Calling 5-Point Calvinist, Charles Spurgeon, to the stand as a hostile witness. (A “hostile witness” is a witness in a court trial who testifies for the opposing party, or is a witness who offers adverse testimony to the calling party during direct examination. Their testimony may undermine opposing counsel’s case.)
Calvinist, Charles Spurgeon, explains: “If I am to preach faith in Christ to a man who is regenerated, then the man, being regenerated, is saved already, and it is an unnecessary and ridiculous thing for me to preach Christ to him, and bid him to believe in order to be saved when he is saved already, being regenerate. But you will tell me that I ought to preach it only to those who repent of their sins. Very well; but since true repentance of sin is the work of the Spirit, any man who has repentance is most certainly saved, because evangelical repentance never can exist in an unrenewed soul. Where there is repentance there is faith already, for they never can be separated. So, then, I am only to preach faith to those who have it. Absurd, indeed! Is not this waiting till the man is cured and then bringing him the medicine? This is preaching Christ to the righteous and not to sinners.” (The Warrant of Faith, emphasis mine)
It is perfectly fair to call a hostile witness to the stand in order to support your own case. Arminians are not deprived of this right. Here is what is going on. Calvinism teaches that an unregenerate person suffers from Total Depravity, and the only way to believe is to first be regenerated. However, since regeneration is only found in Christ, then a person must first be in Christ, in order to be able to believe. But that raises some questions that are difficult for Calvinists to answer.
Calvinist, James White, explains: “When the time comes in God’s sovereign providence to bring to spiritual life each of those for whom Christ died, the Spirit of God will not only effectively accomplish that work of regeneration but that new creature in Christ will, unfailingly, believe in Jesus Christ (‘all that the Father gives Me will come to Me’). Hence, we are not saved ‘without’ faith, but at the same time, Christ’s atonement is not rendered useless and vain without the addition of libertarian free will.” (Debating Calvinism, p.191, emphasis mine)
So according to Calvinism, the engine that drives ‘unfailing repentance’ is the motor of a new heart, via regeneration, and since regeneration (part of being made Born Again) is alone reserved in Christ, it has no choice but to conclude that a person must first be in Christ in order to believe in Christ. Now how can we reconcile such a thing as this? If unbelievers remain already condemned (John 3:18), while those in Christ are free from condemnation (Romans 8:1), then Calvinism has left us with a condemned unbeliever who is also secretly redeemed in Christ, and who will now unfailingly believe and become saved. It sounds like the Calvinist formula has carved out a formula in which the Calvinistically elect are outwardly condemned while inwardly redeemed, and then conversion straightens it all out.
Dave Hunt writes: “So Calvin’s newly regenerated elect are unsaved?” (Debating Calvinism, p.301)
Dave Hunt writes: “Why the gospel, if the nonelect can’t believe it and the elect are regenerated without it?” (Debating Calvinism, p.221)
Calvinist, James White, concludes: “I just know that no man will do it unless and until the miracle of regeneration takes place first.” (Debating Calvinism, p.305, emphasis mine)
White explains: “While unregenerate men may know the facts of the gospel, they have no desire to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and cast themselves solely upon Him.” (Debating Calvinism, p.297, emphasis mine)
White explains: “It requires the work of the Spirit to take out their stony hearts and give them hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26).” (Debating Calvinism, p.297, emphasis mine)
White responds: “Dave Hunt is actually defending the idea that a man with a heart of stone can choose to remove that heart and implant a heart of flesh in its place and that he possesses the capacity to perform this operation on himself.” (Debating Calvinism, p.297, emphasis mine)
White asks: “Can dead rebel sinners exercise saving faith to cause their own spiritual birth?” (Debating Calvinism, pp.293-294, emphasis mine)
Dave Hunt replies: “Who imagines that receiving by faith the gift of eternal life causes eternal life? And who would suggest that ‘a man with a heart of stone can...implant a heart of flesh in its place’? We believe. God does the rest: ‘Through faith...we are his workmanship...unto good works.’ (Ephesians 2:8, 10).” (Debating Calvinism, p.303, emphasis mine)
Calvinist, James White, writes: “First, he confuses terms, such as a salvation and regeneration. In most theological works, regeneration is a subset of the larger and broader term, salvation, which often includes within it justification, forgiveness, redemption, and adoption. Sometimes it can be used in a narrower sense, but in historical discussions of these issues, regeneration has a specific meaning that Mr. Hunt normally confuses.” (Debating Calvinism, p.305, emphasis mine)
Hunt responds: “White says I confuse salvation and regeneration. But in the Bible these terms are synonymous. No one can be saved without being regenerated or regenerated without being saved. ... A ‘subset of...salvation’ would be ‘part of’ salvation, which White now admits comes by faith, making regeneration by faith also.” (Debating Calvinism, p.307, emphasis mine)
In the next aspect of the paradox (beyond Calvinists having to figure out a way to differentiate between regeneration and salvation), Calvinists teach that the atonement itself saves, and without the autonomous act of libertarian free will, for faith to derive a personal application from the atonement of Calvary.
Calvinist, James White, writes: “If Christ died in the place of every man and woman in all of history (universal scope and intention), the atonement must be limited in its power and efficacy, for it does not actually result in the salvation of man of those God intended it to save.” (Debating Calvinism, p.171, emphasis mine)
Correct. The Atonement itself does not “result in the salvation” of unbelievers who reject Christ, but only when we turn to Christ, do we then receive what He has done for each one of us, individually.
White writes: “Let us focus upon the key issue of the atonement. Is the atonement substitutionary? Did Jesus take the penalty of sin for every person who has ever lived, is living, and ever will live? If so, what was God’s intention in laying the sin of every person on Christ? Was it His purpose to make men savable, or to actually atone for their sins?” (Debating Calvinism, p.189, emphasis mine)
If you are asking whether it saves unbelievers, the answer is no. The whole idea of a Substitutionary atonement for the whole world means that I don’t need to guess whether Jesus died for me in particular, because if He died for everyone, then I know that He died for me too. Having said that, I also know that His Atonement doesn’t apply to unbelievers, which is why I must turn to Him and receive what He has done for me. I’m not changing the question, but only correcting the mistaken inference that the Atonement actually saves unbelievers. Turning to Jesus is the only way for us to receive what He has done for each one of us, individually.
Dave Hunt replies: “Calvinism must hold the unbiblical view that Christ’s death saves without faith.” (Debating Calvinism, p.183, emphasis mine)
Hunt writes: “Yet if Christ actually saved all of the elect at Calvary, they could never have been lost and would not need to be saved later. Scripture doesn’t say that a man is ‘saved already.’ It says that he is ‘condemned already,’ and not because Christ didn’t die for him but ‘because he hath not believed’ (John 3:18).” (Debating Calvinism, p.182, emphasis mine)
White responds: “Christ’s substitutionary death in behalf of His people is a real and finished work: It is not dependent upon the human act of faith for success or failure. When the time comes in God’s sovereign providence to bring to spiritual life each of those for whom Christ died, the Spirit of God will not only effectively accomplish that work of regeneration but that new creature in Christ will, unfailingly, believe in Jesus Christ (‘all that the Father gives Me will come to Me’). Hence, we are not saved ‘without’ faith, but at the same time, Christ’s atonement is not rendered useless and vain without the addition of libertarian free will.” (Debating Calvinism, p.191, emphasis mine)
But they would be saved prior to faith, though, correct? That seems to be the pickle here. No?
Hunt responds: “I pointed out that if Christ’s death automatically saved, the elect were never lost and didn’t need to believe in the gospel. White ridicules this idea but doesn’t refute it. He admits that faith is required, and then says, ‘Christ’s substitutionary death...is not dependent upon the human act of faith.’ Scores of Scriptures clearly state that only those who believe are saved.” (Debating Calvinism, p.194, emphasis mine)
I don’t think that Calvinism can. James White is in a bit of a pickle. He wants to express the Atonement as a finished work, itself saving the Calvinistically elect individual, while also trying to figure out a way to avoid making it appear as though the Calvinistically elect are “at the same time” saved prior to faith, which can only imply a twin nature of salvation. It doesn’t make sense what White is trying to propose. Either one is saved through faith, or saved prior to faith, but not both.
Calvinist, Erwin Lutzer, writes: “Arminianism said man was sick; Calvinism said man was dead. If he is only sick, common grace might help him to recover by enabling him to make a right choice. But if he is spiritually dead, he needs the Giver of Life to make the choice for him….” (The Doctrines That Divide, p.180, emphasis mine)
Lutzer answers: “Needless to say, God does not coerce a person to believe. There is no such thing as a person who doesn’t want to be saved and God saves him anyway because he is elect.” (The Doctrines That Divide, p.191, emphasis mine)
Wait! So God will “make the choice for him” though “God does not coerce a person to believe.” How exactly is this not Double-Talk? Even Calvinist, R.C. Sproul, admits: “Determinism means that we are forced or coerced to do things by external forces.” (Chosen By God, p.59, emphasis mine)
Lutzer explains: “Now (and here it gets tricky) Calvinism goes on to say that God grants the inclination and ability to choose Christ to some, namely, the elect. God does not coerce anyone, if that means he saves a man against his will.” (The Doctrines That Divide, p.191, emphasis mine)
Of course it gets “tricky” because it’s Double-Talk.
If they are regenerated against their fallen will, then no matter how much Calvinists may insist that “they come most freely having been made willing,” they are in reality, forced.