The five points of Calvinism do not present a different gospel per se, because those five points don't deal with the crux of the gospel, which is, one, whether you believe in a biblical Jesus, and, two, whether your faith is a biblical faith in Christ. I could leave Calvinism alone, except that Calvinism itself gets your attention by either stating or implying that you don't preach a true gospel unless you present Calvinism. If you really do believe what they say you do, then you are in real trouble, attention-grabbing kind of trouble. It sounds like, as coming from Calvinists, that if you don't believe and teach Calvinism, you could preach that salvation is by grace alone through a biblical faith alone and in a biblical Jesus, but still not be preaching a true gospel. The following is case in point.
Bill Combs, professor at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, writes concerning the absolute binary necessity of being either a Calvinist or an Arminian:
The real issue comes down to the question of who saves us. Does God save us, or do we, with some help from God, save ourselves?
He continues in explanation:
One answer is that God chose Joe (unconditional election) and gave him grace (efficacious) that caused him to believe. He owes his salvation completely to God (monergism). Joe cannot boast in his salvation (1 Cor 1:28–29; Eph 2:8–9). This is Calvinism.
And finally, he writes:
One may not like the labels Calvinism and Arminianism and can rail against them all day long. But they historically represent the two evangelical options for the salvation of sinners. Either God is the ultimate decider: He gets all glory. Or the sinner is the ultimate decider: he deserves to share in that glory.
In support of Combs and to supply his own explanation, Dan Phillips writes:
Over at the indispensable DBTS blog, professor Bill Combs asks whether a person really has to be either Calvinist or Arminian, with no middle-ground. He answers, correctly, Yes.
Here's one way I'd put it: either God's choice of me is the result of my choice of Him, or my choice of Him is the result of His choice of me. There's no middle-ground that isn't exclusively populated by weasels.
I point out these particular quotes of Combs, because they look and read like they are saying that, unless you believe in unconditional election, you believe in salvation by works. This is where a Calvinist gets my attention. I could leave it alone, if it weren't for that. You've got to step in at this point and say, "Uh-uh, that's not true." And it isn't how the Bible reads.
The Bible doesn't present with these two options, that it is either/or, period. This is an invented dichotomy. It reminds me of something my younger brother would do when I was in school. He would point out two unfavorable females and ask which one I was going to marry. Those two and only those two were the only options for me, when they really, of course, were not.
It is true that there is only one truth. However, the Bible doesn't present two options like this relative to choosing or deciding. It isn't even true according to history. It is what we call in logic, a false dilemma, and in that sense is just a propaganda technique. Phillips just makes it a little bit more biting, by calling those who won't accept the false dilemma, weasels. You accept this viewpoint or you're a weasel. Perhaps we could call this one of the 'new measures' of Calvinists to persuade others of Calvinism. I have to ask, can someone persuade someone to be a Calvinist, using this technique, or isn't that just predetermined?
In his above linked article, Bill Combs quotes Wayne Grudem:
The reason for election is simply God’s sovereign choice…. It was not because of any foreseen faith or foreseen merit in us.
In the same paragraph, Combs summarizes from this:
“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world” (Eph 1:4). God’s choosing or election of the individual to salvation is not conditioned on anything within the individual himself—thus unconditional.
What matters about election is what God says about it. Knowing what God says, I question the quotation of Grudem -- the reason for election is God's sovereign choice? The reason? I love God's choosing, His election, but the reason for it is God's sovereign choice? Where does scripture say that? And isn't "election" itself simply "God's choice"? Election is His choice, not the reason for His choice.
Choosing ahead of time does not follow that the choosing is unconditional. Not with God. God is not bound by time. He is Omniscient. I guess we're supposed to believe that choosing beforehand means the choice is unconditional. Doesn't God's timelessness and omniscience allow for God to elect only those who believe?
Grudem also twists foreseen faith into foreseen merit. Calvinists do this by making foreseen faith a work by categorizing faith as someone's individual choice or election. I agree that election or choosing is separated in the Bible as a unique aspect of God in salvation. However, man does believe and believing isn't technically, that is, scripturally, a choice. Men choose, but salvation doesn't come by choice, but by faith. I'm saying that faith isn't a choice, because the Bible doesn't say it is. Faith and choice are different. Even in real time, after the foundation of the world, among men, faith is not choice.
Grudem and Combs are saying that faith, if it is foreseen, is a choice and, therefore, merit, because man is making that choice, because man believing equals man choosing. However, let's say that faith isn't a choice and yet man is still believing. Because man is believing, that doesn't make it or mean it is a work, just because it is a man believing. Is God believing for a man? Is a man actually not doing the believing either? Because if he believes, a man, then it is a work? Either way, biblical faith isn't a work, and Grudem and Combs are wrong on this, no matter how they promote this false dilemma.
I have a theory or opinion about Calvinists. Even if it were true, I can't see one of them admitting it, but I think that Calvinists feel ashamed of their view of God, which is why they keep barking about these points that don't plainly follow from the text of scripture. Their emotion, often anger, comes out of that shame. I expect Calvinists to mock this. But they know why people don't believe it. People who reject the points of Calvin can't wrap their brain around the idea that God has predetermined people to heaven and to hell. Scripture doesn't come out and say that. Calvinists get that idea from a kind of deduction that I don't think we should call logical. All teaching in scripture included, the Calvinist idea isn't supported. It isn't logical because the premises of Calvinism aren't all true.
Combs writes about deciding:
What I mean, and what I’m trying to get at, is who is the ultimate decider in the matter of our salvation? Is God the one who ultimately decides if I end up in heaven or hell, or am I the one who ultimately decides if I end up in heaven or hell? Quickly, someone will say that both God and I decide. There is truth there, but there can be only one ultimate decider, one person who makes the final determination.
The language, "ultimate decider," is a definition of "choice" or "election" that Calvinists choose for God. The Bible doesn't say, "ultimate decider." God doesn't choose to call Himself the ultimate decider or even use that kind of language. It doesn't square with scripture.
I don't care if someone believes God is the ultimate decider. If I was asked if God was the ultimate decider, I would say, "Yes." And yet I don't believe in unconditional election. God decided there was a condition: faith. He decided to provide the only way of that salvation. He decided to reveal Himself to all men. He decided to make His Word accessible to man. He decided to make His Word powerful. He decided to send His Son. He decided to start the church. He decided to choose apostles. Men can be saved, not because they decided, but because God did. We don't get saved when we want to get saved, but when God decides to allow us.
God will sit on the Great White Throne. Only God could choose before the foundation of the world. He is the ultimate decider, but I still don't believe election is unconditional. He chose us "in him." He chose us "according to foreknowledge." He chose us "through belief in the truth." His choosing is not unconditional.
God gets all the glory through salvation by grace through faith. If you don't add unconditional election to that, Combs is saying that God doesn't get all the glory, but man does. He doesn't have a verse to back that up. He's making it up.
In this way, Calvinism is lazy. Rather than thinking through all the ramifications of God's election and man's faith, Calvinists just resort to predetermination. God chose to send this person to heaven and He chose to send this person to hell, regardless of the person's faith. Someone will believe. Why? The fourth point of Calvinism says that grace is irresistible to the one God elects without condition. Every person God elects must believe. Each will believe. He makes each of them do that with the irresistible grace at His disposal. He doesn't dispense of that grace to everyone, just those He elects. Everyone else is doomed in advance, created or formed for destruction. Calvinists say these people have no choice and yet they are responsible for making a bad choice -- both. That is not how the Bible reads.
More to Come.