Now, Contending for the Faith. In this regular feature, Dave and Tom respond to questions from listeners and readers of The Berean Call. Here’s this week’s question: “Dear Dave and T.A.: Don’t you guys realize that you are trashing many good brothers in the Lord by your attacks on Calvinism and The Passion of the Christ? Your judgmental approach is part of the reason nonbelievers have such a low view of Christianity.”
Tom: Well, it’s…I guess my name’s on here, too, Dave: it says, “Dear Dave and T.A.”
Dave: You told me this was a composite of a number of letters we’ve gotten.
Tom: Yeah. Well, we’ve gotten a few along this line. I know you have and I have. But are we trying to do this? I mean, people…this guy may be perceiving—or these people may be perceiving it that way. But what’s our heart, Dave? What are we trying to do here? We talk about Calvinism, I talked about—wrote about The Passion of the Christ. Is it just to knock things down? Or even, I’ve gotten letters about, you know, the Seeker-friendly, Seeker-sensitive—“I don’t understand…I don’t attend those churches,” and so on. What are we—just trying to be negative, or just trying to nitpick? I don’t think that’s…it’s not my heart; I don’t think it’s your heart.
Dave: Well, I just did a… I just answered a question in writing in our newsletter, I think our next newsletter coming out for June about this—or was it the last one? I don’t remember. Saying “Dave, you’ve spent enough with Calvinism. Now, let’s drop the subject.” And I said…
Tom: It’s coming up in…
Dave: I said I would like to, but everywhere I look in the Bible, I see you either are a Calvinist or you are not. For example, I go to the Old Testament. Was there an elect among the Jews for whom the Passover was valid, and who left Egypt, and the non-elect were left back in Egypt? No.
Who went across the Red Sea? Was it an elect among the Jews? No.
Who had the manna every day? An elect? Who drank the water out of the rock? Jesus introduces John:3:16: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up that whosoever believeth in him should not perish,” and so forth.
Well, there was no elect for whom the serpent was lifted up, and only those who had been predestined to believe in the serpent looked and believed. You never get that idea in the Old Testament.
Now, we have so many problems. All I’m saying, Tom, is everywhere we look in the Bible, when Jesus says, “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father in heaven is merciful,” well, if I’m a Calvinist, I believe that my Father in heaven is merciful only to the elect. I don’t have to be merciful to everyone if I’m going to be merciful as my Father in heaven is merciful.
Is it merciful to predestine people to eternal torment that you could save?
All I’m saying, Tom, is we’re told to earnestly contend for the faith. Is the gospel to everyone? Or is it only to the elect? Did Christ die for everyone? Or are there only a certain few for whom He died?
So, everywhere I look in the Bible, I cannot escape it. Do I believe what the Bible says? There must be an interpretation of this. When Paul says that he goes around persuading people to believe, why would he persuade people? You don’t need to persuade the elect. You can’t persuade the non-elect. So, Tom, everywhere—almost everywhere I look in the Bible, I see that I must either be a Calvinist or I must not be. I must either—when it says, “God is love,” do I believe that God really loves everyone, or He only loves the elect?
“Oh,” they say, “He loves everyone. He gives them sunshine and rain, and so forth.” Wait a minute! What love is this? That’s why we titled the book that. You love someone that you predestine to eternal torment that you could have sent to heaven?
Then when we come to the The Passion of the Christ, Tom, we’re not trying to trash people. You wrote the book.
Tom: Well, Dave, based on what you said, I’m listening to you and all you’re saying is we’re trying to encourage people to search the Scriptures. We’re trying to encourage people and exhort people to be thoughtful, to be biblically thoughtful. There are problems with Calvinism. There are problems with the movie The Passion of the Christ. We’re not saying God can’t use this or there aren’t believers that are, you know, in favor of these films, and so on. All we’re asking is to examine what they’re doing. Hundreds of thousands of evangelical Christians were led to that movie by their pastors, by leading evangelicals. And all we’re asking is—wait a minute! There may be some problems here. Could you be thoughtful about this? Could you pull back a little bit before you rush into this?
Dave, as a former Roman Catholic, I can tell you from my perspective, there was not one cell, one frame,okay?, in that movie that would discourage a Roman Catholic from their beliefs. Now, isn’t that a problem?
Dave: Well, Tom, the biggest problem to me, and again, we’ve mentioned it before, is to have a human being pretending to be Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” Paul said, “Great is the mystery of godliness. God is manifest in the flesh.” And now we’ve got somebody up there on the screen who pretends to be Jesus Christ.
“Oh, this is acting!”
Wait a minute! I’ve heard people say, “Oh, now I know what Jesus looked like!” Or, “When I pray to Jesus, now I get a clear picture of him, the way he acts, and so forth—the way he reacts.” This is Jesus? Tom, I don’t believe that you can do that. We talked about idolatry, but you don’t make an image of God, and you certainly don’t make a living image of God! That is the very basic understanding…and, “Well, yeah, but it’s so nice in a movie, and now we can understand the Bible better.”
I don’t think you understand the Bible better by having it acted out. The Bible is in words, not in pictures. Very clearly it says, “The word of God is living and powerful….We are born again by the word of God….Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word [not by the pictures…]” And, Tom, if I’m narrow minded and dogmatic, or whatever they want to say. This is my conviction. I’m only trying to be true to the Word of God and to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Now, if that differs from someone else’s opinion, they’re entitled to their opinion, I’m entitled to mine. But we’re not going to quarrel about it.
Tom: And again, is this judgmentalism? No! It’s not, it’s just asking, as you’re…you know, we’re appealing to our listeners to be thoughtful. Whatever they do, do it by faith. Do it by a biblical understanding that yes, this is why I’m doing it—because this is what the Scriptures say.”
Now, again, you could be wrong, I could be wrong—but they’re not to go on the basis of what we say. They’re to go on the basis of what God’s Word says.