Tom: My guest last week and certainly this week is Dr. Robert Congdon. He’s the founder of Congdon Ministries International (CMI) and it’s a ministry which, I mentioned last week, that’s sought to assist local churches in Great Britain when he was there and now the US. But nevertheless his work has expanded to include many other countries, and primary focus of the ministry is dispensationalism and premilennialism. But also importantly, which underscores all of this, is biblical hermeneutics: the literal, historical, and grammatical interpretation of God’s Word. And in that pursuit, Rob has written a number of booklets that are critical of Calvinism, and one of his recent teachings concerns – well, what he calls “New Calvinism,” which we plan to discuss.
Rob, welcome back to Search the Scriptures 24/7.
Rob: It’s good to be back with you today.
Tom: We were discussing a lot of things, but, Rob, as I’ve had the blessing and the opportunity to look at your programs and your ministry – and I want to make sure that – we’ll mention it afterwards, but it’s Congdon Ministries International, and if you just Google that, you’ll get right to his website and see the programs that he has, which are really informative and just a blessing. So that’s C-O-N-G-D-O-N Ministries International, and I hope – there’s going to be some thoughts and some ideas. You can contact Rob through his ministry, or you can check in here with The Berean Call, and we’ll hopefully, by the grace of God, get you on track with what the Bible teaches, not what men are making up.
So, Rob, as we mentioned last week, we talked about neo-Puritanism, we talked about contemporary New Calvinism, but now I’d like to start off with what you described as neo-Calvinism. Now, that sounds almost a little redundant with contemporary New Calvinism, but it has a particular thrust. Could you tell us about that?
Rob: That’s right. Neo-Calvinism is actually significantly different, because they stress what is called “redemptive history.” Now, again, all of us put in our own definition for the word “redemption.” You need to understand how they define it. When I speak of redemption, I speak of individuals who are sinners who need to know Jesus Christ as their Savior and God, and they need to be redeemed. A redemptive history teaches that not only do individuals need a type of redemption, but the entire creation needs to be redeemed and restored to its Garden-like conditions. So what you have in neo-Calvinism is a concept that says that through global – and now, this is going to sound very contemporary in our world – global social activism, social justice – we can restore our cultures to a Garden-like condition and we can get rid of all these differences between people and justices between people and work toward redeeming the entire creation. And so this is kind of a whole different direction. It was really based on the writings of Abraham Kuyper, and it has really redirected a lot of people into wanting to unite with the government and see this. One of the leading fellows is Tim Keller, and just listen to what he said: he said, and I’m quoting here, “Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection was an infinitely costly rescue operation [for what?] to restore justice to the oppressed and the marginalized.” It’s really what used to be called many, many years ago kind of a social gospel, but it’s been expanded to fit today’s world of social justice.
Tom: Right. What’s amazing about that is I go back to my time in college – I wasn’t a believer, but we had the Peace Corps. For young people, many, many have a heart that they want to – they see the problems in the world and they want to fix the problems, and so on. So whether you call it social justice or, you know, whatever term you bring for it, it’s other-directed. It’s trying to help others and so on. But here’s the problem: these problems are not going to get fixed as we see the things developing and growing and increasing until the King, Jesus Christ, returns to do it. So all these attempts, Rob, of fixing the world’s problems, they appeal to people, but can they actually be accomplished?
Rob: Well, obviously history has shown over and over it can’t be accomplished. There have been many utopian concepts, many groups that have tried to bring in the kingdom, and I hear that time…all over and over again, I hear good men who don’t even think it through say, “Let’s help bring in the kingdom.” No, Jesus Christ will bring the kingdom when He returns with the church to rule for a thousand years. And so any kingdom that is coming, as you’ve mentioned before, is that next earthly kingdom will be the reformed Roman Empire headed by the Antichrist in the Tribulation.
So we need to understand – I always stress this, and I think we’ve talked about it before, but most people’s doctrines, and if I look into Calvin’s doctrines and I look into most of these men’s doctrines, our doctrines are created not directed by the Scriptures as much by our view of prophecy, eschatology. It’s how we see God’s plan and purpose for this entire period of history, and you’ll find that from the Fourth Century on, started by Augustine, a whole different view about the kingdom and how to bring in the kingdom. He started this whole thing, and it has led all the way through to Calvin, now to the New Calvinists today, and in doing that, you see it’s a complete ignoring of God’s plan for a future kingdom on earth of Jesus Christ. So these men have – if you will, they read the same verse you and I will, and they’ll interpret it based on their eschatology, not on what the words literally taken as you read it say, and they’ll change their doctrines. That’s what drives Calvinism, and Satan loves it because it’s everything designed to stop the return of Jesus Christ.
Tom: Right. And you could say, “Well, wait a minute, these men, they’re concerned.” Somebody would say, “They’re just not on their knees praying, they’re getting out and they’re doing something!” But what they’re doing is impossible. But you’d say, “Well, wait a minute, you’re telling me men like Tim Keller believe that we can fix the world in order for Jesus to return, or that’s his thrust?”
Rob, you have some quotes in your teaching about the New Calvinism, and I’m going to read one from Tim Keller. He says, “The primary purpose of salvation is not the calling of lost souls out of darkness, not the establishment of Christ’s kingdom, not the building of his church, nor the preparation of his people to be the bride of Christ, but to make this world a better place.” No, no. Go ahead.
Rob: He’s basing it on his view of amillennialism, which says that at some point God’s going to flip the switch and end it all, therefore don’t waste your time, you fundamental conservative dispensationalists!
Tom: Yeah. As a believer back in the ‘80s, Dave and I dealt with some issues within Calvinism, and that was Christian Reconstructionism called “theonomy,” and the basis, as you well know, was that we’re going to change the world, we’re going to go by the law – by the law, I’m talking about the Old Testament law – we’re going to apply this, and then people are going to see how well this works, and then many are going to come to Christ. Well, that’s kind of contradictory to TULIP, but nevertheless, that was the thrust.
And then, Rob, you talked about working with governments and all of that. Well, then there was the Coalition on Revival that, through leaders, you know, whether it be Pat Robertson back then or whoever it might be, we’re going to transform the earth. No! I can’t find anywhere in Scripture that it says that we are to fix the problems of the world. Not that we’re not concerned about it; we have a dual citizenship. But nevertheless, that’s not the heart of biblical Christianity, is it?
Rob: No, it’s not. In fact, if you really look at history – and I find that today, most people haven’t studied history and that’s most unfortunate – you’ll find that almost all of the positive things that have helped mankind in the world (and by positive, I mean charities, love, and caring for people that need help, etc.) stem from true Christians who saw the Scriptures, wanted to reach out to these people – not to change and create the kingdom, but to reach out to them so that they could share the gospel of Jesus Chris. And therefore what they did is they realized: certainly the starving man has to be fed, but you also have to feed him with the spiritual bread. And so history shows over and over that’s what we did. It’s only in our modern era here has this social justice really taken control and has overridden – a true New Calvinist today, and this is where it’s really hurting a lot of churches, are dumping their missionaries who still share the gospel. Even medical missionaries that share the gospel, they don’t want them, they only want the medical. They only want the cultural change for people, and they’ve eliminated the gospel of salvation. So obviously it is a form of godliness, but without the power thereof.
Tom: Yeah. Now, some listening to our broadcast here might say, “Well, these are just – I’m not so sure about these points,” or whatever. Well, they are critical, and they are important. But, Rob, I want to zero in on three teachings within Calvinism that are along the line of what you said: not sharing the gospel, not ministering to people out there, bringing them to Christ – these are doctrines within Calvinism that I find major and critical, and there are three of them that I, you know, we could go over more, but let’s start with these three as briefly as you can, Rob: regeneration, and eternal security, and then free will.
But let’s start with regeneration: what does that mean within the Calvinist belief system?
Rob: Okay, regeneration is really – I see it as kind of a foundation stone of the TULIP. Regeneration as the Bible describes it is the Holy Spirit making one – giving one a new birth, a new life in Christ is regeneration. It’s when the Spirit dwells in you and now creates the new creation in Jesus Christ. A New Calvinist teaches, and Calvin has always taught this, that you are regenerated before you reach out in faith to Jesus Christ. Therefore, a tiny baby could be regenerated, and I always – and they never write about it – I say, “Well, does the Holy Spirit indwell that baby?” They would have to say yes. So regeneration has to occur first, because it’s the only thing that can break through that stone. Well, the Scripture says, many places, it says about faith over and over, and belief, they’ve believed, and then – they believed and then faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. It doesn’t say that you can receive Christ because you were regenerated and you just recognize it. The church I grew up in, when I was 12 years old, we had classes to tell us, “Did we really agree with these doctrines? If so, raise your hand. Therefore you are a member of the church and you’re going to heaven,” because I was regenerated as a child is what they told me! That’s ridiculous! Regeneration according to the Bible occurs at the instant you receive Jesus Christ as your Savior, recognize you’re a sinner, you need a savior.
You know, when I ask a person, “Are they Calvinist?” I rarely say that. I simply say, “Can you tell me when does regeneration occur? Before faith in Jesus Christ, or at the instant after you’ve accepted Christ as your Savior?” They can’t avoid that, and I ask pastors that over and over, and churches have asked pastors, and the pastors finally will say – they’ll be honest and they’ll say, “Well, regeneration has to come first.” And people say, “Then you’re a Calvinist.” And they’ll look at the people and say, “Well, yeah, I am a Calvinist, but I need to change you.” This is an exact quote.
So regeneration: when does it occur? That’s crucial. I have a book that talks about the upside-down gospel that goes into length about regeneration.
Tom: Well, but, Rob, before you go there, the issue of regeneration, folks, it’s affecting the belief, the teaching of the gospel, and if you believe that somehow you were zapped by irresistible grace, you had no choice in it, I’m concerned, because this easily could be another gospel.
Rob: Okay, it is another gospel, and Paul warned the Galatians of that very fear that they would be turning to another gospel. And so that’s what it is, that’s why you need to understand it. The Calvinists say that the gospel that I would proclaim, you would proclaim, is upside-down and wrong. We have it wrong. Regeneration comes first. No, it does not. The Scripture does not teach that at all.
Eternal security: I just spoke on the Book of Jude, and Jude – it’s surprising, if you really carefully look at the Book of Jude, I believe he was dealing with this very subject that we were talking about, only as it entered the early church. He tells us, “We were set apart by God the Father, and we are preserved,” that’s the word I like, “preserved for Jesus Christ.” And basically, he says that there are those coming in with a new teaching, and they’ve got to ignore that. What I like best of all though is he says that – he says he was going to write about salvation, but he wants you to earnestly contend for the faith one delivered by the saints, and by verse 24 he says, “Now to him [that’s God] who is able to keep you from falling and to present you…” It’s God that does it and preserves. Calvinists like the view of eternal security that they teach: perseverance, which says you better live and walk the line to prove that you’re elect, otherwise you have no security. You know, I dealt with a whole bunch of university students who heard a man preach Calvinistic perseverance. They were upset. I knew many of them, and they truly knew Christ, and they were upset because they said, “Now, how do I know until the day I die?”
John MacArthur said he will not know until the day he dies if he is saved. I heard him say that.
Tom: Rob, as a former Roman Catholic, this grieves me no end, because this is what I believed for 30 years. I had to be in the State of Sanctifying Grace, I had to have the good works, all of these things – it’s works-salvation, and to see this come back into the church in a major way by men who’ve, many of you, as – pretty good exegetes of the Scripture and so on, like John MacArthur, and so on – this blows me right out of my chair! I can’t fathom this, because it is works-salvation! It is, just as I was taught in Roman Catholicism, that grieves me no end. And then, as you…
Rob: That’s exactly what it is…
Tom: Yeah, and as you pointed out…
Rob: Works-salvation. And don’t forget, the Scripture says, “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of God that you may know,” and that means with certainty, “that you have eternal life.”
Tom: Correct, yeah. My buddy Dave Hunt, who’s home with the Lord now, used to say, “Hey, wait a minute: if we couldn’t save ourselves, what makes us think we can keep ourselves?” We can’t!
Rob: That’s right!
Tom: Okay, now what about free will here?
Rob: Way back in Augustine’s day, Platonic philosophy was big. It says, “Everything has two poles: you’re either one or the other.” And that carries through in Calvinism today. It says either you’re elect to salvation, or you have a free will to receive Christ by yourself, not being forced to. Sadly, this neo-Platonic philosophy keeps you from seeing what the Scripture teaches! The Scripture says there is a third situation, and I go through this in my video on the subject on my website showing that if you study the three times…we can’t ignore the word “elect,” okay? It’s in the Bible. It’s there. But there are three different groups in the Bible that are called “elect,” and if you study each group, you will find that the angels that chose to remain righteous and didn’t leave with Satan, they are called “elect angels.” You find the nation of Israel, that God asked them to serve Him, is called “elect Israel.” And you see the bride of Christ is called the “elect.” In all three situations, if you carefully study and work through the entire Scripture, in every case it refers to a group that is serving God, and never do you find salvation tied to the word “elect.”
Rob: And so what we have here is a non-biblical definition by the Calvinists of election, and people who teach free will are actually correct from a scriptural standpoint, but that shouldn’t be tied into election, it should just be seen simply where the Scripture says, “Whosoever will!”
Tom: Again, some of these things are so simple, if – you know, as you say, if we’ll just pull back and take a look at it…. If we don’t have free will, then that destroys love! I mean, come on! You know, that’s why Dave titled his book, What Love Is This? Without the choice, without the freedom to choose God, it’s just a critical, critical teaching, and the Scripture over and over reinforces that we do have free will. We have to! We have to have that.
Rob: In fact, if you look carefully at the Scriptures when it talks about man being created in the image of God, God is the totally, totally free Being in all of creation, because He can do anything He wants as long as it’s consistent with His nature.
Rob: So therefore, obviously He couldn’t sin, but He can do anything He wants, and He’s allowed man a freedom that allows to either choose God or reject Him. Look at some of the other religions of the world. We don’t even have to name them, but there are some that will take your head off unless you become their believers! That’s not love, that’s not free will. And in Calvinism it says that God just arbitrarily pointed, “Oh, you get to go to heaven! You don’t, you go to hell.” That’s not love, and that doesn’t reflect that part of the image of God that I believe allows us some freedom.
And also you can find out many instances in the Bible where God says this is what He wanted to do, and then He allowed people to make a choice. Based on that choice, God either – in one case, put Israel into the diaspora and drove them out of Israel, and in the other case, if they had prayed, He would have kept them, because He allows that will. His purposes are achieved ultimately, but within that, He allows free will.
Tom: Again, the confusing element about this – and we have to warn people about it; once they start looking at this, they’re going to get brain cramps, because…. You know, here’s what I think about: Augustine, for example – he took his understanding of Luke:14:23 to use force – to force people, heretics and so on, all of the abuses of…religious abuses of people, you know, it started with him! And of course Calvin picked up on it in Geneva, and so on. But this is not biblical Christianity without a doubt.
The other issue, and I think we need to end with this – we just have a few minutes left, Rob – is what’s your recommendations for believers to do in order to avoid being seduced? And I mean seduced and deceived by Calvinism and its related tentacles – what you point out: neo-Puritanism, contemporary New Calvinism, and neo-Calvinism.
Rob: Okay, the first thing I would say is that once it comes into your church, you’re not going to stop it. It just keeps coming. So what you need to be aware of are what are the warning signs of it coming? And this sounds like a plug, but since it costs you nothing, it’s not really a plug: if you go to YouTube and search CMI-TV, you’ll find a whole series of videos where I simply present these doctrines in a way that anybody can understand, and that’ll alert you to what’s coming.
Number two: we need to encourage our churches and us personally to study prophecy, eschatology, because that’s going to affect your view right from the very beginning. If you understand that, you’ll suddenly say, “Where are they coming from?” because the Bible teaches this, which then leads to: we need strong Bible teaching in the churches. Not paraphrasing the Bible, but quoting God’s Word, teaching it expositionally, not just quickly, topical, touching on it and making it relevant to mankind. We need to understand who God is, where He’s going. And sadly, when those aren’t present, there is no discernment, and people get pulled into this until it’s too late. And I will warn every listener: the bottom line is New Calvinism is targeting the young adults, the 20 to 40-year-old adults. Once they get them to come to their church, that group will bring their parents, and the parents will be pulled into it because of friendship and family, and before they know it, they won’t understand, and they’d better be careful, because their grandchildren may not hear the gospel where they go.
Tom: Yeah. Rob – you know, my guest, folks, just to remind you, is Rob Congdon with Congdon Ministries International. As I mentioned, I spelled his name just so you can check it out. Just Google it: C-O-N-G-D-O-N Ministries, and you’ll find many of his teachings.
Rob, you’ve been certainly a blessing to me. I’ve learned a lot even preparing for this interview, so I just want to encourage you, brother: I know it’s not an easy walk; it’s not an easy thing to do. It’s – you know, I like to say sometimes it’s like trying to swim up Niagara Falls. But no, by God’s grace, with God’s help, for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, God will minister His truth to them. And, Rob, you and I and many others out there (we’re not the only ones) are blessed just to be a part of what God’s doing. You know, the Bible says that where evil abounds, and we’re seeing it grow exponentially – Scripture says, “Where evil abounds, grace doth more abound,” and we’re really thankful for that.
So, Rob, thank you for being with us.
Rob: Well, thank you. It’s always a privilege to be with you and all those good Bereans who listen. Lord bless.