>Books and Calvinism (no, not that Calvin)


Here I sit at work. I have four patients and an empty room, just waiting for an admission to pop up on the screen. This is a rare moment: I am all caught up with my patients, and it isn’t time to start morning work yet (drawing labs, vital signs, medications, etc). I thought, hey, I’ll update my blog!

What am I reading? I am currently reading three books:

  1. Riders of the Storm by Julie Czerneda. This is book two in the series, and I am enjoying it as much as I did the first. I highly recommend any of her books except the Species Imperative series. I didn’t really get into those, but the rest of her books are top notch!!
  2. Disciplines of a Godly Man by R. Kent Hughes. This is an excellent book on learning the basics of Christian living for men.
  3. Getting The Gospel Right: A Balanced View Of Salvation Truth by C. Gordon Olson. A guy at church loaned me this book because he and I are having an ongoing discussion about Calvinism. I am a “4 point Calvinist,” and he disagrees with me. He said that I should read this book by Olson, so I am approaching it with a cautious eye, since he has revealed that I will probably disagree with the author.

Here’s some background on Calvinism for those of you unfamiliar with it: Boiled down to the basics, a “Calvinist” believes in “five points” which can be remembered with the acrostic “TULIP.” They are:

  • Total Depravity (all men are sinners, and unable to come to God on their own)
  • Unconditional Election (God has chosen who will be saved. These people are called “the elect.”” His choice is not based on anything He sees in the person saved)
  • Limited Atonement (Christ died only for the elect.)
  • Irresistible Grace (When God calls someone to salvation, they cannot resist His call. They WILL be saved).
  • Perseverance of the Saints (You cannot lose your salvation).

I call myself a “4 point Calvinist” because I don’t believe in limited atonement. I think the Bible is clear that Christ died for all mankind, and this doesn’t match up with the idea of limited atonement. The argument I keep hearing from non-Calvinists is that God’s offer of salvation is not a legitimate offer if He has decided already who will and who won’t be saved. My answer would be that God offers salvation to all, but only those whom He chooses will turn to Him. This is not an easy thing for us to understand, but God is sovereign.

The question that arises is, “how do you know if you are elect?” The answer is, “how do you know you were born an American citizen?” Why did God choose to place you in your family here in the US, and not in Zimbabwe, Azerbaijan, or Colombia? Only He knows, but He chose where to place you. I heard a preacher say once that when a person looks at the offer of salvation, it’s like he’s looking at a gate, and the arch over the gate says, “Whosoever will may come.” He walks through the gate, and turns around. On the opposite (inside) of the gate, it says, “Chosen before the foundation of the world.” How do we know we are elect? Because we have trusted in Christ as Savior.

The trap of Calvinism is the temptation to think, “If God is going to save all of the elect no matter what I do, then why should I evangelize?” This idea totally contradicts the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20 and the general teaching of the NT, which is very evangelistic in nature. It’s like the Indianapolis Colts playing a game of football against a junior high team. The outcome is certain, but the game still must be played. What happens if five Colts players don’t bother to show up? The Colts still win, but those five players don’t get to participate in the win. Does God NEED us to spread His Word? No. But He chooses to USE us, and if we have been saved by His grace, it is the ultimate in hubris, ingratitude, etc to not do whatever He asks of us.


About Steve Picray

I am a conservative Baptist Pastor in the midwestern United States. Every day I commit my life to Jesus Christ. This blog is my view on life. My prayer is that, by reading what I write, you will learn more about me, more about God, and be assisted in becoming the person God means for you to be. If you have a question, just e-mail me at spicray AT gmail DOT com. God Bless!
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