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Joined: 2003/7/18
Posts: 6566
Reading, UK

 a question for a Calvinist

This post was recently posted on my own website discussion forum but i thought it might serve a wider audience. I would genuinely like to hear a Calvinist response to this challenge.

[color=0033FF]There are, when taken in isolation, a number of scriptures that seem very strongly Calvinistic. By Calvinism I mean '5 point - TULIP' Calvinism. The 5 points are all fully dependent on each other as asserted by Beza, Edwards, Whitefield, Spurgeon, Pink et al. So called 4 or 3 point Calvinism is illogical nonsense for the reasons given by the aforementioned in many of their discourses. It follows that to show that any one of the five points of TULIP cannot stand is to remove the entire foundation of Calvinism.

The basis of this post's assertion that Calvinism is unbiblical relates to the 'L' and the 'P' of TULIP - Limited atonement and Preservation/Perseverance of the saints.

Dos the Bible teach that a saved person can lose his / her salvation? Yes it does. We need not look at each and every candidate scripture to prove this though. One set of scriptures will suffice, namely: 2 Peter Ch2 (NKJV used at all times).

Verse 1 ends "...even denying the Lord who bought them" - can this verse mean anything other than Jesus died for the false prophets in question? If Limited atonement is correct then these false prophets are Elect according to Calvinism.

But, Verse 3 with reference to these false prophets ends "..... and their destruction doesn't slumber". And Verse 15 says "They have foresaken the right way and gone astray ....". And Verse 17 ends ".... for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever". And Verse 20 states "for if they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning". What can these four verses mean other than loss of salvation for those Elect to whom verse 1 applies?

For Calvinism to be true, Verse 1 above cannot mean that the Lord died for the false prophets, i.e. they were not Elect as understood by Calvinists OR all the other verses mentioned do not say that these people who were bought by Jesus lost their salvation.

It would be straining the interpretation of scripture to the extreme to say that the Lord 'bought' someone but then say that they are not Elect according to Calvinism and what could those latter 4 verses quoted mean but that those false prophets lost their salvation? So either Limited atonement is wrong or Preservation/Perseverance of the saints is wrong - either way Calvinism falls.[/color]

That argument seems pretty watertight from where I am sitting.

Ron Bailey

 2008/12/10 4:57Profile

Joined: 2007/1/30
Posts: 926

 Re: a question for a Calvinist

Good question. I have a response to this, but have to leave for work right now. Maybe tonight, but have you checked Gill's "Cause of God and Truth"?

 2008/12/10 7:22Profile

Joined: 2006/6/19
Posts: 927


I can provide a response too if Michael doesn't get time, but I will defer to him for the time being.

Taylor Otwell

 2008/12/10 7:52Profile

Joined: 2003/7/18
Posts: 6566
Reading, UK


I can hardly wait... ;-)

Ron Bailey

 2008/12/10 8:11Profile

Joined: 2005/10/28
Posts: 246
Logan City, Queensland, Australia

 Re: a question for a Calvinist

Let's look at 2 Peter 2 as a whole to see it is talking to:

[i]2Pe 2:1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
2Pe 2:2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.
2Pe 2:3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.
2Pe 2:4 For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;
2Pe 2:5 And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;
2Pe 2:6 And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly;
2Pe 2:7 And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked:
2Pe 2:8 (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)
2Pe 2:9 The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:
2Pe 2:10 But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.
2Pe 2:11 Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord.
2Pe 2:12 But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption;
2Pe 2:13 And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you;
2Pe 2:14 Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children:
2Pe 2:15 Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;
2Pe 2:16 But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man's voice forbad the madness of the prophet.
2Pe 2:17 These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.
2Pe 2:18 For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.
2Pe 2:19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.
2Pe 2:20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.
2Pe 2:21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.
2Pe 2:22 But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. [/i]

Now let's look at the book of Jude (v4-19):
Jud 1:4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jud 1:5 I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.
Jud 1:6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.
Jud 1:7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
Jud 1:8 Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities.
Jud 1:9 Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.
Jud 1:10 But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.
Jud 1:11 Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.
Jud 1:12 These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots;
Jud 1:13 Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.
Jud 1:14 And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints,
Jud 1:15 To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.
Jud 1:16 These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men's persons in admiration because of advantage.
Jud 1:17 But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ;
Jud 1:18 How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts.
Jud 1:19 These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit. [/i]

2 Peter and Jude have an almost identitical description of apostates, though take note of how Jude describes the cause of their nature:
[i]Jud 1:4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, [u]who were before of old ordained to this condemnation[/u], ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. [/i]
The word "ordained" in the greek, [i]προγράφω
prographō[/i], is defined by Strongs' as "to write previously; figuratively to announce, prescribe: - before ordain, evidently set forth, write (afore, aforetime)." If 2 Peter 2 and Jude are indeed describing the same kind of person - and I honestly think they are - then based on your interpretation of 2 Peter 2:1-3, you've run into a fork in the road when you look at what other scriptures have to say i.e., while 2 Peter 2:1-3 may seem to be a very apt prooftext for those inclined towards arminian theology, a calvinist can rightly counter with Jude 1:4.
[i]Rom 9:22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:
Rom 9:23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,
Rom 9:24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? [/i]

I would like to offer this hypothesis as a means of resolution: among apostates, there are both predestined reprobates, [i]as well as God's predestined elect[/i]. What I mean is that with the latter, they are within Christ's Limited Atonment (2 Peter 2:1), but the problem is not that they lost their salvation, but that they weren't even saved to begin with.

Consider the tests for Assurance of Salvation given in [b]1 John[/b]
1. The test of correct doctrine (1 John 1:1-4)
- Correct view of sin (1 John 1:5-2:2)

2. The test of morality
- Correct view of obedience 1 John 2:3-6
- Correct view of love 1 John 2:7-17

3. The test of antichristian influence
- Departure from fellowship 1 John 2:18-21
- Denial of the Christian faith 1 John 2:22-25
- Deception of the faithful 1 John 2:26-27

4. The test of relationship between Christ and the world
- Expectation of christ’s return 1 John 2:28-3:3
- A lifestyle incompatable with the ways of the world 1 John 3:4-24

5. The testing of the Spirit
- The criteria for demonic influences 1 John 4:1-6
- Demonstrating the character of God through love 1 John 4:7-21

6. The test of fellowship
- Victory in Christ 1 John 5:1-5
- Certainty in Christ 1 John 5:6-12

The book of 1 John was intentionally written to give young believers assurance of their salvation. Contained within the verses are a holistic – as opposed to “departmentalized” – view of Christian living wherein each part connects inseparably to the other. A person who is [i]truly saved, having a new regenerated nature[/i], will definitely have these things stated in 1 John. However in contemporary Christendom, “assurance” is usually taken to mean a vocal congratulatory gesture on the part of the evangelist and/or disciple-maker pending a decision for Christ rather than an actual realization of the new nature (regardless of whether the new “convert” bears any sign of it at all).
In essence, if a person is a false convert, he checks 1 John and sees himself as a false convert and then turns to Christ. If a person is a true convert, he checks 1 John and is comforted in the security of his soul and takes joy in God, and in so doing, glorifies God. This assurance however, can only be possible if one first understands salvation from a biblical, God-centred viewpoint wherein the Holy spirit is the initiator and finisher of a believer’s regeneration and sanctification as opposed to a man-centred view that makes the believer and/or his peers responsible.
Alternatively, if one holds to a view of “easy believism” that allows for the existence of “carnal Christians” on the basis that regeneration, repentance and surrender to Christ’s lordship are supposedly optional and unnecessary, the whole doctrine of assurance is lost, and the main purpose of a whole book of the new testament (1 John) becomes useless.

Ergo, when we look at 2 Peter 2 and Jude in light of 1 John, those described fail the test miserably, and thus we can conclude that they cannot be talking about genuine born-again christians at all.

So in conclusion, when we look at 2 Peter 2:1-3 and apply it to the TULIP model, we can conclude that while the "U" and the "L" MAY be in effect, the vital "I" - Irresitable grace, that is regeneration preceding faith as per the formed view - has not (yet) taken place, hence they cannot appropriate Justification by Faith and hence receive the promise of Perseverence ("P"). As a result, they're still stuck in "T" - Total Depravity, which is why they're inclined to false teaching, because unless regenerated, they're never going to grasp the Truth of God's revelation.

[b]Practical application:[/b] Given the possibility that despite these apostates being so deep in deception, we should not lose faith that God is indeed sovereign and as such can overcome any blindness holding back the elect. Despite such a harsh indictment of apostates, Jude still gives the reader the encouragement:
Jud 1:21 Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
Jud 1:22 And of some have compassion, making a difference:
Jud 1:23 And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.

When it comes to those who would claim to have "been there, done that" - though in truth their fruit says that they never knew God for who is at all - we may have to go the extra mile and show a bit of "tough love."

How fewer false converts would we have in our local churches if pastors were to take 1 John at face value! The question that needs to be asked from the pulpits today is not "Once Saved, Always Saved?" or "Can salvation be lost?", but rather "What does it actually mean to be truly saved and is it true of you?"

Benjamin Valentine

 2008/12/10 8:41Profile

Joined: 2006/6/19
Posts: 927


I'm fixing to start work for the day, but if you would like to read an article that deals with several interpretations and the Greek of the text, you can check out:

Taylor Otwell

 2008/12/10 8:55Profile

Joined: 2003/7/18
Posts: 6566
Reading, UK


Is this addressing 2 Pet 2:1?

[color=0066FF]denying the Lord who bought them[/color]

Did the Lord 'buy' these false prophets who brought in destructive heresies?

I would like to offer this hypothesis as a means of resolution: among apostates, there are both predestined reprobates, as well as God's predestined elect. What I mean is that with the latter, they are within Christ's Limited Atonment (2 Peter 2:1), but the problem is not that they lost their salvation, but that they weren't even saved to begin with.

So you are saying that 'among reprobates there are elect reprobates'. So some are 'predestined to hell reprobates' and some 'predestined to salvation' reprobates? What is going to happen to the 'elect reprobates'? 2Pet 2:speaks very plainly of the future destruction of these false teachers. Were they 'elect' or not? and if not how can they be among the 'bought'?

Ron Bailey

 2008/12/10 9:10Profile

Joined: 2003/6/11
Posts: 9192
Santa Clara, CA


Comment from the peanut gallery ...

[i]My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.[/i] Joh 10:27-28

I do not know that this implies that one cannot simply up and walk away, forfeit, 'fall' away. All this trigonometry and reverse explanation seems like overdose to me. To many warnings throughout scripture to the contrary. If there isn't some sort of mutual co-operation, some desire to be 'kept' ...

Being snatched implies stealing, [i]against[/i] ones own will -

"Keep" is a very biblical word and it seems to me that it has a great deal of responsibility attached to it, on our side of the equation.

Mike Balog

 2008/12/10 9:23Profile

Joined: 2007/4/3
Posts: 293



below is Piper's response. Don't mean to suggest this is the end all answer. Maybe his input will provoke further inquiry and discussion.

p2 Peter 2:1

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.

While this is a difficult text, it is actually quite ambiguous. The case against limited atonement from this verse is not as great as it seems.

First, it is unclear exactly what Peter means when he says the false teachers were "bought." It is true that that 1 Corinthians 6:20 and other verses use "bought" as a reference to what Christ did at His death. But that does not mean that the word is used in this way everywhere it appears in Scripture.

As John Owen points out in The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, the word used to say the false teachers were "bought" can be used to denote any kind of deliverance, and so does not necessarily indicate that they had been purchased by the blood of Christ. Based on the context, it may be best to understand the statement that the false teachers had been "bought" not as a reference to the death of Christ, but a reference to some other act of deliverance--such as deliverance by God's goodness from the idolatry of the world. Notice how later on Peter refers to the false teachers as having had a form of "deliverance" in that they "escape[ed] the pollution of the world" by the knowledge of the gospel (v. 20). This verse is not referring to salvation, but outward reformation with no ultimate inward reality. These people did not have their natures changed and so returned to the mud like a pig. We all know of many unsaved people who for a time reform their lives, but soon go back to their old way. In 2:20 Peter is saying that the false teachers are like that; and so in 2:1 it is possible that the "deliverance" or "purchase" of these teachers refers to their outward escape from the pollution of the world and thus does not imply anything about whether Christ had bought them by His death.

There is also another possibility. Wayne Grudem makes a good case that Peter is referring to the Exodus in 2:1. For Peter compares the false prophets that would arise in the church to the false prophets that arose in Israel: "False prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you." In the Old Testament the whole nation of Israel, and thus even the false teachers in it, was considered to have been "bought" by God in the Exodus from Egypt. Through this deliverance, God "bought" the nation of Israel and thus Israel rightfully belonged to God as His peculiar people. We see this in Deuteronomy 32:6, which is the passage that Peter is probably alluding to: "Do you thus repay the Lord, O foolish and unwise people? Is not He your Father who has bought you? He has made you and established you." God "bought" Israel not by the death of Christ but, as this text says, by forming the nation. This is evident from Exodus 15:16 as well, which speaks of the Exodus as the act of God whereby He "bought" Israel: "Terror and dread fall upon them; by the greatness of Thine arm they are motionless as stone; until they people pass over, O Lord, until the people pass over whom thou hast purchased."

So the nation of Israel was considered "bought" by God because of the Exodus. Since 2 Peter 2:1 is comparing the false teachers who arise in the church with the false prophets who arose in Israel, could it not be that Peter is saying that these false prophets will be from the nation of Israel--that is, those who were "bought" in the Exodus? Or, perhaps could he not be saying that these false teachers will be church attenders in a position analogous to those in Israel who had been "bought" at the Exodus?

Regardless, we see that there are many different things Peter could mean when he says the false teachers were "bought" by the Lord. Because of this ambiguity, it would not be wise to take this as a passage denying limited atonement. In fact, in light of the clear teaching elsewhere in Scripture that limited atonement is true, it would be best to interpret this ambiguous passage in light of those.

Second, it is also ambiguous whether Peter is referring to God the Father or Christ as the Lord who bought them when he says that they will "even deny the sovereign Lord who bought them." In fact, it is likely that the "sovereign Lord" who Peter says had bought these false teachers is a reference to God the Father, not Christ. This is because in the following verses God the Father is spoken of and the Greek word for Lord used here is never used of Christ, but only of the Father (see John Owen's The Death of Death in the Death of Christ). This understanding is also most in line with the allusion to Deuteronomy 32:6, where God the Gather is in view and is said to have "bought" Israel.

If Peter is saying that God the Father bought these false teachers, it cannot be a reference to the atonement. Why? Because the atonement was made by Jesus, not the Father. Thus, here is another reason that it is likely that the purchase spoken of here is not a reference to the death of Christ.

Third, it is ambiguous whether Peter is speaking of the reality of a purchase, or according to the appearance of a purchase--that is, their outward appearance and profession. In other words, the verse may mean, "denying the Master who [they say] bought them [but really didn't]," or it may be intended to confirm that these false teachers would come from within the visible church. To speak of them as "bought," then, wouldn't mean that Christ had died to save them, but that they occupied a position that is supposed to be occupied only by those who have been bought.

So we have seen that there are three large ambiguities in 2 Peter 2:1. First, it is unclear whether the purchase of these false teachers is a reference to the death of Christ or not. Second, it is unclear whether the one who "bought" them is even Christ or simply the Father. Third, it is unclear whether Peter is speaking according to reality or appearance.

Because of these huge ambiguities in 2 Peter 2:1, it is not a solid text against limited atonement. There are many things it could legitimately mean, and so it would not be wise to stand on it as an argument against limited atonement.

the following is a reply from John Piper to the question. Not submitting this is the end all but it may provoke further inquiry or discussion.

 2008/12/10 9:30Profile

Joined: 2003/7/18
Posts: 6566
Reading, UK


Thanks Taylor
I read the article. A comment of Luther about Jerome came to mind... he laboureth abundantly but leaveth it unexplained. ;-)

To summarize, please correct me if I am wrong, his suggestion is that the 'bought them' phrase is relating to Israel as the Covenant people of God rather than to the 'false teachers among you'. I can follow his reasoning but I am completely unconvinced by it. It seems to me that the target is clearly the 'false teachers among you'.

The attaching of this phrase to Christ the Sovereign Lord rather than Christ the Mediator really seems to smack of the worst tweaking that I usually expect to find among the dispensationalists. I think this is a plain candidate for Occam's Razor and I doubt that Peter's readers would have had the sophistication to split hairs in this fashion.

The article seemed to be aimed at refuting the 'modified Calvinisits' rather than those like myself who take a position slightly to the left of Arminius. ;-) Where would you stand with this? Are you a Universal Redemptionist or a Particular Redemptionist?

Ron Bailey

 2008/12/10 9:50Profile

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