Calvinist Complaints: Arminianism teaches “Conditional Security”
Calvinist, Erwin Lutzer, writes: “Arminianism is the name most often associated with the belief that a saved person can eventually be lost.” (The Doctrines That Divide, p.226, emphasis mine)
While Classical Arminians remained neutral on the doctrine of Eternal Security, Modern Arminians dogmatically profess the doctrine of Conditional Security, which does in fact teach that salvation can be lost. In contrast, Calvinism teaches an altogether different doctrine known as Perseverance of the Saints, which teaches that all of “the elect” will be preserved in the faith in order to endure to the end.
Lutzer continues: “Yet Arminius himself did not teach this doctrine explicitly. He simply said that it was an open question.” (The Doctrines That Divide, p.226, emphasis mine)
As previously stated, Classical Arminians known as “the Remonstrants,” stated: “But whether they are capable, through negligence, of forsaking again the first beginnings of their life in Christ, of again returning to this present evil world, of turning away from the holy doctrine which was delivered them, of losing a good conscience, of becoming devoid of grace, that must be more particularly determined out of the Holy Scripture, before we ourselves can teach it with the full persuasion of our minds.” (Remonstrance, Article V, emphasis mine)
So clearly, Classical Arminians took a neutral stance on the matter of Eternal Security.
Lutzer writes: “Some Christians cherish a belief in what is called ‘eternal security,’ while others call it a ‘hellish doctrine’ that lulls Christians into spiritual lethargy and carnality. After all, they reason, if a person knows he is assured a place in heaven, he will be tempted to neglect the disciplines of holiness and opt to live carelessly in the world.” (The Doctrines That Divide, p.225, emphasis mine)
That reasoning, by Modern Arminians who teach Conditional Security, is speculation. Nevertheless, preachers of Eternal Security hardly advocate sin without consequence. Most Classical Arminians teach that the consequence of sin are: 1) Lost rewards, 2) Missing out on God’s will for your life, 2) Broken fellowship with God and grieving the Holy Spirit, and 4) for some, sickness and even death, as in the case of those who abused the Lord’s Supper (1st Corinthians 11:30), and lied to the Holy Spirit. (Acts 5:1-11)
On the other hand, plainly stated, Calvinists do not teach Eternal Security. Calvinists teach what is known as the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints, which simply means that the secret “elect” will not die in a state of sin and disbelief, but will irresistibly “endure to the end.” (Matthew 24:13, KJV)
Lutzer writes: “Historic Calvinism stresses the ‘perseverance of the saints,’ namely that true believers never fall away, and if they do, it is not for long. If a person fails to continue in the faith, he is giving proof that he was never saved.” (The Doctrines That Divide, p.231, emphasis mine)
The answer from John Calvin was Temporal Grace:
John Calvin explains: “Let no one think that those [who] fall away...were of the predestined, called according to the purpose and truly sons of the promise. For those who appear to live piously may be called sons of God; but since they will eventually live impiously and die in that impiety, God does call them sons in His foreknowledge. There are sons of God who do not yet appear so to us, but now do so to God; and there are those who, on account of some arrogated or temporal grace, are called so by us, but are not so to God.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.66, emphasis mine)
Calvin adds: “Yet sometimes he also causes those whom he illumines only for a time to partake of it; then he justly forsakes them on account of their ungratefulness and strikes them with even greater blindness.” (Institutes of Christian Religion, 3.24.8, emphasis mine)
Therefore, by “some arrogated or temporal grace,” God “illumines only for a time” the alleged non-elect in order to overcome his Total Inability and thus temporarily think that he was “of the predestined.” Realize that Calvin taught the doctrine of Temporal Grace because he needed to plug a hole in his theology, such as how to explain passages such as Matthew 7:21-23, where the perishing, that is, those who are being condemned to Hell, had performed miraculous things that spiritually dead people are not supposed to be able to do, according to the Calvinistic doctrine of Total Inability. Calvin’s answer for such instances was a temporary grace.
Calvin writes: “Whoever has sinned, I shall delete him from the book of life. … But the meaning is simple: those are deleted from the book of life who, considered for a time to be children of God, afterwards depart to their own place, as Peter truly says about Judas (Acts 1:16). But John testifies that these never were of us (1 Jn 2:19), for if they had been, they would not have gone out from us. What John expresses briefly is set forth in more detail by Ezekiel (13:9): They will not be in the secret of My people, nor written in the catalogue of Israel. The same solution applies to Moses and Paul, desiring to be deleted from the book of life (Ex 32:32; Rom 9:3): carried away with the vehemence of their grief, they prefer to perish, if possible, rather than that the Church of God, numerous as it then was, should perish. When Christ bids His disciples rejoice because their names are written in heaven (Lk 10:20), He signifies a perpetual blessing of which they will never be deprived. In a word, Christ clearly and briefly reconciles both meanings, when He says: Every tree which My Father has not planted will be rooted up (Mt 15:13). For even the reprobate take root in appearance, and yet they are not planted by the hand of God.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, pp.151-152, emphasis mine)
John Calvin comments on Hebrews 6:4-6: “...God certainly bestows His Spirit of regeneration only on the elect, and that they are distinguished from the reprobate in the fact that they are re-made in His image, and they receive the earnest of the Spirit in the hope of an inheritance to come, and by the same Spirit the Gospel is sealed in their hearts. But I do not see that this is any reason why He should not touch the reprobate with a taste of His grace, or illumine their minds with some glimmerings of His light, or affect them with some sense of His goodness, or to some extent engrave His Word in their hearts. Otherwise where would be that passing faith which Marks mentions (4.17)? Therefore there is some knowledge in the reprobate, which later vanishes away either because it drivers its roots less deep than it ought to, or because it is choked and withers away.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Hebrews and I and II Peter, p.76, emphasis mine)
If there is a Temporal Grace, then how do Calvinists know whether this will some day apply to them?
Calvinist, Mark Talbot, explains: “Now of course, nothing, that I, nor anyone else, can say can guarantee that anyone will continue to believe. Faith is a gift of God that we cannot produce.” (Sin and Suffering in Calvin’s World, emphasis mine)
In other words, the fact that you believe today is no guarantee that you will still believe tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after. You can only hope for the best, that your ordained fate is better than others, and that your grace is not a temporary grace, here today and gone tomorrow. Mark Talbot explicitly offers no illusion for your hope of tomorrow. There is nothing that you can do, but hope for the best. It’s completely out of your hands and completely in God’s hands. If you should find yourself an unbeliever tomorrow, your gift has run out.
One member of The Society of Evangelic Arminians writes: “The Calvinist’s assurance is obliterated by the fact that God ordains the illusory salvation of the seemingly-saved folks. This makes them a special sub-set of the damned. In Calvinism, God glorifies Himself by damning the ‘eternally reprobate.’ But the seemingly-saved folks have the unique privilege of ‘glorifying’ God in their earthly lives, by appearing to be saved on their way to Hell. Because God has pre-ordained this, there is nothing any apparently saved person can do. God has ordained the illusion! Of course, this brings up another question: Why is the God (who is Himself truth) ordaining such an illusion? How can God be truthful if He unconditionally pre-ordains illusions? And what kind of God could or would ordain such an illusion for the sake of His glory?” (SEA, emphasis mine) One member of The Society of Evangelic Arminians writes: “For every person who has ever followed Jesus and then forsaken his name, we have to conclude that God ordained that said person would be eternally damned, but on their way to being damned, God ordains the illusion of redemption in Christ, in that they would come to know Jesus, exhibit kingdom fruit, and then apostatize, all for the sake of divine glory.” (SEA, emphasis mine)
Walls and Dongell comment: “This dreadful possibility is what haunts Calvinists who struggle with the assurance and certainty of salvation. Times of moral failure and depression can easily be construed as evidence that one is not chosen after all and that God is hardening one’s heart for not responding more faithfully to his grace.” (Why I Am Not A Calvinist, p.202, emphasis mine)
Thus, the Calvinist actually has less security than the Modern Arminian who teaches Conditional Security, since the Arminian would at least be trusting in Christ for security, rather than merely presuming upon a secret election. However, Calvinists sharply disagree. But do they have a valid basis?
John Calvin explains: “If we have to go back to the origin of election to make it obvious that salvation springs from God’s mercy alone, those who try to banish the doctrine are wrongly obscuring what they ought to emphasize, and eradicating true humility. Paul clearly states that it is only when salvation is attributed to undeserved election that we can know God saves whom he wills of his own good pleasure. He is under obligation to no one. Those who try to keep people from the doctrine are unfair to God and man alike, because there is no other way to humble us or to make us realize what we owe to him. There is no other sure ground for confidence.” (Institutes of Christian Religion, p.214, emphasis mine)
Calvin writes: “...before the beginning of the world we were both ordained to faith and also elected to the inheritance of heavenly life. Hence arises impregnable security. The Father who gave us to the Son as His peculiar possession is stronger than all, and will not suffer us to be plucked out of His hand.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.57, emphasis mine)
But as you are about to see, there is really no confidence at all, with this kind of doctrine:
John Calvin writes: “Men preposterously ask how they can be certain of a salvation which lies in the hidden counsel of God. I have replied with the truth. Since the certainty of salvation is set forth to us in Christ, it is wrong and injurious to Christ to pass over this proffered fountain of life from which supplies are available, and to toil to draw life out of the hidden recesses of God.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.126, emphasis mine)
Calvin explains: “If Pighius asks how I know I am elect, I answer that Christ is more than a thousand testimonies to me.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.130, emphasis mine)
That’s his “sure ground for confidence”? The focus is shifted away from simply trusting in Christ, to hoping that one is a member of the secret “elect.” This is of foremost concern to a Calvinist:
Calvin writes: “All who do not know they are God’s special people must be miserable and in constant fear.” (Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Part 12, Chp. 21, Section 1, emphasis mine)
Indeed, as Spurgeon recalls:
Calvinist, Charles Spurgeon, recalls: “I frequently meet with poor souls, who are fretting and worrying themselves about this thought—‘How, if I should not be elect!’ ‘Oh, sir,’ they say, ‘I know I put my trust in Jesus; I know I believe in his name and trust in his blood; but how if I should not be elect?’ Poor dear creature! you do not know much about the gospel, or you would never talk so, for he that believes is elect. Those who are elect, are elect unto sanctification and unto faith; and if you have faith you are one of God’s elect; you may know it and ought to know it, for it is an absolute certainty. If you, as a sinner, look to Jesus Christ this morning, and say—‘Nothing in my hands I bring, Simply to thy cross I cling,’ you are elect. I am not afraid of election frightening poor saints or sinners.” (Election, emphasis mine)
Here you have people who claim to trust in Jesus, but yet do not know whether they are saved, because they might not be “elect.” Spurgeon’s answer: “Have faith you are one of God’s elect.” Calvinists will rage that this is a mischaracterization of the faith of Calvinists, but guess what? This is documented history. Calvinists were, in fact, trusting in a process moreso than a person. This is something unique to Calvinists. Arminians no such such fear of an eternal draft. Arminians can simply trust in Christ.
Spurgeon concludes: “Let your hope rest on the cross of Christ. Think not on election but on Christ Jesus. Rest on Jesus—Jesus first, midst, and without end.” (Election, emphasis mine)
Exactly. The Christian perspective ought to be that of an Arminian: just trusting in Jesus.
Calvinist, D. James Kennedy, writes: “Do you know that you are elect of God, chosen of God, predestined to adoption as a child of God before the beginning of time? You can know for certain.” (Solving Bible Mysteries, p.27, emphasis mine)
And yet, you have documented history with Spurgeon’s church, that Calvinists who claimed to trust in Jesus, were actually just trying to trust in an election. Arminians, on the other hand, don’t believe in such an “eternal draft” (God gets this one, devil gets that one, God gets this one, devil gets that one, ect). Arminians believe in “whosoever will,” and therefore just trust in the promises of God for the believer in Jesus. Thus as an Arminian, my hope rests upon the promise of salvation, rather than the presumption of election, and that’s the fundamental difference between a Calvinist and an Arminian.
Martin Luther explains: “If one fears that he is not elected or is otherwise troubled about his election, he should be thankful that he has such fear; for then he should surely know that God cannot lie when in Psalm 51:17 He says, ‘The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.’ Thus he should cheerfully cast himself on the faithfulness of God who gives this promise, and turn away from the foreknowledge of the threatening God. Then he will be saved as one that is elected. It is not the characteristic of reprobates to tremble at the secret counsel of God; but that is the characteristic of the elect.” (Commentary on Romans, p.132, emphasis mine)
Now consider a Calvinist’s contrast between “saving faith” and “nonsaving faith”:
Calvinist, James White, writes: “As we have seen in John, the Bible contrasts the saving faith of some with the nonsaving faith of others. Saving faith is the work of the Spirit in the heart, which is why it preserves to the end. Hence, Hunt trashes another straw man when he posits the idea of a man who has faith in Christ but is not one of the elect. That is not a possibility, because unregenerate men cannot do truly good works.” (Debating Calvinism, p.405, emphasis mine)
Thus, a Calvinist’s blessed assurance is the ability to perform “truly good works.”
Dave Hunt writes: “It is Calvinism that in effect offers salvation by works because it looks to works for assurance of salvation. Biblically, assurance comes by faith in the promise of eternal life in Christ made by ‘God, who cannot lie...before the world began’ (Titus 1:2).” (Debating Calvinism, p.416, emphasis mine)
Robert Shank explains: “In other words, the only real evidence of election is perseverance, and our only assurance of the certainty of persevering is—to persevere!” (Elect in the Son, p.214, emphasis mine)
It sounds like “perseverance” is a Calvinist’s blessed assurance that they are secretly elect, and the only way to maintain such assurance is to continue to persevere, which sounds like a man-centered theology, rather than a God-centered theology of simply trusting in Christ, while forsaking a supposed, secret election. So is it any wonder that Legalism has become a common thread among denominations of Calvinism? What a better way to demonstrate that they are truly among “the elect” than to prove it by works! Not only is Calvinism a diversion from trusting in Christ into Legalism, but after having trusted in Christ, they demonstrate that they do not really trust in Him at all, when they hope upon a secret Election for security, and that presumptuous hope is fleeting, as this testimony reveals:
One former Calvinist turned Atheist candidly comments: “I am really not sure I remember what came first. I think it probably began with a serious spiritual dissatisfaction with God and my life under His providential care (so I believed then). I started getting less and less out of church, so I wondered what I was doing wrong. I tried to justify my feelings by saying, God just didn’t move today. But others would occasionally seem to actually be touched by the Spirit, so I supposed. Then I started wondering if I was praying enough. I prayed more. Then I started wondering, is there unconfessed sin in my life? None that I could think of. I had (and this is deeply personal but probably not surprising at all to you) problems of lust and covetousness (not of money, but of social success and friendships and relationships and such), but these were ongoing confessions in my prayer life, with associated ups and downs but no real deliverance. I was desperately lonely and could not understand the providence of God in my life to allow not only crushing loneliness, unanswered prayers (forgot to mention, a rather big omission that) in various and numerous requests to God, but also the apostasy of near and dear friends who held devoutly to the same religion of Christianity that I held to, and the absence of saving faith in so many family members (again, more unanswered prayers) who were variously Catholic, or nominally religious at best, some not hostile but completely apathetic to religion (something I just for the life of me could not understand, especially with all the wonderful experiences in the Christian faith I had, wonderful relationships inside the church at least, at one-time a very growing and healthy spiritual life, and the like, and how could anyone not want more than the daily grind of a never-ending rat race offered by the world?). I even began doubting my election in the sovereign grace of Christ, having no real proof for it with which I could satisfy myself (and I had been given several times the spiritual tests given by Peter to see how one’s personal spiritual growth lined up with the expectation and assurance of the Scriptures, and probably other passages which I cannot remember right now).” (Why I Doubt Christianity, emphasis mine)
Of course, Scripture demonstrates that God puts the ball back in our court: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8) But if you’re a Calvinist, trusting in a secret draft, you can’t be sure of whether this applies to you, as everything rests upon a precarious foundation of presumptions.
One member of the Society of Evangelical Arminians writes: “If anyone can be fooled about their conversion, no Calvinist can say they ARE elect with impunity. They ‘feel’ elect, maybe, but they have no idea if Christ died for them or not, since Christ only died for a select few. The irony is most Calvinists tout this as one of their distinctive advantages, in that they KNOW they are saved; but we can see there is really no grounds for this.” (SEA, emphasis mine)
And now comes the pot calling the kettle, black...
Calvinist, James White, writes: “I do not believe that any person who rejects the sovereign decree of God and the perfection of the work of Christ in providing a real atonement (that perfects those for whom it is made) has a basis to believe in any form of ‘eternal security.’ Those who limit God’s freedom through asserting some form of libertarian free will are completely inconsistent in claiming that once a person ‘accepts Christ,’ he somehow loses the free will that got him to that position in the first place and is now ‘secure’ from falling. If Christ’s work of salvation is dependent upon our cooperation to be effective, there is no reason to believe it is eternally secure at any point.” (Debating Calvinism, p.401, emphasis mine)
White concludes: “Reduce Jesus to the role of making us ‘savable,’ and you no longer have the slightest reason to believe that, once a person is in Christ, he will remain there.” (Debating Calvinism, p.406, emphasis mine)
However, it may be argued that once a person becomes born again in Christ, he cannot become unborn:
Adrian Rogers explains: “When you’re saved, number one, a conception takes place. Number two, when a conception takes place, a character is born. Number three, when a birth takes place, there is a finality. You’re only born once in either realm. In the physical realm, you can only have one birth. In the spiritual realm, you can only have one birth. You don’t keep getting born physically. You don’t keep getting saved spiritually. Once you’re born, you’re born. Nobody can be unborn. And my parents cannot take me back to the hospital and say, ‘We don’t like this one, take him back.’ No, listen, a birth is a finality.” (Three Miracle Births, emphasis mine)
1) Whether a person can fall away, there is no doubt. Whether a person can become unborn again, is however less clear. Whether someone can become born again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, is seriously doubtful for at least two reasons: 1) Nowhere in the Bible is it recorded that anyone was ever born again twice, and 2) if a person could be born again, and again, and again, and again, what would that say of the finality of birth?
2) 1st Corinthians 6:16-17 teaches that when a person becomes in Christ, they become “one spirit” with God, similar to how Adam became “one flesh” with Eve. In other words, when a person becomes sealed in Christ with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, a permanent change takes place which results in them being regenerated with a new heart, as the old creature passes away. (2nd Corinthians 5:17) Only if the born again person in Christ had not been regenerated, would White have had a point.
Nevertheless, Classical and Modern Arminian continue to disagree over the matter of Eternal Security vs. Conditional Security, and here is a link to a defense of the doctrine of Conditional Security.