Question: One of our staff who reads incoming letters writes, "After reading your articles, Dave, and responses to letters about Calvinism, a Calvinist writes that your theology confuses him. He says that you don't understand the L in TULIP, that Calvin held the same interpretation as you do on John:3:16-that Christ did indeed die for all mankind but that, of course, His sacrifice on the Cross only benefited those who believed on Him.
He claims that your eschatology says that everything that happens has been predetermined by God based upon His foreknowledge—a contradiction of your view that we act by free will. He also charges that to teach that the Rapture could happen at any moment leads to a "why bother?" attitude, promotes apathy in the church, and results in the deterioration of society because it causes the church to cease from being salt and light as the Lord commanded"—and asks you, what love is this that you approve?
Referring to Christ's statement that no one knows the day or hour of His return, he asks why you seem so obsessed with trying to figure out exactly that and implies that you emphasize this because it sells books. He asks why you work so hard at dividing God's people rather than uniting them. He is concerned that you cut up those who stand for sound doctrine and says that instead you ought to expose the Benny Hinns, Copelands, Schullers, et. al., and the Da Vinci Code.
Response: Such letters are helpful. It is discouraging, however, that someone could have been reading my books and articles in our newsletter, yet have missed so fully what I have said. I have never tried "to figure out...the day or hour of Christ's return," much less been obsessed with such a pursuit. I have often pointed out how unbiblical and foolish that would be.
His accusation that I have failed to expose and warn the church about the Hinns, Copelands, Schullers, et al., is most astonishing. I have devoted entire books and newsletters to doing that—so much so that I have been criticized for spending too much time in such exposés.
My teaching that Christ could take His church to heaven at any moment is biblical, as I have often documented. Anyone who knows the Bible ought to agree, so I won't go over that again. Furthermore, how could believing that the Rapture could occur at any moment cause "apathy in the church, resulting in the deterioration of our society"? It does the opposite. It tells us to work day and night, spread the gospel far and wide, oppose apostasy and awaken the church because our opportunity to do that could end at any moment!
Nor have I ever worked "hard at dividing God's people rather than uniting them." Jesus himself caused "a division among the people" wherever He preached (Jn:7:43, 9:16, 10:19). In fact, Christ said He came to bring division (Lk 12:51)! By teaching sound doctrine, we bring division between those who stand for truth and those who oppose it. And in the process, we endeavor to "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" in the only biblical way—in the "one body...one Spirit...one hope...one Lord...one faith...one baptism...one God and Father of all..." (Eph:4:2-6).
As for his complaint that I misrepresent John Calvin, perhaps he hasn't read the third and expanded edition of What Love Is This? After the first printing of that book, Calvinists threw numerous false charges at me, including that I misquoted Calvin, Spurgeon, Arminius, and others. The third edition responds specifically to each of the Calvinists' complaints, sprinkling my answers throughout the book in the very places where they claimed I was in error. I expanded my quotations of Calvin, Spurgeon, Arminius, et al., to show that I had not misunderstood nor had I misquoted any of them.
Yes, at times Calvin said that "world or many" (Isa:53:12, Mk 14:24, Jn:3:16, etc.) meant all of mankind. But he so often said the opposite that he could not have meant what this man thinks he meant the few times he seemed to include not just the elect but all mankind (as in his Commentary on John:3:16). For example, Calvin said, "for, (as he [God] hates sin) he can only love those whom he justifies [i.e., the elect]."1 Then John:3:16 could not mean that in love God gave His Son to die for the sins of the entire world.
I agree that Calvinists deserve credit for much of the Christianity of early America, for founding Christian universities, etc. But one cannot praise Calvinism by contrasting the spiritual condition of the church of that day with the apostasy in the church today without including the apostasy in the majority of today's Calvinist churches.
It is not true that I teach "that everything that happens has all been predetermined by God based upon His foreknowledge." That doesn't even make sense. God wouldn't need foreknowledge to predetermine everything. He would just predetermine it. But God has not predetermined everything that happens in our world. That is Calvinist doctrine. Its denial of man's free will makes a holy God the author of all evil.
Both Paul and Peter link election and predestination with God's foreknowledge but not the way he suggests. Paul writes, "Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren" (Rom:8:29). Peter declares, "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father...unto obedience..." (1 Pt 1:2). Those whom God, by foreknowledge, knew would receive Christ were elected/predestined to certain blessings. The Bible does not teach that God causes some to believe and refuses to give saving faith to others.