Dr. James Ach
WARNING: In this series I am going to show as much “grace” in this response as others have shown to these two pastors who are the subjects of the video being discussed below. I do not agree with all of their theology or standards, but it gets old watching how the Servetus Klans attack those who disagree with Calvinism.
A few days ago, Phil Johnson tweeted out the link to a video by 2 pastors, Jim Crews and Ron Vietti, that addressed the heresies of Calvinism. From what I understood, the video has been temporarily removed due to the vitriolic response the Servetus Klan has given these 2 pastors. We were asked to respond to a letter however, from a pastor who opposes them in their own hometown, so our response will be limited to the Open Letter by pastor Chad Vegas, and then later we will address some of the other websites that have tackled this video, although we have addressed at least one contention regarding Pulpit & Pen’s pervert pastor and internet bully JD Hall’s response calling it propaganda when anyone raises the issue of infant damnation. See our short response Infant Damnation, Babies Elected To Hell.
We are responding not because we know these 2 pastors or anything about their church, but because it has become common for Calvinists these days to cherry pick what they consider “the worst evah” opponents of Calvinism and use them to not only paint strawmen on the backs of all Non Calvinists, but as springboards to explain how they are being misrepresented. However, Calvinists rarely accept the implications of their theology which is why they always think they are being misrepresented.
For example, the most simple polemic against Reformed Theology is that it makes God the author of sin and evil. The Calvinist cries “foul play, we never said that”. Nobody said you did. But when you claim that God has determined all things whatsoever comes to pass, you can not add an exclusionary clause in a footnote (as the Westminster Confession does) that exonerates Him from evil. Either EVERYTHING is determined and caused by God including so-called secondary causation, or only SOME things are caused by God. What this does is permits the Calvinist to pick and choose when God determines an event. If it’s good, then God determined it, if it’s evil, He did not determine it (unless the evil served his purpose such as in the case of Joseph being sold into slavery) although at some point down the chain of events that lead to the evil event God did determine the event that eventually caused the evil event Calvinists claim God did not determine.
What the Calvinist does here is plays bait and switch with their opponents. What the opponent of Calvinism did here was drew a conclusion based on what Calvinists say about God. When the Calvinist doesn’t like or agree with the conclusion, they accuse the opponent of misrepresenting the premise. Here, the premise was that God determines all things whatsoever comes to pass. Naturally, if that’s true, it means God determines evil which is the conclusion and ultimate implication. But what the Calvinist does is make you feel guilty about changing the premise when that’s not what happened. And this is just one of the ways Calvinists weasel their way out of responsibility for an irresponsible doctrine.
We have discussed this dilemma in Free Will Proves the Sovereignty of God
We will start with #4 of Chad Vegas’ response the first three appear based on personal interactions between them, and we don’t have nearly enough room in one article to discuss whether or not John Calvin understood Biblical predestination and election although we do find it a little odd that Vegas ascribed ‘particular redemption’ to Calvin considering this was 17th century rhetoric and differs significantly from Calvin to Spurgeon on what was believed about Limited Atonement. But one HUGE problem that Calvinists have to deal with in election is that God would have had to guarantee that Adam sinned in order to ensure that election came to fruition. We prove this in our article Calvinism and Reprobation: Would God Have Reprobated Perfect Human Beings?
Have You Read….
Vegas name drops a few Calvinists he’s read, Calvin, Turretin, Hodge, Shedd, Spurgeon, Warfield, Machen, Sproul, Piper, as authorities on the issue of Calvinism. The problem with using this approach is that many among these Calvinists disagree with each other. Some are infralapsarians and some are supralapsarians (a contention on which Calvinists attempt to make the imaginary distinction between “hyper” Calvinists and normal Calvinism). So before Vegas attempted to ridicule these men’s views on Calvinism, it would have helped if he would clarify what HIS position is on Calvinism since some of the most popular Calvinist authors actually AGREE with some of the things that these 2 pastors covered.
Can You Show Me…
Vegas states that, “I have never read any Calvinist theologian who denies man has a real choice, nor that God loves all people.”
Yes, I had to read that twice and ask myself, ‘are you kidding me???’ Man having a total inability to respond to the gospel is the hallmark of Total Depravity taught by Calvinists. Calvinists have embraced the most absurd explanation for human responsibility called soft-determinism or compatibilism which essentially says man does not have free will other than within the ability to act freely out of the predisposed will that he has been given. And on the love of God, Arthur Pink wrote an article that SPECIFICALLY says “God does not love everybody”(also espoused in his book, Sovereignty of God), and in this video by John Piper, Piper adamantly claims that “Jesus doesn’t love everybody”.
Now keep in mind, that Vegas cited a certain list of authors, so lets just take a moment to see what these authors say about ‘free will’ (although you should take note here that Vegas made no attempt to define what he considers “freedom”, another Calvinist sleight- of -hand trick). What is interesting is that right after Vegas claims to not know anyone that denies free will, he cites Martin Luther’s Bondage of the Will as an example of a Reformer who taught the same doctrines as Calvin and Augustine. Bondage of the Will was Luther’s response to Erasmus that man in fact does not have free will, but that the will is in bondage to the nature that God determined that person to have.
A.A. Hodge on Free Will : “Man has a fixed character which determines all in a certain track, and yet that man is free” While Hodge affirmed that Calvinists should subscribe to the “doctrine of free-will” he, as most Calvinists, can’t seem to “GET” that you can not be free and determined at the same time. If your character is FIXED then there is no freedom to choose among the same options that any other human is given an obligation to respond to. If your character is fixed so that it never responds to the gospel, then it is not freedom to be confined to respond within the fixed character that God has determined you to have. That is utter non-sense, and nowhere in Scripture.
WGT SHEDD on Free Will: “The non-elect man, then, like the elect, being already in the state of sin and guilt by the free fall in Adam, nothing is requisite in order to make it certain that he will for ever remain in this state but the purpose of God not to restrain and change the action of his free will and self-will in sin by regenerating it”. Shedd, Double Predestination To Holiness and Sin.
In other words, if you are not elect, then you will never have the free will to call upon Christ. You are forever doomed in your state of non-choice with the predetermined inability to never seek Christ or repent.
John Piper: ” Now notice the implication this has for the meaning of foreknowledge in [Romans 8]verse 29. When Paul says in verse 29,..Those whom he foreknew he also predestined,” he can’t mean (as so many try to make him mean) that God knows in advance who will use their free will to come to faith, so that he can predestine them to sonship because they made that free choice on their own. It can’t mean that because we have seen from verse 30 that people do not come to faith on their own. They are called irresistibly. God does not foreknow the free decisions of people to believe in him because there aren’t any such free decisions to know.” (Emphasis added.)
RC Sproul: Has Vegas ever read Sproul’s “Willing to Believe” or “Chosen By God”? I could fill this page with nothing but quotes from Sproul’s position against free will as well as his often inconsistent scribblings on double predestination.
For space, I will spare quoting other Calvinists. But, what I think Vegas really means is that Calvinists affirm SOME FORM of “free will” they just don’t tell you what they really mean by that; you have to know something about Calvinism to understand that freedom to a Calvinist doesn’t carry the same connotations the way most people understand freedom which is generally a libertarian view (unless you’re an atheist or Muslim who typically holds the same fatalist view of freedom as the Calvinists with some Calvinists like Gordon Clark actually affirming absolute determinism). Needless to say, neither Crews or Vietti misrepresented the Reformed view of free will or the love of God.
Point 2 of 4
Next, Vegas states,
Second, when you spoke about election and monergistic regeneration you spoke as if these doctrines arose from Calvin. Luther taught these same doctrines more often than Calvin did (see Bondage of the Will). He was before Calvin. Aquinas taught this nearly 5 centuries before Calvin. Augustine taught the same 11 centuries before Calvin. I would argue Paul and Jesus taught them as well, but that’s the real debate, isn’t it?
What tickles me immediately about this quote is how often Calvinists blame the controversy of free will on either Pelagius or the Roman Catholic Church (primarily because of Erasmus) and then cite Aquinas to bolster their claims of Calvin’s doctrines being taught prior to Calvin himself teaching them; not to mention that there are few Calvinists that today would wholeheartedly subscribe to what Aquinas taught about free will and human responsibility.
Most opponents of Calvinism are well aware that John Calvin relied heavily on Augustine for his theology (I have personally counted over 300 quotes from Calvin’s Institutes), so much that we could really call Calvinism “Augustinianism”. But is it described as ‘Calvinism’ because of doctrines that were popularized by Calvin and subscribed to in the Lambeth Articles and the Synod of Dort, not necessarily invented by him. But really, what difference does it make? If John Calvin taught the same thing as Augustine, and it’s still called Calvinism anyway (as evidenced by Vegas’ response to a video about CALVINISM), then who cares who started it? It’s what Calvinists themselves answer to. Besides, how often have you ever seen a Calvinist accusing an opponent of being an Arminian actually quote from the Remonstrants or something written by Arminius as proof that the opponent has espoused to a belief actually held by classical Arminians? Next time a Calvinist accuses you of being Arminian, tell them to prove it!
Deferring to Augustine or (mistakenly) to Aquinas as the actual originator of “Calvinism” is a rather silly objection. And certainly whether Paul taught it can be immediately dismissed by the fact that Paul was premillennial, did not teach baptismal regeneration or infant baptism, or that Christ was spiritually present in the Eucharist, and he recommended the removal of backslidden Christians from the church for discipline that did not include burning them at the stake (See Paul’s treatment of such sinners in 1 Corinthians 5 followed by his response to the Corinthian church in 2 Corinthians ch 7).
Point 3 of 4. Servetus
Vegas next attempts to defend John Calvin’s treatment of Michael Servetus who was burned to death on October 27, 1553 in Geneva for heresy. We have covered this attempt at history revision in our article on Calvinists Defense of John Calvin in the Michael Servetus Ordeal But just to quickly recap, it is a HISTORICAL FACT that John Calvin sought Servetus’ death before he was captured, discussed how he should die after he was captured, and bragged about it after he was murdered.
Vegas contends that Servetus wanted to flee to Geneva because “far less people were put to death there than the rest of Europe”. That’s hardly supported by ANY historical documentation, and it defies common sense. Servetus went DISGUISED to Geneva. That’s hardly the sentiment of someone who is not expecting persecution. Moreover, it was John Calvin’s release of private correspondence between him and Servetus given to the Arnyes, Trie and Ory ,that prompted Rome’s heated search of Servetus in the first place, and it was the 39 charges written by John Calvin himself that lead to Servetus indictment, conviction and death. The very fact that Castellio put up such a fuss about how Calvin had treated Servetus using the Genevan arm of justice in his letters Concerning Heretics in 1554 should forever silence the Reformed history revisionists that Calvin was innocent of the blood of Michael Servetus.
Another contention I’d have with Vegas is that Geneva wasn’t really much of the safe-haven that he makes it out to be. From Philip Schaff’s History of the Christian Church, the following is a VERY BRIEF summary given about life in Geneva under John Calvin’s theocracy:
*During the ravages of the pestilence in 1545 more than twenty men and women were burnt alive for witchcraft.
*One man who was tired out on a hot summer day, went to sleep during a sermon and went to prison.
*A burgher smiled while attending a baptism and received three days imprisonment.
*A man who publicly protested the doctrine of predestination was flogged at all the cross ways of the city and then expelled
*A book printer who in his cups [columns] had railed at Calvin, was sentenced to have his tongue perforated with a red-hot iron before being expelled from the city
*Jacques Gruent was racked and then executed for calling Calvin a hypocrite
Martin Luther said of John Calvin, “With a death sentence they solve all argumentation” Juergan L. Neve, A History of Christian Thought, vol. I, p. 285)
The death of Michael Servetus is the POPULAR case that many KNOW OF. Most people are not aware of all of the other atrocities that Calvin committed in Geneva as well as those done in his name with his full approval. You don’t see this discussed very much by Calvinists because they have a hard enough time trying to explain away the Servertus ordeal, let alone the remaining documented history of Geneva’s evils.
Point 4 of 4 Evangelism and Babies Elect For Hell
As stated, supra, we have already addressed the issue of infant damnation. We have also addressed the issues about Calvinism and evangelism in a few other sections so we will refer to those articles which show gross inconsistencies in Calvinist claims to be evangelistic. It is however ironic that Calvinists always default to men like Carey, Whitefield, Spurgeon, et al, as evidence that they are evangelistic, when their churches are nowhere near patterned after the same evangelistic practices that these men were notorious for. In fact, my brother, Elisha, once posted in a Calvinist debate group a quote from Spurgeon on evangelism, but did not say who the quote was from. Every Calvinist in the group denounced it as Arminian heresy until it was revealed that the quote was from a professing Calvinist. Calvinists will often cherry pick the inconsistent parts of men like Carey which does nothing to prove how THEIR CHURCH is evangelistic or whether or not the doctrines of Calvinism as a whole when their full implications are realized and implemented does not lead to the death of evangelism. Today’s Calvinist would call William Carey a heretic for using “means” in evangelism.
We have explained in the following articles why the excuses some Calvinists use to argue that they are evangelistic prove that they are dishonest and inconsistent with what they believe. Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses both pass out tracts and “Bible” studies, that doesn’t make them evangelistic. What is preached is as important as the “go”, although we contend that Calvinists altogether have a problem with the what, and a majority have a problem with the go. Today’s Calvinist would rather steal the sheep from existing churches and colleges rather than do the footwork that soul winners did to start and build churches.
Finally, Vegas demands that Crews and Vietti apologize for their misrepresentations of Calvinism even after claiming in Point 3 that:
“I want to commend you for attempting to protect the flock from what you consider a false gospel and blasphemy against the character of God. In a cultural moment when so many are afraid to love others by speaking against false doctrine, I am thankful you reject this kind of modernistic sentimentality and relativism. I am thankful you desire to refute those who contradict and to silence false teachers”
So if Crews and Vietti opined on what they genuinely believe to be rank heresy, so much they call it doctrine of demons (which is rather cordial and an understatement), then why should they apologize? Either they were doing what Vegas admits they would be permitted to do according to the dictates of their firmly held convictions, or Vegas is being patronizingly dishonest in his commendation. If Vegas’ intent was that they apologize after he’s “proved them wrong”, then he shouldn’t have tried the condescending routine first when or if he actually believed it to be a lie. It’s a little counter-productive to tell someone they have a right to call you a heretic and then criticize them for calling you one.
We do give Vegas a little credit for the tone in which he did address his contentions. It wasn’t dripping with the typical venomous vitriol spewed from the Servetus Klan, but overall it was the average boilerplate response that we see from most Calvinists. Hopefully, Vegas doesn’t follow in the footsteps of some of the other people who have re-blogged his open letter.
Parts 3 Coming Soon
We also have a forum we archive articles or short missives we or friends of ours have written about Calvinism. Calvinisms Other Side.