Matthew Henry Commentary on Psalm 53:1-6 Pertaining to Sin 

"The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.' They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good. God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. Have those who work evil no knowledge, who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call upon God? There they are, in great terror, where there is no terror! For God scatters the bones of him who encamps against you; you put them to shame, for God has rejected them. Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When God restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad." - Psalm 53:1-6

This psalm was opened before, and therefore we shall here only observe, in short, some things concerning sin, in order to the increasing of our sorrow for it and hatred of it.

1. The fact of sin. Is that proved? Can the charge be made out? Yes, God is a witness to it, an unexceptionable witness: from the place of his holiness he looks on the children of men, and sees how little good there is among them, v. 2. All the sinfulness of their hearts and lives in naked and open before him.

2. The fault of sin. Is there any harm in it? Yes, it is iniquity (v. 1, 4); it is an unrighteous thing; it is that which there is no good in (v. 1, 3); it is an evil thing; it is the worst of evils; it is that which makes this world such an evil world as it is; it is going back from God, v. 3.

3. The fountain of sin. How comes it that men are so bad? Surely it is because there is no fear of God before their eyes: they say in their hearts, "There is no God at all to call us to an account, none that we need to stand in awe of." Men's bad practices flow from their bad principles; if they profess to know God, yet in works, because in thoughts, they deny him. Read More...
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The Natural Inclination of the Heart of Man and The Power of Christ to Save 

"God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one." - Psalm 53:2-3

I read through this chapter today as a part of my Bible reading plan, thinking about how different the presuppositional statements within these verses are from what we hear coming from the world's various religions, which is essentially this: man is basically good and inclined to do good at any given moment. But then also I thought about how, unfortunately, we hear essentially the same thing coming from within the church many times: you are all basically good people because you give so generously and also God loves you. This message, in itself, is a disservice to the glory of God because it fails to deliver the entire message of His Gospel that He has so graciously declared to us in the pages of Scripture. Yes God loves His people. But how is that He has loved us? Why is His love so amazing?

Unless we understand what it is that we are being saved from, and understand the depth of our depravity, we will not understand how great is the love of Christ in sacrificing Himself in our place on the cross. The Scriptures are emphatically clear about our natural moral condition. We need to be honest about Scriptures' assessment of our condition before God, lest we miss the heart of Christianity: the Gospel. And even after our conversion, it is necessary to see ourselves as, "simul iustus et pecator," that is, simultaneously justified yet sinful, otherwise, to grow in Christ, we will trust ourselves instead of Christ for the power to progressively change (the only way to change in the way that glorifies God).

This chapter also made me think about this verse: "The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Genesis 6:5). Unless God moves in me by His Spirit, I do not properly feel and view myself like this and I can't stand it. My own heart is so inclined and prone toward evil, I cannot even begin to comprehend it. Jeremiah affirms this: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9-10). I certainly cannot. I am not supposing to know my heart exhaustively, but am proclaiming that we can know our hearts truthfully from God's Word. We need God's Spirit to show us, increasingly, the offense caused by our hearts in relation to the glory of God. These verses are a great place to start. Read More...
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There is No Such Thing as Fortune and Chance - John Calvin 

Excerpt from the Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book I, Chapter 16, Section 2, by John Calvin.

That this distinction may be the more manifest, we must consider that the Providence of God, as taught in Scripture, is opposed to fortune and fortuitous causes. By an erroneous opinion prevailing in all ages, an opinion almost universally prevailing in our own day, viz., that all things happen fortuitously, the true doctrine of Providence has not only been obscured, but almost buried. If one falls among robbers, or ravenous beasts; if a sudden gust of wind at sea causes shipwreck; if one is struck down by the fall of a house or a tree; if another, when wandering through desert paths, meets with deliverance; or, after being tossed by the waves, arrives in port, and makes some wondrous hair-breadth escape from death - all these occurrences, prosperous as well as adverse, carnal sense will attribute to fortune. But whose has learned from the mouth of Christ that all the hairs of his head are numbered, (Matt 10:30) will look farther for the cause, and hold that all events whatsoever are governed by the secret counsel of God. With regard to inanimate objects again we must hold that though each is possessed of its peculiar properties, yet all of them exert their force only in so far as directed by the immediate hand of God. Hence they are merely instruments, into which God constantly infuses what energy he sees meet, and turns and converts to any purpose at his pleasure. Read More...
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Christian > Protestant > Evangelical > Reformed 

When I say I'm Reformed, I'm associating myself with the Gospel doctrines as recovered in the Reformation that I believe to be true for all people, whether they assert the truth of these doctrines or not. Reformed theology is the understanding of Scripture I believe to be the clearest systematized explanation of the faith.

What is it exactly that was recovered in the Reformation? To put it in no uncertain terms: the Gospel was recovered. This is what Luther fought for at the Diet of Worms, which is the picture I have posted along with my entry here. I have no reservation with affirming myself as Reformed for that reason alone, the Gospel, on top of the hundreds of other reasons.

In addition to the Gospel, when I say I'm Reformed, I'm also saying that I'm a unreserved five-point Calvinist and Covenantal (as opposed to Dispensational). These things are extremely important because I believe they affect where we stand on a host of other doctrines. But at the same time, I want to be careful to also say that I do not hold out at arms length those who disagree with me who also love the same Lord and God, Jesus Christ, who through faith alone in Him are saved.

With that said, recently, Lee Irons in this entry made comments that on the surface can seem like they are not a big deal. But upon digging through the surface to see what the heart of the issue is, there are things that I cannot assert with him.

I classify myself in this manner: Christian > Protestant > Evangelical > Reformed. There is a reason for this, which I have explained in this entry before, so I won't go into it here. This is the same manner in which Irons classifies himself as well. However, I do not classify myself in this order for the same reasons that Irons does in his entry, nor do I share his explanation.

Steve Hays brought these issues to light recently in his blog entry found here. Seeing that Irons had the same classification system I did, I responded to Hays and asked if my ordering along with the explanation of it sounds right. The issue at hand with Irons entry, as Hays says in response to me, was this: "The problem is that Lee Irons sets these [labels-that is Evangelical and Reformed in particular] in potential opposition," as if being Reformed is an accessory to being an Evangelical or being a Christian. As Irons says, "I’m not a Reformed person who happens to be a Christian. I’m a blood-bought Christian who happens to believe in the Reformed understanding of the gospel."

But my question is this: is the Reformed point of view merely our opinion, or is it what the Scriptures have said? Are we not asserting that the Reformed understanding of the Gospel is the clearest, Scriptural articulation of the faith once for all delivered to the saints? That's not to say Reformed theology itself is infallibly authoritative, whereas only the Scriptures are, but it is definitely authoritative as claiming to assert the truth of Scripture. Is it not? Read More...
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Major DNS Internet Server Flaw - How it Affects the Average User 

(Original): http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id ... _article=1
(Archived): http://www.westerfunk.net/archives/secu ... et%20flaw/

(Original): http://isc.sans.org/diary.html?storyid=4780
(Archived): http://www.westerfunk.net/archives/secu ... ervations/

Most of you will more than likely have no clue about this major flaw unless you read any of the tech headlines. Even then, there really should be no reason why you would know about it, or why it is important to you. But the consequences of this giant hole, if the internet servers are not patched, could potentially be devastating. And I would like to try and explain, to the average user, why this is a not a small problem by any stretch of the imagination. I emphasize the word "try" because I'm attempting to break the language down and make it easier to understand.

The flaw has to do with the internet servers you may have heard of called DNS servers. DNS stands for Domain Name Server. DNS servers function as a hostname to IP address resolver (e.g. www.google.com translating to 64.233.167.104, for arguments' sake). So instead of looking up Google's home page using an IP address (64.233.167.104), you enter in a name you can remember and it points to that particular IP address for you (www.google.com). That is a very simple description, but it will suffice to explain the issue at hand.

In comes the flaw: a hole exists within the widely used open source (i.e. free) DNS server software called BIND that allows an attacker to poison its DNS cache to change the hostname from it's original IP to a different one. You say to me now, "what the ... what are you saying?" Read More...
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Hurricane Dolly Chorpus Christi Webcam (Updates Every 5 Seconds) 


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Church History MP3 Lectures Are Now Finished 

Pastor R.W. Glenn at Redeemer Bible Church in Minnetonka, MN, has now completed his Sunday School lecture series on church history. In addition to the MP3's available at www.solidfoodmedia.com, I requested a PDF document of all the notes he gave out during the series to go along with the lectures, which is extremely helpful when sorting through all of this information. With his permission, I am posting the PDF in this entry. I have listened to a majority of the lectures now and can't tell you how helpful this is to understanding the history of our faith! As Tommy Nelson from Denton Bible Church has said in his series on church history a while back, "Church history is the plumb-line of theology." Or in other words, church history is the lab as opposed to the lecture (theology). Here is the series in its entirety, enjoy!

Lecture Notes (PDF)
Lecture 1 - Introduction (MP3)
Lecture 2 - 1st Century (MP3)
Lecture 3 - 2nd Century (MP3)
Lecture 4 - 3rd Century (MP3)
Lecture 5 - 4th Century (MP3)
Lecture 6 - 5th Century (MP3)
Lecture 7 - 6th Century (MP3)
Lecture 8 - 7th Century (MP3)
Lecture 9 - 8th Century (MP3)
Lecture 10 - 9th Century (MP3)
Lecture 11 - 10th Century (MP3)
Lecture 12 - 11th Century (MP3)
Lecture 13 - 12th Century (MP3)
Lecture 14 - 13th Century (MP3)
Lecture 15 - 14th Century (MP3)
Lecture 16 - 15th Century (MP3)
Lecture 17 - 16th Century - Part 1 (MP3)
Lecture 18 - 16th Century - Part 2 (MP3)
Lecture 19 - 16th Century - Part 3 (MP3)
Lecture 20 - 17th Century (MP3)
Lecture 21 - 18th Century (MP3)
Lecture 22 - 19th Century (MP3)
Lecture 23 - 20th Century (MP3)
Lecture 24 - 21st Century (MP3)
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The Limits and Necessity of Theological Terms - John Calvin 

Calvin argues in this section of the Institutes for the necessity of employing theological terminology as it relates particularly to the doctrine of the Trinity in the context of this section (as that was the larger subject he was addressing), so as to establish the orthodox doctrine against heretical views of the Trinity (Sabellianism, Modalism, i.e. modern day example: Oneness Pentecostals such as T.D. Jakes' ministry). And yet at the same time he gives warning to those who would go too far in minutely looking for a heretic under every rock where a mere word wasn't used, employed by men, but press people for what they mean and see if it is orthodox. I believe people will find this to be a very balanced perspective on the subject of the employment of theological terminology.

The terms Calvin uses as examples, in our day at least, are probably not the best examples for the average person. You don't have to know what they mean right now to understand what he's trying to communicate, just go with it. But he still makes his point, arguing from church history that terms are important in one sense (for distinguishing meaning and beliefs), and yet in another sense they are not important (and even explains at the very beginning of this section how he wishes we didn't have to use them at all), that so long as people are believing orthodox truth, the term itself is unimportant. It's the content of the teaching/belief/doctrine that matters. Unfortunately though, because of heresy and the number of errors that abound in opposition to Biblcal truth, put forward by Satan, terminology for stated beliefs is one of those "necessary evils," so to speak, that we must make use of to combat the errors.

Many would do well to listen and apply what Calvin has to say concerning this, namely, if someone doesn't like a label or particular title, you can defend it's use in order to distinguish the belief from other doctrines that are unbiblical. But don't bludgeon people over the head with a mere label as if they don't believe it if they don't take the label itself. Just ask people to explain what they mean and what they believe concerning a particular doctrine. I believe this could adequately apply to the use of the term Calvinism: I believe that it should be used to distinguish against the Arminian understanding of how we are saved, and should itself be studied to see how rich are the blessings that are ours through the work of Christ. Yet at the same time, if someone doesn't want the label, that's fine, so long as they adhere to it's doctrinal content and study it's truth intently in the Scriptures.

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Where names have not been invented rashly, we must beware lest we become chargeable with arrogance and rashness in rejecting them. I wish, indeed, that such names were buried, provided all would concur in the belief that the Father, Son, and Spirit, are one God, and yet that the Son is not the Father, nor the Spirit the Son, but that each has his peculiar subsistence.

I am not so minutely precise as to fight furiously for mere words. For I observe, that the writers of the ancient Church, while they uniformly spoke with great reverence on these matters, neither agreed with each other, nor were always consistent with themselves. How strange the formula used by Councils, and defended by Hilary! How extravagant the view which Augustine sometimes takes! How unlike the Greeks are to the Latins!

But let one example of variance suffice. The Latins, in translating "homo-ousios" used "consubstantialis" (consubstantial,) intimating that there was one substance of the Father and the Son, and thus using the word Substance for Essence. Hence Jerome, in his Letter to Damasus, says it is profane to affirm that there are three substances in God. But in Hilary you will find it said more than a hundred times that there are three substances in God. Then how greatly is Jerome perplexed with the word Hypostasis! He [Jerome] suspects some lurking poison, when it is said that there are three Hypostases in God. And he does not disguise his belief that the expression, though used in a pious sense, is improper; if, indeed, he was sincere in saying this, and did not rather designedly endeavour, by an unfounded calumny, to throw odium on the Eastern bishops whom he hated. He certainly shows little candour in asserting, that in all heathen schools "ousia" is equivalent to Hypostasis - an assertion completely refuted by trite and common use.

More courtesy and moderation is shown by Augustine, (DeTrinity. lib. 5 c. 8 and 9,) who, although he says that Hypostasis in this sense is new to Latin ears, is still so far from objecting to the ordinary use of the term by the Greeks, that he is even tolerant of the Latins, who had imitated the Greek phraseology. The purport of what Socrates says of the term, in the Sixth Book of the Tripartite History, is, that it had been improperly applied to this purpose by the unskillful.

Hilary (De Trinitat. lib. 2) charges it upon the heretics as a great crime, that their misconduct had rendered it necessary to subject to the peril of human utterance things which ought to have been reverently confined within the mind, not disguising his opinion that those who do so, do what is unlawful, speak what is ineffable, and pry into what is forbidden. Shortly after, he apologises at great length for presuming to introduce new terms. For, after putting down the natural names of Father, Son, and Spirit, he adds, that all further inquiry transcends the significance of words, the discernment of sense, and the apprehension of intellect. And in another place, (De Conciliis,) he congratulates the Bishops of France in not having framed any other confession, but received, without alteration, the ancient and most simple confession received by all Churches from the days of the Apostles. Not unlike this is the apology of Augustine, that the term had been wrung from him by necessity from the poverty of human language in so high a matter: not that the reality could be thereby expressed, but that he might not pass on in silence without attempting to show how the Father, Son, and Spirit, are three.

The modesty of these holy men should be an admonition to us not instantly to dip our pen in gall, and sternly denounce those who maybe unwilling to swear to the terms which we have devised, provided they do not in this betray pride, or petulance, or unbecoming heat, but are willing to ponder the necessity which compels us so to speak, and may thus become gradually accustomed to a useful form of expression.

Let men also studiously beware, that in opposing the Arians on the one hand, and the Sabellians on the other, and eagerly endeavouring to deprive both of any handle for cavil, they do not bring themselves under some suspicion of being the disciples of either Arius or Sabellius. Arius says that Christ is God, and then mutters that he was made and had a beginning. He says, that he is one with the Father; but secretly whispers in the ears of his party, made one, like other believers, though with special privilege. Say, he is consubstantial, and you immediately pluck the mask from this chameleon, though you add nothing to Scripture. Sabellius says that the Father, Son, and Spirit, indicate some distinction in God. Say, they are three, and he will bawl out that you are making three Gods. Say, that there is a Trinity of Persons in one Divine essence, you will only express in one word what the Scriptures say, and stop his empty prattle.

Should any be so superstitiously precise as not to tolerate these terms, still do their worst, they will not be able to deny that when one is spoken of, a unity of substance must be understood , and when three in one essence, the persons in this Trinity are denoted. When this is confessed without equivocations we dwell not on words. But I was long ago made aware, and, indeed, on more than one occasion, that those who contend pertinaciously about words [I assume he means both those who rigidly adhere to terms and those on the other end of the spectrum who rigidly oppose them] are tainted with some hidden poison; and, therefore, that it is more expedient to provoke them purposely, than to court their favour by speaking obscurely.
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The Blurring of Evangelical and Catholic Distinctions 

Modern-day evangelicals are increasingly viewing Catholicism simply as another denomination within the totality of the Christian faith, much in the same way we have historically viewed Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian denominations as evangelical, for example. This lowering of theological arms is a clear indication that we are continuing to stray away from the Gospel path that has historically viewed Catholicism as a heretical eclipsing of the very Gospel itself, in the same way they view us as having heretically strayed from the authority of Rome over us. Much of that Scripturally informed conviction seems to be disappearing now, though.

Within the evangelical church, walls are coming down where more and more churches are participating with Catholic ministries on all kinds of fronts. In the theological realm, evangelical leaders are coming together with Catholic leaders in some form of unity (not sure exactly what kind to be honest). This has been happening for a while and is really nothing new, (based upon the Evangelicals and Catholics Together statement, signed by ministers from both camps) in the 1990's, but it seems to be getting out of control. Confusion abounds.

In the world's eyes though, this is a good thing: moving forward past the highly divisive Reformation issues; getting over "pesky," "outdated," "hair-splitting theological" issues that keep us from the amorphous worldly "unity" that is exalted as a god in our culture. To stand in opposition to such unity, as I am doing, to the world at least, is foolishness. But the Gospel, that is the Biblical Gospel, is foolishness to those who are perishing and makes no sense to the world. To stand against a popular ideology for the sake of the Gospel is highly unpopular, even within the church now unfortunately.

Much of this has come about from a total disregard of theological (Biblical) understanding and education in both the evangelical and Catholic realms (though I will admit more in the evangelical world than the Catholic world, seeing as how Catholics actually require you to go through a confirmation class in which you must learn the faith). This also has to do with evangelicals folding to cultural demands for religious relativism. But this great confusion is also massively propagated by those in leadership within the evangelical community who are either openly in ministry cooperation with Catholic organizations (for a "good cause," forget the Gospel distinctions) or who have left evangelicalism altogether for Rome.

This blurring of distinctions is highlighted the most in the departure of Francis Beckwith from his position as President of the Evangelical Theological Society in return to Rome. Interesting to note though is the title of his new book coming out in the next few months speaking to all of this: Return to Rome: Confessions of an Evangelical Catholic. Evangelical Catholic? This type of language sends all kinds of mixed signals to a whole lot of lay people who are deeply confused as to how evangelicals relate to Catholics, both historically and in our modern day. This is just one more reason why theological education and training are vastly important, not just because it helps us grow in our knowledge of the Scriptures for the preparing of our minds for God's glory, but also because it keeps us from error and grants us a great level of discernment when it comes to competing "gospels" out in the world.

The differences between evangelicals and Catholics are not minute: they relate to how we understand the very Gospel itself. They are not unimportant distinctions. We both believe each other, on matters of Biblical teaching concerning how we are saved in particular, to be teaching heresy and literally leading people astray to their eternal damnation (though even the Pope has made clear modern Catholics believe there are many outside of Rome's authority who are saved but acting in disobedience to God by resisting the "infallible authority of The Church" over them ... like me). Sounds like more folding to Western ideologies if you ask me, but nevertheless, it is so.

James White points out something important though on a recent blog entry concerning all of this, and in particular Beckwith's statements, statements he also made on an entry I wrote a while back concerning N.T. Wright, here, that there is nothing new under the sun. I was slow to see this at the time when Beckwith responded to me. In calling himself an Evangelical Catholic, Beckwith, it seems at least on the surface, seeks to bridge a divide that has existed for centuries.

So to bridge this gap, he is attempting to show us "confused evangelicals" that the problem really isn't as big of a problem as we make it out to be, that the issue at the heart of our debate is how we evangelicals view our justification through the lens of the Reformation imputation model (Christ's righteousness is counted ours through faith alone) versus the infusion model (Christ's righteousness is infused into our spirit whereby we are literally, in this life, made holy unto God, unto justification). Interestingly, N.T. Wright says basically the same thing, but I digress.

But as White points out, this itself, though Beckwith would seem to posit it as a new refining of the argument that we evangelicals haven't already dealt with before, goes right to the heart of the very issue that has been debated between us for 500 something years now, doctrines that people died by torture for during the Reformation, doctrines that explain the very Gospel through which we may be saved.

So, yes, the divide between Catholics and evangelicals is not something to take in a light-hearted manner. Just as an example, evangelical ministry service work must be kept separate from Catholic ministries of service. Why, you say? The Gospel is at stake. How? Well, if we begin to compromise on the idea that there are strong enough Scriptural boundaries setup between us on how we are saved theologically (i.e. the Gospel, to put it bluntly); and compromising in this way in order that we may perform service work alongside Catholics whom we have historically considered outside of the grace of the Gospel ... then it is only a matter of time before we too will slide back to Rome, just as Beckwith has.

Beckwith is a striking example of what happens when we compromise on the great eternal Scriptural truths of the Gospel, recovered from Rome in the Reformation. For Beckwith though, as he has said, this was just "confusion" of what Catholicism was teaching concerning justification ... or rather, he never understood the point of contention to begin with and was always a Catholic maybe?

As far as the evangelical church is concerned, could it be, at least in this area, we are folding under a presupposed cultural norm of relativistic thinking that is now translating into how we view service work between evangelicals and Catholics, that we can come together as "one people" regardless of creeds (Creeds and Deeds - Michael Horton) for the sake of others, nevermind the Gospel by which people are either saved through faith alone or lost forever by unbelief? Should we not instead, with our own resources and talents, form organizations of our own to meet the needs of the poor and helpless, in order to bring them the greatest Aid of all, the Gospel of Jesus Christ that supernaturally changes us from the inside out by His work alone?

This seems to me to be the highest priority of the evangelical church: ministering the Gospel to a dying world. And we should do this through the means of service to others, but service as a means, not an end. Replacing the priority of the Gospel with service as an end is eternally dangerous. Using service as an instrument to further God's Kingdom (which in reality is making disciples through the preaching of the Gospel) is ideal for it is what we see Jesus and the Apostles do over and over in the Scriptures.

We must, for the sake of the Gospel and the glory of God, be very careful, for we are treading on thin ice in regard to the evangelical/Catholic compromise that is taking place. May God, by His mercy in the cross toward us through the justifying work of Christ, continue to preserve us in the truth: that we are saved by grace alone (sola gratia) through faith alone (sola fide) in Christ alone (solus Christus). There is no other hope, for this is what the Scriptures have always taught, for they are the immutable Word of God. This Gospel hope is that God alone saves sinners. Catholics disagree. There can be no consensus on these things between us, for these are things we both believe will separate us for eternity.
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Excerpt from J.I. Packer's Intro Essay to Owen's Death of Death 

(Original): http://www.all-of-grace.org/pub/others/ ... death.html
(Archived): http://www.westerfunk.net/archives/theo ... %20Packer/

“But wait a minute,” says someone, “it’s all very well to talk like this about the gospel; but surely what Owen is doing is defending limited atonement—one of the five points of Calvinism? When you speak of recovering the gospel, don’t you mean that you just want us all to become Calvinists?”

These questions are worth considering, for they will no doubt occur to many. At the same time, however, they are questions that reflect a great deal of prejudice and ignorance. “Defending limited atonement”—as if this was all that a Reformed theologian expounding the heart of the gospel could ever really want to do! “You just want us all to become Calvinists”—as if Reformed theologians had no interest beyond recruiting for their party, and as if becoming a Calvinist was the last stage of theological depravity, and had nothing to do with the gospel at all. Before we answer these questions directly, we must try to remove the prejudices which underlie them by making clear what Calvinism really is; and therefore we would ask the reader to take note of the following facts, historical and theological, about Calvinism in general and the “five points” in particular.

First, it should be observed that the “five points of Calvinism,” so-called, are simply the Calvinistic answer to a five-point manifesto (the Remonstrance) put out by certain “Belgic semi-Pelagians” in the early seventeenth century. The theology which it contained (known to history as Arminianism) stemmed from two philosophical principles: first, that divine sovereignty is not compatible with human freedom, nor therefore with human responsibility; second, that ability limits obligation. (The charge of semi-Pelagianism was thus fully justified.) From these principles, the Arminians drew two deductions: first that since the Bible regards faith as a free and responsible human act, it cannot be caused by God, but is exercised independently of Him; second, that since the Bible regards faith as obligatory on the part of all who hear the gospel, ability to believe must be universal. Hence, they maintained, Scripture must be interpreted as teaching the following positions: (1.) Man is never so completely corrupted by sin that he cannot savingly believe the gospel when it is put before him, nor (2.) is he ever so completely controlled by God that he cannot reject it. (3.) God’s election of those who shall be saved is prompted by His foreseeing that they will of their own accord believe. (4.) Christ’s death did not ensure the salvation of anyone, for it did not secure the gift of faith to anyone (there is no such gift); what it did was rather to create a possibility of salvation for everyone if they believe. (5.) It rests with believers to keep themselves in a state of grace by keeping up their faith; those who fail here fall away and are lost. Thus, Arminianism made man’s salvation depend ultimately on man himself, saving faith being viewed throughout as man’s own work and, because his own, not God’s in him.

The Synod of Dort was convened in 1618 to pronounce on this theology, and the “five points of Calvinism” represent its counter-affirmations. They stem from a very different principle—the biblical principle that “salvation is of the Lord”; and they may be summarized thus: (1.) Fallen man in his natural state lacks all power to believe the gospel, just as he lacks all power to believe the law, despite all external inducements that may be extended to him. (2.) God’s election is a free, sovereign, unconditional choice of sinners, as sinners, to be redeemed by Christ, given faith and brought to glory. (3.) The redeeming work of Christ had as its end and goal the salvation of the elect. (4.) The work of the Holy Spirit in bringing men to faith never fails to achieve its object. (5.) Believers are kept in faith and grace by the unconquerable power of God till they come to glory. These five points are conveniently denoted by the mnemonic TULIP: Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, Preservation of the saints.

Now, here are two coherent interpretations of the biblical gospel, which stand in evident opposition to each other. The difference between them is not primarily one of emphasis, but of content. One proclaims a God who saves; the other speaks of a God Who enables man to save himself. One view presents the three great acts of the Holy Trinity for the recovering of lost mankind—election by the Father, redemption by the Son, calling by the Spirit—as directed towards the same persons, and as securing their salvation infallibly. The other view gives each act a different reference (the objects of redemption being all mankind, of calling, those who hear the gospel, and of election, those hearers who respond), and denies that any man’s salvation is secured by any of them. The two theologies thus conceive the plan of salvation in quite different terms. One makes salvation depend on the work of God, the other on a work of man; one regards faith as part of God’s gift of salvation, the other as man’s own contribution to salvation; one gives all the glory of saving believers to God, the other divides the praise between God, Who, so to speak, built the machinery of salvation, and man, who by believing operated it. Plainly, these differences are important, and the permanent value of the “five points,” as a summary of Calvinism, is that they make clear the points at which, and the extent to which, these two conceptions are at variance.
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