1 Timothy 1:3-4: “As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith.”
Philippians 1:27: “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”
Both of these texts emphasize ‘faith’ as that which Christians are to be specifically promoting as that which characterizes the Christian community. Why do these texts not emphasize the Calvinistic view of the grace of God as that which is ultimately determinate?
Everyone in the Evangelical community of faith understands the importance of guarding against doctrinal error when it comes to already recognized errors, but what is the most basic test for any doctrine? Paul says that we must pay close attention to our doctrine and John says that we are to test the spirits to see whether or not they are from God.
What is the capstone test for any doctrine, especially doctrines relating to our salvation?
It is this: does the doctrine promote an emphasis on personal faith?
Faith in Jesus is to be what we emphasize above all else. An awesome and mysterious view of the ‘grace of God,’ in which we are completely passive before God is not what the Christian Church is to be characterized by. What is to characterize an Evangelical church is that we are emphasizing the subjective personal exercise of faith in Jesus in our own lives and among one another, not a devotion to an objective force over us that we are not determinate of.
Calvinism gives rise to mere speculation. One cannot know for certain that they are of the elect, and as the Christian is placed in a passive posture, the teaching does not further the ‘administration of God which is by faith.’ This uncertain foundation is dramatically exposed when those of reputation among Calvinists are no longer revered by their congregation because of major moral corruption.
When a larger-than-life pastor of a Reformed church has been exposed, as living a lie in scandalous sin, it is particularly unsettling to a Calvinistic congregation because it undermines anyone’s supposed assurance of salvation. The underlying tendency to uncertainty rises to the surface and Christians are shaken to the core. For if this man has proven to be false who has been the vessel of God’s greatest grace, then the same could be the case for everyone else! For if God predetermined this man’s life of faith to be overshadowed by apostasy, then our present life of faith might just as well end in apostasy, as God objectively determines everything.
A faith-centered gospel ministry and church, which gives faith its rightful place of determination necessarily promotes an understanding that anyone is capable of stumbling, if they do not diligently maintain their faith, no matter who they are. Contrary to this, a “God-centered” Calvinistic church promotes an objective external act of God, as that which is the only and ultimate determinate for any manifestation of grace. So when those possessed of the “greatest measure” of grace then turn sour what does this mean for those who are not exalted in the congregation as ‘gifts of Christ’ to the church?
The Calvinist objects strongly to such assertions saying that his Calvinism supports and strengthens his faith.
Yet, ultimately what is the Calvinist’s faith in?
Not in Jesus, not in the gospel, but it is a faith in a hidden decree of God that they are one of those chosen before the foundation of the world. For it is not the over-arching decree of God, in which it is asserted that God is totally free to choose to save as He pleases, the absolute determination of the Calvinist’s salvation?
For who holds the keys of salvation for the Calvinist?
When a Calvinist has assurance of salvation it is in the “humbling” confidence that God has chosen him.
Consequently, when Christians have moved from a faith-centered gospel to the Calvinistic “God-centered” emphasis on the sovereignty of God, as that which their faith rests upon, there is usually a dark period that falls on the Christian in which they even begin to doubt their own salvation. It is a radical shift of faith, and yet, after the error is submitted to, the sense of darkness dissipates as the new member to Calvinistic through begins to inculcate the newfound ‘doctrines of grace.’
Consequently, to hold to the doctrine of Calvinism is to shift faith from a biblical emphasis on personal faith in Jesus, as that which determines salvation, to a mysterious and seemingly awesome view of God who arbitrarily chooses whomsoever He wills, without any consideration of the individual.
[Calvinism] The object of faith is in the Father who decrees, rather than the Son who saves.
At this point the Calvinist can become quite defensive, asserting that he does believe in Jesus for his salvation. To which I am certain that if he is a true Christian he has done that very thing. Yet, as with any doctrinal error we would say that if someone is saved it is in spite of that doctrinal error not because of that doctrinal error.
Consequently, I would assert that a person could not be saved as a Roman Catholic, as that which defines their understanding of the gospel and faith. Yet, I would assert that a person could be saved in spite of being a Roman Catholic, meaning that while being a Roman Catholic in name only they have come to a biblical understanding of the gospel and faith. Upon receiving the truth they need to leave the Roman Catholic Church, as a matter of obedience to Christ.
Regarding Calvinism though, we need to ask the Calvinist if his doctrine teaches that his faith resulting in salvation or not. A Calvinist has to assert that the father must first regenerate him, so that he can then believe, not that his faith has resulted in his salvation. Therefore, his doctrine undermines the ‘administration of God which is by faith’ and is not indicative of that ‘one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.’
Doctrines of demons can be very subtle and the subtle shift of the object of faith from the Son to the Father is tantamount to another gospel.
The fruit of this doctrines produces in Christians who are prone to weakness, doubting, morbidity, and the like, with a reoccurring introspection that is not resolved by the Calvinistic emphasis on God’s objective and free sovereignty to save as He pleases.
Summary statement – simple faith by means of an Empowered Gospel: ‘Simple faith by means of an Empowered Gospel’ is the understanding that though men are ‘totally depraved,’ they can believe savingly in Jesus, when the Holy Spirit powerfully enlightens them by means of the Word of God.
(Recanting Calvinism, pp.252-255)