine of absolute inability.  Often times I can find plenty to pick on with MacArthur, and even this message has a diatribe at the end where I feel Johnny Mac gets carried away preacing against contextualization, but for the first 40-or so minutes of the sermon he gives a good explaination and exposition of what he calls “the most attacked” and “most despised” doctrine in evangelical churches.

So, if you, like myself, cannot wait until next April and the messages coming about The (Unadjusted) Gospel, try to satiate yourself for a few hours with the wonderful offerings already put forth by these great theologians.  See you in Louisville.

How and Why- Evangelism Cues in 2 Corinthians 5.20

July 30, 2009

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5.20)

Two things stand out to me here: “God making his appeal through us” and “On behalf of Christ.”

First, we hear that the evangelism of Paul and his partners is not the words of a man trying to get people saved.  It is God’s appeal through human instruments.  God has chosen to make his message known by the preaching of the gospel (cf. Romans 10.17).  Thus, our preaching is of necessity while at the same time being guaranteed.  God will get his message heard, his appeal made, and it will be by human messengers.

But, this preaching is neither man powered nor solely obedience.  Once again, return to Galatians 2.20:

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

The man that is crucified to self, living in the flesh by faith in Christ and Christ through him, willbe moved to evangelism.  Nothing is sheer will, everything is by the heart.  And God will guarantee the making of his appeal by controlling the heart of his evangelist.

Second, the call to reconciliation is made “on behalf of Christ.”  By the power of God I may love my neighbor and weep, if necessary, over his lostness, but the drive to evangelize him is not wrought of my own benevolence and love but of the will of Christ to reconcile them to God.  I alone dictate nothing.  God works sovereignly, either sovereignly with me or sovereignly against me.  Whichever way, it gets done, even is this may be by way of exposing my own pride.

Darkness . . . – A Reflection on 2 Corinthians 4.3-6, part 1

July 23, 2009

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4.3-4)

I believe that this verse speaks well together with Hebrews 11.6,

And without faith it is impossible to please [God], for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

God can only be pleased by the faith of those who believe in and seek him, and no one can do this who is “blind” to the gospel.  No one may reject the light of the gospel and serve God simultaneously, for those to whom the “gospel is veiled” are one who are perishing.

Similarly, this agrees with Ephesians 2.1-3,

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Here we see that “the god of this world [who] has blinded the minds of the unbelievers” is the same as “the prince of the power of the air” that those “dead in [their] trespasses and sins” follow.  This is a hard word, but its reality makes the truth to be found in verse 6 of 2 Corinthians 4 all the more glorious!

Does “Love” Excuse Us from Right Doctrine?- Quick Thoughts on Derek Webb’s Song “What Matters More”

July 9, 2009

[Warning: for those of you who are offended by swearing, the linked music contains some vulgar language.]

For those of you who think it is not important to keep up with the emergent church movement (ECM) then let this be a warning: this is what’s going on in the broader world of American Christianity while we sit and fight stupid denominational battles about things like if we can accept Calvinists or not.

I hate this.

If you think that we have a problem with people moving towards the doctrines of grace . . . OPEN YOUR EYES!  We have a problem with the church moving away from the Bible.

Brian McLaren calls this song “important and courageous.”  He compares it with a post where he said that “many if not most Christians in the US remain focused on the ‘religious arguments’ list [versus a list of global crises]” (read more here).  And you know what?  He’s right.  Many if not most of us are so focused on our ridiculous arguments against Calvinists ruining families or trying to get Mark Driscoll banned from LifeWay bookstores or keeping Southern Baptists from working in places that sell booze that we totally neglect the whole world in need of a God who is mighty to save.

However, just because we are neglecting this does not mean that everyone is.  No.  In fact, there are plenty of “Christians” like McLaren who are very focused upon these problems.  And guess what?  They don’t care at all about theology.  I don’t mean they don’t care about if you are Calvinist/non-Calvinist/Arminian or Abstentionist/Moderationist, I mean they don’t care if you believe in hell or justification by faith or that Jesus was fully God and fully man.  They don’t care if God exists as three persons in one or if the Bible is truly God’s infallible, inerrant revealed word for us today.  They don’t care one bit.  All they care about is “love.”  And because of this, they are getting an audience with the world.  Never mind if it is grace without truth since there is no one there to bring grace AND truth at the same time anyways.

Is there a need for a Great Commission Resurgence?  I believe there is.  And for those of you who say, “Well golly gee, our church is already focused on the Great Commission,” I present this song, and the rising popularity of man-centered, antinomian, pelagian Emergent “Christianity” as Exhibit A in my defense.

Choosing to Hate?- Blog Post on Reactions against Calvinism in the SBC

June 30, 2009

Despite great encouragement, great ignorance was also shown at the SBC Annual Meeting (and in the most inappropriate of places may I add).  Though I do not have the actual statement, here is a clip of the prepared manuscript of what I’m talking about, which in reality is even less offensive than what was actually said:

The Southern Baptist Convention is experiencing a resurgence in the belief that divine sovereignty alone is at work in salvation without a faith response on the part of man.

Some are given to explain away the “whosoever will” of John 3:16. How can a Christian come to such a place when Ephesians says, “For by grace are you saved through faith” (Eph. 2:8)? I do not rise to become argumentative, or to change minds already convinced of one perspective or the other. But I do rise to state the obvious. Man is often tempted to design a theological theory in light of a biblical antinomy in order to clarify what God is trying to say.

Man’s system will be inferior to God’s system now and forever. Why is it so difficult to accept from God what we cannot fully explain? After all, He didn’t begin to tell us everything He knows, but what we need to know to be redeemed and live righteously. The belief that sovereignty alone is at work in salvation is not what has emboldened our witness and elevated our concern for evangelism and missions through the ages. This is not the doctrine that Southern Baptists have embraced in their desire to reach the world for Christ.

If there is any doctrine of grace that drives men to argue and debate more than it drives them to pursue lost souls and persuade ALL MEN to be reconciled to God – then it is no doctrine of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Morris Chapman, EC Report)

This unfortuante rambling during what was supposed to be a simply (and boring) report made me wonder.  Even though there is much good and fair play coming across the aisles between SBC Calvinists and non-Calvinists, there still remains a sizeable and vocal number of people who don’t know the Doctrines of Grace from a bottle of Jack Daniels and yet want to rant about how dangerous it is to evangelism, churches, and even families.  Therefore, I posted an article over at SBC Voices asking the question: why are there still seeds of animosity towards Calvinism in many corners of the SBC?

If you have any insight or just want to see what people are saying in response to this, please click on over and check it out.  the post is entitled, “Calvinism: The New Racism in the SBC?

Understanding Election as Comfort- A Testimony on Election and Adoption

June 25, 2009

There is probably no more maligned doctrine in the soteriological system known as Calvinism than that which the Bible refers to as election.  This surely was attested to every time someone attempted to speak against Calvinism at the SBC Annual Meeting earlier this week.

However, as I have said many times before, I find Election to be among the most glorious blessings we have received from God as believers.  Today, I wish to give you a few verses and then cast them in light of a personal story in order to make this blessing clear.  Here are three passages with the parts I wish to emphasize in bold:

Ephesians 1.3-6, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”

John 1.12-13, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

James 1.18, “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”

Many of you are probably unaware that my daughter was born to me when I was just 15 years old.  There are many wonderful stories of God’s goodness surrounding this fact that I have tried to share in my testimony series, but today I want to focus on one in particular.

From the beginning I raised my daughter as a single parent, knowing that her biological mother was not fit to be the mother that she needed growing up.  Thus, I knew that along with finding a spouse who completed me as a person I would also need to find a woman who was prepared to be a mother as soon as she became a wife.

By the plan of God I found such a woman while in college and after a year and a half of dating we got married.  Then, once married, one of the first things she did was to file for formal adoption of our daughter, making her from top to bottom the legally recognized mother of our little girl.  Our daughter, already being five at that time, understood pretty well all that was going on, and fully embraced my wife as her mommy.

Today, the two of them still talk about the adoption, and the way in which they do brings much joy to our little girl’s heart.  They discuss how my wife knew that being in love with me was not enough, but to truly be able to choose me as a spouse she also needed to be willing to choose my daughter as a child.  This she did, and much in the way she married me, she adopted our daughter.  She saw her and loved her and chose her to be her daughter by adoption.

Our daughter never forgets this.  She cherishes the fact that her mommy chose her.  Similarly we as believers should cherish the fact that God chose us!  God saw us “before the foundation of the world” and through his great love, not dependent upon anything we acted on our own, he adopted us as sons and daughters, to receive full standing beside Christ in the line of his promised inheritance.  That is election and that is a doctrine that we can lift up for the love of God that it so clearly puts on display!

Cynicism and The Sinner’s Prayer- Initial Misgivings

June 9, 2009

Jesus said, ‘You may ask Me for anything in my name, and I will do it.’ (John 14.14)

Therefore, if you pray sincerely, asking Him this:

“Lord Jesus, please come into my life
and be my Savior and Lord.
Please forgive my sins,
and give me the gift of eternal life.”

– He will do it now.”

(The Bridge to Life tract, by The Navigators)

To start out this look at The Sinner’s Prayer I think it would be best for me to be upfront about what initially makes me uneasy here.  Simply put, I’m a Calvinist.  Not that I ascribe to a set of beliefs known as Calvinism, but that when I look at Scripture I cannot help but see the doctrine of salvation spoken of in the way that is popularly called Calvinism.

I believe that man is totally depraved, wholly unable to do anything (anything!) to reconcile himself to God outside of God’s merciful work of regeneration.  I believe that God chose all that he would save from before time, not according to any merit of their own but solely through his electing love.  I believe that Christ then came to die for the atonement of those elect and that through this sacrifice the Trinity works to justify all and only the elect, preserving them eternally for the inheritance of salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

So, why does that matter?  Because, as a Calvinist, I cannot see any grounds upon which The Sinner’s Prayer is justifiable for use in the salvation of men.  The whole premise of The Sinner’s Prayer is that through some cute illustration we have recognized that we are separated from God, but not so separated that we can’t grab a hold of Jesus’ “promise” in John 14.14 (or other places) and ask God into our hearts to save us.  In fact, we are guaranteed by the prayer that if we ask for this, or at least if we ask for it “sincerely,” then Jesus will certainly do it.  Thus, we are told that salvation is not about God’s will but about ours, that we would will for Christ to come into our life, and so he does.

How disgusting!!!!

The picture that this idea paints of Christ is absolutely appalling!  In it Christ is no more than an impotent by-stander, totally bound by the whim of sinful humanity to choose him and wholly dependent upon the power of men’s cunning to convince sinful humanity to make such a leap.  Christ’s brutal death guarantees the salvation of no man and our assurance comes not from the Spirit of God testifying within us, but from our own sincerity in asking!

Paul says in Romans 1.16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”  The gospel is “the power of God for salvation,” the ‘dynamis‘, the thing bearing the strength to save men.  Even more, in 1 Corinthians 1.18 we see that, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”  Again, the ‘dynamis‘ is in the word of God.

But The Sinner’s Prayer teaches that our asking for salvation is the power for salvation!  The ability to save rests fully upon our asking for it!  Clearly there is a contradiction here.  This is not a fine tuning issue or an exegetical misconstruing.  This is a fundamental disagreement about the source of our salvation.  Either it is birthed by God’s power through His word or it is granted by our “sincere” petition upon Christ’s “promise.”  For what it’s worth, I think we should go with the Bible on this one!

Next time we will begin to look further into Scripture to see what it has to tell us about the conversions of the early Christians and the teachings about salvation delivered by those who knew Christ personally.

Ringing the Man-Centered Bell Again- Jerry Vines and His Great Commission Caveat

June 4, 2009

If you keep up with anything in Southern Baptist news then you have heard about Dr. Danny Akin’s proposed Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) (I’ve even posted on it here already).   In the wake of Dr. Akin’s chapel message on this point there has been a document floating around which people within the SBC have been hemming and hawing over whether or not to sign.  Now, I’ll be honest, as much as I support what Akin said in chapel, I don’t necessarily think that I am all that in favor of a petition circulating our convention since all that does is bring a whole bunch of unneeded theological/opinion posturing to the table.  

Case in point, Dr. Jerry Vines.  Full disclosure: it is well known on this site that I am not the biggest fan of Jerry Vines’ ministry, particularly in light of last fall’s horrendous John 3:16 Conference.  That said, he has decided to interject himself into the GCR conversation by signing the document and then appending the phrase “with caveats” to it, which of course leads to the obvious question (and Internet hot topic) of, “What are his caveats?”  Thankfully we did not have to have another poorly named conference to flesh these out as he answered the question recently in an interview with the SBC’s own Baptist Press (here). 

So, what are his caveats?

In Article II ["We must be gospel centered in all our endeavors for the glory of God"], I understand Gospel-centeredness to include that Christ died for the sins of the whole world (I John 2:2).

In Article V [" We must affirm the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 as a healthy and sufficient guide for building a theological consensus for partnership in the gospel, refusing to be sidetracked by theological agendas that distract us from our Lord’s Commission"], I understand the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 to be a minimal guide, not a maximal one.

Good night!  This is exactly what I’m talking about!  First, neither one of these things is essentially to fulfilling the Great Commission (and thus shouldn’t be caveats at all!), and second, both of them are simply an attempt for Dr. Vines to further push his anti-Calvinist agenda within the SBC.  

1 John 2.2 says, “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”  That is a nice verse, divinely inspired and glorious in its revelation.  However it does not exactly say that “Christ died for the sins of the whole world.”  Besides, if we are going to use one verse to make a theology, why don’t we use John 10.11 (“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep”) or Matthew 1.21 (“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins“)?  My point being, universal redemption (or unlimited atonement) is not a cut-and-dry doctrine, especially for consideration within the gospel.  

In his great book Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, here is what J.I. Packer has to say about the extent of the atonement and the gospel:

It is obvious that if a preacher thought that the statement “Christ died for every one of you,” made to any congregation, would be unverifiable, and probably not true, he would take care not to make it in his gospel preaching.  You do not find such statements in the sermons of, for instance, George Whitefield or Charles Spurgeon.  But now, my point is that, even if a man thinks that this statement would be true if he made it, it is not a thing that he ever needs to say, or ever has reason to say, when preaching the gospel.  For preaching the gospel . . . means inviting sinners to come to Jesus Christ, the living Savior, who, by virtue of his atoning death, is able to forgive and save all those who put their trust in him.  What has to be said about the cross when preaching the gospel is simply that Christ’s death is the ground on which Christ’s forgiveness is given.  And this is all that has to be said.  The question of the designed extent of the atonement does not come into the story at all. (p.76)

Thus, this caveat definitely seems extraneous given its tenuous justification and lack of necessity as demonstrated by Dr. Packer.

Then on the second caveat, this is really just more of the same.  Why does Jerry Vines want to “caveat” that the BF&M 2000 is a minimal guide for building theological consensus?  Well, let’s look at the things that Danny Akin says are not covered in the BF&M and do not need to be held in agreement for us to unify within the GCR: 

  1. The exact nature of human depravity and transmission of the sin nature.
  2. The precise constitution of the human person.
  3. The issue of whether or not Christ could have sinned. (We all agree He didn’t!)
  4. The ordo salutis (”order of salvation”).
  5. The number of elders and the precise nature of congregational governance.
  6. The continuance of certain spiritual gifts and their nature.
  7. Does baptism require only right member (born again), right meaning (believer’s) and right mode (immersion) or does it also require the right administrator (ever how that is defined).
  8. The time of the rapture (pre, mid, post, partial rapture or pre-wrath rapture).
  9. The nature of the millennium (pre, amill or post)
  10. And, saving the best for last in our current context, we are not in full agreement about Calvinism and how many points one should affirm or redefine and affirm!

Now, of these, I wonder which of them Dr. Vines believes is necessary for building theological consensus?  I would highly doubt he is being strict over mind/body/soul issues (#2), the possibility that Christ could have sinned (#3), proper administration of baptism (#7), or eschatology (#8 and 9).  That leaves #1, #4, #5, #6, and #10.  Of these, at least three (and probably four considering the nature of polity issues) are related to Reformed theology.  Maybe Jerry Vines feels like he can’t be in cooperation with someone who believes in the possibility of speaking in tongues.  But what seems more likely the case based on precedent and the above statistics is that Jerry Vines would have trouble consensus-building with Calvinists.  I’m sorry Dr. Vines, but as a Southern Baptist, and particularly one who sat on the committee which wrote the BF&M 2000, that’s pathetic!  Again, caveat unnecessary.

Why does it have to be more of the same?  Like I said earlier, Dr. Akin’s message was grand, but now that it has made it into the hands of SBC “dignitaries” watch out.  The only thing likely to come of it now is more of the fabulous SBC infighting which the point of the whole freakin’ message was against in the first place!

The Wind or Me?- John Piper and the Clarity of Calvinism in the Gospel of John

May 31, 2009

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.  So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” -John 3.8

Awhile back I did a series called “Calvinism Really is the Gospel!” where I argued in favor of Charles Spurgeon’s famous quote.  A few weeks ago John Piper did the same thing, though not nearly as explicitly as I attempted here.

What went on was simply Dr. Piper’s walk-through the Gospel of John eventually leading him to the passage at the beginning of chapter 3 where Nicodemus comes under cover of night to question Jesus.  I response to Nicodemus Jesus makes several cryptic/philosophical remarks about the wind and being born which Bible readers have fought to accurately understand ever since Nicodemus heard them the first time.  So, as a faithful minister of the Word, John Piper went to work and unpacked the glorious theology behind these statements.  In the process of doing so Piper gave Scriptural arguments for at least 4 of the 5 points of Calvinism (he may or may not have covered Perseverance), however at no point did he argue for “Calvinism.”  He just tackled what was there with the logical conclusion being a reformed soteriology.  He even at points grappled with the non-Calvinist arguments, successful putting them to rest (at least as far as I’m concerned).

The thing which impressed me the most was Piper’s even-handed yet direct rebuke of the non-Calvinist’s desire to be the final determining actor in his own salvation.  Whenever I talk to my non-Calvinist friends (I use that term loosely . . . j/k!) this is what the argument always boils down to.  They even admit it sometime, saying things like, “At the end of the day I just have to believe that man has the freedom to choose God or not.”  I really want to put this message in their hands and see how they respond!

Please take the time to listen to it (I have posted it below).  Honestly this is one of the best sermons I have ever heard Piper deliver, and probably the best argument for Calvinism as plain biblical theology you will ever find.  Glory be to God!

John Piper- The Free Will of the Wind

Steps Away from the Dark Side- Thoughts on How to Avoid the Temptation Towards Christian Universalism

May 12, 2009

Last week we spent several days looking at Christian Universalism and several errors abuses that I claim are making it easier for evangelical churches to fall into this heresy.  The four I named specifically were a misunderstanding of the idea that “God is love,”  a misunderstanding of salvation by grace alone, the teaching of Free Grace theology as it pertains to perseverance, and the denial of the doctrine of a literal hell.  Today I want to briefly discuss what I think we can do to protect against these errors and hold off the advancement of Christian Universalism into our churches.  My thesis is this: in order to protect against the doctrinal errors that tempt Christians towards accepting the Christian Universalist viewpoint, we need to better teach, demonstrate, and embrace the traditional reformed doctrines of salvation, particularly the doctrines of total depravity and unconditional election.

First, I believe that holding to a true understanding of total depravity goes a long way here, the core issue of this being whether or not man is by nature good and able to choose on his own to please God.  He either is or he isn’t, there really is no middle ground, even though men like Paige Patterson muddy the waters playing fast-and-loose with this terminology.  

Total depravity teaches that man is by nature sinful, wholly incapable of pleasing God and radically undesiring to do so (cf. Hebrews 11.6, Ephesians 2.1-3, Romans 3.9-12).  Understanding this means that we are confronted with the fact that every second of a person’s life prior to being saved is spent in absolute rebellion against God.  At no point is anything this person does going to incline God towards them or merit God’s favor in any way.  ”[E]very intention of the thoughts of [their] heart [is] only evil continually” (Genesis 6.5).  This is all sin and all an affront to the righteousness of God, which incurs his just anger.  For God to forgive this requires more than just love.  This is not some little kid who doesn’t mean to be bad they just are sometimes.  This is a full-blown sociopath who shows no remorse or care that they are breaking every rule set out for them.  If God is just he has to deal with this.  If God is not just then he is not God and so were done.  Therefore, “God is love” proves to be insufficient and salvation by grace alone must be understood in the context of who actually did pay for our transgression, that being Jesus Christ.  If man is totally depraved then we have a real mess on our hands and it requires a much bigger God than the false God of Christian Universalism to fix what’s wrong with us.

Moreover, if man is totally depraved before salvation and yet able to please God after salvation then that means something happens at salvation.  This something is what we find in Ezekiel 36 and Titus 3:

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezekiel 36.26-27)

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3.4-5)

At the moment of our salvation God washes over our totally depraved hearts and brings them out anew, ready to walk in his ways, able to follow his commands and serve him in a manner that is pleasing.  We no longer are stuck in “following the course of this world” (Ephesians 2.2) but now are free to offer “spiritual worship” to our Lord (Romans 12.1).  Therefore, to not do so is wildly out of place.  Why would God set us up in such a way to do good works (Ephesians 2.10) if he did not have any intention on us actually doing them?  Why are we given “heart[s] of flesh” and why does he say that he will “cause [us] to walk in [his] statutes“?  Is God just being facetious?  Was Ezekiel 36 only written to committed Christians and not the everyday average Joe Christian?  Clearly not.  God went through great trouble to enable us to do good works for us to just shoo that away as if it is an optional text.  Totally depravity and Free Grace theology cannot coexist.

Finally, we can use the doctrine of unconditional election to deal with the denial of hell.  Unconditional election, the process by which God has chosen his people, his children, from before time, without regard for their works or merit (because they have none prior to salvation, right?), and predestined them unto a sure salvation.  Going further, because some Calvinists don’t do this, we need to understand that God saves ALL AND ONLY the elect.  All of the elect will be saved and only the elect will be saved (cf. Romans 8.30, John 10.24-27).  

But how does this help with the denial of hell?  Put simply, it gives us understanding that no one is going to hell who wasn’t already choosing to go to hell.  By our actions, our rebellion against God (in totally depravity) we are choosing hell.  The only way out of this is by God’s grace in salvation.  And the only way to salvation is through election.  So, God remains just.  He makes no man go to hell who did not already desire to go there himself.  We need not view God as a God who damns unjustly or saves willy-nilly.  God had a plan and purpose set out before the foundation of the world of whom he would save (Ephesians 1.3ff) and he is faithful to see that through.  There is no one in hell who does not deserve it, and there is no design among men by which they may save themselves (cf. 1 Corinthians 1.26-31).  God chose unconditionally and works this choice righteously to save those who are “called according to his purpose” (Romans 8.28).

There is much more.  Taking on the reformed doctrines of salvation to their full extent (all five points of Calvinism) enlightens such a great portion of God’s plan that the confusion and mire of non-Calvinist soteriology and Easy Believism are wisked away.  Admittedly, Calvinism is prone to its own abuses (particularly thinking here of the hyper-Calvinist practice of non-evangelism), but at the end of the day I would rather deal with the error of a God who does not call people to missions over the one of a God who does not call people to salvation, wouldn’t you?