A Calvinist Asked Me This Question, and My Reply Follows

“If all men are under the same propensity to believe and under the same affects (sic) of the fall, what would make a believer better than a nonbeliever that he should choose Christ?”

1. The issue is not that a believer is better (that idea may arise from viewing my position through the lens of compatibilism, which I reject). With a Libertarian free choice, it simply means that one can choose to believe the gospel or not believe the gospel, and whichever he did in fact do, he could have done otherwise. No one is better. They are not under the same “propensity,” but rather have the grace enablement of God to have the same freedom to choose to believe or not believe.

2. Extensivism believes (as would other approaches that do not accept Calvinism) that God created Adam with the ability to choose to obey or distrust God and disobey—such salvific choices do not exist in Calvinism. Of course, God knew what man with true otherwise choice would do, and that is why God’s sovereign choice to create such freedom included coextensively creating and providing redemption.

3. I simply believe the Scripture is quite ubiquitously clear that God graciously offers the gospel to all unconditionally, but requires the reception of the gospel to be by grace enabled faith. Faith is not the reason for salvation but the means of receiving salvation. Man did not determine his fate by himself, but rather God determined (because of what is in God, i.e. perfect love, mercy, etc., and not what is in man) to create man with otherwise choice; hence, God sovereignly chose this path.

4. I do give a host of Scriptures in my book. Others who neither claim to be Calvinist nor Arminian do likewise in their writings. There are several things that God does that I categorize as grace enablements. To mention just a few: we believe the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16-17) and the conviction of the Holy Spirit (John 16:7-11) and that God really does love His created humanity and both desires and provided for their salvation through grace enabled faith (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-10) and provides a sufficient call to salvation to all who hear. Any freedom that man exercises redounds to the glory of God since He sovereignly created man as He did, and just as sovereignly chose to grant him to be sufficiently able to be delivered from his just dessert. Total depravity, biblically defined, does not require regeneration prior to faith. The necessity of that order is Calvinism’s embracing of compatibilism.

We simply believe that when Jesus came preaching the gospel (Mark 1:14-15) and calling on the hearers to repent and believe, that the gospel was good news to everyone because everyone to whom He spoke could be delivered from their just dessert by the grace of God. Further, that Jesus really desired them to be saved and believed they could be saved; therefore, Jesus had not helped develop a plan that excluded many hearers, which would not be good news.

One Man’s Suggestions for Calvinists and Non-Calvinists

This article appeared in two parts on April 4th & 5th on SBC Today.

Although I no longer don the Calvinist label, I do continue to recognize the system of thought as an option within historic Christianity as well as Southern Baptist life. Further, I have no interest in personally attacking my Calvinist brothers’ and sisters’ devotion, piety, or love for God and His word, for I do sincerely believe that most Calvinists are truth seekers. I do not wish to expel Calvinists nor to be expelled by them from SBC life, but rather to suggest and take some substantive steps to help all of us know God better. I assume that is what the vast majority of those of us in this discussion truly desire; although, there is obvious disagreement in how to accomplish this quest.

In order to continue to move our discussions toward lucidity in both articulation and understanding of our various theological perspectives, I would like to suggest implementing the following ideas within Southern Baptist life. My suggestions are drawn from my life as a Southern Baptist, which includes both the perspective I gained in my years as a Calvinist and now my post Calvinist reflections. While I view my suggestions as necessary, I also view them as partial and modifiable. I believe that some of the steps should be implemented immediately, while others are clearly long term goals that may take years. I offer my suggestions with no more credentials than being a rather obscure but concerned Southern Baptist.

I trust that if we speak with grace and listen with humility, we can learn from each other. I do genuinely believe that if the following suggestions are not implemented, the future of the SBC may not be as bright as it could be; although, one may easily find sufficient grounds to view my suggestions dismissively since I do seem to have an extraordinarily unimpressive record as a prophet. As a Calvinist, I loved, respected and worked with those who were not, and now that I am no longer a Calvinist, I hold that same love, respect, and desire to work with those who are.

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