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The actual theology of Calvinism generally does not create a stumbling block for most people either in their evangelistic efforts, or in the ability for a 'sinner' to repent or confess Christ as their savior. However, for some it does present a problem, and for good reason. This is why it is important to have a good balance of all Scripture and not build doctrine or opinion on some verses at the expense of others. All scripture that is teaching principle as true is indeed truth. In analyzing details we can miss the big picture or vice versa. If Calvinism is taken to an extreme, or as some might suggest it's logical conclusion, each person is in fact "predestined" and there is no real valid reason to evangelize, because we cannot affect any outcome anyway, after all, whatever will be will be. It also could be an intellectual stumbling block for some to repent, accept, or confess Jesus as savior. If we really believe in the so called 'sovereignty,' or power of God to the extent that many Calvinists do, we can diminish the goodness of God. The Bible makes it very clear "God is not willing that any should perish" In 2 Peter 3:9 it says " The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance." (HCSB) Yet it also states in many passages that many, or even most people will perish, or go to hell. All of these statements are true simultaneously. It is what is called a dichotomy, that is many branches coming from one trunk, or stem. Often times Christians get bogged down arguing about this apple being more true than another, when they are all hanging from the same tree. It is not necessarily either or, but also and. We are limited in our view and understanding of all the truth there is. The Apostle Paul said, "For now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known." 1 Corinthians 13:12 (HCSB) I would suggest that God is indeed a lot bigger(Sovereign) and more good (Righteous) than we can really imagine. He might even be able to use man's free will in Sovereign ways we cannot imagine. I would suggest that our pride can at times influence our wanting to know and understand things a little beyond our grasp,and then push or impose our beliefs as more important than they are. This can cause some to be discouraged, or stumble, or cause division in the body of Christ that is unnecessary, or unloving.
I don't believe there is any conflict between Calvinism and the spreading of the Gospel! As some have pointed out, in order to believe in the Gospel and call on the name of the Lord...Rom 10:9 you first have to HEAR it... And in order to hear it someone has to preach it to you...Rom 10:14 But is everyone ABLE to hear and believe the Gospel? To answer that I refer to what Jesus said in Matt 13:13 and what he told some Jews in John 8, Mat 13:13 NIV - This is why I speak to them in parables: "Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. [Jhn 8:43-44 NIV] Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are UNABLE TO HEAR what I say. Jesus wasn't saying they couldn't physically hear him, because they had been having a back and forth conversation... He was saying they couldn't HEAR him because they DID NOT belong to God, They belonged to THEIR father the devil. :44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Jhn 8:47 NIV - Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. the reason you do not HEAR is that you DON'T belong to God And In order to belong to the Lord and thus understand his words you HAVE to have the Holy Spirit in you... [Rom 8:9 NIV] You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone DOES NOT have the Spirit of Christ, they DO NOT belong to Christ. 1 Cor 2:14 says...The person WITHOUT THE SPIRIT does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and CANNOT UNDERSTAND them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. But the issue is that we don't know who does and doesn't belong to the Lord! That's why we are to spread the Word like the sower does in the parable of the sower...Matt 13:3-8... The seed/Word that lands on the GOOD soil WILL produce fruit, but ALL the seed/Word that does not land on the good soil WILL NOT produce fruit... When I speak the Word of the Lord to someone and they show an interest and ask for more (1 Pet 3:15) I believe there is a good possibility that they do belong to the Lord. But those that don't belong to the Lord will, either not show an interest or will start to criticize and pooh, pooh your beliefs... All Glory and Praise to the Lord!
The reason why Calvinism is a serious stumbling block to the spread of the Gospel is made plain throughout the Scripture. They teach a doctrine that God did not “so love the world that anyone who wants to can believe and have everlasting life”. On the contrary, they believe that God so loved only the elect, so He imposed salvation on them by irresistible grace. If the limited atonement were true, we have a callous God who presents hope to the whole world but as if mocking those, whom He destined for hell, pulls the eternal promise of salvation out from their grasp. Why would the gospels say that anyone who wants to may believe? If common unregenerate men were unable to make any sovereign free will choice, they could not be guilty of disobeying the gospel. If it’s not possible to obey the gospel you cannot disobey it because disobedience is an act of the will. So Paul tells us [Acts 17:30] God commands not just the elect to repent, He commands everyone everywhere to repent. So does that mean it is possible for everyone to choose to repent? Yes it is after hearing the gospel! Some on hearing the Gospel resisted that grace offered freely to them and they were called guilty by judging themselves unworthy of eternal life [Acts 13:46 MKJV]. [2 Thess 1:8] When Jesus returns He will be revealed with flaming fire, and He will judge people who did not obey the gospel. How could God be just to punish people who could not obey the gospel? If men are responsible to obey the gospel then they had the ability of free will to accept or reject the opportunity. To take free will out of the equation men could be found guilty of the sins they have committed but they could not be guilty of disobeying the gospel. As it happens free will is involved, and by rejecting the grace of God offered them is the reason why people judge themselves unworthy of everlasting life. Does the fact that free will is evident in the process of the Gospel mean it is man that saves Himself? Does it mean that a free will excludes God’s ability to bring salvation to those whom He so desired to be saved? The conditions of the gospel are equally for every man. Anyone who wants to follow Christ he must take up his cross and deny himself. The condition is for anyone who wants to. The parable of the “The Great Feast” [Luke 14:16-24 Matt 22:1-13 MKJV] clears up fully as to why God shuts the door on the religious and all Jews who did not receive Christ. They were invited guests who at the time of the feast rejected the offer so then the door was shut permanently in their face. They were responsible for having the gospel shut out from them. That’s why God blinded their eyes because they made any excuse not to come. It’s not like the doctrine of Calvinism at all, God planned for them to be at the great feast (salvation and eternal life) but while He desired it He did not impose it upon them, it remained an invitation, which is why Calvinism is so wrong. God is inviting the world to the feast and to reject that invitation will bring very serious consequences. Hear is another vital truth that denies the concepts of “irresistible grace and “limited atonement”. God wanted all of Jerusalem to come to Him Matt 23:37,He did not impose His grace on them but He sent the apostles and prophets to invite them. That means it was His divine will to save them all but what was the reason they did not enter that powerful plan? Pure and simple truth, Jesus said “you would not”. Christ was heartbroken that they were not entering His plan revealed so beautifully by the illustration of a mother hen wanting to gather her chicks under her arm but that they refused the cry of the mother and would be left to be prey for the birds. It’s really a non-issue to say that “if a person has a free will choice salvation would depend on man.” It’s like saying 'if I don’t plug this cord into the electric socket, then there is no power in the house to supply all the electrical goods'. Quite a ridiculous thought.
Could Calvanism impede the proclamation of the gospel? I believe so; consider the following situation: A person comes to a Calvanist pastor broken over their sin desperately seeking forgiveness. This pastor most certainly cannot tell this individual they are forgiven, he cannot tell this suffering individual broken over their sin that Christ died for them because what if they are not one of the elect? The pastor would by lying to them or giving them false hope and a pastor surely cannot lie to an individual. Believing in a limited atonement forces one to say Jesus died for some sins but it is uncertain who's sins. The best they have to offer a sorrowful and broken person is uncertainty. In fact, the pastor himself cannot know if even he is one of the elect until he stands before God on judgement day. I have heard some Calvanists claim the evidence of being one of the elect is proved by looking at their progress in sanctification but I do not understand how this is any different than looking to your works for assurance of your eternal position. Isn't it much easier to tell a person looking for the comfort of the gospel that their sins are forgiven, that their sins have been washed away by the blood of the Lamb 2000 years ago when Jesus said "It is finished." That while they were yet sinners Christ died for them and Jesus has borne their sicknesses and and pains being pierced for their transgressions, bruised for their iniquities, that the chastisement of their peace was on Him and by Jesus' wounds, this poor miserable sinner is healed, that although this person has like a sheep gone astray, the Good Shepherd laid down His life for them. In the New Testament I see through Jesus' words that there are believers and unbelievers. Christ died for all, there are only those who either believe this is true, trusting and clinging to this promise by faith or those who we call unbelievers who either don't care or try to stand on their own merits rejecting Christ's atonement rather than having faith and trust in the completed work on the cross. For further clarification I do not believe in "free will" or "decisions" but that it is the Holy Spirit that works faith in the believer through the Word as Paul teaches in Ephesians 2 and Romans 10.
Calvinism is a problem if one preaches Calvinism, and not Christ. Some Calvinists seem to worship past preachers rather that the Christ. We are to spread the Gospel to the lost....all else, depending on your theology, is gravy.
I think the issue of theological tradition has the potential to cause great harm in spreading the gospel of Christ. It certainly wasn't a concern of the early church or church fathers. It has the tendency to supplant God's idea for evangelism as demonstrated by Christ and the first church and replace it with an environment of intellectual wrangling. I'm not sure I'm comfortable with church leaders who identify themselves with a particular theological tradition instead of, or before they identify themselves within the framework of biblical Christianity. Some might say they are one in the same. If so, then let's get on with the work of God's expressed desire without the apparent divisiveness of clinging to extra-biblical minutia. A quick look at the current statistics in the area of church growth and evangelism in America is a good indicator that spending time debating theological tradition only serves as a distraction to the greater cause. While protestant denominations wrangle over theological traditions, our culture is moving away from what we've made of, "church." The denominational leaders who argue theological tradition with the greatest fervor are the very denominations who are currently experiencing the greatest decline in attendance and salvations (baptisms). Jesus' message to the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2 might be a sobering wakeup call to those who champion theological tradition over biblical Ecclesiology. "You have forsaken the love you had at first." Time to wake up, church leaders.
It is easy to carry any doctrine too far. When my son lost his 3rd child shortly after birth, a Calvinist preacher told him "It must be really hard not knowing if your child was one of the elect" That, my friends, is going to far. On the other hand, I do not believe that anyone can be saved unless the Holy Spirit draws them. But even then, a person can reject Christ. God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to the knowledge of eternal life. Somethings we just will not know until we get to heaven. God does know who will be saved.
Those who think Calvinism undermines evangelism don't understand Calvinism. One person in an earlier post said: a "pastor most certainly cannot tell (an) individual they are forgiven, he cannot tell (that) suffering individual broken over their sin that Christ died for them because what if they are not one of the elect?" Actually, If the pastor understood Calvinism he would certainly know that this person is saved because, otherwise, they would not be broken over their sin and believe that Christ died for them. They simply would not want to be saved. The Bible is clear that ANYONE that wants to be saved, is saved. Calvinism doesn't dispute that. You also don't understand "Iresistable Grace" properly if you think it "forces" a person to believe or "forces" a person who wants to believe to be unable to believe. You don't understand "Limited Atonement" properly if you think "Limited Atonement" is unfair instead of a guarantee that salvation is not just a potentiality but is instead a guaranteed reality. You don't understand "Total Depravity" if you think a person contributes anything to the fact that they are saved. Even faith, itself, is a gift: "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,...so that no one may boast." You don't understand Grace if you think that some are saved and some are not, and you think that is unfair. You don't understand Calvinism in general if you think we "teach a doctrine that God did not “so love the world that anyone who wants to, can believe and have everlasting life." You don't understand "Unconditional Election" if you have to ask: 'Why would the gospels say that anyone who wants to may believe if common unregenerate men were unable to make any sovereign free will choice." Lastly, you don't understand how freeing it is when I evangelize and I don't have to worry about how persuasive I need to be or about how I present the gospel. I don't have to worry about being convincing. I can do what God commands me to do - present the good news - and leave the rest in His hands. I don't have to feel like a failure if I preach, present, or teach the gospel message and I don't get a certain response. I can totally rest on the fact that I have been faithful and the Holy Spirit will do the rest. Why do we pray for God to save a certain person if we think that we need to do so in order do have God be "more convincing" or "more enticing" to 'draw' them further toward Him? Why do we pray to God to "save my brother" or sister, or mother, or friend, if the decision for accepting God is up to them? Aren't we really saying, if we think that, that God then needs to "do more" to save them? And if He can "do more", then,... if God really wants to save "all people", He could do so. He could write on the wall, or in the sky, or make His case convincing enough to save almost everyone (or at least do a better job of it than He is doing now) if it is true that He really, really, wants more people to be saved than actually are saved now. Calvinism's answer is that God can, and always does, do exactly what is necessary to save the people that He desires to be saved. Part of that method is that He ordained us to do the telling. We are the means. Knowing that makes me more confident than ever that when I am faithful, He will provide the right words, means, circumstance, and power for His word to not return void to Him. A person that doesn't believe the Biblical tenets of Calvinism can't have the confidence that anyone they preach to will be saved because all those people potentially have a free enough will to resist the message. I can preach to those same people knowing that if there are any that God wants to save, they will be saved. I also can know for a certainty that God's purpose cannot be thwarted, even by my bad preaching or someone's free will: "“I know that You can do all things, and no purpose of yours can be thwarted."
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