"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Moralism and Legalism Are Not the True Gospel of God's Grace and Love in Jesus Christ

My mother will periodically send me a devotion that has made an impact on her. The other day she forwarded to all her children the following devotion that precisely defines my theology and forms the substance of what I proclaim to others. I am intentionally holding off on giving the author of this devotion the credit he deserves until people have had a chance to read it and comment on it. However, before I move to another written post at Grace and Truth to You, I will give full credit and a commendation of the author.

The bold letters are my own emphasis. After the devotional, I will make a few brief comments of my own. As always, I am not trying to convince people that I possess the truth (though I believe I do), because there is always the possibility that I could be wrong. I base my beliefs on the inerrant Word of God, but I am not of the opinion that my interpretations and opinions are always correct. And, even though I believe the doctrine in this devotion is the heart of true Christianity, I give allowance for other Christians to disagree and point out my error. Here goes:

God always entices us through love.

Most of us were taught that God would love us if and when we change. In fact, God loves you so that you can change.

What empowers change, what makes you desirous of change is the experience of love. It is that inherent experience of love that becomes the engine of change. If the mystics say that one way, they say it a thousand ways.

But because most of our common religion has not been at the mystical level, we’ve been given an inferior message—that God loves me “when” I change (“moralism”). What that does is put it back on you. You’re back to “navel gazing” and you never succeed at that level.

You are never holy enough, pure enough, refined enough, or loving enough.

Whereas, when you fall into God’s mercy, when you fall into God’s great generosity, you find, seemingly from nowhere, this capacity to change.

No one is more surprised than you are. You know it is a gift
.
It is because I believe God's love effectual produces change in undeserving sinners that I hold to the doctrine of particular atonement. In other words, the love of God in Christ Jesus effectually and eternally saves the sinners for whom Christ died.

It is the moralist and the legalist who must make salvation something other than the love of God in Christ Jesus. Our convention and churches are filled with moralists who try to convince sinner they must do something to get God to love them. The love of God for sinners arises from His heart like an artesian spring, it is never pulled from his heart by the pump of human effort.

If I believed that Christ died for every sinner that has ever lived, or ever will live, then I would by necessity believe in universalism. The atonement is too powerful, the grace of God too efficacious, and the love of God too omnipotent to not produce the change His love brings to sinners. I believe the Bible teaches that God has chosen to bypass a few sinners and has sovereignly chosen not to give to them His effectual, saving grace. You may ask, "For what reason would God choose to leave sinners in their sin if it was within His power to deliver them?" Or, "Why would God not give to every sinner His transforming love since it is His love that transforms sinners?"  I respond: "Who am I to answer for God for His eternal purposes?" (see Romans 9). I can only conjecture  that God has mercy on whom he will have mercy and He hardens whom he will harden for the praise of the glory of His justice. In short, His people wouldn't appreciate the grace and mercy they have received unless they knew His justice and righteousness as revealed in the punishment of reprobate sinners.

The Bible clearly teaches that some sinners will experience the righteous judgment of God in hell. It's their fault that they experience God's judgment because it is their volitional sin that brings to them the wise and judicial justice of heaven. God declares that He takes no pleasure in their punishment, but He punishes unredeemed sinners to reveal His attribute of justice. On the other hand, there is a vast, innumerable company of sinners from every tribe, every nation, every kindred and every tongue upon whom God has set His love through Christ Jesus--in short, the world. I believe these elect are saved by the eternal love of God, and as we experience His love, we are transformed by His grace.

Again, whether you agree with me or not is of no concern to me. But if you believe the tenets of the above devotion to be true, your only option is to be a universalist or a particular redemptionist.

Otherwise, you become you fall into the spiritual quicksand of moralism and legalism.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

P.S. The devotion is by Catholic writer and Christian apologist Richard Rohr.

57 comments:

Bob Cleveland said...

When I was a Presbyterian, I heard (quite often) the simple statement that, if God saved no one, we would never know of His love and mercy; if He saved every one, we would never know of His justice and righteousness.

His motives are beyond conjecture, but that does seem to explain something to me.

Wade Burleson said...

Good word, Bob.

Kevin M. Crowder said...

"How happy those whose lawless acts are forgiven and whose sins are covered! How happy the man whom the Lord will never charge with sin!"

-David, son of Jesse

Rex Ray said...

This post reminds me of (Mark 12:38 Living) “Beware of the teachers of religion.”

Gary Snowden said...

Wade,

I have been a faithful reader and an occasional commenter on your blog almost since its inception. I have found myself in about 99.99% agreement with all that you have written. As a former IMB missionary, I share your concerns that first prompted you to voice objections to the narrowing of parameters within the SBC.

I'm afraid though that I'm going to have to part company with you on this particular post however. I can appreciate your convictions on the matter of a particular atonement, but you make a couple of statements that I feel led to challenge.

Without falling into either legalism or moralism, nor with any inclination whatsoever of affirming universalism, I can readily point to numerous verses in the Bible that speak of God's love for the entire world, of Christ's desire that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, and of the many "whosoever" passages that are robbed of any legitimacy if they apply only to some but not all people.

I recognize the tension in the verses that you've cited from Romans 9 about God showing mercy on whom He will show mercy, but for every verse that suggests a limited scope to the redemptive reach of Christ's atonement, I can point to several more that proclaim that His love and grace know no limits except that which man exercises by his unbelief in rejecting Christ's offer of salvation made available to all through repentance and faith.

Such an understanding of the scope of grace makes much more sense in explaining how Jesus could grieve over the rich young ruler who preferred his wealth to a life of obedient discipleship. It further explains Jesus' words in the last week of His life as He grieves over Jerusalem with tears, declaring that He desired to gather its inhabitants to Himself as a mother hen gathers her chicks to her, but they would not have it. The failure to come to Jesus and acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior wasn't due to their not being elected or their sins covered by Christ's blood, but rather their refusal to repent.

The other statement that I would challenge is your final sentence. I fully accept the tenets of the devotional that extols the matchless love of God that accepts us as we are and cleanses us from all unrighteousness through His blood as we confess our sins and trust in Him. I can do that without either believing in a particular redemption nor affirming universalism. I can still gladly affirm that salvation is a free gift of God and not a result of man's works without falling into a system of legalism. Nor does the fact that God loves everyone as John 3:16 so clearly affirms imply that all will necessarily be saved. The repeated exhortations in Scripture to repent, confess our sins, and believe in Christ for salvation all point to a need for men to respond and accept the gift so freely offered to all. When a man refuses to humble himself before God and do that, he remains dead in his trespasses and sins--not because Christ didn't atone for them, but because he stubbornly refuses to accept Christ's offer of mercy and grace.

I don't expect that these brief paragraphs will change your theological position that obviously you have come to after much diligent study. I merely ask that you extend the same grace that you speak of so eloquently in other contexts to those who differ in their interpretation of a passage or their understanding of a doctrine of the faith.

Byron said...

You write - "but He punishes unredeemed sinners to reveal His attribute of justice" God's attribute of justice is revealed in and through the punishment of unredeemed sinners. But the is not the purpose for which they are punished as is indicated by your use of the word "to." They are punished b ecause they have not believed on the name of the only begotten Son.

Anonymous said...

"But we make his love more narrow
By false limits of our own;
And we magnify his strictness
With a zeal he will not own."

Florence in KY

Anonymous said...

Wade

Sadly, moralism rules the day in our land. I would guess that over 50% of the sermons on Sunday would be on some type of moralistic teaching IE Don't Smoke, Don't Chew, Don't Drink

It is truly sad that we as the church have lost the Gospel

Wade Burleson said...

Byron,

I would expect they are punished for being sinners. Of course, rejecting Christ is sin.

Wade Burleson said...

Gary,

You express your views quite well! You probably represent about half our congregation in your views on the atonement. My view represents the other half.

We get along great and never make it an issue of fellowship-ever. We would love you as a church member and would encourage you to teach your view of the atonement every opportunity you receive, including from the pulpit.

Our folks have been trained to give freedom to others to disagree and teach what they believe without getting upset or attempting to change their minds!

I know we share the same heart.

In His Grace,

Wade

RRR said...

I sure do disagree with you Brother Wade. Isn’t it amazing that two followers of Christ who are each 100% confident that their position on Scripture is correct can be so far apart on something this basic and critical?! I mean, I feel such an affirmation from the Holy Spirit and the written Word of God when I reflect on my position that it confounds me every time I hear a Calvinist explain their view on the application of the Cross being a selective act of God’s sovereign will.

It equally befuddles me when I hear a Calvinist suggest that when anyone believes that a person exercises the free will that God gave them to make a decision to accept or reject God is practicing a salvation based upon “works”. Instead, you seem to believe that God rams salvation down the throat of those sinners whom He chooses to save in the name of His love and kills the discerning soul of those He chooses to damn to eternal hell. Where’s the love in that?

When the opposition does present legitimate, and I believe, convincing argument that seems to back you into a corner you make a shuffle move by saying something like, “Who can explain God?”

There are plenty of Scriptures that we can extract to justify both of our positions. In situations like this it seems to me that it comes down to two things:
1. Our sense of affirmation from discerning what the voice of the Holy Spirit is telling us.
2. Our personal experience with having fellowshipped and traveled with God in life that leads us to conclude certain basic characteristics about His personality and being.

You and I do not see God the same. Apparently, your experiences with God have led you to see Him differently that I. We do not see the application of the Cross as being the same. We do not see the relationship of God's created man and God the same. Yet we read the same Bible, follow the same Lord Jesus as being God incarnate and God’s only way to be saved, worship the same God, and both have faith that we are saved for all eternity.


But you know I think there’s a lesson to be learned from this and I’m glad that you continue to bring it up in your blog posts because it is productive in this regard. We have positions on something as basic as this but are poles apart and both apparently very confident that we are correct in our position.

The lesson for me is that we must be cautious about suggesting that someone else is “wrong” when it comes to matters of doctrinal stance. I believe it is best to say, “This is what I believe.’ and not even attempt to argue why someone else is wrong. I continue to believe that the Holy Spirit speaks to one’s heart and guides them as to God’s position.

Then we can give each other another big man-hug and part our ways as brothers.

Gary Snowden said...

Wade,

Thanks for your gracious reply and the respect you show for a different understanding of the atonement. I'm delighted to hear you affirm that your congregation worships together harmoniously without making this a point of contention.

If I ever wind up near Enid on a Sunday morning, it would be a blessing and a pleasure to worship with your church.

I really enjoyed your dad's fine tribute to your mom as well as they celebrate their 50th.

Blessings.

shadowspring said...

Whew, glad you feel okay with Gary Snowden because I am in agreement with him. =) There is another view other than universalism or particular atonement. Those of us who subscribe to it are also convinced we are right, but in good will accept into our hearts all those who profess faith in our Blessed Redeemer. Glad we are all on that page together.

Wade Burleson said...

RRR,

Disagreement is good.

Hold fast to your beliefs. Mine are not threatened by yours, and I trust yours are not threatened by mine.

All I can say is that my view of the atonement gives me utter and complete rest in the work of God on my behalf.

ml said...

wade, it is interesting that many who hold true arminian beliefs also lean toward moralism abd legalism. ironically, to fall from grace as Paul states in Galations is actually to rely on works over grace. I will prefer to fall into grace and understand that any good I do is actually making me further in debt to God as our good is an act of God's grace in us. Simply put the same grace that saves is the grace that sustains and takes us home. Tim Keller has an incredible sermon on 1 John 1-2. Included in his sermon is a great Spurgeon illustration about the acorn. I'll link later.

Christiane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jack said...

Wade

Thankful for a post that is substantive and without political overtones! Thanks for your thoughts. I certainly am in agreement on the issue of the atonement not being universal or general. it could not and can not be if we are to hold to the clear teaching of scripture that not all will be saved. Is it plausible that one can hold tot the atonement in being limited only in its scope to those who place faith in Christ, therefore it is unlimited in its availability to sinners , yet limited in its application only to those who will place faith in Christ? I believe that this is a mystery and one of the chief mesons that I believe ALL true baptists are at least 3 pointers and more than likely 4 pointers, whether they know it or not (wink) For those of us who do not sign of on historical limited atonement and in particular Dortian limited atonement, Romans 9 is our proverbial fly in the ointment!

What are your thoughts on Timothy George's view utilizing ROSES vs TULIPS? Is there not some middle ground there? I will say this. In my estimation the atonement must be limited to some degree or else everything leads to rank arminism (which is a hotbed or legalism or if not, then unbridled liberty , i.e. antinomianism) which may not be heresy by any stretch, but is indeed error.

Grace for your weekend...
j

Bob Cleveland said...

Someone once said, in a secular context, that a man's position on most issues depends on which set of proven facts he chooses to ignore. I think that has application here, so let me adapt it a little:

One's position on many of these issues depends on which scripture he chooses to ignore. I suppose that's because our finite minds cannot grasp the entirety of the infinite Word of God.

Romans 9 does indeed say He has mercy on whom He will have mercy, and it also says He will harden whom He wants to harden.

There's no way man's feeble mind can reconcile that with God not being willing that any should be lost, so I don't even try.

The Baptist Faith and Message and the Westminster Confession of Faith are both filled with scripture to back up every point they make. I think the biggest failing I see in this respect is anyone on either side calling the other side wrong.

(Except I think it's wrong to "baptize" babies).

dutch said...

I think C H Spurgeon put it well in this sermon found at http://www.spurgeongems.org/vols4-6/chs262.pdf .

1859 New Park Street Pulpit

From what I've studied of Calvinism, each of the 5 points needs the other for support. Take one away and the whole system crumbles. IMO

Rodney Sprayberry said...

If I believed that Christ died for every sinner that has ever lived, or ever will live, then I would by necessity believe in universalism. The atonement is too powerful, the grace of God too efficacious, and the love of God too omnipotent to not produce the change His love brings to sinners.


Which is some like Origin, Gregory of Nyssa, and William Barclay were committed universalists

RRR said...

Wade,
I’m truly glad that you have peace in the position that you sense God has led you to take. I know that the peace we both have comes from being correct on the basic commitment to follow Jesus Christ as Lord.

Rodney said: “If I believed that Christ died for every sinner that has ever lived, or ever will live, then I would by necessity believe in universalism. The atonement is too powerful, the grace of God too efficacious, and the love of God too omnipotent to not produce the change His love brings to sinners.”

I believe it is best to allow people to put their labels on themselves rather than our attempting to do it for them. If I understand the basic premise of “universalism”, correct me if I’m wrong, it’s to say that you believe that Christ died for everyone so everyone must be saved. Is that what you are thinking someone like me is saying when I quote John 3:16 and say that Christ died for everyone, Rodney?

Also, your position that God’s love is irresistible and that those select individuals that God chooses to shower His love upon have no choice but to accept it is one of those things that befuddles me. But that’s your choice if you see it that way.

Bob Cleveland said...

dutch,

You're right about the 5 points. They only make sense if you include them all, which is why I say there's no more a 3- or 4-point Calvinist, than there is a 2-point trinitarian.

Baptists seem to believe Total Depravity is a little less total than do Calvinists, and both concede perseverance of the saints. But you're right, the five points are all inter-related.

Gary Snowden said...

Rodney and Jack repeat the same statement that Wade did earlier regarding their belief that a general atonement necessitates universalism. That is not a logical step unless one also insists as 5 point Calvinists do that grace is irresistible. Dutch observes accurately I believe that the 5 points of Calvinism hang together as a system and removing one point causes the others to crumble, or at least significantly weakens the foundation of the system.

If man must indeed choose to repent of sin and receive the free offer of salvation by grace through faith as many including myself believe the Bible teaches, then universalism does not logically follow from an affirmation that Christ died for the sins of the entire world.

That at least is my understanding of what seems to be a pretty clear statement by the apostle John in 1 Jn. 2:2 where he writes, "and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world."

Philip Miller said...

Wade I agree with the tone and substance of this post for the most part, but I am intrigued by the statement you make about it being "a few" that God sovereignly passes over. I'm wondering what you base that on other than our mutual wish that that were so? It does seem to me though that Jesus teaches the opposite: that there are many that travel the broad way to destruction but that there are few that find the narrow road to life in Mat 7.

Rex Ray said...

Maybe I’m in a bad mood over this post and am too critical, but I’d like to put in a few gripes.

1. The title: “Moralism and Legalism Are Not the True Gospel of God’s Grace and Love in Jesus Christ” is so true I thought I’d enjoy the post. It was like being stabbed in the back.

2. Wade said, “I will make a few brief comments on my own.” The devotional contained 169 words while Wade’s was 485 words.

3. The devotion made statements from ‘thin air’: “Most of us were taught that God would love us if and when we changed.”
[No, we were taught, “Jesus loves me this I know because the Bible tells me so.”]

“we’ve been given an inferior message—that God loves me ‘when’ I change.”
[No, we were taught, “Christ died for the ungodly.” “God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6, 8)]

3. The devotion states ideas as facts with no Scripture reference. Example: “God loves you so that you can change.”

4. The devotion: “But because most of our common religion has not been at the mystical level, [thank God for that] we’ve been given an inferior message… [says who?]

5. The devotion: “You’re back to navel gazing.”
[Duh, what does that mean? My wife and I exchanged airline seats with a scantly clad girl. “Did you see all the those ear rings on her nose?” “Naw, I never got past the ones on her navel.”]

6. All in all, I fail to see much of any point of the devotion, and the least of which is to hang the doctrine of Calvinism.

Tim Marsh said...

Romans 9 is an interesting passage of scripture. It functions in a very complicated argument regarding Israel's current (i.e., in Paul's 1st Century context)rejection of the Messiah and God's overall plan for Israel's future and the future of ALL creation.

When reading Romans 9, is Paul stating what he believes, or is he using Romans 9 as a rhetorical foil to his opponents?

In other words, is he telling it like it is, or is he arguing against a Jewish notion of election that Israel is the only predestined people out of the whole world? What is the rhetorical strategy employed by Paul and how does Romans 9 function in his overall argument of 9-11, in fact, in the entire context of Romans?

The foil of Romans 9 is hinted in Paul's use of establishing his opponents' position of the particular election of Israel. However, Israel is rejecting the Messiah and Gentiles are giving evidence of the Spirit without accepting the Jewish law. What gives?

God is sovereign and can do what he wants, right? He can have mercy on certain ones and exhibit wrath towards others, right? And what right do those who experience mercy or wrath have to question God, right?

Paul establishes God's sovereignty.

Now he asks, what if God has born with patience the objects of wrath (the Gentiles, the ones who have not embraced the covenant)? What if he did this to make his glory known to the objects of mercy (Israel)?

Paul is laying out the theological legwork for his conclusion in Romans 11 that the Gentiles are coming to the Messiah to make Israel jealous.

I doubt that Paul is laying out a theology of cosmic predestination that says if you are 6 you are in a fix but if you are 7 you are going to heaven.

Paul never speaks (please show me if I am wrong) of predestination in terms of which individuals will be saved and who would not.

In fact, the conclusion to the whole aregument is Romans 11:32, which causes more theological problems!

Obviously, I would need much more space and time to lay out a reading of Romans 9-11. However, I think that an examination of the context for Romans, as well as the rhetorical strategy of Paul in Romans would yield different fruits than classical Reformed Theology.

As for moralism, we need a little balance when it comes to Romans and the book of Hebrews, which repeatedly warns of falling away. There is a difference between perseverance of the saints and preservation of the saints.

And, this from Dallas Willard:

"Grace is opposed to earning, not to effort."

Word Verification: minester

ml said...

http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/jesusourdefense.html

Excellent sermon on this very subject. Not specifically atonement but sanctification. This is where the real debate is between the moralist/legalist and those who rely on grace.

Tom Kelley said...

Wade,
Interesting post. One of the reasons I enjoy your blog is that you rarely make the mistake described here:

One blog mistake we all make.

-----
Tom

Bob Cleveland said...

Not to beat this thing to death, but most who aren't Calvinists seem to misunderstand Limited Atonement. It doesn't mean He didn't "die for everybody", but rather that He "atoned for the sins" of those who will be saved .. which they refer to as the elect.

I believe it was Spurgeon who said it was unthinkable that someone's sins were atoned for, and they went to hell anyway.

It's not about limited price, limited cost, or limited sacrifice; it's about limited atonement.

ART PIERCE said...

Wade you said,

“I base my beliefs on the inerrant Word of God.” Wade you have used this word (inerrant) before and I though you had dropped it. Why nor say “I base my beliefs on The Word of God.” (That is the one you have on hand that is “The Inspired Word of God.”) It would help those of us who do not follow the fundamentalist line, to go along with you.

“But I am not of the opinion that my interpretations and opinions are always correct.”
I will agree with this statement. I am not a five point Calvinist and believe my salvation was not decided for me before I was borne. I believe God love (salvation) is for everyone who will call on Him through Jesus Christ His Son.


"The Old Gray Fox"

linda said...

I spent quite a bit of time in one of those Arminian/Holiness/Perfectionist denominations.

Never once was I taught God would love me IF AND WHEN I changed.

Rather, I was taught a loving God paid the price for the whole world, none excepted. I was also taught that same God sovereignly chose to provide prevenient grace sufficient that all could come to Christ and be found "in Christ." I was taught that predestination refers to what will happen to those "in Christ."

In short, I was never taught moralism or legalism in reference to salvation.

What I was taught was that He did all necessary for my salvation. It is up to me to accept or reject it....and He offered the grace to enable me to accept it.

The morallity would surely come if I were truly saved as He conformed me to the image of His Son.

No, the choice is not Calvinism on one hand or legalistic moralism and/or universalism on the other hand.

Perhaps it is between a God that is a total controller or One that chooses to be vulnerable while loving us anyway.

Christiane said...

Is Calvinism an attempt to explain that which is mystery?

Sometimes when we seek to understand that about the Holy which was not revealed in the Person of Jesus Christ, we come to conclusions that are not accepted by other Christian people. Yet God gives us this desire to know, to understand, to comprehend, and we want to go where that desire leads us. But sometimes, we are not able to grasp it in a way that is a 'revelation' to others. Doctrine falls into this pattern.

Is a story about St. Augustine. He wanted to understand the Trinity but he could not, but he tried and he tried. One day, while walking on the beach, he came to a child who had dug a hole in the sand and would run to the ocean and fill a cup and pour it into the hole, again and again. St. Augustine asked 'what are trying to do?' and the child replied 'I am going to put the entire ocean into this hole.'
St. Augustine paused and said, 'you can't because the hole does not have the capacity to contain the entire ocean.'
The child stood up and said, 'and neither do you have the capacity to fully understand the Trinity'.

A story. No doubt made up. But it teaches us that sometimes mystery needs to be recognized. For us, as Christian people, the full revelation to us about God is given in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

We are confused by paradox. Yet we can recognize it, that it exists, without fully understanding it.

Calvinism is only one attempt by men to understand that which may not be completely understood. There are other attempts we make, because we want to know. We want to know about God. We want to understand.

Imago Dei.
Imago Christe.


We need to sit at the feet of Our Lord in order to learn about God in the way that we are meant to do so, on this Earth.
If not to Him, to whom shall we go?

Rodney Sprayberry said...

FYI

I am not a universalist. I was quoting Wade and hit the send button before I could put quotations around his comment

I was simply pointing out that others have taken his "logical" step and accepted universalism.

Frankly I believe they are wrong and so is Wade :)

Steve said...

Good words Bob. I love the Spurgeon Quote!

Blessings,

Steve

dutch said...

Well, my thoughts on resistible grace, I've never had anything even close to Sauls experience on the road to Damascus, so this is somewhat speculative. I just cant help but wonder if he could have said, no thanks Lord believe I'll go my own way. Maybe it's just me but I have a hard time thinking he said anything except, Yes Lord what would thou have me do.

Just thinking out loud,,,

RRR said...

Rodney,

Sorry that I misunderstood your comment. That's the limitation of written communication. Thanks for clarifying.

Wade Burleson said...

Art,

I've never had a problem using "inerrant" as an adjective for the Word of God, but I've also never have had a problem with my brothers or sisters in Christ who refuse to use the word to describe God's Word.

Darby Livingston said...

"Calvinism is only one attempt by men to understand that which may not be completely understood."

This is not the case, even though Calvinism gets this accusation often. In fact, it is the opposite. One of the reasons that Calvinism is scorned is precisely because it doesn't seek to reconcile things too mysterious for finite man. It just seeks to live with them.

So when the Bible says that man is totally depraved and does not seek God, we let the Bible say what it says and seek to live with that truth, regardless of how heavy it is. When the Bible says that Christ knows those who are his and died for his bride, we believe what it says and seek to live with that regardless of how exclusive that makes Christ seem. When the Bible says that the God who works all things according to his will elected a group of people and predestined them before the foundation of the world, we believe it and seek to live with it regardless of how such teaching invites the hostility of our fellow man.

It is Arminianism in any of its forms that will not tolerate mystery. That is why Arminians filter everything through the sovereignty of their own choice and demand that any text that seems to contradict that presupposition be read in light of it.

Calvinists are happy to say, "God is absolutely sovereign, yet man is a free moral agent." Arminians are not. Calvinists are happy to say, "God predestined those who believe, and only those who are predestined will believe, yet it is every man's responsibility to believe." Arminians are not. Calvinists are happy to say, "Man will persevere because salvation comes fully and wholly from the Lord from first to last." Arminians are not. Calvinists are happy to say, "God is Ruler of all events from the greatest event to the smallest, yet is not blameworthy before finite man for his actions." Arminians are not. It is the Calvinist who lives in the glorious realm of God's mysterious grace and is satisfied there. Arminians demand more satisfactory answers than what God has given.

Wade Burleson said...

Philip,

You ask a question that I find intriguing: "I'm wondering what you base (your view that God saves many and bypasses only a few) on other than our mutual wish that that were so?

I base it on Scripture. The redeemed are an innumerable company from every nation, tribe, kindred and family.

The redeemed have a home called a mansion, the reprobate's home is called a prison. The redeemed are compared to a vast sea, the reprobate are cast into a lake of fire.

Of course, I believe that all infants who die in infancy are part of the elect of God (chosen by God, redeemed by Christ, and regenerated by the Holy Spirit) because of Scripture texts that speak of this (i.e. 'suffer the little children to come unto me for such is the kingdom of heaven,' and David's cry at the death of his infant son 'You shall not return to me, but I will return to you').

I do not believe hell will out populate heaven, because I never believe God will allow sin to increase over grace in the end.

In other words, it is not my wishful thinking as much as it is my belief in the Word of God that declares God's purpose is to save the world - and He will. That is, except for a few Pharoahs that he will judge for the purpose of declaring His attribute of righteousness and holiness - and cause those graced through Christ to appreciate what Christ has actually done for us.

Of course, the greatest objection to this view is "Many are called, but few are chosen." Yes, that was true in the beginning--but the gospel is always compared to a little leaven in the bread that SPREADS throughout the entire loaf. Or, as a small seed into a large tree.

Again, I don't expect everyone to agree with me, but I take the position that Jonathan Edwards took, John Gill took and other great theologians of centuries past.

Bob Cleveland said...

God has always been a choosing God. He chose Israel to be His "chosen" people, which means He didn't choose anybody else. In fact, read Habakkuk and you'll find out He chose the Babylonians .. those wild people .. to be what they were and do what they did. He says HE raised them up!

Why would it disturb us that He chooses now? Because that means WE don't get to choose who we're supposed to witness to, preach to, or minister to? Because WE are not sovereign?

Tom Kelley said...

Darby Livingston said...
One of the reasons that Calvinism is scorned is precisely because it doesn't seek to reconcile things too mysterious for finite man. It just seeks to live with them.

...

It is the Calvinist who lives in the glorious realm of God's mysterious grace and is satisfied there.


Excellent comment, Darby. I wish more could see this. I believe that Arminianism (semi-Pelagianism), Hyper-Calvinism, and Universalism (among many other -isms) share the common trait of elevating human reason (rationalism) over divine revelation. Instead, we should accept what the Word teaches, regardless of how uncomfortable it is to our sensibilities and we should learn to live with the tension that comes with saying "I can't comprehend it all" rather than insisting that the teachings of Scripture conform to our understanding.

-----
Tom

Jack said...

Interesting thoughts Wade - what of Matt 7:13-14. Not arguing with you but I am curious to your take on this passage as it relates to the number of the redeemed

Wade Burleson said...

Narrow is the gate means there is one way to life -- not many.

Broad is the road that leads to destruction and "many" there be that follow it was true in the beginning--but as the gospel is broadcast, salvation spreads to more and more people.

Blessings,

Wade

Tim Marsh said...

Bob,

God is a choosing God. The point of Romans 9 is that he has chosen more than Israel.

The theological problem of Romans 9-11 is not predestination, but Romans 11:32 and the word "ALL"

Word Verification: Digeston

Rex Ray said...

Wade,
You stated: “I believe the Bible teaches that God has chosen to bypass a few sinners…”

Philip asked what you based your belief on and referenced Matthew 7 that tells the opposite is true.

Vs. 13 –14: “Heaven can be entered only through the NARROW gate! The highway to hell is BROAD, and its Gate is WIDE enough for all the MULTITUDES who choose its easy way. But the Gateway to Life is SMALL, and the road is NARROW, and only a FEW ever find it.”

Wade, you replied to Philip: “I base it on Scripture.”

Did you attempt to explain Matthew 7? No! You ignored what Jesus said, but replied: “The gospel is always compared to a little leaven in the bread that SPREADS throughout the entire loaf. Or, as a small seed into a large tree.”

It seems to me your telling Jesus, ‘My mind is made up – don’t confuse me with the facts.


Wade, you wrote: “The love of God for sinners arises from His heart like an artesian spring, it is never pulled from his heart by the pump of human effort.”

Have you ever thought the work of preachers, missionaries, etc is “human effort”?

If “human effort” is worthless, why did Jesus give the Great Commission?

I think Calvinism is another word for hard-shell Baptists, or is it the other way around?

I’m reminded of “What a tangle web we weave when once we set out to deceive”.

Wonder why the next verse after: “…the road is narrow, and only a few ever find it”, Jesus says: “Beware of false teachers…” :)

Rex Ray said...

Do we agree only Christians are going to heaven?

World Christian Growth Statistics (The Prayer Foundation)
"In A.D. 100, there were 360 non-Christians for every true believer. Today the
ratio is less than seven to every believer."

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Are_there_more_christians_than_non_christians

“2/3 of the world is non-Christian; 1/3 are Christian.”

Hey! Even our President says America is not a Christian nation. :)

At the rate Christians are growing in proportion to non-Christians, how many years would it take to break even, and how many more for only a “few” to go to hell?

Wade Burleson said...

Rex,

When Jesus spoke to his disciples there were "few" who followed Him.

But as He also taught in all of His parables, His kingdom expands and expands until many follow Him.

Further, if you were to count all the infants who die in infancy, sinners whom I believe (because of the teaching of Christ) are chosen by God, redeemed by Christ and regenerated by the Holy Spirit, then far more are in heaven than in hell.

And, yes, I believe only those for whom Christ died (Christians) are in heaven.

:)

Tim Marsh said...

When it comes to universalism, I reject that all will go to heaven. However, there are certain texts that we really do not understand, like the reference to baptism for the dead in 1 Corinthians 15, that seem to indicate that there would be some far reaching consequences to the work of the Spirit in the world.

1 Corinthians 15:29-34


We don't know much about this practice, but Paul seems to invision a world-wide movement, to which many would respond.

Christiane said...

Some thoughts about Our Creator and His creatures:
It is my belief that all who can understand that we are born and live and die on this planet, have within their souls a longing that this Earth cannot quench. Am I a universalist? Only in the sense that I think God wishes to save all men. But, like the rabbis, I believe that God permits real choice;
and that, for some, that choice is to be, for all eternity, in 'the place where God is not'.
The rest of us want someday 'to go home', like the Prodigal Son who had no reason to expect to be received, but was taken in by the grace of a loving Father.
Our Father has made us for Himself, says Augustine, and we are restless until we rest in Him.

It seems that even the very, very wealthy in our world cannot find meaning in a material existence.
These people find themselves in good company: C.S. Lewis, who wrote
'if we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.'

Is this true? A 'universal' longing?
For myself, who cannot begin to grasp the complexities of Calvinism, I most certainly hope so.

There is a wonderful 'poem' at the end of a Tolkien novel about a place that Frodo dreamed, 'of white shores and a far green country':

"Then Frodo kissed Merry and Pippin, and last of all Sam, and went aboard; and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew, and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth; and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore glimmered and was lost. And the ship went out into the High Sea and passed on into the West, until at last on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise." (The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien)

That longing is there within us for sure. We just don't understand about it all quite yet.
But we will.

Christiane said...

More on the theme from C.S. Lewis:

"The Christian is in a different position from other people who are trying to be good. They hope, by being good, to please God if there is one; or — if they think there is not — at least they hope to deserve approval from good men. But the Christian thinks any good he does comes from the Christ-life inside him. He does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us; just as the roof of a greenhouse does not attract the sun because it is bright, but becomes bright because the sun shines on it."

Christiane said...

Wade, I think your mother may have shared a Catholic devotional with you. :)

Rex Ray said...

Wade,
I’d written the last two comments before I saw yours saying: “Narrow is the gate means there is one way to life -- not many.”

You chose Webster’s second definition of “narrow” (“Limited in scope or amount”), but to ignore his first definition (“Of little breath; not wide or broad”) shows a ‘narrow’ mind. :)

You said, “Broad is the road that leads to destruction and "many" there be that follow it was true in the beginning--but as the gospel is broadcast, salvation spreads to more and more people.”

Wade, what you said is true, but does not disprove more are going to hell.

Jesus was on the same topic in both verses of Matthew 7:13-14; and both indicate “…only a FEW ever find it.” Webster – few: “Not many; of small number.”

“ever find it” reveals that man is not ‘zapped’ by God; but man does something in finding it. That something is John 3:16.

You said, “If you were to count all the infants who die in infancy…then far more are in heaven than in hell.”

That would ONLY be true if six out of ten babies born – died. It seems the more you debate your belief, the less logical you become. :)

How can you ignore the simple math of religions and their multitudes that reject Christ outnumber Christians?

I believe you don’t base your belief on facts but, with the acceptance of Calvinism, you must believe more are going to heaven because you don’t believe God would be so mean to put more in hell; and therefore, you’re forced to ignore Scripture that says more are going to hell.


Christiane,
Your words are a joy to read. I agree that all men are not complete while being spiritual dead from God, and are searching in their hearts for that reunion.

I watch a man standing on a high cliff above the ocean in Hawaii. He had his arms outstretched toward a setting sun. I believe he was worshiping a god of only his dreams.

Tom Kelley said...

Christiane said...
But, like the rabbis, I believe that God permits real choice; and that, for some, that choice is to be, for all eternity, in 'the place where God is not'.


In general, Southern Baptists and other Evangelicals (including Calvinists and non-Calvinists) affirm this. But they further affirm that a rejection of (or failure to acknowledge) Jesus Christ as God is itself a choice to be "where God is not". The Evangelical perspective is that it is not enough to affirm the concept of God in general, nor is it enough to follow and worship God according to the teachings of religions other than Christianity. Rather, one must specifically acknowledge and affirm that Christ is Lord, and anything less is a choice not to spend eternity in God's presence. This belief is core to Evangelical Christianity, and is the basis of their missionary enterprise.

-----
Tom

jerry cadenhead said...

And yet you leave us with being a "universalist" or a " particular remdemtionist" . Isn't that being a legalist?

Christiane said...

Hi TOM KELLEY,

You wrote this:
"Rather, one must specifically acknowledge and affirm that Christ is Lord, and anything less is a choice not to spend eternity in God's presence. "

I was thinking about it and I think I see where my own Church emphasizes a different approach. Now we are not people to avoid dealing with 'sin' and there is absolutely no comparison to the way we teach our children and our converts to examine their consciences and seek forgiveness from Christ and from one another.

HOWEVER, we acknowledge that the conviction of sin is the work of the Holy Spirit, as is the conversion of hearts towards Christ: and it is by the working and the power of the Holy Spirit that people come to know Who Christ is and to be able to call upon their 'Abba' Father.

The 'evangelical' approach involves more than the 'angelic' proclamation:
"Fear not. I bring you tidings of great joy . . . "

My Church emphasizes 'fear not' and echoes the angelic words in its approach to those who do not know Our Lord. The emphasis is to point always towards Christ.

A different mission?
No. Just a different emphasis on what is done 'when' and how sin is convicted in believers.
That 'Great Commission', as it is known, was a most sacred assignment. But the Great Commandment shows us the Way to seek 'Thy Will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven'.

Something there is about 'be not afraid' that draws men to Our Lord. Something there is about the Great Physician that brings hurting people to Him like a magnet. We just need to point towards Him with all of our heart and mind and strength. The Holy Spirit does the rest.

The 'fear of hell' thing? That does NOT stir the repentance that changes a heart as we 'look upon Him' who was wounded for our sake. Our 'healing' comes by looking upon Him who was raised up, and by grieving like a parent for a wounded child. That is the kind of compassionate response to Christ that creates a new heart within us, and it most surely the work of the Holy Spirit and no other.

Wade Burleson said...

Christiane,

Thanks for the reminder. You are correct. I've updated the post.

James Smith said...

2 Peter 3:9 "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" What God wants is clearly expressed in this passage. I do agree with you on most of your points except for the issue of limited attonment. His forgiveness through Christ is an open invitation for all who chose to accept it. God will not violate free will because in order for man to truly love God or anyone for that matter their must be a free choice to do so. If it is forced it is not true love. It is this principle that is also at the heart of the birth of sin and evil by the free will of Adam and Eve chosing to disobey God. They had a choice and so do we. Praise God for his mercy and forgivness and for making a way to bridge that gap that we created between Him and us.