Churches, Get a Christ Honoring Pastor!

Churches, Get a Christ Honoring Pastor!

A Response to Tom Nettles of The Founders Ministry

by Dr. Leighton Flowers

Recently, one of my friends and colleagues in ministry who serves as an Area Representative for Texas Baptists, sent me a link to an article published by The Founders Ministry titled, Churches, Get a Calvinist Pastor!” (authored by Dr. Tom Nettles).

My colleague, who often works with pastorless churches around the state, expressed his genuine concern over the content of Nettles’ piece and how it might serve to confuse volunteer laypeople serving on Pastor Search Committees. I share his concern and I would like to take a few minutes to explain why.

UNITE UNDER CHRIST NOT MERE MEN

Paul taught the church in Corinth a relevant lesson:

“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ.  I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men?  What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one.  I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.  So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.” (1 Cor. 3:1-7)

Paul’s first example of this church’s carnality is to point to their divisiveness by self-identifying under the names of mere men rather than unifying under the name of Christ. It is a fleshly trait to claim to be of Apollos, or Paul, or Fuller, or Boyce, or Hobbs, or Rogers, or dare we even say Calvin? Do not get me wrong. I understand the need for labels as a shorthand way of identifying certain key systematic beliefs in the academic environment, but this article is not being sent to academicians, it is being promoted to local church members as a means to propagate Pastors who identify themselves as being “of Calvin.”

Now, as a former Calvinist myself, I am fully aware that the soteriological claims that are known by the label “Calvinism” really are not about the man, John Calvin. And if Nettles had actually written about the distinctives associated with Calvinistic soteriology, then I do not think I would have needed to write this rebuttal. As it stands, however, the article seems to make some insinuations that are downright offensive to those of us who do not affirm the TULIP systematic. And it certainly seems to go against the principle of unifying under Christ in Paul’s admonition to the Corinthian church.

With that said, I have no doubt that Dr. Nettles’ desire is to honor Christ and Him alone. I met Tom years ago when I was still a Calvinist and serving in a Reformed congregation. He is an honorable Christ exalting man who has served our Lord faithfully for decades, but even the best of us can step over the line on occasion and I believe my brother has done so with this article. So, please understand, I do write this in love for my brother in Christ.

With all due respect to Dr. Nettles, we do not need to be calling all churches to look for Calvinists. We need to be calling churches to find the most Christ honoring pastor who best fits the current doctrinal distinctives of that particular congregation. Calling a pastor, regardless of how well intending he might be, who believes and preaches the TULIP doctrines to a church that has historically held to a more Traditionalist perspective is the recipe for a church split. As a denominational worker, I am seeing this happen all too often. Calvinistic pastors called to churches that have not historically been Calvinistic tend to divide that congregation causing undue heartache and creating unnecessary distractions from the Kingdom’s work. Pastors should be forthright about their soteriological beliefs when interviewing with a search committee, whether they are asked about it or not.

Also, it is deceptive to hide your theological convictions under cleverly crafted verbiage meant to make your actual views much more mainstream than they really are. If you do not believe God really self-sacrificially loves all people, then you should be honest about that. If you think God sovereignly brought about every molestation, murder and rape for his own self glorification,[i] then you should tell that plainly to the people entrusted by the church to hire their next spiritual leader. They deserve to know that before recommending you to a congregation that has not typically affirmed such troublesome doctrines.

NOT SO DISTINCT DISTINCTIVES?

Nettles spends the bulk of his article covering a list of reasons to “get a Calvinist preacher,” but the list contains absolutely nothing that would distinguish a Calvinist from a Traditionalist, which might lead the reader to believe that a non-Calvinistic Baptist preacher just might hesitate to affirm these commonly held doctrines. Here is the list:

  1. A Calvinist firmly believes in the divine inspiration of Scriptures.
  2. A Calvinist firmly believes the biblical doctrine of the Trinity.
  3. A Calvinist firmly believes the doctrine of substitutionary atonement.
  4. A Calvinist firmly believes in religious liberty.
  5. A Calvinist firmly believes in missions and evangelism.
  6. A Calvinist firmly believes in Christ-centered preaching.
  7. A Calvinist firmly believes in holiness of life.
  8. A Calvinist firmly believes in regenerate church membership.

Notice that you could replace the label “Calvinist” with “Traditionalist” or even the label “Baptist” and nothing would need to change. I could go through each of Nettles’ points and explain why I believe a Traditionalist would actually be more “firm” in his convictions on all these doctrines, but I do not think that is necessary. All we really need to do is uncover Nettles’ underlying motive for writing this article.

WHAT IS THE MOTIVE?

There is a Calvinistic brother on twitter who continually hashtags the phrase “Calvinism is safe” and then proceeds to name drop notable Christian’s throughout history who have affirmed some aspects of the Calvinistic soteriology.  That seems to be the tenor of this article produced by The Founders. I think some Calvinists have become hypersensitive to how they are perceived by the common Christian who simply has not fully vetted the various soteriological perspectives. I believe Calvinists feel the need to do whatever it takes to appear as mainstream and “safe” as possible. This is why I think Nettles mentions so many popular historical names and focuses on mainstream doctrines commonly held by all Baptists rather than upon those difficult doctrines that make our Calvinistic brethren distinct.

Nettles realizes that highlighting the clear distinctives of TULIP theology would only serve to marginalize Calvinistic pastors from most committees. Imagine if that list actually did point out the distinguishable traits of our Reformed brothers? It might read more like this:

  1. A Calvinist firmly believes that God chose one twin (Jacob) to be saved by irresistible means and the other (Esau) to be passed over for eternal damnation before they did anything good or bad; thus, it is possible that you, or some of the people you dearly love, were likewise rejected and salvifically hated by God before ever doing anything good or bad.
  2. A Calvinist firmly believes that God sovereignly and unchangeably determines every thing, including every sinful thought, action and deed, for His own self-exaltation.
  3. A Calvinist firmly believes that everyone is born guilty of another man’s sin and cannot morally respond willingly to God’s own appeals to be reconciled from that sin and thus will suffer for eternity for something they had absolutely no control over whatsoever (i.e. the non-elect could not have willed to do otherwise).[ii]

[NOTE: Calvinists, before you accuse me of straw-manning Calvinism, please read the quotes provided in the footnotes and be ready to carefully explain how I have misrepresented the actual claims of leading Calvinists.]

I think it is obvious why Nettles did not address any of these actual distinctives of the Calvinistic worldview. Even if he were to reword my clear comments above in order to make them more palatable to the average laymen, there would be no getting around Calvinism’s inherent difficulties. That is why Nettles does not even attempt to draw upon actual Calvinistic distinctives. Doing so would not serve the purpose of his article, which appears to be intent on burying actual Calvinistic beliefs under other more commonly accepted mainstream doctrines. In doing so, however, he seems to be mischaracterizing all the non-Calvinistic pastors out there who would readily affirm each of the doctrines in this list.  This is like when one political party says something to the effect of, “Vote for us because we actually care for our senior citizens,” as if anyone who aligns with the other party does not care for their senior citizens too. It comes across as pure propaganda meant to misguide the masses.

CONCLUDING REMARKS

Nettles concludes his article with what seems like a back handed insult toward all pastors who do not affirm Calvinism,

“If a Calvinist pastor operates consistently with his theology, he will not motivate his people by manipulation but by truth and an increasingly clear vision of the glory of God. He will know that his ministry is not to be built on deceit, nor guile, nor flattering words, nor is he to use his influence as a cloak for covetousness; but, because he has a stewardship of the gospel, he speaks, not as pleasing men, but God (1 Thessalonians 2:1-5).”

Certainly Nettles is not meaning to suggest that a preacher’s adherence to the TULIP systematic uniquely makes him less deceitful or filled with guile, is he? I found this comment offensive, but I recognize that the author may not have seen how his words would be taken. Hopefully upon careful examination, Nettles will understand that his article implies that a Traditionalist’s ministry would necessarily be built on “deceit and guile” simply because he denies Calvinistic soteriology.

There is one troublesome point that many Calvinists just seem to dismiss when it comes to these kinds of conclusions. If Calvinism is true then the primary reason anyone would motivate people by manipulation is because God so ordained it for His own glory.[iii] If any one should be concerned about manipulative means it should be the Traditionalist. After all, we are the ones who vehemently deny that God has sovereignly and unchangeably ordained the very manipulative means that Nettles is bemoaning.

When Calvinists are questioned about the logical consistency in their fervency for evangelism they are quick to point out that “God ordains the ends as well as the means,” but are not those same manipulative means that Nettles denounces what God unchangeably ordained for the salvation of some elect? On what grounds is Nettles declaring some means good and others bad if indeed all were ordained by God for God’s greatest glory?

It is the Traditionalist who can say that God is able to redeem (rather than “control” or “determine”) the autonomously evil choices of manipulative preachers to bring about His good purposes. It is the Traditionalist who should be the most concerned about the effect that such means may have on the eternal destinies of those subjected to such tactics. Why should the Calvinist express concern over the means that he thinks God has unchangeably worked to bring about for His own glory? Who is the Calvinist to talk back to God by bringing critique to His sovereignly ordained means?

In contrast to the call of Nettles, I would like to call all Pastor Search Committees to seek out the right preacher for your congregation. Preferably one who is straightforward and unashamed about the doctrine he is going to be preaching, one who loves all his enemies even as Christ loves all His, and one who preaches God’s genuine, self-sacrificial love for every man, woman, boy and girl.

[NOTE: In my experience, some Calvinists defer to the “You Too” fallacy in their attempt to escape the difficulty of the hard issues inherent within the claims of their systematic. Please READ THIS.]

ADDED NOTE: A follow up to this article was written in response to Dr. Nettles comments below… CLICK HERE


[i] “God . . . brings about all things in accordance with his will. In other words, it isn’t just that God manages to turn the evil aspects of our world to good for those who love him; it is rather that he himself brings about these evil aspects for his glory (see Ex. 9:13-16; John 9:3) and his people’s good (see Heb. 12:3-11; James 1:2-4). This includes—as incredible and as unacceptable as it may currently seem—God’s having even brought about the Nazis’ brutality at Birkenau and Auschwitz as well as the terrible killings of Dennis Rader and even the sexual abuse of a young child… Nothing that exists or occurs falls outside God’s ordaining will. Nothing, including no evil person or thing or event or deed. God’s foreordination is the ultimate reason why everything comes about, including the existence of all evil persons and things and the occurrence of any evil acts or events. And so it is not inappropriate to take God to be the creator, the sender, the permitter, and sometimes even the instigator of evil… Nothing — no evil thing or person or event or deed — falls outside God’s ordaining will. Nothing arises, exists, or endures independently of God’s will. So when even the worst of evils befall us, they do not ultimately come from anywhere other than God’s hand.” —From John Piper’s Desiring God web site: Mark R. Talbot, “‘All the Good That Is Ours in Christ’: Seeing God’s Gracious Hand in the Hurts Others Do to Us,” in John Piper and Justin Taylor (eds.), Suffering and the Sovereignty of God (Wheaton: Crossway, 2006), 31-77.

[ii] “…how foolish and frail is the support of divine justice afforded by the suggestion that evils come to be, not by His will but by His permission…It is a quite frivolous refuge to say that God otiosely permits them, when Scripture shows Him not only willing, but the author of them…Who does not tremble at these judgments with which God works in the hearts of even the wicked whatever He will, rewarding them nonetheless according to desert? Again it is quite clear from the evidence of Scripture that God works in the hearts of men to incline their wills just as he will, whether to good for His mercy’s sake, or to evil according to their merits. ” (John Calvin, “The Eternal Predestination of God,” 10:11)

“Creatures are so governed by the secret counsel of God, that nothing happens but what he has knowingly and willingly decreed.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 1, Chapter 16, Paragraph 3)

“We hold that God is the disposer and ruler of all things, –that from the remotest eternity, according to his own wisdom, He decreed what he was to do, and now by his power executes what he decreed.  Hence we maintain, that by His providence, not heaven and earth and inanimate creatures only, but also the counsels and wills of men are so governed as to move exactly in the course which he has destined.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 1, Chapter 16, Paragraph 8)

“thieves and murderers, and other evildoers, are instruments of divine providence, being employed by the Lord himself to execute judgments which he has resolved to inflict.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 1, Chapter 17, Paragraph 5)

“The devil, and the whole train of the ungodly, are in all directions, held in by the hand of God as with a bridle, so that they can neither conceive any mischief, nor plan what they have conceived, nor how muchsoever they may have planned, move a single finger to perpetrate, unless in so far as he permits, nay unless in so far as he commands, that they are not only bound by his fetters but are even forced to do him service” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 1, Chapter 17, Paragraph 11)

”He testifies that He creates light and darkness, forms good and evil (Isaiah 45:7); that no evil happens which He hath not done (Amos 3:6).  Let them tell me whether God exercises His judgments willingly or unwillingly.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 1, Chapter 18, Paragraph 3)

“How few are there who, when they hear free will attributed to man, do not immediately imagine that he is the master of his mind and will in such a sense, that he can of himself incline himself either to good or evil?  It may be said that such dangers are removed by carefully expounding the meaning to the people.  But such is the proneness of the human mind to go astray, that it will more quickly draw error from one little word, than truth from a lengthened discourse.  Of this, the very term in question [free will] furnishes too strong a proof…I think the abolition of it would be of great advantage to the Church.  I am unwilling to use it myself; and others, if they will take my advice, will do well to abstain from it.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 2, Chapter 2, Paragraphs 7-8)

“…salvation is freely offered to some while others are barred from access to it.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 21, Paragraph 5)

“We call predestination God’s eternal decree, by which he compacted with himself what he willed to become of each man. For all are not created in equal condition; rather, eternal life is fore-ordained for some, eternal damnation for others.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 21, Paragraph 5)

“The very inequality of his grace proves that it is free.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 21, Paragraph 6)

“…we say that God once established by his eternal and unchangeable plan those whom he long before determined once for all to receive into salvation, and those whom, on the other hand, he would devote to destruction…he has barred the door of life to those whom he has given over to damnation.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 21, Paragraph 7)

“God could foresee nothing good in man except what he had already determined to bestow by the benefit of his election.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 22, Paragraph 5)

“God is moved to mercy for no other reason but that he wills to be merciful.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 22, Paragraph 8)

“… predestination to glory is the cause of predestination to grace, rather than the converse.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 22, Paragraph 9)

“…although the voice of the gospel addresses all in general, yet the gift of faith is rare.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 22, Paragraph 9)

“We cannot assign any reason for his bestowing mercy on his people, but just as it so pleases him, neither can we have any reason for his reprobating others but his will.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 22, Paragraph 11)

“Therefore, those whom God passes over, he condemns; and this he does for no other reason than that he wills to exclude them from the inheritance which he predestines for his own children.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 1)

“…it is very wicked merely to investigate the causes of God’s will. For his will is, and rightly ought to be, the cause of all things that are.”…”For God’s will is so much the highest rule of righteousness that whatever he wills, by the very fact that he wills it, must be considered righteous. When, therefore, one asks why God has so done, we must reply: because he has willed it. But if you proceed further to ask why he so willed, you are seeking something greater and higher than God’s will, which cannot be found.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 1)

“Many professing a desire to defend the Deity from an individual charge admit the doctrine of election, but deny that any one is reprobated. This they do ignorantly and childishly, since there could be no election without its opposite, reprobation.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 1)

“…it is utterly inconsistent to transfer the preparation for destruction to anything but God’s secret plan… God’s secret plan is the cause of hardening.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 2, Chapter 23, Paragraph 1)

“…the will of God is not only free of all fault but is the highest rule of perfection, and even the law of all laws.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 2)

“I admit that in this miserable condition wherein men are now bound, all of Adam’s children have fallen by God’s will.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 4)

“With Augustine I say: the Lord has created those whom he unquestionably foreknew would go to destruction. This has happened because he has willed.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 5)

“…individuals are born, who are doomed from the womb to certain death, and are to glorify him by their destruction.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 6)

“…it is vain to debate about prescience, which it is clear that all events take place by his sovereign appointment.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 6)

“But since he foresees future events only by reason of the fact that he decreed that they take place, they vainly raise a quarrel over foreknowledge, when it is clear that all things take place rather by his determination and bidding.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 6)

“Again I ask: whence does it happen that Adam’s fall irremediably involved so many peoples, together with their infant offspring, in eternal death unless because it so pleased God? The decree is dreadful indeed, I confess. Yet no one can deny that God foreknew what end man was to have before he created him, and consequently foreknew because he so ordained by his decree. And it ought not to seem absurd for me to say that God not only foresaw the fall of the first man, and in him the ruin of his descendants, but also meted it out in accordance with his own decision.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 7)

“For if predestination is nothing but the meting out of divine justice–secret, indeed, but blameless–because it is certain that they were not unworthy to be predestined to this condition, it is equally certain that the destruction they undergo by predestination is also most just. Besides, their perdition depends upon the predestination of God in such a way that the cause and occasion of it are found in themselves. For the first man fell because the Lord had judged it to be expedient; why he so judged is hidden from us.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 8)

“Man falls according as God’s providence ordains, but he falls by his own fault.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 8)

“The first man fell because the Lord deemed it meet that he should.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 8)

“Even though by God’s eternal providence man has been created to undergo that calamity to which he is subject, it still takes its occasion from man himself, not from God, since the only reason for his ruin is that he has degenerated from God’s pure creation into vicious and impure perversity.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 9)

“Moreover, the wicked bring upon themselves the just destruction to which they are destined.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 24, heading)

[iii] See quotes above, especially the first one.

 

25 thoughts on “Churches, Get a Christ Honoring Pastor!

  1. Brother Leighton,

    Without having even read a single word of the article, just the opening photo/image is hilarious!

    God bless.

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  2. Dr Flowers:

    I appreciate your stance and demonstrating the harsh tone of the article. Three quick things to add.

    (1) Even if they had removed “Calvinist” and put “those who believe in the Doctrines of Grace” or “those who believe in God’s sovereignty,” it comes to the same. Implication (as usual) that those who do not see TULIP do not believe in grace or sovereignty.

    (2) I watched as several on the mission field where we serve turned toward Calvinism (YRR, all the rage). While aggressively discussing the veracity of the deterministic side of God-ordained-all-evil they are firm, but they never actually preach that God is glorified that their —say — adult child has turned from the Gospel and is living in sin. They pray/cry that he/she would return to Christ, when they “should” in theory realize by Calvinistic principles that even this sinful rebellion leading to hell is glorifying to Christ. Preaching that is hard when real, personal loved ones are involved.

    (3) It is my belief that more and more aggressive articles will come out on sites and blogs and books, and non-TULIP people will be marginalized and in fact decried as heretics, unbelievers, and man-centered humanists. Indeed all of these comments are now easily found on blogs.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “If a Calvinist pastor operates consistently with his theology, he will not motivate his people by manipulation but by truth and an increasingly clear vision of the glory of God. He will know that his ministry is not to be built on deceit, nor guile, nor flattering words, nor is he to use his influence as a cloak for covetousness; but, because he has a stewardship of the gospel, he speaks, not as pleasing men, but God (1 Thessalonians 2:1-5).”

    I take it more as a tacit acknowledgement that Calvinist pastors increasingly have a reputation for manipulating. practicing deceit, guile and flattering words as well as being more concerned with growth than caring for the real needs of the flock. There is, doubtless, good reason that he feels the need to assert that consistent Calvinists will not be like, well, like too many Calvinist pastors.

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  4. Excellent article!!!

    Leave it to the Calvinists to parade their wide-phylacteries and blow-trumpets in order to magnify themselves through vicarious boasting.

    -quote:”If a Calvinist pastor operates consistently with his theology, he will not motivate his people by manipulation”

    Although this paints a rosy picture, what (distressed then split) churches all to often observe, is just the opposite.
    Way to many Calvinist ministers are using deception, dishonesty, and manipulation as the MEANS justified by the ENDS.
    To worm their way into non-Calvinist churches in order to devour the widow’s house, and then claim it for God.
    As it was in the early church, everyone else is deemed inferior by the “super-apostles.”

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  5. “Again I ask: whence does it happen that Adam’s fall irremediably involved so many peoples, together with their infant offspring, in eternal death unless because it so pleased God? The decree is dreadful indeed, I confess. Yet no one can deny that God foreknew what end man was to have before he created him, and consequently foreknew because he so ordained by his decree. And it ought not to seem absurd for me to say that God not only foresaw the fall of the first man, and in him the ruin of his descendants, but also meted it out in accordance with his own decision.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 7)
    “Man falls according as God’s providence ordains, but he falls by his own fault.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 8)
    “The first man fell because the Lord deemed it meet that he should.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 8)
    “Even though by God’s eternal providence man has been created to undergo that calamity to which he is subject, it still takes its occasion from man himself, not from God, since the only reason for his ruin is that he has degenerated from God’s pure creation into vicious and impure perversity.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 9)
    “Moreover, the wicked bring upon themselves the just destruction to which they are destined.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 24, heading)

    All one has to do to understand the doublethink and doublespeak of Calvinism is read John Calvin. He appeared to delight in contradicting himself so that terrified people – who preferred to not be toasted on green wood – would be forced to ignore his duplicitous nonsense and pretend like he actually made sense. ‘Ah, what fine clothes the Emperor has on! Cough, cough’ God’s eternal providence ordained man to undergo the calamity of sin – but it’s all the result of man’s (chosen?) degeneration into vicious and impure perversity. God did not merely allow sin, he ordained it, yet sin takes its occasion from man himself. The wicked bring upon themselves the just destruction to which they are destined, but man only fell because the Lord deemed it meet that he should.

    Wow. Just wow. Is it any wonder their brains end up fried? The are so enormously proud of their ability to be utterly illogical, and think non-Calvinists just don’t ‘get it’. They are right. Right-thinking people do not ‘get’ the consistently inconsistent lack of logic that calls itself Calvinism. You cannot have it both ways – claiming that superior ‘heavenly’ logic is the utter antithesis to the ‘human’ logic he granted to men. Only a being like John Calvin would create man with deficient logic, then toast ’em for it.

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  6. “I think it is obvious why Nettles did not address any of these actual distinctives of the Calvinistic worldview.” Seemingly it was not obvious enough. I don’t think you actually would contend that I have ever hidden the distinctive views of historical Calvinism, but am very glad to state them plainly and defend them sincerely. Nor did I hide them in this article. As you have properly discerned, I was interested in looking at evangelical doctrines upon which we agree, hopefully. That is why you could identify with each of the points. So I must have been clear on at least that much. My intent was to argue that the synthesis of doctrines historically given the nomenclature of “Calvinism” would more consistently sustain those doctrines than a non-Calvinist system would. You, of course, would argue otherwise and I would be glad to see it. Within that context I did not “hide” distinctive Calvinism, but put it forth as organically tied to the specific evangelical commitments I cited. I was not arguing for Paul, Apollos, Peter, or Calvin, but for a clear and straightforward reflection on a system of biblical theology concerning its intrinsic implications for gospel ministry. As for your footnote recitations of Calvinist affirmations of crushing providences I can provide several others. “This man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men” Acts 2:23; “And the ten horns which you saw, and the beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire. For God has put it in their hearts to execute His purpose by having a common purpose, and by giving their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God should be fulfilled.” (Revelation 17:16, 17)

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    1. It always puzzles me why Acts 2:23 is so widely touted a game-winner.

      Of course the cross, the most prophesied, planned, and needed event in history was micro-managed by God. He brought it about when He wanted and how He wanted.

      But for me this verse is not proof that God micro-manages every event but indeed just the opposite.

      When God says of Jeremiah and David that He prepared them in the womb for their missions, He is not giving us a template for all people—-just the opposite— He is in fact showing that this was different, special.

      To take a verse about the uniqueness of the cross and ipso facto extrapolate that all events are equally managed and ordained does an injustice to the special-ness of the cross.

      I think we can all agree (certainly Baptists!!) that Acts 2 offers several unique features:

      –dozens speaking in tongues with flames on their head (proof text!)
      –the call to “Repent and be baptized, in the name of Jesus Christ …for the forgiveness of your sins” …(baptismal regeneration anyone?)
      –the addition of 3000 after such a message
      –believers sharing everything in common.

      Why do we think we can pluck out one verse (2:23) in this unique chapter and time and say voilà this verse trumps everything?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Acts 2:23 being recruited for absolute determinism is a curious thing. For one, what is the purpose of Peter mentioning “foreknowledge” if the matter is completely about foreordination? It’s not difficult to show that God’s acts upon what He knows. See Exodus 3:19-20. If Calvary was predestined apart from being a *contingency* of the Fall of Man, then God purposed the Fall. And if God purposed man’s first sin, why does God hold to the claim of being holy? Certainly, God allowed Adam both to have AND make his own choice, but that no more necessitates God *wanting* Adam’s failure any more than the father of the prodigal son *wanted* for his son to leave home when the father allowed him to go. Even better is this: the people tried to kill Jesus a couple times. Once they tried to stone Him, and another time they tried to throw Him off a cliff. So the Holy Spirit, I believe, prophesied through the High Priest about the death of Christ, not because God *wanted* it but because *they* wanted it, and God used their intentions to His own advantage in order to bring about redemption, so that whereas they spontaneously tried to kill Jesus, now they were set upon a mission to do so, armed with both logic and reason. This interpretation utilizes the divine foreknowlege spoken of in the text, explains how God acts contingently, and upholds divine holiness. The Calvinist interpretation fails on all three counts.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Tom Nettles, I noted how you used the phrase – “the synthesis of doctrines historically given” – and I wondered how much loyalty you give to, and comfort your draw from, an allegiance to so-called orthodox tradition even when you may at times feel uncomfortable with its overall analogical view of the Scriptural self-revelation of God? Would you still allow yourself to stand alone on clear grammatical, contextual grounds for the meaning of Scriptures against any “synthesis of doctrines historically given”. (also “…historically given by whom?)

      If you are willing to look at some exegetical information for some favorite Calvinist proof texts – I can offer these:
      https://www.academia.edu/31113015/Ephesians_1_4_-_exegetical_dialog
      https://www.academia.edu/31030814/Romans_8_29-30_-_exegetical_dialog
      https://www.academia.edu/30159612/Acts_13_48_-_exegetical_dialog

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  7. You said of him, “He is an honorable Christ exalting man”. and I understand what you mean by that. However, we tend to overlook the fact that by their doctrines, Christ is actually not honoured, but dishonoured. His atonement is limited, and God’s love is limited. God’s power and supremacy is limited by their claim that He cannot be sovereign if He grants free-will, etc. Your experiences among Calvinists produced warmth toward them and that is as it should be. My experiences of Churches being divided and the bullying that goes along with this, produced a (probably not so godly) aversion to the whole movement. But we need to keep in mind that God is not honoured by Calvinism.

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    1. I will leave the man out of this, since I do not know Mr Nettles.

      I will talk about The Calvinism that I espoused (while studying Greek, Hebrew, and Reformed theology) and left:

      God, before the foundations of the world, chose to elect some and refuse (pass over) others. These were created for eternal destruction (no chance ever given or intended). After their 40-70 years of sinful (potentially miserable: Africa, Middle Ages, human trafficking, slavery, etc) existence, they will pay for eternity with conscious eternal punishment. All this for ‘refusing’ a God that created them for destruction. All this for God’s glory. The elected people are told to love all people… some of whom are NOT the object of God’s love because they were created for destruction. The question is how do Calvinists expect us to love someone and lay ourselves down for someone, when God did not do it himself. And why?

      What do we tell the nations? Rejoice…God thinks about you, and created you for destruction or redemption, but we dont know which. Can we (I have been an overseas missionary for over 25 years) tell them God loves them? Not according to Calvinists. Can we tell them Christ died for them? Not according to Calvinists. What do we tell them? According to Calvinists we say “repent” but of course if they can’t then God is sending us on a fool’s errand.

      Calvinists have lately started to say “You can say ‘God loves you’ because he does love all people in a certain way. He makes the rain and sunshine for them all and gives them food.” This is mostly spoken by westerners with season tickets to their favorite sports team and a new Camry in the driveway.

      There is no such thing as “he at least got to enjoy life” for the starving Sudanese boy carried off into slavery and starvation.

      There is no such thing as “she at least got to enjoy life” for the Bangladeshi girl sold into prostitution at 9, dead of disease at 30.

      “She may not be chosen, but she was loved in a certain way by God.” What way was that?

      No love in this short life and not chosen for the next.

      That is the Good News we are to preach?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you for the reminder that this doctrinal issue is of great importance for the harmful effects of Calvinistic thinking on loving, pleading with and praying for the lost are obvious!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Here in this article by Dr. Nettles do we clearly see the problem that is now facing us as Southern Baptist. There was a time when Calvinist and non-Calvinist coexisted together with respect. We didn’t make Calvinism, or it’s rejection, a matter of division, but Calvinist have now changed that in the SBC. Southern and Southeastern Seminaries have systematically removed all non-Calvinist professors from these seminaries using the Abstract of Principles. Dr. Nettles is now calling on churches to call only Calvinistic pastors. There is an appearance that only Calvinist are being appointed to leadership positions in the Convention. (Not sure that appearance is reality, but it seems that way.) We can’t exist in unity when one of these two soteriological views is working hard to remove, or at least marginalize, the other. It’s time all of us who do not embrace divine determinism begin to graciously speak up with a strong and vigorous presentation of our non-Calvinistic soteriology. Leighton provides all of us with a great example to follow.

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    1. Jimmy, I think also that non-Calvinists need to stop pretending that this is an “in-house” debate and that we ought Not to be “divisive” on these issues. If you listen to the Dr. Flowers and Dr. Eric Hankins podcast, Im so glad that Dr. Hankins had the cajones to tell it how it is: this IS a divisive issue. Theres no way around it. Our soteriologogical views/theology are just Incompatible. We need more men like Dr. Hankins, or should we non-calvinist just take a passive role and pretend like its “all good”, we’re all “brothers.” Remember the Victims of the Anabaptists. Remember that the Calvinist will burn you alive at the stake or tie a rock around your wife’s neck and toss her in a lake. I use to think these were fairy tales or hollywood horror stories, but it couldnt be further from the truth.

      Hence, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places…”
      Ephesians 6:12

      If we would defend our earthly father’s honor and reputation, how much more so should we defend our Heavenly Father’s? This is not about “unity”, this is Spiritual warfare, their is only One victor, one truth, one God, one Christianity. And calvinism Is Not Christianity.

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      1. Not sure I agree Simple. The last two pastors I’ve served with have both been Calvinist and we’ve served together with respect and appreciation. We were free to speak our convictions, but we didn’t try to systematically marginalize each other. I agree that our Soteriological views are very different, but the church has held them since Augustine. If brothers can respect one another and not seek to make their soteriological understanding normative for all, (i.e. the Abstract of Principles), then may be we could continue to work together for Christ. But it seems that some in the body of Christ, and in the SBC now particularly, are committed to their soteriological view at the expense of the body. I don’t consider Calvinist my enemies nor enemies of the gospel, so I don’t want to see us at “war” with one another, but I do agree we now need to vigorously defend and promote the Biblical view of God’s love for all and everyone’s opportunity to receive Christ. I agree we need to put forth a coherent and clear response to the errant claims of Calvinism, but with a respect that we are often not afforded.

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    2. Jimmy, if my “brother” thought that our father had secretly poisoned us all and only chose to give the antidote to some and let the rest of our siblings perish inorder to exemplify his power and glory, I have a serious, Serious! problem with that. I can not “respect” that kind of thinking nor tolerate it. That is my struggle with working with calvinistic leaders/pastors. They may be the most humble or respectful person, but Every word coming out of their mouth when they preach or talk theology, all I see is a forked tongue and hear double talk, because I actually know what they believe but are Not Saying (i.e. when they preach John 3:16, I know they dont believe that God loves all people salvifically). And the sheep dont know any better. How can I appreciate this trickery and slight of hand? This to me, is a huge dis-Respect to my God.

      And of course the devil wouldnt want you to think that “calvinism” is the enemy. Why would he? This is the same trick that satan used when he told adam and eve that they wouldnt die from eating the forbidden fruit. One day, many calvinistically-tolerant christians will see that they’ve been sleeping with the enemy all along.

      I respect your humble approach to doctrinal dialogue and correction, but Im afraid “Christians” have been drinking Augustines cool-aid for far too long and have become unemphatic. This IS war whether you like it or not.

      “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.-Jesus” [Matthew 11:12 KJV]

      And this cycle of violence now continues in subterfuge.

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      1. 2Timothy 2:24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

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    3. BrianWagner, you’re such a nice guy, always taking a positive approach to go about things. But this is how I feel when people, especially with PhDs! lie and sneak-attack the Kingdom:

      1. Contending for the faith:

      “3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. 4 For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God…” Jude 3-4

      2. God hates a lying tongue, so do I:

      “16 There are six things that the Lord hates,
      seven that are an abomination to him:
      17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue…” Proverbs 6:16-17

      3. People with PhDs who are supposed “Christians” have NO EXCUSE and No business for subterfuge, hence they ARE NOT my brothers:

      “44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:44

      4. Righteous Anger is okay with me:

      “This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith,” Titus 1:13

      5. Girding my loins and putting on The armor for the times…

      “3 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven..
      3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up…
      8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace…;” Ecclesiastes 3:3-8

      The infiltration of Theistic Determinism presents a clear and present danger to the up-most degree to the Kingdom. This is the Trojan horse that has been devastating Christianity for over 1600 years and I thank people like Dr. Flowers for making a stand. Blessings.

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      1. Thank you Simple for your thoughtful reply. I too am thankful for Brother Flowers and the stand he is taking as well the manner in which he is taking it. I stand by the biblical admonitions of 2Tim 2:24-26. And you can add to them Col 4:6 and Eph 4:13-15. I don’t think it is wise to paint Calvinist polemicists as unbelievers, though they are supporting a false teaching about the gospel when they defend limited atonement. They are still professing that a person’s trust must be personally expressed in Jesus’ finished work on Calvary.

        And I don’t think that they believe that they are lying, though I assume they probably feel uncomfortable sometimes when they know they are not representing the normal understanding of Scripture. But the “scholarly” interpretation that they are told to profess for certain passages they probably feel is the true one. There maybe and probably are a few who do know they are “lying” and therefore would not be “brothers”, but we should give people the benefit of the doubt of their profession. We should attack their false teaching, not their profession of faith.

        It is a war against unsound doctrine… but to “reprove them severely” does not mean you don’t demonstrate in a convincing way that you still have burden for their individual soul and their spiritual growth. The word “severely” is used one other time by Paul, in a context where he ties it with edification and not condemnation (2Cor 13:10) And – a time to kill.. hate… war… was probably not written by Solomon to mean how to stand up against false teachers… though the hating of the false doctrine would be the proper reaction.

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      1. I guess my ultimate question or concern is this: Rant Warning from a Non-Calvinist.

        I believe in or, We All believe in the Almighty God, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and His Power to change lives. The Calvinist supposedly believes in the same…Father/ Son / Holy Spirit and His Power of Conviction & the Fruit of the Spirit etc.

        1) The problem is this: If the Calvinist was in-fact indwelled with the Holy Spirit, how can they believe in such a grievously wrong soteriology?

        2) They (the Calvinist) can preach the Bible and do evangelism all their lives, yet, at the end of the day, they still believe in a doctrine so alien and slanderous to The Most Holy God. Am I to believe that the Holy Spirit was a part of that person? And that we are part of the same body?

        3) Doesn’t God will and work through us believers? So if the Calvinist is a true believer and is indwelled by the Holy Spirit, how can the Holy Spirit work against Himself by causing the Calvinist to believe in such a fallacious and erroneous doctrine? (Surely you Non-Calvinist believe that Calvinist are wrong on more then 3 to 4 points of their doctrine.) I.e. Limited Atonement? Seriously? God pre-selects people for heaven or hell on the basis of his secret will?

        How can I not question whether he is a true believer or not?

        These are the real-world questions I have to ask myself:
        a) Either the Holy Spirit has Power or it Doesn’t
        b) And if the Holy Spirit is real and has Power, how can He go so wrong?

        The only reasonable conclusion I can come up with is this:

        1) The Calvinist is living an elaborate delusion, having convinced themselves based on their desire to be accepted by religious academia, that they are Christians and doing “Christian” things and that they believe in the Christian God, yet, they have completely traded the True God for a lie: hence they believe in that DREADFUL DECREE and

        2) They are the true definition of “wolves in sheep’s clothing,” because the Holy Spirit CAN NOT be this wrong.

        I truly believe that the Calvinist and their doctrine is so wrong (despite them confessing in “the essentials”) that this level of error requires more than just “mere mistake” or “missed-understandings” to accept. I can no longer give excuse for these “Pharisees” (for lack of better word) because Jesus Himself did not give them excuse.

        “Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.” John 9:41

        These Calvinist people hold degrees, PhDs and Doctorates, and have years- if not decades in Christian religious studies. To give them an out by claiming “they’re ignorant” or because they “feel” what they are espousing is true, is like saying that a Murderer, who has an extremely high level of education, did not know it was wrong to Murder, and that since they “felt” murder was the right thing to do, we should not judge them on the basis of Objective Moral Standards but by their own Subjective Standards?

        So since I can’t attack the Calvinist, who can I attack? Can a doctrine believe in itself and espouse it’s own will? It’s like the old cliche – “ban all guns.” But Guns don’t kill people; people kill people. We can scream, “ban the Calvinist Doctrine” all we want, but we are really side stepping the heart of the matter here.

        – Ultimately: Why and what is causing these highly educated people to believe in such psychological sophistry and religious deceit?

        This, my Christians Brothers is what’s hard for me to understand or accept. No one, in their right mind, can or should believe in Calvinism, especially when they have seen all the facts.

        In the end, I assert that this level of self-deception requires no apology or sympathy, as it is clearly akin to the work of the prince of the power of the air and the man is to blame for his own self-deception. The Calvinist god and his dreadful decree is utterly uncharacteristic of the Most Holy God, and a man who believes in such a dreadful doctrine, is willfully attacking God’s character. And an attack on God’s character is an attack on God Himself. That man can not be said to be for God but rather against God.

        My apologies to any reader who’s made it this far. But I don’t war against a boogie man with no arms or legs or a mind of his own. The real man, is behind the doctrine and needs to be dealt with. God not only hates the sin (such as the calvinist doctrine) but He hates the sinner as well (Psalm 5:5). Let’s not kid ourselves with Christian liberalism. Mr. Flanders might not destroy the world, but our Most Holy God did and He will do it again.

        What good is a man’s confession, when his doctrine and his heart and his mind, denies God His very own identity? God have mercy on us all…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Apology accepted! 😉 There is a time to “hate” a person, which means reject them from the fellowship of believers. And we certainly can show that we despise and are disgusted by their doctrine that attacks the character of God. But 2Tim 2:24-26 still applies to how we should treat them if we ever converse with them.

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