Thursday, May 28, 2009

John Calvin's tulipus syndromus

updated and en encore presentation

About three years ago or so, Dr. Caner - Dean of Students at Liberty Theological Seminary, boldly asserted that "Calvinism is a virus." 


Uncharitable words that sting, and to be sure, seemingly were meant to hurt, intimidate, offend, stir anger, cause division, and discourage.

But let us not fret my friends... we do not return insult for insult... amen? I think Dr. Caner's diagnosis can be meant for our good. Could he be unwittingly correct in what he is saying? Could Calvinism really be a virus - but... one that's worth catching? I say yes it is!

Here is how I would unfold his unintended acronym of V.I.R.U.S.:
V. - Vitium totalis*
I. - Irresistible Grace
R. - Restricted redemption
U. - Unconditional election
S. - Saints preserved and persevering

*(vitium, latin for: fault, moral depravity, corruption, wickedness; and, totalis, latin for: complete, total, absolute; together they = total depravity.)
There are the five points of Calvinism (the doctrines of grace) according to Dr. Caner. I actually like this acronym a lot. It gives fresh definition to an infectious, contagious faith that no earthly antibiotic can cure once it is given to you by God's sovereign predestined plan for eternal life. This is our hope and assurance in salvation isn't it? All of grace; all of God; all of Christ; all of the Holy Spirit; all by the gospel. The elect of God; the chosen by Him in Christ before the foundations of the world, sealed with the Holy Spirit unto our day of redemption.

So I want to sincerely thank Dr. Caner for challenging my thoughts and being used as an agent of God's grace in my sanctification today - for which I am grateful. 

So may we call all men everywhere to repent; to be eternally changed by the contagious life-transforming grace of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ that alone can arrest men's souls for eternity. 

May all Christians lives be a witness for the Lord. May we be "contagious" with the gospel; being salt and light to a lost world that so desperately needs the gospel of grace to infect their lives -- making them immune to the eternal effects of sin.

Let us go into all the world and preach the gospel!

Sola fide, sola gratia, solus Christus, sola Scriptura, soli Deo gloria!
Rom. 3:21-31


Alan E. Kurschner said...

I hope this virus is airborne so I can cough and sneeze in a crowded room.

Sojourner said...

I really like what you are typen. Its true i wonder if we as christains would show more grace what woudl the world look like? You think about it how often are we placed in a situation where we need to choose to show grace or not. Sometimes we fill ourselves with excuses and things that seem to justify it but does it really? Like Paul says, what i am doing i do so that others may be saved right?

littlegal_66 said...

A comparison to a viral infection, huh? Okay, I'll bite. I actually think I can relate to the "virus analogy" in a positive way. Here goes:

For 35+ years, I was in an Arminian congregation, being steadily "vaccinated" against said "virus." All along that journey, (beginning at adolescence), when I'd find an aspect of that Arminian doctrine questionable, I would occasionally exhibit a few "symptoms" of the "virus"; and immediately, a "booster shot" would be administered to me, usually from the pulpit.

Finally, through God's sovereignty, 2 years ago my "immunity" to the "virus" completely wore off, when I refused to receive any more of the "boosters." Within a few months, with no more "antibodies" in my system, I "contracted" the "virus," and through intense study and prayer, it quickly progressed into a "full-blown," 5-point "case" of Calvinism.

By His grace, I've been "infected" with this "virus"......and I praise God that there's no need for a cure. I've never been more excited, more confident, more passionate, or more strong in my faith than I have since I caught this "Reformed flu."

So grateful for grace,


P.S. The outbreak map is nothing short of genius!

Rick said...

Since the cry from the debate was that there were no biblical responses from the non-calvinist side, I would like to humbly offer one now. I'm not crazy enough to believe I will convince everyone to abandon Calvinism, but just want to offer these Scriptures to consider in antithesis to the main Calvinistic doctrines:

Total depravity: 1Kings 14:13; 2Chron.19:3; Eccl.2:26; Luke 8:15 (a noble and good heart) Acts 10 (Cornelius' actions accepted before saved)

Unconditional election: 2Chron.15:2 and the many expressions of offers, desires of the heart: Ezekiel 18:21-23; Jeremiah 18:8, 11; Ezekiel 33:11; Luke 13:34; Acts 17:26-27

Limited Atonement: John 6:51; 1 John 2:2; 2Cor.5:14-19; 1Tim.2:6:4; Heb.2:9

Irresistible Grace: Luke 7:30; Acts 7:51

Perseverance of the Saints: Col.1:23; Rom.11:22; The book of Hebrews, the Letters in Revelation.

I believe Romans 9-11 speaks more to the places of the Jews and Gentiles in God's plan of redemption. (The old but I believe valid, 'nations' argument).

Believe it or not, I too cherish grace and believe that the Lord is in control. Just because one doesn't hold to Calvinism doesn't mean he thinks he had any merit in his salvation. (or that he is necessarily an Arminian!) And I am just as sickened as you with megachurches and the 'pop Christendom' of the day.

What made any reformer (or guys like the Wesleys) great was their love to God, more than their theological system. God is bigger than the theological boxes we try to place around Him.

Just something to consider...

Jerry Wragg said...

Rick –
Thank you for offering passages that you believe challenge Calvin’s affirmations in response to Arminius. You sound as though you love the truth and seek to understand it.
The problem is that Calvinists and Arminians alike have lists of texts that allegedly “prove” their conclusions. In fact, surface readings of many passages can “seem” clear upon first glance. For example, you mention Acts 10, and that Cornelius’ actions were “accepted” before he was saved. However, while those who reject total depravity may see God’s answer to Cornelius’ prayer as “acceptance before [salvation]”, a Calvinist will find this same account a solid apologetic for God’s sovereign drawing of a dead sinner unto Himself (vv4-6, 19-23) resulting in regeneration and conversion upon hearing the gospel (43-48, 11:13-18).
So who’s correct? The answer is not discovered by reading translations and merely attaching generally recognized English meanings to words, phrases, or scenarios. Nor is clarity reached by making simplistic deductions about very difficult theological concepts, as if comprehensive understanding is gained by seemingly effortless glances at scripture. Again, for example, you mention several texts that appear to mitigate against God’s unconditional election of people for His own possession. But in each of these passages the mere expression, command, and/or stated desire of God that men turn to righteousness and live does not disprove His divine election any more than man’s need of divine regeneration eliminates his moral culpability. Biblical texts should be carefully examined as to every detail in order to fully grasp an author’s (and God’s) intent.

History, Culture, Textual genre, Context (immediate and wider), Purpose, Words, Phrases, Main and Subordinate Clauses, biblical and systematic theological implications, Christological and Redemptive threads, etc. must all be studied thoroughly.

As I’ve followed the Dr. Caner vs James White volley, quite frankly I have grieved at Dr. Caner’s rather off-handed (and sometimes vitriolic) dismissals of all that John Calvin affirmed, given the fact that Calvin was a thorough exegete and pious theologian. I would expect that those who purport to teach others and influence the next generation would demonstrate the kind of passion for the truth that demands a patient, careful, and scholarly examination of any theological system that is believed to be that dangerous to the gospel. Dr. Caner has repeatedly referred to Geisler and Hunt as representing where he would stand. Nothing wrong with agreeing with other like-minded men, but if he truly had worked through each passage himself, doing the hard exegetical work that forms the deepest convictions, he would no doubt teach and admonish with a spirit of fear and reverence before the weight of such difficult doctrines, rather than championing another’s work with bullying tough talk against those who disagree. In fact, the more a man comes under the weight of very difficult doctrines, the more pastoral and humble he becomes. Both Calvinists and Arminians are guilty of very emotion-driven overstatement and angry exchanges, but this only reveals that at times we are learning truths without actually being convicted by them prior to teaching them.

My prayer is that as Dr. Caner (and myself for that matter) will not just assert what he holds dear, but that he will learn to shepherd others he thinks are mislead. If a theological issue requires more patient, lengthy discussion and debate, then nothing less will protect God’s people from error and His teachers from pride.

One final note…Bruce Ware (Southern Seminary, Louisville), among many others, provides a good example of this kind of argumentation in his work on Open Theism entitled “God’s Lesser Glory”. I think is demonstrates a good balance.

Yours for the truth,


donsands said...

Amazingly clever response! Thanks Steve.

Why do people rant against Calvinism, or, the doctrine of predestination so much.
They believe we teach that God determines people for hell, and that is something that they can not tolerate.


Rom. 8:33-Rom 9:33 for me is speaking of God's elect for sure. Paul declares in such a powerful way that the Lord is sovereign over every human heart to mold the way He choses. He shows mercy to whom He will. He showed mercy to Jacob an individual. And in verse 16 it says "to he who runs, to he who wills", it doesn't say to them. Sure nations are included here, however this incredible passage of the Word is for you personally to be edified in your faith, for it declares God is The Sovereign Potter. Who are we to disagree.
I would encourage you to read that passage without any commentary, and let the Word that Paul wrote speak for itself. That's what I did years ago, and it was hard to accept, but it says what it says.

I have enjoyed everyones comments. God bless you all.

Chris Pixley said...

I might also recommend Bruce Ware's sequel to the book mentioned by Jerry Wragg. It is titled God's Greater Glory and provides a very compelling presentation of many of the issues on the table in this current discussion. And, as Jerry encourages, it is warmly pastoral in its tone.

Unknown said...

I propose a toast to our esteemed host, that world-renowned "singer SCOTT CAMP".

That's right. Apparently, Ergun Caner's confusion about historical terms such as "Armenian" extends to contemporary Calvinism. Among the statements made by Ergun on Tom Ascol's site was this:

"Would I agree with giving a "car" away to get people to come down the aisle, or to the person who "wins the most souls?" ABSOLUTELY NOT! I agree whole-heartedly, this is not only an abomination, but an embarrassment to the Body of Christ. Do I feel the same about getting people into church? NO. Not unless you add to that list, such as selling tickets, or advertizing some singer like Scott Camp. ANYTHING we do to entice must either be acceptable or not acceptable, it cannot just be a matter of degrees. Do I do those things? Of course not. Do all churches make posters, advertising/enticing people to attend? Of course they do. I have two Ligoniers posters from Dr. Sproul to prove it." -- Ergun Caner

Unless my googling memory has failed me, I can't recall ever hearing about or attending a SCOTT CAMP concert. I wonder if there are any posters to prove that he even exists. :-)

Count me as totally infected!

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Tulipus Syndromus- classic!

boxcarvibe said...

As I met with my prayer and accountability partner this morning, we discussed this "volley" about Calvinism and Arminianism between two people who seemingly love the Lord. We both wondered aloud, "Who's 'right' and who's 'wrong'?"

I've been a believer and follower of The Lord for over twenty years and have avoided immersion into the Calvinism/Arminianism debate...until a few days ago when the Caner/White threads were posted.

I believe pride, selfishness and yes, even idolatry drive the whole debate. Like two cousins throwing toys at each other during a family reunion. What good is it? And who's getting saved in the process?

The candor of both Caner and White is hostile and/or provoking. If these two were driving alongside each other on the road, they'd both be locking saying it's "my road"...the other saying "no, it's MY road!!".

It's ridiculous that nowadays, there's reason to question the destination of your eternal soul if you're not reading the right Bible translation, not sitting in the right spot in church, not attending Sunday School, not going to E/E or, even more ridiculous, if your church's regenerate percentage is below acceptable levels! C'mon!! I used to have a friend who believed all that...his name was Lee Galism.

Let's fight a real fight - the watering down of the gospel by seeker-driven churches, the "feel-goodism" that plagues the church these days. The replacement of Holy Scripture by secular works. My heart breaks over the erosion of gospel preaching...not the debate over if a man is irresistably led to The Lord or if he decides he's bankrupt and falls to his knees on his own.

It's sad to think that while we're bent over picking the weeds of the Calvin/Arminianism debate, the forest fire of the apostate church is about to burn our britches. And unfortunately, some have already been burned.

SJ Camp said...

Jerry: Excellent. Thank you my friend for being committed to the authority of God's Word in this discussion. As I have searched Dr. Caner's own website, I am troubled not to find biblical papers or defenses for his concern about the doctrines of grace; or proactively to assert his hybrid view of Amyraldian, Baptist Arminian convictions, or to present what he would consider a biblical view of evangelism. Thank you again for your timely words in this debate.

When are you coming to start a church in Nashville? Count me in...

littlegal: Well said. Your use of imagery is right on target. Thank you always for your insights.

Chad Scott Camp, uh? Oh well, I have been called worse. Dr. Falwell in my first visit there kept calling me Mark Camp. It's just nice to be called something. At least he didn't call me Jeremy Camp (though I appreciate his music.)

BTW, it was Chad, ladies and gentlemen, who contributed the wonderful artwork for this post... Thank you my brother.

Rick: I want to thank you for your comment here. This is the kind of helpful discussion on these kinds of issues that is profitable and edifying to all. If Dr. Caner would have approached Dr. White or the thread at Founder's in the same manner, it would have prohibited the superfluous ranker that we all were saddened to read and it would have kept the discussion to the text of Scripture where it belongs to begin with.

Per Jerry's admonition, keep searching deeply through careful study into the depths of God's Word for the answers to these difficult but important inquiries. I would also add reading "The Five Points of Calvinism" -defined, defended and documented. It is a valuable resource for this discussion. And one of the contributing authors is Lance Quinn who Jerry and I have served with in ministry for many years.

Grace and peace to you all.

Here are some words from John Calvin himself that might prove helpful in this discussion:

"We are not our own: let not our reason nor our will, therefore, sway our plans and deeds. We are not our own: let us therefore not set it as our goal to seek what is expedient for us according to the flesh. We are not our own: in so far as we can, let us therefore forget ourselves and all that is ours. Conversely, we are God's: let us therefore live for him and die for him. We are God's: let his wisdom and will therefore rule all our actions. We are God's: let all the parts of our life accordingly strive toward him as our only lawful goal [Rom. 14:8; cf. 1 Cor. 6:19]

Let this therefore be the first step, that a man depart from himself in order that he may apply the whole force of his ability in the service of the Lord. I call 'service' not only what lies in obedience to God's Word but what turns the mind of man, empty of its own carnal sense, wholly to the bidding of God's Spirit." - John Calvin, 'Institutes', III.vii.1

"It is a remarkable commendation of faith, that it frees us from everlasting destruction. For he intended expressly to state that, though we appear to have been born to death, undoubted deliverance is offered to us by the faith of Christ; and, therefore, that we ought not to fear death, which otherwise hangs over us. And he has employed the universal term whosoever, both TO INVITE ALL indiscriminately to partake of life, and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers. Such is also the import of the term World, which he formerly used; for though nothing will be found in the world that is worthy of the favor of God, yet he shows himself to be reconciled to the whole world, when he invites all men WITHOUT EXCEPTION to the faith of Christ, which is nothing else than an entrance into life. Let us remember, on the other hand, that while life is promised universally to all who believe in Christ, still faith is not common to all. For Christ is made known and held out to the view of all, but the elect alone are they whose eyes God opens, that they may seek him by faith. Here, too, is displayed a wonderful effect of faith; for by it we receive Christ such as he is given to us by the Father -- that is, as having freed us from the condemnation of eternal death, and made us heirs of eternal life, because, by the sacrifice of his death, he has atoned for our sins, that nothing may prevent God from acknowledging us as his sons. Since, therefore, faith embraces Christ, with the efficacy of his death and the fruit of his resurrection, we need not wonder if by it we obtain likewise the life of Christ. (John Calvin, Commentary on John, volume 1 3:16 (emphasis added)

SJ Camp said...

A helpful quote sent to me by Gene Bridges:

"If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest expression every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is mere flight and disgrace, if he flinches at that point." -Martin Luther

4given said...

Aaaah... Excellent quote!

Unknown said...

ML wrote (thanks, Gene):
"except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ however boldly I may be professing Christ."

How very un-postmodern of Martin.

Uncialman said...

Although I need to maintain some degree of impartiality in the course of this debate until a conclusion is reached, I do think that it is warranted to field a response to the oft made arguments that “Arminians have their verses too” or “Calvinists and Arminians need to seek a balance” in their theological discussions.

As Calvinists (At least those that still fit within the historical meaning of the term) we believe strongly in the doctrine of sola scriptura, in other words, the sufficiency of Scripture alone to act as the sole infallible rule of faith for the Church. A precept that cannot be established through clear Biblical exegesis should be something that a Reformed believer would not seek to bind on the conscience of someone else. It is for this very reason that I must strongly assert that it is not a matter of the Reformed position intruding something into an area where God has remained silent: it is the Arminian position that refuses to affirm, and deal with, the plain statements of Scripture regarding election, the depravity of man, and the sovereign ability of God’s determinative actions in salvation.

To place this principle in its proper context, I want to examine one of the “proof texts” offered by Rick in his post above. It was asserted that John 6:51 can be used to disprove the doctrine of particular redemption and in fact be used as a textual example of the Bible teaching a general atonement for all men at all times. Lets examine this passage in the proper, infallible context in which God has provided for us to accurately understand it:

34Then they said to Him, "Lord, always give us this bread."
35Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.
36"But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe.
37"All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.
38"For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but (the will of Him who sent Me.
39"This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.
40"For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day."
41Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, "I am the bread that came down out of heaven."
42They were saying, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, 'I have come down out of heaven'?"
43Jesus answered and said to them, "Do not grumble among yourselves.
44"No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.
45"It is written in the prophets, 'AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.
46"Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father.
47"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.
48"I am the bread of life.
49"Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.
50"This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.
51"I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh."

We can see in context that the main thrust of Jesus’ words to those that have followed him for the purpose of a physical meal is that whomever believes (Not merely intellectual ascent to the existence of Christ, but acknowledgement that one needs a savior and full trust and belief that can and will save them) will be saved. Jesus clearly states that those who do truly believe are those that the Father has given to the Son and the Son will lose none of them (John 6:37). The Father gives a particular people to the Son who, as a result, will definitely come to the Son whom then the Son will never lose (John 6:39). Notice that the action of election, coming, and saving is for a definite and particular group of people: there are no “ifs” included in the entire passage. In my estimation, there is no greater passage in all of Scripture that clearly defines the full, sovereign working of the Godhead in the salvation of a distinct group of people.

In John 6:50 we again see that Jesus refers to “bread” is that which Jesus gives (Himself) is given that “one may eat of it and not die”. As we have seen in the preceeding passages, those that “eat of this bread”, or as understood in the analogy, “believe in the Son” are those that the Father has purposely and perfectly given to the Son and will definitely be “raised on the last day.” As we understand that the teaching of the Bible regarding how Christ takes away sin, by taking on the sin of those he redeems on His body on the tree, I must point out that John uses the term “world” in many different ways.

In John 17:9, the Lord states that he “prays not for the world”. If we were to apply the hermeneutic principle that the Arminian eisegete uses when referring to John 6:51, we would have to conclude in John 17:9 that when then Jesus states that he “prays not for the world” that he is stating that he mediates for no man in the entire world at any time. Of course, this is not the context of the passage as Jesus goes on to say “I pray not for the world but for them which thou hast given to me”. So, we can assume that the term “world” does not mean the same thing in every context. Jesus does not pray for the carnal unbelieving goats of the world which lie in sin and will be condemned. He did not die for them so he did not pray for them for whom he is not an advocate. So this “world” is different than the “world” for whom he has died and has made everlasting and perfect intercession.

So to answer Rick’s use of John 6:51 as a proof-text in full, we understand that the “world” referred to in John 6:51 is the very same group that Jesus has referred to in John 6:37, 6:39, 6:40, and 6:50. More specifically, this group can properly be understood as those that Jesus refers to in Revelation 5:9-10 “And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth."

This is where our debate should be feted out between believers that claim faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. We should be willing to do the hard work of exegesis and contextual examination to clear our differences and reach an equitable, Scriptural, and proper understanding of doctrine.

When we enter these discussions, we should do so with a charitable spirit and with the willingness to examine our own positions and traditionally held beliefs. Sadly, this particular debate was entered into by a party that came in with both barrels blazing with ad-hominem argumentation, accusations, and misrepresentations in regards to church history. A “I’m sorry, I was wrong but I still disagree” would have saved the day, but the ugliness of the debate, even prior to Dr. White entering the fray, ensued. From what I have read, I see Dr. White continuously trying to bring Dr. Caner back to the hinge of the argumentation: Scriptural exegesis and historical examination. Personal attacks ensued and the temperature was raised as the discussions continued. I would highly suggest that the reader remove themselves from the personal attacks and examine the argumentation from a non-emotional standpoint. By doing this, a balanced assessment of the situation can be made.

I have made the opportunity for both of these men to formally and scholastically debate the issues in a neutral location with the provision of formal moderation. The debate should be feted out without cheerleading squads for “my side” or for those only vicariously interested in seeing someone “one-up” their opponent. All of the debates I have both sponsored and moderated have functioned in this way and I sincerely pray that we will have the opportunity to conduct this event in the same manner. Dr. Caner can be rest assured that he will be treated with respect and dignity before, during and after the proposed debate.

Debate and wrangling over the truth of Scripture is healthy for the body of Christ as long as it is done in a respectful manner void of ad hominem argumentation. This being said, let us also pray that those of us that are in the reformed camp can support one another without needless divisions and false accusations. Whether it be over issues such as eschatology (wink), denominational affiliation, mode of baptism, or dispensational / covenantal disagreements, I pray that we can be truthful, up-front and honorable in our dealings with one another for the sake of the Body of Christ.

Semper Reformada,

Michael O’Fallon

donsands said...


I get your drift. And senseless debating is wrong. I hate it.

But to debate the Holy Scriptures in a mature way, and with an heart that wants to glorify the LORD, is a marvelous thing for the body of Christ, I would think. In fact, I don't think we do enough debating.
When we debate we are forced to go to the Bible, and see what the Lord says, instead of what man says.

I believe with more debates, the body of Christ would become less shallow in their walk with Christ, for it causes us to take a deeper look into God's Word, and to really study this most precious of all treasures.

Debates for the sake of debates is folly. But to prayerfully seek God's truth in such a way is, for me, enlightening and convicting.
The Lord bless.

donsands said...

What a great quote! What a pillar of the Church Martyn Lloyd-Jones was.

SJ Camp said...

The blogosphere is a wonderful tool to be used for the Lord and His glory. It is unnerving because it means that none of us can hide (as in the past) behind front men, church staff's, for lack of a better phrase - "a protective protocol." Everything that is said can be verified, or not, and is instantly distributed around the globe.

This is good. It demands accountability and accuracy in what we affirm, deny, proclaim and protest. it must be an unsettling for Dr. Caner today to be "unmasked" by so many without offering any papers, sermons or biblical proof for his claims--and to have this done in the marketplace. His acerbic sound bites may pacify a few students and colleagues at LTS, but won't suffice the greater body of Christ in our proper request for theological, biblical, historical and exegetical discussion from him.

Consider the Apostle Paul went into the synagogues and "reasoned [GK: dialegomai] with the Jews" (Acts 17:2; 18:19). JFB says: "The tense here not being the usual one denoting continuous action (as in Acts 17:2; 18:4), but that expressing a transient act. He had been forbidden to preach the word in Asia (Acts 16:6), but he would not consider that as precluding this passing exercise of his ministry when Providence brought him to its capital; nor did it follow that the prohibition was still in force."

As Paul himself said, "For you yourselves know, brothers, that our visit with you was not without result. On the contrary, after we had previously suffered and been outrageously treated in Philippi, as you know, we were emboldened by our God to speak the gospel of God to you in spite of great opposition. For our exhortation didn’t come from error or impurity or an intent to deceive. Instead, just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please men, but rather God, who examines our hearts." -1 Thess. 2:1-4

Even with the learned Stoic philosophers at the Areopagus on Mars Hill, he entered into vigorous proclamation of the gospel and a defense historically for his claims (Acts 17).

All to say, we should not shy away from debate with other believers today. It has been missing for too long among evangelicals who want to hide under the banner that "it isn't loving or kind" or "how can we be a witness to others if the world sees us disagreeing with each other?" Poppycock. This debate is necessary and crucial for reformation to come in evangelicalism today.

This is healthy beloved... If Dt. Caner is reading this blog at all, may i appeal to you brother to come to the table here not with vitriol, sound bites and rant, but with a clear biblical and theological defense for your concerns among your Calvinistic reformed brethren.

Truth can always stand the test of scrutiny; error never wants to be challenged. Your silence these past few days is telling sir.

May I encourage us all on this blog to pray for Dr. Caner and his brother to present their arguments from the pages of Scripture and stand up and be counted as to their assertions. And may we be teachable as well in this process--but swayed only by the truth of God's Word.

I for one would welcome that form him, wouldn't you? Maybe all of the this debate has been used to force the good Dr. Caner to review what he actually believes on these things. Who knows, maybe he is at home today writing his first legitimate paper that can represent and articulate his views from an actual historical, biblical, theological and exegetical perspective; and hopefully aside from any cantankerous slurs.

And that would be answered prayer.

Grace and peace,
Steve "scott" Camp
2 Cor. 4:5-7

Unknown said...

Hi Steve,

I had the opportunity to visit the link you provided and read through a majority of the comments and I find the Caner Bros. tone and commentary to be equally disturbing as I found Dr. White’s email responses. In my view, it doesn’t excuse the tone in Dr. White’s emails, however, it does provide a context that was missing prior to my first reading of the email response link you provided. I also concur that any person given the position the Caner Bors. have, with a doctorate behind their name should be able to defend their positions biblically, base on their own research and through understanding of the issues.

Buried in the melee over there I found this pearl, a short 30 min. sermon by a 5 point Calvinist, who admonishes us all not to love a theological system more than the Savior. I hope you find the time to listen to it, and perhaps comment on it.


SJ Camp said...


I couldn't access the link for some reason--but needless to say, I agree that our theological systems should not eclipse the love for our Lord Jesus Christ.

I haven't found that to be the case for me personally. I love Reformed biblical theology precisely for the reason that it presents without fail a high view of the glory of God in all things; a sufficient and authoritative view of Scripture; an exalted view of the supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ; a sufficient and reverent view of the Holy Spirit; and that salvation is not Romanistic--meaning, a cooperated Semi-Pelagian works righteousness, human free will based initiated repentance; but that "salvation is of the Lord" - all of grace, all of Christ, all of faith... alone.

This is the great conclusion of the Apostle Paul in Philippians chapter 3 when he bursts forth in utter praise when saying,

"For we are the circumcision, the ones who serve by the Spirit of God, boast in Christ Jesus, and do not put confidence in the flesh— Phil. 3:4 although I once had confidence in the flesh too. If anyone else thinks he has grounds for confidence in the flesh, I have more: Phil. 3:5 circumcised the eighth day; of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee;
Phil. 3:6 as to zeal, persecuting the church; as to the righteousness that is in the law, blameless. Phil. 3:7 ¶ But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. Phil. 3:8 More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ Phil. 3:9 and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christa—the righteousness from God based on faith. Phil. 3:10 |My goal| is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, (emphasis mine).

Isn't that the purpose of all our study? Not in order to have debates; not to have sermons to preach; not to have blogs to post to; not to have songs to sing; books to write, radio shows, or conferences to hold - BUT to KNOW CHRIST!

That is the only reason I spend countless hours every week on this blog; the Calvinist Gadfly blog now; and the AudienceONE website... To encourage others to know Christ and in all my study, to know more deeply.

And in so knowing Him to guard the trust, even within the church, addressing those who are introducing error or skewed doctrine into the body of Christ under the guise of orthodoxy. "A little leaven leavens the whole lump" and we need to lovingly, yet boldly with humility beloved stand against it.

It is in that spirit, I would say Dr. Caner owes the body of Christ the courtesy of being answerable and accountable to his tirades and assertions. Personally, he also needs to repent of the lies he has publicly and carelessly said about Dt. White and reformed baptists in general (those things are more than evidenced on the Founders blog and the emails between Dr. White and Dt.Caner). The truthfulness of Dr. Caner's assertions then can be measured against the authority of God's Word and 1,900 years of theological and doctrinal convictions.

Jerry Wragg was spot on target when he said, "I have grieved at Dr. Caner’s rather off-handed (and sometimes vitriolic) dismissals of all that John Calvin affirmed, given the fact that Calvin was a thorough exegete and pious theologian. I would expect that those who purport to teach others and influence the next generation would demonstrate the kind of passion for the truth that demands a patient, careful, and scholarly examination of any theological system that is believed to be that dangerous to the gospel."

That's it in a nutshell... isn't it? To utterly dismiss, for example, the doctrines of grace with the broad stroke of rancor and sound bite absent of biblical and theological care, is just as dangerous, irresponsible and juvenile, if any of us were to dismiss the entirety of John Wesley's works under the broad brush stroke of "perfectionism." We must be careful here to be honorable, balanced, and circumspect in these matters--or we lose all credibility.

Sadly, with a heavy heart I believe that Dr. Caner is very close to that "abyss." If you think that Dr. White was just as cantankerous in his interaction with Dr. Caner, though I don't agree with you--you have the right to your subjective view.

BUT, you must also agree, that at this juncture, Dr. White, Tom Ascol, Alan K., Chad B., Michael O, Gene B., myself, and several others here stand ready to welcome Dt. Caner's dialogue together about these things (biblically, historically, theologically and exegetically) - but he is clearly not. That should be telling and revealing to you.

I do plan on trying to contact Dr. Falwell personally next week about Dt. Caner's demeanor and assertions. I may not agree with Dr. Falwell on all his theological convictions, but I do respect him; and I am certain that he would not condone this banter of Dt. Caner as being representative of the character of his Seminary, professors, and Dean.

Thank you for your comment.
by His grace and for His glory...
Steve Camp
2 Cor. 4:-17

donsands said...


I couldn't listen to the link either.

But to piggyback on the good words of brother Steve, I have a quote from John Piper, which shows my deepest heartfelt affections for our Savior and theology/doctrine.

"Doctrine guards the diamonds of the gospel from being discarded as mere crystals. Doctrine protects the treasures of the gospel ...
And all the while, doctrine does this with its head bowed in wonder that it should be allowed to touch the things of God. It whispers praise and thanks as it deals with the diamonds of the King.Its fingers tremble at the cost of what it handles. ..And on its knees gospel doctrine knows it serves the herald. The gospel is not mainly about being explained. Explanation is necessary, but it is not primary. A love letter must be intelligible, but grammer and logic are not the point. Love is the point. The gospel is good news. Doctrine serves that. John Piper, God is the Gospel.
Have a joyful evening.

boxcarvibe said...

Hi Donsands-

I love a good debate too. It drives me deeper into Gods Word. Like you said, it has to be mature, free from pointless attacks. It has to be charitable as Mr. O'Fallon states.

I like what John MacArthur says about it in his Q&A: ( I, too, shun the labels and go to God's Word.

I believe debate is an awesome way to learn and to teach. But watching two guys duke it out by exchanging caustic emails is unproductive.

I don't think Dr. White was "just as cantankerous" as Dr. Caner. But Dr. White wanted a fight..and he got it.

Shawn said...


Interesting statements. I'm very surprised by the juvenile thoughts about calvinists, but sometimes we need to take the reproach as sometimes we fail in many areas, but yes it does such a disservice to the body of Christ because we all fail and all need to look to Christ.

I have noticed alot of people are very calvinistic as well and it is certainly growing in evangelicalism especially with younger evangelicals in their 20s it seems.

It has richly helped bring about a large revival in my life and family in so many ways by really studying theology and letting it affect my personal life as well. Our view of God does change our life amen in our sanctification (considering colossians).

Also thank you for your help in that process in my life. It's interesting to note that back in 2000 how helpful you were to me in pointing me to some great authors and great biblical music filled with the scriptures.

Speaking of virus----However I also was wondering about other historic growths of calvinism in history. A friend of mine has said (and he is throughly calvinistic) that every huge growth in calvinism has died out for various reasons and one of the prime reasons was excessive introspective beyond what the bible talks about and keeping your eyes off the work of Christ and more looking to your own works. He said it stopped so many movements. Would you concure with this and what from your reading of calvinistic thought

Having said that I pray to the end that most of us are calvinistic like Spurgeon (a man of prayer and a very evangelistic heart). I have noticed some of my calvinistic friends struggle with that as well as me at various points especially with excessive introspective thoughts.

Shawn said...

Well I did I should say.

Now so much lately. After growing in maturity, I look to Christ and His Work so much more as growing in maturity in Christ.....Built up in Him.

I just pray the movement in evangelicalism is primarily very evangelistic and grows in so many areas especially prayer..... I pray to be a man of prayer and helping of those who feel hopeless and God can't save them telling them the greatness of Christ and his ability to break through all of our barriers to bring about such a glorious salvation

Terry Rayburn said...

For everyone's information:

The link that candleman gave for the message from Danny Akin apparently can't be streamed. But it can be downloaded. I did so and burned it fine. (I.e., right click and "save as", perhaps to your desktop...)

The sentiment is great, the actual content pretty good.

For the record, Danny Akin calls himself a 4-point Calvinist.


Unknown said...

Shawn said:
>every huge growth in calvinism >has died out for various reasons

This assessment of church history is dead on for one simple reason:

calvinism = the gospel.

Until Christ comes back, the ebb and flow of the church will follow the pattern of redemptive history: birth/life/suffering/death. The early church wasn't even out of the first century when the early generations of believers began having itching ears and accumulating for themselves false teachers who would accomodate those ears.

I think our own calvinist delusion is thinking that "itching ears" always applies to Arminians. That self-introspection you speak of is the same beast in different clothing, IMHO.

Caner was right when he said Calvinist churches stop evangelizing and die. Caner was wrong when he said it was Calvinism killing those churches.

The gospel gives life. As long as Calvinist churches continue to preach the "Christ and him crucified" that is inherent to their proclaimed Calvinism, they will remain vibrant lights on a hill, even in the Arminian (Anabaptist) darkness.

SJ Camp said...

One of the constant criticisms from the SBC to those of us who are Reformed Baptists, is that Calvinism kills evangelism.

Two quick things:

1. I don't believe in having people raise a hand; sign a card; say a sinner's prayer; walk an aisle; etc. BUT, I do believe in calling people publicly to repentance in Christ and asking them to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Jesus.

I was at a large Baptist church several years ago where a conference was being held. The speaker before me gave a typical easy-believism alter call. Asked if any one wanted to accept Christ just to slip up their hands (with every head bowed, every eye closed) and say a sinner's prayer. I was seeking the Lord for wisdom to address this publicly without needlessly offending those present nor the leadership or the person that just spoke before me.

Instead of speaking, I prefaced my message with a song of worship before I went to the pulpit. During the song, I asked for those who had slipped up their hands to receive the Lord to hold them up one more time so that I could see them. About 400 hands went up as best I could tell (about 1/4 of the audience).

At the end of the song when I was about to begin my message, I asked for the house lights to be brought up which is customary; and then asked the people who had raised their hands to receive the Lord to stand to their feet so that we could see all who were repenting of their sin and receiving the Lord for salvation? (I prefaced this by saying I want every eye looking, every head turning.) With the house lights up and everyone looking around the auditorium the response was quite different. Only about 15 people actually stood. As I pressed the audience to their "decision", it became quite evident that only a few were even seriously considering their hand raising as evidentiary of salvation.

This led into a change of message to Matthew 16:24-26 on what it meant to be a true follower of Jesus Christ. I was trying to be sensitive, but still the pastoral staff of the church was angry with me afterward for challenging the initial hand raising; and the speaker that preceded me was also upset that I would question the validity of any decision for Christ by a hand being raised as legitimate.

2. The method of a proper response is important. But it's the content of the message that is the preeminent concern. I now call people to come up after a meeting to meet with the local elders/pstors of the church or churches that have me in to talk more about what it means to know Christ as Lord and Savior, if the local host church wanted the message and/or concert crusade to be more evangelistic in focus. This has proven very effective.

But the key here is not the methodology but the content of the gospel presented. This is where i part company with most in the SBC (Salvation By Convenience). The gospel should be presented boldly without softening its message to accommodate anyone.

When was the last time you ever heard someone declare in a public call to follow Christ, to love Him more than all other loves, to hate their father and mother, brother, sister, son or daughter, to love Him more than their own flesh? When was the last time you heard the Law of God included in a gospel presentation or invitation? When was the last time justification by faith or imputation heralded as part of a gospel proclamation? Of even the substitutionary death of Christ as a propitiation for our sin?

These things are not just for the sake of rummaging through our theological convictions--this is the gospel.

Once again, I am not against a public call to receive and follow Christ. I am against a weak gospel presented and a weak presentation just for the sake of producing a response.

Only the Lord can build His church (Matt. 16:18); only the Lord can add to the church (Acts 2:42-47); only the Lord is the head of the church (Col. 1:15); and only the Lord knows His own from before the foundations of the world (2 Tim. 2:9; Titus 1:1-2). If salvation is only of the Lord, then the results are not up to us--it is His doing. As Paul said, "So, what is Apollos? And what is Paul? They are servants through whom you believed, and each has the role the Lord has given. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth." -1 Cor. 3:5-7

"Everyone the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will never cast out. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day." -John 6:37, 44

Biblical evangelism has it confidence not in methods, but in the Message and the Master;

Biblical evangelism takes the manipulation out of an public invitation;

Biblical evangelism is not afraid to proclaim the whole gospel of Christ;

Biblical evangelism does not remove the offense of the cross for a greater response.

Biblical evangelism knows that we don't add one thing to the effectiveness of the gospel, "for it is the power of God unto salvation."

And Biblical evangelism knows that being born again is only the work of heaven to sinful man. As Titus 3:4 so succinctly says, "HE SAVED US." and aren't you glad?

Let's go into all the world and preach His gospel calling all men to repentance by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

2 Cor. 4:5=7

Unknown said...

Steve wrote:
>the pastoral staff of the church >was angry with me afterward for >challenging the initial hand >raising; and the speaker that >preceded me was also upset that I >would question the validity of >any decision for Christ by a hand >being raised as legitimate.

LOL. Scott Camp is the only one I know who would dare attempt something like this. Now I know what he means when he asks "You know what would be great?............." :-)

Type said...

“There is no attribute of God more comforting to His children than the doctrine of Divine Sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe troubles, they believe that Sovereignty hath ordained their afflictions, that Sovereignty overrules them, and that Sovereignty will sanctify them all. There is nothing for which the child of God ought more earnestly to contend than the dominion of their Master over all creation---the kingship of God over all the works of His own hands---the throne of God, and His right to sit upon that throne.
On the other hand, there is no doctrine more hated by worldlings, no truth of which they have made such a football, as; the great, stupendous, but yet most certain doctrine of the Sovereignty of the infinite Jehovah. Men will allow God to be everywhere except upon His throne. They will allow Him to be in His workshop to fashion worlds and to make stars. They will allow Him to be in his almonry to dispense his alms and bestow His bounties. They will allow Him to sustain the earth and bear up the pillars thereof, or light the lamps of Heaven, or rule the waves of the ever-moving ocean; but when God ascends His throne, His creatures then gnash their teeth; and when we proclaim an enthroned God, and His right to do as He wills with his own, to dispose of His creatures as He thinks well, without consulting them in the manner, then it is that we are hissed and execrated, and then it is that men turn a deaf ear to us, for God on His throne is not the God they love. They love Him anywhere better than they do when He sits with His scepter in His hand and His crown upon His head. But it is God upon the throne that we love to preach. It is God upon His throne whom we trust.”

Charles Spurgeon, “Divine Sovereignty”, sermon May 4, 1856.

Shawn said...

Chad & Steve,

Thank you for your sound thoughts here.

Unknown said...

Terry …. Thanks for correcting that…., Dr. Akin does state he is an avid 4 pointer.

When I first went to listen to the message I linked to, I was able to get a connection and listen to it with out a problem, but now that so many others have mentioned that they have not been able to do so I went back had experienced the same problem. I have been able to download it and make it available on two of my servers here and here. They should open to an audio player. I hope you all can find 30 min. in your day to try to listen to it, because Dr. Akin states, in a much more eloquent way, what I have been trying to get across to this blog and others as a non 5 point Calvinist on the outside, looking in.

Bruess – Your statement of Calvinism = the Gospel is exactly the type sediment I am trying to address in a rather poor way, but Dr. Akin, does it much better as he states:

“Calvinism is not the Gospel. The Gospel is the Gospel. The Gospel is the death, the burial, the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the perfect atonement for the forgiveness of sins. You might argue that the basic system of Calvinism is consistent with the Gospel, but Calvinism is not the Gospel.

I hope you all find the time to listen to "The Danger Of Loving A Theological System More Than A Savior” by Dr. Akin.


Unknown said...

>The Gospel is the death, the >burial, the resurrection of Jesus >Christ as the perfect atonement >for the forgiveness of sins.

There is no atonement if it is not limited. There is no forgiveness if grace is not irresistible. There is no resurrection if man is not utterly depraved. There are no sins to be forgiven if election is not unconditional.

Chuck said...

I think that the phrase 'Calvinism is the Gospel' is both true and misleading at the same time. Let me explain. As I think about the Gospel, I think that we must view the Gospel as it is portrayed in Scripture. Two main themes in Scripture are the Gospel as it is preached to sinners and the Gospel as reflected and feasted upon by the believer. It is not that the two messages are separate; it is that they are multifaceted. I think Spurgeon himself (who the quote 'Calvinism is the Gospel' came from in the first place)describes this phenomenon well when he talked about reflecting on his own conversion.

Unknown said...

Calvinism is the Gospel!” – C.H. Spurgeon

I agree with Dr. Akin when he says:

The Gospel is the death, the burial, the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the perfect atonement for the forgiveness of sins.

But his statement that “Calvinism is not the Gospel.” is not helpful in light of the current Anti-Calvinism ranting coming from some of the SBC Leadership. Unfortunately this will leave the wrong impression to some that Dr. Akin is not very found of Calvinism.

Notice he did not say that Calvinism does not contain the Gospel, or that Calvinism is another Gospel, or even that Calvinism is not Biblical. So to just pull his comment that “Calvinism is not the Gospel” out of context is simply wrong.

When Spurgeon said “Calvinism is the Gospel” what he meant was that the five doctrines of Calvinism contain, in summary, what the Bible teaches concerning mans helpless condition and absolute need of the Gospel and Gods means of applying the Gospel to meet those needs. The Arminians ERROR greatly from what the Bible teaches on both of these.

So I agree with what both Spurgeon and Akin have said… however, both comments need to be taken in context and not misrepresented.

littlegal_66 said...

"I do plan on trying to contact Dr. Falwell personally next week about Dr. Caner's demeanor and assertions."

Just as a sidebar: if you do get in touch with Dr. Falwell, perhaps he could encourage this gentleman to respond to your contact attempts.
(Just a thought).

Gordan said...

Sorry. I can't hang with "Vitium totalis" as it sounds too much like something Lord Voldemort would aim at my good friend, Harry.

J♥Yce Burrows said...

Rick, concerning Acts 10 and Cornelius and when he was saved ~ maybe this link will provide food for thought. I believe the site is Baptistic and Calvinistic/monergistic though some offerings would cause pause. Thus, Berean read.

Rick Frueh said...

I am sure the insults and erudite hubris emanates from all sides. I know some Arminians who suggest Calvinists are not saved, however I have read many more Calvinists who suggest the opposite.

Both are wrong, those who have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ alone for their salvation are saved. The test for eternal life will not be the doctrine of election, it will be have YOU been elected by faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ.

I see pride as a liability for some Calvinists.

I see a shallow message as a liability for some Arminians.

Darrin said...

Steve, I like the virus acronym.

I hope I haven't posted this on your site before, but I also appreciated the GOSPEL acronym Roger Nicole offers in his introduction to the recent second edition of "The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, Documented", by Steele et al:

Grace is:

These correspond in the same order with each point in TULIP, but may be easier for folks today to understand.

Jade said...

Calvinist Gadfly wrote:I hope this virus is airborne so I can cough and sneeze in a crowded room. Hahaha ... so funny. :o) Great post Steve!

Alan E. Kurschner said...

Hey Steve, nice blast from the past :-)

Unknown said...

Thanks for reposting this, Steve.

After I posted here three years ago (see above, I sought to answer my own questions about "right and wrong", to search the scriptures to see who was right in this Calvinism debate. Using scripture, I set out to disprove the TULIP, but what I got instead was a long, painful spiritual "detox" that drained any spec of spiritual pride that I had built up for years. At one point, I trembled with fear that I had believed a lie, that I had been duped by man-centered theology.

The whole process though, drove me deep into Scripture and into tons of prayer. In the end (or really, the beginning), to God's glory...I had a more full understanding of His choosing me unto salvation. The Scriptures became more clearly understood. I truly knew in my heart what He did for me on the cross, and that my name was written in the Book of Life.

The hardest part was taking my family out of a seeker-friendly church where we belonged for 14 years. But we finally settled into a body where the entire counsel of God is preached. That journey took two painful and prayerful years!

I've been blessed by your ministry and have learned so much here. Thank you for putting the time and effort into this. God has certainly blessed my life and the life of my family through this ministry.

ejmjensen said...
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